Homeschool Reason # 395: Learning Happens

It’s Monday.

Today is also the tax deadline day and I’ve barely made a dent.

I also have a client awaiting my recommendation on their bathroom overhaul.    All my other due dates are a week or two out, but this one is pressing on the back of my brain.

OH!  And I’ve got these children to teach.

Seems like the perfect makings of a Funday Monday!

Actually, the boys requested it and I agreed, more for my own necessity than their desire to do get out the paints, make some things for their Dad’s birthday tomorrow, and play outside.

Whatever.  It works for me!

Well, after an hour or so, I overheard Caleb chatting about The Pinocchians (as in the wooden puppet), and then a bunch of giggles.  I heard Gabe say, “No Caleb, you mean the The Phoenicians.”  I pulled myself away from my reco, peeked around the corner and saw this:

Yes, my boys were doing a history lesson!  All on their own!  After I told them they could take the day off from their bookwork, and just have the morning to make crafts and play!

Sure, there are times when bookwork feels like a task to them.  But then there are other days when they just want to fill their brains.  I LOVE the flexibilty of homeschooling.   You see, learning happens as we live.  It’s not like we only learn at a set time of day, and a set day of the week.

They learn when they are open to learning.

Apparently that means today.

Funday Monday!

Have a fantastic week, everyone!

What School Looks Like Today: Spring Schoolin’

Nothing says “SPRING” quite like taking the books outside,

or rigging a pulley to haul your books up your favourite oak,

so you can hunker down in the blue-sky-sunshine to write,

and do a little reading aloud about Samuel de Champlain with your Brotherly BFF.

It’s all but a glimpse of today’s gratitude.

Green Eggs and Ham

I’ve been excited all week about today being Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  We love his books and his movies, and I knew I wanted to make Green Eggs and Ham for breakfast.  But was there a way to do it without nasty food colouring?  I decided to investigate.

What I found really exciting.  Red cabbage can turn eggs green?  What?

It didn’t occur to me until part way through the process that I should be taking pictures, but here’s what I did:

1)  I chopped about 1  1/2 cups of red cabbage, added it to a pot with a tiny bit of water on the bottom and simmered it for about 10 minutes, adding a splash of water when needed to prevent scorching.

2)  I used my immersion blender to puree it, and then pushed it through a fine strainer to squeeze out the beautiful purpleness.

3)  I separated a bunch of eggs…

4)   …and added a couple scoops of the purpleness to the whites.

5)  Then the kids got mixing.

Apparently, the green comes via a chemical reaction relating to the pH levels.  Here’s what I found:

“Naturally, red cabbage has a colour somewhere between red and purple, depending on the pH-value of the soil it is growing in. This colour change occurs due to the pigment flavin, which belongs to a group of water soluble plant pigments called anthocyanins (For those of you, that don’t know what the pH value refers to, it is the measure of the acidity (pH < 7) or basicity (pH > 7) of an aqueous solution). In this Instructable, we are making use of the fact, that flavin is a natural pH indicator and that egg white has a pH value of about 8. These slightly alkaline condition result in a colour change to a blueish-green.”

How cool is THAT?

6)  I then spooned some egg whites egg greens into the pan, and carefully spooned a yolk on top, flipping carefully when the time came.   (They look less green in this photo for some reason, but they were actually quite green in reality.)

7)  I tried to make the ham green, but it only made it purple.  Clearly, the ham didn’t have the right pH to cause the reaction.   Great science lesson!   We talked about pH levels in pools and how our eyes can be red when the pH is off, and perfectly clear when the pH is right.

We all enjoyed our breakfast immensely!

Caleb declared that it smelled like I was cooking chinese food for breakfast, I guess because of the cabbage smell.  But they tasted like …eggs, perhaps a slight bit sweeter.  All five of us ate them up and declared breakfast a great success!

Now this has me thinking about pH levels and experiments we can do with them.  Maybe planting seeds in soils of varying pH levels to see what happens…?    I think it’s all pretty cool.

It’s a snow day here in Nova Scotia (we’re finally getting our winter), and I’ve declared it a Funday Friday — because I can (the homeschoolers among you know what I’m talking about).   My brood is out in the snow now, a bit of shoveling, bringing in some wood and of course, playing!  Later, we’ll do some crafts – maybe draw some Dr. Seuss characters?  We’ll watch ‘Horton Hears a Who’ this afternoon, and probably do a read-aloud of Green Eggs and Ham.   It’s days like this that my kids will look back on with fondness.

