Friday, October 30, 2009

Grade 4, Week 9, Day 5 ~ Friday Free Day

Anyone who doubts the value of play in a child's life should spend some time really observing children at play, deeply absorbed in what they are doing, unfettered by time limits or adult influence.

The boys actually started the day with reading, a typing lesson, and their multiplication game. We tidied the house, ate an early lunch, and headed to the park to spend the afternoon with our friends. T-Guy wore his costume, but as J-Baby's was as of yet (and still as of yet) unfinished he pulled together a cowboy outfit from the dress-up clothing drawer. I didn't bother to tell him that cowboys don't usually wear rugby-striped polo shirts; it wasn't my place to ruin his fun.

We had a small group at the park, all long-time friends, and it worked out beautifully. As much as I enjoy hanging out with all of my mama friends I must admit that these two are the mamas I miss the most when they don't make it. I think it may be that we have been meeting at the park for nearly five years now, or perhaps it is because we used to have play dates at my house, but whatever it is we all get along well.

The kids mostly stayed off the playground, preferring to gather under the trees, playing imaginative games. At one point they built a fairy house of sticks, grass, rocks, and pine cones. With this particular configuration of children we rarely have any division based on gender, which is very nice.

I truly believe that having the opportunity to sink into play is just as important as learning the multiplication tables or how to spell. I am really glad that we've relaxed our Fridays ~ we all need the break and we all benefit from seeing what comes our way.

A Firm Foundation

Carrie has a great post over at The Parenting Passageway about moving forward with Waldorf when one has an imbalanced child. While the post didn't connect with me in terms of my own return to holistic education (see here for why I don't identify us as Waldorf homeschoolers), I loved the questions she poses in asking the parent if they can bring what is needed to the table. It made me see what a firm foundation my family has already built.

We learned early on that our children need fewer choices, not more. We learned that they need us to make the big decisions and most of the small ones too. They don't need to give input on bed times or what to have for dinner. We did make the mistake of thinking that they needed to start making the choices earlier than they did, but we fixed that when we saw that it didn't work.

We have always been fans of early bedtimes for children; even now at 9YO and 10YO they have a 9 p.m. summer bedtime which is surprisingly much earlier than their peers. It is recommended that children at this age sleep 10 hours, and mine do sleep 10 - 11 hours every night. I am part of an attachment parenting community and early bedtimes just aren't popular, but I have seen how well they work for us. Indeed, 9 p.m. is brand new this month; over the years we started at 7 p.m. and very slowly have moved the bedtime as the boys get older. We'll likely hold here at 9 p.m. for several years. (Update in 2014: We still have a 9PM bedtime, year round, and it is still working for us.)

We have always focused on eating healthy, whole foods and on sharing our meals together as a family. We are fortunate enough to be able to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together nearly everyday. Sharing meals is important to us and we place a priority on making it happen. We rarely have evening activities but when we do we shift the meal time rather than miss eating together.

Early on holistic parenting taught me to talk less and show more. This has been invaluable as I have boys and they just don't seem to connect to their emotions verbally the same way I see girls of their age do, or the way I did as a child. When they were little many power struggles were averted because we didn't let words get in the way. Even now I believe that actions speak louder than words and I strive to be an example for my children and also to show them how I feel.

We love to be outside as a family and make a point of walking nearly everyday. We also find time to hike/walk away from the sidewalk at least once a week. We hang out at parks. We've grown our own food and flowers and we've been to small gardens and farms where food is grown. We experience nature, we don't feel the need to document it on a continual basis. We don't need to because it isn't a one time thing.

We work with our hands. Although knitting still escapes my boys (I do set the example!) they have done loom knitting as well as weaving (both on peg looms and pot holder looms). They've made yards and yards of spool knitted cords. They love embroidery, something that even the youngest child can do with a wooden needle and a piece of burlap. Hand sewing is on the horizon. Making things is something that I do, so naturally it has spilled over to the boys. Indeed, I can admit that the emphasis on handwork and making crafts is one of the things that initially drew me to holistic educational methods.

