|Image courtesy of Adafruit|
I've been in a weird place with homeschooling lately. Sometimes my brain reminds me of a snowglobe. I've got all of these seemingly random ideas floating around in my head, and until I give them a chance to settle, I have a hard time seeing the pattern. I've been in one of these snowglobe phases with homeschooling the last few months. I could tell there was a plan brewing, but I couldn't really see it yet.
I have never been able to totally nail down our homeschooling style. On one hand, I really, really love classical education. I love its focus on quality reading materials and its rigorous standards. I was not especially challenged in school, at least academically. I'm not saying I was a straight A student, but the main cause of my stumbles was boredom. As an adult, I have struggled with the consequences of the lazy, undisciplined attitude that grew out of too many years of remaining unchallenged. Classical education does an excellent job of addressing that. The downfall is that a lot of classical education is very book oriented. That's great in some ways. We love to read. We love our poetry recitation and our Latin. We're a little obsessed with books, actually, but we are also very hands on learners. Any approach I take that doesn't consider that part of our learning style is going to be incomplete.
Because of our hands-on style, I also have a great love of project based homeschooling. I love its interdisciplinary approach. In the real world, almost nothing falls into neatly divided categories. You don't go to work and work on your math, reading and science. You go to work and do a whole job, often divided into projects. It seems like a more natural way of approaching a lot of learning oriented tasks and the hands-on aspect of it really helps to cement the concepts in the children's minds. We can (and do, all winter) read about gardening, but there's no amount of reading that replicates the experience of taking a garden through all of its stages, planning, planting, tending and harvesting. A project like that touches on a variety of subjects, from the composition of e-mails to a gardener friend asking for advice, reading books on different methods of growing, to the obvious science of actually planting and growing a variety of flowers and foods. The big downfall of this method is that it can be extremely hard to quantify what we have learned and make sure that nothing gets through the cracks.
I've been trying to integrate these ideas for a while, with varying degrees of success, but I've lacked that key something that would make it feel like a more cohesive school experience. Then yesterday, while I was conversing with a friend about her son's progress in Boy Scouts, it hit me. Badges!
I've seen these Maker Skill Badges from Adafruit before and really liked the idea, but what if I put together my own system of badges that correspond with skills or academic units that we want to cover? Each badge will have a specific set of activities associated with it that have to be completed. Some badges, like mathematics related badges or reading related badges, will be required. Others will be chosen by me on a monthly basis and others will be chosen by the children themselves. Badges that cannot be purchased, we will make using a button maker. We'll make each of the children a wall-hanging to put over their bed to display the badges they have earned.
We have been brainstorming our lists all morning as we recover from our latest bout of sickness. Here is a sample of what we are thinking of. Some of these ideas are borrowed from the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or Adafruit, others are our own creation.
Soldering (already working on)
Cooking (Series of Badges)
Adventure (borrowed from Cub scout list)
Faith (Series of badges)
Out of Your Comfort Zone
Mathematician (series of badges by skill)
Historian (series of badges by historical era)
Foreign Language (Series)
Knots and ropes
Fiber Arts (series, knitting, crochet, sewing, embroidery)
Fine Arts (series, drawing, painting, sculpture)
The Great Outdoors
Map Master (Geography)
Corporal Works of Mercy
Citizenship and Government
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)
Obviously, this is quite a hodge podge of ideas, some of which will have to be sifted through, organized and sorted, but its an exciting list of learning activities that should help to get the brain juice flowing.