2015. New year, new age, more parties to get through yet. As far as New Year’s Resolutions go, I gave up on them a long time ago, I think because I realized that I tend to make them all the year through. Ironically, I actually have a New Year’s Resolution, and I’ve had it before; it’s the same one that I’ve had every year since I was in college (ten years ago now): Peace On Earth.
How can a person resolve for Peace On Earth when peace on Earth involves more than just themselves? Easy, I just do my part to spread peace in whatever way I can, and in doing such, those peaceful actions cause ripples of peace to pass through the connections I hold with the people I have contact with, and they in turn cause peaceful ripples to flow those that they have contact with. It extends beyond just person to person as well, passing to animals, the environment, and out to the universe. Really, your daily actions affect others living on the other side of the globe by what you eat, what you purchase, whose blog you read, what you do with your garbage, whether you choose to drive or walk to work today. We each live globally now, nearly all of the choices that you make today will affect someone else somewhere. Actually, over time, how you raise your children will affect our future world as well. All the ripples are interconnected. Feel them, they are wonderful, and spreading peace returns to us as well.
But, I’m not perfect, and peace and serenity don’t follow me like flowers blooming at my heels or anything. There are times when I get lost, there may be long whiles when I’m lost. I think now, I am coming around from one of those times, in which I am looking at my life and wondering how I got so far away from so many things that I once deemed “me” – like shopping local, choosing organics, taking only what you need, and volunteering. When things were really tight financially, I turned to cheap shopping, yet somehow, we have filled the house with cheap crap made by cheap labor and I now sometimes feel very overwhelmed by it.
What does this have to do with homeschooling? I always get around to that. As you know, I have been wondering if our curriculum is good enough for our needs (see Is Our Curriculum Good Enough? Reflections, Week 20.) The holidays really made me think a lot on what the deeper meanings of this time of the year are, which led me to wonder if we were covering all the bases in school as well. And it made me think that perhaps we were not. I really disliked the shallow activities in the holiday unit, making Santa faces, etc. I wanted to delve in deeper, but I followed the curriculum and didn’t. My fault, but hey, we are learning still.
I had found another curriculum that I was interested in, from the Global Village School (GVS), and my Mom did get it for me for Christmas. I am on my second reading-through of the curriculum guide, and am loving it. It is a lot more flexible than Moving Beyond The Page, and so very different from what I have been using so far, but really focuses on topics that I think are important. For example, all of the core Literature selections are based on books that address a virtue or self-esteem, and reading through them, it just made me happy. The Social Studies literature touches on diversity and the lives of children around the world. I like it very much. The Sample Record-Keeping Templates really break it down for me in a way that makes sense, in that the subjects stressed are: Language Arts; Social Studies, Peace, and Diversity; Science, Environment, and Nature; Math; Music and the Arts; Values and Character Development; P.E. and Health; and Active Citizenship and Service Learning. I know that teaching virtues and values is nothing new in the time-line of human evolution, but I’m thinking that here at our house it is needing a new resurgence in our daily life in a new and fun way. I especially like that this curriculum would make me step back and take a moment to be sure that I am addressing the whole child, including values and character development, as well as active citizenship and service learning – things to teach lessons in humility and compassion.
But I’ve got 20 units left of the Moving Beyond The Page age 4-5 curriculum. It has taken us six months to get through ten units! I’ve been feeling like that is ok, and it is, we are still getting the hang of homeschooling and Elizabeth is only 4, so we are not in a rush, yet I do feel ready to move on to the wonderful books that are suggested in the Global Village curriculum. What to do? Well, first off, I decided that since I am so charged by the extended subjects in the GVS curriculum guide, that I would begin to incorporate them into the current curriculum. To do so, I went through and labeled the activities in our current unit as such. Guess what got left out: Values & Character, Peace & Diversity, and Active Citizenship & Service Learning – all those things I got excited about, those things I think we really need to work on here.
I got thinking in a way such as I did way back in our first few weeks using the Moving Beyond The Page materials, when Elizabeth was really resisiting school and I was being nit-picky and wanting to get everything done in a day, in 45 minutes. I wondered if I ought to just let her play with the materials as they were just to use them up, or if I ought to just forget about it all. I ended up loosening up a 5-day unit and just doing an activity or two at a time, but we have been dong all of the activities in a unit before we move onto the next. Well, I have begun thinking about making up my own lesson and not following the parent guide at all, just using the books that came with the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum in ways that speak to me. Or I contemplated skipping some of the activities that seem redundant to get through the units faster. I do want to use the materials that arrived in the manipulatives box, so I thought about still using them in the activities they are assigned to, or maybe reworking them to be used in creative ways.
So, I sat down and though about the book that we are just beginning now, Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag. I really don’t like the book, and had actually contemplated skipping the whole unit, or coming up with my own unit around a different book. In the end, I decided that it’s ok to dislike a book, and I ought to tell Elizabeth why and what I would change about it – that could strike up a whole new way of thinking about books: making up alternate endings. So I wrote in my notebook, “How does Millions of Cats speak to me?” Well, it makes me think of math, patterns, and caring for pets. Yes! That makes sense! One activity I had been thinking about skipping was researching how to care for a pet, but instead, a trip to the local humane society would work into numerous subjects, such as: Health, Values & Character Development, Active Citizienship & Service Learning, as well as Science and Peace. In the Math department, we will look at the coat patterns of real cats, and add and subtract and make pattern games with the cat cut-outs that came with the curriculum. This makes sense to me, rather than exploring circles this unit. After I figured it out, I got so excited that I called my sister to tell her my revelation.
Another thing that Global Village School really emphasizes, especially for the lower grades, is an almost structured unschooling method. In this way, one would still do school around literature and use workbooks and study math, but a parent would follow their child’s lead as to which direction they seem interested in and for how long you go that way. In such a way, if Elizabeth is also not interested in Millions of Cats or patterns, we will touch on it lightly, but not press it much, and move on before she gets irritated. If she really likes the book, we will delve deeper into different ways that we can relate life to cats and patterns and other aspects of the book, whatever catches her fancy. I am interested in this because I have found that she is not at all interested in answering questions after reading the books, but will gladly while reading at nighttime stories, nor is she interested in math games per se, yet loves numbers and patterns and is even interested in addition and subtraction of small numbers in relatable ways. She is all ready used to me having something planned for “school,” but as I have said before, she wants to be the one who makes up the games or to use the materials in the same ways as we did in previous units. It would be most validating to allow her to do just that, don’t you think? It would be closer to a passion-driven learning model. As well, it will allow her to really be creative in making things up, and show me what she remembers. I’m tired of “No” and ready for “Yes.”
I know that what I am stumbling upon is not new under this sun, but don’t we all have to go through a period of learning and discovery in everything that we do? (Shouldn’t we want to?) I am one who has to come to conclusions independently, sometimes in ways that make no sense to others, I think. I have read over and over on the blogs I follow that the first few years in homeschooling involve the parent learning who they are and how they best teach and what is important to them as they simultaneously focus on who their child is and how they best learn as well. It’s a fun experience: homeschooling as a journey in self-discovery.
So, my New Year’s Resolution this year is Peace On Earth, peace here at home, and becoming more involved in our community with my daughter, exploring peace and what it means to us and others we share this planet with, looking for peace in our hearts and souls, and spreading peace to others.