Wednesday, 9 July 2014

June 2014: Socialisation and other things.

Monday 23rd June - Sunday 6th July, 2014


Catching up on the last fortnight… One week was incredibly busy, with play-dates, events and social activities every single day, and the following week was quieter, spent pottering around home and in the garden. A relaxing counterpart to the busy week before. 

I have been thinking about socialisation quite a bit of late, and reflecting on our progress this year. Socialisation and the development of interpersonal skills is certainly a topic that comes up often in the homeschooling world. I find it very interesting, particularly seeing as one of the main reasons we decided to begin this path, was that Mr 5 wasn’t ready for the intense social world of full time Prep this year. Socialisation seems to be one of the first thing people will ask about when we tell them we are homeschooling.

I believe home-schooled children (who are given plenty of opportunity to engage with others outside the home) don’t actually miss out. In fact, I would argue that at this age, the quality of their socialisation is richer when they are living in the ‘real’ world. We meet and talk to people from all walks of life and in many different situations - the local grocer, butcher, the friendly post office ladies, children at the playground or park, the elderly, mothers with young children, people we meet whenever, and wherever. 

We attend playgroups, community activities, and various homeschooling groups of mixed age. We are still involved in the local Steiner school community and attend school festivals and events. We regularly meet both friends who are schooled, and friends who are home schooled for play-dates.



And I’ve noticed that play-dates with our homeschooling friends, usually involve entire day, free unstructured play, something that cannot happen in the school environment, where true free-play and unstructured socialisation is only able to occur in short snippets during recess and lunch. I also value that the homeschool environment allows the inclusion in a mixed age group, rather than an age cohort. It’s so lovely to see the older children gently playing peekaboo with little ones, or playing vibrant, imaginative games with children from a wide range of ages.

In the future, when the children are more focused on academic learning, the opportunity to do group work/projects is something we have discussed with other homeschooling parents. We plan to bring small groups of homeschooling children together to learn in a group dynamic, with instruction/learning facilitation provided by different adults. We are looking at what skills we have and how we could be involved in our children’s learning experiences, and there are some wonderfully diverse skills among the homeschooling parents!

I’d also like our family to start being involved in volunteer work in our local community. We have lived in the Huon Valley for a couple of years now, so it’s definitely time to embrace our community more!  

So, I don’t believe my children miss out socially at all. In fact on reflection, I am so pleased we didn’t push Mr 5 into early socialisation before he was ready. At the time, I felt a sense of pressure to push him into it and I’ll even admit to feeling frustrated at times that, coming from two pretty sociable parents, he seemed so reserved and so shy, but he is not me. He is his own, delightful and unique person and whilst he may always be more reserved than I am, that really is ok! There are so many wonderful things about him that make him special and interesting, and funny enough, by allowing him to be ready in his own time while supporting and encouraging him, he has really grown into himself and become much more confident. These days he is a friendly, fun, chatty, kind, and very social 5 year old, who has lost almost all of that early clinginess and super-shyness. It’s very gratifying to see that happen. We know without a doubt that we made the right decision to homeschool.

These days, Mr 5 may well be able to cope just fine in the Prep classroom full-time, 5 days a week, but right now we are loving this homeschooling lifestyle - the freedom, the flexibility, the family bond, the community we are part of, and the blessed life we are living. Homeschooling isn’t always the easiest choice. It’s often tough in the trenches with young children and few breaks, but I wouldn’t change it for anything! And while his social, emotional, physical and educational needs are being met and we are all thriving, we see no reason not to continue.



{ Celebrations & Special Events }

We spent Monday 23rd of June with homeschooling friends, celebrating our dear little friend’s 1st birthday <3 The children played and played and played, and the littlest ones catnapped when and where they could. Cake was devoured, presents unwrapped and the house was trashed, obviously :D

This group of children play so well together. It’s so lovely to see some wonderful friendships developing with other home learning families and I think it’s really important for the children themselves to develop strong friendships and experience normality around home education.




~

On Sunday 29th June, we met with friends and went to the Miniature Doll Fair together. The children were all enthralled, and I have to say us bigger folk were rather taken by it too. The detail and intricacies of the models were simply amazing. We are all rather excited about starting some group and solo projects of our own, perhaps later in the year when we have researched a bit more and learned a few techniques.







{ Language, Literature, & Literacy }


Picture Books in Winter

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Summer fading, winter comes -
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,

Window robins, winter rooks,

And the picture story-books.

Water now is turned to stone

Nurse and I can walk upon;

Still we find the flowing brooks

In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,

Wait upon the children's eye,

Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,

In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are

Seas and cities, near and far,

And the flying fairies' looks,

In the picture story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,

Happy chimney-corner days,

Sitting safe in nursery nooks,

Reading picture story-books?


