Monday, June 30, 2014

Modeling Lifelong Learning

The credit union we use has a really neat statue in the entrance. I wish I had a picture of it. It's a mother and her two children all holding hands and wearing caps and gowns like they are all graduating. I love it. It seems to sum up so much of how I feel right now as I embark on this homeschooling journey.

As I teach my children, I learn so much myself. Not just facts that I pass on to the kids, but about child development, learning styles, educational philosophies, etc. It's wonderful to be a budding scholar alongside my children. It has reminded me of the important habit of modeling.

We all want to pass certain things on to our children. We talk about instilling a passion for reading, a lifelong love of learning, healthy habits, creativity, imagination, etc. We discuss endlessly how best to do it, but frankly, the best way to raise happy, healthy, creative, thriving adults is to be one yourself.

Children will desire and do what they see their parents doing. That's why there is study after study about how children need to see their parents (both parents!) reading for enjoyment in order for them to more readily do the same. A recent study basically said that boys don't read because they don't see their dads reading.

I want children who are knowledgable in their head, heart, and hands. But am I modeling that for them? Do I create throughout my day? Do I read and learn more every day? Do I actively try to listen and empathize with those around me? These are all things we can do more of each day. A fulfilling life does not stagnate. A whole-hearted person continues to learn and grow and try new things. You've never "done it all."

Maybe it's time to start learning again. College may be over, but you can still be a scholar! Here's some ideas to get you started.

Read, read, read (obviously)
Decide to learn something, anything and then do it. Really dive in. Maybe it's photography, politics, soccer, etc. If you let passion drive you, you won't get bored.
Learn a new language! I've been using duolingo. It's a website and an app. I love it! I do a little bit every day and I'm definitely learning spanish! If we're facebook friends, you should join and add me for some healthy competition!

Maybe you need to improve in the heart category. For this one I can't recommend Brene Brown's "Daring Greatly" enough. But here are some other ideas.

Get outside and enjoy the perfection and beauty of it.
Get into a spiritual groove. Even if you don't have a specified religion. Find faith in something and nurture it.
Set out on a journey to discover your purpose and follow it.
Unplug and talk with the people in your life.
Serve your fellow men.

What about your hands? Are you learning to create with them? This encompasses so much. Cooking, gardening, music, art, crafts, dance, building, repairing, the list could go on and on. Working with your hands nourishes the soul. Don't stop at what you already know how to do, try something else. The internet is abounding with tutorials, you can literally learn how to do anything you want (although mastering it is never a guarantee.) Let your kids see you develop talents old and new. Try and fail and try again. And you will fail. Make no doubt about it. But don't let that scare you!

My tips for this are start small. So you want to get better at photography? Don't go out and buy a huge expensive camera just yet. Learn all you can with what you have or the cheaper options and then move up when you've reached your limitations. The same goes for most endeavors. Learning to sew? Start on a basic machine. Garden? A small plot or a few pots will keep you plenty busy.

Be artistic even if you aren't "good." There is something healing in art, whether it's music, writing, painting, dancing. Whatever it is that fills your soul, do it, and then try something new. You may surprise yourself!

To me, living a "wholehearted" or soul-filling life requires a constant desire and effort to progress in all three of these areas. What have you done today? Did it fill your soul? Did you learn something new? What are your actions communicating to your children about what it means to be an adult?

I know I wrote this blog post like I was telling you to get to work, but really this is for me. These are the thoughts in my head. The things I keep reminding myself. Head, heart, hands. Head, heart, hands.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

D and E Weeks

After finishing up the last two weeks, I've decided to spend one more week with D and E. Not because we're struggling with them, but because I want to dive a little bit more into a couple subjects. So this next week we'll be learning a fun summer song, a nursery rhyme, and fairy tale story in circle time. We'll also review our D and E signs, and probably learn a few more.

Homeschooling gives me the flexibility to linger, and I think we'd be better served by diving in a little more and then getting to F is for Fireworks the week of July 4th. So this upcoming week we'll learn more about ducks and eggs and do a couple electricity experiments and drawing lessons. We're also going to set up a number line on the wall. Should be fun!

