I am having trouble creating an environment that encourages learning/exploring/creating. When we are home the kids tend to just want to veg in front of the TV. I need to shake things up a bit so please share what works for your family!
- topicUnschoolingtagged by System, 9/24/12
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creating an environment that encourages learningpost #1 of 179/24/12 at 10:24pmThread Starterpost #2 of 179/25/12 at 7:46am
First, the us about the kids!
A couple of points for all ages:
Television isn't completely devoid of learning. We do have limits on our screen, but the girls learn a fair amount about the wide world with it. If there is something they find particularly interesting, I usually look for books from the library to complement it. This goes for silly stuff as well as educational. If they like Babe and Charlotte's Web and Chicken Run on the tube, I might pick out those books to read, plus stories based on farm animals, such as "James Harriet's Treasury for Children" and the hilariously pedestrian "Chicken Cheeks". They like doing the experiments on Bill Nye, though we haven't done more than the easiest ones, in part because they are onto other things for now.
Make sure that you don't have too much that is "off limits" or that requires adult supervision. Give them plenty of access to materials, including kitchen stuff and the sink. Having some tools that they have free access to can be fun. We have smallish hammers, saws, a hand drill and a small vise and the girls enjoy playing with those.
Practice saying "yes". The other day I was hesitant to let my girls use my pint mason jars. I have very few, don't want to buy more right now and I had just washed them when I canned some tomatillos. They wanted to fill it with dirt. I said yes, and the game which began with filling a jar with dirt became an afternoon long project collecting "magical components". They collected dirt ("colossus sap") pine needles, gravel, etc. and even labeled the jars.
Don't stress about the mess. DH is excellent about making really fun games for the girls, playing board games and doing puzzles together, but he is sensitive to chaos and mess and doesn't like the free, open-ended (read: messy) play that I allow. I don't do the games as well as DH does (and boy, do the girls let me know abut it) but on my watch they are allowed to do things that overflow, get in hair and make a fair amount of chaos.
Make yourself available. This is something I am learning as the girls get older and are more independent. I have a habit of getting more and more done that needs to be done and I don't stop and think that maybe the girls want some attention from me, but they just aren't demanding it the way they used to as toddlers (most of the time ). I have to remind myself that they still want my full attention sometimes. So, I'm likely to plop down on the couch between them, coffee in hand, and watch the last half of Chicken Run (for the 3rd time), or watch Frodo and Sam "at the end of all things", mourning Rosie Cotton and the Shire (for the 30th time). Maybe I'll have a book with me instead. If they are outside in the chicken coop, I'll go out there, too, and spend some time holding the chickens and cooing.
It is not easy purposefully setting aside chores to give them this kind of time, but I made through their babyhood alive and well despite piles of laundry and toys on the floor, I can make it a bit longer.
Go outside. I will purposefully drop my inside chores for outside ones. It encourages them to come out and join me. They don't always, but at least I get some fresh air and the garden gets tended.
I might have some more specific advice once we know more about the kids.
ETA: How often are you out of the house doing activities and errands? How much of their TV time is "down" time? Another random thought: if kids have so much activity scheduled they might have not had the time to learn to occupy themselves while at home.post #3 of 179/25/12 at 8:28am
I would say the biggest secret for me is ... include them in your life. When I notice my kids languishing about relying on screens for entertainment, I think to myself "What can I do that I could involve them in?" Usually something occurs to me that needs doing anyway, or that I know we would all really enjoy: making a triple batch of chili, baking bread, cleaning out the attic loft, preparing the bathroom walls for repainting, splitting firewood, preparing the kitchen garden for winter, making soap, making a mega-batch of cookie dough and stockpiling the extra in the freezer, building a bicycle ramp, going on a hike, watching the documentary I downloaded a few days ago, doing some shibori dyeing, taking apart the coffee maker to try to figure out why it's not working, washing windows, etc. etc.. Your list would probably be different, of course, but I'd imagine there would be some things you could sweep them up in. It's hard to offer specific suggestions without knowing the age of your kids and details of you living situation.
Mirandapost #4 of 179/25/12 at 9:04am
Here's what helps me:
Having loads of books. We are a book family - we have books on literally any subject so when the children are interested in something I can say "lets read about it!" and off we go. I also have a decent collection of magical children's fiction and I read all the time, so the kids are naturally interested in books.
Craft supplies; I've been building our collection for years and we have a quite a bit. The kids at any moment are pulling out felt, glue and the likes to make projects on their own. We normally do a craft-per day but they take on a bunch too. My children also love sticker books (you can get them on sale sometimes) or craft kits which are excellent for rainy days or long afternoons.
Board games! We love these, especially the cooperative ones. Right now our favorites are Wild Craft and Mermaid Island *I think that's what it's called...* they are a blast.
