Monday, November 29, 2010



Mateo is constantly asking me what time it is as 3pm is when his school friends are free to play. Although he has his own watch and I have explained to him on numerous occasions how linear time works it is still over his head. I can't blame him really, the system seems so arbitrary.  In an effort to make time more tangible, something easier for him to grasp, we made a sundial.
Our sundial was simple, direct and didn't require the use of latitude and longitude for accuracy. We used a stick, river rocks and chalk.


After finding a nice sturdy stick for our gnomon we looked for a spot that would be sunny throughout the day.


We tied a piece of wool on the stick so we could find our way back and placed the first rock in its shadow.


We started our project at 11:00am and returned hourly, on the dot, to place a new rock.


Mateo carried my watch with him throughout the day to keep track of the time. We discussed the size of the Earth and how fast it is turning, we talked about night and day and dawn and dusk. Later we visualized the process using a flashlight and a globe. That all times exist at the same time as we all move forward in time was an exciting thought for him.

Seeing him earnestly applied in the quest of knowledge was welcome validation of my choice to homeschool. As ever, Harper wanted to join in.


In her own special way.


At some point we noticed that the rocks got quite warm from exposure to the sun so we placed a couple on a nearby root.

And on a subsequent visit to the sundial, relaxed in the shade with a bit of Hot Rock Therapy.



This lesson was fascinating, easy to visualize and interactive. And unlike many projects that we do together this one was self regulated, conveniently paced throughout the day by hour-ish long breaks. I think that the relaxed nature of this activity contributed positively to Mateo’s receptiveness to learning. Despite our deviations there was a theme, the day was ‘about’ something, and ultimately I feel that the lesson took root better in one focused day in the field than it would had it come from a text book, cut it into lessons throughout the week, or simply asserted as a brief prequel to the task of dictating an appreciation for the cultural importance of time before a bell rings.

The movement of the sun across the sky is admittedly just a small part of a subject that has enormous depth, but this simple beginning of time, its effect on life on this planet, on us, is fundamental beyond any temporal, human routine. And if understanding and appreciating this is not innate, then I am proud to have introduced this to my son.


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1 comment:

Xtina Carbone de la Schuetz said...

Your babies are adorable and your family is inspiring. Thanks Sam! If you ever make your way up near my hood (Philly) let me know. I'd love to help out/connect you with the right folks/whatever. Good luck with your travels!