Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Family Tree: A File Folder Game

Before I had children, I was heavily involved in researching my family tree. Our ancestors were European immigrants, and I thought with Grasshopper's interest in geography and history, this would interest her. But she just wasn't that interested. Then I saw a family tree activity in a recent magazine and decided that I could turn it into this file folder game. And it has been a big hit, even with Cricket.

To make your own:

1 file folder
4 pages cardstock paper
Glue stick
Con-Tact paper
Snack size Ziploc bag
  1. Print out two copies of pages 24-25 of the October 2009 Friend Magazine on cardstock paper.

  2. Paste one copy in the inside of a file folder (heavy ones will last longer).

  3. Cut the ovals out of the second copy.

  4. Paste pictures onto the ovals that correspond with the people on the family tree (includes the child, his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents).

  5. Print the names (and birth dates and places, if desired) on a piece of paper. Cut them out and glue them under each oval on the file folder. You may want to also paste the names onto the back of the pictures, as well, so that they can match the names. (But leave room for the velcro.)

  6. Laminate the inside of the file folder with Con-Tact paper. Laminate the ovals with the pictures on them. (Make sure to leave enough space around the pictures so that the laminate will hold.)

  7. Put velcro on each oval on the file folder and on the back of each picture oval. Make sure the soft side of the velcro is always used on the file folder and the rough side for the pictures.

  8. Store the pieces in a ziploc bag with the rough side of the velcro on the back in the same orientation as it is placed on the file folder so that you can attach the bag to the inside of the file folder when not in use.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Power of Pretend

I recently was visiting a forum where a homeschooling mother asked what to do with a dd that loved to pretend, but mom did not--hated it, in fact. I read the thread with earnest, as I am in the same boat with Grasshopper, who loves to pretend. And me? I must have missed the announcement when they were handing out imaginations. I was really disturbed, though, when I saw many responses such as, "Play with my kids? No way. Not going to happen." And I was surprised that no one seemed to be able to provide any real, practical advice for this poor mom that was trying to do her best for her kids.

From the beginning, I begrudgingly tried to appease Grasshopper's demands for pretend play. Before she could even talk, she would insist that we pretend the washcloth was talking to her. (I made the mistake one time of trying to get her to cooperate when I was wiping her face.) By the time she was 3yo, she was walking around telling people that she was Pocahontas, or Mary (mother of Jesus), or whatever person she was interested in that day, and I played along as best I could. When I was pregnant with Cricket and uttlerly exhausted, I would suggest that we pretend that she was putting me to bed, and that actually worked.

But what really made a difference for me is when we moved to a location in a library district and started formal homeschooling. Books became her primary motivation for pretend play. And when I saw that she wanted to pretend anything and everything, I quickly learned that pretending to be, for example, the Egyptian Queen Tiye was so much better than pretending to be Disney princesses. And it turns out that Grasshopper is even more excited about pretending to be a real person or act out a real story than a fictional one. We still do plenty of fiction, but we pick those that have real life lessons in them. Allow me to share some examples.
  • We recently read a book about the childhood of Queen Isabel of Spain. Grasshopper pretended to be Queen Isabel of Castile, and I pretended to be King Ferdinand of Aragon asking her to marry him and therefore combine their kingdoms into one big country called Spain. We pretended to give money to Christopher Columbus for his trip to the New World.
  • Grasshopper wanted to learn about Poland, so I got a book from the library entitled Escaping to America, a true story about a family that fled Poland during WWI. While we were running errands, we pretended that we were this family. Every time we had to get in and out of the car, we pretended we were getting on a train or a ship for yet another leg of the journey. Down the aisles of the grocery store, we pretended we were hiding from soldiers. As we approached home, we pretended we were arriving in America and talked about how we would work hard for the blessing of being here. I got all my work done, and Grasshopper was immensely satisfied with her hours of pretend. And best of all for me--she is learning.
  • This week, we read a book called Brave Irene about a little girl that braved a terrible snow storm to deliver a dress her sick mother had made for the duchess's ball. It was a fictional story, but it had wonderful life lessons about perseverance, honesty, honor, responsibility, charity, bravery, etc. I didn't particularly like pretending. But practicing good character is something I want my kids to be doing. These lessons are better learned during pretend play before they are faced with the real thing.

Can you make yourself like pretending? Probably not. But it is so much more tolerable when you envision what your children will get out of it in the long run and guide your child into pretending things of real value.

Latter-day Homeschooling