Caught in a Cycle?

I’ve been reading Charlotte Mason’s School Education, and today’s reading was over Authority and Docility. Arbitrariness is often stuck in with both authority and docility. Those in authority sometimes demand those under them to do this or that, “because I said so.”  Or those who follow can also unintentionally be arbitrary followers; they do not think about what it is they are doing, they just do it. A homeschool challenge we may face is to get caught in a cycle.

What exactly is ‘arbitrary’? Googling came up with this definition: based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system; (of power or a ruling body) unrestrained and autocratic in the use of authority.

I heard “Because I said so!” a lot growing up. That was THE answer for “why?” I’ll generalize a bit here before I eventually get to the gist of my post: Homeschooling families do not arbitrarily send their kids to the public schools because society says that is what they are to do. I do not assume that those same families do it out of spite either. They think about what they are told to do, what options they have for following, and they make a choice.

Even though we homeschool we can still find ourselves caught in an arbitrary cycle.

Before we actually started homeschooling I had some fixed notions about what we’d look like as a homeschooling family. Why? Because that is what all homeschoolers did/looked like! It was simply not based on solid reasoning or fact, that’s for sure. But even if one realizes that not all homeschoolers will be the same, it can be easy to fall into ‘following the homeschool crowd’.

There are plenty of ways we end up following such a cycle. Take for instance, the somewhat recent push for STEM in education. There is arguably a good basis for why the department of education would want this to be advanced: We live with a global economy that relies on advancing technology therefore it is necessary to produce citizens who excel in these fields, to perpetuate the United States as a super power.

It doesn’t seem arbitrary, does it? But, what if doing so eliminates other subject areas that may foster a more well-rounded citizen that will be able to not only work with and advance these technologies but also have personal relationships with those they interact with? What if we as homeschoolers search out activities and education opportunities for ourselves and our family that the homeschooling community, or society in general, says are important that cause us to have less time for each other, or to sacrifice our values or beliefs?

Perhaps these scenarios do not exactly fit with ‘arbitrary’ but going along with them just because that’s what someone {or a group} says we’re supposed to do is, I think. We follow one in spite of the other. How do we get out of such a cycle?

  • We need to understand why we are doing what we are doing.

Do you have a philosophy of education? If not, it’s really a good idea to put some thought on this. I did not have one for a long time and we were blown every which way for a while because of not having that foundation to start. What is the end goal? What is the ultimate purpose?

When it comes to the sports activities, music classes/lessons, or other ‘educational’ endeavors, how will they fulfill the goal that we have set for our family?

  • Cut the things we don’t need. {No matter what someone else says*.}

Perhaps there is a group or class opening up that many are saying is THE class/lesson you need to get your kids prepared for college, but it conflicts with another activity that your family feels is imperative to fulfilling the goals you’ve set. Find a different day/time to do it, or simply don’t do it.

This includes technology, the latest-and-greatest gizmos and gadgets, and apps. Is it ‘educational’ but your kids are edgy or cranky afterward? Does it help them master math problems, but meanwhile they seem to have moved backward in their writing skills? Does it take over the school day; they want to ‘learn’ on their gadgets instead of interacting with people?

If it seems this is way too simple {evaluate why and what, cut the unnecessary}, you can break down those two steps even further to help you better determine that things are beneficially, not arbitrarily, included in the homeschool. Breaking out of the cycle doesn’t have to require a long drawn-out list of pros/cons to every single decision you make, but it is so helpful to stop and think why you feel you have to, or should, do this or that. There will be things that will be in the best interest of your family to include, but then, you’ll need to look back at the first point and evaluate accordingly. There is no cookie-cutter homeschool family. {At least I hope not.}

*I am in no way suggesting going against state requirements for home educating, or against one’s spouse. Otherwise, there is no one else that has the right to dictate what you can, should, have to, or can’t do in your homeschool.

Have you found yourself caught in a cycle? How did you break out of it?

 

North Laurel (24 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.


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Keeping the Fun Factor in Field Trips

 

Field trips should be FUN, right? Of course! But if you’re like me, sometimes the effort to squeeze every bit of educational opportunity out of a field trip also threatens to squeeze out the fun factor for the kids. It hit me years ago when my kids would say things like, “Mom, we’re supposed to be on vacation!” or “Why does everything have to be about school?” and I made some adjustments to my expectations of field trips.