D Week: *video of signs coming soon*

We learned a lot about dirt this week. We read a book about dirt. Got a cup of dirt and "dissected" it to see what was in the soil in our back yard. (A lot of pieces of wood and clay). We also did this experiment where we let our soil separate in water to see the different layers. We learned our soil is mostly sand, with a tiny layer of silt, and a good portion of flecks of clay, and quite a bit of humus. We talked a lot about decomposition to make dirt. That weekend we went on a five mile hike and pointed out all the examples of decomposition we could find.

We planted Daisies.
And beans.
We talked about weeds and what they are, where they come from, and went into the garden to pull some.
We read a bit about ducks, but not as much as I'd like, thus our upcoming extra week.
We studies Degas' "Ballet Rehearsal On Stage" and painted our own pictures inspired by his work.
Handwriting practice.
Letter D quilt square using a basic runner stitch.
4 pages of math in our workbook.
Lots of picture books (on log)
Wet on wet watercolor painting mixing blue and yellow.

E Week  *video of signs coming soon*

E is for Egypt. We read the third Magic Tree House. Mummies in the Morning. Then we watched a couple short vidos on how mummies were made, who was mummified, and where they were buried. After that we got to become mummies by getting wrapped in toilet paper. Jane thought it was interesting that the way mummies were wrapped, they wouldn't actually be able to walk around. They'd have to hop. I think she found it comforting in a way.

Planted echinacea.
Located Egypt on a map. (We now know Egypt,

California, Russia, China, Iceland, and Spain)
Learned about the equator as well as the direction "East." Lots of map time this week.
8 pages in our math workbook.
Learned the chain stitch and used it for E quilt square.
Picture books on log.
Handwriting practice.
Studied Brian Connelly's "Brown and White Eggs." Will do artwork based on it this upcoming week.
Wet on wet watercolor painting mixing red and yellow.
Practiced telling "O'clock" times.
Learned how to make deviled eggs. Will add it to Jane's cookbook this week.

That's all I can remember at the moment. Our days feel very rich, and yet unrushed. We are learning so, so much. Jane is sounding out words and writing her own birthday cards. Right now she's writing a book for Max ("With seven pages!" she'll say.) She sounds out and writes as much as she can until she gets tired and then I do the rest. We're still working on getting all her letters facing the right way. It'll come.

She is always creating something, growing something, singing something. It's wonderful. We also started taking them to do some swimming lessons 3-4 times per week. Jane can now doggie paddle enough to get to the side of the pool which is such a relief for me.

My goal of 2 hours outside playtime has been reached every single day the past two weeks, especially with the pool time. It's effect on Max's behavior is amazing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Interior Design for Moms

I love the idea of setting my house up Montessori style. I'm no expert, but I've read a few articles with ideas and decided to take it on. The basic idea is to make your home child friendly.

Think about your house. Where is the clock?

At adult eye-level probably.

Where are the towel hooks?

At adult arm's reach probably.

Where are the plates and cups and bowls?

Out of reach of children.

Just like the snacks and drinks.

What does this mean for kids and moms? Well, it means kids don't get the opportunity to walk past a clock and really look at it. Watch the hands move. Ask what it means, and get interested in telling time.

It means that instead of the kids putting away their own towel, or cup, or snacks, that mom has to do it. It's totally anti-independence! *As a note, if you have a snacker, like me, I totally understand having to be very intentional about what you keep low where kids can find it.**

But, it was with these thoughts in mind that I began unpacking in our new house.

I had the world map in our last my eye level. I bought it for the kids, right? So why did I have it up where only I could study it?

I put the wall clock low. Right where the kids can see it. Tommy loves banging on the map, by the way. It's definitely making him a genius. I know it.

I also put all the small plates, cups, and bowls in a low cupboard. I always tell the kids to set the table, but then I have to pull out all the dishes. It's little help to me if I have to do half the work. This way, the kids can do it all, including the counting, by themselves. They can also retrieve their own glass of water. Can I tell you how nice it is to not have to be constantly getting someone water? It's amazing!!!!!

So, if you want to foster independence, spark curiosity, or just plan, flat make your life easier. Consider this, put things on your kid's level.

(I kept the calendar high, because otherwise the kids throw the pieces all over. But I put our bird poster low in case we see any in our backyard. We don't have a cat anymore so maybe they'll come back.)