Saturday, September 29, 2012

Allowing our Children to Make Mistakes

I listened to a talk by Tiffany Earl yesterday and something she said hit home. She had a corrected a child and later saw the child buried in the couch crying and saying she was in trouble. Tiffany went to the child and asked what was wrong. When the little girl said she was in trouble, Tiffany took her on her lap and said, let me tell you something. When you are at my house it is okay to make mistakes, you are not in trouble for making them, but I will help you to learn what you should do. It is a child's job to make mistakes and then learn what is right. I will be here to help you to learn how to act one million times if you need me to. That is what my job is. I loved this thought. It is a child's job to learn right and wrong, good and bad and true and false and it is my job to help them learn by talking to them about it, role playing, laying good examples before them and offering a million opportunities to learn. There is no shame in them making a mistake and I should never make them feel guilty for it, but I should reteach and reintroduce the correct concept.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

We joined a travel club and went on our first week long family vacation, where we didn't stay with relatives=). We met up with my brother and sister in law and rented a boat. We swam in the very cold lake, visited the bay, I drove a boat for the first time. We went on several very long hikes. Milly even walked the five mile one. We had a testimony meeting in the forest, we found hidden creeks, we played games in the game room. It was a lot of fun.

Cake Decorating

Since I have an interest in cake decorating around my house. I invited a woman who owns a bakery to come teach a couple of cake decorating classes at my house. The kids loved the first one.

Nature Journaling

When the older kids were younger we went on nature walks and kept journals. Through the years we have gotten away from it, but I wanted to get back to it. When I was planning for classes I came across a mom who did classes on nature journaling. I thought borrowing someone elses enthusiasm would be a great way to kick off our nature journaling. When I called Dana I knew I would not be disappointed. Her love of introducing children to nature journaling and of art and nature itself was infectious even over the phone. I would be asking her to drive an hour and a quarter once a week for an hour and a half class. I wanted to make it worth her time, so I opened the class and got fourteen other students, so our class was up to 19. I also told one of the moms I work with and so her group started holding classes on the same day too.
The first day she brought specimens that she had collected over this last summer, discussed them in her sweet gentle voice and then gave each child the exoskeleton of an cicada to draw and notice details about it.
The second class she brought a stuffed pheasant and let the children draw it.
In addition to our class we have gone on a few nature walks and have been reading "The Burgess Animal Book for Children," and sometimes drawing or modeling the animals.
I got a few sets of good watercolor paints and Aubrey has started exploring with them, usually by using the micron pen first.
We each drew birds from a book one day. This is Brennen's-he still usually uses pencil with little color.
This is mine, so far I am loving the watercolor pencils. I can get a lot of control and the blending. I want to try the watercolors Aubrey is using soon, because the colors are so brilliant, but I love the pencils.
Logan did a pond-top view. This is not from observation as you can probably guess.
Kamron drew a nice pheasant, then he painted and felt it really did not turn out how he wanted it. I was worried he wouldn't try painting again, but he did and it was pretty good, but he likes the control of pencils better. He told me he was glad to take the class though, because he doesn't usually do art but it was helping him to use a different part of his brain and be more balanced and he felt that was important. -Love that kid.
After almost every drawing time, Seth says, I need to practice drawing a tree. He has lots of trees in his nature journal. During the second class when they were drawing the pheasant Seth drew Japanese symbols with the micron and permanent markers. (She recommends these as they make painting over it easy without the smudging of line that happens with pencils sometimes). The teacher was so sweet and took several minutes to talk to me about how good Seth's lines were and that she felt it was important for a child to draw what they felt they needed to even if it was not a nature observation. I love how she only has positive things to say and there is little comparison.
This is another of Aubrey's from last week. They studied an ostrich's egg concentrating on observing the actual color and trying to make it.
This is also Aubrey's before the good watercolors came in, you can tell the difference.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

