Posts Tagged "unschooling"

Quintessential Childhood Gifts

Posted on Nov 5, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 2 comments

Quintessential Childhood Gifts

My son Rain, having recently turned seven, received some classic gifts that inspired my sister and I to brainstorm a list of the quintessential childhood gifts. Here is our suggested list of gifts for every boy and girl up to the age of ten. These items have been proven to inspire and delight and it is our feeling that they awaken the curious mind of the child to all types of creativity, without pretense and without self-consciousness. In every case, a real working item should be gifted, not a toy version. In addition, I’ve listed a classic book to be read aloud at each age. A hardcover edition of each of the suggested books would also make lovely gifts.   One Year Old A ball to encourage give and take, and laughter. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown               Two Year Old A set of wooden blocks to awaken the builder, planner, dreamer. A Baby’s Catalogue by Janet & Allan Ahlberg               Three Year Old An apron (for kitchen and workshop) and a small tape measure to share the joy of creating, working with our hands, and accomplishing tasks around the home and to teach that everyone, no matter how small, can lend a helping hand. The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne               Four Year Old An instrument (smallest size djembe drum, a harmonica, a recorder, or a small ukelele) to kindle a love of music and introduce the idea that music can come from anyone. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White               Five Year Old A hardcover 4×6 inch sketch pad, travel set of pencils or crayons in a proper tin, wooden box or case, a flashlight to encourage freedom of expression without limits (on paper consumption or seeing in the dark). Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl                 Six Year Old A magnifying glass and a compass to encourage exploring the world with an open heart. Haroun & the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie               Seven Year Old Binoculars and the classic Swiss Army Knife, a small messenger-style bag for excursions (over the shoulder, many pockets, preferably used) to facilitate adventures. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder                 Eight Year Old A watercolour paint set and a pad of watercolour paper to delight in colour, shape, and light, and to instill a love of making art. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis                 Nine Year Old A game set with more than one game such as chess, checkers, backgammon (preferably in a wooden case) to teach strategy, sportsmanship, companionship, and the care and appreciation of all things finely crafted. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien                 Ten Year Old A hammock to embrace one’s inner world, inspire imagination, and to while away the lazy days of childhood. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling             Tell me – what would you...

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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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The New Home School

Posted on Jun 15, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 6 comments

The New Home School

This is Part IX 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 in the fall. Some of our top options have included Montessori education and Waldorf Education. Today we are talking about homeschooling. Homeschooling certainly isn’t what it used to be. As I child of 11 or so, I knew one girl who was homeschooled. It was for religious reasons and it seemed strange to me. I think we often envision homeschoolers as shunning society in general, studying by light of an oil lamp in a cabin far from any possibility of the negative aspect of socialization. When people mention homeschooling, one of the first responses is often related to the child’s need to play with peers. That and “I couldn’t do it – my kids drive me crazy!” Let’s begin by saying that homeschool has evolved far beyond that stereotype. For one thing, mainstream culture seems much more accepting of homeschooling, perhaps not as an option for themselves but at least as an option for those who choose it. The Canadian magazine Today’s Parent actually had a feature article on homeschooling in their May 2010 issue. Secondly, it’s much more widespread than it used to be. The article above puts the number of Canadian homeschoolers at 80,000 and at 2 million in the US. Perhaps this is why the average person no longer regards homeschooling families as freaks – many people know at least one family who is homeschooling and realises that they have legitimate reasons for doing so and also, that their kids are thriving. Beyond that, what does homeschooling look like these days? In BC, provided you follow some kind of educational plan, you can school your child at home in any way you choose. That might mean registering at the local school but teaching at home and having access to resources at the school (if your local school is open to working this way). As the Today’s Parent article points out, there is financial incentive for schools to work together with homeschooling families because the government provides funds to the school to cover homeschool students registered there. Alternatively, you could register your child in a distance education program where the child will follow a specific curriculum but complete it at home. In the past this was done via correspondence with workbooks and texts received through the mail. Technology has revitalized this system but it remains essentially the same. However, there are increased opportunities for interacting with virtual classmates and teachers with the advent of chat rooms, message boards and Skype. There are multiple programs that fall into this category of learning including those that follow very closely the public school curriculum and those that use unit based learning for instance which might involve learning science, math, English and history all through the lens of a particular theme. These programs may also be religion based if that is important to you. In these programs you are responsible to follow the curriculum as set out by the program you have registered with which includes meeting deadlines, completing tests and reports (if there are any) on time etc. You can also register your child as an independent learner and then you can choose how you want to teach. On this side of things, you then have the option of registering in a program that supports independent learning or going it completely on your own. From what I understand, if you choose the latter option, you are then responsible to report to the ministry about your educational goals and progress. The sheer number of possibilities can actually be very overwhelming. Luckily, homeschooling was demystified for me 7 years ago when we began living with my sister the first year she started homeschooling her 4 children. I’ve had a chance to see up close how it works and I have an excellent person to ask for help and advice. Nevertheless, I should also say that one...

