Saturday, November 28, 2015

Our "Unschooling" Season

Ready for Poetry Tea Time

Homeschooling can change just like seasons over a year! I have learned over the last ten years of my homeschooling adventure to be comfortable with that changing flow. I wasn't always as open minded, I was a lot more structured and worried about what we accomplished every day from our homeschool curriculum. Thankfully, I have learned over the years and was able to embrace that learning with my children happens in many different ways.

Homeschooling this fall from about mid-October to now has been different! The change was first inspired first by Celeste, who had asked for some more flexibility. It then was adjusted to accommodate the time I needed to get ready for the Etsy market. 

Math, cooking, writing, poetry tea time, more writing, nature walks with Orion

Celeste and I have had a great time these last few weeks. We had talked about what she is interested in and she started a bullet journal to keep track of her ideas and what she did every day. It has worked really well for her. 

Reading Wonder as part of the Brave Writer Arrow language arts course

Our days were filled with reading, writing, math, cooking, playing, and lots of talking always. We watched documentaries and Crash Course videos. She also watched many of her favourite shows! We continued to work through the Brave Writer Arrow course because we both love it. We visited the Art Gallery, visited different nature trails, talked about world events, and so much more!

Samuel Holland's Map of the Island

Over the last three weeks, I have been very busy making handmade items for the Etsy show and Celeste was itching to make something too! We both looked for some inspiration and finally found something. Since then, she has been full on making every single day! It has been amazing to see her dedication. She will be selling them at my market table and I hope she will do really well. 

Making Celestial Clouds 

This has been our unschooling season, usually this happens more in the spring but this year has been different. Unschooling doesn't mean there is no learning happening! There is so much important learning happening outside the "books" (curriculum)! We have enjoyed this season and I know we will get back to our regular routine when we are ready or maybe we won't!

All this to say..if you are a homeschool mom too, embrace the different seasons in your adventure, be open to changes, enjoy the journey! Homeschooling is so much about relationships that it is important to enjoy these times when it might look like we are just "hanging out", but we all still do so much! We are happy talking, playing, exploring, doing fun stuff together! We are both learning from pursuing our passions and also from building my little Etsy business! It is O.K. We are both still learning so much. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why We Love Poetry Tea Time + Our Current Favourite Poetry Books

Poetry Tea Time is a routine that we added to our homeschool since January 2013. We like to keep it simple, a few poetry books, tea or other tasty drink, and a snack. 

We continue to enjoy Poetry Tea Time once a week, usually on Tuesdays but we have done this on other days too. Sometimes we invite friends, other times we attend our friends' Poetry Tea Time. I have mentioned it to pretty much every homeschool family I know personally and I post a photo on my instagram of our table, almost every time before or after our poetry time. 

I have blogged about this in the past *see here for a list of posts* but it has been a while since my last entry and I feel that it is time for an update and why we love it. I also included a short list of our favourite poetry books.

So why do we love poetry tea time so much? 

Well, it's so simple...we love the time we spend together. 

The delicious drinks and snacks help too! 

I enjoy reading poetry aloud and Celeste does too. We often take turns reading from our collection of poetry books. 

It is a routine we both look forward to, a slow activity that is pure enjoyment. 

It isn't a "schoolish" thing, just a simple moment enjoyed together. If we talk about the poems we read, fine..if not, that's ok too! We don't "analyze" them, instead we might either share if we liked it or not, wonder what the poet was trying to say, or what the poem made us think about. 

We keep it simple! 

Here are our current top favourite poetry books:

From the Book of Animal Poetry 

National Book of Animal Poetry - This is Celeste's favourite with a collection of 200 poems from many different authors and gorgeous photographs. She often reads aloud from this book to me. I love the different sections in this collection, like the Little Ones, the Winged Ones, etc...

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry is new and we haven't started it yet, but I had to mention it because it is very similar to the Book of Animal Poetry. 

