Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Post: Tammy Glaser of Aut-2B-Home

Tammy Glaser is a friend of mine who writes at Aut-2B-Home.  I consider her a great source of all things Charlotte Mason and have shared how her blog changed my life.  I asked her if there was a Charlotte Mason Topic that she would share with us at Ohio Homeschooling.   Enjoy!

Think Clear, Feel Deep, and Bear Fruit Well. 

Trying to understand the ideas of Charlotte Mason, a Victorian Era educator, can be tricky 150 years later. How does her first principle—“Children are born persons”—apply today? Well, children are not products to be standardized, tested, or graded. They are certainly not percentiles. Children are capable of learning far more than we imagine. We find ourselves resorting to praise, stickers, and rewards as we force-feed knowledge to them. We end up narrowing our focus to the boundaries of the three testable R’s to boost standardized test scores. We are tempted to cut out what they need most—the best of history, literature, art, music, nature study, etc. Children long to know, and do not need artificial rewards and prizes if we allow them to “think clear, feel deep, and bear fruit well” as Matthew Arnold put it so eloquently.

Think Clear

Children hunger for knowledge when offered in a manner that stimulates the appetite. Unfortunately, oral lectures, textbooks, and worksheets prepared by experts and teachers dull the taste buds. These artificial devices rob children of the opportunity to think. The mind is a living thing that feeds on ideas. It will starve without them. A steady diet of ideas found in well-written books and interesting things will awaken the mind to awe and wonder.

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham wrote, “Memory is the residue of thought.” We remember things our minds have pondered. The mind will remember when allowed to observe, think, and share what is known. Children observe by reading, listening to a read aloud, or attending with their senses. They think by processing what they observe, making connections, and asking their own questions. They can share what they know by retelling, reenacting, drawing, building, writing, playing, devising experiments, creating, etc.

How does this look on a practical level? Take science for an example. Some friends and I were on a nature walk with our children. We heard a dull noise in a spot. We had never heard sounds like that. We wondered what it could be, so we followed the noise and discovered frogs! Thousands of frogs. What kind of frogs? We took a picture so that we could find out. Why were they making so much noise in the middle of the day? We had to look that up, too. When we realized there might be eggs, we went back and collected some to watch the life cycle of the frog firsthand. We learned about how to care for them, what to feed them, what to expect, etc. We took photographs, wrote notes in our notebook, and made nature notebook entries, etc. Three months later, we have been finding teeny-tiny frogs on our walk and we wonder if they are kin. The life cycle of a frog is not something we memorized because we lived it.

Feel Deep

Children also long to forge with their community and their world. They want to feel connected to someone and something. Finding connections between wide and varied things instills a sense of awe and wonder. Reading living books (classics and the best of modern offerings) sparks more excitement because the boundaries of subjects are blurred. Reading about the life of a person by imagining what their childhood was like, seeing how ideas inspired them, and feeling surprised at life’s twists and turns is far more exciting than a fact-laden paragraph in a textbook. Stories have a privileged status in being stored in long-term memory.

Children feel more connected to their learning with they are allowed to personalize their understanding. They want to discuss ideas rather than listen to a long oral lecture and take notes from a white board. They find drawing and writing in personal notebooks far more satisfying than filling out a multiple-choice sheet. Journals carried from year to year record their growth as persons and are far more likely to become treasured keepsakes than meaningless workbooks.

Every week, we spend over an hour walking a mile-long trail because we stop and study things that capture our attention. I take pictures. At home, we pick one picture of a thing from nature and try to identify its common name and Latin name if we do not already know it. Sometimes, we end up submitting a photo to websites like Butterflies and Moths of North America , Bug Guide , and Project Noah  for help. These free resources are one way to get the whole family involved with citizen science. We draw pictures with watercolor pencils in our nature notebooks, note the common name, Latin name, date and location and write about anything interesting. We also keep a calendar of firsts to record the first Carolina jessamine, wisteria bloom, banana spider, etc. of the season. Our calendar helps us anticipate when to begin looking the following year.

Bear Fruit Well

We often joke about short attention spans—“Squirrel!”—and bemoan how many people are taking medication to address it. How we structure our lessons and organize our day can build the habit of attention. Many and varied short lessons keep the attention fresh as does varying those that require sustained mental effort with those that are light and active. Going outside and exploring the natural world every day also lengthens attention span. Children pay more attention when they can retell and share what they think and imagine. Play, creating, and finding delight builds attention as well.

