Home School Goes to Mexico

This is the first post I’ve attempted to write since the world changed. Watching the events unfurl across the world has been surreal. The stark realisation that our lives would be drastically altered for an undefined period of time has affected us all in so many different ways. Our village primary school closed, along with the rest of England’s schools, on Friday 20 March 2020 and we were thrown into the world of home schooling.

As a family we are planning a six-month long adventure, travelling from Canada to Chile, with our 7 and 9 year old boys. We are due to leave on 5th July 2020, though this is looking increasingly unlikely (we are aiming to #postponenotcancel so watch this space for an update in May / June). We were planning to school on the road, with the kids learning through experiences, and topping up with maths and literacy. Schooling at home is an entirely different ball game.

Together with the kids I put together a timetable as routine tends to work for us. As well as maths and English sessions we also have exercise (PE with Joe Wicks included of course!), kids choices and plenty of arts and crafts. We chose to take a topic-based approach to learning. With our big trip potentially on hold the kids chose our first topic as Mexico. This would then combine their questions about earthquakes and volcanoes as well as learning about the country’s history and culture.

Mexico Lesson Plan

Here is a brief overview of what we learned about Mexico in one week of home school. I’m including links to online resources as well as books that we used to research.

As well as general Google searches, I also used the National Geographic Kids website and You Tube channel, Twinkl (an education resource for teachers) and the fantastic BBC Bitesize website.

A selection of books we used to help with our Mexico home school topic

Where is Mexico?

In our first lesson we looked at a world map to find Mexico and look at what’s around it. I printed out maps from Twinkl for the kids to label and learn about Mexico’s climate and landscape.

We learnt about Mexico’s flag, then the kids were encouraged to do some independent research on Mexico to answer some of their own questions such as, “Why do Mexicans have this flag?” and “why is Mexico called Mexico?”.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes

Before we started home schooling I asked the kids what they would like to learn about. On the list were earthquakes and volcanoes. In one session we looked at what makes an earthquake, learning about the structure of the earth before looking at footage of an earthquake hitting Mexico City.

In a separate session we learnt about volcanoes, watching spectacular footage of Popocatépetl volcano erupting in Mexico in January 2020, and finishing up with making our own volcanic eruption in the garden.

Mayans and Aztecs

A Mayan temple next to a traditional Mayan house…of course!

The 9yo was keen to learn about the Aztecs, so we spent a couple of sessions learning about Mexico’s indigenous population. We learnt about how they lived, their gods and beliefs, the Spanish invasion and how present-day Mayans still live in Mexico. We finished up with attempting to make a Mayan house and pyramid out of materials found in our garden.

One of Steve Backshall’s Expedition series includes an expedition into cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula where they discover many Mayan artefacts. This was an excellent show to watch as they boys are huge Steve Backshall fans, and it helped to bring Mayan history to life for them. In the UK you can watch this series On Demand on the UKTV player. It was originally broadcast on Dave.

Day of the Dead

Learning about how Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead was quite an eye-opener for the boys. They watched The Book of Life, an excellent film which opens with the Day of the Dead celebrations and coloured in sugar skull templates.

Food & Spanish

BBQ Bad Boys Burritos from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Save with Jamie’

The boys are learning Spanish (to get them ready for our Grand Adventure…when it happens), so for their Spanish homework we combined food and language – two of my favourite things! They discovered what could be included in a fajita and had a go at ordering them. Later on in the week we made our own burritos with some leftover lamb, one of our favourite leftover meals.

Natural World

My kids are somewhat obsessed with the natural world, and while we didn’t focus on Mexico’s wildlife too much in our topic, that didn’t stop them from watching a few wildlife documentaries with a Mexican or Central American theme.

Summary

Having a focus to our home schooling worked for us, and we loved learning about Mexico. There is of course so much more we could have covered. Two especially big gaps for me are Frida Kahlo and Mexico’s wrestling scene. We still plan to travel there one day, so I know that we’ll make every effort to learn about those on the ground.

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