Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kindergarten Lesson Plans

I've just stumbled upon a wonderful, and incredibly useful site.  Not only does Bright Hub Education have free lesson plans for every age group, it is thorough, but concise, with just enough information to give you direction and understanding of how to create the lesson (or unit) and not so much that you get bogged down trying to find your way up.  I love that!

Here's the link again:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Elimination Diet

I have hives.  Yes, so much fun.  I have spent the last few days recalling the day they started, trying to think of something definitive that could tell me what caused them.  No luck.  Do an elimination diet.  That's what I've been told.  Find our what you are allergic to.  Yep, I know those already.  Here is what I'm allergic to:

1.  The stars not aligning to deliver me the balance and easy decision making that I want.  So I'm eliminating that.

2.  Not believing that no matter what I really will make the right decision for whatever latest major life occurrence is happening.  Yep, I'll eliminate that one too.

3.  People and paths that don't support me and mine.  Gone.

4.  Cats, maybe.  Good thing I'm not eating ours.  Shoo cat, shoo!

5.  Not believing that my crazy scheme will succeed, when, clearly, millions of people have crazy schemes that work.  And I'm not even as crazy as them!  I will strike this from the list and eliminate it!

So, now lets see what happens with these hives.  I'll keep drinking my nettles tea, taking a few herbs, going bra-less and trying to distract myself from the itch, itch, itch, and we'll see how this elimination diet works.

You have anything you need to eliminate before it gives you hives?

Don't hold back!  BE THE TRUE YOU!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Year of Elements: Creating a Homeschool Curriculum Part 2

As I rummage through my mind and heart about how to best approach the first year of homeschooling, the elements are taking the front seat of the agenda. Fire, water, earth, and air. The seasons are a little more obvious for a first choice in influence, but the elements have always been the first layer of my language of the universe.  And the seasons are the next stop.

What element do you associate with each season?  It's very prominent in Western, contemporary, Earth-based beliefs to connect Spring with the East, the rising sun, and Air, but this has never jived with me.  Maybe it's something to do with the Spring festivals relating to fire, a lot to do with my summers connecting to water recreation in the heat of S. Texas, and definitely influenced by the lessons of a book I studied very early in my exploration of the mystical realm:  In the Shadow of the Shaman, by Amber Wolfe.

This is a beginner's introduction to Earth-based/shamanic connection and one that I will rely on heavily for shaping work with Wildschooling.  And in this book, Spring is the resurrection of the sun, which is Fire, and the building of that power.  It then associates Water with Summer, Earth with Autumn and the Harvest, and Air with Winter, the straddling between this realm and the spirit realm.  But I challenge you to let go of whatever current associations you have and let your own authentic experiences shape these associations.  Having something tangible for your children, (or for you) will be the most powerful connections you can make.

Since it is summer as I write this, my focus is on dreaming up a plan, listening to my intuition about how to go about teaching Jetta in her first official year of "study," and age appropriate books on watery things like mermaids, the ocean, and the beach.  This is a time when we've had lots of visitors and will visit the coast at least once more before the official school years starts-- this is about relationships and exploration, both inner and outer. 

But when the school year starts for  us, things will shift.  Our studies will be simple and season based, with the elements influencing the yearly plan as well as the daily plan.  Generally speaking, we'll focus on leaves, harvest, and other seasonal things for Autumn, but the element of Earth will influence the overall tone by being about the tangible manipulatives we utilize, the structure we start with (that may change through the seasons as we find more authenticity in what we are doing) and the grounded approach we attempt in early learning. 

The transition after Halloween and Thanksgiving will lend itself to more spiritual notions as we incorporate celebrations of the holidays, intangible traditions such as Santa (saint, or fairy?), elves, connecting with the 'in-between' time of winter, when the Earth is sleeping, the temperatures drop, and the outer life of the wild is not as visible.

Spring will return to Fire, the warming of the Earth, life returning, cleansing, and the discovery of the self.  There will be a lot of self-interest in the themes for Jetta, and I expect by that time we'll be bordering an "unschooling" method that is strongly shaped by her preferences.

Our "summer break," I'm hoping, will be filled with new relationships and friendships as she explores through summer camps, visits with family, and travelling, both inner and outer.

Soon I'll share my actual monthly plan, with intended units or themes, but I would love to hear what others have played with and what successes you've had with first year homeschooling.

Happy Dreaming!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fringe Benefits

The girls and I took a trip to the nearest JoAnn Fabric & Craft the other day.  It was a drive into San Antonio, my first since moving here, and it was, fortunately, uneventful.  As I walked into the store I realized that once we officially become homeschoolers, we will be eligible for home educator discounts at a variety of stores, JoAnn's included.  This is no small thing to me.  The information page for this discount describes that it gives the home educator 15% off every purchase in addition to an initial coupon of 20% off an entire purchase just for registering as an educator.  I also noticed that JoAnn's has an extensive selection of Faber-Castell products, which are a step up from the average crayon and map color.  This includes a much less expensive set of beeswax crayons compared to some of the other brands.

