Some of my son's mini-challenge ideas are quite simple, such as:
Build a bridge.
Others are more complicated, such as:
You are a goldsmith. The king needs a new crown. Make one for him.
All are aimed at getting a child's brain thinking and hands building right away.
How Our Co-op Planning Challenges Led to Mini-Challenge Cards
Two weeks ago, as a part of a commitment to help me plan, prepare for, and teach two spring co-op classes, my son finished making some Mini-Challenge Cards with the help of his sister's laminating and cutting efforts.
Although the cards are simple, the road to their creation had a few bumps, which required problem solving and a growing repertoire of skills.
The problem solving began months ago, when I was coordinating our spring co-op, looked at the registration list, and realized:
Uh oh. My boy is not going to be happy. He is the only boy even close to his age signed up and, so far, there's it not a single classes that would be even remotely interesting to him.
As co-coordinator for our local spring co-op, I had to think quickly about solutions for this potential problem, and since positive problem solving is something I've been working on with my oldest son, I decided to enlist his help.
"Son," I began while we were on a walk by ourselves one evening. "I know you love co-op..."
"Yes..." my son prompted me to go on.
"Well, I have some good news and some bad news about the spring."
"Co-op is going to run again, but your closest friends won't be able to come, and you'll be the only boy your age."
"I thought that might happen," my son responded. He knew that two of his closest friends are now involved with an all-year academic co-op and another boy his age had had to drop out of our enrichment-based co-op in the fall.
After a sigh, my son went on. "No kids my age... What classes are being offered?"
In response, I began listing different parent names and the classes that they had suggested so far. With each course title I spoke, I could see my son's shoulders slumping further and his walking pace slowing.
As I expected, none of the courses other parents were planning to teach sparked any interest in my son. Still hopeful, I asked, "So, what do you think? Would you like to take any of these?"
A dejected, "no" was my son's response, followed by a brighter, "Could I teach a class instead?"
A smile played at the corners of my mouth, since I had had this very idea myself. "Perhaps, Son. I think you could, but you're not that much older than the other children. Do you think that you teaching a class by yourself would work?"
"Well, I could help teach."
"That could work." I smiled. "Is there a class you'd like to assist with?"
"None of the ones you already said," my son responded.
"Well, then, we have to think of some solutions," I suggested.
No reply came from my son, so, after a stretch of silent walking, I said, "If you do not want to help with any of the classes that others are teaching and you don't want to take any, what should we do?"
Footsteps continued to fall.
"As I see it, we have three choices at this point. We could find something you want to teach. I could teach a class you want to take. Or, we could bow out of co-op this spring and pick up with some other things we've been wanting and needing to do." (In all honesty, I had one other choice in mind, but I wasn't about to speak it yet.)
My son then weighed each of the ideas I had offered, immediately nixing the last one after saying he would not want to spoil things for his younger siblings by being the reason we took a break from co-op. He knows they like it and wants to them to continue enjoying it. He commented further that I do a lot for co-op and that he would not want to take my help away from the group by requesting that our family no longer participate.
"But, I really don't like any of the classes, Mom." He continued walking.
Half-teasing, I then suggested, "Oh, I have another idea, you could bring some things to do and use co-op time as a study hall..."
We both laughed at this idea. Quiet study? During co-op time? Seriously? That would not be my son's style.
Negative pensiveness broken by laughter, my son smiled again. "What are you teaching, Mom. Maybe I could teach some different classes with you?"
Exactly. I thought. "Sure, Son. That could work. Why don't you tell me what you'd like to co-teach with me and I'll ask the other coordinator if she thinks it would be okay for you to be my assistant..."
And so it was that my oldest son invested in the idea of being my Junior Assistant for both a Show-n-Tell Brick Builders course and a Knights in Training one this spring.
Over the past couple months, my son took his commitment seriously, and, from late winter until just two weeks ago, he busied himself reading and researching about Lego builds and knights in order to help me to plan and prepare materials for both courses.
As a part of that process, my son made the Mini-Challenge cards so that children who might finish up with the main challenges he came up with for each week's Brick Builder lesson could remain actively engaged in class-related activities until every child in the class was ready to present their creations.
To make the cards, my son helped me choose a background and design a simple layout. Then, he ordered a tall stack of Lego books from the library and perused different things online in order research and brainstorm ideas for the cards. Finally, he took turns typing his ideas out on his own or dictating them to me for me to type, making 48 challenges in all.
I am equally happy to say, that our first two Brick Builder and Knights classes went GREAT! I could not been more pleased with how well my son did in planning, preparing, and teaching each class with me so far.
We've been getting positive feedback from students and parents about both classes, and my son is so excited about how his efforts are paying off that he has already begun asking when he'll be old enough to teach a class all by himself, or with me as his assistant. I told him, "In time, Son, in time. Let's just enjoy what we are doing right now, and we'll talk about that later."
And that is what we are doing - enjoying the present, which includes brick building fun and sharing my son's ideas with you in hopes that you and yours might also enjoy meeting mini-challenges with success!
We'd love to see the Lego builds you create using these cards. Pop on over to our Facebook page to upload a picture or tag us in a comment on a picture you upload elsewhere. My son will be so excited to see your creations!