September-October 2009 Selected Content
Ten Steps Toward Sanity - Ruth Schiffmann
Problems with a Parental Rights Amendment
Ten Steps Toward Sanity
The kids have decorated the dog with fabric paint. The cordless phone is crackling away in the dishpan, and the only thing louder than the marbles that found their way into the clothes dryer is the pounding in your head. It's one of those days when you want to give up. But where structure and textbooks seem out of reach, try a sanity-saving activity to salvage the day.
Make a bug book or leaf rubbings.
When your skin is starting to crawl with frustration, take the kids for a walk. Enjoy the space around you. Let it spark descriptive writings, drawings, a log of bugs seen, where they were unearthed and what they were doing. Bring a bag and collect a variety of leaves. Later children can use paper and crayons to create simple rubbings. Then have them identify each rubbing by cross-referencing a tree book or a leaf identification website such as inspire.net/trees/leaf/byleaf.html.
Ride the story train.
Get the kids up and out of their seats. Form a train, hands on the waist of the person in front of you. With a beginning, middle and end, you've got the makings for great storytelling. Chug through the house telling team-created stories. The head of the train starts, the mid-section continues the story, and the caboose finishes it up. When one story is complete, switch spots and start the journey again.
Jumpstart a passion for numbers and deep knee bends.
The lily pad game will exercise both mind and body. Place green sheets of construction paper on the for throughout the house. As children hop from one "lily pad" to the next, they must count. For the youngest it may be counting 1-10, for older ones, counting to 100 by 2's, 5's, 10's, etc.
Shake things up.
Start by making milkshakes. Then when tummies are full, let children do a little work by turning cream into butter. Pour heavy cream into an empty jar. Toss in a few marbles to help with the mixing. Have children sit opposite each other on a carpeted floor and roll the jar back and forth until they've churned the cream to butter. Then make some more high-velocity fun with homemade rain sticks. Raid the recycling bin for cardboard paper towel tubes. Tape up one end of the tube. Then toss in some rice, dried beans or un-popped popcorn. Rip off a 24 - 30 inch length of aluminum foil. Roll the foil into a snake. Then form a spring shape by coiling it around a broom handle. Feed this aluminum spring into the tube and close up the other end. Let the rain-sounding, shake-em-up fun begin!
Nothing says fun like pizza.
Have an all-day pizza party. Start with a breakfast pizza with an omelet base. Top it with anything from cheese, ham, and sausage, to tomatoes, peppers, or onions. Lunchtime is perfect for quick and easy English muffin pizzas. For dinner go traditional. Then produce the grand finale: a fruit pizza for dessert. Start with a cookie crust, frosted with sweetened cream cheese and topped with a colorful variety of sliced fruits. The kids will be focused on the food and the fun, but you can be sure they're learning by emphasizing the measuring, fractions, food groups and cooking within the day's activity.
Give the orders.
Then let the kids do the ordering--of information that is. Give children index cards and have them write one day of the week on each. (This can be half art project, with children lettering, coloring and illustrating each card). Then have them lay the cards out in order. The same can be done with the months of the year, the alphabet, the names of US Presidents. Multi-digit numbers can be ordered from least to greatest or greatest to least. The possibilities go on and on.
Call a meeting of the poetry circle.
Gather poetry books and stack them in the center of the circle. Each participant takes a few minutes to browse the books and pick out favorite poems. Then going around the circle, have each member read a poem and share why he or she likes it. Sometimes interest is slow to get going, but once the fun gets rolling, just try to stop it! The good humored, rhyming poems of Shel Silverstein, www.shelsilverstein.com/indexSite.html, Jack Prelutsky, www.jackprelutsky.com,and Kenn Nesbitt, www.poetry4kids.com/index.php are great to introduce little ones to the silly side of poetry.
Start a weather-tracking journal.
Created from construction paper and shaped like a storm cloud, a thunderbolt or a raindrop, these fun booklets can be used day after day to record observations about the weather, both creative: sketches, poems, descriptive writings--and statistical: temperature, barometer, pollen count, wind chill, humidity.
Don't get stuck. Get sticky notes.
Make Post-it (R) note tags for beginning readers. Label everything from the milk in the fridge to the television and the toilet. For older children, it's a great way to introduce a foreign language. In our house we had one child interested in Spanish and the other in German. We used different colored sticky notes for each language and had a mosaic rainbow throughout our house for months!
Go with the flow.
Instead of trying to subdue squirming learners, make the most of their energy. Create a song and dance to help them remember some hard-to-learn facts. We did this with state capitals, the American presidents, and multiplication facts. First we closed the blinds so that neighbors wouldn't confuse our teaching practices with partying. Then we let loose with the singing and dancing. It's impossible to be bored, cranky, or stressed with all that silliness going on. So get up, get the wiggles out, and get ready to see a big payoff in both mood and memorization.
The next time your day starts spiraling out of control, give up the lesson plans, but don't give up altogether.
"This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24, NASB)
© 2009, Ruth Schiffmann