Years ago, I worked as an intern at SCICON Outdoor School (aka “The Clemmie Gill School of Science and Conservation”) in the foothills of eastern Tulare County, CA. In fact, it was where I met my husband, Adam. It was a FANTASTIC experience. Seriously life changing.
For one school year I worked 10-12 hour (or more) days, hiking around in the woods, leading instructional trails, teaching 6th grade kids all about science and nature by putting them in contact with real live, hands-on learning. It was a BLAST! And I was never in better shape, both physically and mentally! You can’t help but be that healthy when you are hiking that much every day and your backyard is the woods and a robust gurgling creek and your neighbors are a wide assortment of wildlife! It was A-MAZ-ing.
But don’t get me wrong…it was also VERY HARD. Did you notice I said 10-12 hour days of WORK? Yes. And often longer. Because the program went into the night. The trails…Skytrail/plant & animal communities, quartz mine/geology, birding, aquatics, astronomy/planetarium, and more…ended before nightfall but then the evening activities began. Campfire, Night hikes, Astronomy, Folk Dance, and Cabin Challenges filled our evenings…not to mention when you had the duty of being the “Village Chief”, in charge of an entire village full of cabins full of children for 24 hours during weekdays (usually 100-150 6th graders plus a dozen or so teen counselors…and yes, there were occasions when you were awaken at night by sick or homesick kids.)
Nearly every night of my 10 months at SCICON I would fall, exhausted into my bed…especially when it was my turn to be “Skytrail” guide….
Skytrail was the toughest trail: an all-day trail because it was 2 and a half miles one way, gaining 1500 feet in elevation! But it was SO worth it as the view from the top was amazing! (And you got to see the hermit’s cabin and flagpole…the stuff of legends! All the kids raved about it!) And then you still had to come back down!! Imagine doing that with a trail group of 10-15 whiny kids and a couple teen counselors! Yeah…not an easy task, lemme tell ya!
And as Skytrail guide, you did that 2-3 times a week! We loved it but it was HARD! (I even had some crazy friends that did half day trips and did double Skytrail days where they did 2 runs in one day sometimes! They were NUTS, I tell ya!! LOL! But we did have some series nature freaks in our group, LOL!)
I canNOT say enough about this program! I LOVED it. And learned SO MUCH! About myself, about teaching, about nature, science, and especially about leading. It forced me out of my comfort zone in so very many ways. I am very grateful for my experiences there.
ANYWAY…this year SCICON had their first ever reunion of interns and staff! It was SO MUCH FUN!! For 4 days we got to hang out with people I’ve not seen in nearly 20 years! And meet people that worked at SCICON from so many years, all the way back to the 70s!! People traveled to the reunion from all over the U.S.! Friends of mine came from Colorado, Idaho and Alaska! Other people came from other states…and I even heard of another woman there that came all the way from Argentina! That’s how much SCICON means to people! We all are bonded by our deep connection with this AMAZING place we all love!
It was so neat to reconnect with people I worked with at SCICON and meet their families! We had SO MUCH FUN!! They did a lot of the same fun activities that we used to do when we all worked there…campfire, night hikes (sadly, we got there too late the first night to participate in this), folk dance/line dancing, hermit story, and hiking! Of course we hiked! We even went up Skytrail! Well…my daughter and I did…my son got sick just as we were getting ready to head up…and my hubby was already not feeling well so they stayed below and my 15yr old and I made it to the top. Great workout! We were quite sore afterwards, but it was a good sore! Hiking in nature never feels like a chore to me, not like exercising at home.
Below are the pics from our FANTASTIC adventure at SCICON!! I seriously hope they do it again because it was SUCH an amazing experience that we all were saying that they HAVE to do it again!
My kids definitely benefited from being out in nature. They transform every time we are able to get out of the city and out into nature. It reminds me every single time we are able to do it that I NEED to do this more. I need to make time to get them out of our concrete jungle and out to explore nature, out to breathe in the fresh air and climb trees and play in the water and find the crawling critters and identify the flying things, and marvel at the adorable critters and wonder at every rock and plant…because THIS is what learning is. THIS is how to feed your soul. And we don’t do it anywhere near enough.
