Camping fun

Apologies that I haven’t posted yet this week – we’re on a home education camp with limited internet but lots of fun, food for thought, and that all-important socialisation that we apparently miss by not being in school. 

I’m loving the old-time village atmosphere, where the kids roam free together and come home when they are hungry, you don’t have to lock your door, the young people are respectful and helpful, and there’s a strong sense of community.  

I’m loving the teaching, and the conversations with people. They are fun, and deep, and inspiring. 

I’m loving the rest from preparing lessons and supervising writing and maths, even though I am still washing and cooking and doing dishes. 

I’ve made blackberry crumble from berries my kids foraged for me. I’ve watched my kids do country dancing, and run off hand in hand with new friends, and find the courage to look an adult in the eye and thank them (a big step for us). 

I’ve stayed up way too late chatting with old and new friends, and wrestled my kids into bed when they really just want to keep playing. 

It’s great, and I will post again when it’s done and normal life hits. For now, I need to sleep and get some energy for tomorrow. And see if I can find somewhere with enough internet to post this….

Summer Days

There has been a much longer gap than I intended between posts. It’s partly my fault – I had a little incident with a cup of tea and my computer. But it is also because despite our plan to school through summer, these August days we have found it soooo hard to stay in routine.

Some of that is the weather. We have had some lovely sunshine and it’s hard to sit at home with books open when we could be outside, catching up with friends and watching Rosebud explore the great outdoors. She had her first taste of sand and her first taste of grass this summer.

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Baby toes are the sweetest things!

Some of that is a sleep deprived Mama. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in living memory, and it is starting to get to me just a little bit. Our mornings have been derailed by me sleeping in and then struggling to hit the ground running.

Some of it is, I think, that the kids know that all their school friends are on holidays. There is a bit of a holiday atmosphere in the air, and it’s permeated its way into our household.

Some of it is that my school planning has been in a state of flux. Buttercup is hitting compulsory school age now, and so although we started our school year in January, I kind of feel like we are having a mini start to the year in September. The back to school sales and all the pictures online of people starting school haven’t helped.

Whatever the cause, our summer days have been lazy. Which is good, I think. It’s nice to take a month to slow down, do a little less, and breathe, reflect and plan. We’ve had shorter weeks, and I am loving it. I’m hoping it will give us the stamina to carry on till the end of the year.

Along the way, I’m remembering how much learning actually happens when we don’t let education get in the way. I’ve watched the kids playing for hours in the backyard, reinventing their own version of Swallows and Amazons. I’ve seen epic Lego masterpieces, and elaborate cardboard sweet factories being built. I’ve seen loads of children snuggled in various places and positions with books, and overheard them reading poetry to each other. I have seen one learn to be generous to and care for a sister she was struggling to relate to, and I have seen them learn valuable life lessons in decluttering and saying goodbye to things.

Our family life has been quite busy, and it won’t settle down for another month or so yet. But I think, on reflection, it has been a good summer. Today it’s cold and wet and it feels like summer is ending. All our normal activities will be starting up again soon. I’m trying to work out how to tweak our days to run more smoothly, so that we can finish the year well. There’s a bit more tweaking to do still, so watch this space – I’ll let you know how we go.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. How has your summer gone (if it’s summer in your part of the world)? Are you feeling ready and energised for the months ahead, or are you hiding under a blanket hoping that no one will notice?

Weekly wrap-up: or why I love home educating

I was thinking today about how much I love home educating. Some days I think I don’t. Days when one child is yelling about how she doesn’t like maths, another child is telling me that she hates school, another child is scribbling all over her work, the baby is getting into everything she shouldn’t, and the dog is dragging her manky blanket over all the school books.

But those days are few and far between. Not the days when the baby gets into everything. That happens most days (She’s “helping” me type this right now). I mean the days when I just want to load everyone into the car and push them out at the nearest school gate, then drive like a mad woman to the airport.

Most days, I sit and watch the learning happening, and think “I’m so blessed to be able to do this”.

