Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Wooden Homeschool Calendar

I spent a lot of time mulling over just how our homeschool calendar should be, most of which involved planning how I could avoid having to cut wood.  Using paper and a cork board was always in the back of my mind, but I wanted something with wood, something that would express the nature of our "wild" schooling.  In the end, I went with using the materials I had on hand, and letting it be imperfect so I could make progress and actually get it done.  I'm super happy to share the results. 

This was a simple process that I'll walk you through:

1.  Cut the wood to size.  Ours is small.  This is a 12" x 16" board (give or take). 
2.  Prepare, stain, or paint the wood to your preferred color.
3.  Measure out the calendar grid.  I used a ruler, making seven days, a spot for the year, month, season, weather, moon phase and left a spot for creating an image that will represent the month or season.
4.  Paint your grid.  I used a gold paint pen.  Once the grid was prepared, we added a nail for every place we'd need a number, season, weather, etc.
5.  Write your days of the week with something like a sharpee (this is a mom-only task in our house).
6.  Prepare your numbers.  This will involve writing your numbers and adding any kind of color that you choose.  I wrote the numbers with a permanent marker, and then traced over them with a beeswax crayon for a little depth.  Next we drilled small holes to fit over the nail and then I added glitter spray.
7.  Don't forget your holiday, weather, and moon phase pieces.  For September, we have a spot for the Autumnal Equinox.
8.  Last is the month, year, and seasons.  I used torn kraft paper for this.  I did a double glued layer for a little more stability and then used a hole punch for the holes.

And now you're done!

A few things to consider adding would be a spot for yesterday, today, and tomorrow, pockets to hold the extra numbers, months, etc. or a place for emotions and each kiddo to pick how they are feeling that day.  In the end, I am happy that we have a calendar that will last beyond our elementary years and become a perpetual calendar for our family that matches our d├ęcor and expresses a little of who we are.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beginning the Journey with Nettles

I am not a person with a lot of the fire element in my constitution.  I'm more of a water and earth, slow to make progress, slow to embrace change, vulnerable to the moving, hard knocks world around me kind of girl.  An herb like Nettles just might do me some good, but I have not yet made friends with the spirit of Nettles.

Traditionally, Nettles has been used for a variety of issues, including allergies, for UTI's, and for it's high mineral content.  You can read more about the nutrient content of Nettles at  A Modern Herbal and at Mountain Rose Herbs.  Susun Weed recommends drinking a quart of Nettles infusion each day and while I have attempted this a time or two, my palate is squeamish and untried.  The taste is a definite deterrent!

I find myself wondering just what I need to do to join hands with Nettles and sing a little Kumbaya. 

Appealing to the spirit of Nettles in a respectful and humble way might help.  Yes, this is esoteric.  Why not just sweeten it?  Why not add herbs?  I have, and still, I am stumped.  So in the spirit of shamanic herbalism, I send a quiet plea to Nettles . . .

Wild Nettles
Let me embrace you.
Wild, fiery Nettles
Let me desire you.
Wild, fiery, protective Nettles
Let me learn from you.
Wild, fiery, protective, nourishing Nettles
Let me take you into my body and blend easily with your nature so that I may heal those parts of me that will only heal from you.
Wild Nettles
Let me be wild with you.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Do You Really Need a Curriculum?

This is our second year of homeschooling and one of the things I have been most indecisive about is whether we really need a curriculum.  The short answer is no.  We don't.  We are perfectly capable of gathering what we need in order to prepare our child for the skills and knowledge that we view imperative for progress at their age. 

Obviously, if you are unschooling, there is less strain with this decision, but if you are anticipating that your child will be in a conventional school setting at some point, this issue might have other emotional layers for you.  So how have I managed without a curriculum?  I've had the advantage of checking with my sister, a retired kindergarten and first grade teacher, but I have also just dug around the internet looking for things that would clarify just what my child needs to know.  Below is a short list of options on finding the information you need.

Where do I start?