My soul was definitely fed during this return to SCICON, as it is every time we visit. And my children just love exploring nature, just like their mama. Definitely education at it’s finest.
I still have such warm fuzzy feelings…from the nature experience and from the time with friends, old and new. Can’t wait to do it again!
Recently articles about this Stanford research keep popping up in my news feed. It says we’re sending our kids to school too early. And that it is possibly why we have such a huge amount of attention deficit disorder later.
And they talk about how this isn’t the case in other countries, where kids aren’t sent to school until later.
Denmark is one example. And they make mention at the end that kids in Denmark have access to “reasonably good pre-kindergarten” (Denmark’s universal preschool)…and that this is “woefully lacking” in the U.S. This was interesting to me as preK in the U.S., more often than not, tends to include academics. So I looked up what Danish preschool is like.
Scandinavian preschools are heavy on the play and self-directed learning…
So Danish kids are nearly all in preschool from an early age…but it’s play based, developmentally appropriate…and they don’t start school until a whole year after our kids in the U.S. do…and they have significantly less issues …possibly because of it.
At the end of the article:
One interesting hypothesis is posed: did attending school later allow kids more time to develop through unstructured play? Developmental psychology researchemphasizes the importance of imaginative play in aiding children’s emotional and intellectual self-regulation. “Children who delay their school starting age may have an extended (and appropriately timed) exposure to such playful environments,” the study noted.
If it’s true that the extra time for unstructured play is what is causing the huge difference in numbers of attention deficit…it appears that Denmark, and countries with similar practices, really GET child development. The U.S….not so much.
So the research again and again says that it’s a mistake to push academics early…And yet our nation keeps pushing kids into academics earlier and earlier. What we adults learned as children is being taught in younger and younger grades these days! We’ve all noticed it.
And so some of us homeschool.
And then what do we read ALL. OVER. Homeschool groups. On social media. EVERY. FLIPPING. DAY??
(No joke. Just about every day!)
“What’s the best curriculum for a 3 year old?”
(Or insert some other inappropriately young age for academic work.)
Or some other similar question about getting started on academic work with a toddler or preschooler.
This drives me absolutely BONKERS, how common this question comes up and how many many MANY responses come in with resources to curricula and printables to use with littles. Mountains of it. Because there’s a huge market for it. Because parents don’t get how inappropriate it is.
Don’t believe me?
I have a Bachelor’s in child development, and this stuff was DRILLED. Into. My head. Throughout. My education. But don’t take my word for it. Do your own research on early childhood development.
Their website is stuffed with info, so a bit overwhelming…I recommend clicking on the “For Families” link at the top, which will take you to the section geared towards families with young children. Lots to explore there…I especially recommend the section called “Topics,” lots of great articles there.
But make sure to check out the “What to look for in a program” link. Also the “Signs of quality” link. They talk about what a quality preschool program looks like. This can give you ideas for what you can create in your home.
Notice there is NO MENTION of lots of academic work. No worksheets or workbooks, no seat work, no structured academic curriculum. NONE.
The curriculum NAEYC advocates for early childhood is PLAY BASED. Hands on, enriching, life learning, because THAT is what is developmentally appropriate for this age group. And their website is chock full of ideas for how to appropriately fill your child’s life with age appropriate, quality learning, so DIG IN!! Check out the teacher sections for activity ideas too!
Break something apart (old toasters or other appliance…thrift stores are great for this!)
And THEN, maybe learn how to write the letters of their name. And after that is accomplished…then work on building their name in the correct order with those letters. But do it as a game…Maybe start with the fridge magnets. Sidewalk chalk outside…you writing their name on their drawings and paintings. Keep it casual. No direct instruction, just FUN! No correction if they try and do it wrong. Leave it be.
Your goal for the early years should be to fill their life with ENRICHING EXPERIENCES for them to draw upon later…which will later lead to them having a frame of reference as they dive into academics when it IS developmentally appropriate!
