Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nature Walk Printable: Michigan Tree Leaf Silhouettes

We go on at least a couple of nature walks every year during the fall. One will be in our neighborhood (our annual "leaf walk" in which we collect bags of leaves to craft with and press. The other is usually in one of our nearby Metroparks, where we'll walk the forest trail. I put together this little printable of silhouettes of common Michigan trees to help my kids learn to identify different kinds of trees via their leaves. I hope you find it helpful! Right now, it is formatted to be printed onto an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper. We laminated ours so we could use them again this year. Enjoy!

(Note: Click to see the image at full size, then print.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Relaxed Homeschooling, Our Way

It's been a few months since I've posted here. It's been one of those periods of our homeschooling life in which we've made adjustments, learned to do things a new way.

Maybe I should back up, just a little.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, we followed a fairly Classical homeschooling method. We did copywork, aligned our reading with our history, did writing out of the "Writing Strands" workbook series. I did all of these things because they were what others recommended. Others had succeeded with them, so they must be the "right" way to do it, right?

But I forgot the #1 reason we wanted to homeschool in the first place: to give our kids the chance to fully BE themselves. To give them the time and opportunity to explore and develop their passions. To keep their curiosity about the world intact.

And I realized, around December or so, that what we were doing was not meeting those goals. My kids were not excited to begin the school day. Here they were, working in workbook after workbook, spewing someone else's thoughts back to me in the hopes of getting the answers "right."

This was not what we wanted.

I am not knocking the use of workbooks, or Classical homeschooling, or anything else. As I've said a million times, homeschooling is a very personal thing. What works for one family will not always work for another. Many homeschoolers thrive on Classical homeschooling, but as a whole, it wasn't working for us. It was time for a change. So, we changed.

What We're Doing Now

The great thing about homeschooling is that you can take bits and pieces of different philosophies and smash them all together in one crazy conglomeration that eventually comes to be YOUR homeschooling method. Right now, ours is kind of a crazy mix of Classical, unit studies, and unschooling. It might look haphazard to an outsider. Heck, it looks haphazard to me sometimes! But it works for us.

I've kept the things I loved about Classical homeschooling. We do spelling and grammar as they recommend in "The Well-Trained Mind." The kids memorize poems. We do math every day, usually via a workbook and/or Khan Academy lessons.

I deviate from Classical in the reading part of our homeschool. At this point, I just want them reading.  I know: the argument for having them read the classics at this age is to inspire them to read a "higher" level of literature. You know what? They will do that in high school and college. Now, at this point in their lives, I just want my kids to fall inlove with reading. I want them to recognize books as the friends they are. I fell inlove with reading via Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Carolyn Keene. I'd rather they love reading, than be able say that they've read all of the "right things."

So, obviously, I don't tie our reading to our history anymore.

Which brings us to history and science. We use a unit studies approach for these topics (bringing in the other subjects, such as reading, writing, and art, as well). Again, they'll learn about Queen Elizabeth I later on. Right now, they really want to learn everything on Earth there is to learn about horses, and cats, and meerkats, and lemurs. And you know what? It's FUN to learn about those things. We just did an entire month-long unit study on birds. It touched on every single subject, plus some. March is Horse Month, and we are all looking forward to it!

The unschooling part of our homeschool philosophy is that we really tend to have short school days: three to four hours, tops. The rest of the day, my kids spend honing their own interests. Right now, the older girls are obsessed with Lego. They've built castles, vehicles, houses, playgrounds, diners, hospitals....mostly without any plans other than the vision in their minds. This is creative work. This is problem-solving. This is what I want for them.

So this long post was really my way of saying: change is good. Following your heart, your goals for your family, is good. Your family is unique, and perfect in its own way. It will take some time, but you'll figure out your own way to homeschool. And, when you do, go for it -- that's what homeschooling is all about!