Friday, April 15, 2016

Variations on "Poetry Tea Time"

Have you heard about "Poetry Tea Times"-- check out the hash tag #poetryteatime on instagram or look at their website! Also check out their #poetryteatimecontest !

It's not a curriculum or for only homeschoolers.  It's an idea that can be molded to fit any family or interests. 

Here's the idea.
1. Parents (usually) value poetry (or other educational or enrichment type things they could plug into this idea.)
2. Kids value snacks!  Or a special meal of some kind!  (If they aren't into a tea party you could go to Starbucks for Frapps or a frozen yogurt place!)

So, basically you are using snacks or a special drink or "tea party" as the hook to introduce a subject to be enjoyed!  You can do this with math even!  As a kid I remember my mom giving me a little pile of chocolate chips to use for counting with my math page and when I was done I got to eat the chocolate chips.  I don't remember what part of math I was learning at the time, but I remember that feeling of enjoyment even in a subject I didn't really want to do.  That's the idea. ;)  It's a way to make some educational thing enjoyable.  :)

 Getting poetry books from the library is a great place to start because then you aren't out any money if no one likes the poems!  We have been enjoying "Animals Animals" by Eric Carl which has poems by many different authors along with his illustrations.

 Candles are a fun thing to add for a poetry tea time!  We will sometimes even roast mini marshmallows over the candles.  The one above is fun because the butterflies turn around from the heat of the candle.
 My 10 year old above is reading all the poems she'd already learned in her Animals spelling book.  It is a great way to learn spelling words in a holistic in-context sort of right brain dominant learning style way. 

The little one mostly drank tea.  Adding milk and drinking and adding more.  As lovely as a tea time sounds a little real bit in it is of course that you will have to stop and mop up spilled milk every so often.  I cut to the chase and have "tea towels" at the table for those spills.

 The video above is the three of us reading the poems we wrote.  Somehow it turned into a bunny thing. They dictated their poems to me and I wrote a little fast so my handwriting was a tad hard to read I am told.  ;)

 The picture above is of my 8 year old doing her little math book and her "brain games" from the Thinking Tree, but for the actual poetry reading part she read from her spelling book as well.  This book is bigger than the previous one and the poems are longer.  I would say it's a bit more advanced, but I have my older daughter doing the easier one because she likes it and I went with their interest more than level because I wanted them to enjoy poems and spelling at this age without too much pressure.

We all took turns writing our own poems as well!  It was a fun goofy thing and not serious at all.  After reading a poem that had a change in a word into a fake word to make it rhyme in a funny way.  Hence the end "Bunny on Mars? Bunnies every-wares!"

 Our poetry time turned into a read aloud time and the girls worked in their math books and brain games and colored and snacked.
 We are reading through the Princess Academy books by Shannon Hale after reading through all the Narnia books previously.  My oldest two are loving it, but the almost 5 year old is usually wanting her own books as these are a little old for her.
 Our little bonsai tree on the table.  It's true that a poetry tea time feels like a little too much work, but it turns into a delightful thing.  Just know what your kids like and know if they would want a picnic or a fancy tea or a certain special cookie treat or roasting mini marshmallows over candles.  Keep the poem reading relatively short and fun!
 You can do the fancy cups sometimes which can be really fun and we have a little mixer thing that makes frothy milk and chocolate flavored stevia.
OR you can totally do covered cups (for less fear of spilling!) and do really any drink.  Doesn't have to be tea, it can be anything that your kids and you enjoy.  I usually do coffee while they do tea and sometimes they have some coffee as well if it's early enough in the day.

 Special gluten free cookies I happened to find.  Out of a box!  See, it doesn't all have to be from scratch or a big deal to put together.
 This day after doing our poetry tea time reading we moved into our "Brain Games" and I joined in with my "Momschool" to be a good example to them.
 Another day we went to the zoo and on the way home stopped at the arboretum!  I added these pictures because you could totally plan on doing a poetry tea time at a garden or park or anyplace!
And it wouldn't have to be poetry even if that's not your thing.  Maybe the kids need a little special enchantment added to their math time.

