Sunday, July 24, 2011

Daily Life Around the House

Time to get serious about this whole schooling at home business.  Tonight I showed Max the moment when a pancake is ready for flipping (when the edges are a little dry and the bubbles on top are popping like mad), and it got me to thinking.  This may have seemed like a trivial interaction in daily life, but it's much more than that.  Isn't my job as his parent to teach him how to navigate the mazes he'll eventually face out in the world, and don't those mazes occasionally encompass the art of making pancakes?  I think so!

Perhaps an amount of time ought to be devoted to developing the important domestic skills in this journey of ours.  Now, of course, my mind is whirring with the possibilities of stuff we could cover!  Think of the breadth and scope here.........anything is fair game to be learned about.  We've already completed a few 'lessons', if you can call them that, on laundry and those went well.  Folding shirts out of the dryer takes practice, but he does a pretty good job.  I'm not a fan of the iron, though, so it doesn't see the light of day very often.  Vacuum maintenance could go on the list; as in how to change the bag and filters, too.  Changing light bulbs and the potential benefits of using CFLs.  Sorting the recycling comes to mind - separating the number 5 plastics from the 1's and 2's and making sure they get to the right place.

Putting together a budget.  Now there's a hot topic!  How about changing out furnace filters or maintaining a swamp cooler?  Learning when to call in a professional is good to know, too.  Cooking with a gas stove!  Lawn maintenance, although I'm by no means a good teacher in this arena because we have goats and I have given them free license in our backyard.  You could say we don't have to tend to much lawn maintenance.......Chewie and Fig have outdone themselves in taking out the weeds and anything else that happens to have a green tinge back there.  All except the Virginia Creeper vine; hmm.  They must know something about that vine because they won't touch it.  It's definitely a falsehood that goats will eat anything.  This afternoon I went outside with some watermelon for the boys and when I called for them, only Chewie made an appearance.  I went looking for Fig and found him in a tree, balanced on a branch, happily munching on leaves and little twigs.  He turned up his brown nose at the watermelon (he never likes to try anything new).

Heck, you could learn together about how a house is built, how plumbing is installed, how a house is wired for electricity........all that stuff we tend to not think about because it's easy to flip a switch or turn a faucet knob.  Although, I wouldn't recommend fiddling with the electricity; I would just read about it or look at home maintenance books!  Not that I'm teaching many of these things, mind you, but it could be a wide open subject for a homeschooling family, couldn't it?  The New Way Things Works by David Macaulay could be a neat adjunct text in this endeavor!

This tome doesn't concentrate on your house per say, but it does contain all sorts of nifty contraptions and principles of science.

This looks so cool!  "Explains workings of more than 150 simple and complex machines and inventions. Examines fascinating worlds of history's great inventors from 7000 B.C. to the present. Guided by the humorous Great Woolly Mammoth, learn about 22 basic principles of science. Includes more than 300 wacky animations."  Excerpt from Amazon product description.

Not a children's text, but still could prove useful if you want to do a little research.  If you already happen to know all this stuff, then I am not worthy!  Home Depot has a similar text called Home Improvement 1-2-3.  You could really have fun making a unit study out of this topic. 

And lest we forget, how about composting, a subject near and dear to my heart!  I recently completed a set of classes and am gathering volunteer hours to become a master composter (like a master gardener, only focused in one key area).  We have two giant open bins out back which I manage on a weekly basis.  I think turning the pile is a fun activity.  It's definitely a workout, I am always curious to see how things change and break down,  and the end of the process yields wonderful material for the soil.  Teaching Max what is compostable is valuable - because I want him to know that much of the stuff we consider waste need not end up in a landfill, that it can be turned into something remarkable for the garden.  I sometimes think that composting can save the world.  Well, at least it's a step in the right direction, if you ask me.

All sorts of things can be composted (composting is just a natural decomposition process that breaks down organic materials - or things that were once living - into a wonderful substance called humus, which is the stuff of legend for soil improvement).  When you set out to compost, all you are doing is helping to create the right conditions for stuff to break down efficiently.  You need brown material, green material (more browns than greens) air and water, a spot to pile it and a pitchfork or shovel to turn it every so often.  Composting need not be expensive!  You can wire together four recycled pallets and have a serviceable bin.  You don't have to spend $200 for a fancy turning composter at Costco; you'd be better off reading a little about the process first and figuring out which system is a match for your household.  Worm bins are awesome for apartment dwellers, too.  Red worms are all the rage!  I have a thousand worms in one of our piles - that was a pretty exciting day when they arrived and I introduced them to their new digs.  I was practically giddy.

Toilet paper tubes, used Kleenex and napkins, torn up newspapers (preferably not the shiny ads, though), human or animal hair, paperboard or chipboard (as in ALL those cereal boxes!  Doesn't it seem like everything comes encased in paperboard???), veggie and fruit scraps from the kitchen, pesticide-free grass clippings, yard trimmings, egg shells, coffee grounds along with the filter, corrugated cardboard, old white cotton socks and underwear even!  If you have a rabbit, the wood shavings and poo from the cage are wonderful composting material (some of the best, in fact).  Just don't add cat or dog doo, meat or dairy products, or fats.  I recommend starting a compost pile and involving your kids in the process!  It's a highly satisfying endeavor, one that I wish more people did.  Our trash can at weekly pickup now is often not even half full, and that's great.

I think you might be getting the idea.  I've blogged before about how 'schooling' doesn't need to be limited to reading, writing and math.  There is so much good stuff we can share with our kids.  Just take a look around or start to think about your daily activities in terms of what can be a topic for learning.  It's wide open.  And that's one of the coolest things about homeschooling!   

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