Saturday, August 10, 2013

Leaning into Life | Homeschool Adventures!

Confession: I've dropped the ball a little recently. And I think that's a good thing.

As we draw closer to our departure date (I really need to write an updated post about our trip don't I!) I've been schooling much more loosely ~ which is, in reality, the direction I was wanting to move. So maybe it's less "dropping the ball" & more embracing what is.

Either way, there are certainly seasons to this homeschooling life. Times when you feel the need to plan everything & be organised and times when you need to let go and be.
On Wednesday, in the spirit of 'Hmmmm, I do hope we are getting enough done around here...' I decided to make notes as we went through our day about what the boys were doing and was pleasantly surprised - and relieved - to see a lot of learning going on despite my less organised approach. It looked a little (or a lot) like this:

+ Hug started the morning writing and illustrating a list of things he wants to do over the weekend. Lovely joined him & wrote out his lists too.

+ Feeling the morning starting to slip away from us, I suggested that Hug read The Age of Fable out in the sunshine in the hammock. The chapter that he read was all about Cadmus and he completed the reading with a drawing as narration. 

+ Meanwhile I was hanging clothes on the line and Lovely was working in a Spelling workbook (one of his current favourite things).

+ When I came in I asked Hug to sync up Apple TV and together we watched a short BrainPop video on Geometry. On Tuesday we had been working on some sample Maths tests and I realised we hadn't done much work on Area and Perimeter so this was a bit of an introduction to the concepts for him. 

+ Hug logged onto Khan Academy to continue with the theme & watched a presentation on Area & Perimeter before doing the associated practice activities. He did well and was very pleased with himself :) Go Hug! I L-O-V-E seeing how much his self-confidence has soared over the past year and a half, particularly in areas that he wasn't so sure on like Maths. 

+ L and I sat outside in the sun & read about fractions in this new book I've just borrowed from the library: The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math: 24 Death-Defying Challenges for Young Mathematicians. He liked it a lot.

+ Meanwhile Hug had moved onto Piano practice. I love hearing him play (here is one area where I can acknowledge that I'm living vicariously through my child! Lol. I wish I had been given the opportunity to learn an instrument when I was younger). 

+ Break time. We took Boston for a walk and L brought his skateboard along. Hug and I lagged behind him, nearly getting swooped by an early Magpie! Spring is on the way! The boys ended up in the park and I did a little lesson planning sitting out there in the sun, chatting to another mama.

+ When we came back inside the boys asked if they could watch Backyard Science (our family rule is educational TV only during the week - and this show is a favourite) and I agreed to one episode if they'd come out & let me read from The Story of Science when it finished. 

+ Our copy of The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way is book 1 of a 3 book series from Smithsonian books - & our reading on Wednesday about worshipping numbers led to a whole lot of fun with Magic Squares! We were excited to discover a magic square in the Albrecht Durer engraving Melencolia I, having read about Durer only recently & then seeing some of his original pieces on exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery a few weeks ago. 

+ Speaking of Magic Squares, apparently Benjamin Franklin created an eight-by-eight Magic Square. While Hug dedicated himself to writing it out and discovering the particular magic number L and I did a little American History research, discovering that Franklin was not only a founding father of America, but also a noted polymath, leading author, printer, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman and diplomat! Thanks Wikipedia.

+ We were still sitting out in the sunshine & Lovely found a Benjamin Franklin quotes app which he insisted that he needed on his iPod and then proceeded to quiz himself in a Flags of the World app while Hug practiced some cursive.

+ My final requirement for the day (as it has been for the past few weeks) was a chapter of A Little History of the World - our awesome history text by E.H. Gombrich, author of The Story of Art. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed reading this book. Amazingly, we've managed to hold onto our library copy for months (never fear my local friends - we're leaving the country soon I promise! ;) but I will be buying our own hardback copy on our return. 
And that was it. School day complete. Except - the first thing Lovely had said to me when we woke up in the morning was that he wanted to go to the beach. He was due to go for a sleepover at his Nan & Pop's house so, having finished our Gombrich chapter I said that if he gathered his things quickly that we could go on the way...

And the resulting trip felt like it paled the rest of the day's learning in comparison!

We ran on the sand.
The kids climbed across the dunes and collected sticks and pumice stones and other precious treasures.
We breathed deeply. Salty air.
We studied the horizon.

