Friday, February 3, 2017

Our Learning Contract

On the long days of the winter break our entire family was stuck indoors due to gloomy freezing wet weather. My husband and I felt inclined to set the kids in front of the TV and rest. But we also are weary of the effects of screen time on our children and conservative when it comes to allowing them to binge on screen-based entertainment. 

In yet another effort to compromise, we came together to discuss a plan. My kids made it clear that they would like to play iPad games and watch the Magic School Bus on Netflix. My husband and I wanted them to not become vegetables and to enjoy some other forms of stimulation. So together we came to agree on four important daily activities: 

Music Performance,
Exercise (Preferably Outside), and 

Each the the four things must happen before they are allowed screen time. It is our Learning Contract and provides just the right amount of structure to our days.

Music Performance
There are two ways this usually manifests:
1. Piano Lessons (free online lessons via The Hoffman Academy)
2. Musical Performances (they dress up and put on a musical show, depicted below)

Prof Bunson and Prof Erlenmeyer perform "Fossil Fuels" from the 21st Century Energy Superheroes album.

There are three ways this happens:
1. I read to them.
2. They read to themselves.
3. We all listen to an audiobook.

Exercise can be spontaneous or directed. If they are moving their bodies then it counts. These are the ways our family exercises:

1. Playing at the playground.
2. Following along with a yoga DVD
3. Yoga Class
4. Karate class
5. Dance class
6. Hiking


This is the most diverse and loosely defined aspects of our Learning Contract. It has at its core the idea of communication - the having and sharing of ideas. Here are some of the things that I count as story-telling:

1. Literally story-telling. Sitting together and weaving a fictitious story about creatures from their books or favorite TV shows.
2. Playing board games.
3. Building with blocks, magna tiles, and LEGO to create entire worlds for their mini-figures to explore.
4. Building forts.
5. Painting.
6. Writing secret codes.
7. Coding in Scratch Jr.
8. Playing Hide and Seek

The structure that our Learning Contract provides fits our family. It provides just the right amount of direction and, as it turns out, fills our days with interesting and rich conversations. It also makes space for screen time because when we're all worn out from performing, exercising, reading, and storytelling, we can sit back, relax, and laugh along with the stories told to us on film.

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