Friday, November 1, 2013

Blog Cruise: Homeschooling with Ants in their Pants

I recently wrote a post about School Outside the Lines, and I really heard about it from moms I know. Our wiggly and chatty kids challenge us to keep the school train on the tracks. Some of the suggestions I offered there included:
  • Follow your interests. 
  • Get the wiggles out. 
  • Change your point of view. 
  • Do more group subjects.
Today I'll expand on those!

Follow your interests.

Getting kids to study what interests them is much easier, and following their curiosity always comes around to the good stuff anyway. This flexibility of following their interests was actually something we stumbled into while on the Review Crew this year.  As the year advanced and book after book came rolling in, we gradually altered our schedule to include these new options. We began seeing our kids excited to do school every day. We had stumbled upon delight directed learning.

It's a never ending adventure into what we will learn! I still had my master plan of where we are going and the goals I've set for each grade... but I really relaxed as I enjoyed the journey of getting there. There may be a few detours, but we are loving the journey  This is one road trip where we won't be asking "Are we there yet?"

The most important part of this homeschool journey is teaching my kids that learning is an adventure, and a lifelong one at that. I believe there will be a day when traditional education/college will be less valued than a person with a resume of chasing knowledge! Proving that you can sit through hours of classes will be less important than someone who can think outside the box, learn from mistakes, and love a challenge. Self motivation is a premium quality that can't be spoonfed!

“Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” ~ Katrina Gutleben

As I experience the journey of learning with my children, I find that chasing the delight of learning for one hour is much more productive than "drilling" anything for 5 hours. So here we go, as we try and break free from the mold of normal school expectations, and open the doors on unfettered learning. I don't think that means fewer standards, but truly higher, harder, more creative ones. This is going to be quite an adventure!

Get the wiggles out.

Some days we just have to stop and go run around the house 3 times, just to get the blood flowing.  Our homeschool support group recently began making a real effort to include more fun PE oriented get-togethers. Everything from water gun fights at the park, to a "Wipeout" course, to rock-wall climbing at the YMCA. We've also enjoyed nature hikes and indoor field days.

The point is, as homeschoolers we can miss out on the importance of PE if we don't give it some effort. If you don't have a huge family you probably can't have your own football, basketball or baseball team, but you can surely join local ones. Also, you can have your own track team. I am super impressed by some of my homeschool mom friends who challenge their older children to train for a 5k with them.

Not only is physical exercise important for "burning off some steam" but it actually makes kids feel better and invigorates their brains! Exercise helps improved mood, and even teaches endurance. Consider planning more PE into your school day. You won't regret it.

Change your point of view, literally. 

Get up and find a new school location. Outside, on the trampoline, at a coffee shop, at the library... just move. Sometimes it is as easy as leaving the table to work on the couch. Sometimes we need some fresh air and warm sunshine. In the winter you might try doing school in a classroom at your church, or in the meeting room at your library.

You will also find that some places don't work, such as school in bed. That usually only leads to mom's favorite subject: "stolen naps".

Changing up your homeschool location is the theme of one of the days of International Home School Spirit Week. In that blog post the author encourages us to toss in a few more field trips to break up the cabin fever. Some great field trips we have enjoyed include:

Kansas City: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Kansas City: The Moon Marble Co.
Kansas City: The Johnson County Museum
Kansas City: Kaleidoscope
Philadelphia: Liberty Bell / Downtown

Another good blog post during Home School Spirit week pointed out that volunteering is learning too. You can read the whole post here, but here are a few of their suggestions for learning away from home, while serving!

Ideas for Community Service
  • Help assemble meals with Meals on Wheels, or make cards to include with each meal
  • Volunteer at the library – reshelve books or read to younger children
  • Visit a Nursing Home or Veteran’s Home – sometimes just a smile and a genuine conversation will make someone’s day
  • Help an elderly neighbor with yardwork or housework
  • Pick up trash along the highway or beach
  • Tutor younger children

Do more group subjects, including all grades.

My kids love learning together. They also learn a lot while relating the material to their younger siblings. Who knew, right?! I've always believed, and am now witnessing, that you learn more when teaching something than when being taught. This is a wonderful opportunity for homeschool families to learn in a new way,we shouldn't miss its benefits. My wiggly younger ones do best when paired up with older siblings.

History and Science have been the easiest for us to combine all grades. This year we started using America the Beautiful for history, and have had no trouble using it for all grades... which in our school spans from 6th down to Kindergarten.

Each day we would open up America the Beautiful (volume 1), and read the lesson (an average of 4-5 pages, including pictures).  Originally, I had asked my two children who were using this to read it themselves, but true to their learning styles, that didn't work. I then chose to read the lesson aloud to all four kids, while they worked in the accompanying books. Mayda (grade 2) and Wyatt (Kindergarten) would fill in the Timeline blanks, as well as color the nice black and white line drawing illustrations. Emma (grade  5) would fill in the blanks in the Student Workbook, often doing a game or puzzle using facts from the lesson. Tyler (grade 6) would do the Map coloring and assignments. This helped them all to listen more closely, and they sat near me so they could see the illustrations as well. Ultimately, I think it would work best if you ordered a student workbook for each student. We just split it up this way due to their varied interests and abilities.

For science, we are using Apologia to cover all grades. This fall we started in Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics, which spans K-6th, right where we are. Last year we used Apologia Zoology, Swimming Things, in much the same fashion. Every day they sat and did the reading assignments together, and then we all participated in the fun experiments. Tyler and Emma also shared the Regular Notebooking Journal, and Mayda and Wyatt shared the Junior Notebooking Journal.

What do you do?

These are just a few things we have tried and loved to help keep those busy bodies focused. What do you do? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Also, to hear how others approach this squirmy challenge, check out the Blog Cruise by clicking the banner below. (Link goes live November 5th)


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