Sunday, September 30, 2007


Colwyn is sounding out words! I'm so proud, probably more than an unschooling mom should be, but hey, this kid is fantastic.

Okay, so it's not like he's going to be reading books on his own anytime soon, and to be honest, most of the sounding out he does isn't looking at letters, it's me saying, "sss eh ttt" and he says, "set!" But when we play a matching game with these foam letters we have, I'll point at the 's' and he'll say "sss" and when I point at the 'e' he'll say "eh" and so on. Then he says it fast. Sometimes he's unsure and will ask me to tell him what sound the letter makes, but when he does that, if I prompt him with, "the 'h' says..." he'll always fill it in for me.

If I can get my act together tomorrow, we'll start working on Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fan Mail

Following the advice of Esmé Raji Codell in her book How to Get Your Child to Love Reading, we've always included the author's name when we start reading a book (like, "Okay, here's Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen"). So Colwyn knows which authors he likes best, and often impresses nearby librarians when they hear him saying, "Oh, let's look for a book by David Shannon now."

So, anyway. His favorite author BY FAR is Dan Yaccarino. He absolutely loves Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I'm Off to the Moon, and we have a few of his books at home in addition to the ones we get regularly from the library. The other night, at about 11:30pm, I mentioned something to my husband about Dan Yaccarino, so he had the bright idea to see if he was going to be doing any book signings that we might be able to attend. We ended up spending a good 15 minutes browsing his website, and I got the bright idea to ask Colwyn if he wanted to send him a letter (we try to write letters/draw pictures to send to friends/family once a week).

Yesterday I went to look up his address on the website and couldn't find it, so I emailed him.. nervously, shyly, because in our house, Dan Yaccarino is like a HUGE celebrity. And today he emailed me back.

I was beyond thrilled. The kids are sleeping but I actually called my husband at work and practically shouted over the phone that Dan Yaccarino himself emailed us. Funnily enough, Colwyn had asked him a question (he dictated to me) about a picture he saw of Dan Yaccarino dressed up as an astronaut, and it turns out that he retired from NASA to write/illustrate children's books. Colwyn will be so impressed.

Yes, I know, I'm such a dork. :)


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Value of Curriculum

On the homeschooling forums on MDC, someone asked whether it's possible to homeschool without using a purchased curriculum. Lillian J, who frequently has the best, most helpful responses ever, said this:

When you have a packaged curriculum - especially if it's cost a lot of money - it takes on a lot of power. Children can very well find themselves sucked into a plan that may have no relevance to the way they learn, their talents and inclinations, their basic personalities, nor much else that's supportive of them as individual learners.

It's understandably overwhelming at first to look at the enormity of providing an education for a child. What's really hard to know at that point is that an awful lot of it will be coming quite naturally and easily in the course of living, playing, using the imagination, having good conversations, being out in the world and observing all that's around, going to the library and to museums, field trips, being read to, being around other people, exploring interests, pursuing hobbies, taking community classes or attending community activities, doing their own building projects and participating in family projects, playing games ("educational" and otherwise), eventually reading on one's own when the time comes, occasional group classes or activities your group can organize around things your children are interested in, exploring Internet sites and good software... It all builds and builds into a pretty impressive body of knowledge and understanding - even with no planning or orchestration. Those are not just platitudes - promise - there are a whole lot of us who have experienced all this and have actually been as surprised as the next person to see how amazing it all is. I know of plenty of grown homeschool grads, my son among them, who got an excellent education without the use of a curriculum.

For more focus on various subjects, the library is amazing - take a browse through their juvenile non-fiction section alone and see all the things you have access to! And many libraries are catching on to the large market of users they can tap into among homeschoolers - serving homeschoolers can give youth librarians a lot more to do. I've been on a panel that was put on by a large group of youth librarians specifically to find out what homeschoolers would like to see in the way of services. Your group could probably think of things they'd like to request when their children are older.

I do see the humor in talking about not using curriculum when I just went and purchased the first two workbooks in a math curriculum. But there's a difference (to me, anyway) in picking two workbooks that I'd researched thoroughly and determined would be of the most enjoyment/use to us, which also happen to be inexpensive, and buying a full curriculum that tells you exactly how to teach all subjects.

I don't buy into the idea that kids need to learn certain things in a certain order. I mean, I suppose I can see the value in learning history and math in 'order' - clearly some math skills have to be learned before others - but it's not absolutely necessary. Who says it's wrong to learn about the Tudors before learning about ancient Egypt? As we learn more and more, we can create a timeline and talk about when things happened in relation to others, as it's meaningful to us.

The joy of not being tied down to a curriculum is that we can learn what we want, when we want, and because the material is what my children have picked as being valuable and meaningful to them as they learn it, that material will have a special place inside them. As it's currently popular to say, they'll "own" that knowledge, in a way that they wouldn't if I just said arbitrarily, "Okay, we're going to sit down and learn about the sacking of Rome."

Oh, how I love homeschooling, and unschooling in particular. It is such a good fit for our family, I can't imagine doing it any other way.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Supplies & Exchanges

Eee! We got a package in the mail from Rainbow Resource and I was so thrilled. I'd only bought a few things, but boy, were they good choices.

The biggest hit, much to my surprise, was these:

The kids just love playing with them. We've used them in a lot of math-y ways.. I make a pattern and Colwyn copies, we talk about different and same (how 2-blues are the same as 3-blues for color, but 2-blues and 2-greens are the same for number), I've showed him some addition problems and some subtraction problems, and some other random stuff. But they've also had fun constructing with them, too.. which I think is half the appeal.

We also got a math curriculum. I know, I know.. strange for someone who's unschooling preschool, right? Well, Colwyn loves workbooks, and most of our workbooks are pretty lacking in math activities. So I ordered Singapore Early Bird 1A and 1B, and he loves it. I looked through 1A, and he'll easily be able to do any page in there. 1B requires that he write some numbers himself, which he's still not able to do yet, so we'll work our way through 1A as Colwyn feels like it, and hopefully when he's done, he'll be able to do 1B.

And for fun, we got a Melissa and Doug outer space puzzle. It's beautiful, and Colwyn and Lachlann both enjoyed putting it together. And the best part is that it only cost us $7.75! Normally they're about $11.

This is old news, but I don't think I actually wrote about it here. We did an exchange with another homeschooling family a few weeks ago. We put together a package of some natural treasures we'd found (stones, seashells, etc), two necklaces that Colwyn beaded, a package of clay, a dinosaur, and some bubbles. We also made a mini-scrapbook with pictures of the boys and information about Massachusetts. And in return, we got all this:

It was a great experience, and hopefully we'll get to do it again sometime soon.

And to end on a kooky note, here's a picture of the boys hanging around.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


This is what we did yesterday:

And this is what we did today:

We had such a good time at King Richard's Faire. We go every year, and it seems that every year is more and more fun. We wanted to have the kids dress up for the faire, but it was too hot. Maybe next time.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Reading Games

We haven't been doing too much this week, 'cause the kids are sick with yet another cold. It's getting ridiculous.. this is August, not February!

One of the new things we have done is a reading game I devised. At the dollar store, they have foam puzzles with lower case letters, so I bought one of those. At home, I took a bunch of index cards and wrote words like cat, hat, sat, dog, fog, log, and so on.. three or four words with each vowel. I tried to get a good mix of consonants in there, too. So, I show Colwyn one of the cards, and he gets to look through all the foam letters (we remove them from the puzzle) and match them up. I try to be careful to only use letter sounds to identify the letters, like "Oh, look, you still need the 'buh' - wonder where it is?" In a little while, we'll try out a program called "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons." For now, Colwyn's enjoying our new game and watching Leapfrog's Letter Factory and Between the Lions on PBS.

Speaking of TV shows, we finally found Zula Patrol on one of our PBS channels. I'd heard it was really great for introducing science concepts to preschoolers, and it's actually a pretty cool show. I set up a series recording, and I may use it to intro some basic experiments. For instance, yesterdays episode discussed the states of matter, what matter is, and even talked about molecular theory. So maybe sometime next week we'll rewatch that episode then fool around with ice, water, and steam.

This afternoon, we're going to the library to pick up Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, I'm Off to the Moon, which we requested on interlibrary loan. We've got a bunch of great books out from the library right now, including If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen, Punk Farm, by Jarrett Krosoczka, Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, and many more that I can't remember while at work.