The Tree that Time Built is filled with nature, imagination, and science inspired poetry. It includes an audio CD but we haven't used it yet! I wrote more about this wonderful collection of poems here.  

The Aesop for Children is another favourite. The stories and the lessons they teach are often very interesting to Celeste and I. 

Last book I want to share today is one that I have been reading on my own. Poets' Corner compiled by John Lithgow. He includes an introduction to each poet in his book that I really love reading. 

We very often include picture books at the end of our poetry tea time, lovely books we find at our local library. Celeste and I love children picture books! We also often read from our current read aloud. 

If you would like to find out more about Poetry Tea Time, you can visit my other posts here and Brave Writer Poetry Teatimes. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Making in the Studio ~ Holiday Bunting + Felt Clouds

I continue to get prepared for the Etsy Holiday Pop Up Market in the studio. 

Spellbound Tote Bag

I finished the six totebags I was working on and listed one of each design in my Etsy shop: Life on Island Studio. 

I made several holiday buntings. These are fun to make and so great for decorating! I really enjoyed making the ones with the Tinsel collection from Cotton + Steel. I also used some fun Christmas fabrics I had in my stash, like the Letter to Santa and the candy canes. 

I made more little fabric trays. They are useful for holding any small items, like jewelry or candy for example. I will be making more of these for the market!

Celeste started making felt clouds. They are multiplying fast! She loves making these, which is wonderful to see because she has not been one to enjoy crafts before! She has told me that she loves hand stitching, especially with felt. 

Celeste is using a pattern from Gingermelon. There are several other cute designs that interest her! 

The fabric trays are inspired by the Charm Square Fabric Tray made by A Spoonful of Sugar, with a little adaptation. 

That is all for this week! We are getting closer to the market and I am now planning my table and how to display everything! Exciting stuff!! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Nurturing Brave Writer Families DVD Series Review

In the summer of 2014, Brave Writer, the writing curriculum company, organized a retreat in Ohio for homeschool parents. It must have been an amazing and inspiring weekend, which I didn't have the chance to attend, but the great news is that it was filmed and over 6 hours of sessions are now available on DVDs or digital download!

Each session is presented by Julie Bogart, owner and creator of Brave Writer. Each is filled with practical information and teaching about writing and homeschooling. Watching and listening to Julie is inspiring and so encouraging! 

There are five sessions in the Nurturing Brave Writer Families DVD set:
  1. Nurturing Brave Writers 
  2. Ally, Coach, Partner 
  3. Creating a Language Rich Environment 
  4. Help for High School
  5. Your Fantasy Homeschool 

I have watched and listened to all the sessions. Each is so full of rich content that it will take me several replays to catch it all! I have take notes on ideas and practical things I can try with Celeste, in our own homeschooling. Some sessions included exercises given to the retreat attendees that I tried along with them. 

All the sessions are filled with helpful advice from Julie, who also homeschooled her five children over a span of 17 years. 

Here is my own review from each session: 

In Nurturing Brave Writers, Julie tells us to think outside of the box when it comes to the freewriting exercise. Instead of giving a regular blank crisp piece of white paper, crumple it up first, then smooth it out and give that to your child to write on! Freewriting could also be done outside, on the driveway with chalk! Julie encourages us to be free and to break out of our routines. 

Another great tip for freewriting is to try it for 8 weeks. Each Friday, do a freewrite. Explain to your children that they don't have to share it, and can put it an envelope each week. At the end of the 8 weeks, your child can pull out all eight freewrites and decide if she wants to revise any of them. 

There are many personal stories shared by Julie which I really enjoyed listening to and these often sparked "light bulb" moments. Here is a great one, also from Nurturing Brave Writers: "The Sad Tale of Caitrin's Hair". Julie tells the story of her daughter's hair, which was long and beautiful but tells us that "underneath the gorgeous exterior, there was a family of rats that lived in the nest that I hadn't combed in three year...". It is a really funny story, she continues by explaining that after some time of feeling negligent, she would decide that it was the day to wash and comb out her daughter's hair. There were tears and they both would be exhausted after it. They wouldn't do this again for six more months! Julie then asks the audience "how many of you teach writing that way?" Everyone laughs but in some ways it's so true!