My boys play! I wish that more children had the opportunity to explore the world of imagination and play. At this very moment my 9YO is dressed-up as a cowboy. When the boys were younger we had a small wooden kitchen, and when they outgrew that we turned another piece of furniture into a makeshift kitchen (even better than the little one that had been purposely built as a kitchen). There are baskets of handwork scattered throughout the house so that anyone can pick up some yarn or do some embroidery. Our deck has an art easel and a big craft table set up for all sorts of projects.

We love to have fun. I can thank Papa for this, as he never lost the playful, fun energy of childhood and he was able to connect with it as the boys moved into toddlerhood. We skate, fly kites, ride bikes, play games, go to beach, and so much more. I can remember being a child and bemoaning the fact that my parents just didn't know how to have fun; how fortunate that I married a man who does and who brings that to our family.

Another gift that Papa has brought to our family is the gift of music. Not that I'm not musical; I played instruments growing up and I enjoy singing. Music is one of Papa's passions and he often starts impromptu singing sessions by bringing out his guitar and strumming some family songs.

A big part of our foundation is the relationship I share with Papa. I think that the stability we bring to the family creates a sense of peace and safety to the boys. We have nearly 21 years of marriage behind us and we've learned to talk things through and work together as partners. We're also best friends. We work together in raising our boys and I never feel as though my role as an at-home mother is a burden because I am never taken for granted and I don't shoulder all of the work alone. Likewise I recognize that leaving our home each day in order to work and provide for us is a gift from Papa; his dedication and hard work make it possible for me to stay home with our boys.

So when we struggle with parts of our home learning I need to take a step back and look at the overall picture and the strong foundation we stand on. So many of the parts of holistic education already exist effortlessly in our home, which means I can focus on the parts that need work.

What I Take From Waldorf, and What I Leave Behind

First off, Waldorf purists should probably stop reading right now. I don't need anyone telling me that I have to take Waldorf as a whole or leave it completely. However, I know that people bristle when others claim a label title but aren't following the rules, so I do understand the rules ~ I'm just choosing to break them.

First off, a few things I take from Waldorf:

~ The importance of environment on the individual. I think we all do better in calm, peaceful, uncluttered environments.
~ The importance of natural materials. For me the connection is with nature and not some spiritual essence of an object, but whatever. I like how wood and stone look and feel, and I don't like plastic, but I'm not anti-Lego.
~ The block teaching method. I've seen the power of letting something sleep for awhile.
~ The three-fold cycle of input, sleep (digestion), and output. As a method it works.
~ The importance of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms; marking time is very human and I can connect with how I felt observing the rhythms of the seasons in my own childhood.
~ The importance of boundaries.
~ The focus on no screen time for children under 7 and limited screen time for older children; again, this is something I have practiced and I have seen work.
~ The importance of involving children in the work of the home; we all need to contribute and working together is a great teaching tool for people of all ages.
~ The basic curriculum through the years, because it is helpful to have a road map and because much of Steiner's observations on child development are in line with what others have found.
~ The importance of the integration of hands, heart, and head (more on this later).

Things I leave behind:

~ Anthroposophy, or spiritual science. It's hogwash in my opinion. For those who say I can't have Waldorf without anthroposophy, please remember that everything changes and evolves. Perhaps some would prefer that I say Waldorf or Enki-inspired, but Waldorf is a term that most of our home learning friends understand. Many of the people I know who have been involved with Waldorf don't know anything about anthroposophy but do think it has some religious connections, so in real life I sometimes use the phrase Secular Waldorf.

~ Any belief that I can damage my children by exposing them to the wrong subject matter at the wrong time. I believe that children are more resilient than that. No, I'm not going to show them photographs from Nazi concentration camps at age 9, but at the same time I'm not worried that they learned Greel mythology at at age 7.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Acceptance and Peace

I feel such peace right now. I have to laugh at myself just a little ~ after all, learning in traditional Waldorf blocks is exactly what my boys have said they like best. Not in those words, of course, but grade 1 has been their favorite year so far, and it is the year that we followed Waldorf/Enki learning the most closely.