Today I saw Snugglepot draw a picture in her history journal of grave robbers robbing a beehive-shaped tomb of a Mycenaean king. I saw Bookworm drawing a picture of the birth of the Greek goddess Athena from Zeus’ head, and I saw her use the word “for” correctly in a sentence, then tell me that she’d used it because she was learning about coordinating conjunctions a few days ago and realised that she was joining two thoughts and needed to use one.

Confession: I had never heard of the Mycenaeans until we read about them this year in history. And I didn’t know what a coordinating conjunction was.

I am learning so much, right along with my kids. And. I. love. it.

I love seeing their eyes light up as they make connections. When they understand that the planet Mars is called that because it’s red like blood and Mars is the Roman name for Ares, the Greek god of war.

I love seeing them turn with excitement to tell me that four is a homophone. And that bow is a homonym. Just because they noticed.

I love seeing them watch, enraptured, a harp recital. Did you know that harps have pedals? Or that harp players don’t use their little fingers when playing? We do, now.

I love watching them spend ages playing a game inspired by Swallows and Amazons, drawing up ship’s papers, making a chart of their island, allocating roles of Captain, Mate and Able Seaman, and sailing off on adventures.

We discovered this week that the Hittites came from Turkey, and were famous for their iron. There was a knife with a Hittite blade discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb.

We have encountered the Psammead in Five Children and It. Read aloud time is a beloved part of our day, and it is so lovely to see my girls enjoying books as much as I do.

The two oldest girls and I have done some crochet, and Buttercup has surprised me with some very neat embroidery.

These are some of the things that we have learnt about this week. Lest you think our days are full of sunshine and happy learning, I have also been screamed at many times this week. I have had a headache most days. My house needs baby-proofing again because Rosebud is cruising along furniture and the living room is not set up for an active baby. One of the girls said today “I hate bookwork!”. I have a messy kitchen and I have had a Mount Everest of washing in the basket for most of the week. I haven’t had nearly enough sleep to function normally.

And yet, I love what I do. It’s great fun as well as being very very hard. I’m seeing my little people learn to love learning. I think I’ll keep my day job!

Have you learnt anything interesting this week? I’d love to hear it!

 

Life lessons from Ancient Egypt

We have been studying Ancient Egypt in history recently. It’s easy to see why it’s an essential part of any history curriculum. Majestic pharaohs, mysterious tombs filled with treasure, strange tales of gods with animal heads, a hippo/lion/crocodile monster that eats bad people after they die, code-like hieroglyphs, battles and boats, massive pyramids and colossal statues, beautiful queens and women who rule. There’s something for everyone.

It is easy to find crafts and hands on activities too. Sugar cube pyramid anyone? Crack the secret code. Turn your doll or an apple into a mummy. Make papyrus with brown paper bags. Walk like an Egyptian. Pinterest is awash with inspiration to satisfy the cravings of even the craftiest of crafters.

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“Papyrus” with Egyptian artwork. It’s satisfyingly stiff and crackly.

We have learnt about Menes the first pharaoh and Cleopatra the last pharaoh. Ahkenaten who worshipped the sun and Ramses III who fought a battle at sea. We have discovered how they irrigated their crops and what they ate. But as I reflect on what we have learnt lately, there are other, bigger lessons that we have been learning. Life lessons.

I don’t mean that lentils are tasty, though I wish my kids would learn that one. Or that if you are a naughty girl the Devourer will eat you in the afterlife (very thankful that one is not true!). I mean lessons like that of Jean-François Champollion, who worked for fourteen years trying to decode the Rosetta Stone before he deciphered a single word.

One of my children struggles with perseverance. She is gives up on average after about a minute and a half. Fourteen minutes is a long time for her to stick at a task, let alone fourteen years. So we are choosing to make Champollion one of our role models. To carry on with something just a little bit longer before we give up. If Champollion can work day in day out for fourteen years before he got a result, we can work just a little longer before we decide that our maths is too hard, or that our sock is lost forever.

