October 27, 2009

Homeschooling amid crisis

I have four boys.  Sometimes we have a crisis.  My husband is in the military.  We move a lot.  He deploys.  More crises.  I've been on bed rest with my last two pregnancies.  One of those boys came extra early and spent some time in NICU.  Crisis.  The flu.  Colds.  Broken bones.  Crises, crises, crises.

Life happens and sometimes school doesn't.  At first I would beat myself up and think I was the world's worst homeschooler.  I knew I was dooming my children to mediocrity.  The foundation I was supposed to be laying was a crumbling network of sand and pebbles.

But I was wrong.  Maybe my kids spent a little more time playing than they did 'hitting the books' but they developed strong friendships with each other and the older boys learned to take care of their younger brothers.  And they learned how to entertain themselves; I rarely hear "I'm bored" in my house.

I've spent much time filling my house with mind-challenging activities, with toys and manipulatives that teach, with engaging books and educational movies.  When crisis time hits we fall back to the basics - I read outloud a lot.  And we play.  Or they play while I pack/unpack, lay on the couch or mop up the puke.

When we're in crisis mode I try to have them do something math related, a worksheet, a lesson, a game, or maybe they just build something and we call it geometry.  I also try to have them write.  Having a copywork system already going definitely helps.

Other than reading aloud, I just (try to) relax and work our way through whatever chaos we are living through.

Here is a list of things I have loved having in my home.  They make me feel that play time is actually learning time.


2.  Lincoln Logs

3. Super Magz - magnets, only better because they're stronger.  You can build really tall, big things and they won't collapse.  I've tested this theory with over 500 magnets.

4. Straws and Connectors - you can build so many great, crazy things with these.

5. Legos. It took me 9 years to embrace Legos, but I'm okay with them now. We have a gob of the K'nex brand 'brick' sets and they work with the Legos. Way to play nicely, guys.

6. K'nex and Kid K'nex - there are a bazillion different kits you can buy for these and they all work together. My kids love to follow the instruction booklets but they also spend hours coming up with their own creations.  Garage sales and thrift stores are great for these.  They may not have all the parts or the booklets, but my boys don't care because they can make ninja weapons or space stations.

7. Plastic animals. As weird as that sounds they have been the foundation for a myriad of imaginative play scenarios. Same with "guys" whether they be cowboys or Indians or knights or Power Rangers. They all rise to the occasion.

8. MightyMind and his friend Super Mind . Oh, I just saw they have an aquarium version. I want that now....

9. Various blocks and building materials. Even Cuisenaire Rods and centimeter cubes and pattern blocks work.

10. Bionicles. While not strictly educational these toys do teach them how to follow the instruction manual. And they use fine motor skills. They also use a lot of imagination by creating their own creatures and then they produce movies with them. (I can justify just about anything!)

I think my boys would be eternally happy to get any and/or all of the above for every birthday and Christmas until they're 50. And I love to give them because they get used.

So when a crisis hits I can take a deep breath and let them go, because I know they'll learn something.

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