Friday, March 9, 2012

Field Trip, Experiement, and Football

Wow, no posts at all in Feb, I'm sorry for my short hiatus. Feb was a rather rough month for me, and writing here just got pushed on the back burner. But I'm feeling inspiration again.

Late in Feb, we took the boys on an overnight trip to St. Augustine, Fl. On day one we visited the historical district, visiting a few of the shops and having lunch at the quaint Florida Cracker Cafe. I took the boys to see Castillo De San Marco, which I remember being much cooler from my childhood than it actually was. We also stopped in the Pirate Museum to check out all things Pirates. Nico was most excited about the prospect of staying in a hotel, and couldn't wait until 3pm to check in.

That evening, Nico and I took a Ghosts and Gravestones tour. We learned a lot about the history of St. Augustine, heard several ghost stories, and got to walk on the grounds of the Lighthouse, as well as enter the Old Jail (which is the most haunted building in the city). Lucas isn't interested in such things, so he and Timmy just stayed at the hotel.

On day two we visited Vilano Beach, before heading home. It was a shelly beach, and we spent a few hours collecting sea shells of various shapes, sizes and colors. I haven't figured out yet what we will do with all the shells, but I'm sure we'll think of something.

The other day, Nico asked what happens if you freeze water, that already has ice cubes in it? Will you still be able to see the original ice cubes, or will it all freeze together? He thought it would become one solid block of ice, but you would still be able to see the original ice cubes, as well as feel the bumps on the surface, because ice floats, so they would stick up above the rest of the ice. To find out, he set up an experiment by taking two cups of water, one with ice the other without, and freezing them. He checked on it several times, until both were completely frozen, and sure enough, you could still see the ice cubes trapped within the ice, and feel the bumps on the surface where they stuck up.

I've been looking for an activity to put the boys in, that wasn't terribly expensive, and would fit within my work schedule. I finally found it in the form of Flag Football. I registered the boys yesterday, and they have their first practice tonight. Both are excited, but Nico more than Lucas. He can't stop asking questions about the game, the rules, his coach, the other players. Even though they are in the same age division (cut off for the 8.9.10 age group was Jan 1, so Nico still counts as 7) I made sure to put them on separate teams. If they were on the same team, Nico would spend far too much time dictating to Lucas, and neither of them would fully enjoy the experience.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Love binds us Together

One of the things I love the most about home-schooling is the bond that I am forming with my boys. We are a closer family because of home-schooling, than we ever could be if I sent them away to school every day.

I was talking with my mom the other day, who suggested that when my boys get older, they may drift farther away from me, than if I had had girls would drift. I just don't think that is so. It's not that I want to hold my boys to me as long as possible, in fact just the opposite is true. I am always striving to give them their freedom and independence, with the knowledge that I will always be right here, when needed.

What makes me think my mother is wrong, is the way my boys show their love towards me. Everyday that I have to leave for work, they will drop everything (video game controllers included) and walk me to my car. They give me hugs and kisses, and stand at the sidewalk to watch until my car is out of sight. EVERY TIME! It's not something I have ever asked them to do, and I certainly never expect it. I simply say, I'm leaving now, and everything is shoved aside to see me off. That simple act shows me how important I am to them, more than anything else could.

And when they are 18, or 25, or even 40 years old, it wont matter if we are miles apart, because this bond that we have, wont be so easily broken.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Back to the Future

Nico has been playing a Back to the Future game on the PS3. It's not the most action packed game ever. It doesn't have the best graphics of all time. But for some reason he really, really enjoys the game. He has been enjoying the game so much that he actually sat down and watched all three Back to the Future movies; which he says he also really liked.

It just goes to show that there's no predicting the things that might capture your child's attention. I think part of the reason Nico likes the game so much is that it's filled with puzzles for him to work out. I like him playing the game, because he's been learning so much from it. As I was cleaning this morning, I listened as he tried to complete one section of the game. It took him about ten tries. The goal was to complete an experiment for Doc, while Doc had an argument with his father in another room. During the argument, Doc was yelling out key words, which Nico had to listen for, to know what to do next in the experiment. Words like: Fire, Burning, Pressure, Hot Air, Shock, Bacteria, Lightening.

Let's think about all the things Nico learned, just from that one section of the game. Listening skills, following directions, deciphering clues, experimental procedures, new vocabulary words, scientific reasoning. I'm sure the list can go on and on.

The game as a whole has sparked a deeper interest in time, specifically years. Before playing this game, Nico never really thought beyond months, weeks, and days. But jumping through time on the game has got him thinking more about the years. How they are numbered, and what kinds of thing happened when. He's started referring more to the year we are in now, 2012. He's referenced years in the past; such as in 2010 such and such happened. And he's asking more questions about history.

Who knew? All this from a game I wouldn't have thought he would even be interested in.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's like riding a bike!

Last year, Timmy and I had decided Nico was old enough to learn to ride his bike without the training wheels. We took them off, tried to help him learn, and after a few tries he insisted on putting them back on.

