Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Our first Trickster Tale was that of "The Sick Lion", in which an aging lion tricks animals in his kingdom to come to him, claiming to be sickly and unable to hunt. Of course, as soon as the animals set foot in the door of his cave, he pounces upon them and eats them. Except for the clever fox, of course, who happens to notice all the footprints going in, but none coming out. Above is J's story drawing (of the fox outside of the lion's cave) and label, below is Zoo Boy's.
While I told the story, Zoo Boy nearly keeled over with all the killing that was going on, even though it was all in a very light-hearted, matter-of-fact manner. When the story ended on a clever/funny note, though, he laughed, and he had no problem relating that the animals were eaten during the recall this morning. J, on the other hand, was howling with laughter for the entire story. Certainly shows different developmental stages and personalities!
Both boys were very into the recall, quoting their favorite lines verbatim, and arguing about who got to tell the next segment. Both also avidly drew the stories (although Zoo Boy made me promise that they could do a free drawing tomorrow rather than a led-drawing -- I'm planning on switching back and forth between methods this year), but Zoo Boy burst into tears when I explained we were going to write a short sentence or statement to describe the story. We compromised, and he wrote the title on his drawing (although he refused to write on the lines provided for that purpose). I'm certain he'll come around on this, this is his usual resistance to new things, I've seen it time and again from him. The fact that he actually was able to continue with the lesson and didn't need to leave the table to recover shows his ability to better handle these sorts of things.
Below is my drawing, for comparison. I won't draw every day, just when I want to lead a drawing. (My purpose in leading today was twofold -- first, it was our first story drawing after a break, and I wanted to set the right tone, and second, I wanted to show labeling by example so they could see what I meant.)
Did anyone else notice that both of my kids drew foxes that actually look like foxes? While mine looks more like, I dunno, a Collie.... And, by the way, all these foxes are actually orange. Obviously that's not a color my camera interprets well....
Zoo Boy meanwhile completely rejected taking the one class that he signed up for (about Vertebrates -- he loved the topic, but the class had too many kids in it for his comfort level), and opted to play with some friends in the museum instead. Honestly, for him, that's more important than any classes anyway at this point, so we're just going with the flow.
Tuesday was our first day of our new morning rhythms at home. We started with a nice walk, followed by some sensory-rich fold-and-spin sequences while I sang our favorite winter song, "The North Wind Doth Blow". After snack we began our "story work", which started, as we will every day, with a reading of the poem we are learning this week:
When it came time to write something, he balked and asked me if I'd write a whole bunch of stuff for him. I told him that I couldn't write in his journal, as it's HIS journal, and he should only write what he thought was important. So he returned to his work and came up with the above.
We then moved to our story spot (which is currently my bed) and read our first trickster tale, which I'll blog about separately. They then move on to an hour or so of creative play, then lunch, rest and afternoon adventures.
It all went quite smoothly, although before we started, Zoo Boy admitted that he doesn't much like doing "the homework," as he calls it. I told him it's either this or we could think about putting him in school. His eyes got huge and he quickly agreed that "the homework" was just fine by him.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
In 2nd Grade we start working in cultural blocks, about 2 months at a time. Within each block we'll work with Language Arts, Humanities, Math and Science.
For Language Arts and Humanities, we start with Trickster tales (light, playful tales of animals who outsmart other animals) from that culture, to meet the 2nd grader's trickster energy. After that energy is met, we connect with their deeper needs by working with Sage stories, which are longer stories about the life of an important person from that culture, which take us from his/her mischievous childhood through his/her development into an adult who serves humanity. Men and women, scientists and artists, religious leaders and freedom fighters are all included in the Enki Sage collection. We'll be reading the stories in chapters, and recalling, drawing, and writing summaries for each chapter as we go along.
Then we shift on to Math, while keeping with the same cultural themes for crafts, cooking, movement, etc. I'm going to be bracketing our Language Arts block and our Math block with Nature Stories rich in sensory language about Natural Disaster Phenomena (which also mirror that 2nd grade energy) and stories that address various Language Arts rules.
I've chosen Western Europe as our first culture. Since Zoo Boy isn't completely ready for 2nd Grade (although he's close), I thought the easiest transition for him will be through a culture he's already familiar with. Also, the Sage story (which is about St. Francis of Assisi) starts with Francis as a child who plays at being a knight, which will appeal to The Boy right off the bat. We'll be spending the next two weeks reading and working with some of Aesop's Fables (the Trickster Tales of this culture), although the Enki versions of the stories do not include the "moral", but rather leaves that up to the child to discover on their own from the story.
In addition to this 2nd grade work, we'll be working on 1st grade painting stories (I'll blog about separately), learning and reciting seasonally appropriate poems, writing/drawing in journals, and using the alphabet-8s method of working on Zoo Boy's mid-line crossing problems while at the same time working on proper lower-case letter formation. Hopefully we'll be doing more woodworking projects with them, as well as a variety of culturally appropriate crafts and cooking projects.