     For many years, my habit of nature walks was sporadic at best. Another homeschooling friend and I made a pact last fall to walk a nearby wildlife refuge every Friday and enjoy a picnic afterwards, weather permitting. Except for travel and illness, we have kept our promise. We have armed ourselves with bug spray and bottled water on the hottest days and raincoats and boots on the wettest days. We have bundled up on the coldest days and, to be honest, those were the shortest walks ever. On the day of tropical storm Andrea the weather did not look bad enough to skip our walk. We hit the trail even though the nature center was closed and saw foam bubbling out of a tree! I cannot begin to tell you about all the wonders and delightful memories we have forged in the past nine months.

      Next month, my friend and I are opening a school based on a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. Last fall, we had no inkling of starting a community school for full-time students and co-oping homeschoolers. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that the photographs we were taking would don the walls of its website. Those weekly walks, which were hard at first, have become foundational to our lives. We look forward to seeing awe and wonder in the eyes of our students.

Sow an act, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character;
Sow a character, reap a life.

But first,
    We must sow the idea
    That makes the act worthwhile.

 Tammy is on the far right. Photo courtesy of the Clarendon Citizen from the Article "Harvest Community School to offer education alternative"  

By Tammy Glaser.  Tammy Glaser is currently working on starting a school called Harvest Community School in South Carolina.  She blogs at Aut-2B Home. The opinions shared are  entirely her own.   

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Reading: What are we reading?

We love summer reading at our local library.  My kids have an excel sheet they make each year to start timing their reading beginning June 1st.  They clear their schedule for this.  I find it kind kind of sweet.  Especially since their mother use to be the master of counting minutes for school prizes back in the day.

The run down. . .

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien  We love this illustrated version.

Rakkety Tam by Brian Jacques

The American Boy's Handy Book  by Daniel Beard

How's Inky? By Sam Cambell  This is the first of a series

The Nancy Drew Sleuth Book by Caroline Keene

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann-A favorite I have read to all my kids.

Brave Irene by William Steig

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza   A fabulous book dealing with adoption.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Row the Boat by Cynthia Rylant

Henry and Mudge and the Wild Goose Chase by Cynthia Rylant 

So what are you reading?


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Fun: Origami

Summer time is a great time for you and your children to try something new.  My kids tend to work on their hobbies in the summer, and develop new skills. Several of my children love Origami.  Origami is wonderful way to improve math skills, use visual spatial skills, following direction, and it's really fun.  I think my kids love it because they have a product at the end.  Origami is also a great hobby because you can fold beginner models with little experience and work you way up to more complex ones.

Here are some ideas to get you started.  For Beginners we like the following kit from Dover.  It has paper to get you started and some basic and intermediate models. Origami Fun Kit for Beginners (Dover Fun Kit) Another  book, Beginner's Origami,  has some nice models as well.  Another place to start is to buy a pack of origami paper from Hobby Lobby or Micheals.  They usually contain instructions in the pack.   Another great resource is Origami USA.  They also have some downloads of instructions.  We have found wonderful books at our local library as well. 

For more advanced we are big fans of Robert Lang's books.  He  has written Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods for an Ancient Art, one of my son's favorite books.  We also like Origami Zoo: An Amazing Collection of Folded Paper Animals, Origami Sea Lifeand The Complete Book of Origami: Step-by Step Instructions in Over 1000 Diagrams.  A great place to find specialty paper is Mrs. Lin's Kitchen.  She has beautiful paper including double sided in a variety of sizes.  Kim's Crane is another place to find specialty paper.  

If you really get into origami, Origami USA holds a contest every year for children. If you scroll down the page you will find pictures of children's work.  There are some amazing pieces.  The exhibit travels around the country.

Some of my kid's creations.  Enjoy!

Designed by Duy Nguyen
Folded by J. B.

Folded by S. B.
Folded by J. B.
Designed by Jun Maekawa
Folded by N. B.
Designed by Robert Lang
Folded by N. B.
Designed by Michael LaFosse
Folded by N. B.
Designed by Michael LaFosse
Folded by N. B.
Songbird 2
Designed by Robert Lang
Folded by N. B.
Designed and folded by N. B.
Jumpy Squirrel
Designed and folded by N. B.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

  Bread and Wine is a collection of vignettes from the author's, Shaunna Niequest, life experiences.  Each chapter shares her thoughts and stories and ends with a recipe.  The recipes connect you with the author's life.
Shauna Niequest has a way of gathering you around her table through her essays in Bread and Wine.  I felt like I was sitting down with her, sharing life as I read the book.  Her stories are uniquely personal to her life, but they had threads of my own life that drew me into the conversation.  She shares her struggles, her joys, and her unique view of life.

Each chapter ends with a recipe.  I am not much of a cook.  I am more of a "food arranger."  Even I was drawn into buying a bag of quinoa and some ground almond flower to try out the recipes in this book.  This is a great book to read and also a great book to give to someone you know who you enjoys food and sharing stories.  I highly recommend it.  

 Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”