Monday, March 31, 2014

Week in Review: Oak Meadow Kindergarten ~ Week 11/12

No sooner had I written my latest post did I stumble across one written from a veteran homeschool mom advising those of us in a rut not to make any major changes, which is precisely what I intended to do.

It turns out that the homeschooling group we checked out last week was not a good match for our homeschooling vision or goals.  It was a bit defeating for my over zealous self, but as my husband consoled me, he applauded my efforts to find something that fits.  

And if nothing else, this defeat showed me that if anyone can create the type of experience I want for myself and my kiddos, I can.

My next attempt will come in the form of an informal meeting with fellow parents interested in forming and participating in a homeschooling coop.  Stay tuned...

In the meantime, I decided to follow the sage advice of making minor tweaks to our homeschooling.  First on the list: to cover two week's worth of content from the Oak Meadow curriculum per week.  I'd found sister getting tiresome when we worked on the same letter/number all week and thought this might help.  This would also give us a chance to wrap up before summer when we will want to take some time off along with our hard working school caledndar following Daddy.  

And what do you know, we ended up doing school 4 days of the week which was a first in recent memory!

Letter I was introduced via "White Snake"

followed by a review of letters A-I, front to back.

We finished up with number 5  

and moved onto number 6.

After sister took some time figuring out how to make a six sided star, she asked me to take a video of her explaining how she'd done it.  She was a total natural- I may have to get her own YouTube channel going!

The second change was supplementing our regular curriculum with the Easy Peasy All In One free homeschool online program.  

We started in the getting ready 1 portion where the McGuffey reader lessons begin (lesson 172).  Sister completed one or two lessons each day which included a review of sight words presented with audio and visuals, reading a short story from a book uploaded on the site, and playing an educational game from a link to Starfall or PBS kids.  I don't know if she was driven to the novelty or format of it, but it was a big motivation in getting her to do school this week.  I will be interested to see if her drive lasts and really appreciate having access to this free resource as we look to switch things up.

Our one take home from the homeschool group visit was an egg drop protector made from Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and tissue.  

We found an especially small egg from a farm fresh batch we'd picked up and sister was excited when discovering it fit inside the plastic egg we'd used as a tester.  

We dropped it from the porch, first on the grassy side

then the rocky side.


There was a moment this week when I felt the wind had been knocked out of my sails.  But I was lucky to come across this quote from one of my favorites right when I needed it:

I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.  Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Goodbye & Hello

We got a head start on our week following spring break and found ourselves raring to go come Sunday as we prepared to say goodbye to one month and welcome another.  

Though we took the week off from doing school, I by no means took the week off from thinking about or planing school, which I'm sure my fellow home educators can relate to.

As I mentioned, I was invited to meet with the coordinator of a local homeschooling after missing their open house the previous week.  Talking one on one (while indulging in what's become a rare treat: a coffee house latte) was much better suited to my personality style when it comes to disseminating and discussing new-to-me information.  I was very grateful the coordinator went out of her way to offer her time and the gesture gave me hopeful feelings for the future.  

While I feel good about my decision to use Oak Meadow as a starting point for our homeschool journey, I have to say that I don't think it will be our chosen curriculum moving beyond this school year.  Funnily enough, when I told the program coordinator this, she said that it was the curriculum she initially wanted to use when she started out though she ultimately chose a different path and hadn't met  anyone using Oak Meadow: besides me.  

This may be part of my hesitancy about using it myself.  Though I consider myself fairly introverted, I do desire a certain level of interaction and shared experienced with others.  There are a couple of other local homeschooling groups in our area, with the intent of gathering for occasional field trips and curriculum sharing.  But I think sister and I would both appreciate the opportunity to have more routine meet-ups with other homeschooling kids and families who are exploring similar themes in their learning. 

When I read about this new program, I felt instantly relaxed by the amount of structure it offered, as paradoxical as that may seem to some.  

At the end of the week, sister and I were extended an invitation to join in on one of the group's weekly meetings and hopefully get a better idea of whether this would be a good fit for us come fall.    

Have you ended up somewhere differently than you envisioned or set out to be in terms of homeschooling?  
Please share your experiences in the comments.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Changing Seasons

In general, I am not a huge fan of change.  

But I do love the changing of seasons, transitioning from one stage to another each year.  Be it the first rainfall or the first outdoor picnic.  However it looks, it feels like a fresh start.  

I think I stared homeschooling during a difficult season.  Countless blog posts popped up recently about how these winter months following the new year can be especially challenging when it comes to parent and/or child motivation in terms of homeschooling.

