Posted in Education, Family, teaching

Kind of-Sort of-Unschooling

Unschooling seemed too out there for me when I first read about it. To be fair, homeschooling seemed too out there when I first thought about actually doing it. But unschooling was waaaaay out there. I read two or three articles about it and just went on my way. No curriculum? No lesson plans? No schedule? I can’t function like that, how would she even learn?

After a few months of homeschooling in the traditional sense (ie curriculum that mirrors traditional school) for my five-year-old, I am now thinking more about the theories behind unschooling and why they could be helpful for us. I have become a huge fan Sir Ken Robinson over the past few months and have done a lot of research for my continuing education on our public education system. That alone made me question why I was breaking up our learning the way that I was…because I was trying to copy what traditional school was doing. But why? Is that really the best way for them to learn? Who says? (more about that in my book *insert shameful plug here*)

One book about unschooling I enjoyed—>

I had planned our curriculum for the year by August. I had broken it down weekly. Now I wish I could have those two weeks of my life back. It’s been quite the road of frustration and learning on my end. Some of the lessons and ideas Gigi clicked with, others she didn’t. She does have special needs so I try to be as flexible with the timing of things as possible but I wasn’t caving on what we were learning. Maybe I should be? That’s the point of homeschooling in a broad sense is to cater better to your child’s educational needs.

For those of you who may be thinking about it, or just curious about what unschooling is, here’s what I’ve gathered and what I’m concerned with (maybe experienced unschoolers can correct any misconceptions I have):

Interests lead learning- this part makes sense. My daughter digests lessons that she’s picked out better than ones that I do. That seems like a no-brainer. If she’s interested in something she will want to learn, therefore she will learn.

So we are starting to implement that. I’ve left my type A, list making, yearly schedule on hold and asked her what subjects she wants. I had everything planned in the order I assumed she’d be learning at public kindergarten. Plus some extra stuff just for fun. We finished up mammals and we’re going to move to birds. She said no, she wants to learn about frogs. So frogs it is. Frogs and nutcrackers are our focus for December. We will see how the learning develops as we paint nutcrackers, watch the ballet, and maybe go frog hunting if it’s not freezing.

Subjects shouldn’t be divided- The idea is that is all subjects can stem from one original interest. This is not as concrete but as I continue to learn about the concept it is understandable.

For example, one of the first things my daughter said she wanted to learn about was Native Americans. Timing wise that worked out perfectly since we started in October and ended in November. Using videos, books, and worksheets we learned about the Woodland Indians. We learned geography studying a map of America and where their tribes were. We learned science by reading and discussing how they grew crops, the seasons, and the animals in that area. I left out the whole slaughtering of millions of people post the first Thanksgiving and how sordid our history really is. Maybe first grade…

This seems to flow well but the fact that I can’t track what we’re learning ahead of time is something I will have to adjust to. For the purposes of portfolio reviews (every state/county is different but where I live you do two a year and they have to approve your learning milestones) I will have to at least in retrospect try to document what we’ve covered.

Reading and math- My biggest pause with unschooling is the way a child learns to read. Unschooling philosophy says that children will pick it up as you go. Which basically means unschooling uses whole word learning applications. A child learns to read by being read to and then eventually, they will remember words and letters they see and piece them together on their own. Whole word learning isn’t wrong by any means but as a librarian, I feel like the mixed method approach is the best. Maybe? Learning phonics is just as important, at least I’ve always thought so.

Same goes for math. I get that you learn math everywhere- grocery store, counting flowers outside, counting clouds. But what about multiplication? Evens and odds? I get that some mathematical concepts can be a very natural learning process but some may not be so much.

These are the only two areas I think I will continue to try using worksheets and books. To be fair, my daughter does not like writing some days but she really wants to read. We are doing whole word applications with books that she picks out from the library. This has given her the reins on what she is learning to read. We also read My World books or BOB Books.
Are they exciting? No, but I explained to her those books break it down so that she can recognize the words when she sees them again on her own so she asks for them now during our reading time. They do work.