What are your favorite supplies for homeschooling and creativity, and where do you buy them?  And what stores do you benefit from having a home-educator discount to?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Creative Mom, Structured Day

That title is what I hope to be.  I'm pretty creative, so we can put a check by that one.  But structure is not always, okay, rarely, my strong suit.  Let me say that differently.  I can plan something structured as long as I am not the one who has to implement it.  And I can follow a plan if it's someone else's list of instructions.  When I have to plan it AND implement it, the boat gets a little rocky.  And I'll admit this is probably my biggest fear about homeschooling, or wildschooling, the girls.

I am full of some amazing ideas.  And at this point in my life, I am facing the fact that my follow through is just not always there.  But the path in front of me requires follow through and even more than that, it requires that I believe in myself and my ability to take us from one place of beginning to another unknown place, far, far down the road, into the future with surety, confidence, and a willingness to engage that potential success.

Heavy sigh of anxiety . . . big, big exhale . . .

But I do believe that I can do it.  Lesser people than me have done it.  So I thought I'd find a few suggestions for myself and other moms like me, moms (or dads) who thrive on going inward into their own creative process, and who come up for air after hours have passed.  Or for moms like me who meander through a day, come what may, and don't always have any one thing that repeats itself (other than food, potty, and sleep!).  Or for moms like me who just don't do so well at doing the same thing over and over.  Let me know if you've got any ideas of your own or tricks that you've used!

Don't feel like you have to "do things by the book." 
You're the teacher, you can write your OWN book!

1.  Don't do the same thing over and over!  Plan a schedule that will vary according to the day and week.  Monday can be language arts, Tuesday math, and Wednesday social studies etc.

2.  Do make a plan.  Start with a year long plan, marking out all holidays and events that need to be accommodated, and choosing your theme/unit for each period of focus (month, 6 weeks, season, etc.)  Having a longterm plan will make it easier to be fluid in the moment while still sticking to the intended theme or unit of study.

3.  Don't be a perfectionist.  I can say with 100% certainty that there are plenty of times when professional teachers have to wing it, compromise, change the plan, accommodate the unexpected, or start from scratch at the last minute.  If they have to do it, why would we expect that we, as homeschool parents, would not?  Allow for change and do what you do best as a creative mom:  go with the flow.

A little imperfection will go a long way when getting things done!

4.  Do relax and let your time with your children feel good.  You know what they need to thrive, and if you don't, you can do find out pretty easily.  At the top of that list is "1.  Confidant captain of the boat who knows, even in the face of unknown lesson plans, that things will be okay on this homeschool voyage."  So relax and know that messing it up is going to happen and all you have to do is have more good days than bad.

5.  Don't give in before you start.  There are thousands of people who are homeschooling, possibly in your city, and if not, in your region.  They all do it differently and they are all legally empowered to choose to give their children the education they see fit, some with few to no expectations from their state.  If you fall flat on your face and have to take your child to the nearest public school six weeks after kindergarten has started, I promise, you will not be the first parent to do so.

6.  Do seek out a community, not necessarily a homeschool one, and not necessarily one that is exactly like you.  I live in a pretty conservative area of Texas and I am discovering that many of the homeschool groups have different religious affiliations than we do.  Many require a statement of faith, but many do not.  Since the majority of people in a public school would also not be the same religious affiliation as us, it make sense for us to try to engage in a community even if it is not in the same relifious ball park as us.  Diversity is a good thing.  On the other hand, I think my daughters need to have peers who mirror their existence and validate who they are in the world, so we will seek out communities that are associated with the interests and preferences we have regardless of whether they homeschool or not.

A few other things to consider are the following:

Rhythms of contraction and expansion.  Waldorf education stresses these for the younger years.  The older your child is the longer the expansion away from one another can last.  For my two year old, unless she's watching tv (frown, frown) that rhythm doesn't have a very long cycle.  But plan for activities that bring you together, and activities that let your stretch out away from one another, and plan for simultaneous work as well. 

Use creative activities to occasionally indulge your own creative expression.  I have found this to be really useful.  Sitting at the table and coloring with Jetta becomes an opportunity to both model the creativity I want her to explore as well as experience my own expression and creative release.  I don't have to color in her coloring book in order to still be coloring with her.

Engage them in your "grown-up" stuff.  If you need to get something done, in the same way that I have hijacked coloring time and turned it into my own project, let them into your process or task.  It will teach them about what you are doing, make them feel included, and still let you get something done.

