Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New School Year (2008)


* This was originally distributed to my family in 2008 *

Dear Family,
Since it has been so hard to get everyone together in one place, I want you to have this letter in advance of Harpo and Zeppo's new home school year. It will summarize the academic themes, projects and activities we will be engaged in, the objectives for Harpo and Zeppo as well as specific areas and activities that we will NOT be doing in order to better balance their skills and academic levels for their ages.

To preface the following, I have just completed several teleconferences, email exchanges, and research with teachers at Global Village School. Together we have evaluated the boys on their LEARNING STYLES. These, along with results from homeschooling with Justin last year have given us a perspective of the boys that will lets us present to/teach them in a way that is fun, encouraging, non-stressful and allows for maximum retention and skill building.

I will post the “Learning Style Profile” for each Harpo and Zeppo. Knowing their style is helpful in your engagement with each of them so that it is compatible and complimentary to the curriculum and teaching style that I employ with them each day. Additionally, there are specific activities that we should stop doing with Harpo and Zeppo as it comes potentially in conflict with objectives for the following school year.

Themes for this year are:
California History, The Earth, Our Traditions, Music, Spy-Training, and Stories of Our Childhood
Activities & Projects: Visit the California Missions, make models of things in Nature, visit worship places of different religions, movies, songs, and games
The basic “School Day” for Justin & AJ will generally be the following:
Morning: 15 mins to 30 mins of “Circle Time”
(More detail on Curriculum that I will post)
Day: Majority of day will be Creative/Active Play.
(I will set stage to guide the play to cover specific academic subjects each week. Again, detail will be posted)
Afternoon: 30 mins to 1 hour of “Production”
(Series of art projects, worksheets and other activities)
Evening: More Creative/Active Play

Things to Avoid:
Harpo ** No more drilling of math problems! ** Harpo is starting to show anxiety over the constant drilling of math. Instead of more worksheets, we will be reinforcing math concepts through APPLICATION. This will include cooking, age appropriate budgeting and money management, CD-ROM games and Board Games.

Zeppo ** No more arbitrary quizzing! ** Zeppo tends to give “joke” answers to questions you ask him. He plays at getting the answer wrong because of an underlying anxiety about really giving the wrong answer. Instead, we will focus on learning through archetypes during this year. This means telling lots of stories, with fairytales and poems. Then we can use these stories to illustrate values and example to follow in daily life.

At this age, drilling them on details outside of a larger more engaging context risks causing distaste of or anxiety over learning those details, thus rendering them insignificant. When the boys learn by doing and engage in the application of academic concepts in practice, they will effortlessly intuit the rules.

Getting Involved –
The nice thing about homeschooling children this age is that learning comes easily and naturally to them. Because of that, teaching should come easily and naturally. At this age, the boys will learn and gain a tremendous degree of skill just from “hanging out” with adults as we do our daily routine and perform our normal household tasks. So the best way to help with homeschooling and get involved is just to have them help or watch you anytime it is convenient or opportune.
Example: Washing the Car – a variety of academic skill can be learned and applied in this activity. Language Arts can be applied by having Harpo read the instructions on the car wash soap bottle. Math concepts are applied when mixing the soap bucket. Science/Scientific Method is applied in learning the process and steps involved in washing the car. Confidence can be instilled and reinforced by allowing for mistakes and overages. Luckily there is plenty of opportunity to wash cars each week here, so there is ample opportunity to practice all the applications. Skills, patience, confidence and pride in one’s work can be taught and reinforced every time the kids help with car washes.

Games – The curriculum for both boys includes the use of board games and cd-roms. All these games were chosen for specific application of age appropriate academic skills in Math and Reading. In the beginning, the boys may not have the patience or attention span to sit through a whole game, or even long enough to read the instructions on how to play. Over time, the boys will engage in the games and initiate strategies on their own. All is an appropriate part of the brain development process for their age. Anytime that is convenient and opportune for you to play with them is welcome. Play should be free and flexible, letting the boys grow accustomed to the rigors or rules for each game at their own pace over the next few weeks and months.

Following Harpo Lead:
Although Zeppo's Kindergarten curriculum is from the more structured “Oak Meadows Kindergarten Syllabus,” Harpo on the other hand will continue with his “open” curriculum. This means that I am given a very basic foundation of skills to cover and must take Harpo's lead in more detailed or enhanced subjects.

For example, Justin wanted to know how to clone himself. I took this opportunity to embark on a Paper Mache project to create a physical clone of Harpo out of stuffed paper. Complimentary to this, we read books/websites or watch TV shows/DVDs on genetics and DNA. When Harpo is engaged and interested in a subject he has an almost superhuman ability to absorb and retain information.

If Justin expresses an interest in something to you, please let me know and I will pull resources and launch projects to fulfill his curiosity on that subject.

Same-Age Socialization –
To expose the boys to more children their own age, we plan on enrolling them in gymnastics, karate and some kind of team sports like flag football or pee wee baseball.

Socialization is more than just hanging out with kids their own age. A larger part of proper social education is learning to engage people of all ages. This means knowing how to speak to older children and adults in a respectful and proper way, as well as being patient and helpful to children younger than themselves, learning not to interrupt and other basic social skills that we all reinforce in our normal daily engagement with the boys. So, while we want to point out when the boys behave improperly toward you and others, we also want to make sure that we acknowledge when they do behave respectfully, positive reinforcement being a much more effective way to teach and reinforce good behavior.

At this age and at this stage in their education, it is NOT imperative that they are conditioned to follow the same rules of behavior that are required in a conventional school classroom setting. Conformity to this extent will come with maturity and will coincide with our plan to put both boys back into conventional schools around age 9-10 or Fourth Grade.

Thanks for all your love and support!
- Chris

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