Sunday, March 25, 2007

Creating Rockets and Coloring Eggs

So we are pagan homeschoolers! ;) Here the kids are coloring eggs for Ostara.

Our mega project for the week was transforming a box into a space ship. We cut a door out of the back and a windshield out of the front. We left the windshield as more of a flap and attached a string to it so Colwyn can pull the string from inside and the windshield will open. We also made several dials and Colwyn taped them to the inside, just underneath the windshield.

I printed out a bunch of pictures of planets and nebulae and whatnot, and we taped those inside to serve as windows. We wrote the kids names on the ceiling, and punched holes to make constellations. Colwyn and Lachlann both colored on it quite a bit, too. For the first time, Colwyn spontaneously told me he was making certain letters (of course, they didn't look like letters, but it's the thought that counts).

We attached a metal measuring cup to the box with a string for Colwyn to use as a radio, and a spare paint roller became a telescope. Even Maddy got in on the fun.

This week we're probably going to go the zoo, either with our homeschooling playgroup or without. I'm not sure what we're doing for our other playgroup, so we'll see. We're leaving for a long weekend in DC very very early Thursday morning, and I'm so excited to take the boys to all the museums. Whee! I've got to remember to show him DC on the globe and on the states puzzle, and I think I'll also see if I can find a simple map of the city for him to look at.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Nurturing a Strong Work Ethic

I found this blog post that I thought was really interesting. Actually, I found a link to it in another blog, although I do try to read the original blog when I can.

I think she has a valid point. Many people will say to us, "But how will they learn discipline if they're not in school?" "How will they learn that sometimes they have to do something they don't want to?"

It just seems like such a strange concern to have. If the boys should ever want to learn a new skill (let's hope they will!) like soccer or the piano, they'll have to practice to get good at it. They will learn that if they don't practice, they won't achieve their goals. This is discipline. This is a work ethic. And my children will learn that on their own, and their motivation will be intrinsic (ah, there's that word again). They won't have to sit through hundreds of hours of repetitive, boring, pointless drudgery, from which they'll get little reward.

But I think this also belies an underlying belief that children are, well.. bad. That they'll be lazy good-for-nothings if we don't force them to do two hours of homework every night, even if they already know the material. Personally, I think my children are good. I think that they'll learn to see the value of hard work, whether it be working to perfect a song on the violin or working a job to earn enough money for a vacation.

And here's another reason for me to not want my kids to do endless busywork. I don't want my kids to blindly do things because some authority figure says so. Can you imagine a teacher's response if a student said, "Excuse me, but I don't need to do this worksheet, I already know how to do this." Right. Of course, I expect my kids to do certain things, but I have valid reasons. Wanting my kids to finish a worksheet so I can have five minutes of peace does not count. If I pick out a book for my kids, and they think it sucks, I want them to be able to tell me why. And I'll listen, and we'll find something that fits their needs better.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Worksheets Galore

Colwyn's been in kind of a worksheet mood lately. I printed off a bunch of things from Enchanted Learning and he did them all really well. These are some that he did a day or two ago. On this one, the only one he needed help with to figure out the pattern was the bottom one. I was really surprised that he did so well on it.

Colwyn counted the bats, then I held his hand so we could form the numbers. This is also how we write his name on the worksheets. He wanted to work from the bottom up on this one, and I thought of how nice it was that nobody was forcing him to go in a set order to follow along with the class.

Ah, don't you just love my artwork? I wanted to see if he knew longer vs. shorter, which he obviously does. They're circled twice because we went back and circled the shorter ones after. Again, it's nice to be able to let him follow his whims.

Colwyn loves mazes. We did about four or five of them in a workbook today because he asked if he could do his "work." Sometimes he purposely goes down the wrong path so he can say, "Oh, no! Look at that! I have to go backwards!"

We did some other worksheets today but I didn't want to bore you with too many pictures.

Today the kids engaged in doll play for a good half hour. Colwyn dressed up in a kangaroo costume that has a little joey in the pouch, so he pretended to be the kangaroo mommy (normally I refer to him as the daddy when he plays with dolls, but obviously, only mommy kangaroos have pouches) and gave his joey milk, baby food, and a binky. Lachlann also played with his dolls quite a bit, it's so cute to see him feeding the babies and smacking his lips. He pushed the stroller around for quite a while (a bit faster than is acceptable with real babies, heh), then put the babies to sleep in his bed. It's interesting to see how differently the boys play with dolls vs. how I remember my sister and I did.. when Colwyn was giving the joey a binky, I asked if the joey was upset. Colwyn sad, "Yes, he's scared that the T. Rex is going to get him!" Any time Colwyn says T. Rex, in any context, it's always in a deep, scary voice. I don't think my sister and I ever mixed dolls and dinosaurs. :)

Oh, and we finally got around to correcting the color of two of the planets on our space display. I told Colwyn how I thought that we painted Mercury and Venus the wrong color, and asked if he would come help me find out what colors they're supposed to be. We sat down at the computer, and he watched me look up the website that I had found explaining the true colors of the planets. I explained how when we don't know something, that we can use a book or the computer to find out what the answer was. We talked about how silly we were to make a mistake, but how we just had to fix it and it would be all better. He got a kick out of the fact that we messed up.

