Three Things

1. School Has Begun

First Day PixParadoxically, this has given me more knitting time. Homeschooling four different grades, plus teaching preschool and toddler wrangling and caring for a newborn, requires a pretty tight schedule if I am going to have any free time for my hobbies (and it does help with keeping me sane). Then there is the fact that everyone loves school. We have so much fun doing crafts, learning to read, studying exciting events in history, and conducting science experiments. It is exhausting but oh, so satisfying. (For those who would ask, our schooling is a blend of unschooling where we can, Charlotte Mason because it is fun and interesting (amblesideonline.org specifically), with Making Math Meaningful and Hooked on Phonics to teach the basics.

2. Knitting has happened

IMGP0127Not a whole lot of knitting, mind you, but just enough that I can show off a new finished project (and the baby. I never miss an opportunity to show off the baby!).

IMGP0101This cute little hat was a test knit that I did for perfectdisplay on Ravelry. There is no pattern, yet, but I will update my Ravelry project page when there is. Working with this yarn (Cascade Yarns Epiphany) was a heavenly experience, which came as no surprise seeing as it is spun from alpaca, silk, and cashmere. And the buttons! Oh, the buttons! Tessa Ann makes the most adorable buttons and these are no exception. 

3. A very little bit of spinning has happened as well.

IMGP9986And by “very little bit”, I mean a very little bit. This is the sample I made before I committed all 5 ounces of my muga silk to the wheel.  (This braid was a gift, purchased from Lucky Cat Crafts on Etsy.)

IMGP9960Talk about heavenly! This stuff is amazing and spins up into a gorgeous laceweight. It wants to be threadlike thin so it will be two ply. And when I said it is spinning up slowly, I was thinking of the fact that, though I started it weeks ago, I have yet to spin even half of it. 

Spinning is the hardest thing to do right now. My spinning time is at the end of the day after all of my little ankle biters are asleep in their beds. But, these days, despite my best intentions, I only have enough energy in the evenings for a little Netflix watching (currently we are enjoying old episodes of Lie to Me) and then to bed I go, falling asleep before my head hits the pillow! So, some nights I spin for an hour or so, but most nights I satisfy myself with dreaming of spinning, which is the next best thing, despite the fact that I have nothing to show for it in the morning!

 

 

 

 

 

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Mama is a What?

Season passes to the zoo are wonderful things. We can pick up some In-and-Out and then go watch the giraffes for an hour while The Fraggle pushes her stroller around in circles and into passers-by. Going to the zoo for an hour or two is much more doable than spending an entire day trudging around in the hot sun trying to see everything and get our moneys worth. As it was, two hours did me in and this old pregnant body reminded me of it for days. But we had fun, and that has been in short supply since the pregnancy began, so at least I went to bed that night feeling like a good mom for the first time in a few months. 

So, there we were, looking for a parking spot so that we could spend a couple hours at the zoo. I always drive right up to the entrance first, you know, because there might be a space waiting for me right by the gate. It happens. This time, however, it didn’t.

“I don’t know why I always do that,” I remarked to the kids. “I always think there will be a spot open this close. I guess I am just an optimist.”

After a brief pause, The Munchkin piped up from the back seat, “Mama! You’re not a octopus!”

And that is why everyone should have kids. They keep you smiling.

IMGP8488

The Wisdom of Mrs. Jo

Each evening we all sit down together and read a chapter of some book. Currently we are a few chapters from completing “Little Men” by Louisa May Alcott, and we are loving every chapter.

Some books that we read are educational, some uplifting, some humerous. This one is inspirational… at least it is for me.

Mrs Jo Bhaer and her husband, Fritz, run a boarding school for boys and the book chronicles the antics and adventures that occur where a group of rowdy yet well meaning boys (and a couple of girls) reside. I love how Mrs. Jo responds to the situations that arise. I love her creativity in discipline, her sense of humor, and her kindness. But what I find most inspiring is her approach to schooling.

The book doesn’t go into it too much, as a run down of the boys’ curriculum would be dry reading indeed, but the glimpses are inspired. Take the chapter that we read last night, for example, entitled “Compositions”. Each child was called upon to report on something that they had observed during the week. One boy had forgotten to prepare and read a letter that he had written to his grandmother, one child had observed moles and reported on what he could remember, and one boy had caught a small owl and shared all that he had learned about it. Each child was encouraged at his/her own level, whether that was to write notes or just recite from memory, and the atmosphere was one of laughter, acceptance, and fun. In a time before TV this was a highlight of their week, a time to learn, laugh, and be together, sharing with each other the richness that they had observed in the world around them.

