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Filled with Gratitude

 

stock-illustration-23609195-mason-jar

A new year is almost upon us. How was your 2014? Victorious? Struggle-Filled? A little of both, or more one than the other?

I admit, the last two haven’t been my best, and on many days I find myself searching for the silver lining. I rarely make New Year’s Resolutions. They always seem rather hollow to me. I mean, if you need to do something differently, why wait until one particular day of the year to decide to make a change? It always seems like the ultimate act of stalling.

I’m making an exception this year. Many of you may have seen the idea of a Gratitude Jar. If not, here is one example. If you Google “Gratitude Jar” you will find many ideas, in some cases free printables are included. The idea is simple. Write down on a slip of paper things that you are grateful for and place them in a special jar. When you get to the end of another year, pull out your “gratitude” and relive the high points. What a great reminder that even in the toughest times we are surrounded by good things, too!

I don’t think it’s necessary to write something each day. Let’s face it, some days we just don’t feel grateful, and there’s no use forcing the issue. But, how about every three days, or every week? Don’t let a week go by without counting at least one blessing.

The end of every year is also an excellent time to reflect on our homeschool journeys. I began mine a longish time ago. My oldest is 15 and has never been to school. His brother is nearly 12, and from the beginning, was difficult to “school.” Working with two completely different personalities and customizing a learning path for each has been exhilarating and exhausting…and the best years of my adult life thus far.

My oldest is almost entirely self-taught (which is different from self-directed in some respects). He still likes me to direct his learning–selecting books and curricula that I know fit his learning style, but otherwise he is in charge of mastering the material and completing his work in accordance with a pre-determined timeline.

The youngest resists schedules and timelines and curricula. He is creative, and visual, and a darn good writer for a 12-year  old. We re-evaluate each year what we want to work on and how we can approach it to make it relevant to his particular learning style.

My own personal evolution as a homeschool parent is on-going. I’m not sure I’ll ever really figure it out entirely. This got me to thinking about some of the articles I’ve written over the years for The Homeschool Post that reflect some of my better “Eureka” moments. I share them with you here:

Your Greatest Work

Lessons From the Library

Teach Me to Play

100 Hours

The Joy of Self-Directed Learning 

What will you reflect on this year? Did you have a “Eureka” moment?

Will you join me in filling a Gratitude Jar for 2015? Commit in the comment section! Let’s hold each other accountable. We’re in this homeschool journey together.
Angela (30 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .


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Your Greatest Work

perspective
I have been thinking a lot about one word lately. The word is perspective.

Almost one year ago, we moved from the Northeast to Southeast Texas. I’ve had almost 12 months to reflect on many things. Through reflection we gain perspective.

For instance, much of the country is still struggling to disentangle itself from a particularly harsh winter. Unusual amounts of snowfall, below freezing temperatures, ice and hazardous conditions have proved to be problems in many areas, not just the northern parts of the country. Even in Southeast Texas, we have had our fair share of obstinate Old Man Winter. Is it anything compared to what we experienced in the Northeast? I’ve found myself shaking my head and chuckling many times over the panic that a little freezing rain can bring.

Our experiences shape our view of reality. Until we have experiences of a broader nature we may be unable to evaluate a situation with the greatest clarity and wisdom possible.

Obviously, this applies to homeschooling. Perspective will be one of your greatest tools in developing a more ideal learning experience for your children.

If you just started homeschooling in the fall, have you found that you would do something differently now than you did six months ago? If you’ve been homeschooling for two years or more, are there several things you would approach differently? I’m guessing the answers to both questions are, “Uh, yeah!”

On good days I like to refer to my children as my “Magnum Opus” — my “greatest work.” Magnum Opus usually refers to the greatest work an artist can do in his or her lifetime. As home educators we are artists. We are molding, sculpting, experimenting, crafting, honing, guiding, modeling, and building. The art is constantly changing and evolving to be something other than what it was in the beginning.

On other days, I refer to my children as my “Grand Experiment.” My oldest is called Phase I, and the youngest? Phase II, of course. I’m not always certain how Phase I or Phase II will turn out, but indications thus far seem promising. It takes a certain amount of gutsiness to experiment on your offspring, but I always tell myself, “Better me than someone else.”

For us, experimenting encompasses an eclectic blend of learning styles — from classical to interest-led learning, to unschooling. The ultimate goal is to raise self taught kids who are willing and capable of steering their own educational course. By taking responsibility and ownership of what they are learning at any given time, the journey becomes far more personal. They become invested.

Bear in mind that each child is different and will probably require you to re-evaluate everything you thought you knew — several times over.

Let’s re-visit the winter weather example from above. Just because our experiences may not be broad, that does not make our experiences less real or valid. What you are living right now is your reality and it is important. It is necessary to value it and understand how it will eventually impact your decisions in future days, months, even years.

