Friday, January 30, 2009

I'm scared.

I didn't go to co-op with my kids today because I am getting ready to go to a homeschool conference for the weekend. I just got this picture of Garrett and his friend emailed to me from co-op.

So good to know there is some deep learning going on in my absence. His hair! Oh my word, his hair. Ouch.


Apparently they saved his hair and have now added a cape.

Ahhh...the richness of a good education.


SuperG's mom

Friday, January 23, 2009

Another good one...

It must be remembered that the purpose of education is not to fill the minds of students with facts... it is to teach them to think... and always to think for themselves.-- Robert Hutchins

Monday, January 19, 2009

The "trickle down" effect

Have you heard this term before? Not relating to economics, but to education. I remember hearing it when I first started researching homeschooling, but I didn't give it much thought. The trickle down effect is when kids seem to learn what their older brothers and sisters are learning even if they are just kind of hanging around. You know, the information trickles down. I am definitely seeing it come into play at our house. Usually it is small stuff, but a few days ago it was a little bigger.

We are doing Ice Worlds with Planet Earth right now. Riley and Cole are doing some fun stuff on ice bergs, penguins and other arctic animals. Garrett and Tyler are taking it a bit deeper, learning pretty detailed information about ice bergs and doing an in depth study on the Titanic.

Well, the other day Cole came in and told me he wanted to write a story about the Titanic. I wondered what he could have possibly absorbed, I mean it is all kind of over his head and I hadn't directed any of the study toward his grade level, after all. We sat down and I typed as he dictated what he wanted me to write. Here is what he said.

This is the Titanic book.

It sunk because they thought it was unsinkable, but they didn’t get that right. They thought wrong. There was a big iceberg and the bottom of the ship cracked open on the iceberg and it got filled with water.

The Titanic was sinking and when one tip of it was going up, it cracked into two pieces.

They were building it really fast and they accidentally built someone inside of it.

They let the ladies and kids go on the lifeboats first. Most of the dads had to stay on the Titanic and die. Some of the men jumped off the boat to swim away, but they died when they were swimming because the water was too cold .

They wanted the kids and moms to live so they let themselves die. In the last minute they let down the life boats and some of the men wanted to get on, but they couldn’t get on them. It was too late, there was no more.

Some people who were explorers, after it sunk, went down in the ocean to look for it. They saw all the plates, and a black bag. There was a lot of money inside the black bag and some gold watches and a ton of jewelry.

The people were trying to find the very bottom and at the bottom of it was 2 stories. They had one more dive down to the sea and in the last dive they found the whole piece of the bottom of the titanic.

1517 people died and 706 people survived. (He asked me to find those numbers for him).

Isn't that crazy? Who knew he was absorbing all of that? Ok, it's not totally coherent, but it is such a great illustration of how we don't need to dumb things down for our kids. And how they learn no matter what we think they are doing.

He ended up asking for help looking for images online to go along with all of his thoughts. We printed them out and he made a great little book. I never would have dreamed of planning this activity for my kindergartener.

So teach on. And count your lessons as double if you've got little ones hanging around! (Oh, and also, be careful what you say if you've got little ones hanging around!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Artists and authors

It's no secret that encouraging our kids in what they are doing is the best way to keep them doing it. This seems especially true with kids and their work.
One of my favorite ways to do that is by “publishing” books for them. This can be as simple and inexpensive as taking their writing and art and cutting and pasting it into a cute journal from the dollar store. Or just giving them a small, blank scrapbook to create a book. I keep a whole box of these, ready for the taking. There's not a book in here that cost more than $1.
Also in this box are inexpensive photo albums that they can slide their individual book pages into, easily making a hardbound book of their own.
Here is a book that we made just by folding some cardstock, punching two holes in the center, and tying yarn through it to bind it. So simple
This one was a scrapbook, turned into a poetry book with a little cut 'n paste.
Keep your eye open at Dollar Tree and the dollar section of Target and when you see some, stock up. Don't let them scare you off if they have a Christmas tree or something on the front, we just cover that up by gluing a paper with the title of the book and art onto the cover.

