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Posts Tagged ‘Homeschooling’

When DrDaddy and I sat down at the beginning of this process and thought what we would like the outcomes of our schooling adventure to be, one of the things we decided was important to us is that we laid a broad groundwork of general knowledge down in the kids. By general knowledge we’re not talking about thousands upon thousands of factoids, but rather a broad general base of understanding of how the both how the world works (physics, chemistry, geography, biology) and where we as peole in this era come from, and how we got here (history). For this reason we have introduces all of these subjects into our education plan right from the start. We want to give the kids a conceptual framework into which they can slot all the new knowledge they come across as they explore more and more subjects and ideas on their own.

Over the last two days we have started introducing history. We have chosen to use the Story of the World books and activity books by Susan Wise Bauer. I loved the look of this “curriculum” for so many reasons. Firstly because it covers history in sequential order. When I was taught history at school we jumped around in time and I never quite managed to understand where events fitted in, and the “whys” of what was happening – which is probably what led to me dropping history as soon as I was able! The idea of a chronological story of the world appealed to me hugely. Secondly it looks at the history of the WORLD, and not just Western civilisations – we will be looking at India, China, the Americas, Africa as well as Europe. For children who will be adults in an increasingly globalised world I feel this is important. It is in addition a fantastically hands-on curriculum – more about that in a moment…

So yesterday and today we began to look at the idea of history: what it is, why it is important to know about the past, and ways in which we can find out about history. Each lesson begins with a short reading from Susn Bauers book, which is written in a very easy-to-read style and is very narrative (she uses stories about people often to illustrate points rather than just dishing out the facts). The kids then tell me what they remember about what they have read, and we discuss anything that arises from that. We then have a look at the relevant pages in our Usborne internet-lonked Encycopaedia of World History – a wonderful, exciting, vibrant, full-colour book (which I catch the kids paging through in their down-time too!) The book contains website addresses which we also take a look at. Today for example we looked at a website all about an archaeological dig – with wonderful animations and pictures of all the aspects of a dig – from tools, to techniques to finds – and even a video clip of archeologists at work.    

Then follows a relevant activity – and the two we have done this week have certainly captured the kids imagination. Yesterday they made a time-line of their own lives using old photos. They dived into this and I couldn’t pull them away. In fact they were both busy still putting finishing touches on their masterpieces this morning!

Ross's LONG timeline

ProfessorBiggs's LONG timeline

LadyLol displays her work-in-progress

LadyLol displays her work-in-progress

 

Close-up of LadyLol's timeline

 

 

 

Today we turned the sand-pit into an archeological dig. This was a great success – especially

 after watching the real dig on the internet.

The dig area is marked out into sections with string
The dig area is marked out into sections with string
The first find.
The first find.
The find is carefully removed from the soil
The find is carefully removed from the soil
sand removed from the site is carefully sifted
sand removed from the site is carefully sifted

All finds are carefully cleaned with a soft brush

finds are logged, and what they tell us about the "sandpit people"is discussed.
finds are logged, and what they tell us about the “sandpit people”is discussed.

All the finds and the final log

LadyLol had informed me that she is adding “Archeologist” to her list of possible future careers.
ZooMomma

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So…it was our first “official” day of being unofficial, and on the whole it felt really good. Despite today being a public holiday, we decided it might be a good idea to have our first school day today – 1. because it is the beginning of a week, and being a conventional-type gal I like to start things at the beginning and 2. because DrDaddy was at home today and so theoretically would be able to keep MissySprout and TeppyBoy entertained while we attempted to knuckle down. However DrDaddy was not as much help as we had hoped as he (together with Grandpa) was replacing our old steel windows with new wooden ones.

We thus were forced to move school to the back of the house – the “outdoor” classroom. I say “forced” but to be honest, we would have done most of our work out there anyway – the weather was fine, the sun was shining – why would we want to be cooped inside anyway?

 

Our little time-table seems to be fairly OK – we were a little short on time for reading/writing/narration but a lot of that was due to me not quite getting the required juggling co-ordinated enough. I have a new strategy in mind which we’ll try tomorrow and see how it goes.

