M Is For Music, Miscellaneous, and Mondays!

I’ve decided that for the month of December I will try to blog much more often. I’ve been told having thematic days helps the brain focus content so here’s what I’ve come up with:

Mondays will be Musical Mondays. Since it is December, I am opting for Christmas-themed music -Falalalala! Pretty original I know. I had hoped to persuade people to send me their favorite kids’ tunes but I’ve come up a little short so I may have to use some grown up favs as fillers. I am also open to suggestions!

And since it’s December and I feel like ’tis the month to slack off, my children will be mostly playing. I will be mostly ignoring my homeschooling duties. They already set the tone today by totally ignoring me and kicking me out of various rooms while they set up elaborate play scenarios.

Homeschool refusal. Girls free play time.

So with more time on my hands,  I am shunning productivity in order to bombard you with lots of miscellaneous stuff on Mondays…or any other day of the week I so choose.

1. Awesome Acts of Kindness Calendar

I just discovered this lovely calendar; see their terribly smart badge on the left hand side.

I’ve done December 1&2 today. Plenty of time to catch up so pls join and spread the word! (Preferably via my blog post as it’s Christmas and I’d love some new followers. I promise I’ve kept the naughty to a minimum.)

And in an extra act of kindness today, here are links to all the songs. I believe blogs are penalized for too many outbound links but hey, it’s Christmas and I am in the mood for some giving!

2. My kids’ favorite Christmas songs this week

Monday: The Peanuts Classic Christmas Tune. This is mommy pushing her own likes . No one is perfect.

Tuesday: You are a mean one Mr. Grinch. Seriously, they flip out when they hear it.

Wednesday: Disney Princesses 12 Days of Christmas – what happens when you leave your children alone with an iPad. They fight to have their cheek touch the princess image. #smh

Thursday: The girls make me sing Jingle Bells relentlessly. I usually pull up this version  with Andrea Bocelli and the Muppets. I find it fun to change tempo with the girls and who doesn’t want to watch Animal sing!  Thanks Fozzy, I too wonder what on earth bob-tails are.

Friday: Petit Papa Noël. This is a favorite in our household. Failing to find our lovely version but here’s a nice clip where you can follow the lyrics.

Saturday: The all time favorite: Santa Claus is Coming to Town. This isn’t their favorite version, but it will be when I am done with them. (oh and he  parler francais a bit here too!)

Bruce Springsteen Christmas

Sundays: Silent Sundays, because we all need a break from Merrys and Happys and Joy.

Tune in tomorrow for “How Halloween saved my Christmas” and a very late submission for a lovely series on Neighborhoods around the world.


			

Teachable Moments: Pillow Math & Other Opportunities Abound.

We are finally back from our big adventure at PunPun, a sustainable farm one hour north of Chiang Mai. Our stay was spectacular in so many ways and I will be writing a more comprehensive post about our time there. Here’s a sneak peek: Photo by my 5-yr-old

PunPunFarm Kids CC

While I am still catching up on the backlog of emails and commitments after an amazing break from wireless and unlimited kbps lands, I want to share an important lesson I re-learned during our trip.

Teachable moments are everywhere.

Sometimes as homeschooling parents –based on my vast experience of stalking online groups– we worry we aren’t giving our kids enough, that we aren’t prepared enough, that we don’t have all the things we need in order to teach them what they need to learn. When I started out this year, I was obsessed with lesson plans, curriculums, and having the right manipulables. I worried how I would manage with a limited budget. (Read anyone who wants to donate or gift me a Montessori moveable letters set, don’t hold back!) But in truth I was worrying for nothing; some of you may already have realized I could get paid for worrying, I am such an expert at it.

When I stopped trying to bring school home and let go, things naturally started to happen. Once I was fully oxygenating my brain instead of panicking about how much I was covering and just watching my kids play, I could jump in when they asked and see where I could naturally fit in letter, number, language learning among other things.

Here are a couple examples:

1. From a morning chat to vocabulary building & basic math concepts.
Mondays are French days in our house and I was talking with P while halfheartedly trying to make my bed. I am not sure how, but I used the word plus in French, meaning which means both more and “+”. My daughter asked me to explain the word. I used moins or less as a contrast but it wasn’t enough for her to understand. Finally I looked around and grabbed the four pillows I was fluffing. We divvied them up a few times, with her having more and then less than me.  We talked about adding them to her pile. We also had equal amounts. I then talked her through other verbal examples of more or less things, like who got to hold the chicken more at the farm, etc. Finally we found a pen and paper and looked at the + and – signs and wrote out the basic pillow additions we did. Ending the lot with a small pillow/tickle fight.

