Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inspire, Not Require

One of my favorite "pillars" of a Thomas Jefferson Education is "Inspire, Not Require." This was something that just clicked with me right away. It made perfect sense. How is your child supposed to love learning unless he sees YOU loving learning as well? This pours over into all aspects of life. If you want your child to clean his room happily and regularly, then you had better be cleaning YOUR room happily and regularly. If you want him to love math, then show him how fun it can be. Show him that you love it too. I mean, why should he be happy about doing math if he sees you are miserable about it.

Over the past several weeks, the Chief has been learning about India, and he's been very excited to do so. How did I sustain his interest? By showing how excited I was to learn about it too. I got myself some books and movies about India. This shows him that learning is something that people do, whether they are kids or grown-ups. It's a part of life. When he sees me reading Gandhi's autobiography, the Chief wants to know more. So I take out his children's version. When he sees me looking at a map, he wants to know where places are. Form my example, he starts taking the initiative and actively looks for things about India, everywhere he goes.

Parents, whether we like it or not, are our children's teachers. This is whether we homeschool or not. Children take their lead from their parents. What they see their parents doing, good or bad, is what they do. The attitudes their parents take on are the attitudes they take on. A perfect example of this is all the bullying kids are experiencing in schools. If children see their parents being intolerant of others, they will be intolerant. If parents ignore their kids, ignore their needs, then kids will in turn ignore the needs of their peers, and eventually, their own families. If kids see the parents as putting themselves first all the time, they will do the same.

Rather than ripping out your hair over your child not doing something that you think he should, spend some time thinking, "How can I *inspire* him to do this?" Even something like cleaning his room. Clean it for him first, show him how nice a clean room feels, how you have more room to play, how you can find everything. Show him YOUR nice clean room, because how can you expect him to clean his room when yours is a mess? Show him how you can do nice things in your clean room, like hang up pictures or decorations. Above all, keep a good attitude. Show the kids how any work they do helps the entire family function more smoothly. If their room gets messy, go up and look at it. "Oh, no, your room is getting messy again. It's so important to keep a clean room so you can find all your toys!" and help him clean it up. Eventually, he will get it. He'll start picking up after himself, especially if he can really see how happy it makes you. There is also the option of letting it get so messy that he can't function in his room, he can't find things, etc. And letting him prove for himself that a clean room is best.

With learning, I do sort of "require" some things, but I do it in a way that is logical. Math is not the Chief's favorite subject, but I want him to stay on top of it. That is basically the only thing I *have* to require in our homeschool, because all the other subjects he takes on voluntarily. And even with math, I just explain to him, "Chief, you want to be an architectural engineer, right?" "yes." "Well, Engineers need to know how to do math." And he will generally just sit down and do it without arguing. The key to this is having very short lessons, as well. With math, I have him do one sheet of work per day, because that is what he is comfortable with. Anything longer, and he doesn't do as well, and at least for the next few years, the main goal of our homeschool is to culture a love of learning.

We require that people be kind and considerate to one another, but if they don't want to, they can always go to their room and not be with anyone. And really, anything that you feel you want to require from your children, you can usually INSPIRE them into doing. It takes a bit longer and it takes more work on the parents' part, but the results will be longer lasting because the kids' will have come to their conclusions on their own, through trial and error and logic. I won't lie. It's a lot of work. But it is very rewarding to see the Chief taking on more and more responsibility for himself by thinking, rather than doing something just because I said so, for fear of punishment.

