Friday, October 10, 2014

More Learning Through Play

The more I think about the value of learning through play and the unique opportunities we have to use play as a homeschooling family, the more I am trying to find opportunities to make that option available. As I mentioned previously, sometimes the sprouts have different ideas about what they want to learn from play than I do. I am trying really hard to relax some of my expectations and simply observe what they are doing.

This week, the sprouts were clamoring for toys. They wanted toys from their favorite TV shows and movies (in our case, Wild Kratts and Frozen) so that they could incorporate these characters into their play. At first, I tried to talk them into playing with toys that they already had, Or, maybe we could find some other ways to play that I felt would be more constructive-- books, puzzles, blocks, etc.

But then I reminded myself to step back and think about what they were asking.

They were familiar with a set of characters and stories. First Sprout is especially of enamored with Wild Kratts and learns so much from their shows that it's amazing. I am also super familiar with the characters from Frozen, and I have used the dialogue and songs to connect with them playfully (we wrote a ballad about going to the grocery store to the tune of "Let It Go"). Maybe what they were telling me by asking for the toys is that really they wanted more opportunities to engage with the stories and characters. Maybe we could use this as a learning opportunity!

Interestingly enough, Common Core has broadened the definition of "text" to include a wider range of multi-media material. So technically, we could look examine Frozen for story elements or use it as a basis for re-telling. In the same vein of thinking, we could discuss the difference between fact and fiction in Wild Kratts and explore some science standards too.

The whole idea of taking our screen time and using it to build more learning opportunities really appealed to me because I am already in the habit of watching with them and incorporating what they see into real-world situations. Also, to be honest, I love cartoons.

The glaring problem is that I don't want to buy a lot of extra toys, nor do I want to store them. Then I had an idea while we were talking about Halloween costumes. What if we dressed up dolls that we already have to look like characters the sprouts wanted?

I am a huge fan of Hearts for Hearts dolls for their multiculturalism and humanitarian efforts. Also, they are ridiculously cute and thankfully in my price range. We have been slowly collecting the dolls for the last year and a half, so we have a lots of clothes (both purchased and made) for them as well. Here's what we came up with:

Zelia is dress up as Anna using a motley combination of clothes from other Hearts for Hearts dolls. We didn't really have anything that matched Elsa's dress closely enough, so Second Sprout helped me find suitable fabric from my stash to make a dress. It's not authentic, but it's close enough for imaginary play!
We also dressed Consuelo and Rahel up as Aviva and Koki, respectively, from Wild Kratts. We used a mix of clothes from other dolls and clothes that I made previously to create the "costumes"
The sprouts embraced this plan so whole-heartedly that I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out that they didn't just want toys because of the influence of rampant consumerism; they really wanted the ability to process information they had learned and stories they had seen through play. Although we spend a part of each school day doing more traditional work, we were also able to spend a good part of the day dressing and playing with the dolls. The sprouts spent a lot of time analyzing the characters (in both appearance and action) and creating their settings. It was really amazing to watch them play, and I learned a lot by noticing what they re-created.

As a result, I am more resolved than ever to find more ways to learn through play as part of our homeschooling journey. I am also interested in exploring ways to make our media usage an avenue for learning as well. We don't watch tons of TV, but maybe I will feel less guilty about what we do watch if I am more thoughtful about what we are learning from it.

We are always learning in unexpected and exciting ways! This why I am grateful to be doing what I do where I am right now.

Happy Learning!

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