Okay, so if you've checked back here at all in the past five months, you know that I have been on hiatus. A lot has happened in the past five months, and I couldn't begin to explain it all, so I'll try to hit some main points and just get back into this blogging thing. I'm really going to try (TRY TRY TRY) to fit this in. I want a record of our home learning journey. I'm trying to decide if I want to separate and have more than one blog ~ one for home education, one for food and recipes and one for musings ... or, maybe I need to get a handle on ONE blog before trying to add more to my plate, lol. Well, maybe one day I'll rearrange and organize these into specific blogs. In the meantime, if I had to guess, I'd say the majority of this blog is going to be dedicated to our homeschooling journey. Hope you enjoy a peek into our days ...
So, where have I been exactly? Well, let's see. The last time I posted was in November, and between Thanksgiving and New Year's we were pretty much just enjoying the beautiful weather and holiday preparations and peaceful home life. That really is my favorite time of year, and I've officially decided that our school year will end in November of each year and pick up again in January. As I've mentioned before, it's just our family's natural rhythm. Going forward, we'll start school years in January and school til November with breaks when the weather is nice (usually March and October her in Florida) and whenever else we need them. There's just no reason to plan much school in November and December ~ the girls are excited and so is Momma! Not a lot of concentration going on.
We were scheduled to start back to school in January, but then my husband was laid off on January 7th. Needless to say, that shook everything up around here. My brain shifted instantly from school to LIFE. Life became the lesson. Other than helping my husband to look for work and update resumes and fill out online applications and things of that nature, I also couldn't concentrate on my role as teacher during that time. Not to mention him being here. If you homeshcool, you know how hard it can be when Daddy is home if you aren't used to it! It just throws off your rhythm, your routine, your schedule. And, it's FUN when Daddy is here! Who wants to break out the books when you could be at the playground with Daddy or riding bikes as a family?
So, rather than formal plans and schedules, the crew here at the Academy of Zion has been unschooling for a few months. If you're not familiar with what that is, it is the idea that we are always learning all the time. Children are naturally curious and will learn naturally if allowed the freedom to do so. An unschooling parent "strews" educational books, activities, videos, opportunities all around their children and helps their child to pursue their own interests and that child will learn a great deal from those experiences! Remember your own classes? Did you or did you not make better grades and find the work easier when it was something you were interested in? The same applies to children.
Anyway, our unschooling months looked like this.
The entire family went on a bit of a Raw Food kick and learned a lot about what was and wasn't good for our bodies. We trained our dog not to use the bathroom in the house anymore by getting on a regular schedule of walks ~ this benefited us all. It was so nice to take the entire family (Daddy included) on daily walks. Mommy and Daddy got closer, the girls got exercise, the dog got to do her business. Awesome.
Quick side note ~ I've made the executive decision to change "The Fairy"'s name on this blog to "The Hippie" because she is SOOO the definition of a hippie if you take away the use of LSD and marijuana ~ the girl IS going to change the world one day and save the planet. So, for the purpose of security on this blog, my oldest daughter will be known as the Hippie (she's 8) and my youngest daughter will be known as the Princess (she's 6). Momma and Daddy are pretty self-explanatory!
So, let's see. In the past couple of months with Daddy home, the girls have made leaps and bounds in what the public school system would call P.E. They do take a homeschool P.E. class on Fridays, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the P.E. involved in our home life activities. Both girls have learned and mastered riding their own bikes without training wheels. Both girls have become masters of the monkey bars and rings on the playground. They can do flips and the Hippie can skip bars on the monkey bars, they can hang upside down. They can do all kinds of stuff on that playground equipment that they couldn't do three months ago! I'm really thinking we need to look into some gymnastics for them now! They are so strong.
Reading and Literature
The Hippie has continued to read on a regular basis and has made leaps and bounds in her spelling and reading ability because of it! She LOVES the Little House books! She read Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek and loved them. She started Farmer Boy, but wasn't interested because it wasn't Laura. She started By the Shores of Silver Lake, but Laura was older and so she wasn't as interested. She loves to read about the times when Laura Ingalls Wilder was younger. She's also read Ramona and Beezus and Ramona and Her Mother. She is currently reading Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. It is another book about an 11 year old girl in the 1800s ~ this seems to be the Hippie's favorite at this time ~ anything historical about prairie life and young girls. She prefers it to be true, so non-fiction. My job is to keep finding quality literature about this era ~shouldn't be too hard!
The Princess has progressed in her reading abilities as well, even without specifically laid out lessons. She's been reading her Bob Books whenever the mood strikes, but what impresses me most is her ability to sound out anything you ask her to as long as it is 3 to 6 letters and follows the basic rules of phonics!
