Welcome to LOLIPOP

LOLIPOP began as my master's thesis - an experiment in group learning with twenty homeschool families, including over sixty kids between six and fourteen years old. I coordinated 2-4 projects happening simultaneously, in 6 week sessions. The kids had a lot of fun, and the parents learned a lot about how this energetic and enthusiastic age group can have a successful learning experience. Since this first experiment, I have conducted seminars and webinars based on the LOLIPOP concept, and published For the Love of Learning: Giving Your Child a LOLIPOP Education.
This BLOG is for all those out there, trying to give their children and students the foundation they need to grow into great scholars, thinkers, and leaders. The principles align with the Leadership Education model and foster a love for learning, build individual confidence, and teach learning strategies that apply to a life time of great learning.
Check out more info about the book, seminars, webinars, and more at www.sdlaa.com.

Lolipop Learning, and terms and concepts such as "Love of Play", "Love of Sampling", and "Love of Producing" are the sole property of Amy Edwards. “TJEd", "Leadership Education", “Love of Learning Phase”, “Inspire, not Require” and other similar terms and concepts are taken from the works of Oliver & Rachel DeMille, and are used by permission and under license. For more information, visit http://tjed.org/.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Bathtub Math

Learning can and should happen anywhere. One important aspect to mentoring a child in Love of Learning Phase is to be open and prepared for learning moments as they arise naturally.

Tonight that happened during bath time.

My son is six years old right now, which means that he's still in Core Phase (he's still learning the lessons of that phase), but he's beginning to play with learning moments. He is always curious and thinking, but I am not always as available as I want to be at the perfect moments.

Tonight he was taking his bath, and we had a wonderful learning moment together. This made me think about how this would be so easy for all of you to recreate in your own bathtubs! Just get some inexpensive rubber ducks and frogs or other bath toys in multiples.

Now, let's sing some funny songs.

My son counted out and lined up 5 little ducks and 1 big (mommy) duck. Then we sang the song, "Five Little Ducks Went Out One day..." Each time 1 less came back, and so he adjusted the ducks accordingly.

Then he set up 5 frogs, and we sang "Five green and speckled frogs sat on a special log..." He pushed 1 frog at a time off the side of the bath tub.

This is a great way to teach the number concept of subtraction and 1 less.

The bathtub is also a great place for science -- what floats and what doesn't? what happens when I mix different colored bubble bath? And my very favorite, push the glass under water and trap an air bubble the let it out. That one never gets old for me.

At bedtime, you can sing "There were five in the bed and the little one said..."

There are some many fun games and songs that teach math concepts. Keep it fun! Remember, they need to play all the way up to age ten, depending on the child. Don't worry about the scope and sequence. Don't worry about your child deeply understanding how and why this works. Just play together.

At this age, the goal is to associate positive emotional responses to learning. When the math concept shows up later, maybe in an actual math book, you can always help him make the connection.

And speaking of math books...We just got some new ones at our house, and my kids were so excited! Yes, excited about new math books. This is due to a couple of factors. First of all, I use fun and colorful math books for my younger kids. I like to use math books, because it helps me create some type of framework. But my kids know that they are not tied to this book. They are not a slave to completing every page or completing the pages in order. And I never send them to work on their math book on their own. We sit together. Many concepts are illustrated and very "user-friendly", so I don't need to give a lot of instruction. I just stay close by. Sometimes I work on my own math problems. At this age, our children simply want to be with us. And when they are done, that's fine with me. And if we want to skip a few pages (math texts often get repetitive), that's ok too. A math book is simply a resource for my children, and they know it.

So look for those unconventional ways to teach your children. Look for ways that have you spending time together, even studying side by side.

Have fun!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Perfect Day

One of the questions I get most often is, "What does a day look like at your house?". I could tell them all about the sibling fights, the crazy days when we have doctor's appointments, dentist appointments or have to take the car in for maintenance. How about the days when the sink backs up or the electricity goes out. And of course, the dreaded days when mommy is sick! But I think what they're really asking is "What does a 'perfect' day look like at your house?" Ok, those are fewer, but I had one this week, and so I thought I'd share it with you.