I am reminded how often we need to stop and trust our children. In some ways embracing Waldorf or Enki education is as radical as choosing unschooling; we have to break free of everyone else's expectations. We have to let go of state standards and what everyone else thinks our children should be learning and even what we learned as children.

I can choose what to bring to my children and when, but they will ultimately be the ones who take that information and run with it, store it away for later, or just let it fall flat. They trust me and come along with me, but they are also individuals with their own needs and wants, and I must be mindful of that.

I am so very weary with trying to get it right, whatever it is. How to unschool the right way or even do Waldorf the right way. And now I am done. We're just going to do what we do and I am choosing to accept the outcome, whatever it may be. I choose rhythm and focused lessons over unschooling because J-Baby needs the rhythm.

Grade 4, Week 9, Day 4 ~ Patchwork

Morning: Reading, Typing Skills, Multiplication Tables

Afternoon: Game Playing, Story Telling, Reading

Evening: A History of US

J-Baby picked up a children's novel and got absorbed in it! Not a simple chapter book such as Magic Tree House or The Boxcar Children; no, it was Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods. It's the third book in the series but who am I to be picky? Honestly, I'm actually not that concerned that J-Baby prefers reading non-fiction titles aimed at adults, but Papa has the reading-for-pleasure worry bug and he was the one who noticed J-Baby curled up on the couch absorbed in the novel.

In For a Penny ...

... well, you know the rest.

I have been seriously reconsidering my decision to modify the Oak Meadow 4th Grade Syllabus into blocks. Not that I don't want to teach in blocks ~ I most certainly do! I'm just, well, not sure that I can do it with Oak Meadow ~ at least not with Oak Meadow alone. I'm finding it hard to find the time to do 100% of the OM syllabus and to put in some of the traditional grade 4 Waldorf blocks.

So now there is a new chart:I'm not even sure how the OM materials will work into my plan ~ I suppose they will be resources just as everything else I buy/borrow/find.

It must appear that I have been very wishy-washy over the past several months (years?). Unchooling? Enki? Waldorf? If Waldorf, which program? Live Education? Christopherus? A Little Garden Flower? Something else?

Whenever I make the decision to change what we are doing I consider it a success, not a failure. I am fine tuning our learning in a way that is nourishing to my children and I am acknowledging that their needs change. I approached this year knowing that we needed rhythm and focused lessons, and Oak Meadow seemed like a good way to get that. I didn't know that it would drive me crazy, LOL! Just two weeks of focused math work showed me that I was on the right track; we were able to go much deeper into our learning.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Course Correction

Our vacation was just the kind of break I had envisioned. We connected with each other and with nature (ocean, sand, sky, sun, shells, dolphins!). We relaxed into a new rhythm based on togetherness. Already I miss it and know that it is my role to bring it back to us here at home.

There is something about the ocean that brings me back to center when I have become unbalanced; the connection with nature clears my mind and helps me remember the life I want to be living. The connection is so important to me that when we were assigned to a room without an ocean view (but close to the pool) we requested to be moved. I didn't mind climbing up 50 steps each time I went to the pool; I needed the ocean view.

I wasn't without tasks; I tidied daily, made the bed, cooked most of our meals, and did laundry. There was, however, a simplicity to it ~ my attention wasn't fragmented the way it is when I am at home. There is no way to make home as simple as a week away at a resort, but certainly home can be made simpler.

Grade 4, Week 9, Day 3 ~ Robots, Cooking, and Art

I'm still not feeling 100%; actually, today it is more like 50%. On top of that I am reworking some of what we are doing. This week simply isn't going to be about workboxes and main lessons.

