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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nature Studies

I have managed to pull myself out of hibernation and return to the blog.  I must say that all of this bitter cold has really put a damper on one of my favorite foundations of our home learning: nature studies. 

I have always been a nature lover.  Some of my earliest memories take me back to hauling my stuffed bear 5 feet up in a tree feeling like my five year-old self had conquered great heights. Or a little later, when I was eight, we lived so far out in the country in eastern Washington, that we had an hour bus ride to school. Our trailer backed up to a creek and a mountain. There was a huge wheat field in front and mountains in the distance.  It was wonderful!  I had my own little island in the creek, and was freely allowed to explore for hours on end.  Oh how I wish my sons had that kind of life, but, as of yet, it is not so.  But that doesn't stop us. We hike, camp and geocache as a family often during which the teacher in me just can't help but pull in some observation and learning.

Charlotte Mason speaks so well to my nature-loving mama self:

“It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation...Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life..." (Volume 6)

"...when children are old enough to understand that science itself is in a sense sacred, and demands some sacrifice, all the common information they have been gathering until then, and the habits of observation they have acquired, will form an excellent ground work for a scientific education. In the meantime let them consider the lilies of the field and fowls of the air." (PNEU article, Dowton)

Do you also find it challenging to keep up nature studies during harsh winter weather? I found this excellent post at Simply Charlotte Mason that will help us both along: Nature Studies Ideas for Winter.

Now let's get out and brave the weather for sake of our littles.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Multicultural Children’s Book Day and Review

Mark your calendars for January 27th - Multicultural Children’s Book Day! It is a day to celebrate diversity. I have found that by homeschooling, our children are not often interacting with children with diverse backgrounds, cultures or abilities. Cultural awareness and appreciation is important to our family so we purposefully engage in diversity, from cultivating friendships with families from other cultures, one of Aidan's closest friends is first generation from Ethiopia, to culinary experiences, we wish they loved Indian food as much as we do, to enjoying a wide variety of music and books. So when an open call was put out by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom for bloggers to participate in Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD), I offered to participate in a book review.

The mission for the MCCBD is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries, and therefor, we will donate our book to our local library. You see, approximately 10 percent of books published have diverse content, but look around us, there is diversity everywhere. Even the latest U.S. census data shows that 37 percent of our population is made up of people of color, and the diversity grows from there.
  Our book came from Tuttle Publishing, founded by Charles Tuttle who was tasked with reviving the Japanese publishing industry after WWII while serving under General Douglas MacArthur. Tuttle Publishing Co. was instrumental in binging a knowledge of Asia to America and published over 6.000 books on Asian culture,, history and art.  Ours is not only a book, but also a cd titled Korean Folk Songs: Stars in the Sky and Dreams in our Hearts

 I am delighted to receive this particular book and cd to review. You see, when I was a child, my father shared with me stories of his time in Korea, Vietnam, and Japan as a U.S. Marine. He made these far-away people and places so real for me, telling me of the friends he made as well as the fights he fought for them. Several years ago, while I was working at the Liberty Bell Museum, I was speaking to a man with a group of children from South Korea. I mentioned that my dad had fought in Korea, and he turned to tell the children and immediately they began cheering.  He explained to me that they teach their children to cherish their freedom and those who fought for it. It was such a blessing and honor to meet this group.  I wonder if they learned the songs found in the book.

First, I must say, the beautiful watercolors that caught my attention right off. They are so lovely, peaceful and filled with nature's beauty whether it be a majestic mountain, sweet rabbit or starry sea. The thing I like most about the book, is that it includes a brief history of each of the 14 songs. Knowing the song's background certainly helps us make an emotional connection. Each song also includes the music, lyrics in Korean and English.  The cd has a child singing each song in Korean  and then it is just instrumental.  The only thing I wish had been included is a child singing the lyrics in English so younger English-speaking children who cannot read could learn the songs. Overall, this is a wonderful addition to our music lessons as well as a meaningful cultural and history lesson.
Listening to the songs and reading the lyrics and the stories that inspired the songs, renewed my interest in Korean culture and I found a few family-friendly activities to share:
There is a fun traditional Korean game called Ddakji in which you make your own game pieces using origami. This video is a clear explanation of how to make the game pieces and play the game:
If your family likes ethnic food, try Maangchi's blog for a variety of Korean recipes including appetizers, entrees, drinks, and desserts.
How else can you participate in encouraging the appreciation for multicultural books? How about setting a new year's goal of reading a book a week that includes characters from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds than your own?  On the MCCBD blog you will find a collection of diversity book lists and resources. You can also follow the MCCBD on  facebook or twitter and join us for Multicultural Children's Book Day Twitter Party on Jan 27th 9:00pm EST. Use hashtag to win 10 book packages. Also, First Book is sponsoring a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found here.

