Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three. Confucius

01 January 2012

A New Homeschooling Year

Hi Everyone, New Year is a time when I tend to get refreshed about homeschooling and have time to sit and think about where we have been and where we are going with on our homeschooling journey (I say journey rather than planning deliberately because I believe education is a lifestyle journey not a fixed destination to arrive at...a cliche maybe but so true...). Anyway, I digress....I have been sitting on the deck in the 42 degree (!!!) heat planning what we will be doing this year and have come up with a myriad of possibilities which I have narrowed down to (I think) a manageable number of activities.....

We have purchased an annual membership with our local zoo which I heartily recommend if you are wanting a relaxed, informative visit rather than a rushed 'lets make this huge outlay for one day worth it' visit to the zoo. The children have a much more satisfying experience if they can linger at five or six locations in a day, and I find I can research and answer their questions much more thoroughly if we have time to linger and appreciate each animal without rushing onto the next thing. We plan to spend at least one day a month in 2012 at the zoo, and to provide the children with a different medium for drawing an animal each time. We will start with pencil sketching and go onto charcoal, pastel pencils, oil pastel crayons, water colours, clay, nature collage and so on, which the children can use at the zoo or finish later at home from a pencil sketch. We will also look at sustainability and endangered animals as part of our visits, and give the children a grounding in social responsibility to our environment in a relaxed, pertinent way. A lot of zoo memberships also provide members with special access to activities such as Zoo Youth and other volunteering opportunities, Zoo Snooze, education sessions etc.

We will also be doing monthly Nature Journal entries, again using a variety of mediums. I use Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth as a reference as it's accessible and provides a lot of ideas for recording in various forms, using colour, the seasons, recording factual information and so on....

Story of the World will take us to Ancient Egypt, India, China and Africa this year, and we made a start in December last year with some clay tablets symbolising the children's names in Cuneiform and Hieroglyphics to recreate the first writing in Sumeria and Egypt. We also did a comparison of paper and clay for longevity in the weather which explained why so many tablets remain while ancient paper records are relatively rare.

The kids and their Dad will be working through Richard Hammond's Blast Lab , which has some awesome experiments you can do at home, and which cover principles such as energy, light, gravity, particles, germination in a fun, simple way which won't overwhelm a younger learner. We'll go onto his Can You Feel the Force?(putting the fizz back into physics) book in the last half of the year... sounds like lots of noise and fun will be happening around our place on Saturday mornings for a while :) !!

I'll be looking for interesting ways to pique Jay's interest in reading...Jolly Phonics (also available at book depository)seems effective as a good solid basis for learning alphabet sounds and grammar now that he's nearly 7, and I have found it's effective to engage Jay in writing something of his own choosing (it's always LEGO) I have sourced some interesting LEGO readers at Book Depository...with titles like Way of the Ninja, Star Wars Phantom Menace and Blackbeard's Treasure, they should provide quite a bit of motivation to read....

I'm going to introduce some poetry reading and writing from Enjoying More Poetry by Sadler and Hayllar. This book has a nice balance of humour, reverence and variety, and accompanies each poem with some activity/question suggestions which you can choose to implement into your experience or not. We will be attempting some shapely poems (where you write a poem in the physical shape of the subject), some humorous verse inspired by Pam Ayers and Spike Milligan, and maybe some animal poems inspired by our trips to the zoo...

I've been looking at ways to make mathematics fun and have decided that in conjunction to Family Maths i will encourage the children to count and classify their piggybank savings each fortnight on pocket-money day and record their total savings, the denominations which make up the total, and eventually turn this into a graphing project using a variety of graphing techniques in a relevant way. We'll continue with board games and cooking as hands on mathematics activities.

For Design and Technology we'll be introducing some basic sewing projects like finger puppets and a bag. We'll be doing some cross stitch on gingham after making a pattern on graph paper, also looking at basic components of a sewing machine and what you need for a sewing kit. We'll be doing some research on fashions through the ages and the children will choose an era to create a lapbook about and make a basic costume using the basic skills we've acquired through the year. We'll be using an adorable old series of teaching books called Needlecraft Construction Technique written by Jean D. Lane for reference.

This series offers a refreshingly clear, old fashioned approach to sewing, offering a solid, simple foundation for more complicated projects later on. We fortunately found ours in an op-shop, but I have seen them occasionally on e-bay and other used book sellers.

I'll also be giving the children the opportunity to create, photograph and submit their own creation for the LEGOQUEST (an online LEGO enthusiasts newsletter run by homeschooling families for homeschooling families) challenge each month. I will offer guidance through the various stages where necessary, but this will be their project and something they can feel they've achieved with minimum adult intervention and become familiar with basic computer use at the same time.

We've been doing our swimming lessons at the beach this year using a book written by Linda McGill called Teach Your Child to Swim. It covers all the basic strokes from toddlers through to basic freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke and uses simple language and pictures to illustrate techniques. I can see real improvement in the children's confidence in the water since we started lessons and will continue with basic strokes at the beach until the weather cools and we need to head for an indoor pool to learn diving and the finer points/corrections of each stroke, all covered by the book. Other books I have found to be too wordy, with distracting illustrations, so this is quite a find, in my opinion.

I hope you find some helpful points in this lot.....now, time to get on with the business of homeschooling :)

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

Our Story Chair

Hello Everyone,

Happy New Year :)

Well, we've been quite busy this season...with Christmas celebrations shared with family and friends, and finding exciting learning opportunities hidden away in our local park.....

Jay and Freida got new bikes for Christmas and we've been trekking down to the local bike track to give them a chance to ride without traffic. On our first day we discovered a beautiful sculpted wooden storytelling chair and benches for an audience!!! It is situated under an enormous tree and we have simply ridden past without really looking in before as it's partially obscured by trees. Fortunately this time we stopped to investigate, and as you can imagine, the children raced right over and one by one commanded the seat with pride. They each proceeded to tell a tale involving family members, with accompanying gestures, and relished the opportunity to tell a tale without interruption. We have visited many times since that first happy discovery and I have incorporated poetry, story starters and drama into our 2012 plans, all involving Our Story Chair, as the children have named it.

The children's stories are spontaneous, fresh and totally their own creation. Freida is a princess, with beautiful tales of fairies, magic and all things etheral. Jay a brave knight, travelling to the Antarctic to battle fierce snow creatures, and back to England to catch wild boar for dinner in the King's castle, Alexandra told a story that was delightfully 'gross' for the little ones and everyone had a good laugh...I love the fact that children can be so totally absorbed in creative storytelling, and the outdoor environment gives them the opportunity to move and use their voices in such a way that they aren't restricted as they inevitably are indoors.

I'm really excited that we're able to combine a bike ride with some literary experience this way, and look forward to many more tales of adventure and intrigue over the years courtesy of this beautiful space.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x