Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The 3 R's of our 'Homeschool'; Rhythms, Relationships and Resources

I had wanted to post and share about my lovely trip out to visit with my friend Donna yesterday but the stinking computer won't load my photos so instead I thought I'd blog a post I already had some photos for in said stinking computer and be happy that at least I get to write something! lol!
I thought I'd share a little about some of the things that are working for us on our homeschooling journey. This is not a post about what others should be doing; it's simply recording where WE are at  and how & why it is working for us.
One of the things we have found that's happened (i've posted about this previously) is that we have moved towards a more natural style of learning in our home.
However, we have also discovered that we ALL enjoy tapping into some regular rhythmic stuff too in our week in terms of how our days flow.
Last year we worked out a little rhythm that for the most part worked beautifully for us.
We figured that Yah created our world with rhythms; day and night come to us whether we are ready for them or not, we have rhythmic patterns in our sleep, there are seasons (even if they are not always the same each year) that come to help give the land rest (winter) and produce life (spring).
We have rhythms in our bodies (in the way our blood flows in us for example) and even a pregnancy has certain predictable rhythms (your tummy swells, you gain weight and at the end you give birth).
Now don't get me wrong....just because there are rhythms, doesn't mean that things always go stictly according to a pattern. No way! I mean, just because the blood flows rhythmically in my body doesn't mean I was immune from getting a blood disease! Just because there are seasons, doesn't necessarily mean that because it snowed here last year there will be snow again this time round. And just because there are rhythms in the world Yah created doesn't mean that if you are pregnant you will gain the same amount of weight as the last pregnancy or even deliver a baby in a similar weight size to the last. Nope.
There are rhythms but then there is unpredictable LIFE too!
Yep life happens!
Now what does all that have to do with homeschooling?
Well everything!
See, we have set rhythms that we stick to around here because we have people in this home who enjoy having rhythms. It makes them feel safe and secure and plain old happy and I'm good with that!
However, I'm not a fan of having a 'rhythm' which is really code for 'routine' which means there is NO FLEXIBILITY at all!
No way!
What happens when life happens around here?
Well, the rhythm changes and adapts.

We also recognise that life IS learning and learning IS life!
We all change and adapt and go with the flow and choose to look for the learning opportunities in our everyday life experiences.
Adapting and changing and going with the proverbial flow might mean that instead of doing 'tech time' (fancy kid speak for playing some awesome learning games on the computer) on a Wednesday, we might do it on a Friday instead because on Wednesday we decided to go for a bush walk that morning.
Life happens when our 4 month old is having a super grizzly day and instead of us having 'Bonkers about Books' time (fancy kid speak for going to the library and checking out books or reading a heap of books together at home) I'll put on a movie instead and we'll read later that night or visit the library the next morning. Our kids still learn through visual media. They also learn to amuse themselves (most times) while mama is in the room rocking bubby off to sleep. Learning here often happens because of the way life flows in an unpredictable manner.
So what does our learning rhythm look like?
Well each day after brekky, we do chores.
Sometime after chores, each child does a couple of pages of workbook maths.
Then they do some spelling; either on the Spelling City website (love love!) or using some fun whiteboard-book spelling games/cards we have.
(Note that there are no times assigned as to when these things have to be done by (eg 10.30-11.00) but that they are just things we do in the morning at some stage.)
Then each day is divided into stuff we do in the mornings and stuff we do in the afternoons. I wanted to have fun names for the things we were going to do rather than subjects like 'maths' etc. I just know my kids and knew they'd prefer me introducing rhythms with fun names and that it would evoke interest for them. So here's what our weekly rhythms have looked like:
Monday Morning:
Learning from the Past
(aka: history. We enjoy reading from Story of The World along with using our Book of Centuries. We also use the internet and a HEAP of other books to read from too.)
Monday Arvo:
(anything from sewing, drawing to our melted crayon canvasses!)
Tuesday Morning:
Bonkers about Books
(aka: visit to library or reading aloud together somewhere fun like in a park or out in the bush)
Tuesday Arvo:
Nature Study
(this may involve a bushwalk or leaf rubbings, collecting or reading about our local environment)
Wednesday Morning:
Tech Time
(aka: screen time whether it be visiting a fave website or playing wii together - timer is used for this! The kids respect that the timer is used and are getting so much better each time at finishing their go and not complaing about it but rather making way for their sibling to start his/her turn.)
Wednesday Arvo:
Musical Moments
(This might involve us gathering to the piano and singing songs I've made up about The First Fleet's arrival to Australia, songs about our brain or Rocks. It might also just be a time to put on music while the kids colour in some sheets. Just depends on where we are all at with our day).
Thursday Morning:
(I love that baking incorporates so many skills! From reading recipes and following them to learning to be patient and waiting a turn to stir the bowl. Baking often creates opportunities for deep conversations to flow and also for Zippi to work right along side the 'big' kids.)
Thursday Arvo:
Passports People!
(Aka: Geography & also crosses over into HSIE and English often too! We take the chance to read about people and places all over the world through various times too. I mostly read from Childcraft books and we get out the atlas and globe and try and spot the places we are reading about. Often this links up with what we are learning about on Monday's in 'Learning from the Past. For instance, we've been reading about Ancient Greece on Monday's. Then in the childcraft book we read from on Thursday's I chose to read about the Trojan horse and the Spartan warriors. The kids loved this and orally narrated back to Brett about it that night at dinner.)
Friday Morning:
Easy Experiments
(Aka: Science stuff! The kids are the ones that often suggest something that they want to do here! I love seeing them come up with theories they want to test out or repeat something they saw on Backyard Science. We use a science helper which I made up 3 years ago to help the kids get aquainted with the process of an experiment; forming a purpose, an hypothesis, a method and drawing a conclusion. It's basic but it helps them and me too!)
Friday Arvo:
Helping Hands
(Aka: Running Errands together. The kids learn alot from us just being together; paying bills, grocery shopping, etc. They learn how to interact with older people, with those in various careers from chop assistants to bus drivers and waiters. It's a great natural learning curve! Just today Stass (9) went into a shop for me to ask the shop assistant what the price of the quilt in the window was. And Liji (8) was in a bookstore with me a couple of months ago when all of a sudden I heard his voice asking the manager, "Excuse me, do you have the Where's Wally books please?" and waited patiently for the man to look for them. I was really pleased. He had done all the spontaneously and I was very proud of him and could see that he felt confident and independent enough to ask that).
In between each of the mornings and afternoons, we have lunch and some silent reading time.
We all need that.
That's often when I write either my blog (or the book I'm working on hoping to get published one day.)
Now all that I've typed above is just a possible outline for our week. 
Some weeks we stick quite closely to it and get alot done and other times well not so much and that's ok!

