Sneaky Learning

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I love how I get to pretend I'm a home school mama during the summer. Actually, I catch myself feeling like a home school mama year round, because Flint is a great big family (a small school, but a LARGE family!) and generally feels like an extension of home. And because we rely heavily on Charlotte Mason philosophy, which was originally for, you know, home education. 

I'm grateful that my tinies are still young enough to think it's TOTALLY AWESOME PLEASE CAN WE DO SOME MORE? to do "school work" in the summer. Hopefully we can keep that attitude going in years to come! But they think the only school work we do is in the Summer Bridge Activities workbooks that I bought (and totally recommend!) and will only ALLOW them to do a few pages of each day because I am cruel and heartless and know my Tom Sawyer.

HOWEVER, those workbooks are just the teensiest drop in the bucket of my summer lesson plans. And yeah, I hear it... I have summer lesson plans, blah blah blah... but it's involuntary I swear. I think in lesson plans. And I'm sneaky. We're playing Uno because number recognition, matching, turn taking, rule following, logical thinking, good sportsmanship, consequences yay, game night!

I'm working from a list of learning experiences that I want them to have this summer, a list I keep adding to and modifying as we go. There's the regularly scheduled stuff, like swimming and reading, and also whatever I've picked from my List for the week. We have a big storage bin full of cheap craft and science activity kits that we've accumulated, so sometimes I just pull something from that. 

(Although I will say that you probably get what you pay for when it comes to science experiments, and I bought this one supah cheap at Five Below. In hindsight, maybe paying a little more would have gotten us some instructions with less typos? I mean, I'm not much up on the science, I'll admit, but skipping trivial little steps like ADDING WATER seems like it might mess with the results of your chemical reaction, I dunno.)

Sometimes it's more of a Summer Bucket List type thing with ulterior a backyard cook-out and s'mores fest that magically turns into an astronomy lesson.

This one turned out even better than I originally planned because Scotty opened our eyes to the wonderful world of astronomy apps like Star Chart. OH my goodness, this has to be the coolest thing ever! We are now all obsessed with waving our various devices around, seeing the constellations and planets on the screen and in the sky. 

Thanks to Charlotte Mason's influence, we also have a Habit that we are working to develop this summer. I waited a little while to choose the habit because I wanted to see what was needed the most for smooth sailing, and that requires a little observation. Aaron and I hashed through what was driving us the craziest each time we felt really aggravated, and it was apparent pretty quickly that the common root was a lack of patience. Maybe this is a big family thing? Like get your two cents in FASTER AND LOUDER than your siblings so you don't get lost in the shuffle? Or just a developmental thing? Or (surely not!) some sort of characteristic that you inherit from your saintly mother? IT'S A MYSTERY. Whatever the cause it was making us crazy to be nagged and interrupted all the live-long day. Reflecting on my own example, I realized that all the instances I could think of where I lost patience with the kids were times when I was trying to have three conversations at once, or being shoved unceremoniously out of the way by someone who was determined to beat her sister to something, or being nagged brainless about something I was clearly already doing.

(My sweet, perfect angels! It's shocking, I know.)

For the most part they already know better, they just weren't bothering. I decided to cut out the gajillion conversations we were forced to have about these issues and give the kids a tangible redirect instead. Enter The Jars:

Patience is sweet. Every time we forget to use patience, our day looses a little sweetness. So every time someone interrupts or nags, etc., I just say, "Jar!" and they have to move an M&M out of the jar. And...that's kind of it. Nothing terrible happens if too many M&M's get moved in a day, nothing amazing happens if only a few are moved. Sometimes we talk about the levels at the end of the day. Sometimes if I catch someone being extra patient I let them eat an M&M. Other than that it's stupid basic. It's also been shockingly effective. The offending party usually grins sheepishly and says, "Oops, I forgot." moves an M&M, and we go on with our day free from any angsty maternal rants about YES OF COURSE I'M GETTING A PLATE FOR YOU, YOU CAN SEE IT IN MY HAND DO YOU REALLY THINK I'M GOING TO FEED YOUR SISTERS LUNCH AND LET YOU JUST SIT THERE AND STARVE? HAS THAT EVER HAPPENED IN THE HISTORY YOUR EXISTENCE? NAME ONE TIME I EVER FORGOT TO FEED YOU, CHILD!

You know, hypothetically. ahem.

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