Good morning everyone! Just wanted to let you all know that Scholastic is having its Dollar Days Sale today – January 8 – only! I’m in the middle of looking through all of their sale items and they have some great resources available for just a dollar!
Well, it’s a new year! And it’s a great time to look ahead to our homeschooling goals for 2013. I’ll be writing more about them in an upcoming post, but suffice it to say, we’re making some big changes in our school routine.
I think one of the things I like best about homeschooling is the freedom to change curriculum and teaching methods whenever I notice that something’s not working for our family. It’s often a lot of trial and error, but hopefully we’re getting to some kind of routine that works for ALL of our children.
In 2013, we’re starting the homeschool year right by…drumroll…asking for our kids’ opinions!
Starting the Homeschool Year with a Kids’ Interview
Usually when I plan a new homeschool year, I sit down and think about what I want the kids to learn in the next grade. I never thought about asking them for a review of what we already did the previous year before! Turns out that asking them for their honest opinions about the previous school year can be really helpful.
To get the kids’ input on last year and the new year, we did a post-2012 interview with all of them. I used a free “Year End Time Capsule” printable from Today’s Mama as the basis for our interviews. It’s really an opportunity for the children to express their favorite things about the year and what they hope to do in the coming year.
Some of the gems from our interviews:
Roo (age 3) – Favorite thing to do: “Stay up.” Why? “Because I don’t like being in the bed so much. It makes me feel bored.”
Pooh (age 4) – Favorite thing: “Coloring pictures.” Why? “Because I like looking at stuff. Toys are boring.”
Tigger (age 8) – Favorite book: “Ramona and Her Mother.” Why? “I like Chapter 2 and it has lots of girls in it. The whole book was mostly Ramona and her mother and Ramona did a lot of things with her mother.” (Hint, hint.)
After hearing their responses, my resolve is: Less boredom in 2013!
When I asked Roo what his favorite part of 2012 was, he said “The Rocking Clown Game”. It’s called Coocoo the Rocking Clown and it’s a great game for very young children and older kids.
The goal of the game is to place the colored cylinders on the clown without tipping it over. Yes, I have ours sitting on an Usborne book for balance. (Don’t judge me.)
As you can see, the more cylinders, the more likely it is that Coocoo will start rocking…
and fall over!
Our kids literally played this game for hours. They absolutely loved it. You can’t tell by Roo’s expression, but he’s saying “Cheese”. Trust me.
What are your educational goals for this year? Feel free to share them in the comments!
I have a confession to make: I’ve been secretly terrified of teaching Tigger to multiply. She has a small aversion to math (even though she’s good at it) and that makes introducing new math concepts a bit of a challenge. I also wasn’t thrilled with the way that I was taught to multiply, which was to simply memorize my times tables until I could recite them on demand.
In keeping with the Charlotte Mason philosophy, I wanted to teach math from a practical point of view. That means explaining both “what” and “why”, so that Tigger understands how math works logically. So, when I finally decided to start discussing multiplication with her, I came prepared.
Here are some of the ways to teach multiplication we used to help her grasp the concept!
Ways to Teach Multiplication
To start with, I reached into the depths of our curriculum closet and retrieved a multiplication/division chart. (You can get a very similar one like it on Amazon.)
We talked about what the chart showed and how the numbers are all related to each other. BUT we did not drill her with multiplication facts, especially at first.
I copied a very detailed anchor chart that I saw on Pinterest that demonstrated several ways to multiply. I like the fact that kids are able to learn so many different ways to multiply now, rather than having to force themselves to learn in one way.
If you want to make a chart like this yourself, you’ll need the following:
The chart showed three ways to teach multiplication:
1. Repeated Addition: Show children to add the same number again and again until they reach the answer. (Example: 3 x 2 = 2+2+2)
2. Circles and Dots: Draw a circle for each time the number is multiplied and fill each one with the number of dots that corresponds with the number being multiplied. (Example: 3 x 2 = Three circles with two dots in each one)
3. Arrays: Make rows of shapes that correspond to the problem. (Example: 3 x 2 = Three rows of two dots each)
Of the three techniques, Tigger took to the circles and dots method.
Coming up to the board to work on the problems herself also seemed to help her stay focused, especially when her little brothers were also working at the table.
(Pay no attention to the laundry basket on her right.)
The good news is that she learned her times tables through eight in one week by using the circles and dots method! We’ll be using both repeated addition and arrays in upcoming weeks to help her see the other ways to teach multiplication.