I got the question about whether a family should finish current books they did not finish last year or if it was okay to go on to the next books. They are very concerned with their kids doing well on tests and getting scholarships. I know what it is like to try to finish a set amount of curriculum. I did that at the beginning, going into the summer etc. At this point I don't always. It does depend on the child and the class. For instance my younger children are finishing their math books from last year, but my older two are not finishing their Aleks classes-including pre-algebra for Kamron, because I felt he understood enough to move on to Algebra and I wanted him to move on with the beginning of the year. Aubrey just needed a different program and for confidence reasons needed to move on to a higher level. As far as history, art, music, PE, science, etc. these are not skills based and can be learned according to interest. If the family is interested in that time period, keep going. If it is just dragging you down, skip it. You do a lot of English programs. I might skip anything they already know, but don't skip if they don't know it. It is about increasing in knowledge, not completing the books. If moving on or mixing things up helps you to feel more excited about what you are doing then do it. It may not be the route you want to go, but sometimes having the kids use books as a jumping off place and not the controlling factor frees up students to get excited about what they are doing and connect with the material so they retain it more. From a public school perspective the rule is that students need to be introduced to 90% of the standards in each subject area. This typically means that teachers select a chapter here and there to skip and don't finish the book. It also may mean some information is taught in a quicker manner, watch a 20 minute video on the Great Wall of China, rather than read a chapter, draw a map and build it out of sugar cubes. The things you love spend more time on, because you want the kids to catch on to that love. Teach them to do the same thing, so they learn to go into depth in some areas that they want to. As far as how this would affect tests and scholarships-this does get tricky, which is why I know it is worrying you so much, but there are strategies. For instance, the kids are tested on math and English every year and you can get study guides for their weakest areas. Some teachers say focusing on middle areas actually bumps scores more, because it is easier to make a middle area strong and more likely the child will answer correctly if you take something they kind of know to become something they really know, versus taking something they don't know to only kind of knowing it. Also, as far as scholarships, many of these are given based on grades, essays and extracurricular projects and activities not tests. SAT and ACT tests are the only ones that colleges really look at and can help with scholarships (STAR will never be seen), but both of these tests need to be studied specifically, because there are things specific to these tests, for instance in the SAT kids need to know that answering wrong lowers their score more than not answering, while this is not the case with most tests. A test prep study is highly valuable for these. Also, another thing to know is that students who study Latin and Greek root words score on average 100 points higher than students who study Spanish. This does not mean-don't study Spanish (my family does), but it does mean study the most common Latin and Greek words if you want a high score on this test. I personally would not do this with a workbook-it needs to be repetitive and fun for retention. We use index cards with derivatives on the back. When I read to the kids at night I quiz them and we add a new word every few days-in this way they are up to about 70 words and even the 7 year old knows them. So to be shorter, I would pick the curriculum, because you want to, you want the kids to or the kids want to learn something. For tests, find out specifically what is on it and directly teach to the test. If anything is dragging you down, go on to something else, there is too many awesome resources out there to feel like you are stuck or you need to finish something you are not loving before moving onto something you might. Sorry, that was kind of rambly, but I hope it helps.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kids Cooking and Baking

I have an open kitchen policy at my house. This means that if anyone wants to bake or cook or experiment they are free to. This mostly looks like stirring whenever there is a chance to for the six and under set. So much so that I got rid of the hand mixer years ago as I never had the chance to use it-my kids always want to do the stirring. At successive ages the interest in the kitchen and what can be done in there increases, so this summer I taught lessons. Logan, 7, learned to pour cereal and milk for the family, make sandwiches and instant oatmeal on his own. Brennen, 9, learned to cook whatever was made throughout the summer from packages-mac 'n cheese, a gratin potatoes, jello, brownies, muffins etc., Aubrey, 12, learned to make from scratch three breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts and two breads. She also learned to use the bread maker. Because she is proficient in many basics, I taught her how to cook some meats and casseroles, to make a fruit salad, and about spices and amounts of spices. She also experimented with her own ideas a great deal. She has also made and decorated all of the birthday cakes this year, except her own. For Kamron, 14, I started with all of the packaged products like Brennen and then taught him to make three breakfasts, lunches and dinners from scratch. The result is that I now have children who can cook and make the meals two days a week, while I am gone at work or otherwise busy. So far we have not had a meal on time these days, but they are working on figuring out how to make all the food come out at the correct time.
Milly's the first birthday in the year-"my birthday is pink!"
Aubrey's tribute to Mom's love of chocolate.
Logan turns 7.
Seth, the car lover, turns 5.
Brennen's 9th.
Kamron's cake is a lego brick.

