Our pattern of doing school doesn’t neatly fit into any particular style. We are inspired by Classical, Charlotte Mason and Unschooling ideas, and are bound to fulfil Syllabus Outcomes from the Australian National Curriculum. We pick and choose what suits us, and what works with the resources to which we have access.
We use textbooks to teach Maths, Art, Science and English skills, and as a guide for teaching Science and History content. We read ‘living books‘ for pretty much everything else. Every single book in our home has educational value, or doesn’t last long. We aim to give our children a broad exposure to the wealth of human knowledge, and develop in them the skills to sift out the useful and interesting bits.
So, we always have a range of themes running at the same time. This month we are learning about Ancient Greek mathematicians and philosophers, set theory, Vikings, ships and submarines, Tudor England, Post-Impressionism, Atomic theory, sound (frequency, pitch, volume), Romans, Ernest Shackleton, the Great Barrier Reef, polar regions, auroras and skeletons. We will cover multiplication, fractions and area in the maths textbook, some basic grammar, comprehension and finding the required information, poetry memorisation, handwriting, telling a story based on a painting and retelling a passage in our English texts. We will recreate the techniques of some well-known art works, and learn a bit about the artists from our art textbook.
So how do we link it all together?
This year you will notice that many of our interest-led reading is related to exhibitions at the Australian National Maritime Museum. We bought a membership so that we can visit frequently, take our time each visit and not feel rushed to see everything in one day. It also helps that they have exhibitions about things that I have little or no expertise in, and an excellent childrens’ programme.
So far we’ve visited 3 times since joining. It’s March, and we joined in January. We’ll be there sometime before Easter, and likely during the school holidays too. We do school work when we visit during the term, and let the children explore for themselves during the holidays or on weekends (when it’s much more crowded).
For school excursions I generally put a few sticky notes in Robin’s day book with instructions on them, and questions to answer. The first time we went to see “Going Places” my notes for him said: “Draw what you see, What is it?, How does it work?, What is it for?”. He filled in those questions for 4 displays. Afterwards we read more about types of transport in Great Explorers (also published as Into the Unknown) and watched James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge. On their return visit, the children explained to Husband-of-Awesome how each display worked and related it back to the notes Robin had taken earlier. You can see what else we did here.
Our next visit will be to see X-ray Vision: Fish Inside-out, A Different Vision and Painting for Antarctica. We’ll be taking the oil pastels and some drawing paper to do some “inspired by” artworks. We will try to connect what we know about different types of fish to their skeletal forms (eg: placement of eyes or size and shape of jaws cf: to the environment the species inhabits). We will use what we know to extrapolate the situation for other species, then google it when we get home to test our guesses. We will compare the art styles we observe: x-ray photographs, x-ray paintings on rock and bark, oil pastel and gouache on paper. We will discuss visual art as a communication tool and talk about the information we understand from the works observed.
When we visit in the school holidays, we’ll likely hook in with the children’s programme (hopefully they will have some kind of play or performance on) and also visit Shackleton: Escape from Antarctica.
In preparation for both these visits we’ve been reading up. Our regulars include:
Doomed Ships by Penny Clarke
The Children’s Atlas of Exploration by Antony Mason
Great Explorers By Stuart Ross and Stephen Biesty
Pole To Pole by Pamela Freeman and Philip Blythe
Fire to Life by Pamela Freeman and Philip Blythe
The Bones You Own by Becky Baines
We’ll (hopefully) get to the public library this week and find some other topical reading. But even if we don’t, we have enough to get started and the children will still have a useful experience at the Maritime Museum even if it were purely an art making activity.
The intention is that as we expose our children to more experiences and information they will become interested in new things, develop deeper understanding of the things they know, or discover connections between the things they have already known. The life-skill of learning in all situations.by