Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

From the archives: Making it do, when it's not what you ordered

First posted January 2007. Slightly edited, and the links have been removed...eleven years is a long time!

Make It Do has always been one of my favourite topics. Except that the phrase Make It Do sounds a bit grim, like Grin and Bear It. I prefer the Common Room's question, "What Do You Have In Your Hand?" Or in your cupboard...or on your bookshelf. What DO we have in this camp kitchen to feed the two vegetarians? (I talked the cook into putting some of the soup into another pot before he added meat.) What can we do with all this coloured telephone wire in the craft room? (Braided bracelets for eighty campers.) 

What's In Your Hand is Ma Ingalls and blackbird pies. It's popsicle sticks and Cheerios for math, and teaching phonics with a pile of old Highlights magazines. It's all those recipes invented to use up things like rhubarb that really don't taste so good on their own. (OK, I know there are people who chew on raw rhubarb...) It's how we once taught Sunday School in a un-child-friendly college classroom: we stuck pictures up with Stick-tack and took them down again every week, brought old couch cushions to sit on and our own toys to play with, and let the kids colour at the adult-sized tables. And they did manage fine without mini-sized chairs.

Use Your Creativity is about surprise and discovery, instead of just "I suppose I can make do with it." It's Athena-in-a-Minivan's kids retelling stories with Playmobil. It's Ponytails' coloured-pencil drawing to go with Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave. It's Homeschool Radio Shows' Fourth Annual Make-Your-Own-Radio-Show Contest. It's Meredith's closet makeover and tree-frog-painted table. It's two balls of Dollarama yarn that got turned into one pair of slippers (for Crayons), a dolly hat and scarf, and a couple of hair scrunchies. (You couldn't buy all that even at Dollarama for the two dollars the yarn cost.)

Make It Do is combining two or more parts to make something better than a whole. Instead of waiting for the perfect thing to arrive, the perfect homeschool curriculum to be written, or our body to revert to the perfect size, we use what's there. Can we use it a little differently? Do we need to adapt, go faster/slower, make it more challenging, skip the questions or tests, include more hands-on activities? Or should we use just the best part of it?

We're using a not-perfect curriculum for math; but it doesn't matter that it doesn't cover everything, because there are lots of ways to learn the things that it doesn't include, and it's kind of interesting having a break from the same workbook all the time anyway. Combining resources for homeschool science can make a stronger overall program than trying to pick one perfect textbook or study guide. We just got an Astronomy book for next year's school--but we also have an old [Educational Insights] Sky Science experiment kit and several books about the solar system, so we'll combine what we have.

And Make It Do is finding new ways to use what you already have. Cutting holes into the bottom edges of a cereal box is one surefire way of getting kids to notice long-neglected marbles (you shoot them at the holes). You can use wooden blocks to build temporary furniture for plastic trolls. You can learn new rules for cards, checkers, or dominoes.

Not what you ordered? Not just what you hoped for? Make it do. And have fun.

No comments: