I went to bed on Sunday night two weeks ago thinking, "Something has got to be done!" By the time I woke up on Monday morning, I had a plan: Bird School.
With the upheaval of the move, the children had become pretty wild and whiney and unruly. And although I had managed to keep a pretty consistent rhythm to our lives throughout it all, I felt like we just needed a bit more "structure" to our day. So I invented Bird School. It went a little bit like this:
After breakfast, while it was still relatively cool out, we went on a Nature Walk around our neighborhood, collecting little bits of nature and observing the flora and fauna in our new little ecosystem here.
Then we'd go inside for circle time, which I modeled (ok, totally appropriated!) from our years of Parent and Tot classes at the Edmonton Waldorf School. We did four or five little songs or rhymes, mostly with a bird theme: Two Little Black Birds; Up, Up, in the Sky; Five Eggs and Five Eggs, and a few others.
Afterwards, we all sat down at our big dining table, which faces a big window overlooking our ravine (and our popular bird feeder), and we had a "lesson," chalkboard and all. The "daily lesson" was always something very simple: "What makes a bird"? Or "how do birds fly?" Or "What do birds eat?" The kinds of questions my five year old always has.
Now this is the part I kinda roll my eyes at. A lesson? With a chalkboard?! I know, I know. But Colin insisted. He also insisted on calling me "Teacher." He was really into the whole school idea, so I just kinda went with it. I figure if he's so keen to be a student and sit still for a lesson at a chalkboard, well, I'm going to encourage that, because whatever opinions I might have about kindergardeners needing playtime over instructional time, he's about to have a lot of the latter at at his new school.
Anyway, after our daily lesson, we did a craft. My favorite! Again, it was always something pretty simple: drawing a bird, or drawing a feather, or making a bird mask. But I was really surprised by how fast they caught on to drawing something new and complicated with just a little prompting. Archer, who is just three, drew some pretty awesome peacocks. And Colin, who has always been my reluctant artist, absolutely threw himself into drawing a very colorful, detailed toucan. It turns out that Colin is a little insecure about drawing something unless he "already knows how to do it," so, once I gave him a "lesson" and showed him a few tricks, he and the confidence to experiment. This has been pretty revelatory for me.
Finally, after everyone had drawn something they were satisfied with and taped it to the wall, we sat down and read books or played a game, usually with a bird theme. Are You My Mother, by P.D. Eastman was a big hit with Archer, and the board game Pengulo was was Colin always asked for. And then school was done. And so was the morning. And we were all very happy to go off and do our independent things for the rest of the afternoon. It was awesome. And the best part was, it required almost no preparation on my part. All of the "supplies"—the books and craft supplies—we just things I had around the house. And all of my "lesson plans" were so simple, I just kinda made them up on the fly.
Our week of Bird School was so satisfying for all of us, in fact, that at the end of the week Colin asked, "What school is next?"
So this week, it's Fish School. But more on that later...