Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Drive to Collect Donations to Help Animals

E has been working on a doing a drive to raise money for the local animal shelter and a horse rescue.  She wanted to do something to help animals, so we called the animal shelter to see if she could volunteer, but they said she was too young.  So we googled for ideas of ways kids can help animals, and came across the idea to do a drive to collect donations.

She called the animal shelter and horse rescue and asked what they need.  Then she presented her idea to 4H and asked them to make it a committee. Then she did a presentation for the Humane Society and asked them to help.  She wrote a letter to businesses to ask them if she can put collection boxes in their locations, went to their locations, talked to the owners/managers, told them her idea, and got permission to put the boxes in 3 businesses.  Another business owner heard about it and offered to let her put one there, and of course there will be one at our county 4H office.

Yesterday, we went shopping for all the box decorating supplies and the kids on the committee, including L, met to decorate the boxes.  E typed up the lists of what the animal shelter and horse rescue said they need, I formatted it, and we posted them on the boxes. 

Not sure if the other kid's mom is ok with her picture being on a public blog, thus the editing.

Today we went down to the newspaper office, and she told one of the reporters all about the project, so we're hoping it will be in the paper next week.  The boxes will be up for the whole month of April, because it is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.  So I'll post an update after that with a tally of what gets collected! 

We also went down to the animal shelter today, so the girls could see the animals they are collecting donations for.  Those poor dogs will probably be really glad to get some new blankets and beds!  Other than that, they look like they are cared for well, and we were glad to hear that even though they are not a no-kill shelter, they do work with various rescues to try to either adopt out or transfer the animals before even considering putting them down.  The girls REALLY wanted to take home one of the adorable kittens they had.

She has learned so much from doing this:

Public speaking/presenting skills
Cold calling skills
Making a plan and implementing it
Typing and writing (spelling, reading)
How shelters/rescues work
Working with others
Finding a way to make something happen when the first idea doesn't work out

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Playing with Numbers

L randomly tells me, usually a few times per day, some math fact she's figured out for the fun of it.

The other day, she told me "2+2+2 is 6," and she's been doing that kind of multiplication for a while.  But then she told me how she came to that conclusion.  She said, "Because 3 plus 3 is 6, so you take 2 out of one 3, 2 out of the other 3, and that leaves 1 and 1 which is 2.  So you have three 2s and that makes 6."

Well, yes, that most certainly works!  And that's a far more abstract way of figuring it out than just counting on your fingers!

She's not always so open about what her process is.  She likes to figure things out, like if there are 12 ice creams how many does each kid get, but she doesn't usually like to show how she's doing it.  She will count in her head and discretely use her fingers, and I sometimes have to resist the urge to help her because I'm not sure if she's really figuring it out... but then she comes up with the answer!  

Banning Technology

I've seen a few things going around lately about banning technology from kids, for all kinds of fearful, hyped up reasons. I just wanted to share a few of the neat things technology has allowed in our lives lately. Last night, my kids got to play a video game with their uncle who lives 2 states away. They do this every few weeks, and it's really neat, because they probably wouldn't know him otherwise. Just talking on the phone can be awkward between a single guy and little kids, but having the video game to connect over meant at least an hour of conversation.
Also, my mom and my aunt are on a trip through Italy right now. The kids and I are able to "follow" them with google earth. Starting from the San Fransisco airport, tracking their path to Germany and then Italy, seeing the B&B where they are staying, the art museum the visited, the walk they went on, etc. has all been really neat. Plus when my kids ask a question I don't know the answer to, I'm able to pull up pictures, videos and answers in 2 minutes flat.
L loves coloring in pictures on an app on the phone and then being able to play it back, so I can see the process she used. We can play board games on free apps without the expense of buying them or the mess of cleaning them up. They can stay connected with family by writing emails back and forth. All of my kids have favorite tv shows and video games that bring laughter, questions, conversations, and a way to unwind into our home.
Could we survive without technology? Well, based on the fact that E played outside with friends for, literally, at least 8 hours today and L and Z did the same for at least 4... yes, I think we'd manage. But I can't imagine why would I want to take away these amazing modern resources for learning, connecting with people, and entertainment.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Take that, Bill Nye

Something that happened at our home school group today made me think of Bill Nye's recent comment to a home schooling mom who asked him to create a science curriculum.

He responded:
"Use your judgment. The rest of us out here, want your kids to appreciate society and the importance of working together in school and in life. A person working alone will probably not build the future 797 airplane, for example. It takes people who can work with and around people. Carry on."

Today we had 13 kids playing outside together while us moms sat inside and talked and watched out the window.  The kids ranged from 2 to 13 years old.  They spent over an hour taking Interlocking Foam Floor Mats and building boxes and things to play in.  Then they worked together to use all the mats to create a  maze that they could crawl through, and organized games and races through the maze.  All cooperatively, with no arguing, with no parental input, big kids helping the little kids, and since this is a newly formed group, most of them haven't even known each other that long.

Mr. Nye, I happen to think that in 15 years or so, this group would have no problem building a 797 airplane.  Your arrogance and ignorance are astounding.   