The TV was NOT on. Sammy (my 6-year-old) got out his large box of Legos and started building. Then he asked Maddy (my 9-year-old) to help him, and she said "yes"! They worked together to build several structures and creations and create stories around them. When they were done, they cleaned up the Legos (wow, right!). Then they pulled out some board games and played together, learning about space travel and about spelling and number placement. They took turns choosing the game or activity.

What did I do to produce such a great day? Nothing! Well, not quite...

First of all, I had already created the right environment. Our house is filled with lots of accessible games and activities that promote learning in all areas. My kids have immediate and easy access to several games and activities, and they have a variety of choice. Periodically, I rotate what is out and available (I keep other games & activities put away in storage closets, so everything is manageable). I keep paper, crayons, glue sticks, and scissors accessible. I keep puzzles and math manipulatives accessible, and I allow my kids to use them as they see fit (not as the curriculum instructions demand).

Next, I simply stay out of the way. I am available to my kids if they need help, but I try not to interrupt them if they are happily doing a project or playing a game. I keep an eye on the clock and on our appointments, so that they have plenty of warning, rather than suddenly needing to stop what they are doing, which can be quite upsetting at this age.

What if I have something I planned to teach this day? If I can catch them between activities and work with them, then great. I never pull them out of their own creative endeavors to submit to my curriculum. There will always be time later. Otherwise I wait for another day. Of course, this is why it is important to have big chunks of time when you can all be at home...so you aren't trying to squeeze in "learning" between hectic appointments and outside lessons.

So, decide how you can turn your home into a learning environment, and then sit back and enjoy the good days!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Creating LOLIPOP Projects

A question I hear a lot is "How do I Create a LOLIPOP Project?", or simply requests for more LOLIPOP Projects. It would be impossible for me to write curriculum for all the potential LOLIPOP Projects, since the topics are limitless--whatever interests your children! But I will, over time, add specific projects to this blog and to my available published curriculum. For now, here is a basic outline or instructions for creating your own LOLIPOP Project. Here is what I do when creating a new LOLIPOP Project.

1 - Decide on a topic. You can ask your children what they want to learn about. Sometimes this doesn't work, because kids, especially younger kids, don't know what the world has to offer and often don't even know what to ask to learn about. But you can always start off by asking them. If this doesn't produce anything you feel you can build a project around, then come up with an idea of your own by thinking about what YOU are interested in. One of you, either the student or the mentor, must be excited about the topic, but sometimes the excitement starts with the mentor and is caught by the student.

2 - Do research and collect resources on your topic. Search amazon.com or your local library for children's books about your topic, search for thematic teaching units on your topic, search the internet for teaching ideas on your topic (you will be surprised how much you will find, for free, posted by creative teachers and parents), and brainstorm with other parents.

3 - Sit down and make a list of all the different activities you found and want to do on your topic. Start by making one, long, rough list. Then stand back and look at the list. Are ALL the activities hands-on and highly interactive? Don't plan to do any lecturing or giving of information and testing in a written format! You can share information, casually, as you and your students are working on the activities. Do you have activities that accomodate each learning style? If you are missing an activity that is primarily linguistic (probably not, since most learning today is linguistic), or kinesthetic, or visual, etc. then brainstorm some activities specifically for that learning style or change some of the activities you have to accomodate different learning styles. Do you have activities based in various subject areas: reading, writing, math, science, art, music, physical activity? If not, then brainstorm for the areas you are missing.

