It’s that time of year when the new curriculum has worn down, the shiny has rubbed off, and the dull drudgery is making everyone cranky. Everyone. Cranky. Very cranky. If you celebrate the holidays maybe that’s enough distraction to get you through, but even that’s over by January 1st and that leaves a cold empty hole between the literal new year and spring and time to look at next school year’s curriculum.
Most homeschoolers I know commit to a school year’s worth of curriculum at a time. There really are certain things you have to accomplish, regardless of how formal or UN your school. Usually that involves devoting your school to a program designed to cover certain topics, paying out some hard earned cash, and buckling down to a whole year of this exciting new learning you’ve brought into your home. Only in November it may be getting a bit ho-hum, December may last forever, and mid-year eye rolling may actually cause permanent damage.
I call it the ‘blahs’. It was almost 2 years to the day that I wrote about this very contagious condition. So there are some good ideas for warring the blahs in that post. I personally need some fresh ideas. Even when I don’t use all the ideas, or if the girl child has her own ideas we might not use any of mine, but it still perks me up, energizes me, and makes me think. It’s very easy to do school by rote, doing it just to do it, getting it finished. But thinking along the way is a good thing.
I’m not sure if older students (12-17) get the blahs more or less than their younger counterparts. My daughter plows through one subject at a time on her own while we consistently do a literature based across curriculum program that I designed specifically for her and that I tweak according to our family’s ebbs and flows. So she might not be burned out on anything but reading novels (oh dear) and her online virtual classes that set a pace and won’t let her get ahead.
I am sure that if a student falls in the upper grades and is mid-book of Saxon Geometry looking at lesson 55 contemplating whether to focus on triangle midsegment theorem or binge watching Parks & Recreation, they have the blahs. And also you might need to look at your Netflix account history to make sure they aren’t watching 9 hours and 27 minutes straight while they are supposed to be sleeping.
While I don’t discourage a good Netflix marathon (especially if you have a marathon about marathons), there might be a couple of productive things you can do along the way. So this years list of 3 blah busters will start with the older student in mind and work down to the littles.
This idea is to be practical. We all watch the news. We all see people evacuated for floods, for hurricanes, for wildfires. Does your family have what you would need to survive for 3 days should you find yourself out of home, out of electricity, out of communication? Yes it’s a little scary but it actually makes it less scary if you have a plan and supplies.
How to make this a school project? Well, you probably know by now that anything can be a school project. So let’s break it down across the curriculum.
HISTORY: In the past 100 years, name 5 tragedies in the United States that suddenly displaced large numbers of people. Carry it further and write a report on one event listing the lead up, any warning time, the event, how many people were affected, where they went, how they survived and how they returned to normal life. They could do a comparison analysis on how natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina compares with the evacuation of 335,000 people in Chernobyl after a nuclear meltdown. Discuss how knowledge of these events can help us prepare for similar situations.
SCIENCE: How much food and water does one need for emergency 3 or 4 days survival? What are the best sources for nutrition, by weight, nutritional value, and shelf life? How will the body react to the stress of evacuating, different weather scenarios, fear, and feelings of loss? What kind of first aid might be needed and what tools would you want in your bag for this?
MATH: How big of a bag do you need to carry your supplies, what size bag is recommended, and how can you reconcile those into a real and practical go-bag? How much weight can each size person carry? How much do supplies weigh? Solve the difference. (really solve it, not just on paper.)
Emergency preparedness covers so many aspects and there are dozens of schools of thought. I am personally talking about a 72 hour kit that would allow you to leave home, escape immediate threat, and attend to your needs without outside assistance for 3-4 days in hopes that the situation is resolved by then or you have secured more permanent arrangements. I really like Mom With A Prep’s 72 hour emergency kit. She very thoroughly goes through some scenarios to help you see why you need certain things but also helps you personalize for your family. I also have a Pinterest board that I share with other members of my family so we can prepare together.
If you are just getting started on this it looks daunting. But start with the first step, information, and then make sure that each person in the house has their own 72 hour emergency bag. Once that is done you can explore other prep work that might come in handy. It’s recommended by government agencies, many churches and religions encourage their members to be prepared for emergencies, and if you do it as a school project I guarantee everyone will be familiar with all the supplies and family plan.
I have my little girl to thank for this one and the next one.
Impersonations, alter egos, a second self. I’m not promoting split personalities or MPD, those are mental conditions you can’t control. I’m talking about a well refined alternative personality that can be ‘put on’ for effect or entertainment.