What is more important? Raising thinkers, or raising sheep? I think we are desperate in this world for more thinkers and leaders!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Finishing up India

We will be using the next two weeks to finish our studies of India this year. The Chief has enjoyed India so much, he just grabs a book down from the shelf and reads it on his own (which is something i had been hoping would happen for a long time. He pulls books down all the time and looks at the pictures, skims them, etc, but now he is actually reading the entire book to himself, yay!). I asked him what his favorite part about learning about India was, and he said, "Everything!" "Can you pick one thing that was your absolute favorite?" "No.... I don't want to pick one thing, I liked all of it!" Here is a view of our bookshelf for last week and this week:

A list of the books we shared/are going to share includes (these are from various reading levels, from very simple picture books to chapter books):

Monsoon, by Uma Krishnaswami
Chachaji's Cup, by Uma Krishnaswami
Spotlight on India, by Robin Johnson and Bobbie Kalman
Sacred River: The Ganges of India, by Ted Lewin
India: The Culture, by Bobbie Kalman
I is for India, by Prodeepta Das
Stories from India, by Anna Milbourne
Gandhi, by Demi
I Come from India, by Valerie J. Weber
My Dadima Wears a Sari, by Kashmira Sheth
My Mother's Sari, by Sandhya Rao
Look What Came from India, by Miles Harvey
I Remember India, by Anita Ganeri
The Sanyasin's First Day, by Ned Shank
Living in India, by Ruth Thompson
Gandhi: Young Nation Builder, by Kathleen Kudlinski
India, by Sunita Apte
India, by Henry Pluckrose
The Taj Mahal: How and Why it was Built, by Christine Moorcroft
Exploring the Life, Myth, and Art of India, by Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad
Mama's Saris, by Pooja Makhijani
The Road to Mumbai, by Ruth Jeyaveeran
Finders Keepers?, by Robert A. Arnett
Going to School in India, by Lisa Heydlauff
Lighting a Lamp: A Diwali Story, by Jonny Zucker
Monsoon Afternoon, by Kashmira Sheth

Movie series: PBS The Story of India

Now, mind you, in NO WAY should you be pressured to read all of these books with your kids. The ONLY reason I am reading them with the Chief is because he picked them out, and he is wanting to read them. He is fascinated by India. And we will have read these books over the period of five weeks. I am sure that we will come across topics that he really has no interest in, and in that case, we will only spend one week on it, enough to get it introduced and to give it a chance, but not long enough where if he finds it boring, he will hate the sight of it. It's all about developing a LOVE of learning. I try to find a good balance between being sure to introduce him to new things and then also letting him get absorbed in what his passions are.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A green clean trick....

We've been taking steps to cut way back on the harsh chemicals used in our house cleaning. One thing I will share with you now is


So, I have an 8 year old boy who literally LIVES in the dirt for many hours of the day. He gets seriously dirty. A cloud of brown dust follows him wherever he goes in the afternoon. This means that when he takes his bath, that dirt and grime gets transferred onto my tub.


So, how can I clean my tub without using deadly poisons when it is that dirty on a daily basis? It's actually quite simple, but it is a little more than just spraying and wiping (and choking).

On a daily basis, after the Chief's bath, I take the wash cloth he used, and once the water has finished draining, either he or I wipes the tub with it. It actually takes most of the dirt off, because it's fresh. Then I just rinse the cloth, hang it up to dry. When I am in the shower, I do the same, I just wipe the walls and stuff with the washcloth. It might take one minute, but no more.

For our weekly cleaning, a more deep clean, I take a lemon and cut it in half. Then I dip the open side of the half lemon in a dish of Borax powder, so it looks like this:

Then, I simply hold the lemon and scrub the tub with the powder side while squeezing a little to release the lemon juice. It smells great, and I find it cleans as well as any tub cleaner. Just dip the lemon back in the dish of borax if you need to replenish it, and go over the whole tub and shower. Then, rinse, and don't be afraid to inhale the lemony scent of your fresh, clean tub!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Testing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7......

We, like many other families, have a Wii. Yes, we wii. But.... Well, it looks very different in our house than it might in most others.

First, the Chief really has no desire to win. When he bowls, half the time his goal is to see how far he can throw the ball into the other people's lane. He entire purpose of playing the Wii, whether it be sports or Mario, seems to be to test the limits of the game. He has 267 pins in front of him when bowling. What does he do? He throws the ball down the side of the alley, and takes down one pin. Do you know how hard it is to only take down ONE pin, when faced with over 200? And, regardless of what the game told him, he was very proud of this accomplishment.

