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 😉
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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! 🙂

Holiday Happiness…

So, for us Christmas was over on Sunday – the big girls went to the Panto with their Nanny and Daioo (Granddad) and while little Piccalilli slept, the Stinker and I took down the decorations and tree (which was practically bare by the time we’d pulled everything off, so it’s a good job Christmas is done for another year!). Since, Piccalilli occasionally disappears off and returns to tell me that the Reindeer had gone – this has bothered her more than anything else as he was filled with chocolate coins most days by our Elf! I love the Christmas break, but I’m also happy when the house gets back to some level of normality… Saying that, I don’t enjoy the holiday coming to an end!

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I love holidays mainly because we get to have the Stinker around more (the biggest bonus of him still working as a teacher!) and relax together. It’s definitely not all smiles and happiness though… So here is my roundup of the highs and lows of Christmas and New Year 2015-2016:

Highs

  • Piccalilli’s enjoyment of the whole Christmas period – she’s the perfect age for the magical moments and watching her little face light up every time she realised that more chocolate coins had been delivered really made my day many times!
  • Lazy mornings in bed – ok, so as we home ed we often have slow mornings but these are always missing the Stinker who leaves early for work. So lazy mornings with all of us present are lovely.
  • Quality time with extended family – we see some members of our family often but to spend quality time chatting, playing games, and just being together is great.
  • Three happy little girls – well, they weren’t happy all the time (see Lows below!!) but on the whole they enjoyed the excitement of Christmas and the lovely presents they received.
  • Feeling proud – Poppet made us very proud on a couple of occasions. Firstly she played her recorder and cornet (both of which she’s only been learning for a few months) in a concert with the home ed band she is a part of. Secondly she sewed us all Christmas presents – I became an emotional wreck and cried when I opened the pillow she’d made for me!! I’m expecting floods of tears next Christmas when she makes me something even more intricate with the sewing machine she got from Father Christmas 🙂
  • Laughing lots – Pickle is turning into a fantastic comedienne and often has us in stitches. Her little impromptu sketches can be hilarious and I particularly love watching Poppet and Piccalilli laughing uncontrollably at her!
  • Theatre trips – we were very lucky to be taken to see Annie (thank you Auntie Krusty and Uncle Big Dan!), which was amazing, although the constant singing of Annie songs since is starting to grate on me (and I can’t get them out of my head!). The big Ps also had their annual Panto trip with Nanny and Daioo which they always love 🙂

Lows

  • The weather! It would have been lovely if it had snowed, or even just stayed dry – the rain really does make things more difficult, although we did still get out as much as possible and the New Year’s Day walk was great fun, especially when the big Ps (who had not been getting on well for a few days!) decided to roll in the mud.
  • The bickering – I know it’s normal and I live with it daily but I do wish they’d stop during the holidays!
  • The trip to Hospital – luckily nothing major but of course I felt awful because it had been me who had opened the door and trapped Pickle’s finger in the hinge ripping her nail half off (but her fault really for standing behind the door to have a strop!)
  • The end – as I said earlier, I really don’t like it when holiday times come to an end 😦

Parks, Paddies and Promises!

This time of year can be pretty stressful for everybody, but when you’re trying to juggle getting organised for the big day (and beyond) with keeping three hyper girls from exploding… well, let’s just say I’m in need of a break!

The past week or so we’ve spent a lot of time either walking to (the long way!), at or walking home from our local park – it’s nothing to shout home about (and even less so since the council removed the house and slide to stop teenagers’ shenanigans!) but the fact that it’s a stone’s-throw from home makes it the perfect escape on damp days when we need to get out.

Our last visit resulted in a huge paddy by Poppet about the fact that Pickle wanted to swing higher than her! But at least we were out getting some fresh air – positive thinking and all that 🙂

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Poppet’s paddies – it could be the name of a book, although I’m not sure who’d want to read it! Joking aside, her ‘moments’ are currently more regular with more gusto and I don’t know if it’s an age thing or something else…

Yesterday evening Poppet was due to be invested into Beavers. She’s been going since September and even went on camp last month (see Different Directions…); she was so excited about saying her promise and the Stinker and I were invited to watch. As soon as we arrived I saw her demeanour change – it’s hard to describe but it’s like she goes into herself, physically shrinking away from a situation. The next thing I knew she was over with us, crying and trying to clamber up on me. It’s difficult to know the best response in these situations so I often find myself trying to cajole her to do whatever it is she is shying away from: “You’ve been so looking forward to it”, etc. But Poppet is very stubborn so that was that – no promise.

However, five minutes later the tears started again (as I thought they would) when the realisation set in that she had lost the chance to do something she did really want to do! Luckily the leaders are fantastic and waited until the end, when nearly everyone had gone, to do Poppet’s promise with her.

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The Stinker is understandably concerned that she needs to overcome this issue, but my thinking is that, no matter how stressful I find her paddies, we need to find another way of dealing with them. We’d both predicted that it would happen last night so maybe we could have altered the outcome by changing our behaviour (or just not turning up to watch!)