See, to me, the most important thing is always relationships. Without healthy relationships, what have we got? We've got people living together but not really BEING together. Our goal is to have healthy relationships (even though they aren't always!) because out of that, we have opportunities for learning, living and loving!
So yep, we have our rhythms but we also have ALOT of room for spontenaity!
What does this mean practically? Well recently one of our kiddos was doing it really tough. Lots of meltdowns and struggles. Instead of saying, "well bad luck. I said we were going to do stuff on history today and I don't care that you aren't feeling up to it - we are going to be doing it!" and having to STILL deal with the meltdowns, I suggested we do some baking together and have a picnic morning tea instead. That was received with lots of "yes please!!!!'"'s. 
My goal is to connect with and reach out to my child who is struggling; not to stick to a routine at all costs.
My goal is to provide opportunities for learning to my child; he was able to engage in skills based around reading, following given instructions, delegating and being a team player in our baking activity.

My goal is to make sure emotionally he is coping.
I could see that he really needed that time to provide him with an opportunity to self regulate his emotions.
The best thing about that was that the meltdown came to an end, my child was happier but was still learning!
Did we end up 'doing' history? Not that day but we did later on in the week when he was more in control of his emotions and was actually excited about what we were going to be reading! He was able to have a successful learning opportunity later on because I chose not to force it on him just for the sake of the rhythm!
So that's what I mean when I say I choose relationships over rhythms.
{Just want to add that sometimes it is RIGHT to stick to the plan but on this particular day I knew that his well being was more important than the 'routine'}
The other thing that we tried last year was having easily accessible resources which the kids could grab at any given time. Tangrams, jigsaw puzzles and connectors have always been in boxes for the kids to use in their cupboard.
But I wanted something that was a little more...I don't know...um, there and very easy to get to at any time! I had an idea to use two of the wooden display shelves we had and to have baskets on them with stuff the kids could grab at any given time, that we centered around learning.
So here's what I came up with:

And it has worked!
The kids love to get stuff from these baskets at any time of the day and it just provides them with more opportunities for natural learning.