Feeding My Enthusiasm for Education

I have started my 14th year of teaching my own children and my fourth official year of mentoring others as my career. I truly love the field of education but I have found I need to keep myself fed in order not grow static and keep my enthusiasm up. This is the reason I am glad authors write more books than what is currently available. I have read almost every one I can lay my hands on in certain philosophies of education, especially Montessori, Charlotte Mason and Leadership Education. I have indulged in the artistic and storytelling books on the Waldorf method and half a dozen in several other educational theories and philosophies, besides the official work done for my credential. As the new year starts I reread sections in a few of my favorites, especially on high school as that is a new venture for our family personally this year. But I also went to the nook store and looked up educational books for free. I read through the 1910 Ohio suggested plans of study, books on introducing agriculture to 7th and 8th graders and "The Diary of Free Kindergarten," by Lileen Hardy. I am enjoying this last one immensely. It is the diary of a woman who goes to the slums of Edinburgh and begins a kindergarten, where she teaches the children to wash hands, be polite, sit down to eat a meal instead of walk around all day with their 'pieces' in hand.
She forms a mothers' guild where the rules are that they can join if they will agree to put their 'bairns' to bed at a decent hour. I am having little revelations of where Froebel's kindergarten came from and why. It was mainly to give inner city children like these an experience as much as possible like a good home. My heart goes out to a whole class of people that lived in one room tenements with three to four kids to a bed and no chance until these schools came along to see lawn, be read a picture book, or feed a pet. It makes me more grateful for my four bedroom house with wildness for a yard, but a garden tucked in the corner and cats and fishes and a doghouse built and waiting. I am grateful for the rhythms of our days and our ability to take the kids on excursions to see new things-broadening their understanding and imagination. While, during the very year, Charlotte Mason disagreed with any type of education that rested on the personality of the teacher, Lileen Hardy writes, "A kindergarten is an ideal field for a woman's self-development. In no branch of the world's work is there anything more satisfactory, or encouraging, or beautiful, or which evokes more from a woman or enables her to give more of herself. It is a school of life for women which gives true culture, and helps to make her thoughtful, original, self-reliant and patient. Personality is the great thing, and the personality of an ideal kindergartener require what, despite limitations, we are all striving for-'the soul of a wise and loving mother, the mind of an earnest woman, and the heart of a little child,'"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How do I Plan

I plan differently almost every year it seems. This year I am going to plan loosely by month with a checklist for the older kids to get done so much of each subject. I haven't planned a daily plan or even weekly in years, because I know myself well enough now that it will only last a month or two. I simply sit down with my goals for each child (I have short term and long term goals that I want for them and also, goals that they have told me at our interviews), I then look at each subject and start selecting products, classes, projects, experiences, stories, movies, tapes, field trips etc. that I think might help reach the goals in each subject area and that I think would best fit with that child. If I have selected a book I will then say about how many chapters should be accomplished each month and then I try to subtract a few to give us space, and if it is a month I know we will be crazy busy (performance months, usually) I might subtract a few more-I have to do this because I tend to want to plan the kids to death. If it is something I want to do with the kids I will put it on the kids list, because they will then hold me accountable-"You need to do a manners puppet show for me, Mom." I go through every subject and every child-this takes a good week at least. Then this year I will be creating a simple excel spreadsheet with a place for them to x off each item within the month. We did this this summer and it worked really well. My kids woke up motivated and I could not believe how easy it is to get them to do some things if they know they would be able to check it off after "Mom, can I learn to take out the garbages this week?" "Mom, I need to learn to make a new type of bread today." "Mom, can we look up how to tune pianos on youtube today?" etc. I loved it.

