Friday, March 13, 2009

they're dam smart

(This post has been edited, below.)

A lot of people have recently asked me how our home school experience has been going. And honestly? It's been going great.

Except for when I try to get the kids to do something ... like practicing their letters or writing their name. Then, I might get a little frustrated because they'll slump off their chairs and slide under the table like a bunch of rag dolls. And inevitably, I'll go a little crazy and say things like, "Hold your pencil!! Write your name!! YOU COULD DO THIS WHEN YOU WERE IN MONTESSORI!! Why aren't you doing it now?! Oh Mercy! I'm failing you!! THAT'S IT!! You're all going BACK to school!! GET YOUR BAGS!!"

And then everyone will cry. Me because I feel like I have no clue what I am doing. And the children because their mother is crazy. And ... they'd rather run around the house all day in their underwear than go back to school. This same scenario typically repeats itself at least once every day. And whenever that happens, I usually decide that it's time to move our classroom instruction to the outdoors.

Recently, during one of our neighborhood walks, we spotted a small stream of run-off from someone's sprinkler system.

We followed the run-off down the street and found where it spilled in to the storm drain. We talked about how water flows from higher elevations to lower elevations and will drain to the ocean. We talked about how important it is to not throw trash in to storm drains because they drain straight to the ocean and can hurt the diverse marine population. Whales. Fish. Sharks. And sea anemonenenesnesnees.

We discussed that if we see someone illegally discharging to the storm drain, the correct course of action is to contact the Regional Water Quality Control Board and if possible, provide an address of origin and license plate number for any vehicles observed. And if they don't master the art of holding a pencil ... it'll make filing an official complaint very difficult.

(Edited to add: I'm exaggerating our children's ability to not hold a pencil. They absolutely can. Infact, all three of them can write (almost) their entire alphabet and spell their names. But, they'd much prefer to run around the house like "Tarzan" then sit and practice "school" work. Every so often, I need to remind myself, that playing is exactly what they should be doing at their age. But sometimes, I do get a little uptight when I think of the structure that they had in Montessori versus the free-for-all that it seems we often have at home. That's when getting outside and telling the children about the world around us - helps me realize that maybe I'm not too bad of a preschool teacher, after all.)

We discussed that animals such as beavers build dams that block water flow, but people will build them, too. We discussed how various materials can be used to block the flow of surface water (mainly rivers) and that water can be used for hydroelectric power, recreation, irrigation, consumption and supply.

After rudimentary instruction on the basics of structural engineering, the children spent some time pretending that they were beavers as they set about gathering various materials to block the water flow. Dirts and rock. Pine needles. Small sticks. Pods. Flowers. And last but not least, a "sleeping" grasshopper.

Neighbors stopped by to talk with us while the children excitedly pointed out that water was slowly pooling up and the stream to the storm drain had almost stopped.

When one of the neighbors observed, "That's really damn good!" William looked at him for a moment before responding, "No. It's a really good dam."


  1. Those experiences are going to be worth so much to them later in life. Love the flowers in the dam.

    How about sidewalk chalk (the normal stuff, not the chunky big ones) so they can practice holding pencils/writing implements without even knowing it?

  2. That's a wonderful schooling moment! However I just want to say don't worry about them not wanting to write just yet. They are still young. And within in time they will have the desire. As long as you provide them the opportunities to. Such as writing a letter to a relative or friend to say thanks or happy holidays or just for a surprise. Or ask them if they could tell you their own made up story on paper. Just throw out paper, erasers, and pencils, yep even to Henry. You might be surprised how quickly they are eager to use them. Even if it doesn't look like real handwriting at first. The goal is just to practice using those pincer grips. Of course unless you prefer to somehow get them to use pencil and paper to write their names when they are not interested yet. That's what I love most about homeschooling. It's challenging and you learn to clue into what they're interested in. Mine are now in their teens years and doing great!

  3. Totally sums up what is great about homeschooling!

  4. This is so cut and funny. Damn good ... good dam. haha. I love it!

  5. Sorry - typo "cut" = "cute"

  6. I want to be homeschooled by you too! Sounds like your kids get to have soooo much fun! I want some dam fun too!

  7. That William is smart, just like her mommy!

  8. It sounds like you all are having a learning experience in everything you do. Great job!

  9. Sounds really good. If you want them to practice writing, then watch what thet are interested in and use it to get some kind of writing going on - for instance, make up your own report forms they can put their name on and a space for the vehicle regestration numbers! You could easily make them up on your computer.

  10. Anna: LOL!! That's a great idea. I'm sure that would be an awesome sight. Three little kids walking around the neighborhood with clipboards and mock "violation" reports that they can fill out.

    Maybe I could get them all little lab coats and ID badges. My kids will be the neighborhood enviro-narks!!

    Sure, today we're learning our alphabet. But tomorrow, we'll be memorizing Material Safety Data Sheets!! :)

  11. I came across a book title recently that reminds me of your homeschooling experiences with your kids. It's called Better Late Than Early -- written by a couple who many consider the "homeschooling pioneers." Not that you have time to read, but if you ever want/need back-up to not being as structured as a school is, you might appreciate their books!


  12. That's how I homeschool too! I can never quite picture the teacher screaming at them to do it right and do it right now though! :)

    I made the O'Henry bars for my multiple's meeting Thursday and those things are like crack. Mmmmmmm..... I'm not talking my butt crack either, although it may be showing a lot more now. Thanks!

  13. If you want them to practice their letters and spelling, take them down to the beach, grab a stick and start writing your name in the sand. Get them to do the same, if you do it near the water the waves will come and 'magically' erase it, so they'll have to do it again. You can write all kinds of things on a beach. If you want to get really messy, grab some sea-weed and write messages for folk in aeroplanes to see - HELP is a good start really big letters so it can be seen from far away (don't worry, unless you do this on a deserted island far from civilization no-one will take this seriously).

    When it comes to spelling and recognizing letters, grab some old magazines and newspapers and make ransom notes by cutting out letters and arranging them in different orders to form new words.

  14. Is WHIMIS on the curriculum? I second the O'Henry bars kudos. I'm lying to myself and saying they'll help get the breastfeeding established.

    I was going to add, for William especially, these teachable moments you are experiencing with the kids outside and moving are far more valuable than the in class structured approach. The are learning a great deal more and boys tend to process better if they are moving. If they do become the enviro-narks take pictures please........

  15. Genuis!!!!!!

    Brian (6 yrs old) and homeschooled - woke us up this morning @ 3 am to talk about Rainbow Fish... where they come from, what they eat...etc. Needless to say I didn't make it to my running session! ;-)

  16. That was a damm fine observation William had about the damn dam! :D

    ~Cindy! :D

  17. that William of yours is so cute!! haha. LOL. :)