7.03.2011

s c h o o l































Dearest friends. I am back. And with so much to share. Life has been busy.

We left off at our Erie Canal project. I was unable to finish documenting in this space due to killing my computer. Not to mention, having a baby, packing up a home, and moving into a new one... and a construction zone at that! We enjoyed many different lessons within our Erie Canal project. But mostly, it created within ME a heavy heart. Comparing Charlotte Mason with Reggio Emilia stirred my soul. I have long been a believer in the Reggio Emilia, project based learning philosophy. Almost two years ago, I randomly went to a Charlotte Mason homeschooling meeting. (Whom I had never before heard of. Odd, being that I served in the field of Education for 15+years.) And I must confess, it grabbed hold of me. Completely. Friendships formed. Mentors provided. And I was smitten. And still am. The writings of Charlotte Mason, which can be found HERE, have truly changed my life. But after deciding to homeschool using Charlotte Mason's methods, I let go of all my Reggio inspired teaching strategies. When this Erie Canal passion took hold of Isaak, it came back instantly. And I knew it was for a reason.

The Mr. and I have had many a discussion on this homeschooling thing. We both want it. We both believe in it. BUT, we also knew that we needed to be providing Isaak with more. More of what I simply couldn't provide homeschooling on our own. As parents, it is our duty to know this. And then to go forth in seeking out and providing what it is that is missing. Now as I entered this Erie Canal project, and sought to compare the Charlotte Mason and Reggio Emilia teaching methods, it was evident. COLLABORATION! Isaak needed opportunities to collaborate with others. This did not mean that we would be leaving our Charlotte Mason ways behind. We had to find a way that we could have the best of both worlds. Charlotte Mason styled homeschooling with opportunities to collaborate with peers in a project based way.

Great, we found out what we wanted. But how would this come to life? I brought this, as a prayer request, before some women at church. Immediately, an opportunity sprang forth. I was then informed, there was to be a brand new public Charter School opening in the fall. It would be a project based learning environment. It would have mixed age classes for collaboration. AND... it would meet just two days a week. The other days would be homeschooling! With the freedom to choose how. Enter Alleluia chorus. Wait! Not so fast. Students were given spaces based on a lottery system. We did not get in. We were number 37 on the wait list. Enter confusion. Not sure what exactly God had in mind here. But praying He would open or close doors as it is to be. And then... the letter. We had a space. We are in. And Isaak begins going to school August 25th. But wait! There's more. We have been part of an amazing homeschooling group this past year and a half. Did I say AMAZING? We meet every Tuesday to explore divine nature. To recite poems. And every so often for talent shows, bake sales, science classes + more. Would we have to give up this group in order to go to the school? We asked for the Monday, Thursday schedule... but would we get it? Yes. Of course we would. Because God is good. But wait! There's more. Our new school also offers electives for the students. Not only are they completely in line with Charlotte Mason's ideals for study, these two courses will be taught at our church. Yep. Rad. So Isaak will also be taking a Visual Arts course as well as a Home Economics course. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

You can check out the school HERE.

And I will now be sharing how we are implementing our Charlotte Mason homeschooling as we collaborate with a project based school.

And so, as we make this transition,would you lift our family and the school up in prayer?

1.29.2011

p a u s e d


















Dearest friends. Do forgive my absence from this space. And my lack of follow-up as we continued the journey through our Charlotte Mason and Reggio Emilia inspired learning. We had so many more wonderful moments learning about the Erie Canal. But life got busy. And holidays came. And pregnant mama got tired. And clumsy. And killed our computer with a cup of coffee. And I feel like I am just at the point of getting in the groove of documenting in this space again, and then I realize I will be popping out a fresh babe VERY soon. So please enjoy the archives for now. I will be back. Until then, be blessed.

11.05.2010

e r i e - c a n a l :: p a r t - t h r e e

Our day began with his request to read his library books. He enjoyed time alone, rocking in his favorite chair, reading- the way a child who cannot yet read to himself reads! And then, we had an invitation from friends to frolic at the beach. A pleasant time indeed. Which led to a brief dialogue about the Pacific Ocean, where we live, and the Atlantic Ocean, where the Erie Canal is. Later in the day, we enjoyed reading our books together.


