Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Creating Habits

Read Smooth and Easy Days last night. It was so inspiring to read Charlotte Mason's words about creating habits in our children. She struck a cord when she talked about how sometimes we don't teach our children habits because we ourselves may not be the best at orderliness, punctuality, cleanliness, etc... I thought to myself, "Bingo!" I have put off giving my children responsibilities and holding them accountable for keeping their rooms clean because my room/house is in shambles.

So after reading into the wee hours of the morning, I was inspired to take that first step of picking one, just one of the habits to work on in our family. That was the other point I took to heart, I don't need to work on every fault we have, just take it one at a time.
We chose orderliness to work on for the next 12 weeks. They were very amused at the fact that mommy would also be working on these habits. I think it's good for them to see me working at it too, we're doing it together, a sense of camaraderie, 'we're in this together' type of thing. I can use my failures as teachable moment.
Our first habit is, drum roll please, putting shoes away when we take them off at the door. Sounds simple enough, but how many times to do I come flying in the door with my 101 things to do mental check list? I may shout a, "Take your shoes off" over my shoulder as I run through the mudroom. And they do. They remove their shoes and proceed to fling them to all four corners (and beyond.) After a few days it's a sea of shoes in the mudroom that we must stumble and navigate ourselves through praying not to twist an ankle. I have visions of myself doing the cartoon style of slip-on-a-banana-peel kind of fall. Of course no two pairs of shoes can be worn twice. It's at this point I wonder how many shoes do my children actually own? So for me, this journey is the habit of taking two seconds to stop and encourage them (in my gentle, you-can-do-this voice) to remove their shoes and place them under the bench. And when they forget, it's so much easier to do the whole, "How many times do I have to tell you..." instead of kindly asking, "Did you forget something?" I feel as though for every one habit I am teaching them, I'm having to learn five. For one, I have to remember to actually put my shoes away, then I have to remember to watch them to see that they are establishing their habit, and of course the whole habit of remembering how to respond to them when they forget. There is also breaking the bad habit of just picking the shoes up myself because it's so much faster to just haphazardly kick them under the bench myself, rather than going through the trauma of calling them to the mudroom (sometimes several times) and then listen to the whimpering and wailing of child labor.
This is going to be interesting to say the least, but I know if I stick with it, it will pay off in the end.

I also incorporated, or should I say re-incorporated our morning and bedtime routines. Only I made them into an easier system than what I had tried before. I took pictures of them each doing their own parts of the routine, i.e. brushing their teeth, washing their face, etc... plus one chore. I then labeled them, printed them out on card stock and laminated them with Contact paper. Here is a sample of my son's.

Today was obviously the first day to use them and they were a huge hit. They really liked taking responsibility for their own actions and getting to choose what order to do them. I liked not having to remember who had done what. I always find myself wondering, did H and B brushed their teeth, or was it B and C? Now I just look to see what cards have not been placed back in the pile.
Here is how it works, it's pretty simple. Depending on if it's morning or evening, I place the cards that need to be completed in the place where they sit at the table. Unused cards are put in the middle of the table. When they finish their task, they place their card in the "discard" pile in the middle. All cards must be off their place setting before breakfast (or bed.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A new school year and a new opportunity to blog. We'll see how I keep up with it this time. My record is not encouraging! We do year-'round school, so we're actually just beginning our summer break as everyone else is going back to school. It makes it nice to take our field trips this week because most schools do not plan field trips their first few weeks back to school. So apple orchard, children's museum, etc... are practically empty.
I am using what is left of our four week break to plan and prep for the fall term. I am getting things organized and cleaned so hopefully we can get on a little more of strict schedule. Starting school at 10:00 or later will not cut it as the children get older. One thing I need to do is get some Charlotte Mason books and incorporate some of her ideas/philosophies into our schedule next term.

Last week we had a few days of rain. As we were driving out of our neighborhood we found a yard that had the most beautiful mushrooms. They were large, stark white, growing in a sweet little fairy ring. We pulled the car over and did an impromptu study of mushroom. (Conveniently, the house was for sale, so no need to ring the bell for permission.) I must admit I know little to nothing about mushrooms. So it was fun to learn along with the children. I fully understand the we barely even scratched the surface of what there is to learn about mushrooms, but it sparked an interest in the kids (and me) so next time the idea of mushrooms comes up, we can build on what we learned this time.

We observed and recorded. Then, cut one apart to see inside and recorded our findings. Next, we did a K-W-L chart. We wrote down everything we Know (or think we know) about mushrooms. Then we made a list of all the things we Want to learn about mushrooms. And finally, as we researched I recorded everything we Learned about mushrooms. It was only simple ideas like, mushrooms come in many shapes and sizes. Mushrooms produce spores. The color of the spores help identify the mushroom. Mushrooms can grow on trees (saprotrophic) or on the ground (mycorrhizal.) Some mushrooms require light to grow, other need the darkness of a forest floor. 

I found a website by Taylor Lockwood . It had amazing photos of the most beautiful mushrooms I've ever seen. 
For art, we drew mushrooms with white crayon on white paper, then painted with watercolors over it. For language arts, they drew a mushroom, then dictated a sentence about mushrooms from our K-W-L chart. I printed out the sentence, cut it up and they had to put their sentence together and glue it in order on their picture. I did not cut up my 3 year old's sentence, he just glued it on his page. For my 4 year old, I printed out two sentences. One as a control and then cut up the other. My 6 year old had to put her sentence together by herself. 
I'm so glad we took the time to stop and do this little project because the next day they were gone. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Fresh Start

Ok, so I'm so great at blogging, considering my last post was in January. Spring is a very busy time for me doing gardening and spending a lot of time outdoors. Now that the sweltering heat is upon us, I tend to stay indoors more. Between the mosquitoes and the humidity triggered migraines, it's all I can do to get out and feed the chickens and pick our produce. I did however find a website that gets us out of the house for a little bit. We observe fireflies for ten minutes once a week and send that information into the National Wildlife Federation to help out in their study of fireflies. I believe they're the same organization who do the Backyard Bird Watch.  Their website has a lot of 'watches' for you to do in your own backyard.