 

Phonics and spelling we will continue to use ABC Mouse, Brainquest, and Scholastic. I use the mix because they all have a different approach. As long as the time we spend on them is not long (like not past ten to fifteen minutes) we can usually get through a letter or sound without any pushback. That was another lesson for me being a first-time homeschooler. I was used to teaching in 45-minute blocks. At home, with one ADHD child with other stimuli around, ten minutes. Get it or get out.

The conclusion to all this is I still am learning the best way to homeschool a special needs child. Our schedule has not been consistent because of my job but that is ending in the next few weeks. I hope to be able to offer her more freedom and more creative learning utilizing her interests. So far, I know we will have to change the spring and summer curriculum I developed. Instead of learning things chronologically to mirror the traditional kindergarten classroom we will be:

A) Doing much more baking and cooking. Gigi loves baking and wants to open her own business. We are going to start writing down our recipes, creating new ones, finding places to bake for (ie nursing homes, her co-op group, family), and how to create more healthy recipes. We have even talked about creating a logo for “business”, she has a thing about logos. This way we are learning math, science, and writing.

B) Gardening/garden planning. We are creating a better play area outside this spring. Part of that play area is going to contain an edible garden. She is going to help with the planning, mapping, design, planting, monitoring, and then cooking with our ingredients. We will be learning geography, science, math, reading, and writing. Also PE!

C) Camping. We tried going camping when Gigi was three and I think my husband and I are still scarred from it. However, I think it may be a field trip idea for this year. Camping provides AMPLE learning experiences.

backyard-bicycle-bike-630770.jpg

After this year is over hopefully I can update you with how it went using her interest as our guide as opposed to the standard instruction of our area. We are basically working off of a very broad schedule of topics. Each month I have two to three main lessons (i.e. phonics, addition, counting to 40) type of goal and then a list of five to ten topics. If she has one of her own that I don’t have then I’ll add it in there as we go. If she doesn’t I will ask her what she’s interested in and we’ll try to steer our learning that way. I think for now it’s a good mix that will allow us more communication together about her education, give her more motivation, and allow me the satisfaction of knowing we are hitting markers and I’m able to report everything that I need to. Since I do still really like schedules and with her diagnosis schedules work well for keeping her anxiety down we will still have a daily schedule. I will post it once I figure out which one works best. We are also adding personal hygiene and life skills in her learning.

Unschoolers with feedback or success stories are welcome to comment 🙂

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Posted in Education, Family, fun, history, Holidays, reading, summer, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

Summer Learning: A lesson on pirates

I haven’t actually done any “educational” posts in awhile and my daughter asked me this morning if we could learn about pirates.

Image result for pirates gif

I’m like YES, obviously we can learn about pirates.

Little known fact about me; I used to be obsessed with pirates. I did a research paper in graduate school about Blackbeard as my example of good and bad leadership skills. Peter and Wendy was actually the first chapter book that I read out loud to my daughter. I found myself censoring a few things but I digress-

I decided since I would be looking up some things for her to learn that I would share them with you to add some education to your summer break.

(This post contains affiliate links)

Treasure hunts-

One of the first things you think of, when you think of pirates, is lost treasure. “Booty” it’s called. Coins, jewels, and other riches obtained by piracy (theft generally speaking).

Treasure hunts are easy to set up at home. You can use rocks, seashells, plastic money, or their own toys. Hide them around your backyard or in your house. The big treasure prize should marked on a “map”.

Is this historically accurate? Not really. Most pirates didn’t bury their treasure, they spent it. One of the most famous pirates who did actually have a hidden buried treasure was Captain William Kidd. His loot has since all been found (at least they think so).

 

Legends and Folklore-

One thing pirates were, were storytellers. If you think about it, all that time on the sea with little to do in between navigating, thieving, and drinking; storytelling and music were a must.

