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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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!

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.

 

Plan the UnSchool

I was happily knitting away on my Wispy Cardi yesterday (a knitting project to which I am feeling strangely monogamous), with kids running hither and thither, when, out of the blue, Marc asks me, “When are you going to start school?”

Oh, shoot! I had forgotten about school! Well, not forgotten really. But, is it just me, or did the summer just fly by? So, last night, I did some serious thinking and planning…. and internet shopping. Now I am really excited to get started!  (which won’t be until the second week of September….)

As you know, I claim to be an unschooler, which is mostly true. But, unlike the media reports about crazy unschoolers you may have heard, I actually plan out my unschooling and take a very thoughtful approach. This is how I intend to operate this little unschool in the foothills:

amblesideonline.org – We are on year four of this incredibly wonderful curriculum. Being unschoolers, we don’t follow the 36 week schedule, but we read nearly every book on the reading list throughout the year. I cannot reccomend this reading list enough. We have read most of the books for years 1, 2 and 3 and have loved 98% of them!

Making Math Meaningful – this is a fairly new addition to our program. Last year, I saw some gaps in our education when it came to mathematics. Some of the older kids had hit a plateau and it was time to get help. I picked Making Math Meaningful after reading their website and downloading some sample pages. I love the philosophy behind the books, which is, in short, that math shouldn’t be a memorization thing, but rather a concept thing. If a child understands why 2+2=4, then they won’t have to memorize it. The lessons are short, the concepts are well presented and we spent last year enjoying math. (I really thought that was impossible, but I was wrong!) I am excited to get the books for the other kids, now that I know that we will use them.

Foreign Language – Last year we started learning American Sign Language as our “foreign language”. I can’t believe how fast the kids picked it up and how much we all have enjoyed learning and using it. We used “Signing Time” videos last year, and have exhausted our library’s meager inventory of them. The complete set from the website is a little out of budget, so this is one thing I am not sure on. I really want to keep the kids going on this, but don’t know which direction to go. I know that I want to continue to use videos. I will have to pray about this one.

Of course we also have knitting, crocheting, cooking, living, playing and loving on the schedule. Plus, Noah is dismantling an old motor, Abby and Beka are taking piano lessons and Emma is learning her ABC’s. Then there is chess group at the library, taking care of the farm, helping Papa with home improvement projects, drawing, painting, clay, beads…..

There. Settled. I feel better. Now, for a little respite with my current passion –