Learning

Perpetual Calendar

Posted on Oct 6, 2010 in Learning | 3 comments

Perpetual Calendar

Last month, during the Back-to-School excitement, I wrote about feeling like my little homeschooled Kindergarten boy might be missing out on some of the fun things about actually going to a school. Among the things I remember from Kindergarten was sitting on the carpet every day and talking about what day it was on the calendar. Rain is getting old enough that he can begin to grasp the idea of days and weeks and has been asking about time a lot. I thought this was a good time to introduce the calendar to him. Besides that, one of the things we are focusing on in our learning this year is the idea of rhythm, or cycles. I am borrowing this concept from some of my reading on the Waldorf philosophy earlier this year. Waldorf places a strong emphasis on celebrating yearly festivals, including birthdays, on the seasons and rhythm in the natural world, and on rhythms during the day. Using this as an over-arching theme works well during this Kindergarten year as it provides us opportunity to go on nature walks, to keep a nature table, to learn about natural science and seasons, to learn about festivals around the world (Humanities) and to incorporate lots of cool crafts. But on top of all that, it gives me an opportunity to help Rain understand what it means to wait 5 minutes, or until Saturday—practical stuff (oh yeah, with a bit of math and reading in there too as he learns to recognize numbers and words). I wanted a hands-on calendar, kind of like I remember from school where we each got a turn putting up the number for the day. Last winter, I made an advent calendar that didn’t involve daily presents or chocolates and my google image search for magnetic advent calendars yielded up a bunch of different ideas. I decided to adapt one of them to our present use. Here is the result: To make this, you’ll need: 12 sheets of scrapbook paper in patterns that represent each month Letter size magnet sheets (you can get printable magnet sheets in this size at office supply stores like Staples. Maybe you can find something similar at Michael’s or another craft store. It doesn’t need to be printable. It just needs to be big.) Letter size clear printable labels Rubber cement Decide on the dimensions you want for each piece. For the months, I used 7cm x 28cm. I was able to fit 3 months per magnet sheet. For the days, I used 4 cm x 4 cm and I was able to fit all 31 days on 1 magnet sheet. Trim the scrapbook paper to these dimensions and carefully rubber cement it on to the magnet sheets. Now, trim the magnets to their final sizes. You can use Word or another computer program with lots of fonts to print the numbers and the names of the months and days on to your clear labels. You might be able to print all of it on just a couple of sheets of labels, depending on the size of font you use and how you space them together. Just make sure you leave a bit of room for trimming them. Trim, peel off the backing and stick them on your magnets to create 12 months, 7 days of the week and 31 dates. Stick them to the fridge. We also made some extra magnets for marking important dates. We also have plans to make some that show the weather. Have fun! (It’s not as complicated as it...

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Getting Organized

Posted on Sep 25, 2010 in Learning | 2 comments

Getting Organized

“The best thing I did was fill the house full of projects they could get out and do themselves.” My sister said this to me recently when we were discussing her 7 years homeschooling her 4 children. One of the things that comes up for parents who have multiple children learning at home is how to keep younger children occupied while you are working with an older child on something. This dilemma has been on my mind quite a bit, particularly because the younger children I’ll be wrangling will be a toddler and a newborn. I’ve been reading some posts on how to handle wee ones underfoot while learning with older kids but so far I keep coming back to my sister’s advice. I decided to gather a bunch of kid-friendly projects in one spot. We have this great bank of built-in cupboards at one end of our dining room. This has a bunch of random stuff stuck in it (even in the visible areas, as you can see). I spent Thursday afternoon re-organizing so that now it looks like this: Everything in this cupboard is for the kids. The very top shelf has some items the kids will need help with, but the rest, they can pretty much just go for. The beauty of this little cubbie is that we already had almost everything you see there but it was stored all over the house. The only things I bought were some of the art supplies. The storage boxes are shoe boxes I picked up for free from Payless Shoes after calling them and asking if they’d be willing to set aside boxes that were roughly the same size. They were very accomodating – you can bet I’ll be getting Rain’s new sneakers and Noa’s new rubber boots at Payless after that. Then I covered the ends with scrapbook paper thanks to this idea from Our Big Earth. Wanna see what we’ve got in there? The top shelf has a box of lacing cards, painting materials, notebooks, pencil crayons in glass jars, a box of crafting supplies, a box of art supplies. The middle shelf has foam puzzles, a giant floor puzzle, and various kid games including Mighty Mind*, Memory, Uno, Tangrams and more. The bottom shelf has big kid puzzles and a stack of toddler puzzles. I imagine that the contents of this area will change now and then over the course of the year to keep it fresh and to make space when we get new things. In the mean time, the kids are already thrilled to be able to open the two doors and choose whatever they like to work on. Now if we can just get some kind of handle on a routine for the day, maybe our lives will be as organized as this cupboard. What tips do you have for keeping younger kids busy while you help an older one with a project? What solo projects can your older kids do while you’re busy nursing a baby or putting a toddler down for a nap? How have you organized your house to make it kid-friendly? I would love more ideas for the year(s) ahead. *By the way, Mighty Mind is pretty darn great but their website is terrible, which is why the link above takes you to a place to buy the product. It shows an actual picture so you can see what it is. I’m not trying to make you buy...

