Back To It! Reflections, Paul’s Pre-K, Weeks 1 & 2

I am so excited!  I have decided to homeschool Paul for pre-k and we started last week! He is old enough that he would be entering pre-k for the 2017-2018 year, but I just don’t think he is ready to be in school all day.  … Continue reading

Blue + Yellow Doesn’t Necessarily Equal What You Think. Reflections, K Weeks 5 and 6

These past two weeks, our Moving Beyond The Page unit focused on friendship and colors, centering on Leo Leonni’s book, Little Blue and Little Yellow.  Elizabeth thoroughly enjoyed this unit, as it involved lots of color blending.  Per the curriculum, … Continue reading

A Week in the Country. Reflections, Week 43

I’m over taking naps in the afternoons; actually, I forgot to mention in my last post that I had been getting migraine/stress headaches too, which was the main reason I was napping – when I get a migraine my only choice is sleeping it off.  But I feel a bit better this week.  I let myself be depressed, but I’m a resilient person and now I am swinging in the other direction, and I am determined!  This week I’ve been collecting important paperwork I to fill out, moving forward with starting my own housekeeping business (there’s actually a pretty good amount of money in it, particularly for the area I live in), and putting out some applications.

As well, Elizabeth are I were back to school.  We started our unit last Thursday and are reading A Night in the Country, by Cynthia Rylant.  I think Cynthia Rylant is one of my favorite children’s book authors.  Her books include the Henry and Mudge series, as well as one called The Wonderful Happens, and another about cat heaven that we read at the vet soon after my cat that had lived here with us for a while before going back to live with my Mom was put to sleep.  Her books are so calm and gentle, I just absolutely love them all and keep looking for them whenever we go to the library.

Night in the Country is no different, and in it she describes some of the behaviors and sounds of night animals and things that are about if one were to be awake during the night somewhere in the country.  I really enjoy my modifications for this unit, which include discussing and listening to some of the noises of night animals and what happens to things at night, such as plants and kids growing.  We also made a dot graph of the change in night length across the seasons, and took a ‘listening walk’ one evening after Brother went to bed (unfortunately it was kind of chilly and none of the crickets or frogs were trilling, but we did see a cottontail).  We have also done some day- and nighttime-focused art as well.

Actually, as I look back over what we’ve done, it appears as though most of the activities this unit are modifications I have made.  I added in discussing why we need darkness, and we are growing some mung bean sprouts in a paper bag to demonstrate how plants need darkness.

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Mung bean sprouts (we will eat them in a few days!)

As we are focusing on what plants do at night, I decided to focus on sleep as well, and wrote out a “How does it feel to sleep” meditation.  Elizabeth enjoys my Denis Austin yoga VHS tape that I have had since I was in the 8th grade.  Her favorite part is the guided meditation at the end with the nature sounds behind Ms. Austin’s voice, so I decided to write up my own in the same style.  I think she enjoyed it.

Discussing country living should also involve touching on city living, so today we stopped at the library and got out a bunch of supplemental books on farming and life in rural communities, as well as some fictional stories about life in a city.  A few of my choices were Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña to illustrate life in a city, and Community Helpers: Farmers by Cari Meister to continue on the country theme.

Lastly, no unit study about the country would be complete without a trip to the farm, so we made one!  Chepe said the kittens were old enough to be held, so Elizabeth rode over with him when he left for work in the morning on Tuesday, and Paul and I went over a little later.  We got to see the kittens and calves, as well as watch the cows getting milked.  Luckily, another co-worker of Chepe’s had his 4-year-old daughter there with him that day, so she and Elizabeth got to play together all morning.

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One of the kittens

 

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The only black this calf had on it was this one spot and on the tips of it’s ears, and looks like maybe some on it’s lips. It was so cute!

So, when one lives in the country, it’s not hard to observe things that happen in the country, but teaching a 5-year-old that observation is important is necessary.  I have read that young children are very observant, because their life is in the here and now, as in they are present most, if not all, of the time.  But if the adults in their lives dismiss their special observations, by the time they are nearing ten, their attention to the details of life surrounding them significantly reduces.  I am trying my hardest to keep that keen observation alive for as long as possible in my amazing little girl.  I am reminded of that meme that was being passed around on Facebook too:  that most kids can identify more logos and brand names of products than trees and plants and animals.  Not my kid, she’s a nature wiz.

