Monday, August 29, 2011

Z is for Zucchini - 8/23/11

Some days you just NEVER stop. Today was one of those days. We went from one activity to the next, and I actually COOKED, three meals today, not just cereal in a bowl, but actually cooked at the stove, PLUS, we made zucchini bread for letter. That is WAY too much oven time for me! I really don't like to cook.  But somehow we made it through and managed to have some fun in the process :)  The kids LOVED making zucchini bread. We got used Paula Dean's recipe. They were less enthusiastic about eating it for some reason (I thought it was pretty good - a little dry I guess, but definitely edible). But by the end of the day I was BEAT! Thank goodness for Mom's Night Out!! I needed it!

So why cook with kids?  Well, if you google this question you'll get lots of lists telling you why it's a good idea. And they are all true. But for me it boils down to these 3 things:

1.  It's fun! They love doing it and they always fondly remember when you made this or that and can't wait to do it again. Memories are important. Making school fun is important!

2.  Again, less is more. With this one activity we touched on math, life-cycles, chemistry, vocabulary, turn-taking, patience, 5-senses, physics, worked on small and large muscle development, art appreciation, alphabet, phonics, kitchen safety, and agriculture. We talked. A LOT.  How much they will retain, who knows? But they all were introduced to some new things and Scout and Jem reviewed some things they had learned before. Good stuff.

3. It encourages them to try new foods. Jem tried a bite. Not much, but no way would zucchini ever cross those lips without us making this bread. Because he went through the process of making it, he wanted to try it and see what it tasted like. He didn't love it, and that was fine, but he tried it. Win!

Child-led Learning - 8/16/11

‎"Our flexibility and willingness to follow a child's lead will allow remarkable things to happen, if we let them." - Bev Bos ...

Today made me think about the idea of "Child-led Learning."   I had some basic plans for the day as usual. Nothing set in stone. Nothing is ever set in stone for me. I know anything can happen. Someone may get sick. It may take us longer to do one thing than I planned and something else will have to get scrubbed for that day. Or maybe one activity will just totally flop. Then again, we may have to unexpectedly go out and not have time to do what I had planned. Sometimes, we get really interested in a different subject and we follow that trail instead. That is sort of what happened today. Flossie had been reading a Little Orphan Annie picture book at home and brought it to read here as well. She wanted to know if I had a video of the movie to watch. I did. With us being involved in the theater, my kids were both excited to watch the musical again, so we were all involved in sitting and watching the movie. This took up a couple of hours of our morning, and that was ok.

Freddie wasn't all that interested in the movie. He kind of off and on watched it. But during that time, he kind of did his own thing too. He got out a bunch of drawing materials and set to work creating something for his room.  Then he went on the computer for a little while. Next, he drew something with the animal markers, and then then he built a small zoo with the blocks.

In homeschooling I guess you call thins kind of a day "unschooling," - letting the kids determine what the day will look like, what kinds of learning they want to do.  I can see some value in it. I think doing it now and then is a good thing. But again, I think balance is good. Moderation. I found this interesting article at Bending the Twigs blogspot and I think this is a good summary of how I feel:

"Modern neuroscience has found that the part of the brain responsible for considering the long-term consequences of one's action, the medial prefrontal cortex, does not mature until around age 20. Children therefore lack the maturity to persevere in tasks that are unpleasant in the short-term but beneficial to them in the long run. This is where adults have the responsibility to step in and guide them.

As parents, we do not allow our children free reign in choosing their diet. Few (if any) children would choose tofu and broccoli over french fries and ice cream. Instead, we ensure that their diet meets their basic nutritional needs. Most of us do take our children's preferences into consideration when planning meals and allow a certain amount of choice. However, we set the general parameters and limit the choices to approved options.

This philosophy of taking the child's preferences into consideration while setting the general parameters to ensure basic needs are met applies to education as well as nutrition. There needs to be a balance between "child-led" and teacher-guided activities."

 Definitely something to think about. But for today, it was mostly a child-led day. And fun was had by all :)

Less is More (Z is for Zoo) - 8/15/11

I was reminded today about the old saying "Less is more."  We were going to do Z is for Zoo.  When I went to find the container of zoo animals to put out with the blocks, I found that they had been left outside (for a long time by the looks of them) and were all dusty and gross. What to do? So I changed my plan real quick and thought they might have fun having an "animal wash." I put out a tub of soapy water, a tub of clean water, some little sponges and some small drying cloths and then some towels to lay the animals out on. This one activity was a BIG hit with the kids and we were able to cover so much "learning" in the process. We:

talked about the steps involved and they worked on following 3 part directions: wash, rinse dry.

identified each animal and talked about where they lived, what sounds they made, and what they ate.
talked about the animal's body parts and made sure we got them all clean.

described each animal's colors and textures.

talked about the feel of the bubbles and temperature of the water and exercised small muscles of the hand every time they squeezed those sponges.

used position words like "upside down, over, on top of, behind, underneath, and next to."

counted how many animals we washed as well as how many of each animal there was.
This activity lasted for about an hour. That's a LONG time in Nowville! Less is more!

Here are some of the other things we did today:

And now for some added extra fun: