Artists In The House

April 29, 2012

My house is filled with creative energy and creative beings. I love the projects that come out of nowhere and not facilitated by me. Just the other day the two older boys found some poster board and set up with the paints in the basement. We had some minor spills but generally I did not hear much from them for about an hour.

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In the end I had two colorful and fun posters to put up in the twins bedroom. I love the life and energy put into these two pieces – similar but each in their own style.

So for anybody following this blog please note I am probably going to phase this out and move everything here http://fishtankmom.wordpress.com/

Though I am still undecided…………….

This is the other instrument as per my recent post that the Mr. Oldest created yesterday. He did not use it very much but he spent quite some time creating and inventing.

Today he restructured everything about it and still he is not using it. I will wait and see – keep you posted. Here is a photo of the modified wind instrument.

So often it is the making far beyond the using that gets these boys going. Makes me wonder why we ever buy toys.

Tree Music

April 22, 2012

Yesterday my oldest was on a roll making stuff.  The theme was musical instruments.  Not anything I proposed but rather something that got in his head and he went with it.  I can not figure out how to manage my photos the way I want and so I am going to make this two posts.

Creation number one required a stick and a tree.  Mr. Oldest spent hours on this sunny afternoon in the tree tapping and making music similar to that of “Stomp”.  I think he found a solution for the fact that I have not been able to get him signed up for drumming!

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Oh the items hanging for the tree are part of another boy game they were playing earlier.  Boys, ropes, trees, and sticks – welcome to my world!

If I can get into my Google account I will post this on YouTube as I did take a video just having technical difficulties with that!

My husband discovered a show on You Tube called Scientific Tuesday.  One evening the boys did a variety of experiments.  They did this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPFwDaR1g70 and these ones http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfii6r-ul-c

I watched and was very concerned that somebody might get hurt.  See my husband is just a boy at heart and some years ago he made a potato gun and also singed his eye brows and eye leashes as he peered down the barrel wondering why the thing had not gone off.  Fortunately he has extremely “lush” brows and eyelashes – though they have not grown in fully they are average length now.  The last set of experiments did involved chemicals and fire so I was on guard.  The milk one was not a problem.

All of the experiments turned out okay and I was excited that my husband was playing the “mad scientist” with his boys.  My oldest is already a science nut and watches Daily Planet every night but the younger one claims that he is not into that same stuff.  Well he sure was interested in this and it got him thinking when we called it “science”!  The twins will love it or not – for now I do not know.

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As I watched the boys doing science, getting excited and wanting more I had to reflect once again on my choice (this year) to follow the curriculum.  I was trying to cheer the boys on while in the back of my head I was thinking, “But we need to cover electricity, and building and the seasons.  We do not have time for spontaneous science.  We have to subjects that need to be covered or else…….or else what?”  In that moment I was reminded of my truth in this homeschooling path.  Plain and simple – we are spontaneous & interesting people and if let alone our children will be too.  We will cover science as it presents itself all around us and it will always be exciting and it will always be fun because we stumbled upon it rather than worked it in.

I guess it really is a life philosophy and I believe that life – as much as we do work hard, should be joyful.  Our learning and life paths including the work will be fun as long as we are on OUR right path.  I am not saying that we do not need to work hard along the way and perhaps do things we do not want to get where we are going but life does not have to be a long, hard, and boring road (which is how I remember school).  I choose to opt out of the long, hard, boring part even if it means electricity gets covered in bits and pieces over the course of the years instead as one solid subject to “cover” that chosen year.  Why not explore instead of “cover”?

Oh and for goodness sakes why all of the worksheets? Did you know that most worksheets in school are to prove comprehension and understanding – and that is all they are for.?  Actually sorry they are also used to keep kids busy.  But as for the proving comprehension can you imagine if every time somebody explained something to you it was required that you had to do a worksheet to prove your comprehension?  Not only that but the other party would grade your comprehension?

Now I did buy an electrical circuit experiment kit and my son has done every experiment in it but I did this because I did make a promise to present these subjects.  As it were this way I have presented is not how the school would have wanted me to present it.  It is the way my son has enjoyed it but that is not the priority – the priority is the reporting.

Remember to let learning be fun.  If you have options and it suits your child OPT out and follow their passions.  As adults we will tell them “do what you love”.  Many adults go to therapy to figure that one out.   Allow them the time to be who they are and work to encourage the interests and the aptitudes.  Let the learning flow and be spontaneous if you can and if you dare!

