Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This might be a long one...

It seems that I have days that go by so quickly that I can't even read my favorite blogs, much less post to my own. And then there are days, like today, when my kids are happily playing together upstairs for the moment and the baby is sleeping and I find that I have some time to myself. But even on those hectic days, I'm composing posts in my head and if I continue to have me-time, I'll write until I'm interrupted by something/someone. So this post might be long.

First, a comment left on the last post makes an interesting point.
"Sometimes I really don't *feel* like explaining it or talking about it. A lot of times I do, because it's my passion, but some days I just don't."
Absolutely! I don't always feel like explaining it either! But it's similar to exercise...you know it's good for you and them and you know they need the answer and so you dig deep and just do it. But, as with exercise, we all have our off days too and there are some days when I just can't dig deep enough. What do you do? You can make a list of questions and bring them up later..."Matthew, remember a couple days ago you wanted to know...well, I found the answer...". Unschooling is not about perfection or knowing all answers.

A friend, who is looking at different methods of homeschooling for her 2yr old, recently said, "You must be a walking encyclopedia. I could never answer all those questions!" It's OK to not know all the answers in life! No one can possibly know them all. Share what knowledge you have about the subject and if they ask more questions, look it up. The internet bill is a MUST for our family. Library card is a MUST (we're fortunate to have a wonderful library system). Having B&N and Borders nearby doesn't hurt either. ;) And anytime I can show them something up close and hands-on, I do.

Have you taken your kids to Krispy Kreme? Other than the promise of hot sweet gooeyness, what are they usually excited about the first few trips there? Watching the donuts form and cook right in front of them. Because, like The Stooges so eloquently showed us, there are things (like baseball) that make SO much more sense after you watch it. I learn things much faster by watching. I'm predominately a visual learner though I think we all have a big portion of that in us. I bet your kids can explain to you pretty well how to make a donut if you tie in the words "Krispy Kreme". ;) In the same regard, as my kids grow, I will strive to give them hands-on experience with as many things as I can. Yes, this will brings lots more messes into my house than most other moms but I believe they will look back on their childhood and learning experiences more fondly than someone in a desk stuck at school learning facts from a dull textbook. I know I would have.

The things I remember liking the most from school were the hands-on and the extra special things. I remember making Stone Soup when my class read the book in elementary school. We all brought in an ingredient and the teacher brought a stone. I remember making string art in geometry - and I, a self-described math hater, truly loved that project and ended up really loving geometry by year-end. Field trips were also a huge plus to me. The botany class trip in college took us out to a wildlife area where we discussed flora and fauna in a whole new way. I also detested history/social studies until, that is, my required course came during my 2nd year in college. I chose the class about American history up to the end of the Civil War. My teacher lived in a 150 yr old house and invited us to her home one class night to get a real feel for life back then. The house was lit with candles, it was drafty and had dark muted colors throughout. We sat on the old wood floor as we listened to her teaching that night. A few weeks later, she invited us to watch her in a Civil War re-enactment...we could write a paper on the experience for extra credit. I had no idea what to expect. But coming over the hill and looking down into the little town they'd created and seeing the dress, the talk, the foods, the battle...I was suckered right in. Did history become interesting to me then? You bet. I still don't like to watch war documentaries but when History Channel does those specials where they do re-enactments of life long ago, I'm all eyes and ears. Now obviously a lot of this stuff had to do with my teachers. Absolutely they made a difference in how I saw it because THEY were interested in it too. A good creative teacher makes all the difference in the world. But how many of those are out there (besides our faithful Jean2, that is...teehee)? Many unschoolers get their older kids involved as apprentices and there are more and more programs available all the time. As a good example, I see that our zoo now has a "Be a Zookeeper for a Day/Week" program. There are many opportunities like this all around that will help my kids get real hands-on experience that they will remember forever.