Here are some of the boys current favourite picture books:

'Winter Story’ by Jill Barklem
'The Story of the Wind Children’ by Sibylle von Olfers
‘Stick Man’ by Julia Donaldson
‘Winter’ by Gerda Muller
I am reading… ‘Painting & Drawing in Waldorf Schools’ by Thomas Wildgruber


~

We are learning our Winter Circle Time songs, verses and finger plays, as we wind our way into the ‘real’ half of Winter. Still not much sign of snow yet in Tasmania, which isn’t uncommon. Our Winter snows really start towards the end of July and well into August and September, so I am saving our ‘snowy’ rhymes for then. 

Now Winter Begins (Fingerplay, Adapted)
by Jean Warren

Into their hives the busy bees crawl.

Into the ant hills, go ants one and all.
Caterpillars too, have hidden their heads,
Safely spun in their snug little beds.

The possums have all climbed to their holes in the trees.
The bird nests are empty, no chicks can we see.
The leaves have all blown away on the wind
Announcing to all – Now winter begins!

Fires are built in the hearths of homes.
Hats are knitted and coats are sewn.
Harsh winds blow all through the night.
Lights all flicker, what a sight!

Everyone waits for the first sight of snow,
Then down it comes, soft and slow.
The world is quiet, the world is white
Winter is here, a beautiful sight!



~

I have been researching and reading more about Form Drawing this fortnight. I’ve found a few good online resources with examples < here > and < here >, and I’m currently in the process of writing a Form Drawing story to accompany the forms for Mr 5. I’m really looking forward to introducing these when he is ready. For now, we continue with drawing and illustrating stories.





We’ve also started journalling some of our outings and excursions in our main lesson book, Mr 5 relating the events of the day while I act as scribe. Below is a journal of our day at the Miniature Doll Fair, along with the little cradle we assembled together. 



Literacy in the kitchen! 


{ Numeracy & Mathematic Concepts }




During the week, I came across a quote I quite liked from scientist, philosopher and childhood education theorist David Hawkins, “Now while mathematics is inescapably tied up with written symbols and in some ways, indeed, incorporates them into its very essence, it is also true that the symbols are nothing without the perceptual and manipulatory intuitions which bring them life and meaning. The experiential roots evolve as a product of children’s exploration of their environment and, by reflection, of their own emerging practical competencies.” 

Mathematic concepts in the Prep year of Steiner education are integrated into play and activities, rather than taught as a specific curriculum subject. In this sense, the concepts are brought to children in a meaningful way.

{ Numbers }

Counting and number exploration are part of day to day life activities. During circle time, we may recite counting rhymes or games. We use the abacus, counting stones or even buttons to bring a hands-on practical experience to abstract concepts. We play board games, skip rope and hopscotch, and of course, so many number integration learning experiences happen in free-play - dividing objects, counting them, subtracting, sorting, sequencing, ordering and making/finding patterns.




{ Measurement & Geometry }

Spatial awareness is developed by practising movement and balance. This is something we really encourage with Mr 5. It is quite fascinating as a parent to notice the similarities and difference in your own children. Mr 5 and Mr 4 are totally different in their sense of physicality, movement and balance. Both boys spend a good deal of time outdoors each day, swinging on the rope swing, climbing the rope ladder, balancing and climbing.



Awareness and experience of geometric forms happens through free-play, as well as through handwork such as beeswax modelling  or clay work which allows Mr 5 to manipulate 3 dimensional forms with his own hands. 3 Dimensional forms are also explored while making cubbies or when building with blocks. We have also begun Form Drawing exercises which are a very basic introduction to both literacy and to geometric forms.  

Mr 5 has access to a number of resources which he uses in free-play, but which form the basis for further mathematic learning when he is older: Cuisenaire rods, geometric blocks of various size and shape, 3D forms for play, parquetry tiles (which include squares, right-angles isosceles triangles, obtuse isosceles triangles, circles, equilateral triangles and right angles scalene triangles) etc.

Measurement of length, volume and weight of solid and liquid substances are explored in a variety of play experiences, as well as when in baking and cooking in the kitchen. Water play in the bath or outside in warmer weather, is a chance to explore these ideas further as well as learning basic concepts of physics - measuring and comparing capacity of water containers, bottles, tubing and funnels.


“…water and sand, clay and blocks…in the majority of schools such materials have been cast out as unrelated to ‘pre-reading, prewriting, and pre-arithmetic.’ In our work, we have quite consciously and truthfully emphasized the value of play with such materials as encouraging the roots of early science and mathematics. Balance and flow, size and scale, number and form are all there to be enjoyed, wondered about, and put in place.” 
David Hawkins

{ Pre-Statistics & Probability }

What will happen when I..? 
Children observe and predict what will happen during certain experiences of play. Balancing blocks is a good example, and learning to adjust and balance the blocks children can observe the outcome change.


