Monday, 24 October 2011

Free trip to the cinema anyone?

As part of National Schools Film Week, schools and home educators are invited to take children to their local cinema for free. There is a selection of films on offer for both primary and secondary age groups and, on the website, lesson plans built around each film. We were able to see 'Rio' - the story of a blue macaw, who returns to his native Brazil to court a female in an attempt to save his species from disappearing. It was a colourful, feel-good film with a lively soundtrack, and a great way to spend a Friday morning! Our discussion in the car home centred on bird trafficking, and the geography of the film. We later followed a link on the website to find out about an associated competition to write a film review. Knowing what reluctant writers my boys are, I encouraged them to have a go. We looked at a few reviews to give us the idea, and they sat down to try to write. It is always painful, and often involves high drama from our eldest! I know that we need to work on their ability to communicate the great ideas in their heads with others through the written medium ... This is something we continue to work on!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Sunshine

One of the great things about Home Education is the freedom it gives you to react to the weather and plan activities accordingly. The British weather tends not to comply with school holidays, which can be especially frustrating for families. Last week we enjoyed some unusually warm autumn weather, and it was great to be able to enjoy being outside in the sunshine. The boys were booked to attend a day's fishing with our Home Education Group, and with the weather so beautiful, this proved to be one of the highlights of all their Home Educational experiences. They received one-to-two tuition with a coach, and successfully caught fish large and small. I was surprised at how patiently they sat all day, enjoying the sunshine and the tranquility. It was difficult to get them to stop for lunch and to come away at the end of the day.

Forest School took place as scheduled with shelter building outside in the sunshine, including testing how waterproof their constructions were by pouring water over them. I was tempted to load the camping gear into the car this week and head up for a few days in the Peak District, but I couldn't quite summon the energy, though I love the idea of being so spontaneous. Instead, we decided to make a camp in our garden, so we pitched the tent and had a barbeque tea outside. As it was so mild, I thought the boys might enjoy sleeping out in the tent, but after an hour out there together by torchlight, they radioed in to say the younger two didn't like the dark and they were coming in!

Another day, we took a family trip up to Dovedale in the Peak District and enjoyed a 5 mile walk up the river and a picnic lunch. My eldest son also had a great day out with the cubs at a local scout camping ground. They built rafts and tested them (getting soaking wet in the process) and then built dens from natural materials in the afternoon. I took my middle son to a workshop at a local museum where we learned about Food Chains on the Galapagos Islands. He then had a lovely afternoon in the park with a former schoolfriend.

And then the rain began to come down, and we are back to more normal autumnal climes!

Forest School

Forest School is being offered free to our Home Education group on Thursday mornings this term by a local Power Station. The boys thoroughly enjoy it, and it is great that there is another boy the same age as each of them who they team up and work with on the various activities. As well as games and team building exercises, and discussions regarding health and safety in the forest, activities so far have included making clay 'blobsters', building tarp shelters and today, to the children's delight, using strikers to make small fires.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Visiting the Buddhist Temple

As our studies of Marco Polo's travels take us into China, one of the topics we have covered is Buddhism. I had heard, through contacts at the International Women's Group, of a Buddhist Temple not too far away, so I pursued a few contacts to try and arrange a visit. The monks were very happy to accommodate us, so the boys and I arrived for our morning visit, with another home educating family. It was surprising to find the Thai Buddhist Centre on the edge of such an English village, and the monks in their saffron robes came from several countries including Thailand, China, Nepal and Laos. We were very graciously shown all the different rooms in the Temple, and our guide explained all about the various statues we saw, the pictures on the walls, books on the shelves and various rituals. We were fortunate that, as we sat in the main room, a woman came to make an offering, so we were able to quietly observe this ceremony involving her and one of the monks in the Buddha's own tongue.

As a former R.E. teacher, I always think there is something awesome about visiting faith communities in their places of worship. It is important for children to experience a different environment and to absorb the feel of a place. This is not something that can be taught from a book, or learned in a classroom. The boys commented on the softness of the carpet, and the appearance of the statues. They remembered the tree and the thread close to the Buddha, and what these things represented and symbolised. And they sat so quietly and politely, observing and listening to all our guide had to say .... until the gong sounded loudly, and it was time for all the monks to assemble for lunch. We were given a drink, and a selection of literature to take away, and the boys came home and painted pictures and wrote cinquains, short, 5-lined poems, based on their experience.