Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
The past few days have been busy. Our days have been full of various activities. I'm still plugging away at college. I am really enjoying classroom management. I'm enjoying my philosophy class as well, although it is more complicated that I had envisioned. I recently blogged about a new tutoring service I'm beginning here. And I have also decided to open a home child care sometime in the near future. I had an introductory meeting today and will attend an orientation next month. After the state receives the paperwork, I should have my daycare established within 30 to 90 days. My workplace is just becoming more and more stressful. I've come to the conclusion that most places of employment will have this stress level, which I definitely do not need right now. Taliesin and Nathanael are so looking forward to a daycare. I only plan on caring for two or three children other than my own two. This way, when we have events for the unschooling group or other activities; they will be able to accompany us. I will use the same activities for the daycare kids that I do for Taliesin and Nathanael. I will be marketing it as a child-directed activities care center - with focus on Montessori and Waldorf methods. I'm really looking forward to this new endeavor!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
This is an excellent question, but honestly one that I had never really given much thought to. As unschoolers, we do not have a start or beginning of a school year - following the philosophy that learning takes place all the time, not just during a school year and during school hours. My sons do have a school room, but we rarely ever use only it. For us, learning is about so much more than just a classroom and a school year.
That said, the best way to prepare for any important endeavor - including a new school year for teachers - is to pray and study the Bible. God prepares us spiritually for all undertakings. It is not only important to begin the school year with prayer, but to begin each day with prayer and to pray during any difficult situations.
When arranging a classroom, it is important to consider all learning styles. I was just talking with a co-worker and fellow college student last night at work. She was telling me that one of her professors brought in PlayDough for the students to work with as she lectured. Other students took notes. Others walked around the room. Each did what was able to help him/her comprehend the lesson. I told her I totally agree with this. I believe every classroom, regardless of age, should have activities for the students - not just lessons. My four-year old's children's church teacher is awesome at this. She has all sorts of stations set up in the classroom. As she reads the lessons, some of the students play at the sand table, some play in the kitchen area, some play on the plastic slipper slide, and some sit at the table and listen or color a picture. All children learn differently. Some need some type of physical activity when studying. A teacher should prepare the classroom and him/herself for these different learning styles and accomodate the students as much as possible. One activity that I have found my own sons enjoy is getting out blocks or Legos (which are wonderful for all different ages of students) for them to build with as I read. They comprehend so much more when they are able to do something with their hands. I also find it helpful to have models and manipulatives available with different lessons. Games and puzzles are also good ways for some students to learn. Other than just textbooks, I feel a good classroom should be stocked with all types of learning supplies.
This being said, I feel the teacher should also prepare for "out of the box," or, in this case, "out of the classroom" lessons. (S)he should be willing to take the students outside to explore and learn. Call it a field trip. Go on nature walks. Don't be afraid to do things differently. Outside days should definitely be something that a teacher should calculate into his/her schedule. Being outside in different types of weather, even, will stimulate students of all different learning styles and academic abilities to learn and take part. All students will be on an equal footing. Upon coming back into the classroom, the students could then journal about some of their experiences. My sons and I did somewhat of a directed reading assignment during our last hail storm. We took the umbrellas and went outside and collected hailstones. We brought them in and cut them open to see the layers and read two different trade books about hail and storms.
A teacher also needs to discuss behavior with the students. I feel it best to include the students in making the rules as much as possible. I do this with my owns sons whenever we go somewhere or even play outside. We talk about what some good rules would be that we should follow. I like to follow a positive form of discipline as much as possible - focusing more on good behavior than on bad. We also keep a helpfulness chart for each of my sons. Whenever they do something helpful or listen well, we write it down on the charts. Depending upon the teacher's methods, (s)he may want to include one big reward such as a trip to a zoo or a park day toward the middle or end of the school year (depending upon how many times the teacher wants to begin a new chart).
These are some considerations for any teacher at the beginning of any new endeavor (including the beginning of a school year). I feel that keeping in mind different learning styles, keeping discipline positive, and keeping the students involved as much as possible in all activities and discipline methods will make the school year run much smoother.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I have been having a lot of unschooling conversations this week. Seems like everywhere I turn, someone is asking me about unschooling - about what we do as unschoolers. I think some people are thrown off by the term "unschool." Isn't unschooling a little radical? In a word, yes. It really is radical compared to what most children do each day in a regular school environment. But it works. My sons are flourishing in an unschooling environment - an environment where they are allowed to learn rather than being forced to ingest facts. For us, unschooling is more than just an educational system. It's more than just lining up all kinds of projects and activities based upon interest. It is more than just hands-on activities. Yes, we do all of these things from time to time - depending upon what Taliesin and Nathanael are interested that day or week or month. But unschooling really is a lifestyle. It is different from day to day. No two days are the same. I mean, sure, we have weeks where they want to work on a unit study or spend a few days sewing (which reminds me, I have a post coming up very soon of some of Taliesin's newest projects) or read the same books over and over and over. But each day is truly a new adventure, limited only by the imagination of two little boys who love to learn and explore.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Yesterday, at the mall...
