Nothing says fall fun as much as some good, old-fashioned leaf-jumping! At our weekly nature walk, the facilitator brought plenty of rakes and the kids helped to create big piles of colorful leaves for jumping and burying. The kids had a blast! And then the facilitator, who always has very creative ideas, had the kids tape leaves on themselves and the grown-ups to pretend we were trees. I really want to try to think up more creative ways like these to use natural elements, like leaves and acorns, to inform our learning and make the most of each season....
Writing alphabet letters well seems to be a primary focus of preschool and kindergarten curriculum, but I have found that not focusing on this skill too much has actually made it easier and more enjoyable for M to learn.
While I may occasionally print a worksheet with letters for M to trace, that is very rare and only if she seems to want to. Most of the time, we just write letters as part of our craft activities. Like yesterday, for example, we were drawing and coloring on the picnic table and M decided that she wanted to write the names of all the new babies that have recently been born to friends and neighbors. So I told her how to spell their names, and she wrote the letters really well. I find this whole process fascinating because I have never explicitly worked on letter writing with her and yet, like most things with homeschooling, if she's interested in learning something and it's not arbitrary or arduous, she'll gravitate toward integrating the skill into her day.
Many homeschoolers-- particularly unschoolers-- talk about the need to trust in kids' natural curiosity and eagerness to learn and advise against unnecessary timetables to determine competency. I am beginning to observe this amazing process more freqently and it certainly makes me more willing to let my kids dictate their learning and not be at all concerned about a learning "timetable."
Homeschoolers frequently talk about using "kitchen math" as the foundation for teaching math and helping their kids to easily understand abstract mathematical concepts. I am beginning to see this in action! With all of our baking lately, it's easy to see how the reinforcement about measurements and fractions is helping M to become naturally more interested and adept in these areas.
For instance, we've been baking homemade french toast a lot lately and the recipe calls for cutting whole wheat English muffins into quarters. M has been watching me cut the muffins and then I let her play with one of them so that she sees how they fit together and what 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 looks like.
Well, yesterday at the playground, she and some other kids her age were making "apple pie" in the sandbox. When the pie came out of the oven, M said, "Ok now we have to cut it into quarters!" And she proceeded to cut two intersecting lines into the bucket to create quarters and then scoop them out for each kid!
So, I'm definitely seeing how kitchen math really works! And here's a good website with links for various kitchen math activities for homeschoolers.
Auntie visited today so of course she had all sorts of fun crafts for M! They made little ghosts out of an old, cut-up t-shirt and some string, and then had lots of fun with black and orange felt to create pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns. (And Auntie bought me my very own hot glue gun so that I can continue to push myself to improve in the craft area!)
It was also such a lovely fall day that they were able to spend their craft time outside and we were able to get about 5+ hours of pure outside air time today, including outside dinner which we've been doing more often than not on the picnic table in our building's backyard. I just love having so much fresh air time, and as dusk is creeping earlier and earlier these days, it's making me shudder to think about how much inside time is just around the corner!
Also, continuing on my seemingly weekly praise for our local museums, on Monday M asked me out of nowhere, "Mom, how many people are on the Earth?" Not a bad question for a not-yet-four-year-old! I answered 6 billion, but then the next day at the museum we happened upon an exhibit that keeps the current running tally of the world population-- 7.7 billion. What a neat way, though, to again weave real-life questions and curiosity into our daily educational discoveries.
This weekend, some friends and I saw the new, highly-acclaimed Davis Guggenheim documentary, "Waiting for Superman," about the crisis in American public education. It was disturbing, inspiring, informative and sad. When you see images of disadvantaged six-year-olds whose future truly hinges on a slim chance at a lottery win into a high-performing public charter school, it conjures so much anger and frustration.
Since reading more about the Waldorf philosophy of daily rhythms, I have been pleasantly surprised to see how well they're working in our home. As I mentioned in an earlier post, rhythms, as defined by Waldorf, are not schedules but rather patterns that seem to naturally occur in each household's day, week, month, year.
Waldorf also reinforces the importance of daily rhythms having a predictable pattern of stimulating, high-energy periods, followed by calmer, quieter periods so that children can adequately absorb the day's stimulation and reconnect with their own individuality and imagination. For my high-energy preschooler, our quiet play time in the middle of the day has been magical to watch. She creates elaborate play scenarios with lots of imaginative talking and planning. And lately she's been quietly reading her "Dick and Jane" books to herself. After about an hour of quiet play, I can tell that she has absorbed our busy morning's activities and is re-energized for our afternoon.
The only glitch I seem to have run into with quiet play time is that it fails miserably when Daddy or another fun guest is with us!
I really think "homeschooling" is a complete misnomer, especially for city homeschoolers. The majority of our week is definitely spent outside of our home, so "outschooling" is a much more appropriate term for our learning.
I continue to be amazed at the array of community learning resources available to us in the city. At the museum this morning, we watched a wonderful live animal exhibit and I learned that these presentations occur daily now that it's fall. Taking advantage of these presentations will most certainly become a bigger part of our weekly schedule, especially now that M is old enough to appreciate them and J can be easily distracted (at least for a bit) with my cell phone. Today's animal was the American Kestrel and after the 30 minute talk, during snack, M and I talked about what she learned and gleaned from the presentation, which was happily more than I expected.
And this again reinforces a wonderful element of city homeschooling: that we often need to simply be facilitators of our children's learning, guiding them to educational resources, while various subject-matter experts and community instructors do the teaching. What better way to instill in our kids a love of learning and discovery than to expose them to so many experts who are passionate about their subjects!