Friday, May 24, 2013

End of the first week of our Right (brain) school

A fun part of this week has been the new TAG reader book and Leapster Game that I got for the girls -"Brave" on Monday.  The former is pictured with Grace SO thrilled about getting to touch everything and hearing something!  Lily has used it too and I'm seeing her develop a better relationship with words and reading just in this one week alone.  "Brave" the leapster game is about science and nature and it was pretty fun to hear Renna explain how a lady bug larva turns into a lady bug and how excited she was about that!   (Note:  She explained it all to the guy at the nature exchange at the zoo who was teaching her about the bean pod that we brought in to him to exchange.)
So, how has it looked this week?  Compared to the rather intense list of do's and checking off boxes of things to do each day as it has been before, this week has felt .. well.. pretty amazing!  This week has been unwinding from what we have been doing as well as starting some new habits of what to slowly add in the more right-brain dominant way.  I'm actually much more comfortable with winging it each day for the most part, and of seizing those teachable moments.  In general we'll have a time of reading together at least once in the day, but this can be in the morning or just fun stories at night.  Teachable opportunities are so much easier for me to run with because they inspire me when I see where my kids are already wanting to learn!

My oldest has started to enjoy going outside to play rather than escape the house and school like she had been doing the last few weeks. 
Speaking of spontaneous learning-- One morning we were outside for a bit after breakfast to play and the girls found a couple lady-bugs and one flew off but the other one we put on our basil plant that really did need some help.  This led to my reading them the "Grouchy ladybug" by Eric Carl while we watched the ladybug enjoy the bugs on my basil plant (which Lily reminded us was actually a lady BEETLE because the guy at the nature exchange at the zoo said it was really a beetle and not a bug technically.  I was impressed that she remembered!)  Reading that book led to talking about time and size and imagination.  Renna (the five year old middle child) has such a great imagination and said that the one that flew away (that we'd found) must have been the grouchy ladybug and we get to keep the nice friendly one.
On Tuesday we met some friends at the Dallas zoo and Lily and Renna had so much fun spinning in the nest with one of their best friends, Josie and exploring the zoo and all their little spots together.  It was fun to see Lily and Renna so happy.  Times with friends is never long enough.

Get ready to spin!
I gave Lily my old camera as I think I mentioned in my last post, but guess who thought the camera was the best thing ever since chocolate milk with straws?  Yep, my little 2 year old!  She sat in her stroller and took picture after picture.  Delighted the whole time.  Later Lily and I laughed at how many pictures of her own feet and the back of the front seat in the double stroller there were that Gracie took, BUT she actually took a few good ones!
 I can see Grace with her shyness being someone who naturally would gravitate to being behind a camera instead of in front of it.

I've been pleasantly surprised this week at not only how much more happy my oldest has been and seeing her play more and being droopy less, but my middle child and even my 2 year old have been just blossoming!  In just one week!  I want this trend to continue.  I'm less stressed and all three girls are growing and learning on their own initiative and using their imaginations and creativity.  It's lovely to see.
My little kitchen helper making Kale chips with me.  These never last long in our house.  :)  Because of our gluten intolerance and because I just naturally want to eat healthy real foods I talk to the girls about what things are good or not good to eat.  This is such a great life lesson really because I could see all of my girls decide on their own when they'd had enough cupcakes for breakfast yesterday morning. 

Something that I changed in our house this week was putting the box of lego in our living room instead of in their bed room.  I played with them the first day building a car and sorting some of the colors and people parts.  Ever since then they've spent so much time building and imagining together!  It's been so great to see after these last weeks of wilting.
As I've observed Renna this last week I'm not sure that she actually is a left brain learner like I'd thought.  She is so imaginative and it's coming out more and more.  She made up this whole little soap opera with these lego figures.  It was such a great conversation too with her when she talked about them and what they were doing.  I'd talked to my girls at one point about abortion because it is such a big deal in our culture now and we were learning about creation and how we are all made in God's image.  Well, these two she said were bad guys (they had scary faces) but they didn't want to get married, they just loved each other she said, but since they didn't want to get married they killed their baby.  It's pretty amazing how much a 5 year old can pick up from our culture when we don't have regular tv (only Netflix shows) and they are homeschooled and always with me.  But what was great though is how I was able to talk with her about how that was wrong (not in a condemning way, but just so she'd understand by saying how sad that was) and later she changed the guys face so that he was "good."  And she explained how he'd chased the girl and hurt her and so the baby had died, but now he was good.  How do you know?  I asked, and we were able to talk about Jesus and how the bad guy was made new in Christ.  At least 3 times this week I've been able to talk about the gospel with Renna... from when she did something wrong to little things like this.  This is my favorite reason of why I homeschool my kids.  When one of them acts out (usually Renna) and sins (like lying) I can gently tell her that Jesus died for that sin and that He loves her so much even though He knew that she would sin, but that He loves us so much that he doesn't want us to have the yucky sin in our hearts and He wants to make us new.  I'm privileged to see my little one who was acting defiant and hard hearted melt into repentance and hug me knowing that she is unconditionally loved.  It's the biggest deal of all and I don't miss those precious opportunities with them near me so much. 