Why not sip tea while working on math?  Or bring your art journals and frosties on a picnic!

Note, the "Poetry tea time" or whatever subject and drink you've chosen doesn't have to last a really long time and it shouldn't be a serious dull thing.  Enjoy it and experience these things together.  Think half hour on average and feel out the kids.  If they are getting bored, just skip the poem and talk instead!  Make up funny rhymes for no reason without an agenda except to be together and enjoy snacks and the subject you value.
 Julie Bogart of "Brave Writer" was who first came up with the "poetry teatime" idea and you can add this idea to your life with any resources you already own.  Think of it as a rhythm to add to your week or month.  It's not a pressure thing or a "have to" thing.  It's a place to inspire our kids and us.  A place to simply enjoy being together and enjoy poetry.

Poetry can be in favorite songs, it can be in children's books, it can rhyme or not, and you don't have to be all proper about how you approach the subject.  You can know nothing at all about poems and simply read one that you happen to like!

 The "Thinking Tree" has a new poetry writing book out now as well.  I don't have it yet, but it looks lovely.  I would probably enjoy it more than my kids yet!  I'm sure we will get this later, but I wanted to share it now since it goes along with the subject so well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Y and Why - Modeling Learning

 "Value academic work because nurturing the intellect is part of what makes us fully human, but don't elevate it beyond its place.  There are relationships to cultivate, books to read, oceans to swim in, forts to build, toilets to scrub, bills to pay, paintings to create, dinners to make.  This is why we homeschool, because we want to engage in a full-to bursting life."
(Quote from "Teaching From Rest")

"Yesterday, a yodeling yak was in the yard of yarrow playing with your toy yacht under the yew tree.  It yelled when it sat on your yardstick and yo-yo.  Then the yak said, 'Yummy,' when it saw a yucky yellow egg yolk."
And what each girl did for her own chalk board for "Y week"
 Our chalk board alphabet theme is winding down and I've been listening and reading about how children learn and meditating on the most important things in our days.  I hope this blog post will be encouraging to my fellow homeschoolers and Moms of littles.  I will be sharing a lot of quotes and links and thoughts that have been encouraging for me!

      I'm a second generation Homeschooler which is always the highest compliment to the original teacher (my mom!) because she created an environment that I have always wanted to copy.  And I've only admired her more as I've progressed down this journey.

     I've often thought through which things in my own years of growing up and homeschooling stand out the most, which experiences made the most difference in my life, and the things that I admire in what my Mom did in her own life.  One thing specifically that I've been thinking through is how she was an example to me and inspired me by just doing things that she was interested in or wanted to do.  She took spinning lessons (to make yarn) when I was about 7 or 8 and she always sewed and made other crafts.  I probably drove her a little crazy when I kept wanting to do what she was doing when she was doing it!  But I did that because she was inspiring me!  Biggest reason why I like to read aloud to my kids is because she read aloud to us.  My interest in books was sparked because she would read something and then tell us the story while we were all sitting around the dinner table and she'd stop at a cliff hanger and everyone would be like, "What happened!" and she said she'll have to read more because she didn't know.  She was only half way through the book!  Talk about getting someone hooked right?
     She did many other things like making bread and drying food.  I have memories of canning together and playing outside with animals.  She didn't play outside with us, but I specifically remember feeling free to explore (within a boundary) and didn't hear what you will mostly hear at a playground these days.  Just yesterday a 3 year old (or so) heard, "Don't pick up that stick. Don't play on the ground.  Don't go up the slide." Over and over for 10 minutes before they left while the little one cried because she wanted to stay!  My Mom was easy going and let us be kids and play!  And she was an awesome adult because she did her own projects and followed her own interests and kept learning.
     I want to do some "Awesome Adulting" too!  - term from Julie Bogart and this periscope that she did about it.  Periscope is a video that is recorded LIVE while people are watching and commenting.  I've only done one so far because I find that pressure too stressful! They take a little getting used to as the meat of the talk doesn't start right away and she is responding to people right then so it feels off the cuff (which is also a nice thing, but something to get used to.)

