Simple Bounty

Finding Beauty, Grace and Sanity in a Busy World

Our Homeschooling Journey Begins May 25, 2011

Filed under: Education,Family Life — katieosborne @ 10:24 am

Jonas will be five next month, and we are easing our way into school this year. I’ve started a light and loose schedule this month that we will carry through the summer. This is basically what it looks like:

At breakfast we read a chapter from their Bible. This spring I bought a much needed new children’s Bible called Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade. I HIGHLY recommend it. It far surpasses any other children’s Bible I’ve seen. (Not that I have seen them all, but this is really good). She makes God’s character and his plan for His people the focus of each story. It is a good book for kids as old as (I would guess) fourth or fifth grade. The language is not too simplistic. There are sophisticated concepts woven in. There are discussion questions at the end of each 3 page chapter. I don’t usually do the discussion questions with my kids, as they are often over their heads at this point. I love that we will be able to use this for many years since there is the opportunity to go much deeper than we currently are.

After that, we do a character study type book. Right now we are doing God’s Wisdom For Little Boys and God’s Wisdom For Little Girls. Each page has a character trait with a little rhyme and a verse from Proverbs. We read one a day from each book. The kids like them. They’re pretty simplistic, but it is a good starting place to discuss issues of character.

Then we do catechism questions. I got off of doing this for quite some time. I don’t know why, as Jonas has always loved answering the questions. I am pleased to see that even little Bridget is picking up on the answers. She knows four of five of them right now.

We pray, then the kids have time to play while I clean up the kitchen and get started on some other tasks.

Weather permitting, we head outside for a few hours. Usually the kids just play in the yard while I tackle the never ending weed problem or read or write on a blanket under the tree. The kids and I have enjoyed a few picnic lunches in the yard in the last couple weeks. What is it about eating outside? It’s lovely. Sometimes we walk to the park, and I would like to start taking regular nature walks at the various parks and nature centers in our area.

At or after lunch we do some read alouds. We read a lot of picture books. Some of the current favorites are Make Way For Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, Fly High Fly Low, Miss Rumphius, The Little Island,  and Ferdinand. The kids have also been really into the Let’s Read and Find Out Science books. We have a couple from the library, and they are especially fond of A Nest Full Of Eggs. These are really educational and well written. I’ve learned from them too.

We try to incorporate singing our Sunday School hymn of the month into our bedtime routine. We don’t do it every night, but a few times a week. I think it is important for the kids to gain a background in the great hymns of the faith.

A few days a week are themed, and I haven’t been too consistent with getting into a weekly groove with these yet, but I hope to in June.

Monday is Music Monday. This summer I am teaching Jonas about the orchestra with the book The Story of The Orchestra. This book is really geared toward older kids – maybe 2nd to 5th grade, but Jonas is rather precocious, so he is able to understand it and enjoy it. The pages are colorful and full of pictures, diagrams and lots of tidbits of information. It comes with a CD that has musical examples that correspond to various pages. I thought that teaching him about the instruments and how they work together was a good place to start before going on to study specific composers. I have also introduced the kids to Bernstein’s Children’s Classics which contains Peter and the Wolf, The Carnival of the Animals, and The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. I put this on occasionally while the children are drawing or painting. I find that Jonas really tunes into the music and story while he is working. He’ll ask me questions sometimes, and it surprises me that he is paying that much attention doing two things at once. Another thing that I want to start doing on a regular basis is playing classical music at dinner. Once we start studying specific composers, we can listen to his work during the dinner hour.

Wednesday is (supposed to be) Nature Walk Wednesday. I haven’t made this happen yet. I think it is important to get them out in nature, exploring and observing. I bought a copy of Fun With Nature Take Along Guide. We haven’t started using it yet, so I can’t comment on it, but from what I saw flipping through it, it looks like it will be fun and useful.

And Friday is Fine Art Friday where we learn about a painter or do a picture study of one of his works. We are learning about Norman Rockwell right now. For younger children, I highly recommend books by Mike Venezia. He writes about artists, musicians and other figures in a really interesting and informative way.

