Saturday, October 29, 2011

Holy Fall Activities, Batman!

Okay, so my kids definitely can't say we didn't do any fall events this year. We got to do more awesome fall activities this past week or so...
We started the week by making Halloween cupcakes. Ava brought some to a birthday party she was invited to at a gymnastics center (how fun is that!). She had a blast and loved her cupcakes too. I try to send a yummy vegan option along with the kids if there will be non-vegan cakes or desert. She said she didn't mind a bit that she didn't have any cake because her cupcakes were so yummy! Win!

We went to a parade in "The Halloween Capital Of The World", Anoka, MN, with our Aunt Gloria and cousins Mia and Dylan. We went to the night parade which meant glow-in-the-dark swords and necklaces! The kids absolutely loved it. It was well worth the three block walk pulling them in the wagon in the dark! Haha!

Two of the groups we belong to had Halloween Parties as well! First was Vegkins, a group of vegetarian families. It was a vegan potluck with fun games and treats for the kids. The kids have made many friends through Vegkins and it's so fun to go somewhere that everything is vegan! One of the kids out of habit asked someone if the candy they received was vegan and smiled big when they said everything here is vegan!

The other party was with our homeschool group. The kids got to have a costume fashion show to show off their costumes by walking on a table like a runway (they thought it was pretty cool they got to walk ON the TABLE!). They also played games and did some crafts. Then we had a potluck. We brought some vegetarian sloppy joes and a veg/dip tray. Then off to do some trick-or-treating at some near-by businesses. Twelve kids and four moms going business to business collecting candy. It was so great! The kids all did wonderfully and had so much fun!

Ava had a Learn With Me Day this week with her Aunt Lori. Aunt Lori showed her how to do an herb garden. And Ava showed her how to make her spider craft! When we got home Ava said she was to water them with one Tablespoon every day. She has learned that there are three teaspoons in a Tablespoon, so she can use either one now.

Then it was off to Art Class where she did some beautiful water color paintings.

We also had a fun playdate with some friends at a local indoor playpark where the kids all got to wear off some energy and use their quarters in the games and ride machines too!

It's weeks like this that make me want to laugh hysterically when people ask how homeschoolers can possibly get "properly socialized" or make any friends. Haha!

Oh! And Noah learned to ride on two wheels this week! I think all of the scootering he's done since he turned three made it easy for him! He had the bike down so quickly at just four years old. He's so proud of himself. I'm picturing many ramps and jumps ahead for him...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Proud Moments

I've been reading from an author lately by the name of Alfie Kohn, who wants us to think of our long-term goals for our children and think of how our parenting contributes to reaching these goals. There's a quote I've read that reminds us, "We aren't raising children, we are raising adults." Would you want your child to grow up into a happy, healthy, confident person? Would you want them to be an ethical person? Do you want them to be blindly obedient to those who tell them to do things or think for themselves? The way we parent can have a significant impact on what kind of adults kids become.

As the kids are getting older, now 6, 4, and 2, I'm seeing more and more the wonderful people they are becoming. Despite common parenting advice about strict discipline and warnings about how children are "manipulative" and that they cannot and should not be trusted to make their own choices in life, we've been doing pretty darn well without it all.
Our kids choose when to go to bed, often staying up late. They choose where to sleep, often in our bed. Ava is proud she was able to choose if she wanted to homeschool or public school. They can choose how to dress. They choose if they are going to wear a coat on a cold day, often going without (I bring one with in case they change their mind). They choose how much supper they are going to eat by listening to their own body.
Yes, whenever possible, I try to allow the kids to have freedom and choices. Depending on the day, some days are harder than others for me to let go of the desire to control their every move. But I'm a work in progress. I've learned that the days things aren't going smoothly are usually the days that I've tried to be controlling or forceful in some way. On most days though, this seems to be working well for us. It also has given them the confidence to make their own decisions and truly be themselves. I'm enjoying seeing their natural generosity and helpfulness coming out.

I know every parent has glowing examples of things their children do that make them proud. These are a few of my recent examples that I want to be able to look back and read someday when my kids are older...

A short time ago, we were at an indoor play park. A girl a few years older than Ava came in who had what I'm guessing was cerebral palsy. Ava had previously met another girl with a similar disability who is a friend of John's aunt. I made a quick note to Ava when the girl came in about how she was born with a disability and she may not be able to play and talk in the same way as other kids. Ava quickly went up to her and befriended her. Her aide told us the little girl loved Spanish so she and Ava were saying Spanish words they knew. The rest of the time, Ava played with the little girl in the park. Afterwards, the girl's aide came up to me and said how much they appreciated that Ava played with her and wasn't afraid of her. She said everywhere they go, kids and their parents are afraid to talk to her and the little girl loved having a playmate.