That's my long introduction to talking about "Momschooling" which goes with the "Awesome Adulting" thing and which all can tie back to modeling adulthood and a love of learning to our own kids.

What our children learn the best from us is not what we teach, but how we live.

"No task is too trivial, no assignment too small.  Educating our children is an offering of love we make to the God who was so gracious to bestow them upon us in the first place.  Every moment of the daily grind in raising and teaching and loving on them is hallowed, because we do it for Him and there would be no point of doing it without Him."  Quote from "Teaching from Rest" by Sarah Mackenzie
(Homeschooling Handbook for Moms)
 In the "Fun-schooling with Thinking tree books" Facebook group (that the author of the book above started)  several of us moms are wanting to be a good example to our kids by doing our own school with these books!  Some people are using a journal that their kids could use and some of us are using our Mom journals.  The way the journals work is that you pick several books or subjects (you can use audio books and other resources) and as you read and learn you write down quotes and other things in your journals and fill out the pages as they indicate to do so (there are some coloring pages and so on.)
I've shared before about the books, but this will mostly be how I'm using my own journal and will show completed (or nearly complete) pages for the most part.  The quotes throughout this post are all ones that are in my journal and I'm going back through to add them where they seem appropriate.

"We have the capacity to reflect the relational glory of God no matter who we're with, what we're doing, or what's gone wrong.  This is when art is a verb rather than a noun.  It isn't something you point to, it's a way you live."  (from the book "A Million Little Ways")

 My favorite time to do my own school is when I take them to a park where they can play and explore.  I can't seem to focus on my own school when I'm helping them with their school, though I do some coloring at those times.  None of my girls are strong enough readers yet to be very independent with their school, so our hours of school are almost entirely taken up by my reading things.  It feels a little intense, but I see them learning and growing and for the most part accepting the work they have to do.  It's hard to find that point of challenge without resistance.  If there is resistance then often it's too hard and frustrating and that isn't what I want this to be about.

"School is not about school... It's about pursuing wisdom; it's about becoming virtuous beings; it's about soul transformation."  Quote from Andrew Kern

 While my girls play in the mud at a park or throw rocks in a creek or splash in a puddle, I've been reading some from my stack of books and taking notes and coloring as the mood hits me.  This is my favorite time, and my girls come away from these adventures saying it was the best day ever!
 At one park trip we found a baby turtle and watched ducks.  Sometimes we pick flowers and press them in our field trip journal
 Talking at home about what we discovered and saw and drawing sketches and writing things down is another great way to turn our little adventures into learning moments.  Sometimes they will write in it and draw the pictures and sometimes I've taken dictation and drawn pictures in it myself.  Doing this together rather than insisting they do it all is another way I can lead by example. 

 The picture below is some of the books in my stack.  It seems to keep changing as I go, and I also like to listen to things as well which I will share links to throughout this post.
 I started creating my own book for my girls as another way to learn spelling words.  It's going to start out with the ASL sign language pictures like these.  And then have words to write and also finger spell while sounding them out.  Nice kinesthetic way to learn words!

 My 8 year old colored the picture below as an example of how they could be enjoyed!  She drew A's all around the A hand sign and colored it any way she wished.  Other ideas could include drawing pictures that start with that letter or just doodling any which way for fun.  As they color the page they will be thinking about the hand shape and it will get stuck in their heads! 

 Our "morning basket" below has about 5 different books that I read a little bit from most mornings.  We have been reading a chapter or two from a Narnia book before bed as well and watching the corresponding movies and radio dramas as we finish each book.  The girls have been comparing the different versions and noticing which parts are changed or left out so this has been a fun thing to do together!

 "You do not need to have a 'productive' homeschool day to please the Savior.  You do not need to have a clean house to please the Savior.  You do not even need to have well-behaved kids to please him... Faithfully tending to your work each day is what success looks like for the homeschooling mother."  - Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

I often feel like I don't have us do enough in our school day.  This is probably the thing that every homeschool mother struggles with the most!  But, when you make a budget you don't start with your list of dream items to buy, you start with reality of how much money you actually have.  We don't do that with our amount of TIME and mental resources in a given day do we?  Often we list all the grand ideas and "big ticket items" we'd want in our homeschool day and then run out of time or mental energy to ever get to them.

