I have just read this book by Lori Pickert, "Project Based Home Schooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners" and am reminded again of my vision for our home education. It is so easy to get blown off-track, to lose our vision in the mists of self-doubt. We worry about what we 'ought' to be doing and, of course, make direct comparisons with the school system.
Pickert's book outlines a very different way of living, a whole lifestyle shift, the adoption of a family culture which encourages learning and creativity. Reading it, I was challenged to sort out our 'learning zone' to ensure, again, that materials are readily accessible to the boys and that their workspace is usable and inspiring. I got them to help, and having cleared and sorted, I have been amazed at the creative projects which have already emerged - simply by moving the junk box into a more visible place, by removing the paint pots and glue from a box and displaying them on a shelf within reach, by laying out different types of paper on a visible shelf, and making sure tools such as scissors, sellotape etc are in a marked drawer to hand. Simple changes. And son number 2 immediately began to potter, rummaging in the junk box to find a particular shaped carton, sketching out how the monster he planned to make would look. He mixed himself some paper mache paste and got busy. Son number 3 has joined him, starting work on a treasure box made of cardboard boxes. Simple changes, big results.
My husband and I are also reminded that we must share our lives, speaking our own challenges and problems aloud so that the boys can see how we grapple with situations and work them through, so that they can learn how to tackle real life problems for themselves. The key is exactly that: real life. Learning bubbles up from real life, and real needs. Then there will be intrinsic motivation and genuine engagement. A poster is not created because it is a homework assignment, but because a poster is really needed, perhaps to advertise a puppet show the child is working on, or to tell people about their latest business venture. A healthy menu can be planned, not to complete a worksheet, but in order to prepare and serve a real family meal. This week we have a birthday party to plan, so we have been brainstorming ideas for games, decorations, food. And the boys can write and create and plan for that real life event. 'Real' is important, authentic, motivating. It is the place from which our home based learning should begin.