But – no matter how well school is going – we try to stick with the short lessons advocated by Charlotte Mason. Which means that after a while it’s time to drop everything….
(Pay no attention to the stroller standing behind the front door.)
Check out these other math learning ideas!
And if you need more math teaching tips, follow my Math Mania board on Pinterest!
Hi everyone! It took me a while to post because we’ve recently welcomed a new baby! Even though the last few days have been pretty much consumed with sleeping and nursing, we’ve been able to maintain a lot of our routine, thanks to following a loose Charlotte Mason routine.
So, what’s Charlotte Mason homeschooling about? How can you schedule it into a homeschool day? Here’s a look at our Charlotte Mason homeschooling routine!
Our Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Routine
The website Simply Charlotte Mason has a great primer on what the complete method entails, but, for this post, I’m going to keep it rather brief. In short, Charlotte Mason homeschooling relies on several specific teaching methods: short lessons, living books, narration and copywork, a classical approach to history, and regular nature study, music study, and picture study.
In our home, we’ve found that the short lessons alone make a huge difference in the effectiveness of our school days, especially since some of our children have ADHD. We also tend to follow a routine of several subjects per day, which keeps the kids interested for a longer period of time than usual.
I also post the subject outline for the day so that Tigger knows what to expect as the day progresses. This seems to help her prepare her mind for what’s to come.
Another of the key CM principles that helps us is copywork. Charlotte Mason believed that young children could learn grammar, spelling, and penmanship simply by doing copywork everyday.
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Resources
For even more about the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method, check out these great books!
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You know how you know it’s been a while since you’ve done something and you think, “Hmmm. I should really check on this soon.” Well, I had no idea that it’s been TWO FULL YEARS since I updated this blog. I should probably have my Blogger profile revoked.
What have we been doing in the last 24 months? Schooling, of course, but I was also working a lot, which I’m going to be cutting back on because we’re about to have our fourth child any day now. “But”, you say, “isn’t this is a terrible economic time to be having another child?” Yes, it absolutely is and we’ve been kicking ourselves for the timing of this pregnancy for the last nine months. We’ve worked through most of our feelings though and we’re looking forward to having our new little girl. We’ve also taken to eating at home nearly every night, making lots of the kids’ clothes, and reusing nearly everything. All things we should have been doing anyway.
In the meantime, our schooling philosophy has undergone lots of changes: partially because I’m extremely flighty and partially because we’ve learned a lot more about our children and their learning styles. I’ll be going into depth about that in a future post, but for now, we’ve settled into a relaxed Charlotte Mason homeschooling approach.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more of our new life and our new little girl once she arrives. Hope you guys stick around to see what we’re up to!
Image of time slipping away c/o: bogenfreund on Flickr
To those of you unfamiliar with the deep South, allow me to give a very short geography lesson. The part of the East Coast in the U.S. that includes the coast of Georgia and South Carolina (and maybe the extreme north Florida coast, depending on who you ask) is referred to as the “Low Country”. I imagine it’s because it’s low to sea level and it’s really, really country, but I actually have no idea. Major cities in the area include Savannah, Hilton Head Island and Charleston.
I’m from Florida originally, but I grew up in the Low Country. While I am glad to have left the area, the one thing I miss is the seafood. I have never had seafood like that anywhere else in my life. When I was growing up, my parents would steam live blue crabs and oysters in a giant stockpot and we would eat like kings.
If we got enough people together, we’d have what we called a “Low Country Boil”, which is usually shrimp, potatoes, corn on the cob and smoked sausage tossed into a stockpot and boiled over a mixture of water and Old Bay seasoning. (I have to been Low Country Boils that included crawfish, pork neckbones, snow crab legs and king crab legs as well.) Traditionally, the food is dumped onto a table spread with newspaper and everybody eats with their hands. Since the kids are getting a little older, I decided it was time for their first Low Country Boil.
So we all sat around the table and ate with our hands. Tigger ate almost everything she could find, but kept putting her eaten corn cobs back in the pile. Ick. Pooh only wanted to eat the “shrimps” and Roo seemed partial to the potatoes. Daddy got full the fastest and I dipped my food in a mixture of ketchup and hot sauce. (It’s a Southern thing.) Apparently, it was a pretty big hit. There were only scraps left and everybody was still alive afterward. If nobody dies, it’s a good cooking night in our house.
