There is no such thing as bad weather…

… Just unsuitable clothing (Alfred Wainwright or an old German proverb, but either way it’s so true!)

As we head into autumn our home ed days have to alter slightly. That doesn’t mean we spend more time indoors, probably the opposite; I just have to ensure that I’m more organised and have all the appropriate wet and cold weather gear!

Last Thursday on our weekly visit to Westonbirt Aboretum I was not prepared. In the morning the weather was warm and sunny so we headed to Westonbirt in lightweight clothing with thin waterproofs just in case. Well,as quite often happens at this time of year, the weather changed and it not only began drizzling but it also got bitterly cold! I was freezing. Luckily the big Ps were so busy playing with their friends, whittling and using tools that they didn’t really notice. Piccalilli was warmed up with a big cuddle and we cut our visit short.

Having learnt that the weather is changeable (you’d think I’d know by my age really!) or finally accepted that we are in autumn, I was ultra organised when we visited the SS Great Britain this week 🙂

So off we went to Bristol for the second time in as many weeks (this time by car thankfully!). We had the most amazing glorious sunshine for the morning and thoroughly enjoyed pretending to be Victorian passengers on a huge ship.

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We definitely all enjoyed the First Class experience more than the Third Class Steerage accommodation (Pickle was especially freaked out by the sounds and smells being hyper sensitive to them!) The experience has definitely affected them and they wrote a wonderful diary this morning which I will post after this.

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After a few hours on the ship we were all hungry so ate our picnic in the sun – I started to wonder why I’d bothered carting a huge, heavy bag of warm tops and waterproof around with me!

After lunch we went under the ship and learnt a bit more about how a steam ship would work. The Ps kept imagining they were working on the ship and I was amazed by their increasing knowledge of technical facts.

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After a while my mum and me were craving a cuppa! So we headed up to the cafe for tea, Babychinos and cake. We decided it would be nice to get a bit of fresh air and walk along the waterfront. At which point my bag of preparedness finally came in handy as the rain started just as we left the cafe!

I’ve realised that the easiest thing is to have the bag packed and ready so I can just grab it every time we’re heading out the door. I know as the weather gets colder that the bag will probably get bigger!

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Autumn is back again…

It’s been nearly a year since I started writing my blog! Looking back I can see how much more relaxed we are at this stage in our journey. All three girls seem to be happy and the sunny days help my moods 🙂

We’ve had a great week getting properly back into our ‘routine’ and the reduced ‘timetable’ has been great, although we’ve still been hectic and the Ps are currently zoned out for Friday Film Night, giving me an hour to write this while dinner cooks itself!

Monday – Juno went to kindy again, although I’m still staying with her at the moment so didn’t get any time to focus on the big Ps but Nanny did some experiments with them so they were happy 🙂

Tuesday – We spent the morning making pizzas on a home ed trip to Pizza Express, which we then ate in the park in the sunshine. We then went to pony club for the first session back this term. It was very different without our friends there (who have moved to Germany 😦 ) but hopefully we’ll get to know the other people.

 

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Wednesday – Our usual social group had to be cancelled but a large group of us met up in the park, where Poppet still had her cornet lesson!

Thursday – We spent the day at Slimbridge, with Piccalilli’s little friend, looking for the lego creatures.

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Friday – The big Ps did tennis this morning and then we went to see friends this afternoon (with a friend each everyone played happily)

It sounds like we did no actual ‘learning’ but in amongst this we spent some time learning about fractions in creative ways and Poppet spent most mornings sewing (having decided to make Christmas presents for the whole family this year!)

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A week of days…

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right of course; every week has days – seven if we want to be precise about it. But sometimes I think it’s easy to forget that each new day can be a fresh start and we can do/be whatever we want each and every day.

I know that as adults it is harder to start afresh every day. There are things that need to happen. There are consequences of the previous day to deal with. There are plans to be made for the following day.

But children don’t see the world like us. They live for the moment. They forget about the argument you had yesterday, well yesterday! They don’t worry about what’s happening in the next hour  (as long as they’ve been fed recently!) let alone the next day.

What I’m trying to say is that for the past week I’ve been trying to get into a child’s mindset and just enjoy each day as it comes. And do you know what? I’ve enjoyed our days more for it.

I’m not worrying about trying to link all of our learning and going totally with the flow of what the Ps want to know – we’ve had an Isambard Kingdom Brunel day of designing and making bridges inspired by looking at local history films on YouTube (check out the Brunel one – it’s brilliant).

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Followed by a Roald Dahl day (#roalddahl100) designing chocolate bars (which the Ps are now keen to make!) and learning about fairtrade after Poppet asked what the symbol on the packet meant.

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We’ve managed to practise times tables in fun ways linked to the things we’ve been finding out about; bricks for bridges and sharing out chocolates – can you guess which one we enjoyed the most? !

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Pickle has been the most inspired to learn something than I’ve seen her in a long time. Poppet told me today that having special days at home was a lot more fun than going out to groups (I hope her enthusiasm continues!)

