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Jor Man's Sand Tiger Shark poster
Last week the big kids "graduated" from both Aquarium School and Animal Academy.  This was our tenth month of going to Boston for classes once a month.  What an adventure!

I wasn't at all sure how this was going to work.  Afterall, as unschoolers, we are not in the habit of "making" our kids do their homework.  But both classes had final projects of a report and a poster about an animal.  Jor Man would (if he were in school) be in 4th grade.  So I imagine he might have such a project to do in 4th grade, although I don't remember writing reports until 6th grade.

Campster's Sea Horse poster
But Campster would be only in 1st grade, if she were in school!  So it seemed funny to me for her to "have to" write a report and do a poster.  In any case, neither child had ever done anything like this before.

Happily, both classes had assignments throughout the year which were much shorter and led up to the final projects.  I always told the kids what the homework was, and that they didn't have to do it.  Of course, I pointed out that the other kids in class would probably be doing the work.  I'd say something like, "So if you want to work on it, and you'd like help, I'm available this afternoon, and tomorrow morning.  But if you leave it until the last minute, I might not be free then."

Jor Man in front of his poster
Jor Man balked the most.  I just ignored it.  And by ignore it, I mean that I didn't get unhappy about it.  It wasn't easy.  I have strong "wishes" for my kids to "do well" and make me look good.  (Lovely!)  But I know that if I try to use unhappiness to motivate my kids to do what I want, they will learn to use unhappiness to try to motivate me to do what they want (whining, moping).

The posters were fun to do, and kind of got the ball rolling.  I can't say enough good things about repositionable spray adhesive.  Just don't let the kids use it themselves, unless you want your whole house to function like a post-it!

The reports were more of a challenge.  Like I said, Jor Man balked big time about doing the two-page report.  I chose to reframe it for him:  They had done a few shorter "reports" throughout the year of about a paragraph or two.  So we collected all of the ones about Sand Tiger Sharks (his aquarium animal) and photocopied them.

Jor Man with his TuaTara poster and report, and Campster with hers on Rabbits
Then we cut the photocopies up into sentences, and organized them by topic.  Some were about the animal's classification; some, the exhibit; and some were about what the animal ate.

We then sprayed a couple blank pieces of paper with spray adhesive, making huge post-its.  Then we placed the sentences in paragraphs.  Jor Man was able to see how a report is organized.  We added opening and closing paragraphs and he had his report!  When it came time to work on his Tuatara report, he knew what to do, and wrote it himself.

The Campster was excited to work on her poster and reports.  For Aquarium School, she chose Sea Horses as her animal.  Thankfully, she had an option to do either a report or a series of five cartoons.  She chose the cartoons.  It was really fun to see how creative she got with her cartoons.  They are all her own work.  I just coached her through the process.

For her report on Rabbits (her Animal Academy animal), Campster and I checked out books from the library.  I read portions of the books to her, and she would comment when there was something she wanted me to write down for the report.  We talked about how we need to write things in her own words.  

Campster and her friend holding Campster's "Cartoons" for her Sea Horse report
Then we took the notes and read them aloud.  Afterwards I asked her to dictate her report to me, and I would write it out.  She did a great job, no problem.

Jor Man discusses Sand Tiger Sharks with the President of the Aquarium
The classes, did a great job of celebrating the end of class and the kids' learning.  At the New England Aquarium, they had the kid's posters up and their reports out on display.  The administration of the Aquarium all took the time to come by and see what the kids had done.  Jor Man had an extended conversation about Sand Tiger Sharks with the President of the Aquarium.  Jor was very excited about this.

Wish you were here!

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