Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Start with Art: Amate Cut Paper

Sean has hit a real sensitive period for art. I don't know about other kids, but he has loved it for years, and seemed to become really compelled to draw when he was nine.

He draws on his own each day. His work plan always includes art, and I allow him to work on art for as long as he desires, as long as he is also completing other work on his plan. He is usually content to draw for 30 minutes to an hour, but rarely more than that.

While I am fine with him doing his own thing, I decided that he could benefit from some different art experience.  I pulled out a gift that I gave him for Christmas last year that we had never used. It's an art canister with instructions on how to create Amate art. It comes with papers, glue stick, scissors, everything you need to create these wonderful images.

It was our first time, so I wasn't very good at instructing, but we figured it out on our own and learned from a couple of mistakes.

Amate art is a Mexican artform. It is usually done with bark, but we used brown paper that looks kind of like bark. Our instructions called for making a mirror image. We folded the paper in half, drew half of our image and cut it out. When it was unfolded, a mirror image was created.

We made some mistakes, and that is how we learn.

The next one will be better, I'm sure.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Things I Love About Homeschool


I love that I don't have to call in to report Sean absent when he is sick. We just carry on with our day and keep it low key, or he can stay in bed if needed. I don't have to worry that he is going to have extra homework, or makeup work.

It's such a blessing that we don't have to jump through a lot of hoops in order to go on a family vacation.

We decided about a month ago that we wanted to take the kids to Orlando, Florida to visit Disney World. It was so nice to make that decision for our family on our own without any hesitation.

Neither of the kids had ever been. They are both getting older and Chuck and I figured this was the year to do it. They're old enough to remember it, old enough to walk long distances, but not too old to enjoy it the park and all it has to offer.

Our summers are a balmy 75-80 degrees with about 50 percent humidity, and a cool breeze off the water. Visions of standing in long lines for rides in humid, 90-degree weather in Florida got us thinking we should do a visit in the off season.

No special paperwork to fill out for being absent from school, no asking for permission, we just decided to go. We planned our trip, and we had a great time. Upon our return I didn't have to worry about makeup homework, or some sort of special report in return for the permission granted to us to be gone for a week.

And the trip was full of practical life lessons.
For instance:
How to pack what you need for a fun-filled week of vacation in a different climate.
How to navigate an airport.
How to plan for activities.
There were also some social interaction lessons. Sean met new people at the hotel pool. He had to exercise patience as we waited in long lines to enter and exit Disney World.

On top of that, he learned how to voice his feelings about certain amusement park rides, and how to ask the people who work there what to expect if he decided to ride. He also got to use his own judgement about which rides he believed he would enjoy, and which ones he knew he could not handle.

And he stretched himself a bit on a couple of rides. He talked it through with me, and on a couple of occasions decided the ride could be a bit scary, but he wanted to go ahead and try it anyway.

I love that we have the freedom to take a family vacation whenever we want to, and whenever it is best for our family. Having that freedom made it a truly enjoyable vacation for me, because I wasn't stressed out about him being absent from school.
It was so much fun, and it turned out to be a trip filled with teaching moments.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reptiles are so much fun

This week we visited Camp Seymour for a day of reptiles and archery.

He truly loves these things. He'd sleep with them if I'd let him.
I've written about these homeschool group days before, and this is our third time going. It never disappoints. Camp Seymour hosts these instructional days for local homeschoolers, for a nominal fee.

For some reason it is always colder at Camp Seymour than it is at our house. Maybe because the camp is so close to the water. And the wind was blowing, and I think the temp got to about 44 degrees F.

I was very happy to go inside the reptile house and stay warm for a while.

There were a lot of snakes, a couple of turtles, a skink, and a bearded dragon. Sean was in heaven. It was really cool. These creatures just aren't what you typically get to interact with out in the world. He held everything at least once.

Matt and Amelia, our instructors, started with the information about what makes a reptile a reptile, and explained the four characteristics: They are cold blooded, they hatch from eggs, they have scales, and bones.  Once the kids had all of that info, Matt pulled out the poster that listed all of the rules. The kids read the rules out loud, and Matt and Amelia explained why it was so important to follow each rule.

There were probably 20 kids, at least. It was a full room.

I connected with a new homeschooling mom and had a nice chat, and I also connected with one of my friends from Geiger. We sat at the same lunch table and had a nice time talking, and Sean and her son sat together, along with Sean's new friend Olivia.

Archery was fun, but I was miserably cold. I was so happy that Sean was ready to go once he had finished shooting. They offered everyone to get back in line and do it again, but he was done.
My little archer. It's in his DNA, but he is
a really good shot.
Sean is already skilled at archery because he got a compound bow for his birthday, and we visit the range weekly.

I feel so blessed to live in an area that supports homeschoolers, and offers such great programs.
Thank you, as always, Camp Seymour! Your staff members who work with our homeschooled children and their parents are amazing!

Friday, November 15, 2013

My biggest struggle

I wrote this post when we were first starting the homeschool year. Since that time things have changed, and I'll post about that next, but I wanted to post this in case this could help other homeschooling parents to realize they are not alone in some of the frustrating days.

Patience. And letting go of my own agenda. I struggle with them daily. I start out thinking I will let go and allow Sean to just move through his day on his own, working at his own pace. But I inevitably cave in to my fears and start directing him to do work.

