Every month the Secular Homeschool Community website offers a curriculum give away. This month is All About Spelling. An attractive hands on companion to All About Reading, a phonics program I’m also interested in adding to our home curriculum. By sharing this info here (and other places) you can increase the number of times you are entered for the give away.
Wow, almost ten months ago I posted the conclusions I came to about what direction I wanted to go with home schooling. The Secular, literature based unit studies with hands on projects conclusion. Well, now we are moving forward with Moving Beyond the Page. I had been coming back and looking at this “boxed” curriculum several times over the previous months. It caught my attention with how aligned it was with my philosophies and approach, that the subjects are all integrated; science, social studies, math and language arts all revolve around the weekly theme. I particularly liked the book selections for the units. I liked the flexibility the curriculum presents within itself based on your child’s ability and interests. I decided it would be worth it to pay for pre-packaged organization and supplies for all projects and neatly outlined lesson plans.
When the “big box” was delivered, I figured it would take a few weeks to orient myself with the literature and methods. We would then ease into the lessons before the fall when we would have a more regular schedule. But as soon as I opened the box, Jana wanted to start right away. The parent guide is so well prepared, that just a few minutes of prep work at the the beginning of the week to make sure you have all materials on hand and read the lesson of the day ahead of time is all you need to get started. So we did.
I knew as soon as I set up the first weeks worth of lessons (each unit is set up to do one lesson a day, with five lessons per unit in the 4-5 year old package), that Jana would want to do everything in one sitting. It’s all fun for her. She requests to “do school” everyday and we have done two lessons in one sitting because she wants to see what’s next. She even wanted her school work on the 4th of July, but I convinced her that since we would be at our family picnic (42nd year and running) all day for the holiday, that it was okay to skip a day :)
It’s fun for me too, to just open and go and knowing I am equipped with the tools and have the supplies on hand for dozens of creative ways to teach and for Jana to learn without having to add to my already burgeoning craft supplies. We can easily add to or expand upon units in our own ways as well. Her library card has been getting a work out finding complementary literature.
I’m excited to see how this goes, I’m confident we have found the right fit for our family.
This week, we’re wondering how our kids think things work. Maybe giving us a glimpse into how their minds work and how they figure something out. I needed to expand on the question adding, “what makes it go?” She has some basic ideas right. I thought these were particularly fun questions which led to some impromptu lessons where Mark took the clock off the wall to show her what made the “tick tick tick” inside.
How does a clock work? it goes tick tick tick, the tick tick makes it go around
How does a train work? it goes on the choo choo track, the engine makes it go
How does an airplane fly? it flies in the skies, the arms of the plane do it
How does a boat work? paddles make it go, water makes it float, water makes it sink (a surprisingly profound answer)
How does a television work? you turn the tv on, I don’t know (she then went on to say, “we use our phone to paddle when the tv is in the water!” this was the hardest to get across what was meant, tried asking how we get pictures on the screen, …)
My daughter loves to paint. This is an understatement. I have hundreds of photos of her using different mediums: finger paints, water colors, tempura, poster paints. From different approaches: on her belly, at her easel, on a chair or at the table. With different tools: hands, fingers, brushes, sponges, toothpicks or chopsticks. And from early ages, starting at about 9 months to just today. I keep her easel set up with access to paints in spill proof cups at all times, which keep the paints fresh for the week as well, so when the mood strikes, she is ready to create! (and no, this is not disastrous, at nearly four she’s never painted anywhere inappropriate – i.e. only on paper, her hands or body.)
In a few years, I plan to put together a photo book of her early works. I think this is an excellent way to archive the mountain of childhood artwork most parents accumulate and then don’t know what to do with. I generally take a photo, even if it’s a not so great phone camera photo, of just about everything she paints or draws. This way, I have the record, but not the clutter, conveniently pre-dated. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not so heartless to throw away every precious bit of her creations, because they’re all precious to her:
“Mama? Do you remember that picture, on the blue paper, that I cut up into a puzzle? Where did it go?” “I’m sorry Jana, we don’t have those hundreds of bits of paper from three months ago around anymore.”
I have a few choice pieces that I have in an art cabinet frame that houses and displays her work in a way that it makes it so simple to occasionally slide a new “front page” piece in. I’ll write a date on the back and any comment deemed necessary so that when looking back in chronological order, they can stay that way and oh, yeah, that *is* a jelly fish she drew.
This week, the theme is questions about Dad, with an extra bonus question. Jana was genuinely upset that there weren’t anymore questions. She likes these small interviews. But, since we want them to be more spontaneous, we can’t have interviews all the time, nor do I want her to be given ideas about answers to possible future questions ahead of time. I want to see how she answers in the moment.
