Backwardschooling

We live in a state that has relatively strict homeschool reporting requirements, including a comprehensive year-long plan due in the summer before the upcoming school year, with plans and curriculum for each of the required subjects.

While I’m diligently completing this requirement to convince the district that we take home education for our six year old seriously (we do!), I also wanted to write out how we’ll actually spend our time.

We’re doing school backwards. You know those things that get left behind in order to cram in academics? That’s what we’re doing first.

Games. Lots of games. Time to practice winning and losing graciously, cooperative games to work on collaborative communication.  Logic, reasoning and word games. Math games, spatial exercises, strategy games, musical games. 

Socialization. Oh, the socialization. Family relationships, co-ops, old friends & new ones.  Younger and older siblings. Sports teammates, church friends, and neighbors. Random people at the store, library, and museum. Supported socialization in safe settings, play dates. 


Pleasure reading. Reading “just because”. Reading out loud. Shared reading. Re-reading. Easy books. Hard books. Silly books. Backs of cereal boxes. Reading without an agenda, comprehension quiz, or follow-up assignment.


Movement. Team sports. Walks in the woods. Chasing siblings through the backyard. Impromptu dance parties. Improvised obstacle courses. Beach days in September. Sledding outings in January. Shoveling dirt. Shoveling snow. Shoveling sand. Playground visits. Bike rides. Hiking trails. Trampoline parks. Swimming pools. 


Unabashed curiosity. Reading about whatever topic excites us, asking lots of questions. Museum visits and hands-on science experiments. Testing theories and observing the world around us. Watching bubbles caught by wind currents and racing sticks under the bridge. Turning over rocks (carefully, of course!), following rabbit trails, and catching snowflakes.


Those are our priorities, our primary curriculum. 

The other stuff? We’ll get to it too. If we can manage to squeeze it in! 

What about you? How do you balance what your children need with the formal homeschooling requirements where you live? Or if your kids go to school, what do you do with the”extra” time you have with them? 

Playsilks

A couple years ago, my then 4yo and I embarked on a playsilks experiment. 

I tend to get a crafty idea, make a bunch of them, get tired of it, and move on. (Afghans, mei tai baby carriers, felt Christmas trees, car seat canopies, I’m looking at you!)

The playsilks were a similar project. We ordered about 30 of various sizes from Dharma Trading, used all of them as gifts as well as keeping for ourselves, and then we ordered another 20 or so scarves to do more, since it was such a fun and easy project.

We’ll probably repeat within the next year or two, as my girls are almost old enough to handle it.

The Artful Parent has a great tutorial, so I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel.

What I did want to mention is how fun it can be to play with the color combinations. We have some monochrome scarves and some others that use 2, 3, or even more color combinations.

We use these scarves All. The. Time. Even my 6yo. We dance with them, use them as blindfolds, pretend to be superheroes, wrap our dolls in them, use them as tablecloths for pretend picnics.

They’re machine washable. (I know – the word silk scared me too) and have enriched our play tremendously.

Oh, and there’s also the sensory bonus of rolling in a pile of silk too. Pretty sure that happens on a not-too-infrequent basis.

I love open-ended play objects and that we’re using our own artwork. 

And no, my kids still don’t know that Kool-Aid is actually a beverage. 🙂 

A Simple Chromatography Experiment

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I’m a sucker for simple experiments with common household items and dramatic results, and my 6 year old is currently in love with colors. The other day, he didn’t ask his cousin what her favorite color is. He asked what her favorite color group is (primary, secondary, or tertiary – spoiler alert: he likes the tertiary color group the best). And pretty much refuses to have anything to do with primary colors right now. Don’t ask me why. I really don’t know.

When I found this experiment, I knew it was going to be a winner.

Just like she suggests, we drew circles on our filters, labeled them with pencil, and then curled them and placed them in shallow cups so that only the tips were immersed in water.

We used a bunch of different (washable) marker colors on our 4 c coffee filters, and after the initial recommended circles, J also experimented with patterns to see how they would affect the outcome.

We then tried immersing the color in water and discussed why that didn’t work the same.

Have fun, and let your creativity run free!

Happy wondering.

 

 

The Art of Pairing 

Some time in the last year, I came across the term “strewing”. It refers to strategically placing toys and educational items to be “discovered” by your children.

https://adventuresinteachingmyown.com/2016/06/24/the-art-of-strewing-an-unschooling-moms-secret-weapon/ – here’s a pretty good overview.

I was intrigued. I’ve done a certain amount of this over the years, but I never knew it had a name. 

