Spring and summer is the perfect time to bring out those bug books and studies… considering we can observe them all around us again. (Guess we’ll be doing a mosquito study soon. Sheesh!)
It was on our agenda a couple of weeks ago to study ants… and as I was perusing the library shelves for some fun reads to include, I came across Two Bad Ants. What a delightful little read, and it led to really great learning and play… and curiosity! Win win win!
If you have read other learning posts of mine, you know I’ve been a classroom teacher for years– and that time has shaped how I wanted to teach my own kiddos at home. We are Charlotte Mason/Classical-based (eclectic a bit) in general, but something that I find really shapes learning time well– inside and outside of the classroom– is remembering the Big Four: imagine, encourage, educate, and enjoy. (Note: Charlotte Mason herself was not a huge fan of “lesson plans” as she believed the best education–even only education– was self-education. I don’t disagree. Think of The Big 4 as a framework to hang principles on, not a lesson plan to stick to rigidly or you fail, okay?)
With that said, let’s walk through the Big 4 with this book, shall we?
What’s so amazing about fun, living books is that they foster imagination in and of themselves! We don’t have to “try” to make the imagination come alive. Children are born with curiosity and imagination; our biggest challenge is to not get in the way! Two Bad Ants is SO fun in this department. It forsakes familiar words with descriptive language in a way that can made the book a series of riddles for the kids to mentally answer (especially younger ones!), and the perspective of the pictures make the book so fun to “enter” in. As your kiddos are listening to the story, don’t be afraid to pause and let them get curious! My kids asked some really great questions here, like “why do the ants call the grass a forest?” and “how do we know they landed in sugar?” and “why did the ants fly through the black slits in the wall?” What great opportunities to ask them questions back and get them thinking to answer their own questions! You can even take time here to “imagine” being ants or seeing how height and angles change perspective. Crawl on the floor and observe what you see differently, now that you are lower than normal. How about standing on a stool or chair? What do you see now?
Another way to incorporate imagination is to basically allow them to get creative.
Do they want to make up their own story about the ant?
Put on a play?
Design their own ant playground… which makes me think of Honey I Shrunk the Kids…
Draw an ant? Great! Let them! This book made my 9 year old want to grab our Natural History book and check out all the ants there before deciding to draw her favorite. Awesome!
When it comes to this principle, I take it different ways at different times. The main way I try to think of incorporating encouragement is seeing what the Bible has to say about what we are learning/observing. What does it tell us about the object we are discussing, or the character we see in the story?
The Bible actually does talk about the ants and what we can learn from them. It tells us to consider the ants and be like them. Why? (Ask your kiddos!) Because they work hard and prepare well. What are some ways we can do that? That question led to a lot of good responses, and their answers included some things that we do as a family and some that we can improve on.
Another way that I like to think about encouragement is making sure that I’m seeing where my kids are growing and improving and making a point to encourage them in that. This isn’t lesson specific, per se. But even as we doing some activities with the book, and the kiddos were asking questions, I make a point to use positive feedback: “What a great question! Let’s see what we can learn about that!” Or “That’s a good observation; you looked really closely to see that!” I want to encourage their effort without making it about me and my “pride” or happiness in it– although I am both proud and happy when they are giving great attention and adding to their own learning!
Of course, “education” is something that can happen anytime, anywhere. We don’t have to plan or force it to happen. But in the “educate” category in my head is about me figuring what tools I need to give them and what goals I have for them. Basically, it’s asking myself what plates, napkins, silverware, and ingredients are needed for the “feast” that day. And just like every “feast”/buffet doesn’t have every single cuisine represented, I don’t think we need to feel the burden/obligation of making sure every. single.learning.moment has every single type of academic “food.” In other words– if I want to focus on science/nature during that time, I totally can without including fine arts and all the other things. 🙂
Here’s what I did after reading this book: I got out salt, sugar, and our little magnifying glasses. When my buddy asked how we knew the ants landed in salt, we used the book to answer that question for us– but then we decided to take a closer look at salt and sugar itself. It’s looks pretty similar when we look at it our “normal” way– but what if we take a closer look? At closer inspection, we can definitely see that salt and sugar AREN’T the same. We talked about the differences we could see with a little magnification– which ants would have naturally, being smaller and much closer and with different kinds of eyeballs!
We also did a taste test and observed those differences, too. 😉
Later that night for dinner, when we chatted about what we learned with daddy (hello, extra narration!), the kiddos were so excited to share what they learned– all on their own!
Meanwhile, I had plenty to jot down in my planner that day under “science.”
As I’m sure you can see, there were so many things that were “enjoyable” about what we had done so far that this “box” basically checked itself! Crawling around on the floor, tasting and seeing salt and sugar up close, and reading a fun book all felt and were enjoyable to my kiddos! However, you can always bump this up even more by pulling out any bug games you might have! We actually played a dice game called People Vs. the Ants. We played two variations of this: doubles and odds & evens.
We divided a paper in half and labeled one side People and the other Ants. The idea behind the game was that we are at a picnic and the ants are coming. If we win, we don’t have to move to a new picnic spot; and if the ants win, that means they took over our picnic and could eat all of our food. (Hello there again, Imagination!) Any time we rolled a double, we had to add them together, and that score was added to the ants side. Anytime it wasn’t a double, we added the score together and put it on the people side. Whoever got to 50 first, won! (We won, because we didn’t roll a lot of big doubles.)
We played it again with odds and evens. If the numbers rolled added up to evens, it was put in the People column, and if it added to an odd number, it was an ant score. (This game worked on head addition for my early elementary student, and my kinder boy is learning odds and evens, so he got to work on that, too!)
The kids got an extra dose of “enjoyment” because they love any kind of game… and I got something extra in the “math” section of the day.
Well friends, that’s it! That’s how I took this book and applied the Big 4 to it. If you are wanting to read Two Bad Ants and plug these ideas in, I hope you find your experience with them enchanting and delightful to your family… but more than that, I hope you see how the Big 4 are ideas that can be applied to any book and any day! They definitely help me to create an atmosphere of education in our home. 🙂
If you want to read more about the Big Four, go here, or watch this video that I recently did about it. 🙂
A little note: the amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means you don’t pay any extra pennies if your buy through them, but I might. Maybe. 😉