Feb 29, 2012

One day in our life

This is the last part of the blog hop from Kylie at Our Worldwide Classroom : )
It has been lovely fun! Thanks Kylie, thanks blog buddies!

Feb 22, 2012

Learning spaces blog hop

It is time for Part 3 in the NBTS homeschool blog hop organised by Kylie at Our Worldwide Classroom...Learning Spaces!

Our Worldwide Classroom

Recently I posted about our move from dining room table to our dedicated learning space known as "the end room" - so click on over and have a look!

I have really enjoyed this blog hop and I have a special photo here just for Ingi  at Defying Gravity who does lots of cool stuff with her lovely gifted kids and will appreciate a look at our dining room table tonight...

This is what the table looks like WITH a dedicated learning space LOL. 

As you might notice, there is a birthday card from November for Baden Powell's birthday today (founder of Scouts), a mini microscope, a bug catcher, assorted art materials from today's Minoan Ancient Greece art activity, a volcano kit ready to launch into action to devastate Thera and bring the downfall of the Minoans, November's sewing kit, leaves in vases from July's nature study walk, assorted supplements, a huge collection of tiny gorgeous robots in lego from July (including her "Lost Thing" from the Shaun Tan book)...and our dinner!

This is truly a learning space, because it is where we are! It makes me think of the old song - "wherever I lay my hat, that is my home"...for us, like most homeschoolers, wherever the family is, that is the learning space : )

Oh, and a truly lovely moment happened this Monday, July started the first Harry Potter while November started the fifth. Even Perrin our cat is happy about that, as it means more kids in the reading room for more time on laps.

Feb 13, 2012

NBTS Blog Hop - plans for 2012

This is the second post in the NBTHS Blog hop, set up by Kylie at Our Worldwide Classroom:

Our Worldwide Classroom

Bit of cheating going on here, as my "first day" post here is actually our plan for the year.
But I thought I'd use this post as a quick note of all the other non-curriculum whole-child things I have in mind...more emotional or personal goals for our family members.

For November, I'd like to really share my vision of her as an sophisticated, growing-up, independent learner. 

I'd like her to look through my eyes and see the budding elegant young woman that I can see coming through, so that she doesn't feel so impatient with herself to grow up!

I'd like us to do more of the meditation we dabbled with last year.

For July, I'd choose that she relaxed into her own strengths. 

It is hard to be the little sister to an accomplished, driven, racing-to-grow-up big sister...especially when you are quite driven yourself! Even if you are quite determined to be blasé about your achievements : )

I want us to spend more time hanging out, creating together. I think she is one of the most visually creative people I have ever known. Really. And I want to nurture that more this year.

Big wishes for little girls. But  so far we have started this not-back-to-school year with satisfied, happy faces, so maybe these are just the right kind of wishes after all.

Feb 10, 2012

Meet our Hungry Heads!

As the 2012 education year starts to settle into a rhythm, I thought I'd follow Kylie's great example of the Australian "Not Back To School" blog hop homeschool link-up. 

Our Worldwide Classroom

First step? 

Meet our girls

November is our eldest daughter
  • independent, loquacious, opinionated, passionate
  • romantic - giggles and sighs about "true love's kiss" from "Enchanted"
  • 8 and a bit years old (very tall - 95th percentile for height)
  • talking from 7 months, and hasn't stopped since
  • voracious reader (known to bump into posts while walking and reading down the main street)
  • current favourite books are Garth Nix "Trouble Twisters" and the Harry Potter series
  • favourite movie "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" ("Ever After" a close runner up)
  • can't decide between medicine or being a rock star or actress 
  • profoundly gifted
  • early entry school starter, who lasted 1.5 years at the local school, and loves to advocate about the benefits of homeschool to e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e
  • favourite piece of curriculum is Caesar's English 1 from Michael Clay Thompson 
  • when the most upset, plays the piano loudly
  • when happy, plays the piano loudly
  • can't find her? Either in the bush on a nature walk with her sketchbook, or reading in the hammock
  • has been described as the "Martha Stewart of etiquette and compliments" - she is very socially aware and likes everyone happy...except her sibling at times : )
  • always in for a cuddle.

July is our youngest daughter

  • independent, loquacious, opinionated, self-assured (hmm...there is a trend there)
  • pragmatic and practical -  and impossible to discipline as her standards are already above mine hehe
  • 6 and a half years old (very tall - 95th percentile for height)
  • talking from 9 months, and unlike her big sister, went straight into more complex sentences - oh, and she also hasn't stopped since (it is LOUD around here!)
  • passionate reader (who must select her own books...or else)
  • current favourite books are Roald Dahl "Matilda" and the Spiderwick Chronicles series - these are a little too scary for her big sister, but July is generally fearless
  • favourite movies "Lord of the Rings" ("Horton hears a Who" a close runner up) - see, I said she was fearless. We fast-forwarded through the fighting to cries of "I want to see that!" LOL
  • profoundly gifted
  • has always spoken up to bullies - whether a kid in a playground or a teacher in a classroom (lasted one term at school)
  • favourite education activity is the daily 15 minutes journaling 
  • when the most upset, retires to her room with bears, lots and lots of bears
  • may look like a cross between Cindy Brady and Cindy-Lou in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas but has the determination and internal fortitude of Matilda
  • is excruciatingly funny (sometimes unintentionally - had mixed up salami with tsunami yesterday...had no idea what that meat thing was hehe)
  • can't find her? Will be somewhere creating craft...lots and lots of craft
  • needs lots of tickles, even at bedtime - and loves a cuddle too.

