Monday, May 16, 2011

They've Gone About As Far as They Can Go

The university arts conservatory in our city recently put on a spectacular student production of Oklahoma! We'd been preparing for it by listening to the original Broadway soundtrack nonstop for the past 700 years few months and N. loved the music.  He was really excited for the performance, his first theater experience (not counting ballet and modern dance).  The production goal was to reproduce the original performance from 1943 to the letter, including the original choreography, set design, etc.  The principals even flew to New York to meet with the original performers who are still living.

I am not generally a big fan of musicals, but this was an incredible experience and it was so fun to share it with N., who just beamed at all his favorite songs.  We splurged on good seats only a few rows from the stage, and he was completely absorbed in the whole three-hour show.  He's been poring over the program ever since, and asked for the sheet music so he can learn to play the songs on the piano.  This was a fabulous introduction to the magic of theater!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Unschool Record-Keeping

Our state requires very little record-keeping of homeschoolers; we have to record attendance (!) and preserve (but not report) the results of a yearly nationally administered standardized test of our choosing.  That's it.  I'd like, however, to keep more extensive track of what N. is learning.  This blog is one way to do that, along with reading lists and paper files of his number and writing exercises.  But I wanted a daily record too.  During N.'s kindergarten year, Tim experimented with keeping a log of the day's activities, topics of conversation, and ideas explored in a running Word document but his standards for this were too high and it quickly became a burden to craft a daily narrative report each evening; the log was abandoned.  We needed to come up with a simple and efficient method.  

We don't organize the day's activities by traditional academic subjects because we like to stress the interconnected nature of learning, that one learning experience can encompass history, math, reading, social studies, etc., so the homeschool record notebooks you can buy with subject categories wouldn't work for us.  I liked Melissa Wiley's "Rule of Six" as a way of thinking categorically about a day's learning without being bound by arbitrary academic subject distinctions so in September I made up a notebook (above picture, left) of pages with five categories cribbed from Melissa: "Meaningful Work, Imaginative Play, Living Books, Ideas to Ponder and Discuss, Encounters With Beauty."  Tim dutifully wrote in the notebook every day, so it was successful in the sense that it actually got used.  But he chafed at the categories, which sounded cool (to me) but did not organically arise from our family rhythms.  So in January I gave up on that format and offered a small, plain notebook instead; now he happily makes a quick daily list (above picture, right) without any fancy categories.  For example:
Wed. April 27, 2011
  • Chapter in Madame Curie, "Four Years in a Shed" about the isolation of radium
  • drawing
  • writing sentences about the Curies
  • reading aloud
  • Proper and common nouns discussed and demonstrated
  • tornado warnings -- talked about twisters
  • piano practice
  • long walk
The moral of the story is: simple is better (for us), and other people's systems, neat though they are, are just that -- other people's.