Monday, July 09, 2012

What we have been doing

I am in a more busy season of life and do not get to write as much as I would like. Here is a catch up of what we have been doing. It seems almost all classes etc., which is not all we do, but just what I seem to take pictures of-
Brennen has entered his first pinewood derby. Last place-he took it well.
The kids took a PE class taught by their Aunt Julie for about 8 months. It sparked an interest in several other physical fitness areas.
This isn't a marriage blog, so I'll just say I have fallen even further in love with this man this year. He's my favorite person on earth.
Aubrey moved up to young women's. The group is such a great group. The older and younger girls all get along and are so kind to each other-what good influences.
Speaking or Aubrey-she has gone through great changes this year. She has become more confident, more soft spoken, more guarded in speech, more helpful, more peaceful and such a joy to be around. She has lost her little girl giggles and has developed a desire to be productive. It is fun to see but occasionally I feel like I need to do a double take.
Aubrey developed a desire to do gymnastics this year. It is a bit pricey so I did not jump on it, so she started quizzing everyone she knew in the sport for tips and to help her. After months of this and several skills she developed I saw she was serious, so I told her if she could get to a certain spot in her math I would sign her up. She lived and breathed math for about three weeks, covering more than half the program, so we signed her up. She had to start at basic 1 and all of the kids were younger than her. This did not even phase her and I knew she was not studying this for social reason she wanted to learn it.
Science experiments on air pressure.
Aubrey was Meriweather in a musical theater. This was the largest production any of us have ever done. It was a great experience.
Army games are a given. I love that they still all love to match.
Nanny helped prep Brennen's family history presentation he gave for scouts. I learned a lot too.
Yes, some of us hike in tutus.
Hammocks on the stairs. I'm not sure my Mom would have allowed this, and I occasionally question why I do.
One of Aubrey's hands on lessons with the younger boys.
This hike was so cute. The kids found a pole and Kamron got them all to hang on to it as he told them why they needed to hang on to the iron rod and then they sang the song.
Hands on math.
Yes, that is the same boy shirtless again. This was at one of our extended family home evenings, which happen on Sundays a couple times a month. Uncle Steve led the lesson.
Aubrey doing walkovers in the Western Festival parade which goes right past Nanny's and Pappa's house and is an annual tradition.
Logan and Brennen's piano recital. They both played perfectly and sang very well. Logan created his own variation on a song he learned, because he wanted to play with two hands the whole time.
Kamron performed as Prince Aragon in the Merchant of Venice. This is the local LDS homeschool group. He loves this group.
This picture of my husband makes me laugh and especially because what he was doing so mismatch what he was looking like at the moment. He was asking me if I wanted to go square dancing with him. I love this guy so much- I'm so blessed.
We were at family day at Brennen's twilight camp. We watched part of a reptile show and then they asked who wanted to hold a boa constrictor Aubrey nearly leapt out of her chair. My kids are so much braver than I.
We studied crystals and learned to use a microscope. This mama is thankful for kits.
Bike day for scouts. Logan mastered the two wheeler this month.
Brennen loved all the projects and activities at Twilight Camp. It was held at the middle school I went to twenty years ago-it seemed so much bigger back then.
Aubrey advanced to level two in gymnastics.
Aubrey and I took riding lessons-so fun. I feel like I got my seat back and she is no longer scared to canter. It was a lot of fun to do together.
She learned to catch, wash, brush, pick hooves, saddle, mount, post, dismount-really a lot of fun. Didn't help my desire to move to the country diminish though.
Kamron attended the Sacramento stay-at-home EFY. He had such an awesome time and grew a great deal. All the guys in his group picked flowers for all the girls in their group. He got to dance with several of them also. I am not sure I am entirely ready for this.
Origami class.
Milly took a kindermusik class. She was so excited to have her own class she fairly skipped around in circles with a huge grin on her face the whole beginning. She loved dancing with a flashlight and with scarves. She listens to her CD at home and tells others about her class. It is very cute.