Friday, May 20, 2011

So - More Spiders...& more, & more & more...

So we can't seem to get enough of the spiders at the moment. - and I am not going into the dead baboon spider who was much loved by one little boy before being accidentally trodden on and disposed of shortly thereafter...there were many tears (and one grateful Mom) - RIP baboon spider!!!

Before I forget, I came across a lovely book by the author of The Very Hungry Catepillar (which is a huge hit in our house), apparently he has written another book about...yip, you guessed it...spiders! It's called The Very Busy Spider and you can have a peek at it here, I've already added it to our wish list but am secretly hoping to come across it in our library as our wish list is already far too long!!!

Luckily our weekly activity class has fallen straight into the theme the last little while, learning all about different bugs & animals etc, and learning new songs about them!

They even did a little pit of painting the one day - you know, that stuff I dread so much that I posted about it here!!!

Bear was amazing though, I helped him a bit with the first (the one on the table in front of him) and then when I wasn't looking he went and made one all by himself, even gluing on feelers and adding glitter while remaining surprising paint/glue/glitter free himself!
He then just asked me to cut it out so he could stick it onto a lollipop stick, so I obliged and he finished gluing it on by himself. So clearly he didn't really need my help much at

When they were talking about spiders in the group, Bear jumped right in and told them all the facts he learnt about spiders over the last few weeks. I love how he isn't nervous sharing at all, in fact I had to stop him from taking over the whole class himself!

Back at home we've been enjoying singing incey wincey little spider (BTW - the actions are great for learning coordination and fine & gross motor skills), so when I came across this and remembered I had a few sheets of magnetic paper lying around I decided to make some for our fridge.

So lately when I'm busy in the kitchen the kids play with them, and sometimes I'll sing while they stick on/point to the right picture at the appropriate time in the song.

Even Evie is getting the hang of it!

And then we wrote the words under each picture - because I'm still trying to do a bit of groundwork on the ABC's where ever I can!
And I'm sure everyone in the world knows these but just in case - here's the actions we use:
The eensey weensey spider went up the water spout. (Walk your fingers up, using thumb & forefinger - fine motor skills)
Down came the rain (flutter your fingers down, simulating rain - fine motor skills)
And washed the spider out (bend down and bang the floor - gross motor skills )
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain. (Make a circle over your head with your arm, simulating the sun - gross motor skills)
Then the eensey weensey spider went up the spout again. (Walk your fingers up - fine motor skills)

Then after the great painting success earlier in the week I decided to get brave and do a little project I though Bear would enjoy and fitted into our spidery & buggy interests.

So basically the plan was something like this >

So - what do we need?
  • Newspaper - to protect your home
  • Paper
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush & water
  • Straw

So - how did we use them?

First I covered the surfaces with paper (trust me, do not be shy, I definitely didn't use enough newspaper!).
Then I put nice dollops of paint on the paper for Bear.

Then I handed him a straw and off we went blowing as hard as could be!

I just have to add here I thought I was being very clever doing a painting activity where Bear didn't actually have to touch any paint...oh how wrong I was, lol.

We encountered our first problem almost immediately - the paint was quite thick, and rather than making spidery & buggy legs, our huffing and puffing was only producing slightly bigger blobs.

So I added a bit of water to each blob (I think next time I may just try this with water colours rather than acrylics) which worked a little better.

Then we encountered problem number 2...
Which was that while I had a desired end result in mind, Bear had no such preconceived notions.
I was hoping to let our paintings dry and then draw on eyes, legs, wings etc to complete our piece of art...but Bear was having none of it, he wanted to PAINT!
So much for not touching the paint, he grabbed a brush and got to it.

And despite me trying to show him that you could do various different things, like dots and strips and swirls etc, he was intent on covering as much of the paper as possible!

So we mixed up all our paints into different colours and painted, and painted and...

And subsequently the table, Bear & I ended up with paint everywhere!!!

Oh well, you win some and you lose some!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So - What about socialisation?

It's something that comes up often when talking about homeschooling, like it or not!

Truth be told it was one of the questions I initally had about homeschooling, so I can understand others having concerns about it.

Once I actually spent some time thinking about it though, I came to the realisation that the concern that homeschooled children won't be suitably socialised is actually laughable.

