A Child’s Garden of Learning

“Kindergarten” is a German word that means a “garden for the children”. I have had the privilege of being exposed to the beautiful learning environment that truly reflects what being a child is meant to be, in a school very close to where we live, but at many schools Kindergarten has gradually become a structured environment with high expectations that resembles a steel box rather then a garden.

Elijah Constructed a “Parking Lot” and this followed by lots of imaginative play and creating stories around life at his Parking Lot.

Homeschooling a Kindergarten for a lifetime of learning presents a unique opportunity to connect daily, enjoy simple grace-filled learning, and allow space and time for a child to simply enjoy their little garden called home and the wonderful world of discovery around them.  Any structure, curriculum that does not allow room for breathing and for nurturing life in my child, but remains a task master rather than a life steward, will suck the joy out of Kindergarten.

” Volcanoes”

“Different types of Rocks all around us”

I am reminded of two contrasting ideas that I have been pondering for  almost two years now. The idea of living life in boxes vs living life within a garden. Children start off life viewing it as a wonder-filled garden full of endless possibilities and freedom. Growth is a child’s only task in those early years of life. We marvel at the first time they smile, and cherish all their attempts at talking and walking, and we contently delight in each stage. Then the day arrives when all of a sudden the carefree world of growth and discovering is replaced by hurried and impatient goals. And the joy we find in children becomes defined by how well they start to fit the boxes we have so intricately molded for them. The checklist is pulled out, and the measuring trap of comparison begins, because God forbid that little Johnie is not on par with his peers in his reading, or that he does not know all the things a good little kindergartner “should” know!

Nature Walk and Finds

” Making Pretzel bags to sell to his siblings and Math everywhere”

” Fine Motor”

Visit to an Art Gallery and trying not to break anything.

As a mom of a kindergartner, my task is simple: nurture and cultivate growth within my child. This means pursuing life in learning rather than creating and ticking shallow boxes.

Learning Thought #2
Let go of the boxes, Simply tend the garden for life and growth

 

Kindergarten Home-School Goals

My personal homeschool goals for Kindergarten are:

Be Fun, because play and learning are like strawberries and cream

Be Fullbecause a rich tank of fuel;  gives you wings to fly

Be Freebecause boxes were made for things that do not stay alive

This week at the start of our Kindergarten, I wanted Elijah know from experience that learning is as natural as breathing, and as intentional as gazing at the night sky with a pair of binoculars.

Bible and Character

” My son, pay attention to what I say, turn your ears to my words, do not let them out of your sight….” Proverbs 4:20. This is a song we sang the whole week while reading stories and talking about obedience and how we pay attention with all our senses. We also started practicing his basic chores for the morning time, afternoon and night.

img_0117

Math

We did some calendar time activities. And with daddy having travelled, there was a lot of interest in dates and how many more days till his return. Calendars and Maps are Elijah’s loves and so we simply used these to scaffold lots of talking around months of the year, ordinal numbers, direction, number recognition and writing. We did a lot of counting inside the house and also outside during play, counting to 100 and counting down from 10.

img_9062

I had been collecting some empty household used goods during the summer, so when Elijah announced that he wanted to play shop, I was only happy to incorporate categorizing, counting, basic adding in buying and selling into our imaginative shop play.

We are using Horizon Math K and Life of Fred this year, but building into the lessons, practical hands-on experiences. Since Elijah already knows his basic shapes, I went right ahead and introduced him to 3D shapes. You-tube has great videos on cubes, cones cylinder, spheres and pyramids. Then, it was off to playing with the shapes in the mini sandpit while casually talking about them.

Language and Writing

Lots of stories for rich ideas and a gentle guide to reading. This week we played a lot of phonemic awareness games and reviewed all the alphabet sounds. The sad discovery I made was that Elijah has really mastered the “names” of the alphabets and their order, but we need a stronger connection to the “sound” that each letter makes.

