Monday, March 31, 2014

Homeschool Happenings

I have a habit of being overly enthusiastic about new routines.  We're only two weeks in with this one, so of course I'm loving it.  I can't help myself.  I love the idea of organization.  
This is not a new idea, just a new practice for us.  So far I'm finding it helpful, maybe you will too.  

But first a brief back story:  
I have recently been inspired by a homeschooling friend to re-explore some play-based and project based early childhood practices.  Specifically my friend was telling me about a curriculum developed in the 90's, called "Tools of the Mind".  It sounded very familiar to me, and the more I heard, the more I liked it. I made a note to look for a book.  Then, out of the blue, in the middle of the night (of course) this image came into my head, and suddenly I knew I not only had read the book she'd been referencing, but owned it.   
I resisted the urge to get up and search right then, but the next morning I found the book on our shelf, "Tools of the Mind: a Vygotsky approach to early childhood education."  It had been a text from my college years.  

I haven't read it for 15 years, but have read a few bits about the approach recently that reminded of some of the really cool things going on in these "tools" classrooms.  And so have been inspired to include a new practice in our daily routine.  (One of the coolest parts of this curriculum has to do with "planning to play" which is a different take on the plans we're making.  Their plans are set with the goal of helping young children learn to pretend play--which sadly is something many little kids seem to have forgotten how to do in recent history.  Since my kids spend more time in pretending than reality, we're planning the real stuff.  The pretend they've got covered.  If you work in a classroom this approach is worth looking into.)

The actual work we're doing each day hasn't changed, but I've added a "plan for the day" where each of us (Kale, Juniper,and I) make a plan for what and when we will do things each day. (Revolutionary!
Our planning sheet is a daily timeline from 9:00 am to 3:00pm slipped into a clear plastic sleeve.  We use dry erase to record our plans.  For the kids, I circle the things I want to work on with them, and they indicate when in the day then want to do them.  When there are things to do as a group I ask them to work together so the plans will correspond.  Then they add in any extra things they want to do, such as painting, playing with Playmobil guys, a special cooking project, sledding, etc.  

Of course there are some things that don't get done each day, and plenty gets done that wasn't planned. But, overall our planning has made a noticeable difference in the ease of transitions between work and play. Somehow when the plan is their own they are much more willing to move onto whatever is next. (A lesson I learn again and again from my kids--when its their idea it always works better!)
For myself  I have found that a timeline keeps me on track better than a "to do list",  and knowing when they'll be working on what lets me know when I'll have some free time to get my work done. 
Ideally we would review our plans at the end of the day, but that hasn't happened.  The next morning we wipe of the dry erase and start a new plan.  

As far as I can tell this has all the right pieces for a successful routine:  
1)  It takes less than 3 minutes to do 
2) the kids do almost all of it themselves
3) The sheets take up no visible space in our home. 
 Plus, it is is a good practice in  time management (especially for me) and for time sequence and decision making.  
As I said, we are only two weeks in, but so far so good.

                       When we're done we wipe it off, and close the cupboard.  

And, a brief look at what's keeping us busy these days:  


                      Spring Skiing 

   Independent reading!  Such a nice new practice happening with both big kids these days...

     Lots of coloring work by Kale.  
    When he's done he flops on the table and says, "uugh, my hand is ti-red!

    Money games, learning to subtract by counting up, making change...

    Picture Sudoku

   Lots of silliness

    Juniper has been setting up elaborate scenes with anything she can find...clay and tiny animals, Playmobil figures, molding wax, paper....She sets up a scene then plays for hours with different voices and accents for each of the characters.  

              Playmo curling match, by Juniper.  If you haven't ever seen a curling match, Google it.                         Her set up is crazy accurate (minus the red robot).  

                      Patterns using yummy manipulatives 

    Lots of history reading, coloring, and crafts 

1 comment:

  1. Funny, I started the preschool years with a schedule, but have fallen away from that in recent years. I guess, because I considered it too "school like", even though I thrive on a schedule. I am interested to see how it plays out for you guys over the long term.


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