Sick Days. Reflections, Week 10

One of things I like best about homeschooling is, of course, the flexibility that we have to live life around school and do school around life. I also like that when the kids are sick, they don’t miss lessons, lessons are just put off until they are better.

Elizabeth is pre-k age, so really, what would she have missed if she had been going to public school, but if she had, she would have been absent three days this week! Since life is ever unpredictable, we spent the latter part of the past weekend receiving condolences in calling hours and a funeral for my grandmother who passed away last Wednesday. Then, as it is autumn and we were mixed in with so many people, Elizabeth and I fell sick on Tuesday night, with my girl having to go to the ER for labored breathing on Wednesday. After sitting there for three hours, we finally left with a prescription for amoxicillin to combat bronchitis, and Mommy slowly feeling worse and worse with a migraine. Thank goodness for my dad, who had been able to go with me to the hospital to entertain Elizabeth and drive us as I felt so horrible, and for my husband who had been able to be at home watching my son all day! I am so thankful that though it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been at all!

At any rate, we then watched tv until the kid’s bedtime (actually, I fell asleep on the couch, which is quite rare these days). The following day, we allowed ourselves an additional sick day for recovery, I definitely needed it.

Isn’t life just so many ups and downs? Luckily, we are flexible enough to encounter them and thrive. I like that homeschooling allows us this flexibility. Elizabeth is very much better now and loyally taking her medicine, and as she is anxious to be done with it, she is working on counting the days left, counting backward, and practicing the days of the week. Who would have thought?

Though we had much excitement three days of the “school” week, we snuck in two days of “work,” plus lots of iPad apps, like Learning With Homer, which is educational. Tuesday, I tried the last few activities of Unit 5 with Elizabeth again, and we did them ALL – yep, four in one day! Normally we max at two organized activities, so it seems that going a bit slow on this unit paid off in the end. We did the gluing exercise, including the leaf wreath, drew a map together, and then she dictated a story and a little non-fiction ditty that I wrote down in her journal. I was very impressed!

Friday, we also returned to school after being sick. I had wanted to review our sight words and had thought that between units seemed like a good time to do it, so decided that the gap we are in right now was perfect for it. She remembered “he” and “no,” and always reads “you” as “Y-O-U,” but forgets what word it is. We also practiced translating the words to Spanish. After that, we colored more of the All Bilingual Press’s Mis Primeros Poemas while listening to the readings on CD.

I have decided to shelve the Spanish materials for now, except the coloring book of poems, as it just seems a little advanced for her, the size of the boxes to fill in are too small and needing to write the words out is not quite where she is yet. It is for ages 4-7, so we have lots of time to fit it in.

For now, I need to apply myself to speaking and practicing aloud with her, I know I have failed in this respect, and I do feel guilty for that. Luckily, my husband speaks Spanish at home, and he and I speak it together. She obviously understands the language, but has always been allowed to speak in English, even to Chepe, and was never obligated to speak Spanish. But at least the foundation is there. I just  need to do my part more, and really encourage it, make it fun and important. I’ll admit that I find it hard though!

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The Learning Experience. Reflections, Week 4

You know what?! I’m finding it surprisingly hard to write honest, interesting, developed posts for this blog.  It has a defined theme, so it should be easy, right? But I found myself just dryly reporting what we did this week, basically a play-by-play.  I’ve come across some other homeschooling blogs like that, I usually pass them by.  The ones that catch my interest really delve into a passionate topic with openness and clear reflection, not just regurgitating their stats with no analysis.  I want analysis, I want reflection, I don’t want a play-by-play.  So, forward I go with an attempt.  It’s an attempt to be honest with myself and open even when things aren’t perfectly perfect.  Generally, I’m not a perfectionist, that’s why it’s a little perplexing to me.  At any rate, I make no promises at this point, but I at least get the idea now.  It is a learning experience for all of us.