4 - Plan out your 4-6 weeks. Do NOT have a LOLIPOP Project last longer than 6 weeks. If you have more activities than 6 weeks, get rid of some of the activities. It is better to leave your students begging for more than to burn them out on a topic before the project ends. They can continue at home if they are inspired. For each week, plan 2-3 projects. I like to set up stations and allow the students to rotate through the stations. I plan to have all the students rotate to each station, but if a student is really enjoying one station and doesn't want to rotate, he/she can continue where they are or on their own. Don't force them to go to every station, but encourage them to at least give each a try. You should have a parent-helper at each station to explain the instructions to the kids and keep them on task and resolve any issues that may arise.

Most importantly...Have Fun! Remember you goal is to inspire a love for learning and discovery and build their confidence in themselves!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Redwood Community

The redwood trees of the northern and north central California coast are the tallest trees on earth. These skyscrapers may reach over 350 feet in height, a scale that is difficult to comprehend until it is seen first hand.The root system of the redwood tree is surprisingly shallow, especially given the great height the mature tree attains. There is no tap root and the other roots may reach no deeper than 6-12 feet. The major roots are about 1 inch in diameter. and they typically spread 50 to 80 feet. One way in which the trees are able to remain upright for millennia is by growing close together with other redwood trees, intermingling root systems.

When I heard about these trees, I was struct by the connection to our learning community...or what it should be.
One question that I hear over and over, when conducting seminars or simply talking to homeschoolers, is "How do I teach all my kids of different ages?!" That is one of the biggest challenges of homeschooling. Here is my answer to that question.
Some subjects or topics, like History and Science and sometimes Literature can be taught to multiple ages simultaneously. I simply teach to the oldest and allow the younger kids to "tag along". My youngers know that they aren't expected to do everything the olders do, which goes back to the learning environment I have created. The younger kids look to the older kids for help, and simply watch them work out more complex ideas. They don't absorb everything, but that's ok. They will have a chance to hear it again, and this exposure will serve as a foundation, so they can make even deeper connections the next time. The older kids are not held back by the younger kids. In fact, they have a chance to teach the younger kids and explain concepts in simpler terms, which really cements ideas in their own minds.
Now, for the subjects that cannot be taught to multiple ages...Math comes to mind, and Science once my older kids are old enough for high school level science lab classes, and some deeper studies of history, maybe art. It all depends on your child and that child's learning goals. But when I encounter this challenge, I do not try to make time to teach math at 3 different levels. One approach that has worked for my family is to have an older child take responsibility for teaching a younger child in a specific subject or topic. I wouldn't force this-only use this if both kids are excited at the prospect. What I do more often is use my homeschooling friends!
I trade off with other moms a lot! I will teach Literature classes for older kids, and a friend will take my younger kids to do science and art. Some moms love the littlest kids, and so they will take all the little kids to play with for just a couple of hours once a week, giving other moms time to work one-on-one with an older child. One mom will host an art class in her home (so she doesn't have to actually teach art) while other moms teach scholar projects to older kids. I have done this with just one other mom, and I have done this with several moms (and dads). You don't need a big group to do this. Start out with just one other homeschooling friend if necessary. It is actually better to work with a small group of moms who are all on the same page with you as far as your approach to education, rather than have a large group in which some parents are offering groups that don't align with your own educational goals for your children.
Even when we are helping in different locations, in different homes, working with different age groups, we are all part of one community. The mom playing with the 3 and 4 year olds is contributing just as much as the mom teaching a Scholar Project. We can't each have deep roots in every subject or with every age group, but we are strong because our roots are intertwined. We hold each other up!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

French Fries or Apple Slices

After much, highly-publicized critism, McDonalds defended their Happy Meals by claiming that children have a choice of fries or apple slices. Of course this doesn't work, because almost no kids choose apple slices over fries. I can just imagine the screaming that would take place in my minivan if I passed out Happy Meals with apple slices instead of fries! Last week McDonalds announced that they were going a step further. They will now provide both apple slices and fries in every Happy Meal, and the serving of fries will be slightly smaller. This solution just seems like a waste of a lot of apples to me!

