As we embark on our second year of homeschooling I have been looking forward to the new year ahead, whilst taking a moment to digest all that we accomplished last year. I feel pretty lucky to get to spend my days with these two little monkeys and can’t believe how quickly the days together go by. I have spent a little time this week getting our schoolroom in order and Maya started working on the covers of her new work books.
While our school days hold hours of self-directed learning and free play, we also manage to do a lot of ‘work’ in what seem like a short amount of time. I realised pretty quickly that a couple of hours a day of school work can produce meaningful learning and that combined with lots of excursions and getting together with friends (Like below in the longhouse our homeschool friends Lisa & Family made in the woods) makes for a nice life. Learning experience really are everywhere!
One of the best things about homeschooling besides being together, is that we do not rush. We have such slow days. Days in pajamas, and days just of drawing. Days of playing in the woods, days of reading, and days of adventure to amazing places.
Once again I will model our studies on what and how I learnt at school as a child, combined with the children’s interests. We start each day with reading, writing and arithmetic, and then proceed into either environmental, history or geography studies, craft or art. This year Elle is of kindergarten age and she will be more involved in formal lessons. Along with the basics Elle is going to work on an animal book, and study animals (her choice).
As Maya is entering 3rd grade, we are adding more focus to traditional themes of geography and history studies, along with the topic we are most excited about, the human body (her choice). Maya is a great student and I love that we can take time to do things with lots of effort and detail. Each of Maya’s lesson books is a work of art. I am a proud Mama. If you ever come over to our house, I will run and get her books to show you! The girls books become keepsakes (instead of stuffing for the recycling bin). I just can’t wait until she starts working inside her human body book!
I feel we did a good job last year, but I also feel like the children were able to play more than they had been made to work, so this was a win for me and them. Play is so very important for children. Free play, and hours of it. I don’t want my day filled with directing the girls from one task to the next. You will hear me say…”I need to work on my thing, so you go and work on your thing” I do not care what their thing is, they just have to have something that is a spark inside. I want them to do what they want to do and have self-directed interests that they give their attention to whole heartedly, which for them is play. Self directed imaginative lay makes for self directed creative adults. I feel fortunate that the girl’s play is rich, that they have each other, and that we have sweet home school friends to play with too.
This year we will be adding more household responsibility into their day was well. Good old chores! Folding the washing, doing the dishes, sweeping and cooking.
I have included in a gallery below some of the school work ( 7yr old ) Maya did last year. We do not follow a curriculum, I make up the work as we go along and we generally work in small blocks. For example, a block about pollinators or a block about shelter. I research on-line and use the local library to source age appropriate reference books. I base our studies roughly on what the average child of the same age is learning for standardized maths and english testing and supplement this with Waldorf (Steiner) philosophies and ideas. I ask the girls what they want to study and I also dive into themes purely because I am interested myself or I need to study it for my work purposes. I love how I learn right along with them and our interests are interwoven. We have studied things from the nitrogen cycle through to Marie Antoinette … and many things in between. This year we will likely re-study and build upon a lot of the things we did last year. Some of which I think are particularity important for this day and age, like the carbon cycle. Every child and adult in the world need to have a firm understanding of this.
My personal preference is that we do lesson from scratch by hand, writing and illustrating it all the old-fashioned way, as I did as a child, and so I do not generally use commercial activity workbooks. I adore Maya’s illustrations and depending on what it is that needs to be drawn, if she can not just draw from her mind, I will set her up with an image from either a library book or from the computer to use as reference.
I find that by writing out Maya’s maths each day (sometimes she makes up her own maths, and writes out her own problems), and setting her english and grammar tasks, I can tailor them to our life personally and make things relative to us, which makes the learning closer to our heart, and us more present with it.
For example here is a Maths problem I might write for her: “Maya wants to buy a dollhouse from Acorn toy Store in Brooklyn. The dollhouse cost $150. Maya has $23 in savings only. Mum and Dad said they would give her $5 for ever hour of reading she would do (Maya needs to embrace reading). How much money does Maya need to raise, and how many hours of reading would this involve to reach her goal?
This in fact is a real life scenario, so it has purpose. Maya likes it if she has reason to work out an equation, and I enjoy doing these things with her. Maths can be really fun, I truly enjoy maths and geometry…who does not find spirals interesting? We love that for the next few months the girls are both fib numbers (5, 8). We decided that because this is so, it is a special time for us. The magic of Fibonacci!
At the end of this month, September 19 -21st, I will be speaking at Wild & Free, a homeschool conference in Virginia Beach. I will be talking a little about why we chose to homeschool, and more in depth about our methods of home school and how I balance life while working, and taking care of our home. There is still time to register if you are interested in attending Wild & Free.