Monday, February 22, 2016

Experience Based Unschooling

It's always interesting to me how different my children are from each other. Whereas, by age 5, Lexie and Ashlyn had fallen into a "school" routine.  I have to admit, I keep expecting Little Bit to fall into a similar routine, but so far it hasn't happened. Once in awhile I'll create a schedule for her, but she just hasn't had the natural interest in formal learning that her sisters had by much younger. 

Recently I came across this article, and thought it might be an approach that could be adapted to work well for Little Bit. Not so much because I feel like she HAS to be "doing school" yet (while I tend to grumble extensively about the many hoops we must jump through to homeschool in PA, the one positive is that we don't have to start jumping through those hoops until age 8, so she still has another year before I have to actually keep track of any "school"), but because it would give me the structure *I* need to have a variety of options available for her on a regular basis instead of her randomly asking me to do something and me scrambling to figure out if I have what we need for it. 

So, over the weekend, I set up her new school system. I had this little 4 cube shelf in the entryway and hadn't really done anything with it (not sure it will live permanently in the entryway, I'm still figuring out furniture placement in this house, but for now, it works.  The basket on top is a book basket, I included her Jesus Storybook Bible that we're currently reading once a week for her Bible anyway, some picture books the correlate with what the big girls are doing in history, and some other random picture books off our shelf that I think she'd enjoy. I also had a Jim Weiss audio that correlates with the big girls' history that I think she'll enjoy, but I have it as an mp3 on my computer, so didn't have a "book" to put in her basket for that one. So I printed off a picture of the cover and laminated it, we'll see, going forward if I decide to print off all the Jim Weiss covers as we get to them, or if I make that the generic "Jim Weiss audio" indicator. 

The other basket on top of the shelf is her reading stuff. Lexie has been working with her on reading, somewhat sporadically. She uses the McGuffy's Primer and the foam letter tiles we have in the basement and spells the letters out with the tiles for Little Bit to read. I also have a .pdf that is copywork to go with the McGuffy's Primer so in this basket is the McGuffy's Primer, the copywork to go with the lesson they're on, and the plastic container has a combination of salt and glitter that she can trace letters/words in if she wants. I ask that they do at least one lesson per week.
One bin is the "Watch" bin. I didn't put much in this bin, because honestly, she watches plenty of TV on her own. I don't mind, it's mostly educational. Wild Kratts, Martha Speaks, Magic Schoolbus . . . but because she watches it without prompting I don't feel the need to encourage it, per se. But I did put in a science video that we have, the Samantha American Girl movie (Lexie just finished reading the Samantha books to her), and, since we were planning to go to an Ice Harvesting demonstration Sunday, but didn't because of weather, I printed out a picture of them harvesting ice, and laminated it, to indicate that we can watch a YouTube video on that this week. 
Another bin is the "play" bin. This is really a way to "force" me to take time to play games with her (though if she gets her sisters or Daddy to play with her instead, that's fine too), and a way to draw her attention to some games that she's old enough for, but hasn't noticed yet. I put 2 games she hasn't played, an "old favorite" (Sorry), and a puzzle in the bin for this week.
The "Create" bin will, not doubt, be a favorite bin for her, and was one of the main things that attracted me to this idea. She LOVES doing anything arts & crafts related, but I'm really bad about taking the time to pull things together for her to do crafts. My hope is that this will "force" me to pull together all the "pieces" for several art projects each week. I want each week to include a variety of different art medium. For this week I included: Sculpt - a package of model magic, Paint - a suncatcher paint kit, fiber - the "learn to tie your shoe" thing the big girls had when they were little, the printable (make a booklet by drawing pictures) that goes along with this week's Jesus Storybook Bible story, and the other thing for this week, that I still need to pull the pieces together for, is a ladybug craft (milk carton lids, black paint, googly eyes, glue). Also, when I was looking for videos for the "Watch" bin, I was reminded that we have some See the Light DVDs that Little Bit might be ready for, so I put one of them in too. Only problem is, I'll have to hunt down the required art supplies AFTER we watch the first part of the DVD. But we'll see how it works out. 