How old is dad? 40 -of course she gets his age correct :)
What does dad do with his friends? goes to work, calls work friends, go fishing -Dad works from home so she sees/hears him on conference calls a lot.
What does dad dream about? go fishing for a big adventure -I had to revisit this question a few times, she initially said, “I don’t know” after a few minutes I asked again and she said, “I *still* don’t know!” So I then waited a third time and prefaced it by asking her to think about what she dreams about, what I dream about and then to use her imagination to figure out what Dad would dream about.
What does dad do after you go to bed? eats and watches a movie, play with a ball -at first she said he comes down stairs and helps me clean up, which he doesn’t do, I reminded her that’s what I do and asked again what she thought Daddy did. Daddy does eat a lot at night :)
What does dad do for fun? play with me inside when it’s raining, fly tying with me, play outside, work on his computer
What is dad’s job? work, on his computer, in his shop
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Inspired by the going back to school interview, my friend Heather over at Please Sleep In and I have decided to create a weekly questionnaire linkup for our kids and for anyone who is interested in joining in on the fun. This week, the theme is questions about Mom.
What does mom do with her friends? Play all day and knitting.
What does mom dream about? The beach -my thoughts on the beach, *meh* it’s nice, but I certainly don’t dream about it.
What do I do after you go to bed? Come downstairs and clean up dinner and clean up dishes then come up to bed to snuggle me -surprisingly detailed and accurate, although there are a few hours between clean up and heading to bed.
What do I do for fun? Play with me, go to playgroup, knitting and going to birthday parties. -a number of these sound shockingly like what Jana does for fun, when I tried to get her to clarify she insisted I have fun at playgroup, don’t I?
Yeah, yeah, we’re not heading back in the traditional sense, but I saw a friend post one and thought it would be cute to see Jana’s responses. And actually, this has inspired an idea for a weekly Q&A session with our kids as a regular feature on the the blog.
What is your favorite color? Red
What is your favorite food? Waffles -this is her choice for breakfast 6 days out of seven
What is your least favorite food? Yucky Cheese -which, she loves blue cheese so I’m not sure what this constitutes
Who is your best friend? Finn and Autumn
What is your favorite song? -to which she started singing a made up song, which she does often, so I’ll say, making up songs is her favorite
What is your favorite book? A Little Prairie House: my first Little House on the Prairie books -she had a hard time deciding, so I told her to go into the other room and pick your favorite, which she chose one that has been in heavy rotation
What is your favorite thing to do with Dad? Go fishing!
What is your favorite thing to do with Mom? Play all day
What do you want to be when you grow up? You! -I am quite flattered by this one :)
What is your favorite thing you did this summer? Go to the pool -I feel bad that we didn’t make it to the pool as much this season, it just too chilly most of the summer and the water never really warmed up. So when we did go, we would be there 20-30 minutes.
What is your favorite movie? The ant movie -aka A Bug’s Life. We have a family movie night on Fridays and we’ve repeated some of the favorites. This one has been watched a few times.
What’s your favorite sport? Tennis -that is out of left field, we don’t play or watch tennis. Ever.
What is your favorite animal? Lion
What are you looking forward to about school this year? At home
Most of these are not at all surprising answers but was a fun little exercise and it will be neat to see how her answers change over time.
This is a loaded question and it invariably comes up in any conversation with fellow homeschoolers about homeschooling, “so, which curriculum are you using or going to use?”
When I say there are a lot of options out there, I mean A LOT. Where to start? Well, that is basically the point that I am at. How to sort the wheat from the chaff when I’m looking at a silo full of choices. I need to consider my daughters style of learning, will this be a good fit for how she learns? What time of day is she most receptive to learning? Although this does feel like an impossible task, it also highlights the beauty of being able to choose a curriculum and homeschooling in the first place. There is no “one size fits all” curriculum. Especially not in schools where your child is one of 20+ children trying to be taught within the same mold, at the same time and in the same time frame. This process will, with no doubt, involve trial and error, stops and starts, until we find the right fit for us.
I can tell you from my research a number of the big buzz words that describe the direction I hope to go in our future. Secular. Literature based. Unit Studies. Learning through play. That could be just one sentence. Secular literature based unit studies is an apt description, while learning through play. Many homeschoolers start their year by asking their children, “what do you want to learn about this year?” and developing an overarching theme integrating language arts, science, math, social studies, reading, writing, art for a week long theme (for early elementary) to a month or more of concentration for older students. I can follow my daughter’s lead on her interests. And if our early morning and before bed routine of her sitting down and saying, “I want to have a conversation. Let’s talk about trolleys!” (or trains, or clouds, or spiders, or what ever the topic du jour happens to be), is any indication, then we’re all in for some fun and diverse learning adventures.
