Thursday, September 10, 2009

Godly Play

I am so excited I can barely contain myself. Just a couple of weeks ago I was thinking about our church Sunday school and wishing there was a different way of teaching it. The reason I started thinking was because I received a call asking if I would teach again.  I said no to teaching this year because this is my first year of homeschool teaching and thought I would be overwhelmed. I've been a Sunday school teacher, and followed a curriculum and did what the book said, and it was fine. But after experiencing the Montessori way of learning academics, I wished there could be a Montessori way of learning about Christ and the Bible.
Well, I had no idea!
There is such a thing, and our church is starting Godly Play Sunday School this weekend!!! (There will also be traditional grades Sunday school.)
I am so excited for Sean.
And when I mentioned it to my friend Shane, she said her little boy Jacob-Joshua had been in a Godly Play Sunday school in Germany and she was looking for one here. She tried one in another city that didn't quite get it right, she said. So I think they are going to visit our church soon.
I feel like it is a validation for me in a way, on my decision to Montessori homeschool. Sean's academic and faith education will be based on the same philosophy of learning.
If you want more information about Godly Play check out this site.
Here is a description from our Sunday school letter:
The Godly Play classroom is designed so that children can use and explore everything in it. It is a safe, engaging and loving environment where what children say and do is valued and respected. The walls of the classroom are lined with shelves, each containing baskets of stories made out of beautiful, natural materials. Children are thus surrounded by the biblical story in the classroom.
And this:
During the "work" time children are invited to use the enrichment materials of the classroom to further explore the story. These include books, maps, and art materials, as well as the stories themselves. During this time, besides having fun, the children are linking up the religious language of the story with their own inner understanding, which helps them understand the story and makes it come alive. This makes sense, because in so doing they are entering into relationship with God--opening themselves to grace.

Beautiful words, beautiful work

After our work today, Sean said, "I am a very lucky person, I am so lucky." I agreed, and asked what he thought made him so lucky. He said: "Because I have so much work."
That is what he calls his school lessons, his work. And to be so happy to have work to do is a beautiful thing to me.
We recently received our box of beads. I was quite excited because the possibilities are endless with that box of materials. He already knows the value of each bead bar from his time in school. He decided to pull out a bunch of different bars and give me a math problem. He had a lot of 10 bars, and a few of each of the rest, all the way down to the unit beads.
I turned it into a math problem for him by asking him for help.  He finally realized he was counting by 10s and quickly had that up to 100. Then it got tricky again, until at 120 he realized he was counting by 10s again. But he also had 9 bars, so we weren't counting by 10s anymore. He had to start adding 9 to the numbers, then 8, and we stopped at 325. He cut up little pieces of paper that I called "tickets" to make it fun, and he did the addition and I wrote the number on the tickets to place next to the bars. 
I was surprised at how long he stuck with it. Toward the middle of the work he decided to go to his thinking spot and have me tell him the amount and how much to add to it. So he sat there with no visuals, and it took patience on both our parts to do it that way.

At dinner tonight he said it can be very challenging when you don't have your mom to help, but he thought he could probably do it on his own tomorrow.
We left everything where it was and he will continue the work tomorrow.

Yesterday we went to a Meetup Group of homeschool families. I always hear that homeschooled kids aren't socialized, and even worried about it myself when I first made this decision. That meeting was packed with parents and kids. I don't really think the socialization that takes place in most schools is very healthy anyway. I'll save that rant for another post.
Today we had a play date at the park with Shane (my friend) and Jacob-Joshua. They use the Waldorf curriculum for homeschool.
Sean and Jacob-Joshua had a great time playing for a couple of hours. The weather was perfect, the park was so nice, and I enjoyed the break and some adult conversation with Shane. It was nice to talk about something other than work for a little while.
We were ready to leave and they decided to pose for a goofy-face picture.