I'm typically a take-charge person when taking charge is needed. If someone else is already in the position of leading, I gladly follow.

I've been a Montessori mom for eight years now, and I've loved learning about the philosophy and how to present materials.

We have a shelf devoted to our materials, and I lovingly gaze at them and long for the days when Sean would excitedly use them.

Those days are gone, and I realize that as children approach Upper El they are more interested in abstract learning. I get that.

I also know that as a Montessorian I am to trust the child, follow the child, and prepare the environment. Since there are few materials being used now with our Upper El homeschool, that part is reduced somewhat. I try to prepare myself, and guide him to prepare for his day.

But when he wanders around aimlessly, not working on anything, I'm not sure if I can really hold it together. Can I follow (metaphorically, not physically) him wandering around aimlessly? Am I supposed to nag and cajole and threaten to take away privileges if he doesn't complete a work plan? Am I supposed to trust that he is learning in spite of not doing what I consider "school" work?

Some days I'm totally on board with following. I feel in my heart that he will naturally take off on learning and ask me for information and trips to the library.

But on days like today I fear he will just be a bum, wandering around aimlessly, not completing work, and ultimately not succeeding in life.

And really, it all comes down to fear. Fear that I will be judged if he doesn't learn what we have on our curriculum plan; that he will be "behind" if I have to put him back in school. (But may I just say that he is "behind" according to the testing that was administered last year, and he has been in a school setting for the past three years.)

This child is an opposite of me. I am a list person. I make a list and I check things off. Chuck is also that way. So we struggle because we don't understand his way of doing things: haphazard, no plan in place, things strewn around and out of order. This child who has only ever been in a Montessori setting is so NOT Montessori in some ways that I can hardly believe it.

He will quickly organize things if I ask him to do it, but he is not naturally that way.

So I argue with myself. Should I direct him, or should I allow him to wander around and come to it on his own? Some days I can allow him to wander. Some days I start to get anxious and find myself directing. We're still finding our way here in this homeschooling Montessori journey.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Verb tense work, a matching game

The other day we worked with a free download that I got from Montessori For Everyone called Verb Tenses Beginning. I wanted to start simple to see where he needs to work, and what we can breeze on past.

This exercise includes simple phrases that I printed onto card stock and cut out for him to place in the correct column. The columns are labeled Simple Present, Simple Past, Future.

He did well with that exercise, and it helped me see where he struggles. There are some tricky words that get confusing for him. I think they are a bit confusing for some grownups I know. And I've had to stop and think on some of them sometimes as well.

One of them is cost.

So if we are talking about something in the present tense, i.e. it is happening now, we say,
"This item costs $5."
If we are talking about something we just bought, or bought yesterday, etc. something in the past, we say,
"This item cost $5."

If we are talking about the future, we say,
"This item will cost $5."

I'm not sure if the word eat is always a troublesome one for  him. He seemed a bit distracted today, so I can't be certain, but it caused him problems.
I have a feeling some of those words that completely change form in the past tense are a trouble spot.

Eat gets changed to ate when we are talking about the past.
And it can change totally when we talk about the future.
She will have eaten 500 calories if she finishes that pie.

So these verb tense activities will be our language work for a while. I downloaded the Verb Tenses Advanced and plan to introduce that as soon as I'm confident he understands these tricky words.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Montessori Grammar Symbols and sentence analysis

Sean was in first grade when I first decided to homeschool. When I had a spare moment I was researching and reading everything I could possibly find about Montessori philosophy and materials.

I watched videos of Margaret Homfay lectures and presentation of materials (which BTW, I can't seem to find anymore.)  I read books and blogs, and I looked at catalogs and spent hours reading emails through the Yahoo Montessori homeschool group. Those were as helpful to me to prepare for homeschooling as all of the other sources of information.

Although I know in my heart that Montessori can be done without any of the formal materials, and that the important part of Montessori is embracing the philosophy of trusting and following the child, those materials are so very cool.

I've always loved all of the materials. For me, the grammar symbols are very intriguing.
I'm a word person. I've spent most of my life writing, and the idea that words could have their own symbols was just exciting to me. If you don't have a copy of the symbols, you can find them here.
(There are other Internet sites out there that show the symbol chart. I just chose this one at random.)

I bought the set of wood, painted grammar symbols when Sean was in first grade. Back then we used the basics, the noun and verb symbols.

Now that he is an Upper El student we are going to be using them again, and by the time we get through the third year of Upper El we will have covered all of the symbols in the chart.

The way we use them now is not so concrete. He still has them in a basket on his shelf, but we also have a copy of them on paper, and he prefers to draw, so he has created his own symbol chart in his language composition book. I bring the basket out once in a while just so he gets that spark of memory from using them before.

Our language activities these days start with brainstorming ideas for a subject he would like to write about. Once he decides on a topic, I have him give me short sentences or words about the topic and I write those on a white board. Once he has exhausted his information about the topic, he looks at the white board and decides which of those words or short sentences should be in his beginning sentence.
He goes through each one until he has crafted a paragraph, or sometimes many paragraphs.

Then he goes through each sentence and labels the words with the symbols. Sometimes he likes to draw the symbol above the word, other times he uses a marker or crayon the color of the symbol to circle, square, rectangle, etc. around the words and makes his own chart in a way by doing that.

I love when he does that because it shows me he has taken what he has learned and used it in his own unique way, which solidifies the knowledge.