Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Play Time and Rainy Day Reflections

These last few days have been raining, but warm. Here in the land of year-round rain, this is my favorite type of rain, except maybe when camping when even the so-called water proof tents don't actually stand up to our rains. Incidentally, that's exactly what we've been doing for the last couple of days. Before that we visited Grandma and Grandpa, and went swimming at a lake (another one down on our Summer Fun Times list.)

Today we're back home with a couple of tired out kids enjoying some peaceful indoor summer fun, namely cozy book time and play with pattern blocks.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been reflecting on our first year of homeschool and wondering if I should continue on with lesson plans through the summer or take a break, or try something less structured. I pondered and weighed pros and cons until I realized that I had an easy out, I just asked Chobie. He requested that we keep doing homeschool through the summer, even though I did explain that most kids don't have school in the summer time, he maintained that he does want to keep going. I love my nerdy little kid!

So even though we are continuing on into the summer with our lessons, I feel like we've successfully completed a year of home learning. Hooray!

Our curriculum this year was based loosely on the free Waldorf-inspired preschool curriculum put together by one of the moms on this Yahoo group. You do have to join the group, which is full of people with great ideas and lots of used waldorf items for sale all the time at great prices by the way, to access the curriculum for yourself if you're interested. I thought it was full of good ideas and found tons of inspiration in it. But I wanted to customize, partly because that's how I am with everything, so I don't think any curriculum will do straight out of the box for me.

I did find the amount of hands on art projects for each day to be a bit too much for us. As a mom of two young kids, working half-time at home while maintaining my own busy life of crafting and book-nerdishness, doing that many crafts is a handful, but the main thing is that it would take up the majority of each day to do all of the projects, not leaving enough time for free play. So I think that I will tone down the projects a little bit next year, or at least think of them as ideas more so than plans.

I've also been struggling through how to make a holistic cirriculum that involved a lot of child-led learning (I think I introduce too much material for my kids to be considered properly "unschool" even though I draw a lot of inspiration from the unschooling movement). Chobie started showing signs of reading readiness and picks up math quickly too right about the time when I decided that I wanted to start formally homeschooling. I never imagined that my four-year-old would want to start reading so soon. My visions of explorations in water color, walks in the woods, and make believe games about elves for the year quickly became infiltrated with alphabet activities and number games. By April, Chobie was reading! In the process, I felt like I lost sight of some of the holistic principles that I wanted to guide our homeschool process. Instead of walking in the woods and doing art, we were suddenly busy with counting bears and button sorting. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just feels easier to find those activities and do them and feel like my kid is learning than it is to appreciate the learning process that unfolds when we spend a day on the prairie.

So in addition to the "normal" learning areas like language, math and science, I've listed out the learning areas that will maintain the holistic aspect of our curriculum.

  • developing a strong sense of place
  • connecting with the world, past and present, through story
  • practical life skills
  • wholeness and interconnection within systems (as in being able to see the big picture as a balancing force to reductionist thinking)
  • tools for emotional wellness and self-care
  • social and ecological responsibility 
  • critical thinking
  • spiritual awareness

I'm looking forward to fleshing out these ideas a bit and adding them as pillar posts to this blog. I know that I appreciate that sort of thing when I first find a homeschool blog, if I get a sense of what the philosophy is, then I know how our family compares and how compatible it will be for us from the beginning.

Considered how things have gone, I'm going to start him with a kindergarten curriculum in the fall, even though he's technically not supposed to start until next year with the dating system our public school system uses.  I'm a little uneasy with this decision because of how much I had read about how the standard education in this country forces kids to do things too fast. I would rather go by my kids' signs of readiness, it just turns out things are going more quickly for Chobie than I had imagined. I can accept that.

So I'm looking forward to a summer of gathering kindergarten resources and developing our cirriculum. I'll be sharing my thoughts and reviewing the resources I come across along the way, as well as keeping you updated on our summer learning. Hope you'll be following along!

How did your homeschool year go? How's your summer?

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