Share your thoughts:  What are some interesting ways you have studied life in the country?

 

B is for Blueberries, Bears and Books. Reflections, Week 38

We have been all things B this week!  Our book for the unit we finished up on Friday was Blueberries for Sal, which we have in English and in Spanish, and is a whimsical story of a little girl and her mom picking blueberries on Blueberry Hill and a little bear and his mom eating blueberries on Blueberry Hill, who happen to end up with each other’s parents.  It has been one of Elizabeth’s favorites, I think for a couple of reasons: 1 – It involves blueberries, 2 – It has a funny twist, 3 – It involves blueberries, and 4 – It has a funny twist.  With those things in mind, I planned out this unit most things blueberries, many things bears, some twisting, and some nature in our own backyard.  What I didn’t plan was that all things would end up with the letter B.

To kick off it off, we began with some books about bears, such as the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia (which is awesome I might add, even if a little mature for a 5-year-old), and Animal World: The Bear, which is a good general book about black bears.  So, we read bears, drew bears, oh but didn’t end up play acting bears, oh well.

Then, we moved onto blueberries.  We ate blueberries, read about them, looked at photos of the three different kinds, discussed where they originated and where they are grown today and looked at the map to try to visualize it.  Then, we went down to our own garden and checked out what our blueberry bushes were doing – not too much yet, though the buds are swelling up and getting ready to open next month!

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What our blueberry bushes will look like in July.

After that, we came inside and did a kitchen project. The Moving Beyond The Page curriculum guide had canning blueberry jam laid out as an activity for this unit, and I can see where that thought would come from since Sal and her mom are picking blueberries to can as jam for the winter, but canning blueberry jam involves heat, as in everything is done with hot pots and hot liquid, and it just seemed to me that Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to do much more than watch.  On the other side of that, I am not very interested in canning blueberry jam, least of all from frozen blueberries.  I had intended to make the jam, I even got the frozen blueberries and the sugar but kept forgetting the pectin, but then we did another activity that I had added into my modifications, and I found that this was sufficient, if not better, because Elizabeth got to do it all herself and it involved ART…we made blueberry ink.  🙂

006I found a site on ehow.com about how to make blueberry ink, and that’s what we flew with.  I decided to paint a bear, while Elizabeth just went with painting the whole page.  We then speculated on whether the paintings would mold later, as I had tried to make blueberry ink in the 6th grade with my cousin as a school project and it had molded, so we ended up making aluminum can candle lanterns instead.  Luckily, our pictures did not get moldy, and we presented one of her paintings to my mom yesterday as a get-well gift.

Our last project for the unit was a Writing Workshop, which often involves the Superhero Notebook, but this time turned into a lovely little book.  I gave Elizabeth the option to use the notebook or make a little book, and asked her if she could come up with her own story that involved a switch like the one in Blueberries For Sal.  She decided that she wanted to make a book that told the story of Blueberries For Sal.  As she is only 5, I did not mind at all, for re-telling a story shows great comprehension, and she can re-tell the story pass for pass.  So, we made a little book, with me writing out the story and drawing the pictures (which was her idea), and then she wanted me to help her color them in as well, this time being more of a friendly sharing kind of asking for help.

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Our book turned out really nicely, and I was especially impressed that on the cover she had us put that the book was by Elizabeth and Mommy, just as any other co-authored book.  After we finished this, my mother ADD (not a technical term) was kicking in, but Elizabeth really wanted to continue onto another book about a Star Raspberry Patch, which I understood was to be a twist on Blueberries For Sal, but we only got it started as her attention was waning, mine was waning, and Brother had woken up and was ready to come upstairs (usually the signal of the end of our school day).  So, The Star Raspberry Patch is waiting in the closet for Monday now.

The last thing about this unit focusing on the letter B has been that the letter B has actually come up every day in our regular life.  Every single day, Elizabeth has thought about the words that she is speaking and hears and says, “That started with a letter B.”  Over the course of this unit, she noted that her Brother had a Birthday party with many Balloons, we ate BlueBerries and read about Bears, and we wrote a Book.  But everyday, she’d say to me, “I have another word that starts with B…” and then tell me whatever it was.  I can see and hear that she is on the cusp of starting to read, which is so exciting, I love this job!

Share your thoughts: What are some fun immersion projects you have done?

