Home schooling…. continued

So here we are, settling into our fifth year of homeschooling with our two children, now ages six and nine.  It is a revealing process to take a look back at the different levels and styles that we have tested, tried on, tossed out, waded through, or dived into.  It is clear that at different times and phases, different routines have worked better than others, but just like a shirt that becomes too limiting, these routines get tossed aside in favor of new colours and patterns.  The challenge for me lies in remaining unattached to the way I think learning suits my children, and allow for the readjusting of their own learning methods.  The fluctuations of these methods expands our ability to be adaptable and able to ingest information through our many senses and neurological pathways, many of which are still being developed in young brains.  Of course, there are foundational learning aptitudes that reside and dominate in every person, from active and reflective, sensing and intuitive, visual and verbal, and sequential and global  (from Felder and Soloman’s Learning Styles and Strategies ).  Knowing these natural learning styles in yourself and in your children is very helpful when considering the type of structure and routine that you may offer to your homeschooled children.  However, being open to the broadening scope and explorations of newly emerging learning styles throughout the growth of your children is imperative to their own understanding of themselves.  For instance, Taeven was a workbook enthusiast in the last few years, being happily fulfilled by completing a set number of pages many times a week.  In the last 6 months however, she has decided that she retains nothing from workbooks, and while I am sure that what she retains is not necessarily the information but the practice of absorbing directions and working out the answers through a certain style of thinking and deducing, she wants to move on to experiencial and sense activating styles.  So while workbooks make my life easy, I will be putting more energy into offering her activities that are hands-on and appeal to her physical realm of absorption.  Creating a learning environment that incorporates a wide range of learning styles helps the development of all these parts of our brains as we grow, and effectively opens the doors to the endless possibilities of understanding our world around us on many levels, including an increase of our own connection to the world.  This can be difficult in a class setting with one teacher versus many students, and can be overwhelming as one mother at home with domestic chores, house building projects, meals to make, food to grow, and kids to attend to.  The bonus for parents is that most of the time, these natural aptitudes are intuitive to us- we know our children and often don’t need to intellectualize their abilities.  We understand how they work (most of the time) and take care to figure out what works best for everyone, whether it is jump rope counting, fort building, workbooks, dance, knitting, creative flurries of paper and scissors, or roman aquaduct studies through a correspondance program.  Being able to acknowledge what we know intuitively can help us navigate through times of fluctuations and change – recognizing our children’s need to learn things in a new way, or recognizing that they are becoming dependent on learning in only one way, can help us switch gears and look for new opportunities.  Being aware of the various ways in which learning is absorbed can also provide ideas about new activities.  For example, we seem to focus a lot on music- by placing the subject of music, into the outlines of Felder and Soloman’s Learning Styles and Strategies , it broadens my awareness of the many ways in which music is presented and absorbed for both Taeven and Cedar, and to notice the different ways in which each of them most easily pick up certain concepts at different ages.  Taeven and Cedar absorb a lot about music just by listening, but we also take violin lessons which are taught by ear and by written notation, in private lesson environments as well as in groups,  exploring melodies, harmonies and rhythms, improvisations and scales.  We explore music from around the world, write our own songs, struggle with the idea of practicing, and learn that making mistakes is all a part of learning too.  Each of them connects with music more readily through certain ways, but by offering the full spectrum when we can, we seek to engage the many amazing ways in which we understand and integrate our intricate and beautiful world.


Respect for Nature – Sustainable Cooking Recipes

We are fortunate to have in our community and in our home schooling group a family that has given priority to the issue of local food security and organic practices for the health of the land and of our bodies.  They have been showing us, by methods of action and example, ways in which to honour this issue with joy, love and ease, and in celebration of earth’s bounty.  Food security issues can become causes of stress or paranoia, but the Kikuchi family, with 4 children from 2 to 11, have embraced the beauty of growing organic food with non-invasive methods as the linking puzzle piece to enjoying our full capacity for connecting our body, mind, and spirit back to wholeness.  Through personal journeys earlier in life, Sanae and Arthur have moved from Japan to come to live on this small island and establish a small farm with chickens, garden beds full of greens and annual vegetables as well as a plethora of perennial edibles that are planted, tended, and harvested by the whole family.  Recently, they have worked with their neighbors to produce a free recipe book for delicious meals from their local harvests, and inspiring thoughts on the important need for feeding ourselves from the ground we are personally connected to – either with our own hands or through the connection to our community.  I need not say much more – their own words and stories are beautiful and recipes delicious!  The document can be downloaded for free.


Enjoy!  Be inspired!  Pass it on.

Family Jam Camp!

Building a house certainly requires a lot of dedicated hard work, but it also requires the balancing scale of summertime camping trips and lakeside music jams.  Considering the many years of hard work it will take to actually complete the dreams we have for the property, we would probably exhaust ourselves early if it were not for the times that we take to stretch other parts of our bodies and relax our busy brains- besides, it would be a disservice to our children to get so worn out and stressed with constant attention to the house.

