When I first started my in home childcare, I remember building all my lesson plans around a weekly theme. First week of October? Fire safety for sure. Third week of May? Only flower lessons would do. Snow on the ground? Well, surely it would not be the right time to learn about butterflies and ladybugs!
|Watching my shadow while painting with both hands|
I few years later, I realized something was missing. Sure I was planning a TON of activities for each theme, but it just wasn't working. It was stressful for me, to say the least, and the kids weren't really interested. They were simply following along my path of preset learning and exploring. Sure, they painted their apples, and glued their snowmen, but they weren't fully engaged or excited about the activities that were being presented to them. It wasn't authentic.
|Digging for Native American artifacts|
And then there were the times when they were excited about a theme, and would have loved to continue exploring, but each theme was only set for a week. How could we possibly continue with dinosaurs when next week is space week? Now, I can only wonder what we may have lost, or what experiences may have slipped by unexplored.
|Finding wild blueberries in our woods|
I am now using a more emergent curriculum.
I've let go of the reins and put them in the hands of the children. I allow their interests to determine our themes and how long they will last. Sometimes we explore the same topic for months. Sometimes there is no set theme to our week at all. Either way, the learning is more authentic. The children are more engaged and more excited about the materials. The information we gather has more meaning. They are learning and exploring the things that are of most interest to them, even if that means snowmen in July.
|Building a monster truck after noticing the round blocks roll|
Sure, you will still see the occasional hand print turkey in November, or coffee filter butterfly in April, but it all comes more naturally for us now. The children themselves notice the changes in the seasons, and in the environment around them, and they decide the learning topics that are most important to them at the time.
|Observing a snake x-ray on the light table|
I've found myself more engaged, and more excited about learning and exploring along side of the children. I make sure to take advantage of every "teachable moment", and savor every opportunity to watch a child discover something for the first time, which may have otherwise been lost in the fast pace shuffle of pre-determined "themes".
|Playing with my reflection in the mirror|
Last Friday we went apple picking because, well, its apple picking season around these parts. So next week we have activities planned to explore apples more.
|Apple picking in 2009|
Some children have also noticed the leaves are changing, and some have been showing a lot of interest in trains. Where will all this lead us? We will have to wait and see!
(maybe a leaf peeping train ride!)
|Piping liquid watercolor on coffee filters|
And the toads, snakes, and salamanders we have been following the whole summer have not hibernated yet. I'm sure they will still be outside waiting for us....just in case.