Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Virginia's Progress Report

Progress Report: Virginia Rose Harding, November, 2009

I am writing the required report early, because the holidays will most likely be filled with far more interesting activities and there will be little time for anything else. And there is so much to include, I am afraid of forgetting some of the many incredible leaps Virginia has made in her development.

As an unschooler, I have taken a very hands off approach, letting Virginia direct most of her own activities, and offering my assistance when she wants it. She keeps Luke and me very busy with the questions she asks, and if she will listen, I will give her the most detailed explanation I can come up with. Papa (Luke) is also a wonderful storyteller, and will recount tales from the Bible, as well as many made up ones, both cute and spooky, to a wide-eyed audience who does not even realize he is teaching them.

At the beginning of the school year, Virginia stated her goals without hesitation. She wanted to learn to cook, to read, to do laundry, learn more math and learn about bugs. In all of these subjects, her interest waxes and wanes, except for learning to cook. And numbers almost always get her excited. Since math skills are involved in cooking, and math is a required subject, I will begin here to chart her progress over the past few months.

Math Skills

Mondays are baking day, usually, and Virginia's job is to make granola. She can now assemble the ingredients, counting and measuring, entirely on her own. She has also learned to cook her favorite breakfast, oatmeal and hot cocoa. And if I tell her the ingredients, she can mix up a batch of cookies. She made oatmeal pancakes from a cookbook we got from the library, and cooked them herself on the griddle. On many occasions I have let her experiment with various ingredients, with some interesting results: She successfully made a cake, including the icing, from scratch, and assembled several fruit salads and bakes. And always, she is enthroned as a little "taste" goddess, distributing bits and bites to her adoring younger siblings.

There are many other ways we experience mathematics together, too numerous to include them all, but here are a few:
1. Playing with money. Virginia can name most of the coins, and knows which are worth more. We have played a game where she pretends to buy items and I give her change, etc.
2. Counting to 100. I printed out a chart and she practiced until she was able to count by 1's and 10's. As a reward, she got to pick out ingredients for ice cream sundaes.
3. Playing with a calculator.
4. Playing with an abacus.
5. Calendar fun. Like, "How may days until Christmas?".
6. Building with Lego. Affords countless problem solving opportunities involving logical deduction, geometry and counting. Virginia surprises us both with some of the models she comes up with.
7. Gardening. Both girls have helped count out seeds, bulbs, etc, and plant them at the proper spacing.

Virginia is able to add and subtract simple problems in her head, involving everyday items she comes across. She enjoys playing with numbers and seems to have effortlessly absorbed the skills she now possesses.

Language Skills

Reading takes a little more effort, but I have been very careful not to force or push since she is so easily discouraged. And patience has paid off! She sat down the other Saturday and did several pages in her phonics workbook that required reading simple words. She still has trouble recognizing some letters in less common fonts, and telling the difference between little b and d, but she has made a lot of progress.

Virginia can now write her own name without help, and several other words she has memorized. She enjoys making grocery lists, asking how to spell her chosen items, though I usually have to take over after 2 or 3. Lately, she has been using her picture/ word books to help her search for images and earn swag bucks for me. Now that's the kind of "school work" I like!

That takes care of the three r's, or at least some of the highlights! On to the sciences, social and otherwise.

Social Studies and Science

The church is the social body wherein our family finds its sole identity. Our gathering for worship and Eucharist with our local congregation, and our gathering with family and Christian friends from other branches of Christ's Church, provides the community within which we learn and grow together. We teach the stories from the Bible with great emphasis on the story part. It is the narrative that shapes our world view and practice. Virginia participates in Sunday School, in the worship and sacraments of our church, and also in our playgroup which evolved from the bimonthly story time at our library. This month, she participated in activities at our library for homeschoolers. Our church is also beginning a Sunday School program based on the Montessori method of teaching, called "Godly Play". And this year, we're helping out by heading up a blanket drive our church is participating in to distribute to the homeless. We got to meet Cheryl and Chris, a wonderful couple who run a food pantry downtown. Virginia also plays with our unchurched friends, whom we treat with equal respect.

Interest in bugs comes and goes. Most observation takes place on an unplanned basis. You never know when you're going to see an interesting one. I printed off a couple pages from one of Donna Young's nature journal templates and Virginia made several drawings. They were all on one page because she made them true to size, or smaller. An ant, a spider, a grasshopper, and a moth with "eyes" on it's wings to scare off predators.

Other inhabitants we have observed in our neck of the woods are:
1.Deer, including a doe with triplet fawns!
2. Chickens and a couple chicks that hatched this summer. We might get some more soon, because our broody black hen is nesting again- on 13 eggs!
3. Squirrels and birds aplenty.
4. Wild turkeys.
5. A baby rabbit Virginia rescued from our dog.

Nutrition is also foremost in our conversations and meal planning. Taming the candy monster hasn't been easy, but Virginia has learned how to identify healthy snacks and meals. We made a nutrition chart, which divides food into three groups- colors (fruits and veggies), whole grains and proteins.

There is a lot to learn and a lot to explore both in the kitchen and on our 17 acres of woods, field, garden and creek. But we also like to get out now and then. Some of the field trips we have taken include:
1. A two mile hike on the nature trail at the historic Cowpens battlefield
2. A visit to Glencora farm
3. A trip to Kidsenses InterActive Museum in Rutherfordton, NC

The most important aspect of our un-school, however, are the activities where progress cannot be easily tracked, but are vital to Virginia's neural, physical and mental development. It is the hours upon hours of unhindered playtime, both indoors and out, that allow her to gain strength of body and clarity of thought as she runs, swings, explores and pedals; confidence tempered with humility as she draws, builds, stirs and learns to deal with her shortcomings; and the ability to express herself in action and word as she pretends with her siblings, dolls and toys.

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