Wednesday, January 31, 2007

There's Order in the Universe

We were cleaning up Colwyn's room today, and I asked him to pick up his dinosaurs. I told him to put the biggest dinosaurs on one side, and the littlest ones on the other. This is what he did:

Alright, Colwyn!

And while I'm at it, here is a picture of the playstands that Doug built for the boys. He still needs to finish them up a bit, but as they were supposed to be from Santa and still weren't done on December 24th, he was a little rushed. ;) They look great, though, and the boys love them.

We had a great playgroup today at Imajine That! in Lawrence. Lachlann really seemed like such a big boy while we were there. I'll write more about it in my other blog (note the links off to the side) tomorrow maybe, as it didn't really have much to do with homeschooling. But my little baby sure is growing up.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Playgroup, Gumdrops, and Dinos

A few times lately Colwyn has asked to play with gumdrops and cups of water. At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. But I eventually figured it out.. he wanted to play with eyedroppers and cups of water. He likes it when I tint the water so he can experiment with dropping red water into clear water and so on. It's also great for his fine motor skills. And he likes making art with it, too.. he drips colored water onto white paper, and it dries quite nicely, actually.

He also got a new states puzzle and a globe. The states puzzle is a bit advanced for him, but he likes point out which states have planes or buffalos or whatever. And the globe, while small, will be great for pointing out places we read about.

We had a Heritage themed playgroup for our Pre-Homeschooling Co-op today. We all brought food that is symbolic of our heritage, and the kids played while the moms ate. ;) Well, the kids ate some, too. Colwyn and Lachlann seemed a bit more at ease this time, since they've met the other kids twice now. We're hoping to have Dani's kids, Thomas and Aidan, over next week. Hopefully that'll give Colwyn the chance to get to know Thomas a bit better. He always seems to do much better one-on-one than in large groups.

I think the Co-op will be really nice once it gets going. We'll be able to set up "classes" for the kids where if one mom is really good at math, she'll do a math project with all the kids one week, and next week, another mom who is great at science will do a science project with all the kids. That way the boys will get experience working in a group and taking direction from another adult. We're also planning on signing Lachlann up for swimming lessons (I think at the Lydon Aquatic Center) in the spring, and Colwyn will probably take a sports class at the Y where he'll learn about a few different sports.

Tomorrow we're going to our regular playgroup at Imajine That in Lawrence. We've never been, but I hear it's really good. Colwyn's looking forward to seeing his friends, and I'm looking foward to getting out of the house again. I know it won't be long before the kids are sick again, and I want to take advantage of their health while I can.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

I'm on a Roll!

Wow.. so, is it a good thing or a bad thing that it takes me a while to be ready to go to sleep after working 3pm-11pm? Let's say good...

Here's a link to 55 Reasons to Homeschool (they're short reasons, don't worry).

Here's a blurb from this article.

"Some people choose homeschooling simply because they are attracted to the lifestyle it allows, as well as the healthy family and socialization benefits. By participating in community life, homeschooled children feel comfortable with a wide variety of people. Without the social pressure from peers and age-segregated classrooms, kids feel more comfortable forming friendships. At our family baseball games, we see kids of all ages — siblings, friends, and newcomers — playing with each other and with adults in an unself-conscious way. Many people who come into contact with homeschooled kids remark on how easy it is to talk with them.

"Homeschooled kids are less likely to be peer dependent, and family life is likely to be less stressful when it is free from the demands of educational institutions. We often hear parents and kids talk about how relieved they feel from being freed of traditional schooling and nightly homework. These family members were nearly strangers to each other, sharing hurried breakfasts, chaotic suppers, and struggles over homework. With independent learning, they have more time to talk and listen; more time to spend in libraries, museums, and concert halls; or to hike, ride bikes, read, or think. These changes are what happens when family life is driven by the needs of families, rather than the needs of institutions."

Here's another fantastic article on why people choose to homeschool. I think this one sums it up best for us.


Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs!

We've been doing a lot of stuff with dinosaurs lately. It's so amazing to hear this little boy who was in speech therapy for a year rattling off names like parasaurolophus and deinonychus and brachiosaurus. I mentioned in my first post that we're making a dinosaur ABC book. I cut cardstock to 6"x6" and used yarn to assemble the book. On each page, Colwyn cuts (I should note that I do most of the cutting) and glues a picture of a dinosaur that he's colored in, the dinosaur's name, a blurb about the dinosaur, and the appropriate letter.

I also bought a neat little $2 toy at Target the other day. It was an egg made out of sand with a little plastic dinosaur in the middle. It came with a chisel, hammer, and brush for digging the dino out. Colwyn had a great time, but I think I may have actually enjoyed it even more (because, after all.. I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was in high school). The cleaning up was so not fun.. why didn't it occur to me that when it said "Sand" on the packaging, that it actually meant.. well.. sand. Duh.