Candy Packets? Innovation

April 14, 2012

I love these little unusual activities my children partake in.  One day I found my 8-year-old sewing these little packets to wrap his candies in.  He used a pair of boxers that he never wears and pulled out the sewing box.  This is my boy who has been known to make packets for his old toys and knick knacks for everybody’s birthday.  Usually he folds paper this way and that – this was the only time her ever sewed and these were not gifts – just packets?

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I think this ability to come up with an idea, gather the supplies and then execute is slowly drawn out of kids who are in school and guided through every activity.  If lots of time is given for this sort of creativity after school then it can be kept alive but most of us are so busy.

Absolutely different strokes for different folks but I am proud that my kids are so very innovative and creative.

Dreaming Of Trains

April 14, 2012

Somebody is dreaming about trains.  In his dreams he will get a starter train set on his birthday and be on his way to having one of those elaborate sets that he watches on You Tube.

In preparation and just to make sure we understand how definitely he wants this as his next birthday gift he has created a display unit of sorts for his train.

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I love the way my kids can get an idea – find the supplies and execute without prompting and with limited help.  All that was asked of me was to pick up some styrofoam.  He did not build the box but thanks to his carpenter dad it was laying around.  I really did not understand where he was going with this untill it was done.  He knew exactly where he was going.

What do your kids do while waiting for dreams to come true?

I honestly believe it is the kids who are pushed in school and labeled early on that end up with the illiteracy for life.  I believe it is the focus on our child’s perceived lack that causes the self-esteem issues that reduce receptiveness to learning.  That about summarizes this post but if you would like to read the long version please read on.

I am not one of those homeschoolering moms that can boast about my high academic students.  You know the ones – they make homeschooling okay to nay sayers and they are easily able to smile and marvel at how naturally their children learned to read – and usually early.

As I say – that is not us.  I have boys in the truest of form and the oldest two are late readers.  In that late reading world is much fear and questioning.  It is easy to get down and make rash decisions about the results of your choice to home school.  It is easy to doubt yourself as a teacher and as a parent.  It takes a leap of faith to trust your judgment and allow the learning to happen.

So I am here to say – it works, they will read in their own time and they will succeed in life (including literacy) as long as they believe in themselves.  Do not stress and do not worry.  Please do not discourage nor label them – unless you have other concerns.  They will learn to read and it can be as natural as learning to talk  – I am a witness.  Look at these pictures of my now reading 10-year-old – he loves his books and so much that these truly are not posed shots.

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I am going to share my story but first I want to encourage you to read about other late readers.  Google “late readers” and so many articles will come up.  Here is one http://www.leapingfromthebox.com/art/kmg/learningtoread.html.  As well educate yourself on boys and how they learn – they are often the late readers.  Above all else trust your dear child.  Learning does not have to be forced.  I honestly believe it is the kids who are pushed in school and labeled early on that end up with the illiteracy for life.  It’s the focus on their perceived lack that causes the self-esteem issues that reduce receptiveness to learning.

Paul always loved books and he still does.  He spent hours and hours looking at books although I am not sure that he spent very much time looking at the words.  Whenever we got into letter sounds and reading he was just bored and instantly resistant.  He was busy and he wanted to get going.  He had things to do and fun to have.  He had lots of energy.  So I let it go with the knowing that he loved books and eventually he would want to read them.

So I did not let it go entirely and I can guess that if I had pushed or presented it in a more fun, and creative way perhaps he would have been more on par with his “grade level” earlier.  Reality was that our household was a busy one in those early years and we just did not feel it was a big deal.  I had researched enough to understand that boys tend to need more time and certainly more time to let out the energy.  That being said bit by bit – when Paul was receptive we started looking at words and sounds.  We would do this in very short bursts and he would show interest for only a couple of days.  The thing is he would surprise me in that he would read bigger  and bigger words and more of them every time we revisited.

Our school facilitator was satisfied with the progress year to year but mildly concerned with the “level”.  Tactfully and respectfully she asked me if I thought a possible learning disability was worth investigating.  I confidently responded “absolutely not”.  I knew Paul was capable of learning to read and I knew that he was going to read and I knew that he was going to ALWAYS love books.  I did not want to destroy that love by the process of pushing it on him.  I was also genuinely not concerned and absolutely did not want to label him. It again came down to trust and fortunately she trusted me and so we carried on.

