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Blog Reboot

I know earlier last year I said I wasn’t going to be posting here very often, but I’ve changed my mind. There are a few reasons for this, the first of which is, I’ve missed it! I don’t write this blog for anyone but me and I love having the space to put my thoughts out there. If people (parents who want to homeschool or parents who like alternative educational philosophies) come across my blog and want to stick around or find a few things that are useful, then that’s fantastic. If no one but my best friend reads this (hi, Alexis! *waves*), then that’s fantastic too. But really, I enjoy writing this content. 

We “officially” started homeschooling this past Fall since my daughter reached the mandatory age for school entry. It’s been a bit rocky figuring out what she says she wants to do, what she is actually willing to do, and what I can sanely manage. So I want to write to encourage myself to try activities and methods out. I want to write about makerspaces and makerspace philosophy here as it fits well with unschooling. I want to write about books and some of the really specific reasons we have chosen to homeschool. 

I also decided that I want to share a lot more around promoting diverse books for parents. I still have my library blog where I review books, but I want to share more of what to do with books and promote diverse books to parents and homeschoolers. We’re going to be embarking on some set discussions around picture books this coming year and I want to talk about them for white parents who also want to start these conversations. To be clear, diverse books does not necessarily mean Issue Books With Big Themes, although I will be reading some of those with my white daughter to ensure she is getting an education grounded in identifying her privilege. Mostly I mean ensuring that the books I promote and read and suggest don’t feature all white people or, worse yet, racially coded animals, and tap into the self- and small-press publishing industries where we’re really seeing the gaps in representation addressed. 

I guess the other thing to share is that we decided to have another baby. We were surprised that we wanted another kid and are a little nervous having no experience with siblings ourselves (and having seen the mess of sibling relationships our parents have). The new baby is due in mid-March so I can’t be certain what my posting schedule will look like this year. I may very well be overwhelmed and find I only post once in a blue moon. Bear with me as I figure out this new adventure. 

To these ends here are the new series you will see coming across the blog with little descriptions of what they’ll be:

Friday Five: This theme is an old one I’m bringing back and will be using to promote diverse books. The post is just a booklist of five titles around a theme, nothing fancy, but we read around themes and it could be helpful for other homeschoolers, parents, or teachers. 

Story/Circle Time: You’ll find these in a slightly different format on my library blog, too, but here I’m tweaking them to fit well with circle time. If you need something to fill 20-30 minutes during the week this is something that might work.

Each storytime is centered around a theme and includes songs, finger plays, flannel boards, and wiggle time. They were piloted with preschool aged kids, but there isn’t any reason you couldn’t use them with Kindergarten- and first-grade aged kids. And it may be obvious, but don’t feel like you have to use them exactly as they are written. For example, if you don’t have a flannel board, feel free to use puppets or simply read the story. Each storytime is followed by a page of extras which give you either additional material if you have a longer block of time to fill or books and songs that can be swapped in if you need to improvise.

Chances are good you won’t own every book listed in these storytimes. Even I don’t and I have a very large collection. I would encourage you to tap your local public library. Even if your branch doesn’t have a title there is a good chance they can get it for you from another library branch or system (Interlibrary Loan for the win!). Don’t be afraid to ask your librarian.  

Parenting for Revolution: One of the major reasons I want to homeschool is a lack of attention to and awareness of social justice in schools, especially in their curriculum. Everything from erasure of certain groups of people, to heteronormative values, to fear of ruffling feathers, to use of punitive punishment instead of restorative justice methods. In this series I will offer up ways you can bring social justice into your child’s education, whether you homeschool or not. It can be hard to know where to start and what to say to your kids even if you want to get involved with social justice. I struggle with that, but am learning and want to share ideas you can use as jumping off points either for reflection, education or action. Please be aware that I am new to this. I will make mistakes and I am learning. If you notice things aren’t right please email me and I will fix it and make a note of what has been changed and why.   

Book Club: takes a book and gives your before and after discussion questions as well as an activity or craft to go along with it

Personal Essay/Reflection:  I’ve done these before, but I want to keep them up. I have one thing I need to get off my chest in the New Year that is incredibly personal but also taps into a social justice issue. You’ll probably see that essay first. 

Decolonize Your Bookshelf: I read a lot of books to keep up on the children’s publishing industry (and I love picture books) so I’ll be reviewing a few of them here that I think are particularly worthwhile. This is another place you’ll see me promoting diverse books. 

Homeschool Update: While you will be seeing a number of things I am doing in our homeschooling this will be an occasional post that explicitly talks about things we’re doing that may have not been covered in the other posts or looks at them with more of an evaluative lens as opposed to a presentation lens. 