And now I’m off to clean up the post-breakfast mess.  A small price to pay for all the smiles.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

What School Looks Like Today

There is still baked oatmeal breakfast shrapnel on the counter, but thankfully enough space for Gabe to do a bit of school work.  🙂  Changing locale every 40 minutes or so helps that boy to get his work done.   I’m happy I can accomodate his needs. 

Caleb, on the other hand, needs the structure of a table in front of him.  He whips through is handwriting practice in no time.  

For the most part, Eden likes to be close to me.  I think this tendency, more than anything else, has to do with her need for an audience for the constant chatter.   Today, though, she seems more focussed and I am able to figure out if I have all necessary ingredients for supper.  Tonight I’m making Edie’s Cheeseburger {in paradise} Soup.  I’ve been thinking about it since Monday, so I think today’s the day!

Not all days offer such smooth sailing; a great many do not.   Yesterday was not one of our finer days, but today looked different.   This morning I woke up and got a double batch of Baked Oatmeal in the oven.  We had breakfast as a family before David rushed off to work.  I did some blog reading, hopped in the shower and threw in a load of laundry.  By the time I came downstairs, the boys had already done their devotion and prayer and were digging into the Audio CD of Anne of Green Gables.  

All of this was on their own.

And BEFORE 9am. 

Three cheers for independence and diligence! 

In light of their great initiative, they chose some music to play.  Caleb selected one of his favourite songs:  Piano Man.  Half way through, Gabe came to where I sat at the dining room table, and asked in his best British accent, “May I have this dance?”

Well, of course you may.

Then Eden got in on the action and danced with her biggest brother.

Caleb, knowing that Piano Man was coming to an end, put on another favourite:  Robin William’s singing Prince Ali (from Aladdin).  Oh my.   Do you know the one?   You can see it here.   Do it, so I’m not the only one who can’t get it out of her head.  

And then, the crazy dancing started.  Shaking the sillies out is something we try do with some regularity.  

Yes, it has been a great school day, and it’s not even over yet.

But the highlight of my week thus far was yesterday, when Gabe came in for a great big hug and said “Mom, this house is just so full of love…”

And that is what this whole thing is all about.

Repreive

One day this week, the kids were all upstairs doing their morning thing.  They weren’t fighting.  There were no tears.  They were just diligently working away on their bedroom.  They even changed their sheets without being asked.   It was pretty sweet. 

I used the time to fold laundry, putter around on the main level, clean out the fireplace, take out the garbage and swab the poop deck.  Both of them. 

When they came downstairs 9:45 and realized they were 45 minutes late for school, I smiled and told them it was okay.  They could go ahead and do what they wanted.  It’s good to have a repreive from the routine now and then!  After a grin and a hug, Gabe grabbed a book and a seat in the sun on the upstairs landing.  Caleb went up to the playroom to create a Lego masterpiece.  Eden, being the eager preschooler that she is, got her school bin and binders and got to work.  

When Gabe was done his book, he took it upon himself to make a birthday card for a party he has coming up this weekend.  Then he came down and made a nice big fruit salad, all by himself, for the first time ever. 

Caleb came down after a bit, put away some lingering breakfast items and loaded the dishwasher, without being asked.  He made a cute little comment about how it feels so good in here when it’s tidy.  Then he proceeded to wonder in disbelief how we clean, it gets dirty again, we clean again…   Funny.

When Eden had clearly had enough of her worksheets, she and Caleb sat down to a game of chess.  Yes, he’s teaching her how to play.  Even though she’s only four, it’s going very, very well.  (They played for 2 hours the other day.  This is one of the ‘other day’ pictures.  She’s clearly losing but still looks pretty happy, thank goodness.)

It was a beautiful morning.  The kids didn’t require text books, pencils and sitting still to be learning things.   I didn’t say anything to any of them about what to do.  Aside from a bit of guidance on the best way to cut a pineapple, and reading the worksheet instructions for Eden, they learned all on their own.  They used their critical thinking skills to find things to do and figure out how to do them best.  Isn’t that how we live life as adults?   There is something so wonderful about not having to spell it out step by step. 

And to top it all off, the sun was shining.

What School Looks Like Today

We had a good start this morning.  I cranked a little NeedtoBreathe.  I love them and their love for Christ.  I love his raspy voice – it reminds me of Kings of Leon (another favourite of mine). 

I also tested out a new breakfast recipe:   Apple Pie Oatmeal.  The kids all finished it without issue, but told me they didn’t like it as much as my usual baked oatmeal.  That’s not surprising, since there was barely any sugar in it and the apples made it quite tart.  All in all, I will attempt it again with a bit more  flavour (cinnamon and apple) and a bit more sweetness (perhaps I’ll try some honey). 

