Kids Make The Best Teachers

My son's Lego battles

My son’s Lego battles

Last week the kids have been immersed in Lego. Lego heroes, Lego battles, Lego houses. They built Lego together. They built Lego separately, and then joined their worlds into one.

More Lego

More Lego

Lego Land

And more Lego

 

What did I do? Well, I just let them play. It was another lesson the kids were giving me about “letting go.”

I was letting that self doubt start to creep in. Questions, worries, uncertainties.

Are the kids learning enough? Are they learning? Are they having fun? Are the choices we are making adding and enriching their life or diminishing it? Am I making the right choices?

Of course when self doubt creeps in for me, it creeps into the kids and they show it in their own ways. Ways that are not always easy to manage if I’m not in the right mindset. They bicker, they have dramatic upsets, they complain. Their sleep is interrupted, the choices they make may not always be stellar. It’s the cycle that flows from me to them. If I am feeling uncertain and unhappy, of course they will too.

I have become better at recognizing the slippery slope and am able to either catch myself sooner, or pull out of it sooner. So I tried to let go and let them lead the way. They played completely focused and engaged for about 2 or 3 mornings in a row. Then with that space they asked questions, and explored.

I watched them. I read. I practiced yoga. At one point I was watching a video about Math that was focused on the growth mindset that we discuss a lot in our home education days. The kids would pause, watch, ask questions and then go back to what they were doing. The pauses became longer and the questions increased until they moved from their Lego into other areas of creation and math problems.
Their world kept growing and expanding out from Lego to working on tangrams and building shapes.

Building the puzzle

Building the puzzle

 

Finished putting it together.

Finished putting it together.

 

Another Tangram Puzzle...one of many

Another Tangram Puzzle…one of many

 

Tangram Heaven

Tangram Heaven

They watched videos about the Fibonacci sequence and discussed where we can see the sequence in nature. They looked through a book on the works of MC Escher and tried to find the sequence in his art.

Getting push ups in between math problems and checking out the Escher Art Book

Getting push ups in between math problems and checking out the Escher Art Book

They visualized and encoded numbers, created patterns, and worked on various math problems.

And no, we did not end up getting to Origami that day

What do you see when shown a configuration of dots for a under a minute. How many dots are there? How do you see them?

 

What do you see when shown a configuration of dots for a under a minute. How many dots are there?

Everyone sees things in their own way. Each way may be different, but just because they are different does not make them wrong. 

They were engaged, and excited and each one had their own area of interest that they focused on a little bit more.

My daughter expands her knowledge of subtraction.

My daughter expands her knowledge of subtraction.

 

My niece built different patterns with small blocks. She changed the number of elements with each pattern.

My niece built different patterns with small blocks. She changed the number of elements with each pattern.

 

My son drawing out the different ways he sees the dot configuration

My son drawing out the different ways he sees the dot configuration *

Close-up of his work. What shapes do you see? How does it reflect the number of dots in the image you were shown?

Close-up of his work. What shapes do you see? How does it reflect the number of dots in the image you were shown?

 

He also worked on another math problem from the website youcubed.org

He also worked on another math problem from the website youcubed.org **

 

So back to my self doubt and uncertainty. Are they learning enough? Are they learning? Are they having fun? Are we making the right choices?

If they are still showing a curiosity and interest in learning and in the process- then yes they are. So the education continues. My education. Because sometimes I am their guide but really most times I am the student in this.

 

*The majority of the Math videos we watched and math problems we explored that week came from the website https://www.youcubed.org/ along with talks featured on the Ted Talks website. “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy” is a favourite of the kids.

The Ice Cream poster problem that my son worked on can be found here.

**The dot configuration problem can be found in the Week of Inspirational Math (iMath) on the youcubed.org site.

 

Why do we Homeschool?

The dream classroom. Enjoying the beauty of outside and fresh air.

The dream classroom. Enjoying the beauty of outside and fresh air.

What I love and wanted in homeschool. My kids engaged and focus on creative activity. No time limits and bells ringing.

What I love and wanted in homeschool. My kids engaged and focused on creative activity. No time limits and bells ringing.

Why do we homeschool?

We all want the best for our children.

We want them to have the opportunity they need to succeed. We want them to have what we feel we missed or wish we had. We want them to experience and value what’s important to our family.

For some it’s the freedom to pursue what they love or to get the help they need. For others it is freedom to follow a religious choice. And for some it’s a chance to be free from a possibly unsafe environment.