Sometimes you can catch photo websites such as and when they are having a free book deal. I used one of these opportunities to publish a book Riley had worked really hard writing. All I had to pay was shipping.

This was fun also because I could add stuff like a "Meet the Author" page.
I also try to treat their art very seriously. If it is something really special to them, I like to frame and display it. That doesn't happen as often as they would probably like, but I try. Here are a few of ours.
Here is my new favorite. Cole made these pictures for me. He drew my favorite coffee cups. I love this so much.
I want them to know I think their art is worth a lot to me. Plus, it’s adorable! Be on the lookout at garage sales and dollar stores for frames for this, too.
Something about having your story in book form, or your painting on the wall, makes you feel like your work was worth the trouble and makes you eager to do more.
It can be cheap and doesn't take much time. It's worth the extra effort!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Keeping it tidy

I don't know about you, but I need some tidiness to be at peace in my world. Thus, I am often not at peace. But I try.

When we decided to homeschool, one of my biggest concerns was that my whole house was going to start to look like an elementary school classroom. Honestly, I'd like to be one of those homeschool moms that likes when school stuff is everywhere and huge maps are hanging and monster white boards are the dining room wall art. I think it is very productive and conducive to learning. It's just not for me.

We definitely have our share of clutter. Projects that stay on the tables for way too long, our art easel that lives in the entryway, books everywhere, and I actually like those visuals of what we've got going on here. But I like to be able to put stuff away if we want it put away. Still accessible, but out of sight when we are done.

I've talked to several people who don't have designated school rooms and struggle with the same thing, so I thought I would share how I try organize some of the chaos that naturally comes with educating kids in your home.

First of all, everyone, including me, has one of these.

We didn't used to have separate storage for our own books. We stored math books on one shelf, journals on another, whatever chapter book they were reading got put back on the right shelf, etc. Just recently we got these and they keep everything in them that they use daily. They can take them wherever they want and have everything they need for the most part. This has simplified things tremendously. Huge time-saver. I'm sure everyone else had this figured out long ago, but I like to complicate my life and take my time discovering these things.

Here is one of my biggest storage areas. It is in our living room and looks like this.

Except during the school day when it looks like this... I try keep storage in mind when I am buying furniture. Here is my dining room.

I like to call these "homeschool chairs", cause look! Secret hiding places!

Here is our coffee table. Looks just like a normal coffee table, right?

But it's not. It's a super-secret-undercover-amazing-self-educating-straight-from-God homeschool coffee table.

I also try to use storage containers that are a little inconspicuous. Here are shelves in our family room, where we do a lot of our work.

I like to think that the black mesh storage drawers for all of our pencils, crayons, markers, scissors and glue aren't the first thing you see here. If they are, just don't tell me, K?

Here is one of the tables where we work a lot. There are lots of tables that have these little drawers out there. They are very handy.

Please note those pieces of cereal under the table. That is very unusual. Usually they are crushed into powder.

Everyone needs large US and World maps. I don't have a place to put one on the wall, so I bought one of those science fair tri-fold foam boards. I put a US map on one side and a world map on the other with spray adhesive.

When we are finished with it, it folds right up and can slide under a couch or behind a door. It's fast and easy to get out. Let's be honest, if you have to unroll a map, you're never gonna use it.

A large majority of our stuff is in our laundry/mudroom. We lined a wall with shelves. It is kind of a pain because it cut down on our space in there, but it is worth it to have it in a room that is not the most visible one in the house. You would be amazed at how much stuff you can get on two of those bookcase shelves. And they are pretty inexpensive, too.

I think you get the idea, but now I'm starting to feel artsy with my shelf pictures...Sorry, just one more...Ok.

So that's pretty much where everything goes in our house. If you sit and think, you will probably be surprised at how many places you can come up with to store stuff. Especially if you invest in some plastic containers.

Oh plastic containers, you are the love of my life.

Anyone else have a great storage idea to share?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The big picture...

The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done - men who are creative, inventive and discoverers. -Jean Piaget