We also took some time to document what we have learned so far. And later in the evening, Isaak and the Mr. worked together to represent his understanding of the canal & lock system with Legos. Complete with sliding doors to the lock area as well as a canal boat.


We ended the day reading a few chapters from Paddle to the Sea. I have not yet read this book, but I am already in love with it. And so is Isaak. He was so engaged with each word read, and breathed in every detail of the illustrations on each page. Although this book is not about the Erie Canal, it does include information about the Great Lakes, leading to the sea as well as a boat. I look forward to observing how Isaak puts all this information together and where our project will go next.

As mentioned in the erie-canal :: part one post, as we go through this learning experience I will be contrasting the Charlotte Mason and Reggio Emilia approaches to education. Mostly, for my own education. But also, for those interested in the whys and hows of what we do as we school.

In addition, as I mentioned in the erie-canal :: part two post,

I felt the need to clarify that this is going to be a difficult task, comparing these styles of education. There is simply an enormous amount of material that cannot be covered in such a condensed way. So please know that this is hardly a detailed description or a complete account of each method. I am sharing what strikes me, personally, as I go through certain aspects from each educator. So please, read in the knowledge that there is so much more to be digested! Thank you.

Let's take a look at ::

THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER

Charlotte Mason ::

"We who teach and they who learn are alike constrained; there is always effort to be made in certain directions; yet we face our tasks from a new point of view. We need not labour to get children to learn their lessons; that, if we would believe it, is a matter which nature takes care of. Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight. The call for strenuousness comes with the necessity of forming habits; but here again we are relieved. The intellectual habits of the good life form themselves in the following out of the due curriculum in the right way. As we have already urged, there is but one right way, that is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the act of knowing." -Charlotte Mason


"Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.' By this we mean that parents and teachers

should know how to make sensible use of a child's circumstances (atmosphere), should train him in habits of good living (discipline), and should nourish his mind with ideas, the

food of the intellectual life.

" -Charlotte Mason


"Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child's inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food. Probably he will reject nine-tenths of the ideas we offer, as he makes use of only a small proportion of his bodily food, rejecting the rest. He is an eclectic; he may choose this or that; our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety and his to take what he needs. Urgency on our part annoys him. He resists forcible feeding and loathes predigested food. What suits him best is pabulum presented in the indirect literary form which Our Lord adopts in those wonderful parables whose quality is that they cannot be forgotten though, while every detail of the story is remembered, its application may pass and leave no trace." -Charlotte Mason

"Our part is to remove obstructions, to give stimulus and guidance to the child who is trying to get into touch with the universe of things and thoughts. Our error is to suppose that we must act as his showman to the universe, and that there is no community between child and universe except such as we choose to set up." -Charlotte Mason

Reggio Emilia ::

"We must move beyond just looking at the child to become better observers, able to penetrate into the child to understand each child's resources and potential and present state of mind." -Loris Malaguzzi

"Our task is to construct educational situations that we propose to the children... It's okay to improvise sometimes but we need to plan the project. We need to produce situations in which children learn by themselves, in which children can take advantage of their own knowledge and resources autonomously, and in which we guarantee the intervention of the adult as little as possible... We don't want to give them thoughts that they can come up with by themselves. What we want to do is activate within children the desire and will and great pleasure that comes from being the authors of their own learning... And this may seem to be passive, but it is really a very strong activity on our part" -Loris Malaguzzi

"We need to define the role of the adult, not as a transmitter but as a creator of relationships- relationships not only between people but also between things, between thoughts, with the environment." -Loris Malaguzzi

"We teachers must see ourselves as researchers, able to think, and to produce a true curriculum, a curriculum produced from the children." -Loris Malaguzzi

I may have bit off more than I can chew in attempting to compare teaching methods of such depth! I am a bit overwhelmed. But continuing to enjoy this fascinating journey.


