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‘Winter Workshops’ Create Enthusiasm

Term 2 came to a close yesterday here in New South Wales, though we aren’t stopping for a break yet. Partially because we haven’t achieved as much learning as optimal in the past month due to life’s interruptions. Also we’re waiting until our two City boys come home in a fortnight to be able to enjoy their visit for the two weeks they’re here. One of the benefits of home education is we can be flexible and work around family time.


Truthfully though we’re all feeling a little stale, students and teacher, and in need of a change of pace. I’m always of the mind that ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat’, outcome is that the children are learning, process is always negotiable. With this in mind midweek I came up with the idea of a fresh presentation with a relaxed atmosphere, and the deep immersion and explosion of learning resulting has been so heartening. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen this Reggio Emilia type of approach.


What Are We Doing?

So what are we doing? Thinking about the subject matters I’d like the children to continue to learn their regular basics. Plus the more creative ones which are often neglected due to time and energy. I brainstormed on the board, having fun with alliterations and arrived with the following list. The children are to write their initials next to the workshops they’d like to do. I’ll help facilitate or lead their workshops. I was concerned that some children would only choose the creative workshops, neglecting the more academic ones.  To my surprise this wasn’t the case and they all happily picked far more than 4 workshops a day.


My challenge has been logistical. Trying to be available to facilitate/lead the workshops which need my input. This weekend I’ll be creating a new document assigning time slots for the workshops. I’ll share how that goes next week. I’m already thinking though that I won’t emphasis how many per day but how many per week. This will allow time for depth of immersion.


So how did it go? What did we learn? As we didn’t begin Winter workshops until Thursday, we only had a sneak preview but it looks quite promising:)


Youtube Discoveries

  • Jem became fascinated by volcanoes, he then sparked an enthusiasm within the other younger boys. All three watched several youtubes on famous and not so famous eruptions and how to make a volcano. Thanks to Kate’s tutorial on how to make your own youtube channel I can niftily save youtubes for the children to access.
  • A decision was then made to make their own volcano, they discussed a few different ideas, choose a couple and discarded the others. One option involved newspaper which we didn’t have, another needed an empty lemonade bottle, I suggested a milk bottle but Jack Jack wasn’t convinced it would suffice.
  • The boys began a model that included flour, salt and water, however it was obviously too wet, JJ brainstormed if he could put it into the oven to harden a little and then mold into shape. I suggested we find a shape and cook it in that. We ended up pouring the mixture into a glass pyrex dish and placed a cookie cutter in the middle, not perfect but JJ was happy, afterwards he painted his volcano.  Many times over the next couple of days his volcano was to erupt.
  • Jem has surprised me with his keenness to learn via youtubes, I wouldn’t have expected such technicality to hold the interest of a six year old. After a day of immersions in volcanic activity he became engrossed in all things dinosaur. Jack Jack delved into fish of all things, unusual fish.
  • Michelangelo has long been a user of youtubes for his Science studies, this week he studied the elements, planets and food.

Faith Frenzy

  • Michelangelo  continued learning with Understanding the Scriptures, it really is the best of the series.
  • I ran a Faith Quiz with the children, they pretended they had buzzers and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. PC has talked of making us buzzers, I think it’s time to encourage him. Many years ago my mum compiled a huge folder of thousands and thousands of quiz questions, a real mix; catechism, saints, Church history, Bible knowledge, Sacraments, Sacramentals, the Mass and more. My mum has given me permission to share these on the ‘net, one day I’ll have the time to research quiz websites and sort and upload the questions. The children enjoyed the quiz format, happily surprising me with how much they knew and learning along the way. The Faith quiz will be sure to be a regular throughout the Winter Workshops.

Handwriting Boot Camp

The girls choose to do the Handwriting Boot Camp workshop, admittedly they were not the ‘target audience’ who needed to sign up. Jelly Bean however is keen to improve her cursive and it was a good opportunity for her to do so, Princess has beautiful handwriting and loves to write, I’m going to organise calligraphy lessons for her Boot Camp next week.


Independent Workshops

You’ll note on the form I have several blank workshop spaces, these were intended for any further ideas or independent studies.

  • Michelangelo turns 16 in little over a week and intends on obtaining his Learner’s licence forwith, hence he has been enthusiastically studying the Driver’s manual.
  • Princess has been studying Spanish for some time now using duolingo and has impressed us with how well she is doing.

Crafty Creators

Bass asked for a craft activity, so with quick help from Pinterest we came up with a Fishy Activity, I combined a template, celery sticks and paint with a fish book and A Book and Activity made a reappearance:) Certainly planning on A Book and Activity to be a regular workshop.


Rocket into Reading

Whilst my ‘target audience’ was for the younger children learning to read or needing further support, admittedly it didn’t happen these two days. The older, independent readers however are always reading and continued to do so. Happy to note Princess taking her reading ‘up a notch’ and currently tackling Jane Eyre. Thanks to Anna Maria’s suggestion, teen girls always listen to big sisters:)

Off to a great start, looking forward to what next week may bring:)

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  • Bron Maxabella

    This is awesome, Erin. I love the idea of this 'loose structure' that encourages them to immerse themselves into a particular area of learning. My kids would really go for that. You are a super mum / teacher!! It's really good that home schooling gives you the kind of flexibility where you can work through 'traditional' school hols and make your own holidays when the timing is better. That's a big win too. x

    • Erin

      Yes it would really suit your children's personalities learning like this:) Thanks, but I'm a work in progress, still always striving. Yes holiday flexibility is a huge plus of hsing, particularly when we have college students whose holidays don't always line up.

  • Cassie Williams

    I was researching your Handwriting Boot Camp and read this post again. I think this is a pretty great way to keep learning but get out of the regular routine. It sounds pretty awesome to me! Back to the handwriting boot camp . . . . can you give me more details? I read your other post that explain what you did. Can you give me more information? I had my 11 year old evaluated and the physical therapist said it was just his pencil grip. We've been working on the stuff she sent us home with (can't afford to do any sessions with the PT though). I'm seeing very little improvement but he hasn't been practicing as much as I would like (too busy and we forget). He pretty much has every problem you mentioned in your May 2013 post. And then there is cursive . . . which he gave up on and can't do. My oldest needs practice in cursive too. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with teaching this and need to make a plan. I want to spend the next three weeks doing a boot camp before we start "official" school.

    • Erin

      Well it's more that we focus on handwriting for a longer period but also I can be 'pickier' because I make out I'm the Sargent Major, might even dress up like that. Normally when I correct them they either ignore correction or dissolve in tears. By having this funny alter ego they allow the corrections and listen.
      btw I read a post of Ginny's the other day and was really tempted by the handwriting book she linked to
      the pictures in cursive sound great, not sure how it would work with older children though

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