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Finally, Sunshine!

I don’t know about you all, but we certainly enjoy life a little more when the weather is nice. I feel less pressured about making sure we are DOING and find it easier to simply let them BE. Unstructured days lead to some of the best learning days.

When we can take our time to go through the day as we please, the moments become slower, the breaths we are taking become deeper, and life becomes more meaningful and full of growth.

So far we have had almost a full week of warmth. After the damp, cold spring we have had thus far, it was welcome. Gannon, Waverly, and even Egan helped plant the seedlings in the soil. Gannon has made it his sole duty to water our vegetable babies. Waverly has been role playing with her dolls every moment she gets so she was happy to finally set up the pool so she could do swim lessons with them. We have gone on bike rides and walks, helped work with the backhoe, play golf, and play baseball.

We went to a baseball game this week, which was great for teaching some more extended number recognition. We used the players jerseys to talk about who was at bat, who was in the outfield, and who was pitching. We also sang songs, clapped along, and they learned the rules of playing a team sport. For a 5 and 3 year old, their attention to the details of the game was surprising, even to me. They also learned how delicious french fries are while sitting in the sun and watching a ball game.

They have played in the mud, made “meals” in their play kitchen with ingredients from nature, collected feathers and tried to identify the birds (lots of chicken feathers around our property), and today they collected some shells from the lake. They all did some painting this week too, which was great since the art walls needed refreshing. This morning they also got out the binoculars to identify a far off bird that was perched on a branch. Gannon thought it may be a hawk, since there is often a red-tailed sitting there, but it turned out to be a Cedar Waxwing.

We shall see what the next few days bring! I’m hoping some rain. I’d really like to jump in some puddles.

A week in the life…

IMG_0684IMG_0698One of Egan’s favorite ways to start the day is helping Paul with the chickens in the morning. Paul puts him in the backpack and off they go. Egan loves the chickens and is delighted with each movement they make. He especially loves when they run out of the coop in the morning.

We seIMG_0701em to have a lot of fun with painting. Gannon told me recently that he likes to paint when he is sad because it makes him feel better. It made me want to give him all the painting supplies in the entire world. He is so creative and it shows when he is in the moment. His concentration is unbelievable and his desire to keep on going is such a wonderful sight for me, as his mom to see.

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And then there is Egan, master climber. He loves to do things like this, climbing where he really shouldn’t be to get to things he really wants. He is very careful in his climbing. Cautious and calculated. He falls mostly when he is tired but still, I’m nearby just in case. There is no stopping this one!

 

 

Thursday was my birthday. We went to our favorite place for story time. Luckily, a good friend of mine was able to join us to lend a hand. They love exploring this farm. They have lots of gardens and animals. Gannon even drew an ant for an employee who was helping with story time and handed it to her without my assistance. He is growing wonderfully in this direction and I couldn’t be more proud. Egan loves the baby chicks hanging out in the brooder, Waverly loves the lambs, Gannon likes all of the animals, and I love the baby goats. Someday we will have goats of our very own. Oh, and bees. They have this great observation hive. I’m hoping the more interest Waverly shows in the hive, the more appreciation she will gain and the less fear she will have. Gannon loves the loom and uses it each time we go. It is a beautiful piece and seeing him using it brings me much joy.

We have had a fox tormenting our chickens so one thing we have needed is a more sound chicken pen installed. Finally, some holes were dug and some posts inserted in the holes. There is still a lot of work to do. Egan was happy to watch the tractor and unroll all of the string used for laying out the borders. Gannon and Waverly helped with the tape measure and watched the tractor dig the holes. They are learning a lot of lessons in these household chores!

This is a view into the things we have done this week with many other small things in between. Going to swim class, doing gymnastics, playing with water, learning about dinosaur fossils, learning about new creatures on Wild Kratts, and reading books. Playing in the sand box. Meeting new people. Talking to neighbors. Selling backyard eggs.

Each day brings new opportunities for learning. It doesn’t stop for us, as adults, so it is important to set a healthy foundation. Loving to learn is a quality that will carry them well in life. Being able to see them experience all of this is a gift for us.

Sewing a Special Gift

I’ve been waiting to post this one since March. My mom came over to help my kids sew a special blanket for a friend who is having a baby. Her baby shower was today and she has received her gift so now I’m in the clear to post this without ruining her surprise.

