Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A New Rhythm to Our Days

A quick confession, I recently considered preschool for Benton.  Seriously considered it.  I wondered if he need a place of his own and if the social situation could help him improve his speech.  So, I visited the local Waldorf school and thought it was lovely.  Everything they said to sell me on the program, I could believe in.  By the time I got in my car I was thinking about enrolling both Benton and Oliver and felt terrible about it.  I fundamentally believe kids do not need preschool, so why was I suddenly feeling like our home was not enough for my kids?

After that visit, I came home and talked with Dan and I felt inspired to do better.  By better, I mean that I felt like I was just treading water this past year.  There was so much to do, as we settled into this house. Dan and I talked about what we had imagined as homeschooling parents, and why I thought we were not there yet.  Between moving in and back out for a remodel, and back in again, plus having a nursing child,  it was very difficult to stick to any sort of schedule, but we've moved on from all that now.  I don't know how many times this year I tried to pencil out a schedule.  I could never figure it out.  There was just too much going on.  That is how I came up with Read, Create, Play.  I just had to keep it simple.

Well, now that things feel a little more predictable in our house and our daily life, I was able to sit down and come up with a schedule.  It is a little for the kids and a whole lot for me.  There is so much to do as the mom, I have a hard time devoting my full attention to my kids.  I mean there is always laundry to do, dishes to deal with, cleaning and then there is all the stuff I feel like I am constantly trying to put away.

Anyway,  in case you are curious, here is a pretty honest schedule.  It is not exactly what I typed up, but when we get there, I'll share that one.  :) 

8:30 am - wake up, kids pick 1/2 hour show to watch while I check my email and then start breakfast (coffee first)
9:00 am - hot breakfast, usually we have eggs and toast or oatmeal
9:30 am - kitchen cleanup and sometimes a 2nd cup of coffee

One morning we read some books about vegetable gardens.  Oliver and Benton made a list of the vegetables they want in their garden this year.  As a former teacher, I loved how this activity came about naturally and with so much more meaning than what I would have done in the classroom.

10:00 am - Focused Learning time - this when I want to give my kids my full attention and really be a resource for them.  We head down to our playroom and read books, play games, do some art, whatever.  Sometime a question will come up so we've look for more info or videos on the internet.  Sometimes they do their own thing without me, but we always start with reading aloud.  I pick some books related to a theme for the week and they pick books too.  Lately, Ollie reads a few books to me, which I am really enjoying.  If they are busy playing without me, I might start some laundry or tidy up the playroom.

Noon -  They are usually ready to do something different at this point and lately, they go outside while I make lunch.

I wrote out a schedule for the rest of the day, but really, it is still fairly fluid.

1:00 pm - might head out for our a.l.l. activity, meet friends or to the library.  If we stay home, the kids are usually outside or playing on their own.

2:30 pm - Quiet hour - Linnea takes her nap, the boys get 1 hour of computer time and this is my quiet hour too.  :)  I am usually on the computer, sometimes I watch a little tv while I fold laundry.  There are lots of things I should be doing, but I need a little down time too.

3:30 pm - Oliver and Benton usually work with playdough, draw or write in their journals.  I am usually moving around tidying up around them or checking and responding to emails, making plans for a.l.l. or blogging.  Ideally, I would journal with them.  Hmm, need to put that on my to-do list.

4:00 pm -  Right now they are big fans of Wild Kratts on PBS, so they watch that at 4pm and I try to remember to turn the tv off after it is over.  I am always trying to clean up my house, but it is never really clean, because there is so much to do and I am easily distracted.

They might go back outside and Linnea and I will go out for a bit, but then I head in to start figuring out what to feed them when they come in hungry.  Linnea pretty much hangs out with me.

6pm - dinner and Dan is done with work and we all settle into our evening routine of family time and eventually getting ready for bed.

