Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Share the Love: Secret Homeschooling at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Several afternoons ago, the kiddos and I ventured out to the Chicago Botanic Garden to picnic, shoot some photos and do a special, surprise project.

They were so stoked about the surprise project and picnic that they didn't even know what I was doing.

But I'll tell you what I was up to: secret homeschooling.

On the weekends or even weekdays when I need to engage all four of my kiddos meaningfully without it feeling like school, I think up a secret homeschooling plan that couldn't ever be labeled as school work in their minds.

The Chicago Botanic Garden has become one of my go-to places for secret homeschooling. And you don't really actually have to be a homeschooler to do this secret homeschool project; you could just be a person who loves autumn and wants to enjoy the heck out of it with the added bonus of secretly homeschooling your kids on a weekend, nonetheless!

Here's all you need to do a round of secret homeschooling while the whole family enjoys the beauty of autumn at the garden:
-a blanket for sitting
-a plethora of coloring devices
-several large sheets of paper
-one hard surface per child
-one picturesque view beneath a tree or near a bench, like this one:

Present it like this: ok, guys, let's explore and find the most beautiful place we can. Once you agree on a place, we'll start a project! You have 20 minutes - go!

Giving a time limit makes it into a race, so my kids take off quickly and burn some energy before we sit down to recreate our favorite space on paper.

Once they find their "most beautiful place," share with them that you'll come back again to the same exact spot to draw a stunningly different picture during a different season. If your kids are anything like mine, they are motivated by finished product, too, so I offer to take all four pictures and compile them into a large frame for hanging in our home. This also helps for getting them to do their best work!

Though not all of my children love art equally, they enjoy working outside and put quite a bit of effort into their pictures. Well, the bigger three worked and put in quite a bit of effort for about 40 minutes. Our three year old worked and put in quite a bit of effort for about four minutes. She then played in the dirt, leaves and with sticks nearby, which kept her mostly happy and me mostly sane.

So what do they learn?

  • they see and understand the changing landscape in a new way
  • they gain a clearer understanding of what autumn looks like in our area
  • they gain experience using true-to-life colors or shading in a drawing
  • they gain experience on how to draw a picture from a scene (perspective) instead of from imagination
  • they have a chance to articulate their pictures as they explain them to me


There's more, of course, too, that I'm sure they are gathering with all of their senses! All in all, it was a big win, and I promised the kids another round of this project on a nice winter day for a new view of the same scene.



There's still plenty of beautiful days left! Go enjoy one!

Full disclosure: Because I sincerely love the outdoors, nature and specifically the mission and efforts of the Chicago Botanic Garden, I have partnered with the garden to help spread the word about its events and features. Kindly, the garden provides me with a membership. 

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