They measured the fabric, cut it to length, and pinned it down. My mom had a great amount of patience during this project because of course there were lots of questions and excitement which can make instructions hard to follow. They loved pinning the fabric. Minky is pretty slippery so there were lots of pins. Gannon did most of the sewing with pretty limited instruction. Waverly even had a turn at the machine and she did great stopping when she reached a pin. They learned about the right side of the fabric, watching fingers with sharp needles, how to change a bobbin and thread. They helped turn the blanket right, then sewed the opening closed and continued to finish up the blanket. It wasn’t a quick project, it took a lot of concentration and patience on their parts too but they did it! (Thanks, Grammy!)

I was so proud to give this blanket to my childhood friend. From my first to her first. I hope that she will enjoy it for many years. Gannon and Waverly came to the baby shower with me so that they could see her open it. They were very proud of themselves and happy to give her the gift.

Someday, I will have time to learn to sew, and they just may be the ones to teach me.

The Hard Lessons

We have been experiencing some issues with a fox who really wants our chickens. Our dogs have been doing a decent job at chasing the fox off but we did lose one hen a couple of weeks ago. The other night the fox had pinned one of our girls down but we happened to catch sight of it before the chicken was injured. This has been a lesson in the food chain for the kids, unfortunately involving their beloved hens.

As difficult as this lesson can be, it is essential.

Yesterday, we were out exploring. We were in a loved area, playing with wood chunks and branches and climbing on a rock pile. Our dog, Juniper, discovered a den in a pile of brush that had been left from last year. She was going crazy, digging and yipping, trying with all her might to get into that den. I watched her closely so she didn’t get hurt and so nothing else got hurt. As much as I don’t want a fox eating our chickens, I don’t want it to be injured either.

Juniper dug and dug and then she came out with something in her mouth. I commanded her to release it, and she did immediately. It wasn’t a fox, after all, but a baby raccoon. I left it, hoping it would get reunited with its family. I was so sad when I checked on it and it was struggling to breathe but very much alive. What I was hoping was a still attached umbilical cord turned out to be part of its intestines.

We made a few phone calls. One person advised us to leave it alone. I couldn’t do that. I called a woman who rehabilitates animals to get a positive ID and for further advice. She told us the name of a local vet we could bring it to to have it euthanized. I couldn’t let it suffer so off we went.

I felt awful that it’s injury was most likely caused because of me, and I let the kids know that I shouldn’t have let Juniper dig in that far. She most likely would have scared any creature living in there anyway.

We brought the raccoon to the vet. The woman working the desk told me that she raised one from that age, and with tears in her eyes squeezed my hand and thanked me for bringing it in so it wouldn’t need to suffer anymore.

Waverly was a mess. She didn’t understand why we couldn’t bring it home. Gannon was afraid that his belly would open and his intestines would also spill out. Egan didn’t know what was going on and really just wanted to eat dinner.

We had a long talk about nature, about death, and about not lettingFullSizeRender (2) things suffer. They had some big lessons yesterday, some hard lessons. But important ones. Life is fragile. It is precious. I made a mistake and I feel incredibly sad. This is a creature that could grow up and cause more damage to our chickens, so it was also ironic. But it is still life.

When i removed it from the den, I wrapped it in my flannel. I held it all the way to the vet. The kids looked at it, expressed their sadness in various ways. The raccoon would stretch, make some noises, and settle back in against my hand. My heart will hurt for the loss of this being for a long time to come.

 

 

Just some thoughts…

I haven’t been great about keeping up with our activities through the blog (and not that much better about keeping track on Facebook either). It seems that the days escape me and by the time the kids are asleep, it is time for relaxing on the couch. Gannon turned five yesterday. I am trying to remember that he is still younger than even kindergarten age so I can slow down. I don’t need to have planned activities for every waking moment of the day. I don’t need to have any planned activities at all.

Slow. Play. Freedom. Opportunity. Exploration.

That is what they need. To play. And in their play, there will be ample opportunities for learning. I finished reading How Children Learn by John Holt. It really made me feel that I was doing right by these three wonderful humans. It also reminded me of how much I love watching them learning and just being. It reminded me of how interesting it is to see these developments happening before our eyes. It also taught me some valuable lessons in giving kids the chance to use their own minds and not guiding their every move or correcting every mistake for them.

