Progress Report: Maverick

I set benchmarks for myself in teaching my children. This is something not every parent has the diligence to do but I’ve always been a bit obsessive compulsive so researching, keeping lists, being organized lends itself well to the approach I take in preparing Maverick for school.

In early January, whenever I quit my job, I set out to do the following things before the beginning of February for Maverick:

  • Teach him what a library is, how we use it, and responsibility for library books
  • Teach him how to create secondary colors
  • Introduce him to the scientific method
  • Expose him to public ways of education like museums
  • Help him to find a hobby outside of coloring

At each benchmark we’ve come pretty far. Not all are completed, but most are thoroughly explored.

Each Tuesday since I’ve become the panda mother both children and I go to the public library about two miles from our house. There, we select eight books for the week and three DVD’s. Maverick is allowed to pick one documentary, one entertainment movie (pixar movies and the like) and one season of an educational television program. When his DVDs are finished playing, he takes them out of the XBOX we use as a DVD player and puts them carefully into their case. He is sure to place them where his baby brother cannot reach and is extra careful to not scratch them. After the first week whenever we brought back the books and movies Maverick grasped the concept of “borrowing” and that the books and movies “belong” to the library, we don’t give any money for them so the people at the library expect them back in the same condition they lent them in. He keeps the books religiously stacked on a desk in his room, and every “Library Day” he puts all of his borrowed items in a bag to ensure their safe transport back to the library. He is absolutely delighted when he turns them in and cannot wait to pick out more books. Benchmark: ACCOMPLISHED!

Maverick working on a craft project he discovered in a library book about ants.

Secondary colors have proven to be a little harder than I thought. At the library, we borrowed “Babar’s Book of Colors” to help us with this lesson. As of now, Maverick can recall that “red + yellow = orange” (Thanks to Ketchup and Mustard, giving him a visual representation of things he commonly eats together like on hamburgers and such helps him to recall what primary colors are used to make orange). He can also recall that “red + blue = purple”. The mnemonic device we use is bruising, the veins are red and blue so the bruises look purple. He’s a five year old boy, constantly covered in bruises, so it makes this easy to remember. He can’t seem to remember that “blue + yellow = green” so I might resort to flash cards for this. I hate the repetition that flash cards create and how impractical they are as a learning device. He won’t have a practical example to use, and it might limit his ability to express himself. Hopefully soon we can find something that makes sense in his head so that he can recall it. Benchmark: Almost complete.

Maverick working on drawing a color wheel

The “ants” book which was one of the first we borrowed at the library assisted greatly in introducing Maverick to the scientific method. In addition to the ant craft project, the wealth of information provided created an opportunity for hypothesis, experiment, observation, and conclusion. I realize this is a very simplified version of the scientific method but I think it is appropriate for a five year old to know how to discover things on his own. It creates an environment in which he can imagine what will happen, create a scenario where he can test if his theory is right, and ultimately answer his own questions. His first “experiment” began as “Mom, if ants are from different colonies are they enemies?” I knew the answer to this, but he didn’t. So I asked him how we could find out… Maverick’s answer “Let’s get a jar and go find some different ant colonies. We can put them all in the jar and see what’s gonna happen. If they fight then yes they are enemies but if not then no they are friends.” How could I argue with that? So, we set out to the park and collected some ants. We put them in a jar and they all went to separate corners. Here, I should have explained Maverick’s “experimental bias” to him but I think he should hit about 7 before we introduce those sorts of things. Because the ants were not fighting, Maverick  threw in a piece of pear, knowing the ants would want to eat it. The pear brought them closer together and the ants fought. Maverick concluded that ants from separate colonies are enemies. (Which, scientifically, is true: Ever taken half of one ant pile on a shovel and switched it with the top half of another ant pile? It’s like ant lava volcanoes, a guaranteed way to exterminate ants. I didn’t want to involve the risk of tons of ant bites so I didn’t propose this to Maverick and just let his experiment unfold itself, but bias or not he  did get the correct scientific answer.) Since then everything Maverick does is approached with a “Wait, let me think about it” followed by a “How bout this?” and some form of experimenting. Constant questioning. In my opinion an inquisitive child is a knowledgeable child. If they sincerely want to learn something they will not forget it. Benchmark: ACCOMPLISHED!

Maverick watching his ants

This month Maverick and I have gone to two museums, both of which he loved. We went to the dinosaur exhibit at the local science museum and also to the local children’s museum. He loved both, kept the tickets from both visits, and continually talks about them. At the dinosaur exhibit he asked questions, watched all of the videos, and left knowing considerably more than he got there knowing about various prehistoric animals. He was especially impressed that “crawfishes lives with dinosaurs? really?” At the children’s museum we stayed for approximately an hour, and Maverick played with every station in existence. I know that previously he has been to zoos and aquariums but a museum is something different altogether, in my opinion. There is a greater respect necessary for the things observed and much more information to be discovered. The children’s museum was mostly an exercise in play and he didn’t learn anything he didn’t already know, but I think he’s ready for me to take him to larger museums. Perhaps later in the spring  we will take a trip to New Orleans or Baton Rouge, where there are more museums. Benchmark: ACCOMPLISHED!

Maverick watching an animated dinosaur skeleton

The hobby benchmark is possibly the most interesting. What SHOULD HAVE been a hobby playing drums or ukelele transformed into gardening, because I had Maverick help me plant a small herb garden. I figured it would be a good time to teach him about photosynthesis and how to care for plants, but had NO IDEA he would take such an interest in it. Our Chia herb garden has been expanded to include a miniature greenhouse where we are germinating seedlings of eggplant, lavender, three types of tomatoes, shasta daisies, african daisies, violas, beans, carrots, lettuce, chives, basil, cilantro, dill, bell peppers, onions, and parsley. Our parsley has taken off but we had to restart the basil seedlings due to a “misunderstanding” of how photosynthesis works… Maverick cut the first set of leaves off the basil plants because we read that “regular cutting of the leave will ensure plant growth”. Benchmark: ACCOMPLISHED!

Maverick's greenhouse of seedlings