Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Learning Through the Simple Things

One of my key goals this year to teach the family how to explore and enjoy the simple things around them. I want them to learn something from every interaction, encounter and experience. I think that so much beauty in life passes us by because we don’t know how to observe and enjoy the lessons from simple things.

Miss Ant has a habit of just jumping into something without doing the research first, she likes to think she knows it all and can simply, just do anything. I have tried fighting her on this and believe me, I lose every time! So, I practiced what I was preaching and realised that I too do the same thing. Shock horror.

Now, I would like her to keep a fair amount of that attitude (after all, the kid has some definite spunk!), but I also want to teach her how to learn freely and openly. I want learning and observing (and pausing to do so!) to become second nature. I don’t want my kids to simply cruise through life and do only what’s expected of them, I want them to honestly ask the tough questions, I want them to ask why about everything, to feel emotions and I want them to explore! Simple you say? Not so. After 12 months of Miss Ant being in the public school system I saw how a child can lose all of those gifts. She stopped asking why, stopped wondering what was around the corner and she stopped caring. I am not blaming the school system, but it has forced me to take a look at what really is important in life, and that I simply can’t let us all cruise through life blindly – we need to live life consciously and we need to do it with a purpose.

Last week I had a breakthrough, one that might seem small to most but for me it was HUGE! Here's how the story goes:

I often browse through itunes, always on the hunt for music that was created by passionate and talented artists – artists that stand for something bigger than the $$$, across all genres and that are also kid-friendly….. I came across Bob Marley so downloaded ‘Buffalo Soldier’ mostly because I like it and I thought it would appeal to the kids (catchy tune, easy to sing along to etc). Now, what I do is put my music on my phone, so when we are in the car, I connect via blue-tooth and pass the phone to the kids to act as in-car DJs. The 1st time they played it they hummed along, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th times Vince hummed and Ant was quiet. Highly irregular, but yet she kept putting it on, so she obviously liked it.  Then I get,

“Mum, that’s a sad song, it’s beat and tune are happy but the words are sad. Is this song about something true? Who stole them and who made them go to war? Why would anyone do that to another human being? I think the man singing this song is very wise and very intelligent. Mum, how many people hear that song and only hear the happy beat? How many of those people never listen to the words and learn his story? ”

And from there the questions started and my 6.5yr old is on her way to understanding/learning about (albeit on a ground level) Human rights, African/American civil rights, racism, exploitation and history, as well as a whole barrage of other things that come with the territory!  And I think it's a pretty fine example that whatever I am doing, it's working!  She's asking, she's caring, she's observing.......she's Learning.

Focus and acceptance that I had something to teach her!  Miss Ant practicing her new sketching skills :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Everyday Learnings from Little Things

'It will seem difficult at first but everything is difficult at first' 
Miyomoto Musashi

Isn’t this so true! This helped me early this morning when I set off on my own with the dog for an hour walk around the local bush track and then again this morning when explaining ‘carrying the 1’ with Miss Ant over our morning Maths moment (I would call it a lesson, but it was hardly what I think qualifies as a lesson!).

One of the things we are working on this term is fine motor skills, and we all find copy work and handwriting practice a true bore-fest so we are incorporating our ‘handy work’ into our craft! We still do handwriting, every morning Miss Ant writes out her 20 spelling words for the week and looks up 3 words in her dictionary and writes them out. She also has ‘free (learning) time’ in the afternoon and often she chooses creative writing. Anyway, this week Miss Ant is making a felt butterfly (we were inspired by seeing other HE kids projects). Different coloured felt, and a few different shapes cut out to decorate the wings, needle and thread and away we go! This is the chosen blog topic this week, so I won’t talk about it too much - I will save that for her!

Vincent is also joining in :) A piece of card with holes punched out and a piece of wool and he’s away lacing up a storm! He has even moved on to weaving, and thoroughly enjoys it!

Anyway, all the materials for our crafty stuff I managed to find at home, isn’t it amazing how easy it can be to get creative and stimulate interest with just household stuff! This is quite a revelation for me, as I often think I lack in creative flow and imagination and feel that I have to rely on store bought packs to find inspiration. This goes back to the ‘too hard’ knee jerk reaction attitude I seem to have developed over time ……. Hence why the new affirmation ‘EVERYTHING is hard at first’….kind of along the lines of Nike’s ‘Just do it’ ;-)

And Yes we still occasionally use ready-to-make craft!  Here's Miss Ant with her Sand Art

Last week we did an experiment that one of my friends posted up on Facebook – boiling water over red cabbage makes a purple dye…then add drops of lemon juice….all found at home (actually the red cabbage had lived a rather long life in the bottom of my fridge…so I was pleased to do something semi practical with it!). It provided about an hour worth of question and answer time. We covered all sorts from nature, science, colours, the water cycle and many more. And this is only 1 moment out of many that we have daily. The 6 yr old asked questions and got answers at her level, and the 3 yr old listened….then asked questions for his level of understanding and interest.

This cheeky little critter on my fruit plate stimulated a big conversation!

So, I suppose the ongoing underlying theme here is that not only are my children learning from every day moments/opportunities – but so am I…….and I am not entirely sure who is learning the most!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Daily Grind ..... 1st of Many!

I wasn't going  to add posts like this, but it's unbelievable how much value I get from reading about the daily comings and goings of other Home Educating Families, so I feel compelled the name of paying-it-forward perhaps! 

Today we started out at our own pace, after a relaxed breakfast together and daily chores.  We started with the usual, spelling and dictionary work for Miss Ant and Puzzles for Vincent.  We have discovered that starting with self paced and independent work seems to get us off to a good start for the day.  Yesterday we had a craft morning at another HE family's house so they were both itching to get into 'work' today, yes crazy I know, but kids (all kids, not just mine) surprisingly love to learn! 

It was quite lovely to be able to walk away and potter around while both were happily doing their own  thing.   Something that can be taken for granted, HE isn't about 100% direction and teaching.  Neither of them even noticed me snap this picture....and how could I possibly resist, it was such a great HE example!

OOOH!  And our work books and games arrived yesterday!  Today Miss Ant started on the Enriching Mathematics #2 (her choice!) and got 50/50!!  Super proud mummy and little girl here!  Of  course there were moments where I explained things to her, or reworded the question etc but how cool is it that I can do that for her?  I still marvel at the limitless possibilities for them as they never have to continue puzzled on a topic, that I am always here to explain things to them.  It has a knock-on effect too, I am often eavesdropping on my kids and hearing Ant explain and reword things to Vincent, and not walking away until he understands.
Vincent is already getting into the Addition and Subtraction game...though I know he doesn't understand them, but the temptation to complete the little puzzles was too much for him!  I have a real puzzle crazy boy!