When he plays golf, it's all about sand and water. If he can bounce the golf ball off a tree at a very high speed, his day has been made.

MarioKart--"Look, watch what happens when I drive over here, Mommy!" "Look, I'm driving in a store!"

When we all play Super Mario Bros. together, the game is more about smashing and breaking bricks. "Mommy, watch what happens when we smash the floor at the same time!" He thinks dying in a particular way is hilarious. He will purposely set things up so that watching him play becomes like a comedy routine. In the mornings, when he comes down and plays a little before breakfast, the house is filled with shrieks of laughter.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, the other day, at the bookstore, he took a kaleidoscope out of the toy bin, and looked through it. He was a bit unimpressed. Then he was thinking... He picked up a little toy from another bin, and then looked through the kaleidoscope at it. This was very serious stuff, by the way. Then he picked up another little toy, and looked at that. He looked at the first one again. He picked up a third and looked at that. He was comparing the patterns different toys made.

He found a horse chestnut in the yard the other day, and stomped on it and hit it between two rocked until the picky skin broke off, and revealed the nut inside. He looked at it a bit. Then he found a hickory nut. Hmm..., you could see him think. Stomp stomp. Wow, this one has a nut inside too! It's a little different. He finds a hard acorn. Stomp stomp. His forehead wrinkles. The outside of this one is hard. He works at it a bit more, and cracks it open, to find that the inside of this is soft. Huh.

The Chief loves to listen to music, but you don't realize how much he really listens to it until one day he tells you that this song sounds just like ____ in one part, just like ___ in another. He finds this to be hilarious. And he can make the most interesting sounds with a water bottle, combining percussion and woodwind and voice... There is a pattern, a rhythm to everything, as far as he is concerned. He just has to find it. And he is determined to!

And of course, with all of this testing and experimentation, comes testing and experimentation with rules and conformity. WHY does he have to do that? It makes no sense to him. And he will make a decent argument about it. Discipline at times can be a challenge if I am not clever and quick on my feet. He could argue his way out of a bear trap. I could get very frustrated, I could yell, I could get angry and resist and I could even, in time, crush his will and STOP that testing.

But would I really want him to be any other way? Testing is testing. It can be positive and negative, but both are testing, and in the end, as long as there are set boundaries, and firm grounds, testing rules is exactly the same as testing the limits on a game. He will learn that he can only go so far. It may take a lot of experimentation on his part (and lots of patience on mine!), but like any other test, it is a learning experience. As long as the rules don't change, he will learn the boundaries and eventually not need to test anymore.

Parenting the Chief on a good day is a challenge (as it is with any child, on the "spectrum" or off). But I know that these tests will make him a stronger person when he is grown, and some day, after much trial and error, he will learn that by doing things a certain way, only the sky will be the limit. And it is making me a stronger, more patient and compassionate person as well!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Monsoons and such...

For the first few weeks of school we will be learning about India, with the help of several books and a DVD series. Our focus is around two picture books, Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami and Chachaji's Cup, by the same author. They are both listed in the Global Village School's 3rd grade curriculum guide. This is a snapshot of our bookshelf for the next couple weeks:

Here is Koopa Troopa showing off one of his favorites:

I plan our week using what I have learned from Five in a Row, but basically make it our own. The Chief likes to read the core book several times, and so for five days we read it (if he did not want to read it every day, I probably wouldn't push it, but I would be sure to read it at least once at the beginning of the week, and then again toward the end). Then we take some aspect of the story and pursue knowledge of that subject a bit further. Monsoon was a great book for this. We learned about India and its culture, Hinduism, monsoons and weather patterns, the water cycle, making paper boats... We did this all last week, and will continue this week with learning about the Hindi alphabet, the clothing people wear in India, some of the myths and legends of India, and we will eat at an Indian restaurant. This coming week will overlap with next week, when we will be focusing on Chachaji's Cup. I will do a separate post on what we do with that book later on.