Then things went south.  And fast.  The kids all went up for their Morning High Five   (Jessica’s tip that we successfully implemented about a year ago) and the fighting, whining and crying ensued.  It was Ugly with a capital U.  I did my best to keep my cool, but I turned Ugly pretty quickly too.  I was yelling way too much.  I gave them the “I really want to be home with them, it’s important to me to do that but sometimes I just want to walk out the door” speech.  Nope.  Definitely not my finest moment.  

In the end I took away all their electronics time indefinitely.  They don’t get much to begin with, but what little they had is now gone.  When they prove they can interact respectfully without physical violence, name calling and screaming at each other, they can begin earning it back. 

By the time we got to our prayer and devotional time, I was a mess.  I apologized for my behaviour and asked them what we could do to work on our respect.   We talked it out.  Eden prayed specifically for kindness.  Suddenly it became a whole different day.  Hallelujah! 

Now the kids are working away on their respective school work, napster.com is playing Beethoven.fm, and I’m a happy mama once again.

Here’s what school looks like today:

Our 10-year-old, Gabe, is working away on his spelling workbook.  I love spelling because it’s good work-alone work.  I need to find a bit more of it, actually.  It’s a sanity saver. 

Our 8-year-old, Caleb, was asked to write a paragraph about one of his favourite things.  Writing is our biggest struggle in school, so I have gone back to basics so we can work on paragraphs in bite-sized, manageable chunks.  It still allows them to practice their printing, their structure, their spelling, vocabulary and grammar.  Plus I always let them choose what to write about so it’s a subject of interest to them.  I’m hoping these simple little projects spark a bit more of a desire to write.  (Please God.) 

I had Caleb write his first draft on his little white board.  Hint:  kids love writing on white boards and using colourful markers to express themselves!  I like it because it helps with my quest to use less paper.  I take photos of their work instead.  This was a great turning point for us this past year.    We have two large white boards for working as a group, but the kids each have a small white board in their bins and a set of small white board markers for their pencil case.  The board has primary lines on one side and is blank on the other.  They are made by Expo. 

I corrected Caleb’s work for spelling and punctuation, and he’s now printing it on a piece of paper for his notebook.   He wrote about our dog Murphy.  

Our 4-year-old, Eden, was beyond thrilled to start Explode the Code – Primer A last week.    Our boys used this curriculum when they were younger and I was happy to discover that she loves it just as much.   She couldn’t wait to move on to the next letter today.   

Up next?  We fell out of our math groove and really need to find it again.  Math is one of those things you really need to stay on top of, or it’s lost and you spend weeks in review.  I know that in my head and I’ve said it for years, but still…  we fall out of our math routine from time to time and need to find our way back to steadiness and fun with that subject. 

Oh, now Caleb is done transcribing his paragraph and the kids are off to enjoy snack and a short break.  (I don’t even hear any fighting! YAY!)

And that’s how our day looks today.

What School Looks Like Today

This is what our school looks like today… from a distance.  

Up close, this is how it looks:

Today is a big day.  Today is the day that our little one has managed addition all on her own! 

Of course, the little ones always want to do ‘school’ alongside their older siblings, so learning as a way of life seems to come a little easier for them.  But today, our little girl wanted to move up from copywork (printing numbers) to real addition.  So, I pulled out the Math-U-See manipulatives, pointed her in the direction of the green single unit cubes and found a colourful workbook for her to use.  She very quickly figured it out and went to it! 

I snapped this picture and came over to the laptop to share the news with all of you.  (I really needed to post an update after such a lengthy break!)  While I was typing the first sentence, she came to me with a purple 6-block and said “Ugh… Mom?  These ones are ALREADY six units so I don’t have to count all the green ones!  And look, I found a book with bigger numbers!”  That first one is 6+4 and she correctly wrote “10”.  She turned four in July.  I may just have another Smarty Pants on my hands.   Isn’t it amazing how learning really happens on its own?   Children have this natural desire to learn…  how wonderful when we can just let it happen on the kids’ terms! 

We’re venturing into the land of copywork and recitation.  Right now, we’re working on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  

And the eldest is doing some break-out (on his own) Science work on biomes.   He got all excited when I told him he could use the apologia website, the dictionary and our bookshelves to write a notebook summary page plus one extra page on each of the five major biomes.    I love when kids get excited about learning! 

So this is how home learning looks for us today.   Messy?  Yes.  Laundry piled up?  Oh yeah.  Cobwebs and dustbunnies?  You bet!  But this is WAY more important!