Does anyone else have any experience of these sorts of issues and any golden nuggets of advice you could share?

 

 

Weekly Review!

Today has been a hectic day of going to a baptism, followed by afternoon tea and then fish and chips at a friends house with the 3 Ps. The Stinker stayed home to play footie, but didn’t ’cause it was called off, so did jobs around the house! I’m exhausted so I thought I’d follow in my friend at Too Long Didn’t Write‘s footsteps (who is also doing the 30 Day Challenge of writing daily) and give you a round-up of my week…

So  Last Sunday it was all about how our lives seem to be going in Different Directions more and more these days, with Poppet heading off to Beaver camp while the Stinker spent time with Pickle and I spent time with Piccalilli.

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On Monday I reflected on Piccalilli’s language development in Language of love or hate?! and considered the need to begin assessing kids so young!

On Tuesday we had another visit to the fab museums in the city (Adventures in the City Take 2!) which thankfully went to plan with no illness or accidents 🙂

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Wednesday was all about thanking my wonderful mum for all her help over the years, in Mum’s the Word…

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On Thursday I enjoyed thinking about how I’m Feeling the love again… with teaching.

Yesterday was fantastic Forest School Friday… so I shared my thoughts on the importance of rewilding.

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I hope you’re enjoying my ramblings as much as I’m enjoying writing them (most days!!)

 

Different views…

The other day my dad and I were discussing someone I know who is very opinionated and dad mentioned that I used to be the same way. I have to agree that I have strong opinions about certain aspects of life (thanks for the upbringing dad!), but I am also (increasingly, as I get older) very open to the fact that others have different views and (usually!) respect these alternative viewpoints.

To me, being opinionated means that you are unwilling to even consider others’ views or simply accept that sometimes it’s okay to ‘agree to disagree’.

Since I’ve been a part of the home ed world I’ve come across more opinionated people than ever before. And, interestingly, the majority of these people have actually been encountered in the online home ed world of support groups on social media! Many of these people claim to be this way because of the hand they have been dealt, but to me, no matter what you’ve been through in life, there is no need to be negative with everyone around you…

This morning I was part of an online discussion regarding one aspect of home ed (I won’t go into detail as it’s really not that interesting!). I made a simple comment to support the lady asking the initial question; I knew not everyone would agree but really I wanted the lady who was worrying to feel some support as this is what I’ve always thought these groups were for! The negative (and downright rude in some cases) responses to my and other comments shocked me and left me feeling disappointed that I am linked to some of these people by the association of home ed. It made me seriously question my place within that particular online group and I have since left it.

The thing that riled me most was people being so narrow minded and making assumptions about me and other people who were supporting the lady who had asked the question… One response made the assumption that, because I’m an ex-teacher, my children must spend their days stuck at desks doing formal learning. She couldn’t be further from the truth, but I stayed calm (the Stinker will be proud!), removed myself from the discussion and took the 3 Ps for a walk around the old, local quarry site with a friend. They climbed, swung, fossil-hunted, drank hot chocolate, pretended to be dinosaurs (oh, and Piccalilli had a little strop!) and didn’t once sit down at a desk to do any writing!

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When we returned home we spent hours doing formal sit-down maths… only joking! We designed mehndi patterns and had a go at decorating our hands for Diwali – Poppet commented how it was much more fun than anything she’d ever done in school!

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Teaching my children about different views is important to me… sitting at desks to do so is not!

Wet and Windy Woodland Walks.

We are really lucky to live in a beautiful area of England (Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds) and try to take advantage of this – whatever the weather.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather at the moment, it has been quite wet and windy. In my opinion one of the best places to be in this sort of weather is the woods, sheltered by the trees. So today we wrapped up in warm, wet weather gear and headed to meet my best friend from uni days and her family (who have sadly moved a few hours away but were in the area visiting family).

Our three girls get on so well with their two (aged 1 and 3 years old) and it always amazes me how they just slot together and play so well despite seeing each other infrequently.

Today’s walk included a lot of playing ‘home’ (I’m sure it would have taken  at least half the time without the playing!). I loved the way they used the roots of a huge tree as their kitchen, huge leaves (really big – bigger than our heads!) as plates, sticks as spoons. At one point they disappeared off under a large cluster of evergreen trees which became their house of course!

They collected leaves and twigs and collaborated to make a Stickman picture (inspired by the Gruffalo’s child sculpture in the wood). They staged their own photo shoots, organising themselves into positions and demanding all the adults took a photo while they chanted “Stinky smelly socks!” They played together in the playground, helping everyone to join in at their own level.

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There was no arguing and everyone joined in in their own way with no expectations. I’m aware this is often the case with mixed age groups – they seem to get on better as there’s less competition.

Days like today really make me appreciate how kind, caring and supportive my girls can be. It also made me miss my friend even more 😦