Again I wanted to come up with some names for labels rather than just 'spelling games' etc. So here's what I made.
On the top shelf the baskets are:

Count It
(Maths stuff like a multiplication white-board style book, play money coins and notes in a zip lock bag, the most awesome electronic maths game which I got when I was a kid called Monkey See, and just other random maths games)

Draw It
(Learn to draw step by step books, canvas paper, charcoal pencils, reflex paper, other drawing items)
Create It
(All the stuff kids need to make their own cards; good prefolded cards, stickers, stamper textas, off cut scrapbooking papers - a little bag from Kmart costs about $3- double sided tape, etc)

Collect It
(A basket for all our collected nature items! like pinecones and leaves, etc.)
Observe It
(Insect identification cards, Books relating to our current area of nature study - it might be a book on leaf litter, or Australian Parrots, etc)

Read & Write It

(This basket has lots of reading and writing materials in it such as simple readers, find a word books, laminated sheets with whiteboard markers for them to do some writing on, etc)
On the second row of the shelving we have stuff that's at Zippi's height and easy for her and the younger visiting kids to reach as well as our bigger kiddos of course!
On this row we have baskets with floor puzzles, wooden train tracks, an electronic geography game and a human body game along with some other things.
On the bottom row we have more playful items such as:
Farm and Zoo Animals...

Potato Heads...

... along with two baskets filled with preschooler kind of activities:
Zippi's magnetic books, a colander with pipe cleaners for threading, lacing cards, wooden blocks for stacking, etc.

Well, they are the 3 R's for us that are working well;
Rhythms, Relationships and Resources.
There are opportunities each day for the kids to grab something that interests them and have a go!
Of course there are other baskets and boxes around the house filled with learning tools like drawing stencils, lego, building blocks, musical instruments etc. But I wanted to record what I'd established in the learning area in this season of our lives and how it has been a good thing for our family so far!
More to come soon,
Ps: Sincere thanks for all the kind words about Nat's song in the last post. Your encouraging words meant more to me than I can express. x


Renelle said...

This is absolutely awesome, I love it. You are so organised. With very little space and not liking clutter I am struggling to find our answer but if I had the room I would love to do this. I'm brainstorming now to see if i can tweak your ideas to suit our little space mmmmmm will let you know. Warmest wishes, Renelle

lusi said...

Hi Renelle! Thanks so much for the feedback! Am glad it was helpful. Please let me know how you tweak it to make it suit your fam and home!
Love Lus x

Chrissy said...

Good on you Lusi for sharing how learning works in your household. From a teaching point of view I know how important being organised is, to help things go smoothly and to really allow for true flexibility. Your learning places look fabulous! xx

lusi said...

Thanks lovely Chrissy! It certainly helps our fam in that way.
Much love,
Lus x

Heidi said...

I love how you are finding a way to balance structure and flexibility. Sometimes it takes a great deal of wisdom to know when to press on and when to change directions. Sometimes I get it wrong. :( YHVH is good and teaches Mommies too.

singing mama said...

We are SO into natural rhythms as we call them. Love this post and the reminder that relationship is more important! Love the create it, count it etc box ideas, I have being reorganising the home school cupboard and a bit stumped but now I think I might borrow your idea!! Luv Donna xo

lusi said...

Heidi I OFTEN get it wrong! But like you said, Yah is faithful and teaches me lots too. Praise Him!

Donna, Yay i'm glad this might be useful in some way!

Much love x

Peterson Party said...

I LOVE this! I really needed to read this. I have been having a hard time finding my rhythm with homeschool since Kaelyn was born. This month we are focusing on literacy only - all aspects of it - learning to read, listening to stories, playing literacy games, writing, creative writing, etc., etc., but that is it for this month. Next month, I would like to incorporate your ideas. We'd do math, literacy & bible everyday and then assign the other subjects to one day a week. I love it. I think that'd really help me during this transition period. Thank you!!

lusi said...

Hi Cara! I'm so glad you were able to get some ideas from this! I empathize; things are tougher with a little one around but Yah is our faithful helper hey! Anyway I know you'll figure out in time what is right for your fam! We are going into our 4th year now and I'm still working out what is the right learning 'fit' for our family as it changes from season to season of life!
Much lOve,
Lusi x

Kathryn said...

Thanks Lusi,

This has really helped plan what we are doing this year, I love the idea of having a focus for each day.

lusi said...

Kathryn that's GREAT! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know. I hope 2012 will be a wonderful year of life-learning over at your place!
Lusi x

Anonymous said...

I admire you for all the effort you put into your childrens learning. I would never have the patience for home schooling and I only have one child here.

It is fantastic to see you include so many different things for your children. What a great teacher you are. I love those cane baskets and how everything is organised, very well done.

Have a happy, fun and safe week end. From Susan McGuire (smiles1965) xxoo

lusi said...

Thanks Susan for your sweet words. I don't always do this homeschooling thing well but with Gods help we get through just like we do with the rest of life; with ups and downs and plenty of joy! Anyway, the baskets do help us which is a blessing. Hope you are well!
Love Lusi x


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