I decided that it is a great week for practice work (multiplication tables and typing) and lots of Lego Mindstorms fun. The boys have a new book, LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT One Kit Wonders: Ten Inventions to Spark Your Imagination. I had them choose a project and they are building the robot model and programming it. Mindstorms is something that the boys always wish we had more time for; it isn't the kind of thing that is easily done in small increments.

Our project this week will be making J-Baby's mummy costume; luckily T-Guy chose to be Star Trek's James T. Kirk and we were able to get a costume for $16 (Papa, Star Trek fan that he is, already had a phaser). But I am not quite up to costume making just yet, so today we did a variety of easy things.

One thing the boys did was paint. They enjoy the freedom of painting without it relating to a particular story and without me requiring that it be wet-on-wet. It's windy today, so they painted inside and used pan watercolors.

We did more art late in the afternoon; J-Baby painted with the watercolors again while T-Guy and I used Lyra Aquacolor/Aquarelle Crayons and then went over the drawings with wet paint brushes. Mine turned out well so J-Baby decided he wanted to do one too.

After dinner we sent Papa off to his train club meeting and I decided we'd make dessert. Last night at Trader Joe's I picked up a package of instant vanilla pudding. I remember instant pudding from my childhood but when I went to buy some for J-Baby to make it had artificial flavors and colors, so I had to pass. But now TJs has chocolate and vanilla instant pudding mixes without the artificial colors and flavors. J-Baby was able to read the directions and make the pudding all by himself and he felt very proud. He also loved the pudding, and he really isn't much of a pudding fan.

T-Guy's project was baking a batch of break-and-bake cookies leftover from our trip. Not something we usually have on hand, but an easy project and he was very careful when moving the cookies to the cooling rack.

These are both the kinds of cooking/baking projects I remember from my own childhood ~ the kind you could do all by yourself without an adult in the kitchen. We didn't have break-and-bake cookies and my dad didn't care for the kind you sliced, but he did like the Betty Crocker Big Batch Cookie Mix (check out the ad here, complete with the "flavor packets" pictured). By the time I hit junior high I could mix and bake a batch of Tollhouse Cookies.

I must admit that I don't involve my boys in the kitchen as much as I probably should, at least not on a regular basis. J-Baby can grate cheese and make his own quesadilla and can also make a grilled cheese sandwich on GF bread. T-Guy makes his own cold sandwiches, and he will rinse carrots and fruit for snacks. Off and on they have cut fruits and veggies; helped measure and mix muffins, brownies, cakes, and cookies; churned butter; and many other things, but not often enough to become proficient on their own.

We're about to light a fire and play a few hands of Hello Kitty Uno. Papa isn't home to read A History of Us but we'll have fun anyway.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grade 4, Week 9, Day 2 ~ Improvising

Boy, am I glad to have a few things to fall back on when I am sick. Today the boys did a Mavis Beacon typing lesson, practiced their multiplication tables using Timez Attack, and spent more than an hour building and programming a Mindstorms Robot. Now they are listening to an audio book; later this evening we'll watch more Oliver Twist and Papa will read to them from A History of US. Add in their typical daily activities such as drawing, reading, and playing board games and we have a full day of learning even when Mama is incapacitated.

We are a day behind where I wanted to be this week, but I think I'll be up to filling the workboxes tonight and we'll get started on our fraction block tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Grade 4, Week 9, Day 1 ~ Back, But Barely

We're home, and learning, but I am rather ill and won't be blogging anything for a few days. I think it is time for a mostly child-led unit study, assisted by Papa. I do feel very badly for suggesting to T-Guy that he stop acting like he was dying when he came down with this, as I understand now more fully that he truly did feel that way. Cold or flu, I don't know, but it doesn't really matter.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Grade 4, Week 8, Day 5 ~ Friday Free Day

It is Friday Free Day and the beginning of a blog hiatus. We'll be at the beach having our annual vacation/fall field study. I'm choosing to take a computer break so there will be no updates even though I am sure we'll be learning plenty. I'll plan a recap to be posted in Week 9, which will start 10/27/09. (I always give us some time back home before we resume lesson work ~ the rhythm needs to be re-established first.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Grade 4, Week 8, Day 4 ~ Ready For a Break

We chose to take it easy this morning as we are knee deep in preparations for our upcoming vacation. I am ready for a break; outside of home learning we have had a few very trying/emotional weeks. I believe that a week away from the pressures of, well, everything will help us connect and bring us back to our learning (and our lives) refreshed and renewed.