Keeping the FUN Factor in Field Trips

If you need to refocus on the fun in your field trips, try some of these ideas:

  • Do you really need the worksheet or checklist? Or do you need to do it while you’re at the zoo or museum? Personally, I don’t even like juggling the notebook or the brochures while we’re on-site. I don’t want to miss seeing something because I’m looking at a handout to try and check something off the list. If you or your kids feel the same way, leave the papers for later. Chances are good that you can take everything in and remember it well enough to fill out a worksheet or make a journal entry later.
  • Plan ahead and review afterwards. Obviously you want to look at the brochures and the maps and know what you’ll be seeing so that you don’t miss out! Often that info is available on a website so you can check it out ahead of time. If there are brochures and maps that you pick up at your field trip location, skim through them quickly for anything new that you need to know and then stuff them in a purse, pocket or backpack to look at in more detail when you get home. Those will help jog your memories as you write those journal entries too.
  • Pick your educational activities wisely. So many museums, national parks, zoos, historical sites, and other destinations have a “For Teachers” type section on their website that there is an abundance of curriculum tie-ins to choose from. If you have the time to plan ahead, do look through those resources, but choose only what ties in well for what you are studying or is appropriate for your family. Remember, many of those teacher resources are intended for class trips and to accommodate public school curriculum standards, so they may not be relevant to your homeschool. Don’t overthink it and try too hard to make it work.
  • See it today – study it later. This works best when you’re on vacation or summer break. It’s tempting to want to use all the educational value of EPCOT, for example, but if you turn your once-in-a-lifetime family vacation to Disney World into one long science and geography lesson, you might regret it. Take pictures, have fun, and follow the kids’ lead. If they want to discuss it on the spot, go ahead, but let them start the conversation. Then next year when you are studying marine biology or American history, you can say “Remember when we went to SeaWorld and saw the killer whales? Remember when we were in Philadelphia and saw the Liberty Bell?” and you will be able to relate their exciting vacation experience to their schoolwork.
The whole point of a field trip is to have a hands-on experience, so give yourself every opportunity to see, hear, and touch as much as possible. Allowing it to be fun and exciting will make it more memorable, and will encourage interest and engagement. Keep it fun!!

 

 

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Kym (7 Posts)

Kym is in the middle of her 17th year of homeschooling her four kids, two of whom have graduated. She and her husband of 27 years are Canadians transplanted to Maryland. Kym loves coffee, history, and homeschooling, and you can join her for coffee break at her blog, Homeschool Coffee Break.


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DIY Totally Safe Art Supplies for Toddlers (and their older siblings)

Guest Post by Lisa of School at Home Mom.

As a mom of an active 21-month old, I am always looking for new ways to excite his curiosity and sustain his focus. Early childhood learning is so much about hands-on experiences and exploration, and art activities are a perfect way to delight a child’s senses.

Up until about last week, though, my little artist was still putting everything into his mouth – or coating his hands with everything and then putting them into his mouth!

So, I decided to hold off on splurging on art supplies and make my own food-based materials. This way, he could explore freely, and I wouldn’t have to constantly be on “DON’T EAT THAT!” patrol.

Most of our DIY supplies use only a handful of ingredients that can be stored at room temperature in a kitchen. Just about everything we use is something we’d want to keep around for baking or cooking anyway, and can be found in every grocery store. What could be easier?

DIY Totally safe art supplies for toddlers: homemade play dough and finger paints

Benefits of DIY (besides saving money!)

My son loves to make his own art supplies. He runs to the cabinet where we keep our projects stocked and opens it up, declaring, “Paint! Paint!” and eagerly gets his smock on so that he can help me mix the ingredients.

Some of the skills we can work on while creating and using the art supplies:

  • Cause and effect
  • Colors and color mixing
  • Opposites (wet/dry, big/little, open/shut, soft/hard, slow/fast, etc.)
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Hand & finger strength

If you have more than one child, these DIY projects are perfect! The older children can help to prepare the supplies in a more scientific way, observing how changing the quantities or process changes the outcome. The playdoh project uses more precise quantities, and would be perfect for an older child learning about customary units of measurement and fractions.