And then, as we went to leave, running up the beach track ahead of L and I, Hug saw an echidna! We caught up and watched the beautiful creature burrowing around in the sand.
Echidnas /ɨˈkɪdnə/, sometimes known as spiny anteaters,[1] belong to the family Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals. The four extant species, together with the platypus, are the only surviving members of thatorder and are the only extant mammals that lay eggs.[2] Although their diet consists largely of ants and termites, they are no more closely related to the true anteaters of the Americas than to any other placental mammal. They live in Australia and New Guinea. The echidnas are named after a monster in ancient Greek mythology.
So cool. I've only ever seen one other echidna in the wild and that was a few years ago.

We watched it for a little while before continuing along the path only to spot a Brush Turkey and his mound! Another sweet privilege.
The species is communal, forming communal nests. A typical group consists of a dominant male, one or more younger males and several females. They build large nests on the ground made of leaves, other combustible material and earth, 1 to 1.5 metres high (3-4.5 ft) and up to 4 m (13 ft) across. The eggs are hatched by the heat of the composting mound which is tended only by the males who regulate the temperature by adding or removing material in an effort to maintain the temperature of the mound in the 33–35°C (91-95°F) incubation temperature range.[2]

Suddenly we notice all the little sounds around us. Amplified. The birds soaring over our heads and chattering and singing. We are surrounded by nature. Natural Science 101. Science isn't one of the subjects I have an easy confidence with but it's moments like this that feel so real and so honest and so important. When we are connecting with the natural world and everything else melts away and I don't worry that I don't have a bunsen burner or a mini-lab set up at home (a few petri dishes don't count right?).

The path ended and we were led onto deep green grass. I saw something moving in the distance and I slowly stepped forward. It was another echidna. Did I mention how often in my life I've seen wild echidnas?! Yes, only once before. And here was our second one in fifteen minutes.

Our eyes, our minds and our hearts were open. 

So beautiful. I managed to get a short video of this second cutie and uploaded it to my Rainbow Mama facebook page if you want to watch.
As our echidna friend headed into the scrub we headed back towards our car across the gorgeous old timber bridge where we happened upon a couple of fishermen who had caught small yabbies for bait (with a sand pump) in the lowtide shallows and were using it to lure in some dinner. 

Hello yabbies! There was a bucketful of these gorgeous fellows and L and I braved their sharp nippers to inspect them more closely. 
The setting sun told us it really was time to go. 

But we had one last stop; on the other side of the river two grand Pelicans were floating peacefully on the calm water. I watched them for a few minutes as the boys scrambled over the rocks and then we bid our farewells.
“It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation..." - Charlotte Mason
Our day at home had felt so rich and then suddenly the afternoons gifts of nature seemed to overwhelm it with their own beauty and importance. But I know that both are important.

That night I felt a deep reverence for my boys and the lives that they are unfolding. And I went to sleep feeling calmed by a renewed sense of confidence in the knowledge that by leaning into life, by giving direction and opportunity but also space and time for my boys to explore and investigate and learn for themselves that we are headed in the right direction. 

Charlotte Mason spoke of Education as "an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" and Maria Montessori spoke about the Prepared Environment. I feel like I am really trying to work with a hybrid of these ideas in our homeschooling days at the moment, expanding the concept of the Montessori Prepared Environment with it's essential principles of: 

Freedom /
Structure and Order /
Beauty /
Nature and Reality /
Social Environment /
Intellectual Environment /

I hope that I'm doing a good job. Every day is a learning experience and not all days look like this. But I know that positive intentions are powerful and the rest... well, the rest is beyond me. The rest is for them to discover. 

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Comments :


  1. How beautiful. One of the most glorious of days. Even when "less organized," or maybe especially then, you are an inspiration to me. That balanced environment of lifelong learning and love...I see that in your blog.

    1. That's such a lovely thing to say Kristy :) Thank you. x

  2. Love this post so much! Your words are just so full of feeling, I love it. I can completely understand your worries about 'doing enough' too, but it sounds like you are doing an amazing job. Your boys are lucky to have a mama who is so proactive about their educations and Kristy is right, you are an inspiration!

    1. Thank you Whitney! I am completely flattered by your words <3
      So sorry it's taken me a little while to respond. xxx


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