Thursday, July 28, 2005

Learning going on at our house...

thanks to promptings from a great post on Theresa's homeschooling blog, Lapazfarm Home Learning. (a link is on the sidebar) I was having fun reading from her site (as I often do) and she mentioned finding the map The Earth at Night from an old National Geographic (Nov,2004) . That find brought on some great dialogue with her children as they explored the map. Well, I began to go through a pile of some of our own old National Geographics. Don't you just love these. We get alot of our's used for a dime each at our library :) Lo and behold there was THE map. As I opened it up and began looking at it Josh turned off the NHL playstation game he had been playing, joined me on the floor and for the next 45 minutes or so we became a part of the earth at night. As Theresa said in her own post many questions were contemplated and answers mused on. Our own contemplations even included a birding one (of course Josh ALWAYS finds a way to relate his passion to anything lol)

It felt so nice just sitting on that floor together.

Thanks for a gentle nudge in that direction Theresa.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Barb's summer self-discovery journey

As part of my own summer discovery I have been reading books on education. One of these that I recently finished is Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery: A Journal of Original Seeking by David Albert. Mr. Albert is a writer and homeschooling dad himself. Really interesting reading and as you can see from the title of my posts very thought provoking. I have recently been going through my annual anxiety, uhmm I mean contemplation :) I seem to do this every year even though this will be our 8th year of homeschooling. I have to admit I am getting better about it. Within the last few years I really have been trying (and succeeding) at looking at things in a more positive light - how dynamics change and thus this journey of education changes instead of looking at it negatively in the view that things that didn't work were failures. Changes needing to be made, not failures. Much less anxiety.

My philosophy of what I envision for my children as "education" has been from the beginning the view that I want them to enjoy learning and want to instill in them skills that will enable them to become self-learners. After all that is "life". This really hasn't changed in all these 8 years. What has changed is the way in which we carry out this philosophy.

In the beginning of the book Mr. Albert states, "It is essential that children learn that fulfilling their quests for knowledge, and for mastery, requires time, energy, and effort, and that putting in the necessary time, energy, and effort can get them where they want to go." The truth of this statement has been played out before my own eyes recently with Josh and his interest in birding. He has taken full responsiblity in his quest for this knowledge. I tend to be for him (as a parent) a resource guide, helping him to find books, people etc in his quest. This area of interest is something that came about through himself. One day I happened to share with him something that I had been reading about Henry David Thoreau and his ability to feed animals (including birds) from his hand when he lived at Walden Pond. That day Josh was out trying to entice the birds and the rest as they say is history. His knowledge, ability and expertise in this area far exceeds my own. He claims this for himself. Josh has realized that how much he gets out of this is how much he gives into it. I did not have to teach him this because this was something of his own choosing. One word that I would add to time, energy, and effort would be commitment. I have seen this with Josh both when he plays hockey and also in his birding. They are both passions for him and the commitment he makes to them enhances his quest. Again something he has learned on his own with little or no "instruction" from me.

Mr. Albert discusses Carol Ryff's (a contemporary psychologist and thinker) 6 components of well-being: autonomy, personal growth, self-acceptance, life purpose, mastery, positive relatedness with others. He says that the task of humans is to "seek out that which provides for an inner sense of each of these six components and thus fulfill one's unique inner nature.THIS is the voyage of self-discovery. " (my emphasis) I have been, more and more, seeing Josh's education as the voyage of self-discovery that Ryff and Albert speak of. I am trying to lose "school" in his education. One way to do this is suggested by Mr. Albert. He says that when stuck in homeschooling routines he steps back and asks himself 3 questions: "Have I provided what is necessary so that my kids can discover the beauty in what they are learning? Have I given them opportunities in the present to use it? Do they have models in front of them to which they can aspire if they put in the necessary learning effort?" I can see in our own studies that when things have "failed" I have not done one or more of these things. They then become "school" and not a quest for knowledge. Josh resists and complains. I don't blame him. I do too when people treat me as such. Why would I expect any different just because he is a child and this is his supposed role. According to whom? I have been contemplating our roles in this process. I grew up a product of the education system and it is hard to lose that even when I do not agree with it any longer. Old habits die hard they say.