I supplement with several outside sources, mostly from the library. Bobbie Kalman's books are wonderful ways of learning about other cultures. We have also been enjoying the PBS series, "The Story of India." I print a lot of images from the internet, things like what a flood looks like, what monsoon clouds look like, what a drought is like. I find pictures with children doing things in them, so it's easier for the Chief to relate to them. All these pictures I make sure are specific to India, with Indian people in them.

The Chief records what he has learned about in what he calls his "Adventure Book." It's like a scrapbook; black hard covers with a spiral binding. We had tried lapbooking last year, but it was hard to store the lapbooks conveniently in a place where the Chief could refer back to them. I find that since having an "Adventure Book" was his own idea, the Chief is more excited about reading over his work again, and often takes the book down and looks at it on his own. The bonus to this versus the lapbooks is that he has to go through all his work to find the thing he was looking for. This way he can get "distracted" and happen upon bits of information that may not have been his favorite. With the lapbooks, he would just want to look at the same one over and over, whichever was his favorite.

I will say this again--I am so glad to have gotten the Global Village School curriculum guide. The Chief actually is looking forward to doing school with this. The other day he actually said, "I think it's time to do some school now."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Poem...

In light of the many un-American acts and speeches of intolerance I have witnessed in the past weeks, most notably that of Mr. Terry Jones of Gainesville, FL, I would like to share a lovely poem with you, from Rukhsana Khan's book Muslim Child: Understanding Islam through Stories and Poems. This is a wonderful book for introducing Islam to children and other people who are curious about it.

Muslim Child, by Rukhsana Khan

Muslim Child
child of Peace,
child of War,
from a far-off distant shore,
what do your black eyes see?

My eyes are not only black.
Sometimes they are blue as the sky
or green as the tropical sea
or brown as the trunk of a palm tree
and every shade in between.

My skin can be black as molasses
or as pink as the blush on a rose,
as golden as freshly made honey
or dark copper brown as a penny
and every shade in between.

I am the richest of the rich
and the poorest of the poor;
as famous as famous can be;
a general's child, pampered and bored;
a soldier's child, orphaned by war;
and every rank in between.

I come from many countries,
speaking many languages,
but with one set of beliefs.
I believe in Noah and Jesus and Abraham,
Muhammed and Moses and in GOd who sent them
and in every messenger in between.
(God bless them.)

So then,
Muslim Child,
child of Peace,
What do your bright eyes see?

I see that we're each a piece in
the puzzle of humanity.
I'll try to understand you
if you try to understand me.

Terry Jones claims that he believes Jesus Christ would tell him to burn Korans. Has Terry Jones read the Bible lately? He is inciting people to violence, which is no different from him committing the violence himself.

It is my fervent, fervent prayer, wish hope, dream, desire, that this extremist will somehow see how unChristian and how unAmerican his behavior is, and does not carry out his Nazi-like book burning. I pray for those that will be touched by the violence of this entire ordeal, should it take place. Yes, there is freedom of speech, and Jones is covered by the 1st amendment. But the 1st amendment also grants people the freedom to practice the religion they choose.

Monday, September 6, 2010


This year, we are using the 3rd Grade Whole child, Healthy Planet Curriculum Guide from Global Village School as our springboard for homeschool. You can see what they are about by going to their website via the links. The curriculum is centered around the Earth Charter.

Global Village School can basically be as structured or as relaxed as you want it to be. There are many levels. You can buy the curriculum guide and use it as a reading list and starting point for your own style of homeschool, you can sign up for their "school" and have a teacher do all the organizing for you and do grades and all that, and you can pretty much do anything in between.