So we’re a week into this unschooling thing, and I love it already. No pressure about learning objectives, covering a specified number of pages or reviewing particular subjects. Instead, we’ve been spending more time together and talking more freely about a variety of things. In the last week, we’ve had the following educational opportunities:
* Discussing synonyms, antonyms, homonyms and homophones while shopping at the grocery store (really)
* How to play basketball – Roo spends his free time now throwing a rubber ball and shouting Bah-be-dall! We did the Chuck E. Cheese thing as a family last Thursday and Roo watched as Daddy, me, Tigger and Pooh played the Sure Shot game. I guess he picked up a few techniques from watching us.
* Leaves, acorns, trees and fall – We walked around our front yard and looked at the natural objects in it. We discovered that the garden rocks near the house were cold while the garden rocks in the yard were hot. Tigger asked why that was and Daddy told her it was because the rocks near the house were in the shade. That led to a discussion about how the sun keeps things warm. We also discovered that acorns ripen after they fall, starting out green and gradually turning black on in the outside and inside. After all, they are the fruit of an oak tree….
* Pooh asks us to “write” almost everyday. We spent a morning last week coloring a giant Tweety coloring book and he insisted that he was writing on his page. Interestingly, we had two sets of crayons and Roo spent his time matching up the similar colors. He would hold both yellows, then both blacks, then both reds, etc. He would even get fussy if we tried to take one away. Seems like he’s understanding alike and different already.
* Park day with our homeschool group – That’s not really unschooling, but the kids like it and they get to be around other littles, so that works for us.
We’re considering enrolling Tigger in ballet and gymnastics in January. She sprained her ankle a couple of weeks ago and hopefully that will help her to learn movement and balance. But, in the meantime, we’re taking it slow and easy and seeing where we end up.
Have you ever had a sudden, liberating realization? Well, I had one over the course of last week. It started with the realization that something was wrong with the way my kids were learning. Tigger is able to understand concepts, but she hates sitting at the table doing work. And, of course, the boys are so little that it’s difficult for them to sit still for more than a few minutes. So, I started taking them out of the house more often – the aquarium, the children’s museum, park days, etc. And those are good too, but also difficult with 2 under 2 1/2. Needless to say, I was more than a little frustrated.And then it hit me. Unschooling! Unschooling! Unschooling! Now before you say, “But, that’s not REAL school!”, let me explain how I came to this point of view. I’ve been planning to homeschool since we found out we were pregnant with Tigger. But, I kept envisioning a “school at home” method, with the desks and the blackboard and the school supplies. That’s what we did in my elementary school and I liked it, so I planned to recreate that at home to keep Tigger from missing out. After our preschool year, I found out that at home we need more flexibility than school-at-home offers, so I ditched it and became an eclectic homeschooler.
If you’re not familiar with eclectic homeschooling, it’s essentially a use-what-you-like approach. So, I liked aspects of school at home (worksheets, a chalkboard) and I liked aspects of Charlotte Mason (nature study, short lessons, copywork, narration) so I used it all and we started kindergarten. Kindergarten went better than pre-K but still had its ups and downs, particularly having a newborn in the house. But, I was still feeling frustrated with both the lack of flexibility with the methods and Tigger’s growing resistance to schedules.
We embarked on first grade with a new approach – still eclectic, but far more relaxed. And it just has not worked for us. AT ALL. I’ve been frustrated, Tigger’s been frustrated and Pooh and Roo have just been enduring. I’ve read a lot of books about unschooling and, from what I’ve read, almost every parent who has decided to unschool has done so after starting with school-at-home like me. But, when I read the books, I thought “I’d never do that. I need structure and I can do this in a way that will work for my kids.” I never thought about whether my homeschooling method would work for me. Turns out that if it doesn’t work for me (the teacher), it’s not going to work for the kids.
I read an especially inspiring quote about unschooling from Kelly Lovejoy. It says:
“If you knew you only had a year more with that child, what would you expose him to? Where would you go? What would you eat? What would you watch? What would you do?
If you had only ONE year—and then it was all over, what would you do? Four seasons. Twelve months. 365 days.
Do that THIS year. And the next.
That’s how unschooling works. By living life as if it were an adventure. As if you only had a limited amount of time with that child. Because that’s the way it IS.”
Reading that almost made me cry. I want to enjoy my life with my children, not endure it as we try to get through each grade level. Things really can change in the blink of an eye and I would be so hurt if my proudest moments as a parent centered around my children’s test scores or objectives.
