Monday, January 21, 2013

Homeschool Badges Week 1: Animal Care

Studying the matamata turtles

Week One of the Badge system of homeschooling has gone extremely well. We fleshed out our list (I can post as a document as soon as I figure out how :) ) and the children were so excited they didn't know what to choose first. They wanted to tackle the entire list in a month. What can I say? They share my starry-eyed idealism.

Their required badges, Spelling Star, Reading and Mathematics, are mine to choose. I'm still working on a way to break those subjects, especially spelling and reading, down into pieces that will be both challenging and manageable for continuous study. I'm open to suggestions, by the way, if anyone has any ideas. At the moment I am thinking that reading may work similar to the Book It program we had when I was a kid. If they read a certain number of age appropriate books in a month (no credit given for board books, for example), they will earn their Reading Badge for the month. I've been breaking math down by core skills. Spelling remains a bit of a challenge to quantify.

 The optional badges were easier. This months selections were Animal Care, First Aid, Detective Science and Archery.

I did some reasearch and adapted the Animal Care requirements from this list of Cub Scout activities from the UK. Our list is a bit different, but it gave me a jumping off point.

Animal Care Badge Requirements
Choose Four Activities

1. Visit a zoo or nature center. Interview a Zookeeper or Naturalist about the habitats and feeding habits of three different animals.

2. Visit a farm and assist with farm chores. Learn about common animal illnesses and how to prevent and treat them. Learn about the feeding and grooming of three different farm animals. Find out about how animals are cared for before, during and after birth.

3.  Read a book on the care of a specific animal you are interested in knowing more about.

4. Learn about five different fish or sea creatures in a particular aquatic habitat (rivers, lakes, deep sea, coral reef, etc.) Write a paper or give a presentation to your family and friends about the animals you have studied

5. Keep a nature journal for one month. Record the animals you view, or any evidence of animals you see (footprints, scat...) along with your observations of the animals. What are they doing? What do they eat? Are they alone or in groups? Are they frightened of you? Are they calm? Are they sleeping?

6. Care for an animal for one month.

Extra Credit:
-Participate in a junior farm or zookeeper volunteer program or class, such as the Junior Docent program at Como Zoo ( or a variety of programs at Gale Woods Farm in Minnestrista,
programs at the Minnesota Zoo (including a teen volunteer program) or the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center.

The kids chose #s 1, 2, 3 and 6, although they are interested in doing all of them. We've already gone to the zoo and interviewed the zookeeper on the care and feeding of tigers. We registered for a farm helper program at Gale Woods Farm park (which includes breakfast from the farm, yum!) and they have taken over the care of our cat Shadow. All that's left is a trip to the library for a book about cat care and we are done with our first badge. Technically. I suspect they will push to accomplish all of the tasks, and I will be more than happy to accomodate their enthusiasm.


  1. Stephanie, you are flat out amazing!

  2. I can well imagine the appeal of this badge to kids!

  3. Very cool!

    Reading is hard, because reading is in everything, and eventually you "read to learn," not "learn to read." But before young children can get there, they DO need to learn to read.

    Think about doing minutes of reading instead of numbers of books, for two reasons. It eliminates any drama over what is "age appropriate," though I don't imagine that drama has a big place at your house anyway. And so they can tackle even books that are a stretch, which is one of the ways we get better at anything. Plus, in our age, well, I don't know about kids, but I read a LOT and it isn't all books - it's forums, blogs, news sites, etc. And all that reading is valuable, it's just not quantifiable in pages.

    Also you have mentioned audiobooks in the past, and maybe those can be incorporated somehow. It's good for kids to hear texts read to them at a level slightly above what they can read independently. So they could listen to an audiorecording of a book just by itself or follow along in a printed book. You could read to them or if that's not possible the audiorecording would do. Both are good - the live person for expression and, well, it's just fun, and recordings are great because if they really like a part they can hear it over and over, or if they get lost they can back up the recording, etc.

    Have fun! Hoping to hear more about the badges!

  4. I like the idea of doing minutes versus books. That's kind of the conclusion I have been coming to also. We do listen to audiobooks sometimes. They've almost finished listening to Pollyanna. Both of the girls are pretty decent readers, so I mostly just want to encourage them in their good reading habits. Even James usually sits quietly during reading time and looks at books or asks someone to read to him.