Here is some pirate folklore to share with your family. Most of the stories are ghost stories or legends in nature. Some are about actual historical figures. There are plenty of stories out there about curses and signs of impending doom. A shark following the ship for instance meant death was approaching. Fridays were a unlucky day to sail. Gold hoop earrings could bring the pirate good luck and fortune on their travels. Never change the name of your boat, unless you want to run aground.

Some of the most famous folklore to come from pirates and other sailors were those of the mermaid. Different countries have different takes on what a mermaid is or was, and different ideas on what they looked like. Some believed them to be beautiful and wanting to help sailors get to safety. Most believed mermaids were there to lure men to their deaths.

I love the “You Wouldn’t Want to be a…” series. Lucky for you they have a pirate one!

Geography- 

Image result for map of where pirates sailed

Piracy took place all over the world, but during the Gold Age of Piracy (1650’s to 1720’s) most of the action was in the Caribbean. They were referred to as Buccaneers if they were Caribbean pirates. Although Pirates of the Caribbean was extremely fictional, the city of Tortuga was quite accurate. It was a high spot for pirates to refresh before hitting the high seas again. Tortuga was off the island of Hispaniola.

Why was this area so hot to trot for pirates? Spanish ships were constantly trying to get gold and jewels back to England and Spain for one. For two, most of the indigenous peoples of the area were killed off in many of the islands thanks to settlements centuries earlier. Three, there were a lot of places to hide.

It was a great time to be a pirate. But all good things come to an end and eventually England got sick of their money and ships going into the sea. The navy started to hunt down pirates in a ruthless movement to end the Golden Age and they succeeded.

Image result for pirates gif

Some resources to learn the geography of the Caribbean:

Geography Lesson: The Wonderfully Diverse Caribbean!

– Map making exercise for older elementary students. Great idea!

Jamaican Games for Fine and Gross Motor Skills Really cool list of ideas 

 Making steel drums for kids

 

 

Just for fun-

Mad Libs are a fun way to practice language arts skills! {Free printable}:

Image result for kid pirate map

Worksheets: Treasure Island Crossword Puzzle

For any adult wanting to brush up on their pirate knowledge I highly recommend this book:

And of course the classics:

        

Posted in Education, Library, literature, Opinion, Poetry, reading, teaching, Uncategorized

Thunderstorm poetry, the best of

I’ve said it before, I’m not a huge poetry fan, but there are some that really stick to me and I just keep rereading over and over. I did a post about “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowing Evening” awhile back and I think nature poems can just move you in a way that a story can’t. I saw this post and wanted to share it.

 

The best poems about storms Weather is a perennial theme of poetry, and not just nice weather: more violent and extreme weather, such as storms, thunder, and lightning, has produced some classic poems, as this list of the best storm poems aims to highlight. Sir Thomas Wyatt, ‘Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei’. […]