At the beginning of this year Paul was reading “below” his grade level.  This is evaluated by him reading a short story out loud chosen by the teacher.  On the test she said he could not read some of the words but could also read some of the higher level words.  Well that was confusing.  I think that she will be relatively shocked and pleasantly surprised at the result of another 9 months gone by.

Now I am not sure his actual grade level but somehow without any push or extra work he is reading chapter books that are filled with hard words.  He now reads his favorites science books, the “Bones” series and he can pretty much read most words I put before him (I habitually do this spot test when uncertainty sets in).  My suspicion is that he will be a life long learner and he will read above his grade level within the next year.  Whatever that means?  Though I will let you all know.  Naturally he was not ready and he was not interested.  Fortunately I home school and so he was not pressured.  I am saddened to think about all the boys going through our system now.

In summary Paul was not all that interested in reading untill the age of 10.  Prior to that he was exposed to basics but he was resistant and very bored – he could read but mostly chose not to.  I let him alone while he looked endlessly at his favorite books.  In school he would have been labeled.  I allowed him to be himself and learn at his own pace.  The first thing he really got into reading independently was his Mr. Noggin Space cards – “What element gives the sand on the surface of Mars its red color: copper, magnesium, or zinc?” Not easy/leveled reading – he did not enjoy Dick and Jane.  Who would?  If I ask him to read pages out of his favourite series “Percy Jackson” he can read with ease though he is not yet interested to sit down with that.  As I mentioned earlier he specifically reads his science books and otherwise really enjoyed all of the “Bones” books – he read all 9 in two days.

When I searched for other late reading articles I came across this http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20100401-20448.html  I think the ages they chose are “safe” ages and I do believe that no gap would show in readers that start at 10, 12 and 14.  I say this based on examples of other late readers including entire countries such as Denmark that delay the teaching of reading. If you know anything about Denmark they have a highly educated population.  I also notice that school age kids start to get really bored and socially pressured by this age and while this is going on the homeschooled tend to catch up and surpass.  Obviously not all but generally speaking.

Have faith in your little learners and please share your late reader stories.  It is sort of like magic and hard to explain how it happens but I think it is important for parent of late readers to have some support and examples.  I had so many so hopefully I am just adding another in.

Happy learning – learning ought to be fun.

I have written about our experience of snow boarding quite extensively in my Fish Tank Mom blog and now I want to share my perspective on the learning aspect of this experience for us.  It has been a team building experience for us, we have learned a variety of basic miscellaneous skills, we have pushed our comfort levels in regards to socialization and we have reviewed lots of safety/stranger safety stuff.  For some background go to http://fishtankmom.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/the-journey-back-to-snowboarding-we-got-the-bug/

This has been a great bonding and connecting experience for us.  It has also been excellent for teamwork skill building.  Everybody has given support and encouragement to each other.  My oldest Paul and his younger brother Sam have taken on the role of coaching the youngest two.  Damon has become a little more focused on the activity at hand and Alexi is chugging along with excellence.  The boys have learned the importance of sticking together, using kind words and practicing patience.  We’ve all had to communicate about where we are going next and we’ve all had to negotiate to get what we want.  This activity has ramped up the coming together aspect of having four boys.  It is to everybody’s advantage to avoid resistance and to find agreeable solutions so that we can get on with riding – QUICKLY.

We have touched on a variety of basic learning such as reading maps, real snow vs. man-made snow,  temperature and how it affects snow and really endless other miscellaneous things including math.  The map reading aspect is pretty basic as we have been on some pretty small hills and so I suppose we will have to hit the bigger mountains more often to keep the challenge up on this one (so sad).  Observing snow and discussing the snow has been fun – soon we will have to do dome web site research on the man-made vs natural – as of now we simply notice that it feels different. Weather affecting the snow is obvious but still they do “cover” it in school – with books and assignments.  The miscellaneous is simply because we have great conversations on every ride back up the mountain.  We do not always have these conversations when we are so busy at home.  Math again is pretty simple but the little ones have been counting towers but also noticing the numbers on towers and the numbers on the back of chairs.  The older boys have played around with estimating how many chairs in total, how many towers in total as well they have estimated time and briefly touched on km and distance.  Okay well I tried to squeeze the km and distance thing in and they resisted.  Funny how learning that is unintentional is more interested than learning that is forced.

