In a fit of “we haven’t done ANYTHING lately!” (yes, it happens to the best of us unschooling parents) I decided to devote some sit-down time with Daughter to creating a Project. I told her it could be about anything she liked, and presented in any way she liked, but she didn’t really get what I meant so I showed her this YouTube video posted on a homelearners discussion board I frequent (how cute is that kid? and yes, he is unschooled).
Well, when Daughter saw the video she immediately announced that she wanted her project to be about Chemistry. At that point I had to go off and take care of something and when I returned to the computer room I found her with a pile of printed pages containing miniature Periodic Tables. She had managed to enter it into Google, find images to print, and had printed off several in a search for a full-page one. I helped her find it (she selected from a few samples based on the colours they used, lol) and off we went.
I asked her what all the numbers and letters meant and she immediately remembered that on BrainPop (one of our favorite websites) there are videos about the Periodic Table. We sat together and watched, comparing what we learned with our own Periodic Table in hand. She then suggested we watch a video about the Atom, and one about Molecules. It was then we moved on to making molecules like the boy in the YouTube video had. I kept my mouth shut while she brought out her beloved modelling clay, pulled out some pieces and rolled them into balls, until she had to ask…”how do you know how to make a molecule?”. So I was then able to show her that we just Google “Chemical Formula for Water” (for example) and we end up with something that looks like this: H-O-H. I explained that each letter is an element (so we use a different colour for different letters) and we stick them together in that order. Pretty simple, really. In no time we’d created Water and Ethanol.
I had originally suggested that we pick a project from her list of goals in this year’s Learning Plan. But as soon as we pulled up the Mind Mapping program we used to create the Learning Plan she saw that we could use it to plan out our Chemistry project too (by the way, both the Kidspiration program and access to the BrainPop site are provided free by our learning program). So when we had done making our molecules she said she was ready to put together a Mind Map and the photo at the start of this post is what she came up with. I helped by suggesting some of the major categories, she filled in the subcategories with images chosen from the program’s list, and then used the Image Creator to make her own (the images of protons/neutrons and of electrons). We can then go back to this when we next sit down for Project Time to decide what we’ll work on next. Of course, it’s entirely possible she won’t want to work on Chemistry next time, and may suggest something else that has piqued her curiosity more recently. And you know what? It’s All Good!
What’s so interesting to me about doing things like this is how quickly we parents must shed our notions about how it’s going to go, what we’re going to do, what it’s going to look like, etc. I had ideas in my head but Daughter truly led the way here, which (once I let go of my need to control things!) was truly wonderful to me. It really begs the question of the whole role of Teacher as someone who dispenses knowledge into empty containers, and turns it around to the notion of a Facilitator. My job was simply to enable, to assist, and to provide answers when asked. The rest flowed so smoothly and naturally – I really wish more people could witness this process and see what Natural Learning really looks like. Maybe I’d get less of “But how do you make them learn X, Y, Z?”. “Make” just doesn’t factor into it!