Welcome to my page about my family's experiences of learning at home! We are embarking on our journey of home learning with our kids, our oldest being 5 1/2 years of age, and our youngest being one year old. Our general philosophy about learning is that it happens spontaneously at any time, and anywhere.
Our family's interests include reading, music, hiking, gardening, some sports, and travelling. We have found that our kids have picked up many interests during any of our activities, or while just kicking back at home, making their own discoveries. We don't make a point to create days full of "learning experiences" or "lessons", but rather hope our kids will just take in what they are interested in form the world around them.
So why have we decided to homeschool?
Since our personal experience lies with early childhood,
that is what this page is mainly about. I offer my thoughts and our
experiences on what and how my son is learning about the world around him,
and perhaps these experiences hold some value to some of you out there
reading this page. I do enjoy and am interested in the experiences
of others, as we can all learn from each other. Please feel free
to email me!
Some thoughts on unschooling
My family and I have a musical life. Music breathes life, energy and feeling into our days. I often have a tune playing in my conciousness throughout the day, my son (age 5) loves experimenting with different musical instruments, and my daughter (age one) moves her whole body to the beat of any music she is enjoying at any particular time. My husband, though claiming himself to be "musically challenged", loves going to our local performances year 'round.
Music means different things to all people. To many, music+kids=musical instruction, including "mastery" of an instrument. This is great, and their are many stories out there (especially among homeschoolers) of kids that have the desire and concentration for disciplined study of an instrument at an early age. I am in awe of their talent, determination, and joy they find in making music. You can probably tell by now that this doesn't fit the description of our family! But serious study of a musical instrument isn't the only way for kids and their families to enjoy music.
I myself have had years of formal instruction in two musical instruments, but (luckily) I was not pushed (for the most part) to practice to technical perfection. I began playing the clarinet in the 5th grade, under the tutiledge of the public school system, some private lessons, and by my own exploration. I learned to play this instrument fairly well through the years of high school, some time in college, and again regularly for a few years before motherhood. Also, I began playing the piano around age 11, and after three years of lessons, continued playing on my own. I may not be a virtuoso, but I do enjoy making music very much...I enjoy the spiritual exhileration and peace it gives me, and the "groove" of making music with others.
But I also enjoy music when not actually making it on an instrument. I love dancing to it, listening to it while just relaxing, while attending concerts, and while singing silly made-up songs with my kids. I love the community music creates...wether we find ourselves as part of an audience, or as participants in a gathering of musicians (my definition as those making music, regardless of their expertise) playing together.
my son's musical journey
My son is developing his own relationship with music, and I sit back and observe with great interest. He is 5 years old, and has a very musical life. He doesn't "play" a musical instrument in the sense of taking lessons on becoming technically proficient and reading witten music, but he does explore the world of music-making in his own way. This section is a description of my observations of his musical journey.
I think it all began when Alan began his second summer at 15 months of age. At this time, we had the same t.v. viewing fare every Saturday night at 7pm on PBS...the Lawrence Welk Show! Alan loved to watch his "Welk" each week. Oh, how he would love to dance and bob to the music! Sometimes if he happened to be taking a bath when the strains of the opening music filtered into the bathroom, he would run as fast as his wet, chubby legs would carry him to swing and sway in front of the tv. He even came to know the celebrities by name. We started going to the summertime concerts in the park at about the same time, at which time he would pick up his chopstick and conduct the band from our little patch of grass in front of the bandshell.
At about age two, conducting live, tv, and CD/taped performances was still a favorite pasttime for him. At this age, his chopstick baton accurtately followed the tempo of the piece he was conducting. We continued to see live performances in our community.
At age three, Alan noticed the vast array of musical instruments out there. He now drummed on empty oatmeal boxes with two chopsticks, (who says they are just eating utensils?), drummed on large, inflated balls, and blew into toy trumpets and saxophones and slide whistles and kazoos. That Autumn, Alan an another musical friend of his each "won" an inflated toy guitar at Oktoberfest, and jammed to the tunes of dixieland stomp in the beer tent ! One of the performers in the band took me aside after playing their set, and told me how he noticed Alan's joy for music and his ability to keep the beat. "keep him involved in music" he said as we parted. These were nice and encouraging words for a proud, music-minded mother to hear.
