Monday, December 8, 2008

Gingerbread Memories

When Zane was in fifth grade we had been homeschooling, with some help from the public school district, for a few years. It was an arrangement that my more experienced homeschooling and unschooling friends found too restrictive but I really needed the structure and reassurance. I chose the curriculum and the district supplied the textbooks, some enrichment classes, and teacher support. All they asked was that I agree to teach to the district standards and check in with an education coordinator for a review once a month. However, by December of the year Zane was in fifth grade things were changing. We had an arrangement... I wrote out a daily agenda with a detailed explaination of the work I wanted him to do. He would sit down for breakfast, quickly scan my carefully prepared list, and then tear through the work as fast as humanly possible with as little help from me as he could manage. I wasn't really teaching, most of the time I was just verifying that he learned what he was supposed to. Usually he was done by lunchtime and the rest of the day was spent goofing off. But, the one thing that would slow down and really concentrate on was history. He loved history and, in the fifth grade, California expects children to do a history unit on the California Missions. I saw an opportunity to do something more interesting than just flipping pages.

At the beginning of December I told our education coordinator that we were already halfway through the textbooks for the school year and we were going to take a month off to study missions. She was super supportive and we had an amazing month. Looking back on it I can say without a doubt it was my shining moment as a "teacher". We read about adobe construction, studied maps of California, learned how ocean currents effected the Spanish colonization, learned a little Spanish, talked about the Catholic church, read Island of the Blue Dolphins.. which was probably a strange choice but he liked it and it was the right time period and location, attended mass at a real Mission and toured the grounds, and we finished the month with the construction of a model mission... out of gingerbread.

I'm not sure which of us learned more but it sure was fun. This year I'm hoping to have enough time before Christmas to work on another Gingerbread creation just for fun.


JCK said...

Wow! That is for the amazing gingerbread Mission and for your blog's design.

You must have been a great teacher to your son. It sounds like homeschooling was a wonderful choice for your family.

Ginaagain said...


Homeschooling was a great choice for Zane. It wasn't right for all of the kids.. and eventually Zane decided to go back to school too.. but there were some wonderful times at home.

Laura/CenterDownHome said...

That's beautiful, Gina! The mission and the project you made together.

I took our gingerbread house book down from the cabinet day-before-yesterday. It's still open on the counter, the patterns for the last house we made beside it, mocking me.

It just takes more energy and devotion than I have in me this year, I think. And this is no gorgeous California mission I'm talking about -- it's a simple four-sided house. I'll leave it out a couple more days. Maybe I'll be inspired by your mission and Kate's son's house and give it a go.

Maybe I'll just look at yours and hers, without baking one of my own, and that will satisfy me. :/

Hey! Maybe I'll just buy all of the ingredients and candy, and binge on the candy instead of build the house. Nah -- did that last year!

Tiffany said...

Wow Gina! What an awesome gingerbread creation. Did you design it too? I can't imagine!

I have been homeschooling for many years now (my oldest is in college now)and you got a wonderful experience. You kept it simple and enjoyed time with your son as it worked for you. Good job. And I bet you will never forget it.

CarolinaMomOf5 said...

Wow! That is incredible! Did you eat it? I don't think I could have brought myself to eat something that obviously took a lot of time and effort to make. That really was very impressive!

Ginaagain said...

Laura, it really does take a lot of energy and we haven't done another one since then. Maybe this year... or maybe not.

Tiffany, we adapted a pattern for a cardboard model.

Lisa, no we didn't eat it. It was on display in the library at the school for months.. and then the ants got to it. eww

Mrs. G. said...

Man oh man, what an amazing unit study. That is a kickass Mission! And what special memories.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

That is a gorgeous mission.

I homeschooled my oldest son for one year, in 5th grade, just for fun. We did a program just like the one you described.

We did the homeschooling as an experiment and what we found was that he was a little too social for homeschooling (and he's the most introverted of my kids). I think it might have worked if we'd started out homeschooling, but he was really used to and liked the school environment.

Jason, as himself said...

Now THAT's some serious gingerbread.

Ginaagain said...

Mrs. G, thank you! Zane pointed out that I forgot to say we also studied the local Native Americans. I was very proud of that unit but the reason it worked so well was not because I was a fantastic teacher but because Zane is passionate about history.

Jenn, we homeschooled Zane from 4th through 6th grade. He was not a social kid at all. He was the quietest kid in class. The teachers loved him but he couldn't read and they kept telling me he was fine because he was such a good kid. After a few years at home not only could he read but he had become a little bit obnoxious. Confidence will do that for you! Now days he is definitely not the quietest kid in class.

Thanks Jason!

Leeann said...

That is fantastic. I fall down in awe. :-)