Thursday, January 29, 2009

Home school series Part 2

Before I get into the academics of it all, I want to share some of my educational philosophy. I think it is extremely important for children to have large chunks of creative playtime every day. By creative playtime I mean playing that is free from any screen (tv, computer, etc.) noises or distractions.

Children are naturally creative. You do not have to teach a child how to make up stories or how to play house. They just know how to do it! Now, if a child never has any creative playtime built into their day, it might take a little prodding to get him or her to engage the imagination, but it can be done. I know from experience that if given a choice between watching tv/playing a video game/playing on the computer and playing freely without any screen, my kids will *always* choose the screen. The screen entertains. The screen has the sounds and colors. It is fun to sit back and let the screen tell the story. You get my drift. But once I tell them they have to play, it doesn't take long for those creative juices to flow and for my den to turn into a castle, store, restaurant, hotel, or for a war to break out and little native Americans to start running past me complete with bow and arrows.

My kids absolutely amaze me with what they come up with as a game or story or fun thing to do. I believe if children are given the opportunity, they will create out of anything, be it blocks, paper, rocks, legos, whatever. I don't think you have to have much for them to have a good time. We all know how well big boxes go over and how much fun it is to turn kitchen chairs and tables into forts and tents. My personal favorite free playthings are found outside. I just love it when the kids get sticks or leaves or acorns or whatever and create.

I think it is crucial to have this creative play regularly going on in order to stimulate the mind. I would feel this way regardless of whether or not I home schooled. If I sent the kids to school, I would make sure creative play was a vital part of the day. People can get bogged down in academics and making sure their children are well-educated, and might miss this easy, wonderful aspect of learning. I'll be so sad when the make-believe days are over!

A normal day for our family has a slow start. If you know me, you know why this is the case. We have breakfast and Bible reading and the kids do their "morning chores." Then, somewhere around 8:30 or 9:00, I send them into the den for screen-free playing. Sit down-schooling begins at 10. HOWEVER, Judson just recently quit napping in the morning. So....we have been trying out sit-down school in the afternoons. I'm all about whatever works for the family is what you should do.

I find my children gravitate to open ended toys--things that can be used to *be* anything. Examples of excellent open ended toys are blocks, legos, tinker toys, play cloths, and playmobil. Two Christmases ago I made a set of playsilks. I ordered large blank white silk squares very cheaply from Dharma trading Company and then dyed them using Wilton cake food colors. My hands were red for a few days after, lol, but those silks have been played with more than any other toy. They have been turned into Indian saris, belts to hold weapons (who do you think does this?), pirate head wraps, baby blankets, pretend casts, and on and on.

Recently, we received a gift card to a fantastic educational store in Memphis called The Knowledge Tree. Dori and I went to check things out and we were both floored with everything this store offers. I think it is primarily for teachers, but since I teach my kids, I found everything so useful and wonderful. It was so hard to select gifts for the kids. We must've stayed in the store close to two hours! But finally we were able to narrow it down and I think we chose some pretty awesome stuff.

Here is a set of pictures of the kids playing with Micah's present from The Knowledge Tree. These are called "Cherry Tree Blocks" and were actually on Micah's Christmas list this year, but they didn't make the cut. Dori and I both squealed when we saw them and so that choice was very easy. Jason's Dad, aka Grandpops, happened to be over for a visit when I returned from the shopping trip, so he helped construct this awesome tree house/fort:

I thought it turned out pretty cool! Micah said it was a fort and used some of his playmobil "guys" as warriors.

Here the red guy is holding up the poor princess. We're still working on the rules of war. Like no holding up the womenfolk.

In this picture you can see how all three kids got into fort building. It didn't take long after Micah's tree house was built for James and Dori to follow suit with the other blocks we have to create their own fortresses.

This isn't really related to my post, but it is Judson's present from The Knowledge Tree. It is sort of like a geometric toy. It changes from triangle to 3d cube. Cool!

Judson likes it!

This is a picture of James on another day playing with his trains. I forgot to mention those in the list of excellent open ended toys, but they should definitely be there. We bought this set second hand last Christmas for very little.

In addition to playtime being important in our house, so also is seasonal decorating. This is something I have eased into, once I realized that celebrating holidays and decorating and all that are a big part of regular schooling. I am slowly accumulating items to use to give our home a little flair just like regular school classrooms enjoy. Here is a picture of some Valentine's decorations. We are also working on a project this week to make various shades of pink and red paper chains to go along with the Vday theme. Fun!

And finally, I'll close with a picture of Dori, Judson, and Micah. One night a few weeks ago I walked by Micah's room and as usual, Dori was hanging out there before bed. The kids are given reading time with lights on before bed most nights. I was carrying Judson to his bed, but stopped in to say goodnight to D and M and Judson was insistent to get in bed with them! I let him and went to the kitchen to finish tidying up. When I came back, all three were "reading" books and I ran to get my camera. It was so sweet. However, once I made it back, Judson was too interested in the camera and so this picture was the result:

The next post will be all about reading. Stay tuned...


  1. I loved this post! I never thought of it as an educational philosophy but I feel the same way about free playtime. Before we started homeschooling Sarah would get home at 3:30 or later, totally exhausted and we would still have sometimes two hours of homework. By the time we did that and had supper it was time to get ready for bed! I am so with you that kids learn from that time. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

  2. is so easy for time to slip away and our busy lives to crowd out any free time. I find I have to really guard it, or poof--it's gone! Glad you enjoyed the post. :)