Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Sensory Activities and A Few Other Things

When Buddy turned three, I started getting more serious about our learning activities. I'm the kind of person that throws myself into things 110%, so I kind of went over the top trying to fill up each day with tons of themed learning activities. I quickly fizzled and went the complete opposite direction, with each day being unplanned and random, which explains the absence of Learning at Home posts. Over the last year I have learned a lot about myself in regards to educating my children.

I am not good at following a strict schedule.

I am not disciplined enough to do heavy planning/preparation. There are amazing homeschool moms that write curriculum's and make awesome printables. I am not one of those moms.

It has been hard for me to find anything that lined up with the way I want to teach which is why I felt the need to create my own. (Fail.) Most preschool blogs use a ton of themed printables and that's not really my thing. I think it's a waste of paper, and I would rather use real objects if possible. Although I am very drawn to Montessori, it is still a little too structured for me, and difficult to recreate in the home. I love and appreciate Waldorf, but after a year of trying to fit myself into the Waldorf mold, I have come to accept that I will never be a true Waldorf mom. I read Charlotte Mason's Towards a Philosophy of Education in Modern English, and very much agree with her philosophy, but I know there are many aspects that I will not be able to follow in reality. Although I will definitely incorporate things from all three of those theories into our education, I find myself most drawn to the Reggio Emilia style of learning, because I feel like it lines up naturally with the way our family already operates. To better understand the Reggio Emilia method of education, you can check out these blogs.

Irresistable Ideas for Play-based Learning
Play at Home Mom
Teacher Tom

True Reggio Emilia is all about the learning environment, and I have done my best to create that in my home, but there are limitations. I will post more on this in a few days.

Coming full circle, there are still aspects of traditional preschool that I do like. I am so excited that I found an amazing homeschool mom blogger that has free simple lesson plans that are exactly the way I would plan out our week if I had the self-discipline.

Her lessons are Bible Story based, but not too heavily themed. There are only three lessons per week, so it's not too much. There are a couple of optional printables, but most of the activities are play-based, and teach numbers, shapes, colors, and the alphabet in simple and natural ways. She is also big on reading and environmental print versus traditional letter of the week, which I love.

So in addition to trying to have a creative and natural learning environment in our home, we will be following her lessons each week.

I am also going to create a themed sensory bin with play dough each month for the boys. I think I can handle that. This month our theme is Valentine's Day. (Big surprise.)

Sensory Bin

I filled a small  plastic bin with a lot of red and pink items that we already had on hand.

Play Dough

We also made pink peppermint scented play dough with red glitter. (It didn't photograph very well.)

I used this recipe and added red food coloring, peppermint extract, and red glitter. I introduced the sensory bin and play dough this morning and it has kept the boys attention for most of the day so far.

Sometimes it is easy to read a blog and feel like the blogger is some kind of Supermom or has this perfect little life, because we often write about and photograph nice and pretty things and experiences. There are blogs that I have had to stop reading because I just ended up comparing myself to them and feeling bad about myself. I don't ever want that to happen to any of my readers, so I want to be REAL with you.

When we do these learning activities, it isn't all smiles and sunshine. We are not living in a Barney episode where everyone says and does the perfect and well-mannered thing with a sparkling smile.

So here is my behind-the-scenes reality check...

When I brought out the sensory bin, Buddy complained about there being too many red items or something like that, and I lectured him on being grateful and thanking me for making him a sensory bin. Little Man thew all of the sensory bin items on the floor instead of playing with them at the table. While we were playing with the play dough, Little Man kept trying to throw it in the trash can and then in the dishwasher.

I started the day in a grumpy mood, so I was not as pleasant during those experiences as I would have preferred to be. Now I am letting them watch Netflix, while I drink some coffee and have some quiet time to try to work on improving my attitude.

So there you have it.