I love this warmer weather because the boys are outside so much.  Maybe this coming winter will be a little easier on them than their first winter here. Anyway, it is not too exciting and, as any mother knows, there a ton of things that don't fit into any schedule, but I know it is kind of nice to see what other home learning families are doing. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Read, Create, Play

This was quite a year for our family.  First of all we moved across the country.  As some of your know, moving is no small affair.  Although, we had visited many times, my kids and husband, were not Alaskans yet and we are still settling into who we are as Alaskans.  I kind of know who I am, but being the mom, makes it different.  We remodeled our house (still working on that one). I started a secular homeschooling group. :)  All while caring for a family of five, including a nursing baby and a giant puppy.  I was just trying to get through the day and could barely think any further.

Meanwhile, Oliver became an official homeschooling Kindergartner. Having been a Kindergarten teacher, I had big plans for Oliver.  When he was about 2, I could barely wait to start teaching him.  Ha ha.  That kid made it very clear that I would not be teaching him.  He does the learning on his own.  Having children greatly changed what I believe about how kids learn.  To Oliver, I am a valued resource, but he is in charge of his learning.  I believe my job is to give guidance and inspiration, opportunities, supplies, books and to say "yes" when someone wants my help to learn something in particular.

So, with everything that has been going on this year,  I set a simple goal for us.  A daily to do list: 

Read
Create
Play 

It was and is perfect for us.  Most days, if we did 2 of those items and everyone was fed and dressed (at some point), I was doing well.  I recently added two more things I would like Oliver to do every day:  Help (with caring for our home and family) and Write (he has a journal and likes to send letters).

I love how simple, yet complex Read, Create, Play can be.  Read - includes listening, reading alone, reading to someone else.  Create - usually means art, building with blocks, train tracks, baking, cooking, etc.  Play - go outside, please!  or playing with toys.  I kind of like to get them outside everyday, when possible.  For Oliver, this has been his to-do list as a kid.

For me, it is a reminder that I need to fit those things into my day too.  Right now, I am working on the create part  (I want to organize my sewing room)  I am also working on the writing in a journal right along side of them.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I never quite fit in

So, I went to the IDEA fair and felt strangely out of place.  Only one of the workshops appealed to me, it was kind of an intro to Waldorf, but even in there, I heard so many questions about how to do it right.  I wanted to speak up and say "You are the only person who knows what is right for your kids.  Relax, believe in your children's natural ability and desire to learn.  Be confident in yourself and your kids!  You can do this and everyone will turn out fine."  Thankfully, the presenter kind of said that, but I am not sure the person who asked the question was satisfied.

The conference hall full of stuff and salesman, actually made me feel anxious.  I am more of an online shopper.  I like to take it all in and then after days of research, make a purchase.  That goes for everything, from clothes to furniture.  I did show some support for the Alaskan toy store - Enchanted Forrest, co-owned by the Waldorf presenter.  I ignored the packaged (and often scripted) curriculum they gave me as a classroom teacher and can not fathom buying it as a parent. I didn't even stop at any other booths.   Maybe as my kids get older, and need credits for diplomas,  it will make sense.  For now, we are doing fine with a simpler approach.

I in no way mean to offend, if those things appeal to you.  I believe strongly that every parent and child are different and support choice of all sorts.  We all must seek out the best for our families,  whether is unschooling or school-at-home.  The reason I started a.l.l. was to find open minded folks, so we can support each other and learn from one another, no matter what style of learning we choose.

I lean towards the unschooling end of the spectrum, which really just means child-led to me.   During these early years,  I don't think my kids need workbooks or even lesson plans.  I want them to love literature and believe they are writers, not be stressed out focusing on the the minute details of sounding out letters or painfully writing sentences, one letter at a time.   They are naturally creative and artistic and they can create beautiful things without precut pieces or me directing every step.  My kids do sound words out, write everyday, and figure out mathematical equations but not because I said it is time to do it, but rather because they are natural learners and work at it for their own intrinsic rewards.

I thought I might get something out of the IDEA fair, if nothing more than the general support from being in a room full of homeschoolers.  Surprisingly, I left there feeling disconnected from the local homeschooling scene.  Oh well,  I am grateful to have our small, but growing group of families that do make me feel supported and understood.