While it's important for me to teach the kids some facts and skills, I think my most important job in homeschooling my kids is to teach them how to learn on their own. I don't want them to be the type of person to say, "Oh, gee, I don't know what such-and-such means, oh well" - I want them to go and find out. So hopefully this whole fixing-the-planets thing is the first of many "lessons" in how to learn.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Preschool Course of Study

Here's a typical course of study for a preschooler, copied from the World Book site. Things that Colwyn can do already are crossed out. This is more for my benefit than anything else, so sorry if it's boring. :)

* Understands big and little.
* Understands long and short. - not sure about this one
* Matches shapes or objects based on size.

Colors and Shapes
* Recognizes and names primary colors.
* Recognizes circles.
* Recognizes rectangles.
* Matches shapes or objects based on shape.
* Copies shapes.

* Counts orally through 10.
* Counts objects in one-to-one correspondence.
* Understands empty and full.
* Understands more and less.

Reading Readiness
* Remembers objects from a given picture.
* Knows what a letter is.
* Has been read to frequently.
* Has been read to daily.
* Looks at books and magazines.
* Recognizes some nursery rhymes.
* Identifies parts of the body.
* Identifies objects that have a functional use.
* Knows common farm and zoo animals.
* Pronounces own first name.
* Pronounces own last name.
* Expresses self verbally.
* Identifies other children by name.
* Tells the meaning of simple words.
* Repeats a sentence of 6-8 words.
* Completes incomplete sentence with proper word.
* Has own books.
* Understands that print carries a message.
* Pretends to read.
* Uses left-to-right progression.
* Answers questions about a short story.
* Tells the meaning of words heard in story.
* Looks at pictures and tells a story.
* Identifies own first name in manuscript.
* Prints own first name.

Position and Direction
* Understands up and down.
* Understands in and out.
* Understands front and back.
* Understands over (on) and under.
* Understands top, bottom, middle. - not sure if he knows this
* Understands beside and next to.
* Understands hot and cold.
* Understands fast and slow.

* Understands day and night.
* Knows age and birthday. - his birthdate has never come up, hmm

Listening and Sequencing
* Follows simple directions.
* Listens to a short story.
* Listens carefully.
* Recognizes common sounds.
* Repeats a sequence of sounds.
* Repeats a sequence of orally given numbers.
* Retells simple stories in sequence.

Motor Skills
* Is able to run.
* Is able to walk a straight line.
* Is able to jump.
* Is able to hop.
* Is able to alternate feet walking down stairs.
* Is able to march.
* Is able to stand on one foot for 5-10 seconds.
* Is able to walk backwards for five feet.
* Is able to throw a ball.
* Pastes objects.
* Claps hands.
* Matches simple objects.
* Touches fingers.
* Able to button a garment.
* Builds with blocks.
* Completes simple puzzles (5 pieces or less).
* Draws and colors beyond a simple scribble.
* Able to zip a zipper.
* Controls pencil and crayon well.
* Cuts simple shapes. - he might be able to do this, but hasn't done it yet
* Handles scissors well.
* Able to copy simple shapes.

Social-Emotional Development
* Can be away from parents or primary care givers for 2-3 hours without being upset. - luckily, we've always been able to use my parents as babysitters, but he'd probably do fine with Mary watching him
* Takes care of toilet needs independently.
* Feels good about self.
* Is not afraid to go to school. - yeah, irrelevant
* Cares for own belongings.
* Knows full name.
* Dresses self.
* Knows how to use handkerchief or tissue.
* Knows own sex.
* Brushes teeth.
* Crosses residential street safely. - why would a preschooler be crossing the street by himself?!
* Asks to go to school. - again, irrelevant
* Knows parents' names.
* Knows home address. - he knows the street and city, but is sometimes way off with the house number
* Knows home phone number.
* Enters into casual conversation.
* Carries a plate of food.
* Maintains self-control.
* Gets along well with other children.
* Plays with other children.
* Recognizes authority.
* Shares with others.
* Talks easily.
* Likes teachers. - once again, irrelevant
* Meets visitors without shyness. - he's shy for the first few minutes, but warms up
* Puts away toys.
* Able to stay on task.
* Able to work independently.
* Helps family with chores.

