Friday, 29 July 2016

Strew The Path

Sandra Dodd - unschooler/encourager/mine of information speaks of "Strewing The Path"

One valuable way of doing this is to be a little organised with equipment if you can.

This battered old school case (mine) from the 1970's (vintage!) holds a treasure trove.

I've collected bits and pieces, nothing flash, for cardmaking.  Stickers, bits of coloured and patterned paper, pre-folded cards, bits of pictures the children have painted/coloured/drawn etc.

The easiest way for children to make cards, that I've found, are by using punches.

I try to make sure that we don't put rubbish back into the case. 

If it's neatly presented even the most reluctant child can be drawn into the game.

One of my children, on feeling the desire to make cards, would happily go around the house collecting materials to make them.  However, the others would go off the boil very quickly if they needed to hunt for stuff.

So this just one way we strew the path.


Time to Concentrate

I have an 8yr old child who resists teaching.  But he learns so much.

The other day I found this picture he'd drawn by himself one evening.

Here's a little more detail:

I just wanted to show you all this because it's proof that children learn without having lessons or formal teaching.   Give them time to concentrate, time to work on things they love.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Beautiful things for your chilren

A "wise letting alone" - that's a Charlotte Mason phrase, and something I practice a lot.

"Picture Study" is very Charlotte Mason too and can be incorporated SO NATURALLY into a child's life.

The other morning I noticed my toddler quietly muching his cereal and staring at the placemat  he'd carefully pulled out from under his bowl.

It made me realise once again that children deserve beautiful things (a concept that is practiced in Montessori circles).  A beautiful wooden bowl, a picture of lovely painting to look at whilst eating ...

He was REALLY studying the picture.

These placemats have been part of our lives for so long (and are now rather shabby) that I barely notice them.

After a while he looked away and I wondered if I might bring his attention back to the picture, or whether it might spoil it for him.

I decided to quietly try to bring him back to it.

"I like the lady's hat."  I said.

He looked at the hat.   Then he pointed to the dog (which I hadn't seen) and said "Dog."   

He knew I was interested now.  He smiled at me.

But the moment passed as one of his siblings came crashing into the room wondering aloud what he was going to have for breakfast ...

Don't fill your children's lives with cheap, crass, cartoony images.  They might just enjoy beautiful things.


Are the "Adventures In Natural Learning" Books For Teens/Young Adults Too?

A couple of people have asked me if the Adventures In Natural Learning Handbook and Journal are suitable for older children/teens/young adults.

Whilst they might want to miss the game suggestions like hopscotch, knucklebones and painting the deck with water (but whose to say they won't like them...) there are many games that can be played with them whilst washing up for instance, or travelling in the car.  Just for fun!

And then, some of the suggestions for seasonal study in the Journal, or as in the photo above in the Handbook, can be read through and your student can pick and choose what interests them.

I would suggest that at the beginning of the month you, or your student go through the lists and write a few things in the journal for that month - things they know they'll be interested in, or things the might possibly be interested in.

As the month goes on  they "study" the topics they've written in their journal.   "Study" might look like:   discussing it with you; looking it up in an encyclopedia and/on the internet, finding a video about it, getting some books out of the library, doing something hands-on in relation to the subject ...  it doesn't mean writing/copying four pages of facts on the subject just to PROVE they learned something.

Whilst studying a subject your student may discover that they're not particularly interested in that thing, but they could head off on a rabbit trail of a related topic that really grabbed their interest.  Be sure they note this in their journal.

The same goes for the lists of people found in the Handbook.  Pick some people, write their names in the Journal for that month, and then look them up.  Let the student direct the learning, let them have a thirst for finding things out, and dropping things that they have no interest in. 

Next year when they start a fresh new Journal they might like to look back on who they studied the previous year.

On a practical level, if you would like/require some written information on the topics studied this is what we did:  when our older boys were around 15 I would give them lists of interesting subjects and people, and they would write the name of the topic, or person, at the top of an index card.  Looking information up in various places, cross-referencing to be sure they were getting the right information, and writing a few interesting facts on the index card, we would consider that "a study".     The cards were filed in alphabetical order to be browsed through at a later date if anyone was interested.

