Last year I wrote a post reflecting on the positives and negatives of summer 2012. We had just spent the summer weeks on an Aztec, Mayan and Incan adventure box. We had a great time, but it didn’t really fill every child’s needs that summer. Using the points I made and the changing needs I could see in both the children and myself, we devised a plan. And I have to say it was near perfect for us. In fact, I’m not sure I’m ever going to come close to replicating its success.
The children have had a marvellous summer learning many new skills, from 1800’s cooking to hand sewing; from wood work to knot making in addition to doing the laundry 1800’s style! It has been great fun and we are sad it has come to a close.
I asked the children to sum up how they felt their summer of Prairie Living had been. Here are their replies in their own words:
L10: ‘Wonderful, real learning, best summer ever, cooking-new experiences of 1800s cooking. painting. so much fun. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. Inside the little house was very hot in summer. I would have liked to have done daily cooking as I feel there was a lot more to learn, and also I prefer to be busy and therefore would have liked the activities to have continued right up to the end rather than slowing down towards the end.’
C10: ‘Amazing! I really enjoyed this summer, although I didn’t enjoy the painting of the house after the first coat! My favourite part was watching the costumes flourish and come to life. So fun making all the items for the house. Best summer I’ve ever had! Thank you mummy! I really enjoyed learning how to hand sew properly, hopefully it will be the sewing machine next! It was the perfect summer for me, primarily because we were learning so many skills.’
T11: ‘I really enjoyed the whole summer. In particular I enjoyed learning the survival skills and hands on aspect. There was definitely too much painting! Bit samey. I feel like I’ve come away from the summer with more skills. Would have preferred to have kept up the momentum towards the end, as I like to be fully occupied and have busy days. In general this was a very successful summer, far better than last summer.’
A5: ‘I enjoyed playing in the finished little house the most, all dressed up!’
B2: ‘My mummy!’ (said cuddling my leg.)
So, things that have worked
- Themed based learning
- Skill based learning
- Book based learning
- Keeping busy
- Having me involved and teaching them skills, at the same time as them having lots of play time to enjoy the fruit of their labour
- Having a beginning and an end. Especially having the party at the end, signalled an absolute finish to the project (although I have me some plans……)
- Having the sheer variety of activities we had prevented any signs of boredom.
- Having Daddy so involved was fantastic especially for T11
Things that haven’t worked so well
- The children’s blog. I was so excited about this, and really thought they would go for it. And you know? I was right. They did enjoy the newness of ‘writing’ a blog, but they soon found out that writing was still writing and typing takes much longer than writing and ‘mummy, where is the apostrophe again?’ They did really well to keep it updated until week 7, but after that it all fell by the way side. Had it been actual school work I would have insisted they finished it, but I had already decided beforehand that if they lost interest, I wouldn’t be nagging them to keep on task. I wanted this summer to be a fun learning experiment and I wanted to be mummy not teacher for a change.
- We have one car which Gary uses for work. This limits the opportunities to get out and about over the summer. Although we have a fantastic public transport near to us, traveling with five children (one a little unpredictable) just doesn’t float my boat. So I don’t. This has meant that yet again the children have not had many opportunities to meet up with friends and so forth. This was an issue last summer, and was a much smaller issue this summer, with T11 mentioning it only in the last couple of weeks of the summer. They are used to going to various clubs over the week but during the summer the clubs cease to run. As long as the children are busy it is not a problem, hence a couple of them mentioning that they wished the momentum had been kept up towards the end. They had time on their hands and started to miss being with their friends. This is something I again must address for next summer, ensuring we are getting out or having people round a couple of times each week.
- Towards the end of the ten weeks, I started up my school planning for 2012-2013 school year. This is essential work I had to do, but it took me away from the project and the children. Whilst in the main they kept themselves happily entertained with their little house playing, I could tell, especially the last week or so, that they were getting restless. I’m not sure what the answer is here, because I do need to put in the work for the upcoming school year, but like last year, the children enjoy having Mummy (and Daddy) being part of their learning. Any ideas?? (I already make the most of my insomnia by school planning until 2am most mornings so working anymore at night is not a possibility)
All in all this was a huge success and one I shall struggle to better. I have a couple of ideas on the back burner, but both require a second mortgage to do properly. So not very, very realistic then! Sigh…..back to the drawing board.