The Dinosaur Museum Saga: why I’m so excited to ‘homeschool’ in the fall**
Posted by Yes This I Know
**Disclaimer: this post is full of instances of a parent being amazed by each new thing their oldest child does. I literally dote on creations he make with blocks later, so feel free to skip, skim, or at least brace for some over-enthusiastically detailed commentary on my kiddo.
Today is THE day that Rowan has been waiting for. The dinosaur excavation kits that he bought with his Christmas money are scheduled to arrive in the mail. The simple process of ordering the kits has spurred tons of educational projects around our house for weeks, most of which I had no hand in initiating. I’m excited to have more opportunities for Rowan’s interests to naturally gain educational momentum like this if we “homeschool” in the fall rather than enrolling in a preschool again. (I use quotes because he’s not actually “school aged,” so we aren’t homeschooling as an alternative to public school or aiming for any set goals. I just want to have the resources ready to enrich subjects that interest him.)
Rowan loves dinosaurs, and might be slowly memorizing Dinosaur Train on PBS. When I try to so much as spell the dinosaur names he mentions, I can’t even get it close enough for Google to correct me on the first few tries (Masiakasaurus?). When he got a dinosaur excavation kit for his birthday last year from his Uncle Pat, he dug the T-rex skeleton out of the clay, assembled it, and said, “Can you send this clay back to Uncle Patrick and tell him to put a Stegosaurus inside?” Thus began his single-minded pursuit of more dinosaur skeletons to excavate.
He’s gathered three more since then on special occasions, and they are displayed on the part of the fireplace that Rowan has dubbed the Dinosaur Hall of Fame. He keeps a mental list of the dinosaurs that he wants to excavate next which currently includes Spinosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Einiosaurus and Velociraptor. (Arriving today are Spinosaurus, Styracosaurus, and Parasaurolouphus.) When I asked him how many dinosaurs he thinks he needs, he answered, “All of the ferocious ones.”
Rowan received some money for Christmas, so we explained that he could use it however he’d like. We wanted him to understand as he made his decisions that his money is finite, so we made a quick graph of “Dollars Used” modeled after the point-earning screen from his favorite dinosaur game.
We also needed him to understand that the use of his money will not be instantaneous, which is good, because it’s often wise to wait long enough to consider your purchases carefully. So we set up a calendar to show when he is allowed to make another purchase (a week between each) and a “Today is” area that I planned to use for homeschooling.
This has been so much fun! And it has inspired much more learning than I expected. With these projects we’ve been discussing everything from time, dates, and ordinal numbers to how money and the postal system work. We’ve learned some languages; first because Rowan insisted that his T-rex was fluent in Spanishso we needed to watch Dinosaur Train exclusively en español for a month. And later because Signing Time didn’t cover extinct animals, Rowan created signs for a few of his favorite dinosaurs. There have been many, many dinosaur-themed paintings and drawings, including dunking a few actual dinosaur figurines into the white house paint used in a home improvement project. He asked me to excavate some dinosaur toys that he buried in our sensory bin of beans and then gave me an educational lecture on each species I uncovered as he added them to a dinosaur museum of my own. And almost every day Rowan recites the spelling of dinosaur names from the kits lying around or asks us to write out a dino-related word for him.
But my favorite instance of “educational momentum” is when Rowan decided that he just wouldn’t wait for his Dinosaur Hall of Fame to be improved upon. (This is the doting on blocks part.) He announced a few days ago that he was going to build skeletons out of Legos. And he did. Without any prompting or help, he brought me one model after another that he designed complete with the features unique to that dinosaur species- tails, horns, frills, plates, body proportions etc. I know it’s hard to tell, but I was very impressed.
Looking at the dinosaur museum saga as whole, I’m excited for him to have more time to process concepts thoroughly in this way. Kids make such fascinating mental connections at his age. Their minds are constantly working. It’s amazing what can result from them exploring at their own pace, using various senses and letting creativity naturally weave their learning throughout the day and environment.