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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?

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