This was a favorite for a little while.
Thanks for coming out to play Shane and Jacob-Joshua. We both had a great time and enjoyed your company very much!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A beautiful thing

Our first few days of home learning proved to be a time of adjustment. As much for me as for Sean. I'm still trying to get the hang of a schedule.
I'm finding that the learning is fluid, and we don't have a set time to end it, but I'm definitely trying to encourage him to work on specific materials at certain times so we are sure to get those fundamental things in the day.
One of the Waldorf ideas I'm incorporating is finger knitting. Though Sean has had plenty of practical life materials at his Montessori school that strengthen the fingers and help hand-eye coordination, it doesn't hurt to continue with some fun work that also helps improve his writing skills.
I missed a great photo op when we went to our local yarn shop. We were out on an errand when Sean spotted the sign for the shop. I hesitated, because the yarn there is quite pricey and very high-end. But he was excited, so I prepared him and said we might not buy anything.
We touched a lot of very nice wool yarns, and I decided wool is what I wanted him to have anyway, so we did buy his choice. The photo op came when he got to wind the yarn into a ball with the machine there. I forgot that my memory card was still in the card reader, so maybe next time.
We watched a video on YouTube about finger knitting, and it was presented by a Waldorf mother/teacher and her son. We tried it, and once Sean started, he couldn't stop. The first thing he made was a short rope, and he decided it was a lizard with a long tail and tongue. He continued with the work last night, and in fact, it was the first thing he did this morning when he woke up. Last night he made a very long rope that he decided was a necklace, and he made me a shorter one to be used as a bracelet.
I am ecstatic. I have gotten so much joy from watching him take such delight in this work, and I love that he is so excited about it. He is thinking of making gifts for the family for Christmas.
I know it is so simple, but he is so proud of himself. To me, that is what it's all about. The fact that it also helps develop his hand muscles for writing is secondary.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First official first day

As with any new experience there will be a period of adjustment, but our first day of home learning went really well. I was very patient, expected some problems that really never arose, and we had a beautiful day of it. Mostly because I was very open and followed his lead.
I'm using past tense here, but the day has not ended for us yet. We still have banana bread to make which will incorporate reading, exploring liquids, and measurements.
Our big adventure was going outside to make observations and record what we saw, heard and felt. Right off we heard a cricket, found it, and Sean spent some time trying to track it down to catch for his bug container.
It alluded us, so we moved on to other things. We found a spider, and we also noted that the leaves are still on the trees, and are still green. Sean climbed the cherry tree looking for snakes, but didn't find any.
Our language lesson came in the form of a Fairy Tale. We talked about Hans Christian Andersen and I told Sean the story of "The Wicked Prince." While I told the story with handmade dolls that I whipped up at the last minute last night, he drew pictures on printing paper to go along with the story.
I know these look really crude, but I purposely made them crude so he could use his imagination. He decided the prince needed a scary face because he was so mean and tried to fight God. The white thing is the angel from the story.

So far, I realize, this isn't looking like a Montessori classroom day. And it wasn't. We practiced drawing straight lines, and curves, and the only Montessori material he used today was a calendar puzzle that I printed, cut up and he arranged in order.
I believe the Montessori idea is behind all of the activity he chose to do today, and to me that is the key to it. Allow the child to choose. Now when he got on the computer and wanted to research lizards, I allowed that, but when he clicked over to Cartoon Network, I said no. Freedom with limits.
As he adjusts to home being a work place as well as play place, I believe he will get busy on the materials.
I'm not big on TV, but we did watch a Mr. Rogers DVD and later he found the Math DVD I got from the library and he popped that in. It's on fractions, but he seemed intrigued by it.
We had to run an errand and be somewhere by 4 p.m. so unfortunately I had to interrupt him during a work he chose.  He cut pieces of paper in various shapes and used colored pencils to color different areas of the shapes. Not sure, but I think he may have been trying to make his own fractions boards.
He's taking a break and playing with his neighbor friend.
I know I will not have time to blog this every day, but hope to hit the highlights each week.
I need to fix dinner, and then do some research for tomorrow. (I also have some work to do for my JOB.) I believe we will begin with the study of North America for our first continent. Sean is fascinated with Corn Snakes, and they hail from my stomping grounds.