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Nathanael has been feeling a little under the weather for the past few days - stuffy nose, chest congestion. So far this week, we have missed karate twice, church, and I skipped going to the restaurant for our weight loss meeting tonight. But we did make it up to Indian Rock Park with Taliesin and Nathanael this evening for a picnic. It was so much fun! Taliesin and Nathanael had a blast. The fresh air has helped immensely!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
After studying the body, we listed to Nathanael's CD of children's songs. He's been playing it over and over again and singing and dancing to it. Then Taliesin asked to read about Samson from the Bible. We read about Samson and Delilah from their Come, Ye Children Bible book. Nathanael then requested to read about David and Goliath. We then planted some beans in water, per request from both of them. Measured and cooked some rice and eggs for one of our dogs who has had a little bit of a tummy bug. We then headed downstairs, read some more books (some me reading to them, some them helping me with), and then we watched Spiderman II.
Yesterday evening, Nathanael had dance class and Taliesin had karate while I was at work.
Yeah, there really was no rhyme or reason for our activities yesterday. Such is unschooling.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Taliesin and Nathanael have been having so much fun with their new musical instruments. They not only enjoy playing music and listening to music, but they love putting music into a story to make it exciting. We recently had a "music and reading" day that they really enjoyed. It started off with the flute. They played the flute with Goodnight Moon. Then Taliesin played the mandolin and Nathanael the keyboard with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. They then played the bells with Little Einstiens: Music of the Meadow. They get very creative - having the music vibrate during exciting parts and calm and cool during relaxing parts. I love the books like the Thomas and Lightning McQueen ones above. - The ones where the kids push the buttons to make sounds during different parts of the story. I buy these whenever I can. I love music. It really encourages creativity and imagination.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
One of my favorite classroom management techniques found in the textbook is organizing a multi-age classroom. This is something that I totally believe in. I just cannot agree with age segregation, even in a classroom environment. Multi-age activities is a concept that we strive for with the unschooling group that I have here in Salina, Kansas. We have children that range in age from two to fourteen, but we always have something that they will all enjoy and learn from. All too often, students are taught to socialize with only others in their own age group at school. By the time they are teenagers, they are only able to socialize with others with whom they are friends. I see the effects of this everyday. When I train teenagers at work, there are so many times that I actually have to explain to them how to tell customers hello or ask how their day is going. Students need to learn real-life socializing techniques, not socialization within their own age bracket.
That said, I also believe that cooperative and collaborative learning can also take place more efficiently in a multi-age classroom. Students learn to work together. Students learn to use their creativity. The older students are not "above" helping younger students. They learn to care for one another instead of forming their own groups and cliques. I believe that multi-age classrooms also encourage more creativity in teaching techniques. Instead of just using explicit, teacher-centered instruction; teachers are able to allow children to learn in a less stressed environment. The use of hands-on activities can be utilized. Students can be treated as individuals instead of as a group.
I can say from experience that a multi-age classroom does work. As I said, we have quite a difference in age groups at our unschooling group activities. This past Monday, in celebration of Read Across America Day, we had a book swap and corresponding activities at the public library. The students ranged in age from one year to ten years old. However, there really was not an activity that did not encourage participation from all. The older ones read to the younger ones. They all played games together. Right now, we are planning our second annual Earthday Celebration for the group. Last year was a huge success. Even traditional homeschoolers joined us. The children made recycled bird houses and planted seeds to take home. I do not remember any of the students that did not join in our activities. The same is true of each or our activities. Even with a recent Valentine's party, all of the students worked together to bake Valentine cookies. They decided amongst themselves which job each person would have in the baking and decorating.
Multi-age classrooms and activities are definitely something that I love about unschooling. I noticed when we were a part of the regular homeschooling co-op here, they also still segregated by age. They were still too involved in standard curriculums and in what they were teaching rather than in what the children would learn. It may take a big "leap of faith," but I honestly believe if more classrooms were able to focus more on learning rather than on teaching; the students would learn so much more. Multi-age classrooms, I believe, are definitely a step in the right direction.
Sunday, March 1, 2009