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!

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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.

This morning I was going to set the kids up with a quick bowl of cereal.  If my kids were in school that would be a pretty logical thing to feed them before the rush off to school but my kids are pretty lucky in our home where I do believe breakfast is the most important meal.  But really, come on – sometimes cereal is just such an easy option.  When I insist it is a cereal morning they usually complain but they still get cereal.  Today was a different story for how could I possibly resist the efforts of chef Sam.

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Samuel did everything that you see in that slide show.  I pretty much turned my back for a moment and instead of getting into trouble Sam was prepping as much as he could so that we could have a fabulous breakfast.

Credit in this case would go to him of course but his leading influence on this count would be his father who could be called Barnabas The Baker along with his other alias Barnabas The Builder.  He guides them and sets an example for food and good eating.  Not so much organic or grain free but more so home cooked and true preparation opposed to quick fast food.  Samuel seems to have taken to this the most for he rarely needs prompting and in this case none at all.

Those Cows

January 30, 2012

Watch how the curiosity is exchanged between both the kids and the cows.  In the end in true boy form they chased them on the bikes.  Nelly our dog really enjoyed the excitement as well – unfortunately for her she was tied up for the duration.

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Last year we were aligned with the Alberta curriculum and we had to learn about Alberta in social studies.  During one stage we were specifically learning about the Foothills and though the program we were studying was done quite well – the boys simply hated reading about the province and watching videos on the internet.

This year we are not aligned and so I can let these lessons come more naturally through life experience.  The following illustration is precisely why I believe the best learning comes through that which happens out in the world:

One day in the early Fall we had gone out to McClean Creek Pond to have our usual picnic, biking and fishing day adventure but on this particular day we had some very big and very funky visitors.  Yes indeed the cows came and came until there were about a dozen – slowly creeping around the corner and into our picnic area.  It was this very vivid lesson about ranching in the Foothills.  I got excited and said “Remember our social studies last year!  This is it!  This is cattle from the ranchers and this is why the cattle guards are everywhere.”  Well indeed they did not listen for a second and spent the next half hour stalking and sneaking up on the cows as they moved slowly and then quickly through the area.  What a riot and what a lesson learned – real life, real time about ranching in the foothills.  Beats a book any day indeed and I am pretty sure my stories about Ranching in the Foothills had gone in one ear and out the other but this they will never forget. 

To be honest in trying to connect the dots (for my own satisfaction) I rambled on and on about the connection and the things we learned in school but again they were on to new things by then – my voice like the droning sound in the Charlie Brown cartoons.  I had to smile knowing full well this is the beauty of natural learning – they are on to new things and learn just as much if not more soaking up life and living things all around.

By the way I love cows and so excuse all of the photos.  I grew up on a farm in Northern Saskatchewan and though we moved to BC when I was a young girl I remember vividly the cows and watching them.  I dare say I was a little bit like the main character in Charlottes’ Web – loved those farm animals and especially the cows.

Team Work

January 24, 2012

How do you move a sheet of plywood up the tobogganing hill?  When you get it to the top what should you do then?  If you ride it all the way down the steeper side instead of the gradual incline from your first effort will it be possible to get it back up again?  What sort of teamwork and encouragement is required?  Will you ride it down again? What is a sheet of plywood doing out there anyways??!!

 How do you move a sheet of plywood up the tobogganing hill?  Simple you take the toboggans and slide them under – it will take three and the style is going to be a factor.  Take four boys and get on one side and slide it on up.  It will require even pushing and so communication will be necessary.  One will have to ease up, one will have to speed up and this will go back and forth until you all get going at the same pace.  Bickering, fighting and arguing will be detrimental and everybody knows it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJsonMwhCq8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

When you get to the top the fun thing to do would be to ride down.  In this case the slope up was gradual and the distance travelled was short.  I think the best thing would be to find the steepest slope and then ride down.  Standing if your mom will let you!  Warning – it may not work out quite as well as you planned.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7EDZme8iVI

Once you get to the bottom you might realize it is a long way back up.  When you work together its going to be a longer go and you will need to add in plenty of encouragement.  Your team mates might get mad and even sick of it.  Some may want to give up but in feeling the team pressure press on.  The challenges are more but it can be done and so you persevere.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTtZHtcn-xY

At the end of getting it up you will have practiced excellent team work and you will feel very accomplished but you will not ride down again.  The challenge was good but now it is time for simplicity and toboggans.

Not really sure what a sheet of plywood was doing there in the first place but my boys can always find these strange things and a creative “something” to do.

Oh and just so you fully realize how very important this project was view the intense preparation before the first Big Slide.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VuOSewfRZM

It marvels me and fills me with joy when my boys make something so simple, interesting, and fun.  The language they use and the communication involved in this task was amazing.  I just love my boys and my life.

Aikido Orange Belt Test

January 18, 2012

Paul worked hard over the past 4 months and worked particularily hard over the past 3 weeks to prepare for his Orange belt test.  He was very proud of his success this past Saturday when he was officially tested and passed.  He will be presented with his new belt tonight!

I had filmed his test but I am having troubles with uploading movies so I will take a photo tonight and send family the video.

Family Created

November 21, 2011

We moved to a new neighborhood in May and found out how to create family.  The boys have excellent grand folks but they live so far away that the relationship between them and that other generation has been missing.

Rosemary lives two doors down and  has grandchildren that are also far away.  She started popping in here and again and progressively more often untill now we actually see her two to three times a week.  She pops over with treats and toys.  The boys watch for her car and race over to see her when she gets home from her various outings.  They have started to do little chores for her like raking the leaves and not always but sometimes she pays them a coin or two.  This summer she accompanied us to a Stampede Breakfast – and to be honest without her I would never have gone.

This might not be the best photo as the boys are waiting in line for the bouncy tent and man do they ever look grumpy.  Anyways – that is Rosemary in the pink.

The ultimate best thing ever is she thinks it is really “neat” that we homeschool and she is a natural teacher herself.  Every Monday she comes over and works with the kids on various subjects.  Mostly they read to her and she encourages them through words that are hard.  She has also been practicing multiplication tables with Paul.  I love it and appreciate her so much.

So we all learned somthing.  I learned that we can create the family we need when geography interferes with our expectations.  The kids have learned that the older folks are pretty cool and learning from other people is lots of fun.

Its funny though – they always complain when she first gets here but when she is done and asks if she should come again next week they always say “yes”.  They even do homework for her.  Love it!

Kettle Valley Bridges

November 21, 2011

On a recent road trip we observed many styles of bridges – a lot of bridges between Calgary and Kelowna.  I suppose we will have to get technical and hit the books soon on this matter though I bet the through playful observation much has been discovered.

This was such a beautiful bridge in the Kettle Valley – Samuel was able to point out so many features that I was not as able to observe in such detail.

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