So, we began last time with "where we started," an introduction to our homeschool style and curriculum plans for this year. We're 3 months into the school year. Naturally, there's a lot to say! I'll aim to touch on one important thought from each month, to keep from writing a novel.
We started off the school year with a math block, which means focusing on math for one month, while still doing our other weekly studies.
Woohoo (for real)! The three of us (Liam, Aria and I) took right to the 2nd grade Math-U-See program, called Beta. We began our math time by watching a 5 minute lesson via DVD. Then, Aria demonstrated her understanding with some manipulatives (aka math blocks) and I set her up with 1 worksheet and 1 review sheet for said math lesson.
Only, a weird tension arose. Aria loved, loved, loved doing Math. Loved learning the concepts from the video and was proud to demonstrate understanding to me, but fell to complaining about the necessity of doing worksheets.
Hmm... mommy thinks, child needs to "buckle down" and do the work. Child continues to complain.
Aria also blew through the lessons. I started letting her do more than 1 a day, because the concepts seemed so easy for her. I figured she might be complaining because she needed more of challenge. More information/lessons = more challenge? Mama wonders. By the end of the August block, she'd completed half of the 2nd grade program.
|Susan, photo by Aria|
At this point I decided that we'd finish Math-U-See Beta and then go on to Singapore Math, a reportedly rigorous math program originating with the country of Singapore, whose students enjoy high scores on international tests. I bought Singapore Math 2b and 3a off Ebay, just so I'd be ready.
This October, during our 2nd math block, Aria did finish Math-U-See Beta. I had wondered if the lessons would get harder for her as we progressed through the book, but they really didn't. We both have mixed feelings about moving on to Singapore Math when our next math block comes up in January. We've so enjoyed the DVD instructor, who really has a gift for teaching. So, basically, I'm going to have to "buckle down" myself and work harder to teach Aria math under Singapore, instead of sitting back and listening to a DVD. I hope that in the process I meet her needs better and continue to fan the flames of her math love.
Because we all know that math love is a special, fragile thing ;)
Meanwhile, Liam... he's learning too. We've practiced high counting, writing numbers and the like. And, actually, he gets the most practice with numbers when using the microwave. No joke. Just as with Aria, we'll save formal addition and subtraction for first grade. I'm confident that his mind is quite math-friendly.
Speaking of math-friendly, board games are where it's at. During our beach trip in September, Liam and Aria learned how to play the simplest version of Settlers of Catan. If you know the game, you're impressed, right? It's a complicated game for sure, a current favorite of Brandon and I. And, just last night I was playing Mancala with Liam, which they got for Christmas last year. Games, stories, art and real life are the stuff of a perfect kindergarten!
The hardest part of homeschool for me and the one that takes the most preparation is telling an Elsa and Peter story to the children once a week. Elsa and Peter are a sister and brother that mirror Aria and Liam. I make up stories about them that correspond to virtues I hope to bring into focus. For two weeks we'll be working on respect, for example, and then go on to honesty, perhaps. Right now we're discussing repentance. In the course of time I might tell 2-3 stories in which Elsa and Peter interact with their friends and family in ways that model both failure and success with the focus character trait.
Oh, they do get soooo disappointed when Elsa and Peter make poor choices! I tell you, this is the #1 way I've been able to bring home the truth to my children. You know they say that lecturing never works. That's definitely the case for Liam. When I'm explaining (as briefly as possible) why what he did was wrong and how it makes others feel, he's obviously thinking of something else because as soon as I pause he asks me some question like "What can I have for snack?" that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
|watching the painters|
Remembering how helpful Elsa and Peter stories were for Aria when she was a youngster, I've committed to doing them again this year and choosing focus virtues that I feel Liam most needs. This is a Waldorf thing, or at least that's where I learned it. Making up a story myself and tailoring it to my children - their world, their challenges, their personalities even - creates a story that's quite alive and powerful. A story is something a child will hear. They take it right in and we talk about it later. I've seen the story seeds grow in Liam already as he makes remarks that show he's applying them to real life.
And that's why homeschooling is awesome! Haha, I had to say it.
In September we did a science and math block, studying ancient peoples, archeology and dinosaurs. So, we started with hunters and gatherers, cave people and moved onto the earliest civilizations.
This was so not textbook fashion.
Instead, we were pulling from lots of great picture books, The Usborne Book of World History and even books at Aria's level that she read aloud to Liam and I. We'd sit down and read a little from this book and a little from that going sequentially and stopping often to discuss or make connections. The kids always wanted more, except for the read-alouds. Aria didn't like having to put her reading on display.
Overall, it was a good block. I wanted to go to a dinosaur museum, but we couldn't find one near bye. (Though we did enjoy a field trip to a planetarium with Aria's homeschool co-op class, which is studying astronomy.) Still, the block didn't "click" like I'd hoped it would. The kids were not 100% invested in learning about ancient people and dinosaurs now that mom was suddenly interested in reading these books (which I had purchased early summer when homeschool planning and mostly set aside for "when it was time"). They were interested, mind you, but not invested. There's a difference.
So, in October (a math block month) it was very good timing for me to pick up Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert (which was actually recommended by a helpful reader!). I guess you could say that this book helped me realize what "invested" would look like. It would be when my kids are not just learning about the subject "for school" but because they want to. And so, they aren't just consuming information, they're asking questions, searching for more info, making plans and basically becoming an expert of their own initiative.
This is what I do as a sewist. I get a vision of something I want to make, and I go find out when, where, why and how. Then I try it, try again and hopefully succeed in making something I'm proud of. I own the project. And, in fact, this same trajectory is vital to many, many jobs.
Project-based homeschooling is setting aside time to mentor your children in discovering and implementing this trajectory. The goal is to teach them how to learn (the what being somewhat beside the point). You hope they learn to: set goals, develop questions, find solutions, pinpoint materials needed, break big projects down into small segments, persevere, keep up momentum, finish and, finally, evaluate their work. Ideally they don't just learn about something, they produce something creative to share with others.
Are you sold?
Ok, if you've done any research into homeschooling styles, you'll notice that project-based homeschooling sounds a lot like unschooling. True. But, after reading Lori's book, I'd say there are differences. One of the main differences is that Lori doesn't propose that all of a child's education must be project-based. Instead, she gracefully suggests that a parent make some time for such work. And, she gives lots of suggestions on how to mentor.
I decided to throw out my plans to study Egypt and architecture in November. Are the kids particularly interested in Egypt right now? Nope. Heck, neither is mama. How much better to cover history and science by picking up something near and dear to Aria and Liam. So, that's what we're doing right now! I'll be back to report on our adventure with project-based homeschooling in the next Homeschool Chronicle.
Until then, wish us luck! And also, be sure to share any questions or suggestions. I really enjoy hearing from you. Because, as you can see, our homeschool is certainly a work-in-progress!