That Agape Family

Live. Love. Learn.

Tag: education (page 1 of 2)

Balanced and Barefoot

I started reading Balanced and Barefoot (affiliate link) by Angela J. Hanscom nearly a year ago, and I couldn’t put it down. It really spoke to my intuition that my children need to be outside. That the outdoors is an essential part of their development, and that I needed to be mindful of getting outside on a regular basis. And not only getting outside, but allowing them to explore with their whole body, mind, and soul.

I borrowed a copy from our local library, and devoured it quickly. In fact, Hanscom’s Timbernook forest play program was the inspiration behind a local forest free play group that I initiated after being a part of an established Forest school group, here in Toronto.  If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll have seen many  of our forest experiences that I’ve shared. I treasure our time in the Great Outdoors. It is calming, invigorating, energizing, balancing, and grounding.

Little Miss (4.5 years) and Sweet Pea (16 months)

The main focus of Hanscom’s book is that children NEED to be outdoors to develop appropriately, physically and psychologically. She noted that children today lack simple coordination skills because they aren’t given the opportunity to develop them. Simple things like walking on an uneven surface, rolling down a hill, and balancing on a log – things we enjoyed as children – are deemed “too risky” nowadays, depriving children of the opportunity to develop physiologically. The impact this has later on in life is remarkable. Did you know that children have started falling out of their chairs, while simply sitting in them, because they haven’t developed their core balance when they were younger? Children are more accident prone now than ever!

When children aren’t given the opportunity to “get messy and make mistakes” (thank you Miss Frizzle, of the Magic School Bus), they lack resilience later on. While we think we are protecting our children when they’re younger, we are actually putting up barriers for them later on in life.

The other component of Timbernook, and the reason I started a spin off group, was the idea of imaginative play. At Timbernook, the students are given the freedom to become pirates, astronauts, knights, and explorers. The only thing we bring to the forest is a bag of simple water toys. I have seen the children make a “hot tub”, bow and arrows, castles, etc.  When given time and freedom, children’s imaginations will blossom. and fun will ensue. We try to be as hands off as possible, allowing the children to understand their own limitations, and establish their own risk assessment. We also span a wide age range of 1 to 7 years.

I was truly inspired by Balanced and Barefoot. I highly recommend it to all parents and educators as an encouragement to make getting outside a priority. Our children will be better off for it.

Blessings,

Liz

How often do you get back to nature?

The Forest is Changing

“The forest is changing…” was Little Miss’ observation this last week in the forest.

Here she is making her observations of what she’s seen, about a month ago:

(I thought her boots were in the car. I was mistaken… Oh well! I forgot my boots, too!) The giant tree tumbled down sometime during a fierce windstorm in the previous couple of weeks. When we returned a couple of weeks later, the tree had settled substantially lower, and left a beautiful mud hole for the children’s enjoyment:

The children spent a lot of time discovering the bugs that had made homes, or had their homes recently upturned. They investigated the effects of mud on boots (sluuuurp), and the month earlier, they explored the clay that had formed deep below the tree’s roots.

But Little Miss’ observation that “the forest is changing…” was spot on, and completely spontaneous. Although a month ago we were starting to see little buds all over, this last week it was so much more pronounced. And these beautiful Trout Lilies scattered the forest floor:

I can’t wait to get back out there this week, to see what else has sprung up.

What is “spring”ing up around your area?

Blessings,

Liz

What’s the Difference? – Math Concepts

Yesterday was Easter Monday. Unlike the school aged children in our area, who had the day off, I was drilling Little Miss making sure she was learning. Homeschooler’s don’t take a day off! Hahaha, OK, I’m joking. Well, kind of. We generally take a “learn anywhere, anytime” attitude, so it’s true that we don’t “take a day off”, but we are substantially more passive about our learning, as opposed to the lesson plans I was taught to prepare in Teacher’s College.

