Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Don't Loose Your Marbles

...Use your marbles. Along with balls you can throw and catch. Ones you can kick. Bounce some. Roll them. Or try to juggle. Heck, we even watch TV on workout balls.

We love the ladderball Grandpa made us last summer. One of our favorite things to do is to invent or play unusual games with them.

We've done tennis ball golf-- Tolf-- into tumped over buckets. There's also this Balloon Bomb, where if it touches the ground you blow up. Pretty safe gameplay in the living room as well.

Our latest is croquet with a soccer ball-- Soccroquet, of course. Try Freeze Catch, where you have to throw it back however you catch it. Or Peanut Pong, since our kids don't drink beer or have peanut allergies. Footbag Bocce is great to play in a hallway.

And using a ball is beneficial as well. It's all incredible for engaging your mind as well as your muscles. In fact, these activities are synergistic in nature and increase our abilities to focus. Best of all, it's fun doing it.

Even as I type, I've got a game waiting for me. So I leave you with this "cheeseball" before I hop off, as encouragement to get out there, and have a ball!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

String Theory

Not the quantum kind, although I do enjoy a good physics books now and again. I am bit twisted that way.

But I'm talking a different theory here. You see, from time to time, my kiddos get a little unraveled. They can't focus or follow directions very well. I have to lasso them in with something. Something they can really get wrapped up in for more than two minutes. So I rummaged through boxes in my closet and garage for an idea, and it hit me. A noose has thirteen loops right? Just kiddning. But being knotty could be nice.

So we pulled some strings, and gathered up enough for a Ropes Course. Not a real one like you see in trees-- bummer-- but several lessons in making knots, weaving, jump rope, knitting, string art and practicing guitar. We turn to doing our Ropes Course whenever we need to reel in a little learning or just want to get tangled up in a playful way. It's a great way to tie in focus and fun.

Oh, and for the "being knotty" part, these websites are great for learning different kinds. Check it out:
Animated Knots by Grog, and:
20-20 Site: How to Tie Knots

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Class De Jour... or De Année even

I've always admired these people who have managed to beautifully integrate math, English and sciences into an art-based curriculum. I remember finding online information about a charter school who does this kind of stuff. They're in Asheville, North Carolina. That would be nice, but back to my point: There's a lot of real life stuff that has this built-in integration going for it.

Not too long ago, in fact, education came from apprenticing trades or learning skills needed to keep the farm running, and such. That is to say, education happened by doing it, not being told about it. To many homeschoolers, I know this is nothing new. It's one of the distinct pleasures of the journey, getting to be a part of learning and involved hands-on with it.

And I'm not saying this next thing is anything that I invented. I've not even Googled it-- maybe I should, though-- but for me, it was an epiphany. I believe it was somewhere between fixing that 3rd snack of the day and prepping dinner, when I was asked by my kiddos if they could help. At first, I thought it was too complicated and slightly dangerous if you didn't know how to wield a knife correctly. Then the a-ha... They were really interested in it! And I had to stop cutting while the cogs sped up in my head. You see, I need these fingers-- all ten-- for future projects. Reading recipes, weighing, measuring, fractions, patterns, time management, writing notes, assessing calories and properties, reviewing supplies, evaluating costs, research, history, origins, enhancing skills... THIS IS SCHOOL, MAN! It's a full set of integrated subjects, put in savory bundle of learning! Education you can really sink your teeth into! Studies that would be absolutely devoured! Dude!

I almost cried when I though of reducing my kitchen hours to less than half-a-day. Perhaps have time to read a book. Or take a shower-- hold on. Let's not plan our retirement quite yet. There's a lot of work to be done. But if I document this well, it's a homeschool supplement that could really help a lot of people. In more ways than one.

Wish me lots of luck. And feel free to shoot me any yummy/healthy recipes you might wanna share...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Welcome Class...

... to the first day of homeschool," I recall telling my kids.

"My name is," I step over to the recent pair of newly purchased whiteboards, "M-i-s-t-e-r D-a-d. And I hope we can be really good friends this year, as we learn together."

"Ugh. Daaaad... Seriously," my 8 year old sassed.

"Why don't we just call you Mister Taylor like the kids from school did," said Jay, the youngest of the two.

"I'm just calling him Dad," Bear replied, "but he can still be the teacher."

I wanted to start the experience out on a lighter note, but from their reaction I saw this was indeed serious. So for the next year and a half, much of our learning was spent figuring out how to have fun, how to interact, how to make learning something interesting and worth retaining.

I had the advantage of previous employment as a lunchroom guy and playground guy at the kids' elementary. Between listening to teachers who felt that their hands were tied to the curriculum and watching all these kids get so much out of just by playing with each other, learning at home became very attractive. I had a second grade girl at the time who was bored to tears, and a first grade boy who's personality completely changed after being pulled from math/science skills--which he loved--to "reading retard" class. When it came time to withdraw, we had only kudos and support from the educators we knew there. Another good sign.

Now, as I assess things, my class is a good size, a workable ratio. As for Principal Mom, she makes sure we stay on learning more than field trips. To be honest, it's been the most difficult thing I've tried, next to... well, nothing. Plus, the paycheck has never been quite this petty. Then again, I don't have any withholding or social security to pay, thank God, and I'm up for teacher of the year for the second in a row. So there is a silverplated lining to it, after all.

Anyways, that's where it started. And following a bit of bumbling, juggling and drivelling over the last two years, I can finally write about it more clearly. Ergo, Said-Blog.

More soon...