Topic #2 - Conversations around the house lately...
Coming home from church on Sunday, we were listening to the kids current favorite music, a CD of the best Veggietales songs. OK, I admit it...I was happily singing (and laughing) along as well. Matthew had been quiet in the back for a while, which usually means the wheels are turning and something quite unexpected is going to come out of his mouth any moment. Though this one, I wasn't quite prepared for.
"OK, Mom...stop the music. I want to tell you how babies are made."
My heartbeat quickened as I turned off the music and wondered what was coming next.
He went on to explain the scientific answer...
"Well," he cleared his throat, "you see..." [very matter-of-fact] "The boy has the...wait, AFTER the man and woman get married, the man has sperm and the woman has...an egg, I think it's called...and one sperm goes into the egg. Now if it's a boy sperm, it's a boy baby. And if it's a girl sperm, it's a girl baby."
"Oh, ok," I said, wondering what they were teaching kids in Sunday School these days. "What made you think about that all of a sudden?" I added.
"Oh, I just wanted to tell you since we have Linnae now."
"Oh, well thanks for explaining it," I said with a big silly grin on my face.
"You're welcome."

Rose is starting to read now at 4.5yrs. She's got all the letter sounds down and makes a real effort to sound out words. Though for some reason, she wants to read for Daddy more than she does for me. Since Daddy puts the kids to bed, along with their bedtime story (so I can have clean-up dinner time or on leftover night, a little me-time), they "work on" reading then. Very informal. No pressure at all. Daddy reads most of the book, pausing at some small words and asking her to sound them out. If she doesn't want to, he reads it and moves on. But when I ask her to do the same thing, she acts like she has no idea what I'm talking about and "I caaaaaan't read" whines accrue. But I do catch her reading from time to time.

Do you remember that cheesy 80's movie, Short Circuit? The one where the robot, Johnny 5, somehow comes alive and forms relationships with people? Yes, that one. Do you remember what he did when he first came alive? "More Input!!" He read and read and read. He went to a bookstore and read books at an alarming speed and gained input. Kids are much the same - they want more and more and more information.

Yesterday Rose wanted me to read from one of her animal books. It's written for 9yr+ kids, I'd say, but all she ever really wants to read are animal books. And she's past all the mundane topical information they give in toddler books and easy readers. She wants more input. So we read books that are quite in-depth about animals. They also have many words per page and it's a little daunting for her to attempt on her own. I finished reading a page and turned it and she stopped me.
"You forgot to read this part!" Her fear of adults skipping text grabbed hold of her.
"No, I just read that."
"No you didn't!"
"Yes I did. See..." I pointed to each word and sounded it out slowly.
"Oh, yes you did read that!" [pause] Then with wild excitement, a huge Cheshire cat grin on her face and eyes wider than a raccoon she squealed, "I read that!!!" She realized that she could indeed read those many little words if she gave it some effort. What a great learning moment to behold!! I'm so grateful that I was there to witness it.

Well, I've talked your ear off enough for one day and the baby is waking and it's nearing lunchtime so I'll sign off for today. Hope to see you again soon!


Jean 2 said...

You are so right about the *creative* teachers out there. Some are. Some are not. I can be on some days, and other days I am ...well..not! ;) I have always felt that learning does not ALWAYS HAVE to be fun. Do you feel that way? Just curious. But what is soooooooo funny...is one of my fondest memories is STONE SOUP also. We did that and I brought celery. We also did the "Three Billy Goats Gruff", I loved doing those plays and actions. Since I teach reading/language arts only to 6th graders-I incorporate readers theatre. They truly enjoy that. But sometimes as a teacher -day after day-they simply read to themselves, in pairs or in groups and not always about topics they are interested in...they do it because I say so. :) I know I know-that is what you probably detest the most. But it is true. We have to discuss figurative language, context clues and literary elements! And since I have such a lively personality-I join them in their reading adventures (at a student desk or in the floor-they love that) rather than just sit at my desk like I often yearn to do! ;)

Kez said...

What a great moment to share with your daughter!