Saturday, February 1, 2014

Peek into What A Real Month of Eclectic Homeschooling Looks Like

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As I ask myself, “Where did January go?”, I turn to snapshots from the past month both to figure out where the month went and to share inspiration and ideas from our experiences which might add to your life and learning adventures.

As is often the case here, it seems that singular days often plodded along betwixt challenges and joys here, while the collective whole of the days zipped past in full, fast month.  Today, as I reflect upon those days, I realize that, learning-wise, they were jam-packed with enriching -- albeit sometimes messy -- experiences! 

The children's creativity (and mess!) unleashed as they created a magnet theater on National Winnie the Pooh Day.

Throughout January, the children, Mike and I enjoyed loads of hands-on learning balanced by a number of more traditional lessons, too.  Some our experiences were "all good".  Some were, well, real: not picture-perfect and blog-beautiful, but very much evidencing who we are and how we learn.

So it is, that I share a portion of our January snapshots here, both to exemplify what our real learning looks like ans also to post for posterity about yet another month that has flown by. 

The last snapshot on our camera from January was yesterday's snowball fight.  It's the simple times together that are so easy to forget, but which really create the fabric of our family.
  Please enjoy scanning through this sampling of eclectic homeshooling snapshots in order to find ideas, inspiration and resource links about the curriculum topics:  

  • Faith and Virtues
  • English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Culture Studies
  • The Arts
  • Practical Life
  • Foreign Language

As you do, please also realize that I use these topics just for organizational purposes.  In truth, few of our learning activities ever fit neatly into one subject area or another.  Rather, we integrate learning into life, with a balance of child-led and parent-encouraged experiences that inevitably result in a full complement of cross-curricular learning.  That's just how we roll.
Who needs a real microphone when you have balloons, ribbon, tape and toilet paper rolls?  Yes, Nina wove creative design, music and science all into one when she created this project.

Come now and roll along with us as we share a selection of our January experiences in review...

Faith and Virtues

We valued family time as we rang in the New Year together.

We nursed and prayed each other through sickness, demonstrating our virtues of patience, love and more.

We celebrated the Epiphany with dramatic play, a family tea, read alouds and more (despite having sickness in the house!)

We added pages from Books by Corine's Why We Give at Christmas Time to our journaling basket of choices.  (Corine's book may include "Christmas" in the title, but it works at any time of year in our opinion!)
Celebrating Nina's Name Day brought us together for a plant-strong meal filled with cultural tie-ins, plus prayer, geography study and more.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we connected part of our learning to the Sunday homily we had heard about being light-bringers.  After listening to read alouds about MLK, Jr., the children offered their ideas about how MLK, Jr. brought metaphorical light into the darkness of his historical time period and how we can continue doing so.  We listed these on an anchor chart which the kids then used to create their own anchor charts.

We hosted a tea and playdate for Our Lady of Altagracias Day, which included lots of food, fun, prayer, art and science.
English Language Arts 

This may look like a sensory experience, but it is also a spelling one.  Yes, those are some of Nina's spelling and reading words on the list at the bottom left.

As a part of National Straw Day, Nina and siblings used pieces of straw to "write" words in pieces of homemade "snow dough".  This promoted not only spelling and reading word work, but also encouraged strong pincer grasps and lots of tactile input.

We began a new campaign of sending photos and letters to Nana and Papa regularly this year.  Through doing so, we hope to share our love for them more concretely while also helping the children with their writing skills.

We revisited a Before Five in a Row favorite, The Snowy Day, reading it, watching a video of it and enjoying a variety of other related activities, including some traditional story sequencing.

The children took turns practicing spelling with free Spelling City online games and activities.  In all honesty, it did not do much for their spelling retention, but they sure did have fun doing it and I got some peaceful time to do have one-on-one study time or just-me chore time as they did. 

More effective for spelling practice was Learning Card Tic Tac Toe, which I will be sharing more about later this month at UpsideDown Homeschooling.

National Hat Day inspired us to read a basket filled with hat-themed picture books and to eat these silly "top hats" as a snack.  They are made with gluten-free Mary's Gone Crackers, casein-free Daiya Cheese Shreds and slices of nitrate- , nitrite- and gluten-free hot dogs toasted just long enough to make the cheese melt.  The kids and Daddy loved them!

More and more often, Luke volunteered to read books aloud to us all.  (Here, he is reading I Want My Hat Back to us, which one of my tutoring students this month also enjoyed reading.)