Teachable: Pillow Maths

2. I wanted to review some letters with something other than paper letters. As I was re-organizing toys, I came across a travel scrabble set we have yet to use. The girls loved grouping similar letters. Then counting how many of each they had and then putting them into order. Yes the star and pink boxes distracted them briefly, but hey, it’s all a work in progress.

Teachable, Scrabble Letters Alphabet

And yes, we always play scrabble in pink ballroom competition dresses. Don’t you?

I’ll put more examples in the comments as they crop up. I am just so tired I can’t think of them now. And please share your own!

Eco Farming in Northern Thailand: off to commune with composting toilets.

The title says it all. Part personal journey, part homeschooling adventure, I am on my last dregs of Internet connectivity before going dark for two weeks. See you in the other side!

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Swimming Against the Tide: Why I am homeschooling.

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Homeschool Blogging Carnival hosted by Lisa at The Squishable Baby and Keisha at Unschooling Momma. This month our participants are introducing their homeschools and styles.

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It seems like only yesterday I was pondering whether or not to homeschool my kids: what would it mean for us? Would I be patient enough? Could I, a non qualified teacher, teach them? Did we have a big enough support network? Would I ever get to pee alone again?

Wait, it was only yesterday and I am petrified.

My little family currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand. I am franco-american and lived in the UK for many years. My husband, aka el jeffe is Mexican and we have two daughters: Sweet Pea just five and little Plum, who will be three on September 1st.

I’ve just received the emails from the kindergarten and Pre-K schools confirming I’ve officially withdrawn my children. It felt so final that I broke into a cold sweat and nearly fainted. I wish I were exaggerating.

There are many reasons why I am choosing to homeschool but they aren’t the two main ones I typically read about. Most of the time you either hear about families for whom it is a faith-based decision or kids not thriving in school. I want a secular education for my kids – and that for me means they learn about all the major global religions. My two girls overall both love school and this is probably the hardest thing about pulling them out. It would be so much easier if, like me, they were hating the experience.

So why am I doing it? The main reason is totally selfish. I am suddenly incredibly aware of my mortality and I know my kids will only worship the ground I walk on for a few more years so I’d like to spend as much of that time as possible with them, harnessing that adoration, instead of only getting the rushing on either side of school. Traffic in Bangkok means I have to get them up at 6am and they are gone by 6.55.  By the time they get back in the afternoon, we have time for a tiny bit of tired play and the whole dinner, bath, book routine.  During these windows, I frequently feel like I am tap dancing in a minefield as their exhaustion makes them emotional explosive time bombs. Ultimately, I get the two slices of bread and none of the delicious filling.

bangkok traffic via scottygraham.blogspot.com

Another factor is the a question of value for money. Living in Bangkok, my only option is to send my kids to private school. These schools are extremely expensive catering generally to an élite expat crowd, bankrolled by their companies and the schools take full advantage of this including outrageous sign-up fees leaving us mere working mortals struggling to educate our children. Maybe if we were a monolingual family, I would have considered local Thai school but my kids are already growing up with English, French and Spanish and it just didn’t make sense to add Thai to that. Also the Thai educational approach is far from what I want for my kids.

Freeing up these financial resources allows me to organize a whole host of educational trips and activities including extended stays with Abuela in Mexico and their Papoo and Yaya in France and the US. It kills me that my mother in law hasn’t seen my eldest since she was 8 months old and has never met our second girl.

As far as approaches – well it is a little too early to say what we will end up doing but my plan at this point is loosely following a waldorf-based curriculum called Oak Meadow but without signing up for the teacher support at this stage. To this, I’d like to incorporate aspects of the Well Trained Mind approach. I am big on the classics and laying foundations. As far as maths go, I am hesitating between Singapore math and Montessori math. I am in Asia and hear so many good things about the former but from what I can tell so far SM and MM are actually very similar in their approaches so it may just be a case of which materials are easier for me to source. Of course all of these are ideas and only time will tell what ends up working for us.

Jumping into the deep end.

I mentioned earlier, I am petrified but ready to jump into the deep end. The courage I’ve found has come less from within but in the knowledge of the incredible support group I’ve been able to find here in Bangkok. Homeschooling is not common here but I’ve been fortunate to find a small group of families with kids of similar ages who are already homeschoolers or starting out like me.

And as I sat there, nauseous and nervous, having just read the withdrawal emails, my daughter, unbeknownst to her, shared an experience that sealed the deal. She was a little upset, wanting to draw a fish but insisting she didn’t know how. When I tried to encourage her, she explained to me that a teacher had told her that she hadn’t drawn her fish right.

Who tells a 4-year-old that their fish isn’t right? Apart from the millions of different types of fish and sea creatures I am pretty sure the teacher isn’t familiar with, WHO tells a FOUR-year-old  their fish ISN’T RIGHT?

Talk about killing creativity and sowing the seeds of insecurity and doubt. No way, you are not getting my money or more importantly, my child.

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