We don’t need to rush education. It can happen in little moments, moments that will teach them in a way they will remember, not just memorize. Gannon remembers an incredible amount of information about animals from watching Wild Kratts on PBS. When we are outside, he is often pretending he sees some of the creatures in our backyard. Waverly is learning so much too. Today, we were writing on their new whiteboard and I spelled her name. Then we found the matching magnet letters. And as I was sitting alongside her, just talking, we were engaged in a lesson about letters. She then said, “Gannon is G-A-N-N-O-N, right, Mom?” Yes, Waverly, that is right. She is always listening to her brother and he has been spelling his name for a long while now. She looks up to him and learns a lot of the same things he does. She is currently working on learning her colors, which she knows most of, from watching YouTube videos and from general conversation around the house. And Gannon has started writing his name with hardly any instruction in letter making. I am astonished at their progress with no lessons, only support and encouragement, and endless conversations, of course.

This is why unschooling makes so much sense for us. Unschooling relies on real life lessons and interactions for knowledge growth. Education never stops. It is happening throughout the day, from the moment their eyes open in the morning until they close at night. They are learning on weekends, on holidays. Their hunger for information is growing, rather than diminishing. We are here, learning, right alongside them.

So that means I am trying to be more present, more engaged, and more focused on them while going through a process called deschooling. Deschooling is basically removing all of the learned practices and ideas from being in school, or those imposed by society. This is not easy. I went to public school. It is hard to remember keeping kids home does not look like school and it shouldn’t look like school. It is so much more. This is not to put down schooling in any way; I believe the school systems serve a crucial role as well and are needed in many ways. Unschooling is a lifestyle that fits our relationship with our children. Some people consider it an extension of attachment parenting and I agree. It is the decision to spend time with our kids, engaged with our kids, teaching them through our actions and living life together.

I hope to be writing more about our adventures now that Egan has been more agreeable to napping somewhere besides my shoulder. I hope to be able to take a few minutes here and there to write about the lessons the kids are learning without lessons.

Everyday is an adventure. Every new situation meant for learning. Every turn an opportunity.

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Dr. Seuss Week

We had a great week celebrating Dr. Seuss! Every day we did a different projected based on one of the books written by him. It was interesting to see how the kids responded to a theme for the week. We haven’t done much directed learning so this was different than what they are used to. Gannon seemed to enjoy most days as did Waverly. They each had one day where they didn’t feel much like playing along but that is better than what I had expected.

On Monday we read The Cat in the Hat and decorated hats. Most projects I’ve seen are pretty specific in that the hats look like the one in the book. I like to deviate from the norm in almost all things so here are the kids hats, decorated as they wished. Waverly’s hat is on the left and Gannon’s is the right. They used markers, glitter markers, washi tape, tissue paper, and colored pencils to decorate their hats.

On Tuesday it was Waverly’s birthday so we did two projects. We read The Lorax and I provided them the tools to make a scene of Truffula Trees.

This was the day Gannon didn’t want to participate. Waverly’s scene is on top, Gannon’s on bottom. She thought her trees should be flying, I guess! We followed up this craft with baking and decorating her birthday cake. Usually we get a cake from a baker but she wanted to make her own. It was much more fun this way.

We read Happy Birthday To You while decorating the cake. She did most of it on her own and luckily I’m the one who ended up with the eggshells and not any of our family who came to celebrate with us.

On Wednesday we read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. They decorated fish with similar materials as the hats. They both really enjoyed this project. Waverly’s (left) was decorated mostly with glitter markers and Gannon (right) loved the fish he created using tissue paper with glitter markers.

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Thursday was Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book. This was one of Gannon’s first favorite books so I was excited to use it. We kept the project pretty simple.First they painted with watercolors on a plain piece of paper. I used a stencil and cut out the letters of their names for them to glue on their paintings. While we were waiting for the pages to dry, they used alphabet stamps and stamped paper. Then we glued their names to their paintings. Gannon worked diligently to obtain the result he was happiest with. This was the day Waverly wasn’t feeling up for doing much. Instead of stamping paper she stamped her arms, legs, and face but she did help me glue the letters on her painting.

Friday we read Horton Hatches the Egg. We had gotten a delivery of diapers and had a nice big box that the kids turned into a nest. They sat in the box as I read the story. Then I used tracing paper to trace a page out of the book for them to color. Never having done a themed week before, I was pretty tired from the projects so we kept it even more simple than the previous day.

