Sunday, December 27, 2009

Year-End Synopsis

This first preschool-home school year has been rewarding for Aidyn and our family. He has developed new skills and learned many things both through our curriculum and organic living. I, myself, learned how to plan out lessons for him and how to revise them to meet Aidyn’s learning level. I experimented with unit studies, delight-led learning, outdoor activities, field trips, games, and stories among other things. Our family participated in Aidyn’s learning adventures as well, even going off to far away field trip locales. We’ll always remember this first year.

Last February, we started in space. We shot right into the universe with books, videos, and pictures of our galaxy, the planets, the sun, and the moon. We still have the planet decals on our kitchen window and talk about them often. I still fondly recall the Mars cake that we made that deliciously drove home the fact that Mars is red. Aidyn stills remembers! We also visited the Discovery Museum in Sacramento and had a great conversation with a guide on UV rays. We still have our beaded UV Ray detector that alerts us if the rays are too strong, attached to our stroller. Since February, Aidyn has often asked to learn about space again, and we’re excited to revisit the subject in 2010.

Last March, we dove into the ocean, figuratively. We learned about ocean life, sharks, whales, dolphins, and fish. Specifically, he found an interest in learning about the body parts of sharks. Later in that month, Aidyn discovered that shells come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As a hands-on experience, the family took an extended field trip to Morro Bay because the beach is said to be one of the most generous with shell-findings. As we walked along the beach, we found that to be true. Aidyn watched the waves, dug in the sand, poked at seaweed, collected shells, and braved the cold ocean water. We also visited the Morro Bay Aquarium and looked at sea creatures up close. Eating at a waterfront restaurant, we spied sea otters swimming in the bay right near us. Grandma insists we go back to Morro Bay very soon! That same month, Aidyn watched the process of caterpillars becoming butterflies. He observed tiny caterpillars grow fat with food, hang themselves and curl into a cocoon, and be reborn as butterflies. Once our butterflies were ready, we delivered them to the gorgeous Daffodil Hill, a place in Volcano, Ca, that blooms with hundreds of thousands of daffodils, and released them. March was certainly a month of real-life observation and learning.

April was our first month of full-on, delight-led learning. Because of Aidyn’s interest in monkeys, we learned about them for a while. He donned a monkey suit, we read books about monkeys, and enjoyed “monkey sticks!” During our bike rides, we went on letter hunts and talked about community activities and happenings. Because of Aidyn’s love for animals, we toured a local animal shelter and later learned about reptiles. April allowed us to go in any direction and spend time on subjects he enjoyed.

At the tail end of April through May, Aidyn explored his next unit theme: the rainforest. Each week, we focused on different rainforests around the world with the accompaniment of books, videos, and rainforest picture cut-outs. He learned about exciting “new” animals and the lush forest they live in. It was also during this month that Aidyn watched his first movie in the theater: Disney’s Earth. We’re still patiently waiting to see the next installment, Oceans. We also did a side-activity at the library where we listened to local firefighters. Aidyn watched as an ordinary person was transformed into a fully outfitted firefighter, breathing mask and all. He also had the chance to climb in the driver’s seat of the fire engine. As a cap-off to the this month, Aidyn, his grandma, and I went to Disneyland. We visited the Fire House, specifically, and enjoyed all the others amusements, of course. We also purposefully took him to the Rainforest CafĂ© so he could dine among the atmosphere he spent a month learning about! May was another exciting time in our preschool-home school year.

June and July were warm, summer months spent learning about Africa, bugs, and sports. Aidyn made some neat African animal crafts, read some books about safaris, animals, and the Swahili language. It was also during these months that we found Sesame Street’s African Alphabet song and now regard it as a favorite. We also participated in a reading program at our library and Aidyn received prizes for reading.

In August and September, Aidyn and I revisited delight-led learning. We allowed the world to teach us. We read whatever books seemed fun at the time, such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and Snow Happy to be Here. In September, we went to the Lodi Grape Festival and Aidyn rode a horse, spurring a new interest in horses. We read horse-related stories and watched movies about horses. We also began welcoming the fall season by making autumnal goodies and talking about Halloween and Thanksgiving and the changing colors of leaves.

In October, we closed our horse-study by visiting Del ‘Osso Farms where Aidyn rode a pony. We also combined two units: Trains and the Redwood Forest. We visited Jamestown and rode a real steam locomotive. We also took him to the Redwood Forest and went on a guided tour through the towering trees. On a local trail, we walked among almond trees. This month was full of train and tree books, and Aidyn became interested in tracing. Using our Kumon book, he learned how to trace fun shapes through silly pictures. With Halloween approaching, we read several “scary” books about ghosts, and Aidyn discovered one of his now-favorite books: The Ghost-Eye Tree. We ended the month reading A.A. Milne books and watching old Winnie the Pooh movies.

November and December were more times of delight-led learning. We began stargazing regularly (with the help of a fellow tutor) and Aidyn learned how to use binoculars to look closely at the night sky. We also began exploring gold country and took in a trip to Sonora. We also started listening to famous composers chronologically. We sampled the musical styling of Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, Mozart, and Haydn, finding that the compositions were beautiful and relaxing. We intend to continue our samplings of famous composers through next year. In December, we took in several Christmas and winter themed stories and talked about Christmas and the season for giving. Even though Aidyn didn’t have money to buy presents, he helped us pick out presents for our loved ones. We also spent an entire day riffling through his toy collection. Each toy prompted the question from me, “Should we give this to another kid for Christmas or do you want to keep it?” He respectfully donated about three hefty bags of toys to charity, and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity to discuss giving. Also, in the last month of the year, Aidyn became very interested in his ABC train puzzle and began putting it together alone and with me. Later in the month, I purchased a blue pocket chart, alphabet and word cards, and we started practicing letter recognition. He usually only misses 7 to 8 letters, but can completely recite the alphabet song. We also spent the season making Christmas goodies and sharing them with family.

2009 taught us all so much about the world of learning. I was taught by Aidyn that much can be absorbed through simply living and the introduction of fascinating subjects. He grew so much, developmentally and educationally. Reviewing the past year, I think my favorite times were the months devoted to a broad subject and the weeks within the month devoted to more specific units. Particularly, I enjoyed taking Aidyn to hands-on locations that corresponded to his learning. We’re so fortunate to have taken as many field trips as we have this year. That sort of adventurous exploration is what I want to continue doing throughout Aidyn’s education. We have some exciting plans for next year, and we simply cannot wait to learn some more!

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