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

DIY finger paint

Ingredients:

  • Small amount of water
  • Baby cereal
  • Kool Aid or food coloring

Procedure: Mix the dry baby cereal with water to desired consistency, then mix in the coloring.

 

My son's masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

My son’s masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

Fun with painting!

Fun with painting!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

My son was never a fan of baby cereal, so we ended up with a whole open container of it that we didn’t want to throw away but couldn’t donate. Using it up as thickener for finger paint was the perfect solution!

Note: we do not drink Kool Aid, but we do keep packets stocked for use in projects. I order them in bulk on Amazon so that we can get a variety of colors, and they’re widely available in grocery stores too.

Kool-Aid (or anything else with food coloring) will stain hands and whatever else it gets on, so an old shirt or smock would be great. My son gave himself a red belly button from one of his early painting sessions before we invested in a smock! Personally, I don’t mind – I abide by the saying “If he got dirty, he had fun today!”

For kids who don't like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

For kids who don’t like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn't have to worry about contaminating the brush!

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn’t have to worry about contaminating the brush!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn't resist touching it!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn’t resist touching it!

My son actually hates the feel of finger paint, or anything else that is the least bit goopy or sticky. After he made it clear that he was not going to be touching the paint directly, I taped a sheet of plastic cling over the goop. Then he loved it! Later, I gave him a basting brush, and he got into moving the thick finger paint around with that.

Once he got the hang of the brush, I decided to move on to regular paint. My 2 ingredient recipe for that is next!

DIY paint

Ingredients

  • Water
  • Kool Aid packet

That’s it! Mix & enjoy.

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The finished product!

The finished product!

After my son had an epic painting session involving like 8 packets of Kool-Aid, we ran out! So we substituted regular food coloring instead. He loved watching the drops of coloring diffuse out into the water. It turned into a bit of a science experiment!

Other paint making ideas:

  • Using water mixed with spices and flavorings
  • Using water with food coloring & salt, for a glittery effect

Another variation: sprinkle the Kool Aid on the paper first and then paint with water – your child will be able to see the powder mixing in a bit at a time. My toddler was mesmerized!

If you homeschool multiple kids: Your older children will enjoy writing secret messages in white crayon and then painting over it to reveal the hidden words! Or, how about a secret “math code” using number sentences or patterns?

Speaking of practicing math and reading, I’m a big fan of using manipulatives and hands on materials to make abstract concepts more concrete. This next project will provide a sensory experience for little ones, while your older child can use it to make numbers and letters, or even cut it up to model fractions!

DIY Playdoh

There are plenty of recipes for playdoh, but many of them use salt – which doesn’t work for my son’s eczema-prone skin. Here’s one that was gentler for him, and still used food-grade ingredients.

Because this recipe uses heat, you won’t want to prepare this one with your toddler’s help. Once it cools, you can enlist your child’s participation for mixing in colors.

Bonus: This recipe is gluten free, if that’s a concern for you.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Food coloring of your choice (if desired)

Mix the ingredients and cook on medium heat. Stir constantly and watch for when it begins to thicken. When it thickens enough, take it off, allow it to cool, and then mix in the colors.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh - big victory!

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh – big victory!

The texture of this playdoh is soft and a bit sticky at first (if it’s too sticky, add more cornstarch). We were able to keep it in the fridge for several weeks. We allowed it to warm up a bit before playing with it.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Lisa of schoolathomemom.comLisa has been a special education teacher for 15 years and is looking forward to wrapping up her final months of her teaching contract so that she can homeschool her young son. She is also eager to help other homeschool families who can benefit from her years of experience working with children with many different learning styles, strengths, and needs. If you are new to homeschooling, her 100 Day Countdown begins on April 21, 2015! In addition to her years in the classroom, she has also traveled to 6 continents and participated in endangered sea turtle conservation projects and archaeological digs. Lisa currently works for the Museum of Natural History developing curriculum and teaching enrichment courses and camp sessions to children ages 5-10. You can learn more at her website, http://www.schoolathomemom.com.

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