So, in the spirit of Mrs. Jo, I sent all of my kids outside this morning on a mission. Find something interesting. Watch it, touch it, learn about it. Later today I will help them write out what they observed. Maybe the older ones will get online and expand their understanding. Then, tonight they can share it with the rest of us.

That is far better schooling than the dry workbook pages that we struggled through this morning.

Thanks, Mrs. Jo!

Unschooling Has It’s Limits

I am a big fan of learn-as-you-live homeschooling.  For years our homeschooling style has been very unstructured and play-centered. I believe that curiosity is the best place to start a lesson, and that if my kids are very curious and well equipped with the skills need to find the answers to their questions, then I have done my job. And so far this has been working for us. My Bigs all learned to read when they were interested and wanted to (which happened to be before they were seven years old, but I was prepared to wait longer if necessary). We do math when we cook, play, stack blocks, go grocery shopping, budget our earnings, and every time I can fit it in to our normal day. We do science when we play outside and explore nature  (we live on 5 acres in the country), when we cook, when we go to the zoo, and every time I can fit it in to our normal day. We talk about current events. We read, read, read everything all the time (for a list of good books, see amblesideonline.org). We go to the library weekly (The Boy is a huge fan of non-fiction and regularly checks out books on physics, chemistry, and zoology. Yes, he is nine years old.). We Google everything (“Mama, what kind of bug is this?” “Mama, what do emu’s eat?” “When did man walk on the moon?” and on and on and on….). We watch educational videos. And did I mention that we read, read, read together all the time?

However, I am finding the limit to this style of educating the Bigs. There does come a time when life stops presenting you with opportunities to teach what they need to know. Math is a great example of this. There is a lot of math out there that doesn’t find it’s way into our kitchen. We need to get a book and set ourselves to “real” school. There comes a day when I realize that studying is not a natural skill and writing book reports is necessary on some level and there are some things that we are just going to have to buy text books for (could these be the skills that I mentioned earlier?). There is a time for kids to be kids. A time for play and exploration.

And then there comes a time when kids should be students. I am not talking about the Littles (let them play!). I am talking about The Bookworm. She is now twelve and in the seventh grade and we have decided that it is time for her to learn how to be a student. It isn’t just her age and grade that have influenced this decision, it is also a desire to shape her schooling around her strengths. As her nickname suggests, she is a reader, a thinker, a consumer of books, and she learns best with book and pen in hand. She is not really a hands on learner so much, and while she has learned a lot and thrived under an unschooling system, she is more than ready to hit the books. She is also mature enough to handle it, calm enough to sit through it, interested enough to learn from it, and excited to try something new.

So, this year, our school day has changed a little. The Bookworm is not with us when we read a chapter of “Our Island Story”, she is upstairs writing a book report on “Little Men”. But she does join us for craft projects and she still asks questions that we can Google together. I give her a weeks worth of assignments at the beginning of the week and expect her to manage her time wisely and get it all done (and done well) before the end of the week, when we sit down together to go over it. She is doing the full on amblesideonline school year in true Charlotte Mason style, only more (because she loves to read, so I have her reading the “suggested reading” books as well). And she is doing great! She is learning some things that fascinate her (“Mama, did you know that Pakistan split off from India because….”) and she is pushing through some stuff that she is not so thrilled with (“Do I have to show my work?”). She is learning important skills like time management and that sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do.

I am also learning. I am learning that sticking to your homeschool-philosophy-guns isn’t always the best thing and that each kid learns differently. I am learning that I can teach in a more structured way without going crazy and that there is a time when kids should turn into students. I am learning that unschooling has its limits. And that is good, because if I am not tailoring my kids schooling to their style of learning and their strengths and weaknesses, then I am missing one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling. I enjoy unschooling the littlles. And I enjoy hitting the books with the Bigs.

What an adventure this homeschooling thing is!

Pay Attention

I promise that as soon as my camera comes back from the repair shop I will show you all the wonderful things I have been knitting, sewing and needle felting (and there are a ton!). Until then, you’ll have to put up with more parenting/homeschooling posts. 🙂

“Mama, where is my ______?”

“Have you seen the _______?”

“I can’t find any ________?”

So the chorus echos in my house day after day. Ninety percent of the time the sought after item is right there. Granted, I may have had to lift something to find it, or perhaps looked behind something else to locate it. But it is almost always right where I said it was.

“Look in the drawer,” I say.

“It’s not in the drawer,” comes the reply.

