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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Our Home Learning - Independence

In past posts I covered the importance of  multi-sensory learning and rhythm and atmosphere in our homeschool days and now I want to touch on independence.

My boys are still young, 6 and 9, so there are many ways in which they are very dependent on others, and I am fine with that. When I think of independence in regard to homeschooling, it is more of the idea that my boys are independently ready to learn. I do not have to hold their hand every step of the way and in letting them direct some of their own learning, they find it easier to express and pursue their own interests. Although we did not plan it, they were both early readers and their advanced reading ability has opened their eyes to a variety of subject matter, be it in history, science, or literature and thereby encouraged their curiosity and desire to independently learn.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent: A Time of Preparation

It is our tradition to enjoy the countdown to Christmas in small special ways.
This year is no exception.
May your Advent season be blessed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving ideas

It was my 45th birthday this weekend and I was sick. Two days later I am still under the weather and finding myself not quite ready for Thanksgiving, so Ifound some past Thanksgiving activities to do with my kids and I thought I would do a quick round up to share so here they are:

Thanksgiving Story Retelling Bracelet

30 Turkey Thanksgiving Crafts from The Jenny Revolution

Thanksgiving Napkin Rings

The Thanksgiving Tree

Adorable Thanksgiving Turkey Writing Activity from Teachers Pay Teachers

Have a lovely Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Our Home Learning: Multi-Sensory Learning

Recently, I posted about foundations of our home learning and one aspect of our learning is making sure it is multi-sensory. This is one of the reasons I really like Oak Meadow.  It is a good fit for all kinds of learners -auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. (Here is a great article about the three different learning styles from Successful Homeschooling.)


For example, in the Oak Meadow grade 4 literature studies, the children read Stuart Little and at the end have a range of choices of how to show that they understood the story, ranging from making a canoe that looks like the one Stuart Little used on his adventures to writing postcards from Stuart Little to his family. Oak Meadow includes multi-sensory learning in the earliest grades as well. My youngest son is working through the first grade syllabus and every few days we read a story then incorporate a letter of the alphabet into a drawing that illustrates the story.  There we have an easy effort for the auditory and visual learner.

Here are two illustrations from Oak Meadow's Fairy Tales.
On the right is an oven with a door in the shape of a "D"
and on the right is a cat in the shape of a "C"

We add our own multi-sensory learning into the mix as well. This can range from learning about the change of seasons through making art to visiting a local Native American Longhouse to instead of just reading about it. This brings me to one of my favorite things about homeschooling: the field trips.  Oh, how I love them.  To see my kids excited about learning while doing is absolutely delightful!

In the near future, I look forward to adding in a new element to our multi-sensory learning: math in cooking. What ways do you encourage multi-sensory learning with your children?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Veteran's Day Roundup

As we come upon Veteran's Day, it is an excellent opportunity to teach our children to treasure the freedoms they have and honor those who made it possible.  I have pulled together some of my favorite ways to teach about Veteran's Day. I hope you all have a peaceful day of home learning and harmony.

Make tissue paper poppies

Here are several ways to teach young children about Veteran's Day

This military personnel coloring page makes a cute poster. This site might help you know what colors the uniforms should be.

Here is a lovely song for children to hear about patriotic pride.

short video about the history of Veteran's Day.

Learn about The Poppy Lady who helped make Veteran's Day a holiday in  the USA.

Learn about the Poppy Story in Scotland.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Our Home Learning: Rhythm and Atmosphere

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our transition from using the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling with living books to using Oak Meadow and implementing Charlotte Mason techniques. In this change, I took a closer look at the foundations of our home learning. Two of the most basic foundations that are most essential are the rhythm of our day and week and our atmosphere.

I learned the importance of a daily rhythm early on when my oldest son at age two would ask, "Mama, what are we doing today?" every morning. The more I have read, especially when doing research on Waldorf education, I can see how a daily rhythm, as well as a weekly one, sets our children up for positive learning by providing consistency so vital to keep a relaxed environment.

