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Monday, October 20, 2014

Our New Homeschool Rhythm

Back in July I knew I needed to work more throughout the academic year than in years past. I also knew that my oldest son was ready to do more self-guided learning so I decided to get a computer-based curriculum.  It did not fit in with my attempts at a flowing rhythm nor my love for the Charlotte Mason method, but I really needed to be free of the stress of daily self-planning as my oldest entered fourth grade and my youngest began a mix of kindergarten and first grade and I thought it would be the solution.  I was so wrong.  After only two weeks, we were all bored with the repetition and computer-based learning was not enriching my son's life. The next week we made a big change and began using Oak Meadow, a Waldorf-inspired curriculum. What a difference!

Now into week 4 of using Oak Meadow curriculum, we have found a steady rhythm and managed to implement some Charlotte Mason techniques. (If you recall in previous posts, I wrote about how we used the Charlotte Mason method and implemented Waldorf techniques, so this isn't too much of a stretch from the past two years.)

Over the next several weeks, I will expand on some of the foundations of our learning and how we use Oak Meadow curriculum and some of the foundations of our learning.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Woodland Trust and an Autumn Scavenger Hunt

Have you heard of the U.K. based Woodland Trust Nature Detective program?  Take a look at the website where you will find wonderful ideas for getting our kids outdoors and exploring nature.
While the focus is on nature in the U.K., many activities carry over nicely to North America, or can easily be modified to fit our unique natural habitat. For example, I modified their Autumn Scavenger Hunt to fit our area of central Pennsylvania.
Have fun out and about searching for nature's treasures this autumn.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The World Is My Classroom with Oak Meadow

Do you get bored with having your homeschool days stuck in 4 walls? If you need inspiration to help your kids see the world as their classroom, head over to the latest Oak Meadow photo contest entriesIt is a wonderful gathering of children throughout the world learning wherever the opportunity finds them.

We have three entries, and could have easily added more as I delight in finding those teachable moments no matter where we are.  As a matter of fact, right now, my boys are outside in our back field searching for shapes in nature. If you would like to vote for our main photo like it here.

On a road trip through Oklahoma we saw this oil pump in the middle of nowhere and took the opportunity to talk to our sons about my father who became an Oil Johnny at 12. Our oldest was fascinated by the mechanics of it and watched in awe for at least 5 minutes

Our 6-year-old learns nature can be enjoyed in urban areas on Staten Island while looking forward to our next days adventure in New York City (skyline in the background).

He is so proud to write the letter A correctly and even practices on his bedroom window.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Michaelmas delayed

Today is Michaelmas and the day we start using Oak Meadow curriculum.  I was excited to use Michael's and St. George's slaying of the dragon as a way to help my sons recognize their challenges in the academic realm and to prepare to take those challenges on using Oak Meadow as a new way of learning.

Well you know: The best laid schemes of mice an' men, often go awry. Instead of getting off to a wonderful start, we have a sick, nine-year-old boy camped out on the couch looking pale and worn out. Our Michaelmas  is delayed. In the meantime, I will enjoy the quiet time to be introspective seeking out my dragons and come renewed to begin our new start in the morning.

Here are a couple of posts from Michaelmas of years past: 

The Armor of God Slays the Dragon Within

Michaelmas: A Time For Bravery and Growth

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Wonderful Trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

It is that time of year again.  Throughout our neighborhood, children are climbing on the school bus bright and early. Many of them are excited, but some, and you can see it on their faces, simply would rather stay home.  As far as I know, we are the only exception in our neighborhood. We homeschool.  This year, we have a fourth grader and a K/1st grader, depending on the subject. 

I have found over the past two years, that transitioning from summer break to the academic year can be a challenge when you never board the bus or walk to another building, so we are making a gentle, free-flowing change. We will be in the full swing of things in a few weeks when co-op begins.  Last week we kicked off the changeover to daily lessons with a fun field trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

We were pleasantly surprised to find several interactive stations among the exhibits.

Up until our visit, I  thought I knew what 6 artists we would study this year, but seeing how excited they were about Pablo Picasso, I added him to our curriculum.

Having the flexibility to travel and tour is one of my favorite things about homeschooling.  Have you already started field trips too?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Fun in the Smokies

On an early summer road trip home from Oklahoma, we stopped to visit friends at Great Smoky Mountians National Park. Visiting state and National Parks is one of the easiest ways to teach children to appreciate nature and there are many opportunities to learn about preservation of our nation's wonderful resources. If you plan on visiting a National Park with children, don't forget to ask about the Junior Ranger Program. At the end of the program, the kids can earn a badge or patch from that specific park and have fun while doing it.

As we see the end of summer coming and prepare for the upcoming academic year, let's all slow down, explore nature, and take in the beauty of the world around us.

(For more ideas and inspiration on enjoying the summer, join us at Little Acorn Learning's Slow Summer Series.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Around the Sun and a DIY Birthday Ring

My goodness, it has been a long time since I last posted.  I have been preoccupied trying not lose myself amid the stress of living in an over-crowded, underfunded home for months on end, but I feel myself coming back to my true self.  One of the catalysts for me to find my way back was my eldest son's recent birthday. Now he has traveled nine times around the sun. 

We are full on in what the Waldorf community calls the 9-year change. I watch it happening as my son pulls away from us looking for independence, questioning our authority, and wanting to know why things are the way they are.  While at times it is frustrating to be challenged by my child, it is also a relief.  For many years he has been so compliant and it is good to see that he is developing a sense of self beyond what we direct. (The Sunrise School has a wonderful post about the 9-year change.)

We threw a huge birthday party (39 kids and adults!) but the special time for me was the evening before the party when it was just family singing happy birthday as he blew out the candles on his birthday ring.

Do you know about  the birthday ring? It is a simple wood circle with holes drilled to fit ornaments that reflect the child's interests or adventures over the past year as well as a few candles to blow out. Since we tend to do Waldorf on a budget, we made ours out of wood train tracks, homemade ornaments, and beeswax candle we rolled ourselves.

To make your own birthday ring, you need eight 3.5 inch curve track, such as these by Brio. (If you do not have them on hand, you can often find them for a great price at garage sales or on Ebay.) In each track, use an electric drill to make a 3/4 inch wide hole 1/2 inch deep. For the ornaments, I bought unfinished wood pieces from our local craft store and painted them using watercolors. I purchased beewax sheets from A Toy Garden some time ago to make large candles, so we made small candles from the scraps. I purchased brass candle holders from a local Waldorf school and used bits of wax to hold the ornaments in place, although it can easily be done without the candle holders.

Now every year around the sun, my boys know it is a special moment as we gather around the birthday ring where everyone stops to show that we are glad not for cake (although we do that too), not for gifts, not even for a fun party, but simply glad that this child is a Gift from God to this family and we celebrate who he is.

I linked up at Frontier Dreams. It is such a lovely blog. Head over for more inspiring craft ideas.

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