These two boys now have a huge knowledge of world events, wide in many areas - deep in some areas.  They can hold their own in conversations with many different age levels (intelligent conversation that is - they have no tolerance for oafish or loutish behaviour).  They know what they enjoy, and they still retain a love of learning.

So, to answer the question are these books suitable for older children/teens/young adults.


Monday, 25 July 2016

Adventures In Natural Learning Books!

Hi readers!

I am very excited to announce that my wonderful books are nearly ready for sale!

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

Debbie Ball started her lifelong journey into home education with the birth of her first child in 1993. Since then she's research, gathered, thrown out, held onto, and joyfully used hundred and hundreds of ideas from thousands of sources in her home education environment.

As a blogger and public speaker Debbie encourages other parents to step away from ineffective mainstream ideas of education and family life, and she joys to see other families connect and build strong relationships whilst having fun together, learning in respectful natural ways.

The ADVENTURES IN NATURAL LEARNING: HANDBOOK contains over 400 do-able games and activities for children and their families or caregivers, plus bonus lists of topics to increase curiosity and knowledge of history, the natural world and many other areas.

The ADVENTURES IN NATURAL LEARNING: SEASONAL JOURNAL is a place for you or your child to record your personal journey through a natural education year, with many suggested topics separated into appropriate seasons, to provide a rich, exciting life.

Both the Handbook and the Seasonal Journal are suitable for EVERY age – from little tiny babies, right through to adults.

Please note that the books can be used anywhere in the world, and can be started at any time.
I am currently taking pre-orders so just email me with your order and I will add your name to the list!

The Adventures In Natural Learning:  Handbook is NZ$40
The Adventures In Natural Learning:  Seasonal Journal is NZ$20

The Journal is a consumable - either order one for each child - or if you have children who don't want to do their own book you can have one book for the family that the mum or dad fills in.

The Journals will become a valuable keepsake of your family's year, whilst also providing a record for those families who live in areas where home education records are required.

I look forward to hearing from you, but for now, here are some more pictures from the books.


Thursday, 14 July 2016

From Asperger's to Anarchy and also Sibling Relationships

The other day I was standing in line at the checkout of a shop locally, watching and listening to the chappie who was serving.  It was quite obvious to me he had Asperger's, and I was wondering if he was one of the Aspergians who don't have a problem with anxiety, or perhaps he was on anti-anxiety medication.

One of my sons turned to me and whispered "Aspie!"   He'd noticed too.

We were served by the quirky, but very polite Aspie who talked very fast and was quite animated.   People would surely be wondering WHAT was up with that guy, I'm hoping he doesn't get a hard time putting himself right in the frontline being on a checkout.

On the way home I was musing about "what if we had a secret sign that all Aspies knew - and we could let the others know that we were Aspies too?"

It would be like all "cat lovers" or "horse lovers" or "artists", "poets", "stock-car enthusiasts" etc having a sign, so they could immediately bond with someone over something without having to waste time with chit-chat and then still missing the whole joint interest/shared super-power.

The most blatent method of showing the world who we were would be a badge/button.   So we were discussing what someone with Asperger's Syndrome would have on their badge. 

 photo credit to this website.

This lead to a conversation about symbols (which we always enjoy talking about) and the capital A in a circle which is used to represent anarchy, and I told the children what I remembered about anarchists in the 1970's (punk hey-day), and one child asked how you spell "anarchist", and there was a discussion about "taking matters into your own hands" if you don't believe in giving power to the authorities  ...  

... and once again I was amazed how we run down so many rabbit trails and cover so much ground, just by talking to one another and the children feeling free to ask questions.

I must also say here that what is "normal" (and, yes,  I laugh when I used that word as we are not a typical family) in our house with the way siblings relate to one another - of course they bicker, disagree, boss, rebel against each other etc etc - but there is a great deal of support, protection and love,  well, that is normal for us, and the children are SHOCKED when they see other siblings being mean to each other, calling names and putting each other down.

The whole putting siblings down, calling names, being mean or sarcastic to each other constantly - that is HORRIBLE, and I know it's part of the culture because it's just about on EVERY TV SHOW I've ever seen that has a family in it.

So what was the point of this blog post?  Actually, I'm not sure.

I was just running down some rabbit trails.



Wednesday, 13 July 2016

It's not just about maths after all

Something has been happening here the last few months.