via 10 of the Best Poems about Thunderstorms — Interesting Literature

Posted in Library, literature, Mental Health, Poetry, Uncategorized

Miles to go before I sleep…

The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and the cold seems to bring out the worst in some people. Use this time to reflect on yourself and your family to see how everyone is really feeling. In the midst of January, and “January Blues” season, I wanted to share some insight on one of my favorite poems.
Image result for january blues
As you may have seen with the circulating Facebook post about people having “a warm bed and tea ready”, this is the time of year when those who are really suffering from depression tend to have the most struggles.
Why is the winter so hard?
There are a lot of reasons it’s believed that “January Blues” seems to happen. It’s not just January mind you, it’s winter in general. There’s a mix of cold weather, staying indoors more, less sun, calmness from the holiday commotion that some people do not do well with, and of course the need to cleanse yourself from the plethora of calories from the holidays.
I always think of a famous poem by Robert Frost this time of year.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Whose woods these are I think I know.Image result for snowy woods
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Some critique the poem as a suicide note. The claim is that the narrator is trying to persuade himself to keep on living even though it would much easier to stay in the depressed state that he is in. Others look at it as more uplifting. Even though the narrator is contemplating the darkness of the woods he is choosing to continue on. I prefer that latter.
Still others would say it’s a completely over-analyzed poem and it’s just about a guy riding his horse and enjoying nature. I could get on board with that too, I suppose.
Robert Frost wrote this poem prior to winning four Pulitzer Prizes. The man obviously knew what he was doing with words. The sounds and rhythm of his poetry are top notch, even if you aren’t a fan of the possible messages and imagery.
Why is this important right now? Why should I care about a poem written almost 100 years ago?
Well, I think all literature is important and I think it can be used as a great bonding and teaching resource. If you have an older teen or tween who you may suspect is suffering from depression, have them read this poem. Talk about it. I’m sure they are going to be forced to read it sometime in school, but have them do it on their own time. Tell them how you feel about it.
If nothing else maybe this poem could inspire you and your family to log off for awhile. It’s so easy, especially with the cold winds blowing, to stay inside, plugged in, and tuned out. The woods can be a great place for reflection and discovering what you are really feeling. Not to get all spiritual about it or anything, but the woods are one of the best places to just…be.
Image result for snowy woods
Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, parenting, reading, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

13 Picture Books to Read before 2016 Ends

As much as I love the classics- Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, etc etc; I feel that there are some great new children’s easy readers (picture books), which have come out in the past few years that get overlooked when parents ask for reading recommendations. Everyone who follows this blog knows how I feel about Early Literacy Education, so even if you are newly pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or just had a baby; bookmark this list to review.

I’m going to already assume you have the essentials and give you some updated book recs for babies, toddlers, and preschool aged children.

This book made my daughter actually lol. That’s hard to do with a book. I love Oliver Jeffers style (The Day the Crayons Quit) and I think kids do too. It’s a colorful, relatable, style that is still detailed enough to really paint vivid images. In this book, a little boy loses his kite in a tree. So logically, the only thing to do to get it down is to throw his shoe at it. Then his shoe gets stuck. So he throws the other shoe. The whole thing just spirals as he throws whatever he can find at the tree.

 

 

Great bedtime story. The transitions from the daytime to the nighttime are really cool. I enjoyed the illustrations of this book more than I did the actual story.

 

 

 

 

I’m a sucker for rhyming. I like to read rhyming books out loud. This is a very cute little story about a mouse, who obviously wants to sit in his chair, but there’s a bear in it. Pretty simple premise but definitely a fun read. Also good for kids who may be having a little trouble with sharing.

 

 

I honestly did not know how my daughter was going to feel about this book. In the same vein as Journey, The Only Child has no words; just pages of pencil drawn images to tell the story. Being they are all black and white I thought maybe she would get bored of it. I was wrong. She loved this book and I enjoyed it too. It was a great way for us to talk about what we thought was happening. Since there are a lot of fantasy elements to the plot we ended up going on some pretty long winded tangents.

 

Like every kid, my daughter has a small fear of the dark. Nothing major but when I saw this book I thought maybe it would help her out. At first she was a little apprehensive of the book. Then after we read it two or three times she started to realize “the dark” was nice. It hasn’t cured her fear but she did ask for this book more than some of the others I had brought home.

 

 

 

This book I actually bought, purely for myself. I don’t cry at movies, but books will get to me. This one definitely did. If you are a new mom I highly recommend this book. And some Kleenex.

 

 

 

This book promotes reading so I liked it (shocker). More than that though, it was a very funny story that I actually enjoyed. The illustrations are simple, cartoon style, but they work well with the story.

 

 

 

 

If you don’t have the Press Here book, get it now. My daughter goes crazy for that book. This one is the same idea. It’s almost magical I think for little kids when they read these kinds of books. “Did they really just make all the dots fall to one side?” Definitely gets kids using their imaginations.

