Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thoughts on Reading and Writing

I'm a novice and I'm still figuring out homeschooling. Luke's a kindergartner and I usually espouse a no-need-to-rush philosophy. It is possible that one of the reasons I cling to that no rush policy is because it alleviates guilt for my usually-benign negligent parenting practices. Anyway, the point is: I'm still figuring things out and I need to believe that that's okay.

When something is important to you, you make time for it.
This weekend I've been thinking about how reading is really, really important to me and so I make time for reading everyday. Pete, Luke, and I have storytime together every day, usually twice a day. And then Luke and I have another reading time for novels when Pete is napping.

Then, I try to give myself time to read. Sometimes I can read in front of the children, but often I lock myself in the bathroom with a book. I love books. I love words. I love the sounds of the words, especially the staccato consonate sounds. Brandon loves it when I read in bed...not really. Because I read silently for a spell and then break out whispering so I can hear those beautiful consonate sounds. He begs me to stop doing it, saying, "I'd rather you just read out loud than read like that!" But I'll keep reading this way until the day I die.

Because the words, "day I die" sound so good when spoken quietly. Ah! Spoken quietly. Two good words for whispering.

My grandchildren will think I'm terribly creepy and crazy with my not-so-silent reading.

Moving on.
To Writing.

Luke writes often. He draws pictures every day of his own accord and has been doing some invented spelling and labelling. (For example, he drew the same house that he often draws, with each of us in a window. But in the attic, there were suitcases, each labelled with a family member's initials. So, Brandon's was labelled, "BBBB." And there was one for the family, "LPCB." You get the picture. He sounded out "stop" and put up sticky note signs on the doors. He says I can unlock the art cabinet now because he'll see that sign and stop before opening it and allowing Pete to paint the bed. [I wish I was joking.]) 

So, Luke's drawings fill drawers, and paper the fridge, and find themselves folded into crazy shapes under my pillow. Little Boy Love Letters.

Even though Luke has been writing on his own, I think I should set aside a little bit of time when we can write side-by-side, so that I'm physically there to answer any questions if he has them, and so I'm making time to do my own writing.

This whole idea of making time for your priorities has got me thinking, "What do I think is important to me that I'm not really making time for?" It makes me think I really should be taking up the guitar, among other things.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A day of interest-led learning for a kindergartner

Last night, as I planned for today, I listed:
For Luke: practice piano kindly, read aloud, and play with a friend.
For Pete: stories, play outside, a nap
For Carrie: exercise, the essentials (scriptures and prayer, I've just begun calling them "the essentials" so that I'll think of them as essential.)
For the family: return overdue books, empty dishwasher and keep the kitchen clean

So, I didn't plan any lessons. I just let nature take its course. Here is what we've (they've) done so far:
Piano Practice -when he dawdled, I sang quietly, "I will be kind, I will be kind." I think Luke liked it.
Play-doh (my only job was to pretend to eat something every now and then and avoid the kitchen where I would inevitably say, "No, you can't use that apple corer/lemon zester/pie server." I did take away the mesh strainer, though.)
Rhymes with lists of rhyming words. We were talking and one of us said, "box" or "fox," and Luke said, "Hey that rhymes!" He then made up a verse:
Fox box wearing socks.
Hawks flying overhead!
Then, I said, "Wait, I'll go get paper!" And we wrote down words that rhymed with fox, box, and hawks and had a mini-phonics lesson, made up of me saying, "Hey look--the ah sound is made by the letter O, and AW, and just an A sometimes. And then "x" says the same sound as "cks." But this had to be quick, but Luke was more interested in actually making up rhymes, of course. *Remember--Real and meaningful experiences yield skills, skills practice or teaching can, but doesn't necessarily, yield real and meaningful experiences.

Then we made up other rhyming verses together.
Trees bees in a hive
At the flowers they arrive.
When the sun is in its sky,
All the bees will buzz and fly.
To the flowers they will go
Carrying pollen to help them grow.
In this verse and the "Fox box" one, Luke's contributions are in blue. I was pleasantly surprised that his rhyme for hive was arrive.

In the next one, I wrote most of it, but when I paused, after pink, Luke piped up, "As pink as a rose!" What a cutie.
Up, up in the sky
Kites and balloons flying high.
The spring wind blows across my nose.
My cheeks are pink --as pink as a rose.
Outside all day in the sun
I'm so glad that Spring has come.

I pretended to be a witch and carried the boys on my broom to my gingerbread house where I wanted to fatten them up. "What can I tempt you with, my pretty? Will you eat icecream, chocolate chip cookies, a juicy steak?" It didn't matter what I said, Luke said, "No," because he understood that I was trying to make him plump for eating. but each time Luke said, "No" or "Uh-uh." Pete quietly and resolutely said, "Yes."

