One of the trademarks of nontraditional education, and organic learning specifically, is that there is no such thing as a "typical day." Every day is unique in and of itself, because learning is flowing as life and ideas flow. If you are used to a traditional textbook style of education, the flow of organic learning may take some getting used to. It is more than an educational style but is instead a lifestyle. Learning is integrated into every fiber of our days instead of being a separate compartment where books are opened and facts are memorized. Even if you put organic learning into practice in your home, our days will look different than your days, simply because every family is different and every child has unique passions and interests. Here are several photos detailing the first couple of days of this school year...
Mornings are always predictable. Breakfast is served, and we dig into 3 books. The first is the Bible. We have just begun to read the book of Hebrews, and each day I read a small section at the breakfast table, and we talk about it. The second book is The Child's Story Bible, which contains Bible stories that are written in a very conversational, interesting way. We read a section each day. And the third book we are reading at breakfast is currently Little Pilgrim's Progress. When we finish that book, we will start reading our missionary biographies again. We bought some new biographies for this school year, and reading them is always one of the very best parts of our day. These true accounts of people's lives are full of amazing steps of faith and corresponding miracles. My children always beg me to read one more chapter, and the meat in these books has forever changed how they view their lives and God's power.
On the first day of school every year, I always surprise them with some little special treat. This year, I bought them some soda that they wanted to try. I set these up in the middle of the table to greet them when they entered the learning loft. Sodas were saved for lunch.
We always ease into the first week slowly, so we dug first into their very favorite things and will add in some more things next week. This week, I am reading aloud from these 2 books.
While I read, the children listen (working on auditory skills that are lacking in our visually-overstimulated culture). They are allowed to do something quietly while I read. I pulled out a sensory bin for our youngest to dig into. (I will share more about these in another post).
Our other children chose to draw. Here is D's drawing of a fire. He is very interested in firefighting, so this passion is often at the forefront of his days.
And, yes, even the furry members of the family find a cozy place to hang out while we read.
After we finished the day's reading, T was putting his drawing stuff away and happened to see this book that I have on display on the shelf. He leaned in really closely and then said, "That's the coolest painting ever" and then off he went. These are the moments that cannot be planned. It starts with a parent "strewing," which simply means placing interesting books or other things somewhere where a child can see it and letting the child find them and interact with them when and if he feels compelled to (which he often does...because it's fun and interesting). If I had forced everyone to sit down one day to learn about this painting, more than likely, they would never remember it or care about it. Because he discovered it on his own and had a genuine interest in it, he now owns that nugget in his mind and will probably come back to it again. This is organic learning in motion.
The long-awaited dinosaur dig soon began...
The boys headed outside for this event. They took out their kits, read the directions and set everything up. And then they began in ernest.
The first dinosaur bone was sighted, and they were so excited!
This dinosaur dig took much longer than I expected it to take...a total of 2.5 hours. But the time flew, because they LOVED this! Here they are halfway through, with imprints from safety glasses and all kinds of dust from their dig.
Let me insert...THIS IS MESSY...VERY VERY MESSY! So, do it outside. And if you happen to be a family with a parent who is one of those neat, clean people who cannot stand the sight of messes, wellllll, you might want to do the dinosaur dig when they are out of town. :) Seriously....
Ahhhh...the thrill of digging out that very first dinosaur bone!
Older sister wasn't feeling up to par this day, so I had made her some tea. I took some out for the junior paleontologists.
Did I mention how messy this activity is?? Look at his hair! I'm telling you...dust was EVERYWHERE!!
Two-and-a-half hours after they began their dig, they had both found all their dinosaur bones and had assembled the dinosaur model. I was impressed with this kit.
The aftermath was a disaster, but the boys cleaned up every bit of it (which was also fun, because after the initial mess was swept up, they turned on the water hose and blasted everything clean).
Meanwhile, inside the house, G grabbed a pile of books and settled in with a cup of tea. Her favorite book lately is a big book that explains sign language. I'm not sure why she is intrigued with it, but she "reads" it all the time.
Later in the evening while I was making dinner, D came in from outside, and said, "Look what I just found outside. It's a shell with a perfectly spiral shape on it! I'm going to put it in our nature box."
During dinner, he saw a unique bird that was sitting on our hummingbird feeder (we've never had a regular bird try to eat at the hummers' feeder!), so he grabbed the bird field guide to determine what kind of bird it was. We're still trying to figure it out.
And so ended our first day.
The second day looked a bit like the first. This time, while I was reading aloud, HB started on one of her costume projects. This time she is making a Chinese opera dress for G. This is our very gifted designer and seamstress who can make any style of clothing by just looking at it and then copying it. I have no idea how she does this, except that God has just given her this gift. So, off she went measuring and cutting while she listened to me read about Christopher Columbus. Every now and then, she'd look up and insert into our discussion, commenting on how Christopher Columbus let gold become his god. Yes, they really ARE listening and comprehending (and loving it).
In our home, we have umpteen costumes, and I never know who will show up. Today Spiderman joined us, and he was busy using insect stencils.
And our fireman showed up in the learning loft also. He was busy drawing a picture of a chemical fire (which he later showed to me, explaining in detail the difference between regular fires and chemical fires).
Spiderman and Fireman jumped to show me where Christopher Columbus was in today's account.
T has never shown much interest in maps until yesterday. Now, every time I mention a country, he jumps up to try to find it on the map. This slows down our reading a bit, but I LOVE seeing his enthusiasm with maps!
During our reading about the first explorers arriving and discovering native peoples inspired T to draw this picture of a native shooting a bear. This was all in his imagination, which I love.
And after we finished reading for the day, I came downstairs to make lunch. Soon, T arrived in the kitchen, pulled up a chair to reach a basket of kitchen towels, and created his version of "Indian clothes." And off he disappeared to play like a native. His sisters didn't like the (foam) hatchet being swung to and fro, but he was deep into his role! Can't you just see the mind's wheels turning and processing today's reading? A worksheet or chapter comprehension questions would have killed his enthusiasm and bored him. But with freedom to process and absorb and create in his own way, today's reading become a part of his life experiences. He will probably remember this for years to come. And this is just how organic learning flows. As a mom, I love it, and as an educator, I recognize this as truly top-notch learning.
Learning keeps going on and on. I have tried to capture most of it on camera over the past couple of days, but I missed things...simply because learning happens around every corner, whether I'm there or not...and whether I have access to my camera or not. And even as I sat down to write this blog post, more learning occurred that I cannot stop to take photos of (like the unique bird that came back to the feeder and the way D dressed up like a spy). But here you see the last photo I took today...D received a letter from my dad. It has a top secret recipe for BBQ chicken, and it's a secret between the cooking grandpa and his cooking grandson. He is thrilled with having the secret rights to this recipe. Here he is making a shopping list of ingredients that he will need in order to make the chicken. Organic learning...and some organic BBQ chicken to go with it. LOVE IT!