 

 

 

I loved this book. My daughter got a little bored at parts because it is long winded. Basically a little girl goes home from school with a book her teacher gave her but as she walks, words from the book start to fall out. A fox behind her catches them and she creates the stories. Very clever and unique children’s book.

 

 

 

 

If toddlers and preschoolers had to take sociology I would make them all read this book. It’s a cute book that shows you all the different houses people can live in. The art is interesting so I think that kept my daughter’s attention more than anything.

 

 

 

 

This was not at all what I was expecting when I first opened it. Bruce is an old curmudgeon and doesn’t like to be bothered. So of course, due to a series of events, he ends up with baby geese to take care of. The writing is actually really funny and the illustrations are great too.

 

 

I added Finding Winnie onto this list because I enjoyed the book. With that being said, my daughter did not. I tried to get her to let me read it again and she was not having it. It does have a lot of wordage and war history so I think she just lost interest. However, being an huge Winnie the Pooh fan as a child I enjoyed the back story.

 

 

This is my top pick by far. Everyone should have this book in their collection. It’s art and story are amazing. Every picture in the book is made up of words from classic tales like Peter and Wendy and Treasure Island. My daughter liked it because it’s fantasy and she enjoyed the illustrations but I don’t know if she got all the messages in it.

Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen

Teaching Teens Tolerance

In light of recent events, I thought it was fitting to do a post about teaching tolerance of others to teens. I honestly am not a fan of the word “tolerance” since it has the connotation of just “putting-up with” or merely “tolerating” those who are different from you. I instead like to think that teens can be understanding and accepting of others. I think they can actually enjoy the differences, imagine that. We as a society have obviously messed something up somewhere but this cycle of hate doesn’t have to continue.

In a lot of ways young adults today seem to have more experience with different races, religions, and sexual orientations than past generations. Classrooms are becoming more diverse and even the media is breaking down a lot of diversity stereotypes (on the other hand however, they are making some worse). Most parents welcome this, as they should, while others seem less enthused.

One way to promote understanding is to make all students aware of the truth. This means teaching them history accurately. Not the watered down, Disney esque, version that is taught in most politically run schools today. I mean the real history of the world. All the nitty gritty details of it. The book Lies My Teacher Told Me is one of my absolute favorites. A tough read for teens but as a parent, who is educating your child, I suggest you give a read through.

I have to mention, that I believe you should try to be unbiased as possible when teaching history to your children. It’s very easy to sway historical events to be the fault of this group or that because you personally feel that way. Stick to the facts. Come to the understanding that no group has clean hands when it comes to history. I will be posting a history cheat sheet for anyone who needs a little help to better explain some complicated historical events, like the Crusades.

We can just talk about the elephant in the blog and mention Islam education. Their religion is a complex one and it is important for our teens to understand it. It would appear that tensions in the Middle East and tensions with the U.S. are not going to subside anytime soon thanks to the control that ISIS has acquired. I think teens should have a general understanding of all world religions in order to be able to make better assumptions and judgements of current world issues.

Tolerance isn’t something that needs to even be as vast as world religions and politics. Teaching teens to be tolerant of other students and members of the community is a great place to start. Most teens I have encountered understand to respect others who are handicapped or impaired in anyway. Some will still find an opportunity to mock the other’s pain but for the most part I feel that young people are generally good natured in that way. However, I think it’s much easier for teens to make fun of, or belittle, those with less visible ailments. For instance, a student who is suffering from Asperger’s may be a target because they do not understand the same social cues as everyone else. Their impairment is not a visible one making it easier for teens to target someone with a social problem.

I think a great way for parents to explain this to a teen if they talk about a student who maybe isn’t the best at socializing (or who is extremely solitary or who takes too long to answer questions in class) is to explain they think and process information differently than your teen does. This doesn’t mean they are any better or worse than your teen. In fact, the student struggling may have skills your teen does not. For instance, they may be very artistic or know more about a particular subject that your teen struggles with. Making light of their talents instead of their social inequalities is a good way to see them as equals for your teen.