I have seen some key thoughts in both methods that seem to agree upon the role of the teacher. Mostly in the thought that children are capable & need to learn on their own accord and that teachers are not merely deliverers of knowledge. I do, however, see some differences in the view of setting up learning opportunities. Although both seem to believe that children will learn from relations, it seems that CM believes this is achieved without direction from the teacher. That we do not have to "set up" and "act as his showman." As opposed to RE which places a big emphasis on setting up & even planning such opportunities/environments in which to learn, putting children in specific situations in which to draw from and be challenged by. In addition, CM places a huge emphasis on ensuring that the teacher is providing intellectual sustenance in literary form. Wow. A lot to digest, indeed.


I

look forward to hearing your thoughts...

11.04.2010

e r i e - c a n a l :: p a r t - t w o

He began the day joyfully singing the same song. Over and over again. He then asked to learn more about the Erie Canal. We spent the day acquiring some learning materials. We met a sweet librarian who helped us find books on the subject matter. And although very sweet and helpful, she insisted that these books were not my son's grade level. {More on that later!} Upon arriving home, with the books of course, Isaak's first discovery was this:


"Mama! We have to go to Sofia & Juliette's house NOW!" he said. "Why?" I asked. "Because mama, I have to play this music on their piano." he replied. "Let's call them and see" I said. Turns out, our friends were not available. So we moved on to the next best thing:


Papa's guitar! And although neither of us know how to read music or play either instrument, we strummed and sang with all of our might. And it was delightful. We then pulled out a map of New York state. Of course, Ezra had to be right in the middle of it all. Literally. We found Lake Erie, we found the Atlantic Ocean, and we followed the route of the Erie Canal. Another song that Isaak has been enjoying has been about the United States, so he is familiar with the names and locations of many states. We then looked at our map of America to locate New York in the midst of the U.S.


After a little break, a little play time, and a whole lot of asking, we returned to our studies. We began by discussing what we already know about the Erie Canal and also what we would like to learn more about. We read several books that we acquired from the library. The illustrations alone taught us so much.



And then, off to bed he went. Singing, of course!

As mentioned in the erie-canal :: part one post, as we go through this learning experience I will be contrasting the Charlotte Mason and Reggio Emilia approaches to education. Mostly, for my own education. But also, for those interested in the whys and hows of what we do as we school. Let's take a look at ::

THE VIEW OF THE CHILD

Charlotte Mason ::

"We hold that the child's mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs." -Charlotte Mason

"We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life." -Charlotte Mason


"A Child learns from 'Things.' We older people, partly because of our maturer intellect, partly because of our defective education, get most of our knowledge through the medium of words. We set the child to learn in the same way, and find him dull and slow. Why? Because it is only with a few words in common use that he associates a definite meaning; all the rest are no more to him than the vocables of a foreign tongue. But set him face to face with a thing, and he is twenty times as quick as you are in knowledge about it; knowledge of things flies to the mind of a child as steel filings to magnet. And, pari passu with his knowledge of things, his vocabulary grows; for it is a law of the mind that what we know, we struggle to express. This fact accounts

for many of the apparently aimless questions of children; they are in quest, not of knowledge, but of words to express the knowledge they have. Now, consider what a culpable waste of intellectual energy it is to shut up a child, blessed with this inordinate capacity for seeing and knowing, within the four walls of a house, or the dreary streets of a town. Or suppose that he is let run loose in the country where there is plenty to see, it is nearly as bad to let this great faculty of the child's dissipate itself in random observations for want of method and direction." -Charlotte Mason

Reggio Emilia ::

"What children learn does not follow as an automatic result from what is taught. Rather, it is in large part due to the children's own doing as a consequence of their activities and our resources. " -Loris Malaguzzi

"Children construct their own intelligence. The adult must provide activities and context, but most of all must be able to listen. Children need proof that adults believe in them. Their three great desires are to be listened to, to understand, and to demonstrate that they are exactly what we expect." -Loris Malaguzzi

"They [children] are autonomously capable of making meaning from their daily life experiences through mental acts involving planning, coordination of ideas, and abstraction.... The central act of adults, therefore, is to activate, especially indirectly, the meaning-making competencies of children as a basis of all learning. They must try to capture the right moments, and then find the right approaches, for bringing together, into a fruitful dialogue, their meanings and interpretations with those children." -Loris Malaguzzi

The Hundred Languages of Children

No way.