Most of us would say that we do it out of love. Love for our children.

But have we ever stopped to consider that we may also homeschool out of fear?

Yes, fear.

Fear that our children will not get the help they need at school to become successful in our everyday world. Fear that they will attend an uncaring school, one that doesn’t reflect the values and needs that our children require. Fear that they will not fit in to the social groups and norms of school. The peer pressure and “bad” influences. Fear that they will experience pain and suffering because of it. Fear that they will lose the religious values and morals that are essential to some.

Are we aware that we’re fearful? How does this reflect in our homeschool life?

Have you had what you feel are great homeschool days, and then other days that you think are a complete write off? The other day was a day like that in our house. Emotions ran high, I was frustrated and upset, the kids were upset, my husband was upset. We argued with the kids, we lost energy, we lost perspective.

Our momentum was interrupted because of this upset.

This is just one example. Have you ever had days like this? Where does this start? How does it happen?

Have you ever felt upset that your child is not doing what you ask? Have you ever felt tired and under- appreciated?

Have you ever gotten upset or angry because the kids are not “working” or doing what you have asked of them? They are not following what you had “envisioned” for homeschool?  You tell yourself (and maybe them) that you are concerned that they will fall behind their peers in school. That they are not at the same level as some of your friend’s children?

But what is the real fear here?

The fear is that you are not a good parent because you have failed. Failed at homeschooling, failed at providing them with what you thought you could do better. Failed at helping them be the best they could be. They would be failures and therefore you would be a failure.

That is just one example of a fear. A fear that, as a parent and adult, I admit having. What kind of fears do you hold onto?

We keep these fears in our lives, bring them into our homeschooling environment, into our children’s lives and into their mindset. With these fears, are we giving them the tools for success?

How would homeschool life be different if we lived each moment out of love instead of fear? How different would our relationships be with our children? Our partner? How different would homeschool be?

Would life be different if we let go of our fear of failure, our fear of being judged, our fear of what our children look like to others? If we worked on and let go of our fear of what we look like — to our community, family, church, friends – would our homeschool experience change?

Would you still even homeschool?

My friend and I joke that homeschooling is a personal mirror of our bad parenting and life skills. We laugh about the truth of it. Every day we are tested. Our parenting skills, our moods, our patience. It’s all magnified.

How are we choosing to live each day? How are we choosing to homeschool?

Are we doing this out of love or fear? Are we living each moment out of love or fear?

This was post encouraged by a video a friend had shared on Facebook.

I encourage you to watch it. Find it on this link.

Jim Carrey’s Commencement Speech at Maharishi University

 

 

The Importance of Seeing Real Life Examples at Work

This Easter we headed south to visit my family. During our stay my mom took my kids to the city’s nature centre. The Helen Schuler Nature Centre.

My mom and the kids chatted with the staff. My mom shared my son’s enthusiasm for nature, travel and biology. They spoke with the head volunteer at the centre who was also an enthusiast and he invited my son to return the following Saturday so that he could meet the centre’s head biologist.

My son was more than excited because he wants to become a marine biologist.

We returned to Helen Schuler that Saturday where my son had a chance to meet Scott, the head biologist who took the time to answer all of his questions and told him a little about his job, his start, and some favourite places to visit as a nature enthusiast.

My son was able to hang out with their head volunteer, who is a retired veterinarian. They talked about animals, he held their pet snake, and they went on a walk outside searching for animals. In particular a porcupine in the trees that stays well hidden. One I would never be able to spot on my own.

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My son was in his element. For me it was a delight to see.

My son has now long surpassed me in his wealth of knowledge and facts about animals, species, habitats, and life cycles. I go to him for those answers. I know that he needs teachers/mentors in that field of expertise with that knowledge and passion that will enhance his journey into biology.

The staff was exceptional. John, the head volunteer brought out the resident snake and Ronan held it while they did an impromptu presentation for visitors. John drilled my son with questions that I did not know the answers to, but of course my son did.

My son learned that Scott’s focus is in Conservation Biology. He studied at the University of Alberta. He was a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm.

Both Scott and John knew, shared and therefore understood my son’s absolute joy for nature.

It was so apparent to see the essential need for anyone to have a mentor or a relatable expert to learn from. To see how your dreams and enthusiasm in an area can translate into reality. This goes for students in any type of schooling. 