Thank goodness we are worthy of forgiveness. If we don’t get it right every time — it’s ok. Pick yourself up and try again tomorrow. Use what you learned last month or last year, and make positive changes based on those insights.

Take heart — spring will surely be here soon. It’s a great time to look back on the past school year and honor everything that went right. For the days you are unhappy with or ashamed of, put them aside. With perspective, all those days will become valuable lessons learned and time well spent. Your children are your greatest work.

Angela (30 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .


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Fall into Field Trips

Fall Into Field Trips @hsbaost

Fall is my favorite time of year, with October possibly being my favorite month. By now, most of us have been at the school books for a good month or two. The weather is divine in many parts of the country, and I think it’s high time we scheduled some field trips!

If you look around at your local museums and historical parks, you will often find that they offer Home School Days in late September and early October. Make sure to check all your city’s museums for postings on their web-sites regarding upcoming classes or events for homeschoolers. They will almost always offer a discount, and/or special programming. Also, weekends in October are often set aside for town festivals or historical celebrations, for instance, in New Jersey you can attend The Lord Stirling 1770’s Festival where daily colonial life can be experienced, complete with a Town Crier and Revolutionary War encampment, or in southeast Texas you can attend the Texian Heritage Festival at a local historical park. No matter where you live, chances are there is something fun and educational going on this month.

I like to schedule anywhere from two to four field trips in the month of October. If we can tie them to something we are studying at home — all the better, but it certainly isn’t necessary. Here are some great ideas, along with lesson plans courtesy of CLASSTRIPS.COM, to make your October full of field trip fun!

The Amusement Park

Yes, it’s true, even a trip to the amusement park can be educational! Homeschoolers never miss an opportunity to plug in learning (think: how do the laws of physics affect roller coasters?) Lesson Plan HERE.

Bowling, Anyone?

What is the history of bowling? Did you know that bowling lanes are oiled? And why do some of the pins remain standing even when they are hit with the ball? (Physics, again!) Lesson Plan HERE.

The Museum

This is an easy and obvious one, and as stated above, make sure to check if your museum of choice offers a special day for homeschoolers. In addition to Home School Day, most museums now offer classes for homeschoolers. These classes are generally geared around the theme of the museum — art history and hands-on art for an art museum, science and engineering for a science museum, etc. If your museum doesn’t offer programs for homeschoolers, give them a call and see if they would be willing to put together some classes if you agree to put together a group. Otherwise, you can always just go on a regular admission day and use this Lesson Plan to enhance the trip.

Trip to the Farm

This one is a must-do for the fall. Call your local farm, especially if they have the usual autumnal activities such as corn mazes, pumpkin patches and hay rides, and ask if you can arrange a group tour for homeschoolers during the week. Many farms offer educational programming in addition to access to the farm for one flat price per person. We have attended several programs of this type and it always makes the annual trek to the pumpkin patch far more interesting and meaningful. Lesson Plan HERE.

The Roller Rink

I know of a group of homeschoolers in the northeast that meets every week throughout the school year at an indoor ice skating rink. For a low entry fee, they are able to participate in a day time open-skate session. If the weather permits, they gather at a local park afterwards. This has been a great way for the parents and children to get to know one another through the consistency of a weekly meet-up, and is a little different from your average park day. Plan a trip (or bring your homeschool group) to the ice or roller rink and check out this Lesson Plan for some extra learning fun!

Laser Tag?

Yes, laser tag fans, there’s a Lesson Plan for that, too! You may have to be a little subversive on this one, as whipping out the notebooks in the heat of battle might be a bit cruel — but did you know that the idea for the game was born when the creator was watching a battle scene from Star Wars, and what actually scores the hit on your opponent is an infrared signal? Cool, Mom!

Historical Parks

Also known as Living History, many county parks offer outstanding programming to homeschoolers covering different time periods and subjects. The entrance and/or class fees are typically minimal and the quality, in my experience, often exceptional. For some great activities, discussion, and writing projects see the Lesson Plan HERE.

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

The zoo is a great place to learn basic animal science, new vocabulary and concepts that relate to animal habitats, and fun animal facts. This Lesson Plan is extremely robust and provides a step-by-step guide to deriving the most from your trip, including extension activities.

Lastly, there is no need to bring a lesson plan to every (or any) field trip. Much can be learned through an unstructured day of exploration, however, if there is an area of study that you would like to dive in more deeply with your children, these lesson plans can be a great jumping-off point for larger discussions, prompt creative writing, spur further research on a topic of interest, or just present the opportunity to learn together as a family!

Do you have a favorite field trip that’s not listed above? Tell us about it in the comment section!

Angela (30 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .


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