And another great thing I learned, which Bev Bos is a huge advocate of (early childhood guru and NAEYC member, based in the Sacramento area where I went to school) is to frequently carry a clipboard and ask your child to “Tell me your story.”Have them dictate their many stories they will have inside them. This promotes early literacy, and shows them how important their words are, and the value of writing them down, as you can read them back to them for years to come!
Also have them tell you the stories of their drawings. Maybe not every one…but as often as they feel inclined. Write it right on the drawing, with their permission. Always ask permission…it shows respect for their work. And ask where is ok to write it. They may prefer it on a separate sheet of paper. That’s ok too. Follow their lead.
Speaking of Bev Bos…you have to watch this video of her. She has some truly excellent things to say about young kids:
Some great quotes from the video:
Interviewer: When we talk about child development, what are the basics?
Bev: People talk about reading, and writing and arithmetic being the basics. [shaking head] Those are very complex processes…and they have to be based on the basics. You have to have the basics first! Then you can do what people call the basics. The number one basic for everybody on this planet is wonder. Children are born with it….Then, the second basic is discovery. Everybody needs to discover it on their own. That’s an environmental issue. We need to establish environments where kids can do the discovering on their own…The experiences have to be real and they have to be authentic.
If it isn’t natural, relevant to the child and physical…we forget ’bout 99% of what we just learned.
Interviewer: When you look around your school, what are the most important things you look for?
Bev: [No hesitation whatsoever] It’s experience. Experiences to attach words to. And your ownexperiences to attach words to. You know, experience is notthe best teacher, its the only teacher!
Talking about things we need in an early childhood learning environment:
Kids need to make their own dolls, they need to make their own things. They need loose parts. Pipes….rocks and stones. Water. Things to manipulate. Blocks. All math concepts are worked out in blocks.
The other thing that I think is so infinitely important about young children…what we have to understand about them is that when they’re young, learning is like this [arms wide] they have to use too much! It has to be way out there. Too much paint before they can narrow it down and paint a picture they have to have too much paint. Too much shaving cream. Too much of everything. Things have to run over.
So, as you can see…there’s no place for worksheets and force-fed learning. It’s all about hands-on, REAL LIFE experiences for this age group, or they aren’t getting anything out of it. For real.
For early childhood, play IS their curriculum.
It’s how they learn.
So stop stressing about whether they know their colors, their shapes, their letters, their numbers, and on and on and on…they’ll get there. This stuff isn’t rocket science. And unless they have some actual developmental delays, I guarantee they’ll learn most if not all of this as they play anyway. So STOP. STRESSING!
Just enjoy the play stage!
Because soon enough you’re going to be up to your eyeballs in reading and math curriculum and you’re going to truly miss the days of just building forts and making mud pies! TRUST ME!!
And comfort yourself in knowing that what you are doing IS DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE!!!
It really is! I’m not pulling your leg! Read all the articles I’ve linked above! And if you need more proof, here’s some more:
*NOTE: 5/22/16 Updated to reflect recent changes to Periscope and the loss of Katch (site that used to archive Periscope videos that I previously mentioned in this post. Katch has since shut down, so I removed info about them from this post.)
If you haven’t yet, you HAVE to go check this app out!
It’s only been out since March, so it’s still a baby…and most people still are learning about it.
But it’s truly awesome, you guys! The possibilities are absolutely ENDLESS here. And as homeschoolers, we have a LOT to be excited about in the education realm with this thing.
But let me back up.
Periscope is a streaming video app that allows users to broadcast or watch streaming video. Ok, what’s so new about that, you ask? Well, it’s easy peasy with the features of your smart phone and the app…making it possible for ANYONE to gain a huge audience and make a statement, share their world, educate a population, entertain, any way they like. Limited only by their imagination.
And the viewers have the ease of popping on and off broadcasts all over the world at any moment of any day. All day. Every day.
AND…viewers get to interact via text comments with the broadcasters, so you can ask questions real time of the broadcaster and HEAR and SEE them answer. REAL TIME.
This has been possible in other formats before, but not with the simplicity this app allows.