Ah-ha! That’s it! It is a learning experience, for all of us!  I’m not just a teacher pulling facts out of my brain with my magic want and transferring them into the empty basket which is my child’s head.  Actually, I don’t even really have any formal training in teaching (which is actually probably for the best, right?). I do have 32 years of life experience, most of which was spent in a formal learning institution. Above that, I have my own intense desire to never stop learning and my gentle parenting intuition. It also happens that interpersonal relations are one of my strong points.  I think these will come in useful as a homeschooling mom. So, I’m ready, I guess.  Ready to learn anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on all the stuff I learned about life when I rode horses in high school and college. It’s pretty amazing how much really!  When people would ask me what my favorite sport to play was, I’d say, “Horseback riding.” Then, usually, they’d say it out loud or look like they wanted to say out loud that horseback riding is not a sport.  But it so is!  I was not into organized team sports, I didn’t have team sport mentality.  Not because I’m a bad sport, but because I didn’t desire to beat/dominate whom ever I was against, I was more interested in connecting with them on an interpersonal level.  I am most comfortable in one-on-one situations, I was more so in high school than today (thanks to Peace Corps).  What I loved about horseback riding was the silent connection I made with my horse.  I would read her body language and she would read mine.  It was beautiful.  Part of horseback riding is also reading your own body and moving it intentionally.  Heels down!  Thumbs up!  Look where you are going!  I desire to have the same kind of connection with my daughter as I felt I had with my horse.  I desire to have it again, rather.

I truely felt I knew Elizabeth, and knew precisely how to deal with her, when she was a toddler.  I could almost know what she was going to do before she did it.  But when I got pregnant for my son, I was so tired just growing a baby, that we lost track of each other a little.  Perhaps too, it was a natural pulling away, necessary for her maturity.  Once my son was born, I was tired and distracted raising an infant, now I still am, but have been trying to make more of an effort to just be more available to Elizabeth again.  Yet, availability also means that I see more.  I think I nag too much. I think nagging is negative, it’s a negative message.  It shows a lack of trust, a lack of confidence in whoever you are nagging.  It is a lot of “No.” “Yes” is validating, “Yes” allows kids to grow.  “Yes” encourages learning.

Unsure of where I was going to go with things pertaining to school at the end of last week, I let myself hang in that limbo state.  I researched unschooling and put some thought into passion-driven learning. (Check out this awesome post and blog on passion-driven learning by Chavva.) I looked over my Moving Beyond The Page curriculum. I fell in love with it all over again.  It’s wonderful.  It’s great.  The wonderful thing about a boxed curriculum is that it’s all planned out for you.  I’m learning that the bad thing about a boxed curriculum is that it’s all planned out for you… The activities are all so enticing and well organized and seem like they should be so much fun.  But, if Elizabeth isn’t interested, which do I choose to leave out, which do I include?  They all seem necessary to me.  They all seem like she ought to find them fun.  Sigh.

P1070555

Still, I came to no conclusion about the boxed curriculum.  But I did conclude that “No” is way over spoken, and “Yes” is not said enough.  So, on Sunday, we skipped church and went to visit my grandmother in the nursing home.  Two little kids always brighten everyone (who is awake) up.  Afterward, we got pizza on a whim and waked around town while we waited, just like we always used to when we lived in town.  We checked out a dirt bike for sale, and an antique race car on our short walk.  That buys into the passion-driven learning right there!  When we got our pizza, we drove down to one of the waterfalls to eat lunch.  Elizabeth spied a trail, and I decided to begin my new task of saying “Yes.” So we followed the trail to a wash.  I suggested going back, but that girl found more trail, so I said “Yes” again.  Oi!  We found a stream – the stream of the waterfall.  Que bonita! Can they get their feet wet? “Yes,” you can even get your shorts wet too, we have dry clothes in the car.  Yeah, go ahead and sit in the water, we’ll use the white rags that are for washing Paul’s sticky fingers as towels.  Can I ride home in my undies?  Yeah, go ahead!

You know what?! It felt good to say “Yes.” It does feel good to say “Yes.”  Why do I say “No?” Do I feel it some how guides her learning and behavior, her manners?  I don’t know.  But her face sure lit up when I said “Yes” on Sunday.  That’s what parenting and homeschooling is all about, that I all ready know.

