Saturday, August 27, 2011

My journey through education theories

So, like every other parent on the planet, my journey as a Mama has been just that- a journey.  Every year I learn some new things, realize mistakes I made and some ways to improve.
For me, when I read about the Montessori method, I was hooked.  I wanted to have the best educated child I could have.  This was not driven by complete love for my child, but the need to feel validated as a mom.  (Like if my child could learn to read early, it would somehow prove something about my worth). 

Well, then I came upon Charlotte Mason, and she reminded me of Louisa May Alcott's works (Little Women, Little Men, ect.) She has such a focus on character building and giving a beautiful, interesting, well rounded education.  I felt inspired.  Her words on the early years though nice, were not specific enough for me.  I felt the frustration of having ideals without practical ways of carrying them out.

This is what reading about Waldorf early years has done for me.  It has given me tools that resonate with my heart, empower me, and help me to relax about these precious early years with my girls. (Please note that I am fully aware of the spiritual aspects of many things Waldorf, and am very careful with what I do and do not use from this theory)  The things it has inspired for me are as follows:

1. Having a rhythm (structure, but not strict schedule) for our daily and weekly lives.
2. Realizing that telling stories and singing nursery rhymes may be the best way to give my kids a love for words and language (which leads in turn to kids who love to read)
3. Incorporating my kids into household work (not task focused, but relaxed singing while we work) empowers them physically (scrubbing things and kneading bread strengthens little arms) and builds their self esteem (they feel important doing important jobs).
4. Having a bigger focus on being active than sitting and concentrating on something
5. Encouraging creativity as much as I can (this is one of my favorite parts!)

I was already doing many of those things, but as I mentioned recently, it is really my mental attitude about it that is making the real difference. So, I'll stop blabbing about theories and get back to pics of the fam, and telling you what we've been up to next post!! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Education theories and methods

I have had a desire to share my thoughts about some various education theories, so if you are a friend who reads just to keep up with what my children and I are doing, feel free to skip this post (and maybe a few more posts if I get to them). So kick things off here is my understanding of the basics of 3 education methods.

So the first early edu. method I read about thoroughly, and implemented much of was Montessori.  Montessori has many appealing things about it.  They trust children, respect children, and create an environment to best meet their needs and further their development.   They focus on creating a special environment in which everything is child-friendly, every "toy" has a specific use and purpose developmentally, and the atmosphere is one of peace.  Learning takes place through repeated work with the materials. It is focused on learning through the senses, learning at the child's pace and interest level, and very intentional toys/materials.

Charlotte Mason was my next study.  She does not have a lot to say on the early childhood years.  During these years she focuses on habit training, outdoor time, and the physical health of the child.  She recommends no "formal" education until 6 or 7.  At that point, the focus is on a "living" curriculum.  This means, learning through observation of nature, hands on math, handwork, and books and stories (not textbooks.)  She emphasized always keeping in mind the whole being of the child (spiritual, physical, and mental)  when planning the education of a child.  All those needs must be met, and be met in a balanced way.  There is a particular focus on developing the character of the child which you will not find in other methods. The Charlotte Mason curriculum is rich, full, and presented in an interesting way.  The students essentially discover things for themselves in a meaningful way.

Waldorf is my latest find.  Waldorf schools have A LOT in common with Charlotte Mason in terms of the kind of education kids get- very holistic.  Waldorf kindergartens are really about freedom and creativity inside a rhythm/routine which gives them a strong sense of security.  There is a focus on nature and natural simple surroundings; involvement in household work (especially work that uses the hands); developing a love for rich and beautiful language through stories, rhymes, and songs; and open ended, simple toys (often made by the children themselves.) No "formal" education takes place until 1st grade.  The focus is on bringing up healthy, creative, balanced children.  First grade and up will have to be discussed at a later time as this post is already getting lengthy.

So there are my very short summaries of the education methods I have looked at so far. Sometime soon, I'll be back with more thoughts. (Keep in mind that I have not formally studied these methods, but have only read books, blogs, article, etc.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Relaxing into life

Hey hey!  I'm back.  Moving to a new country has so many ups and downs for me, but I am starting to relax a bit.  I think I've relaxed about more than just adjusting to a new culture.  I think I am relaxing as a Mom and just as a person.  I feel like these past few months have been an intense unwinding for me- unwinding expectations I have put on my self and evaluating what I really care about.  In essence I guess I have been letting go of what I think I "should" be and just being the "me" God made.  I think this is most reflected in the rhythm of my day with my little ones.  Here is the way our day is currently going:

Wake up and eat breakfast
A few morning chores (laundry, heating the milk we have delivered to make it safe, putting away any things that we missed putting away the day before)
Read a Bible story and page from "God's Wisdom for Little Girls"
Play outside for a few hours (Stephen is usually home for part of this, so he plays with the girls while I read my Bible and journal)
Morning snack (usually a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts)
Circle Time (movement songs, poems, finger plays, and ending with me telling a story)
Inside play (often blocks or play dough since Hope is happy with that too)
Lunch (made by our house help)
Then Hope goes down for a nap
When Hope is asleep, I do a crafty project with Jubilee
Then J lays down and listens to audio stories for 1 hour, and I read or craft
Both girls usually wake up around 3 and we have a little refreshing snack (like a Popsicle or some yogurt)
Then we do a baking project (baking bread, biscuits, cookies, etc)
Then outside we go; I bring along some dinner prep to work on like snapping beans or peeling vegetables (sometime the girls are involved, sometimes not) They often play "mud kitchen" at this point. 
Then before dinner we vary- sometimes we walk to meet Stephen at his work, sometimes the girls take a bath (this always happens now if the girls have been cooking muddy things!)
Bedtime routine

What makes this rhythm better and different isn't really that I'm doing things very differently now, but that I am satisfied with doing this.  I love it actually.  I let go of the notion that I need to be doing more than this.  I was made for this- for singing nursery rhymes and baking bread;  or loving my kids and giving them a secure childhood.  I let go of thinking that if I am going to be a full time mama that my kids should be able to do really impressive things to show for it (like knowing letters and the sounds they make, etc.)  No, I don't need to care about impressing others or about achieving things.  I can enjoy life and Father in simplicity everyday.