As Alan approached four, the toy and "pretend" instruments became less satisfying to him. He wanted to play the real thing! He had my clarinet and our piano available to him, and we also had a ukelele and a small lap harp as well. He played these, but was still restless. He wanted to play a brass instrument! And not just any brass instrument, but his all-time favorite...the tuba! Hmm...just where I would find a tuba that wasn't expensive to keep, and that a 4-year-old might physically manage one was a little unclear. We hmmed and haued and stalled for time on this one for awhile. At this time, we saw the PBS performance of Blast! on tv...which is a very energized, creative indoor drum and bugle corps performance...with lots of brass instruments! Alan decided during his Blast mania (which is ongoing to this day) that he would like to play the trumpet. We could handle that. So, just a few months before his 5th birthday, we rented a trumpet from our local music store for the exploration and enjoyment of our son. We and he had no intentions of taking lessons or learning how "to play" it. That would come later, when/if he decided to. So Alan "played" (blew into the horn and depressed the keys) to Blast and our Chuck Mangione CD for awhile.
A few months later, Alan decided that he wanted to play the trombone after attending a Winter holiday concert . So the trumpet went back to the music store, and we exchanged it (and rental aggreements) for a trombone. Alan had to learn how to put this instrument together, and it wasn't too difficult for him to treat all of his rentals with care.
Blast also inspired Alan to play the drums...mostly snare (our toy snare-like drum) and bass drums. It seems to be a great outlet for his excited energy and emotions. He has learned a few sticking rhythms from watching the show...some quite complicated!
But what about that tuba? Alan kept gently (and sometimes very intensely) reminding us that he was still waiting to play one. So he and I made a paper mache model (a work still in progress) life-size to scale. When it was mostly done, we took it to a concert featuring Double Play, a flute/tuba duet. With much encouragement of the performers' local host, we took the tuba up on stage after the show to visit with the performers. Patrick expertly took the paper mache tuba into his arms, feeling it's contours. (Patrick is blind) It is amazing how senses adapt, as he knew every curve of his own instrument, and we watched as he navigated himself around ours.
So Alan was pacified with the paper mache tuba for awhile. He made music with it by humming, brumming, and bellowing out his own voice. The passion for the real mccoy returned while visiting friends of ours one evening very recently. Our friend had been playing and constructing french horns for about 50 years, and he commented that Alan could probably handle a small baritone horn well. Alan's passion was ignited, for he knew a baritone was like a small tuba. So the next day, the trombone was returned, and we are now the proud renters of a small baritone horn...which is the perfect size for our 5-year-old!
Now at age 5, Alan's favorite musical activity is still playing his instruments to various music performances on video and CD. He will select the instruments he wants to use before the music begins. (including his "real" instrument of the time, various pillows, chopsticks, toy horns, etc.) Then he will use each one as he sees fit. In this way, he (all by himself) has learned such things as recognizing and identifying a sound with it's instrument, identifying when each musical family "has it's turn" (his words) to play in a piece, and has recognizing how various melodies and harmonies fit together. He also sings and plays the various parts of a piece as he goes. ("playing" to him means blowing or drumming out the rhythm of the part...he doesn't play the notes accurately at this point) These observations are what is obvious to me. I'm sure there are many other ideas and feelings and intuitions that are developing and adding to his rich understanding to, relationship with music.
So where is he going from here? Will he become satisfied with these musical explorations and eventually move on to other things, will he eventually want to produce his favorite melodies on his instruments, learn to read music, or want to play in a musical group? It is all up to him...it is his journey!
If I could cite only one gift that I feel humans have given to our Earth, it would be music. My wish is that everyone enjoy it in their own, special ways.
I am pleased to feature and recommend books by:
a family-based buisness that values the most important job of parenting. Over the years our family has loved their selection of books that portray gentleness, love and respect for self, others, and our planet. The recommended books below that are featured in Chinaberry are written with blue text.
Growing Without Schooling This organization was founded by the late John Holt, educator and observer of childhood learning. Unschooling philosophy is discussed through Mr. Holt's writings, and those of guest writers. There is a subscription available to the publication, Growing Without Schooling, a resource for parents and anyone else interested in child-led learning. Also available are books from the GWS library, and other learning resources available for purchase in any subject... from reading to math to music.....
Learning and Living: It Is Not About Fitting In by Patrick Farenga, a homeschooling father. His essay is on the Growing Without Schooling web site. This is an in-depth discussion of how his children learn and develop, and compare their experience those children who are in school.
Heather's Homeschooling Page This is an eye-opening web site by an insightful unschooler and mother. She describes how her three children are learning, and gives her detailed point of view on unschooling in various subject areas.
Unschooling.com Here you will find essays on unschooling principles and experiences, information on learning resources, individual state laws on homeschooling, and a support message board for parents and children.
Homeschooling Information and Resources Pages This site makes available : messge boards, a free homeschooling resource guide, and a homeschooing library.
return to the Full Circle contents Perhaps there are some other pages on this site that are of some interest to you...
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