Saturday there was an event at our local library to celebrate Dr. Seuss. We ended the week there for story time with the one and only Cat in the Hat. The kids each received a ticket for a free book so we left with three new Dr. Seuss books we hadn’t yet read. It is a pretty great excuse to spend the morning at the library meeting new friends.

We had a lot of fun celebrating Dr. Seuss over the week and I am loving the new additions to our dining room wall. It makes me so happy to see their artwork displayed!

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The Little Boy by Helen E. Buckley

I read the poem, The Little Boy, by Helen E. Buckley a few weeks ago. I can’t seem to shake it. While there are many lessons that stick out in this poem, the greatest to me is how easily a child’s creativity can be diminished. I keep coming back to this poem over and over.

In the early fall we attended a play group on a farm. Each week we read a story, were given material to make a craft, and then we met an animal. The first craft was to make a barn using paper. They were told to draw doors and windows, which were to be cut a specific way, and instructed to cut the second piece of paper so it would allow for gluing to the first sheet of paper. It was an advanced craft for the age group. Gannon and Waverly listened intently to the instructions. Gannon did pretty well drawing windows and doors. He didn’t want to cut them because he was happy with his drawing. He was quickly led to the scissors and told how to cut his doors. I told him he didn’t need to do anything to his barn and if he was happy with it not being cut he didn’t need to cut it. He looked upset that she couldn’t see how hard he worked on his barn. They didn’t do anything wrong with the material they were given, it was simply different than the model they were shown.

After this first meeting the crafts were more simple and they figured out that unless my kids asked for help they preferred to be on their own. Mostly they did well doing as instructed but they just enjoyed using whatever material they were given, especially Waverly who had just begun finding her creative side. The group and the staff were wonderful and we can’t wait to do it again in the spring.

The end result should be a child who is proud of their project and the work that they put into it, regardless of what it looks like when finished. To be honest, one of the hardest parts of homeschooling for me has been letting go of specific projects like the ones I did as a child. They can be a lot of fun so I don’t think I could ever eliminate them completely. One of the best parts of homeschooling is attempting to do a specific project and seeing where the kids take it. Having an open mind, allowing kids to use their own minds, and seeing the learning is pretty amazing.

The Little Boy

Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy.
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking right in from the door outside,
He was happy.
And the school did not seem
Quite so big any more.

One morning,
When the little boy had been in school a while,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make a picture.”
“Good!” thought the little boy.
He liked to make pictures.
He could make all kinds:
Lions and tigers,
Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats –
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.

But the teacher said:
“Wait! It is not time to begin!”
And she waited until everyone looked ready.

“Now,” said the teacher,
“We are going to make flowers.”
“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make flowers,
And he began to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she drew a flower on the blackboard.
It was red, with a green stem.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s flower.
Then he looked at his own flower,
He liked his flower better than the teacher’s.
But he did not say this,
He just turned his paper over
And made a flower like the teacher’s.
It was red, with a green stem.

On another day,
When the little boy had opened
The door from the outside all by himself,
The teacher said,
“Today we are going to make something with clay.”
“Good!” thought the boy.
He liked clay.

He could make all kinds of things with clay:
Snakes and snowmen,
Elephants and mice,
Cars and trucks –
And he began to pull and pinch
His ball of clay.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she showed everyone how to make
One deep dish.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s dish
Then he looked at his own.
He liked his dishes better than the teacher’s
But he did not say this,
He just rolled his clay into a big ball again,
And made a dish like the teacher’s.
It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon
The little boy learned to wait
And to watch,
And to make things just like the teacher.
And pretty soon
He didn’t make things of his own anymore.
Then it happened
That the little boy and his family
Moved to another house,
In another city,
And the little boy
Had to go to another school.

This school was even bigger
Than the other one,
And there was no door from the outside
Into his room.
He had to go up some big steps,
And walk down a long hall
To get to his room.

And the very first day
He was there, the teacher said,
“Today we are going to make a picture.”

“Good!” thought the little boy,
And he waited for the teacher
To tell him what to do
But the teacher didn’t say anything.
She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy,
She said, “Don’t you want to make a picture?”
“Yes,” said the little boy.
“What are we going to make?”
“I don’t know until you make it,” said the teacher.
“How shall I make it?” asked the little boy.
“Why, any way you like,” said the teacher.
“And any color?” asked the little boy.
“Any color,” said the teacher,
“If everyone made the same picture,
And used the same colors,
How would I know who made what,
“And which was which?”
“I don’t know,” said the little boy.
And he began to draw a flower.
It was red, with a green stem.

