Monday, October 20, 2014

Finding our Groove

Eight years. That's how long I've been studying and practicing as a Montessori mom, and Montessori homeschool guide. This is my second consecutive year of teaching at home.

And yet I still struggle with trusting that my child will learn without me trying to structure his day. I have weekly lesson plans that I hope will keep me on track to get through the Upper El material this year, but some days are just not productive. Last week we didn't accomplish much on that lesson plan.

However, his process has been successful.

Sean has been immersed in piano practice. The focus and tenacity he has for this work is very inspiring to me. In fact, his focus and tenacity for all of the work he chooses impresses me. He does the same thing with art. He is still very committed to drawing, and does it every day.

I believe his focus is partly thanks to his personality, and partly his Montessori education. Without Montessori I don't believe he would have the patience and stamina to keep with a task in the face of obstacles. He will keep trying until he gets it right, if it's something he has chosen to do. If it's something I've chosen for him, he won't.

I managed to tell the Second Great Lesson last week--The Coming of Life. He likes this story, and still seems fascinated by the knowledge that there are microscopic organisms that have been living on our planet for millions of years, and that everything is working according to its purpose.

He had some great experiences.
We hosted something called "Wolf Camp," at our home for about 10 local homeschooling children. The kids got great instruction in animal tracking, and made use of our property to find some cougar tracks--a little unsettling. (I didn't get pics, but I will next time.)

On Wednesday we went to Nikki's so Sean could hang out with is friend, Paul.

Thursday evening we attended a production of Rikki Tikki Tavi at the Seattle Children's Theater. The subject matter was a little juvenile for him, but he still enjoyed it. I have tickets for every production this season, but this will be the last season for us to attend all of them. Next time I will have to choose only the productions for the older kids.

On Friday he attended a Homeschool session at Camp Seymour. No pictures this time, because I didn't stay for this one. I think he's getting older and needs to learn how to navigate some things on his own. There are new camp counselors this year, and he seemed to have a little difficulty at lunch time with the instructions for getting food, but he came home happy. The activities were rock wall climbing and a tour of the garden. We've done it before, but he loves that climbing wall.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The First Great Lesson and our Star--The Sun

While I was telling the First Great Lesson, Sean anticipated what was coming next. He has heard this story for 8 years, but I know that each time he hears it he hears something new, or makes a new discovery.

This time, I let it sit with him for a day, and then I showed him "Journey to the Stars," a DVD that I got for free from NASA way back when we were homeschooling for first grade. I had never opened it, and decided this was the year to do it. It's all about how our planet was formed, and how the Sun was formed and its relationship to Earth.

I was surprised by how much he already knows about the Sun, and planets, and how they were formed, etc.  The kit came with a teacher packet with suggestions for questions and extensions of learning for different age groups.

In case you are interested, here's a trailer for the show.

Here's the website

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Volcanoes and Earth Science: An Epic Field Trip

We spent a couple of weeks exploring some awesome, scenic, parts of this great corner of the U.S., so our school start date was officially today.

Our trip included Yellowstone, where we explored for three days all of the steaming, bubbling, gurgling, boiling and erupting areas. We saw Old Faithful, of course, and the Grand Geyser, which only erupts every day and a half. Buffalo, ravens, and elk were the main animal sightings, and we saw a huge canyon there, as well as amazing rock formations and beautiful lakes and rivers and waterfalls. Yellowstone, for those who don't know, sits atop a caldera, and we learned a lot about what was going on under our feet. Their website includes a lot of virtual things you can do at home, so in case you're interested, you can learn more here.

We learned that the blue water is super hot!

From there we made our way to Idaho to see Craters of the Moon. It's like visiting another world. It is young, compared to Yellowstone. The landscape at Craters of the Moon is from volcanic activity 2,000 years ago. You can learn more about it here.

Luckily there are paved pathways for exploring this park. 

We spent a day exploring there, and ventured on across to Silver City, Idaho. It's a mining town that became a ghost town that has been revived, but it's still really primitive. No electricity. It's 25 miles off the main highway, and it's not a smooth ride.

Onward, and into Oregon. Our next stop:John Day Oregon to see the John Day Fossil Beds. We stopped off there a few years ago, but weren't really prepared to spend time and vowed we would go back. This time we had the proper attire, and were ready to really explore it. It was still very hot during the day, but this time we came in from the other direction and stopped at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. I could have spent the day there, and they had a nice room for kids to explore fossils, and had a microscope, too. We drove on to the Clarno Unit, where we hiked a short distance, got to see some cool fossils in the rocks, and I got some nice pictures. To learn more about John Day Fossil Beds, click here.
Leaf fossil in a rock on the trail.
Our final stop was Mt. St. Helen's, which was on the way home. By this time the kids were tired, and Sean didn't want to even get out of the car. But I was tired, too, which meant he was getting out of the car to finish this trip, LOL.

Once he was inside the visitor's center he found some interesting things, including a seismograph that records movement you make on the floor beneath it, and one which shows measurements of the current conditions at Mt. St. Helen's. For more information click here.

Seismographs are cool.

Chuck and I had a great time, and I hope the kids both have fond memories of it as they grow up. We experienced new towns, some good food, some interesting people, cool animals, and amazing beauty. They learned a lot, and I brought home a lot of pamphlets and got some Junior Ranger books, and a Junior Paleontologist book for Sean. We've been working in those for a couple of weeks leading up to our first official day of school today.