So, that was Sunday, what has happened between then and today? Well, I talked to some people, got some neutral advice, and decided that maybe I’ll just put the boxed curriculum away for a bit.  Maybe 4 1/2 is too young for Elizabeth personally.  I sincerely believe she’s ready developmentally for the subject matter, but perhaps not for the discipline aspect of doing school a few days of the week.  Hopefully, she’ll forget the negative emotions she felt towards it when I get it back out again in a few months.

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The word caterpillar

For some reason that I’m not even entirely sure of now, I decided to put the Mis Primeros Poemas book from All Bilingual Press out for her to color on Monday evening.  I think I was thinking that since the book is basically just a coloring book with poems that are read on CD, it might be something we could use now that isn’t too pushy and at her level.  So, I just put it on the table in the evening with her crayons and put the CD in the CD player and left it.  I mentioned it to Elizabeth in passing, with little response, and when the book lay untouched about a half an hour before bedtime, I put it away.  But she asked me, “What are you doing with that book, Mommy?” When I replied that I was putting it away, she responded that she wanted to color it.  So, we did together for a bit.  On the hope built up from the night before, I decided the following day to try out the last lesson in Unit 2, which was were we had left off in the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum.  I think I did this mostly for closure for myself because I just felt like I needed to get that last lesson done before I could put it all away.  Or, I needed to try at least. And she was game!  She knew she was doing the school work, but she was into it.  This has given me more hope. Wednesday and Thursday were so busy that there wasn’t any time to even try for school, which is ok, it’s August, but Friday I tried again, and we made a word caterpillar out of the vocabulary cards, as well as read the Unit 3 book and play-acted.

Why can’t I just let the boxed curriculum go?  It’s just so pretty, so nice, so organized.  Beyond that, it’s also sparked imagination in Elizabeth.  Everyday some aspect of the unit activities comes through in her play.  Everyday she has either painted, played with the play doh that came with the manipulatives – and she usually forms letters with it now, she also role-plays like the school activities do, or I hear aspects of what we have covered come out in her speech.  One of the best ways that it has shown it’s self was when she was at Vacation Bible School recently with my grandmother, and insisted on writing her own name on her project.  She’s never done that before that I know of.  That’s great!

So, at the end of Week 4, I’m left on an island (our newest book is The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown), but one in a river.  I feel like the one side of the loop is Elizabeth’s attitude that resists the school work.  On the other side, is her requesting to re-read The Little Island for her bed-time story, writing on her own initiative, and the creative expression our school has sparked. I have decided to throw out the new tv time routine that I was enjoying, for better or worse for me, because Monday and Tuesday when Elizabeth was willing to do the work, she had all ready had her normal tv programs, and it made me think that she has just seen too many changes lately, and that that change was just too much for her.  Besides, I would be resentful towards the school if my block of, say, relaxing coffee time was pushed to the afternoon.  And it was pushed back, and it was kind of hard for me too, so maybe it was too much for the both of us.

What I hope to get from all of this myself is really getting to know my daughter on a more intimate level again, and having her know me, and know that I love her and that I am on her side.  I want to say ‘Yes’ again.  I want to be able to read her as I was able to read my horse years ago when I rode regularly.  I want us both to be aware that it is a learning experience, and that we are both learning.

It is a challenge.  But I’m not afraid.

Beginning With Hola

Previously, I blogged about wanting to practice a school-like routine before beginning our actual school work. My motivation was based on wanting to ease my sometimes-strong-willed child gently into the schooling to avoid complete resistance; Elizabeth does love learning, but needs to be pushed in a way that is gently encouraging yet firm at the same time in order to move ahead. So we’ve been workbooking, and she seems to like it.

In addition to the work time we are doing, there are other routine changes that directly and indirectly effect her that I am allowing her time to get accustomed to. First off, we are adjusting her napping routine by dropping napping some days of the week so that she sleeps well during the night. The workbook time coincides with pushing the regularly routined television time back by one hour, soon to be two by or when our homeschooling starts.