Yesterday, we decided to try out a few puzzles. Actually, my intentions were to purge that which we don’t play with anymore (I’ve been in a big clear out mood, lately), so I asked Little Miss if she was still interested in some puzzles. Confession: I LOVE PUZZLES. I can easily sit and do puzzles for hours at a time. One time, at a weekend church retreat, I stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning, completing one of popcorn (we had a friendly competition to see which group could finish their puzzle first. They underestimated my addictive spirit). No, I didn’t regret that decision the next day, although I did get an XL Double Double.

Anyway, we started out by trying out the puzzle on top, which has 24 pieces. Little Miss whipped through that one in no time, which I expected because she typically does ones that are around 48 pieces or so, lately. Then, we worked on the puzzle on the bottom, which has 60 pieces. I tried explaining to her that the second one would be a bit tougher, but she didn’t quite understand why. We pushed through, as she got a bit frustrated about halfway through. We had already put the first puzzle away, but she wanted to do it again, so we did.

We looked at the size of the puzzle pieces, and saw that one was larger than the other. Then, we put them next to each other. I counted the number of pieces along the side of the dragon puzzle (4) and then of the Camp Candy puzzle (6) #throwback! Little Miss then had the idea to put one on top of the other, to further compare their sizes:

I thought that was pretty neat. I wanted to purge some stuff. I also wanted a few moments to myself, where I could read my book (you can follow what I’m reading on Goodreads, if you’re interested). But, instead, a moment was naturally created to explore various math concepts (size, number)! This is one of the reasons why I love homeschooling! We don’t have to learn based on predetermined expectations, but instead we can explore as we go. They will learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it. When learning is done in context, it has that much more meaning.

Blessings,

Liz

P.S. Do you homeschool? Have you experienced a learning opportunity that seemingly came out of nowhere?

Canadian Opera Company – Free Concert Series

Have you noticed that I’m a bit thrifty? I love (and seek out) free activities! Today, we went to see the Canadian Opera Company (COC), for their free concert series with Little Miss’ homeschool children’s choir. Today’s concert was an excerpt from their upcoming opera performance of The Return of Ulysses, as well as some ballet. The COC runs their free series throughout the school year, and has performances both during lunch hour, and in the early evenings.

It’s a beautiful set up, and they whet your appetite for the upcoming performances. This is perfect for us, as the excerpt is an hour long, which is plenty for a four year old.

If you are interested in going, the seating is based on a first come, first served basis, and there is a line up. Try to get there an hour or so before show time.

They have a variety of performances as well, like latin music, jazz, ensembles, etc., so be sure to check their calendar to see if anything tickles your fancy.

Blessings!

Liz

Home Depot Workshops

March Break for homeschoolers traditionally means that we try our darnedest to hide away, while our usual hot spots (the Science Centre, swimming pools, and museums) become flooded with children enjoying their time off. This March Break, we decided to try out the Home Depot workshops, which Home Depot offers on the second Saturday of every month, and every day during March Break. Verdict: AMAZING! Now we can tick off “shop class” from our curriculum! Here is Little Miss working on her fully functional periscope:

We also worked on a fire station bank, with 2 compartments, one for “save” and the other for “give”.

You also get these nifty aprons, that I assure you are essential to the experience. After washing  Little Miss’ dress, after our first workshop, I asked her how she managed to get so much nail polish on her dress. It wasn’t nail polish… Pro Tip: Wear old clothes! And be sure to take advantage of those free aprons! You also get a spiffy pin for every project you finish. One girl had to have had over 25! It was pretty impressive.

The project for April is a window birdhouse. Sign up online through your local Home Depot to reserve your spot. This is a nation wide program, so it should be available where you are, as long you’ve got a Home Depot in your area. The recommended age is 5-12, but I have found that they are lenient with the age requirements, as long as you support your child as needed. We had a blast, and I’m sure you will, too.

Blessings!

Liz

The Grocery List – Early Literacy

Little Miss has recently turned 4. Naturally, some have started to wonder when will this child start to read? We’ve taken the approach that she will start to read when she’s ready. We’re not doing sight word flash cards, and we don’t quiz her on various letters of the alphabet (well, most of us don’t…).

