Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fun-schooling: the Early Years

Too often, people think that academic learning and school should be hard.  Like if it isn't hard and tedious then they aren't actually learning.  Yet, in reality we should work to the level of success!  

We should find every day life and interests to enjoy together.

Tie books to movies to games to art to field trips.

Be curious with your child about things they find in nature.

If they have a question you can say the truth that you don't know and google it to find the answer together!

Grab a huge stack of books from the library on a subject and don't worry about reading through them all.  Flip through or skip parts or read as much as they wish for.

I so often focus my research and homeschooling efforts into my oldest (because she is the one in the front to usher in each new stage!) that I got to thinking how I don't write as often about what I have been doing or have planned for my youngest.  She will be 6 in a few months and mostly has been benefiting from what I do with my older two.  I have done so much research over the past 7 years because of homeschooling my oldest, and we have tried several different curriculum choices.  Only now I feel like I've finally found our sweet spot and after all that testing and research (and research again!) and testing some more.  I feel like I can recommend my favorite choices!  BUT, the point isn't to do what works for other people, but to find what works for you and your family.  So, just know this is what works for us!  I hope it helps other people as well, but you are on your own journey and it will look different from mine.

 The picture above is what I've got going now for her school space.  I also have a table next to this we use as a coffee table/craft table for doing her school time with me.  The table fits little kid chairs.
Happy self portrait!

  None of the above is necessary really, but for each girl I realized I had gotten them an easel of some kind for fun and inspiration!  I've collected some of this over time, the puzzle here or there, the clay at one time, the paints at another.  The big picture is to inspire the little learner and engage them with art and crafts and puzzles to build a positive relationship with learning.  All those tools are just for that purpose.  You can even get similar results with rocks and sticks and mud.  Playing outside with your little one and counting rocks, sculpting with mud, and shaping letters with sticks.. it's not about how much money you spend on these things, but how well you use them.
 In the video below I talk about how I've used these books, but I took pictures of the books in order to give an idea of how someone could use them for which age.. or at least in what order.  The two above would be great for a 2 year old or older.  For a 2 year old you could use these together and for an older child they could use them more independently, but as with all of these books, feeling out how much help (or not!) they want is key to build a positive relationship.
 This Fun-school journal incorporates math, writing, and reading.  It could be used with a child who already knows how to read, but in the video below I describe how I use it with a non-reader and the small steps I have taken to build a positive relationship with words and writing and stories.
Our next step is using this 100 numbers book (which also incorporates creative writing!) and this alphabet journal which is for more focused letter writing and sound recognition practice.

I share about these work books a lot, but reading aloud (with any books she likes!) is huge and also just playing games!  Imaginative play and math in every day life (like baking) and learning to get along with her sisters and helping me around the house in fun ways is all so valuable to focus on.

I have so many resources left over from what I tried with the oldest that I am now having to pull back and eliminate too many choices.  The only thing I will add to her funschooling is a simple (but effective) reading program --This "Rats" book and free resources this site offers with it.  And of course starting up the first "Life of Fred" book (apples) either this fall or next year.

The key with whatever resources you choose is short lessons and building a close relationship with your child.

One book that I talked about in the video that I didn't take a picture of is called "Hobby Time Adventure" journal which is more creative writing or copy work and coloring and drawing (It doesn't have math built in like the bunny journal) but it is one of her favorites!  I describe how we have fun with this in the video.  Wonderful book to bring some enchantment to the school work.

Those were the "work books" I do with the youngest, but that is a very short portion to our days.  Children 6 and younger can do wonderfully with only 30 minutes of dedicated school time (which possibly might come best in 10 minute increments through out the day for some kids.)  Some days this can turn into more and some days this just doesn't work and is less, but keeping the bigger goals of building a positive relationship with my child and inspiring their creativity and curiosity is what I want to focus on.
 Other fun times in our Fun-schooling is playing games!  Highly recommend this "Money Bags" game as it is all about learning coin values and the person who has SAVED the most at the end wins the game!  My littlest doesn't fully understand this, but we keep playing and I've been happy to see the older two go from not getting how to count money to understanding with seemingly little effort on my part except to play this fun game with them and demonstrate how to count the money.  Again, remember this isn't a test!  Schools seem to test children before they even have been taught.  I don't want our lives to feel like a test or like they can't have a wrong answer.  They get lots and lots of help and they grow!
 Zoo time!  Field trips are my littlests favorite thing and while we did this a lot when my older two were younger I noticed that I was slacking back as the older ones were doing more academic work at home we weren't doing as much hands on outdoor things as we did before.  Time to ramp that back up again!

 A picture with her toy koala near a real koala!  As she shows interest in different things and asks questions like-- "Are those the BONES of the chicken?" among many other questions about anatomy of animals and people which led to looking for books at the library or buying an usborne book about anatomy at her level.  If a child asks questions about koalas or likes a cartoon with one in it or has a favorite stuffy animal it is the perfect opportunity to look for documentaries or wild kratts or books about that animal or subject!  Think "Topical" about whatever they seem to like or ask questions about!