I am using All About Reading and Phonics Pathways and Phonemic Awareness games from Teachers Pay Teachers. As well as Handwriting without Tears for handwriting. I have not opened the latter yet. We did a lot of finger drawing in sand to write his name and on the chalkboard as well.

Science and Nature

I have been listening to the curious questions coming from Elijah for a while now and before the start of our school year I asked him what he wanted to know about or anything he was wondering about. Thats why we started our exploration into the Solar System.

img_0205

Once again, youtube videos were an excellent resource. We also read books like Magic School Bus and Children’s Encyclopedia. Daily discussion and exploration into the universe and the wonder of creation, as well as discussing the other planets from the perspective of what makes the earth so ideal for life, was appropriate for Elijah.

We spent a morning at a nature centre, playing and walking around while observing trees, signs of Fall, birds and also encouraging Elijah to describe what he was seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and imagining tasting.

Social Studies

Our visit to the Play Museum this week was a fun way to fan life into the the activities that Elijah naturally was drawn to. This is when a simple field trip becomes a learning provocation with the motivation already sandwiched with the exposure. Elijah was introduced to Chinese food and clothing and we located China on the map.

We discussed life long ago and got to play with some toys that kids long ago used to play with.

Learning Links

Each week I will note any possible links that I could identify. Natural follow-ups and possible ideas of how to connect one idea or topic to another. Some of these links may be explored straight away or wait for a more opportune time. But the point is to encourage those links so that learning remains meaningfully  and beautifully interconnected. Learning links may also be flow into and feed into Elijah’s interests, as well as overall Kindergarten grade outcomes.

Solar system ~ days of creation ~ the earth ~ continents ~ the earth ~ volcanoes.

learning thought # 1:
Start the Day with an activity to be enjoyed purely for connection sake

Trails Down Learning Lane – First day of homeschool 2016/2017

So while my two older children waived goodbye to Elijah and I at the start of their new school year, at school, I wondered what our first day of homeschool with our 5year old would be. Our prior three years of homeschool with the older two, taught me that too much worry and fuss is not so desirable in creating a learning environment at home. I had so much fun planning and thinking about the Fun, Filling and Freeing learning and living life, I wanted to encourage at home with Elijah. I did much of the recalibration into homeschool mindset during our summer vacation. I reminded myself of who Elijah is, what he enjoys and makes him come alive, as well as where he is at developmentally.

image

I also recalled my favourite homeschool learning reads and other ideas like Reggio Emilia inspired learning.

image

I love when creativity and discovery, are founded on solid foundations in learning and character building. I love finding the gems in learning rather than being fixated with a rigid set of outcomes. I want to be as deliberate as I can be with this new school year, but build from a place of refreshing rest and delightful wonder.

I had planned to start off our first day with some playtime while discussing “Obedience”, but as soon as we got home from dropping off the older two at school, Elijah, having spotted a solar system kit on the top shelf, announced that he wanted to begin with that instead. A good indicator of what may become other future well thought plans. Deep breath….and then…go with the flow! Start where he is at!

image

I yielded to the rabbit trailing on learning lane, and what emerged was a rich morning of building, painting, reading, discussion and learning about the bigger picture, the solar system that God made. Hands on activities sandwiched with reading and books, and discussion. The key for me was letting go of my plans in order to allow real organic learning to spread its wings. Something I intend to hug like a new  friend.

image

Taking rabbit trails is not a waste of time if you can see the learning opportunities along your way. This happened so much during today as shown above with math concept in size and measurement filtering into his science project.

image

Aah, the joy of completing something that was his idea. So empowering and affirming, an encouragement to take initiative and the rewards then become his and not the teacher’s. Yes to empowering my kids!

We will be spending a lot of time outdoors for as long us the weather permits. Not only is it beautiful and refreshing to be outdoors, but I think when nature becomes a teacher, it’s like no other. How else do I get to see what captures this curious learner’s attention, and I get to enjoy what he enjoys.

