That Agape Family

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Tag: experiential learning (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?

For the First Time in, Well, Ever!

We love the forest, if you couldn’t tell. We try to go every week, with a lovely group of friends. We have been joining this group for about two and a half years. In all this time, Little Miss has never ventured over “the tree”. Ever since we’ve been coming, there has been a tree that has fallen over there creek. It’s a large, beautiful tree that just begs to be climbed and crossed.

I consider Little Miss to be rather adventurous, and I’ve always assumed she’d eagerly climb it with the greatest of ease. However, in all our time in the forest, she never has. She would explore the exposed roots, and climb to the top of them, but never over – until this week.

We’ve had a few kids over the years who love to shimmy across to the other side, but it’s never had the pull that I thought it would with her. But this week, one of the newer girls she was playing with climbed right over – and she followed! It was really exciting to watch her try something new, and be guided by her peer. She needed a little encouragement on the way back, but she did it. I love watching children attempt something, of their own accord, and accomplishing the task. It’s so exciting!

I wonder how she’ll approach it next time…

What has your child recently tried and conquered?

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?

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!

The Salmon Run

Today, a friend and I enjoyed watching the Salmon Run here in Toronto, at Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, with our girls.  This is our second year going, and we had a great time. Last year, we were a bit late in the season, and only saw a couple of fish, and plenty of salmon carcasses (a  great science and philosophical lesson). This year, there were more fish fighting their way upstream.

The salmon run is where salmon swim upstream, even jumping up over waterfalls, in order to lay their eggs upstream. You can see them all along the Don River, making their way to the top. A some points, they vigorously swim against the current.

Those white splashes of water are the salmon

In addition to the river, when you first enter the park, there is a large pond, that is home to a beautiful blue heron, ducks and some curious Canadian geese.

There is a beautiful walking trail along the river, but do be careful of the poison ivy! (Thanks Jena!) When our friend pointed it out, Little Miss exclaimed “It’s a good thing I’m wearing stockings!” as she traipsed through it. She did take notice though, and was careful walking along the rocks.

Poison Ivy

Lastly, a friendly grasshopper, that intrigued Little Miss.

If you get a chance, check it out! The salmon run typically runs from mid-September (earlier in other parts of Ontario) to mid-October. The weather does affect the salmon run, and with the ridiculously hot weather last week, it has delayed it.

We plan on going to another location next week, so we’ll see if there are more or less salmon. I hypothesize more.

Blessings,

Liz

Her Journey Stick

As I may have mentioned before, we are part of a Forest School Playgroup. We meet once a week, year round, in the forest. We have a beautiful creek that the children can explore, as well as fallen trees that are great for climbing. So, if you happen to see photos of us in the forest, they are likely from our playgroup.

One of the leaders brought yarn last week, so the children could make Journey Sticks. My mom had told me about them a few months ago, so I was eager to see if Little Miss was interested in making one. The purpose of the Journey Stick is to attach items you find along your journey – a collection of sorts – to a stick of your choice. Here is hers:

She chose flowers, weeds, leaves, and grass, because she felt they were beautiful. Some children decided to attach acorns, while others wanted a rock – creativity was needed to attach those items.

A journey stick is a fun way to have a momento from the forest. However, please be aware of your impact on your surroundings. This is not an activity we do every week, nor do we regularly pick items from the forest. Some flowers are protected in Ontario (like the Trillium), and if you pick them, you can face hefty fines. We generally take the approach of take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, but occasionally, we create something from the forest. We try to be as hands on as possible, while also minimizing our impact as much as we can.

Blessings!

What Letter Is That?

Yesterday was our “first day of school”. Although, for us, it was no different than any other day. We opted to spend the day with friends visiting Riverdale Farm, in downtown Toronto, and we made a pit stop at the bank.

On our way downtown, Little Miss (who we just turned around from rear facing in her car seat, but that’s another topic for another post) saw this logo on the back of a trailer:

“What letter is that, Mommy?” she asked.

“Oh, that’s not a letter. It’s a logo, which is a picture for a company. But it is made up of 2 letters smooshed together,” I replied.

Little Miss, 3.5, doesn’t know all of her letters yet. She knows some, but not all. But she did recognize that this one was somewhat familiar.

They’re always learning, aren’t they?

Blessings.

Snap Chat Continued…

**Edit: This is not a Snapdragon. It is Himalayan Balsam. Please read my follow up post here.**

A couple of days ago, I posted about our snapdragon experience. I shared some photos of orange snapdragons, and their explosive fun. Well, we went back down to the ravine yesterday, and came across these pink and purple snapdragons:

Pink Snapdragons

You’ll notice that the seed pod (the green “bean” in the top middle of the photo) is significantly different from the orange snap dragon, being larger and shiny. The leaves are also quite different (jagged, as opposed to the smooth edges of the orange variety). The large pods are also harder to pop, and you really need to wait until they are quite engorged. But, when they’re ready, brace yourself, because there is also a much larger “pop”! So much fun!

Another significant difference was the seeds:

Snapdragon Seeds

Can you guess which seeds belong to which plant? The orange snapdragon had 2-4 seeds, on average, per pod, whereas the pink and purple snapdragons had 10+! It was a really neat experience to note the differences among the species of plant, as well as practice our math skills of counting and addition. Learning happens everywhere!

Blessings!

P.S. The seed answer is: Left, pink and purple. Right, orange. We collected the seeds and will be planting them in the spring. I really hope they come up in our backyard.

The Cicada Scene

Ah, cicadas. The sound of summer. There’s nothing quite like the remarkably loud buzz of the cicada to remind you of summers past. But man, are those things creepy! It kind of throws you off, when you’re walking down the street, and you see a massive bug on the sidewalk, or an exoskeleton hanging off a tree, no?

Well, we had a great time learning about cicadas this last week. It all started in a park… The Littles and I were meeting up with some fellow homeschooling families. Little Miss C (3.5) was playing around on the playground, and we noticed that there were some wasps buzzing around something on the ground. Upon closer inspection, we found that it was a partially eaten cicada:

Neat! We’re always up for exploring dead bugs, so we checked it out, and put it back down for the wasps’ dinner. As we went back to join our friends, we discovered that they were spending their time collecting cicada exoskeletons:

They also realized that there were many small holes around the trees, where the cicadas had come out of hibernation. Did you know cicadas can hibernate for as long as 13-17 years? Cool!

Here is Little Miss C exploring a cicada hole. She was curious as to how deep it was:

Here is a recently emerged cicada, however likely not long for this world, as it has an underdeveloped wing – an excellent opportunity to discuss the life cycle of the cicada. I love the bright colours.

And here is a cicada mid-emergence! This was a very neat experience. The cicada was vibrating its body, I believe to help stretch out its wings to allow them to dry off.

What are your favourite sounds of summer?

To listen to the cicada’s buzz, click here.

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