Doing the "Mom schooling" or "Awesome adulting" or whatever you want to call your own enrichment- it's important to know that being an example to our kids is as important or more important than what we teach.  If W.B. Yeats was correct that "Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire." then following our OWN passions and interests is exactly what we need to do more than those extra math pages or getting that better geography program done in a day.

 "Do we think God needs the perfect math curriculum or best books to work through us?  I'm pretty sure if we just offer up our simple best - without worrying - God will bless that."
 If you are like me you have deep wishes or dreams that you want to pursue.  A Passion that you have denied because you don't think you have time or because you don't think it's important or because you think you'll fail if you tried.  Sometimes you can hardly admit what it is.  That "Crazy idea" that seems so impossible, but only seems crazy and impossible because you want it so much and can hardly even admit to yourself that you have this dream.

"God cares about our dreams and our longings.  We have purpose here.  He is happy with us because we are His.  He delights when we trust Him completely.  We recognize our longings are in us for a deeper purpose." (From the book "Longing for Paris")

     How can we tell our children what to learn and how to be an adult if they don't see us learning and being an awesome adult ourselves?  Is being an adult all about cleaning house and bossing around the children?  I hope not.  I hope I can go on adventures with them and inspire them to try new things because I'm willing to try myself!

     My girls see me try, and sometimes they see me fail.  They see me not know how to spell a word and look it up or sound out an unfamiliar one.  They see me forget to put the yeast in the bread and laugh about it!  They experience the jimmy-rigging of the cake pops because we never did them before and it totally didn't turn out as pretty as the youtube tutorial showed.  They see me feeling stressed or overwhelmed because I'm navigating traffic and busy streets and they question our location because they think we are lost and they hear me explaining road signs and map directions and hear reassurances that I do know how to get us home.
     Some days they see me throw out the home work all together because I seriously need a break and I want to finish reading a book I started the night before.  They see me binge read and then tell them about how exciting my book is!
     They see me enjoying their Life of Fred books as I read the lessons to them most days and we all laugh at the inside jokes that come up from the books we enjoy together (Latest are "Mustard Please" and "I object to that remark very strongly!")

     What I see in myself, my mom insecurities, is how I don't do official math with them every day and how I don't take them on a field trip as often as they would like and how I struggle with loneliness and depression and how I never can keep up with housework at all.  Picking up garbage that I find everywhere in the house in the morning sucks out my energy and then I tend to drink too much coffee even though I'd rather have my fresh lemonade because I know it's better for me.  I see myself set up the routines and then never follow the routines or make a list and then do everything that is NOT on the list.  I see myself staying up too late for some quiet "me time" only to sleep in too late in the morning and not get our days going as well as I would like.

Chesterton - "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly."

     I see myself struggle with most of the same things I've always struggled with, but since becoming a mother and especially since having the third child and doing more homeschooling, I've left out my own interests.  I used to at least scrapbook and do other projects when my oldest was under 5, but since then I started slipping away from the things that got me excited and that I was especially inspired about!

 What Inspires you?  What were you created to do?  What is that deep desire or dream that God made in you?  What is your type of art?  In "A Million Little Ways" she talks about how all of us have art to offer the world.  Not the drawings and painting kind of art necessarily.  It could be decorating, or a gift of hospitality, or teaching karate, or any number of things - whatever it is that brings you joy and makes you feel alive -

     "If you are worried that your art is a waste of time, 
perhaps you need to redefine success in art. 
     Are you becoming more fully yourself?
     Is there someone else who believes in you or has been 
inspired because you are living life more fully alive?
Are you learning what it means to depend on God in 
ways you've never had to depend on Him before?
     There is courage in connection - connection with your 
true self, with the true self of others, and with the one 
true God.  If waking up to your desire is bringing you 
closer to someone else, if it allows you to be vulnerable 
in ways you weren't able to be before, if it reminds you 
of your desperate need for God, then your art has not 
been wasted. 
     Jesus shows himself through you in a million little ways.  
Perhaps more often than not, they are ways you can't 
plan for, don't intend, and may never even know about.
There is no waste in the visible or invisible work of God."

