Our annual summer solstice tradition includes strawberry shortcake, movies on the deck, and fireflies. Follow it up with a day at the beach and John's Ice cream. Hard to top. I love summer.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Nature study is an ongoing adventure in our house, with much of it documented here on our nature table. Our table generally changes with the seasons and displays many small objects found in nature, living creatures, field guides pertaining to recent interests, and seasonal art work. The display case is new to us, from Acorn Naturalists. I love it. It is super easy to open and has a soft, textured fabric inside that seems to grip things easily so no pins were necessary for our butterfly (a roadside casualty). I ordered two of the smallest size, but we may need to get some more before long.
Recent nature topics of interest include:
Salamanders (the tank holds a few larvae that we thought would be frogs)
snapping turtles (we've had a few close encounters with mama's laying eggs nearby)
Asian long horned beetles vs. white spotted sawyer (ours was one of the good guys)
We don't typically have any kind of a sit down lesson about nature study. Occasionally we sit together and do some work in our nature journals, documenting recent discoveries or drawing something we've seen. But, more often than not nature study takes the form of noticing something really cool happening outside (ie. snapping turtle walking across the lawn), stopping everything we're doing to watch it, then hitting the field guides and Google for as much information as we need to feel satisfied. Many of the facts will be forgotten, I'm sure (and relearned next year when the turtles migrate across our lawn again) but what will be remembered is the realization that our lives are a part of, not separate from nature. That our actions impact the world around us (surely there was once a nice place to lay turtle eggs where now our barn and chicken coop reside) and how to be careful stewards of this world in which we live.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Before the rain:
* we had a really nice rock wall built by a friend (Kale helped)...
* carried around a few of the ladies...
During the rain:
* we made cookies in the nude (one of us anyway)
* the slugs ate my zucchini plants and half of the beans...
* we played at the beach....
*hit up some classic Maine landmarks...
* Fired up the wood stove twice.
* and made the most of any few minutes when it wasn't actively raining.
Then thankfully, this weekend the sun came out, and we celebrated appropriately with a women's group run in the sun (the shoes were finally dry from last week), a work session in the garden in which 16 large slugs were harvested and promptly fed to the chickens; a backyard camp out chez un amis complete with deluxe kiddie swimming accommodations (think cattle trough) and homemade waffles on their screen porch. Followed by ice cream out, a trip to the lake and playground, and a little backyard bathing back at home. Proper June weather. Hooray!
Friday, June 1, 2012
I've turned toward charts recently as a way to try and bring the appearance of organization to our laissez-faire approach to schooling. In the past we have used a calendar to organize which lessons/activities we would explore on each day--with thumb tacks so they could be easily switched if the schedule needed to be tweaked mid week. This year that didn't work for us. The schedule was being tweaked so often it just got ditched. My hunch is this had a lot to do with having a two year old in the house. If we managed to find all three of us together and ready to work on something no doubt Kale would suddenly have to poop, etc. Of course by the time I'm done with him the bigs are onto something better. For several months I made sure we covered the basics (in my mind these are reading, math, and history) with everything else pursued on a want to know basis. We moved from highly structured learning weeks, to very little structure periodically (I think Melissa Wiley describes this best as Tidal Learning). It was very free form and organic, and not unpleasant, except for the days when I suddenly felt as if surely our children would grow up ignorant if we didn't cover some formal science lesson pronto, or my god how long has it been since we've worked on handwriting!? And you know, when your kids aren't used to having a routine, they aren't really very hip to the whole "stop what you're doing now so we can do some copywork" thing. And really neither am I. I'd much rather have them pursue writing in a way that is fun for them. Such as journal work in their beds at night, birthday cards to friends, lemonade stand signs, etc. However, I realize that with many things mastery of the basics truly is essential for enjoyment. For some children writing (by this I mean physically putting the marks on the paper) comes easily and it is fun. For others it is a challenge, something to be practiced, more often than they might wish. Hence, the chart:
I created a checklist with the goal of completing a certain amount of work per week in several different areas
of study (math, reading, writing, science, history, art, and music). Wylie and Juniper are free to complete the checklist as they see fit, with the understanding that if they do not do any work on one day they will have to do more on another. I have also explained that the checklist is a way for us to see what they've worked on, and to see where we need to branch out. There are no penalties for incomplete checklists at the end of the week. But, a certain level of cooperation and effort must be maintained daily to warrant the coveted "computer time". In most cases any activity they choose can be counted toward "schoolwork" if it reasonably applies. They check it off and I make a note of what they did.
So far the routine is working for us. The first two weeks were hard for some of us (this is truly an understatement but I'll save you the gory details, except to say that at least one chart has had to be retrieved from the wood stove and taped back together). So, its not perfect, but it helps. And after a few weeks of routine it feels like a fair compromise between a child who wants never to be told what to do, and a mama who sways between unschooling proponent and panicky ex-schoolteacher. It also keeps us on track despite toddler tandems and allows for a fair bit of independence in their work which we all enjoy.
And, besides, they are on clip boards--who doesn't love a clip board?