Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A New Opportunity

After days of rain and low clouds, today the sky is clear.    I'm looking forward to taking Elliot to the butterfly farm so he can begin to create his final project for first grade: a nature documentary on butterflies.  He chose this topic after remembering how challenging it is to photograph a bird, much less take a video of one.  He considered the topic of plants, but sensibly realized that a nature documentary about plants might be a little boring.

My goals for Elliot this year were for him to gain confidence in reading, to engage him in the natural world, and to help him discover that most learning comes from within.  This seems rather vague, but since I did not plan to homeschool, I had freedom to experiment this year.  I'm so glad that I didn't buy a packaged curriculum but instead used my own knowledge of subjects in combination with local resources.  I'm glad I trusted myself and Richard to make this a great experience.  I'm happy that we stayed positive and gave ourselves time to let things naturally unfold.       

This year, we did several projects:

A stop-motion animated short film, which he posted on youtube.
Set up an email account which he used to stay in touch with his cousins, uncles and grandma.
Learned graphic designing using the paint program.
Learned to write and illustrate a 200 word story which he submitted to PBS Kids Go! Writer's Contest.
Made a terrarium.
Got a dog.
Built a tree house with his Daddy.
Spent an entire day hiking around a lake, identifying and counting birds for the Audobon Society's Big Back Yard Bird Count.  He saw 300 birds.
Became proficient in biking so that he was able to ride in neighborhoods with traffic.
Learned to tie his shoes!
Took trips to the local Natural Science Center that has a Zoo.
Learned nature photography from a class at the library.
Learned handwriting techniques.

Completed a giant math text book.

Visited the library weekly.   Enjoyed reading books every day.

Built a miniature outdoor pond with me.

Joined a t-ball team.

Took homeschool swim lessons and met some buddies.

Made art.  Played games.  Gave himself daily recess.    

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I'm amazed that this year turned out so well.  In the beginning I was so insecure and felt like it was the end of world.  I had a vision of him being a spectacular student in the public schools, blowing me away with glowing report cards.  Instead, I got to enjoy seeing his naturally spectacular mind at work first hand.  He blows me away with his childlike wonder and willingness to stay the course through tough challenges.  And even though he must have felt lonely sometimes, he never cried about it.  

This summer, we are hoping to be more socially active. When the kids are out of regular school, we are looking forward to a new opportunity.  Our library needs volunteers for the summer reading program, and I have decided to help.  This means that Elliot will help too.  I'm sure these weekly programs will be packed with families.  We are looking forward to working in our community, especially at this great location.     

Here are a few pictures of our library, a truly special place that provided nearly everything we needed for teaching and learning this year.        

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