You guys, I'm super excited about this Herb Fairies Book Club I just signed up for, but I feel so bad because the sign up period has already closed! I found out about it just before it closed and only barely got in in time, otherwise I totally would've mentioned it on here earlier. But it will open up again next April, so bookmark it, or pin it, or whatever, because it looks awesome!
The plan has always been to homeschool the kids. But recently we thought it would be fun for Sam to go to preschool, not so much for academics, but just to have a chance to run around and play with some other kids. And let's be honest, Mom thought a little break a few times a week wouldn't be too shabby either:) So, we visited a local preschool that we'd heard good things about. We visited a class and spent about an hour just hanging out and observing. Sam did circle time and even participated in show-and-tell (he had randomly brought in a leaf from outside- cute!). He loved it and was excited to go.
But on his first day he came home crying. This was normal, we thought, and so we talked about it and decided to see it through for at least two weeks. He didn't cry anymore for the next week and a half, but he did tell me, quite eloquently, about what he didn't like about it and that he really wanted to do homeschool instead. I also caught him and Viv plotting how to sneak her into class with him one moring, which was very sweet.
He finally had another sad day, after which I told him, "Next time will be the two week mark, let's do one more day and see if you feel any different." But even after a Valentine's party, he was still positive that preschool was not for him. On the last day I picked him up and he was smiling, I thought maybe he'd decided he loved it after all. I said, "You look happy, did you have a good day?" He said, "I am happy... because today's my last day!"
So, we learned a few things with this little experiment.
So, what are we doing for homeschooling? Lots of little things, but mostly a lot of play and a tiny bit of more structured time.
How have you decided what educational route to take with your kids?
PS Here are a few posts you might have missed:
You can stay up to date with the latest posts (and giveaways happening soon!) and announcements HERE. Also, since Clayton just brought home three (!!) occasional tables that are now in my living room, we're doing a bit more clearing out, so here's an $800 table for almost half the price for you locals:)
I've been really excited to share this book with you. The first night we had it I sat up reading through all the projects. We're definitely incorporating it into this year's homeschooling routine.
We're all missing the easy days of summer here when I could just send Sam out into the backyard for hours on end. His outdoor time has shortened considerably; it's about equal to the time it takes me to bundle him up and get him ready to head out! Before long he's chilly and back inside, ready for some indoor play. We've had to get a little creative with our indoor activities. Yesterday's was a big hit though. It involved using an entire spool of thread, but it was so worth it. And the clean up wasn't nearly as bad as it looks. After snipping in a few crucial places all the thread easily gathered into a ball.
Sam's been in a spider phase and has been wearing the costume his dad made each and every day and only taking it off for bed and meals (the extra legs get in the way of eating). I suggested that he might like to spin a web like a real spider and he immediately lit up at the idea.
It was so great because it didn't require him to follow any particular pattern or anything to make it look awesome. We just set up some chairs opposite the piano and the leg of a plant stand and he wove back and forth, over and under, back and forth until, before long, he had himself a very impressive web. So effective, in fact, that he tangled himself in it several times. I loved watching him concentrate and seeing him learn as he went, trying first one way, then another.
Once the web was complete Sam donned the costume again (he did have to remove it while making the web as he kept getting his own legs tangled in it!) and spent the afternoon trapping bugs and dreaming about being a spider.
Sam didn't exactly set his own goal for 2011, but I'd been wanting to try out that Rosetta Stone software for quite some time and we finally got it. I noticed that Sam picked up the Spanish words in this book I was reading him (an English picture book with a few Spanish words) and I would catch him repeating them throughout the day. I've often lamented that we don't have bilingual friends or a Spanish playgroup for him to go to or something like that because his little brain is so wired for language acquisition right now. Our library offers a language learning course, but the style seems too "teach-y" and not enough like the way we naturally learn. Of all the programs I checked out, I like this one the best because it seems similar to the way babies learn language. There's no English instruction, everything is in Spanish and is very visual. You see pictures, hear the words in Spanish, then you hear the word and pick the right picture. As you go along you build on what you know, just the way little kids learn their native language. The program isn't designed for little kids, but when Sam and I do it together it works really well. You can choose what emphasis you want (grammar, vocab, speaking etc.) and I've set ours to speaking and listening for Sam. He sits on my lap and wears the headphones with the microphone. I can see the words on the screen and hear his headphones a bit so I operate the mouse and he repeats everything he hears; it works great. It's so interesting to watch him learn. He started out kind of butchering the Spanish sounds that we don't use in English, but already he's smoother and learning the new sounds and rhythms of a different languge. Sometimes we go back and do the pronunciation part again. Our appraoch is pretty loosey-goosey and low pressure so it's fun for him. He enjoys just sitting on my lap and and having some mama time, and I think if we do it regularly, even if it's only a few minutes at a time, that he'll really pick it up. It's pretty exciting to watch. I've had fun brushing up on my Spanish too. Some day, when the kids are older, I'd love to set a goal as a family to learn a language to a certain level of proficiency and then reward ourselves with a trip somewhere we could speak the new language.