The hundred is there.

The child is made of one hundred.

The child has a hundred languages

a hundred hands

a hundred thoughts

a hundred ways of thinking

of playing, of speaking.

a hundred, always a hundred

ways of listening

of marveling, of loving

a hundred joys

for singing and understanding

a hundred worlds to discover

a hundred worlds to invent

a hundred worlds to dream.

The child has a hundred languages

(and a hundred hundred hundred more)

but they steal ninety-nine.

The school and the culture

separate the head from the body.

They tell the child to think without hands

to do without head

to listen and not to speak

to understand without joy

to love and to marvel

only at Easter and Christmas.

They tell the child

to discover the world already there

and of the hundred

they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child

that work and play

reality and fantasy

science and imagination

sky and earth

reason and dream

are things

that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child

that the hundred is not there.

The child says

“No way – The hundred is there.”

-Loris Malaguzzi


{Although the Reggio Emilia approach was a collaborative effort in formation, all quotes are from Loris Malaguzzi, the main directive/founder of the method.}

I have much yet to learn about both methods of teaching. And comparing the two is new to me. I am excited about the journey. I know that there are many similarities as well as differences between the two. I do believe, however, in the overall view of the child we see many intertwining aspects. With the exception that Charlotte includes the child's spiritual estate, which to me is an essential component as we view the child.

I

look forward to hearing your thoughts...

...................................................................................................


Postscript ::


As I was preparing dinner tonight, I felt the need to clarify this post a bit more. This is going to be a difficult task, comparing these styles of education. There is simply an enormous amount of material that cannot be covered in such a condensed way. So please know that this is hardly a detailed description or a complete account of each method. I am sharing what strikes me, personally, as I go through certain aspects from each educator. After I published this post, I began thinking of the ways in which each method viewed children differently, because there are, in fact differences. However, as I mentioned before... I have shared here what stands out to me. So please, read in the knowledge that there is so much more to be digested! Thank you.

e r i e - c a n a l :: p a r t - o n e

It was quite unexpected. We have listened to the same folk song CD in the car for some time now. And all of a sudden, a song stuck. He began singing the song over and over again. We talked about the song. Just what was it about? And the wheels began turning. And the questions started. And the passion began. And he hasn't shut up since! So for now, life is all about the Erie Canal. We listened to the song a little bit more intentionally. We watched Youtube videos about the canal and the lock systems. He was inspired. The only book we had in the house to fuel the fire was this sweet vintage find... America Travels.


Not really about the Erie Canal. But a sweet little story about a girl living on a canal boat. Look at the amazing illustrations. The great part, we see parts of the song within the story and it clicks just a little bit more.




And that was day one of this new discovery. We worked with what we had. And we shall go forth to find more in which to learn from. Together. This wasn't on my plan for our "curriculum." It simply was a real life moment that led to further inquiry. I could've answered the questions and listened to the song over and over again and left it at that. But I observe more within my child on this subject matter. He is curious. He wants to learn more. He is engaged. And here is where I shift slightly from my Charlotte Mason ways, to my Reggio Emilia ways. Because I see benefits to both teaching methods. For us, there will be a time to incorporate each. Tweaked to fit our overall philosophy on education. I am hardly an expert nor a purist in either method. I appreciate certain aspects in many methods of education. I have studied the Reggio Emilia philosophy for many years during my history in the field of early childhood education. I have always been drawn to it, attempting to incorporate it into my days of teaching. I will admit, however, that it has been put on the back burner ever since I have come to know about Charlotte Mason. But I believe in balance. And I will now venture forth in an attempt to balance the goodness of Reggio Emilia with the goodness of Charlotte Mason. So all of you CM'ers out there... know that these postings on the Erie Canal will be my best efforts at a Reggio inspired and Charlotte aligned curriculum as I can get. More to come. We shall see how it goes.