And if you like what the broadcaster is saying and doing, you, the viewer, give them, the broadcaster, feedback by tapping the screen to show them love by giving them hearts:
Big deal, you say?
Why do I want to see what people are eating or watch teenagers whine about their lives? Well sure…there are, as always with the Internet, plenty of people using Periscope in dumb, useless ways…
There are also growing numbers of people discovering ways to use Periscope in AMAZING WAYS!!
Take, for example, Julie Bogart of the infamous writing curriculum Brave Writer.
Julie has been a pioneer for homeschoolers on Periscope, scoping daily, sometimes multiple times a day, about education and homeschool related topics! You can catch her archived scopes on her YouTube channel. (FYI, she’s still uploading her archived videos…they used to be on a site called Katch, which recently shut down, so she’s got a ton of videos that she’s slowly working on batch adding to her YouTube channel now…so, depending on when you are reading this, there may not yet be a ton up there yet.)
She does GREAT scopes! Very inspirational! Go check her out! You don’t need the app to watch the videos on her YouTube channel!
I should mention that Periscope broadcasts, or “scopes”, are only live on Periscope for 24 hours and then they are gone…UNLESS the user puts #save in their title. (This is a new feature.)
Another option is to have the app automatically save your videos to your phone (available in Periscope “settings”, and then you can upload to YouTube or your website or wherever you choose. But unless you set this up ahead of time…in 24 hours, your video is GONE GONE GONE, so make sure that if you are scoping and you want to save your videos, you figure that out BEFORE your video disappears!!
But lets get back to the glorious possibilities with homeschooling and Periscope, shall we?
Like Julie, many people are using Periscope to educate others…on any topic under the sun. I follow many business related scopes that help me learn better ways to improve my blogging and business…and there’s a bunch of homeschool related scopes helping homeschool moms learn how to improve their homeschooling too! Often this is simply just a person talking to you via their phone and answering questions as people type them to them in the comments. You’d be amazed how informative this can be! Especially when the presenter is a particularly good presenter! I’ve learned a lot already, and I’ve only just started on Periscope a few weeks ago!
This ability to have free, in your hand, any minute of every day, your own little classroom, to learn an unending stream of fascinating and inspiring information..is just…in the words of the 9th Doctor (for my fellow Doctor Who fans…spoken in my best Christopher Eccleston voice) FANTASTIC!!!
But the really unique thing about Periscope…and the thing that interests me the most currently, because of the possibilities to share the world of cool things with my kids…are the scopes that are live on location somewhere interesting in the world…
I’ve seen live broadcasts from the beach where we were watching wild otters, the African savanna watching wild animals in a watering hole, a walking tour of the streets of Rome where viewers were given the choice of going to see the Trevi fountain or the Spanish steps (we chose the fountain), a balcony in a home in Paris overlooking the city, the inside of an exhibit in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a neighborhood temple in Japan, and on and on….just really neat stuff! And all along the way, people are asking questions of the broadcaster, and they are answering those questions, LIVE.
I’m told there are also many artists and musicians that scope regularly…I’ve just not yet discovered them.
So you can see why I’m so excited about this app!
It’s absolutely mesmerizing!
Anyone with a smartphone can get the free app and set up an account…Then you will want to start looking for people to follow.
I recommend starting with @bravewriter and @andie_nicole32 …Andie is a neat young woman that works at the Monterey Bay Aquarium here in California that I recently discovered regularly scopes from her workplace…showing aquatic animals and answering questions live from her viewers! My son particularly loves that he gets to hear his personal questions answered and he knows that the next time we go to the aquarium (it’s not far from us) we are going to try to meet Andie in person!
To find more great people to follow, head on over to HomeschoolScopes.tv, which is a Facebook group of homeschool scopers! There’s plenty of scopes to choose from over there! And the ladies there regularly share each other’s scopes, so if you decide to try your hand at scoping, be sure to post so they can share yours too!
