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 little one on the toilet company, as we eat lunch, as we pick up toys, as we tuck them in to bed at night.
I do look forward to the arrival of our supplies and to using them to add a bit more routine to our day but I’m certainly a lot less worried about what we’re doing in the mean time.
How do you observe your kids learning at home? I would also love to hear some of the great questions your little ones ask!