Community Mentors and Wood-carving

Sometimes people ask me how I can have all the skills and knowledge required to educate my children. This seems to be an especial concern as we move towards the secondary school years. But it doesn't have to be all down to me, or even my husband and I. Our boys benefit from having their grandparents on hand, and each child goes for a morning or afternoon a week for some one-to-one attention. Being with their grandparents and conversing with them regularly teaches the boys so much. Grandma's skills include art and textiles, cooking, gardening, French whilst Grandpa is a wonderful source of historical knowledge and always has a book on the go with each boy. He also undertakes woodwork projects and model making with them.

One of my tasks as a home educator, particularly as the boys grow towards their teenage years, is to find them good mentors in our community, particularly men who can get alongside them with shared skills and interests. The boys have an hour a week with a Chinese friend of mine who teaches them Mandarin and they have made a great connection with her, and enjoy this very much. She is great fun and uses lots of games, songs and rhymes in their sessions together - and sometimes cooking too, such as this week's tasty lesson preparing Chinese and Vietnamese spring rolls. Yum!

Our eldest son has an hour or two each week with a neighbour of ours who is a scientist with a specialism in organic chemistry. He leads our boys' group at church sometimes, and our eldest son enjoys these sessions especially. I think he can relate to this man's natural curiosity about the world and his quirky spontaneity. Noticing our son's developing friendship with this man, and knowing of his scientific background, my husband and I approached him to ask whether he would be able to give us an hour a week to undertake some scientific enquiry and discussion with our son. As he lives so close to us, it has worked very well. He enjoys sharing his interest and passion with an interested youngster, and our son benefits from his expertise and mentorship.

Another relationship has developed from a chance meeting at a local fair where we met our local woodcarvers. It turned out the man we spoke to about his work that day lives just up the road from us and agreed to do a taster session for home educated youngsters. As a retired head teacher, he was wonderful with the children and the 8 or so who attended enjoyed it very much and all produced a beautifully carved fish.

So taken were our eldest two boys with this new hobby that, ever since, they have weekly run up the road for a short woodcarving session in this man's workshop before the adult woodcarvers assemble. He has been generous with his time, and has lent the boys tools and encouraged their interest, with wonderful results ....

Most recently, a fellow home educating Mum has offered to have my second son an afternoon a week because he and her son are such great friends, and she is encouraging them to do some creative writing together. This works brilliantly as he doesn't write enthusiastically for me, and I am enjoying seeing what he brings home from their sessions together. He stays for tea and they go on to cubs together, too, which has boosted his confidence and gives so many great opportunities.

So, if you are a home educating parent and feeling rather daunted at all that is expected of you, do not fear. Look around you and you'll be surprised at the human resources in your own community, and the opportunities to tap into rich, inter-generational relationships which can be so enriching to our young people.