"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Preparing the Banquet

Thou shalt prepare a banquet for me
Amidst them that trouble me...
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
-Psalm 23

This week I am going to take you through my main living area (no, I did not clean it first)
and show you how our learning materials are set up. I am an extremely visual person; if it's outta sight, then it's outta my mind. My children seem to be pretty visual, too. They rarely get bored, and I think the way our toys and materials are set up helps with that. I keep things where we can all see them, which makes things get used a lot more than they would otherwise.

I spread the banquet, but each child fills his or her plate.
(Math shelves: Miquon math workbooks and cuisenaire rods, origami and tangram supplies, rulers and measuring tape, subtraction machine, cuties box of fill-able geometric solids, teaching clock, number balance, pattern blocks. Shelf below holds loops for fingerweaving- yep, that's a math activity! We also have tons of math-ish games like SET, Quirkle, Farkle, Connect 4, etc.)

They way I set up, operate, and record-keep in our homeschool reflects my basic philosophies about education:

"What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child."
~George Bernard Shaw


"Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves."
~Abbé Dimnet, Art of Thinking, 1928 (Have you not read this book? It is fantastic!)

and the quotation I intended to put here in the first place:

"Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire."
~William Butler Yeats

(Math shelves on right, history and geography shelves on left. Atlases, history and geography story books/ fun facts books, unbreakable stuffed globe- finest $19 you'll ever spend, unceremonious stacks of random books we've read recently. The Infant of Prague, in appropriate colored vestments, watches over from above.)

Perhaps the most pervasive influence on how we do things around here is Mari Montessori. She was my original inspiration to homeschool. Although I find that many things about a Montessori classroom do not translate well into a home setting (at least not my home), much of her philosophy can be applied to whatever material or situation is at hand.

(Science shelves: my resource books on top shelf, next shelf has picture books, flash cards, bug catcher, leaf press, rock and bark specimens, flashlight, nature journals, next has more books, nature guides, experiment kits- storebought and homemade, next shelf holds fish box- books, models, shells, puzzle, books, magnetic rod with fish magnets, etc, sink or float experiment, lacing cards, next shelf dinosaur and rock collection box, rice play box for toddler.)

My children are not required to work with their 'school things.' They choose them. If Isaiah wants to play math games for days on end, fine. If he wants to draw for a whole week, fine. Over the course of a month or two, like a toddler with his food, I find him to be balanced in his choices.

It's been a long process to let go of the mental picture of more traditional schooling, and it's been quite an effort. But the joy and self-motivation I see in my oldest, at the time when many of his peers are losing these very qualities, is satisfying.

The little booklet I used as an inspiration to gather all our materials together is "How to Set Up Learning Centers in your Home" by Mary Hood, author of "The Relaxed Homeschool." It's available from Rainbow Resource for about $5 and $1.50 shipping. It has checklists of items you could include in your centers.

Tomorrow: art, music, atrium, and Montessori activities.

"Can you do Division? Divide a loaf by a knife - what's the answer to that?"
~Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass