If you’ve read my post about contagious enthusiasm, you already know that my family had a bit of a tie-dye adventure a while back. What began as a simple activity grew into a major project. This is where following a child’s passion can take you!
After a morning of tie-dying their own stuff, my kids decided they wanted to make a bunch of tie-dyed articles to sell at the Life Rocks Unschooling Conference. And just like that, we had ourselves some authentic, real-life learning.
We started with a budget: each kid got $15.00 to spend on supplies. Then we hit the local stores, ready to find the best bargains for our bucks. This is a math teacher’s dream! We were reading prices, dividing to figure out per unit cost, adding up prices, subtracting money from our starting amount…and not because we had some worksheet in front of us that had to be done before we went out to recess. No, the math we were doing mattered right then, at that moment – it was relevant to us. We only had a certain amount to spend, and by gosh, we wanted the best deal!
Purchases made, we headed home and began the tie-dying. We tapped into our creative side as we experimented with all kinds of patterns and color combinations. We practiced turn-taking and conserving materials. Mostly, we just had a good time!
Once the tie-dye was finished, the real work began. We needed to figure out how much to charge for each item. Back to math! Once again we determined per unit cost, then decided how much of a profit margin we might make without pricing ourselves out of the market.
Next we had to make our price tags and care instructions. All kinds of writing ensued, and the language arts fairies smiled contentedly.
And we’re not done yet! We still have to decide how to package and present our items, how to set up our table at the bazaar, and how to split table duty. And of course once the buying begins, we’ll be counting money, making change, and perhaps running some last minute sales to move our merchandise.
Math, art, reading, writing, business practices…so many skills were developed as we engaged in this project. But what I love best is that the skills grew naturally out of my children’s passion. I didn’t spend hours thinking up an integrated unit to entice them to learn. I didn’t take something they were doing for pleasure and twist it into a bunch of academic endeavors. I simply followed their lead, and allowed them to immerse themselves as deeply as they wished in this pleasurable project.
Sure, I made the most of teachable moments. But it wasn’t because there was some big test looming at the end of our project. It was because this was real life. Who doesn’t want a few pointers when the outcome isn’t a grade on a report card, but something real, like making a profit?
These are the moments unschoolers get to savor…watching our kids engage in and interact with the real world. Watching them learn and discover as they do so. And getting to go along for the ride. What a gift!