J is participating in a lot of classes to help meet his need for a bit more contracted work, and for further social interaction with other kids, which he also craves. He's taking classes in drama, music, dance, history, the human body, and states of matter. He'll also have more books and stories to read on his own, and he'll be doing more handwriting copy-work than would be appropriate for Zoo Boy. I'm also hoping we'll have time for him to participate in more advanced type nature classes in the spring.
Looking at the long-term, my plan is to continue with a 2nd Grade structure until after Zoo Boy's 8th birthday next March, then wrap-up next year with our first 3rd grade cultural unit (which are about 3 months long).
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Fortunately, he can provide a lot of this himself. He's a very motivated "researcher", not only loving to read, but to experiment and write up his results as well (all entirely self-motivated, I need to point out -- I have not suggested or encouraged this in any way). But because of this tendency of his, it takes a lot of the burden off of me to have to provide it, and keeps it pretty much out of Zoo Boy's hands (who is nowhere near ready for that sort of thing). Classes at the CT Science Center and other museums and nature centers also fill that need in him. He just started a class about the human body yesterday (with our Monday Homeschool Classes), and during the first class they drew skeletons and labeled the major bonus -- this is right up his ally, and he raved about the class afterwards. So really all I need to do is to find some stories that mirror where he is (which would be creation type stories of the cultures that we'll be working with anyway during Zoo Boy's 2nd Grade year).
Monday, January 25, 2010
I know that we're getting close to Zoo Boy being ready for 2nd because of the things I've been seeing from him lately. Developmental things, that seem to come out of nowhere. Like his sudden interest in writing (here he is working on some sort of record book having to do with his Monsterology book). He's been picking up a pencil on his own quite a bit lately, whereas previously, he'd just avoid anything to do with writing if he could.
Spontaneous drawing is another new development. Unlike his brother, he's never been interested in doodling and drawing. But suddenly it's as likely to find him drawing as it is J. Here's a drawing of an original mythological creature that he invented.
He's also maturing in other ways. He's being more cooperative (which means he's only uncooperative most of the time rather than all the time), he's posing and smiling nicely for picture-taking (which is just plain shocking, actually), he's spending more nights in his own bed (and more time in his own bed before he eventually crawls into our bed), and his pull-ups have been dry upon waking in the mornings about 90% of the time (although he's not willing to give them up yet, and I'm certainly not pushing him!).
He still wants to be immersed in pretend play all day. This has caused a bit of strife with his brother, because J has moved on from there (again, more on him in a different post) and is not willing to play make-believe all day anymore. It's meant that I've been on the lookout for other appropriate playmates for him. Fortunately, they abound at our Monday Homeschool Classes, which started up our Winter Session today, so he'll have 4 1/2 hours of all the imaginative play he can handle every Monday pretty much for the rest of the school year. Hooray for that! Of course, he doesn't want to take any actual classes. But that's OK, for him, finding playmates definitely take priority, he's already going to be technically 1/2 year academically ahead of other kids his age. (Given that he's starting 2nd grade now, and would still be in the middle of 1st if he was in the public school system.)
Sunday, January 17, 2010
One of the primary reasons that I homeschool my children is my hope that they can avoid having to face some of the more hardening aspects of the "real world" before they are mature enough to handle the knowledge that the world isn't always sunshine and roses. Part of my responsibility in making that decision is to lay the groundwork to help them internalize the understanding of their place in the world, and the responsibility of compassionate action towards others, so that when they are faced with the hard realities of life, they can move in a positive direction to make the world community they live in a better place, rather than being dragged down by the despair that can come when a person feels that they have no power to change things.
It is my understanding that children's world views develop in a natural progression. At first, in the toddler and preschool years, children are focused solely on their self and their own needs. As they progress into Kindergarten and First Grade, they expand their self-view to include their families. Coming into second grade, they are beginning to see themselves as a part of a larger community that includes neighbors and friends in addition to their own family. As they continue through the elementary grades, their view expands, until they reach their teens, when they understand that they are part of a broader community, the world-wide community that includes all of humanity.
My children are just coming into the age where they are looking towards how they fit into their local community. Friends and families outside of our own little circle are starting to matter to them, and as a result, they are starting to pay attention to how we, their family, treat others within our community. They notice the actions we take, and they notice the actions we don't take, all the while internalizing these as the norms for our family.
At the same time, they are developmentally still in the experience of their bodies. The things that are real for them are those things that they can touch and feel. The entire homeschooling method I chose is based on this reality, making sure that the kids' content is in a format that they can process and work effectively with. There will be plenty of conceptual learning later, when they are developmentally ready for it.
Given these parameters, it's easy to see how exposing them to something like the horrors in Haiti would only serve to scare them. They would naturally bring the information provided to them into their own understanding, which would result not in empathy for the people in that situation, but in worry about the same thing happening here in their community. No amount of explanation or reassurance would prevent them from converting such an overwhelming concept into something they could relate to in their own experience. They're just not capable of more than that at this age.