Books on tape OR music. Sparkle Stories are our favorite and I put them on in the afternoons or early mornings. My two year old won't sit and listen but my 5 year old will, and loves them.post #5 of 179/25/12 at 9:39amThread Starter
Thank you all for sharing what works for your families! Okay, more about my family :) I have three children; a boy that will be 1 this Sunday, a girl who will be 5 in a month and a girl who is 8. My mother in law lives with us. My husband works long hours and is gone most of the day during the week with every other Friday off. We live in an area with a very active homeschool and unschooling community. I am co-moderator of the local unschooling group and we do something with the group at least once a week. We also belong to an "adventure club" in which homeschooling kids go on hikes, tours, and other adventures. We participate with that group at least twice a month. The girls are in a pretty active homeschooling Girl Scout troop that meets at least twice a month. We are out of the house at least three days a week. I know this may be an issue and wonder if I need to cut down on our activities.
My husband, his mother and I all have issues with clutter and mess. I can allow mess for a short while and then I start to get anxious. I know I need to work on this. My kids have a ton of books available to them as well as a slew of learning activities/games. I have to put some stuff up because it could pose a safety hazard to the baby. Maybe the girls dont bother getting stuff out to explore because they dread having to clean it all up...that makes me sad.post #6 of 179/25/12 at 10:52am
Your schedule does sound pretty full, considering the ages of the kids. If the kids enjoy it, though, it can be hard to pare it down. Some activities we only try to do once a month, or twice. But all depends on the kids, the length of the drive, whether all the kids have to do to every event or maybe they can stay home with MIL, and, of course, how much they enjoy themselves and how much you enjoy it as well.
Especially since this is an unschooling forum, I can say this without any apologies: too many of these kind of activities can give kids the impression that learning and fun happen "out there" instead of at home too. But, you know, if your kids are enjoying themselves and learning and being curious and adventurous and creative and amiable and capable "out there", then why not allow them to veg in front of the TV at home? It would not be much different than school kids coming home and needing to decompress. Thankfully, even if you don't change a thing except how you see this situation, you have the luxury of *giving* them that time to decompress without a guilt-trip, unlike school kids who have homework and extracurricular activities.
But that doesn't answer your question in the thread title, and again, I'll have to think more and come back with our own answers. Today is our own "town day" and it's pretty full......post #7 of 179/26/12 at 6:20am
For our family, I've found that if we get really busy out of the house, my kids don't tend to be as creative at home. When the busy period ends, they dive right into creative stuff at home, so it's not that there is any harm done, far from it, but if it is important to you that your kids be doing creative things at home, I'd recommend cutting some out-of-the-house activities.post #8 of 179/26/12 at 6:38amThread Starter
I think I may need to specify that I have no problem with television. My children have access to TV when ever they want it and I am not trying to change that. I am simply looking for fresh ideas on how to "strew" or create an environment which encourages exploration in ways other than the television. You all have been very helpful. I am looking at what we can cut out so that we can have more home days and I am thinking that I need to have an area of the house that is allowed to be keep messy without fear of constant clean up afterwards. Any other ideas or things that work for your families? I am very open to suggestions.post #9 of 179/26/12 at 8:18am
It's a small thing, but something we found very helpful with construction toys like Knex and Lego was a rope bag. We happened to have one, but I'd never thought of using it for toy mess until someone else recommended it. Rope bags are used by climbers at the base of rock faces to keep their coiling and uncoiling main climbing rope from getting covered in dirt and dust from the ground. Basically they're light-weight tarps that fold out of simple satchel bags and lie on the ground. When you're done with your rope, you just fold the tarp up, burrito-like, enclosing the rope, and fold the whole thing into the attached satchel. The tarp on ours is about 5x5', just perfect for two or three children to spread out on the living room floor with a whole pile of Lego. Then, when they're done, they take any fragile constructions out and set them on a shelf, and the rest of the loose pieces get folded up in the bag. It takes about one minute to "pick up all the pieces" this way, and about half a minute to start another play session after dinner.
Here's an example (smaller than ours) to show how they work.
Mirandapost #10 of 179/26/12 at 8:37amThread Starterpost #11 of 179/26/12 at 9:05am
I have to start with paper--all kinds and colors--scissors (good, sharp ones) tape and glue, yarn. Watercolor pencils. Clip boards! Having a clipboard by the couch where the kids sit has always been inviting. Other crafts stuff are in boxes in a cupboard and, unfortunately, out of sight out of mind. I get out my own knitting fairly often though, and the mending and I can pull out the scrap boxes for those. Felt is fun to work with.
moominmamma's advice about including them in your work holds true in this house, though my girls more often than not are on to their own thing. ETA: if it involves gadgets, all the better, even something as simple as grinding the coffee and making my morning cup. The *fight* over whose tun it is to make my coffee. Well, they can fight over just about anything....
