Saturday, October 31, 2015

Learning Review: Kumon Practice Books

Workbooks and worksheets get a bad rap as mindless, rote busywork intended only to occupy  kids and give adults a break.  In my few years of living with a homeschooling mindset, workbooks have found their place in our learning and I owe a lot of it to Kumon Practice Books.  In the beginning of trying to teach your child anything there always seems to be at least one large panic point, where you fear your child is waaaay behind and it is all your fault.  That was the point in the journey with my oldest where I tried out Kumon's 'My First Book of TRACING' and discovered the very gradual nature of learning we often ignore or forget about.  Especially at young ages, this learning isn't a race or full of legitimate deadlines.  Learning is a process that we feed. describes the Kumon method like this:

"Kumon workbooks are based on the "Kumon Method", an educational philosophy that aims at unlocking the full learning potential of each individual child. The Kumon Method introduces learning concepts in an incremental, step-by-step approach, allowing children to master new skills easily and without anxiety or frustration. As a result, children gain confidence in their abilities and are motivated to learn on their own."

What I loved:  
The illustrations are fun and vibrant with color.  There are a variety of subjects and age levels available.  There are clear, yet flexible age suggestions that makes it easy to determine its appropriateness for my needs.  Price has been reasonable for a supplemental resource.  Most importantly, every page builds on the last, making the skill building gradual and fun!

What it lacks
There could be a better mix of games and writing practice as well as a larger number of games in the mix.  Repetitive practice is important at certain skill levels, but a greater variety could be used to better engage the fast-paced learner.

During the preschool years with my oldest, no matter what curriculum we were using, we would invariably get bogged down every 3 or 4 weeks (at least).  Taking a break with one of these books always provided us with the change of pace we needed while laying foundation for another important skill.  My son always celebrated and thought he was being rewarded when I pulled a Kumon book out!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Treehouse Adventures: Live. Love. Explore. Together.

A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house.
A street house, a neat house,
Be sure to wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all- 
Let's go live in a tree house. 
― Shel SilversteinWhere the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein

Have you ever had a treehouse adventure?  There's something magical and exciting about the feeling you get as you're about to embark on this grand, albeit pretend, concoction of whims and problem solving.  Sometimes it's clouded in secrecy or surprise.  Other times it is a battle you fight with comrades.  In every case it is something that brightens your spirit and strengthens your roots.  I've discovered that this special place and feeling is what I want my family to experience regularly when we're together.  

Checking out a fuzzy caterpillar.

I want our family to be a free, secret you and me, cozy as can be house where we can all find the things we need from each other.  A tree house away from the hard world where we play, regroup, have heart to hearts and prepare for the battle ahead.  When personalities clash or down time is crowded out by schedules, families find it hard to connect and enjoy each other.  Like so many other things, if we don't set out to intentionally create a vibrant spirit that binds us to each other, it isn't likely to develop easily on it's own.  With our time sucked into electronics, meetings, umteen practices or events separate and way from our family, there is little time to invest in each other the way we were designed to - the way we need to.

The spirit/vibe/nature/dynamic of our family effects us the rest of our days.  Being a part of this family will mean more and more every year.  The impact on others will sink deeper and deeper, like a vine gaining strength the further it goes.  I think that is worth getting it right, don't you?  

So we have begun Treehouse Adventures.  We might not necessarily say it out loud, but every time we go on a trip, take a walk to visit the horses, read books together or even take on the most mundane projects together, we are investing in our family, every one investing in each other.  I know that a lot of families and communities do stuff like this all the time, but perhaps never label it as anything.  Doing things together is what's most important, but I think verbally and outwardly acknowledging it to each other highlights the importance and value of it all.  

There are many complaints about the deterioration of the family and communities that value one another.  We complain that our spouse/children/friends aren't filling our needs or taking part in our lives.  We complain about poverty and crime.  We complain.  And then we go right back to our phones or televisions and expect the change to come from somewhere else.  I'm guilty of this all the time.  But our families are the first place we will learn from.  If we're demonstrating and nonverbally advocating disconnection, then so much is lost before it has had a chance to start.  We should not and shall not ever get rid of distractions and sources of disconnection, but intentionally seeking treehouse adventures within your friends and family life helps us to make good use of the connected opportunities we do have.

Life is so hard sometimes in so many ways.  Let's bring more good into our families, our marriages, our moments and experiences - overcome the evil with good!  What does your treehouse adventure look like today?