Cultivating Restful Homeschool Moments

We decided to change the scenery of our typical homeschool Friday and headed to the spacious light filled space of our public library.

We booked ourselves a private conference room and the idea was that we would cover our language arts curriculum and spend some time reading aloud together-style before going out to a play date with some friends. I really should have know better than to expect that this tidy little plan would hold amidst the lure of the beautiful books that welcomed us at the Children’s floor of the library. The books called to my kids much like the Pied Piper and they immediately stepped in line and raced to find their reading treasures. Before long they had found their stash of great books and were delving right into them, with joy and focus. I love to see their love for books and for reading. I watched them read contently for a while and was tempted to interrupt them in order to execute original idea for coming, but I refrained from diverting their attention from something I knew they were loving.

“Mommy, reading is my favourite subject”

I decided to let go and allow the time and space to be what it is: A valuable and rich time for them to read and relish the books they had chosen for themselves. There was life in the moment. I saw it and chose to yield to it. There was light in their eyes and I stepped into the moment with them, instead of casting a shadow with my amazing plan.

Lately, I have been reflecting on my role as a restful home-maker and homeschooling mom. I do not deny the importance of creating clear structure and daily rhythms for our homeschool days. However, structures, routines and plans do not produce restful living. I believe that staying in a moment, being present in it and allowing it to be what it flows into can do far more than a well laid out plan can. Letting a moment simply be, invites “be still and know and know that I am God”, Psalm 46:10. For a person like me who loves to make things better and loves to “fix things”, this is easier said than done. Today’s letting go moment, is another celebration for someone like me. I am learning to trust and yield….learning!

Your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be their peace.
Isaiah 54:13

I have held this verse in Isaiah really close to my heart since the very beginning of our homeschooling journey . And I honestly cannot tell you just how much of a relief it has been for me lately, to know that this education thing is not all up to me…phew!

Moms, we are not the authors and perfectors of our children’s lives. We have the privilege of stewarding an atmosphere within our daily lives at home that affirms our children as unique individuals with great value and worth. They are neither our badges of success, nor are they symptoms of our failures. They belong to their Creator and we partner with Him to make room for life, love and truth to flow freely from His heart to theirs.

I cherish our homeschool days, and choose to see the gifts hidden within our moments, even when plans change and ideas never go as planned. Each day that we spend together is time well spent. Each moment carries its own wings, which can be unclipped and allowed to fly.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

Homeschooling Starts 2014

Our Second year in Homeschooling begins tomorrow.

This is by far one of the hardest and yet potentially rewarding decision of our lives as a family. I am thankful that we are not alone and that there have been many of have gone before and who remain courageous howbeit challenged daily, by living on this unconventional path.

My prayer and my desire is that this year, I will be less concerned with all the measuring sticks, opinions, blogs, ideas, and suggestions that were much of a distraction to me at times. There will be silence in my heart, as I lean not in my own understanding but acknowledge Him daily. I pray that I will be content with my children and our daily lives, that I will be truly tuned into them and our shared learning, and I will be a surrendered and courageous mom who is not afraid of failure, but who daily lives by faith.

Its going to be a good good year.