Jack began writing his name on his own!

We enjoyed a mini-book study of our favorite January 21 reading, A Gift of Gracias.

On National Straw Day, we used our Shiller Math manipulatives to figure out how many years different types of straws have been around.

We practiced measuring skills while making straw pan pipes and straw-and-cardstock gliders.

We practiced math skills and virtues while using our free Count, Pray and Give printables during a Spare Change - Spare a Life campaign that our parish collaborative ran.

We counted by two's, made strings of different amounts and tried to create chain mail-like designs with paper clips.

We practiced writing numbers, counting and addition with white boards and dominoes.

All about paperclips one day, Luke practiced estimation and measuring by collecting a variety of small objects from around the house before estimating how many paperclips long they would be.  He recorded his estimates and the actual lengths, whereupon I realized he has a better eye for distance than I do!

Nina, who has never experienced a traditional classroom, occassionally asks to play "real school".  One day she set her desk up in the hall and practiced number reading and writing in her learning notebook, asking for workbook work and recess breaks.

Jack sometimes practiced math (and sometimes actually used a correct pincer grasp, although not here) with hand-me-down learning workbooks.

Periodically, I pull out one of my favorite benchmark books, Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through Highschool to check up on how the children are doing curriculum standards-wise.  However, I rarely do traditional assessments.  In fact, here is Nina proudly holding up the result of one of our no-traditional math assessments during which I was "testing" her on geometry and math assessments.


I challenged the children to transfer liquid from one glass to another using hands and straws, but no mouths.  Thus, we experimented with suction.

Nina experimented with how and when straws sink or float.  Her brothers quickly joined in.  We discovered that straws that are "laying down" float and those that are "standing up" sink.  We then  theorized and discussed why this is.

We experimented with aerodynamics while designing and testing straw-and-cardstock gliders.

Nina got creative with straws and index cards, designing a catapult all on her own.  Her brothers followed suit and for the next couple of days an army of catapults lined the back of our hallway, with our little knights occasionally testing just how far they could get different ordinance to fly.

Nature study included tracking various creature's footprints through the snow, trying to find the creatures, their droppings or their homes as well as guessing at what said creatures might be.

We rotated through experiments and explored magnets at  one of Self Help. Inc.'s awesome local library events.  We also did a fun one on Whales.

We continued magnet explorations by being scientists at home.  (And one page of Wild About Teaching's Lacey's Scientific Method for Young Learners printable pack became our go-to printable for experiments!)

Nina thoroughly enjoyed exploring and creating with magnets, which she wrote about at her blog Nina Beth Creates.  (Please stop by and see her post.  She'll be excited if you do!)

On a temperate day after Daddy and the kids peered together into a microscope Grampy gave us, the children and I went into the woods to collect moss, fungus and lichen samples.  We never did get to studying them up close afterward, though, as we got side-tracked by swinging and sliding at the playground through the woods.  Another day...

We had so much fun making orange and clementine candles with just fruit, oil, a knife and fire.

A simple Sink or Float experiment with oranges, became one with clementines, fruit peels, strawberries and more.  Jack has not stopped asking to float oranges again since the intial exploration.

A pump and some balloons inspired "balloon rocket" experimentation and more!

The kids have been thoroughly enjoying regular lessons on Science 4 Us, which not only provides engaging science learning, but works things like syllables, too.

One of our friends led the kids in a super simple and fun experiment about sound and vibration where they made salt dance just by using their voices.

Culture Studies
(History, Geography, Social Science

We celebrated National Straw Day all day on January 3.  As a part of our celebration, we read about the history of straws and discussed materials and technology that were available during different periods of history.  (Since Luke and his sibs are into superheroes, his girl on the left above is colored in the style of Bizarro from Superman versus Bizarro (I Can Read Book 2).)
The boys and I enjoyed an awesome field trip to the Old Colony Historical Society Museum, which later inspired Luke to write a story which he shared on his blog Art, Imagination and the NFL.  (Please stop by his blog.  he loves seeing the visitor count increase and the map light up.)
The children thoroughly enjoyed a hands-on Medieval Cooking class led by one of our Catholic home learning group moms.

The Arts
(Music Appreciation; Music Performance; Theater Arts; Visual Arts) 

We made and played straw pan pipes while listening to selections of real pan pipe music.  We also watched portions of The Magic Flute on Youtube before getting an English-narrated video of the classic opera to cuddle up and view together.
We explored dot art, as explained at my post at Signature Moms.