Workboxes: journaling, math practice (addition and subtraction with regrouping), reading (Indian Legends), language arts practice (parts of speech), and the math main lesson, which consisted of a review of Roman numerals.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Grade 4, Week 8, Day 3 ~ What Motivation Can Do

Today we were expecting friends for a play date. When we woke up this morning I reminded the boys that they needed to complete their workboxes by 11, meaning that this wasn't the best day to wait until 10 to get started. T-Guy was finished before 10, J-Baby by 10:30. Sure, I decided not to do Draw Write Now because the lessons take a long time, but still, they were fast.

For our main lesson work in math we worked Roman numerals again. I've decided against having them do arithmetic problems with Roman numerals; there just isn't any real world need for that. Instead I am focusing on being able to read and write Roman numerals. Today they wrote the numbers 1 - 50 in Roman numerals and did it perfectly, so it is time to move on.

Workboxes today: journaling, math practice (addition and subtraction with regrouping), reading (Indian Legends), language arts practice (parts of speech), and the math main lesson. During the play date they built with Keva Planks and also played Wii Fit. After the play date they listened to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (the Jim Weiss version).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Grade 4, Week 8, Day 2 ~ Digging Deeper

I love the aha moment. That moment when a child (or anyone) understands a concept at a level that allows them to apply it to other problems. For instance, figuring out that 12 X 30 is the same as 12 X 3 X 10 and then being able to extrapolate that to any multiplication problem in involving 10s. Knowing how to multiply is far more important that memorizing answers (although we are still working on multiplication tables).

Yes, we're digging deeper into our math block. Papa and I sat together last night and looked at this block's material and decided that some of the Roman numeral work isn't necessary. So today we worked multiplication with 10s and 100s and the boys got it! J-Baby even decided that the trick for multiplying 9s is pretty cool and not cheating.

Workboxes today: journaling; math practice (addition and subtraction with regrouping); reading; language arts practice (parts of speech); main lesson, and Draw Write Now. We've put guitar on hiatus until the next block. This evening we watched more Oliver Twist and Papa read the next chapter in A History of US.

Getting Organized

I make things harder for myself than I need to. I feel great about the decision to go back to working in main lesson blocks, but short of buying a new curriculum I had to make Oak Meadow work with the new format, which of course it was not designed to do.

For review: I bought Oak Meadow to make things easier this year; I hated the lesson format; I organized the lessons into block format; and now I have to see if it works. Next year I need to remember to buy a curriculum that is already in blocks or to put together my own!

I had insomnia lat night so I worked on the conversion, and this is what I came up with. Again, I apologize for the size. There are columns for the week of school we are in, the focus of our main lesson block, the week of the block, the dates of the block, the subject we are studying, and the weeks of the corresponding Oak Meadow lessons.

We're not covering everything in the Oak Meadow syllabus, nor are we covering it in exactly the same order. We have studied some of the topics previously, plus we bring in much that isn't part of the syllabus. But it is an excellent springboard and we will have covered most of the syllabus by the time week 36 rolls around.

I am excited about is bring back the secondary, or afternoon lesson. This concept came from the Christopherus First Grade Syllabus and is one that we really enjoyed. Rather than approaching handwork, craft, and art as one-off projects we focus on one for a period of 2 - 4 weeks; this allows in-depth exploration. Some of our planned secondary lessons are quilting and baking (to coincide with fractions), modeling (using Arthur Auer's excellent book Learning About the World Through Modeling), weaving, painting, and book making (something we'll do during our creative writing block).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Grade 4, Week 8, Day 1 ~ Relaxed

(My apologies to anyone who was looking for this post earlier. I was so relaxed I posted it to the wrong blog, LOL!)

