Category Archives: Homeschool

Pied Beauty

Oh Pinterest!  How do I love thee?!  I held out so long before signing up and now I’m a mild addict.  Late night pinteresting has made nursing infants at 2 am a lot more bearable.  I’ve found great recipes, tracked down favourite books, and gotten tons of resources and ideas for homeschooling.  Yet one of the things I’ve seen a lot of on the homeschool boards strikes me as a little odd.  Sensory Bins.  I’m not against them, they look like a lot of fun.  I could see myself using some of them to spice up a dull week, especially in the dog days of summer or a cold winter’s day (if we had those here).  I also see that engaging all the senses can help very much with learning.  What seems strange is that a lot of them seem like a great deal of effort and indeed expense to create a sensory experience that could be done for free outside.  Some even look like a lot of work to create messiness when messiness, in my experience, happens quite naturally when kids are free to come up with their own activity.

This raises two of my biggest concerns about modern motherhood: we make our job harder than it needs to be, and we restrict our children too much.  Perhaps restrict isn’t exactly the word I am looking for.  Maybe direct?  Control?  Anyway we give them freedom within the confines of what seems convenient or safe.  This necessarily limits their ability to explore and create things we fuddy duddy adults could never dream of.  Such freedom may result in some tears and some huge messes, and of course can’t be so complete as to be truly dangerous, but I think the chance to be independent, inventive and truly original is worth the price of some bruised shins or a lengthy cleanup afterward.

A further concern of mine, about modern life in general, is that we are becoming too divorced from our natural world.  More and more we put up barriers between ourselves and, at risk of sounding new agey, the earth. It bothers me that aside from not having natural food, natural exercise, and natural fun we’ve reached a point where we can’t even have natural mess.  Our senses are the tools with which we connect to the world and pull it into ourselves.  These senses can’t be confined to a tub carefully filled for an hour but should be engaged and reaching out in all directions all day.  This isn’t to blame the pinterest projects, really I think they’re striving to recapture something that can be very hard to do just given where one lives and how our lives are structured, but that’s where the “making our jobs harder” point comes in.  Instead of, or at least in addition to, going to the craft store and spending a fortune on fiddly stuff, you just need to reclaim what’s already out there waiting.  Learning can happen without a theme.  My mother fondly remembers learning numbers with Gus on a neighbourhood walk.  “TWO! FWEE!” he would call, and point with his chubby fingers at the numerals painted on the curb.  Furthermore, learning doesn’t only involve math facts and phonetic rules.  The whole world is one big giant sensory bin; a sensory bin that can teach you about those things, but even more so, can teach you joy, wonder, and simply to embrace life.  Here follows a list of things I would put in my sensory bin.

Flushed cheeks, tired eyes, and warmth across the bridge of the nose after a day in the summer sun or the winter snow.

The squish of mud between toes, the grit of dirt under nails, and the shiver of a cool breeze on damp skin after making mudpies with a hose.  Caked mud drying and cracking on your forearms.

Hair stiffened by salt and sand dried by the wind after playing in the ocean.  The burn and slip of the dry beach and the relief of the cool packed sand where it meets the surf bubbling around your feet.

The sting of a grazed knee, the stiffness of the scab as it heals.

The trickle of sweat.

The itch of long grass against ankles.  The sweet smell of it in the dry months.

The unbelievable lightness of a baby chick, the unique softness of feathers.

Sticky watermelon juice dripping to the elbows.

The pull of a fish on a line.  The slime, scale, smell, and prickle as you pull out the hook.

The warmth of a kitten’s fur against a cheek, the sharpness of its claws.

Wet dog smell and the sound of one panting, his weight against your side, as he rests after a game of fetch.

The roughness of bark against legs as they scrabble to climb a fallen tree.  The thump of your heart, the wobble, as, teetering above empty space, you walk the trunk as a balance beam over the creek.

The firm yet cushioned spring of a forest floor.  The smell of pine needles.

Heavy eyelids, relieved limbs and the coziness of bed, blankets and pillows after a full day.

What would be in your sensory bin?

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him. 
Pied Beauty, by Gerard Manley Hopkins
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Filed under Homeschool, Motherhood, The Continuing Adventures of JD and The Fierce Bad Rabbit

School Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again where all the little kiddos head back to school. Except mine, who head back to the kitchen table for home school. This year I’ve had several people ask me what program we use, what we like and dislike about it and so forth. We use St. Thomas Aquinas Academy and, although we’re still only a little way into our home school journey, really like it. It gives me the balance between flexibility and structure that I like. I have an advisor to check in with, a curriculum tailored to my specific situation, and a test at the beginning of each year to get a sense of where he is and where he should be academically. On the other hand, the choices of texts and the tone of support is one that leaves plenty of room to adjust, to go off on tangents or slow down and speed up depending on what I need. It also uses texts and programs I love. One thing I really like about the school is the assignment they give me at the beginning of the year. I was filling out this year’s and thought that really, whatever program you use, and in fact whether you home school or not, it’s a great exercise. Basically, you sit down and write out neatly your list of reasons for homeschooling. Then you list your goals for the year for each child. This will help you stay committed to your decision through the year and give you a place to check back and see how you’re doing. It also will help you stay focused on what really matters and let go of other things. I don’t think home schooling is for everyone but I think this exercise would be useful regardless of your schooling choices. I could see it being a helpful starting place for talking to a child’s teacher for example, or making rules as parents. I’ve been interested to compare this years list of reasons and priorities with last years. Some are the same, some have evolved, and some I’ve added after another year of experience. Having just finished my homework this afternoon I thought I would share.

Why am I homeschooling?

– To keep my children’s innocence.
– To have an opportunity to teach the Faith.
– To taylor courses to the individual needs, strengths, weaknesses, and interests of my children
– To catch mistakes and correct them quickly that might be missed in a larger classroom, and to be able to adjust pace when necessary in a way that might not be possible with more students.
– To find personal joy, pride and fulfillment in teaching my children and watching them learn new skills through me.
– So we can sleep in, play outside, explore interesting tangents, and take adventures whenever we like.
– To savour their childhood.

Goals for JD

– To improve composition and penmanship
– To continue progress in math and reading
– To begin preparation for first communion

Goals for Fierce Bad

– To learn how he learns
– To discover his interests, academic strengths and weaknesses
– To work on pencil grip and penmanship
– To lay phonics foundations and see if he has an interest in beginning to learn to read

This year I added one more section, Goals for Me

– To maintain focus and momentum throughout the school year
– To be patient
– To limit screen time
– To work on healthy eating and presenting a wider variety of foods at breakfast and lunch.
– To read and learn more about developing teaching skills
– To do prep work on evenings or weekends for a more organized week

Here’s hoping we all have a productive school year, regardless of where school is.

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Filed under Homeschool, Motherhood, The Continuing Adventures of JD and The Fierce Bad Rabbit