Saturday, February 25, 2012

Science Happens

Just when I get myself worked up into a frenzy about how little time I have been able to spend on 'official lessons' with the boys, they do something so natural, exploratory, and undoubtedly educational that I have no choice but to smile at my lack of faith.

Today William got out his more 'mechanical' Lego pieces and build this little vehicle that has an elastic inside that helps it to push off of a hard surface and project itself across the floor.  Will wasn't happy with how hast (or slow) it went, so he got to work. 

He spent the better part of a hour after that exploring traction and resistance.  Did it go faster with plain plastic wheels?  What if he added rummer tires?  Would gears for wheels work?  Carpet?  Linoleum?  Hardwood?  (Rubber tires on linoleum proved to be the fastest, in case you are interested)

Thank you, oh homeschooling fairies, for a much needed reminder about how kids really learn!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tinker Toys

I told you I had Tinker Toys around here somewhere...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Optical Illusions

Our little local museum has been getting a make-over recently, including a move to a new (and bigger) location and an overall face-lift.  As they are putting the final finishing touches on everything, they have invited people in to explore it free of charge, up until the official grand re-opening.

We headed over today and really enjoyed a great exhibit on optical illusions.  The kids were a bit freaked out by some of the tricks, especially the painting whose eyes followed you around the room.  It was great to see all of the tricks that our eyes and brains can play on us, and even better to learn a bit about how they actually work.

Friday, February 17, 2012


William, Charlie and I have been bog fans of Postcrossing for a few years now.  It is a great way to trade postcards with other people from around the world, and makes checking the mail box (not to mention learning a bit of geography)  a whole lot more fun.

Today we expanded our 'crossing' activities after finding out about Bookcrossing.  In a nutshell, you 'release books into the wild' and trust that whoever finds them will read it and release it again, or pass it along to someone else who might enjoy it.  You can track where your book travels through postings tied to the tracking number in the book, and read reviews or comments from other people who have picked up and appreciated the book.

It is a really nice way to fight back against the scarcity mindset that can get so overwhelming these days.  Not only is there enough of what we all need, but there is plenty left over to share and gift to others.

Today I released my first book - left it on the counter at a local coffee shop, as a matter of fact.  It is tagged with a sticker that says "I am not lost!" and some instructions on the inside cover as to how to register the book.  I can't wait to see if / where it travels!!

Here is the link to Bookcrossing if you are interested in getting in on the action.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Oldies but Goodies

We recently undertook a rather overdue cleaning of the boys' toy room, and ended up not only with a cleaner space, but also some new favorite toys.  Underneath all of the dress up clothes, cars, science experiments and LEGO (of course LEGO!)  they unearthed a box of Lincoln Logs.

They spent a good part of the afternoon building wilderness outposts and trading shacks, saloons and corrals. 

As for me, I got to thinking how much these older toys still grab our kids attention (when they have the time and space to explore them).  When I look at the toys that kids go back to over and over again, they are simple, durable (and often made out of natural materials), plain, and flexible.  You can make almost anything with them if you put your mind to it, rather than a toy or game that can only be used in one way.  They also get the kids relying on their imaginations to create the story line, rather than acting out the latest Disney movie plot.

I guess it is an extension of the toddler who plays with the box more than the new toy, right? 

So if we know this, why on earth is there still such a market for restrictive, cheap, plastic toys?  Do we forget?  Do we not trust what we all know to be true?  Or are we also taken in by the advertisement champagnes of the biggest toy companies?  Whatever it is, my goal is to stop it.  I don't have the money to waste on toys that they are not interested in, and the boys happiness is more important than what commercials tell me they need.

As for now, I think that we have some Tinker Toys around here somewhere...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sundaes on Sunday

I know that the more health-conscious of readers will cringe at this, but sometimes you just need sugar.  Or friends.  Or rest.  Or some combination of the three.

Today the boys were full of energy, and wanting more focused attention than I had it in me to provide.  They wanted to play, to explore, to go out, to build, to do something new, and I wanted to sit still.

So, we did the only thing that a mother can do in circumstances like that (assuming that yelling at the kids and locking yourself in the bathroom is not the solution of choice).  We decided to have a  Sunday Sundae party.

The boys invited their neighbourhood friends over for a quick pizza dinner, and then to make their own sundaes.  I provided the food, and the friends provided the entertainment - a rather nice exchange in my mind.  The kids all created sugar-filled masterpieces with ice cream, sauce, nuts, candy, chocolate chips, coconut and whipped cream, and then retreated to the basement to play and to burn off all of their newly acquired energy. 

As for me, I enjoyed almost 2 1/2 hours sitting on my butt with a book.

Win - win, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Timing Is Everything

Homeschooling gives us a whole lot of flex.  If we try a new lesson, a new concept, a new activity and it doesn't fly, we can wait a spell and try again.  What is wonderful about that, of course, is that the boys avoid the frustration of trying to do something that they are not physically or developmentally ready for.  And once I can get my own 'issues' of what I think they should be able to do and when under control, we are all a lot happier.  In most instances, being willing to wait a few weeks (or months...) can make the difference between something that they ultimately enjoy and excel at, and something that they are convinced they can't do, don't enjoy, and are resistant to work at.

Climbing is a great example.  The boys and I have been going to the local indoor climbing gym on and off for over a year.  William climbs, Charlie watches.  He bounces on the mats, he looks at the ropes, he visits with the other kids, and occasionally he takes a small step up onto one of the bouldering walls.

Today, for no other reason than that he was ready, he harnessed up and went for his first climb.  Right up to the top.  Touching the ceiling, big grin on his face.

Yeah Charlie!!  And yeah Mama for keeping her big, pushy mouth shut...