Our 13 year old has her sights set on a certain job, so we've been working out what skills she can learn now to help on that journey, and gathering some resources.

She also feels the need to be "learning more", so to that end I've revisited some things I did with her older brothers around the same age.  We're doing dictation - Charlotte Mason style:   I dictate a piece of literature and she quickly writes it down as fast as she can.  She laughed when we first started, and said "I remember you doing this with the big boys!  You sound exactly the same as you did then."  That's comforting ...

After she's quickly written the piece of literature she types it up with corrections, and punctuation - a new line for each speaker, quotation marks etc etc.   Then I check it against the original.

No surprise, she was very good at it all even though it was the first time we'd done any "official" work like this.  She was quite encouraged.

The other thing we're doing is going through the old "Teacher's Manual" of Intermediate Math-U-See.  She decided she's not keen on learning about division right now, but is very interested in fractions.   I've decided not to buy a new workbook for her.   I remembered how to do them from when I learned alongside our older boys, and we whizzed off several pages of questions enjoyably.*

When our 8 year old saw her doing this he said he wanted a maths book, because if he is going to be a pilot then maths will be important.  This particular child causes me some ... puzzlement shall we say, sometimes.    One of his personal challenges is "Emotional Dysregulation" - a co-morbid condition of Autism Spectrum Disorder (not everyone with ASD has ED).   Whenever he's asked to do maths in the past he gets frustrated and angry - I wondered perhaps was I starting too far ahead, or even too far back, how much did he know already?  But even getting him to show me what he knew caused stress no matter how gently or briefly, or whatever-ly I tried to do it!

So I dutifully got a maths exercise book from our stock of lovely stationery items.   He took the book from me and said "I'll do the questions."   "Ok" I said, wondering how that would go.   A second later he was frustrated.    "I don't know how to do maths questions."  He was on the verge of getting angry.   I offered to write three questions.  He was happy with that.  Walking on egg shells I wrote three addition problems.

He was cross that they were so easy, but instead of giving up this time he said "I'll write some now."   When I came back to see what he was doing I was REALLY PUZZLED.  He'd written questions like 156 - 20 = 136,    and 94 + 18 = 112.    I said "How did you know the answers to these?"   (this child hasn't been TAUGHT addition and subtraction, he doesn't know about "carrying over").  He said "I just knew it."  (he didn't have a calculator, and doesn't really know how to use one, so that wasn't it!).

I showed the book to his big sister and said "How can he just know it?"    "That's natural learning."   All matter of fact she told me what I should have known.

So then, just a couple of days after that I came across this article wherein the author refers to a 25 page article by  Paul Lockhart (downloadable link on the article).

From the article:

Before I close, here are a few more of Lockhart’s gems:
We learn things because they interest us now, not because they might be useful later. But this is exactly what we are asking children to do with math…Of course it can be done, but I think it ultimately does more harm than good. Much better to wait until their own natural curiosity about numbers kicks in.
Mental acuity of any kind comes from solving problems yourself, not from being told how to solve them.
How can schools guarantee that their students will all have the same basic knowledge? How will we accurately measure their relative worth? They can’t, and we won’t. Just like in real life.

 Please take the time to look at the article above, and skim, or devour the 25 page article that Paul Lockhart has written entitled "A Mathematician's Lament."

Just because WE were taught maths a certain way doesn't make that way right.

And if you had a "regular" education like me then the was I was taught was ANYTHING but right.

*  As I was doing the fraction questions with our daughter (she wanted me to sit with her and do them together) I started out reading the teacher's book, then thinking out loud and then I saw a pattern and was excited, and showed her and she understood.  There are some people who say that a child should see the patterns themselves and not be shown - however in the case of our daughter she ASKED me to show her.    She also asked me later if I could perhaps work it out first and not be so excited about figuring it out.  She wants me to give the impression that I know everything, and am kindly sharing little snippets with her.   That revelation surprised me!!    I'm blessed that we can communicate about these things.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

"Normalising Therapy"???

Today I read a wonderful blog post - found here.

(If you are a new to my Adventures In Natural Learning blog - welcome - just to let you know, I have some experience with Asperger's Syndrome (understatement!) and am always keen to learn more).

