Self- guided discoveries and play

  I just love self- guided discoveries.  I love to see the joy in the kids faces as they figure something out and hearing them excitedly tell me all about it.  Sure, sometimes their discoveries are not really of any interest to me or sometimes their discoveries seem very basic and simple TO ME, but to them it's amazing.  They're so proud and so excited that I can't help but share in the joy with them , even if I have to fake it sometimes.  This happened over the weekend with Evan.  We had gotten in a whole box of gifts and Halloween costumes on Friday.  In that box we had bought a light up toy machine gun for Ian as part of his Army guy Halloween costume.  In order for it to light up and shake and make noise we had to add batteries.  Evan helped me figure out where the batteries go because there were no instructions, so we examined every screw we saw and tried to determine if it would open a small compartment for the batteries.  He read the word "shake" off the box (he even read the word while it was upside down) and excitedly told me "This says shake!" (a slight pause) and then.. "shake has a silent E on the end!"  He then started playing with the gun and came to show me where all the light bulbs were and how they made each area light up, he showed me the various parts that move and tried to figure out why.  To me it was just a toy gun, to him it was a 30 minute dissection of HOW the gun worked and what all the various pieces were made of.   I'm not sure what I'd characterize his learning under be it science or problem solving or what not but he was definitely learning and making discoveries. 
    Over the weekend my boys also all picked their topic for our annual homeschool science fair.  I made the conscious decision not to push them to enter this year since they are usually reluctant to do the actual work and a lot of it falls to me.  When asked if/ what they wanted to study they all had an answer ready and so I guess we'll be participating in this event again this year.   We spent part of our day on Saturday on our library's website requesting books about otters (both river and sea), sea turtles, and density.  We then spent some time on Pinterest and talking and brainstorming to come up with some fun themed snack ideas and possible hands on projects/ activities.   The boys all decided on a snack idea already and we're still working on some hands- on crafts/ activity ideas but I like knowing we have a lot of time still to work with.  Knowing they get to learn about learn something that interests them is always a great motivator. 
    We try to rely on self- guided discoveries or self- guided learning as much as possible.  I know that learning is most memorable when it's of particular interest and is relevant to the person learning.  I feel that there's no point in teaching something they aren't going to remember later anyway.  I try as much as possible to let them lead.  I like to sit back, observe and tie what they are doing into learning & school work.  It's not always possible since I do fear that there are some subjects that are just to important to ignore but I do try to let them lead.  Other days, like today I put them fully in charge.  I told them to grab something school-like to work on in the car as we ran errands and went to Karate.  Ian chose to bring his extreme dot to dot books and work on some math/ problem solving while Alec and Evan devised a way for them to play Hangman on the Kindle (I say devised since Evan still can't really spell yet).  They brought a Pok√©mon book in the car and Evan was allowed to look up names and spelling when inputting a puzzle for Alec to guess and he used the book to help him try and guess the words Alec made up for him. 
    Karate went really well today and I saw both Alec and Evan just beaming with pride when they were complimented on their kicks and rolls.  Several times I heard their teacher say "Yes! That's it! You've got it." It's just the kind of positive reinforcement they needed to hear.  After only a month or so of classes I have seen a huge turnaround in the kids' attitude toward this new karate class.  They are really enjoying the class, the kids, and even their teachers.  They've picking up new skills and had so much fun giggling and laughing while trying to learn their forward rolls today.   No one is threatening to quit anymore and I'm so happy that they're happy!
    For reading we listened to both our book on CD in the car and to Harry Potter during lunch.  Alec started reading to us all while I made their lunches and then I took over as we settled in to eat.  I used to force the boys to read during the day too but I found they often set the timer and watched that more than they read.  Left on their own they tend to read when the mood strikes.  The boys have really taken to reading at night in their beds.  I have found Evan looking at books after we say goodnight too and last week he tried really hard to read a new book to himself.  He told me the next morning that he hadn't been able to read it on his own but I was proud of him for trying.  He will re-read books we've read together in school and look through the pictures of other books and I know this love of books and reading is more important at this stage than the actual reading.  Over time his skills will grow and develop and he'll never learn to hate reading since he's not being pushed or feeling frustrated with it all.  Ian, who still says he doesn't like to read, actually read three books on his own in bed last night after I had sat with him and we had read a story together.  He picked out a HUGE stack of books at the library yesterday and I was really impressed to see him branching out reading different books-- good thing too since he's read every single truck, fishing, and equipment book we could find (even through interlibrary loan!).  Hopefully, he'll discover something else that he likes to read in trying a variety of new books.  Alec often falls asleep with a book open on his chest and his light on.  He is my biggest bookworm and reminds me so much of myself.  I love to read and often have multiple books going at once.  I too will fall asleep with my book open and pick up reading where I left off as soon as I wake up in the morning. 
    It was a nice, albeit, windy day and the boys just wanted to play outside.  As soon as we got home from karate they changed and headed outside.  I felt a bit guilty letting our schoolwork slide but I know the weather will be changing soon and it's nice for them to soak up the fresh air and sunshine.  They only came in long enough to eat lunch and then they were right back outside playing.  They were all working together to build in the sand and then I heard my younger two playing Percy Jackson.  They went up into the woods and took a pen (Percy's sword), a protein bar (ambrosia) and Evan's sword with them on their quest.  I just love that they enjoy acting out books through their play just as much as they enjoy acting out movies and TV shows.  That's when I know that they love what we're reading. 
   Ian spent a part of his day watching his new Mighty Machine videos.  He was so excited that they finally came in and reminded me that it's a documentary on machines and trucks so it was educational.  I certainly couldn't argue with that logic! While he was busy watching TV, Evan and I played Jenga together.  As the other boys heard our fun they came into the room and wanted to play too.  We spent our afternoon playing games.  We played Jenga until Evan lost interest and both him and Ian wanted to use the blocks to build.  Alec and I then played a good 3 rounds or so of Zeus on the Loose.  He just loves this game to much and I love all the math involved in playing!  We ended our afternoon with Alec, Ian and myself playing 8 or so rounds of pitch.  They're still learning the ins and outs of the game but they're catching on fast.  Ian won our game and they both can count for game already too.  It was lots of fun!

getting taller...

intense concentration

building and making up their own game with Jenga pieces

Playing Zeus on the Loose



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