Monday, March 5, 2012

All Hands-On Deck!

The hands-on portion of the TOG curriculum is key in our ability to customize.  It is widely known that children have different learning styles.  It is easy to believe in a large classroom full of students, but I have seen it to be equally true with even just a few lower el. students in our family.  Some kids learn best by doing; even my ones who don't enjoy "getting their hands dirty" every once in a while.  One great thing about TOG is the wide variety of options for fun educational hands on projects. 

Salt dough map of various land forms
While we really enjoy doing the smaller weekly hands on projects, some of our best experiences  have been the larger projects that have taken up to 5 weeks to complete.  The curriculum lays it all out for us showing us what to accomplish each week in order to finish on time.  I have honestly been surprised by some of the projects we have done over the past two years from salt dough maps, to display boards, to YouTube videos.

Large map of South America (notice all the white out?)

We have one poster board sized map of South America that we are all particularly fond of.  It was a project from last year and it still hangs in our den.  My kids enjoy looking at it and comment on it, still, from time to time.  Just this last week my kindergartener had it down and was lying on the floor looking at the pictures of the flora and fauna representing the different countries.

Another thing I love about the larger hands on projects is they give us the opportunity to see how important it is to break down large tasks into smaller bite sized pieces.  In this way we have been able to accomplish some of the bigger things we have really been proud of.   

A beautiful boy with his Legos
Here is a link to our world famous YouTube production using Lego guys and hot glue.  We did this for a play writing assignment from Writing Aids.

Lego Star Wars Jedi Defeat the Death Star   

(OK - it's super amateur, but this is what you call quality time with a 3rd grader, and my son's eight year old friends loved it!)

Display board illustrating the differences between life for the soldiers on the front and the families left at home during WWII.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

When I asked my kids how they felt about unit celebrations for school they said…

“I like the one where we hit the piñata!  Are we going to have another one of them soon?” - The preschooler. 

“I feel overjoyed about unit celebrations, I love them!”  Second grader (this is my only girl, can you tell?)

Salt dough map of Africa
“They’re more fun than embarrassing.” - Fourth grader.  

The only thing I could get from the kindergartener was “Good” then he proceeded to tell me about the Lego Pirates of the Caribbean video game where he got into a barrel as Captain Jack and snuck up some stairs but fell off.  (Hey, this is real life, what can I say?)

We all look forward to unit celebrations.  They usually go something like this:  During the nine weeks before a celebration we keep a running sheet of ideas.  When we think of something, or feel particularly proud of an accomplishment, we write it down.  A couple of weeks before, when it comes up in our TOG schedule, we sit down and talk about what will make the final cut.  We also think of ways to include the littles, who we want to invite, and what food we will have.  I put things on the grocery list, we schedule special preparations, and invite our guests. 

Our guests have included such noble dignitaries as grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.  We even had one with just our family – that was the one with the piñata and it lives on in infamy. 

Flora and fauna from Lewis and Clark's expedition
We have had a wide range of food.  One unit we had several of the presidents’ favorite dishes, labeled with little flags identifying who the dish was for, like hominy for Teddy Roosevelt and peach cobbler with strawberry ice cream for Woodrow Wilson.  Another time we had Johnny cakes for a unit including the Oregon trail.  My favorite one was with the birth of modern convenience foods during WWII.  We had Twinkies, Oscar Meyer wieners, Fritos, Dannon Yogurt, Coke and M&M’s.

In a busy family it can be difficult to spend quality time with the people who mean the most to us.  We create lasting memories with our families and friends each time we have a unit celebration.  As homeschoolers, we don’t have the same opportunities to showcase our work, demonstrate, or recite in front of others the way kids in a traditional school might.  This way our kids can practice public speaking and presentation strategies I feel are an important part of their education.  Also, it provides a fun break from the everyday; it is definitely something we look forward to.   

Enjoy this abbreviated rendition of "Home on the Range" (you'll enjoy the abbreviated version - trust me.)  At this particular celebration we re-enacted the Civil War a la dodge ball.  Grandma couldn't play dodge ball, so she was Clara Barton and bound our wounds with toilet paper.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I searched and searched and TOG is the best!

I am a researcher.  When it was time for immunizations I put together a chart calculating the percent chance that my children would get a certain disease and the corresponding chance that they would develop a reaction to the vaccine.  I spent hours looking at design styles when it was time to redo the paint colors and curtains in the dining room.  From switching to a membership-only retail warehouse club to using cloth diapers I love to learn about and research my options.  So, you can imagine what I did when it was time to choose a homeschool curriculum!
Abraham Lincoln's log cabin

I searched and searched and TOG is the best!  

We love books.  TOG emphasizes enjoyable quality literature.  TOG is a “living books” curriculum.  We get to read fiction and non-fiction, memoirs, adventures, poetry, historical fiction, classics, etc. concerning the different sides of many issues/events and decide for ourselves the value that comes from each side.

Moccasins like Lewis and Clark
Tapestry is so thorough and easy to customize.  This is our second year of TOG.  Last year I was not expecting number 5 and things were a little easier.  Last year we didn’t know one of our little campers was dyslexic and things were a lot easier.  This year is different than last year, and although my children are in vastly different places with regard to reading ability and propensities, Tapestry makes it doable!  We can have several different ages, stages, and abilities and yet be on the same page with regard to events, topics, and subjects.

Becoming educated is not just about learning information.  Since my children are young there are a lot of things they have yet to learn, and I dare say most of them are not academic.  I really like the focus of TOG on the excellence of the education, but even more than that is the view that the education we are giving them is the training ground on which to build character, teach them to think critically, practice patience, learn to fail, learn to persevere, respect authority, and value scripture and turn to it for the truth.  I used to hope I was including all of these things in our education, but now I’m confident I am. 

Making a salt dough map