 The quote above is important because wives and mothers too often deny our own wishes so often that we can put away the very things that God created us to do.  Now we can't give these things our FULL attention of course because we are also called to be wives and mothers, but we shouldn't put them away as if they are a waste of time.  Our thoughts, our journey in learning what interests us, our particular "art" whatever that is needs to be allowed to come out. 
 For me, it is my drawing and writing and the art I do.  Too often I've felt like it wasn't valuable if it doesn't earn money.  My Dad was very entrepreneurial which is a great way to be of course, but not everything needs to find value simply by what price other people will put on it.  I'm beginning to enjoy my quick sketches (like the pictures above and below) as well as the more detailed drawings or other styles of art or just coloring with crayons a picture that someone else drew.  It's all valuable because it nourishes my soul.  If you were a dancer, could you imagine never dancing except as a performance?  Where can practice, enjoyment, and failure come in if our idea of worth was based on material value?  Lets learn to value the practice and the failure and the attempts as much or more than the finished product!  How freeing for our children as well!  They are learning everything, and valuing the journey is more helpful for them than if we simply valued the final outcome.

 The drawing of "King Equals" below was something I did last week while sitting on the floor with my kids as they played with blocks and their "Math gnomes" who were all talking about adding and subtracting and dividing and multiplying their jewels.  The play was all story telling and the vocabulary was math and it was real and lovely and my drawing inspired my 10 year old to draw her own pictures in her own journal of her favorite gnomes.
 For the people who see anything remotely like doing their own "Mom school" as too much work because they already have too much to do!  I totally hear you, but you need to do less of the other stuff if that's the case.  Housework and dirt can wait, but nourishing yourself cannot.
I find this next quote oddly encouraging.

"Life is pain - and you get to choose: either the pain of discipline or the pain of disappointment.
Nothing happens without discipline.  No music gets played without discipline.  No games get won.  No finish lines get crossed. No freedom gets tasted.  And you want that... Brilliant doesn't matter, if you can't get out of bed."

And don't we wish to see this work ethic in our children?  That child who loves to learn and sticks with something till they excel at it?  If we pay for lessons of some kind especially, don't we want to see them practice and try to get better?  Don't we want them to build good habits so that (at least in some way) life will be easier rather than seeing them make poor choices and suffer the consequences?  When our children are grown and not at home anymore don't we want to feel that we've kept a toe in our own interests so that rather than feeling like everything is over we'll feel like we can simply move more deeply into what we had already been developing that whole time?
 My "movie page" above was on a periscope by Julie Bogart and I'm going to link one here that fits with what I'm writing about.  Going with the quote from above "...Brilliant doesn't matter, if you can't get out of bed." This scope is about Perfectionism. She talks about how homeschooling and teachings ones children is like stringing beads.  There are those nuggets of insight and true understanding.  This isn't just in homeschooling, but learning in general!  Think of your own past and those moments that you had an "ah ha" moment in your life as you learned something you didn't know or had some insight that came over you.  Perfectionism is focusing on the gaps more than on those beads.  "Is your idea of the right way keeping you from your best way?"

"Much of the beauty
that arises in art comes
from the struggle an 
artist wages with his
limited medium."

-Henri Matisse 

Whether we are talking about our medium being our limited time to try and get in our own awesome adulting project, or whether this quote fits in with the children God gave us and how they learn differently than we did, or some other limitation that we personally have.... Ask yourself if you can see this tension and struggle to make your home and life beautiful as art?

Maybe what we are missing is that the very struggles we have and the way we have to adapt and change and make things work in our family and in our homeschooling to fit the learning styles and the needs of each person IS the beauty of this masterpiece.

- Boast in your weakness because it is showing off your need for the Creator God.
- Accept your imperfections because you can rest in the grace of Jesus' perfection.
- See the beauty made from the struggle.