The Hippie has started writing a song ... more on that when she's finished! I'm liking the poetic sound of the lyrics already!
They've both continued to grow their vast bank of science and nature knowledge. I have a basket of probably 80 non-fiction books near the breakfast table. The topics range from the moon, solar system, geology, animals, insects, sea life, the human body all the way to life in Ancient Egypt. They both look at these books every day with their breakfast! The princess even tries to sound out some of it ~ most of them are early readers.
In addition to the book basket, we've been walking daily as I said above. We've been lucky enough to see dolphins in the river on more than one occsassion, we've observed the insects and the squirrels and noticed the leaves and brought them home and done all sorts of unstructured Nature Study. The only difference would be that in a "structured school" day for me now, I'd insist on an entry into their Nature Notebooks. One cool thing we've observed the past several days are these giant clovers the girls picked from our yard. We put them in water and they have been closing up tight each night and opening back up in the morning each day! Hmmmm
Though the girls don't watch much TV around here, when they do, they've been watching Wild Kratts and they LOVE it. It's a nature show and a cartoon all wrapped in one, so they get to learn all kinds of cool stuff while they are vegging out. Awesome ~ secret school!
Both girls have done math as a part of every day life on a pretty regular basis. When you are a homeschooling family, you make it your business to make everything educational! We're always doing little story problems, "If we have 12 carrots and we want each of us to have the same amount, how many will we each get?" (division) "If we each get 2 clementines, how many do we need?" (multiplication) "We need a 1/2 teaspoon, but it's dirty. All I have is this 1/4 tsp, how many do I use?" (fractions) ... you get the idea. This is a VERY regular thing in our home. So, while we haven't opened up math books in the past couple of months, math has still been going on. I have full confidence that the Princess is "math-minded". She is younger and seems to pick these things up even easier/quicker than her sister. The Hippie may need more practice (which we are getting back to this week and going forward), but it isn't because she isn't equally as brilliant. She just tends to make things too complicated in her head. A simple problem she thinks too much into and then gets confused. We're working on it, though. I have decided that since the younger seems to "get it" and the older seems to need more practice, they might meet in the middle so that we can do math together as a family. I am starting out that way. If I find that it is holding one back or rushing the other, I'll split them up again. We'll see how it goes.
We've also been playing lots of games, which as you know help with their math skills immensely. We've played a ton of UNO and Sorry, but I also got a set of wooden Tangrams that they've worked with some. That's really good for geometry and spatial relationships!
The Princess has gotten better and better at drawing horses simply by drawing horses all the time! When I say "all the time", I mean "all the time"! The Hippie spends all "nap/quiet times" making crafts. All kinds of stuff. Drawing, making dolls, making clothes, etc.
We do a weekly handwork with a small group of friends on Wednesdays. They have a circle time (songs, movement exercises, rhymes, etc.), snack and then work on their project. The first project was making their own wooden knitting needles out of wooden dowels. Then, they learned to cast-on and knit and cast-off. The Hippie is sooo proud of herself ~ she knitted an adorable little kitty cat! The Princess is a little young for the actual projects so far, but she joins in on the circle time and snack and then we play on the playground while the Hippie knits. The Princess has, however, learned to braid and continually braids all of her dolls and horses hair and manes and tails! The next project the Hippie will be starting (this week) is making a bag out of felted wool.
We also started sewing some doll clothes at our Friday co-op this past Friday. That sparked something major in the Hippie. She's been making a TON of little clothes for her stuffed animals since then. Both girls spent the majority of the weekend making templates, cutting out fabrics, making tiny dots on the fabric to know where to put the needle, sewing the pieces together and flipping them right side out to discover an adorable little skirt or dress for their "baby". I'm so very proud of them!
On Friday's we have our weekly homeschool co-op. They've both been taking PE since September at co-op and a science class called Swimming Creatures (obviously it is all about animals of the ocean). The first semester the Hippie did an Art Class where she made replicas of the masters while the Princess did an Elementary Civics class. This semester they've both taken another art class, Elementary Life Skills class and continuing P.E.
We have annual memberships to our local zoo and to our local museum of science and history. We've enjoyed family field trips to both in the past couple of months and the girls have had an awesome time! They learn so much when it is hands on and in person like that! Save learning the specifics for when they are older, at this age EXPERIENCING it is what matters! Luckily our museum of science and history also has a planetarium, so we got to see a show on the planets, too.
All in all, it's been a busy couple of months. The family has gotten closer and healthier. The routines were off, but the girls made serious progress academically, even in the absence of order and plans and structure. I'm proud of them and of where we are today. But, now it's time to get back to it .... Stay tuned for a sneak peek into our coming weeks of school ...