We started on french knitting for handwork – both seemed to cope fine with it, and LadyLol has already made a 10cm rope. ProfBiggs is slightly less enthusiastic and a little slower, but I noticed with LadyLol that once her knitting started showing at the bottom of her knitting dolly her motivation improved dramatically. It remains to be seen if the same effect will be observed in her brother. Also on the timetable today was physics and chem. Today we started looking at matter and at the states of matter. This involved 2 experiments: one where we attempted to turn water vapour in the air into solid gas. It worked like a charm! The other involved wetting two cloths, hanging them out in defferent places (one in the sun, one in the house) and revisiting them both at intevals to observe how long the took to dry respectively. This gave me a good chance to discuss the scientific method with them – I was pleased to be able to get that in in lesson 1! So far I am really happy with the books I have chosen for this subject – not dumbed-down, LOTS of visuals, but clear enough and logical enough that we can follow them easily. I am also ECSTATIC with MEP Maths. The kids loved it today.

As for the other two…MissySprout decided like “school” looked like much to much fun to be left out of, so she fetched a colouring book and came and sat on the deck with us and coloured in. TeppityBoy found a bubble mixture container and wandered around blowing bubbles for himself and everyone else very happily – so that wasn’t so hard either!

…and we have 5 new wooden windows… They look so lovely – I can’t wait until all the rest of the windows have been converted now!

ZooMomma

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Why is it that whenever you make some kind of decision that you are sure will take you in a specific direction, it often immediately seems to have the opposite effect?

When we first started thinking about homeschooling we dreamed idyllic scenes of family bonding; contented, happy, confident children; a serene, peaceful MommaT. What we’ve had instead in the last few days is crotchety, overly sensitive kids; family squabbling at unusual levels; a violently unsettled TeppityBoy, and an irritable, hypercritical MommaT! All of this culminated today in an “incident” at pre-school where MissGeorgie very uncharacteristically chose to resolve a squabble by biting another child’s hand – a sure sign that all is not well in the family “kraal”.

Admittedly we are under the stress that making a big life-style change inevetably brings, but I don’t think I’ve been as “big” about it as I should have been. I’ve been gluing myself to books and pillaging the internet for days on end, pretty much leaving the sprouts to their own devices for hours, and rebuking them for interrupting.

I’m someone who wants to research and know as much as possible about a subject before even moving a finger, and there’s nothing wrong with that in principle. But when it works directly against the bigger picture, when it produces opposite outcomes, then something is wrong.

So I’m realising I’m going to have to challenge myself to grow a bit more. I’m going to have to resist my natural inclinations: take it slow, relax, go with the flow a bit more – maybe even try a bit of trial-and-error when we officially begin. (DrT will tell you this is going very much against the grain. As soon as the caffeine has begun its work in the morning I’m making lists!) Hopefully my discomfort at not having everything completely planned, organised, filed, labeled and controlled will be offset by four little content, loved and enthusiastic little faces come April 15.

Take a deep breath MommaT…

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As I write this first post, looking at my first post title, I feel slightly disingenuous. The road we will be starting out on soon (and which was the impetus for starting this blog) is not completely un-travelled. In fact, in making the decisions we have recently, we have received much advice and counsel from others who have already been travelling the homeschooling road for a while.

However Robert Frost’s poem resonates with me more and more deeply as time goes by, as we as a family are drawn more often down these less-travelled paths. Choices we were drawn to even before the inception of our family (like choosing abstinence before marriage and choosing to move across the world from South Africa to the UK 1 month after our wedding) should maybe have given us a hint that ours was possibly not going to be the most conventional of paths, but I see myself as a pretty conventional person, and so every calling we have to swim against the tide, every choice that goes against conventional wisdom is really hard on me at first.

And callings and choices there have been: we chose homebirths for 3 of our children; I chose to “waste” a veterinary science degree and stay home full-time as a Mom, we chose to return to South Africa at a time when many, many families were choosing to leave; DrT chose to give up a very promising small-animal practice and career in order to become a student again; he chose to work at a zoo rather than in the bush as many conservationists do… (These are only some of the bigger “up-stream” decisions we have made. The more I think about it the more I realise how unconventional we must appear to those around us)…and now we’re choosing to homeschool our children!

 What an agonising time this decision-making process has been for me. I have felt at times as though we are being called to swim up a waterfall, not just up-stream, and that I was just not going to find the courage to say “yes”. But the courage has come, and the decision has been made, and now this Mom is eagerly looking forward to sun-filled free-range schooldays surrounded by her brood.

In retrospect, why have I been so fearful? As I look back at that list of decisions I just wrote I can’t say I regret one of them. They have each brought beauty, happiness and adventure to our lives, and I can see no reason why this decision will be any different.

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