Wednesday, January 29, 2014

another week in this unschooling life

Or week and a half, to be more precise.
Camille finished her first pair of mittens

U.S. map puzzle and chalk board

hand puppet tattoos

using a mortar and pestle to grind sorghum into flour

sprouting wheat grass / dreaming of spring

library book sale score (for $3)
and another bagful for another $3

glitter, face paint, and a magnifying glass

learning to use a sewing machine

engineering a ride-able 'horsey' from ropes and pillows

using breath to power straw gliders

with a variety of designs

mosaic art

We had fun flying 'balloon rockets' over and over.  We tied a string from one end of the living room to another after threading a straw onto it.  We taped a balloon (blown up, but not tied) to the straw and released it to watch it whoosh down the string.
balloon rocket


We do our best to bring in colorful fun in the middle of winter.  We also get out and about a bit.  We went to a Girl Scout cookie carnival where Sylvia won a Hearts for Hearts Doll, which she was thrilled about and absolutely adores.

polymer water 'marbles' 
wheat grass growth

iron-on patches

another visit from the tooth fairy

playing with 'gravity goo' (a combination of polyacrylamide and acrylic co-polymers)



'I do it myself'

Camille put a teaspoon of polymer 'water gel' powder into a styrofoam cup and had Sylvia pour 4 oz. of water into it while holding it up.  She stuck pencils through the cup and told Sylvia she wouldn't get wet until she pulled the pencils out.  When Sylvia pulled the pencils out she was surprised that she still didn't get wet. (from edu science Do & Discover Science Mega Kit)
The 'water gel' is basically the same stuff that they put in disposable diapers and it turned the 4 oz. of water into a firm mass.

glass beads (from the dollar store) design patterns on the wool rug

my current knitting projects

Camille's current knitting project

No life is all glitter and sunshine and pretty wool knittin'. There are times when I feel discouraged, drained, and in need of a reminder of why I live the way that I do.  This blog is as much that for me as anything else.  I dump the photos off of my camera periodically, sort them, and think, 'life looks pretty darn good from here'.  Even if we went over a month without a reliable vehicle in the middle of crazy-cold-rural-winter. Even if our well pump froze up in the so-cold-it-doesn't-matter-if-it's-Fahrenheit-or-Celsius and we had to melt snow on the woodstove to flush the toilets and water the chickens.  (By the way, a heaping full pot of snow yields much less water than one would think, just a couple of inches of H2O and a whole lotta air.) Even when sisters squabble, and the dishes (and laundry and messy toy bins) pile up, maybe especially then, I remember how grateful I am for the loving and learning, creativity and sweet ragamuffin smiles that I am surrounded with every day.

It's all about the priorities here. It's a joyful, messy (and sometimes challenging) life, and I am oh so grateful for running water again

Monday, January 20, 2014

sledding physics and fresh air

When people ask casually about homeschooling and how it works for us, I tend to keep it simple and somewhat vague.  "We utilize a wide variety of resources," or, "We can tailor learning opportunities for each child's ability and interests," or even, "It's going great!  It works well for us."  I don't launch into ideas about radical unschooling or talk specifically about how differently our days are structured compared to schooled children.  Usually, I'll mention something interesting that we've done recently whether it's a field trip with a homeschooling group or a current interest of one of my children.  "Camille enjoys playing the saxophone and is learning a computer programming language.  I love being able to support her interests," or, "Sylvia loves learning about dinosaurs and really enjoys science experiments."  

 Some things we do look 'educational' and some things might look like 'just fun', but it's not a distinction that's very useful to our days.  A day of sledding and rolling down hills in the snow can prompt lots of discussion about friction and velocity and momentum and the physics of an inclined plane.  Which of our three sleds is the fastest?  Why (shape, surface texture, etc.)?  Do you go faster on your own or if you ride together with your sister?  What about if I ride with both of you?  How does our weight (mass) affect our speed?  What about the texture of the snow (powdery, compacted, wet, iced over)?  We don't talk about these things because it's our science lesson of the day or a 'teachable moment', but because they're natural questions that come up when we're having fun with the sun on our faces and the cold wind on our cheeks.

Somehow, I doubt that this is what people picture when they first meet us and ask about our homeschooling, but these are the days that I cherish.

I jotted down some of the activities that came up in the natural course of my kids' days over the last week. Here's some of those things:  a trip to the library for picture books, Little House on the PrairieChoose Your own Adventure books, audio books (Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, and Sisters Grimm series), and DVDs (ranging from several Bill Nye, the Science Guy episodes to Hip Hop Cardio Workouts), thrift store shopping, sprouting wheatgrass, drawing/coloring/painting/cutting/gluing, knitting and finger knitting, playing saxophone, playing dress-up/makeover/fashion show, sledding, snowy hikes and a very cold picnic, baking bread from scratch (wholegrain fry bread, dark rye with caraway seeds, and gluten-free), rehearsing songs for a variety show, attending a Girl Scout meeting and sledding with friends, watching TV episodes and documentaries on Netflix, playing computer and Wii games, doing yoga, taking a science quiz for fun, playing on BrainPOP, reading aloud, cooking and watching cooking shows, sprouting chickpeas and planting some in a pot to see how they'll grow, making rubberband bracelets, solving the puzzles in Puzzle Buzz and Mathmania magazines, bringing food and water to the chickens, gathering eggs and firewood, helping with some of the cooking, cleaning, and dishes, browsing seed catalogs, garden planning/dreaming, snuggling, wrestling, weaving on a small loom, making and playing with playdough, solving math problems in Life of Fred book, watching dragonfly tv episodes, riding scooters, skateboards, and rollerskates in the living room, dancing, some light squabbling, fort building and mess making, and creating letters with their bodies.

"Mama, take a picture!"

This blog post has been brought to you by the letters B, F, and S for best friend sisters. 

It may not look much like what people envision when they picture homeschooling, but because I can see the learning, the joy, and the relationships flourish, I can confidently say it works well for us.