Sunday, May 31, 2009

Slugs and Such

I spent a few hours away from the house the other day. In my absence, Daddy was in charge of the girls. After about an hour of being gone, I received a text message informing me that my children were covered in slugs. Apparently the girls decided to round up all the slugs that live in our fairly wild yard for the purpose of having a nice visit with them. I think my girls may have even offered up a bit of cakes and tea for the slugs to enjoy while they visited. One never can be sure...

At any rate, I heard the tales of all the slugs that were plucked from the yard. Both girls had several slugs on them crawling all over their hands and arms. Daddy hates slugs and finds them to be quite disgusting, so this particular fascination of the girls seems to make life for Daddy a bit difficult.

So what are the girls gaining from this experience? What value is there in allowing an army of slugs to march parades over your body?

Well, I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps the girls are learning to interact with nature, or observing the way these creatures use their bodies to move along their chosen path. I haven't really asked the girls what they learn from the slugs. Perhaps I will ask them tomorrow when they are awake.

I can tell you this, though:


Monday, May 25, 2009


We spent the day at my mother-in-law's house for Memorial Day. My husband, his mother and I decided to play a couple of friendly games of Scrabble. I happen to really love that game, but rarely have the time to play. While we were playing, Kira sat down and asked a few questions about the game. She asked if she could play, but of course she is a bit too young. However, I decided to play a game with her over on the side while the game of Scrabble was being played.

I took a few of my letter tiles and made some simple 3 letter words for Kira to practice reading. She sounded out several words before she was too tired or bored to continue. She even read a couple of 4 letter words. I was actually very impressed with how well she did.

I've decided that I'm going to have to pull out the Scrabble tiles here just for the purpose of building a few words for her to read every now and then. She seemed to enjoy being able to "slam" the words together after sounding out each individual letter. (Yeah - that's a concept learned in the Leap Frog Talking Word Factory movie...)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Home School Group

Today was a great day. We had our very first meeting with a new home school group that I've found. There are several kids that are the same age as my girls, which is just wonderful. The group will be relatively inactive for the next couple of months because it is summer time, but when the school year begins in the fall there will be co-op classes to attend. I'm so excited to finally have a group of parents and kids that I think we will fit in nicely with.

The kids all played and ran around. My girls, of course, were very intent on getting as dirty as they possibly could. I'm sure there's some educational value in that....

I'm looking forward to getting to know these other families and their children. I think we're the only "unschoolers" in the group, but that's okay. Everybody has their own methods and their own needs, and this group seems to be very accepting of each others' methods.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lessons for Today

We've had a very busy day today.

Kira spent an hour playing Jumpstart World Pet Playground. This computer game is geared to children ages 4 to 8. The game has a couple of different functions on it. One game that can be played teaches and reinforces the beginning letter sounds of words. The other game is about ordinal numbers and choosing numbers that are lower than the given number. Kira was only playing on the beginning levels, so I'm not sure if the higher levels allow you to play more complicated games or not.

The object of Pet Playground is to earn enough gems to buy a pet. Then you have to buy the things your pet needs and take care of your pet. It is really quite interesting. She gets to learn about working for what she wants.

In addition to the computer game, Kira was introduced to the concept of actually working to earn money. She earned her very first dime today by helping her Daddy load the clothes into the washing machine.

Kira and I walked to the Dollar Tree to get a piggy bank for her money because she did not already have one. After I made my purchase, I allowed her to earn the change by telling me the names of the different coins and the monetary values of each coin. She earned $0.83 today. She's saving her money for Horseland Ponies because she doesn't want to wait until her birthday to get them. Her birthday is in September - a long time from now.

I notified the Grandma's that Kira would now be "for hire" should they have any jobs they want her to do. I also gave them a general monetary suggestion for how much they should offer if they plan to give her any jobs. The biggest key here is that she is not getting paid for doing her normal chores.

Digging for Worms

The girls were outside this afternoon with their Grandma Janet when I came home from a trip to the library. They both promptly ignored my arrival, afraid that I would call them home and spoil their fun.

I did stop by the gate for a bit to see what it was that had such rapt attention from them.

I watched for a bit as Marisa gently held something in her hand. I asked her what she had, and her reply was swift and assertive.

"MY worm!"

One of the favorite pass times of my two girls is to dig in the garden for pet worms. They are blessed to have plenty of worms to dig for. The garden overfloweth with worms so finding one or one hundred worms is not such a daunting task. This digging is a great learning experience for the girls.

