Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Interest-led, Project-Based Homeschooling WIN!

A good reminder to be patient and "trust the process..."

I had recently begun to get a little nervous that at 5.5, Jude isn't writing yet (except for "J"), and can only identify a few letters. Even though I believe "better late than early," even though I believe it's absolutely not essential for him to know these things yet, even though he spends hours every day constructively making and building things, using fine and gross motor skills. I confess I had seen how well some other 5 year olds are writing and started to worry (comparisonitis! always a bad thing!). I wondered if I should set up some "lessons" with him and intentionally teach him these things.

Then, on Friday morning, he informed us that he is ready to learn to write letters and numbers. He got out the sticky notes we gave him for Christmas and some envelopes. He asked us (Dan was there too), "How do you write a ___?" and proceeded to write several letters (first tracing, then copying our models) - "M" for Mommy, "D" for Daddy, "J" for Jude, "F" for Felix, "E" for Ezra, and so on. I also pulled out a letter and number writing practice book I bought back in August for just such an occasion - tucked away on the bookcase until he indicated he was ready. He chose to practice his numbers and traced them all from 0 to 9 six or seven times.

This is the same way I remember Henry learning his letters - based on the people and things he loved the most. He loved to write the words "joy" and "hot." Haha. As well as "Mommy," "Daddy," "Jude," "Felix," and "Henry4" and then "Henry5." He always wrote his age after his name those two years, it was so cute. Anyway, back to Jude. He's been writing letters - so far, the first letters of people's names - every day since then, and he is so excited about it.

Because his particular area of interest right now is writing notes to people, I went out on Sunday night and bought a set of 200 notecards and envelopes in rainbow colors and set them out on the table for them to find Monday morning. They were thrilled and went to town "making mail." Then I remembered something I had seen in the book Playful Learning that I had been meaning to do for years - make a family post office. I kept putting it off because my vision was unrealistic; I imagined mailboxes made from natural, plant-dyed felt, blanket stitched edges in contrast colors, eclectic buttons for closures, each family member's name embroidered on the outside...you get the idea. Yesterday, though, I remembered something Jamie Martin has said on Simple Homeschool (where I get the majority of my ideas and inspiration) about not worrying about things being beautiful or perfect and just "making it happen." So that's what I did. We folded 9x12 pieces of acrylic felt in half, stapled the sides closed, wrote our names on masking tape, and affixed to each "mailbox" folder. Tacked them to a cork board. DONE. I do not mean to criticize those who do things much more artistically or intricately, but this was just right for us in terms of time commitment and their attention spans. When I asked Jude at bedtime what his favorite part of the day was (part of our new "secret question" tradition at bedtime), he said "making the mailboxes."

The moral of the story? Trust yourself, trust your child. He will learn new skills at just the right time, when he is ready.

(Yes, we are gently working on correcting his pencil grip. Got these to help:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A cold, cold day

This morning, Jude and Felix used up the last of our Christmas tree and gingerbread play-dough. My personal favorite was Jude's cyclops gingerbread man.

Midday, they went outside - I prepared bottles of colored water for them to spray onto the snow. It was so cold, I didn't bring Ezra out today. 

In the afternoon, we made "snow dough" which turned out great! Hopefully they will play with it more tomorrow.

Clearly I am going to need a lot more ideas for winter projects, especially indoor ones. Even with everything we did today, which felt like a lot to me, they still wanted more to do. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

One of "those" days

Today was one of "those" days...where something, seemingly small, happens in the morning...but it sets off a cascade of events that snowballs and in the end, essentially ruins the day. Or at least leaves me feeling utterly exhausted. It all started this morning with Henry throwing a toy down in frustration. Then, instead of acknowledging it and apologizing, he argued with me about it..."I lightly TOSSED it, not THREW it, Mommy." Sticking with the conversation until he admitted what he had done meant I was now running late...then he woke up the baby...then while I was nursing, he decided the eggs I made him weren't enough and he would make more. Then his brothers decided they would make themselves eggs too...so when I emerge from my room with Ezra, ready to leave for church, there is an enormous mess in the kitchen and the boys are each stirring their own bowls of eggs - a full dozen in total. I am proud to say I did not yell or freak out. I did tell them I was very upset and that we would talk about it - but first I cooked all the eggs and made sure they ate them all. I sure as hell wasn't going to waste those eggs.

By the time the eggs were cooked and consumed and I'd cleaned the kitchen, church was almost over. I was resolute that we would go as planned, so even though Ezra was tired again by this point I packed them into the car and drove to church. I had them apologize to Dan that we missed the service, and I had Henry apologize to the priest that he didn't make it, as he was supposed to be crucifer. They asked if they could have some food at coffee hour - "No," I said solemnly, "the food is for people who ATTEND the service." All of this seemed to make a bit of an impression...I think.

In the interest of natural consequences I then announced, "Since you guys used up all the eggs, now we need to go to the grocery store to get more." This turned out to be a punishment for me more than anything else...I have never seen whole foods so crowded. Not even the day before Thanksgiving. It was so hard to navigate all three boys through the store, and poor Ezra was really tired by this point and understandably fussy.

The rest of the afternoon and evening were just your garden variety not listening, not following directions, asking for things multiple times after I've said no, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I am so very thankful for each and every day I have with these boys, and I hope that my actions and reactions to today's events taught them something important....but oh my goodness, I am spent. Now I am supposed to be addressing the Epiphany cards (read: Late Christmas Cards), to be sent with the birth announcements I got the week Ezra was born but never mailed out, but I can't find the birth announcements anywhere. And I am NOT sending the cards without the announcements. So instead of scouring the house for the birth announcements and staying up late getting them ready for the mail so they will arrive someday close to January 6, I am giving up. I am going to drink tea and eat a cookie and go to bed. Maybe this is what people mean when they say "Don't be so hard on yourself" or "Have grace with yourself." Maybe I will find them tomorrow.