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Back to Homeschool Shopping

Posted on Sep 20, 2010 in Learning | 3 comments

Back to Homeschool Shopping

Just in case I gave you the mistaken impression that we are sitting here at home crying into our Shreddies because we aren’t going to school, here are some fun things we’ve got going on because we stay home. We ordered some supplies to support some of Rain’s ideas for his learning plan for the year. We’ve got art supplies for painting and colouring, notebooks for recording Rain’s stories and crafting supplies for learning wet felting and hand sewing little felt creatures. We’ve also got several books to support our theme of looking at the rhythms of the year (inspired by some of our talks with the local Waldorf school). We’ll be focusing on birthdays, festivals and celebrations, on the seasons, on learning how the calendar works (days, weeks, months). The books we’ve ordered include songs, stories, poems and crafts for all these different times of the year. We’re still working on storage solutions for the new stuff and we recently finished a calendar project that I’ll share with you later in the week. In the mean time, rest assured that we are not regretting our decision to homeschool just because we’ve been feeling the pangs of back-to-school nostalgia. Crafters and homelearners – do you have any new stuff that’s got you excited to play with your...

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Missing Out

Posted on Sep 17, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 7 comments

Missing Out

Yesterday, I ran into a friend whose daughter is the same age as Rain. They went to preschool together for a year and a half, have attended each other’s birthdays and had play dates. I asked my friend how school was going for her daughter. She told me how much her daughter likes getting ready for school in the morning, how she’s asking to ride the bus instead of being picked up, how she loves having a spot to hang her backpack. I’ve been thinking of these things the last two weeks as I remembered to slow down in the school zones on my way to work, as I watched the kids in the new sneakers and backpacks walking to the front doors of the school two-by-two and smiling, as I noted the adorable rows of bikes on the bike rack. There’s this little part of me, deep down, that feels like I’m depriving Rain of all those things. In many ways, I liked school. I have a lot of fond memories: Going back-to-school shopping – we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but it was one time when we were guaranteed at least a few new things. The novelty of riding the school bus School supplies – pink pearl erasers, cahiers (french immersion-speak for those ruled notebooks with half page blank to draw a picture), a new plaid pencil case with a zipper, and the Laurentien pencil crayons carefully arranged by colour to create a rainbow on the night before the first day Waiting in the line up to use the pencil sharpener on the wall to sharpen all of our pencil crayons Getting assigned a desk by alphabetical order and hoping a friend would fall nearby Arranging everything neatly in my little desk (until it eventually became a mess of crumpled paper and uneaten peanut butter sandwiches – even today I have good intentions but not the follow through). Sitting cross legged on the tapis (carpet – some words are forever in french in my memory) to do calendrier (calendar) – what day is it today? what is the weather like? Swinging at recess Recess! School lunches in a brown bag or my red Tupperware lunch box – with tiny snack size things like juice boxes A new back pack The first trip to the school library Picture day and getting the pictures back Clearly I was a bit of a nerd, but man, I really loved those things and I still kind of do. It makes me smile to think of Rain experiencing it all and part of me is sad to think that he is missing out. And part of me is sad that I am missing out on living it again vicariously through him. I have to remember however that Rain isn’t a mini-me. He would rather be building in the garage or digging for worms than sitting at a neat row of desks, and unlike my friend’s daughter, Rain hates getting dressed and ready to go anywhere, let alone to spend 6 hours in the company of 22 peers. I also remind myself some of the ways schools have changed since I was there. I think about the ways I felt let down by my education. But this week, I find myself wistfully wishing that public school really was the idealized version that exists in my memories. What did you love about elementary...

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What We Do All Day

Posted on Sep 14, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 10 comments

