Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Joy in the Journey

I want a workable, structured and joyful environment.

That said, we often do our schoolwork outside, when the weather accommodates us. By "structured," I don't mean that we are always at desks. Neither do I mean that we rigidly follow a schedule, to the detriment of the goal. For me, "structured" means that the kids know what to expect. They wake up. They do chore packs, then eat breakfast. After that--during the summer-- we start with Bible and "fun stuff." Today our fun creative time consisted of playing with and creating new folder games.

During the school year, (which will start for us during the second week of August,) Bible is followed by handwriting, math, and so on. I'm hoping the kids will enjoy the workbox system more than the "lesson plans and pile of books" system. ;-) I'll still have my lesson plans, but the kids won't need to constantly refer to it.

It's the joyful part that is easier for me to lose sight of. Yeah, you know that I love color and art, music, and friends. But I also get set in my one-track-mind when it comes to school. Remember my love for lists? Or, to be more specific, my love of crossing things off of said lists? This applies to the lesson plan book, too.

I'm hoping that, with the workboxes, we will go in order and have "scheduled" game times. Isn't it just fabulous when kids think they're only playing?! Heehee, yes moms are tricky indeed.

So, let me jump back to what we did today: folder games...These games could quite possibly be the easiest fun learning activity you ever make!
Someone recently asked me what to do with the younger kids when you teach the older ones.
The answer: teach them, too!

I have too many ideas to list, but here are a few. Teach number words by using cut outs. Either draw or print off numbers and the number word. Glue either the numbers or words to the outside of a manila folder. Tape the sides of the folder up, to store the matching parts. Let kids match away!

We made a huge folder-pack of these from 1-30, using either words, #s or picture counters.

We also do shadows on the walls with our fingers, making shapes of letters and numbers. Anything that makes a good impression is ...well, memorable!

Of course, you can use the same concept of matching for almost anything. This is one of their favorites: The Mixed-Up Animals! Why even bother trying to match these animals with their backsides, when it's obviously more fun to give the cat a duck's tail?

Here you see my 2-year old matching color bears. This happened quite by accident a few months ago. I had the lacing shapes and folder games out for Dash, the 4-year old. Suddenly Little Lad (not yet 2 then) ran in and began to lace and match. W-o-W
Another lesson for momma: Do not to dumb down the kids!!
You never know what they are capable of until you expose them to it and let them try!!

Folders can be as elaborate or as simple as you want, much like Lapbooks. This one is as simple as simple gets. Just black and white printouts to teach "empty" and "full." No, this is not my usual teaching method for this concept, but they don't mind the extra sorting practice...remember these are all games to them!

Here we have more sorting practice... The kids colored this set.
(As a side note: I recommend always laminating your pieces!!)

The little people also enjoy match-the-outline games. Might as well reinforce some science lessons while matching, eh? For the actual teaching of these things, I like the Charlotte Mason method, and particularly The Handbook of Nature Study.

Why stop with simple matching and sorting games? Another option is to print full game "boards" and glue them to an opened folder. It's fun, compact, easily contained, transported and stowed away.

Here is our "connect-four" game, about animal coverings.
I plan to do another one with magazine clippings of real animals.

How to make: Draw or print your grid. Each square should be labeled with one of the following words: "hair, fur, scales, shell, feathers." Cut out or print a corresponding animal for each square. Glue on a square paper (that will fit over the little grid square.)

How to play: Mix up the deck of cards and place face down. Each child takes turns picking a card and placing it on a matching animal covering. The first to have four in a row is the winner.

For little people, I also like the Montessori-type buckets, shelves, and tubs. We even do Montessori-like-play outside, with an area of digging dirt, some sand, a rock pile....anything to be touched and explored.

Some ideas in the manipulative department: poker chips, acorns, dominos, macaroni noodles (and 10 noodles glued to a Popsicle stick to play around with math concepts.) There are also geoboards, dominoes, and pattern blocks.

I don't use many "sensory buckets" indoors, unless you count bowls of flour when we bake bread, water when we wash dishes and take baths, and the pile of cereal on the floor when the 2-year grabs the box!

We also use color-by-number pages, like this one from Making Learning Fun.

I know, I know... I'm all about the school ideas right now. We may just have to start back early.

Who am I kidding? The whole concept of school is quite silly,
when you consider that kids are learning ALL the time,
(whether or not we want them to.)
They may think they're just having a fun summer, creating new games and exploring the "wild" trails, but we're really in full-blown education mode. :-)


Anonymous said...

Hello Wendy,
I just woke up and came in the study. Papaw said that I just had to see your feedblitz as it was "so creative." Then he said, I think Wendy is tremendously creative--and I agreel--said she has always been since when she was a very small child.
I liked the things you showed today. Yes, children and older people as well never stop learning--we hope!!!! Some learn more than others as they have a mind set to learn, grow, and be creative. I have learned so much when I wasn't even thinking about learning a thing. God made us in such a wonderful creative way.
Love Mimi

October said...

Great stuff! Nothing wrong with summer school!

Ms Debbie said...

Learning at it's best. When no one realizes it is happening... :) Love it.