 And finally, the "Active" bin. Again, a big part of this is to get ME to be more intentional about having activities ready for her. The plastic bag has a "toss game" that the big girls had when they were younger. I found it when I was unpacking. Another activity that goes with this week's Jesus Storybook Bible story is a version of "red light, green light" so I printed a picture of a stoplight & laminated it. I have directions saved for how to dance the Virginia Reel, and figured all 3 girls could try that out as a part of history, so I printed out a picture of people dancing the Virginia Reel and laminated it and added it to the bin. I also have a geography game where I printed out full page pictures of each continent and laminated them. The game is a poem that names all the continent and then mom calls out the names of random continents for kids to jump to. I was still working on laminating the pages when I took these pictures but it's in there now.

She doesn't have to do all the bins every day, I told her she could pick 2, and she said "is that all?" so I changed it to "at least 2". Some days she might do all the bins, some days, not so many. I'm hoping to keep at least 3 or 4 things in each bin (adding new as she uses some of them), so she always has plenty of options. If she consistently passes over something for a couple weeks I'll pull it out and assume it doesn't interest her.

And one final basket. The basket on the floor next to the shelves is our "done" basket. After we read a book or she does a craft or plays a game or . . . anything she is to put it in the "done" basket. That way I can check in the evening and know for sure what school she's done, and what bins I might need to replenish. It also means that art supplies that we'll use again (paint, etc) gets put where I can find it,  library books don't get lost, etc. It will also be useful if we continue with this approach long-term because I can use the "done" basket to keep records once she's old enough that we have to report to the state.

I used chalkboard labels on each bin, and for the baskets I stuck chalkboard labels onto colored paper and punched holes in the paper to tie the labels onto the baskets. I'm hoping to get chalkboard markers soon, which will, I think, be "brighter" and less likely to wipe off, but for now I used chalk pastels to write on the labels.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Catching Up . . .

I'm not doing well with blogging regularly, am I? We've been busy, but not doing anything too earth-shattering. Here are a few pictures from the past month or so . . . 

Don't think I ever posted pictures of the wall decals Little Bit got for Christmas. This is the wall under her loft bed, isn't it perfect? 

As some of you might remember, for Lexie and Ashlyn's 7th birthday, we went to the American Girl store in New York City and they each chose a doll and some accessories, and we had tea in the cafe.  I was starting to think we wouldn't be doing similar for Little Bit's 7th birthday. Whereas Lexie and Ashlyn enjoyed the American Girl books starting when they were 5, it was just recently that Little Bit has decided they're interesting. But, just in time for her birthday next month, she has dived head first into the world of American Girl.

So we WILL be having another American Girl 7th birthday after all. She has decided that the doll she wants is Samantha. And she wanted to get Samantha's bed since both her sisters have a bed for one of their dolls. However, while Josefina and Kit both had reasonably (for American Girl stuff) priced beds, Samantha's is much less reasonable. So, Lexie to the rescue! She has made a bed for Samantha. She made it in an afternoon out of a cardboard box! And then went through our fabric bin and button box and made a comforter for the bed over the next couple of days. Little Bit rearranged things under her loft bed in preparation for Samantha's arrival :)

While our BIG snow of the winter was the topic of my previous post, we did get a beautiful snow storm a couple weeks ago. It was truly beautiful, snowing most of the day, and turning the whole world into a powder-sugar covered landscape. As an added bonus, the temperatures were near freezing so, while we enjoyed a quiet day at home, we COULD have gone out if we'd had to.

Our rather quiet winter has led to lots of creativity from the kiddos. One afternoon as I sat in the living room a piece of yarn dropped down through a knot-hole in the ceiling (which is also the floorboards of Lexie and Little Bit's room). When all was said and done, Lexie and Little Bit had created a tin-can telephone from their room to the living room.