{ Artwork & Handwork }

New handwork baskets for each child encouraging them to pick up projects.


Assembling Mr 5’s miniature cradle together





Mr 4’s oh so cute “turtle"
My doodling... 
My handwork...


{ In The Kitchen }


In the kitchen this week, we have baked scones, cookies, gingerbread and jellies. We’ve made cultured cream, kefir smoothies and resurrected the water kefir grains from the freezer. Both boys have helped with evening meal preparation most nights, cutting and grating vegetables. 




Mr 5 has started making his own scrambled eggs for breakfast again, taking great pride in the work. We picked up an old fashioned hand beater at a second hand shop this week, which means that scrambled eggs are back on the breakfast menu every morning, and our faithful old Winter-resting chooks can’t keep up with the egg demand!



I even got to have a Saturday morning child-free (!) and went to a fermented foods cooking class. Inspired!


{ Science & Nature }


We have been blessed with mild, sunny days over the last few weeks, unseasonably warm for this time of year! Where is that snow? So we’ve spent a great deal of time outdoors and in the garden. 

On Wednesday 25th June, we met our friends for BushKinder, this time walking along the stunning Tinderbox Hill Track and making a bush shelter at our lunch spot. The children just loved the bark and stick bush shelter and 2 weeks later, are still talking about it. 






As the day was still lovely and the children still playing beautifully, we decided to head to the Marine Discovery Centre in Woodbridge afterwards for a few hours. As last time we visited, we had so much fun exploring the touch tanks, and this time feeing the sharks, hermit crabs and urchins. I can see we will be visiting the Marine Discovery Centre quite regularly!






Mild, sunny days have meant lots of time outdoors and in the garden this last fortnight. Lots of opportunity to explore the bush around us and to learn in nature...








“What happens beneath a tree in the orchard” by Mr 5

In the garden, we are continuing veggie bed and orchard planning, as well as expanding and preparing beds. Green manure crops have been sown and are sprouting now as New Moon approaches the First Quarter. 

The beds have had compost, alpaca manure and a variety of other lovely organic matter applied. We are continuing to build the beds lasagne style, and it is working! The soil is heavy with worms. Speaking of worms, a kind friend gave us their established worm farm as they are moving to South America. The boys are so exited to have new pets, and we have been watching You Tube videos on how to look after our wiggly worm friends.



We have begun companion planting around the bases of the newly planted fruit trees. We have tried to plant at least one member from each of the following:

1. A herb
2. A nitrogen fixer
3. A flowering plant

We have planted or transplanted a range of herbs including members of the allium family – chives and garlic (which help prevent applescab), basil, asparagus, chamomile as a tree tonic. Daffodil and nasturtium help prevent codling moth, and marigolds and pansy to attract beneficial predators. More herbs and flowering plants will go in as the weather warms in Spirng. All of the orchard beds have had a green crop sown which includes broad beans, lupins, clover and peas.



As beneficial as they are, particularly in heavy clay soil, I am a little reluctant to plant comfrey as it can be so invasive. I think we might try growing some in a pot instead of in the garden and have the wonderful leaves to harvest that way.

Speaking of heavy soil, we finally have begun to get the centre bed organised. We’ve spent a number of weekends building up the soil and transplanting the berries into their final homes. The blueberries, currants, jostaberries, goji, Chilean guava and feijoa have all been moved from their temporary spots and have settled in.



We have bad drainage across the entire garden, our soil being heavy clay, and whilst that isn’t so much of a concern for the veggies in the slightly raised beds, for the centre bed, we have decided to dig an ag drain to provide some draining for the deeper rooting fruiting shrubs and berry canes. It immediately drained quite a bit of water, so I’m hoping it will be enough!






Saturday, 5 July 2014

Winter Circle Time Collection




Here is a list of the songs, verses, rhymes and fingerplays we are singing this Winter. 

We certainly do not sing each and every one of these in our daily circle time, but pick and choose a selection depending on our mood, the weather, and our activities. 

Enjoy! 


{ Winter Circle Time }

Opening (Action Song)
Good morning to the sun up in the sky,
Good morning to the birds as they fly on by.
Good mrning to the tree so straight and tall,
Good morning to the nest where the possum rests
Good morning everyone.

* * * * * * *

Now Winter Begins (Fingerplay)
by Jean Warren

Into their hives the busy bees crawl.

Into the ant hills, go ants one and all.
Caterpillars too, have hidden their heads,
Safely spun in their snug little beds.

The possums have all climbed to their holes in the trees.
The bird nests are empty, no chicks can we see.
The leaves have all blown away on the wind
Announcing to all – Now winter begins!

