Sunday, 27 January 2013

Project Based Home Schooling

I have just read this book by Lori Pickert, "Project Based Home Schooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners" and am reminded again of my vision for our home education. It is so easy to get blown off-track, to lose our vision in the mists of self-doubt. We worry about what we 'ought' to be doing and, of course, make direct comparisons with the school system.
Pickert's book outlines a very different way of living, a whole lifestyle shift, the adoption of a family culture which encourages learning and creativity. Reading it, I was challenged to sort out our 'learning zone' to ensure, again, that materials are readily accessible to the boys and that their workspace is usable and inspiring. I got them to help, and having cleared and sorted, I have been amazed at the creative projects which have already emerged - simply by moving the junk box into a more visible place, by removing the paint pots and glue from a box and displaying them on a shelf within reach, by laying out different types of paper on a visible shelf, and making sure tools such as scissors, sellotape etc are in a marked drawer to hand. Simple changes. And son number 2 immediately began to potter, rummaging in the junk box to find a particular shaped carton, sketching out how the monster he planned to make would look. He mixed himself some paper mache paste and got busy. Son number 3 has joined him, starting work on a treasure box made of cardboard boxes. Simple changes, big results.
My husband and I are also reminded that we must share our lives, speaking our own challenges and problems aloud so that the boys can see how we grapple with situations and work them through, so that they can learn how to tackle real life problems for themselves. The key is exactly that: real life. Learning bubbles up from real life, and real needs. Then there will be intrinsic motivation and genuine engagement. A poster is not created because it is a homework assignment, but because a poster is really needed, perhaps to advertise a puppet show the child is working on, or to tell people about their latest business venture. A healthy menu can be planned, not to complete a worksheet, but in order to prepare and serve a real family meal. This week we have a birthday party to plan, so we have been brainstorming ideas for games, decorations, food. And the boys can write and create and plan for that real life event. 'Real' is important, authentic, motivating. It is the place from which our home based learning should begin.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

More thoughts on Learning Styles

My second son, who is 9, was reluctant to get on with a KUMON maths sheet this week, despite his success in recently mastering his times tables, and achieving his KUMON Bronze award. As I am curious to gain insight into his learning style, with a view to unlocking his creativity, I asked him what he found off-putting about his KUMON sheet. His reply was fascinating. He said, "It's not in colour".

I am aware that there has been research published recently which suggests dyslexic learners respond better to a particular colour of paper - or is it ink? Either way, colour is significant. I asked my son whether he liked doing his more colourful maths workbook. "Yes," he said and, indeed, he got that book out and worked through a page or two of his own initiative today. It made me think about the black and white appearance of the pages in many reading books, in contrast to the colourful comic strip stories - Tintin and Asterix, for example - which this son prefers.

In his talk, blogged below, Ken Robinson shares an interesting quote from choreographer, Gillian Lynne, who described to him how she felt arriving at dance school: "I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked into this room, and it was full of people like me, people who couldn't sit still, people who had to move to think."

Whether a child needs to move to think, or to listen to music, or to see things in colour ... How do we find and unlock the key to that child's creative potential? Any system - school or KUMON - however good they claim to be, will always be limited if they continue to purport a one-size-fits-all learning solution.

Schools Kill Creativity

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

Ken Robinson says Schools Kill Creativity

Why don't we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it's because we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies -- far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity -- are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says. It's a message with deep resonance. Robinson's TEDTalk has been distributed widely around the Web since its release in June 2006. The most popular words framing blog posts on his talk? "Everyone should watch this."

A visionary cultural leader, Sir Ken led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. His latest book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, a deep look at human creativity and education, was published in January 2009.

Creative DIY

I have a son (my eldest) who is keen on DIY and creative projects - and who LOVES extrinsic rewards. (He will do anything for a scout badge!) Imagine my delight to find this site: where members are encouraged to complete creative challenges to collect SKILLS patches. There is so much on this site for all my boys - illustration, design, nature, engineering .... It looks amazing, and I can't wait to get them signed up! Check out the blog too, a showcase of some of the amazing things members have created. Brilliant.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Music Lessons Online

I am continually amazed at the resources available to us all free of charge now online. My second son is very musical, and his younger brother is also showing an interest in music. Since music lessons are expensive, I have been on the lookout for resources online, and have found these two sites - one to help with learning to play guitar, and the second for piano. Check them out ...

Why Maths Instruction is Unnecessary

Why Maths Instruction is Unnecessary

John is a teacher of math and a homeschooling parent who offers a radical-sounding proposal: that we cease to require maths instruction in middle and high school. He came to this point of view over a number of years, as he attempted (and failed) to convince students that the maths they were learning was beautiful, useful, or an imperative component of their future prosperity. When he stopped trying to connect maths with students and simply tried to connect with the students themselves, he made a profound discovery - kids are suffering from "maths anxiety." If the goal of teaching maths is to teach us deductive and inductive reasoning, might games and puzzles be equally effective in developing kids' reasoning skills - and allow them to fulfill their life missions? "We want to reawaken analytical and critical thinking in schools that have been anaesthetized by the standard curriculum," says John. John Bennett is a maths teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and a home-schooling father of four. An outspoken advocate of education reform, he has presented lectures and workshops throughout California. He uses logic puzzles and strategy games in the classroom (and at home) to supplement the traditional mathematics curriculum. John has written three volumes of Pentagrid Puzzles, a new puzzle form he created to challenge deductive logic and visual-spatial reasoning.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Lessons from the Encyclopedia

So, was a bit stumped as to what topic to start with sons 2 and 3 (aged 9 and 6) so decided we could do worse than work our way through their Usborne Internet Linked Children's Encyclopedia. This week we have been reading through a double page each morning together, and the boys then look at the quicklinks on the computer which provide further information and interesting weblinks on the same topic. So far we have been looking at the earth, the seasons, the weather. The boys love this view of the earth showing areas in daylight at the current time and those in darkness. It helped son no 3 understand why people in Australia are nocturnal - as he puts it! We have also made a sundial out of a soft drink cup, and sugar crystals are currently growing on the kitchen windowsill. This afternoon, watching Attenborough's latest documentary on Africa, son no 2 pointed out the "lenticular clouds". It never ceases to amaze me how they put all their knowledge together and apply it. And no lesson planning required, just a good old encyclopedia.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Snow Crystals

With snow outside this morning, the boys enjoyed playing with this virtual snowflake creator. These ice spikes look interesting to create too. And you can find step-by-step instructions showing you how to make six-sided paper snowflakes here.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Many Ways of Learning How to Read

Speaking out against a systems approach which leans too heavily on phonics, children's write Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo) argues there are many different ways of learning how to read