No one with good intentions wants their kid to be a misfit, or lonely, or unhappy, or any of those things the outcasts of our society are.

I'd hazard a guess that all "good" parents want their children to grow up in a good, healthy social environment, but the question is, "What exactly is healthy socialisation?"

So - what does the dictionary say

socialisation: to make social; especially : to fit or train for a social environment
But it fails to specify what type of social environment, and how to fit into it or train someone for it!

Problem is, socialisation is actually quite an abstract concept, and as far as I can tell there's actually no real definition of what "good socialisation" means.
And before you mention it, I also don't think it's enough to say that children should be socialised to "normal" society. The same issues apply, what is normal, who decides, and even if we can agree on what the normal behaviours in our personal societies at the relevant time are, does that make it automatically a good or desirable thing?

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society"

- Krishnamurti

And just why are schools accepted as the "gold standard" of socialisation?
Is it because most people go/went to school?
Because most people also think things were better when they were younger.
So does that mean they feel there is an ongoing corruption of our current society?
If schools are the golden standard shouldn't our societies be improving over time, seeing as most people have been through this wonderful socialisation machine?

The fact is that at the end of our children's school careers they won't be able to take a test on socialisation and get a winning or failing score, rather the true measure of how well they've been socialised will be their happiness and their ability to function well in the world. Both of which are personal to each individual and so will differ from person to person.

And what is even appropriate socialisation?
Do we want our children to fit in, or be comfortable being themselves?
To get along with others, or stand up for themselves?
To blend in, or to not give in to peer pressure?
To be part of a group, or to lead it?

So many questions!!! And more often than not the answer isn't all black or white, but rather the ability to judge the situation and react in the most appropriate way.
The fact is human beings are social animals, from birth we are driven to seek out interaction with other humans. So rather than having to learn it, we are actually born social!

That said there are still skills that need to be learnt, talking, sharing, compromising, problem solving, peace keeping etc, but there is no compelling evidence showing humans can't and don't learn these skills simply by living alongside other humans.

All these questions about exactly what soclisiation is, are also why it's so hard as a homeschooling parent to answer the people who ask us about it - it's because they're all actually asking a different question. Some may be thinking, "Do homeschooled kids have any friends?", others are thinking "But how will they learn independence?", or even "But how do we know you're not brainwashing your child to think exactly like you do?"; and so on, each based on their own individual understanding of what socialisation is.
How can we answer when we don't actually know what your real concerns are (besides the one about only anti-social lunatics homeschooling their kids of course ;) )?

And are there people out there homeschooling because they only want their kids to learn/believe certain things, or mingle with certain people?
I'm pretty sure there are!
Just like I'm pretty sure people choose schools based on the same principles!
It's one of the perks of parenting, for the most part we all get to raise our children as we see fit, to our own personal values, beliefs and sadly...even prejudices.
But would you actually want it any other way?

So - it has to be said
The more I learn about homeschooling the more confident I personally feel about "socialisation", and that we are not harming our children's social skills by homeschooling them.

Whether we're harming their chances to make many and varied friends while of a school going age probably differs from family to homeschooling family, and probably often has a lot to do with the fact that most other kids are in school, and as such are so busy going to school, doing homework, participating in other school related events and attending parties and family functions on the weekends that those who homeschool probably won't be able to see a lot of them regardless of whether we make friends with them or not.

So - after all that rambing, what is the actual answer?

Well if the question is "will homeschooled kids experience the same socialisation as school going kids?"
Then the answer has to be "No!"
But on the upside I'm pretty confident school isn't the only answer, or even necessarily the right answer to the socialisation question...

...and even better, I know that homeschooling isn't automatically the wrong answer either!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

So...It's been all about Spiders!!!

So Spiders have been the big thing here the last few weeks, and a lot of learning has been going on around this subject. I thought it might be a nice example of how we use unschooling to learn so far. It's been a few weeks so I hope I remember to include everything I've been taking mental notes of, but if not I guess it will just have to be put into another post!

It all started when Bear found a nice big spider in our garden one late afternoon about a month ago. He has pretty keen eyesight and spotted it hiding behind a bush.

< This is the spider that started it all, it's probably longer than one of my fingers, so pretty large!

Of course he wanted to know exactly what kind of spider it was and as we didn't know Dad took him to try find out on the internet.