We just started our summer term last week. It amazes me how everything in the world will come up to keep me from teaching starting the very first day. From pet mice dying to an almost severed thumb (my dad has a workshop in our garage.) However, thanks to my wonderful family, we have the school room in working order so I don't have to drag the centers out into the living room every day. Nor do I have to stare at half primed walls and gaping holes where baseboards belong. The room was in bad disarray when we moved in and is the last room to get TLC in the house. My nephews and brother helped me gut the room and reorganize. My sister-in-law set me up with some great Montessori work, helped me dust myself off and set me in the right direction. My dad and husband helped me get the room painted, sealed and finish trimming the windows and got the baseboards put up. It looks so fresh and clean I almost don't want to use it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Feelings of Guilt

Today started as any normal day and ended up taking a huge detour from my to-do list. C didn't wake up today until 3pm, so I had pretty much all day to get stuff done. It has been frustrating me that I cannot do proper centers with H and B. Having taught Kindergarten for five years in a brick and mortar school, I find myself feeling guilty that my kids are going to miss out on the 'traditional' kindergarten experience. I know the benefits of homeschooling FAR outweigh any experience they may have going to 'regular' school. However, I still find myself always trying to find that balance. The problem is finding a way to keep C out of the centers he's not ready for and the fact that my husband wants school stuff to stay in the school room. Don't get me wrong, I'm eternally grateful that I have a room designated just for school. But it's just not big enough to set up play centers. So, I have come up with a system that I think will work. It will require me to set up each morning and put it all back in the school room each afternoon, but I think it's worth it.

Legos went in the playpen to keep C out and away from them. On the table in the background (in front of the fish tank) I put our field guides for easy access to H for whenever she wants to bird-watch.

Playdoh at the table.

 Blocks in the corner. By the end of the day they had brought out their My Little Ponies and Polly Pockets to build castles and stables.

Art in the other corner.

Puzzles on the tool chest. As you can see H had to try them all out and revisited each center at least twice. B was content to just build with Legos most of the day.

Other play centers will be rotated in as they lose interest in the current ones. I have an art easel/chalkboard to add and bins that I have turned into sand/water tables.
Work centers will remain in the school room where I can keep an eye on them and help if needed.

So even though I didn't even touch my to-do list and my kitchen is full of dirty dishes, I feel as though I accomplished a lot today and have eased the feelings of guilt that loom over my school day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teachable Moments

Today we observed birds at our feeder and learned how to read a field guide (finding SC on the map, see what color it is and then finding corresponding color on list of information about where that bird can be found.) We identified a Wren, Titmice, Cardinal, Yellow Finch and H's favorite a Chickadee. H and I found the bird in the book, I wrote the name and drew three rectangles below. She then observed the bird and colored each rectangle to show what colors the bird had on it. I then had her dictate any distinguishing marks/characteristics that the bird might have i.e. the Titmice had pointy feathers on their head.
We briefly discussed migration. I introduced the term and explained that some birds go where it's warm when it's cold here. Some birds stay. So we concluded that the birds we found do not migrate since we have snow right now.
H is also in the stage of whether things are boys or girls. So we looked in the field guide to notice how the boys had bright colors and the girls were more dull in color. We had a male and female cardinal come to the feeder to observe.

Now, on to the teachable moment. It seems as though whenever I'm trying to get a lesson done, everything in the world happens to interrupt. I end up getting tunnel vision and so focus on completing the lesson that I don't take advantage of teachable moments. As we were sitting, observing birds and looking through our book, a huge beetle goes walking by on the floor. Of course, it was then choas between us and the window. The dog was trying to eat it, B and C where trying to touch it, I was just trying to get them all to move so we could observe the birds.  That's when it hit me...duh, observe the massively awesome, cool beetle that is crawling through our livingroom.
We are still trying to identify it, so if anyone knows, please give input. We do not have any beetle or bug identification books and I cannot find it on the internet. It's middle set of legs and antennae are hairy, it is very shiny, and it hisses.

Monday, January 3, 2011

One-Hour Challenge #1

Went for a walk down our street, something different than just our own backyard. We discovered pods with seeds in them, ice in the dirt, acorns, a bird's nest, shadows and the fact that some trees lost their leaves and others didn't (some of the ones with their leaves also had berries.) We haven't decided which two we're going to study further, they didn't really show an interest in one particular thing. We will probably narrow it down to acorns and evergreens or shadows. The important thing is we got outside!

Do holly leaves hurt? Ouch! Yes they do.

The ice froze in straight up-and-down lines in the dirt. It was cold to touch!

A Bumpy Start

I must say I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't find any Charlotte Mason books or Handbook of Nature Study in my area. I went to the local large bookstore chain and they said they could order...with a four dollar deliver fee tacked on to the already high price. I then trudged on over to our local library. They did not have it nor did any of the local branches. Call it my impatience of wanting a book NOW, or the fact that I just like to hold the book in my hand and flip through it before I buy it, but I don't usually buy things on-line. However, it looks like this time I may have to break my 'old-fashioned' ways and purchase it from Amazon.
This will not deter me from starting the One-Hour Challenge today. I purchased a little journal for H to start her nature journal and we head out today to the big world of our front yard!