A week ago, Friday, Little Bit and Ashlyn noticed a stray cat in our yard. Ashlyn went out and "made friends" with it and wanted to bring it inside. While it WAS a very cold day, I assumed, especially since it was a very friendly little cat, that it lived somewhere nearby, so vetoed the idea of letting it in the house. However, the next morning when I went into the sunroom for my morning Bible time, I noticed that there were quite a few cat footprints in the dusting of snow we'd gotten overnight right outside the sliding door. It had been down near zero overnight, so not a night for a cat to be out and about :(

We headed out to church, and a busy Sabbath. It was "Jean Sabbath" when we do various community service projects in the afternoon. For the last several months Ashlyn has been asking to go pass out food and other things to the homeless downtown, but Lexie and Little Bit have wanted to help provide crafts and games at Olivet (the Big Brothers/Big Sisters center downtown). For various reasons we've ended up doing the crafts and games, so finally this month I told Ashlyn that I would take her to pass out lunches while Rodney took Lexie and Little Bit to Olivet. It was AFTER I agreed to that, that I realized the HIGH TEMPERATURE that day was going to be 15 F!! Brrrrrr . . . but we survived. People were very appreciative of the food AND coats that had been donated for us to pass out. AND because it was so cold, we didn't waste any extra time outside, so as it turned out, Ashlyn and I got to Olivet just as they were starting the crafts, so she was able to help with that too.

When we finally got home late Sabbath afternoon, the above mentioned cat came running across the yard toward us. Much as we DO NOT need another cat, I couldn't, in good conscience, leave it outside in weather THAT cold, when I knew it hadn't had a place to go the night before. So, I told Ashlyn to bring it inside until the cold snap was past. She's a pretty little thing (Ashlyn is guessing she's around 9 mo old, based on her research), and looks quite a bit like Lexie's first cat, Socks. Socks ran away several years ago, and soon after that one of the strays that came and ate on our porch at our first house in PA looked somewhat similar and was christened Socks Jr. Which makes this cat Socks the Third, or Tre.  It only took her a day to figure out the cat door and litter box, and she's very friendly with people, and amazingly tolerant of Little Bit carrying her around and generally mauling her, but she continues to growl at the other cats whenever they get close, and generally not play nice with them. So we shall see . . . once it warmed up, we put her outside and she ran off over the hill, so I thought that might be that, but at bedtime she came back. And again yesterday, she was outside, but came back at bedtime, so she seems to have claimed us as home base.

We've been having lots of fun with school during the cold winter days, so conducive to indoor activities. We're using the Jesus Storybook Bible for Little Bit's Bible this year, and doing fun hands-on activities and crafts to go along with each story. The activity for the story of crossing the red sea was to create a shaving cream "red sea" for her plastic people to walk through. I'm not sure the sea ever parted or people ever walked through, but she had GREAT fun playing with the shaving cream :)

Lexie came to me last week and said she needed a flower to dissect for science. Ummmm . . . couldn't you have planned things to do that particular experiment when, getting a flower was as simple as going outside and picking a wild flower? Of course not, that would be too easy! However, she pointed out that they had passed carnations out to all the adults at church for Valentine's Day, so I had 2 carnations in a vase on the kitchen window sill. She insisted that one of those flowers was Daddy's and HE didn't care about flowers, so she should be able to dissect HIS flower. And that is what happened. . . it's amazing how different a carnation looks once it's been dissected, isn't it? I was busy with other things when she and Little Bit dissected it, but she said it was really cool!

For supper one night last week Lexie took her first stab at making homemade, sourdough pita bread. They got abit brown, but overall turned out quite well. They tasted great with the falafel and tzatziki sauce she made for supper, and even had the pocket that pita bread is supposed to have! Definitely something she'll be doing again, YUM!

And that pretty much catches us up. As proof of how weird our weather is this winter, last Sabbath's high was 15, and yesterday's high was 60!!!