Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Unschooled Learning

"Line up, Class."
"Raise your hand if you want to speak."
"Sit up in your chair."
"Turn around and face the front."
"Quiet, please."
"Stop tapping your pencil."
"Finish reading the page and answer the questions...

all 5,349 of them...

in English, Spanish, and then Latin...

while standing on your head and chewing gum."

Okay, maybe I added the last bits of instructions,
 but sometimes in my child's mind it seemed like the homework amounted to that.

Yes, yes.  The good ole' school days of long, long ago.

Back in the 90's, I student-taught a handful of girls and a monstrosity amount of boys;
well, not really, but it sure seemed that way.

For some reason, 9 of the 10 boys that were in my 3rd grade student-teaching class were made of
1 part human, 1 part Mexican jumping bean; 1 part indistinguishable noises; and 1 part obnoxious, odorous emissions coming from some unearthly substances their parents must have fed them
(at least it seemed that way).

Teaching is a work of love.

When I gave birth to my own man child, I realized he would also have to be schooled.
I could see right from the start this his cerebral patterns were vastly different from my girl's.

While my girl loved dolls and imitation play,
my son liked dangerous elements, noises, bugs, intense exploration of outdoor creatures.

My curriculum for schooling would need some enhancements for his terms of endearment.

I slowly picked up educational toys as I read up on the different types and abilities.
There is a heap of great helps out there these days.

Rather than load him up on trucks and tractor toys at Christmas,
I filled the allotted money on educational things...
and was surprised at how well they reached his needs.

Unlike my daughter who needed the traditional teaching method from me to learn how to read,
my son learned to read almost entirely through these toys
and has picked up the basics of mathematics so far as well.

I do work with him, of course, and use the variety that we have for different instances.
He still needs to know the manual functions of scissors and coloring,
but I've found the abundant helps available to education a great asset to our homeschooling.

So I thought I would share a few, in case you have any young man children around tapping out a commotion with his fork, spoon, and dinner plate.

Let me start with the Leap Frog games.

We have Leapster 2 games for the kids.

(I chose the Leapster 2 over the Explorer just because the whole start up cost at the time
was less than the Leapster Explorers.  They are a bit simpler but they do the purpose of helping them educationally while making them think they are just having fun..)

 The disc he is playing here is called Learn to Draw and Write.
It is helpful for teaching the basics of writing
while helping our household and the nearby dump by not going through scads of paper.

I do have to keep checking on Levi to make sure he is holding the "pencil" correctly.
He would like to draw like a caveman if I would let him.

There are a LOT of different cartridges for the Leap Frog games.

Amazon is a great place to buy them for a little less,
but I especially like to browse there for the great reviews given about each game.
Every game I have gotten came from reading these reviews.

Another great source for Leap Frog games and cartridges is Craigs List or second hand children stores.
I have often found new cartridges at these stores for much less than the new price.

Another toy that was gifted to the kids is this


This is a very simple toy that basically teaches numbers and how to write them.

It is not nearly as loaded with information as the Leapsters,
but it is another helpful tool in learning numbers with easy instructions
and a cheerful tune.  This is great for preschoolers, but my 6 year old son still picks it up
once in a while for a change of pace.

My son learned much of his basic phonic sounds from this simple magnet game: the Word Whammer.
(There is a similar version they sell now called the Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder.)
He loved to sit here and make different three letter words and hear his creations sounded out.

Of course, the fact that it was in the kitchen, close to snacking skills,
was an added draw.

Leap Frog also has something called the Tag pen.
This little "pen" doesn't have any ink it in, but a small computerized memory
that can hold a small library of it's own books and games in it.

You can purchase different books from Leap Frog, depending on your needs
and then download them into the pen from their website.

I purchases both of the fold out, reversible maps that they have:

 One of the maps is of the world with the continents in bold print.
Touching the different words brings the pen to life and it tells the name of the place
and different things about it.


 The back of the map has the different countries sectioned off
and touching them will give more information and games.

 The one obvious flaw I have found with the fold out maps is that b/c of their large size and simple cardboard construction, remembering how to fold them isn't easy for kids (or folding-deficient adults like myself),
and the center tears a bit too easily.

I actually do not leave these maps where the kids can use them at their will either,
but keep them tucked away for when I can pull them out for their specific use.

Honestly, though, I still think they are worth it for the fun and great dimension in learning that they give.

The other map is of the USA.

 with the divisions of the states on one side
and information on the other.


 For our Tag pen, I also purchased some of the reading books
and I give them to my son to "read" with during school sometimes
to break things up.

They have stories that read themselves to the child,
or can be "read" by touching each word with the pen.

These also have simple games in them.

There are books that teach short vowels
and others that teach long vowels and blends.

There are also individual books one can buy that are based on the different movies
put out for kids.

I also just purchased the new "Human Body Discovery Pack"
but we haven't studied any of that yet, so I can't speak on that yet,
but it looks like a helpful, fun tool.
(photo from Amazon)

NOTEThe Tag pen has a limited amount of memory it can hold.  We have the two maps, about 12 books,
and the body pack downloaded onto our pen, and it is full.  What I did with mine is when Levi grew past the short vowels and had used the books enough times, I erased them on the website by replacing them with the next set of books for the long vowels that he was ready for.  Purchasing another pen would be another option, but I just chose to do it this way since it will be another year before I will let Lillie use them anyhow since she is still a bit destructive and not ready for these yet.


Moving back to the kitchen, we keep Alphie up on the windowsill so he's handy at the table.

Alphie comes with some educational cards
and more of them can be purchased.

Although not as comprehensive as the Leap Frog games,
Alphie is just another toy to enhance a different approach to learning,
and for a boy who loves robots, he was a perfect gift.

Alphie is a helpful diversion when Levi wanders into the kitchen wondering when the next meal will be served.
Distraction always calms the hungry natives.
(Our Alphie has had some technical difficulties.  He hasn't been responding properly,
and having only had him for about 2 years when the problems started,
this was disappointing.  He definitely was a great help to Levi's learning,
but I don't know that he will make it to help Lillie.)


Of course, nothing can compare to the great creativity of crayons, scissors, and glue,
the fun of reading books and working together,
and a truckload of stickers to make a child's school day even better.

We can't forget the necessary moments of games of dress-up and pretend,
because what would life be like without imagination?

As well as sunshine,
 a large assortment of germs,

because every mother needs her fair share of laundry to fill her spare time.

I'll leave you with a few video demonstrations of one of the games
from the boy child himself.

I know there is a vast amount of teaching helps out today,
and I couldn't be more thankful for the ingenuity of the makers of these great tools.
These are just some of the ones I have used,
but I would LOVE to hear if you have any favorites or great recommendations.

Linking up to: 


  1. Leapsters are cool. My grandkids learned a lot on them and had fun, too.

    Your kids are lucky that you find creative ways to teach them. Well done!


  2. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out.
    Please let me know where you got your theme.


    Feel free to surf to my website ... how much should i weigh for my height


I love your comments!