We integrated math and science into art when making "snowy" straw and symmetry paintings.

The children designed and played countless games with one another.  This is one of them.  Don't ask me how it is played.  more often than not, when they design games, they share their elaborate rules with one another and I let them enjoy their independence or Daddy plays with the kids while I attend to home or business.

We started using Kinderbach, which all three of the kids and I are loving!  What a wonderful, user-friendly online piano program it is, with early-learning cross-curricular ties to boot! 

Silly Nina thought a temperate winter's day was warm enough to put a "Wonder Woman" bathing suit outfit on.  She then created her own lasso and got her brothers and Daddy to join in dramatic play with her.  (Yes, Nina has recently become enamored with the campy classic Wonder Woman show which Daddy and the kids found on now plays on MeTV after their once-a-week TV treat of Batman.)

A fabulous local friend answered my call to borrow a keyboard from someone by actually GIVING us the one her family no longer uses.  It has gotten daily use here since, not only for our Kinderbach lessons, but also for exploration and fun.  We are so grateful to her!

In preparation for our Our Lady of Altagracias playdate, Luke and Jack created emotional oranges and clementines.

As one of our citrus-theme activities during our playdate, the kids did supersized "marble" painting by dropping paint and an old clementine atop paper taped to boot box.  Then, they got proproceptive and vestibular input by teaming up to raise, lower, spin, push, pull and otherwise get physical with the box, thereby creating painted designs.

In honor of Winnie the Pooh Day, the children so enjoyed creating a magnetic Winnie the Pooh theater and then doing shows for one another with it!

We joined the Outside the Box Homeschoolers in experimenting with sound and vibration as part one of an instrument making exploration. 

Nina and Luke joined an Art class as a local library where high school students mentored the young ones.
I know the children enjoy the Drama Kids classes I teach them each week, but I was a little surprised to find images like this one Nina created hanging on almost every wall of our house to attest to that fact!

Practical Life 
(Physical Skills; Sensory Integration; Respect and Care for Environment; Grace, Courtesy and Etiquette; Independence; Community Service; Health and Safety; Physical Fitness; Etc.) 

We reviewed our Table Time routines, drawing some images to remind us of our responsibilities and guidelines.  We slipped our work into new routines, rhythms and responsibilities notebooks, which continue to be works in progress.

Physical Educations experiences included shoveling deep snow -- sometimes not off the driveway, but through plowed piles to make forts.
The children practiced determination and got exercise while building snowmen even on days of light snowfall.

Nina asked to make breakfast from start to finish by herself and set to her task with serious concentration under my just-close-enough supervision.
Jack continued to impress us with his slice and dice skills.  That boy can chop with a sharp knife better than many children twice his age!

After reading Caps for Sale, our knights practiced walking while balancing caps on their heads as a part of their training.

Nina asked to juice all the citrus fruits needed to make our Our Lady of Altagracias Day recipes.

The kids drew faces on balloons, tied strings to them and, thereby, according to Nina, made "balloon dogs".  They, then, got lots of exercise taking their doggies for walks inside and out.
There are so many sensory smart things to do in the snow, like building and crawling through tunnels!

Although we never got to the sculpting step that we imagined enjoying as we filled carious shapes and sizes of balloons with colored water, we sure got some tactile and fine motor input making them and then some fresh air setting them into the snow to freeze!

We discovered a local, free indoor pool where we have begun Mom-taught U-Swim lessons as well as family fun mornings ever couple weeks.
New blow up sleds from Grammy and Grampy brought great fun to afternoon play times.  Of course, our knight-crazed kids ended up not only sledding with them, but later using them as steeds upon which to enact jousts!

Foreign Language

We started learning Latin together using Song School Latin.  We LOVE it!  The children enjoy listening to the CD sometimes in the car.  We all learn from the video.  (Nina even takes spontaneous notes, as pictured above.) The workbooks provide review.  And, the flashcards help us have fun.

Wow!  This collection of snapshots sure is long, isn't it?  Hopefully, you come away from viewing it with a clearer understanding of what eclectic homeschooling looks like here as well as with a few ideas and resources to integrate into your own family's life and learning experiences.

Would you like to see more of our real learning via snapshot collections in the future?  If so, let me know in a comment or on our Facebook page.  

Who knows?  Perhaps I will start posting real looks more often so they won;t be this mammoth next time.  


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