The core unschooling principle is that children learn all the time, no matter what they do. It’s the job of a parent to “strew” things across their path to pique their interest, but instead of coercing them into learning, we create a learning environment by encouraging them to be curious about the world around them. Sandra Dodd has a great website about unschooling here.
Anyway, I’m still new to this way of doing things, but I’ll be posting pics of us hopefully enjoying our learning experience!
Okay….so after a slight hiccup in our schedule, we’re finally into the school year and things are starting to settle into some kind of routine. I held off on the first day of school stuff until this past Monday. I wanted Christopher Robin to be home so we could give Tigger her gift together. Yes, I consider new school supplies to be a gift. (Don’t judge me.)
We packed the bag with all kinds of awesomeness. Notebooks, twistable crayons, sketch pads, folders, erasers and pencils. If twistable crayons were available when I was a kid, I would probably have never stopped drawing. They’re just incredible.
Tigger wanted to take a picture with the backpack on. She’s a total ham for the camera and I admit that’s probably my fault.
Christopher Robin looks on as his daughter models her new gear. I see a mixture of happiness and wariness on his face. “Yay, she likes her new backpack! Oh no, I hope she doesn’t want to start modeling when she gets older.”
Roo isn’t too impressed. Just give him the gift paper to flail around and he’s thrilled.
During this year, we’re going to be starting basic geography – oceans, continents, countries, our city and state, etc. To help with this, we ordered the Rand McNally kids map from Amazon. This map is great and it was $10. Win.
In each section of the world, it shows icons that indicate the kind of animals that live there and symbols of the regional culture that kids should learn about. I need help like that. Otherwise, we’ll just plod through what city and country is where and Tigger will die of boredom. I confess, geography was not one of my favorite subjects growing up, but I love learning about world cultures. I’m planning to integrate that as we go along and hopefully that will keep it interesting for student and teacher.
A close up of a continent to see the icons.
So, that’s where we are for now – well, this and daily math and reading. We’ll see how this goes, but as of today, it seems to be working. Tomorrow we’ll add in history (a classical approach) and then art and science on Friday. (Yikes!)
Long time, no post. Sorry everybody! Things have been a little hectic around here. And I’ve learned first hand that trying to start homeschooling full steam with a new baby is…an insane proposition. Anyhoo…Roo is almost four months old and basically sleeping through the night, so hopefully our schedule will be a lot more stable from here on out.
A couple of weeks ago, we got the chance to visit the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids (www.inkfun.org). It’s a child’s pretend town where kids can engage in all sorts of grown-up professions.
As you can tell from the first pic, one of the biggest draws is the indoor playground. We literally spent the first hour just sitting there watching Tigger play and, naturally, bounce around. After dragging her away, we started actually seeing some of the exhibits.
Here’s the fam on the fire truck. Christopher Robin seems to be having the most fun, huh? Then it was on the doctor’s office…
Tigger gives Daddy a checkup.
Pooh was taken with the medicine bottles. A future pharmacist, perhaps? After getting checked out, we stopped at my favorite place, the restaurant.
Tigger served up what she said was a hamburger (it was really pretend baked beans, but we didn’t want to spoil it for her).
I don’t know what she put on that pizza, but it was delicious!
Pooh makes a selection at the jukebox. Afterward, we had some letters to mail, so we went to the post office.
Tigger waits on Daddy behind the counter.
Pooh delivers some high-priority mail. We needed to do grocery shopping, but of course, we had to go to the bank to get our spending money.
Tigger went to work on our account.
Daddy celebrates our newfound riches. It’s probably the most money we’ll ever see. =D
The bank just didn’t seem to do it for Pooh and Roo. So we went to every child’s favorite place, the dentist’s office. (sarcasm intended)
Tigger worked on a stuffed lion. He had really big teeth for some reason. It was actually a little creepy….We hurried off to take x-rays.
Tigger donned a lead apron and went to work.
After reviewing the x-rays, Tigger understood why his teeth were so big. Turns out he wasn’t a real lion. Mystery solved! We went shopping.
Items galore and no prices! Why don’t they have stores like this for adults?
Tigger filled her basket with enough food to make dinner. So we headed home to eat.
Overall, we had a great time! I definitely recommend INK as a low-tech, family-friendly attraction. It’s a nice change to go to a place that inspires imaginative play instead of stifling it.