A special thank you to the Children’s Book Council for their contribution and support.

Visit our cohosts for more education inspiration:
Africa to America
All Done Monkey
The Educators’ Spin on It
Growing Book by Book
InCultural Parent
Kid World Citizen
Mama Smiles
Multicultural Kid Blogs
Sprout’s Bookshelf


Monday, January 12, 2015

Living Books

I trust you are all looking forward to a new year.  The past is behind and the future holds great promise. Well, it is easy to write that, now, but with major changes expected this year on the job front and in our education choices, I know I will have to work at staying positive. But more on that later.

For now, I want to share another aspect in my series on our foundations for home learning. Living Books.  While we do not often use the term "living books" - unless you are utilizing the Charlotte Mason Method - we know what they are instinctively.  They are the books that pull you in and involve more than just learning, they help you make an intellectual and emotional attachment to the subject, whether it be science, geography,history, or literature. As for children's books, they are often the ones we can read and enjoy as adults as well.

With two boys who often just want to get lessons over with so they can run outside or get their allotted video game time - *cringe* - living books often save the day. And I have found that a well-written, engaging book has the power to peak the interests of my child where I would have thought he would be bored. Case in point, for our Oak Meadow studies, my 9 year is reading Heidi, and much to my surprise, he enjoys it, although, he typically wants to read stories about boys.

For a great living books list, visit Simply Charlotte Mason, where books are listed according to grade and subject.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Our Home Learning - Independence

In past posts I covered the importance of  multi-sensory learning and rhythm and atmosphere in our homeschool days and now I want to touch on independence.

My boys are still young, 6 and 9, so there are many ways in which they are very dependent on others, and I am fine with that. When I think of independence in regard to homeschooling, it is more of the idea that my boys are independently ready to learn. I do not have to hold their hand every step of the way and in letting them direct some of their own learning, they find it easier to express and pursue their own interests. Although we did not plan it, they were both early readers and their advanced reading ability has opened their eyes to a variety of subject matter, be it in history, science, or literature and thereby encouraged their curiosity and desire to independently learn.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent: A Time of Preparation

It is our tradition to enjoy the countdown to Christmas in small special ways.
This year is no exception.
May your Advent season be blessed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving ideas

It was my 45th birthday this weekend and I was sick. Two days later I am still under the weather and finding myself not quite ready for Thanksgiving, so Ifound some past Thanksgiving activities to do with my kids and I thought I would do a quick round up to share so here they are:

Thanksgiving Story Retelling Bracelet

30 Turkey Thanksgiving Crafts from The Jenny Revolution

Thanksgiving Napkin Rings

The Thanksgiving Tree

Adorable Thanksgiving Turkey Writing Activity from Teachers Pay Teachers

Have a lovely Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Our Home Learning: Multi-Sensory Learning

Recently, I posted about foundations of our home learning and one aspect of our learning is making sure it is multi-sensory. This is one of the reasons I really like Oak Meadow.  It is a good fit for all kinds of learners -auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. (Here is a great article about the three different learning styles from Successful Homeschooling.)


For example, in the Oak Meadow grade 4 literature studies, the children read Stuart Little and at the end have a range of choices of how to show that they understood the story, ranging from making a canoe that looks like the one Stuart Little used on his adventures to writing postcards from Stuart Little to his family. Oak Meadow includes multi-sensory learning in the earliest grades as well. My youngest son is working through the first grade syllabus and every few days we read a story then incorporate a letter of the alphabet into a drawing that illustrates the story.  There we have an easy effort for the auditory and visual learner.

Here are two illustrations from Oak Meadow's Fairy Tales.
On the right is an oven with a door in the shape of a "D"
and on the right is a cat in the shape of a "C"

We add our own multi-sensory learning into the mix as well. This can range from learning about the change of seasons through making art to visiting a local Native American Longhouse to instead of just reading about it. This brings me to one of my favorite things about homeschooling: the field trips.  Oh, how I love them.  To see my kids excited about learning while doing is absolutely delightful!

In the near future, I look forward to adding in a new element to our multi-sensory learning: math in cooking. What ways do you encourage multi-sensory learning with your children?
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