Socialization and independence are not really issues in our house as the boys are all very open and social.  However chatting with neighbors and people at the park is quite different from sitting on a chair lift for that ride up.  That can be awkward and is always different.  The boys have told delightful stories about conversations with a large variety of different people.  They have also been exposed to and talked about those times when they’ve sat on the chair in awkward silence but then also the comfortable silence.  In case you are wondering – all this chair activity is at the smaller hill COP where they are free to ride without the brothers.  That hill is a one chair hill.  I love this socialization because it is with a with a variety of ages, race, and personality.  As well it is socialization outside of the circle of who we have chosen to have in our lives.

We’ve had many conversations about stranger safety and I am a big believer in trusting that vibe.  Most strangers are okay but when you get that bad feeling trust it.  My biggest safety message is never go off alone with a stranger and never accept candy or treats from a stranger.  Chatting on the hill and in the chair lift is completely wonderful – we just do not go off with that stranger after the fact.  If somebody wants to be alone with you – that is simply creepy and unsafe.

I almost forgot one of the most important things these boys are learning on the hill.  They are learning that some days are bad ski days and it is not always tangible the “whys and how’s” of what makes a bad day.  We are working on turning those bad days into short-lived bad moments by acknowledging the negativity but then turning it around.  I coach a lot about how the next run might be better, after lunch might be better, this might not be your day and that is okay next day might be your day.  In between I get frustrated but my main message is “life can get like that”.  The snow can suck and you might fall a lot on certain days – just another day around the corner though.  The boys have learned that they can stay stuck and angry or they can move on and trust that the kinks will work themselves out.

I love natural learning through snowboarding – we are having so much fun while getting that glorious sun on our faces, lots of fresh air and tons of exercise.  The boys can be competitive within themselves and later they can choose to compete if they want.  It is such a great sport because their will never be that pressure and it will always be fun no matter how they choose to approach it.

Life is good!

We are so focused on teaching our kids to be good students so that they will have opportunities.  I think we forget to let them be so they can dream, imagine and tap into their great wisdom.  We need to trust that when we let them be they will become opportunity makers and a great gift to this world.

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One of my many experiences in school was being a young woman – searching for answers to life and so then very distracted by my wonderings in class time.  I was plain and simply a “seeker” and my teachers and parents plain and simply thought I was a “slacker”.  So I was labeled “smart but not working to my full potential”.  How many of you had that on your report card?

Below is an example of a moment of wisdom, clarity and inspiration that came in my stillness.  I was actually doing the dishes and had to drop everything – dry my hands and write.  I wrote 3 separate short stories in 2 hours and the stories just rolled off my pencil.  I love that feeling.

It started out with this very small wisdom that kept going round and round in my head:

“Through my darkest days shone the brightest angels and in my cloudiest mornings the sun broke through.  Always and no matter how long in between – things always got better and better keeps on getting better.  Mysterious forms came out of nowhere – in thought and otherwise as persons in my life.  Sometimes they vanished as quickly as they came but they always left a mark and I am grateful for them all.”

This is what happened to me over and over my entire childhood but especially in my teens.  I believe strongly that I am one of many and I wish that our world would catch up and realize that these people – these “seekers” have so much to offer but they are beaten down in a system that thinks it knows better.  As adults we look up to these people but we do not consider that our children did not have to get lost first – then get old to find their way back.

So if you are like me – remember who you are and show up strong and wild.  Bring your gifts.  If you have a child like me – listen hard and do not quiet and busy that beautiful mind.

Learning this big stuff is so much more important than the three R’s.

“PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot – BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR” – Mark Twain, front matter to Huckleberry Finn

I came across this quote and it affirms some of my thoughts about the Language Arts program and the dissection of books that my children read.  I would align in LA but for this reason “no”.  For the sake of determining “comprehension”  we bit the crap out of books.

As an adult and specifically I ask those of you who love to read – do you analyze and break down all of the components of the books you read or do you enjoy and let them take you away?  If we want to create life long readers – why do we do this in our schools?  I can understand for the sake of writing but why so early when they are only getting into the skill of reading.  Why not let them enjoy?

All beautiful creations and art – including great literature happens naturally through creative minds.  I think we would have better literature by some of those great creative people if we did not label them and turn them off at such an early age.

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