By Deborah Wood, Ph.D.
Quick re-cap: as the threat of the Delta variant of Covid-19 rose just a few weeks before the start of the “return to the classroom” school year, I proposed homeschooling as a safer option for two children I had been longing to spend time with since the state’s Stay-at-Home order of March 2020. Thankfully the parents consented and here we are.
Our second grade and fifth grade students have come to expect the unexpected since our days – divided and sometimes shared between their Grammy and myself – are generally very loosely planned. We’ve been homeschooling for two months now, enjoying the freedom of spending as much time outside as we can, and while checking off each of the required eight curriculum areas, following the interests of the students with occasional suggestions from me or from Grammy.
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Homeschooling happens in a variety of places, including parks and playgrounds plus Grammy’s house. At my house the children have been reconnecting with places they remember from before the pandemic, including our next door neighbor’s yard.
Naturally we’ve been to visit the chickens – an open invitation since the children were about two and five-years-old. I was busy spotting the fifth grader for bike riding practice on our unbusy street when the second grader came to tell us there was something we had to go and see.
“Lion’s mane!” we were authoritatively told. “It’s a fungus.” This student was so excited that we followed at once. The lady of the house happened to be out in her yard when the second grader wandered over and supported Science learning by identifying the white growth on her tree. “It’s supposed to be edible,” the neighbor added. We marveled at it. We touched it. We asked for a report if the neighbors decided to cook some and eat it. (Apparently it has many health benefits unless you’re allergic to mushrooms.)
Coin Counting Machine
Knowledge of coins and bills is part of second grade math. A picture book on the subject caught my eye at the library, but hadn’t caught the student’s attention in the week or so since it had been at my house. Sensing that a rainy day might be a good time to play with money I looked around for the set of play coins and bills I had tried to introduce a few weeks ago. They were not to be found. Ah! I spied Granddaddy’s coin counter. (A must-have since one of his hobbies is metal detecting.) I shook a handful of coins out from the top of the machine and challenged the student to match up similar sizes.
In no time at all the fifth grader was fiddling with the coin counter. Soon the counter was brought to Granddaddy for assistance in getting it unjammed. A screw driver was necessary to loosen things up. The fifth grader was enthralled with this success. The unplanned engineering (STEM) lesson led to more and more coins being made available for the second grader who held attention to matching coins, counting up similar coins, equating coins of different values, and adding up coins to make an amount of money as prompted by the book. While their interest was respectively on getting coins out of the counter and meeting the challenges in the book, I quickly made some dollar bills in various denominations out of paper. The three of us added and subtracted with pretend money until the second grader ultimately called it quits.
More Rainy Day Fun
With no let up in sight for the rain outside, I suggested we play a game that had been much enjoyed by these children before our long separation, and by my children and their friends before that. This game goes way back. My mother had learned to play “Huckle Buckle Beanstalk” when she was at Teachers’ College around 1950. She taught this game to many children over the years including her five children at home. It’s perfect for a rainy day indoors, but can be played outside as well. I have since taught it to many, many children, and to lots of teachers, too!
While it’s easiest to learn a new game when you’re actually playing it with someone who knows how to play, Playworks, a nonprofit that supports playtime at schools, youth programs, and other organizations has a good set of directions on their website.
Basically it’s a hide and seek game but with an object. What’s best about the game is that players are guided toward the object by those who have already found it. “Warmer.” “You’re getting colder.” “You’re boiling!” This goes on until the last player successfully finds the object. We found it peeking out of a drawer (one rule is that at least part of the object must be showing.) We found it on top of the refrigerator. We found it in the second grader’s sweatshirt hood.
While the object is being hidden by one player, the others are supposed to keep their eyes closed (or go into another room). We opted to sit on the couch. To pass the waiting time, and to muffle any sounds being made by the hider, the waiters can agree on a song to sing. The second grader asked me to sing, “the one you sing when I go to sleep” (Hush Little Baby). Something else my mother taught me. I’m happy to pass it on to another generation. The fifth grader got a kick out of “On Top of Spaghetti” which I can faintly recall my father singing to us.
I’m looking forward to the next time we play so I can dig out more songs from my repertoire.
So much to discover about ourselves and the world around us.
Read more of Dr. Wood’s Good Parenting columns by clicking here.