However, we read a lot. We generally read about 5 books a day, sometimes significantly more, and sometimes less. We really want to encourage a love of reading, and studies have shown that forcing a child to read before they are ready can lead to a dislike of reading. In Finland, they don’t start to formally teach reading until 6 or 7, and they are no farther behind their peers within 2-3 years, and often excel later on.

We read books about the various letters of the alphabet, we point out letters when we’re walking and driving, and we talk about which names start with which letters (Grandma and Grandpa both start with “G”).

As we’re setting the groundwork for reading, one tool we’ve starting using is the Grocery List. I used to have our grocery list on the side of our fridge, so that I could add to it as we ran out of items. However, I often forgot it, so I starting using my phone to log our household needs. This is a screenshot of our grocery list using the app ColorNote:

Grocery List

It’s pretty handy, as the checklist mode will allow you to tap a line, and it strikes it out for you (Little Miss likes that part). As I was adding to our list a few weeks ago, I realized that when I entered “honey” my phone offered a cute little emoji option (see above). Although I like to think that we’ve moved past hieroglyphics as a form of communication, this generation seems to gravitate right back to them. All kidding aside, this has been a great tool to get Little Miss engaged in language, in a practical, experiential way. As we pick up the items on our list, I ask her to cross them out. “Do you see sugar on our list?”, and I emphasize the “s” sound for her. She’s gotten quite good at finding them, and the emoji items are also a confidence booster.

What type of casual learning do you experience in your day to day life?

Blessings,

Liz

P.S. Speaking of experiential (practical) learning, I learned how to take a screenshot for this blog post! I know, how could someone not know that in 2018? Well, that was me until this morning. Yay for continuing education!

Art Is Not My Forte – A Nature Journal

I love to look at art. I think it’s beautiful, and I marvel at how people can create such magnificent pieces. I enjoy looking at the children’s books we take out at the library, and I examine the various techniques the illustrators use. That being said, I suck at drawing, and most things related to the visual arts.

No, seriously. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating, nor am I fishing for compliments (what? No! You’re fantastic! – Liar). I’ve simply come to the realization that art (drawing, painting, etc.) is not something I’m good at. I’m OK with that. I have other strong points, and frankly, I’ve never had the patience or determination to work at it in order to get better at it. I would try to draw here and there, but I never put any true effort into it. I expected it to come naturally to me. If you’ve ever seen my drawing of Peppa Pig’s father, you would wholeheartedly agree.

But, because we are choosing to homeschool, I so desperately want to give our daughters a well rounded experience, which includes art. So, I’m giving it the good old college try – I’ve started a Nature Journal.

A nature journal is where you record your experiences and discoveries in nature. I recently read I Love Dirt, and one of the suggestions for a winter activity was to sketch a slumbering tree. Here is the view from our backyard:

Winter Window

And here is my rendition:

Winter Window Sketch

On the left is one type of tree (which, after a quick Google search, would appear to be a Corkscrew Willow Tree) and on the right we have a Maple tree.

It was frigidly cold here in Toronto today (-18 Celcius, with a windchill somewhere around the -37 Celcius mark), so we opted to hunker down inside today.

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone by doing art in the first place. I’m also working on my Wreck This Journal. I got it shortly after having Little Miss. I wanted to stretch myself in terms of my creativity, and this has been an interesting outlet. I’m also demonstrating creating with Little Miss, in hopes that she will take an interest and enjoy partaking in the creating experience. Thankfully, Grandma loves art, and has significantly more talent, so she’ll likely be covering many of these art areas.

What do you feel is not your forte?

Blessings,

Liz

I Love Dirt! A New Year’s Resolution

Happy 2018 friends! I love New year’s. A time of review, and fresh beginnings. Up until just a few of years ago, we would celebrate with my grandparents, and my extended family, by having a family dinner on New Year’s day. I loved it – even the silly tinsel necklaces. My grandparents would go out dancing New Year’s Eve, with my Great Aunt (my Grandma’s sister) and her husband,  until 2 in the morning! I was always pleasantly surprised that they could out-party me. As with all good things, those too have come to an end, but I savour those memories.

