Monday, March 25, 2013

Learning to Trust

So I spend a lot of time reading other people's homeschooling and unschooling blogs. I belong to a lot of groups on Yahoo and Facebook. One of the overwhelming themes I see over and over again is that we need to TRUST. Trust that we are the best teachers for our kids, Trust that our kids will learn what they need to learn when they need it, Trust that we are doing the right thing. It sounds easy but it's not. I doubt myself all the time and feeling as though you have something to prove to certain others doesn't help.

However, every once in a while that magical light shines and the Trust comes back. The other day my daughter was playing on her grandmother's iPad. She spontaneously asked Siri for 'fun math games' and chose one. She decided to pick 3rd grade (technically she's in 2nd) and apparently she got a 100%! (I was not there at the time).

Now to be perfectly honest, we tend to follow more of an Unschooling method in our home. We rarely sit down and do formal work and we definitely do not use workbooks or worksheets or curriculums. However this is where the Trust comes in. We obviously use math everyday! My kids have their own money and make decisions on what to buy and when. They get change, they figure out if they have enough, etc. They use addition and subtraction regularly in their lives and they can both do it in their heads - which is way better than me & I went through to a Master's Degree in formal education! My 6 year old is starting to do multiplication in her head. Blows my mind. This clearly didn't come from me. I can barely add!

Now another area I lose the Trust in is reading for my 6 year old. This is the year she would be learning to read at school. I am particularly anxious about this because I spent years teaching reading and it is something I enjoy. However, she resists all attempts I make to 'teach' her reading. Figures! But left to her own choices, she can pick up a book and read on her level. She figured out short vowel words, blends and digraphs on her own. I told her once about long vowels and what we call 'magic E' and that's all she needed. Letting go of my need to teach and Trusting that she will learn it, has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.

So I guess I need to let go and Trust. And I encourage all of you to Trust yourselves, Trust your children, Trust that learning is occurring daily in their lives.  Easier said than done, I know. Even though I see these magical moments, I still have doubts. I guess that's part of what makes us human. But for now, I am going to rely on the Trust.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hands On Learning: History

One of the BEST ways I can think of to learn about history is to travel to the places where historical events took place. Want to teach about the Boston Tea Party? Go to Boston! Want to teach about colonial times? Go to Colonial Williamsburg, Plymouth Rock, or Salem Mass. Want to teach about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Liberty Bell? Go to Philadelphia. Traveling to these places makes history come alive for young learners and is sure to spark their interest!

Can't get out of town right now? There are a TON of interactive games online. Check out some of these sites!

Not into online games? Try doing a re-enactment! Kids will truly get a full understanding of a historical event if they have to live it. If they have to do the research to be Abraham Lincoln, or a civil war hero, or Thomas Jefferson, they will really get to know their character and how that person played a part in history.
Create your own game show. You could create a game show based on historical events and people. Set it up like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune. Kids will love competing for prizes. Step it up a notch and get real buzzers for them to hit when they know the answer!

Play History Bingo. The board can have people's faces on them (George Washington, Sally Ride, Susan B. Anthony) and the clues could be facts about those people.

Do a scavenger hunt. Hide clues around the room, house, yard, or classroom that relate to a particular topic or historical figure. The kids have to find the items and guess what they will be learning about. Great way to introduce a topic for the first time. It gets them engaged and excited about it right off the bat!

 Pretend you are a historical figure and create a diary as that person. You could start by aging paper to make it look old and authentic (directions for aging paper on the website under teaching tips). Attach a feather to a pencil to make it look more like a quill pen. They could even make a special article of clothing that they wear when they are writing in their diaries.

Just a little thinking outside the box can open up a whole new world of learning for your kids! Try it!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hands on Learning: Geography

So I have to admit, one of the best things I have found to help teach geography is the LeapFrog TAG system. This does more than maps, but I found the United States map and the World map to be 2 of the best things out there. My 6 year old identified France without blinking today! I know several adults who couldn't do that. I'm not one to endorse products such as this, but it is truly great. It also has things on the solar system, human body & more!

Another cool way to teach geography is to go on a road trip. We recently went to Ocean City, MD - only 5 hours from our home - but saw over 19 state license plates. We decided to write them down and research them when we got home. We found them on a map, identified the state capitals and some cool facts about each state.

Want to teach World Geography? Try using different cultures celebrations and festivals to spark interest. Want to explore China? Celebrate Chinese new year. Mexico? Cinco de Mayo. Spain? La Tomatina (the tomato throwing festival). My brothers once had their own La Tomatina in the yard of our apartment with the landlord's tomatoes. Mom was NOT pleased! But if you have your own tomatoes & can handle a bit of a mess, what kid wouldn't LOVE to do this?

 Start with the party and let your children's interests lead the rest!

Have family members or friends in different states or countries? Start a pen pal relationship with them. This will not only encourage writing, teaching how to write a formal letter and how to address an envelope, but it will spark interest in learning about that area too!

Fill a suitcase with items from a specific country, city or region. Have the kids unpack the suitcase and try to figure out where they are going. Use Google Earth to fly to your destination. Have the kids research why the items in your suitcase are relevant to that area.

For older kids, set up a twitter account for Dr. Geo Grapher. Have the students check his/her tweets about a certain region, area, etc. They can tweet withe the good Dr. asking questions, looking for clues...

 Map Puzzles: glue local, state, national or world maps to car stock & cut out into puzzle pieces. Kids will have fun trying to put it back together.

With just a little time and energy, anyone can turn ANY topic into hands-on, fun learning.