A Healing Curriculum. Reflections, Week 37

Last week I wrote about the uncertainly of the possibility of being able to continue homeschooling because my marriage is falling apart at every single junction, both big and small.  I also said that I had all ready purchased the books for next year that are recommended in the Global Village School curriculum guide, which is actually titled the Whole Child, Healthy Planet Curriculum Guide.  This week, I have been reading them and beginning to draw up preliminary unit plans as that is what I am most familiar and comfortable with.

071As I look more closely at the suggested books all I can think is one word: healing.  If Chepe and I can not make things work out, if I can’t take it any longer, these books will be an incredible stepping stone for opening doors to discuss feelings and to hopefully help my daughter deal with a separation or divorce.  The English literature selections are also labeled as “Whole Child” selections, and discuss things much more profound than musk oxen scribbling out the ABC’s in an alphabet book to selfishly cover them up with things about themselves (which is the basis of the first book we used in the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum, A is for Musk Ox), but rather topics of compassion, morals, getting along, affirmations, and learning to apologize for the right reasons.  I think that the selections will open the doors for discussions on how to deal with the confusion of separation/divorce and will help us to have those conversations about the fact that she’s not to blame and is allowed to feel sad/angry/confused.  If things somehow turn around, then all the better, and the books will still stand for conversations about feelings, affirmations and morals.

But though they are children’s books, I think that they will be healing for myself as well.  Whether or not we will be able to continue homeschooling, I will read them to my children, I’ve all ready bought them – why not?  I love children’s books as well.  I’ve considered aspiring to write one, but no lightning-bolt idea has hit me yet, so I haven’t done it; perhaps my marriage will present my niche.  At any rate, the tenderness of the books, topics that present a launch-pad for exploring my own feelings, and time spent with my child reading them may help me to heal and to move forward.  If my marriage works out, perhaps they will present a spot for my husband to begin healing his own deep wounds, as well as a way to open dialogue between us about feelings that have been shoved down into the depths and avoided at all costs.  And whether we are able to save our struggling marriage or not, hopefully these simple children’s books will also present me with a starting spot for healing the hurts that I have suffered as well.

The Path Laid Before Me. Reflections, Week 36

I have been getting lots and lots of packages this week – it’s so exciting!  Everyday, a new book arrives in the mail.  I love books, especially ones that come by mail!  Not all of them are new, actually most of them are used, but that makes no difference, in reality it increases the joy because I’m a tree-hugger and love to believe that I am reducing my impact on our planet.  All the excitement is due to the fact that last week, I took the plunge and ordered the books I will need for school next year.

At this point, we are 36 weeks into our homeschool year.  A normal public school year consists of 40 weeks, not including breaks, and we have almost hit that.  Even so, we are just past the half-way point in our curriculum materials.  Funnily, it’s a 30-unit curriculum composed of week-long units.  We are currently using Moving Beyond The Page, and at first, I tried to follow the curriculum guide to fit a week-long unit into a week, but after receiving some intense opposition from my 4-year-old student, I made some changes and moved instead to doing about one activity a day, perhaps two.  Now that she is 5 and a little more experienced in our school routine, Elizabeth is probably mature enough to be able to do a day’s worth of activities as the curriculum guide has it laid out, but after 9 or ten units when I hit one that I wasn’t terribly excited about, I began my own modifications and with them a unit still lasts about 7-10 days.

For Christmas, I requested the Global Village School kindergarten parent guide from my mom.  I really like the Moving Beyond The Page activities and organization, but kept returning to the Global Village webpage and loved their emphasis on peace, diversity and eco-integrity.  After reading the curriculum guide over a number of times, I ordered some of the suggested parent materials.  Their guide is structured much differently from Moving Beyond The Page, it is much more flexible and does not lay out any lesson plans, but suggests a number of resources to get started with to draw up your own.  Part of me really liked this, and part of me is still a little scared and anxious at the idea of doing it all on my own.  I really like that Global Village doesn’t just hand you a list of things to do, but suggests the parent resources to help you to become the best teacher that you can for your child, and fills your tool box chock full of tools – way more than you will ever need if you purchase all of the books, yet they all are wonderful and have much to offer.