Getting out to volunteer is another way to teach tolerance. Places like homeless shelters, nursing homes, other schools, libraries, and other community outlets will introduce them to people they may have not encountered otherwise. Seeing the less fortunate can do the same. There are many inspiring stories out there about young people starting fundraisers and doing great acts for those who need it. There’s an organization called Teen Line where teens volunteer to speak or text with other teens who may be in crisis or just need someone to talk to.

Never discourage your teen’s (or younger child’s) curiosity of those around you. Sometimes you may be asked something that you think is rude, or racist, or unacceptable; however, if they are generally unsure about something you need to be able to answer them honestly and respectfully. Steer them towards the appropiate response and reactions to the world around them.

The biggest and best way to teach tolerance to your teens? Be tolerant yourself. I know, this is groundbreaking stuff. But if you are accepting and helpful to others they will see that and emulate you. Remember that they are listening, all the time. So be wary of using hateful slang and furthering any sort of stereotypical ideology that you may have grown up with yourself.

 

 

Some reading recommendations for teaching diversity to teens:

 

 

“Chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.”

 

 

“Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness.”

 

 

“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

 

 

 

“Tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces.”

 

 

 

 

“A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.”

 

 

“The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl.”

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, Opinion, parenting, summer, Uncategorized

Review of Geek Parenting

Occasionally, I actually get to read. As a librarian, I get asked all the time for recommendations and I’m sorry to say I don’t get to read nearly as much as I would like. However, some books just stick with you and I recently read Geek Parenting by Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it. 

 

A short book that uses examples from other books, movies, and shows to mirror life as a parent. It’s an easy read, and an entertaining way, to show parenting through glimpses of literature and cinema.

One analogy references The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (if you haven’t read it, read it). The argument made is that in the book, Nobody Owens is raised by everyone in the graveyard. It’s not only his adoptive parents who raise him, but many other people and ghosts who prepare him and educate him. He says, “ In the modern world, it is rarer than perhaps it once was to be closely tied to the people who live around us. We may live our lives behind fences, both literal and metaphoric, but there’s something to be gained by turning nearby strangers into real neighbors.”

My favorite section (surprise) uses The Princess Bride to show the importance of reading to your children. In the film version the grandson is sick in bed playing Nintendo. His grandfather comes to read to him but the boy is extremely reluctant to sit and listen. However, once the story gets interesting and he starts to fear for Wesley and Buttercup, you can see his excitement start to rise. In those moments he has developed a new love for reading and storytelling. “Today’s kids have more forms of entertainment competing for their time…let’s not forget the unique appeal of reading a story aloud to our kids. We can pick up the pace, slow it down, or hit pause, depending on their interest. We can revisit favorite parts again and again.”

Another point the authors mention, along the same lines as above, is that children need to be allowed and be prompted to use their imaginations. They use the Chronicles of Narnia series as an example. “Now take a moment and imagine what might have happened if Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy had smartphones or iPads.” They say “boredom is creative potential.” Which is now going to be a motto in my house whenever it looks like boredom may be kicking in. Don’t just assume that because there is downtime, and because you’re inside, that the television has to be on. Just because it’s a long summer day doesn’t mean everyone needs to be on the computer or on their phones. There’s plenty to do and plenty of resources now to help you come up with imaginative play.

Using Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker as an example the authors explain the power of positive reinforcement. They stress that constant negatives are not good for the psyche of a child. The classic phrase “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is one they mention that really shows the outcome of such behaviors. I will admit, the praise for the good things is something I struggle with as a parent and just in general. It’s so much easier to notice the bad then it is the good.

These are just a few examples of things that stuck out from reading this book. I would highly recommend it as a light read for any parent (or anyone dealing with children honestly).

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production