Homeschool Halloween

We had a great morning at our homeschool group's Halloween Party. It was great to see the kids interacting and having fun and such a treat to talk to other homeschooling moms. I always feel so invigorated after these gatherings!!

Always Learning

Now that I look at the world through homeschooling glasses, I see that we're always learning, including me! I read a great homeschool mom's blog and got some great insights about childhood learning and what to expect with homeschooling.

One of the things that resonated with me was her idea that we should never tell a child how to use a toy, and, on a related note, try not to color or paint on their picture. It makes sense. This can impede their imagination and make them hesitant to try new things without seeking parental approval. She also got me thinking about some great preschool homeschooling ideas, and so yesterday M was fully immersed in making and playing with homemade dough....why didn't I think of this before?!

Halloween Crafts

Yesterday's Discovery Table contents included paper bags for "puppets," colored pencils, assorted stickers and crayons. Today's table, which was more highly regarded, included these printouts of Halloween pumpkins. I cut-out the eyes, noses and mouths and then M sorted through them and glued them onto the pumpkins. I'm very impressed by her ability to spot the correct size shape and to know if one is too big or too small for the pumpkin. Tomorrow's table is Play-Doh.

Discovery Table

I decided that I really want to limit television in our house, particularly where M is using the computer so much more. But I needed something to entertain her first thing in the morning when she's ready to hit the ground running and I'm not. So, I came up with the "Discovery Table." Each night I set-up the kitchen table with a tablecloth and various craft items. For example, yesterday's selection included three paper plates with pink triangle cut-outs in one, purple square cut-outs in another, and yellow squiggly cut-outs in the third. I also had markers and glue and tape available and some construction paper. M was ecstatic this morning when she saw the table and it happily-- and beneficially-- occupied her for over an hour this morning while I prepared for the day. Tonight's table is prepared with 4 paper bags, a pack of colored pencils, several types of stickers, some Post-It Notes, tape and crayons. I think we'll make puppets tomorrow morning.

I also wanted to add that just today, M started to express interest in the actual words in her books, pointing to them and saying "what's this word?" It's fun to see how reading-readiness begins.

Finally, I LOVE this quote from a homeschooling mom that is included in Holt's book, Teach Your Own. I read it to my husband and he agreed that it captures the very essence of why we want to homeschool:

"My rewards were beyond measure. No yellow monster took my favorite friends away every morning; when they were exposed to a new vocabulary word I could use it pertinently in everyday happenings; if we wanted to know molecular theory we could work from 9 am to 4 pm till it clicked; everything they were exposed to in Calvert Curriculum was learned by all; they spent early evenings putting on operas they made up, shows for Dad's pleasure were presented, sometimes taking three days just to prepare the staging. We read books, books, and books till 1 am, and no one had to be up at 6:30 for the monster." (p. 111)

"I Took His Hand and Followed"

I Took His Hand and Followed
Mrs. Roy L. Peifer

My dishes went unwashed today,

I didn't make the bed,

I took his hand and followed

Where his eager footsteps led.

Oh yes, we went adventuring,

My little son and I...

Exploring all the great outdoors

Beneath the summer sky

We waded in a crystal stream,

We wandered through a wood...

My kitchen wasn't swept today

But life was gay and good.

We found a cool, sun-dappled glade

And now my small son knows

How Mother Bunny hides her nest,

Where jack-in-the-pulpit grows.

We watched a robin feed her young,

We climbed a sunlit hill...

Saw cloud-sheep scamper through the sky,

We plucked a daffodil.

That my house was neglected,

That I didn't brush the stairs,

In twenty years, no one on earth

Will know, or even care.

But that I've helped my little boy

To noble manhood grow,

In twenty years, the whole wide world

May look and see and know.