 Why color?  Why create?  You might say that you can't draw and that you aren't creative.  If you feel that way then you are wrong.  You ARE creative and you DO have something to offer.  You are made in the image of the Creator.  Of course you are creative!  The question is in which ways?  Coloring is something that anyone can do and it is important.

"Creativity is not about me.
It is not about you.
It is not us somehow acting like little gods creating on our own in the same way God creates... 
The most we can hope for is to respond appropriately and creatively to who God is and what he means.
Creativity is a response."
(Michael Card "Scribbling in the Sand")

Can we worship God through the every dayness of our lives?  The small faithfulness that is very unseen and unappreciated is deeply meaningful, and while we can't enjoy the dishes so much in how we daily live out worship, we can begin to respond in other little creative ways. 

 To keep pushing myself farther into that "awesome adulting" - "Mom school"- creative response - thing to inspire my kids I decided to pull out something I had wanted to learn how to do since I was a kid.  I learned how to make a different kind of friendship bracelet when I was my girls age, but this particular kind (with the knots and the flatness and the graph like patterns) confused me and I just got it into my head that I couldn't do it.
 Since then I'd knitted lace shawls and followed complicated beadwork patterns, but did I ever go back and try to learn how to do these?  No I hadn't.  Until a few days ago!

My 8 year old tried the flat kind and then she wanted to try the kind that I did when I was her age which are round.
 Everyone was inspired and for a few days our afternoons were taken up with making bracelets and watching or listening to more Narnia.
This was my 10 year olds first one.  She was a little freaked out when she started learning how to do this, but it didn't take her long to get the hang of it!

 My second bracelet is a complicated pattern (which I copied so I could watch another scope!) and is for my husband who has been into wearing bracelets recently.

 The cat wanted to "help" and she was also a source of learning this last week as we had to take her to the vet.  She is doing very well and only had a little trouble with her tummy... from the kids sneaking people-food to her!
This book is the first in the "Dyslexia Games series C" which is for 10 year olds to adult and has all logic games and artistic ways to develop your brain!  I'm going to do this along with my oldest daughter as a way to be a good example and also because I think they look like fun!
The basic idea with these is that you look for a pattern and then look for what's missing and complete the pattern and pictures on each page.  They are open for interpretation though too and to even color if you want to.

I'm going to end this post with a thought taken from Sarah Mackenzie's book "Teaching from Rest" -

Perhaps the biggest mistake homeschooling moms make as a 
whole is overcomplicating things.  After all, curriculum is not 
something you buy...... It is a set of encounters that form the 
soul and shape the intellect..... your life.  Do it in front of and with your kids.  Plant a 
garden, keep house, learn to knit, cook, listen to audio books, 
visit new places, take factory tours, go to parks, sing, watch 
and play, go to museums, make music, take walks, care for pets, 
build things, watch films, listen to the stories of grandparents 
and elderly neighbors, go to church, celebrate the seasons, 
decorate the house for the holidays, create family traditions, 
play with art, visit the library and learn how to use it, go to the 
farmer's market, pick berries, read poetry and commit some to 
memory.  Remember that children will learn well what they see 
in us, what they will inevitably imitate.
Perhaps most importantly, put relationship above everything else
God made a true, beautiful, and good world to relish.  Don't get so 
distracted by thirty-six weeks of carefully plotted lesson plans that 
you miss the glory that is already yours for the taking.

Some might ask, "But I do these things and they don't want to join in.  I can't get them excited about what I'm excited about.  I can't get them to do these things with me."  It's not about that.  It's not about making them like what you like or getting them into what you want to do.  Just live your life in front of your kids.
Be a growing person yourself and love learning. Modeling is not trying to make them be who you want.  It's being who you are to inspire them to be who God made them to be.

Watch and see what inspires them.  Look for that spark of interest.  Be surprised and curious about who your children are and what they will turn out to be.  Appreciate what they are interested in as you would want someone to appreciate you and your interests.

Happy #Awesomeadulting and #Momschooling everyone! 

For more perspectives on teaching by example check out this blog! HOMESCHOOLING 6