Tuesday, August 21

School Days Begin!

I love the idea of unschooling, but I also love to teach and my older boys both love skill time.  So, while most of our learning just happens, we also will be spending an hour or two working on skills four or five mornings a week.  As I planned and ordered for this year I was trying to picture having school while living on the farm.  There is plenty of outdoor space, but the house is on the small side for two families and school really does tend to take over.  But, just as I was beginning to ponder this my parents called with a plan (apparently they were thinking the same thing).  The small spring house in back of the house, set between a little wood and fields, which used to be my playhouse when I was little, would make a perfect place to store school stuff and even set up a little school room.

Yes, indeed.  It has been such fun over the past week to search the garage and basement for furniture to make the spring house into a proper little school.  The best part of the little house is that it is situated between a small patch of woods and some fields.  I plan to do as much of our 'schooling' outside as we are able, so the location is perfect!

These are the before pictures, but to be fair, this is my before.  Dad hauled loads of stuff from the little building and pressure cleaned it before we ever arrived.


And this is the after.  Our first day of school.
Jonah, who hadn't seen the space before was really excited and dove right into his new curriculums.  And, Rowan (who has absolutely no expectations put on him as he is only two) loved his stamp-and-see screen and movable alphabet.  I do believe we will have many happy hours in this cozy little spot over the next couple months.

*Note: you may notice them both writing with their left hands.  Rowan (2) is definitely a lefty, but Jonah (6) still uses both.  Does anyone know if there is a way to know which hand he should settle on?  I'm not overly concerned, but am beginning to wonder if this is why he doesn't enjoy handwriting and drawing very much.


Emily said...

What a fantastic little school space! We are gearing up for our first day of school tomorrow. Elijah and Maren were so excited that they didn't fall asleep for an hour after bed time. You would think it was Christmas Eve around here. Maren still uses both hands for eating (maybe her momma didn't teach her good manners) and drawing, but she tends to use her right hand for writing.

Jenny said...

What a wonderful space!!! Can you one day do a post on the skill work you decided to buy? We have a similar approach....we have skill work (we call it core work) and a lot of the rest is left to unschooling or, if I feel like it, I'll throw together a hands on unit study.

Unknown said...

Yea, I am wondering where you found the letter to word matching work.

Watkins said...

Thanks for all your comments. I will post more specifics of what we are doing, if you are sure you want to get me started. I do love talking about curriculum :o)

The letters are a montessori movable alphabet (this one came off amazon) and I made the cards by tracing the letters. I can post on this too sometime soon.

emily said...

I can't remember for sure, but it seems like you were leaning more Waldorf in your reading/letter learning ideals, and now leaning more Montessori? I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts on that, Emily, esp. as our little girl starts getting interested in letters (she's almost 2) and I've been pondering whether to lean Waldorf or Montessori (that moveable alphabet does look like an exciting way to interact with letters and spelling! But at the same time, I'm reticent to open the door to literacy too soon). And our space... so charming!

emily said...

correction: YOUR space. Maybe that was a subconscious desire leaking out there :)

Watkins said...

Lean is a good word, and honestly, I lean one way and then another. I couldn't put myself firmly in either method.

What I can say for sure is that we certainly aren't pushing literacy, but we read to our little guys a lot and this has led them to have an interest. Jonah taught himself to read by the time he was three (he had an alphabet puzzle and knew letters and sounds by 18 months, had sight words before 2.5 and is now reading Tolkien) - so I didn't do much of anything there and all the Waldorf ideals in the world wouldn't have held him back - he is wired for an academic life (this is why we do a lot of classical work with him.)

We haven't pushed Rowan at all and he hadn't shown any interest until a couple months ago when he received a curious george treasury, which included Curious George Learns the Alphabet. Since then he talks about letters a lot and just loves playing with them. He still can't name them all and I'm not really 'working on it', but I do tell him when he asks what letters are and sometimes point out a letter on a page. The movable alphabet is a way for him to play with letters without me 'teaching' and I like that.

I really like Mem Fox's book Reading Magic, and think that honestly that is my approach, reading and playing games with books, making letter play available, but never a 'must do'. I don't think a child should be required to learn to read before 7 or 8, but if they are asking I'm going to create space for them to play and learn.

So that might not be very helpful, but I think what I'm learning is that it doesn't work for me to be 'waldorf' or 'montessori' or 'classical' (though I'm inspired by all those methods). What does seem to work is listening to my kids and seeing where they are and what their interested in and then working to create a space for them to learn.

Rose Anne said...

I would say to let them go on their own to choose a hand to write with. We let our kids do their own thing and then Tom was forced in elementary school to change the way he held his pencil and turned his paper. Went from beautiful handwriting to legible, but that was a very hard year for him. My grandfather was totally ambidextrous.