So off they went to the computer and started googling.

They soon discovered it was from the family of golden orb spiders and thankfully pretty harmless. Bear however was quite taken with the fact that we could look it up on the internet, and has since spent a lot of time looking up various spiders, crocodiles, snakes and a few other things, and Evie often enjoys looking with him too.

Around that time we also had just joined the library and when we went to collect our cards and choose our very first books he proclaimed he wanted a book about spiders. I browsed the shelves for him and found a wonderful Usborne book called Spiders, as well as another book on Bugs. The spider book in particular was a hit, and it accompanied us on holiday to his grandparent's new home on a farm in the Natal Midlands, where there were all kinds of spiders to be found.

He found an old spider skin hanging from a web, and that night was especially interested in the section which talks about how spiders grow & shed their skins.

He also discovered a nice HUGE flatty (I'm not sure of their "real" name) in our bathroom there and insisted on taking a bath with it there to keep him company! Of course there was far more than just spiders to keep him occupied while we were away, but as we're talking about spiders today I'll just stick to them!

The cherry on the top was a trip we took to Croc City at the beginning of this week, and we all had a great time, I can highly recommend it! Sadly I have no photos as my camera was out on loan to a friend.

We got there nice and early, which was great as being the only people there we got the guide's personal attention and got to handle so many of the animals, baby crocodiles, corn snakes, boa constrictors, bearded dragons and all sorts of other reptiles. Bear was in his element and Evie just wanted a turn too (but she's still a bit too little to be gentle). And of course they had spiders for us to look at, and they had a beautiful Mexican Red Knee Tarantula, just like the one in our book!

Just yesterday we found this cool game online over at the Magic School Bus, where you put different parts together to create various bugs, including a why not send your kids on over to play Monster Bugs, it occupied Bear for over an hour!

So as you can see, that one little subject has kept us busy over the last few weeks,. and as yet it shows no signs of abating. Clearly the info is also sticking because every night at bed time we are told elaborate stories with all sort of little details about the spiders (and snakes).

So - what did we do today?

We played outside on our jungle gym. Which as luck would have it has it's very own spider web. So we spent time playing and climbing and pretending to be a spider, working out how a spider moves. We also tried out some other animals, hopping like a rabbit, slithering on our tummies like a snake, trotting like a horse etc. Mainly just climbing though.

Then I offered up some crafts, either making our own spiders or making spider we were into the webs today we settled on those.

So - what materials did we need?

Paper plates
Wool or string
Pens/pencils/crayons/kokis etc

So - how did we use them?
First we drew some spiders on our paper plates, we used a black marker cause black spiders are cool! And can I also point out that Bear drew a triangle, all by himself!!! Apparently he was drawing a triangle spider (which we read about in our spider book) but then decided to turn it into a fly instead.

Once we were happy with our spiders we cut little snips into the edge of our plate. I showed Bear how to do the first plate, and then he took over and finished the rest all by himself!

Then you need to tape the end of your string or wool to the back of the plate

And finally it's time to wind your string around the plate, using the little slits you cut to anchor it in place. Once you're satisfied with your web, cut off the string and tape the end to the back too.

And voila - cool spider webs!!!

So - what did we learn

Here's a few of the basics that come to mind:
  • Gross Motor Skills - Climbing on our jungle gym net pretending to be a spider, also moving like various other animals, rabbit, frog, snake, horse etc.
  • Fine Motor Skills - Cutting, drawing, threading the wool through the slits in our paper plate
  • Shapes - we drew circles and lines to make the spiders, and then of his own accord Bear drew a triangle and made a fly.
  • Science and Biology - all about spiders, what they look like, how they build webs, what their bodies are made (no bones & blue blood) etc etc etc
  • Numeracy - spiders have 8 legs, we have 2 legs, the cats have 4 legs etc etc etc

So - what about Evie?

Remember that paper & wax crayons on our list of materials? Well that was actually to entertain our little miss while we were busy with scissors and stuff, but she decided it was not for her and promptly ran off.... find other more exciting company, and give it some cuddles!

That's not to say she hasn't been busy practising her artwork though, look what we discovered on our fireplace - thank goodness it was only chalk!

According to Bear, she was also practising her spiders :)