Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Change

We had a really great Pesach. Looking back I thought, what did I do so right that I can carry forward into my homeschooling life to create that calm and stress free environment?

Firstly, I wrote down exactly what I needed to get done and then allotted a specific time frame in which to do it.

Next, I made sure to have all the supplies I needed (cleaning, cooking, organizing) so when the time came to do a certain task, I would have exactly what I needed.

I knew that I could not do this all by myself and so I delegated specific jobs to different people (my hubby, cleaning lady, babysitter, friends) so everyone knew when to be here and what do do when they came.

It sounds so simple, but it was a lot of work and planning on my part- but it worked out perfectly.

Up until now, I had a really great daily schedule that worked really well. This involved my little ones napping for 2 hours every day which gave me 2 hours to get things done. Well, those little ones are growing up and have been on nap strike for the past 3 weeks and I think I may need to surrender. Which means a change of plans  in our daily routine. Not major, but it is still a change. They have also started to show an interest in what the older kids are doing in regard to being in the classroom, writing on their chalk boards, art projects etc. so they will slowly start to join the older crew in class.

I have allotted the hours of 8-12 for our school time. We have a dry erase board on the wall that my 5 year old has the daily responsibility of writing the day, date (in Hebrew and English) and weekly Parshah (she does this at the beginning of the week). We sit on the floor with our Siddurs and daven, and we then begin our day.

One of the principles of a Montessori education is Choice. Kids like to have a sense of control over their lives and tend to understand and learn something much more when it is something they are interested in learning. It is also important to make the learning meaningful and enjoyable.

I start out by offering an activity to each child, for example I will give my 4 year old a mini black board and ask him if he would like to practice writing his alphabet on it. If he say yes, he feels that this is something he chose to do, and will enjoy it even more then if I told him that this is what we are going to be doing.

If he says no, we move on to something else. A workbook, a hands on activity, sometimes he just wants to play with his blocks. And that's fine. But giving him the choice empowers him, and keeps that joy and excitement of learning alive.

When they are done with an activity, either they pick something else to do on their own or if they need assistance, I am there to show them some other things to do. We have never run out of activities.

My kids have their own little desks, but they know that they can do their work on the floor, at their desk, outside on the driveway, even at the kitchen table. It is important that they have the freedom to work where they are comfortable.

Another really important Montessori principle is to have order in the learning environment.

Up until now, our classroom has been very bright with pictures and posters on the walls, bulletin boards, lots of activity going on around the room.

While cleaning for Pesach, I ended up putting away a huge amount of activities, furniture and toys and the room was left looking a lot emptier- and a lot better. I found that the kids spent a lot more time just sitting on the rug and playing for longer amounts of time with the toys that were there.

I have now removed most of the things from the walls leaving the room with a very calm ambiance. The kids really feel it and it makes a huge difference in the quality of their learning.

If you walk into our classroom on a given morning, chances are you will find each one of my kids either sitting at their desks, sitting or laying on the floor and pretty engrossed in whatever they are doing. When I sense they are becoming antsy, I encourage them to go outside and get some energy out.

While this is not the conventional way of learning, it works. My kids do not rely on me to keep them entertained. I make sure that they have lots of learning materials readily available to them so all they have to do is look and choose what to do. And they love it and they thrive.

For Parshah, we all snuggle on the couch and I read aloud to them from The Little Midrash Says. Who doesn't love snuggling with mommy on the couch? If they want to do a project, we do a project. If they want to keep reading, we keep reading.

Homeschooling can be so challenging at times, but it is also such a gift in disguise. We get to give our kids the gift of being able to learn the things they love, to learn things that interest them. We get to snuggle with them on the couch while learning about our rich and beautiful Jewish Heritage. If we show our kids how excited and interested we are to be learning all of this, it will automatically excite them.

So here's to excitement, to the love of learning and to letting our kids just blossom into the amazing little people that they are!

Wishing you a wonderful week,
Always,




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