Shark Week? Nah, around here it’s been shark year. Or two. Stephen’s interest continues to evolve since the first time I posted about it, or even the second time or third time when I included his super cool shark information board.
For awhile he went from checking out only shark books at the library to expanding to books about oceans and all sea life. This may have partly been because he had already seen all the shark books… I don’t know. We checked out the Disneynature: Oceans dvd and both older kids LOVED it. I’m pretty sure we renewed it for the maximum time possible and watched it a lot. There was a preview for Disneynature: African Cats on it, which led to us watching that. Stephen and I were impressed. Eliana, not so much. She would watch it on and off, but you could just tell it was no big deal to her. Not Stephen. Next thing you know we’re looking up books on African cats and he immediately decided cheetahs were his favorite, which led to more books specifically about cheetahs, an extra interest in the Wild Kratts cheetah episode, lots of cheetah drawings and even making a cheetah pillow.
One day Stephen told me “cheetahs have tear marks so they can see better in the sun. Kind of like baseball players. Lots of cats are nocturnal, but cheetahs can hunt in the day.” Ok, smarty pants. Good thing our homeschool includes those crazy Kratt brothers.
But, back to the cheetah pillow. I thought it was going to be similar to the shark pillow (and it kind of was), but Stephen had a vision and I had to step back and listen. Sometimes being my kids’ mentor is hard, all that keeping my mouth shut and letting them figure things out on their own. He wanted to make the face. No, not with marker with construction paper! He hit his frustration point many times. He had a vision and he just wasn’t able to make it happen. So, I let him tell me, for example, how big, what shape, and how many teeth he wanted and I would draw what he described. He then would cut and glue. Then the tear marks didn’t look like he wanted, and again I had him describe, point and correct my drawing until he was satisfied and then he colored like he wanted. I am constantly working on finding the balance of helping too much or too little in order to achieve the ultimate goal of independence. In this case I figured A) he’s 4 and it’s all his idea- I don’t want to kill the vision because he doesn’t yet have all the skills to accomplish it and B) I’m letting him be in charge- delegation is an important skill too.
He did a great job and was proud of it.
Then it just seemed like he was done with cheetahs and African cats. He couldn’t figure out what to do during the next couple project times. One day he spent the whole time looking at a Where’s Waldo book. Another day he said he wanted to do research. This consisted of browsing google images for “Cute African Cats” and then “Cute Sea Animals”. I’m not sure why they had to be cute, but anyway… He became ultra focused again after a trip to Costco. Yep, Costco. We found this book and boy has it been a hit. Stephen has already read through it cover to cover a couple times, and certain sections way more than that.
Stephen spends a lot of time on some of his favorite animals like sharks (of course), hyenas, cheetahs and anything new and exotic looking. He discovered the key in the book that has a different symbol by every animal indicating if it is endangered or not. He was engrossed. He had already been interested in hammerhead sharks being endangered, so he knew about the concept. Suddenly he needed to write a list!
Okay, I said, do you want to title it first?
He looked at me blankly.
You could write Endangered Animals on the top of the paper.
No, it should say Endangered Species, he replied.
Of course. And off he went.
Later that week we took a trip to the zoo. A small(ish) zoo that we go to often. It seems like we’ve seen everything there is to see there, but I should know better. We can always see and learn more. This most recent visit the kids spent extra time reading about the animals instead of just observing them, because low and behold the animal’s endangered status is right there in front of us. We had never seen, or at least paid attention, to that.
Stephen’s knowledge base of sharks, and all animals, keeps getting deeper. For a time it seems to remain static, then suddenly changes direction, goes off on a tangent, then returns. He keeps adding new knowledge on top of what he already knows. I guess I’m really starting to learn that these projects we’re doing may never end; they may evolve and morph into something new, but all this time spent learning about these interests are building blocks to something that is likely much bigger than a boy who likes sharks. Maybe he’ll want to be a veterinarian, he has been talking about that the last few days. Maybe he’ll want to find out how and why certain species are endangered and figure out how he can help. Maybe he’ll want to write stories or make art to educate people about animals. Most likely he’ll surprise me with something I haven’t thought of. It’s his project, his interest, his education, after all.