Not only was I beginning a new chapter with homeschooling, but staying home was also novel to me, having always held a full time work or school schedule minus my two maternity leaves.  

I was talking with a dear, longtime friend about the shifts she has experienced since becoming a mother.  She possesses a driven personality and had previously directed her passion towards professional and personal pursuits.  She shared that it had been difficult for her to accept and embrace her new role as "simply" mother and homemaker.  I hadn't realized that I was having some of the same challenges until she verbalized them for me.  Since that conversation, I have been consciously working to adjust my mindset in order to give myself the credit that is due for taking on the job and great privilege of being home and being a parent day in and day out.

A change will occur this season as I no longer have any routine committments away from home.  I  feel that this will give me more time and space to pursue the things I want to achieve- both in a tangible and idealogical way.  I have already recognized there are things I need to adapt in both realms in order for this homeschool way of life to work for me and my family.  

And I am grateful knowing I have all the days of spring to prepare for the next season to come.  

Because as the season changes, so must I.  

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Week in Review: Oak Meadow Kindergarten ~ Week 10

When I brought up school at the beginning of the week, sister resisted.  So I eased off.

By Wednesday afternoon, I talked her into reading our story of the week in bed with me after she'd finished her rest time and we were waiting for brother to wake up. 

She happily drew a doll's house which correlates to "The Two Bad Mice" tale by Beatrix Potter (one we were familiar with with from sister's play) and incorporated our letter of the week- do you see it?

The next morning, I decided not to mention school as my last few attempts hadn't produced a positive response.  While doing some housework, we ended up singing a song from our music book and sister exclaimed "hey, let's do school! It's music day, right?".

"Yep!", I said.

It wasn't.

But I took that window of opportunity and opened it wide.  We caught up on our calendar- a whole week's worth, which made for some good counting as we had enough for not one but two new bundles of 5!  5 also happens to be our new number this week so we read a story about a "star child", made star shapes with our bodies, and practiced the ever frustrating but equally desirable skill of drawing stars.

Then, we reveled in our un-music day, full of song, dance, and merriment.

I was feeling extra merry, having just said no to a new, life-changing prospect.  Yes, I said "I said no"!  Though it was an enticing opportunity for me professionally, it was one that would take me away from my homeschooling path- if not immediately, before I am ready. 

Sister is not age eligible for public school Kindergarten until this fall, so we started this homeschool journey a bit early to see if it felt right to us moving forward.  It does, and it doesn't, and every day is different. There are times I am totally convicted and there are times I completely talk myself out of it, and I think that just goes with the territory.  But I am not willing to give up just yet.

Next week, we plan to take a break while Daddy is home from school along with his students.  And I have plans to meet with the coordinator of a local homeschool group at the beginning of the week to consider additional options for sister and I come fall.

Yes, I'm saying no.

But I'm not calling it quits.  

Not with all the possibilities in our sights.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Week in Review: Oak Meadow Kindergarten ~ Week 9

This week was comprised of a variety of homeschooling days- one day each of "typical" school, Daddy school, and night school.

I found myself experiencing some Mommy fatigue and asscoiated malaise early in the week and was thankful my husband was able to take a day home from work to spend with the kids while I rested.  

Daddy used one of his fancy speech therapy strategies to make a picture dictionary

to aid sister in writing about a self-selected topic.

I used my tired but dedicated homeschooling mama skills to read sister the tale of the Golden Goose which she drew a picture of 

along with another G word that she came up with: grandma.

Not wanting to run out of steam with a few days to go, I decided to try out a practice I had read about on the Simple Homeschool  site: "Yes" days.  My understanding is that on these days, one is more open to what one's children want to do and one says yes when one might normally say no.  This may seem counterintuitive when the goal is not to wear oneself out, but I have increasingly expeienced a greater ease and contentment when following my young and curious children's lead- so decided to give saying yes a try.  

In our case, saying yes meant taking a spontaneous walk after getting home one day and stopping to throw various items (rocks, pinecones) into an overflow puddle to see what would sink and what would float.

It meant sticking modeling clay to the windows in brother's room

then putting plastic toys on the clay to see if they would stick.

I didn't technically say yes to this (because I wasn't asked) but I watched it happen without saying no and admired the finished product without complaint- so I deserve at least partial credit.

It meant beginning and returning to dance classes though I could have done with at least a one week break from organized activities after just ending our months-long stint with play rehearsals and performances.  

But these faces make saying yes worth it, any day.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Now is Now

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, "What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?" 

