Saturday, January 7, 2012
Homeschooling is a journey, not a destination. Just like many things in life, you often don't know just where you'll end up. So, you need to enjoy the sights along the way, because truly, that is what it's all about. Either that or the hokey pokey; I'm not sure.
"Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around. That's what it's all about. Hey!"
I remember seeing a bumper sticker once that read, "What if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?"
In my homeschooling (or perhaps I prefer the term learning) journey I am often continually seeking. I guess I might've been satisfied and left well enough alone if I had easier going kids. My older son is a squeaky wheel. Sometimes he squeaks very loudly. Whatever it is, it does get my attention. This year his attitude has seemed to be, "I don't like school. It's boring. I just do what I have to do and get it done so I can go do something fun." I guess this is an improvement over years when he whined, "Why do I have to do school at all?" Or, when he got past that and resigned himself to doing some school work he still railed at certain subjects. Okay, so maybe this year is an improvement. But still.......I felt like I had somehow failed in my homeschooling. I don't expect it all to be greeted with "Wheeeeeeee!!! I can't believe we get to do this!" But some of this should be fun, interesting, at the very least better than public school. Or else, why am here? I could do something else with my time other than torture my kids with boredom and then babysit the rest of the day.
So, to that end, I am embarking on several new learning adventures. It would be easier if I started one or two small new things at a time. Like maybe just focusing on flossing regularly and drinking more water perhaps? I thought, however, that maybe I could swing those two and start several new directions in our learning.
One that I am just beginning to learn about is called Project based learning. While this term may mean different things I am referring to the approach as laid out at Camp Creek Blog. We haven't started anything yet as I am just now learning about it. I will jump in before I get it all figured out though, because I have decided that doing something imperfectly is better than waiting to do it perfectly (which of course would be never.)
In a somewhat related style, we are starting inquiry based science. We have been having a rather lengthy discussion on The Well Trained Mind message boards on this and I am learning from several people there. I have set up a question board and it is surprising how many questions are coming up. One question my younger son had was, "Why can you see fog when it is farther away (he pointed down the road) but you can't see it up close? This would probably be a research question-one we will need to read about to find the answers.
My other son is passionate about juggling and read something about the rate of speed at which balls drop. He said that if a ball is dropped from 2x the height it's falling time is not increased 2x. I'm not sure if the why can be answered by experiment, but I felt that we should first check to see if this statement is true.
We decided we needed to drop from higher places in order to really be able to time it and see if there is a difference. Tune in next week to see us on roofs and in trees.
We're also doing some fun science--you know: exploding things. I found this project several places online. But only at Steve Spangler Science did I find it explained. I mean sure, it's fun to blow up a bar of soap in the microwave. I, however, like to know why it does this. Sometimes I can figure things out for myself, sometimes it's okay just to be told. So, I'm telling you, if you want to do these fun things and understand a bit about the why of it all, Steve Spangler is a good place to go.
We also started a Five in A Row book. I'm not quite organized with this yet, which is not good, but we did have some fun. We read Madeline. We made crepes. Then we learned a bit about Paris, during which Mommy imparted important information about things like pastry shops and cafes in Paris. It's so helpful to have actual experience in a subject. The boys did these paper cut outs of Paris.
We discovered that building with sugar wafer cookies and vanilla frosting is harder than it looks. Ah, two sides to the Eiffel Tower would have worked better.
E, who is 11, might be considered old for Five in A Row. I view it as adding some fun to our week and getting him to do some writing and research in a low key way. I realized this week that he was kind of lost on how to summarize. How is that possible after several years of narrating a la Charlotte Mason? Well, he was never a big fan of narrating, but certainly capable. I could just tell him to narrate on paper instead of calling it summarizing or tell me about the story. Since he hated narrating, though, I'd rather not draw that connection. I walked him through it this week and I'm glad we've started this way. E also read a National Geographic article on Beneath Paris, which covered the history of the city as well as some interesting bits about what goes on now underneath the city.