One of the most effective ways we keep our weekly rhythm is to have a calendar in our "learning room." Both of my sons, ages 6 and 9, can read, so if they ever wonder what is coming up in the next few days or weeks, all they have to do is look on the wall. For our daily rhythm, I refer to my lesson planner and our days pretty much play out the same each week. If there is something special coming up, it goes on our calendar.


We also keep a nature table that begins with a lovely purposeful nature scene that reflects the season. During the next few weeks, it transforms into a gathering of found treasures (feathers, leaves, acorns, pebbles, and the occasional nest) from our walks in the woodlands. (My youngest son becomes so attached to his natural treasures, that now we keep some of them in seasonal boxes. As the season progresses, we clean off the nature table, pull out our seasonal box, and he mingles his beloved treasures from years past with new found fancies.)

When we have cultivated a good rhythm to our days, we are able to focus more on a purposeful atmosphere that encourages organic learning. Oak meadow fits right in to this by often allowing children to pic from a variety of activities based on their interest. Part of our atmosphere is visual, so we provide an enriching learning space which includes:
a big view of the world,
a place to hang their artwork and lovely pictures,
a good collection of living books and ones that spark creative ideas,
learning resources we made ourselves,
and quality school supplies.
Now don't get me wrong, our home has its share of clutter, electronics, plastic toys, and less-than-ideal books, but we are a constant work in progress and growth. 
I have also come to realize that "atmosphere" also includes the unseen, as in the way we treat each other, how we carry ourselves, and what I model for my children. Do they see me on my computer? Yes, and I am mindful that it would be best for them to see me reading or doing hand work. Again a work in progress.  Charlotte Mason, in her book Parents and Children,  put it this way, "The child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives." This leads me to ask myself, how am I showing my children how to love learning? Learning creative thinking. Learning how to reason. Learning enquiry and evaluation. Learning empathy. Learning social skills. 
In the big picture, it all comes down to being purposeful, and keeping in mind the best piece of advice I have received on parenting. It came from my older sister who said, "Remember, you are not only raising sons, you are raising future husbands and fathers." 
Who are you raising?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Something for the Weekend

We are going to enjoy this wonderful Halloween story from Sparkle Stories today!

Next week, I want to make small wool pumpkins.

These felt animal masks are too cute!

Scottish folk music like this song from the Tannahill Weavers is comfort food for my soul as we approach the colder months.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Postcard Geography

I love to travel.  So much so that if I can't go elsewhere, I pour over travel magazines and should my friends travel, they know to be ready to provide a full detailed report when they get back.  My love for travel goes back to my early childhood when we would take road trips from Oklahoma to wherever my parents had the notion. One of these road trips resulted in our big move to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. 

Ever since I can remember, I have collected postcards from my own travels as well as others. I can remember stopping at truck stops and looking at racks of postcards trying to find the one that fit my image of where we were. Some of my most treasured postcards are from my oldest brother who lived in Italy in 1975/76.

I still enjoy postcards and the way they transport me to a different place, so when I found two big wall maps at a yard sale this summer I knew just what we would do with them. Postcard Geography!

One wall of our learning area.
Thanks to social media, I was able to ask friends and family to send postcards from their home and travels, and they have certainly come through. Just yesterday, we received a postcard from a friend who vacationed in Iceland!

As we received each postcard, we used yarn to pinpoint the location on the map with the postcard on the side and we took time to discuss/research the area and culture of each place.  We are having so much fun with it.

If any readers would like to exchange postcards just let me know. Yours would come from Philadelphia :)

In the meantime, we will have fun dreaming about far away places.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Something for the Weekend

For a while now I have gathered a few things that I want to share that just don't seem to fit in a whole blog post, so I decided to start a new series called Something for the Weekend.  Here you will find some of my favorite finds on the internet ranging from parenting to travel to music and whatever else strikes my whimsy. So sit back, relax, and enjoy.