We are still in early days and our days of “schooling” are not at all structured. What we do right now, we do because it works for her at 3.5 years old. I keep a bin with a number of workbooks (aka her puzzle books), some manipulatives (pattern blocks, attribute blocks, snap cubes) and a stash of paper, which is next to her little work table with the always available crayons, scissors, stickers and glue. We work in these books together when she goes to them and brings them to me. In this way, I know she is receptive, nothing is forced, and we can end up spending over an hour with solid, determined concentration.
So what is in this bin of books? So far, the favorites, as evidenced by my daughter picking them over all others include the following:
A few from the Critical Thinking Company:
She blew through a book of beginning sequencing involving cutting and pasting pictures according to a short story:
A variety of Kumon workbooks, including tracing, easy mazes and scissor skills. A few with “getting ready to read” activities. She has completed a number of these books already.
This bin has a focus on refining fine motor skills and puzzle solving. But most of our day is spent learning through play and there is nothing here that isn’t outside the ordinary for most preschoolers. We spend a lot of time outside, working in the garden, digging in the mud, playing in the sand box, swinging on swings, drawing with sidewalk chalk, blowing bubbles, catching ball or frisbee, playing chase. We read a lot through out the day and making a weekly trip to the library to get an influx of new material has been brilliant. She helps me in the kitchen when cooking and baking, scooping, measuring and stirring whenever she can. She wants to be my helper around the house, loving folding and putting away small towels and sorting everyone’s socks out to their respective drawers when I’m doing laundry. Everything is a learning opportunity.
I think we have a fun foundation of activity to build structure on to. This is a learning experience for me as well. So far, the more I research, the more excited I get about the prospect and the quieter my lingering doubts become. I can do this and do it well.
I’ve been dusting off the cobwebs out of the corners on this site. I’ve been inspired as of late to revive the blogging habit. The problem is, other social media just makes what I’ve done here too easy, it made my blog redundant. So I fell off the wagon. But I figure in the coming adventure that is home schooling, having a place to expand upon our discoveries, seeing what works or more importantly doesn’t work for us, will be good for me. I know homeschooling is not for everybody and I’m bound to encounter strong opinions on this path. But so far, in our “no formal structure” routine, it has been fun (she is only 3.5 so keeping it fun and unstructured will be the course we take for a while yet).
We are busy. Which also accounts for lack of blogging. A snap shot of our monthly calendar inspired this post. And it’s not even a complete calendar. We have our weekly community playgroup to which I coordinate on Wednesdays. Thursdays is our regular playgroup which we’ve been a part of for over two years. Then there’s our new library day on Fridays, instigated by the story time changing days and Jana getting a library card for a weekly rotation of new books. Even though the summer hasn’t been great for it, there are trips to the neighborhood pool. Loads of fishing excursions with Dad. Weekend trips to Grandma’s. Her fall gymnastics class starts at the end of the month for Mondays. *deep breath* Yes, we are busy and I have no concerns about lack of socialization on Jana’s part.
I have ideas for posts covering topics of why we’ve chosen homeschooling, first impressions of curriculum and manipulatives that I like and just trying to figure out how to “start” even though I feel every stay at home parent is a home educator. So here we go again, it will be in fits and starts getting off the ground again.
While pregnant, I kept a private journal and wrote letters to ε, in that spirit, this is a love letter to my daughter the night before her first birthday:
As I put you to bed tonight, I had a moment, a flash. I was putting a little girl to bed and thought, “how much you have changed in the 364 days since you’ve arrived.” A year ago today, this eve, you were still inside me where you were nourished and protected. As you nursed, another moment, and I saw that 8lb newborn in your face and felt how small you were in my arms. I hope you understand just how grateful I am that we have YOU.
Since you have come in to my life, time has played tricks on me. The minutes and hours of the day pass so slowly, yet, I am sat here in disbelief that a year has gone by. Or rather, it seems this journey to your first birthday started at the beginning of last year, almost two years you have been with me.
In nursing for a year now, I am still nourishing you. I never thought I would love nursing so much and am not sure when we will stop. It is a special time we have together, little games and songs, your smiling eyes and gaping grins on my skin. And that laugh! Oh, how you have that special laugh when you want or are about to have milk! It is different from your giggles and squeals of delight. It is your milk laugh!