I am not doing academics this summer, and I don’t intend to get too heavy into it this school year, though we will start math and reading since he is more than ready. I want the focus to remain on instilling our faith in the kids, character development and developing in them a love for beauty and noble thought, which I think is best done through exposing them to God’s creation, the arts and great literature. With that as the foundation, I believe their love for learning will flourish and we will just ease our way into the more bookish aspects of schooling.


A Few Thoughts on A child’s acquisition of knowledge January 12, 2011

Filed under: Education,Family Life — katieosborne @ 4:12 pm

This has become quite a meandering little ramble, prompted by a very simple exchange. Forgive me for not being more succinct in my thoughts. This is largely just me, thinking out loud and trying to connect the dots.

When it comes to education, our society places so many unrealistic and trivial expectations on children. Rather than giving them the opportunity and freedom to learn (truly learn) and master skills at their own pace and in their own way, they are most often expected to learn the material at the same rate as their classmates and in the manner established by their teacher, without their individual needs really being taken into account.

(Now, I do understand why this has come to be in classrooms of 20-30, especially considering the fast pace of modern life where merely making it through the day is the goal of many, but all that is really beside the point if one is interested in the education of a child).

Individuals are all unique, with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t make sense to me to force children into a prescribed mold and label him one way or another based on whether or not he conforms to this mold – especially when the typical methods of learning these things are often unbearably dull, unimaginative, and restrictive.

I’ve started thinking on this because of a bit of online messaging between my mother in law and me. She was amazed today when she realized that the colors of the rainbow Jonas (age 4.5) drew at her house the other day were in the correct order.

“How does he know that!?!” she asked, just like that.

Well, he was interested in drawing rainbows this fall, so he learned the order.

My wonderful mother in law was a K4 teacher for many years in the Milwaukee Public Schools. She insists that it is very unusual for a four year old to know this, and that, in fact, she doesn’t remember any of her students knowing it. Her incredulity made me chuckle, though. Why shouldn’t he know it? Why shouldn’t little children know plenty of wonderful and detailed little things about their world?

Now granted, God has blessed Jonas with a sharp mind and a very good memory, and maybe it is unusual, but there is no reason a four year old can’t learn and retain this kind of information. I’m sure she had students over the years who knew this particular tidbit, and it just never came up in class. Kids know all kinds of things that we adults are unaware of.

My point, really, is that kids are capable of far more, intellectually, than adults give them credit for. If a child is nurtured and given the right resources, if he is left to play and be creative and follow his interests, if he’s not made to feel stressed out and over burdened, he can learn just about anything. Unfortunately, not all children are blessed with environments that nurture their minds (and souls), that do what is necessary to kindle their God given curiosity. They may not be offered a lot of opportunity to just learn stuff. To learn in their way, to learn what is interesting to them, to learn for the sake of knowing, to learn in a way that it will be remembered….

Would Jonas be less intelligent if he didn’t know the color order of the rainbow? No, of course not. And yet, that is how we often treat children and their education: like a checklist. And we use that list to compare them to their peers and label them “gifted” or “remedial” or whatever. Education is not a checklist. It’s not merely something you do sitting in a little desk in a school building for seven hours a day. Education is a lifelong undertaking. It isn’t about merely acquiring a set of facts and skills that teachers and school boards and the government see fit for our children to learn so that they can do well on a test and be good little members of society. Education is about marveling in and loving the world that God created; it’s about appreciating beauty and order and truth and a host of other things; it’s about the love of learning; it’s about learning how to think – not what to think.

My desire as a mother is to open up as many avenues of learning as possible for my children. To allow them to explore and wonder and take pleasure in the world around them. To let them go at their own pace and work things out. I think if that is the starting point, then they will find success in their educational endeavors. There are certain things our children need to be taught, no doubt, and some of those things might not be enjoyable for them. I do understand that, but sometimes I feel like our society makes all of education such drudgery, and it doesn’t need to be that way, and it would be much more beneficial to the children if it wasn’t.

And by the way, none of this is said to, in any way, infer that our home life is an example of education at its very best or to belittle my mother in law’s teaching experiences. She is such a blessing to us, and especially to the kids. She is completely in her element with them, and her years of teaching have really given her the skill to listen to and interact with toddlers. The exchange just sparked some thoughts in me. Certainly working in a city school gives her a completely different lens through which she views these things, than my own.