A few weeks ago Nico decided he no longer wanted the training wheels on his bike. He went to the tool box, picked up tool after tool until he found the right one and took them off himself. A week or so later, he was happily, confidently riding his bike on two wheels.

The moral of this story, kids know when they are ready for something, and it doesn't necessarily correspond to a certain age. Do other kids ride bikes on two wheels at an early age? Sure. Does that mean my kids have to? Nope!

The thing to remember, while unschooling, is that you are letting your kids work on their schedule. Whether it's learning to read, solve complex arithmetic problems, using tools, or riding a bike, they will do it with ease when they are ready. If they are resistant, or hesitant, put the training wheels back on for a while. Let them revisit things at a later date, when they feel more comfortable, and be amazed by how much easier it is for them to learn.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Yet another post about Reading

Nico was taught to read using phonics, so in his mind the only real reading is when words are sounded out. I find it extremely joyful, to watch Lucas take a different approach. Lucas does know some phonics, but that has never been a huge focus, and since no one is actually teaching him to read, he is using more of a natural whole word approach. This led to an argument in the car the other day between me and Nico about what constitutes reading.

See, as we were driving down the road, a Publix bakery truck was riding along beside us. Lucas looked over and said "Look a Publix truck." When I told him good job for reading the side of the truck, Nico insisted that Lucas hadn't read anything, he just recognized the word. But isn't that what reading is; seeing a word and recognizing it? (Granted the color and font of the word probably helped a lot in the recognition, but still, he did recognize it.)

Nico and I argued back and forth about it. Nico insisting that Lucas can't read because he doesn't read the books Nico puts in front of him, and me insisting that he most certainly can read, just not anything and everything just yet. Lucas stayed pretty quiet during this whole discussion. I only continued the conversation for so long because I hate the way Nico is always trying to undermine his confidence, which is probably why Lucas doesn't read out loud more often. Constantly being told you can't do something, leads you to not even wanting to try.

For a kid who can't read, I've seen Lucas recognize an awful lot of words, most often when he thinks no one is paying attention to him.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How do you know if/what they're learning?

How do you know what your children are learning? If they never take tests, or get evaluated, how do you know they've learned anything at all? These are common questions people ask when they find out about unschooling. And the answer is so simple, and easy, I can't believe it eludes them.

I know my children are learning, because I pay attention to them. As unschoolers, I spend a lot of time with my children. I may not always be actively engaged with them, as we don't enjoy all the same activities, but I am always aware of where they are and what they are doing. I pick up on the little cues that tell me they are learning, or have mastered a new skill.

Example 1: Nico has been working on figuring out time for quite a while. He was constantly asking what time is it? how long until? and other such questions to help give himself a better understanding of how time moves. I know he is mastering this skill, because he has stopped asking so many questions, and has started making statements about time. In two hours, it will be... Only five minutes until...

Example 2: This morning Lucas read the number 1100, off the playstation screen. He said "Mommy I scored eleven hundred points!" I didn't know he could read numbers that high, so I walked over to check, and sure enough he had scored 1100 points. Now I know.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Unschooling in the media

I just finished watching a segment about unschooling on The Today Show. If you missed it, check here for the video clip. All in all it showed unschooling in a positive light, which is a huge departure from how it's been shown in the past.

I love the Bentley family in the video. They are a wonderful example of how unschooling works. You can tell from watching the video that those girls know themselves. They know their passions and what they want out of life. And that's what unschooling is all about. Mrs. Bentley seems to share my view of the parent's role in unschooling as well. She says, "I consider myself their facilitator. Bringing the world to them and them to the world." And that is exactly how I see myself when it comes to my children's education.

They say that travel is a big part of unschooling, which leads host Matt Lauer to speculate that only the wealthy can do it. Not true. You don't have to be wealthy to travel, you just have to make good choices. Also traveling doesn't have to mean going out of the country. It can be as simple as driving an hour away to your state park. People who choose to unschool make the choice that travel is important to them, so they make the sacrifices necessary to make it happen.

It was mentioned that unschooling is not right for every family, and to some extent I would agree with that, but not for the reasons they said. It was stated that only children who are self-motivated and self-propelled can be unschooled. I would argue that all children are self-motivated and self-propelled, and it's only after spending years in a classroom, that they start to lose those qualities.

There were a few points made by the 'experts' and by host Matt Lauer that kind of got my blood boiling. Take their many references to the fundamentals. "Will there be gaps in the fundamentals." People, there's a reason they're called the fundamentals. You can't escape learning about them. No matter what your goals and passions are, the basics are there. You don't need to sit in a classroom, eight hours a day, five days a week, for twelve years, to learn them.

One statement that Matt Lauer made, and one of the so-called experts touched on too, was this gem. "If they aren't assessed, how do we judge and compare them to other kids their own age?" And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what is most wrong with our school system. This idea that you can only know if a child is learning by comparing them to others. It's not good enough to just compare them against themselves. The idea that only tests and assessments can demonstrate learning is ridiculous.