Another lesson we can learn from the Ancient Egyptians is to manage our resources well. The Egyptian farmers built irrigation channels and catch basins to make the most of the Inundation – the yearly flooding of the Nile River. Careful engineering meant that the once a year flood would provide all of their water for the rest of the year. If they didn’t make the most of it when it came, there would be no rain later – their crops would fail.

It’s easy to let time pass and miss opportunities because we are busy or distracted. But if we work hard when the time is right, then we can manage our resources well and have provision for later.

Practically, that means for me taking a week off school when our apple trees are ready to harvest, so that they don’t drop and rot on the ground (ooops…. it makes a mess, I can tell you!). But it also means putting in the hard work of character training when children are young (digging the irrigation channels) so when the Inundation that is the teenage years come, we are ready to use the wonderful opportunities that they bring, instead of being swamped. It means teaching our children that if we save our money by not buying every sweet and toy that catches their eye, then later we can travel and build memories. For me as a mother of young children, it means not shirking my task, but investing in my children while they need me. The season will come when I can finish writing a blog post without a million interruptions, or get a full night’s sleep, or drink tea while it is hot. It’s just not now. The Egyptian farmers, like farmers everywhere, live their life according to the seasons, with busy periods of work and periods of rest and maintenance. We do well to do the same.

History has always fascinated me – it’s full of colourful characters and darn good stories. They catch the imagination and lift us for a little while out of the mundane. But one of the things I love about home educating is the chance to go deeper with our conversations, to let history shape us and direct our future. To learn from the successes and failures of the past, and to be inspired by those whose stories we read. That’s what I want to pass on to my children.

On managing transitions…

One of the best pieces of advice that anyone has given me about having a smooth and easy day is this:

Manage your transitions well

The times when my day most often gets derailed is when moving from one activity to another, from one time of day to another. Breakfast to jobs. Morning Basket to bookwork. Playtime to pack up time. Teeth time to bedtime.

Once I have lost them, it takes simply ages to get everyone back together again.

So now, I try and focus on managing the transitions. By being deliberate about them, by creating little rituals around them, our days are peaceful.

When we don’t manage the transitions well – peaceful? Not so much.

Here are some of the ways I try to make it work:

I have transitions that give me time to gather myself. The kids watch a 15 minute program between morning jobs and the start of our learning time. It gives me time to make a cup of tea and check that I have everything we need. We will sometimes do this when we get home after being out somewhere, to give me time to decide what we will do next.

It’s thinking space. Breathing space. A chance to get my act together so that I can pretend I know what I’m doing with our day. I sometimes use DEAR time (drop everything and read time) the same way.

I prepare for the transitions before the previous thing ends. I try to organise what we are doing in the afternoon before rest time ends. I try to organise breakfast before the music plays for the kids to get up (music is another good transition tool. A signal that it’s time to change).

Some days everything goes to pot and this doesn’t work. Some days I forget. Some days life gets out of control. But when I do manage the transitions, we keep our daily rhythm much better.

Do you have any tricks for managing transitions? I’d love to hear them!

Our week so far…

This was meant to be a end of the week review last week but I was busy getting ready to go away for the weekend for our 12th wedding anniversary. So it’s a mid-week review instead!

We are doing Week 15 of Core B this week. We are finishing up the Ancient Egypt section in Usborne Time Traveller this week. It’s been one of our favourite history books so far. We’ll come back to it later – it is scheduled out of order, something that really bugged us at first. We almost didn’t read it as scheduled, but I’m glad we are. Something that I am learning about Sonlight is that they have good reasons for scheduling things the way they do. Time Traveller is covering the same topics that we are reading about in Child’s History of the World and Usborne Book of World History, but it gives a different perspective. The cries of recognition as we read about something that we came across in another book are fun for me to hear. It’s nice to see them making connections.

We are trying a new thing at the moment. I’m calling it “history journalling”. I have given the girls each a sketchbook and in our Morning Basket time we are spending a few minutes creating a page about what we have read and discussed. I’m leaving it pretty free for them – they can choose to write, or draw a picture, or do a diagram or map. I’m using the discussion questions in the IG as a prompt if they want it. I am expecting Bookworm to do a fairly detailed drawing or to write about it, Snugglepot to caption her drawing, and at this stage Buttercup can choose whether or not to join in. The other day she stuck in a map of Egypt that I photocopied out of World History. It’s a way of them making connections with what we read.