We still have more to do with Madeline, but I don't want to drag it out too much. I feel that we've missed key aspects though and more importantly, we haven't been to the bakery yet! This will carry on into next week.
As to the usual subjects, K is still working on reading. He is really rounding the corner to becoming a reader now. It is so exciting to hear him read aloud, unstilted, and to continue beyond where I said he could stop.
History fell by the wayside this week as I tried to stumble back into our learning time. My husband has been around more and I'm trying to make changes, both schedule wise and approach wise, so it's been a bit bumpy.
I'm working on scheduling, organization, cleaning up our spaces, and incorporating new approaches to our learning. I guess I keep thinking that things like scheduling and organization should be a destination and I should finally arrive. Shoot, this has been a long journey. But if I just stuck with what I made up at first, I would've missed so many amazing things along the way.
I'm wondering if my kids are learning half as much as me?
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
New year....fresh start. I rearranged our learning rooms and it really feels better. The first picture is a shot of my older ds' desk and the bookshelves. This desk is ridiculously small, but E insisted he wanted to keep it. He's since decided he needs something bigger, which either means a trip to Ikea or a trip to the grandparents who have a desk they're willing to part with.
Next to the bookshelf I created a little nook which I'd like to turn into a comfy reading space. I need a big floor pillow, a chair, or a bean bag chair, but it's not really the best time for shopping.....
The picture below is our new science/art table. I set up the bookshelf next to it and was thrilled to be able to put all our science books together, as they seemed to be in at least four different places. However, it turns out, I can't put all the science books there as we have too many. I also wanted a space for some supplies and art supplies on the bottom shelf. On top of the table to the left is our question board. We are jumping off into inquiry based science, but more on that later. Actually, we are jumping into all kinds of science, largely inquiry based, but also just plain fun.
This last picture shows my younger son's desk and shelf.
I'm also changing up some of what we do, how we do things and when we do things. Prior to Christmas, our school time was getting later and later in the day, or at least inconsistent. This was due, in part, to our being out three nights a week and all of us being just plain tired and lazy in the morning. However, I'm working to change this. It's been a tough couple of days, getting back into the swing of things, particularly trying to change it at the same time.
Five in A Row
I started using this program very lightly in the fall with my younger son (who is actually considered old for it). Okay, the truth is, as much as we loved our first "row", it was our only row. We also read Cranberry Thanksgiving and Papa Piccolo, but didn't really do any activities with it. We did read other books to go along with them, but that was it. So, I decided we would pick this up again this winter, but I am also folding my older son into it. He is 11. I'm using the books as a jumping off point for him and I think we'll do at least a few of the FIAR titles before moving onto Beyond Five in a Row. I am having him doing additional research, reading, and writing.
Inquiry based science:
I learned about this approach to science from The Well Trained Mind message boards. It really resonates with me and I have been trying to learn more about it. Nurturing Inquiry: Real Science for the Elementary Classroom is one of the books that lays out this approach. I will post about this in more detail and cover my journey toward creating this in my home.
I have been covering both world history and American history. As we move into the new year, I am picking up Winterpromise: American Story 1.
I have had this for several years and used it a bit with my older son. My younger son seems to have missed out on things we did several years ago and my older son still needs more American history, so we're pulling this back out.
It seems we have done plenty of ancient history and yet......we never covered China, Africa, or the Americas. We covered Greece and Rome, but not in much depth and again, my younger son was too young to retain much. So, I am doing an abbreviated ancient history this year. I'm approaching it TOG style. Of course, without a Tapestry of Grace guidebook, it doesn't even come close. I won't claim it to be TOG at all. Just TOG style--with history core reading, in depth history readings, related literature, focus on famous people, etc. geared to each child's level.
History notebooking--this is something I'm trying to incorporate, but with all the other changes it may be awhile.
I'm still up in the air on this. I'm leaning towards trying some Bravewriter: Arrow units. I'm also considering Writing with Ease, Igniting Your Writing, and The Creative Writer.
All in all, trying to just get back into the swing of school and change things up is hard. I think the changes will be good, though.