We went to the Museum of Science over the holiday break and Colwyn really liked the dinosaur exhibit. He had a cold, though, and I don't think he was able to fully appreciate it. I can't wait to take him back, hopefully when he's healthy, well fed, and rested. ;)



I suppose we should start with the basics, right? I'm Rachel, a (mostly) stay-at-home mom to Colwyn and Lachlann. Colwyn was born in fall 2003, and Lachlann in summer 2005. Before I got pregnant, I had always imagined myself being a typical mainstream mom - actually, I don't think I was aware that there were alternatives. As I've grown into motherhood, my ideals have changed a lot, and I now lean towards the crunchier side. I believe that my boys are valuable people whose needs and wants are just as valid as my own. Therefore, we practice attachment parenting as much as possible. The boys coslept with us while they were babies and only moved out of our room when they were ready. We've never let them cry it out, nor do we spank or use time-outs. Of course, we all lose our patience and I can't say that I've never yelled at them in anger, but I try to be as respectful as possible. I truly enjoy being around my kids, and a desire to homeschool has gradually evolved out of our parenting style.

Being that our kids are so young, we're still exploring our options in regards to materials and approaches to homeschooling. There are a lot of things I like about a lot of different methods, so the term that best describes us right now is eclectic. Some of the approaches I'm interested in are unschooling, unit studies, Waldorf, Montessori, and Charlotte Mason.

My husband doesn't like the term unschooling, but I feel that it gets the point across quickest. Unschooling is really hard to define (like most things about homeschooling). For us, unschooling is not forcing our kids to learn at a pace that doesn't suit them. It's not forcing subjects on them that they're not interested in or ready for. It's not pushing academics at an early age. It's not doing worksheets or other busywork. It's about following our kids' lead.. after all, we've followed their lead in almost everything else, and it's always worked out wonderfully. We'll probably stick with this approach until our kids reach mid-elementary age, at which point we will encourage certain subjects a bit more strongly. I do feel that there are certain things that kids have to learn.. it's just a matter of when. I also initiate and introduce a lot of activities and concepts to the kids, something that doesn't really fit with the unschooling definition. But the difference is that while I may initiate and encourage participation, it's certainly not required.

Unit studies are something we're already doing. For instance, right now Colwyn is interested in dinosaurs. We're making a dinosaur ABC book (which teaches letters, art, fine motor skills), we pretend to be dinosaurs (gross motor skills) and read books about dinosaurs (reading skills, literature). We sort his toy dinosaurs by size, or color, or by what they eat (math). We'll be making dinosaur masks this week (art, fine motor skills), and we'll do an activity where Colwyn will dig for dinosaur fossils in some sand (fine motor, science). We'll also make a diorama with playdough and his toy dinosaurs, and we'll make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar (art, fine motor, science). We also show him on a globe where certain dinosaurs lived (geography). So, just by doing some fun, playful activities about dinosaurs, he'll study his letters, art, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, reading skills, literature, math, science, and geography.

The Waldorf philosophy is fantastic, with few exceptions. A Waldorf education is based in the arts, with young children spending the majority of their day singing songs, listening to stories, engaging in handwork (craft activities), and playing imaginatively. Instead of using textbooks, they create their own books of what they're learning (dino ABC book, anyone?). Waldorf students celebrate the seasons and have nature tables to display treasures they find outside that symbolize the season. This fits very well with our pagan traditions. Children in a Waldorf school (or homeschool) often aren't taught to read until age 6 or 7. While I don't have a problem with my kids not learning to read until 6 or 7, I certainly won't discourage it if they're ready earlier. The way I see it, if they're ready at 5, great, but I'd rather them learn to read quickly at age 7, than cause a power struggle trying to force it at 5. One of the few things I don't like about Waldorf is that some of the literature they use is a little too Christian for me. Technically, Waldorf isn't Christian, but it feels that way to me sometimes. I also don't think they put enough emphasis on science. Again, not that I'll push science if they're not interested, but if they are, they'll learn more about it with me than they would in a traditional Waldorf school.

For Montessori, I'm more split about whether I like it or not. There are some things I love: encouraging independence and responsibility - children are allowed/expected to get their own drinks and snacks when they can, wash up by themselves, and clean up their messes. They're allowed to work cooperatively or independently, whichever they feel suits their needs best. Teachers demonstrate a task/concept for the child, and then the child practices it until he masters it. Some of the Montessori things we do including scooping/pouring pompoms or beads or picking them up with tongs. We also have snacks, cups, and a pitcher of water available for Colwyn to serve himself if he wants. We don't have a stepstool high enough to let him reach the sink, but we do encourage him to use the potty with as little help from us as possible (we clean up, obviously). The thing I hate about Montessori is that they don't value pretend play. I think this is a huge mistake, as kids learn so much from creative and imaginative play.

I'm just starting to look into Charlotte Mason's philosophy, and I think it's another method that we'll pick and choose from. Charlotte Mason advocated teaching children using high quality literature.. which I'm obviously all for. She said that instead of children having lots of books, that they should only have a few of the very best.. which is something I disagree with, personally. We have tons of books, and get armfuls from the library. Charlotte Mason also said that after a child reads a book or passage, that they should narrate back (orally) what they've learned. These narrations shouldn't be corrected, as a child should be allowed to pick and choose what they want to take from a piece of writing. I think that's a great idea, and probably something we'll put into practice. Although when I think about it, that's sort of what we're doing when we ask Colwyn questions about things we've just read.

Well, this has been an enormously long post. Next up will either be pictures of what we're doing now, or some info on why homeschooling is great. :)

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