So, for a little more than a week now we have been dedicated each weekday morning to the workbooks and it seems to be going well. I have contemplated over and over just starting the regular curriculum because she seems interested and I’m pretty excited myself, but for a number of reasons which seems too lengthy to list here, I am wanting to wait just a little bit longer. But it really comes down to not wanting to have to stop once we start – which is a bad habit to start right at the beginning.

HOLA

But then yesterday, Elizabeth and Paul were playing phones in the afternoon, making pretend long-distance calls to their grandmother in Honduras, and beyond saying, “Hola, Abuela,” she spoke only gibberish, and as badly as I feel it reflects on me, it made me realize that she must not know how to speak at all. So I made the decision then to begin the Spanish lessons.

Elizabeth was up for it, so we got out her doggies, as the ‘you all’ form will need a bigger audience than one child to learn, and we started with very basic, “Hola, mamá,” and some flash cards.

PERRO

Today, after a coloring activity, we did it again, but in reviewing, she got bored and decided that it would be more interesting to play cars. I did encourage her back, but as it touched on the same content again, she wasn’t very into it. Note to self: follow her lead on speed, especially as she is not starting from scratch.

One interesting thing that happened throughout yesterday and today was that she was very clingy and quite obedient. Her nature is to be sweet but not very touchy-feely, and though she is generally very well behaved, since April when we had a stressful event happen that indirectly effected her, she has been quite difficult for me and with her brother. So this was a surprise. It has made me wonder, since I bought the curriculum at the same time, if her problem actually was that she thought that I was keeping it from her (because technically I was as I didn’t want to read all the books before hand, nor get everything disorganized), and didn’t know how to express her frustration at that, rather than it being lingering angst about what had happened.

EL AMIGO

Share your thoughts: How do you prepare for starting school up again? Do you begin piecemeal by only introducing a few subjects at a time?

Practice For The Both Of Us

For the past couple of weeks, every day, Elizabeth has asked me if we are going to begin our school that day. I have finally finished reading through all of the curriculum, and have made a 4-week plan. I even, on a whim, found a Spanish/English book that I need for the first unit and borrowed it from the library yesterday. I guess we are ready to start.

But, I think we need a little practice first.

One issue hangs over me before we begin: the tv time issue. For the past 2 years, 9am has been the earliest that Elizabeth has been allowed to watch tv, and has kind of been slotted as the ‘tv time.’ But for the toddler brother, 9am is also the time in which he is well rested and freshly breakfasted and least likely to bother us while we are doing our school work together. I am wanting to push the hour in which she watches tv back and do our school work then, but I expect resistance to the idea, or more so, to the actual application.

Opposite the fear of Elizabeth resisting me pushing the tv time back, I firmly believe in choosing life over passively watching television, and find it hard to accept working school in around tv, rather than the other way around.  But I also know that my attitude toward television is a learned behavior, and one that took years of self-discipline, one that a 4-year old would not have honed yet. I want, though, to make the transition as smooth as possible into a daily routine of working together on the school books and activities. I want to make it not seem like a punishment that her tv time is pushed back but a positive thing instead.

So this week I’ve been experimenting, we’ve been practicing.

Prior to our first day of practice, I explained to Elizabeth how I wanted to do our school in the mornings and how I felt it would be easiest in the 9am time slot for all three of us. Then, I asked her if she agreed to push tv time back for one hour for now and work on workbooks together during that time. This of course is taking a risk, because there’s always the possibility that she would say no to that idea, but with my daughter, I know that having her forewarned and agreeing works much better than just popping it on her, which usually ends with a tantrum, or a seriously long and drawn out resistance to whatever I am trying to do.

She agreed to my plan. Now, for the past few days, at about 9, or whenever we all finish our breakfasts, she and I have been working on a workbook of her choice (a vehicle sticker book, though I had envisioned a letter workbook).

And I’m glad I did! Sitting for even a half an hour is going to take some getting used to! For the both of us!