Relaxed is a wonderful word. It is fantastic to approach the world in a relaxed manner, avoiding stress as much as possible, and it is the healthiest state for our bodies. Stress = cortisol = health issues. Our new block format is returning a feeling of relaxation to me and to our home learning.

This week we are wrapping up some math work in preparation for a week off. Each fall we vacation at the beach; I often refer to it as our fall field study. This year we will not be taking any academic work with us and will instead focus on relaxing, exploring, and connecting.

I already feel so much calmer sticking with one subject for our main lesson block; it feels like a huge out-breath. I don't have to be prepared to teach language arts tomorrow, as we will continue with Roman numerals and division with remainders. Today we added and subtracted Roman Numerals. I need to work on being better prepared for the blocks ~ I'm not exactly sure what we will be working on tomorrow. This is what happens when I jump in with both feet but I am sure I will get the kinks worked out.

I find that a block format gives us more flexibility with our days; if we don't quite finish everything planned for one day it is easily shifted to the next, and if we are grooving on a topic we can move ahead. If someone is feeling unwell it is easier to take a sick day as we aren't behind on the entire week's learning for that subject.

The block format puts the relaxed back into relaxed homeschooler. The focus is on having fun and learning in a relaxed manner rather than completing items on a list. I am able to see the learning as a whole rather than as fragmented bits; up until now I found myself wondering where each weekly lesson was going to go, but I was always scrambling and didn't have time to read ahead several weeks to see how it would fit together.

Workboxes today: journaling, math practice (addition and subtraction with regrouping), reading, language arts practice (parts of speech), and the math main lesson. We also took Big Dog to the dog park and the boys played Wii Fit. In the evening Papa read A History of US and we played Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and Uno.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Grade 4, Lesson 7, Day 5 ~ Friday Free Day

(I imagine that it isn't going to make a lot of sense if I keep this post title format when I will be skipping all over the OM4 syllabus. Starting next week I will label the posts as Grade 4, Week _ , Day _ .)

My declaration of no busy work last Friday, plus our day off from lessons Tuesday and our light day Wednesday gave the boys a chance to spend most of their time playing, imagining, and creating and gave me the opportunity to listen and observe. I was reminded of all of the good things that come with unschooling. It isn't a place we could go back and be nourished, but I do see that it has its place in our home learning, and not just in the evenings and on the weekends. There is something about having hours and hours of unscheduled time to really set yourself free.

So, while I was working on the return to a block format I decided that we will also go back to 4 days of structured learning with the 5th day free (assuming we have had cooperation and done good work on the other 4 days). Friday mornings have always been problematic for us as I must prepare the house for the weekly cleaning and must pack what we will need to be out of the house in the afternoon.

I plan to continue to post on Fridays, just as I did last week, loosely keeping track of the activities that would fall under the "educational" banner. Of course, I think it is all learning.

T-Guy spent about an hour reading this morning, and J-Baby drew a couple of pictures.
Then they did their chores, got their laundry ready for washing, helped me put away clean dishes, and got started with our new Wii Fit Plus. I was uncertain when we first bought our Wii, but the boys were getting older and Papa thought it could be played with in a limited and positive manner. So far the boys have played it for an hour or two on the weekends (sometimes with Papa) and also with the babysitter when she comes.
I decided that the Wii Fit Plus could be a positive addition to our physical education learning, and so far it is proving to be true. The boys are working on their balance and coordination while having a blast playing games. It's a lot harder than it looks ~ I finally got the hang of moving my body to virtually head a soccer ball, only to get hit in the face with a shoe!

