Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Outdoor learning

We love to be outside. Don't all kids? The ability to be outside and explore is one of the things that kids in our society are missing more than almost anything. Schools have cut recess to such a small amount of time, some schools have cut recess altogether.

Learning is so easy when you are outside. There is so much to see and it all changes with the weather and the seasons. Getting a few guide books can add to the amount you can learn about, there are birds, animals, plants, bugs, geological formations, and weather which can all be discussed no matter where you are.

One of our favorite learning activities now is our weekly hike with the home school group. We rotate around the many different trailheads in our area. Each one has something different to offer and there is a lot to learn no matter where we go. The kids love to collect stuff. Today I actually made a very crude list of things they could try to collect while we were out. They really liked having things to find and they had their own bags (cheapy back pack things we got as gifts from our timeshare) to put their treasures in. Today they collected many rocks, some prarie grass, a large bird feather and dirt. They also held what was either a centipede or milipede captive for awhile, but eventually they let it go back on the trail since it really wasn't happy being held by them!

Our weekly hikes are also a great time for them to learn cooporatively. In a group they learn how to take turns, share, explain, be in charge, be a follower, etc...... We are very lucky that we have an awesome group to hang with and the kids do a wonderful job of taking turns leading and following and they are all very creative coming up with new things to do and new storylines to follow all the time. Today we were the last ones on the trail with one other family and Gracie and their daughter were having an awesome time at the picnic shelter going in and out pretending they were fire rescue people. They were saving all sorts of things like people and toilet paper!! It was so fun. Then a small plastic bucket the other family had became a pot and they started collecting stuff and putting it in to make soup. The story line moved and changed and they played so well together, it was just awesome.

I am really looking forward to spending hours and hours of our learning time outside as the kids get older. I'm not sure we can ask for a better teacher than Mother Nature herself.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Support

I think the biggest challenge in home schooling is having the support you need. I know for me this is a huge thing. We are social people. I need to have friends in order to get by and Gracie does also. Ian's social need is a little less but even he goes nuts if we don't get out pretty much daily.

There are lots of resources for connecting with people for home school support. The internet is full of them which has really been my main source of finding what we have needed. Yahoo groups has about a billion different home school groups, you can narrow it down to local groups for field trips, co-op classes, park days and the like or you can find national groups which have sources and ideas and offer discussion. There is a ton out there, there is really something for every personality, style, and belief system.

I started looking for a home school group last summer. Not so much for schooling support as for social interaction. The parenting groups I have been involved in have pretty much run their course because the majority of families we knew have put their kids in school leaving Gracie without anyone to play with. So finding other people who have kids at home the same age as ours was the goal. I tried a couple groups locally but didn't find exactly the right fit for us. One group was awesome but based about 45 minutes north of us and the other group was closer to home but the philosophy of most of the people in it was not what I was looking for. So, after thinking it over a good bit I decided to start a group myself. I knew I had a couple people who would be involved so I figured I would give it the old college try.

I am so glad I did! Having a group of people who are located close to us and who also share our philosophy has been wonderful. We have created a nice close group of friends in a very short time. We all look forward to seeing our home school friends and have had many enjoyable outings together. I hope that we all stay in this area for a good long time so our friends can grow up together. Not only has it been great for the kids but it's great for me. I love having people who "get" me and where I'm coming from and I am pretty sure they feel the same.

Staying home with your kids can be so isolating. Support and friendship is so important, I would say it's almost vital to being successful with home schooling. I am very thankful for our group. I think I am a better parent because of them!!