Welcome Back, Sunshine!

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This. This is one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon. Of to the library, then off to read. Bliss.

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Walking the Labyrinth

It is the return of the light, the time of the wattle blooms and sprouting bulbs in the frost. Traditionally, this is the time to walk the labyrinth.

I circle in. I get dizzy. I stumble and I loose our way. I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I do not focus on the end, but one step ahead. One step at a time,  and suddenly, surprisingly,  I am out.

I am walking the labyrinth.  Every day. Remind me to put one foot in front of the other, to not focus on the end. Remind me I will be out soon. May it be sooner than I think.

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Conferencing Homeschooling

It is an exciting time to be a homeschooler, as it is growing around the world. And we are finally being noticed too. Coming up soon is the GTCASA Conference, for parents and teachers,  and it includes a section on homeschooling!  It would be great if we could have a whole lot of homeschoolers there, and it could be really useful for anyone who wants to learn more about homeschooling, or just starting out too. Look out for me there, I’m going to be involved in the homeschool symposium session.

Doing What’s Expected of Me

It’s hardly breaking research, but it came up again on my news feed a few days ago and I was reminded how profoundly it affected me when I first heard it.

Experiments have shown that students perform pretty much as well as their teachers expect them to.

There’s a great account of the experiment on  Mindshift. That I recommend you read, but the gist of it is that

After the kids took the test, he then chose from every class several children totally at random. There was nothing at all to distinguish these kids from the other kids, but he told their teachers that the test predicted the kids were on the verge of an intense intellectual bloom.

As he followed the children over the next two years, Rosenthal discovered that the teachers’ expectations of these kids really did affect the students. “If teachers had been led to expect greater gains in IQ, then increasingly, those kids gained more IQ,” he says.

Imagine that! What teachers expect of children has such a profound effect on what happens to them! To me, this is one of the strongest demonstrations that teaching, and other measures we put in place to ‘assist’ development, are not the simple things we would like them to be. This is why we can not ever expect teaching, or mentoring, or parenting, to be simple or cleanly analysed.

As Rosenthal did more research, he found that expectations affect teachers’ moment-to-moment interactions with the children they teach in a thousand almost invisible ways. Teachers give the students that they expect to succeed more time to answer questions, more specific feedback, and more approval: They consistently touch, nod and smile at those kids more.

Here we have the key to children’s development in action – and that is the relationships they experience. And if the teacher’s expectations change their development, how much will children’s development be shaped by the expectations of their parents? And friends, wider family, the community?

Although this research is old, I think it is showing similar behavioural patterns to the more recent research into children’s behaviour around kindness.

As home edders, it is easy to ignore educational research. So much of it is not really applicable to the home setting, where learning is a very different form from what takes place in the classroom. But I think research is interesting, and in this case, I think it sheds light on our own practices. What we expect of our children matters! If we expect children to be driven to learn, to seek an appropriate level of challenge for them, to be active, reflective learners, it doesn’t hurt to start from the perception that they already are.

I’m going to step off my soap box now, and get on with my day, and try to remember that in the everyday actions, the day-to-day hustle and bustle, that what I expect of my children matters. How I see them will affect what they become.

Nuturing Curiosity While Out and About

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There is  a lovely post that has been circulating a few days about nurturing curiosity in young children through the use of Inquiry Bags. It is lovely and has some fun ideas to help you with nurturing the spark in your own young child.

This idea is one of those good ones that fits so many approaches: The project-based learning approach as championed by Lori Pickert has the similar idea of bringing drawing supplies whenever children are out and about. And Nature journals are a post all of their own!

We have always had a bag of art supplies in the car. Ours is simple and just contains a sketchbook for each person and some pencils, but I love the idea of expanding these supplies to encourage curiosity more often, and adding things based on where we are off to. A magnifying glass is easy to come by and has a lot of uses, and my boys would love the measuring tape.

What do you do to encourage the spirit of inquiry in your children? Do you have things you take with you when you are out and about?

Libraries

Everywhere I have lived I have got to know the librarians by first name. As a teen, my librarian would put books on my parents cards when I dropped in on my way home from school when mine was full. I honestly believe I would not be able survive without them. And I honestly believe the one card system is one of the most exciting things to ever happen. Period.

As a home edder, the library is an amazing resource. We have usually tried to do one library visit a week, usually trying to visit two libraries week about. Lately that has dropped off a bit, but it’s time to return to the library, after this lovely article popped up in my feed.

My favourite point is this:

…the “casual discovery” nature of a library — browsing the stacks without pressure to buy — allows kids to be serendipitous. There’s no predicting what might catch their fancy, but, whatever it is, they can “test drive” it at low risk.