So, for 6 months into Colwyn's "preschool" career, I'd say he's doing pretty well.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

What a change in weather since I wrote last. Wednesday was sunny and in the 70s, Thursday was rainy and in the 50s, and Friday was in the 30s and it snowed. At least the snow made for some fun activities.. I brought in two giant bowls of snow and let the kids play with it at the table. Lachlann was a bit hesitant at first and kept saying, "Cold!" but after a few minutes he really dug in. We made mini snowballs and threw them at the table to see them break apart. Then we put green sprinkles on the snow, as I was also baking sugar cookies and had them out. The kids hands are still green, despite repeated washings. :) I have pictures, but since I'm posting at work, I'll have to put them up later.

We also decorated sugar cookies for St. Patrick's Day (since the kids can't drink beer, they get cookies). We looked up Ireland on the globe, and talked briefly about St. Patrick.

Last week Colwyn saw a show on Animal Planet (Most Extreme something or other) that talked about prehistoric eagles. There was a reenactment of an eagle trying to catch some people, and Colwyn got a big kick out of that. We spent a good amount of time pretending that he was an eagle, and he'd chase me around. He also showed up his beak, and how he could gobble us up. He also likes pretending to be a bat, so when he does, we talk about where bats live and what they eat.

I bought some glow-in-the-dark stickers of planets and stars so Colwyn could put them on the wall next to his bed, but we were disappointed to find that the stickiness was gone. What a waste of $5. I also bought some of the plastic stars that you adhere with putty, and we're going to put them on our planets display. I still need to figure out where I want to put that.. it's frickin' huge. Unforunately, Lachlann likes to try to scrape the paint off the planets, so I can't really let him have access to it.

We were planning on going to the library today, but unforunately, it didn't open until 1pm because of the snow. So instead, we went to Target (so I could buy the kids their Ostara presents) and then to Sylvan Street Grille for lunch. Not quite the educational activity I had planned, but oh well. Oh, actually, we did fool around with the concept of more and less when we were playing a travel fishing game.. after we played, we counted how many fish we had each caught, and then figured out who had more.

Okay.. back to work.. I may add more later, and I'll definitely post the pictures tomorrow.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spring Thaw

We've had more nice weather these past few days, and I'm making sure we get to spend lots of time outdoors. I'm really looking forward to going on nature walks and catching bugs and fun stuff like that, but for now, just being outside is enough.

We spent about three hours outside yesterday. In the morning we played mostly on the deck while I finished cleaning up out there (Doug had done a lot of it over the weekend while I was at work). The kids enjoyed playing in the sand and in the clubhouse, but they also spent a good half hour dropping chunks of ice and snow over the railing and watching them smash into smithereens on the steps below. Early experiments in gravity and the properties of ice? Hmm. We talked about how water freezes into ice, and then when the air gets warmer out, the ice melts back into water.

In the afternoon, we played out in the backyard. We're planning on growing a nice big veggie garden, so I was trying to figure out where I want to put it. We examined the grass and I showed the boys how it was starting to turn green again. I'm sure it went a bit over Colwyn's head, but I also explained how the spots in the yard that have green grass are the warmest, whereas the parts that are all brown are still too cold for the grass to grow. I opened up our compost bin to see what it was like, and explained how we put the food we don't eat in there, along with grass and leaves, and it all breaks down into dirt. I'm really looking forward to this garden.. I think it'll be a great learning experience for Colwyn. As he gets older, we'll be able to incorporate all sorts of subjects into our gardening (math, science, geography, climate, etc).

We also went on a walk around the block and ended up seeing our neighbors (the elementary school teacher). The kids had a good time running around and Caroline and I got to chat. Homeschooling came up, and she asked when we have to start reporting, and asked, "So, do you have to talk to someone, like, once a week or something?" It was all I could do not to laugh. I explained how the law works, how we'll be reporting our progress, and how should the school department get the crazy idea that I'm not doing a proper job, that it's up to them to prove it, not the other way around. It was a nice conversation, but I thought it was so strange that she thought I'd have to check in so often. Because obviously parents aren't capable of raising their own kids, you know.