I’d like to introduce a second “level” to the concept that I call pairing. Simply put, it means placing unrelated items next to each other to invite your children to interact with those objects in new and novel ways. This encourages flexible thinking and problem solving, and you often pick up on some fantastic science concepts along the way.

Case in point: today, I moved a balance board next to a doll house. 


It became a merry-go-round. We would spin it (motor skills) and watch the figures fly off (centripetal force, momentum), we swayed it back & forth & looked at how much of an angle it took for them to slide off (friction, objects at rest tend to stay at rest). We put things in the center and near the edges and observed the differences. 

Note – this was all child-led, and I didn’t mention one science term as we were playing. We just observed how the world works and how two objects that ordinarily don’t fit together can make something new.

A few other ideas we’ve explored:

  • A balloon & a marble
  • Light Brite pegs & Play doh
  • Rubber bands & chairs

Your turn – what objects have you or could you use for unexpected interactions? The possibilities are endless! 

The “EWWWWW” factor

Gypsy moths and I do not get along.

They don’t belong in North America. (true story) They’re gross. Hairy. And they eat the oak tree leaves. Last year, it was so bad that the deck was covered in feces that I had to sweep up on a daily basis, but we couldn’t eat or play outside because the @#$% would land in our hair, on our plates, etc. It was so loud that we could go outside and hear them chewing.

We sprayed (with a natural garlic spray). We taped the oaks with duct tape (they don’t like going across sticky surfaces) – (and this year we added Tanglefoot, (aff link) which works even better). We shop vac’ed the egg sacks from the moths. We trapped the male moths (aff link) females are too heavy to fly).

And this year they’re back. Not as bad, but they’re still back. We sprayed again. We taped the trees again. But they’re still everywhere. Not as bad, (and we’re winning – gradually), but still there.

Sooooo… how do I handle that with my kids? Who today wanted to go exploring and dig in the dirt? Despite my visceral reaction, today they found a slug, some pill bugs, a few ants, and then started catching small gypsy moth caterpillars on sticks (it’s not good to touch these caterpillars with your skin – can cause an allergic reaction).

Gypsy Moth Caterpillars

And as personally repulsed I am by these creatures (they look harmless here, but they grow to 2-3 inches long each, poop all over the place, and decimate our trees), they were allowed to giggle as they caught and then released these beasts.

I didn’t want my personal distaste to squelch in any way their joy of discovery. So gypsy moth caterpillars – sure!

We don’t encourage our kids to kill any animals. If bugs are inside, we try to catch and release or we adults take care of it. When outside, we encourage a “live and let live” philosophy, except for mosquitoes. We don’t actively smash or destroy living things in front of them. When they’re older, we’ll help them differentiate between helpful insects and pests, but we want to encourage a cruelty-free response to all living things until then.

 

 

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Scooter Circles

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So… the picture quality isn’t great, but you see those curved lines behind the scooter (aff link)? That was this morning’s math conversation. When you go straight with wet wheels on a 3 wheeled scooter, the center (rear) wheel is equidistant from the two sides.

What happens when you turn? Is it possible to get the rear wheel to actually meet or go outside of the lines of the front wheels? What happens if you go backwards?

What else could you do to test this out?

And what materials could you use if you wanted to try this again inside? Any ideas?

🙂

Happy wondering!

 

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This post contains affiliate links.  Any links to resources on the Amazon website are part of the affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. There is NO pressure to buy. 🙂

Coffee Filter Parachutes

I love finding simple, creative ways to explore with my kids. When I came across this idea for coffee filter parachutes, it fit the bill because

1) – we already had coffee filters and pipe cleaners (chenille stems)

2) – it required very little finesse or talent. Pinterest and I don’t get along very well. 

3) – the possibilities for exploration were endless

 We started out mostly following directions.


Then my kids became curious – they tried different combinations:

  • Beads weighting the stems in different locations
  • Holes in the filters in various locations
  • Centered and non-centered stems


After that, I stood on a chair, and we raced them, 2 at a time, predicting which would be fastest, slowest, & why, and then testing their hypotheses.

Today, we gathered up all our chutes and headed to the local playground. 


There we further tested our chutes with the added wind variable (plus the crumpled variable from being handled so much). It was a blast.

A couple things we learned: we had the little 4c basket shaped filters. This probably would have worked better with a larger size, and if you’re working with little kids especially, make sure the pipe cleaner ends get bent down so no one gets poked in all the excitement.

Happy parachuting!

What variations did your kids come up with?