This afternoon we have park day for lots of fresh air, sunshine, and hanging out with friends. When we do our errands we'll be practicing consumer math as well as the life skill of grocery shopping. The boys will have their laundry to fold, and will help me prepare their dinner.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Grade 4, Lesson 7, Day 4 ~ Shake It Up Baby

Okay, I couldn't stand the lack of main lesson blocks any longer; I spent all afternoon devising a new homeschool calendar with main lessons instead of the Oak Meadow model. It was just too disjointed to work on Roman numerals one day, paragraph creation the next day, and then to start a study of Native Americans.

Math practice work was exceedingly hard as the material had only been introduced the day before; no sleep, no reawakening. Everyone was frustrated. Language arts lessons were forgotten one week to the next. The model was simply too school-like, and public school-like at that.

Here is what I came up with:

I apologize for the small image ~ I hope you can read it. Basically it shows the blocks we will be doing: we're finishing Roman Numerals, taking a week off, then doing blocks on Fractions; Native Americans; Grammar; Two Digit Multiplication and Long Division; Nutrition and Cells; Paragraphs/Essays and Creative Writing; Measurement and Money; California Geography and History; and finally Astronomy, Latitude, and Longitude. This is a simplified chart; it doesn't show art, music, physical education, health, or practical life skills.

I stayed with the content from Oak Meadow rather than switching to a more traditional Waldorf 4th grade because I want to be able to use the materials I have and because some of these subjects are areas we haven't covered in-depth before. I really like the idea of studying the Native American of our local area the same year that we study our state. It is possible that we will switch out the science blocks for more traditional Waldorf fare.

I don't think that it was bad to experiment with daily subjects; it certainly showed me what works best for us. We go in-depth and then we let the materials rest, awakening it once there has been time for the concepts to digest fully. Likewise I will be bringing in the 2 - 3 day process with in the main lessons.

We're going to continue with the Oak Meadow assigned reading for grade 4 so that we can continue to do projects with our friends.

I guess we'll see how this experiment goes. I feel less scattered and better able to prepare for each subject, and I think returning to main lesson blocks will serve the boys well.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Grade 4, Lesson 7, Day 3 ~ Taking It Easy

I spent all afternoon doing a homeschool makeover, which I will post about tomorrow. In the meantime, we were back at our lesson work, minus a main lesson.

Workboxes: journaling, math practice (Roman numerals and division with remainders), Indian Legends, adverb practice, typing lesson, practice multiplication tables. Papa read A History of US. The boys listened to Prince Caspian on audio book and played a long game of Colosseum. Oh, and I suppose playing Garage Band for 30 minutes counts as something.


Summer move forward and stitch me the fabric of fall

Wrap life in the brilliance of death to humble us all
How sweet is the day
I'm craving a darkness
As I sit tucked away with my back to the wall
~ Vienna Teng, Drought

Fall has finally arrived in Southern California. Truly, I think it might have been waiting for me, as the weather turned just as soon as I decorated the mantle and added a few other autumnal touches to our home. We are experiencing cold nights and beautiful days, and Monday night we had our first fire of the season. It was so nice to gather in the living room and play a game of Yahtzee with a Java Log burning in the fireplace.

T-Guy remarked that it truly feels like fall, with the crisp chill that descends each evening and the quickly shortening days. I have to agree; I feel the pull inward, the in-breath after the expansion of spring and summer.

We are all fragile this week; my heart hurts and the tears come too easily. We lost our Girl Dog Tuesday, our faithful canine companion of 12 years. It is heartbreaking, and yet it grounds us in the reality of life. We are born, we live, we die. To die at home, in the arms of those we love, is peaceful, and I am glad that we were able to bring that to her. T-Guy, at 10.5, chose to be with us, and J-Baby, at 9.5, chose to stay in another room with the Big Dog. Afterward we had Big Dog come out and say goodbye.