We read stories, had lunch, Pete took a nap, and Luke and I started another book, The Trumpet of the Swan. I adore that book. I read it to Luke when he was four, but he's forgotten it. Goody! That means we have to read it again.

Now Luke is playing at a friend's house.

From this former school teacher's perspective, we did something in each of these subjects: Reading and literacy, drama, social studies, music, and math. (Math-this book.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why are you homeschooling?!

While I have been asked (only once), "Why are you homeschooling?!" this post is to answer my own questions, "Why am I homeschooling?" "What do I want for my kids?" "What is important to our family?"

First there are a few practical reasons that have a lot to do with my own personality:
1. I really like to have Luke at home with me.
2. I like freedom. It would bug me to be accountable to attendance policies. Also, the schools I'd be most interested in sending my child to are a good twenty minutes away and to get him there before eight o'clock each morning would be difficult and not worth it. And I'd spend a lot of my life driving. I would like to postpone the chauffeur-era of my life.
3. I think the public schoolday, especially for kindergartners, is way too long. And at our neighborhood school (which I've heard is a great school, an arts magnet) the day is even longer. And they do not have regular recesses, which for me is a deal breaker. Free and unstructured time is essential, in my opinion.

Then there are these, more philosophical reasons.
Reasons I Homeschool My Young Children:
I want my young children to be at home more than they are away from home.
I want to ensure that my children read and write for real and meaningful reasons (even and especially while they are still learning to read and write.)
I want my children to grow up outdoors as much as possible.
I want the time to help my children find and develop their talents, without taking time away from important family rituals, like dinners together and family outings.
I want my children to play. I want my children to avoid schools where play is crowded out by insubstantial substitutes, and is not given significant, consistent time.
I want my children to be cared for, looked after, but not smothered by supervision or a multitude of well-meaning, but seriously stifling rules.
I want my children to be taught gently.
I want my children to grow by being nurtured in a friendly, even loving environment.
I want my children to learn things that are interesting to them.
I want childhood for them to be unhurried.

Each of the above desires is rooted in both my personal mother-sense, but also by what I learned in college from professor-practioners. But, I am finally understanding that mother-sense came first, before the science of teaching. The best early childhood classrooms emulate the home. While doing the dishes tonight, I thought of example after example where this is the case with widely accepted best practices in pedagogy. The home is the first and most natural place for a child to learn to read, to serve, to tally, to problem solve, to sing, to dance, to experiment, to cook, to build, and even to get along with others.  And the best, most appropriate classrooms for young children imitate, as much as possible, that natural and caring learning environment. I really do believe that early childhood matters and can set a trajectory for life. So, I want Luke's early childhood years to be as positive as possible.
As kindergarten approached, I didn’t feel capable of finding that best, most appropriate classroom for Luke. But now that I’ve kept him home, I’ve realized that I was looking for a home away from home –which can and should and does exist in lots of great classrooms, because of warm and gifted teachers! But, I’ve realized that I don’t need to find a home away from home, I can just provide the home.

There is one last reason I homeschool and it is probably the most pertinent: I have a desire to homeschool. And the desire is growing. At this time, it feels right for us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Becoming a Cement Man

Last week, some men dug out an old driveway and laid a new one at the house across the street. Luke spent a great deal of time watching them. After they were done working on the first day, Luke went across the street to collect rocks from the work site (small chunks of cement they hadn't carried away.) At one point, he ran inside to "get a bigger bucket!" Then he lugged bucketfuls of rocks over to our side and made a pile and a mess. That night, he and his dad hauled the rocks to the backyard and swept. Luke wanted to examine the rocks with a magnifying glass and I couldn't find it for him, so the next day, we bought two -one for Luke, and one for Pete. The day after that they spent lots of time examining the rocks in the backyard.

I love that curiosity. In his bedroom, he keeps a small box with all the things he calls his treasures: rocks, shells, a feather, silly bandz, etc. Anyway, he always stuffs things in his pockets so he can put them in his treasure box. Today, he stopped riding his bike to pick up and examine acorns still in their hulls. (Is that what they're called?) Anyway, he was stuffing them in his pockets, but they wouldn't all fit. So he was going to try to ride and hold one in his hand. No big deal for you and me (well, you) but it was a balancing act. Anyway, I hope angels keep moving snapshots (video, duh, Carrie) of the boys' lives so that Luke can look back and see what an interesting and adorable child he was. (And yes, I know that's my job. But you can't be good at everything.)