I sometimes feel sorry for the poor, defenseless worms that are destined to become the momentary obsessions of my girls. The worms rarely suffer more than a time of frustration before they are returned to their homes in the soil, but it must be somewhat unsettling to be held high above the ground while you wriggle around seeking the freedom and safety of your burrows, only to find yourself suspended in the open air where any bird or predator can clearly see you. (poor little worms...)

On a side note, while I was out today I had to stop by the bank. The sidewalk in front of the bank was littered with a few dozen worms that had been forced out of the ground by recent rains. The worms, of course, were no longer among the living. I was silently grateful that my two girls were not with me to witness this mass carnage, for I'm certain that my four year old - a sensitive soul - would have been quite distraught at the sight of all those dead worms laying on the ground. If I had possession of a broom at the time, I would have swept the walk clean of the worms to protect the innocence of any unsuspecting children who might have passed that way. Alas, a broom is not something I happen to carry in my car on a regular basis.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Today we painted.

I gave each child a stack of paper, a paper plate for mixing their paints, and an egg carton filled with various colors of paint.

The girls spent a good bit of time painting various pictures using wide brushes, skinny brushes, and - yep - their fingers and hands.

The mess was impressive, but they had so much fun. Maybe they even learned something while they were painting.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away

Kira and Marisa are playing in the rain today. I'm not quite sure what they are learning from this, but they are intent on their games.

They both have a bowl, and take it to the drain pipe off the side of the house to fill it with rain water. Then they empty their bowls into a bigger bowl.

Marisa tried to take a much bigger bowl and put it under the drain pipe only to find that the bigger bowl wouldn't fit.

Kira insists that they are just playing, but I'm convinced that there is quite a bit of thinking going on out there.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It All Began...

I have been sifting through an old blog that I started last year, but quickly abandoned after losing interest in the topic. I made the following post on August 29, 2008. Since my current focus has been on Kira and her obsession with fire, I felt that this post deserved to be copied into the new school blog. Here is how we became stuck on the topic of fire.


**The Fire Triangle**

Did you know there was such a thing called the fire triangle?

This is the terminology used to describe the combination of things that are needed for a fire to exist. Without all three of these objects, there can be no fire.

So what are these things, you ask - and why in the world am I discussing it. Well, my dear child has decided, after seeing an explosion on television, she needs to learn everything there is to know about all the different types of fire. She NEEDS to know what types there are and how they burn. We are currently reading about forest fires. We also visited our local fire department. The fire chief is putting together a packet of information, including a video, just for us so Kira can feed her current addiction.

So - now that I've told you where this newest obsession has come from, I'll share with you what is involved in that triangle.

To make a fire you need --- AIR - HEAT - FUEL --- yes, those three things must come together in the right combinations in order for the fire to exist.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Movie Review: Money & Making Change

Movie Title: Rock'N Learn: Money & Making Change

Length: 58 Minutes

Recommended Age: 6 & Up

Movie Description From the Back of the Box:

Penny and Bill know how to shake things up when it comes to counting money and making change. Cool songs and games give you plenty of practice with real-world skills. You will learn about coins and how they relate to one another, strategies for counting coins and cash, "skip counting," expressing money in written terms, strategies for making change, and more. You'll have fun as you learn valuable new skills you can bank on!


Penny, as her name implies, is a person shaped like a penny. She has a pretty bow in her hair and likes to sing her heart out.

Bill is her friend. He, of course, is shaped like a dollar bill. He sports an electric guitar.

What the kids think: Kira really enjoys this movie. She likes the skip counting and the section where the characters are "shopping" and counting out their money to "pay" for their items. She did say she wouldn't want to watch this movie over and over. Marisa is a bit too young for me to get her opinion on this movie.

What the mom thinks: I like the skip counting section. I really like the skip counting section. The shopping section seems a bit technical for my girls, so I probably won't rent this movie again for a while. The shopping section does address the issue of not having enough money to buy the things you want and the fact that you can't get it if there isn't enough money. Did I mention that I like the skip counting? This movie gives a real good introductory exposure to skip counting and why it's an important skill to learn.

All in all, this is a really good introduction to money and what money is used for. It isn't as interesting or catchy as I would have hoped it would be for kids. The voices are good, though. The movie can play while I work, and I'm not grinding my teeth from the sound of annoying voices. This is a good thing.

At the end of the shopping section, the characters also address the reality of taxes. That's a good thing, too, because children always seem to forget about that one particular reality.

Final Say: This is a pretty good movie for the educational concepts of money. I do recommend the movie, but be aware that this is more technical than fun. Your child's level of interest will depend on her personality.

Let There Be Fire

As a part of our fire studies, we performed an experiment this evening with fire.

