As I was setting the table for supper this afternoon a lightbulb lit up over my head. I'm always looking to sneak education into our days. Recently I picked up a geography songs tape at a used curriculum sale. When we're doing chores in the morning, we listen to the geography songs. The boys are learning the names of countries, states, capitals, oceans, and lots of other geographical terms and they don't even know they're learning them!
But that's not why the light bulb lit. Over the weekend, I picked up a copy of Debi Pearl's CD "Best Homeschooling Ideas." She mentioned placing a clear plastic table cloth on the kitchen table and putting maps and posters under it. I've had a map on our table under a plastic cloth for months, but last night, I added a few brochures listing state facts about PA. This sparked a great conversation with Daddy about the state insect, tree, and mammal last night at supper.
I was reminiscing about that great idea when I was setting the table and my mind reeled back to the stack of placemats stuffed in the drawer under my table cloths. The night before, we had dug out a few cloth placemats printed with pictures of vintage guns. The boys were interested in the guns and which were "the best." We even got out a ruler to measure each rifle's stock to see which was longest and therefore most accurate. I was planning to put the solar system placemat we had in our stash under our plastic table cloth since we're planning a solar system/astronomy study this summer. AND THEN IT HIT ME...give each person a different placemat and let the learning begin!
This may seem like a very obvious technique to you, but to me it was revelation. So, McLane, our 9 year-old son, had a baseball placemat. Walker T., who is seven, had the solar system placemat. Todd, my darling of thirteen years, had a complete world map. And I had the US states and capitals.
When supper began, I asked Todd to tell me the capital of Washington state. That started the evening's festivities. Throughout the course of the supper hour, everyone was regaling the family with trivia from their placemat. Guessing games were aplenty! It was a very fun time, but also very educational. If you were a fly on the wall you would have heard, "Daddy, do you know where to place your fingers if you want to throw a curveball?" "Daddy, do you know which planet is the closest to the sun?" "What are the two lines parallel to the equator?" "What's the capital of Vermont?"
So, now our table is adorned with a small stack of placemats. I'm going to be watching for many more learning placemats at yard sales, thrift stores, and discounters. I may even try my hand at making a few of my own using clear contact paper. The learning will continue at every family meal showing all of us that ours is a lifestyle of learning. I'll have to find a beautiful basket as their holder on the kitchen table. I love any excuse to get a cute new basket!