With this time of reflection, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time outside. I like to think that we spend more time outside than the average family, but with a new baby in 2017, I have certainly come up with my fair share of excuses to dodge excursions, particularly in this frosty weather. This book, I Love Dirt (affiliate link) by Jennifer Ward, is a great quick read to get you in the mood to get outside.

i-love-dirt

With 52 simple suggestions for the varying seasons, this book inspires you to take your children outside, and connect with nature. I also really loved the science applications that are recommended to incorporate into your explorations.

What are your New Year resolutions?

Blessings,

Liz

Forget the Flashcards

To be completely honest, I’m not a fan of flashcards. Interestingly enough, this video came up on my Facebook newsfeed today, because I shared it a year ago (thank you Facebook memories). I find them an inauthentic way to learn, as they aren’t contextual. I truly feel that the best way to learn anything, is in a hands on situation, with real life examples.

We’ve got colour and sight words flashcards because I thought they’d be useful at some point. I was also concerned, at the time, that Little Miss didn’t yet know her colours (or at least many of them). I think she was about two and a half at the time. But you know what? She’s got them down pat now. And it wasn’t because I showed her cards with colours on them, but because we talked about the colours we saw around us on our daily walks. The trees, leaves, flowers, signs – everything. Don’t you think that’s more fun than sitting at the dinner table, discussing what colour the strawberry is that Scooby Doo is holding? (Yes, they were Scooby Doo flashcards…)

I tend to worry, from time to time, that Little Miss doesn’t know this or that. Yet, I tend to forget that she has a remarkable knowledge of animals (she knows what an ostrich is), flowers, and My Little Pony characters. They will learn. We want to learn. Our job to not squelch that curiosity, but to feed it and encourage it. Today, we discussed magnetization, and the difference between The North Pole and the pole firefighters slide down at their stations. Conversations will naturally ensue, as long as you’re open to them.

So, currently I’m watching Little Miss as she learns her letters and numbers. She’s just started learning to play Dutch Blitz with my mom, which I hear has been quite fun. Now, in order to play, she needs to recognize her numbers. She’s been able to count to 10 for a while, and can pretty much get to 20, except for that pesky 15 which doesn’t always make it in there. But, it will come. I just don’t think I need to show her a card with the number 5 on it, versus going to a friend’s house, and finding the 5th floor button. Context has meaning, and dare I say, longevity for learning.

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. Have you ever played Dutch Blitz? It’s a Vonderful Goot game.

Dutch Blitz

Nests

Fall is upon us! Or, my preferred name – Autumn. I love just about everything about fall – the smell of decaying leaves, the cooler, sweater weather, Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (don’t try the M&M’s, they’re disgusting), and of course, the leaves changing colours. Fall gives us a wonderful opportunity to see the hidden homes of our neighbourhood animals.

Here is a tree that housed both paper wasps (I’ve got an exciting post about them coming up soon!) and a squirrel, right around the corner of our home.

Nest 3

I don’t think it was only me who noticed the numerable wasps in Southern Ontario this year. It felt like they were everywhere! In fact, here’s another nest that’s clearly visible with the changing colours. I know this looks like a photoshopped image, but I assure you, I have no such skill to trick you.

Nest2

And here is a bird’s nest we found on one of our walks, again right in our immediate neighbourhood. It used to look much more pristine, but I think Little Miss has been exploring its components, hence its more disheveled look.

Nest

Fall offers the exciting opportunity to more easily observe animal habitats. With the trees bare, we can observe various types of nests in our area. Squirrels tend to have larger nests (basketball sized, or larger) made of leaves, and are also often closer to the trunk of the tree, to provide additional protection from the elements. Wasps, on the other hand, tend to have their nests on the outer perimeter of the tree, making them easier to spot throughout the year. Perhaps they do that so they’re easier to find and access? Birds nests are harder to see, as they are usually smaller (of course, depending on the bird), and are also closer to the tree’s trunk.

It’s truly fascinating to observe the intricacies that go into how nests are made. One day, I would love to be able to differentiate the different birds’ nests based on the species of bird. One day…

Blessings,

Liz

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