My girls are just 7.5 and nearly-6yo, so academic resources in my home are pretty basic. Like the other materials, I try to keep them visible and within reach. Of course, I don't have a baby around, so scissors and binoculars can be on the windowsill. I have as much measuring tools as I can collect-- tapes and rulers, yardsticks. I think something to measure weight might be a nice addition, hmmmm...... binoculars, magnifying glasses, field guides galore. More paper! This time in the form of a stiff-backed sketch book small enough to carry around. (Unfortunately the best introduction to small mammals has been the carnage strewn around the house from our 2 cats.) We have math blocks and pattern blocks (a yoga mat is a good surface to use for those so they don't slip.) Puzzles and board games. We subscribe to 2 Highlights puzzlebooks. DD1 practically learned to read and write from the secret code jokes included in those books. Sudoku books. I am contemplating the Miquon math books, to see if they like them. They like math puzzles. Building sets.
Anything having to do with history, other cultures, for now is represented through stories from the library. The love stories of historical figures--American presidents being a particular favorite. The book "George Washington's Teeth" is the perfect example of the kind of book that brings history to glorious life. Reading on their own is still occasional, but dd1 usually reads from horse books, ones far past her skill level but she doesn't seem to mind. Conversely, all our old baby books seem to be useful again for beginning reading skills (their idea, too). My girls would love to be reading them to little kids, I'm sure!
The camera is available for them to record their games and projects. They take *a lot* of pictures (thank heavens for digital). I whittle them down a bit, but I think they need their own memory cards. I'm thinking of getting them a couple of those digital frames for upcoming birthdays so I don't feel the pressure to print, or even store them on disc.
We just moved, so the garden is hardly anything this year. We have acres of woods, though. Chickens. We are brainstorming places to have adventures, both nearby and modest distances away. DH and I are still busy moving in, building sheds and coops, arranging, rearranging. The girls have some small tools to play with, camp shovels to help unload mulch and gravel. It's hit and miss, but they either jump in to help, or (more often) get energized and motivated to play nearby, usually on the brush piles, or they will grab their favorite little hens and walk around.
These are all things they do on their own. I do a fair amount of reading to them, too, or working puzzles, helping with Sudoku, getting something set up for them, guessing chicken genders on Backyard Chickens.com when we are bored.
Edited by SweetSilver - 9/26/12 at 9:22ampost #12 of 179/26/12 at 10:00ampost #13 of 179/26/12 at 6:03pm
Finding toys or kits that have been lost at the bottom on buckets/back of cupboards often spurs their creativity.
It is a less formal way of rotating toys, lol.
My youngest DD does veg in front of the tv a fair bit - but she does stuff in front of the tv (usually drawing, but often crafts or writing). I think she just likes the background noise. You might be able to add an activity to the tv watching. It could even be an intermediary step from vegging out in front of the tv to exploring other things, if that works for you and them.
Edited by kathymuggle - 9/27/12 at 5:25ampost #14 of 179/27/12 at 3:31am
My son loves the Richard Scarry books. What Do People Do All Day is his favorite! So, I have those out and within reach for him. He also loves the Where is Waldo books NOT to find Waldo but to thoroughly examine the scenes: he is fascinated by the details in the pictures and enjoys discovering new things he had not noticed before on same old pages. He enjoys sitting around and just going through each page and pouring over the details. They also enjoy using polymer clay. They make their own super heroes. They love that they could do that; we bake them so they are permanent creations. Yes to audio books; we are going through the Magic Tree House series.
They have a table where we have their stuff. It is like an old school desk; the top opens. They basically just go their table and pick up what they want to do and do it. I also have clear bins where some of the supplies are stored on top or under their desks. I still have ways to go with making it all more organized. My daughter spends a lot of time cutting, gluing, taping, drawing and sculpting little figures. We have quiet a few lego creators 3 in 1. I love these pictures the kids are not as reluctant to break the lego apart after they make something because they want to make the next one. Teaches them to follow instructions closely and to cope with making mistakes. We also have citiblocs. We look up stuff to make with the citiblocs and there are tons of ideas on the net. I say "we" but for the most part, I am playing little or no role out side of helping with set up if necessary. I am there if there is a problem but I really let them do their own thing. Most days, they are really busy just doing their stuff. It is kinda of amazing actually, how hard they play/work. I wish I was as engaged with life and with the now the way my kids are. I think I am learning a lot myself ....post #15 of 179/27/12 at 10:06pmpost #16 of 179/28/12 at 5:17ampost #17 of 179/28/12 at 6:09amThread Starter
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