Finally, one of the most important things we can do as creative parents who homeschool, or any parent under any circumstances (or any human being anywhere), is give ourselves the time we need to go inward, as well as time to have peer connection.  Part of homeschooling is wanting to have your children close, but it can become challenging to find that space long enough to hear your own thoughts, map your own destiny, and feel validated along your own path.  Don't omit the atypical or unfamiliar opportunities for letting them stretch their legs while you stretch your own.  So stay up late if you have to.  Or get up early.  Or make your husband watch the kids while you go out with friends.   Or take them to Sunday school so you can talk to other adults at church.  Or go to that open skating homeschool event that is more than 45 minutes away so you can have time with the other moms.  Making the effort for yourself is important for them to see.  How else will they learn to that for themselves?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Materials Overload

After finding a place of comfort with all my checklists and TEKS, I'm taking time to rely on just one of the lists I downloaded.  The curriculum outline has enough detail for me to insure that we cover a lot of standard kindergarten skills and knowledge, but is not so lengthy that it's torturous to use.  I will rely on this outline for formulating our units and the activities and work we cover for those topics, but I'll also be using this outline when I create our year-long plan or map. 

Before I do that, I want to get a handle on how to use some of the gazillion tools my sister has shared with me.  Two full boxes of materials were brought up, and that's just a drop in the bucket compared to what she has.  After eliminating an entire box of what I definitely won't be using, I have a full box of books and curriculum to dig through.  Among my favorites are titles such as Take Any Book, by Neil Stitt, Story Stretchers:  Activities to Expand Children's Favorite Books, by Shirley C. Raines and Robert J. Canady, A Year of Hands-on Science,  by Lynne Kepler, and Teachin' Cheap by Linda Holliman.

I can't offer any kind of opinion on these books yet, but as I use or go through them I will make a point to do reviews on them.  If you know anything about these feel free to share your  experiences with them.  I know I am lucky to have all these resources, and still more to come!

What I do love about these books, and why I have singled them out, is that they will empower any parent or teacher with the ability to create their own lesson plan or curriculum based on the needs and preferences of their children or students.  I do have public school curriculum available to me, and I am spending time looking through that, week by week, lesson by lesson, and trying to pull from that what will be most useful for us.  What seems most obviously not for us is some of the time that is required to be taken in a classroom on things just because of the nature of teaching large groups of kids.  Some of what is covered seems like overkill for teaching one on one, and some of it is just stuff we do in our every day lives, like working with sounds of letters and counting infinite numbers of things.  Either way, I am excited to dig through the stack and uncover goodies.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Regressions and Retrogrades

Jetta has strep throat and we're heading into the weekend with antibiotics on call for Jade, just in case.

The step children are moving across the country only months after we have spent more money than I want to think about moving across country to be near them.

And all those worries about whether homeschooling is right for our girls are creeping in, pushing against my stable mind.

Yes, Mercury is going retrograde.  Soon.

I am not someone that makes decisions lightly.  I used to be, back in those pre-motherhood days.  I did not question what I wanted in the way that I do now and it seems that every decision I make has some level of impact on the potential happiness of our sweet girls.  I know too well the slippery slope that this indecision puts me on, so I take things slowly, obsessively, and gather information while my inner self roots into what is right.  But it seems there will always be a Mercury in retrograde and I will have the pros and cons of any situation thrust back up into the spotlight just as my roots were taking hold.

Mercury goes retrograde on July 14th and according to Aligned for Mercury Retrograde this month's retrograde theme, with Mercury in Leo, is about self expression, self esteem, and "risking the self for the self."

Risking the self, huh?  Hmm.  It always feels like there is very little balance in risking myself, or risking my kids.  And just which option is the real risk?  What if what I believe will be right for them, will not necessarily be what will make them happy?  And what if the ideas behind being happy aren't what will really bring longterm happiness and a wellness of the soul?

And so it goes.  On and on.  And on.  But this time, I'm not takin' it anymore!  This retrograde will not pull the rug out from under me, rock my boat, or crush my foundation so that I have to rebuild it, piece by piece, only to have it flip and reverse back to the original plan once Mercury goes direct.

So here is what I say:  Bring it on!  Well, maybe not with quite so much confidence, but yeah, let's bring those issues up.  Let's put them on the table and look at them for what they are.  If it's meant to be addressed, let's address it.  And I will remain open to what the resolutions are.  I will remain open to discovering the truths behind these things.  I will remain true to my heart and intuition while letting these old fears rise fully and show me what they have to say.  The answers may not be perfect, but I'll continue to put one foot in front of the other while I dig deep into the ol' bag o' baggage and pull out what needs to be dumped. 

And in the meantime, I'll talk authentically with Jetta about what her heart wants and know that I can trust her to know what she needs.  She might not know the vehicle by which she can get those things, but I can listen and learn and let her shape how we do things.

Wildschooling is still the plan, and the things we don't like about public school are still things we don't like, so let's let the digging begin.  Dig up the issues, re-examine them, and find the information that is trying to make its way to us.  And when the retrograde passes, we'll see where we end up.