Feb 6, 2012

The one thing I hate the most about unschooling...

is the horrible pressure placed on kids to learn to read. Alone. Driven by their own motivation. Expected to work out when they are ready. Given the responsibility for their own literacy.

As though the huge task of learning to read is somehow optional in engaging with the outside world, and not a necessary "skill" to learn in order to be able to learn.

Unschool-ey person, this may not be you
Now, this rave may not apply to your unschooling family. Your child may have taught themselves to read - without help. Or maybe your child has a learning disability that has hindered their reading so there are other dynamics at play. Or maybe you are unschoolers who support their kids with strewed books, games, activities, and step-by-step material. 

This post absolutely is not about you. I promise.

I need to vent, and I am sorry if I offend you but I have chosen to vent right here, on my blog. I just can't take it any more!

A few thoughts about reading
Learning to read is complex. There are many stages and skills that need to be acquired to become a fluent reader.

Reading is not automatic, something that happens at a particular age, or a skill that is only a question of motivation. 

Chances are, virtually every person in your child's life can read. Our society's dominant communication method is the written word - you cannot search Google without being able to write or read. Not even youtube.

Reading can be wonderfully evocative and inspiring - a time machine,  a stirrer of emotion and passion, the best educational vehicle we have. 

Our children should be tempted, intrigued, encouraged, to enter into this relationship we adults have with the printed word. 

Not locked out.

Parent reading-aloud to child is great - but if this is the only way your child is able to access the books and other material they are interested in, it will erode their confidence, and dull their curiousity. The same need for independence that drove your child to feed and clothe themselves is also there in the need to choose their own material to read and experience it first-hand.

Think of illiterate adults: it is difficult to imagine a greater motivator than avoiding embarrassment, or lack of employment prospects for them to learn to read...yet as an adult it is horribly hard to learn to read. Many coping mechanisms - I forgot my glasses, can you fill it in, I have bad handwriting, you write it down etc etc - and avoidance become a habit.

Please, please consider your child and help them avoid that "avoidance".

A few thoughts about unschooling
I like the idea of child-led learning versus being shackled to a schoolroom and a state curriculum. Many, many times we have left the week's plan (if there actually was one!) and gone off on a tangent down a "rabbit trail" sparked by our girls' questions or wondering. I love that flexibility...

"I want to be able to swim better" - of course.
"I want to cook my dinner tonight"- yes, here's how you might go about that...
"I am in love with Greek myths, so I am going to read this book now" - yay!
"I really want to make polymer goop" - um, I think we might have a kit for that.
"I'm building a cardboard Tardis" "What bird is that?" "I really want to dissect that rat"...

I would never force our girls to learn something they didn't want to. However...

I would never expect our 6 year old to get herself to the library alone, find, and get a book out on her current interest. Or have the wherewithal to decide she wants to improve her handwriting over time. Or magically work out the times table. Or indeed decide what food she wanted to eat every day. Or expect her to wash her own clothes...

It is a question of degree. Independence is good, but good enough parenting is about involvement and active support.

Reading as an essential skill
Maybe the way to see reading is as a "must have" - a key to learning that isn't "school" but as essential as learning how to feed yourself with your own hands. 

"Unschooling" seems to be an intellectual device to distance us homeschoolers from the "bricks and mortar school" baddies down the road. I get that distinction, I like it.

Approach reading in a creative way. It doesn't have to be workbooks and chalk and talk. Reading can be taught socially, with games, interactive computer resources, or just one on one. It takes time - a lovely, close together time.

Unschooling problems - when it goes badly...
These are all real-life, true examples I have personally seen or heard first-hand:

  • Child feeling inadequate and consequently shy in case a new friend asks them what they are reading or to play a game or some other activity that involves literacy
  • Elaborate lies, pretending to be able to read fluently when other kids are having that "Have you read Harry Potter?" style conversation - the parents truly believed this kid was not bothered at all by not being able to read
  • Wanting to go to school rather than try to learn to read on their own (it is really quite hard!)
  • Those missed years of learning (because of being stymied in their reading) leading to never really catching up, and feeling like a loser
  • Parents who see their kids as a bit "lazy" or "not motivated" when in reality it is that huge hurdle of having to learn to read alone
  • Older kids discouraged by the simple childish nature of most "learn to read" materials - as though they have missed the boat (this is HUGE)
  • Stopping homeschooling altogether because the family can't cope with the years of waiting and pressure on everyone until the child is "ready" to read
  • Learning disabilities and developmental delays missed for years because those early reading skills can shine a spotlight on those issues
  • Kids who decide to go to into mainstream school (as is their right, after all!) who are actually not able to because their reading level is years behind their age peers
The rant is over : )
Yes, there are problems with unschooling (like all methodologies in education) and benefits there too. But PLEASE really engage with your child and get them reading. 

Go together on this stage of the journey so they can potter off (mostly) alone on the later stages. 

Imagine your day as a homeschool parent without being able to read. How would you survive? How would you explore? Literacy is the dominant paradigm - get into it!

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? "Been there, done that" you'd care to share?
No flames please, but I am very happy to hear your take on it : )

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