Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rollin' on the River

Following a great deal of passionate discussion-bordering-on-debate, we have arrived at our first homeschool unit study topic: The Ohio River (not to be confused with The Ohio State University).

It's broad enough to serve as an umbrella for all sorts of activities, localized enough to make field trips accessible and on target, and conceptually basic enough to serve as a good starting point. I mean, really, you could go on for years with a topic this broad, but I've been working studiously to brainstorm all kinds of activities and projects that will help to make sure we hit all those Ohio guidelines for Kindergarten (and frankly, first grade) this year. 

That said, it's a friggin' art to figure out how to both meet those standards and not get bogged down with curriculum that isn't always particularly thoughtful or imaginative. In other words, this is the point at which we figure out if what we're doing here is "unschooling," "homeschooling with a curriculum" or "eclectic" (somewhere in the middle). I suspect we'll usually land in the latter category during these early years at least. 

Anyway, so far I've made an outline that I don't think is crazy ambitious, reserved some relevant library books, and I'm working on creating a really awesome laminated map for the classroom table, along with laminated river-related clipart that they can dink around with in the course of me casually throwing out vocab terms like confluence, rapids and tributary. Then I'll quiz Andy on these terms and demand that he recite the definitions and correct spellings on the spot. OK maybe not. We'll make a vocab list for the wall, which always works great with him. He can't help but stop and read what I post on the walls, again and again. I guess I should take down all those Playgirl spreads. Sigh. Kids really just cramp your style, don't they?

The map/clip art is partly to hopefully occupy David while Andy is working on other parts of this project, but again, this whole juggling act is going to be part of the learning process.

A few highlights of my outline include:
- Examining our fossil collection, review of Ice Age deposits etc. (mostly a review since he's really into fossils but we'll get into more depth here)
- Looking at gross river stuff under the scope
- Visiting the Cincinnati History museum
- Compare/Contrast different Ohio river cities and towns (we'll visit a handful)
- Identifying Cincinnati's Ohio River bridges
- Learning about landscapes, sketching our own by the river
- A brief intro to Mark Twain and creating our own river stories (comic, written, puppetry, however it happens)
- Taking a trip on the Anderson Ferry
- B&B riverboat trip
- Creating a high level outline of Ohio River history (American Indian tribes, pertinent European explorers, very brief overview of Cincy history)
- Walking the Ohio River history trail at Sawyer Point
- River-related manipulatives for our math stuff
- Found art from stuff we drag home from the riverbank
- Other stuff we may or may not hit

So it's lots of stuff, and we'll play it by ear and then evaluate what worked and didn't. I have a feeling this will be the post I look back on in a year and laugh and laugh about. "I thought I was going to do WHAT? Ahahahaaha. Stupid Sarah." But really, I've tried to be reasonable, and many activities are really just more pointed than things we'd be doing anyway. Andy is an extremely active reader, so I'll be introducing related books into that mix, etc. He will also be doing Kendo for the first time, a Super Saturday science class, and they will both be participating once a week in a 1/2 day music/art enrichment program at a place we love near here. 


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