What We Do All Day

This month’s carnival topic couldn’t be more appropriate for us. Last week was our first official week as homelearners. Of course, as the carnival theme points out, “we’re all home schoolers” and “children, of whatever age, are learning all the time” whether they attend traditional schools or not. In fact, our daily routine this past week really didn’t differ much from our routine over the summer. The difference now is just that as I’ve officially signed up with a home learning program, I’m responsible. Ack. How nerve wracking! The program we’ve signed up with is called SelfDesign and it isn’t curriculum based. We can learn any way that we want and follow our kids’ whims and interests. There really are very few constraints and I love that the program recognizes exactly the theme of this month’s carnival: kids are learning all the time, just by going about their daily activities. We are assigned a learning consultant who helps us come up with a learning plan for the year. They encourage you to do mind maps with your kids so they have input into what they want to do over the year. The learning plan becomes the road map that guides us. The more overwhelming part is that we must report weekly to our learning consultant. The report includes a journal and reflection on our weekly activities and we must log a certain number of hours spent in these activities each week. Initially I felt really worried that we wouldn’t DO enough to account for all these hours. I have ordered some books and art supplies and other project materials that I intend to have in a cupboard to dig into when the little sister is napping. But alas, they haven’t arrived yet. Swimming lessons don’t start until October. We’re still deciding on some other group activities. What were we going to do every day?! It turned out that the answer to my dilemma wasn’t to rush to the computer and start googling and printing off worksheets for my not even 5 year old, pre-literate little one. The answer was to just start observing our day with fresh eyes (funnily enough our reports are called Observing For Learning). What did I see? The first day, Rain was outside in the garage with his dad. He came inside with a board. Onto the board he had screwed some fasteners to hold down some flexible hose. He had attached some plumbing bits to the hose, including a spout and a tap/valve. He showed me his handiwork and then went straight into the bathroom to test if his valve worked. Sure enough, it did. Water poured from the faucet at the bathroom sink, through his hose, past the valve (which he had put in the open position) and straight onto the bathroom floor. Success!! We mopped up the water, and put him in the bathtub with his contraption and he proceeded to play experiment for another 30 minutes. Early science experiment disguised as play. Later that day, we went for a walk on the beach for an hour. Rain ran about and dug for crabs by following the air holes in the sand at low tide. He identified various types of shells, filled our van with rocks and driftwood and watched some kite surfers playing in the wind. A walk at the beach became both science class and gym class. And what about the questions I answer all day long? In the last couple of days, I’ve answered questions on why the tide always changes, how to identify an evergreen tree, why someone might lie or steal and whether or not it’s a good thing to do, what is in the center of the earth, and a surprisingly tricky one to answer: what is math? It’s a little tricky getting the hang of logging our “schooling” hours but it’s not from lack of time spent learning. It’s more a matter of quantifying all these little moments spent in conversation through the day, as we drive, as we grocery shop, as I keep  a...

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Finally, A Decision

Posted on Aug 24, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 10 comments

Finally, A Decision

This is Part X of the series Kindergarten Considerations in which I have been discussing (and wrestling with) the considerations behind the seemingly innocuous decision of where to send my four year old son to school. I will tentatively call this the last post in the series but can’t promise that I won’t ramble on about this in the future. Apparently I can’t stop myself. Last week I formally committed to a decision about what to do for Kindergarten. Not bad, two weeks before Back-To-School. The decision had been gradually unfolding over the course of the summer and in some ways was precipitated by the news of our pregnancy but it was only last week that I finally signed up for a homelearning program. Maybe part of me always wanted to make this decision, but I was scared. I’ve been looking forward to a bit of a break. I do feel sheepish saying this but it is true. Aside from a 6 month contract doing part-time work for Environment Canada, I’ve been home with my kids for 4.5 years. In that time, I went back to University to complete my degree, wrote two business plans, participated in a year long self-employment program through Service Canada and BCIT, ran my own business, moved to a new community (and changed houses twice), and helped my husband start his own business for which I now run the office. On top of that, I’ve had about 1 year of decent sleep since Rain was born and 9 months of that was pregnant sleep. I’m tired. I was looking for some time to think about what I want to do, to think about self-care. I’m tired of trying to fit work in during nap times. Kindergarten looked like a realistic time when I could accomplish some of these things. Not to mention, we all get along better when we occasionally hang out with other people. Sometimes we need to miss each other. It’s good for Rain to do some things without me and for me to be away long enough to remember that he’s just a wild four year old, not someone intent on driving me crazy. Thankfully, there are enough positive things about homelearning to make me commit to it and to commit to us finding mutual breaks as a means of making homelearning successful too! So, putting the fears aside, here’s why I’m excited to embark on homelearning: For a variety of reasons, I don’t think that Rain would really enjoy certain aspects of school as we know it. He would probably surprise me and do better than I imagine, but I think that homeschool is the better choice for him right now. The implementation of Full-Day Kindergarten was the catalyst that made me think long and hard about Rain’s learning style and about how Rain does for long periods of time in large groups. I am confident he will be happier and more excited to learn by facilitating small group social activities and by following his lead and interests when it comes to formal learning. I am excited that the process means I get to learn with him. I am really looking forward to the things I will learn both along side Rain and in my role as facilitator.  This is an adventure we are embarking on as a family and we will all grow and learn through it. Through this process I have the opportunity to learn more about parenting, marine life, learning philosophies, wet felting, math, our family relationship, discipline and more. Basically, I get to learn everything Rain is learning PLUS I get to learn through the experience itself. How awesome is that?! I am looking forward to exploring the varied ways there are to learn including mentor relationships, classes, hands on, or more formal learning like reading or doing worksheets. I hope to encourage a love of learning by focusing on child-led learning, exploration and play. I want Rain to know learning doesn’t just happen within the hours of 9:00 am and 3:00 pm and within the...

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