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This is Bookworm’s page from yesterday

I also started using Khan Academy with Bookworm. We have been using Miquon maths but she was having a bit of trouble understanding multiplying fractions with whole numbers, so I pulled up a few videos to show her. I have had the Khan academy app on my phone for ages and not used it. I think I will be making it a regular thing!

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This is Snugglepot’s journal page. We took a detour while reading about Ahkenaten to discuss Nefertiti and she decided to draw their wedding. It’s a modern version!

Today we have been having a bit of an alternative day. One of my good friends is moving away (sniff…) and so she came over for coffee this morning. We started our day late because I was up with Rosebud overnight and needed a sleep in. So we have only done half our Core work and no bookwork. But… Buttercup spent the morning doing a jigsaw puzzle that my friend gave us. All three biggies spent a good few hours playing with a wooden train set from said friend, including figuring out how to put it together and make the ends connect. Right now they are all making cards (cardmaking is a shared craft love). I think that free play and developing creativity is so important, so while part of me mildly panics about not doing maths yet today (we might still get to it), another part of me knows that they are still learning, and it is still time well spent.

Does anyone else struggle with having the courage to take an alternative path in learning?

A day in the life of our homeschool

Here is a little look into what our day often looks like.

We don’t run according to a schedule here. My head doesn’t cope well with following strict times. Something always happens to disrupt the schedule. I get woken up overnight by a baby and need to sleep in. My husband and I have an important conversation in the morning and we are late starting breakfast. My sister calls from the other side of the world just as we are about to start a read aloud when I haven’t spoken to her for over a week. Life happens.

We prefer rhythms. When there is a natural order to things, it becomes easy. Snugglepot, particularly, thrives on predictable rhythms. We use the phrase “usually, but not always”. We usually, but not always, do bedtime maths. We usually, but not always, do morning jobs straight after breakfast. We usually, but not always, sit on the couch under the window to read. It’s liberating to live this way.

And so, without further ado, here is the rhythm that usually, but not always, orders our days:

6am: My alarm goes off. I roll out of bed, put the kettle on, and make tea. Then I sit and read my bible for a while, and wake up. If I have time I chat to family on the other side of the world, or watch a short educational youtube clip, or have another cup of tea. Usually, Rosebud wakes up at about 6:30 and my husband brings her downstairs to me, then we sit and chat over tea and coffee.

7am: I have an alarm set to remind me to get the other kids up, which I do by turning on music.This is their signal that they are allowed to come downstairs, though they sometimes choose to sleep in or read.

7:30 (ish): I have a shower and get ready for the day, then get breakfast ready. One of the things I like about our days at the moment is that we sit down and eat breakfast together, with time to chat. I like to have a toast rack and a teapot. They are some of the grace notes of life. Grace notes are little notes added to music that are unnecessary to the tune but add depth and beauty. A pot of tea adds beauty to my life. Especially if it has a pretty teacup with it.

After breakfast we clean up and divide our morning jobs. We feed the dog, vacuum the lounge, put on washing, and empty the dishwasher. All my big kids (aged 9, 7, and almost 5) can do these jobs – Buttercup with a bit of help. Then I usually put on an educational program of 10-15 minutes while I put Rosebud down for a nap if she’s not already gone down. I take a moment to get my head into gear. And make a cup of tea.

9am (ish): We sit on the couch together to start our Morning Basket time. This is one of the main parts of our day, and we all look forward to it. We begin with a school day prayer, which I shamelessly ripped from somewhere and now can’t remember where. Then we say the Lord’s Prayer or Apostles’ Creed. We then move into our Bible time. Sonlight, the curriculum we use, uses a book called Leading Little Ones to God. We start with this on the days it’s scheduled. I mostly like it – I have some theological issues with it but I’m using it as a chance to teach the kids to be discerning. After that we do a Bible reading, and then, on the days it’s set, a collection of stories about missionaries. Once a week we also watch a video put out by the Bible Project.