Late in the book he states "for a vast majority of people, the most important part of their education may not come from formal study at all, but from the pursuit of passions, the development of talents, the cultivation of hobbies, and the nuturing of relationships with peers possessing similar interests... requires a further acknowledgment that this cultivation requires time and will not stand to be hemmed in by curricula, whatever their quality." Think about this. As an adult when and what have you learned most from? Passions, interests etc. NOT scope and sequence. Why would/should this be any different when our children are learning things?

This last sentence is one that made me feel like standing and shouting in agreement. "...we can do the one thing we know we can do better than the schools ever can, and that is listen to them, and act upon what we hear. And we can teach them - and model for them- that the art of learning is a beautiful thing in itself, and one that they can carry with them into a fulfilling adulthood."

We'll see how/if I can apply all I am learning to our adventures :)

Josh's summer voyage of self-discovery

This summer has been one in which Josh is learning to be with himself and enjoy his own company. Our neighborhood is such that there are not alot of kids and it tends to be very isolating. Part of the reason is the heat. We have had temps of over 100 for the last few weeks or so and for the next 9 days at least our highs will range from 108-116 with lows of 82-85 at night. We tend to hibernate during these times in the AC. Alot of people I know have been mentioning feelings of being lethargic with the heat. We nod in understanding. We do get out every once in awhile and do things with others. Total isolation is NOT good for son or mom lol. So far his self-discovery voyage has included:

- many drawings of super hero characters he has created
- reading ALOT - he has re-read the last 3 Harry Potter stories in anticipation of the party for the release at midnight tomorrow at a local bookstore that we WILL be attending
- listening to mom read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in anticipation of going with the homeschooling group to see the movie next week
- watching Harry Potter movies in anticipation of the latest movie being released in November
- studying his birding books for FUN
- drawing of birds from said books
- reading various web sites and forums about birding
- going birding with whoever he can sweet talk into, his dad, his mom, friends, doesn't matter
- researching the birds expected to see at Great Basin National Park which is where we are going for vacation the second week of August - notice a theme here in the last few things :)
- playing NHL on the Playstation 2 with his big brother to celebrate the players and owners FINALLY coming to an agreement - YES there will be a 2005-2006 season!!
- filling and re-filling our hummingbird feeder and watching the Anna's hummingbird (who he has named Arnold) and the black-chinned hummingbird coming to partake of the sweet nectar along with a hooded oriole who ocassionally stops by
- going to the movies to see such new releases as Madagascar and renting movies newly released on DVD such as Tarzan II, Pacifier etc.
- watching various shows on Animal Planet, the History Channel, National Geographic channel etc because hey they're interesting and fun to watch and it doesn't matter that they are EDUCATIONAL too
- playing catch and hitting the baseball at the park with his dad
- hanging out with hockey friends at least one day a week or so, their house, our house, ice rink, doesn't matter where
- riding his BRAND NEW BIKE with front brakes and GEARS and earning those bike warrior wounds
- playing with the BRAT (oh I mean the kitten) and watching the older cat and the kitten wrestle and such just like he and HIS older brother
- and many other minutae that this mom's brain can't remember

I have at times become worried with the lack of neighborhood kids and yet I look at things such as this list and realize he is "owning" his responsiblity for "being" who he is and what interests him. He is not a social outcast as we do get together with others and enjoy those times too. Solitude and learning to enjoy one's own company are things that in this day and age are very hard for people to do and yet are vital to learning who we are as a person. Important lessons in life he and I BOTH are learning this summer.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

check out...

Theresa's great homeschholing blog, Lapazfarm Home Learning. She's got some great ideas! I have put a link on the sidebar. Enjoy. I know I am gettting some great ideas from her and having fun reading her posts.