This book has been on my to-read list for quite awhile. When we formed our learning co-op we were originally going to have a moms' reading group to go along with it where we read books on education from various perspectives, but it never quite got off the ground. I finally brought it home from the library and have really been enjoying it. I so appreciate when an author can distill ideas down such that they're accessible to anyone. This book really gives you a feel for what Montessori is all about and how you could incorporate those principles into your home.
I got so excited once I was a chapter or two in because the philosophy really resonated with me. Observations and ideas that Maria Montessori had about how children learn and about how best to facilitate that learning fall right in line with my own observations and inclinations about Sam. I've definitely noticed "sensitive periods" where he's particularly open to absorbing new information; it was really interesting to read the descriptions of these various stages. And I LOVE the ideas about creating a more child-friendly home. I was already a fan of For Small Hands, but am even more excited about getting Sam some mini-versions of adult tools and implements now that I've read more about the reasoning behind it.
I felt like this was a great "tip of the iceberg" book if you're interested in learning more about the Montessori method. I got some of Maria Montessori's books to read next, now that I have a feel for the overarching ideas. Anyone have any recommendations about other great resources to learn about Montessori? Or other educational philosophies worth looking into?
Some girlfriends and I have started a weekly learning co-op for our two and three year olds. So far I'm loving it, and so are the kiddos. The moms take turns teaching and being the support mom (we discovered that two moms worked best), so we end up teaching about once a month.
We try to structure it loosely so the kids know what to expect and so there's some continuity. Each month we pick a theme (last month's was nature, this month's is cultures) and use that to dictate what we teach. The kids bring a little pillow to sit on and we start each class in a circle, singing a welcome song and reading a story or two. Then, while their attention spans are still somewhat intact we do a craft and from there it just kind of goes how it goes. We do songs and games, have a snack about halfway through, have some unstructured outdoor time and then the moms come to gather everyone up.
The kids really look forward to it and it's been a great way to get them together for a little socialization and learning about how to be in a group. And it's fun to see that they are learning too; I hear them singing songs they've learned at co-op, or relating random facts about bugs or gardens. In the picture above Sam is displaying his sun catcher from a class on weather. And in the picture below the kids are decorating dragonfly wings for their class on bugs.
I love co-ops in all forms; it's such a brilliant way to maximize your resources and build community. I especially love the idea of utilizing other moms to help teach my kids, especially as I plan on home schooling, I think this will be a great way to not burn out and to fill in areas where I'm weaker. Plus, having a little mid-week break where I can run errands kid-free is a nice perk too.
I must admit, I LOVE learning! I'll learn about anything; dinosaurs, black holes, crochet patterns, mating habits of moths, grammar, the science behind rising bread dough- anything! So, I'm extra excited to home school Sam and help feed that insatiable curiosity that I know he has as well. He's finally getting old enough that the things he's interested in are interesting to me as well. We love visiting the natural history museum, where he keeps me busy with a constant stream of "What's that? What are those? What's this?"
It rekindles my own curiosity and enthusiasm to be around someone who's so excited about learning about the world around him. I love this post about home schooling; it gets me so excited about all the wonderful things we can learn and create together with no limits on how, where or what we learn.
Sam has recently discovered a love of bugs. He will run up to me with a hapless beetle clutched between his tiny fingers shouting, "a Box Elder Beetle!" I love that he knows what that is and is so thrilled to examine it, ask questions and learn all about it. He is a fearless explorer and an absolute sponge for knowledge about his latest interests. I picked up a cheap field guide to insects and it's his new favorite book (he's reading it to piggy in the picture below). He can name so many of the bugs now and I've learned a ton too! I now know how to tell the difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly (it's in the wings), and between crickets and grasshoppers (it's in the antennae) and have been introduced to a whole world of fascinating and beautiful (okay, and some gross) bugs that I didn't even know existed! Thank goodness for curious little ones that remind me to be curious too.
I did a little impromptu interview with some of Clay's relatives who home schooled all their kids. Most of the answers below come from the dad with a few thoughts here and there from two of his girls, one who just graduated and is working as a nurse and the other who's in college. This is just one family and one way of home schooling. There are as many ways to home school as there are families! I think these guys are one of the raddest families though, and are a fabulous example of how completely normal (or better than normal, if normal's not your cup of tea!) home schoolers can be.
#1 Don't home schooled kids miss out on socialization and end up, you know, weird?