Nor are they capable of understanding the very abstract concept of monetary donations. Just the concept of money (where it comes from, why it's needed, the fact that some people have more than they need and some don't have anywhere near enough, or why) is complicated enough, but add in wiring money via text messages to people who we'll never see receive it.... it's just not real to kids. Even a direct transfer of money confuses my kids. For instance, the other day I gave a man standing outside the courthouse a dollar so he could take the bus home. My kids had a million questions -- Why did he need a dollar? Why didn't he have one? Why did I give him one? No matter how many answers I gave, they still had more questions and I don't think ever did quite figure out what had transpired. Yet simple, direct donation is within their understanding, no explanation needed ("That woman was cold, so Mommy gave her a jacket.").
Sad pictures from halfway around the world will only scare young children. The man on the corner with the "Hungry, need work." sign is part of their community. He's real -- they can talk to him, shake his hand, ask his name, touch the piece of cardboard he holds over his head when it rains. Bringing him a cup of soup or an umbrella is an obvious gesture that the kids can understand. They can watch him eat a sandwich we give him; they can watch him put on a hat.
And this is how to lay the groundwork for compassionate aid in our children that will bloom and expand in the future to extend to their world community. Providing a daily example of compassion and direct giving will make helping others part of who they are and what they do. There are plenty of direct-aid services that young children can help provide. They can hand out plates and napkins at the soup kitchen, they can pack grocery bags at the food pantry, they can help deliver toys to needy families at the holidays. And most importantly, they can see their parents responding kindly to those in their community on a daily basis.
In a few years, the kids will have the understanding and development necessary to learn about need beyond our own local communities, and will be able to participate in fund-raising and other more conceptual type aid. Sadly, there will always be need somewhere, always famine to fight, always disasters to overcome. The world will always need our children; our responsibility as their parents is to raise them in a way that allows them to be capable of responding to this need.
I gave Zoo Boy a scissor-cutting workbook so he could practice one of the skills he struggles with. He's eating it up, joyfully cutting strips and patterns and chattering about how much easier it's getting to use the scissors.
J is working on a series of workbooks about various science topics that Mimi gave him for Christmas. This one is, I believe, about the human body, one of his favorite topics. He also favors one about the 50 states, with facts about each state and a different game (word searches, jumbles, crossword puzzles, etc) relating to them.
Both boys are enjoying playing around with aerodynamics, thanks to the Paper Airplane folding book I gave J. He's getting a kick out of taking his origami passion an extra step -- these folded creations can actually fly! And Zoo Boy is more than happy to act as test pilot for J's creations. Here they are discovering that the weight of scotch tape (used to mend accidental rips) alters the flying ability of a paper bi-wing plane.
And yesterday we went to see Grandpa's annual Barbershop Chorus show, which was fabulous, lots of great Barbershop Style music from the chorus and their guest award-winning Quartets. We were especially impressed with Storm Front, we got to meet and chat with them after the show, and we purchased two of their CDs for our continued listening pleasure. (One is an entire CD of acapella Beatles hits, and is just AMAZING!) They have a DVD of their show, too, and I'm sure it's every bit as entertaining as they are in person, so if anyone is looking for an appropriate musical DVD for the whole family, I'd highly recommend it!
But we'll continue to enjoy as much pajama time as possible during this last week of break!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Zoo Boy, Q and O experiment with water and measures...
...while J shoots ball through pneumatic tubes.
The boys create light pictures with their bodies. Such a great activity for exercise-starved children!
Making music together.
We had a blast! And we paid the price -- two days later Zoo Boy woke up with a stomach bug. (I'm holding my breath about the rest of us.) Ah, well, the price of visiting public exhibits during the winter months....
Monday, January 11, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Here's the kids playing tackle-sledding, which involves jumping onto a moving sled (with another sledder already on board, of course).
Making a snow angel.
Making a hay angel?!?!?!?! (Leave it to J to be different....)
Workbooks galore, courtesy of Mimi who gave each of them a big stack of things-to-keep-them-busy-when-Mom-is-otherwise-occupied. My boys actually adore doing workbooks. I always did too, when I was a kid.
And look, we actually left our property! Well, once anyway. We met friends at a children's museum. Here's J popping bubbles with sound.
And Zoo Boy taping a very energetic version of the weather.... This is his favorite thing to do at this museum, I think he wants to be a broadcaster, he LOVES being in front of a camera reading script.
What I've been up to since my adventures in Hogwarts ended mid-week. I'm preparing for our eventual departure from doing nothing, getting ready to start up our "formal" school year again at some point over the next couple of weeks. Which involves a lot of sitting around (mostly by the fire, though occasionally I spread out on the bed like this), reading. So it would probably be hard to tell this me apart from the me of the past two weeks, except that I'm more apt to pull my hair and bite my lip now than I was when I was chasing the golden snitch....