We just wrapped up our first year with The HomeGrown Preschooler. I’ve been trying to post through our experience by writing a post a month and I must admit, this spring got away from me. But I do plan on posting about our last few months in the coming weeks! For now, I could not hold back my thoughts on our first year with this curriculum and decided to do our yearly wrap up first.
Friends, its amazing to me now that once upon a time, I felt I needed permission to have the year we just had. I didn’t realize just how deep the tentacles of modern education had penetrated my perspective as a parent and teacher. When I bought this curriculum at last year’s FPEA convention, I was a weepy, frightened mess. We were struggling to find options for our youngest. His evaluations at our local early intervention center were mightily discouraging. We also needed something for our third born son who was nearly five at the time. After hearing both Lesli Richards and Kathy Lee speak at FPEA (and crying all over them!) I came home with a bag full of curriculum and a boatload of hope.
I am moved to tears even now as I look back at how much cracking open those books meant to me. We dove in and life started changing for my boys. Their childhood began its metamorphosis. I said, “yes!” and they said “YESSSSSS!!!!”
See that dirty face and that big smile and those arms creeping out to the side as his “airplane ride” progresses, that moment when he finally, finally, FINALLY, starts letting go? Thats my little guy. He is so brave. I always wonder how intense the daily battles are for him. I wish I could get inside his head and know for myself. But for as hard as those battles are, my brave boy is having a beautiful childhood. Not because of the material things around him, but because he is loved and given the freedom every single day to be a little boy.
See those dirty hands? Those hands have been hard at play this year. Even the hands belonging to the older brothers—those hands still needed play, were starved for play, and I almost missed it! I’m so glad that I made the concentrated effort to give them as much time to play and discover as I could. They are growing into themselves and that is hard work, playing is one of the greatest tools they have to daily sculpt who they will one day become.
See that basket of ribbon and tiny toob birds? That was our go to manipulative this year. He didn’t want to do every single thing listed each month. I had to be ok with that. He fell in love with these little birds and I am so glad that he did. They taught him empathy. They taught him storytelling. They taught him about life.
Speaking of story telling, see that book? #3’s favorite read this year by far. I think I will always have this image in my mind. Sitting in his Great Grandmother’s chair, wrapped in the blanket I made him, waiting for the cookies to finish baking, reading aloud the words he memorized while they were lovingly read aloud to him the night before. There is so much in this picture that is tactile to me. I can feel the warmth and security and love and simplicity and joy. It belongs to him. How great is that? This did not take a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education to accomplish. It just took one word, “yes.” It took intention and love. Speaking of intention…
See those hands busily chopping and preparing dinner? Say “yes” to letting kids do things they are more than able to do for themselves. We moved everything around this year to help them become even more independent. Wind in the sails! They are capable of so much.
Here is a look at one example of Math time. No worksheets to be found. Just one happy boy in his favorite apron, looking through the recipe on the last page of “The Moon Might be Milk.” Measuring, counting, pouring, mixing. We made the most delicious moon cookies that day.
Sometimes we played inside, and they surprised me with what they were absorbing and creating and testing. We took our time with those activities. It was funny watching their approach. Looking back, I see an organic Classical approach that was child initiated and the geek in me thrills over it.
Grammar: What are the parts to this and what makes it what it is? Give me the vocabulary for this activity, please!
Dialectic: Now I have a zillion questions, please answer them all. Mm Hmm, okay. Now here are a zillion other questions I have come up with based on those answers and I will now test everything using a ketchup, the dog, a piece of string and a balloon.
Rhetoric: I am the boss at this. I shall now teach my younger brother.
All the feels.
We spent a large amount of time outdoors and I realized that all those outdoor activities listed each month were slow enablers of courage and creativity and determination. Like tiny little training camps of fun that when set in the great outdoors unleashed a great big whirlwind of “I CAN DO THIS!!!”
See my precious boy cradling this still warm, fresh out of the nest, chicken egg? He is marveling at this egg. He is beholding the glorious, miraculous bit of nature that is the egg. I am on the other side of the lens, marveling at this little boy who is so confident in his newfound responsibilities. Do we lose a few eggs from time to time? You bet. But I would clean a hundred yolky messes off my kitchen floor with a glad heart to see that look of pride on his face. “I did this for you, Mama!”
Some people are show offs about it by now. 🙂
Toes in the mud.
Books and babes, cradled and savored.
Confidence and independence.
Imagination and friendship.
The depth of the sensory gymnastics of our year and how they shaped us are difficult to put into words.
My children have had their hands on the world around them. They know the names of the trees in our yard and the birds that pass through our back wood. They know the names of the wild fruit and the trails near our home. They know where the owl lives and where the squirrel keeps it nest. They know where the cardinals like to look for material and they know just where to leave gifts of colorful bits of strings for Mr. Cardinal and his wife to find. They know the sounds of their backyard. They know the weight of the soil and the texture of the rocks. They know the trails the rainfall will take each time it rains. They can make forts and climb trees and make mud pies. They can name the pieces of world around them and put them in their order and know security and surprise.
They know the twinkle of the stars and the sound of laughter. They know that when we sit down to dinner every night, we will sing “The Doxology” together. They know that every day at lunch I will crack open a book and a door to another world will open wide. They know the joy of an unexpected ice cream sundae breakfast and the giddiness of breakfast for dinner and the fun of waking up to a crazy ninja training course in the hallway. They know how fun it is to throw water beads and how long it takes to clean up water beads. They know that childhood is not just a word, its a mosaic of a hundred memories.
I can go on and on about how the program is structured and how I appreciate the freedom of the outline and the organization of the topics and the obvious love that went into every detail, but the truth is that above all, I valued the encouragement that sizzled out of this curriculum every time I opened the planner. I have opened up certain curriculums that have left me feeling like I had no chance at succeeding. When I opened AYOPS, I didn’t think, “Dang. There is no way I can do this.” I thought, “We can all do this together. Me and every other Mama I know. We could jump in and say yes and let our families and homes take their shape. Forget what its “supposed to look like” and relish what we have and who we have, RIGHT NOW. We can say yes to giving our kids a beautiful childhood and the freedom to be little because they are little.” Really, I think the above almost every day. If I am in the so called “trenches of motherhood,” I’m in good company and the play doh smells like vanilla chai.
In a world where its the norm to be frightened into taking action, its life giving JOY to be lovingly encouraged into action. I’ve got this. You’ve got this. We’ve got this.
To answer the question that has been coming in from our readers, YES! We are using A Year of Playing Skillfully again next year.
Yes, I think they will still be challenged by it.
And no, I highly, highly doubt they will be bored by a second round. In fact, when I told them we would be doing it again, all four of my children (8-3 years of age) let out a resounding, “YESSSSSSSS!!!!!”