"They are the days of a long time ago, Laura," Pa said.  "Go to sleep, now."

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa's fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods.  She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle.  She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.  

She thought to herself, "This is now."

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa ad Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now.  They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now.  It can never be a long time ago.

-Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods

Friday, March 7, 2014

Week in Review: Oak Meadow Kindergarten ~ Week 8

After shaking things up a bit last week, this week felt like a time of settling.  

I tried to add in a bit more structure, as I did see a change in sister when we weren't consistent with at least the circle part of our routine.  This meant we had school time every day minus the one that was chocked full of a doctor's appointment, library story time, and play rehearsal.  

Where I did try to continue letting go was in directing any project work.  In fact, one day the kids initiated this themselves with brother starting off with dot painting

before lining up the paints and lids while saying "chop choo"

and lastly, discovering that the lids could be stacked on top of each other in a colorful tower.  

Sister did some cutting work with cards from her old National Geographic Kids magazines so she could fit them into her wallet.

Later, after we'd discussed the number 4 at circle, I asked if she wanted to use the scraps from her cutting to form squares in a collage as the syllabus suggested.  She put a spin on that idea

then initiated another representation using wooden sticks (4 of them!) which she colored with (4 different colors!) after gluing them on paper.  

She also did a fabulous drawing of Aiken Drum who we sang about wearing clothes made of many different foods- I believe there is chocolate, pancakes and salad involved in his outfit here.  

The 4 is for March 4th- reversed here but later formed correctly when drawing in her lesson book.  Maybe we are getting the hang of it.  She also included the letters we have learned so far and were assigned with reviewing this week, along with G which Mommy mistakenly introduced (obviously, I wasn't overly organized at the beginning of the week).

Sister made beeswax versions of D-F to join the others:

The syllabus provided an idea for a "go fish" game where one letter would be drawn at a time then labeled which didn't seemed like it would hold sisters attention for long.  So we figured out how many cards we'd need to have 2 of each letter then she had the idea of writing out an upper and lower case to match up.  

We used them to play go fish and memory, playing a few rounds of each while brother was otherwise occupied.  Made for a great mid-day mother daughter date. 

As always, the kids were eager to learn and explore and I enjoyed watching their growing minds and skills in action.  

"Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.  Then youth will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success." - Louisa May Alcott

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Week in Review: Oak Meadow Kindergarten ~ Week 7

It's all about perspective.

The view at the start of our week was somewhat dreary, in a literal sense.

But after a week "off" from homeschooling in which so much learning still managed to occur, I was encouraged by my children's and mine innate abilities to seek out and explore new learning experiences, instructions not included.

Ultimately- win, lose, or draw, it all comes back to me as mama and the driving force behind this home education business.  I read a post at some point in the last couple of weeks reminding me that "your curriculum is not the boss of you!".  As much as I adore the curriculum we are using, I think I did feel bound to it in a way that I now recognize as an allegiance to some arbitrary force- one that doesn't call the shots in my house. 

Having freed myself from the curriculum shackles, I decided I wanted to let the kids take the lead this week and see where it took us.

Well, things looked quite a bit different with someone else in the driver's seat.  

We only officially did school time three days this week.  There were more extended and frequent periods of free play time happening that I was conscious of not interrupting knowing remembering their inherent value.

Experimenting with different sounds produced by objects pushing down on a whoopee cushion.

Intense girl to Lego-man conversations-  I can only speculate as to what exchanges were made.

Though it didn't come without effort, I put my agenda aside and tried to take on the role of bystander to their self guided learning.  

We did some great investigative work in what is usually my least preferred subject- science- on the topics of ink expelling sea creatures and Pygmy Marmosets aka the world's smallest monkeys.

By the end of the week, there were at least four projects we hadn't gotten to from this and last week, so I described them all to sister and asked what she would most like to do.  I should have known how she'd respond- by combining all the projects into one: painting with water colors, drawing the letters E and F, and cutting and gluing triangles as an expression of 3.

She donned an apron before approaching this serious work, and I sat back and marveled at her confidence and capability.

Brother followed in her footsteps with equal parts intent and focus.

Coupled with quality time spent with family and friends (including a celebration of little brother's 2nd birthday), reimmersion in some of our favorite community events, and some of the first real sunshine of the impending spring, I may have enjoyed this week more than any other on our homeschooling journey thus far.  

Recognizing the power I have to alternately release the expectations and positively shape the experience of our days gives me the feeling of being back in charge and back on top.

It's all about perspective.

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