I am naturally introverted and melancholic, and fall suits me well. As much as I love being in nature (and nature is gorgeous in fall) I love being home even more, and fall is a time to enjoy the comforts of home. I love to snuggle into my chair under a quilt and read a good book or magazine, or to knit for hours, sipping steaming mugs of sweet tea or hot frothy maple vanilla almond milk. I love to bake ~ fresh breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, and more. Homemade soups are a specialty of mine and in winter some of the heartier soups come from my pot ~ yellow or green split pea; thick, creamy potato; delicious sweet-potato fennel, and bean soups of all varieties.

I tend to give up salads once the cold weather arrives; they simply hold no appeal and I transition to eating more roasted and sauteed vegetables. I really look forward to eating cashew creamed kale. Likewise, I no longer enjoy cold sandwiches and find myself fixing sliced avocado on hot toast instead.

So welcome fall; it is I who has been waiting for you.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Grade 4, Lesson 7, Day 1 ~ Roman Numerals

Workboxes today: journalling, math practice, reading first story in Indian Legends, wooden sword practice, language arts practice - sentence creation and parts of speech, math main lesson.

I love when I introduce new material and the boys really get it. We talked about tallying and the need for number systems, and then I showed the boys Roman numerals and how to use them. They were really excited ~ it made sense to them. They likened it to writing in code, LOL. Papa says Roman numerals are important because they teach the idea of numbers as symbols as well as cardinality. The boys each made a nice page in their main lesson books with the Roman numerals and their corresponding values using arabic numbers.

We're taking a day off from workboxes and main lessons tomorrow as we say goodbye to our beloved Girl Dog. No post until Wednesday.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Grade 4, Lesson 6, Day 5 ~ No Busy Work

This week's OM lessons seemed a little light, and we had accomplished everything by Thursday. Last night I went to fill the boxes and realized it would simply be busy work; I don't like busy work so I left the boxes empty and we had an unschooling day. Here are our recorded educational activities:

Literature: listened to audio book of The Spiderwick Chronicles, watched part of Oliver Twist
Physical Education: practiced catching fly balls and ground balls
Social Skills: attended park day
Strategy: played tic-tac-toe
Mathematics: practiced multiplication tables using Timez Attack
Typing lesson

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Grade 4, Lesson 6, Day 4 ~ Adapt the Curriculum to the Child ...

... not the child to the curriculum!

One thing about natural learning is that children pick up knowledge and skills in what is often referred to as a swiss cheese fashion. A child may have in-depth knowledge of Roman history but not read until age 8, or they may understand percentages before they learn their multiplication tables. One benefit of homeschooling is having the time to run with the things your child is interested in when the desire sparks; this is true even if a family doesn't unschool.

This week the OM4 syllabus lesson on science begins a study on seeds. I read that and felt myself deflate like a balloon. Seeds again? We spent part of our nature co-op last year going through the activities in Sow and Grow and we did 8 projects with seeds and growing. The year before that we had our first garden and studied the process in depth. My children aren't urban school children who have never seen a seed sprout and looked at the interior. Indeed, they have done this several times over the years.

Tuesday night I read it again and decided to move science to Thursday this week to give myself more time to acquire the necessary seeds, as if more time was all I needed to make it any more interesting. Last night I filled the main lesson box with the "Main Lesson ~ Science" card and let out a sigh. If I wasn't interested in doing this again how could I expect my children to be interested?

This morning I remembered that the point of my homeschooling is not to make my children fit a curriculum! If I wanted that I could have sent them to public or private school, where practicality requires that they choose one curriculum to use with all the children.

We skipped science this morning. I'm not sure what we'll do for the next few weeks, but we aren't going to sprout seeds again. Maybe we'll look for more advanced material on sprouted seeds with photos under magnification. Maybe we'll plant our Earth Box with fall crops and get our garden going again. Maybe we'll just do a few of the science experiments J-Baby is always itching to do. Whatever it is, it will be something we are excited about.

Workboxes today: Journalling (J-Baby skipped his journal and finished his social studies assignment from yesterday), correcting math errors from yesterday, free reading, making beeswax animals, Draw Write Now, and guitar (they wrote their own songs). Papa also tossed in an extra chapter from A History of US at lunch.