 As I said, Lily had been (in a sense) trying to escape the house and life for the last month or so.  She kept just acting droopy and not knowing what to do with herself and would ask to go outside to scooter around a bit.  ... Like she was searching for something but she didn't know what. As if she wasn't fully living.  This week I haven't seen much of that.  I haven't tried to control any tv time as I had before.  As in, by telling them to turn it off.  Rather, when she wanted to watch the new Smurfs movie from the library (which is pretty stupid, but whatever) instead of telling her not to watch it I encouraged her to make some clay smurfs at the same time.  Which she did!  After that I haven't seen her watching tv too much.  Definitely not like before where it was just that vegging and hardly any activity or creativity.  The lego is a great diversion from vegging and this week as a family we started doing more Wii sports games together that she's continued on her own with her sister.  Here in the picture they are playing Tennis I think.  They boxed in the Wii sports too and boy does that work out your arms!  This is so great because I have more time to focus on the littlest one that really does need more direction.  I even finally got to the small mountain of clothes that I needed to alter (I was getting tired of my sewing machine and the pile cluttering the living room) and I'm hoping some of my own creative projects will start getting more attention too, what with the older girls becoming more independent in their learning and projects.
Grace always asks to do "school" and her school is cutting things with scissors, writing tiny circles on her white board, and scooping beans or rice or tapioca pearls from one bowl to the next.  My house has felt messier this week, but everyone seems so much happier.  :)
We went to the library today and I found a bunch of great graphic novels for them.  My littlest was excited about the TinkerBell ones and the other two each found an interesting one that they actually kept looking at in line!  Note: normally they'd be bugging each other and trying to wrestle while we checked out the books, and today they were wanting to look at them on their own!  (And yes they are wearing their swimsuits... they wanted to increase their chances of swimming tonight after dinner...)

We stopped at a grocery store and they were still wanting to look at their books.

And STILL after checking out Lily is into the book (Note: She sounded out one of the words outloud and I also heard her talking about what she thought was going on in the pictures.)  Renna got distracted from her book because someone mentioned the chocolate that I bought.

And still on the way home she looked at her library book.
 So about Dominant Right-brain learners-- these people will want to know WHY.   Why do I need to learn to read?  Why do I need this math skill?  For them, instead of starting with facts and learning rules and classic rote skills they need context to motivate them to learn.  The idea of cooking a cake for instance would be a great motivation for realizing the need for math skills.  In Lily's case, seeing these interesting pictures is a great motivation for wanting to practice reading so that she knows what the story behind the pictures is talking about.

Lily asked, "Why are you taking our picture again?"

After swimming and quick showers tonight I read the girls 6 or so stories and even though they seemed tired they actually ASKED to look at books before going to sleep on their own!  I'm so excited about this new approach and way of doing our life.  It's exactly what I needed and I just got "The Right Side of Normal" in the mail tonight so I can read the whole book!  I also got a book about mentoring the self directed learner which had some great reviews and is really what I truly want to be for my kids.  I want to inspire them and learn with them!
And the helper helping to mix our gluten free bread.
She has some amazing circular moving muscle skills for her age.

For many of us, the classical style of learning and teaching we've heard so often about is said to be the "best."  Anything less, we've been reminded in one way or another, is insufficient or only for the weaker minded, but check out this quote from "The right side of normal" website--

A well-known education philosophy called classical education, popularized in the homeschooling circles by the book, The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, advocates and follows this model of learning. About the elementary ages, Susan Wise Bauer states, “In the elementary school years…the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this age actually find memorization fun. So during this period, education involves not self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts.” She goes on to say about the middle school years, “Middle-school students are less interested in finding out facts than in asking ‘Why?’” And her overall assessment of the focus of this educational model: “Classical education is language-focused; learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (pictures, videos, and television).”

Now perhaps you can understand why when this left-brain-dominant learning style is held up to be so "perfect" and when your child doesn't measure up to that left-brain yard-stick you can feel like a failure as a homeschooling parent.  Or just constantly be at your wits end as to how to change things.  You worry that there is something wrong with your child when in reality it's not your child that needs to change but the system and your own way of doing school and teaching.  While the classical method might be amazing for the naturally left-brain dominant learners, it's not the only right way to learn and to teach.

I loved the last paragraph of this particular article about the left-brain measuring stick.  She says--

Is there really only one right way to learn the various subjects? Why are we more concerned that our child know what a noun is first (learning by memorization) versus learning the names of countries and continents based on a child’s interest in various animals (learning by association)? Is it more important to know that 2+2=4 (facts) or that it actually isn’t always true (2 horses + 2 tractors does NOT equal 4 animals) (concepts)? And how many of your children could navigate the computer (picture-based) even before learning to read (word-based)? Mine did! Using the left-brained measuring stick to determine the path for learning for all children is narrow-minded, inaccurate, and even damaging. There are brilliant right-brained children waiting to thrive in a well-matched right-brained learning environment that requires its own measuring stick. There is a right side of normal!

Final observation about this past week.  My girls have demonstrated more knowledge and interest in learning in just this one week in this freer style then they ever did in the days was I was the most consistent about following our packaged lesson plan of checking boxes.  But now that I know what they need (and what I need) and I'm purposefully looking for those right-brain-dominant areas and interests and resources, it's all beginning to fall into place and I don't feel like I'm floundering with hitting and missing without realizing why something works and something else doesn't.

I hope some other mom's out there are being encouraged now as well!  Even if you don't homeschool you can use these ideas to encourage your child.  For instance, instead of the knee jerk reaction to not allow comic books (because they are thought to be of less quality reading then chapter books) go ahead and get them some good ones and see them get excited! 


lenorediviney said...

I recently picked up a rose is rose book for trinity. They are so cute and there are life lessons about them with his naughty cousin clem and his belief in guardian angels, there is lots for discussion. Trinity read it for an hour straight on our drive home from moms.

Lynne' said...

Now would be a good time to read the "Simplicity Parenting" book because he has such great ideas about how to create that nurturing imaginative environment that encourages play and so on. :)