Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Red Letter Day

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been praying and thinking a lot lately about how to encourage our kids to reach their potential, and for wisdom in knowing what that is. It's been on my heart because Megan is highly self-motivated and is whipping through her school work with lightning speed. She's easily 2 grades ahead of herself, and catching up to Ethan in most subjects. Ethan is somewhat bothered by this, but is unmotivated to work harder than he does.

So part of my prayer is seeing where Ethan is excelling so I can affirm his strengths. Yesterday it was easy to do. The previous day I had the kids practice printing s, e, r, and a, because they had both become a bit sloppy in them. Ethan took it to heart, and yesterday his printing was excellent! You could see he'd really put in some effort. Later, I had the kids try to copy Monet's "Impression: Sunrise" painting (which I love). I gave them chalk pastels and said, "You don't have to copy it exactly. I just want you to try to follow the colors he used and blend them like he did." Ethan came in later with a picture that looked strikingly like the original! We ended our day finishing up reports we are doing for presentation day Friday. At first Ethan was stuck, not sure how to put his notes about hippos down on paper. When I took over typing for him, he was able to organize them into a paper more easily. He then got excited about printing hippo pictures that corresponded to his work, and pasted them into a folder with a introduction on the front and his paper on the back.

It was an encouraging day for me as well as for him. I feel like God opened my eyes a little to how well both our kids are doing. It's probably been there all along and the difference is that I was looking for it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How much is enough?

So, what curriculum would you recommend for a 23 month old?

That's the question someone just posed on the homeschool website here. I have to shake my head at this, but from a cultural standpoint I can understand the pressure this mom feels. Kids start school full time here at age 2, going through four years of preschool before primary 1.

When Ethan was young (starting around age 3) I did start actively focusing on teaching him things. Each week I chose a theme like "Space" and searched the internet for activities and books we could use covering that topic. But the focus here is much more academic. If kids aren't reading fluently by age 4, parents feel they've failed.

My homeschool friends and I have been talking about concept lately - where should our standard be? It seems the international schools here (the ones that are "IB" accredited) have standards that are off the charts. Kids are pushed to the limit. Then I hear that schools in the US are sub-standard, not challenging kids enough. I have spent a lot of time in prayer lately, asking God to show me just where our schooling should fall. I want our kids to be challenged, and to reach their full potential. I need God's wisdom in seeing what that is, and I know that He will show me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What a homeschool mom thing to do

I just lost something that I've had for more than 20 years. It was a silver filling. It had to come out because it was in a tooth that has had a crack for 15 years, and the crack finally formed a cavity. My dentist deemed it necessary to take out the silver part as well to make sure he got the entire filling. My thoughts went like this:

Cool! I'll ask him if I can keep it, so I can take it home and show the kids. We can talk about how they used to make them that way, but they've made them better now. We can talk about how technology changes over time. I can use Megan's Playdough Monkey Dentist to make a tooth, and show them how he drilled out the old stuff and filled in the new stuff.

When he was done, the left side of my face was so numb I looked like a stroke victim, or like someone who's had too much Botox. That was the part that was most interesting to the kids when I got home, so much so that Ethan took a picture, which I would post but the batteries in the camera just went dead.

Is that a homeschool mom thing to do or what? Turn everything into a learning experience. I seriously thought about bringing them so they could watch, but I thought they'd either be bored or terrified. That's the fun thing about homeschool though. Learning isn't just about academics. It's about learning character, life skills, relational skills, how things work, why we do what we do, what the world is like. There are just some things that are learned better outside of the classroom.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dabbling in art

One of the subjects I am not confident in teaching is art. I mean sure, I can put paint or pastels or other fun mediums in front of children and they'll make something. But helping them develop their skills - well, that's another story.

But today I started taking pictures of the art we've done and I thought, "This may not be fantastic, but it's fun." One of the things we've started lately is doing an artist study, though quite slowly. Once a week we pull out a painting by Monet (I printed some off the internet) and we talk about it. They seem to enjoy this, mostly. Then we either try to make it ourselves, or we try to use a similar technique. At other times, we've done projects from the book Discovering Great Artists. Here's some of their work:

We tried doing watercolor on wet paper to show how the colors soften and blend, then later when it's dry doing darker colors over it. I did the umbrella for him, and Ethan added the interesting blotches in the ocean after it was dry (to see what would happen).

After reading about Van Gogh, we tried making his Sunflower painting with crumpled gouache paper and chalk pastels, over which they painted watercolor. Ethan chose black for his background. Megan, of course, chose pink.

I was surprised when Megan said she wanted to try Monet's Japanese Garden. I helped her quite a bit with mixing the colors (my kids are pretty concrete sequential - they just want to do straight up colors that are mixed well - I was trying to get them to be a little more free). I also helped her with some of the background, but the bridge is all her. :)

This is Megan's try at Waterlilies by Monet. I helped her some with the placement of the flowers, but mostly this is her work. She really enjoys painting.