Basically, what I do is take the curriculum guide, which is exactly that, a 94 page "guide" giving you suggestions (most are very relaxed anyway!). They suggest ways to use the books, ways to expand your child's learning, they discuss GVS's learning philosophy. The entire guide takes the tone of "suggestions." Then I purchase or plan my library lists for the books. There are "core" books, which are the necessary ones, then there are recommended ones and optional ones, which you can use your discretion about using, depending on the type of home school you have (spelling and grammar, for example, not everyone teaches formally at these younger grades). After getting the books, or looking at them in the library, I decide how long to spend on each, how I want to use it, in what context, etc. I personally like to do the immersion project type things with my son, that's how he learns best. I plan about a week or two in advance, enough time to gather my materials but not too much time so I have to worry about glitches in schedules and falling behind. In the younger grades for GVS, there are no schedules in the curriculum guides, they leave it pretty relaxed so you can do what is best for your child, since their philosophy is 100% about getting your child to love learning. The guides also have suggestions for art and music, pretty much all the bases are covered I think. They even mention PE, one of the first guides I have seen to do so!

The curriculum guides seem expensive for what they are, but personally, I think they are worth it, simply because I love all the books they recommend, I love their philosophy, and I really want GVS to be there when my son is going to be older, in high school, when I plan on perhaps actually enrolling him (they offer a diploma program)! I really don't mind supporting them because they are one of the very few places I have found that shares my philosophy about homeschooling, and are tolerant of and encourage diversity and celebrating life and differences, truly helping others no matter who they are, etc.

I will be posting more in the future, as specific projects take shape. Our first project for the year is going to be about India. I have taken two of the books on GVS's reading list, and have collected resources around them from the internet and from the library. More on those later!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Could We Start Again Please?

I'll let those Andrew Lloyd Webber fans out there try to get that song out of their heads for a moment before I begin... Well, it's just not gonna happen. So, anyway...

Sometimes people can have the best of intentions. Sometimes they actually DO the thing they intended. And sometimes, it just doesn't work out. Sometimes, you can have accomplished a great deal, a HUGE deal, but still not have achieved the end goal, and without that goal, all you have done and worked for is for nothing. In fact, it was the opposite, it was not nothing, it was everything, only in the wrong direction. Well, that's what's been going on here. Those of you who know me know what I am talking about. For those of you who do not, well, I'm not going to get into it right now, but perhaps you've been through something like this. The only thing to do is damage control, and then you have to get up, dust yourself off, and continue on. Look at what happened, and what SHOULD have happened, sure, to make sure that history does not repeat itself. But in the end, all you can do is move on ahead the best you can.


The Chief is starting a new school year in September with the new 2nd edition of the Whole Child, Healthy Planet Curriculum Guide from Global Village School. I love it. I'm using it within the framework laid out in A Thomas Jefferson Education, so basically we are being very casual with it, reading books during "Kid School" time and discussing them. We'll be looking at different service projects we can do, things where we can help people and animals and our neighborhood. We'll be learning about different cultures around the world, and learning about our place in the world and how we fit into the big picture.

We had been using Five in a Row, and it was good and enjoyable, but I think we are ready to work on another level now, and the book in the WCHP guide resonate with me in a way that the FIAR books didn't. Yes, the FIAR books are wonderful, and we are going to continue doing those units here and there, matching them up where the topics are applicable. But what we are going to do is take the methods we learned from FIAR and apply them to the WCHP books. These books I feel will go a bit farther as far as the "Inspire, Not Require" because the topics actually mean something to me, rather than just being nice stories. It will be easier to inspire with these than it would be for books that might be nice stories but I feel are "young" or trivial.

The Chief will be going into Math U See Gamma, where he'll be learning all about multiplication. We've really been enjoying Math U See over the past several years, and I am glad to see it is Global Village School's top choice for math!

I've been kind of torn about the Workboxes lately. On one hand, they really help Elijah with his independent work, keeping him organized and on track, etc. On the other hand they are not very TJ Ed-ish... With the new program we are doing, I am thinking of kind of using them to hold things, but not as a schedule. I'll have to play around with ideas and see what works.