Fires are built in the hearths of homes.
Hats are knitted and coats are sewn.
Harsh winds blow all through the night.
Lights all flicker, what a sight!

Everyone waits for the first sight of snow,
Then down it comes, soft and slow.
The world is quiet, the world is white
Winter is here, a beautiful sight!


* * * * * * *

Winter (Standing Action Rhyme)
The day is cloudy and the wind is bold.
Dress up warmly, you mustn't get cold! 

Put on your coat and zip it up tight, put on your left boot, put on your right. 

Put on your scarf and put on your hat, put on your mittens and clap-clap-clap! 


Go outside and play and play.
Come in again, and then we'll say- 

Take off your coat that was zipped up tight, take off your left boot, take off your right. 

Take off your scarf, take off your hat, take off your mittens, and then take a nap!

* * * * * * *

Wood Chopping (Standing Action Rhyme)
We are working, working hard!
Chopping firewood in the yard.
(Stomping feet moving around in a circle)

Hold the axe, grip it tight,
(Hold clenched hands togehter in front as if holding an axe)
Lift it up with all your might…
(lift “axe” above head)

Chopping, chopping, chop, chop, chop!
(Bring clenched hands down on each “chop”)
Merrily the pieces drop
(Clench both fists and roly-poly them round each other)


Now a bundle we shall tie
(imitate)
and put it in the shed to dry.
(imitate)

* * * * * * *

King Winter (Verse)
(from Wynstones Press "Winter” book) 

King Winter now is in the land,
he reigns with cold and freezing hand.
He makes Jack Frost touch nose and toes,
and gives our cheeks a shining glow.

* * * * * * *

Jack Frost (Verse)
Where did you get that little red nose?
Jack Frost kissed it I suppose.
He kissed it once.
He kissed it twice.
Poor little nose it's as cold as ice!

* * * * * * *

The North Wind (Poem, Adapted)
(By Alfred S. Gatty)

When the Winter Wind whistles and blows,
Cherry red is brother's nose,
Very cold are sister's toes,
When the Winter Wind's blowing,
When the Winter Wind's blowing.

Logs upon the fire we'll throw,
For, as everybody must know,
We will have a fall of snow,
When the Winter Wind's blowing,
When the Winter Wind's blowing.

* * * * * * *

The North Wind Doth Blow (Traditional Song, Adapted)

The Winter Wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
And what will the robin do then, poor thing
He'll sit in the barn
And keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing, poor thing

The Winter Wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
And what will the swallow do then, poor thing
Oh did you not know
He's gone long ago
To a country much warmer than ours

* * * * * * * *

(Fingerplay)
Cross path, draw the latch
(crossing one arm over the other)

Sit by the fire and spin
(left hand and arm spin, right thumb and point finger feeds the wool, right foot pedals)


Take a cup and drink it up
(left palm up, take cup with right hand)

Invite your neighbors in.

* * * * * * *

Candle (Verse)
A candle's but a simple thing,
it starts with just a bit of string,
But dipped or rolled with patient hand,
it gathers wax upon the strand.

Until complete and snowy white,
it gives at last a lovely light.
Life seems so like that bit of string,
each deed we do a simple thing.

Yet day by day on life's strand,
we work with patient heart and hand.
It gathers joy, makes dark days bright,
and gives at last a lovely light.

* * * * * * *

Up The Tall White Candlestick 

(Fingerplay)

Up the tall white candlestick 

(Make left arm into candlestick)


Crept little Mousey Brown

(Two fingers of fight hand run up the candlestick)
  


Right up to the top but he couldn't get down!
(Fingers wiggle at top)


So he called to his Grandma

(Call through cupped hands)


Grandma! Grandma!

But Grandma was in town


So he curled himself into a ball

(curl right hand into a fist)
And rolled himself right down

(Clench both fists and roly-poly them around each other)


* * * * * * *

Pygmy Possum (Fingerplay)
Here is a tree-hole.
(Bend fingers on one hand)
Inside is a Possum.
(Put thumb inside fingers.)
See she comes out
(Pop out thumb)
When Banksia blossoms.

She stays out all summer
In sunshine and heat.
She hunts in the bush
(Mimic picking and eating berries)
For berries to eat.

When snow starts to fall.
(fingers fluttering moving side to side)
She hurries inside
(Bend fingers of one hand)
her warm little home
And there she will hide.
(Put thumb inside fingers.)

Snow covers the ground
(Place one hand over the other.)
Like a fluffy white rug.
Inside Possum sleeps
(pretend to be sleeping)
All cozy and snug.

* * * * * * *

Closing Verse
Softly, softly, through the darkness
Snow is falling.

Meekly, meekly in the meadows
Lambs are calling.

Coldly, coldly all around me
Winds are blowing.

Brightly, brightly up above me
Stars are glowing.

* * * * * * *