Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Vlog - Walking and Talking

Finding a Way in Vlogging

We have been learning about Vlogging and watched some videos by Casey Neistat, a successful Vlogger and entrepreneur. It has opened Mikey's range for story-telling as well as demonstrating some wonderful outings we do for our homeschooling/unschooling life.

(He still plans to do Magna-tile Vlogs, too.)


This is the first video along the lines of what we call "Free-Learning." (I didn't like the term "Unschooling" so I coined this new term because I think it describes better what we do.)

Much like rock-climbing without being tethered to ropes and anchors is called "Free-Climbing," Free-Learning is a way of learning without being tethered to a school or predetermined plan. It comes with risks that are equal to the rewards of learning done of your own volition, rooted in interest and enthusiasm that comes with self-directed experiential learning.

Walking and Talking

This was the first time we have ever completed a loop hike. Normally, we do short out-and-back hikes with a hefty dose of digging in dirt or building with rocks and sticks in the middle. On this walk we talked about everything from astronomy, physics, geology, ethics, and environmental science.

And featured in this video is Mikey's new song set to a tune he learned from Mr. Hoffman at the Hoffman Academy.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Microscopic Marvels

Endless Questions

It must be a marvelous thing to learn as a preschooler. It certainly is a marvelous thing to watch a preschooler learn. Lately we've been talking a lot about germs...'tis the season. And the idea of creatures that are so small that you cannot see them provides for endless questions.

What do they look like? What do they do? Should I be scared?


Sometimes I'm able to recall my high school biology lessons...enough to satisfy my children and their inquiring minds. But sometimes we like to learn more, dive deeper. And thanks to the advent of the genre of creative nonfiction, we are able to find lots and lots of satisfying answers.

First We Research

We find those answers in books, videos, and music.


We have two favorite books that teach us about microscopic marvels:

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies illustrated by Emily Sutton

All around the world—in the sea, in the soil, in the air, and in your body—there are living things so tiny that millions could fit on an ant’s antenna. They’re busy doing all sorts of things, from giving you a cold and making yogurt to eroding mountains and helping to make the air we breathe.

See Inside Your Body

Follow your food as it travels through your body. Take a deep breath and explore your lungs. Let your mind boggle at what your brain can do. This exciting book, packed with lively illustrations and fascinating flaps, is bursting to reveal your body's amazing secrets.


Thanks to Netflix, we can stream Magic School Bus.

Scholastic's "The Magic School Bus" follows Ms. Frizzle and her class as they set off on field trips. Based on the best-selling book series of the same name, "The Magic School Bus" takes kids on a virtual bus ride. Magically transforming into a plane, submarine, spaceship or surfboard, this bus carries Ms. Frizzle and her students on super adventures and teaches them about science.
There are at least half a dozen shows about microscopic things. I'll list the ones that coordinate with the books and other resources we use:

Season 1 Episode Six - "Meet the Rot Squad"
Season 2 Episode Seven - "In a Pickle"
Season 4 Episodes One, Six - "Meet Molly Cule" and "Goes Cellular"


The Opera of Giardi takes an upclose look at one microbe, Giardia, where it lives, what will happen if you ingest it, and how to stay safe when you're playing and learning outdoors.

Then We Elaborate through Play

My children love to impersonate TV/book personalities and animals. Sometimes they pretend to be Ms. Frizzle and members of her gang to go on an adventure. Other times the impersonate Jeff and Paige impersonating scientists. Sometimes microbes, and their study, are imaginary. Other times a simple toy enhances their play and their learning.

In learning about microscopic marvels, two toys have proven invaluable for making it real - a microscope and a stuffed microbe.

My son is very discriminating and wants his tools to perform like "real" tools. So this microscope didn't appeal to him. HOWEVER< my daughter is more flexible when it comes to this sort of thing and is satisfied with its child-appropriate function.

Stuffed Giardia
Yes. There are stuffed microbes. In fact, Giant Microbes is a whole business dedicated to creating such silly and wonderful toys. Our stuffed giardia are beloved creatures. (My daughter is making hers a wardrobe.) And, if I would let them, my children would own every single toy from anthrax to varicella-zoster virus.

Through the Eyes of a Child

This is what we do to learn alongside our kids. We begin to see things through their eyes. With my own children, I have learned to think in pictures, to look up close, to see circles in rectangles, to see calculus, approximation and logic in new places and ways, to see letters from a new perspective, and imagine that a square is a frog.

The microscopic world that thrives in and around us is no different. It is my pleasure to invite you to learn as I have about Microscopic Marvels.

Fan Favorites - April 2017

This Little Girl Wanted A Poop-Themed Birthday Party, So Her Parents Gave Her One

The science behind why you should spend money on family holidays instead of toys

Want to Raise a Trail-Blazing Daughter? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says To Do These 7 Things

Sight Words Are so 2016: New Study finds the Real Key to Early Literacy

Kindergartners get little time to play. What does it matter?
"As a kindergarten teacher I filmed noted, "Free and exploratory learning has been replaced with sit, focus, learn, get it done and maybe you can have time to play later."
Policymakers, schools systems and schools need to recognize that the standards and tests they mandate have altered the kindergarten classroom in significant ways."

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Trouble with Self-directed Learning

What the Teacher Told Us To Do

I was all smiles when Twinkle came out of her first dance class. She had been begging for ballet lessons for almost a year and finally gotten her wish. She looked at me with her almost-four year old pouty face and said, "I didn't get to do anything I wanted! All we did was what the teacher told us to do."

I stifled a laugh. This, I thought, is the trouble with self-directed learning.

Philosophies of Learning at Odds

Twinkle had been attending preschool at a democratic school for two half-days per week for four months. Outside of school, I draw from the authoritative parenting camp (something I've learned a lot about from Janet Lansbury). So at home and at school, she was accustomed to being heard and having a say in what goes on.

So this type of setting, with this type of philosophy of education (where the adult imparts knowledge), was new for my daughter. It was out of the ordinary for us, if ordinary for mainstream.


My reply to her was, "It wasn't what you expected?"


"What did you do that you liked?"

And we went on.

A Living Book

I reminded her of "Tallulah's Tutu" - a book about earning your tutu through commitment and hard work. That was how we reconsidered dance lessons. Twinkle decided that she did, in fact, want to learn ballet, to commit to attending class and performing in the end-of-year recital. Then she would choose if she wanted to continue.

Her Experience of the World

While I watch her as she moves between homeschool, democratic preschool, and mainstream activities (ballet, public kindergarten, etc.), I tell myself that this is her experience of the world.

It is hers to make sense of and to decide how she wants to be part of it.

My job is to provide a safe place to come home to, a home life filled with books, music, and rich conversations about the world...and to lead us into the community with openness and curiosity.

This was written as part of the GHF Blog Hop. Surf over to read more...