As I’ve mentioned briefly in the past, we use a unique blend of materials and methods suited to our lifestyle of learning. It is largely literature-based, a little Montessori, a little unschoolish, a little unit-study, a little classics based (Thomas Jefferson/Well-Trained Mind), a little Charlotte Mason… We basically go with the flow.
I encourage the children to ask questions and investigate their natural curiosities. When they express an interest in something, I plan hands-on lessons, activities and excursions to provide avenues for them to explore and learn. We frequently create lapbooks for each of these explorations. Thus far, we’ve created lapbooks for Ancient China, The Iditarod, Song Birds, Ballet, The American Flag, and Maple Sugaring.
Sweetie will frequently ask to do schoolwork and pull down workbooks that we’ve purchased at Barnes & Noble or local teacher supply stores. She generally works through them independently, particularly the math books as this is her strength. When she selects a language arts workbook, she will ask me to sit with her. I’ll read the directions and help her to work through each page. Her phonetic skills are improving and she needs my assistance less and less.
On occasion (and according to the schedule I created to help maintain my sanity), I will ask if they would like to listen to a story. Either from Story of the World, books that relate to our focus in history or science, or an everybody book just for fun. In the evening, after they have brushed their teeth and changed into PJs, I read to them from a chapter book. They are loving Laura Ingalls’ Little House series right now (we’ve read both Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie) – they wanted to read the third, Farmer Boy, but I encouraged them to take a break as I wanted to read My Side of the Mountain.
One of the greatest things about homeschooling is knowing exactly what your children have been exposed to… particularly in books. When things come up as we are out and about, I am able to tie the experience back to a book we have read, helping them to connect the pieces of random information they have collected in their minds. Case in point…. The kids and I were at Safeway the other day and Sweetie picked up a package of tiny flint pieces near the cigarette lighters. “What are these?” she asked.
I replied, “Remember in the book were reading, My Side of the Mountain, Sam uses a piece of flint and steel to start fire. I further explained that these were pieces of flint I assumed to be used to replace the flint worn down inside a lighter. I am not certain, but I postulated that the components within a lighter consist of a tiny piece of flint and a when you move the ball with your thumb, a tiny piece of steel strikes the flint resulting in a spark. This spark in turn ignites the gas and behold, you have flame. When we go camping in a few weeks, I ask my dad to show them how to use flint and steel to start a fire.
I take advantage of every teachable moment that comes along. We lead a weekly nature walk at our local natural history museum. As the kids have become more comfortable with these walks, I have assigned each one a plant that they are responsible for teaching to the visitor. When we come to the Manzanita along the path, we’ll stop and I will turn to Buddy asking him the name of ‘his’ plant. He zealously calls out, “Manzanita!” I’ll then say, “Manzanita is Spanish for….” and I pause as turn back to Buddy. He shouts out again, “Little apples!” The visitors chuckle. His ‘speech’ is short. As he grows and learns more… he’ll be expected to share more.
Sweetie claimed the Ponderosa Pine. When we arrive at the Ponderosa, one of the first things she likes to share is that it smells of Vanilla when you put your nose up close in the crevices of the bark. She also points out that it has 3 long needles in a bundle and that it has very thick bark (she holds up a tree cookie) that protects it from forest fire. As she speaks, I remind her to look at her audience and speak loud enough for everyone to hear her. Public Speaking! She is getting pretty good at it but is still rather quiet.
We’ve recently started listening to audio books while we’re driving about town on errands. We are currently listening to The Last Dragon by Silvana de Mari. Sweetie picked it out at the library – she loves fantasy stuff! 😀 At dinner last night, I asked her to narrate what she could recall from the chapters we’d listened to thus far (Charlotte Mason in action!). It is also a great way to share with DH what we’re reading about… what we’re learning.
The past couple of weeks have been pretty laid back, however. I finished up the required elements for an art class I took (Art for Teachers) to renew my teaching license. I’ve thus been preoccupied and honestly, quite stressed. I spent many hours trying to develop a curriculum that would not only meet the course requirements but would also be usable in our homeschool. This turned out to be a waste of time but I did manage to find and review a number of great lesson plans and art activities.
We visited a new dojo and Sweetie is very excited to begin her training in Taekwondo. On Saturday, we saw Kung Fu Panda as a family and of course, she loved it (DH too)! We’ve both been singing the theme song all week! We have even had a few discussions over the week about the secret of the Dragon Master… that everything you need is within you, you only need to believe in yourself.