As I had all ready purchased some of the parent materials and love the Global Village guide, I decided that that was what I was going to go with next year.  Maybe I will decide to return to Moving Beyond The Page, maybe I will stay with neither, that is ok.  But then some very, very bad problems came to light between my husband and I and I wondered if we would still be together by the end of the year/summer/spring.  I really love homeschooling, and wondered why it had been laid on my path if only to be taken away again so fast if I were to suddenly become divorced and have to support myself and my children, for what is the probability of being able to continue homeschooling then?  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to put the proper time and energy into organizing my own lesson plans if I did try to homeschool as a single parent and went with Global Village for next year, but I believe that I could squeeze Moving Beyond The Page into our lives as it is all ready all laid out and the materials come super organized.

I remained undecided, there was really no rush to purchase yet, as well, my future was in limbo.  But then, things with Chepe seemed to pan out a little and I thought that things would work.  I leaned back towards Global Village School, and feeling like we were going to make it work, at least for another couple of years, I asked him if he minded that I order the rest of the books for the curriculum because I need to read them and draw up my plans.  With Chepe agreed, I set to ordering books off of Amazon.  I had originally considered just borrowing the children’s books from the library, but then realized that I need to read them and have them before me to make the plans, and since we got a great tax return back, I decided to just purchase them, mostly used.

So this week, everyday a new package is laid before the garage or stuffed into the mailbox.  It is a lot of fun to be gathering the materials together.  For a moment before and after I ordered them, I was trying to draw up some plans and just felt like I had no idea what I’m doing, even though I have been modifying the MBTP lesson plans with additional focuses such as those suggested by Global Village, like specifically on character and values, peace and diversity, and service learning and active citizenship.  But now that I have the books before me, the last few times I have sat down to consider them, it seems to be coming together more easily for me, and my page is full of ideas.

I don’t know where Chepe and I are, we hit the lowest point we’ve ever had in our marriage on Tuesday.  We have a lot of work to do and there are things out of the control of my hands right now that we will wait and see on.  As I had all ready ordered the books to use Global Village next year, again I wondered about this path of homeschooling that had been exposed before me but that seemed to be being ripped away, yet tried to put faith in the fact that it had been laid before me.  I had all ready purchased the materials, so perhaps no matter what happens, it will be meant to be; somehow I will pull it off.

Deep Conversations. Reflections, Week 32.

Wracking my brain, trying to think of something prominent about this past week, I kept coming up short, it seemed like all Elizabeth and I did was talk.  I mean, we did do school work, and it was fun, but our in-depth conversations are what really stick out in my mind.  It seemed especially prominent to me one night at dinner in which Chepe and I hardly said a word together, but for the life of me, I swear, Elizabeth did not shut up the entire half an hour we sat at the table; which is great – it’s great that she feels comfortable enough to speak and to ask questions and to give directions and tell stories and be as creative as she wishes – just sometimes it’s hard to get a word in edge-wise.  🙂  As Chepe and I continue with our marital problems and really need to be communicating, it just makes me laugh a little that after spending all day with Elizabeth answering her questions and listening to her ramblings, that at the dinner table, it continues to be her and I conversing rather than him and I.

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The first conversation that sticks out in my mind was an “Oops, I didn’t explain that correctly” conversation.  It starts with our February Holidays unit, in which the week we came back from our break we delved back into checking out President’s Day/presidents and Black History Month.  For Black History Month, we read about Booker T. Washington and watched a video link through Moving Beyond The Page about Martin Luther King, Jr.  The Martin Luther King, Jr. video was full of vocabulary that was most definitely unfamiliar to Elizabeth: about segregation, inequality and injustice; she didn’t even have a good grasp on what slaves were.  I tried to explain about the history of slavery and segregation here in the US, in addition to Martin Luther King, Jr., I also focused on Rosa Parks and blacks having to sit in the backs of buses.  I wasn’t sure how much of it Elizabeth took in, but after a few minutes, felt that I had run out of examples for explanation, and we moved onto something else.

But, apparently my explanation was a little off course, because we were reading Cool Down and Work Through Anger by Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed. before bed one night this week, in which one situation in the book is that a boy is told he can’t play cars with some other kids, and the child who tells him “no” is black.  Well, Elizabeth pointed to the black girl and said, “That’s wrong, she can’t play, she has to sit at the back of the bus.”  Oooooops!  I quickly explained again that that was in the past; though I think that the past is a little bit of an abstract idea to grasp for a 5-year-old who lives very much in the present.  But, it has come up again since this incident, and she seems to get it now.

