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EarthSchooling 2016 Wrap (part 1 of 3)

20.9.16

September has been full steam ahead. There's been all sorts of changes, and I'm not even done with summer yet :(  How can it be the middle of the month already?
One thing that I want to wrap up is our EarthSchooling 2016. Oh what an adventure we had! I can honestly say that great fun was had by all, and I can't wait for next summer when the children are older.
What is EarthSchooling?
For us, ES was all about dedicating time to nature; honouring the seasons (specifically late spring & summer), nourishing the mind and body through play, AND most importantly, learning & enjoying our time with friends. Two days out of the week, the children and I spent our mornings outside. This meant that circle time, discussions and learning was done exclusively outside.

What did we do?
There is absolutely nothing unique about what we did. For me, the biggest challenge was with planning a curriculum of sorts, as there were specific things that I thought the children ought to learn, and skills I knew could be beneficial. Far from our relaxed routine, there was initially a sort of shock to the system, as the children, for the first time ever began learning formally.
So we were outside in this great space, and usually at home when circle time is over, they all run off to play. All of a sudden,  it wasn't like that anymore....there was focused play, and learning.
The amazing thing was, that being outside in nature helped to offset the tension of having to "do work". And, I mean work meant having to focus just a little bit- after all,we are talking about 2 & 3 year olds.

What was a Typical ES Day Like?
 The summer months were up and down weather-wise. Keeping in mind that the children only had a specific window of time to complete ES, some days we felt let down. Had it been chilly on some of those mornings we could have prevailed, but the rain? Nope, that wasn't happening. "But this is EarthSchooling", you say.  "Don't you run a nature-based program?" you ask. Yes! That's the truth.

The other truth is that little people need special care, and diaper changes and potty breaks. This year I believe they got the hang of it, and as the children grow, we will break more barriers, but sometimes you just have to know your limits, and stay home :) , and so we did on some of those rainy mornings.

But a typical day outside, was almost a mirror of what we do at home. After breakfast, we got all our gear together and headed over to our spot (a nice green space that we've sort of claimed as ours). We started the day with ‘circle’ -french songs, a bit of french vocabulary, as well as some stretching, dancing and jumping around. Generally, we read one short story, or made up our own, and I recited a short poem. We stuck with the same short poem all summer (I will share in next post).. I even attempted at using some of our Story Stones, that we made together.

Sometimes we would discuss the weather, and then we would focus on the main lesson (bees, fungi, the life cycle of butterflies, symmetry (in nature), how/why animals or insects camouflage, using our 5 senses in nature etc).

Head Hearts & Hands (&) Fun!
Although we are not exclusively Waldorf, I love various aspects of the philosophy. One thing that I try to connect in my daily rhythm, and lesson is the phrase "head, heart, and hands". Every aspect of our learning engaged the children's many abilities and senses.
We painted, collected items from nature, created a journal, shared with friends and learned new skills like jumping, hopping, skipping, gardening, sensory imaginative play, and so on. We also went on some field trips, which allowed the children to simply explore - I think the bus ride was always the best part.

The children were also given some blank pieces of paper for drawing/recording whatever they saw (or whatever they wanted). Even at the age of 2, the children, when asked to draw an object, had in their minds exactly what the object looked like and, how they wanted to transfer those ideas onto paper. Never underestimate the abilities of a young child.

One thing that I noticed was the range of skills, abilities, and curiosity among the children. The respect from individuality was not lost, and their uniqueness made it interesting, as I was forced to try to teach using various methods and techniques.

A funny assignment that we did was a Nature Swap (I am laughing aloud right now thinking about that day). I asked the children to collect 5 items...(as many as the fingers that they had on one hand), and put the items in their buckets to trade with friends later. Ha ha, that seemed like a simple instruction. Some were sure they had more than 5 fingers on one hand, while others couldn't remember anything past the word "hand". It was the funniest, cutest thing ever.
On top of that, they mostly collected rocks and pine-cones. Then became the sorting of the mess of which rock belonged to whom and "what are we doing again"? It was the best day ever!

Looking Back
I may be super organized (or just look that way) in all things homeschooling, but when it comes to my library books, sorting photos and preparing for informative blog posts, it's a different story. I wish I'd recorded all the books we looked at (those from the library). It was hard to keep up, and every book was held on to for waaay too long. This is one thing I will better prepare myself for next year.
I can honestly say that the library makes a pretty sum just off my over-due books - sometimes they even call to remind me that said books need to be returned *it's shameful*.

My virtual life is no better. I tend to capture so many photos that I get lost and overwhelmed when the time comes to post pics on the blog, especially when dealing with a particular subject.
Looking back on our ES, I wish that I could have captured more of what we did. I think it would have been a great visual note. On the other end, the children were learning wholeheartedly - there's not a camera that can really capture that.

I was am racking my brain, trying to figure out how to highlight the most important parts of what we did in EarthSchooling, but the fact is, the fun parts cannot be illustrated or truly captured on these pages. In essence, the bits and pieces belong to the children, as (I know) they had their own experiences in those few 8 weeks.

I am so grateful to be on THIS journey with these little people. They did a great job...I love to see them learning and applying what they learn.

Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3...

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“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank…but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child.”
~ Forest Witcraft

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