Living for each day is going well in our world 🙂

We’re back to it, with a day whittling in the woods!

Of course ‘learning’ is happening all the time, even when we take a ‘break’ over the summer but we started back to home education this week with a renewed enthusiasm all round!

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Our #notbacktoschool photo 🙂

There have been some changes in the way we’re doing things and everything is fluid and constantly altering so who knows where we’ll be tomorrow, let alone next week! But currently the plan is for the big Ps attend less groups and spend more time learning at home, but in an informal way! Piccalilli is going to be attending a Steiner kindergarten, initially for two mornings a week but this could be upped if things work out well. The time that she is at kindy will be the times that the big Ps can focus more easily on their learning projects (that’s the idea anyway!)

So, for the new ‘learning’ year (it seems funny that we still work with the school calendar, but when you have a husband working in education it seems to make sense) our plan is to focus on local history and geography with our days as follows:

Monday – Piccalilli will attend kindy. Nanny will spend the day with us so the big Ps can both have one-on-one time to do their learning projects; they will go to Beavers in the evening

Tuesday – Piccalilli will attend kindy. Me and the big Ps will either learn at home or go out for some living history/geography days with friends

Wednesday – Home ed social group. Also recorders/band (cornet!)/drama/sports groups

Thursday – A day to meet friends/go on day trips/learn at home followed by swimming lessons

Friday – tennis lesson followed by home learning/chilling! Monthly Art group

Saturday – ballet for Poppet and gymnastics for Pickle

Sunday – family day

It’s a much less full week that last term, but the Ps have requested not to attend as many groups. I’m hoping that we will have enough going on to keep them busy and entertained but we’ll see! We can always add some more activities if needs be…

Our closest home ed friends, who we used to see at least once a week, have sadly moved to Berlin over the summer. There are lots of other lovely people that we enjoy spending time with so hopefully we’ll have plenty of social activities to attend. I don’t really know why I’m worrying. Yesterday we spent the day at Westonbirt with friends, where the Ps had a great time den building and whittling (now they are  requesting their own penknives!). Today we are meeting with a large group of home edders for a ‘not back to school’ play in the park and picnic 🙂

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Whittling in the woods at Westonbirt!

At the moment I’m enthusiastic and clear on the way we are doing things (child led with some adult input to direct their learning) so hope this remains until half term – wish me luck!

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The obligatory silly faces shot 😉

Independence vs Idleness – Are we really learning?

I find it really interesting chatting to people, usually with grown-up children, who wish they’d realised that home education was an option… After just over a year in the world of home ed I know I am not an expert, but I certainly feel much more confident (as do the Ps!) when answering questions and discussing the route we have taken.

We are, of course, still discovering ‘how’ we do things; it changes regularly and can be different day to day!

But one thing I know is that I left the teaching profession (and then removed my children from it) for a reason. When people say “Oh, you’re a teacher so you know what you’re doing”, I find it quite amusing.

We most definitely don’t do ‘school at home’ (although that is one route that some home educating families take) –  when I said this to a pilates’ friend last week, she responded “Oh, so where do you do school?” When I explained that what I meant was that we don’t have a rigid timetable and don’t spend hours doing sit-down learning, rather we learn through the activities we are doing (with some sit-down learning when the Ps request it), she seemed slightly shocked (“Doesn’t someone check up on you?”) but even more keen on the idea!

We are ALL learning all the time – we don’t need to be sitting at a desk listening to one person talk and then completing a comprehension (or memory) task based on what we have heard. I am passionate about helping my children to become learners, to be inquisitive, to be capable of getting by in life, to be confident in who they are.

I really want the Ps to grow up to be independent learners, keen to find out about the world in which they live, without having to be pushed to learn (often pointless) information. Most of the learning we do is child-directed – they tell me what they are interested in and I facilitate their learning of that topic. Some days we follow our ‘topic’; some days we find out about something random inspired by a walk or visit; some days we don’t appear to be learning much!

But I am sure that most of the time the Ps aren’t being idle… Pickle isn’t as keen to ‘learn’ in the formal sense of the word as Poppet, but some of the facts that she shares amaze me and make me realise that she is definitely an independent learner who does pick up and awful lot of knowledge in her own way (usually physically!). And Piccalilli is already showing signs of loving learning (she often asks for her own books to do ‘writing’ and loves answering questions about the stories we have shared!), which I believe is heightened due to being brought up in a learning environment.

I have always loved learning, but remember very few ‘facts’ (I just don’t think my brain works that way!) I am sure that the Ps will grow up to be incredible, independent learners 🙂

A few pictures of that past week’s ‘learning’ activities:

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Making fruity fridge flapjacks, inspired by the ones our lovely neighbour let us try 🙂
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Making bird nest hangers to help the birds mend broken nests thanks to ‘A Little Bit of Dirt’
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Measuring our Space Rocket plants for Tim Peake 🙂
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Working out how to double-scoot to make the trip home from the shop easier! 🙂

A year into our journey and a wonderful week!