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Elizabeth has also been really interested in music of late, and every morning after she gets up (and we are still in bed for another hour or so), she gets down the iPod and listens to music.  Most of what is on it is appropriate for her, though not necessarily children’s music.  We have also been continuing to enjoy the Red Grammer children’s CD I purchased off Amazon, Teaching Peace.  After I first got it, she asked for the Disney Frozen CD instead, but I loved the album so much that I kept putting it in (and I sometimes listen to it all by myself), and now she knows the words.  She has obviously been putting effort into listening and learning what the songs say, and often asks about the lyrics.

In one particular song, Mr. Grammar is singing that he is one wing while a woman singer is saying that she is the other and that only together they can fly.  Elizabeth asked about the message of this particular song.  Wanting to avoid talking specifically about women and men and marriage (because I accept all walks of life that might be chosen), I preferred to instead use the example of friendship and working together.  I’m glad that I did, because not much later, she asked me about the message of a song on the iPod, an adult song (I think Rolling In the Deep by Adele, but I’m not entirely sure now), and so I was able to use the same example, except to say that the people had not worked together and so the singer was lamenting that their friendship had died.

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I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have had to homeschool Elizabeth.  I think that if I had sent her to public school, I would have assumed that some of these things would have just been taken care of there, or else I may have just been obligated into doing daily damage control of potty mouth and bad behavior learned at school, rather than actively taking the time to help develop her values and character.  As it is, organizing our lesson plans and really delving deeply into deciding what is important to me that Elizabeth learn – such as math and language arts but also peace, values and service learning – has helped me to open the door to these conversations and begin to incorporate them into our daily language.

Share your thoughts:  What are some deep conversations you’ve had with your child that you cherish?

Season For Apples. Reflections, Week 31

It is March, spring is just around the corner, the sap is beginning to run in the trees, and I saw a blue bird the other day, but we are playing with apples.  It seems very out-of-season to me, though a unit about seasons could technically be done in any season, we just happen to have a lot of apple activities to do with the one we are currently in because we are reading The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons.  It’s a good thing that I got an 8 pound bag of apples the last time I went to the store because, not only do the kids love to munch them, but we have cored and painted apples, and painted with apples this week.

The first thing that we’ve done each day is check the weather, because seasons cause you to first concentrate on the weather, and here in Upstate New York, we get wild extremes between summer and winter.  We are under three feet of snow right now, so really, the daily weather forecast wasn’t too interesting, the only thing that noticeable changed was the day of the week…  The wind velocity did too, I guess.

In addition to the weather, we’ve also done lots of apple activities.  The first one we did was a service-type project.  I came up with the idea all by myself and was so proud of me!  First we talked about the sphere-shape of an apple whole and the circle-shape when cut in half against the core (so half-way down from the stem).  Then, I dug out the insides and to copy an activity Arnold does with his apples, I had Elizabeth paint them with food-coloring.

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Scooping out the guts.

I also cut off some of the flesh in little designs, which she then painted in as well.

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These apples have (L-R): a moon, a star, and a cloud etched into them, respectively.

Lastly, I filled them up with bird seed, and set them out on or near the feeders for the local wildlife.

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Filled with Black-oil Sunflower seeds.

 

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I got two to stay wedged in the suet feeder slots, which made me happy.

I came up with the idea for this project as a service learning activity because with it, Elizabeth would be making something for our local wildlife, as a gift that is given without getting anything back in return.  The idea came to me from Arnold painting some of his apples for Halloween in the book, but I didn’t want to waste our apples completely so I kept on thinking.  I combined the fact that Elizabeth is loving experimenting with food-coloring and that she has recently been interested in birds since I participated in the 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count, and tried to come up with an artistic yet serviceable project which would bring those ideas together, and this was the result.  I’m proud of me for thinking it up because it does seem to me like a great idea to do just that, and it helps to give me confidence at the prospect of coming up with my own lesson plans with the Global Village School curriculum once we have finished with the Moving Beyond The Page materials.

Another apple-art project that we did this week combined a few activities of the curriculum, in which we listened to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and painted the seasons as we heard them in the music.  Interestingly, when I asked Elizabeth which season the particular music was for, she answered without hesitation, and correctly every time.  For this activity, I sliced an apple into four pieces and she dipped them into the paint and used them as stamps to make her painting.  I also pulled out Q-tips and toothpicks to use as painting tools rather than brushes, just for something different.