I gathered the following objects:

1 old swimsuit that nobody wears anymore
1 handful of dryer lint
1 handful of dry twigs
2 pieces of paper
1 unraveled newspaper
1 plastic bag
1 small rope
1 pair of scissors
1 lighter

I took Kira out to the driveway where all our materials were gathered.

I discussed safety with her regarding the experiment and playing with fire.

I took one of the twigs and tried to ignite the end of it with the lighter. The twig caught on fire, but only burned briefly before going out. I discussed with Kira the need for more heat before the fire could take hold. We had the fuel and the air, but the heat was insufficient to maintain a fire.

I took the dryer lint and explained the word "flammable" to Kira. I told her that dryer lint is very flammable and burns really hot, really fast. I stacked all the twigs on top of the dryer lint in a typical tepee formation. Then I carefully lit the dryer lint. We observed the lint as it went up in flames and discussed how the fire was behaving. We observed the twigs as they also caught flames and watched as they subsequently burned out when all the lint was gone.

I took the old swimsuit and ignited it using the seam. Kira observed that the swimsuit was "dripping fire" onto the driveway. We discussed the fact that clothing is usually very flammable and will stick to the skin if it catches on fire while being worn. We also discussed the reasons to avoid playing with fire because of the inherent dangers to one's self and others. It was really kind of cool watching the fabric as it burned and melted into a puddle.

We tried to burn a plastic bag. I pointed out to Kira that the bag would not burn, but melted instead. We discussed the fact that plastic is not as easily ignited and needs a higher level of heat to actual burn.

We burned one piece of paper that was twisted into a tight wad. We discussed the amount of oxygen that was getting to the paper and the rate at which the paper was burning. Then we burned another piece of paper without twisting it. We laid the flat piece of paper on top of our fire pile and watched as it quickly dissolved into flames.

We took the newspaper and rolled it into a tube. We discussed the oxygen level that would reach the various parts of paper and tried to guess how quickly the paper would burn. After our discussion, we lit the edge of the paper and watched as the outside layers burned away and left the inner layers untouched. We also observed the chimney effect of the tube as the smoke spiraled out the ends of the paper instead of rising straight up into the air.

Finally, we discussed the proper method for extinguishing our fire. Kira procured a glass of water with the assistance of her Dad and slowly poured the water onto the burnt objects. The objects were still smoking, so Kira determined that we needed more water. After the objects were completely extinguished, Kira went to tell her Dad all about our fire experiment.

From this experiment Kira was able to study the behavior of fire with various types of fuels and conditions. An experiment of this nature requires a great deal of supervision and discussion regarding safety procedures, but offers a chance for a child to gain a real understanding of the way fires react to different objects.

This was a huge success!!!


Welcome to the Schonder School of Unschooling. Here is where I will provide a detailed journal of our educational exploits.

I have four children, two of which are home schooled. We use an eclectic approach to schooling that leans quite heavily towards the unschooling method. For those of you who are not aware, unschooling is also called Child-Led Learning. The general premise of unschooling is that the child is allowed to choose what topics they want to cover and at what point in their education that they wish to cover that topc. For example, a child who is not ready to tackle writing skills would not be pushed or forced to engage in repetitive writing just because she is considered to be the proper age to master that skill.

The major reason that I have chosen to follow unschooling for my children is because this method allows a great deal of freedom in chasing whatever interests happen to overtake them at any given time. My four year old has become extremely obsessed with learning everything there is to know about fire. The unschooling method allows me to give her the freedom to chase the information until she is fully and completely satisfied with what she has learned. Eight months into this obsession and she's just now starting to show signs that she might have finally reached a limit with this interest. As a result of her obsession, though, she has learned quite a bit more about fire than even I have ever known before. This experience is what finally convinced me that the unschooling method is not an insane approach that lazy parents use to pass off as their way of home schooling the kids without doing any work. Kira's need to know all there was to know about fire caused me to take a very proactive approach to locating whatever it would take to satisfy her drive to learn. I worked really hard trying to find her the information that she needed. It wasn't always easy to get. I eventually had to resort to ordering an actual fire-fighter training video that was very technical (and boring, if you ask me). The video covered so much actual, real life information, in a way that seemd to finally give her the satisfy her need to know all there was to know. I, however, hated watching that video - and we have watched it several times. To me, the information was dry and dull. To her, the information was exactly what she wanted. On my own, I never would have considered that type of information to be useful for teaching a child, and yet there is no doubt that she learned so much more from that one dull and boring video than I could ever have taught her with a child oriented curriculum.

I hope you will enjoy reading about our journey into the world of education without schooling.