It is always interesting to see what my children are sudfdenly interested in. And I like finding new topics that way too.

Designing Learning Spaces

I can’t believe we have nearly been in this house for a year! Goodness it has gone fast. We have been working out of a bookshelf in the entrance way, but it isn’t really working for us, so now we are designing a new workspace.

A lot of educational approaches put a premium on the learning environment. Reggio Emilia talks about it as the third teacher. Montessori emphasises the availability of children to be able to access the materials they need by themselves. Waldorf styles emphasise that children will internalise the environment. And personally, we just find it so much nicer to work in a pleasant environment.

But much as I would love a  gorgeous learning area, space is at a real premium so we are working out what we really need, and then trying to figure out how we can fit it in. I’m nervous about looking at all the gorgeous ideas on my Pinterest board for that precise reason!

So far, we have decided to put a premium on creating a workspace that has easy access to both materials and a place to work. We are having a good clear out and working out what we really want to have available. Art, stationery, craft, and construction materials are important to us, and so is lots of books, and computer access.

We are now moving some things out of the way so we can rearrange things. I;m looking forward to showing you around!

How do you organise your supplies? What do you think are the most important things the have available?

Homeschool geography resources

Sometimes someone comes up with a great idea and you just want to spread it  around! Geography is unsurprisingly one of my favourite subjects, and over at Every Bed of Roses is a fabulous list of geography resources. There are so many great ideas there and I am looking forward to getting into some of them.

The list includes one that I have used before, but forgotten about: MegaMaps. We once made a lovely mural of North America from the site. I thought would share the story of one homeschool day from a few years ago, where we used megamaps in our early geography.

Time warp back three years:

It started with a lovely live webcam of a hummingbird on her nest. It just popped up in my computer threads, and I showed it to the boys. I told the children this hummingbird was in North America. After our recent trips, they have been interested in places, and so he wanted to go looking for a map.

Montessori introduces children to Continents, and this seemed like a perfect way to do it. We have talked about Australia, but this is the first time we have talked about any other continent. So North America it is! We started looking for interesting, hands on materials for this continent study.

Our North American Animals

We trawled through our plastic animals. Hmm, pretty sorry collection there…

Next the books… Okay, what about magazines… photos?

Next it was books. Ok, not so good… magazines? photos?

To the computer! The oldest has been interested in flags since Australia Day, so I found some North American flags: a small one from every N. American country and selected larger  Colouring Flags from a site I had used before. We printed them off at normal size for just colouring and 75% size to fit neatly on the end of a straw. These flags had a number code to show where to put each colour,  which was an enjoyable novelty at this stage, so they thought that was great. The littlest one woke up at this point, and coloured his own flag.

Hard at work

Maps! I did print off a small map but the best were Megamaps. My oldest child decided to draw some pictures of the animals onto the little map. We are in the process of putting it together for our bulletin board. I’m not sure exactly what we will do with that, but I suspect it will involve sticking pictures of flags, animals and maybe landmarks onto it.

At this point, the children had been fairly focused for two or three hours (with a lunch break), and he’d had enough – out he went to play. But in the next few days, we did some follow-up these activities. We tried to:

  • Make a continent folder. (I’ll cover this another time)
  • Find some more North American animals.
  • Look up some resources  to get some new ideas.
  • Visit the library to get some books on the topic.

Is this Montessori? Natural learning? Themed? I’m not sure it even matters 😛 But it was a busy Sunday!

 

Thanks for sharing the time warp with me. Now get mapping!

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds

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Yesterday we started our exploration of Autumn seeds. This really suits us as great way to move on from our study of early agriculture, as well as being a great seasonal activity. As I have already said, we are planning to study Autumn seeds in a unit similar to the one described here. We started with a trek around the yard, including the isolated ‘wild lands’ of abandoned garden we call The Island. We were hunting seeds! We came prepared with tweezers, magnifying glasses and a collection bucket.

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And, goodness we found a lot! There are all sorts of interesting seeds just sitting around ready to be examined. At first the children needed a bit of guidance to work out what were seeds, as they needed to get their eye in. Once they got into the swing of it, we were very busy.

After all our collecting we spread all the different types out on a plain background so we could clearly see them all. We had some preliminary investigations. Handling something is a much more meaningful way of learning about something, if that is at all possible. In a few of the seeds – such as the rose hips. it was not possible to see inside them, so some of these we cut in half to see what was in them.

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Then it was drawing time. At this stage, my oldest child decided he really wanted to start a nature journal, so he chose some paper to work on with that. The rest of us just used our drawing books.

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This afternoon’s job is to go through all our books looking for some related to seeds and to order some from the library, and to rearrange the work shelves to make room for them.

Happy Autumn hunting!

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