I hope to keep our homeschooling this year as a shared experience of exploring, attending and beholding ideas, and things that are alive, full of life and worth discovering.

image

Of course things like Math, and Language Arts will be encouraged, but not in the dry, linear, and worksheet driven practice, but always looking at building from where Elijah is at, what can be made concrete and meaningful. Like counting how many steps there were on this side of the nature centre and concluding that the southern steps where more than those on the eastern side.

I am realistic enough to know that not everyday will look like today but today really captured the sort of natural and joyful learning that I know is possible and will keep me absolutely sane. Otherwise what is the point of homeschooling if it becomes disconnected from what home is all about: love and connection.

 

 

” Saying Goodbye to Home-Schooling”

February this year, was the exciting step into our new family adventure in America. Leaving behind our community of friends and a joyful memories from our life in Pretoria. We said goodbye to so many things, including our life as a homeschooling family.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our kids are now at school, and though they are happy and content. I am left with my own personal sadness at saying goodbye to a life of learning at home with my favourite little people. I am also left wondering what the journey would have been like had I worried less, and delighted more.

If I had to do it all over again, here would be my advice to myself and to anyone considering taking this step:

  1. Do not for a minute compare yourself to anyone. Find your clarity and stick to it, because it is impossible to do a perfect job.
  2. Be consistent with one thing and do it well, see it as building block rather than trying to do all things all at once. Don’t try to encompass every idea, or try to be everything to everyone.
  3. Rest, Rest, Rest…kick striving out the door. You know what button is your rest button, and no one can push it for you
  4. Mess is not a bad thing, as long as the muddy faces it embraces is one full of wonder and smiles.
  5. Fearing the unknown is overrated. Live and be alive in the here and now, and remember the you are not the architect of your children’s lives.
  6. Aim for YOUR gold, not a completed curriculum or task.
    My Gold = Love=+Joy+Wonder+Curiosity+Freedom

It’s a new day today. I am thankful for our new season ahead, and though my role changes for my kids, I will take these lesson with me.

Lessons From My Kids

I knew that the decision to home-school, was either going to be a real “thumbs-down” or a “joy”. I guess that is the reality with the decisions we make. We step into them hoping for the best but nothing is a guarantee.  I am so so grateful that with this being our third year(how time flies), I can honestly say that as a family we are discovering more of the joys of learning at home, and less of the “Oh my goodness! have I gone completely insane” moments.

I think that I am as much of a student as my kids are. They teach me so much everyday.

Aj is 8 years old and with him I am learning that there can be a whole lot more going on in a child’s mind than what he may express. I catch glimpses of this to my amazement when he writes down all the sound codes related to his phonographic reading program. Somehow, somewhere perhaps while on the trampoline, building Lego, or playing cricket, he decided it would be a fun activity to order all those different sounds in his mind. He gets a real kick out of finding patterns, rules, coding etc. I am learning not to crowd his space too much and to trust that his uniqueness in learning does not need to be managed to suit anyone but rather encouraged and affirmed.

Another new year of learning together at home
Another new year of learning together at home

Madame K is 6years old and with her I learn that creativity flows like pure streams in the heart of every child. These streams are alive and refreshing. Miss K can turn what she deems to be a really boring lesson, into a fun imaginative adventure. Whenever I hear “Mommy, I have an idea…”, I hold on and take a deep breath, and decide to be more adventurous, go with the flow. Her creative insights and nudges have led us to beautiful learning trails, that I could never have foreseen. I am learning not to be too lazy to be like a child again, and to enjoy the curiosity and discovery in learning, more than the finite and predetermined outcomes that I am often tempted to hold fast to.

Well, Easy E our 3and a half year old continues to charm his way through all our times together. Its funny how last year I was convinced I Would send him off to playschool because of all his many “toddler disturbances” to our learning times. However, as it turned out, he was the one being normal, while I was the one needing to let go again and redefine what a “successful school day” looks like. I am learning that replacing words like “successful school day” with “creating a learning environment”, goes a long way to changing the dynamic at home and allows space for each one of my children to be part of doing life at home and keep our connections.

I am looking forward to more learning insights this year on our home-school journey.