Tuesday, January 31, 2012

sneaking in learning

We had a morning out, so we are having a late start today. We davened right before lunch and then I put 2yo for a nap and wrote down our schedule of school things. Knowing that I have to pick up my oldest at 3:30, I only wrote 5 activities and decided to skip math for today. Natanel choose to do reading first. Reading for us means that I read a book to him and then he reads to me. He's still quite reluctant to read and prefers readers, but without girls in them. (A whole separate story, as most readers seem to be geared towards girls.) Today's reader was Get That Pest! It's about a farmer and his wife trying to catch a wolf stealing eggs from their barn. At the end of the story there is a recommendation to play Egg Thief. You cut out six eggs and take turns being wolf and farmer, with wolf removing some eggs while the farmer is not watching and the farmer trying to guess how many eggs were removed. Natanel asked to do that game. I drew the eggs for him and he cut them out. Just this part was a struggle at the beginning of the year, but that's for another post.

We played a bunch of times and I observed with satisfaction that he had no problem making addends to six. Next, however, came the cool part. He requested more eggs; he wanted to play with ten. He brought another piece of paper and I asked him how many more I have to draw. He said: four. I drew them and he cut them out. We played with ten, which was harder for him.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I wasn't even planning on doing math today and there it was, snuck in, with additional challenge.

Monday, January 30, 2012

singing in the morning

My son was an early riser. By early, I mean objectively early, 5:30 am on the dot from the time he was six months till 4, at which point, between reading the clock, putting cereal on the table and turning on lights, he was able to manage without me having to get up. The new "late" meant sometime after 6 am, officially 6:30. Now, not only he would get up early, but he would also quite cheerfully announce that it's morning by singing. Or banging out a rhythm. Or belting out a poem. Whichever way, everyone knew pretty early on that he was up and happy to be that way.

Till this morning, when he "again" woke up a bit after six and then proceeded to sing about it, I didn't notice that he was not doing that early morning routine. In fact, he hasn't done it in months. I assumed that he was growing up, finally sleeping in, had to be woken up for school occasionally. But today I realized that he also wasn't singing.

Don't get me wrong, this kid was doing well in school. He wasn't bullied, at least not to the point that you interfere. He was doing his homework and school work. Teachers were not complaining. But this morning, when he broke into his joyous, excessively early song, I realized that he was not happy to get up for the past couple months.

How many grown-ups readily announce that they are not morning people when, really, it's just that you do not want to deal with the upcoming day?

If all that this experiment produces is a child who is happy to get up and go at it, I will consider myself to be successful.

Rules of engagement

1. If you expect your house to look like Martha Stewart was here, homeschooling probably won't work. My house looks like it would qualify for disaster relief most nights.

2. Schedules are to give rhythm to the day. If today's rhythm does not match the schedule, then it (the schedule) has to be tweaked. Most days, I write the areas we are expected to cover in school, but I let Natanel pick in which order he does them. (I learn this trick from teaching Tali). Not sure how this will work with two kids. Maybe we'll have more general schedule. Maybe they will take turns picking what to do. Maybe we'll do blocks with each kid while the other one will do independent work. Maybe we"ll unschool.

3. The purpose of this is to give kids a chance to grow, not to shove knowledge down their throat and then ask if it's yummy. There are two general categories: information and skills. Information kids can get anywhere, from anyone. Skills have to be practiced till they become ingrained. The tick is to decide which skills are essential and focus on those.

4. I am OK with my kids becoming garbage-men who read philosophy in their spare time. They might have more spare time that way than becoming a PhD in philosophy. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should be doing it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Black Widow

Today, when parsha got tough, we went outside to weed, to change scenery and to get some fresh air. I told Natanel to pull weeds out with their roots and he spent a bit of time being amazed to how long those roots are. Then we found snails under cinder blocks, and Natanel wisely noted that the live ones are the dark ones. Then I found an earthworm, showed him the segments and we put it on our composting pile. Under the  last block I found this spider. As soon as Natanel saw it, he yelled not to touch it, because it's a black widow. I am thinking, what are the chances of finding a black widow in my front yard? Once I flipped it over, there was the red mark. We took a picture, so that Natanel can turn it in to Chattahoochie nature exchange.

I am sorry that Shmuli missed this spider.

Homeschooling is...

A lot of people have hard time visualizing homeschooling without imagining classroom at home; desks, blackboard and all. Here is a little snippet:

Homeschooling is:

A 7 year old drawing his own map for a game of Risk because we have maps all over house and he feels he can do it. He puts in countries' names and his map is more accurate than Risk's.

A 5 year old asking to learn parsha on a Tuesday morning because he really wants to know what happens next.

A 2 year old teaching herself how to use scissors because she sees her brothers cutting and wants to do it too. She spend a week, playing with them and going through a pile of construction paper, but now she can do it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How will it work?

We are in the process of pulling my oldest out of school and homeschooling him, in addition to two other kids, who are already at home.

The question which I have been getting over the past couple days is: how will it work? The simple answer is: I don't know. But I also know that if I don't try to make it work, it won't. Leaving things as they are, complaining about school, workload, lack of life will not work either.

My primary reason for pulling him out is to give him breathing space. Giving him a chance to be a kid. Letting him have lunch when he will finish his food. Going outside when weather is nice. Running to Krispy Kreme in the morning. Taking drumming lessons that he was asking about for a long time. Swimming. Learning at his own pace. Developing his own interests.

Russian Jews are know for pushing their kids, and here we are, pulling out.