In the Ally, Coach, Partner session, Julie teaches how to be a true partner to your child, to be your child's most trusted ally with learning. Sometimes that means healing your children or empathizing with their struggles. The explanation of the five natural stages of growth in writing, which can apply to learning in general, were key to understanding how to be the best ally to your child. The five stages are: 
  1. Jot it down
  2. Partnership writing
  3. Faltering ownership
  4. Transition to ownership
  5. Eavesdropping on the great conversation
  6. Fluency
This session is also filled with practical tips. The compass points is a great tool Julie teaches about, one we can use when a child might be struggling to write about a topic. 

Practical tips are found all through these sessions, like writing the answers to these compass points on post it notes (not as overwhelming to a young writer as a regular size piece of paper) or writing about one point a day only. Experiencing multiple types of experiences of the same story, for example watching all the different movie versions of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice after reading the original story. 

The Creating a Language Rich Environment session teaches how to apply the Brave Writer Lifestyle, specifically "how to create an environment that fosters a love of language and the space to take speaking and writing risks". It is about finding ways to create joy in our homeschool and that will spill over to our lifestyle too! 

Julie extensively explains how to create this atmosphere in our own homes, with lots of ideas! Ideas like Poetry Tea Time, Afternoon Movies, Art and Nature, but also one on one time, doing things that you want them to do yourself, like picking up the paints and doing a picture when they might be bored, and many more! It is truly inspiring as a homeschooler and as a parent too! 

Julie goes through each of these practices, explains how and why they work! This session is one that I will need to watch several times to absorb everything. 

Help for High School is an excellent guide to high school writing, which will guide through three format of writing needed during the high school years, as well as which language arts practices to continue doing to develop good writing and thinking skills. Just like the other sessions, Julie has a wealth of information and insight on this particular topic. I particularly liked listening to her talking about the importance of letting your teen have adventures, letting them take risks and respect them. Her candid personal stories with her own children really illustrate her points. 

I truly wish I had listened to this session a few years ago, before entering the high school years with my two oldest, it would have benefited our experience. 

Your Fantasy Homeschool 

We all have an idea of what we dream our homeschool to be! In this session, Julie explains how to actually get the fantasy to become real. Leaving the familiar and making a shift to a much more enjoyable homeschool experience. Filled with practical tips again, this is another session that I will need to replay! Julie asked questions to the group and worked through those, excellent points to think about. 

This was all about how to work with what we feel needs to be done along with what feels like childhood freedom and exploration. We need to decide: "what feels good to me and what feels like I am being successful?" Julie tells us that the goal should be a "B+" life of love and learning. There are so many good, inspiring, but very do-able actions mentioned. 

Julie explains in length what four conditions will help you create a fantasy homeschool: 

  1. Provide meaningful materials 
  2. Follow inspiration
  3. Create a routine
  4. Expose your children to the world. 

She then continues to give the 10 characteristics of 21st century learning, from curiosity to ideas from many sources, personalized learning, and more. Again, this session is jam-packed with useful practical advice! 

As a homeschool mother and also just from a parent point of view, this series of DVDs is like a treasure chest filled with important information about writing, child development, homeschooling and parenting! 

This DVD series is an amazing inspiring resource for homeschool parents. I also think, with the holiday season coming, the Nurturing Brave Writer Families DVD set would make a truly wonderful gift for a homeschool parent! Check out the Brave Writer store for more information. 

Disclosure: As a Brave Writer Ambassador, I received a download version of these sessions for review from Brave Writer. I did not receive monetary compensation. As an ambassador, I will receive a small percentage of your purchases of the DVDs. My affliate store is linked throughout this post. All opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Thank you!