I myself am used to using that time block for a myriad of things – slowly drinking my coffee and reading WordPress updates, washing dishes, showering, etc. Now I’ve got to stop and put on the patience brake . 🙂 And turn on the concentration headlights. Oh boy! In no way do I want to discount any one who really has ADD/ADHD, but the mommy/nursing induced lapse in concentration makes making myself sit still in a usually busy hour a bit of a challenge. Not to mention the distracting toddler who insists on having his own chair, then paper and crayons, then stickers, then getting up and down and up and down (and he is very clumsy and falls down a lot). It’s at least giving the guy some experience with using those little writing muscles!

So, we’ve hit half an hour so far – only one more to go to reach what I estimate a typical school day will take… Oh my!  But Elizabeth loves books and is very interested in learning, and Moving Beyond The Page makes it seem like the kids are doing games rather than work, so I’m not too concerned that it will be too bad. As well, the flow of their program is a lot like our natural flow, except with project tools, so I think it will be really great. At this time, I am planning to start our school on either August 4, or August 11, after the ‘Bring Your Own Squirt Gun Party’ we are hosting for some of Elizabeth’s friends. I figure that there’s no reason to stress myself out with double the extra work between cleaning and prep for the party, and school. And I’m really glad I’m taking the time to establish a routine now so that the transition can be a little smoother.

Do you do any prep activities to get yourself or your kids out of the summer routine and back into school? Do you have any thoughts for me on the tv time issue?

Getting To Know The Curriculum

We are just beginning our home school journey, actually, we haven’t even started, and I’m sure some of you would roll  your eyes at my enthusiasm, but I am SOOO excited about it!  Elizabeth is finishing up nursery school, with just 2 weeks left, and then she will be taking the summer off before we begin our studies together in the fall.  I have the complete curriculum in hand and am reading through it, as I don’t like to get started with something just to realize that I don’t know what I’m doing or am short of materials.

Moving Beyond The Page materials

Moving Beyond The Page materials

The curriculum I chose for her first year is Moving Beyond The Page (MBTP) for ages 4-5, as well as All Bilingual PressEspañol Para Los Chiquitos for our Spanish lessons.  In addition, I searched Amazon for Spanish editions of all the MBTP books and found 9, plus Buenas Noches Luna (Goodnight Moon) by Margaret Wise Brown, which is an optional title, and they are on their way right now.  As my husband is an immigrant from Honduras, and therefore much of my children’s family speaks only Spanish, it is very important that they understand, speak, and write the language.  I will admit, though it embarrasses me so, that I have not done my part well in bringing the kids up bilingually, and while their father only talks to them in Spanish and they understand it, Elizabeth doesn’t speak fluently, and I’m hoping to make up for slacking by including it in our daily studies.  It makes me extremely glad, and a little relieved, thus, that I am homeschooling, so that I can make sure that fluency is fulfilled.

All Bilingual Press materials

All Bilingual Press materials

Anyway, I’ve made my way through the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum, and have read the Español Para Los Chiquitos materials. Now, I am making my way through the Spanish CD’s, which is clearing up some questions I had about the program, and jotting down some notes in the parent-teacher guide on that. I am also going carefully through the materials kit that accompanies the English curriculum to make sure that nothing is lacking.  I realize that I am going through the same things over and over, yet I feel like the way in which I’m doing this will also leave me well acquainted with the materials, and I will be comfortable with them when autumn arrives and we begin our classes.

Once I have finished combing through the materials, my next step will be collecting extraneous materials that the curriculums suggest, like blank paper and markers and what-not.  I will also finish noting in the MBTP parent manual things that I could easily do bilingually, as well as reminders on things I’m sure I’ll forget.  I’m glad I got the curriculum so early so that I can get t know it intimately and feel prepared when our classes begin.

Blue Doggie checking out some books

Blue Doggie checking out some books

I would welcome my readers to share their thoughts on things that have helped them in their homeschooling, bilingual child-rearing, or life in general.  Have a great day!