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.