So I trudge up the stairs, open the drawer, sigh hugely, and pull out whatever was lost.

Sound familiar? Really, I can’t be the only one.

Being a homeschooler, though, I figure I can fix this. So I did some brainstorming for fun ways to strengthen my kids power of observation. Here is what I have come up with so far.

“I Spy” books and the like – You know the ones I speak of. There is a picture cluttered with all sorts of things and you have to locate certain items in the mess. It is fun, the kids love it, and the library has all different ones. There are also “Do You See What I See?”, “Where’s Waldo?”, and “Seek and Find”.

Find the Thimble – My grandma taught my sister and I to play this charming game when we were young. You take a thimble (or other small object) and hide it in plain sight. Then everyone else tries to find it while you use clues like “getting warmer” to help if you want to. Whoever finds it first gets to hide it the next round. The only rule is that it has to be seen from the middle of the room. This game is a huge hit with my kids and full of nostalgia for me!

Practice Following Directions Game – (I need to come up with a better name for this one!) A kid is given a set of instructions: “Go in the kitchen. Open the cupboard. Pull out the big pot. Look inside.” And there in the pot is something fun (or more instructions for the next clue). All the directions are given at once and can be simpler or more complicated based on the kid. Once they understand the game, they can send you on a hunt.

The Baby Shower Game – If you have been to as many baby showers as I have, you know this one. You place a number of unrelated items on a tray. You let the kids look at it for a short amount of time (say 1 minute?). Then you hide the tray and see how many they remember. This can also be done with pictures, a poster, out the living room window, driving down the street, coming out of the grocery store, really anywhere that there is anything to be seen. “Who can tell me ten things they saw in that store?” “As we drive down this street, see how many things there are…… Okay. What did you see?” etc…

Well, that is all I’ve got. I would love to have some more fun ways to teach this valuable skill. Do you have any suggestions?

 

A Good Day for Un-Schooling

If ever there was a critic of my homeschooling style, I sure wish he would have dropped by my house on Monday.

Monday is not a school day for us. It is one of the Man’s days off, and so we use it to do chores and work around the house and farm. But, after all the chores were done, and everyone dispersed to do as they pleased, this was the scene in our little home.

The Bookworm decided to write a report on the human body.

This report is complete with sketches of bones and muscles, filled with facts and information that she gathered from books and online, and was totally voluntary.

Then, there was the Boy. He decided to take apart that old camera that got ruined with sand last summer and try to fix it.

This is still a work in progress. I was impressed, though, when he was able to get it back together to test his success! This was also totally voluntary.

Later, the Dancing Queen offered to read to me while I folded laundry. She regaled me with “Go, Dog, Go” in true first grade form – a real milestone in her educational career. And it was totally voluntary.

Not all days are like that. There are some days when they play all day. There are some days when I have to sit them down and make them study. But, every once in a while, it all comes together and I see that I am accomplishing my goals for them – to instill in them a curiosity about the world around them, to give them the tools they need to find the answers, and to allow them to grow into the people they are meant to be.

Yes. Monday was a good day for un-schooling.

 

Enthusiastic Homeschool

I recently read this post by a wonderful homeschooling mom, Audaciter Matris. Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait.

Good, right? I mean, after homeschooling for four years, it is fun to remember the excitement that I once felt as a newbie. When my system was still in flux, when I wasn’t totally sold on this idea or that. When it was all fresh and unknown.

Going into my fifth year is interesting in a new way. I have finally found what works for us after trying different things for four years. I have tried so many methods, every year starting a new book or a new schedule. I have given up on most everything that I have tried. I figure that if I am bored teaching something after only a few weeks, then the kids must be barely surviving!

But, this year, I think that I have got it down. This year, I am doing what we did last year. For the first  time, I am entering a school year with confidence. Last year, we tried out some things and they worked so well that we can repeat them this year. It is a cool thing to know what we are doing, to know that we will enjoy it. Amblesideonline.org is the main thing. We are on year four, and we love it this year as we have in years past. (Right now we are working our way through, “George Washington’s World” by Genieveve Foster. Awesome!)

Homeschooling is a journey, and I am sure that it will change again. Soon, the big kids and the little kids will have to be separated and I will be teaching two classes. As learning styles demand new methods or our lifestyle changes and takes us down new paths, we will adjust and continually search for what works for us.

But, for now, I am thankful to have found what works for us in this season, at this time. It isn’t as exciting or as thrilling as those first few years of daring and exploration, but rather, it is cozy and comfortable. For this year, anyway…