We are looking forward to a return visit and to meeting more enthusiasts and experts in the field. 

Ronan and Scott in discussion. Ronan was in his element. It is so important to meet real examples at work!

Ronan and Scott in discussion. Ronan was in his element. It is so important to meet real examples at work!

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Zahra and her Aunty explored the centre. There was a great feature on butterflies and their migration. Timely topic as we are raising butterflies at home.

Their Secret Place

Our home forest

Our home forest

 

I read an article about a year ago about a family that unschools. We Don’t Need No Education was the title. Their approach was quite free. Their two sons spent the majority of everyday outside roaming the woods surrounding their home. They seemed to have very minimal if any academic “school” time. Their education was purely child led, independent, outdoors. The boys had breakfast, did their chores, then went outside by themselves exploring until the end of the day. The boys started learning to read when they were ready. They sounded like true outdoorsmen and had what seemed absolute freedom.

I have found that every family’s true definition of unschooling differs. It fits each family in their own unique way.

To me unschooling is defined as allowing personal freedom, choice, and expression in learning. Allowing learning in real life, without scheduled traditional structures that are routinely followed. Where interests are followed.

I thought about this article today because with the weather becoming much warmer, so many days have been purely outdoors. This morning both kids have been off on their own in the woods by our home. Playing, building, eating snacks, creating their own world. I can see their heads and colored shirts through the trees from where I sit outside. I can hear their voices. They are content that it is just them.

My husband told me today how Carl Jung talked about children’s desire and actions in the need to create their own “secret space.” It is a place for their “spirit” to go. I see that in the boys in the article. I see that in my children as well. As I look around, I wonder if we do enough of that for our kids? Allow them to be free, to be outside, and create their own spaces? A space their spirit can be free, and undisturbed from the “order” and chaos of adults?

I see the importance. I wonder if that is what happens to us as adults? Did we develop that secret place when we were young? If so, can we still find it? Do you go there?

A “secret” space where our spirit resides.

If you look hard enough, you may see a dog, and one of my children's heads poking through the bushes.

If you look hard enough, you may see a dog, and one of my children’s heads poking through the bushes.

Angle It

New season, new life, new change.

There have been so many great things happening. We have been enjoying the moments and I have not stopped to write about any of it. So like a new season, a new start, I am starting to post again.

This week has been what I call a week of math. I have not decided that. My kids have, of course. I just go with it.

A short while back my father-in-law introduced my son to angles. What they are, how they are different, and how we can measure them. He really enjoyed the impromptu lesson.

This week he decided that he wanted to learn more about angles and practice making them. So that is what we have been doing. As I am sure most homeschooling parents will find, homeschool is not a lesson for the kids as so much a lesson for the parents.

Geometry Fun

Geometry Fun

So here I am, enjoying geometry again because of my son.

He brought out his protractor and paper. (We could not locate a compass yet)

He drew lines and vertexes. I did the same. He measured them and learned how to correctly record the angles on paper with the angle sign. We talked about circumference, and how a circle is 360 degrees. He knew what a 90 degree angle was, but joined the connection of 90 degrees to 180 degrees to 360 degrees. He noted that once the circle was drawn 90 degrees divided it into 4 quarters.

Without a compass he used a cup to draw his circle

Without a compass he used a cup to draw his circle

And he kept wanting to go further.

We talked about and drew right angles, reflex angles, and obtuse angles. The difference between diameter, and radius.

Different Kinds of Angles

Different Kinds of Angles

He likes to make his angles into chomping crocodiles

He likes to make his angles into chomping crocodiles

We discussed geometry in nature. How a honeycomb fits together perfectly. All the cells are the same hexagon shape. Or the bearings on a compass. We use degrees to measure navigation, starting with zero degrees which represents North.

He wanted to expand into shapes and drew triangles, cubes, and pyramids.

3D sketches

3D sketches

I am refreshing my vocabulary. Equilateral triangles, isosceles triangles and scalene triangles. He drew each triangle and checked the sides and angles to make sure they add up to the correct amount. ( All 3 angles must equal 180 degrees in a triangle )

He also played with interactive triangles. The website https://www.mathsisfun.com/triangle.html has been a great interactive resource.

Triangles, Triangles

Triangles, Triangles

It was a math week for all

It was a math week for all. Zahra was focused on subtraction. 

This has been our last few days. And as I type, he sits beside me still drawing angles.