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Outdoor Education

Posted on Jun 8, 2010 in Featured, Learning, Parenting | 17 comments

Outdoor Education

Living in the Pacific Northwest means that the winter is dark, gray, rainy, and wet. As you can imagine, we have rubber boots and rain gear so that we can still get outside in the middle of winter, but I will be honest with you: we really don’t do it a lot. Come summer though, we practically live outside. The days are long and bright. The weather is warm, not hot enough for my liking, but we make up for that with the lack of bugs. There are plenty of opportunities for fun in our backyard and around our lovely corner of the world. There are so many amazing things about outdoor play: the opportunity to blend play with exercise and fresh air, the ability to create unique and imaginative play spaces with fewer restrictions than you might have indoors, the possibilities for open-ended play because there are fewer toys outdoors.  One of my favourite things about outdoor play is the way that being in nature inspires learning. From the time he could walk, Rain loved bugs. This is probably where his outdoor education began as we started turning over rocks in the back yard to find pill bugs, snails, banana slugs, ants, ladybugs and spiders. He learned their names and where they were most likely to be found. He has an observation jar (clean peanut butter jar with holes in the lid and the labels removed) where he keeps the specimens he catches so he can watch them. We do enforce one observation jar rule that all critters be released at bedtime each day so they don’t starve or miss their mothers too much. From there he started learning plant identification. Daddy is an arborist so we tend to notice and talk about trees quite a bit. By the time Rain was two and a half, he knew how to spot a weeping willow, a mountain ash (rowan tree) and a Japanese maple. Some great books to incorporate when learning about trees and shrubs are the Flower Fairies series by Cicely Mary Barker. We have the Flower Fairies of the Autumn book which has lovely illustrations and poems for Oak tree, Rowan tree, Dogwood, Blackberry, Rosehips and more. He would point and call out the names of trees he noticed when we drove around town. There are many tree related learning activities you can use to continue the conversation after you move indoors or as you explore the forest. You can: Talk about the shapes of leaves. Gather a whole bunch of different ones and paint them and use them to make prints on paper. Discuss the difference between conifers and deciduous. A fun story to listen to at the same time is The Evergreens by Odds Bodkin (find it at your local library on CD). Compare the size of a seed to the size of a mature tree. Talk about the different types of tree seeds/flowers there are: samaras, catkins, cones, acorns or other nuts like horse chestnuts etc. (Oh and by the way, they aren’t called pine cones if they’ve fallen from a hemlock or a cedar tree. My husband has pointed this out to me more times than I care to admit.) You can also compare the size of cones from different evergreen trees. Identify the shapes of different trees. Are they triangular, oval shaped, bell shaped, globe shaped? Talk about the life cycle of plants over the seasons – this is particularly obvious for trees in fall and spring of course. When Rain was 3.5 years old we moved to a new house where we had a yard that was big enough to plant a veggie garden. This created many new opportunities for outdoor learning as he helped us plant seeds. He learned that they need warmth and water to grow, that when they first sprout there are usually only two leaves and that sometimes the sprout is still wearing the seed case like a hat. (A great book that talks about seeds in called A Seed is Sleepy).  He learned about transplanting bedding...

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Bread & Butter

Posted on May 31, 2010 in Food, Simple Living | 12 comments

Bread & Butter

A few months ago, a potter friend of ours made Aaron a baking stone so we could try the artisan no-knead bread recipe from Mother Earth News. This went amazingly well but we’ve waxed and waned in our bread making over the months. We recently started up again. I wanted to try a bread that required kneading because it’s been suggested in the Waldorf school meetings that I have been attending that kids love to knead bread. I’ve tried the French Bread recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook a few times with varying degrees of success. Similarly, I’ve been wanting to try making our own butter. I remember fondly making butter as a kid by shaking it in a jar for, um, forever and I remember how delicious it was. We’ve been trying to make more and more food ourselves and I thought this would be a fun one to add. So last Tuesday (the only day the kids and I are home together the whole day without outside commitments like work, preschool or dance class), we decided to tackle homemade bread and butter. This time we used the Basic White Bread recipe from The Joy of Cooking. As predicted by our Waldorf friends, Rain loved kneading the bread. It was so fun that we forgot to take a picture. But here he is with the dough ready for the first rising: While that was rising, we started on the butter. You have to warm the cream to room temperature and meanwhile, stick the bowl you will be using in the fridge to cool it. Then you pour the cream into the bowl and whip it with your hand mixer. Notice the cloth on the counter. I did an awful lot of counter wiping as the cream sprayed everywhere, including all over the front of my sweater which later that evening, smelled like sour milk. I recommend an apron. The first stage is called the frothy stage: The next stage is meant to be the whipped cream stage, where it should get thick and start forming peaks. After this stage, it should get even thicker and start crumbling. The cream we were using came from a local farm and was unpasteurized. As a result, I do not know it’s exact fat content. It certainly didn’t seem as thick as a store bought whipping cream but resembled a cereal cream or half and half. We I whipped for a long time – Rain got bored and left – but it just wasn’t thickening into whipped cream as it should have. I whipped longer and longer until I noticed that there appeared to be curds floating in the foam. On closer examination, I discovered the curds were yellow. The longer I whipped, the more of these curds appeared so I just went with it. Then I strained off the buttermilk. I didn’t get nearly as much butter as I would have if I had used whipping cream. According to the internets, 1 quart of cream should have delivered up 1 Lb of butter. I used a quart of cream and got about 1.25 cups of butter. The next stage is to wash the butter. If any of the buttermilk remains in the butter, it will go bad quite quickly. To do this, you put the butter in your blender with some cold water. You blend it and then pour off the water. You repeat this process as many times as it takes for the water to be clear when you pour it off. Once you have cleaned the butter, the last thing to do is to squish it all together to form a solid chunk. I used a combination of a rubber spatula and my hands to do that part. It was a bit of a strange process because there was some water drops still in the butter and of course, water and oil don’t mix but the butter was soft so it was hard to squeeze the water out of it. I did manage in the end though....

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