Last July, we had the great opportunity to join the Jam Camp family up at Mabel Lake, BC, started by a young family with whom we met and became friends with on Pender Island some 8 years ago.  Thomas and Celina, with their three children,  together with Celina’s sister Theresa and her family, host Jam Camp as the Jam Camp Society, a registered non-profit organization. Camps have been held primarily in the Mabel Lake Valley, British Columbia since 2003, using the Mabel Lake campground as well as providing camps on the Shuswap River, Bowen Island, Japan, and new this year at Christina Lake.  We took part in the camp designed for families with children under the age of 9.  For 4 days, we camped with the multinational crew of facilitators, and explored music that celebrates life, nature, and cultural diversity. There were  instruction sessions, in which we could sign up to learn to play the fiddle, banjo, guitar, or explore the rhythms of African drums.  We had group sessions in which we explored percussion instruments, shared our voices in song, and made clay whistles.  Each day, we met in smaller groups and focused on writing a song about our groups’ animal that we could share along with an art activity in a final lake side performance.  Colin and I offered to volunteer for some of the instructional times, teaching beginner banjo and fiddle, as well as help the group leaders with song writing and crafting.  Believe it or not, we still spent a few hours everyday swimming, canoeing, walking through the forests, or resting on the beach.  It was during these unstructured times that jams could happen and collaborations would manifest- adding the all important skill of creating music with someone else in the moment of flow.  The role of the facilitators is to create a space where as musicians they can collaborate with the participants in creating new, original and improvised music. During the collaboration process, creativity and expression are emphasized over perfection and precision, bringing a wholesome, integral, and lighthearted approach to music into a world that is steeped in high-profile and competitive music industries.  Where making music is a regular part of family and community life, there is an important value of equal creative contribution upheld for everyone- young, old, beginner, or professional.  It is a gift to be surrounded by a supportive group of musicians extending their skills and passions for sharing such universal expressions of connecting through sound.  The heartwarming embrace of Mabel Lake and the forests of hemlock and cedar give inspiration to the beauty and richness in the simplicity of ancient songs and new melodies.

We will be heading to Mabel Lake again this year in August to deepen friendships, create new ones, and find those places where melodies, harmonies, and rhythms intertwine and overlap in unique expression- sometimes exuberant, sometimes playful, sometimes quiet, but always an authentic step we can bring back with us into the journey of everyday.

To find out more, please take a look at Jam Camp’s website, www.jamcamp.org.  Dates, places, cost, and information about youth camps (we can’t wait to get into these camps in a few more years!).  Biographies of the musicians involved in the camps are worth reading through for a taste of the diversity of styles, skills, backgrounds, passions, and instrumentation.  There are just too many amazing stories and talents for me to go into here!

Pottery class

For 2 years so far, we have invited local Pender potter Nancy Silo to teach pottery to our Spring Leaves group.  She has successfully been able to integrate the abilities of a large age range with the projects of  slab construction bowls, and with creating tiles.  Both times, Nancy has taken us through the careful steps of working with the clay in such precise ways so that our pieces will make it through the drying and firing process in the kiln.  Everyone was given glazing choices, which made each piece very unique.  We worked with coating the undersides of the bowls and tiles with wax so that the glazes will keep the kiln clean, and we experimented with the possibilities of design and sculpture.  The children treated all the tools and the clay with such respect and careful attention, knowing that they were working on real pieces that would be usable and valued.  The tiles were made in April, in celebration of Earth Day.  Nancy’s idea was that we would decorate our tiles as a tribute to the environment, so our tables were piled with such treasures as leaves, feathers, shells, twigs, and anything else we could make a print with.  On Earth Day, when our tiles were finished, Nancy displayed them at the Farmers Market as an example of many small masterpieces making one whole, or, the collaborative efforts of individuals.  We hope that Nancy will be able to continue her participation with our group, bringing more inspiring creative opportunities using the rich textural qualities of clay.

Fresh apple juice

How many kids does it take to squeeze a few hundred pounds of apples in an afternoon?  How many litres does that make, divided by how many families, minus all that was drunken fresh from the spout?  well let’s see… I suppose that all equals a lot of fun and enthusiasm for celebrating the apples that grow up from the soil we stand on.

Our Spring Leaves group met with our friend George, to use his retro fitted apple press on a glorious fall day.  Retro fitted meaning that he updated the working parts of an old press that he found derelict and out of use.  We all got a lesson on putting it together, and on the steps involved in crushing and pressing.  There were plenty of jobs for everyone to get a chance to try out, requiring patience and teamwork from the youngest of our group to the adults.  First we load the apples into the small hopper box, then crank the wheel to turn the crusher below the hopper.  This sends the crushed apples through into the large barrel below.  When the barrel gets full, we place a lid on it, and then turn the handle above the hopper, which pushes down on the lid and squeezes the crushed apples.  Juice then begins to flow out the through the spaces in the barrel at the bottom, onto a stainless steel tray, and through a small hole into our catchment bowl below.  Then we empty out the dry apple pulp, and start again crushing apples into the barrel.  Each family brought containers to fill, and we all went home with 5 or 6 litres each of pure unpasturized juice, which we can freeze or can, plus as much apple pulp as we wanted for our composts or for our chickens.  It was heart warming to see the kids connect so easily to the process of transformation, from trees in our backyards to sweet golden juice in our mouths. 

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