PS and totally off-topic: today we read a book about Christopher Columbus. We looked at an apple like it was a globe to show how people went East to the Indies and CC wanted to go West.
I told him, "People used to think the earth was flat. And that dragons lived at the edge to swallow you if you fell over."
Did I make that last bit up?

After the book, I said something like, "How about that?" And Luke's response was kind of like, "That's an okay book."
Then I said, "And it's a true story." 
Luke's response: "It is?!"
I guess I should have mentioned that at the beginning.

a good day

I planned our day last night. Before I planned, I prayed for help to know the important things. 

Here are the plans & how the day actually went:

Personal prayer: me, encourage the boys to say their own (they didn't.)
Read scriptures: me, out loud in the family room, sometimes ignoring Pete yelling.
Brush teeth. (This needs to be written on the schedule because my children brush their teeth once a day at night. That must change. I wish it was because I was really worried about their teeth. I am concerned. But mostly my motivation is the dread of getting yelled at by a dentist one day.)
Piano. We forgot.
A Morning Walk (bike ride for Luke) to Lowe's Grocery Store, about 8 blocks away. To replace Luke's toothbrush that had fallen in the trashcan with dirty diapers the night before. (Oh, he didn't brush his teeth this morning either.)

Clean the bathroom.
Clean the kitchen.
Dust and Vacuum (if you can figure it out. We bought a new vacuum. I didn't even attempt to figure it out.)
I did clean the bathroom and the kitchen. I'm just not sure when. And the kitchen is dirty again.

A Healthy Lunch. The kids boycotted the healthy lunch and had PB & honey. But, I had a salad. I felt guilty for giving them regular peanut butter, not no-sugar and oil added. And then I looked at the 2nd humongous canister of Peter Pan in the pantry from Sam's and thought, "Maybe after I use that up I'll go back to buying the other kind.")

Read stories to boys. Love.
Petey naps. Thankfully.
Luke and Mama read Henry Huggins. I love Henry Huggins. He's so respectful to Mrs. Huggins. Tonight at dinner, Luke said, "May I be excused?" Maybe it's rubbing off on him.
And plan Family Home Evening. We didn't.

Yoga-together if Luke would like to. Or independent time. (Luke drew pictures. I ...? didn't do yoga.)
Bake a treat together for F. H. E. (Um, YES - apple cake cupcakes.)
Make a good dinner. Ask Luke for help. (Luke & Pete were outside and out of the way. Asked Brandon for help once he got home.)
Practiced piano while his buddy from next door sat on the floor with Pete and listened.

Dinner, After-dinner walk, and FHE

Oh! I just remembered when I cleaned.
The boys ate lunch outside on the back patio, afterwhich they turned on the hose and made a mud which they bathed. I was cleaning the kitchen.
I cleaned the bathroom later while Luke and Pete were outside playing. They didn't get muddy again. I guess one naked soak-down with cold water was enough. Their clothes are still strewn across the patio. After they were washed off, they ran around naked --Pete avoiding the spray, Luke pretending to avoid it.

For me, this was a really good mothering day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Word Wall

Luke picks a word. Together, we add it to the Word Wall. (Butcher paper on the wall above his bed? Honestly, haven't purchased it yet.)

Skills it addresses (hypothetically): phonics, sight words, print

Will probably never happen but...
As he gets older, could also use this concept for new vocabulary words with columns for taxonomy or sorting: noun, verb, adverb, etc. Could be a list of words he/we come across in reading and need to look up. Could be a spelling tool.

P.S. I once saw a child's bedroom where the walls were ringed with 4x6 cards, each with one word printed on them. I think they were "sight words."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Family Tree Ideas

  1. Fill out Family Tree with Luke.
  2. On a world map, locate the countries our ancestors came from/came to.
  3. Learn about those countries. Read books about. Read authors from. Recipes. Movies, music, internet. (DVD-Nature's Ireland). Also, landscape.
  4. Make postcards from each country with what we've learned (Can you order postcards?)
  5. Invite returned missionaries or others over to share their experiences with us in those countries, including culture, food.
  6. Learn more about grandparents. Create and send a questionaire.
  7. Visit Grandparents at Thanksgiving. Record experiences in journal and photos.
  8. Share love for grandparents by telling stories about them.
  9. Plant bulbs in memory of Grandma Petersen and others.
  10. Begin collecting family recipes again. Compile & share. Try.

The things I hope to store here

My core values as a teacher and parent.
Ways I'm trying to be an example to my kids of an interest-led, and lifelong learner.
Reading Lists for my Children--especially storybooks I fall in love with and chapter books we read aloud.
Links to the sites I find most helpful.
Brainstorming for project-approach learning and unit studies, also ideas for teaching specific skills: reading, number sense, etc.
What we're doing for homeschool.