Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fun with Friends and A Little Bit about Planning & Themes

Recently, some wonderful friends came to visit us.  
We all had a terrific time, if I do say so myself...

This was their first time to Florida so we tried to show them the sites and sounds of the Sunshine State.
From Orlando to Clearwater, from Disney princesses to Florida Aquarium fishes, from splash parks to fireworks, we covered a lot in a little over a week.
We had a great time, but would you believe that it was warmer in Canada than it was here for most of their visit???

Manitoba was warmer than Florida...for real!!!

The cooler temps made it more possible to do more, as heat was not really an issue here...just trying to dodge some storms here and there.
We had an awesome time together, as the kids got to hang out and be kids, the daddies got to play some golf, and the mommies got to get in some time shopping and drinking coffee drinks. Both families had a ball checking out what Disney has to offer, as well as watching some great 4th of July sky shows that made it worth the rain delay. 

In addition, we actually got to work a bit on some plans for next school year...

We both decided that in a home setting, whether a family is homeschooling or doing a smaller in-home preschool program, that themes help with organizing the materials.

Realistically, in a home, you only have so much space to have materials...you cannot possibly have out everything unless you either have a huge space or very limited materials.

Since my dear friend and I have both accumulated many resources (we both feel very blessed by the materials we have for our children), we both decided that using a theme approach would help with organization.

Much has been written about themes in early childhood and elementary school programs, as well as the stand that different philosophies of education seem to take either for or against using themes. 
But for homeschooling families, regardless of a family's educational philosophy, organizing by theme can make the load lighter when it comes to having an orderly, functional, home learning environment.

Where things get tricky is the concept of who drives the theme...the adult or the child....I am going to dive into this a little more in-depth over the next few days, but for now, here are a few thoughts:

With Reggio Emilia, it is the classroom community as a whole that drives the theme.
Things are much more spontaneous and not as much advance time is spent planning themes, although far more time is spent observing. Themes do pop up in a Reggio Emilia inspired program...more on this soon...

With Montessori, some who fully embrace the Montessori philosophy will argue that it is not theme based...I say yes and no to that...it is not all cutesy themes but realistically, if you are learning about parts of the frog, you are going to want to bring in some books to your room about frogs, along with having works out on the shelves like frogs three part cards, nomenclature cards, frog puzzles, and some other frog items, such as maybe a model of a frog skeleton. The same would apply if you are learning about the parts of a bird, horse, flower, apple, fish, etc. so maybe the themes are not as overt, but you most likely will see some logical connections (I say themes) in Montessori classrooms.

With Charlotte Mason, to me, from what I understand about Charlotte Mason education, themes tied in with nature make sense, as do those with themes tied in with virtues. So, if a child is doing a nature study and is interested in the birds or wildflowers seen while spending time outdoors, then it would make sense to then tie these in as themes into the homeschooling day, right?
Living books with themes that relate with a child's nature study and copywork...seems to work well together...

With Unschooling, generally, a family ideally is following the child's interests, passions, and pursuits, so in these homeschooling situations, there very well might be themes if the child is absorbed by a certain topic of study. The underlying idea is that everyone in the family is held as an equal and that it is a very democratic, loosely flowing sort of way to learn, where the passions drive not the curriculum...
In public schools, there was a popular silent reading program that went by the acronym "DEAR", which stood for "Drop Everything And Read."
I always think of Unschooling more as "Drop Everything And Do", although that comes out with the not-so-nice sounding acronym!
But for those who actually take Unschooling to its purest form and really follow the child's lead, and embrace whatever it is that the child is most passionate about at the moment as what is the course of study, then this is what they do...the only thing is that for me, if we actually were 100% Unschoolers and actually did "Drop Everything And Do" each and every time Little Bro or Big Bro wants to explore something new and different, the acronym might prove to be reality, as I think that I would drop of exhaustion trying to run out every day to just be able to go with the flow and come up with totally awesome experiences that tie in with ALL of their interests day to day....

With Classical Education, themes are global and rotate on a multi-year cycle. The focus is on ancient times so you have to make some sense of this massive timeline and having a theme for the year becomes a necessity.

With Waldorf, from what I have been told and have read, you follow the natural rhythms, so in a sense, there will be themes tied in with the seasons.

So, in one way or another, the concept of organizing by theme could feasibly work in most homeschool settings...now, to make sense of how to do that and to decide who and what drive the themes, well more on that soon...


Honey said...

Awesome & amaing post! I absolutly and whole heartedly totally agree! Wonderful and amazing and...(starting to sound redundant here)... ;)

I've always felt the whole 'against themes' thing is a bit like 'me thinks the lady doth protest too much' type thing. While I'm not a fan of 'the teddy bears picnic' or 'puppies!' week life IS a theme that revolves about the natural rhythm of our lives...every summer we tend to do A,B,C...autumn D,E,F...themes, seasonal activities, rhythm, ..."a rose by any name would still smell as sweet"...


Mommy Moment said...

Great post!
We sure had a blast with your family!
You covered the topic of themes beautifully!

Talk to you soon my friend!


Annicles said...

Well, we certainly have themes at my Montessori school (ages 4-11). How would a teacher get a child to learn anything if s/he didn't use a theme? It would be so fragmented that the child would find it hard to make any connections.

What would one call the Great Lessons if not a theme?

Also, in the uk we have to incorporate the EYFS regardless of pholosophy and that involves following a child's interest through themes. And sorry to all purist montessorians but our theme for the past week has been Peter Pan!

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