Sunday, 18 September 2011

All in a week's work ....

This has been a week in which we have all been ill with a cold and sore throat bug, yet we have still been busy with lots of activities going on.

On Monday, after our daily Kumon work, and completing one of the boys' weekly readings each - These include history stories from the book, "Our Island Story" by H.E Marshall, and other suggestions from the Ambleside Online Curriculum - we continued our Marco Polo project journeying across Afghanistan, learning the legend of the Old Man of the Mountains and the origin of the word 'assassin'.

On Tuesday, the boys went with their Dad to Enginuity, the science museum in Ironbridge, and took part in a workshop to design and test buggy racers. This was with our Home Educators' Group, and the boys had a lot of fun. Our eldest brought his buggy home, and has continued in subsequent days modifying and redesigning it.

On Wednesday, the boys really weren't well, so we had a quiet day at home completing some readings and playing a lot with Lego in the hope they would be well enough for Thursday, which saw the launch of our Forest School on a piece of land at the farm we meet at fairly regularly with our Home Educators' Group. The sun smiled upon us, as we got to know our patch of forest, marking out hazards (Health and Safety!!) and making Journey Sticks from things we found in the woods decorated with thread, beads and feathers. The evening took all 3 boys out to chess and karate clubs.

On Friday, there were things I needed to do and the boys accompanied me and amused themselves, though we completed our readings and work for the week, which made me feel we are getting back into the swing of our routines. Street dance and cubs in the evening. Then a busy Saturday. In the morning we went to a Heritage event at a local canal, with vintage cars, candy floss and puppet show along with woodcarvers and soap makers who were of interest to our eldest son, the entrepreneur. In the afternoon, the boys went with their Grandma to a felt-making workshop, creating colourful patterns inside felt balls and then making these into creatures using pipe cleaners, feathers and buttons.

Sunday afternoon, we went to a local museum to make hobby horses from canes and cardboard at our middle son's request. Along with a bike ride in the sunshine, this was a relaxing end to a busy week. Sometimes I think people wonder what home educators do, or imagine that we are stuck at home keeping our children isolated from reality. From this week, you can see that we are busy, out and about in our community, making the most of the many opportunities which are open to us - most of them for free!

Friday, 2 September 2011

My unschooled child

My youngest son is 5. He hasn't been to school. The other day, he said, "Mum, how do fish's gills work?" This followed up on a conversation some weeks ago about how fish breathe underwater. "Well, I don't know exactly," I replied, "We can look it up on the Internet."
"Or in that big, purple book," he suggested. (The Encyclopedia)
So I got out the Encyclopedia, and we looked it up. My eldest son (9) read to his brother all the relevant pages.
My youngest son has said in recent days, amongst other similar statements, "8 is the same as 2 4s, isn't it, Mummy?" and "8 and 8, that's the same as 4 and 4 and 4 and 4."

I think we have forgotten that children are designed to learn. They have enquiring minds, they ask questions, seek knowledge and understanding about the world around them. We have made education a mystical realm, best left to the experts. We have set teachers up as fountains of knowledge who will pour into our children the learning that is required. My youngest son is interesting. The questions come from him. The learning starts with him. A 6 year old friend of mine asked me recently, "How do you know all about learning?" Well, I bet she knows a whole lot more than me! But she has been led to believe, already, that there are experts who will teach you what you need to know. Knowledge doesn't (cannot) come from you, but from "them". So, the spirit of enquiry is slowly dampened.

Autumn's here!

Well, the leaves on the trees are starting to turn, the evenings are drawing in and the air is cooler. Soon the children of our neighbourhood will be back to school, and it will be time for us to get back into routines, which have been rather lacking over the summer. It has been great to see our three boys playing for hours in front of our house with friends from our new neighbourhood, a group of girls and boys of mixed ages, making up little plays and filming them, dressing up as different characters, building dens, riding bikes ... All the things kids should be doing during the summer. Even though the weather hasn't been that warm, it has at least been dry, so playing out has happened almost every day and left me rather at a loose end. This has not been unwelcome, as I am pregnant, so have been thankful for the chance to take a backseat and take it easy. But with the new term, we will need to think about how we organise our home learning once again.

The boys have expressed a preference for being given a list of their weekly tasks and then organising for themselves when they do them. This allows the flexibility to fit their work around outings and other things that crop up, and will also hopefully encourage them to organise themselves. I need to encourage them to be more independent before the new baby arrives in the spring. I also need to involve our youngest son in topic work and other activities, joining his brothers in their weekly Chinese lesson, for example.

It is also the time when we think about what clubs and activities the boy want to participate in during after school hours. Last term, they didn't seem keen to do very much at all, but our eldest went along to the local chess club last night, which he enjoyed very much. He learned to play chess at nursery in Turkey, where the game is central to the curriculum right from preschool, and he is very good at it. The local club here is mostly comprised of older men, so he went along with his grandfather, but there are a number of new junior members this season, which is good to hear. I am hoping that by playing regularly with older, more experienced players, he will develop his game and his strategic thinking skills. He also wants to join the cubs. His brother is considering this or street dance. The youngest wants to do football, and they will all continue with their karate. I can see we will be doing a lot of ferrying about, and am glad to have grandparents close by to help with this too.

A local power station have offered to run Forest School for our Home Ed Group at the farm this term too, so that will be a weekly commitment the boys will enjoy. Forest School is a popular educational phenomenon at the moment, encouraging children to be outside, using tools and developing their team-working skills in various activities.

I did not intend our home education to break for the summer really. I suppose by its nature, organic education never really ceases, as every experience and opportunity a child engages in can be a learning one. Certainly, as people often worry about the socialisation of home educated children, plenty of playtime with friends during their school holidays, is an important part of the whole experience. Here are some other highlights of our summer since I last wrote:

The boys and I had a week in Devon, including time at the seaside and on Dartmoor, and a fabulous day out at Morwellham Quay where we took a train down an old copper mine, watched a potter at work and helped to make rope and a barrel;
The boys took part in a holiday club for primary aged children at our church. They attended 4 mornings and took part in a special service on the Sunday morning, and had lots of fun with Captain Ketchup and his crew;
The boys attended a 5 day coaching course at our local tennis club;
We went to see the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon Treasure, which was found very close to our city in 2009, and the accompanying exhibition at our local Cathedral;
Our middle son finally got to go on his first sleepover with a friend from his former school. He was very excited!
Our eldest son attended the next level swimming course each morning for a week at our local leisure centre;
Kumon continues ... Our youngest son has learnt to read, but has not yet made the jump to reading books for himself. He still doesn't seem ready for that, but is figuring out what text says when he is out and about ....
The boys have been taking part of the local library's summer reading challenge but not with as much enthusiasm as last year. I have insisted on harder books being attempted, and they haven't had time to finish more than a couple each. We will complete it, even if we are late in doing so!!

Bring on the new term!!