Your state education website likely has criteria and explanation for each grade level and subject.  In Texas, these are called TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).  Even for a teacher, these can be heavy on the professional jargon and are really, really wordy, but it's an excellent place to start.  When we lived in Arkansas, there was something called "refrigerator curriculum guide" which was basically a list of what was expected to be mastered by the end of the year.  These were for parents of public school kiddos, but convenient for homeschool parents too! 

Other options:

Google Search:  I have found a lot of success with doing a Google search for "First grade curriculum map" (insert the grade you want, but make sure to include the word "MAP").  There are a large number of schools all over the country that have accessible documents online in various formats.  Some of them are more lengthy, but they are all likely to be less cumbersome than the state education website information.  Many of them even break down the skills to be covered by each session, semester or six weeks.

Curriculum Sneak Peaks:  Checking the "skills covered" lists of different curriculums that are for sale will be useful.  They obviously aren't going to give you the lesson plans, but most of them offer a sneak peak of some kind to prove to you that they are, in fact, covering what you want them to cover.  It's easy enough to translate that into a list of skills that YOU can cover with your child.

Workbooks:  Buying workbooks can be handy.  It's all in one place and you don't have to think too hard about it, but if you would prefer to do hands on activities you could still use a comprehensive workbook to guide the skills you cover.

Pinterest:  Go to pinterest and search for your grade level and subject and there will be loads of links available.  This is not as concise as the previous options, but will likely give you a wonderful set of options and ideas!

Your Public Library:  Your public library may or may not have books that would provide you with a concise set of skills and knowledge for grades or subjects, but you are likely to find plenty of information in one form or another.  Don't neglect this option!

Sometimes, I feel like not buying a curriculum is over rated.  I find myself wanting the ease of having someone else make the plans for me.  My teacher training, after all, was for grades 6-12 and anything below that is foreign to me.  But so far I have enjoyed the freedom of doing what we choose, what I know is useful to us, and not investing a large sum of money in a curriculum that I am uncertain about.  Of course, if a Waldorf based curriculum came my way I certainly wouldn't turn it down!

Your turn!  What have you done to avoid using a purchased curriculum? 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wildschooling: Our Homeschool Rules!

We're getting  a late start to some of the aspects of our homeschooling year and there are a variety of things I just never got done last year.  Last year, in so many ways, was like working our way through a jungle of unknowns and this year, after a lot of indecision and worry, we're homeschooling again.  Or as I like to say:  WILDSCHOOLING!

Our homeschool rules are actually FAMILY rules, because they apply to all of us.  It's my intention to focus on the attribute we want to encourage, rather than focus too heavily on a list of "No . . ."  It's easy enough to be negative and we are no stranger to that.  In fact, as a family that tends to run more on the emotional side of things, negativity comes easily.  For our girls, we have to consciously work at cultivating optimism and compassion and our homeschooling/family rules are no exception. 

Without further adieu . . . .

The sparkle makes it harder to read the rules with a flash on the camera, so here they are without that sparkle:
You'll notice that we do have one rule that starts with "no."  Playing in the bathroom is a sore spot with a grown-up or two in our house, and it has become enough of an issue that it was important to be specific.  We have other rules that we are specific about, such as no hitting, no biting, etc., but most of those fall under the first six rules.  And yes, my husband and I hold ourselves to all seven rules as well.
Creating this plaque was simple enough.  I took a wooden box that once held wooden beads (you know how those Melissa and Doug containers become useless at some point . . .), printed our rules on kraft paper, tore the edges and decoupaged it onto the wood.  After some beeswax crayon embellishment, I used some glitter spray.  Much as it is important to be natural in our house, we DO own glitter spray and use it when we need some sparkle.  Wildschooling frequently requires sparkle!
How do you handle rules for your homeschool?  Are they different to family rules?  Or combined?  I'd love to hear how you have worked with rules in your own home!
Coming soon:  our Wildschooling calendar!  (expect more sparkle!!!!)