 Also, a big part of this stage is putting my own energy into my own education.  Reading about how to educate or learning styles or brain development and so forth not only gives me ideas to use in our school, but also calms me down when I worry that I'm not doing enough.
 The truth is that I keep purposefully holding myself back from doing too much.  I don't want to drown them in school work.  I want them to play!  Scootering and making scrambled eggs is more valuable right now than people give it credit.
 The time I get to spend doing my own research and "momschool" while everyone is awake is probably 10 minutes.. maybe (If I'm lucky!) without interruptions.  The scrambled egg making is amazing and then after the 5 year old finishes and it's on her plate she spills it on the floor.  This is real life and a normal process to what we do.  It looks all rosy and relatively easy when I blog about what books we are using, but the day to day is filled with complaints about not wanting to do something right then.  Or stalling to put their clothes on in the morning.  Or spilling the eggs.
 The hamster however was THRILLED with this "problem" and here comes in another part of our "funschool" -- even though we are in a 1,000 sq ft apartment I made it a priority to include pets.  We already had a cat, but getting a teddy bear hamster for the youngest and a bunny for the middle one has been such a fun part to add to our days.

Likely they won't remember their math pages when they are grown as easily as they remember how you reacted when they spilled the scrambled eggs.  

Please can I have more?
 The animals make a great break time between subjects and lightens everyones mood!

Getting a child art supplies, even nicer ones can really inspire them.  Painting together is one of our favorite things to do together.  Recently I started teaching her to knit as well, but didn't get a picture of the process.  Little kids are so enthusiastic to learn things.  We have just got to get over the idea that what we do should be efficient and realize that their curiosity and eagerness is a gift to us because it is so much easier to direct that interest towards learning skills.
Many of the following pictures I've shared on Instagram which is an on going glimps into our homeschool.  You can follow us at @sleimaniacstyle  But here is some of those pictures to keep them all in one place since they relate to funschool with a little one.
Her big sister volunteered to read this book to her so I could get the picture of the hamster and the strawberry since the book was "The little mouse, the red ripe strawberry, and the big hungry bear" - a tip for reading aloud, make sure your voice sounds like you are just as eager to read that same book the 300th time as you sounded in that first dozen go arounds. ;)
I have shared about poetry tea times in a previous blog post, but the picture above shows how we all can enjoy it together but at different levels.  The littlest one either dictates her poems to me or scribbles her thoughts and then tells me what it says.  Never ever say "that isn't real writing" because it doesn't matter!  The act of moving the pencil or pen while thinking and looking at that scribble and recalling what your thoughts were IS the point!  Sometimes I ask if I can write it so other people can read too.  Sometimes she chooses a poem in our books for me to read aloud and sometimes she recites one that she has memorized (we read poems before it usually turns into a poetry writing time.)  Her attention is much shorter than my older girls so reading a few while she eats the snacks is great!  It's short and that's okay for 6 and under.  The purpose with this is to build a joyful routine.  Poetry and snacks and spending good time together.

The hamster can help when the moods are low.  The picture above shows how she was having her hamster help read that book.. it's called "Press Here" so the hamster was helping by walking on the pages.
Just the other day she asked (again and again and again!) what we were doing that day.  She doesn't understand days of the week and times and such yet so we go over these concepts a LOT it seems.  Well, this day I made a short list (5 things) of what I was thinking we would work on that day.  One item was making brownies.  She was so excited about that plan that she copied the word on her own and ten minutes later showed me to remind me that we were supposed to make brownies "I wrote it down so we would remember."  So, I jumped on her enthusiasm and we made brownies RIGHT THEN. She can't read yet, but is communicating through writing! My older girls kept saying how much they loved homeschooling, "We write 'brownies' and we can make them and eat them while we work on school!"
She gets to hear a lot of read aloud books that I read to my older girls, Narnia, Heidi, Princess Academy, and so on, but she isn't that into them yet.  While my older two will beg for one more chapter she is chanting NO more chapters because she wants them to play toys with her.  One way I help her engage (and also it is so fun for my older girls and me too!) is by finding all the movie versions of the book we are reading!  With my older girls we talk about how the movies are different from the book or different from each other.  Do you know how many versions of Heidi there is?  My 5 year olds favorite version of Heidi was the Anime series version (LOTS of remakes I tell you!) and the picture above is a snippet of our lives in this story formed moment.  She chose the book Alice and Wonderland for me to read to her and her interest in Alice continued as we found different movie versions (more at her level so we didn't watch ALL of them) and she chose to be Alice for our churches "Trunk or Treat" last year.  This picture is showing how she'd saved her money to buy the Alice doll and bunny.  She was watching the musical version of Alice through the Looking Glass when I took this picture. 

It's not about a schedule or the perfect curriculum or getting our kids to do something.  
 Homeschooling is a lifestyle even if your style is to knock out the work books in the morning to fulfill state requirements so everyone can play the rest of the day!  

It's time to focus on our relationship with them and love who they are right now.

1 comment:

Audrey M said...

Some good things to remember.
It's also nice to see another homeschooling 3 kids in an apartment.