Thursday, March 3, 2011

I guess it's time for an update!

It's March! Already?! In the past, flipping over the March page on our calendar would have felt like the year was already racing away from me. This year it feels like the year is still new.... like so much lies ahead and it will be good!

Our December holiday was an awesome holiday for our family. It's the time of year when Ray gets a full month's leave and we get to have him around 24/7. I was really looking forward to the holiday. We hadn't planned to do much-one camping trip-and LOTS of family time!

Our camping trip turned out to be quite an adventure: we got stuck on a dirt road in the middle of no where with a broken radiator in a 47' C heat wave! But the Lord is SO good-wish I could tell you the whole story-He provided us with help, a pool, a roof over our heads and transport back into the nearest town to get our car into a garage.

our little safe haven for the hottest night of the year!

the pool was the coolest place to be-and it felt like a bath!

And we still ended up going camping!! At Jenna's suggestion we returned to a nearby campsite which we'd taken the kids to on our first camping trip with them. Perfect place-under pine trees, with a swimming pool and a family of German tourists for our children to play with..... a lot better than the ±45'C place we'd left behind.

putting up the tent is a man's job!

snuggling up for bedtime stories

two little happy campers using our make shift spoons-we forgot the cutlery at home!!!

Listening to Dad reading the German version of Beauty and the Beast-yes, they do love stories that much they'll even listen to them in a foreign language!

playing a German version of Duck, Duck, Goose

I loved the simplicity of our holiday and thoroughly enjoyed just sitting back and taking it a day at a time. Coming back home again was an awakening to the fact that although we as a family tend to live a quiet lifestyle, even the business of managing our home and the possessions we have can add complications and stress to our lives.

we ended off our camping with a visit to Butterfly World-WOW!

I found it really difficult getting back into daily routine when Ray went back to work. It had been so good to spend everyday together as a family taking it a day at a time. It took me a while to get over my "I wish you could be with us all the time" blues. It has been a desire of mine for a while that Ray would be able to work from home-yes, I know that it would mean he couldn't be with us 24/7 in reality-but I find it difficult at times that his work life seems so separate from mine and the kid's daily life of being with each other 24/7. My heart's desire is that we could all be together: working together, living together, learning together! But this is a desire which I will have to continue to pray about for confirmation and acceptance of the Lord's will and not mine ;-)

the view from Peer's Cave into Fish Hoek Valley

So picking myself up and getting on with life I started to research extra-murals for the kids for the year. Jenna is continuing with ballet and has started an Introduction to Music course (which she LOVES!). Michael had said he'd like to play soccer-but we decided it's a little too soon for that, so we decided on Ball Skills for him. Both Jenna's music and Michael's Ball Skills lessons took me back to my old work place. This was an interesting experience. Walking through the school passages left me with old feelings which in the past I would have pushed down and tried to deny. The beginning of the year at any school is such an exciting time for me. New beginnings, new faces, new friendships all fill me up with the anticipation for exciting things which lie ahead. Admitting it to myself was good though, I realised that I still love to see children learning together and I still love to be involved in that learning experience. Now I get to do it with my own children!

Last year Ray and I chatted a lot about how we (as individuals) learn and what we think is important in life to learn. I had thought that he would want a more structured learning environment for our kids, but it turns out he's more relaxed than me about their learning experiences. (Proving, yet again,that it's so important to talk about these things :-) We came to the conclusion that for now, we want our children to learn about what interests them and that it is our job to expose them to a variety of experiences within our capabilities and resources. We both have found that we learn best when we have initiated the learning ie. it has come from our desire. We also discussed that knowledge doesn't need to come in a sequential order at a specific age-we are learning new things everyday ourselves, things we had "learnt" at school, but weren't interested in or ready to understand.
So this meant that I did a lot of rethinking of how I needed to and wanted to approach learning in our home.
However, while I believe that you don't need to follow a structured curriculum to learn, I discovered that I needed some kind of structure to force me, to do more exposing.
Once I had admitted to myself that I felt like I wasn't doing enough exposing I had to consider what I thought was important for me to expose the kids to now. I had loved the freedom my children had to play and be outdoors last year, but I was starting to feel I needed to be a little bit more hands on with them. Last year we had focused on creative play, reading good literature and Bible stories and reading books on topics which interested them. This year things have been slightly different.

I chose to start the year off slowly-I wasn't prepared to start a full blown daily routine from day one. I also know that following a schedule doesn't suit me-and following the same schedule everyday absolutely bores me to the point of giving up on doing anything at all! I'm a contradiction in myself-I like flexible routine!

hiding in the rocks at Peer's Cave

So for a few weeks we only had the goal of doing a Bible time in the morning. I introduced memory verses this year - something I personally wanted to work at. And to appeal to Michael's need to move and Jen's desire to praise and worship we sing together in the morning too. We're also using a calendar to record the weather on etc. At the start of this easing in time we also settled into our afternoon extra-mural routines.

She even has to wear a dress to climb mountains-such a princess!

Our Co-op did some expanding and rethinking this year too. We're continuing our Nature Walk Co-ops. Besides adding a few more families to the group we've chosen four types of locations to visit in a rotation basis. Sea, forest, wetlands/river, and our own private gardens. We're very relaxed about the learning that happens. Our main aim is to encourage a love for nature by spending time in it and sharing that experience with other special people in our lives. And of course it's a bonus when one of the kids pulls out their nature journal and spontaneously starts to draw! It has been such a blessing to grow our relationships with our friends in this relaxed way-for the moms and the children too!

Looking over towards Ou Kaapse Weg from Peer's Cave.

Being in nature is something we love doing as a family too. This year we have started hiking together. As often as we have been able to we have headed out on mountain walks on the week-ends. We're slowly exploring the walks that are nearest to us. This time is turning into a special family time as we have time to talk to each other and enjoy doing something together outdoors, a place we all love to be!

we had front row seats on a rock climbing lesson

When we had settled into the Bible routine and afternoon activities I started to re-introduce the school-like lessons Jenna had asked for last year. I will admit that this was more of my need this year than hers. A little to do with the lack of exposure thing-Jen has a sense for numbers but I felt like I wasn't exposing her to enough use of numbers. As I didn't want to do Maths everyday I also thought we'd work at her handwriting and phonics.
The amazing thing is even Michael is enjoying these times now-last year when I had tried a more structured unit study approach it had really been a challenge. So we aim for two/three mornings in the week of Writing/Maths/Phonics. In this time we also do finger rhymes and counting. We start off counting etc. together and then I usually work with Jen for around 15 minutes while Mikey plays with fine motor/maths/readiness activities and then we swop over and Mikey gets to play with mom's school things too. He is surprising me so much! However, it is not my aim to do much with him-more to spend time doing fun activities together, when I see his enthusiasm wavering we quit while it's still going well.
My next aim is to do more Art, Crafts, Baking, Science Experiments, Music and Movement with them. This usually happens after they've had a play time after our structured time together. But sometimes mom forgets or they're playing a wonderful imaginary game I just don't have the heart to stop :-)

Fitting in a story time during the day was a challenge. Besides bed time stories where Dad reads their Bible and picture books to them and I read a read aloud chapter book, we always used to have a story time before rest time. Afternoon activities seem to fall where our rest times usually do and as Michael doesn't usually need a nap anymore rest times were becoming few and far between. I use this time as our time to read poems, information books, afrikaans picture dictionaries and for Jenna to read to us. It took a while, but we have finally fitted it back in again, most days!

So as you can see daily life has changed a lot for us this year. I still want our learning to be relaxed though and if we wake up in the morning and everyone needs a play day, a play day it will be! And yes, moms need play days too!