I’m in the process of gathering a list of educational scopes to create a webpage…so far it’s still difficult finding all the good educational scopes because everything is still so new and not many organizations have discovered Periscope yet, so there’s not a huge list to share yet. But here’s a couple more: @gerryvanderwalt is a wildlife photographer in South Africa that’s got some pretty cool scopes in the wilds of Africa…@pandiapress is the curriculum publisher, Kate Johnson, who just started scoping about her curriculum…@justjamerrill is the homeschool mom from FreeHomeschoolDeals.com and she has some sweet scopes with her kiddos, plus good tips about all sorts of things homeschoolers can benefit from….@melissawiley is the children’s book author and homeschool mom of 6 that is just cute as a button and scopes about books….and @amymilcic is another adorable homeschool mom that does lots of homeschool scopes as well as casual mom scopes that are a hoot. So check all those out, to get you started!
Oh and, of course, add my account, @homeschoolrealm to your list…I plan to have all sorts of things I’ll be scoping about eventually, and I will post my videos to My Periscope YouTube Playlist, so you can still watch my videos after they are gone from Periscope. I had a lot of fun with my first scope about picture books that give me goosebumps, they’re that good…Here it is:
I really want to do more, I had a lot of fun with that…I just haven’t had time to do another scope since that one. But I will do some again soon! I really need to get a tripod though…
I forgot to mention the reason you want to follow people….you get a notification whenever that person goes live! Then you can pop on (if you’re available) and join in, live, in their scope! That’s the most fun! But if you miss it, you can always catch the replay later….you just won’t be able to participate in the chat.
So that’s the basics of Periscope!
One word of warning, though…Periscope is NOT kid friendly in the sense that you won’t want your kids unsupervised on there. There are no filters for language or video content. Anyone can type anything or video ANYTHING. They do have rules, but there’s no way currently for them to prevent anything, only punish after the fact…so, yes, you can imagine what could potentially be said or shown. And it is.
So don’t allow children to access this app without adult supervision.
What I do is make sure that I have screened the scoper ahead of time, so I know that they are appropriate for my child to view/listen to. Then I turn off the chat while we watch so that my child won’t catch any trolls that might type inappropriate comments. So far it’s worked well for us.
Let me know in the comments below what you think of Periscope and if you have any favorite scopers! I’d love to learn more!
I shared the state of our school room/art area/”Big room” last post…That actually hasn’t changed yet.
So today I want to talk about overwhelm.
You know the feeling. I know you do. You can’t be a mom in America and not me intimate with the feeling.
But I feel like homeschoolers in particular are familiar with this feeling because the weight of our children’s futures are weighing on us. More so than those that trust others to educate their children.
We know that WE are it.
And therefore we cannot screw this up. And lest we forget (we never, ever do), there’s usually plenty of friends and family that will point this fact out to us. Kindly or otherwise. Indirectly or straight out. It’s never far from our thoughts, like it or not.
And don’t forget that there’s still the house to deal with, the finances (directly or indirectly, depending on your family…in ours my husband brings in primary income but I supplement, as many of us do…and we both worry over things getting paid), the responsibilities of social activities and enrichment activities for kids (and hopefully you too!) and all the other things that come up in life you don’t plan for.
It’s a LOT.
Overwhelm is just kind of a given. And it’s ridiculous.
I just don’t accept this. Life just doesn’t have to be this way. I reject this lifestyle. I deliberately do not over schedule my children. I deliberately do not do a zillion activities…and yet the few things I do insist we do to enrich our lives keep encroaching on our happiness and making me feel like I can’t breathe!
Should I drop them all? No, I don’t think so.
I do continue to look for ways to drop things I can and I say no constantly to new things (mostly because we cannot afford them, but also to not add more to our plates)…but I really think my problem is more mismanagement.
I suck at planning and follow through. Seriously.
Probably because over the summer I have no other commitments. I can focus entirely on just the Purge & Clean. But that’s just not possible the rest of the year.
So I will have to find a way to pull what works for me from the Purge & Clean and tweak it to fit my life the rest of the year. And make a working plan.
Areas for focus (no particular order):
Mealtimes–need a plan for planning and prep, since I detest every aspect of meals. Delegate where possible. Kids like to help. Just need to plan ahead.