If something seems interesting to you, check back. Each series should be going up on the same day each month. (update 6/6/18: With a new baby at home this isn’t happening, it’s going to be as I have time and energy.) I am also going to use this as a sort of landing page for the series, too. If you click on the series title above it will take you to a search for that tag. Of course life will get in the way. I have a lot animals to care for and Cam. I also have another big project on the horizon that I can’t talk about just yet, but it’s going to start taking up some of my time. I’m looking forward to getting back into blogging and showing up here to share ideas. 

For Your Bookshelf Reboot & Winding Summer of Mess Down

Hundre LanguagesI’ve done a few series where I’ve shared both titles for parents to read about philosophy and pedagogy and I’ve also shared booklists for kids. I do a lot of that on my other blog which is library focused (per my career) so by the time I would get around to writing about that stuff here I wast pretty uninspired. My reading schedule is also pretty full with library reading (while librarians don’t spend their days sitting around and reading, good ones do read a lot to keep up on what’s new and what’s in the library). Plus by the time I get around to reading “for fun” it ends up being at the end of the day when I’m exhausted. I can make it through about a page of nonfiction before I’m nodding off. A lot of the reading I have wanted to do that has to do with pedagogy has just fallen by the way side. 

This fall though, I’m going to dedicate my Sunday evenings to setting Cam up with a movie and popcorn and setting myself up with some Reggio reading. If anyone wants to read along I would love to discuss in the comments. I’ll read one chapter a week and share my thoughts and notes from the chapter. The first book I’m going to tackle, and realistically this could take many months to get through, is The Hundred Languages of Children, a classic Reggio text. The first post will come on that first weekend in September. Next Sunday I will have a review of Loose Parts, a book I read ages ago, but never got around to reviewing. 

Last week I went back to work (for one day a week) and our Summer of Mess is winding down. I am going to keep a few things going from the summer, but I have several other learning experiences for Cam planned out. I also have a couple series planned for the blog:

  • I will keep up with the quiet boxes, but they will only be changed out every couple weeks.
  • I am going to run a series of simple recipes that we use on busy weeknights. They’re inexpensive and quick to make, but also good.
  • September for Cam is going to focus on the light table. We have an old one designed for film and it was out, but I put it away a while ago. It’s coming out this coming month with a lot of loose parts. 
  • I will also try to bring back the Diverse Bookshelf. I have tons of titles, it’s just that I’ve reviewed a lot of them on my library blog and haven’t been motivated to rewrite the reviews with a mind more to parents. But this is important so I’m going to make the effort.

New Category: Deschooling

I was inspired by this post over on the Racheous Loveable Learning blog about what deschooling is and why it’s important if you choose to unschool or homeschool using an alternative educational philosophy. As she says, deschooling is about separating learning from what we traditionally think of as school and while reading this post I realized that’s what I’ve been doing by learning and blogging about the Montessori, Reggio and Waldorf approaches. So I thought I would go ahead and tag my posts about my learning about learning as deschooling and add a tab in the side bar for anyone interested in that particular aspect of our learning journey.

Back to School

Just a little update to say that I am back from my summer break and will be posting regularly again. My blog has been up and running for a little less than a year now and I still feel like I’m trying to find my niche in the mommy blogs. I appreciate that you are bearing with me as I try out different ideas.

I think one of my favorite things about blogging is that it gives me a place to share resources, articles, and various other finds but also feel like it’s a good place to open up discussion about what I’m reading and how I feel about working with my child. I would like to continue to do those things, but also want to try out documenting what we’re doing in the Reggio way. I’m not sure how all this will play out, but I hope you check back and join me.

Summer Break

I just wanted to check in and say that I’ve been taking a little break this summer. I had thought I would post a bit more frequently than I have over the last month, but the “time off” has been so nice that I’ve just been enjoying it. I hope you keep checking back as there will be new content soon. I finished up the scope and sequence that I was working on and will be sharing. In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying their summer as much as I am mine.

My Current Project

Resource Series BannerYou may remember a few months back I talked a bit about how I felt it was difficult to get a handle on what all the Montessori activities/materials were and in what order they should appear. I did a bunch of searching and found several scope and sequences (sort of) that helped me see better. The problem was, none of them were complete and they frequently didn’t match up exactly with each other. I was still a bit confused and frustrated.

So, this past week I’ve been working on creating my own scope and sequence. I’m essentially combining all the other ones I have found, but I am cross referencing activities/materials in a variety of sections where they have relevance. I’m also putting it together in several formats. My hope is not only to use it myself with Cam, but to share it here and I thought it could be helpful for people to have it in visual, outline, curriculum map, and check-box formats. That way you can access it in whatever way makes most sense for you. I’m still plugging away at it, but hope to have it to share pretty soon, so check back.

