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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Freeing my free range learner




I feel like right as the wind beneath my homeschooling sails picked up, I got an unexpected tidal wave. Surprise! You're pregnant.


My first trimester was exhausting, to say the least, and to be honest, the majority of Collin's "Homeschool Activities" would be curling up together on the couch to watch The Lorax. Now that I've made it to the second trimester and I've got a little more energy to spare, I'm regaining homeschooling momentum. Only this time, I'm coming at it with a completely different perspective. You see, before the pregnancy, I was all about doing projects every day, and buying a preschool curriculum right away, and just diving right in. The down time I had, being too sick and tired to do much of anything else, gave me respite to really reexamine where I wanted to go with homeschooling. I realized that two-years-old is a really precious age, a midway point between babyhood and childhood. I need to focus less on projects that Collin is frankly uninterested in, and focus more on being outside, fostering imagination and exploration.

I knew, in theory, that part of the magic of homeschooling was allowing your child space to be in nature during the day, as opposed to confined to a room and only allowed a limited amount of outdoor time. However, I had this weird notion that Collin should be sitting in his learning corner all day, "Learning Stuff." What? I suppose growing up in a conventional school system has made its impressions on me, even when I know better.

So what, then, have we been doing lately? We haven't been following a schedule, or learning from a pre-packaged preschool curriculum, or even spending much time in our learning corner (Except to moon watch or make a puppet show).


We've been making big messes while we experiment with baking.

 
We taste test everything.


                                          


Sometimes, we even experiment with cleaning up our big messes.

We like to practice our table alchemy.


We follow our passions.

Like our passion for being wrapped up like a burrito.

We play with our friends whenever we can.




We go on field trips whenever we get the chance.

We relish the simple things.

We paint with Q-tips, and dixie cups, and empty toilet paper rolls.


And we paint our bodies, too.




                                          
We observe.

And, most importantly, we connect with nature.








We are learning, every day. We are homeschooling, every day, with every simple question we ask and every walk down the street we take. We are discovering, and experimenting, and soaking up the summer sunshine, while we still have it. We are looking forward to the future, to the change of seasons and the upcoming holidays and festivals. We are enjoying being two-years-old, being "Too-ye-ahs-olkg." 







Thursday, June 13, 2013

Learning from Collin

I had a moment today, amidst an otherwise lovely afternoon doing an impromptu art project with some homeschooling friends. Collin was beyond nap time (in hind sight, I probably should have rescheduled the project. Sorry, dear friends, for having to cut our date short).

Anyway, back to my moment: Here I am, practically doing Collin's project for him, while he ran around the room singing into a glue stick. All he wanted to do was sing and make music. All I wanted him to do was sit down with the rest of us and glue some pom poms onto his paper, darn it. I was getting frustrated. Why couldn't he just sit down and do this simple, enjoyable task? Why is it so hard for him to sit down and focus on anything, ever?

And then I started going to "The Bad Place," where I began silently criticising myself: why can't I just let him do the project, himself? Maybe he isn't interested in it, because I'm micromanaging the whole process.

And the thing is, I struck a cord with myself. I DO have a tendency to "Show him" instead of stepping back, and "Letting him. "  Collin is his own best teacher. Education is a self-made process. My job as his mother, his educator, is to set the stage for learning to happen naturally.

Could I get that tattooed to my forehead, or something? Because sometimes, it's really hard to remember.

Collin is not the kind of kid who will sit and do a project any longer than it takes him to get distracted by the cat sneezing across the room. And that's OK. Collin is loud and boisterous, and he likes to throw stuff and make things go boom. And that's OK, too. This homeschooling experience is about how to best serve Collin, not myself or my expectations. Maybe, instead of longing for him to sit and glue stuff when he really just wants to sing, I should instead SING with him. Put on a glue stick rock concert. Make every moment count.

Really, I'm just winging it, here. And that's OK.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Learning Corner.





Let me introduce you to the new member of our family:



Collin's learning corner.





It has become the heart beat of our home. It is a sacred space for Collin to learn, play, and just be.


The fish tank, home sweet home to Papa Grande and Senora Grande. The other fish bellied up almost as soon as we got him home, poor fella (I'm secretly glad Collin can't count).

In one long weekend, we all worked tirelessly and with great enthusiasm, to create our Waldorf- inspired space. The moss, home to magic things, is slowly evolving into a little nature/fairy bowl of goodness, complete with a fancy pine cone and a tiny toy duckie. We also got some cacti and a "Learning Tree," and Collin has been given responsibility of watering them all, and feeding the fish and helping with the care of the tank. He takes his job VERY seriously, and with much delight, and he feels so big and proud of himself for it. He has become quite the little helper, lately.

The learning corner is where the homeschooling magic happens. We gather there every day for Circle Time, and we sing songs and put on a puppet show about the Feeling Of The Day. Collin keeps trying to lure me back all day long for more "Puppeh sow."

