Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dear Jenny :: Work and Play

Doll House Food

I just never know what I'll find tucked into a corner;

Ralph in Bed

on a shelf top;

House in a Drawer

in a desk drawer; or set up all over the floor.

Lemonade Stand

There was a lemonade stand in Amabel's room this morning after a performance of the Wizard of Oz.  Although to be precise, I should say that it was actually a rehearsal for the Wizard of Oz.  And a failed rehearsal, because Amabel abandoned the idea after trying in vain to get Ellen to memorize lyrics from the scarecrow's song ("I could while away the hours, conferring with the flowers, consulting with the rain . . .  if I only had a brain.").  I rescued Ellen from her strict director sister and suggested that we do something else for a while.  Ellen and I snuggled up to read books and Amabel set up the lemonade stand.  Everyone small was invited.  

I never tire of watching and listening to them play (except, maybe, during heated arguments and at bedtime).  As they play, tidbits of stories, poems, songs, conversations, and impressions from their little lives are woven into the worlds they create.  I love to witness this process.  The learning process is incredibly complex and yet as simple as, well, child's play.

Last night Jeffrey and I listened to a sample French language audio lesson.  Amabel and Ellen inevitably found their way into the room and perked up their ears.  For the rest of the night, Amabel repeated the phrase "Es-que vous comprenez l'Anglais?" over and over again, delighting in the musical sounds and securing the words into her memory where they were retrieved and made use of this morning—in play.  (I requested the language program from the library.  I have a feeling we're going to be hearing a lot more French flying around our house over the coming weeks.)

I've been wanting to give you some sort of an update on our homeschooling work.  But when I look back over photos from the past two months, I keep returning to photos of play.  So, I've been thinking about homeschooling: work and play.  When I get questions about our homeschooling, I usually start by explaining the curriculums we chose for math and reading; how Singapore Math and All About Reading are a really good fit for our learning and teaching styles (and it's not just Amabel learning and Jeffrey and I teaching—thanks to Amabel's memory and insistence on getting everything just right, my spelling is already improving!).  Then I might mention speaking a bit of French, attending choir rehearsals, and the wonderful instructors at clay class.  All this intentional work is good, really good.  But there is also a whole lot of play going on over here.  Games.  Songs.  Mini-performances.  Epic dramas (tracking Baba Yaga through snow drifts, for example).  Then there are stories and books (Amabel will go on an on about our current favorite chapter book: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street).  And all sorts of spontaneous projects—just ask the girls what they've made at Grandmommy's house!  (Have you ever seen a genie in a bottle?  How does it fit in there?  They can tell you.)  Play—which is impossible to fully describe and yet so very essential to Amabel and Ellen—is at the heart of what we've been doing around here.

How do you balance work and play at your house? (I sense a theme running through my recent posts: balance).  I admit, I tend to let play continue, uninterrupted, even when there is work to be done.  The thing is, I recognize how much learning happens through play.  So I try not to let our work get in the way of all the playing/learning happening so naturally.  Listen to me—justifying my lack of discipline!  Fortunately, I have discovered that if Amabel and I make a to-do list in the morning together, she will hold me to it throughout the day.  And that has proved to be very helpful in making sure we accomplish our work as well as our play.  

Speaking of work, Amabel has become much more interested in my work.  Particularly editing work.  She sneaks up on me and then wants to know what all those little marks mean.  And why do I write in cursive sometimes?  Cursive.  She loves cursive.  (She recently made a "secret" wish to learn cursive, and then confided in me.)  Alas, I should be working right now, not "playing" on my blog.  I'll say goodnight and sign off, eager to hear your thoughts on work and play.

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