If you want to know more about the Reggio Emilia style of education, see HERE and HERE. And to learn more about Charlotte Mason, see HERE. And come back for more postings about our Erie Canal adventures.

11.03.2010

d a m s e l f l y

He looked at the specimen, observing each miraculous piece, and worked diligently at representing his discoveries. Today, we investigated damselflies.



"With regard to the horror which some children show of beetle, spider, worm, that is usually a trick picked up from grown-up people. Children would run after their 'daddy' with a 'delicious worm,' a 'lovely toad,' a 'sweet beetle' carried tenderly in both hands. Children who are accustomed to hold and admire caterpillars and beetles from their babyhood will not give way to affected horrors. The child who spends an hour in watching the ways of some new 'grub' he has come upon will be a man of mark yet. Let all he finds out about it be entered in his diary––by his mother, if writing be a labour to him,––where he finds it, what it is doing, or seems to him to be doing; its colour, shape, legs: some day he will come across the name of the creature, and will recognise the description of an old friend." -Charlotte Mason

The above quote is quite true, for I'm sure I still show disgust at certain species. And I frequently observe adults putting a stop to many moments of childhood wonder in regard to what they find gross. An adult habit, modeled to children. That- I am working on changing. For I fondly remember one of my most favorite rainy day activities was catching worms in the gutter. Yes, indeed. I adored sitting gutter-side worm collecting in the rain. I shutter at the thought of that now. But how magical it was to me then. Which brings us to today's activities... our damselfly specimen. Isaak and his papa found a damselfly on their walk through our neighborhood. It had died and was fully intact. Before this little homeschooling adventure began for us, I'm sure I would've quickly dismissed such an incredible find. Of course, as a good homeschooling papa, the Mr. carefully placed it in a plastic bag and brought it home for further discovery. It was gorgeous. The coloring magnificent. Unfortunately, damselflies do not keep their color long after death. We did, however, dry it- pinning it to a wooden board for a few weeks. And yes, that juice on the wooden board... it's damselfly juice! I know, not so charming. It still creeps me out just a tad bit. But these moments of discovery with my son are just too incredible to even care about the ick-factor. We will eventually mount our treasured damselfly, but first... we enjoyed learning more about it.


Just look how incredible this creature is.


We sat together and read the dragonfly section of one of our books.


It was interesting learning the difference between dragonflies and damselflies.


And then, together, we sketched our observations.


And labeled our documentation.



I have a lot of growth to do, as I attempt to allow my little guy room to explore and discover without the incessant warnings. But today... I am proud. And in awe. For this dead, juicy, crusty little creature provided such an amazing lesson- for both Isaak, and I. Be encouraged. Rekindle your childhood wonder and explore something gross! You may be surprised at just how much you enjoy it.

10.01.2010

c i r c u m s t a n c e s



"Spontaneous Living.– The laws of habit are, we know, laws of God, and the forming of good and the hindering of evil habits are among the primary duties of a parent. But it is just as well to be reminded that habits, whether helpful or hindering, only come into play occasionally, while a great deal of spontaneous living is always going on towards which we can do no more than drop in vital ideas as opportunity occurs. All this is old matter, and I must beg the reader to forgive me for reminding him again that our educational instruments remain the same. We may not leave off the attempt to form good habits with tact and care, to suggest fruitful ideas, without too much insistence, and to make wise use of circumstances." -Charlotte Mason

I am thankful for the reminder to embrace spontaneous living. To make wise use of circumstances. Because in life, not everything is planned. A lesson on shapes isn't quite the same as actually noticing shapes in our everyday. Having a worksheet set before us, to complete with a predetermined outcome, isn't quite the same as learning to be observant. To stop and discover and slowly savor the little things that can bring forth fruitful ideas. All the while, developing the habit of attention.