The most interesting part of this process, is how much I'm getting to know Collin, and how much we are bonding. For the first time, I'm really tuning in to the way Collin works, thinks, and just generally Is. I'm letting go of unfair hopes and expectations I was putting on him in my mind, and embracing the wonderfully silly little boy that is really him. I'm challenging him with responsibility, and he's stepping up, growing up. I feel like he's grown so much in this past week, just since we've seriously started homeschooling.

Did I mention the other reason I'm so excited about Collin's Learning Corner, aside from having a space for learning? 
To make room, we FINALLY got rid of the awful cat pee couch! Hooray! My life really is complete.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Preschool!

It's been getting exciting around here, lately. Collin turned two last month, which made him finally old enough for an honest to goodness homeschool preschool program.

Let's just say, I've become an internet researching machine lately, as I navigate where to start. How do you begin homeschooling? I've waited so long for this moment, and I'm reveling. I have such a passion for teaching children, and such a passion for being a mother, and when they can merge like this, I'm just in heaven. That's a whole lot of passion, y'all.

Through reading and reading and reading about homeschool preschool, I've become aware of the teachable moments that are right under my nose. Like, the other day, when Collin was too feverish to go to the strawberry festival and then see his daddy's long awaited performance. So instead, we stayed in our jammies all day and fed each other blueberries out of the carton. Collin put a ton in my mouth, and then asked for them back. This became our first anatomy lesson, as I explained where food goes when we swallow it, and what food does for our bodies (gives us energy, of course! I only briefly touched on how food like blueberries give you more energy than food like chips. That's a whole other conversation).

So, I've been asking myself a lot of questions. What do I want in a homeschool program? How do I envision our homeschooling journey? What is really important for Collin to know? Homeschooling is not something I take lightly. It is a tremendous responsibility, with no time off. However, it is also a chance to bond with my child as he grows older, to be there for every intellectual  milestone, just as I always have. It's an amazing opportunity to guide him to grow up a kind, aware person, not just a smart one.

I've found myself leaning toward the Waldorf philosophy of education. I'm in love with it's emphasis on whole child, mindfulness, imagination. Yes, please! Collin and I had our first circle time this morning, and I could see the start of something really special. I'm ready for you, preschool!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring learning is in the air.

We've been busy, busy bees around here lately. If I have to be honest, I've taken a bit of a sabbatical from blogging. I feel like life just moves too quickly. Do you ever have that feeling? Collin is growing so fast, and amazing us every day with his blooming language and memory. I'm in awe of these little creatures, and how much they grow in such a short time.


So here's a little of what we've been up to, lately...



We've been making Easter stick puppets!

This was a really fun project. It involved lots of glue, and pom poms, and craft paper, and colored popsicle sticks, and the occasional glue in hair. Collin was so excited about these.

We've been dyeing Easter eggs!

This was, hands down, one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to Collin. 

We've been eating Easter eggs!


Goes without sayin'.
 Spring is here! Yay! I'm so ready for nature projects, and long walks in the sunshine, and scavenger hunts on the beach. (And sand all over my floor, and sunblock all over everybody and every thing, and sunglasses face tan....oh wait, I'm actually NOT ready for those things).  Either way, I'm so happy to explore spring all over again with Collin. Every year, it's like the first time, with that little mind of his expanding and soaking it all in.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stacking with Mega Blocks



Hooray for getting our internet back! Its been a wireless week around here, and I think some people in this house were about to start gettin' crazy. So what have we been up to? Well, if you're one-years-old in this household, you have been declaring war on bedtime and developing an OBSESSION with your parents' cell phones, and when your great-grandmother calls you steal the phone and run away with it, shrieking in a dialect nobody can understand. And also, you have been developing a fascination with Mega Blocks.

Collin got his Mega Blocks for his first birthday, and boy, are they swell. They're like legos for one-year-olds. Big, brightly colored, not in the least complicated. Collin didn't really know what to do with them at first, so for a while, he would just wait patiently through my, "See how Mommy stacks the blocks? See? See? Like this! See???" until I gave up and he'd unceremoniously dump them all over the floor. They would stay like that until we began sliding all over the living room on them, like little multicolored plastic banana peels. Then, when Collin wasn't looking, I would stuff them all back in their nifty little Mega Bag and forget about them until Collin came toddling over to me, hauling them one way or another. Like Santa Claus, with a bag almost the size of his body, but filled with bricks. It's pretty hilarious.

Mega Blocks come with this rad little wheely contraption that you stack on. In case you feel like wheeling a teetering tower across the room.

Have respect, ya'll.


This was the first time Collin actually stacked the blocks himself . It's a proud day.

Tada!

We're very excited about our Mega Blocks.

Since Collin is such a big boy now, stacking blocks all by himself and all, he wanted to wear his (ADORABLE) back pack. Another first birthday gift that I love.

Ohmygod, is that not so cute it breaks your heart a little?

He paraded it around the room with pride.

And then...

Tried to stuff it with blocks. Only it was zipped, so he settled for burying it in blocks.

So much stacking, backpack-wearing fun!