I’m trying to think of examples- Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana immediately comes to mind except I think HM was more of a disguise to allow Miley to lead a normal life. Now Miley CYRUS/Hannah Montana might work as alter egos, in fact I think I would like it if the real Miley did ‘put on’ her other self once in awhile or maybe all the time.
Vicki Lawrence started performing as ‘Mama’ on the Carol Burnett Show in 1973, and ‘Mama’ is still going strong. Her alter ego was so strong that it prompted a spin off series and was believable despite the fact that Vicki was 14 years younger than Carol who played her daughter. In fact Vicki Lawrence was younger than any of her co-stars that played her children.
Believability, that is important. Saturday Night Live has had many memorable characters but some true alter egos. I’m not talking about impersonations of real people (although I did entitle this section impersonations) but characters that the actor embodies. Characters that could show up for a party and be accepted as a real person. Dana Carvey could show up for dinner as the church lady or as Garth (with or without Wayne). There are alter egos that obscure their real life counterpart human, like Larry the Cable Guy or Minnie Pearl (you knew those were acts right?)
Anyhow, when you pull out the AE you need to make people forget who they are really looking at. I was a believer when my 14 year old daughter came in the livingroom, snapped her fingers, pursed her lips, tilted her head and said “I am gonna grill you like Memphis Bar-B-Q”. She can also pull out her Southern Mama. I don’t really call that an alter ego since it might be a for real thing one day and she needs to be in practice when the time comes to yell “Y’all quit actin’ ugly”.
There are some pretty good how to tips and videos out there. You can also look at it as a great way to hide the crazy. If someone in the family is acting a little strange you can just shrug and say it’s their alter ego.
Across the curriculum:
HISTORY: There have been imposters, impressionist, and alter egos throughout history. Like the 400+ women who impersonated men to fight in the United States Civil War who were like the Joan of Arcs of their time. Anna Anderson went to her grave claiming to be Anastasia Romanov and Frank Abagnale Jr. successfully impersonated professions including a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. You may think that these people were just con artist but they put on their alter egos convincingly enough to fool people around them. You might wonder if they believed it themselves? Did they ever take off their alter egos?
SCIENCE: Which leads us to the science. There are several aspects of alter egos in psychiatry and psychology. One is the imposter syndrome, people who are unable to reconcile their real lives and achievements with their own low expectations or how they see themselves. They live in fear of being ‘found out’ and ‘exposed’ as a fraud. The pressure to create and maintain a cyber persona is a new question for psychiatrist, is this healthy especially for adolescents? And can an alter ego take over and turn into a case of full blown dissociative identity disorder?
LANGUAGE ARTS: Literature with imposters or alter egos:
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Stevenson
- Twelfth Night – Shakespeare
- The Prince and the Pauper – Twain
- The Wizard of Oz – Baum (where Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are the only two Kansas characters without alter egos in OZ)
- Superman (and just about any superhero story)
So where does Madea end and Tyler Perry begin? Who was that masked man? And will Mrs. Doubtfire ever get to be just plain ol’ Daniel Hillard?
This really happened last night with no help or prompting from me. (Baking bread happened, not the following research for a unit study. But the bread was yummy.)
This is one of the nice things about homeschooling, if an interest even a fleeting interest happens, there is time to act. I just don’t think there is time when a kid goes to public school to explore simple activities like baking bread. It really can be a mini unit study.
HISTORY: Google ‘bread in history’ and ‘the history of bread’. Now pick a few of the million bits of information you find. Are you studying Egypt? The Egyptians made bread! Find out how. Are you studying pirates? They ate while sailing! Make time to cook a little hardtack. How about those Middle Ages? You guessed it, bread. Did you know there were laws in France about bread?
LITERATURE: Literature is full of bread, real and symbolic. From The Bible to The Hunger Games, bread represents life, riches, friendship, and family.
SCIENCE: Baking powder is a chemical compound that combines sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid creating a leavening effect. Not to be confused with baking soda, which is plain sodium bicarbonate, also used as a leavening agent but can be used to exfoliate your skin, soak your feet, polish your silverware, clean everything, deodorize your sneakers, extinguish fires, clean your drains, and
promote world peace. And how about that yeast? Well, for starters, it’s alive. It’s a fungus. And the baking kind has its own species name- you guessed it- Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Also you can introduce your young chefs to the great chef herself Julia Child.
The above reminds me of a little cartoon I saw a few months ago. Remember, break the monotony, but even if you don’t it doesn’t last. A new year is right around the corner.
- Oakland Cemetery Atlanta, GA
- Socialization, Forced Association, and Age Segregation