Homeschooling–My Experience-Based Learning system works well for us but needs me to make time for planning and I just haven’t made time for this this year so it’s been seriously half-assed. Time to find a way to simplify and fix this. There has to be a way I can make this work better with how my life currently is.
Family Time–I am so busy trying to accomplish all the need-to-dos, that I just don’t make time for quality time together…just the 4 of us. This has to change.
Work time for me–this is getting better because of my time during the kids’ enrichment classes…but those are ending soon and time will need to be carved out again from our regular home days.
Kids’ play time with friends–classes ending means I will have to figure out a way for them to still have friend time
Podcast time–this has been a bottom priority for far too long
Adam and me time–need more time spent focusing on quality time for just the 2 of us
House management–not as bad as it used to be…kids help a lot more, but I need to delegate more kitchen duties and we need more general tidy up times and weekend deep cleans as a whole family. Schedule it in. That’s the hard part. We suck at schedules.
Money management–huge source of stress…don’t even want to go into this, but managing what we have better is a start…and then making time for me to be able to bring more in would be huge. And necessary.
I’m sure there’s more I’m missing right now, but I am neglecting things I should be doing this morning by writing this post. So I’ll stop there.
I think pretty much everyone can relate to all of the above. Seems pretty standard complaints among American parents…definitely homeschoolers.
If you are feeling the overwhelm too…I’d love for you to join me in my quest to make a plan to get a handle on the overwhelm and wrestle it to the ground.
The holiday season is coming…and as we all know, that usually brings with it its own overwhelm. Let’s see if we can’t get a handle on our lives beforehand and face the holiday season, whatever you celebrate, or don’t, with more enjoyment than perhaps we’ve been able to in awhile.
I know that’s MY goal! I made it through my daughter’s birthday…Thanksgiving is coming next…I want to look forward to December, not dread it like I usually do.
I can’t do that if I’m going into the season already behind…already completely overwhelmed.
Join me, and lets get things “good enough” to experience some happiness and contentment again, shall we? Let’s give our kids back their moms and pack up the drill seargant basket case they’ve become far too accustomed to.
I want to enjoy my kids, my husband and my house again…don’t you?
Let’s do it!!
Start writing out your plan today of how you can make that happen and put your ideas in the comments below. I sure could use the moral support…I’m sure you could too!
This is me getting real. Really real. This is the state of my school room/art area currently:
Feel better about your house now?
In my defense…we just came out of Halloween/birthday party MADNESS.
My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow, so we chose to have her party on Halloween this year, with a Halloween theme. Since she is turning 15 and is too old for trick or treating now, this was a great way for her and her friends to still enjoy dressing up…and me to not have to do 2 parties. (THAT wasn’t gonna happen!!)
But, of course, my daughter being who she is…a creative, albeit slightly obsessive, genius…her costume making took over the art area. And we are still dealing with the mess.
Plus even though the party was at my parents’ house…all the stuff (leftover pumpkins, decorations, etc) came back here afterwards…and since we’re still recoiling from the exhaustion of the awesomeness of it all…it’s not all gotten picked up and put away yet…3 days later.
Plus we had enrichment classes all day on Monday, so not home…and exhausted once home…and now we’re getting ready to head out for my son’s drumming lessons so….no time now to clean either! SIGH!
It’s going to take some time to get it back to useable.
PLUS we need to catch up on school work somewhere in the midst of the clean up. All the stuff that got pushed aside in the party prep last week.
So, yeah. It’s going to be a long, busy week. I’ll be sure to post after pics though!
But I feel like too many blogs only post the beautiful put together pics and the Martha Stewart-like moments that just make the rest of us that already feel like we’re failing feel even worse. So here’s my post those of us out there struggling. It’s real at the Smith house. It’s a wreck. And I’m struggling. But I’ll get it taken care of eventually and we’ll bugger on and things will be somewhat organized again. Somewhat, because it’s never fully organized, lol! Not with children in the house!!
Hey, tell me your rooms are wrecks too in the comments below and make me feel better now! 🙂