More Rewarding Parenting

My new focus on homeschooling and "purposeful parenting" is so much more rewarding and enjoyable -- and tiring! -- than preparatory parenting. I look at each day, each activity as a learning opportunity for the kids, even if it's unstructured. Tuesday was a busy day for us with music in the morning followed by our playdate. After some downtime, we played a new game I made up called "story basket" where M fills her little basket with objects and together we make up a story about them. After that, we walked to the Farmer's Market. The Farmer's Market is so much fun for her-- and me! M took her pocketbook, selected a zucchini and some other fruits and veggies and gave the clerk the quarters I had given her in her pocketbook. It was really cute. Then we sat in the chairs by the market and ate a snack and enjoyed some leisure time until our friends called to meet us at the library park.

Holt's Instead of Education

I am currently reading one of John Holt's classics, Instead of Education, which he wrote in the 1970s and which advocates, as he puts it, not for alternative schools but for alternatives to school, like unschooling. I really like this quote, which I think is interesting when applied to our city's "controlled choice" public school model:

"After all, if the government told convicted criminals they could choose which prison they would go to, the prisons might in time become slightly better. But they would still be prisons."

I often think about what we'll do if/when the kids ask to go to school. Part of me thinks that our learning philosophy is child-centered so we should follow their desires, but the other, stronger part of me feels that we are the parents and we decide what's best for our kids. After all, kids also ask to eat extra cupcakes, stay up late, go outside without a jacket in freezing weather, etc. and we don't give in to those desires so why should schooling be any different. At least that's how I feel now.

Here's a great quote about the subject from a homeschooling mom's blog:

"Parents check out schools and decide which school and maybe even which teacher is best suited for their child. But, when it comes to homeschooling, society seems to think we should ask our little ones what they want to do. That's entirely too much pressure for the kid, and it also sets the parent up for a lifetime of the child calling the shots. Children are quite comfortable with parents making the grown up decisions, and there's a security in thinking your parent is taking care of things when you're young."

What I Look Forward To!

Like the epiphany I had when we canceled our plans for a traditional wedding in favor of an elopement, I feel so liberated and relieved by our decision to homeschool.

Here are just some of the things that I am excited about, in no particular order:

- Witnessing "real" learning taking place and instilling a lifelong love of learning and discovery in our kids.
- Observing our kids' interests evolve and cultivating opportunities to pursue those interests.
- Being part of a homeschool community with parents who genuinely like being with their kids.
- Letting our kids get some real sleep and not be woken by alarms at ungodly hours to trek out into all kinds of weather in order to meet a morning bell.
- Watching our kids find little nooks in which to curl up with their books or crafts.
- Reading books with our kids that I never read, like Jane Austen and others.
- Giving our kids hugs and kisses whenever I want.
- Gathering around the kitchen table (or elsewhere) for learning time.
- Taking a week off at random times throughout the year when it's convenient for Daddy's busy work schedule or when we just need a break.
- Working our learning schedules around Daddy's hectic schedule -- and the varied schedules of our kids.
- Diving in to a "curriculum" that uses field trips as a fundamental and frequent learning tool and not as a once-a-year treat.
- Exploring the museums, zoos, parks, libraries, and other cultural and educational venues in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week instead of fighting weekend crowds.
- Delving into periodic learning themes, like Ancient Greece, or Russian Literature, or early-19th century architecture.
- Making connections with community "teachers," like our librarians, museum staff members, and various instructors.
- Spending lots of time with my kids doing what they love and learning from it.
- Enjoying a gorgeous September Tuesday at our lakehouse.

GREAT Homeschool Article

I just found this recent article about a homeschooling family in Brooklyn and their reasons for and satisfaction with homeschooling seem very much in line with ours.

There is also this often-quoted, humorous article about homeschooling.

Conservatives & Liberals

It's funny how homeschooling crosses the political gambit, with ultra liberals and ultra conservatives practicing it. Very rarely would southern evangelicals and urban liberals agree on anything....

Focus on Family

I love this quote from Dumbing Us Down and couldn't agree more:

"A surprising number of otherwise sensible people find it hard to see why the scope and reach of our formal schooling networks should not be increased (by extending the school day or year, for instance) in order to provide an economical solution to the problems posed by the decay of the American family....I thought I'd tell you why, from a schoolteacher's perspective, we shouldn't be thinking of more school, but of less."