If my child has fries and apple slices in his Happy Meal, he will choose to eat the fries and throw out the apple slices. If my child has a choice between video games and reading a book, guess what he's choosing. Maybe you're one of the lucky ones--you have a child who chooses apple slices and reading. You lucky parents can stop reading at this point. Ok, for the rest of us, how do we inspire our children to eat the apple slices?

In Love of Learning Phase, with children under fourteen who are still falling in love with learning and building their confidence as learners, you inspire by creating the right environment. Create an environment in which your children or students have choices, but all of the choices are contributing to a great education and to learning the skills of Love of Learning Phase. Create an environment in which learning is enjoyable and accessible.

The front lines for all homeschoolers is the home. Create a home where learning is cherished and fun. Play games together. It doesn't have to be an educational game--your child can learn something from almost any game out there. My five-year-old son learned about math grids from Battle Ship! Act out math problems, bake cookies, write and act out plays, read silly poetry and memorize a couple to perform for a family night... I believe a home cannot have too many books! I know that can become an expensive endeaver, so use the library or book swap with friends. Have manipulatives out and available for kids to play with. You can buy all kinds of manipulatives in teaching stores or online, but you can also make your own for little cost.

Your children love to spend time with you. So learn with them! Read together. Read outloud to them, even if they already know how to read. I still read aloud to my 12-year-old. It's a very special time for us. Play with them, so that you can take advantage of those wonderful teaching moments that pop up naturally. Work around the house with them. There's a lot of learning that can happen as you clean the house, sort the laundry, care for pets, plan meals, run errands, etc...

What about that stuff they don't want to learn? What if they refuse to eat apple slices, even if that's the only option? First of all, hang in there, because eventually they must eat. Boredom often precedes creativity. Eventually they will choose something from the environment you have created.

If there is something that you truly believe they need to learn...get to work! Figure out a way to inspire them! Don't just give up and feed them the fries. Figure out a way to make those apple slices appealing. What activities do they already enjoy? Can you integrate this learning into an activity they already enjoy? Ask other parents and teachers for creative ideas. If it's truly important, you can figure out a way to present it without coercion.

And eventually, they will choose apple slices over fries...but that's a few years down the road.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Education Ownership

Robert Maynard Hutchins said, “The objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” How do we prepare our children and students to accept responsibility for their own education? Are we educating our children, or are we helping them to educate themselves?

Of course, young children and students in Love of Learning Phase need a parent or teacher to create a rich environment for them. They are not ready to own their education completely. You wouldn't expect your 10-year-old to buy a car, but you might expect him to save up to buy that new bike he wants. Even at a young age, our children and students can owns their education in small pieces. As you make each decision, ask yourself whether your child truly needs your mature intercession to save her from a bad choice that may have repercussions later into her life, or are you micromanaging her education to be the best YOU think it should be for her.

When we allow our students to own their education, we still guide them. We have walked the path before them, and so we hope to shed a little light upon their path. We are happy when they are able to add knowledge and skills to their intellectual bank account. But we are not devastated if they make bad choices and have set backs, because our own self-worth is not integrally connected to their success or failure. They have the freedom to fail and learn from those failures, because we do not react as if failure is intellectual bankruptcy. Sophocles taught, “It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.” But this is how we learn and grow.

How can you really tell if you are owning your child's education? If we feel ownership of a student’s education, we feel personally threatened by his failure. One way to know if we are allowing our students to own their education is to observe how strongly (negatively) we react to their failures.

Have you ever noticed that children treat toys bought with their own money with greater care than those simply given to them? When our students own their education, they take care to maintain it properly. They take great pride in their academic accomplishments. They enjoy not only learning new skills and knowledge but also reinforcing the skills and knowledge they already possess.

Booker T. Washington stated, “Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” Give your children appropriate amounts of responsibility, allow them to experience the natural results of their choices, rejoice with them when they succeed, and encourage them when they fail. In the end, you will both live happy and fulfilling lives.