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Painting the seasons with apple slices

Before we started, we had to mix water into the tempera paint powder of the paints that had come with the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum manipulatives because our paints were nearly gone.  Elizabeth thought that this was really interesting, and believes that we ought to always purchase powdered paints from now on.  Are powdered paints of a better quality?  They seem a little funky to me, right now; I’m not sure I got them smooth enough, and that affects the final quality.

Well, it does feel odd to do apple activities in late winter (and is a little expensive), but with modern grocery stores, apples can be eaten any time, so lucky us!  As well, any season is a fine season to study them in, not just the autumn.  We have been having a good time pursing artistic past times with apples, and I suspect that we will be continuing on with our apple projects throughout next week.  Have a great one!

Share your thoughts:  What are some fun apple activities that you have done?

‘Mix It Up’ by Herve Tullet

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Photo via Amazon.com. Click to be rerouted.

Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet is a wonderfully fun book for children aged 3-7 using interactive art to learn color-blending. Written in a form of giving directions that then have results on the following page, this book encourages kids to touch, count and think, and then positively re-enforces them with praise to continue on. The first time I read this book to my daughter, she asked to read it again, even though we were done with stories for the night. The easy and leading text captures kids’ attention, and fun, interactive instructions have them doing things like shaking the book and smooshing the pages closed to see what colors are produced by their actions.  The illustrations are bright circles and shapes done in paint, making color-blending and art come to life while children learn without realizing it. The extra smudges and splattering help children feel that their own propensity for messes is acceptable. The book terminates with the author encouraging chilfpdren to now go out and try mixing it up themselves. I highly recommend this book for any child, but especially for those interested in color blending and creative crafts.

I received no compensation for this review, I just really liked the book.

Lessons With Technology. Reflections, Week 14

There’s something about this time of the year that calls me to the couch in front of the tv. I find myself also putting on extra shows for Elizabeth in the morning, a movie to watch together in the evening, and iPad time in the afternoon so that I can have a moment of relative peace. This week was no different, and that iPad showed it’s face for or after every school lesson I think.  Yet, the lessons learned with it were numerous, and at this age, life-long, as weighted as that sounds.

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My pumpkin picture with the iPhone. Sorry again, this iPad takes TERRIBLE pictures!

First off, and most importantly, the iPad lessons began with trust. A few months ago, I had downloaded a few apps in Spanish and English, mostly about the ABC’s, as that is the center of our learning right now. My intention was to use them sparingly, in place of tv time, as rewards, or occasionally for school when I was unprepared or low on energy. My intention was met with anxious interest by Elizabeth, who could not wait to play them, and at first I let her have time on the iPad in addition to the tv thinking that after about a week the novelty would wear off a little, and tried to convey that next week, iPad and tv time are the same thing, she could have less shows and more game time or the other way around, but not have both. I think my words went in one ear and out the other, and what ended up happening was that she started to get up earlier and earlier, think 5:30am early, to play on the iPad before it was revoked when I got up at 7:30. If I caught her, I then reduced tv time, but it didn’t make a difference for the following day, and the same happened again. I started to lose sleep, waking up early wondering if she was up and on the iPad, and she started to become sneaky about it, taking it into her bedroom, closing the door and leaving the fan on so that we couldn’t hear the music.

When I did catch her using the iPad in the morning, I tried to convey that I didn’t think she should use it unsupervised and acted like it was a no-no, but didn’t get mad. What I wanted to convey was that I felt like she shouldn’t use it unsupervised, that it needed to be regulated. I wanted to know if I could trust her to leave it down and have her not play on it. But we were both off the point, and I was instead acting like I couldn’t trust her and so she acted the way I was expecting and playing it sneakily. Finally, I realized that I needed to be very specific and to speak to her in a validating way. Upon figuring this out, I said something like this to her, “I know that you are capable of waiting for me to get up, and I prefer that the iPad be used while Daddy or I are around, so if I leave it out where you can reach it, will you not use it?” She said yes, and has been an angel – and has pointed this out a few times.