After Bible we do our history reading. We are loving the Core B history – we have great discussions, sometimes brief and sometimes not at all brief. Here at the Disorganised Homeschool we know how to talk! History has always been one of my favourite subjects and I still can’t believe that I get to sit here every day and read interesting books with my kids, and it’s my job.

After this we need to move a bit, so we get up and do what I creatively call “Get up and move time”. I have a list of activities, numbered 1-31, and we do whatever is on the list for today’s date. I find that obeying a list takes out a lot of complaining about doing things.

Then we sit right back down – nearly there – and use the bedtime maths app. It’s a great little app and we all enjoy reading the stories on it and solving the problems.

We finish with the Grace and then it’s onto bookwork. Depending on when we start, and how long we chat for, it’s usually sometime between 10am and 10:30am.

10/10:30 am (ish): I announce bookwork. The kids announce they’re hungry. I tell them that it’s not time to eat. They complain a bit, then start their bookwork. It’s part of our rhythm. They have a schedule for the week in a spiral notebook, and they have some work that I help with, some they do independently. Mostly it’s done on the loungeroom floor.

11am (ish): We break for snack and read aloud. This is an institution. I’m not allowed to read if there is no snack. We don’t snack without a book appearing. This is where we do our Sonlight literature read aloud. We don’t follow the Sonlight schedule for these – we just pick up the book we’re up to, read a chapter or two (or three), and when we’re done, go onto the next one. Sometimes we read other books in between. Again, I can’t believe that part of my job is to sit here and read great books to my kids. It’s fantastic!

After snack and read aloud we go back to bookwork. Rosebud is usually well and truly up by now, wreaking havoc amongst the school books on the floor, whilst I try and convince everyone that the dining table is actually a wonderful place to do writing. Buttercup is not officially required to be at school yet, so her work is optional. She is a bright little thing, though, and chooses most days to do some reading and maths. Otherwise she potters – helping me with housework, looking at books, colouring, distracting her sisters.

12:30 (ish): Bookwork is usually finished and we are all well and truly ready for lunch. The kids hit the backyard to blow off steam on the trampoline. I have a quiet moment if I can to gather myself, and then make lunch.

1pm (ish): We usually, and almost always, have rest time after lunch. This started life as afternoon naps, and I have clung to it tooth and nail. It is absolutely essential to my sanity and it is so much a part of our day that my kids now ask for it. I never have to  ask them twice. Ever. We are all introverts in this house, and need our down time. They read on their beds, or do a quiet jigsaw puzzle or some colouring. If I’m super lucky, Rosebud naps during this time and I get a blissful few moments to myself. I usually waste it on Facebook, but I’m trying to be disciplined and read instead, or do craft.

2pm (ish): The kids come downstairs. What should happen is that they watch another 10-15 minute educational program while I prepare an afternoon activity. What actually happens is that they trickle down declaring their hunger while I struggle to find energy somewhere to move. Sleep deprivation is a killer. We’re still working on our afternoon rhythm. A cup of tea helps.

Over the afternoon we play, do craft, bake, maybe read aloud again, play with the baby, go out to groups and activities or to meet friends. Somehow it disappears, and before I know it, it’s evening.

5:30pm (ish): I start getting dinner ready, often with someone hanging round to help. On a good day the kids play well, and then come and cheerfully tidy up. On a long day I put on something for the kids to watch, make a cup of tea, and hope my husband won’t notice the mess when he gets home.

6pm/6:30 pm (ish): Dinner. We eat at the table, and at the moment Rosebud keeps us all entertained by painting her face with food. The dog is her best friend at dinner time.

7pm: Rosebud and Buttercup go to bed, and Bookworm and Snugglepot read in the playroom until 8, then follow the others to bed. My husband and I tidy up the kitchen and collapse on the couch. Another day is done.

Some days go smoothly like this. Some days have a lot of yelling. Some days we get loads of work done, others we don’t because we desperately need to go shopping to buy more tea, or because the day is too lovely to stay inside, and we go to meet friends instead. Through it all, lots of learning happens. I like our days.

