Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hot Town, Summer in the City

Bookivore doesn't like to have kids wandering around aimlessly all summer. It's bad for their brains. More importantly, it's bad for my sanity. So for the last few summers I have done something that if it were really structured and thought-out would be called Home School, but since I am just sort of winging it, we call it "Lessons."

Generally, I pick a theme of some sort and go wherever that takes me. One year we did the Ocean, one year it was the Rainforest, another year we did the Desert. However, aside from the ocean unit, which I devoted a ton of energy and thought to, the last few summers have suffered from a lack of cohesion. We'd start out like gangbusters, then gradually the challenge of engaging children with widely separated ages and abilities would get to be too much and we'd just decide to skip lessons and go to the pool.

Not so this year. I found a wonderful study program that lends itself to all three kids. I can plug in as many additional activities as I want, or just roll with it as written.

It's called Passport to the World and you can find it here. Not only does it have an impressive and comprehensive book list, it also provides sample lessons for most of the books and printable "passports" for kids to record the places they visit through literature.

What I like about it is that it's literature based. Each lesson revolves around a book, which we will find at one of our public libraries (I already checked and only 5 books on the list aren't available. I will make a decision later about whether I want to buy them or find an acceptable substitute that we can check out).

By virtue of the books selected, it's geared toward 4-8 year olds, which just barely covers the span of my kids' ages. It will be a little tough for the almost-4-year-old and a little easy for the almost-9-year-old, but I think with the right activities it can work and be fun.

The point is to "visit" other countries and cultures through the medium of books and I thought it would be fun to do both the activities in the lesson plans and also add a few of my own -- like maybe earning enough money to buy a goat for an African family, planting squash, cooking soba noodles or cornmeal porridge. Whatever pops into my head. One of the books is about releasing birds to make wishes, so maybe we could make origami birds -- there are lots of good tutorials for that sort of thing online. Our big, downtown farmers' market has lots of multicultural food booths, so we may take a little field trip down there some Saturday, or we could visit a specific ethnic restaurant. I can also add on things I want my kids to work on over the summer like handwriting and math and of course, we'll be reading.

I figure we can do one book a week with several activities or two books a week with one or two activities. That should last us easily through the summer. The goal is to spend about an hour each time, including reading and activities, about 2-3 times per week.

It's low pressure, it has the potential for lots of interesting exploration and fun, it's multicultural, and it's mostly laid out for me already so the really hard work is done.

I'll let you know how it goes.

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