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 Mental Health, parenting, Uncategorized

It’s Easy to Feel Alone

It’s Easy To Feel Alone 

The HIE Help Center site is a great resource for parents with children who have mental illness or delays. While they specialize in articles about HIE (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy), the information and coping help can be used for multiple disorders.

I had this article published in June 2018.

Posted in Family, health, Mental Health, parenting, reading, Uncategorized

We’ll Try Tomorrow- Poetry Publication

Hi gang, I just had a poem published on mybipolarmind.com. It’s great blog for those struggling with bipolar, anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders. I had an article published awhile back “Canceling Playdates” on there, and I just love the work they do for awareness and helping those who need it.

 

We’ll Try Tomorrow Read my new poem here.

BH- we will try tomorrow

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 Family, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Explaining Death to Children

Not the best topic in the world for a blog post by any means, but thanks to some unfortunate circumstances in my life I have been thinking about this a lot lately. How to explain death to a child. Some children unfortunately experience it early on, some don’t

until they are older and arguably more able to deal with it. Some people like myself, don’t lose anyone close to them until they are an adult. Everyone grieves differently and everyone processes the idea of death differently. Kids included.

Having a five year old that I have to explain this concept to is not something I am super excited about. You can’t really avoid the topic of faith and spirituality on some level when death becomes a point of conversation. For someone like me (I’m sure some of you can relate) who struggles constantly with their faith, it becomes even harder sometimes. I know what I need to say in so many words but how? and what do I leave out?

I know her little inquisitive mind is not going to be okay with “well he’s in heaven now”. “Where in heaven? How do I see him? Can he see me? Can he hear me? Should I yell louder so he can hear me? What if wants to come back? What if he gets lost? What if he’s not there? What if…how come…when does…”

I can’t answer all of her concerns honestly and I’m a terrible liar trying to make up the answers as I go.

I did find some good resources I wanted to share in case anyone else might be going through this situation as well:

How to Talk to Kids About Death

 

Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Mighty Minimalism: Step 1, the bedroom

Things have the taken the world over. We have so much stuff, most of it we don’t even

Image result for too much stuff

need or use. Most of it, we wouldn’t even notice if it were gone. With the holidays creeping up on us this is the time of year consumerism is at it’s prime and more things enter your home.

 

I don’t really care if I have the newest phone (not that I could afford an iPhone X anyway). I don’t have a kitchen gadget that does something I can do with a knife. Half the time I don’t even use a strainer when I make pasta because I don’t want to dirty another dish (you just tilt and turn to get the water out, it’s a very precise system).

Image result for straining pasta gif

However, my weakness is collecting items that relate to a memory. A napkin from that weird bistro in New York, or the rock from the bank of a river in the Shenandoah Valley, or movie stubs, or concert tickets, or trinkets- those kind of things are what make me somewhat of a clutter bug naturally. It’s taken a lot of hard work to change that way of living and focus on the memories, not the stuff.

One of my first projects on this road to minimalism has been to condense my closet to only 50 items. That may sound like a lot to some and not enough to others, but to me it’s a good sweet spot for now. I have to dress nice for work and I barely get out of my sweat pants at home so I can’t have a simple capsule wardrobe like those I admire on Pinterest. Maybe one day when I work from home I can throw out all my dress pants.

I then expanded to the whole bedroom, which is a small bedroom by most standards. As I looked around I realized on a daily basis we always had stuff on the floor. Books, clothes, kids toys, shoes, jackets; always something. It started to drive me nuts now that I was focusing in on it. So my overall goal became- declutter and minimalise my bedroom.

When you start to Google image search you come up with many cold looking rooms. Modern furniture with bare walls and no color scheme to speak of. This, to me, is not comfortable. Not in the slightest.

Very comfy

Then came Hygge. It’s a new craze (well not really new but starting to get around more) that is kind of minimalist at it’s core, but cozy. They use the word cozy a lot. It’s basically minimalism with scarves, fluffy blankets, and a hot beverage. All the things that make you comfortable, and nothing else.Image result for hygge

 

 

Minimize your bedroom:

A) The Closet

B) The Furniture

C) The Art & Knick-knacks

D) The Books & Work

 

 

Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, reading, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Woodland Adventure Handbook

Review: Woodland Adventure Handbook by Adam Dove is a book I reviewed for work that I thought some of my readers might like.

It’s a little handbook about family activities to do in the woods. Adam Dove using ideals from UK “forest schools” and makes them approachable for parents and teachers. Learning through play is not a new idea by any means but it is becoming increasingly popular. TInkergarten, Montessori, and others have grown in the last decade. Why? I think the standards and pressures for what children are supposed to know when has become almost excessive. Parents are trying to find alternative ways of teaching that don’t require young children to sit at a desk 8 hours a day.
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Each section has a story, followed by how to set up for the upcoming activities, then games and things to create that go with the story. At the end is a wrap up of what was learned.

For example, section 5 is called “Magic potions and wizards’ power wands”. The story at the beginning is just explaining the ingredients needed to create the potion that can only be used to help others. It says to follow stick arrows and footprints. So, before you go out in the woods with your children you make stick arrows and footprints that lead to the things they need. They follow it, create potions, craft wands, and play a game.

It’s a really cute book with some new ideas for any parent wanting to do more outside and get more involved with your child’s education. I would think the target age range could be anywhere from 3 to 7. Possibly a little older if you make it more elusive for them.