I’m baaack!!

I am coming back to this blog after giving up on it for a while as I was just too busy. There are a few reasons why I’m starting again. The main one is that I really need to write –  I have been feeling it more and more desperately. I have put aside myself for years now while I have been busy with babies – and now I am getting to the point where I need to be able to have my own outlet. So, here I am. The other reason is that a few people have asked me to share my experiences with home educating in general, and using Sonlight, our main curriculum, in particular. If that was you, I hope you enjoy reading!

This post is going to be a news post, as life has changed dramatically in the nine months since my last post. The biggest change is that we are no longer expecting. Our fourth little blessing has arrived – little Rosebud. Bookworm, Snugglepot and Buttercup are all ecstatic big sisters. Rosebud has turned my world upside down, and completely captured my heart. She is a happy little soul, and into EVERYTHING. At seven months she is cruising along furniture – yikes! The impact on our homeschool is that we have to fit our school days around me feeding and settling her for naps. And the biggies are learning that they can’t do their bookwork on the floor while she’s crawling around. As Snugglepot says: maths + baby = soggy maths book!

In my last post last year I was discussing starting a Morning Basket time. We have been using that successfully since then – it’s a lovely and absolutely vital part of our school day. We have changed it slightly as time has gone on, and it fits us just about right for this stage of our home ed journey.  I’ll do a dedicated post on it soon. I really will. Promise. We also started using Sonlight in January. It’s an American, Christian, literature based home school curriculum that has the tagline “The way you wish you’d been taught”. Boy are they right about that. I love this curriculum – I love their books, the discussions we have, the ideas they cover. I can honestly say that we have very few complaints about school these days. They love it – and I love it too. Gone are the days (mostly) where I think “Ugh – I just can’t be bothered doing school today”. I sit down, pick up my IG (instructors’ guide), and start reading. We are using Core B (Intro to World History year 1 of 2), with Bookworm doing Language Arts 3 and Science B, and Snugglepot doing Language Arts 2 and Science A. We are still using Miquon for maths.

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Our first Sonlight box day. So many books!

 

Watch this space for a day in the life post so you can see what we do, and I will try to do a regular or semi regular update on our day to day activities. Forgive me if I don’t post frequently. I am a homeschooling mum with four kids, after all!

Getting back into things after a break

It’s been ages since my last post – we have been overseas getting a new visa and visiting family and friends. We got back early last week, and I have spent the week getting over jet lag and trying to get myself organised. The rest of this year seems like a massive hurdle. We have a baby due in 8 weeks, then Christmas and all the accompanying craziness.

Although we took work with us, we didn’t do nearly as much as I had planned. I spent the time away re-evaluating what we are doing with our learning. I thought about what is working, what is not, what the future will look like, and how things are going to work with a baby in the house. I am going to make some changes, starting tomorrow – our re-launch. We are following a Southern Hemisphere school year, but here in the Northern Hemisphere school has just started back, so it seems appropriate to make changes now.

We are going to start doing a Morning Basket. It has been quite difficult this year getting everyone to gather and focus for bookwork. I am hoping that having a deliberate gathering time will make our days start with more purpose. In our Morning Basket time we will do things like devotion, singing, reading picture books, doing science/history read alouds, music study, maths facts, bedtime maths, word games, and things like origami just for fun.

Another big change will be a big increase in the amount of writing and bookwork in general that Bookworm is doing. I have realised that I have let her get away with writing very little, and I haven’t been increasing the amount of work she does at the pace that I should have. So as well as the language arts program that I’ve been using with her, she is going to be given other writing assignments to do over the course of each week – a thing called “The Big Write”, where she writes on a topic I give her, book reports/reviews, history reports, science reports, and instructional pieces. The Big Write is an idea that I stole from something my niece does in school, where they write for half an hour on a topic, then highlight the different words in the sentences – nouns, verbs, etc. I have tweaked the idea so that Bookworm will plan it one day, write a draft the next, and over the next three days will edit it then write out and illustrate a neat copy. We’ll see how we go. She is very enthusiastic about the idea, but we’ll see if that translates to actual writing!

