Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Trojan Horse

History is the hardest subject for me to teach.  It's not that I don't find it interesting - I do.  But my kids absolutely glaze over the moment I bring out the history books.  I have tried using books with more pictures, books with less pictures and even some YouTube videos but they simply live through the 30 minutes of history time until they can move on to the next thing.  I brought it up to my husband to get some advice.

"They hate history," I told him.  "I don't know what else I can do to make this come to life!" 

"Well, what are you studying?"  

"We are studying the Greeks and this week we're talking about the Trojan Horse story.  Ideas?"

"That's so easy!" he said, his eyes lighting up.  "They love to build!  Have them make a Trojan Horse and act out the story.  They can make a wall with Legos and maybe even hide the Lego guys in the horse."

And so I did.  I read them the story and they twirled around the room acting disinterested until I gave them a challenge.  "Now I need you to build a Trojan horse and a wall around the city of Troy.  Capture Helen of Troy, if you can.  You can build it however you want, using whatever materials you can think of.  Go!"

They ran to the garage and asked me to take down the recycling bins.  They grabbed boxes and soda cans and then ran inside for markers and tape.  They used their bikes for the wall (because it would be easier to move when the wall needed to get bigger, they said) and grabbed a Barbie to represent Helen.  They built the horse and proceeded with their mini production.

"Here's your present!  A really cool horse!" my oldest said.

"Okay!  I love it!  Come in!" my three year old said as he moved the bike wall.

"Attack attack!" my oldest said as he burst out of the box and ran for Helen/Barbie.  "Ha Ha!  I got Helen!" He ran away as my three year old chased him all through the garage.

For the first time, I felt like they got it.  As I evaluated the experience later, I realized that I so often feel a burden to lay out the "how" in our activities.  I may have said before, "Use this yarn and this box and cut along this pattern to make a horse."  Instead, my husband encouraged me to give them an idea and let them execute it using their own mind.  Ultimately, that makes so much more sense.  I would much rather raise people who can think independently and creatively.  That will most certainly lead to great things.

How do you use your kids' interests to further their learning?  How can you let them take the reigns a bit more?

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