Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Carnival of Natural Parenting

Just a heads up for those interested....today on my other blog, This Holistic Life, I posted a piece called Not Back to School: How We Learn at Home for the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. It's my first carnival submission and I'm pretty excited about it! Make sure you scroll down for lots of great links all about this month's topic: learning at home.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Scenes from the Wilds of Suburbia

My very first attempt at a nature sketch.
This is the plant I was attempting to sketch. Not bad, right?? Anybody know what it is?
Logan took this one. All of these were taken on the trail that runs alongside our neighborhood.
Watch out for thorns!
How cool is this?? It's very viny and thorny back there.
Gypsy moth nest. I think. There were caterpillars in there.
Logan was enamored of the y-shaped stick.
Critter hole. We watched it for a while, but alas, nothing came out.
Towering pines.
The artiste at work.
Logan in a tree that I'm trying to identify. I know NOTHING about trees.
These are the leaves. Red maple, right? Or is it sycamore? According to my field guide the leaves are very similar.
And what's this tree, with the long pod-looking things?

As you can tell, I'm about as amateur a naturalist as you can get. But I'm enthusiastic and determined to learn! At the ripe age of 47, I am suddenly passionate about the ecosystem of the great state of New Jersey, where I've lived my entire life, completely oblivious to the local flora and fauna. Just goes to show, you never know when a new passion will strike, and it's never too late to learn. If anybody can help with identifying those trees, so I can properly fill out my nature journal, I'd appreciate it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

.....Aaaaand We're Back

Hello, my lovely fellow homeschoolers! Did you miss me while I was gone, launching my new blog?

I had toyed with the idea of deleting this one permanently, but now that I've found my groove over at THL, I think I can handle both. Plus, this blog is an important record of the things we do as homeschoolers. I found myself wanting to write about our adventures today, on this, our official Not Back-to-School Day.

When September rolls around, I realize that I'm not completely deschooled, and may never be. I'm not even sure I want to be. I loved school when I was a kid, and especially loved all the preparations leading up to the first day. I was excited to buy all my supplies--the new Trapper Keeper, folders, crisp white paper and pens, and of course new clothes, too. But more than anything, I loved the feeling of a fresh start, a feeling that still comes over me like clockwork every September.

Just like last September, I'm starting this new school year (see? I'm still thinking in terms like "school year") feeling like we need more structure in our days. I'm also having math panic. Last year, I bought Logan a 2nd grade math curriculum that came highly recommended called Math Mammoth. I was thrilled when, in the beginning of the year, I didn't even have to ask him to work in it. He had always loved math, and was enthusiastic about his new workbooks. See? I said to my skeptical husband. Unschooling works. I just leave it out and he does it. (To my hardcore unschooling compatriots: yes, I'm aware that leaving out a workbook in the fervent hope that your kid will just spontaneously decide to do it is not unschooling. And, as it turns out, not realistic.)

Of course, just a few weeks in, he tired of them, and like the good unschooler I was trying to be, I put them away and never mentioned them again. Now, as any homeschooling parent knows, math and numbers are a part of everyday life. A kid doesn't need workbooks to pick up a basic understanding of math, and Logan knows how to add and subtract, keep track of his scores on video games, and do simple money transactions (thanks to Monopoly). He does not, however, know how to carry or borrow, he doesn't know his multiplication tables, and he doesn't know how to read an analog clock--all things he would have learned last year, in second grade.

So, it seems that I have now joined the camp of people who unschool everything but math. My older kids asked to go back to public school after several years of homeschooling, and because I had insisted they keep up with grade-level math, they were actually ahead of their peers when they returned to school. I really believe I'll be doing Logan a disservice if I don't ensure that he has the same option. Life learning should be about expanding choices, not limiting them. If that makes me more of an eclectic homeschooler than an unschooler, then so be it. As I began to realize last year, we're kind of a hybrid. More relaxed and radical than the other families in our local homeschooling group, but more structured and conservative than some of the families we've met at unschooling conferences. This year, I'm going to embrace our unique brand of homeschooling and let my intuition guide me to do what's best for our family.

I've also added a little focus to our days by highlighting whatever wacky (or sometimes serious) National Day it is, and using that as a jumping off point. I bought a whiteboard for the kitchen, and each day I'll write "Today is National Whatever Day". I also plan to write a quote-of-the-day. So, without further ado, here's what we did today: 

Yep, we did a page of math. After I dug out last year's workbook and had a talk with him about why I was suddenly insisting that he do at least a page of math a day, we sat down together and I showed him how to tell time. On an actual non-digital clock.

We went for a morning walk around our neighborhood. Well, technically, I walked, and Logan rode his bike. We plan to make the morning walk a daily event.

We celebrated National Grandma Moses Day! I found a website with a short kid-friendly bio, which I read aloud to Logan, and then we looked at some of her paintings together online. We talked about how maybe having discovered a new passion so late in life helped her live to be 101.

We played Oceanolopy. It's Monopoly with sea life. We played it for a really, really long time. :) As I mentioned earlier, Monopoly is great for learning about money management.

We went to the BMX track. Logan is new to BMX racing, and wanted to go to the track to practice. He rode his bike, and I sat in the shade and read.

We went to the library. We saw not one, but two, monarch butterflies today, and so we stopped at the library to find some books about monarchs and learn about their migration route. We walked out with a huge pile of books!

We baked cookies. When we came home we made really easy gluten-free almond butter chocolate chunk cookies  (from Clean Eating magazine). I burnt them a little, but they were still yummy.

Interspersed throughout all this activity was some MarioKart with friends, and a visit from the birthday boy, my oldest son Zachary. A very busy Not Back-to-School Day indeed!

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