I grew up with horse chestnut trees in our yard. I wish I had known how to play this game of conkers.
Christmas gifts from Etsy are always a favorite. I'm putting this sweet little deer necklace at the top of the list.
 The background noise from Noisli always sets up a soothing mood especially good for the colder season.
We are in love with Imagine Childhood's felt fox mask!
I could listen to Bear McCreary's version of The Sky Boat Song alllllll day.
Images courtesy of The Toymaker

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.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day Tribute

A few days ago we joind our Cub Scout Pack and placed flags at the grave sites of veterans at a local cemetery. About one fifth of the sites date back to the Civil War. It proved a great opportunity for the boys to learn American history as the boys asked about the wars and what life was like. 

Last year we made a paper poppy centerpiece that reminded us of the cost of freedom and the beauty of that freedom.  http://howthesunrose-lalagirl.blogspot.com/2013/05/making-poppies.html

Monday, April 28, 2014

It is the little things

I don't know about you, but I am thrilled with the warmer weather after our long hard winter.  Our family is finding so much joy in the little gifts of spring that nature offers, especially bird songs, budding leaves, and bright cheerful flowers.

Happy spring!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day

On this Earth Day we cared for our feathered friends.  What about you?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Monet is Cheering Our Days

It has been over a month since I have written. A. Very. Long. Month.
This past winter the cold has forced us indoors more than I would like. However,our recent study on Claude Monet filled our learning area with beauty and cheered our days.
I started our Monet adventure by printing a variety of his paintings from the Claude Monet Gallery website. (Transferring them to a Word document allowed me to customize the size.) Then we hung the pictures on our little clothesline at the desks. This worked out very well as my boys (ages 8 and 5) absorbed the painings and would talk about them throughout the day and occasionally make up stories about what is going on in rhe painting.

We also read Who Was Monet. I read the book first so I could offer open-ended questions as Aidan narrated what he learned after each chapter. The Who Was /What Was books are great for the third grade level being factual and filled wirh compelling details.

Aidan also made his own masterpiece. 
First,  we used painters tape to tape down watercolor paper then using the wet-on-wet technique, he painted it blue. Meanwhile, I cut out tissue paper lily pads and wrapped little bits of pink, white, and yellow tissue paper around a pencil eraser to make little flowers. After the paint dried, he glued on the lily pads and flowers. Voila - Monet's lilly pads.

Toward the end of our Monet studies, we wentto the National Gallery In Washington DC to see original paintings. What a wonderful experience for us all!

Thank you Monet for cheering our days.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winter's Day

Here in central Pennsylvania, we are at the beginning of what promises to be a lengthy snowstorm.  Last night I made sure our feathered friends would be well fed and they have been flocking to our deck all morning.

 Are you getting pounded with snow as well? Don't forget to catch the snowflakes.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

(indoor) Snowball Fight

Ready for a snowball fight?  If you live in the north east or midwest of the United States, you have probably had some great time in the snow with your family lately.  Whether it is warm or cold where you live, a little indoor snowball fight can be just what kids need to let off some energy.

Before we were pounded with snow this winter, my sister made these cute little snowballs for my boys and they have seen lots of snowball fights! 

Indoor snowballs are fun to make and will keep kids busy and happy.  Start with a yarn pom pom. (There is an easy tutorial found here.) Glue on a felt circle for the face, make a mouth and nose with fabric paint, and glue on googly eyes. Now you are ready to play! (These would be perfect for a winter time birthday party or playdate.)

Have fun!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Little History Love and Creative Learning #29

Welcome back to another week of Creative Learning. I began teaching a class titled "18th Century Life and People" for our homeschool co op today. I have 9 second and third graders and I can tell already that we are going to have a blast.

I began class by asking each student what they like to study the most and then explained that when you study history, you study about everything. I could see little light bulbs of understanding turning on in their minds as we talked. We also did a Venn Diagram of life then and life now to show that people now are similar to people then, yet some of our resources make our lives seem different. 

I will come back later and share some of my ideas on helping kids love history later.  Now it is your opportunity to share with us. What creative learning have you had this week?

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