I have spent a year with you in my arms, your soft breath in my ear. Where others complain their little ones no longer want to cuddle, I have relished every second that you and I have snuggled. You have been in my arms for just about every single one of your naps (with exception of the naps you have spent in your father’s arms). I was sad when you grew to be too big for the co-sleeper bassinet, I missed looking over and having you at arm’s reach. Now, I have no regrets that you sleep in our bed every night, even though you do take up much of the bed.
There are not sufficient words to describe my joy, my delight, my gratitude, for your mere existence. You surprise me everyday with what you can do and learn and communicate to me. I can not imagine life without you. And I never thought that I would love being a mom so much.
Tonight I put you to bed, your last night as our baby, for tomorrow is your birthday and you will be our toddler.
Goodnight my little Bunny, sweet dreams! Love, Ma-ma.
Jana had some friend’s visiting her and she managed to see quite a bit of Pittsburgh along the way.
Her first trip to the zoo on Sunday yielded a chance meeting with an elephant:
Monday was her first encounter with the dinosaurs, minerals and bug rooms and bug folk at the Natural History Museum:
We’ve been home for a few months now and it’s been a nearly seamless transition to life in the US. It may have been a different story if we didn’t have our house to come home to, full of furniture and belongings we left behind. The 3.25 years we spent abroad seems as if it were a bubble in our time line and we’ve slotted right back into place. Only now as a tiny family.
I find I have days where I don’t even open up my laptop. I’m not disconnected in any way, I have my trusty iPhone on me always. My online time allocated to nap times when I’m not joining in on the napping. Jana is not a sleeper, so I take advantage of those moments when I can steal a few winks for myself. This also has meant the majority of photos I’ve been taking and posting are camera phone shots. It’s easy, I have the phone on me always and I can instantly upload the photo or video on the spot. I do now wish for a point and shoot camera that I can instantly upload from, just so the photos are of a better quality than the generally grainy phone shots.
We’re still not fully settled in since our belongings were delivered at the end of April. We have a bottleneck for storage in our house. It’s on the long list of projects Mark is working on during this “sabbatical” from working. Once the workshop is finished, he has a kitchen to build, crib to fabricate, a dresser to finish, an attic to transform into a walk in closet (access from our room) and eventually a Lake House to build. What is to be Jana’s room is still full of boxes and an extra two beds. Our office is an impromtu clothes closet. It will be nice to have a place for everything and everything in its place when all is said and done.
Here’s where this turn’s into a “Mommy Blog” where I go on and on about this tiny being that has consumed my time and who I clad in all manner of insect related baby clothes (pictured above, a 6.5 month old Jana who has two teeth and has been sitting up on her own for a month now). As you might have inferred from above, Jana is sleeping in our room in a co-sleeper/bassinet next to my side of the bed. Her clothes are taking up half of my dresser and the top of which is her changing table. Mark has a design in mind for the crib, which she will be needing soon, being in the 90th percentile for length, she is outgrowing her current bed. My dad started the work on the dresser that will be Jana’s. It was my dresser when I was little and it belonged to my great grandmother. Under the layers of paint, my dad discovered a gorgeous mahogany piece of furniture. It will get a treatment to highlight it’s lovely qualities.
Jana continues to delight. I’ve been cooking up a storm for her as she’s started in on solids. As people who love to cook and eat, Jana will not have a bland palate from the start. Everything is new and exciting. Her first solid was an avocado. She loves her pears with ginger, her apples with cinnamon, cherries with yogurt, mangoes, blueberries; her peas with zucchini and leeks. She likes leeks in her other veggies to which I add to make them a little more savory and flavorful. I made a carrot, sweet potato, chicken curry for her (steamed carrots, sweet potato, chicken, onion and garlic, added cinnamon, ginger, coriander and cumin) which she devours (served with barley cereal and prunes on the side it’s more like a tagine and super tasty!) Today was batch of butternut squash, turkey, garlic and sage that she ate with gusto and ate a lot! I also cooked up a carrot, beef, onion, garlic and tarragon dinner which is frozen in six portions in tiny cups to try in the coming days. My freezer is full of these mini portions of fruits, veg and dinners.
I can’t say enough good things about gDiapers, both the disposable inserts and the cloth. We’ve been cloth diapering at home which complements our EC’ing efforts nicely. We go weeks without having to deal with a dirty diaper, as Jana is very good about communicating her need to use the toilet (we started this at six weeks). The EC’ing has been so easy to do, no complaints here.
Now we just need to get this baby to sleep more consistently. I’m going on well over seven months of broken sleep (I did not sleep well in the last few months of pregnancy). This has me in a “zombie mom” sleep deprived state at times. I would love to have more than 2.5 hours of sleep at a time. I feel like Robert Duval in “Apocalypse Now” where adds, “Some day, this war’s gonna end,” in the middle of some unimaginable scene. As I hallucinate in a half awake dream state that Mark can share some hilarious dialogue from if I don’t get around to posting about it, I add, “Some day, this baby’s gonna sleep.”