A Little Weekend Reading: Zoobean

Weekend Reading.jpg

A little shameless self promotion of sorts today. My most recent job is working for a site called Zoobean. To quote them they are, “Remarkable books for kids. Handpicked by parents.” I am a curator for their collection, which means I chose books that I would personally recommend and add them to their database.

In honor of Children’s Book Week, Zoobean went live. I highly recommend checking it out as there are a ton of good books and it’s easy to search for what you’re looking for. They also have a Love Collection, the best of the best, that you can sign up to receive monthly. Part of the proceeds from the Love Collection goes towards a youth literacy organization.

I’ve really enjoyed working with them because, even though my daughter and I read a lot, this has given me the opportunity to revisit some of my old favorites from childhood and from the classroom.

A New Series: Pedagogy Monday

If you have read my FAQs page you know that I was introduced to the Montessori Method by a friend of mine when my daughter was very young. I was very drawn to the ideas and principles of it because I was also reading a lot of parenting books in an attempt to feel more confident in raising my daughter. I had formed some opinons of and preferences for how to deal with children when working in the classroom, but I had zero experience working with babies and toddlers. Zero. I was terrified.

I hadn’t really considered much beyond our immediate needs- a baby/toddler environment, cloth vs. disposable diapers, and the like. However, the Montessori Method gave me an eye to the future. I began to evaluate our educational options and this opened a whole new line of research for me into educational philosophies, theories, and approaches.

Of course being a mother to a toddler and caring for our house and menagerie as well as keeping up on my professional community, I have a limited amount of time to devote to heavy, theoretical reading and research. That isn’t to say I have given up or don’t do it, just that it moves at a slower pace than I would like.

Which brings me to my new series of Monday posts: Pedagogy Mondays. I would like to discuss a variety of Montessori and Reggio-Emilia tenets, both what they are and what they mean and the practical application of them in our home. I would also like to discuss any other research that I do into brain development, other educational approaches (including revisiting Waldorf education), and child development. I would like to talk generally and specifically. I have a list of books that I am working my way through and I thought this might be a good place to share my notes, thoughts, and reading list.

November Restart

So, we had a little adventure over the last month that prevented me from following our regular routine and from blogging. Cam and I were out in Wyoming with my best friend helping her recover from a serious car accident. As a result we put everything here in California on hold and spent the majority of October and the first week of November out there. I felt very lucky to be in a position to help her out and we had a great time. Cam got to spend some time with a “big brother”, my friend’s 3.5 year old son, which was just a great experience for her. It was a really good visit despite the unfortunate reason for being there.

Now that we are back and getting into the swing of things I am just simply going to pick up where we left off. All the things I have set out for her will stay the same as will the books in the book bins. Hopefully, by next week I will really be back on track and will have several new posts to share. I have a new book shelf to show off that my handy husband made for us and some fun new books. Not to mention I’ve been reading up more on the Montessori Method (thank you David Gettman and my local public library) and been getting my act together to make a plan for researching what I want to do in terms of homeschooling and preschool.

Nursery Rhymes Update

A quick update on what we’ve been doing: Going along with our theme we did several finger rhymes “Where is Thumbkin?” (which I found to be little long), “Eensey Weensey Spider”, “Two Little Blackbirds” (which I was able to do with our awesome raven puppet), “Whoops! Johnny”, and “The Squirrel”. “Whoops! Johnny” was the favorite just because it’s loud and rather silly. To break the finger plays into more interesting bits I did one a day and plan on repeating them to her next week.

I also put together a fun activity tray (is that what you’d call it?). I had good intentions to pick out some nursery rhymes to go with it, but I did not end up having time. I did, however, leave it on a shelf in her room so she (or I) can choose to easily do it again.

Once a week we go to a German-language play group where we sing songs, count, and talk about animals, numbers and the like. This was a good tie-in with the colors we began learning so I was able to say the color in both English and German (and Arabic). I’m not sure she’ll really pick up the other languages, but it’s good exposure for her ear.

Nesting Cup Mania

Nesting cups have long been a favorite in our house. We have two sets that are designed for babies and while making dinner Monday night I realized I had a great set of measuring bowls that nest inside each other. I collected the three sets, covered my only other cookie sheet with a placemat, and placed the three nesting cup sets on the tray. It was a huge hit. Cam must have spent most of the day playing with the cups and carrying the different sets around. She also got a kick out of knocking over the towers I would make with them. While she has enjoyed mouthing, touching, and banging the cups for months now, but I noticed she has started studying them intently and (correctly) nesting them together.