Today we went to Cy Tenney with our homeschooling friends. We obviously hadn't been to the park in a while, because as we pulled up, Colwyn shouted gleefully, "Oh! The park! Oh! I love the park!" Poor kid. :) They had a great time running around, but there were a few rude families there, so we ended up leaving after an hour or so. We all went to Papa Gino's for lunch, which was quite an experience. Colwyn thought Miles was a riot running back and forth between the tables, and delighted in calling him a troublemaker (a term of endearment in our house, same as naughty devil).

We haven't been doing a whole lot of real homeschooly stuff. We do art projects every other day or so, and Colwyn constantly requests the eyedroppers. We've been talking about space a bit here and there, and dinosaurs, too, of course. We'll probably go to the library this weekend and get a bunch of new books.. I love our library trips. I'm such a dork, but I get a big kick out looking up books I think the kids will like.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Pagan Homeschooling

We're homeschoolers (obviously), and we're pagan. But do these two aspects of our lives have anything to do with each other? Should they?

A huge segment of the homeschooling population is Christian. For some of these people, being Christian doesn't affect their homeschooling. But there are many that use their religion as a reason to homeschool. They count their religious "lessons" as part of homeschooling. They surround themselves with fellow Christian homeschoolers.

So why aren't there any pagan homeschooling groups? Not that I'm complaining, it's more like I'm just wondering. What's so different about pagans that they don't feel the need to band together and use their religion to inform their homeschooling decisions?

In trying to decide whether we are "pagan homeschoolers" or not, I have a hard time deciding. On one hand, our spiritual beliefs have no impact on the academic subjects we (will) teach our children. Honestly, I don't really see how they would. I can see how Christians who believe in Creation wouldn't teach their children about evolution. It's against their spiritual beliefs. But none of our spiritual beliefs conflict with what our children would be learning in school, should they go.

On the other hand, if the boys are learning at home rather than at school, then isn't everything we teach our children part of homeschooling? So when I teach them to be respectful of nature and about the world we live in.. is that our version of a Bible class? I've been checking out several books from the library by Lynn Plourde (Wild Child, Spring's Sprung, Summer's Vacation) and also Child of Faerie by Jane Yolen. Is this our religious curriculum? I wonder.

Of course, in the end.. does it really matter? What use is a label, really? If I obsess over whether I'm a pagan homeschooler, am I any different than the people who say, "Can we be unschoolers even if we use workbooks? Please?"

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Boys Get Wet

I don't talk too much about Lachlann in this blog because, to be honest, I'm not really doing much "homeschooling" with him. Not that I'm doing any school-y academic work with Colwyn, but I do make more of an effort to plan fun learning activities for him, where as with Lachlann, I just play. He is, after all, only 18 months old.

One of the "enrichment" things that I do with Lachlann (and Colwyn), though, is water play. In the summer, water play is easy.. but in the winter, it requires a bit more work. At least once a week, I lay a few towels on the kitchen floor and set out several big bowls of water and as many interesting utensils as I can spare. The boys have tons of fun with this activity. Just so ya know, kids that engage in frequent water and sand play are more likely to have better language skills.

In other water-related news.. we took a 45 minute walk today down near Norwood Pond. I say near because we never actually made it there.. turns out it's a much longer walk when you have two kids and it's icy. The weather was really nice, though, close to 50 degrees, so we went for it. The kids had a really good time, despite getting wet, as did Maddy, who we actually let off leash for a bit. We didn't see much in the way of critters, but we did hear a woodpecker. We talked a bit about what woodpeckers do, and when we got home, looked up a picture on the Internet.

So Colwyn has resumed his interest in space. I finally got him to glue down the planets, sun, and appropriate labels. He really likes pointing to planets and either telling me which ones they are or asking me to identify them. I don't have a picture, because unfortunately, I realized that two planets are painted the wrong color. Apparently, a lot of the pictures you see in the paper or on websites are artificially colored. So, I found the right colors, and as soon as I feel like bringing out the paints, I'll explain it to Colwyn and we'll fix them. I figure it'll be a good lesson in correcting your mistakes, and in how to research things. I may "stage" looking up the real colors online.

But we have done a few other cool things. The most recent was when we dropped objects into a container full of baking soda to see how moon craters are made. We did this after watching a Naked Science episode about the moon. Colwyn really liked this activity. Here he is dropping an "asteroid" onto the "moon":

And here he is shaking the container to clear the craters:

Right now Doug is reading Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I'm Off to the Moon! by Dan Yaccarino. I've got some other recommendations for good books about space, so I'll try looking for those at our next library trip.

And just for the fun of it, here's a quick picture of the boys dressing up in Doug's t-shirts. Colwyn wore his all day, and insisted that I call him Dad. It was kind of weird saying, "Here Dad, let me wipe your bum" and various other things I would never say to Doug. :)

Labels: , , ,