Thursday, September 8, 2011

Natural Learning

Thanks to grandma, we did a little school shopping at our local Montessori shop last week.  Some of the fun things we found there include Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure Game,  a Peg Loom, CitiBlocs, and, a card game called Yoga Pretzels.  On the back of each card are step-by-step instructions for getting into the pose and additional insights about the pose's health benefits.  There are even breathing cards to help us, "slow down, increase awareness, and make non-reactive choices" and fun games like "Yogini Says!"  A. is really enjoying yoga this week and I'm amazed by how many poses this kid knows.
We're also enjoying the new cooperative game, Wildcraft... and I'm realizing just how much A. learned this summer.  After tragedy struck in early June, all my plans for doing a summer lesson block on healing herbs came to a crashing halt.  What kept going though was our little healing garden and actual use of the herbs found there.  Without any formal instruction, worksheets, or boxed-curriculum, A. has learned to identify herbs and edible flowers including elderberry, calendula, violas, sage, nettles, oatstraw, catnip, and peppermint and can explain a little about how each is used for healing. 

I've also been reading the California Content Standards for Kindergarten through Third Grade and dreaming up creative ways to cover this material this year.  While I won't adhere to the standards completely (that would take all of the fun out of homeschooling!), I do want A. to keep up with her peers in the event that we transition to traditional school at some point. 

I'm hoping that we can learn some of these standards the same way that A. learned about healing herbs this summer.  By seeking out teaching-moments and cultivating an open and curious attitude, we can encourage natural learning and avoid some of the resistance and stress that squashes creativity and takes the fun out of education.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Creating the World

Autumn.  It's almost here and I cannot wait.  I'm always going on about how important it is to be present -- to enjoy the moment... but this summer cannot end fast enough for me.

Some of my restlessness is the heat.  We live in a pretty rural area and there is not much to do to escape the high temperatures.  Some of my restlessness is my grief, I'm sure.  I want to get on with things and leave this summer behind.  I'm eager to shake off all of the funk and crust and emotions that are no longer serving me... and move forward into the cool, dark half of the year.

It's interesting how autumn, which is really and ending, is also the beginning.  It feels like the right time for starting school, for getting back to the books.  As the days grow shorter, our minds turn inward.  As the nights grow longer, a deeper stillness settles within us.  It's the time of year of introspection and rich, warm soup.

(Funny how this continuum of beginnings and endings seems to be a topic to which I keep returning.  See: What Are the "Two Simple Happenings?")    

We've been easing back into the school-year with half-days and will begin our full schedule September 12th with the full Harvest Moon.  I like working with nature's rhythms like this.  When we're tuned into our natural environment, we're more likely to also notice our changing inner-seasons.  

We're trying on some unit studies this year and our first area of interest is mythology.  I'm calling the lesson block, "Creating the World," and plan to look at cosmogonic myths from around the world and stories that illustrate our shared heritage as human beings.  I have plenty of books on hand and we've checked out quite an assortment from the library --- as well as several audio books and DVDs.  

We'll also look at some historical figures who have overcome hardship and/or helped shape the world as we know it -- people like Marie Curie, John Muir, Rachel Carson, Hellen Keller and Thurgood Marshall -- and explore how real-life heroes resemble the heroes of mythology.  And, of course, we'll explore how each and every one of us is the author of our own story, creating our world each day with the choices that we make. 

After everything my family has been through, I think looking at the hero's journey will help remind us that, while life is full of darkness, it is also full of finding the light. 
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