Another recent time at a kids play center, the kids brought their quarters to spend on whatever they liked. Noah spent most of his on the candy machines. He and Ava began sharing their candies with the kids around them. One mom got angry and started scolding her kids for taking the candy. So, without any direction from me, Noah began going around to the parents at the play center asking them if he could please share his candy with their children.

The kids have also started showing some great maturity when they have had the opportunities to take on bigger responsibilities. The other day at a craft store we were at, Noah was very upset that we were leaving. His little sister was getting tired and had had enough and so we unfortunately had to get going. Since Noah was so upset, I carried him out and Ava, without being asked, took it upon herself to take over the rest. She pushed Amora out in the cart. Got her into her car seat, then opened up the back of the van and loaded our bags in, shut it and returned the shopping cart. Then hopped into her seat and buckled up, all while I was getting Noah in.

The kids also have never been punished if they say a "swear word." We don't censor what movies they see unless we think they'll be upset by something violent or scary. They've heard plenty of cursing. Instead of punishing them, it makes sense for us to explain that many people we know would be offended if they used these words around them. You know, just like many adults censor themselves around their grandma! The kids don't wish to offend anyone so they don't use the words. My brother joked once that it seems like swear words were invented just to get children in trouble for saying them! They are, after all, words that are part of our language, our expressions, our culture. Kids hear them all the time whether a parent chooses to refrain from using them or not. So why are children treated harshly for doing what children are designed to do: To learn language and everything else around them from those around them and from their community and culture.
Ava once left a message on her grandma's answering machine and, in trying to say two different words according to her, the word "shit" came out! She came running to me very upset about this. I told her it was okay and grandma wouldn't be mad. She insisted I call her grandma immediately and tell her NOT to listen to the message and to erase it as SOON as she go home. I was actually really surprised at her reaction since I had never made a big deal about swear words other than telling the kids that other's might feel bad if they hear them.
My kids teach me so much about the true nature of kids...and people in general. If given the respect and responsibilities and freedoms that we all deserve, they will more often than not, rise up to it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

All About Fall!

The past couple weeks have been full of wonderful fall activities. From raking up leaves to getting ready for Halloween. 
We visited Emma Krumbee's with my mom to pick apples and see their Scarecrow Festival. On the way we sang the Scarecrow Song we learned last year:

(To the tune of "I'm A Little Teapot.")
I'm a little scarecrow raggedy and worn
I wear a hat and my shirt is torn
When the crows fly near I scream and shout

The kids loved everything about the festival. They saw all the scarecrows, played in a rope maze, played in a giant hay stack, picked a basket full of apples and more.

On the weekend, our family went to the Twin Cities Corn Maze and spent the day playing in hay bails and in a corn pit! The kids picked out their Halloween pumpkins we'll be carving soon.

Some of the Halloween crafts we've been doing include making witches, bats, hand-print spiders, and pumpkins, and Ava did her first grid art!

I also printed off some pumpkin numbers and number words from Lakeshore Learning's website that Ava loved. I had to print three sets because she kept asking to do more!

Other things we've covered include volcanoes, geysers, and planets. Ava picked out some glow-in-the-dark planets to hang in her room. She is really getting into planets and stars and space. She especially loves looking at the stars and planets outside right now with her dad as he explains which is which.
We also talked about Columbus Day this month. While we were all taught Columbus was a hero that did a great thing by "discovering" America, there are actually many inaccuracies in this story. I want our kids to know the real history and not the happy fairytale we all were told in school. At our kids' young age, I mostly ask them about how the Indigenous people who lived here must have felt about someone coming over to their home and telling them what to do, to which their responses are,"mad," and "sad."

In other news, Noah read his very first words last week! He excitedly read "am," "go," and "at," and a couple others. He knows most letters now so I was telling him the sounds some make. I would say 'A' makes the "aaaa" sound and 'M' makes the sound "mmmm" and the rest he put together on his own. He'd say them separately and then faster and faster until he read it. He was so thrilled with himself but he would get quite mad when I got excited with him. Haha! It was clear he was doing this for HIM, not for me. Which made me even more proud.