The article linked to above is called :  "10 'Autism Interventions' for Families Embracing the Neurodiversity Paradigm" written in November 2015 by Briannon Lee.

It contains such gems as:

3.  Say NO to all things stressful & harmful

Say no – to quackery, to intensive normalising therapy, to excessive socialising, and to inappropriate school environments. Say no to anything that causes stress or harms their bodies. Say no to anything that will interfere with their ability to say No themselves in the future. Model self advocacy early.


6.  Value your child’s interests

There is no right way to play. Special interests are good for autistic brains, and a natural way that autistic children learn and develop. Don’t use them as a ‘way in’ for other learning, therapy or change. Don’t attempt to broaden their interests, or restrict access to special interests. Join in, learn about and share their interests; but also respect your child’s wishes for time alone with their favourite things.

I re-read that piece "Don't use them as a 'way in' for other learning ..."   A few years back I remember reading about a teacher who knew one of her Aspie students was into Pokemon (not an uncommon thing for an Aspie to immerse himself/herself in).   So in the holidays the teacher bought Pokemon stickers to use as rewards, familiarized herself with some of the characters so she could bond with him*, printed off Pokemon activity sheets etc.   She was all ready for the new term.    School started, she was pleased with herself, in came the student with a new lunchbox with STAR WARS on it!  He was "out" of the Pokemon phase.  She was disheartened to say the least.

When I heard that I thought "Ah well, it was a good try, but it wasn't the way to go anyway."    I always caution people against "killing" a subject of interest for a child - or a POTENTIAL subject of interest.

And making a child's interest/phase/obession into something "SCHOOLY" is horrific!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There is a way to help the child learn things in a respectful natural way without it becoming schooly.    This last week our birthday boy had birthday money burning a hole in his pocket, and as there were sales on all over town he was keenly interested in how to work out what 20% off meant.   A short lesson involving a few scribbled figures on a piece of paper, and he understood.   He had money to spend, and action figures on his mind.  If I could have spent a little more time on percentages I would have been happy that he REALLY understood, but I knew it was time to quit, and hopefully we can revisit it another time when he brings it up.

Back to the article -I loved it so much I shared it to a facebook group I belong to for home educating families with children/parents on the autism spectrum.

Some of the members of that group enjoyed the article too, and the discussions that followed were very interesting.

I was especially taken by the comment from T.H. who said (used with her permission):

 I love this!!!! Right from the start we kicked against the whole concept of trying to change or "normalise" our children. As far as we were concerned "normal" didn't look too good and was certainly not better than what we had. Best decision we ever made!!! Life has been so much less chaotic and upsetting than other stories we hear. Our boys are both doing great and we do not have any drama's. We are selective of who we hang around with and where we go (for sensory reasons not but even that has become less and less of an issue, as our sons have been allowed to take on various challenges as and when they feel they are ready. No child is created to stay where they are, all children progress with or without you if you just stop pushing your personal goals and agendas on their lives. Of course sometimes, certain therapies are needed, like physical therapy but it really should be there to help support the direction the child is focused on and not a personal goal of the adults.


This, of course, doesn't just apply to only children on the spectrum, all respectful parents should keep these things in mind, but there is more of a pressing urgency in the BIGNESS of autism that makes parents of children on the spectrum have to really look at what issues they are facing, and work out strategies.

We didn't know that our family quirks came under the umbrella of "autism" until about 6 years ago - at which time our oldest was already 17 and the other children were various ages and stages of quirkiness.   So we haven't had much to do with intervention.  But blessedly, I made many decisions over the years which have helped our family to survive and thrive - and I laughed when I read T.H.'s comment about "sensory reasons not snobbery" because we HAVE been called exclusive, elitists, anti-social and other such hurtful names when what we were doing was SURVIVING!

The world has such different flavoured people.   We don't need a "great big melting pot".  Just a bit of respect and space is all some people need.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - please leave any comments below.   Thank you for reading!

* re "bonding" with children over their interests.   Be sure you are genuine and have your facts right!     One of my older boys recalls, during the deepest years of his "Thomas The Tank Engine" phase, having people trying to "connect" with him - and his distaste of the whole thing!   Someone would point to Edward and say "Oh, this is Thomas isn't it?"    or  "This must be Henry," when they had picked up Gordon.    I guess some children are a little more patient with mere adults ...