~ Helen E. Buckley

 

Gymnastics

When Gannon was around two years old, we enrolled him in gymnastics at a local gym. The kids can start the follow me class around eighteen months of age. At this level a parent goes in with the enrolled child to help navigate the courses. This class was so wonderful, when Waverly was of age to join we enrolled her as well. Egan will be following in their footsteps too.

Gannon has moved up through the follow me class, then through the preschool level, and just finished his first session of the kindergarten level. The last half of the last class in the session, parents are allowed in the gym to watch them “show off”. I have been watching Gannon progress through the class from afar (parents are allowed to watch from the observation room but they aren’t allowed in the gym) and was excited to be able to see his skills closer.

He is very strong and they tell us after each class that he does very well. He has never had an audience of people watching him so I wasn’t sure how he would react to that. He did the courses but was very silly. I think he was partly anxious, partly excited, and partly unsure. It was fun for me to see the things he has been practicing on our couch being done on the equipment in the gym.

Waverly is in the preschool level now. They have told us they see a lot of potential in her. She is very strong and can learn the obstacles quickly. I love to see her doing things that are seemingly beyond her level and watching her excel makes me very proud.

Gymnastics has provided the kids with such an amazing foundation. Since they don’t attend school and have never been in a formal setting in which they need to follow direction or be patient, it serves them the opportunity to learn some other skills that will be important in their future. Each week I see them sitting patiently, waiting for their turn, and doing the obstacles with little trouble. It makes me feel fortunate to give them this gift, as costly as it is, because their growth is astounding.

Valentine’s Day Craft

I have fond memories of making crafts for Valentine’s Day. I loved making them in school to bring home for my parents. It is a great excuse to spend time doing a craft with intention and I was glad the kids enjoyed doing this one. They were very excited to create something for their cousins. Here’s what we did:

I found these sticky foam stickers and attached them to spatulas.

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We used paint brushes to apply glittery paint to the stickers and then stamped our cardstock.

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Then the kids decorated the cards with the foam stickers once the paint was dry.

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They had so much fun with this. If we do it again in the future, I will not prefold the cards. It made it tricky to stamp with the spatula without it sliding all over the place because the paper wouldn’t lie flat. Other than that, the kids really enjoyed using the different art supplies to create something to send to their favorite people.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Movie Learning

It is tough to stay busy while stuck inside. With a teething toddler clinging to my side, I have to get extra creative when it comes to keeping the other two happy. I’m not ashamed to say some days this means we watch more movies than normal.

For a couple of weeks their favorite movie was The Jungle Book. They had so much fun with this movie. We are working through reading the book now that we have watched the movie at least ten times. Movies are a wonderful tool for learning. Gannon has been asking questions as we read through the book because there are many differences between the book and the movie. In the movie, Shere Kahn is a “bad guy” and that became the focal point for both Gannon and Waverly. They didn’t understand why he wanted to kill Mowgli. This led to a lot of conversations about the food chain, the way of the jungle, the role of different creatures in nature, and the dangers of fire. Not only did it open the lines of discussion on a variety of topics, the role play surprised me.

Gannon and Waverly would run like wild around the house, pretending to be Mowgli. They jumped, they climbed, they hid. They created their own sort of cave to mimic Baloo’s home. They pretended to gather honey, to run from Shere Kahn, to be howling wolves. They made temples from blocks and gathered all the animals they saw in the movies and replayed scenes. We have a basket full of assorted animals and most of the animals in the movie were present. Strings from sewing cards became vines for climbing and many objects around the house turned into trees, including a dog crate.

We moved from The Jungle Book to Dolphin Tale. This movie had areas for learning as well and a character who was homeschooled! We talked about the importance of helping creatures when they are in trouble, friendship, and how we can accomplish a difficult task when we work together. They learned about prosthetic body parts and how people as well as the dolphin benefit from the use of them. They used all their aquatic animals to role play, filling pans with water and splashing as the dolphins do. This went on in the bathtub as well. We talked about safe fishing practices as well since the dolphin was injured due to a fisherman and their crab trap.

Egan joined in on some of the fun too and we practiced making animal noises to go along with the animal toys. His favorite is a fish face followed by a kiss.

Today, with all the snow dumping down on us, we may be watching another movie. Maybe something fun, maybe something serious, maybe a documentary. Or maybe, we will get outside to play in the snow.

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