Unfortunately, you're not alone.  We had to leave our home school group early so we could get to one of the kids' doctor's appointments, at which the doctor wanted to make sure my 3 year old was getting enough play with other kids since she doesn't attend preschool.  Does anyone see the irony there? 

Reading, Freak Outs and Playing with Words

Around the time that E turned 8, I experienced this weird dip in my confidence about how we are doing things.  Having been applying unschooling principles since she was 2, I've seen such a huge amount of natural learning and proof of how well unschooling works in those 6 years.  So, normally, the occasional, mild bit of nervousness just because this is my oldest child and it's all new, is easily relieved by seeing how much they are learning, comparing where they are this year to last year, seeing how much they enjoy learning, and knowing that I provide a life rich with experiences and resources.  However, something about her turning 8 and still not reading really well, sent me on a downward spiral.

I mostly kept it to myself, but I had the occasional moment of pushing, "You can read that," when she asked me to read something to her, or "Just try to sound it out one more time," after she had tried and was clearly frustrated.

Then in January I had a freak out about her not knowing how to spell her last name.  Her first name is 8 letters and she could spell it and write it at 4 years old.  Her last name is 8 letters, but for some reason she was stuck in learning how to spell it.

I have to admit that the worst part is that it's not that I believe that it really matters in the long run for *her* if she learns to write it at 8 or at 12. It's that I was afraid that if we end up in some social situation where she is expected to spell it, I will look like the neglectful, failing idiot who hasn't taught her kid how to do something so basic.  In my experience, the worst parenting mistakes are made when we stop looking at our kids and their needs, and start worrying more about what other people think.

So I freaked out and I apologized.  She said she was feeling frustrated by it too and that she wanted to learn it, but that it was hard.  So I asked if she wanted to find a way to make it fun and she did. I didn't think it would really click with this one fun thing and I reminded myself that was ok and that I *would not* push.  But suddenly it just clicked and now she can spell her last name!  We did a cheer leading thing where she spelled out her last name by making each letter with her body.

She wrote it about a dozen times a few days later, both just for fun and because she made some cards to give to the neighbors that say "Her Name, Pet Sitting, Phone Number." 

After that, I made sure I gave her lots of space regarding reading.  I went back to what I've always done- read things for her, anything she asks me to, suggest that she try occasionally, but not push at all if she doesn't want to, fill her life with words and print, but not make them the be all-end all of learning.

And she went back to doing what she does.  Days of no attempts at reading or writing, then a day of reading a few pages or writing a whole list.  Days of not wanting me to read anything to her and then a day of having me read her a half a dozen books (though mostly she's been far less interested in books this last year or so, then in years past).  Days where she can't remember how to read words she's read a dozen times, and then suddenly reads a word she's never seen before.

Then a few days ago, we were watching L play a computer game and E pointed to a button L was about to click on and said, "That says 'See More.'"  I asked her how she knew that and if she had sounded it out.  She said no, she just knew.  Then she asked me to write down more words for her to figure out.

Since she had just read "see," I wrote down "bee, tree, free," and since she had just read "more," I wrote down "sore, tore, pore, more, fore, lore."  She read them all easily.

Then she wanted to sound out a word to write down herself, and this is where it has gotten tricky in the past.  She always seems to pick words that don't follow phonetic rules.  Then she tries to sound them out, and I gently, regretfully, tell her this is one of English's dumb words that doesn't make any sense, she gets frustrated and gives up.

So, this time she picked "Lloyd."  Yes, really.  Of all the words to try to sound out.  She gave it a valiant effort, but didn't even come remotely close (and seriously, who would know that if you don't know that?!).  But when I told her it was another weird word in our language, she didn't mind one bit this time!

Next she tried "pet."  Much easier!  Though it still took a few tries, because she was pronouncing it "pep."  But after I distinctly sounded out each letter for her, she got it.

Which leads into what I believe to be her biggest reading challenge.  She seems to have a hard time grasping the concept of phonetics and especially blending sounds.  She has an easier time memorizing whole words, which I've read is more of a right-brained way of learning to read.

I've seen other unschooling moms describe this as their child "collecting words," which is what she seems to be doing.  It takes these kids longer to learn, because they need to be exposed to enough words over enough years to memorize or "collect" enough to read a book.  But once they get to that point, they excel.  Of course, they eventually pick up some phonics in the process, but they will mostly be sight-readers their whole lives.

However she eventually masters it, the way she was playing with words the other night solidified for me once again why we are doing things the way we are doing them.  We spent a long time sounding out words, working together and playing with words, and she was having fun the whole time.

It would be so, SO easy to ruin her love of learning by pushing her to read.  There is no guarantee that any method we used would have her reading any earlier than she is, but I can just about guarantee that the stress, tears, and frustration caused by pushing, cajoling, or bribing would leave her hating reading all together.

Instead, she has the freedom to pick it up and set it down.  Play with words when it suits her, and then let them lie while her mind mulls over other things.  Connect the dots in her own way and add to her word collection at her own pace. 

Freak out over.  Confidence returned.