"Swiss Family Robinson for Homeschoolers"
by Susan Evans


When we read Swiss Family Robinson, the children gained a greater love for the wilderness. We learned how to make signs with sticks and stones to indicate where we were. We learned how to make emergency shelters. We found out what wild foods were edible, and which weren't. We ate a lot of dandelions (both the leaves and the petals) off the front lawn, but we had to check if they had been sprayed with poison first. (Don't eat them if they have been sprayed!) The dandelions were bitter but very nutritious.

The children's vocabulary expanded as we used words such as "fortitude." We made a spear and arrows using obsidian arrowheads, sticks, twine, and feathers. (I cheated by using hot glue also.) We made a model of a raft using twigs and twine, and we learned how to do lashings. We hung a bag of food from a branch. We hung it so high it was almost impossible to get down. (At least the bears wouldn't have gotten to it either!)

We made traps for catching wild animals. The boys had to invent their own traps. My three-year-old propped up a basket with a stick attached by a rope. He hid behind a tree and looked very sneaky. Another son made a trap with two sticks holding up another stick. (I don't know exactly how the animal got caught; there might have been a hole covered with leaves nearby.)

We made a scarecrow and propped it up next to our vegetable garden. We hollowed out coconuts for bowls, after drinking the milk and baking butterscotch coconut brownies with the shavings. We made a spit for cooking dinner or hanging a kettle. We chose some seashells to use for practical purposes, like for a spoon to eat some soup.

We studied snakes by taping strips of paper together and making the snake the correct length. Then we drew the correct pattern on the back, and the children all colored it while I was reading an encyclopedia description of each snake. We learned which snakes were poisonous and which weren't.

We learned all about simple machines during these three months. Simple machines were mentioned throughout this book, making it an ideal science unit to do concurrently with the book. We built each of the five types of simple machines.

We watched the Disney video for Swiss Family Robinson, and we compared it to the book. There were many differences, the biggest one being the ending. Watching the movie made the children even more excited about building a tree house or fort. The kids each drew a tree house and colored it. After discussing tree houses and forts for many hours with my husband, we decided on making a solid fort with two floors. A rope ladder connected the top of the fort to the ground. The boys liked looking out over the trees from the top of the fort. A pulley was used to lower a bucket from the top of the fort. The children still love that fort to this day. It is our Swiss Family Robinson fort.

Contact the Author

If you would like to have more unit study ideas, visit Susan Evans Hands-on Learning and sign up for a free e-book. Go to http://susanevans.org

Susan Evans
homeschooling
Site: http://susanevans.org/

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