Friday, February 28, 2014

Unschooling with Disney

*this post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Disney, Prima Princesa, Marvel, or the Olympics. 

Completely by accident we have found ourselves doing unit studies. Its a homeschooling term that other homeschooling families should recognize. Basically we have spent an amount of time/days focused on a theme of study. 

Emagene has been collecting Disney princesses and fairies for a while now and recently began asking about some of the stories with which she was less familiar. We tell her what we remembered while waiting for the DVD to be found at the library. Then we watch the movie or read the book and end up finding other things to do that fit the theme. None of it pre-determined.

For example, she started with Sleeping Beauty. We read the story, watched the Disney film, and stumbled upon a Prima Princesa production at the library. These productions (for there are more than one) are shortened, narrated versions of the orignial ballets put together by the American Ballet Academy and various ballet companies around the world. They break up the show by teaching easy ballet steps to the viewers. So we easily immersed ourselves in the world of Aurora and pointed out the differences and similarities between the two versions of the story. During the midst of this obsession, we visited the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth's education program called Wonderful Wednesdays (link here) and our project happened to feature a photo of a pas de duex (dance for two). Everything swirled into a few weeks of dance, art, doll play and various other ways of storytelling. 

After a short break to focus on the math skills highlighted in Mickey Mouse clubhouse, next up was Ariel. We've held off on this video until now due to Emagene's sensitivity to 'bad guys'. She read the story with us a few times and seemed prepped for the creepiness of Ursula. After we watched the film we discovered that the cooperative preschool we are apart of was beginning a unit on under the sea. How more perfect then was a requested trip to the Children's Aquarium! We learned about sea turtles and saw week old baby sharks, and freshly laid shark eggs.

After 10 days of being sucked into the world of mermaids, Aquaman and stingrays, Jungle Book appeared in our mailbox, just days before a pre-planned trip to the Dallas Zoo. Naturally, when we discovered the menu page of Jungle Book 2 simulates a Balinese shadow puppet play, we spent a great deal of time cutting shapes and back lighting them against a white sheet. This lead to noticing what happens to the shadows when the shapes are held close to the sheet or closer to the light.

In the middle of all this we spent a lot of time with the Olympics playing in the background and our world map close by. We found counties during the opening ceremony (until she fell asleep after the first 10 counties), watched her discover snowboarding, and notice how figure skating is similar to ballet. Since we took her ice skating over thanksgiving, she remembers how hard staying on your feet is and was in awe of anyone being able to jump or spin. 

And that friends is real unschooling. None of this was planned, other than meeting friends at the zoo or randomly committing ourselves to community activities with no thought of connecting dots, yet it all fell together. If you look close, we've talked about and tried fine arts (dance, music, painting, puppetry), early literature development (reading and storytelling in a number of ways), natural science (playing with light), zoology (reading plaques at the zoo and listening to keeper talks) marine science (again reading plaques and chatting with the keepers -theres a batch of sharks eggs due to hatch out in 2 weeks for those interested), fine motor skill development (cutting the shadow puppets, painting), physical education (dance, walking, running down sidewalks, climbing), world culture (Olympics and shadow puppets), current events (Olympics), and geography. I think most of these subjects are a little advanced for preschool, but only when you put a label on either the subject or the grade level. Otherwise, it was a over a month of just fostering curiosity and following the child's interest. 

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