Saturday, May 28, 2011

End of Kindergarten!

As the official school year comes to an end, some of the pressures on homeschooling are lifting and I may relax in my documentations, both on blog and on my own record-keeping. This was a cool trial year for us. Ava's experience in Kindergarten, both public school and at home was hopefully fulfilling to her and memorable. The rollercoaster of it all was certainly a ride for me anyways. The kids have learned a lot, and I have learned a lot about how they learn a lot! I would be in heaven if I could continue to learn with them in the years to come. Time will tell, as we are at the beginning of it all, and we are taking it year-by-year. So as I go through this post, of the last two official weeks of Ava being a Kindergartner, I have a great sense of "we did it!"
Of course, as I've mentioned plenty of times, learning never stops. We will continue doing what we do throughout the summer. There's really no start or stop when you are learning from life. This has become our way of life as a family. Questions rarely go unanswered. If we don't know the answer, we can research it, teaching the kids how to look up answers for themselves. I ,as a homeschooling parent, don't need to have all the answers. Teaching children how to FIND answers is the most important lesson of all! To use their curiosity as a catalyst to explore the world around them. Children's curiosity shouldn't be taken for granted! If there's a curiosity or desire, we try to meet that. From a spider crawling on the ceiling to bad weather, from building to reading, going to museum or the library, or even the grocery store, all of it is an opportunity to be harnessed.

So the last couple weeks have included a lot. We have begun our garden, which is something I find so important for every human being on Earth to know how to do! I'm still learning. In all my schooling, I never planted a single seed, until we grew a plant in a college Biology course I took. Isn't that crazy? NEVER grew a plant, a vegetable, a tree from seed. The most fundamental need for life, growing your own food, is generally NOT taught in schools. I find that baffling. So, I'm learning now. So my kids can learn. And the kids are naturally into growing. They love to get their hands dirty. The love to watch their "babies" grow into plants, and from the small amount we grew last year, they love to pick and wash and EAT their produce.

I've been toying with raw foods the past several months and the kids have really gotten into the idea too. They love helping make new meals and love juicing!

As for more "schooly" subjects, while Ava was working in her spelling book recently, I was encouraging her to use more lower-case letters instead of only capital letters. She started drawing art on her arm with a tattoo pen she has. I said I'd let her draw on my arm only if she ONLY drew lowercase letters. She thought that was hilarious and proceeded to draw all over my arm in lower-case letters. We also looked at books to see how in books they use lower case letters, not all capitals, since she loves writing books so much.

Another favorite past time of hers, is drawing and anything to do with art. She wanted to wait and start back up her art classes she was taking in the fall. Frequently, she has me come in her room for "art lessons," and teaches me step-by-step how to do a drawing. She tries to get her brother to do art lessons occasionally, but Noah actually isn't all that fond of drawing. He likes more crafty art when he does do art things.
Recently, I picked up a "7 Days of Fun" kit that has 7 different activities for each day. The kids did most of them in one day, but it was so fun for them. Noah loved the sand art and the clay art. They had a blast with these kits.

One thing a lot of people ask about homeschooling several children at once is how to do so with different ages. Especially with a toddler around. Certainly it takes a little planning and often quick thinking but also it's the ability to be flexible. Since the way we homeschool doesn't involve a strict structure hour-by-hour plan, if one child is too crabby or tired we can simply wait for a better time to jump into any big project. Ava is at an age where she can do a lot by herself, so while I get a little one to nap, she can do her own thing or finish what we were doing. Also, learning side-by-side has many benefits. For one, the older child(ren) teach the younger, and on occasion, even the other way around. Also, while the older is learning about something at their level the littler ones tune in and pick up a lot about the subject as well. As Ava learns about reading words, Noah sees letters and hears the sounds they make, and Amora, not even two, is learning language and watching a great example of her older siblings reading books and learning.

Amora looking at books during Ava's spelling.

Playing clay while her older sibs did messy sand art!

Ava telling Noah about satellites.

More books in the club house!

Amora with her book.

Amora with Mommy's book!
Playing together even offers so much to kids. The cooperation, patience, and communication, and turn-taking is critical in social skills. Being with kids of different ages and abilities I think strengthens these skills enormously. Of course, it doesn't always appear that they are cooperating and learning turn-taking sometimes, but even in those times, they are learning important social skills. Disputes, arguments, and seeing how far they can push the other, build a lot of skills even when it seems like they're just yelling. Every child needs to learn those lines, those buttons, the social consequences, how to argue and debate, how to love someone even if you're mad at them or disagree with them, and who better to learn that from than from their trusted family members?

Talking to others I've heard plenty that it will get so much easier too. If we can homeschool at these ages, it's going to be a breeze and even more fun to learn with older children. The world is wide and there are so so many opportunities out there!

The kids also got a real-life lesson from the recent tornadoes that went through. They know very well why we have to take cover during the sirens and Ava is very interested in watching the weather map on TV and what it all means. Earlier in the week, we drove past some of the damage caused by the recent tornado in our area. Noah was amazed that the tornado was strong enough to pull up the huge trees by their roots. We actually have shingles and insulation in our yard from the debris from where it tore over houses several miles away.

Our last homeschool group meet was Friday. It was a clean up day to clean the room that the church allows us use of. The kids all pitched in, the youngest kids, including Amora, stomping baking soda into the carpets and the older ones spraying and scrubbing with non-toxic cleaners and vacuuming. Then afterward, they all got to play at a near-by park together.

And for the last little funny pic I added here, this morning Ava an I were watching a little spider crawl on the ceiling. We were wondering if he could see us watching him. We started talking about how some animals can see very very far, like hawks, and why this is important for them to be able to do. Then we discussed bats and how they use echolocation. Ava was intrigued so I grabbed her near-by laminated map place mat and held it in front of her face and told her to say something with her eyes closed and tell me if the place mat was there or not. She could tell every time (I put my hand over her eyes too, no peeking!) Looks like people can use echolocation on some scale too!

So, this marks the end of Ava's Kindergarten! Stay-tuned for summer adventures, and maybe a few graduation pics since we'll do something little and fun to celebrate, of course!

Thanks to all who have supported our family and continue to do so in this adventure!!! I'm so looking forward to all that awaits us.

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