Whilst using a curriculum at home provides a framework, it can also become stressful - prompting worry that we have not got through the required work for the day / week. Some days it just doesn't happen, and our learning goes in a different but no less valuable direction. I want to be able to embrace each opportunity and to enjoy the flexibility learning at home gives us, so I need to keep the curriculum our servant and not our master.
Sometimes, circumstances make it difficult for me to be on top of the boys' learning. I am eager to instil habits which will enable them to study independently and to get on with what they know they need to do without my input. We are still at a point where, if they know I am not pressing them, they will find other things to do and there are skills we need to work on to enable more independent study. The most important of these is reading. One of my boys (the 7 year old) will read regularly before going to sleep at night, for pleasure. The 9 year old will sometimes do so. He has recently expressed a wish to read a particular book, so much so that he ordered it himself from the library! However, faced with the book with its tight lines of text and lack of pictures, he announced, "I can't read this!" He was so adamant, I was saddened. Where does this lack of confidence come from?
I want him to read the book (and I believe he can) so that he will feel encouraged and so that his confidence will grow. It will not be easy and will require perseverance. I simultaneously do not want him to become so discouraged with the effort that he gives up (a tendency he has) and so becomes an even less confident reader. What to do? I decided to suggest a 'stepping stone' - a slightly easier, but still challenging, read for him - perhaps something by Roald Dahl; a book he could tackle which would then give him the confidence to move forward and read the book he wants to read. He has agreed, and seemed to appreciate that this is a challenge he can rise to. He has chosen to attempt, "Boy" - Roald Dahl's autobiography. So we will see how he gets on.
In recent weeks, I haven't found time to write much on the blog, but here are a few snapshots from our home educating days ....
I read some chapters from a child's book of world history with my eldest son and he loves the stories of the explorers in the age of discovery and maps the journeys from Southern Europe to the Americas, to India and around the world. We discover why the Strait of Magellan, the Cape of Good Hope and the Pacific Ocean are so named!
My youngest son (5) constructs a water wheel mechanism from KNex and delights in showing me how a stream of water from the tap makes it turn.
All 3 boys suddenly become avid LEGO fans, with lots of construction and interactive play going on around their collection of bricks and various sets. Some wonderful models are made, and my eldest son designs and constructs a working KNex rollercoaster based on one we made from a set he had for Christmas.
My middle son learns a few new little tunes on the keyboard and progresses with his music theory book. He also achieves the 10th Kyu in karate and is awarded a red belt with white stripe. His younger brother is inspired and there are lots of demonstrations of ninja moves and somersaults.
Lots of lovely play in the garden with the boys generally getting along well together.
We watch several episodes of the BBC's "Human Planet" including some amazing stories and images from people living in some of the most inhospitable places on earth. The stories of: an elderly blind woman carried 10km by a neighbour for an eye operation through the Himalayas, a Tibetan father leading his children on a 6 day journey, fraught with hazards, down a frozen river so that they might receive an education, and fishermen seeking out the most inaccessible spots on the world's raging waterfalls ... stuck particularly in our minds.
When I have been feeling unwell, my middle son makes lunch for everyone and offers to make me cups of tea!
My eldest son devises a business plan to make wooden crosses for Eastertime. These he will sell to people at church with half the profit going to the church offering. He produces a fine prototype, a carefully joined, smooth, natural wooden cross with a hanging hook on the back, and puts posters up to invite orders.
We watch and are inspired by Blue Peter presenter, Helen Skelton's, heroic tightrope walk for Comic Relief. We discuss the needs of so many people living in poverty both in our country and across the world, and begin to think about how we can raise some money for Comic Relief.
I spend an hour or so with my 2 younger sons playing a game where they select various activities from a pack of cards. It is fun to see them working together, the elder helping the younger. Their favourite activity: to get themselves across the room by passing and placing cushions to make 'stepping stones' - a great activity for problem-solving and teamwork. It is always fun to see the games the boys invent for themselves.
Life at home isn't always conducive to more formal learning, but is that all that constitutes an education? We are all learning, all the time. And the value of learning together is so much more than academic achievement. For me, partly, it is learning to relax and to trust that this is so, even when I don't feel on top of things and 'in control'.