Sometimes we parents, everybody really, get in a slump and just don’t know how to get back out of it, or we do, but it is a lot of work and takes some time. I feel like I go through cycles of being a good communicator and times in which I suck. Or maybe, I just don’t get something for a while and then I have an ah-ha moment. After having a conversation with a friend about parenting the other day, I wrote myself a message on my little dry erase board in the kitchen that says, “How can I show her I trust her?” Sometimes the roots of problems stem not from the actual behavioral problem, but something quite different. I think that the iPad games are very tempting, and Elizabeth had figured out how to get away with being allowed to play them and have her tv time without getting into much trouble. I think too that I was encouraging her to be sneaky by saying things that sounded more complainy than reinforcing or guiding. By asking her to improve her behavior in relation to the iPad in a way that indicated that I trusted her and believed that she was capable of doing it, I took the risk of having her play it while we were asleep again, but also to prove to me and herself that she was mature enough to do as I had asked, and as she had promised.

The simple lesson in this is not simple at all! Trust is a lesson that reaches deep – way down into the depths of who we are and who we will become. Trusting her in this simple promise teaches her to uphold her promise, self-confidence when she does and when I recognize when she does, helps ensure good behavior throughout the rest of her day as well as good relations with her brother for some reason. Showing Elizabeth that I trust her in just this one simple way runs a vein of tranquility through the whole house, as absurd and magnanimous as that sounds, but it is true. Showing trust to my 4-year-old now also instills self-respect, self-confidence, and a self-knowing that she will carry with her throughout her life. As a homeschooled friend of mine often says, these are the “formative years.”

***

In the exhaustion of raking a forest’s worth of leaves from our front lawn, darkness at 6pm, and two very energetic kids, I let Elizabeth have lots of iPad time this week, including for school. We finished up the Halloween unit on Wednesday, and I wanted to continue to nurture her enthusiasm for Halloween, so we painted Halloween themed pictures, and one day, I just let her watch short Halloween videos on YouTube and play the app games. One of the apps I had downloaded was Learning With Homer, which is full of games, songs, and poems about the ABC’s, among a few other things. The free version is chock full of stuff to unlock, but if purchased, includes lots, lots more, including the ability to send and receive emails. I have seriously considered purchasing it, but can’t commit to the price, which is kind of steep, especially after all ready paying for other homeschooling materials. We may purchase it as a Christmas gift, but I ask myself, “Do I want to increase the iPad temptation again?”

I purchased our curriculum in hard copy this year. I prefer books with pages. But I definitely think that technology has a place in school learning. I am daunted by the idea of teaching typing, because it was so boring when I was in school, but there’s no way around the importance of learning technology for my daughter’s generation. It is said that it is the way of the future, right? The public school in our small town has embraced learning with technology, for better or for worse, as I saw with my own eyes as a substitute teacher. 4 Mothers blog (I’ll get you a link on that when I get a computer again…) posted a while back about how kids non-passively watch tv, and I think the same is true for all technology. Their little brains don’t just tune out while they are playing a game on the iPad or watching a tv show, they are learning at the same time, and thinking about what they see, taking it in and making it part of them. I know that I dislike some of the way the tv shows that Elizabeth prefers make a non-emergency seem like the end of the world, and I dislike how that attitude translates into her real-life behavior, but the benefits of learning math and reading seem to outweigh the cons, so I continue to let her watch them. I have seen in my cousin’s little girl amazing hand-eye coordination in using the iPad, and Elizabeth more or less taught herself the ABC’s and their sounds with a little Leap Frog radio. Active learning with technological, educational toys have given our kids a whole new way of learning that my generation never had. Is it better? Is it worse? It doesn’t matter, it just is.

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Real books with real pages.

That said, I still stand by books with pages, and puzzles with wooden boards. I think that real life is not on a computer screen, even if you are in the movie making business, and that learning also must be done in real life. ABCmouse.com is tempting, but real writing is not with a computer mouse nor a finger tracing on a touchscreen, it is holding a pen in a real hand. I strongly believe too that life must be experienced. There is much difference between seeing a lion in a book or on a screen, and seeing one in real life in a zoo; as well as a big difference between seeing one in a zoo and one in the wild. Doing all of a child’s learning on a computer has drawbacks that leave the child slightly outside of real life and real learning, in my opinion, but some learning on the computer or iPad is imperative to a child’s survival in the “real world” as an adult, and we will continue to use it as a tool and supplement in our own homeschool.

Chime in: What are your thoughts on technology and learning? Do you know of a fun program for learning the basics of typing and computer use for children?