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” -Dr. Seuss
I know I’ve been quiet in this space lately. I’ve been enjoying life with Jana and noting that my newborn is getting big. I had her in her car seat yesterday and all I could think was how big she looks, that my new baby is not so new anymore! (She’s three months old and weighed in at 5.32kg!)
Anyway, the above quote sums up well how I’m feeling lately. Our adventure living and working abroad is coming to an end. I’ve been running the gambit of emotions. We are excited to get home and start on projects and plans we’ve been making for the long term. Our families and friends are just going to go bonkers over Jana, she is so sweet and cute. So, yes, I’m happy. But I’ve also had many wistful and even weepy moments. I was in Henley the other day and was reminded of our visit there on our first trip over to England looking for flats. We stopped in a tea house right on the Thames and had Cream Tea. It’s so picturesque it’s twee. I ended up wondering why we didn’t venture into Henley more often, it’s so close.
Although it is ending abruptly on a sour note making us both want to get back to the US as quickly as possible, we had a good run of it. We traveled to over a dozen countries and experienced so much while we were here. We both owned our dream cars. We enjoyed the company of family and friends who came to visit. We’ve both made a number of fantastic friends who we’ll miss dearly. And I ended up having an amazing job at the Natural History Museum when it was looking like I wasn’t employable.
There is plenty I’ll miss. Particularly the village life, having shops and restaurants to walk to, the footpaths right outside our door, being so close to the Thames and surrounded by fields of flowers, sheep and woodlands. We’ll miss out on the bluebells this year, it would have been sweet to have photos of Jana in them. We will be back for visits, for sure, Jana will need to see her home land.
For over three years we made England our home, we started our family here. This has been an experience of a lifetime and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Next week we leave sunny England for winter in Pittsburgh. We’re going home with incredible memories, but have a new adventure ahead of us with Jana. It’s time to start the next chapter in our lives.
I know this isn’t very exciting to all, however, amongst much cheering and excitement this morning, Jana took her first poo in the toilet! Hurray for Elimination Communication!
Her signals have been clear from the start, but now that her digestive system is a little more mature and she isn’t giving us so many dirty nappies in one day. We were able to see a couple minutes ahead of time, that yes, we should sit her over the toilet.
One less dirty nappy to flush (we’re using gDiapers, the flushable nappy). It’s a first step, here’s to future successes!
(better late than never, belated posting)
What a year we have had! Most of which dominated by one event. At the beginning of January, we decided to “pull the pin on that grenade” and go ahead and have a baby. In what seemed to be the longest pregnancy ever, starting with the twenty two weeks of nausea and vomiting, I eventually really enjoyed being pregnant. Epsilon got to be a very well traveled fetus, starting in Barcelona and making three trips to France, not too mention the day to day mundanity of flitting about England. Jana arrived two weeks late in December, a fantastic way to end the year.
I participated in making a video for an exhibit in the new Darwin Center. Capping off my tour of duty at the NHM before going on maternity leave by meeting Prince William and participating in the opening of the Darwin Center.
Jana’s arrival completely overshadowed our three year anniversary of moving to England (December 1st). This will be our fourth winter here. It still feels like we’ve only just arrived. That first walk down the footpath behind our house is so fresh in my mind. But that may be because I/we walk on it so much.
Jana is the best souvenir we could be bringing home from our time spent living here.
Jana is two weeks old today and she got to experience her first real snow! This is only the sixth day of snow we have seen in England in the four winters we have lived here. Jana is bundled up warm in the blanket Mammam (her great grandmother) knit for her and the hat I knit for her from the same bamboo yarn:
8:00 am GMT, 8.3 lbs via c-section (long story to come). She’s healthy, perfect and just beautiful!
T plus 13 days. Alright Epsilon, we either load up our packs and make the ascent on our own in the next couple of hours or we are left to take the ski lift.
2009 12 03
T plus 12 days. nope. No baby yet. Still holed up at base camp. The grandparents to be have arrived. Their original travel plans would have had them returning home today!
2009 12 02
T plus 11 days. There you go Epsilon, it’s after midnight, you are going to be a December baby. A Decemberist?
2009 12 01
T plus 10 days. After another sherpa visit, we were inching up the mountain, but progress has stalled. Will try setting a baited trap of pierogies to coerce her out.
Log addendum: It’s still November, Epsilon, we still have time to have our chance of planting our flag at the peak this month. I know base camp is cozy, but let’s go already!
2009 11 30