We've been playing games in the van lately to spot letters in signs and say the sounds they make. In fact, I've noticed a lot of learning happens in the van on the road! Reading signs, finding letters, and lots of questions. It seems being buckled in staring out the window at the world going past gets their little minds turning and wondering! Homeschooling, unschooling, car-schooling, whatever we call it, it's capturing those opportunities that make it so natural and interesting. And keeps me on my toes!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Week Of Play!

After Rebbeca Rupp's speech at the Minnesota Homeschooler's Alliance (MHA) Conference, I payed a lot of attention to PLAY this past week or so. Noting all the things that I could that the kids did for fun and fun alone. Here's some of the list:
blocks, mud soup in a planter pot, forts, read library books (Leaves, Fun With Verbs, Construction Equipment, etc.), lots of painting, lots of games, lots of puzzles, play money, parachute games, parks, made soup, read Bob Books, Art class, fed ducks, cleared the garden, guitar, keyboard, took pictures, wrote letters, Ranger Rick magazine, watched beetles, chatted with ALL the neighbors, dug in the ground, played hide-and-seek, played tag, made a garden marker for next year (Ava made me one for my tomatoes), card games, scooters, computer games and ABC Mouse, made bubbles, listened to music and sang and danced to it, Ava plays guitar to music she plays, made up their own songs and danced to it, played restaurant, played dress-up, video game (bowling), pretended, played in the sprinkler, played T-ball, made fresh juices in the juicer, made smoothies, checked out online to see asteroid craters in the U.S., read about the solar system, raked leaves for the neighbors, play-doh, Linkin Logs, decorated baby pumpkins, and asked about 24 tons of questions...Yup, a successful week, I'd say!

On top of that we visited the Children's Museum again, always a favorite. This time the theme rooms included the Rainforest and also a Children's Books exhibit which included some of their favorites, like "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, Peter Rabbit, and A Snowy Day, among others.


In the museum's Activity Center, the kids got to build boats out of different materials and then see if they would float or not. This was so perfect for them. Noah is drawn to water like a fish. All summer long we were trying to keep him from leaving the hose on all day playing in water, watching it form "rivers," making mud, floating things in it, jumping in it, etc. And Ava loves anything creative and hands on. They both made several different boats and floated them. Meanwhile, Amora painted and played in the water!

Ava's very artistically designed boat didn't float the first time. So she was going to add something to it to see if it would float. After testing different materials, she decided on a big wooden base for it. I loved watching their faces when their boats floated!

Ava's toothpick boat!

Oh oh!


One of my most favorite things about watching the kids learn is the looks of intrigue, of joy, of interest and amazement on their faces. I love how their faces light up when they discover something new. I know that each time that happens, it is making an impression on them that will last forever. Plus, it just makes me happy to see them loving it all. Life is one big experiment!

Ava's art class had given us some extra paper they had on hand. It's the really durable tag-board type paper great for painting on which the kids have taken advantage of. I also used it this week as backing for play money that I printed off of the computer. I filled their cash register with it and we talked about the values and which was which. John worked with Ava that night on the values and adding coins together also.

When we were at the grocery store, the kids wanted to play one of those claw games to (not) win a stuffed animal. It took 50 cents each so we took that opportunity to see how many quarters that was. When I was out of quarters I gave Ava a dollar to bring, all by herself, to the cashier for four quarters (apparently not as easy as it used to be). After the cashier called over service managers and such to get the drawer to open without a sale, Ava finally came back with her four quarters. I've explained several times about how many quarters are in a dollar, but this is the first time she's really remembered it. She got to do it all on her own, for her own game she wanted to play. It had a use and an importance that no worksheet can create. And, of course, that's what the key is! That's real learning! I love seeing it every day now that I know what it looks like.

Ava's been loving art class now that it's started back up. Last week she learned about Picasso-and his ear, about a lasting impression. In her art journal she has a picture of Picasso she drew with a bloody ear. This week she is learning about drawing still  life.

We had read a book this week called "Perfect Soup," which is one of those books I just might have to buy. It's about someone trying to make soup and asking friends for ingredients and they keep wanting to trade him the ingredient he needs for something they need. In the end, another character works it all out by giving him something he needs as a gift which allows him to pay the others their favors to finally get to finish his soup.
After art class, Noah wanted to make soup. So he helped measure ingredients, open cans, and shake in spices to make a wonderful "Goblin Soup," (Pumpkin). Cooking is great for learning measurements and I like to show the kids what is 1/3 of a cup and why, and how much a tablespoon is etc. They get a lot from simply making soup, including a tasty meal!

Hoping soon we'll be making some yummy vegan fall treats now that autumn is upon us!

Goblin Soup--And my teeny tiny contribution to VEGANMOFO.