Dad's thoughts: They associate with adults more and peers less. Who would you like to teach your children how to direct their lives, juvenile delinquents or responsible adults? This may be the greatest advantage to home schooling. They end up, you know, responsible adults. The biggest difference is that they can associate comfortably with others of all ages, while the stratified public schoolers may struggle with anyone not in their own grade. In the home school environment, children learn to associate with and rely on their families. Because families include people of all ages and sexes, the child learns to see people simply as people. They freely associate with all ages and genders, unaware of artificial designations or groupings. The benefits of this cultural condition are great and far reaching.
Ruby's thoughts: I feel that it allowed me to be so different from everybody else that I was forced to do my own thing, independence basically. I have lived my whole life independent of systems that stamp their own ideals on me like cookie cuts. I developed myself how I thought I should be. I didn't go to school everyday where I would be surrounded by lemmings who had specific social types that are hard to break out of. Since I formed myself, I can fit in with everybody if I want to, or nobody if I choose to.
Sophie's thoughts: One of the greatest benefits of home schooling is constantly being outside the norm. Consequently being "different" lost its intimidation factor and, in a way, provided me with more agency. I loved being home schooled, it was a blast and I don't have any regrets. Spending a large part of my time with family members helped me learn to accept and love all of their extremely different personalities. I'm grateful for that emphasis; my family members are my strong hold and my best friends.
Dad's thoughts: The most important thing is not learning what they aren't supposed to. They will learn more of some subjects and less of others, therefore ending up with different knowledge gaps. Their childhood experience is more carefree and secure. They do what children naturally do. We see them playing comfortably together, full of the adventure, curiosity and joy of experiencing the world around them.
Sophie's thoughts: Home schooling helped prevent structured education from getting in the way of learning. No bureaucratic garbage or classroom drama, that was nice. We had such great opportunities to learn, like leaving for week long field trips or having interesting members of the community come share how they perceive the world.
#3 Isn't it a ton of work for the parents? How do you find the time?Dad's thoughts: The cost in time and energy to educate a child at home is formidable and it is ongoing. Though the actual teaching at home is a delightful experience, and the student usually progresses far faster per unit of applied time. It needn't be an all day, every day process.
Sophie's thoughts: My schedule could be awesome or it could be the worst. I usually had a set amount of schoolwork to do after my chores. Home schooling challenged my self-motivation; I only got out what was invested. Working half-heartedly resulted in a long day, efficiency equaled more playtime. One of life's good lessons that never loses its applicability. (This is Sophie, below, on a medical, humanitarian aid trip.)
#4 What if your kid just doesn't want to do his work? Then what?
Dad's thoughts: It is common for a public schooled child to develop the attitude that school is work and is a negative. Thus, the natural joy of learning is replaced with a distaste for it. This is almost always the case if the child becomes labeled as slow or stupid by the other students of by the system. When these labels are taken to heart and become self-labels, the effect on the student can be devastating. In a home school, this situation seldom occurs. They think this is play. No one has told them it isn't supposed to be fun.
#5 What about college?
Dad's thoughts: We have encountered no problems. Our first four have enrolled full time at least one year early and part time at least two years early. Most schools love home schoolers. You only need a good enough ACT to compete in the school you want. They don't seem to care about high school. Our state school is excited for the students to enroll. Our local church sponsored school seems to want them also.
And to get you even more excited about home schooling, here are a few of my favorite books: The Unschooling Handbook, Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves, Teach Your Own, Learning All the Time, and How Children Learn.
I am so over the moon about this conference! Of course LDS moms should be at the forefront of natural family living! It's so exciting to see a convergence of these two worlds. The conference is all day this Saturday, the 25th, which also happens to be my birthday; what a lovely gift! Some of the topics will be about nurturing ourselves as mothers, gardening with little children, healing tips and tricks for moms, Christ-centered birth, attachment parenting and the connection between diet and health. I will definitely be there the whole day. It's being organized by Celestia Shumway who is also putting the finishing touches on her book about mothering and the tree of life. You can go for part of the conference or even pick and choose which lecturers you'd like to hear.
We had some friends from Clay's work over for dinner last night and had such a fun time; we only wish we had invited them over earlier! They have the cutest, sweetest kids whom they home school. This is a picture of them sailing the Atlantic on a raft they built with their dad. It makes me excited (and encouraged) to home school our kiddos!
The more I read about homeschooling and contemplate the possibilities, the more sense it makes to me. Sam is the most enthusiastic learner I know. There's no reason that enthusiasm ever needs to wane. If I can allow his curiosity and thirst for knowledg to dictate the direction our studies take I think he'll be able to learn much more than he would in a traditional school setting and will retain more, simply because he initiates the learning. Plus, we can do awesome projects like build rafts to sail in the ocean!