Have you ever been motivated by somebody else’s goals for you?  Have you ever been inspired and then motivated by something that interested you?  What do you think – big difference?

I have been reading a lot about finding out what motivates my kids so that I can better teach them (the curriculum).  Well what motivates them is curiosity and so how do I motivate and inspire them to do some math facts that are not related to anything tangible in their real world?  Can I motivate them with a sticker and then a bigger sticker and will they be truly enthused to learn?  Or will they later at another time be in a life situation or play situation and naturally learn what they need to learn?  I know the answer FOR our family but can I trust enough? We do our math curriculum – just in case.

Our educational system claims to teach “them kids” and prepare “them kids” and takes the credit with very little left to” them kids”.  And we are all too busy to take a moment to observe any different so away we go following this effort to motivate our children to do what we want them to do.  We need to give them some credit and we need to trust them.  They will love to learn as long as learning is always presented as learning for them.  They will want to learn when left to it.  They will learn and retain more if the learning is through desire for knowledge.  They are simply awesome really.

So what are my kids up to without my interference and direction?  Here is a compilation of learning activities and learning through play at random just photos so you will have to use your imagination. You might notice we spend a lot of time outside and the boys always have busy hands. When we are outside and when we are busy they ask a lot of questions and learn that way.

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More specifically a while back Paul did some science experiments with water which started by him boiling pots of water to help combat the dry air in our house.  I asked him to turn the water down after bringing it to a boil and he was indeed curious how the water would still boil and create steam and so out came the thermometer.  I quickly scribbled up a chart and we started recording temperatures of boiling points and other miscellaneous variations.  Of course we were able to observe all of the water cycle including the freezing aspect as that evening the windows were frozen quite shut.

A while later on this same day Paul moved on to making books – not exactly something most parents would boast about but he made a book of “Sware” words.  After he was done he made copies and presented them to his brothers for sale.  I had to put a stop to that but my point is simply that he did science, a little bit of writing and a little bit of entrepreneur/business skills. He learned and practiced skills because he wanted to.

Samuel was busy doing other things on this day and decided he would create his own eye spy books – inspired by his big brother.  He got a good start on that before moving along to other things – mostly just random play.  Eventually he decided to make his own sandwich bar. The bar had all sorts of ingredients that my boys would not normally put on their sandwiches – like lettuce, cucumber and pickles but because Samuel made the experience so very interesting these boys had one pretty nutritious lunch.

It is endless the things these boys do that teaches and fulfills a well-rounded education.  Most of what I present goes in one ear and out the other.  The real learning is in the play and I am not sure us adults have enough play left in us to be really great teachers.

My children are their own best teachers because from them come great questions – better questions and current to our time questions.  Then we go on a mad hunt for answers – fun learning!

Diorama Metropolis

February 13, 2012

It started out as a couple of buildings and grew to a metropolis with green space and even a harbor with a lovely boat.

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We were pretty busy last week with snowboarding three days and so we did not do any “book work” at all. As usual the boys kept busy with many activities but this was the central theme for the week.

Paul has quite firmly taken a stance that this city is his vision and his creation while Sam argues that he “built it too”. Sam did build it too but it was definitely Paul that worked endlessly to add-on to and make this beautiful diorama.

I did watch it all unfold and I was responsible for a couple of necessary relocates as it grew too big for the kitchen table and then too cluttered for the living room floor. They did all of the rest including collecting the resources from around the house.

Creative kids with vision – cool!

Sam Snacks

February 13, 2012

Seriously this boy is amazing.  He has an eye for making things beautiful and he seems to have found a way to express this even with food. He is also a great teacher in that he has shown me that even in my weakness it can be an advantage to him that which I do not do for him. Maybe this is a desperate attempt to justify that I rarely make beautiful snack platters. No matter if it is – he is only just nine and he knows how to do this. Really – I did not facilitate this in any way and he has cut and prepared this platter to feed everybody. I know he will be well fed and I think the girls might like it too!

Let go and be yourself mom! They might surprise you as they make up for your perceived lack in a world of “Supermoms”.

I highly recommend reading with your children for as long as they will let you.  Even after they can read all on their own.  It is so good, rewarding and connecting – if you are into that! My recent experience of this was with my oldest son who will be 11 this summer.  We immersed ourselves in the Percy Jackson Series and we got hooked in good.

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I am not sure if we covered Greek Mythology when I was in school but I imagine that we did.  I suspect that during that class I was sleeping, daydreaming, writing my own stories, or simply not really present – as in skipping school.  But hey it did not ever seem to matter in my adult life and now at 37 IF we had a check list for that sort of thing I could tick it off and claim to have actually enjoyed it.  Self interest – non-resistant learning.  Paul on the other hand gets to check that off at age 11 though I am not sure which year it is covered in school.

So basically every night for 2 months we climb into bed and read.  I read a minimum of two chapters per night and was often convinced to read a third.  He loved it – I loved it. Paul has a decent grasp on Greek Mythology and we have now read all the series (total 5 Novels).  We  quickly moved on to Rick Riordan’s next books which teach about the Roman Gods without really presenting as anything other than an amazing action packed story. Now we are waiting for October 2012 release of his third book in that series.

So that is a total of 7 books in less than 3 months and a tremendous amount of learning and connecting.  I love following what they love.  I love the questions that come through the process of reading good literature.  One of my favorite things is the vocabulary connection.  I love watching Paul get the word that he does not know through the simple process of following the story.  He gets some big words and I know he gets them because when he doesn’t he will stop me and say “what does that word mean?” and then I tell him quickly and he says “ya, ya, got it”.  What a wonderful way to explore vocabulary and word meaning. I also enjoyed exploring Ricks web site and so then learning about the process of writing novels.  Again really neat natural learning.

When we started reading these books Paul would have been hard pressed to read them by himself and honestly I am glad that we got to share these together.  He now can read them with ease as his reading skills have sky rocketed since the Fall.  ALL on his own! 

What an amazing experience getting sucked into a good literature with my son I bet he still wants to read them with me next Fall.  What an amazing experience watching how learning unfolds.  I do consider myself to be very lucky indeed!

Check out Rick’s website http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx.  Also check out the Frequently Asked Questions http://www.rickriordan.com/about-rick/faq.aspx.  These questions really give you a view of the process and challenges in writing a novel.