With Snugglepot, my main focus is going to be on improving her handwriting. She is struggling with poor letter formation, and lots of letter reversals. This makes writing a big chore for her as she is not fluent enough at writing. I also need to help her become more consistent with using capitals and lower case letters appropriately. So I have armed myself with chalk markers to write on the windows, shaving cream for writing either on trays or in bags on the days I can’t handle mess, chalk for outside, and playdough. We are going to do sensory writing activities every day, until we nail this thing. Bookworm could do with the handwriting practice too, and Buttercup is desperate to learn to read and write, so this is going to be a family activity.

Buttercup has just turned four and I have no intention of making her do schoolwork yet, but she needs to be kept busy and is oh so keen to do what her big sisters are doing, so we will be working on her reading, at a pace led by her, and I am going to give her some practice with scissors and things so that she can use them independently. I also realised the other day that I need to give her more access to art supplies and the chance to create freely. The house we are in is just not suitable for me to have art supplies out all the time and freely accessible to the girls, so I have to be more mindful of getting them out, and letting them do free art and craft, as well as our art projects for school.

Things will probably change again next year, as I am hoping to be able to get a boxed curriculum that I can just pick up and run with, to make life easier. But I am hoping that we can get a good routine going before the baby comes, to stand us in good stead for the months after that.

Learning vs School

It’s been a while since I have posted anything. We’ve had a number of interruptions over the past few weeks – visa issues, serious illness in the family, the fact that I am nearly 5 months pregnant and getting tired easily. Thankfully everything is sorting itself out, but we have been pressed to simply do life over the last few weeks, much less write about it.

Bookworm came home from Brownies a few weeks ago and told us that she had been talking with some of her pack about homeschooling. Apparently they were all going to go home and ask to be homeschooled – they thought that the idea of half an hour (!) of school a day was brilliant. Thankfully I didn’t get any angry comments from parents the following week!

We definitely do more than half an hour each day – but it got me thinking about my kids’ perceptions of their education. We try (with varying success) to steer away from using the word “school” – because I am trying to get them to embrace a life of learning. I don’t want them to think that school is where you learn, and the rest of the time you don’t. Seeing as we are not in the school system, why bother with the necessary distinctions imposed by that system?

We have bookwork each day, the part of our day that looks most like school and what Bookworm was probably referring to – though it usually takes longer than half an hour! But there is so much more that we do in our learning than bookwork. Like the reading that we do alone and together. Like the epic game of battleships that Bookworm and I played yesterday – learning grid references, communication, the importance of listening carefully (otherwise you tell Mummy it is a miss when she has hit your ship!), and strategic thinking. Like the engineering skills Snugglepot is learning by building structures with her “Clicks” blocks. Like the tangram puzzles that we play with. Like the lessons we have learnt over the last few weeks about showing consideration for others, and caring for people while they are sick. Like the parts of language that we learn when we play Mad Libs, or the literacy skills from reading Braille coded messages that I have written for them. Like the very important and carefully done sharing of food so that everyone gets an equal amount. Like the calculating of the cost of sweets and the counting of coins to see if the said sweets can be bought. Like the writing of letters, cards, and notes to friends, family and each other. Like the “typing game” on the computer. Like the Edwardian Farm program we have been watching and enjoying. Like the way Buttercup counts her toast pieces to make sure that I have indeed cut it into six triangles – like the way she counts nearly everything, in fact. Like the way we notice patterns in things and pause to remark on them.

There is so much that we learn which looks like playing, or fun, or just normal life. Some of it is simple, some of it is quite sophisticated. Sometimes the learning opportunities are deliberately created, and sometimes they happen naturally. Sometimes I worry about how much they are learning. But when I sit down and think about it, they are learning an awful lot. Some of it is out of a workbook, and a lot of it isn’t. I don’t know whether I should be concerned that they think they are not learning for a lot of the day, or let them just keep doing it, filling their minds with good things and being blissfully unaware that this is all part of their education.