It’s been just over a year since our home education journey began – I still can’t believe I’ve had the Poppet at home learning with me for that long (about 6 months with the Pickle too). We definitely still have many ups and downs, good days and bad days, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

We had the best week ever last week and I’m sure it was partly down to nicer weather (between the unseasonal hailstorms!) and my feeling relaxed…

As part of the week I decided to document #anunschoolday on instagram and thought I’d share the best photos from one day here…

Our morning started with me finding Piccalilli playing in the bath, while Pickle had a lie-in (her favourite place is bed!) and Poppet unravelled some wool to do more knitting!

Then Piccalilli asked if we could go on the big swing while the big Ps were getting dressed and when we returned to the house everyone was hungry, so we ate some yummy ‘alien’ pancakes! After breakfast we all went back down the garden and they all pottered happily while I planted potatoes.

Our afternoon consisted of Piccalilli napping in the car while the big Ps did Pony Club. When we returned home Pickle enjoyed making a log cabin (with the Stinker’s help) while Poppet planted the Space Rocket seeds.

It feels like our journey is really finding it’s direction and everyone is finding their place… it’s not easy but springtime is definitely a great time for us 🙂

 

 

 

 

When is it time to let go? 7 tips to increase your child’s independence…

Poppet has been showing signs of growing up recently, changing from a little girl to a, dare I say it, young lady?! She has mini strops on a regular basis (which remind me of myself when I was 13, not 7-and-a-half!) and is desperate to have more independence and responsibility.

As our oldest child this is all a steep learning curve for us, so I’ve done my usual and researched lots on how best to allow her more independence without letting go completely.

I have never wanted to ‘control’ my children but do realise that as parents it is the easy default to go to at difficult times (like trying to get out of the house in the morning!) A survey which has tracked more than 5,000 people since their birth in 1946 researched the impact of over-control on children. “Parents also give us [a] stable base from which to explore the world while warmth and responsiveness has been shown to promote  social and emotional development” said Dr Mai Stafford, of the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Lifelong Health and Ageing unit at UCL. “By contrast, psychlogical control can limit a child’s independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behaviour.”

I would hate for my children to grow up to be ‘contingent children’ (part of our reason for home educating them I think!) but really don’t think this will be the case as our children certainly don’t fit the criteria of depending on others for their happiness or incentive to achieve (although they occasionally make poor decisions which is another sign, but don’t we all!)

I believe that independence is vital, when a child is ready to leave the safe attachment bond they have with their caregivers, and hope my children will all grow up to display the characteristics:

  • self motivated to achieve
  • able to choose activities that they enjoy
  • good decision makers
  • share a collaborative (rather than controlled) relationship with their parents

These characteristics seem to fit so well with home education and the unschooling theory of child initiated learning. Interestingly, independence has to be ‘taught’ to an extent by allowing our children to experience many opportunities of their choosing and providing the following essential aspects:

  1. Love and Respect Of course we all love and respect our children, but it is important to remember to show them love regularly in the little moments and to respect their choices, however odd they might seem to us at times!
  2. Be proud of their abilities However small an achievement might seem to us, it can be a big deal to a 7 year old. Poppet was so excited to complete her first ever mini dressage test completely independently, so I made a really big deal out of it because it mattered to her 🙂
  3. Ensure they understand the control they have over the world Whether it’s negative or positive they need to recognise the impact they have on those around them.  Displaying our emotions can really help them to understand this (and I’ve found that crying when Pickle has really pushed me does seem to make her think!)
  4. Give guidance but allow them to make their own decisions I often find myself explaining possible outcomes but then try to back off so the Ps can make their own choices. Even little Piccalilli at 2-and-a-half is able to make her own decisions, often resulting in the weirdest outfit combinations (a dress with Poppet’s skirt over the top and wellies on the wrong feet today!)
  5. Teach Responsibility Poppet is starting to desire more responsibility within the family so we have discussed with her how she can have this and the tasks she can undertake to help out. She has also started to show more responsibility for her own learning as she is starting to understand that she can achieve things independently now.
  6. Teach Accountability We all get things wrong occasionally and it’s important to be accountable for our own actions. If children do not learn to take responsibility for their mistakes they will struggle to take responsibility for their achievements. I am not advocating punishment when things go wrong, but I am aware that a discussion and time-to-think often work for us.
  7. Encourage Freedom and Exploration (AKA Risk Taking!) This is another aspect which fits so well with home educating as it is so much more possible to give children the freedom to explore when you have the time and space. We spend so much of our time in the great outdoors so there are often risks to take (usually resulting in very muddy children!)

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I’m sure some people think of home educated children as being less independent as they spend ‘all’ their time with a care-giver, but I can assure you that this is definitely not the case in our home ed journey! Without the constraints and control of school I have seen my children develop in confidence and with that independence; I aim to do everything I can to continue to bring up strong, independent young ladies.