Aside from the basics of reading, writing and maths (see A ‘Typical’ Day…), essentially we learn anything! Whatever Poppet and Pickle ask about, we learn. Topics we have covered so far since our home learning journey began six months ago include dinosaurs, the great outdoors, space and currently celebrations around the world. These are all topics chosen by the big Ps and the planning (said loosely) for what to include is mainly decided together.
So, my 7 tips for planning a home learning topic are:
1. Find out what your children are interested in. When we first started home ed we came up with a list of things that Poppet wanted to learn about (which included dinosaurs, space, ballet, gardening and sewing). Of course, some of these things alter or are ongoing or seasonal, but it’s a good starting point.
2. Choose one topic to focus on for a period of time. We do termly topics, as the Stinker is a teacher so we have a defined break, but a week/fortnight/month can work just as well. Like I said above, some topics are seasonal; it’s best not to focus on gardening in November or winter celebrations in June, unless you live in the Southern hemisphere of course! But above all, it’s best to try to go with your kids’ current interests.
3. Talk about the topic with your children. Get them to ask questions to focus the topic. Or you might even find that they have some great ideas for activities you could do – Poppet remembered that her grandparents had visited the poppies at the Tower of London last year and thought it would be a great idea to try to create our own clay poppies.
4. Spend some time, without your kids present, scouring the internet. It’s a great tool to enhance their learning experience, but there’s so much out there that it’s best to have an idea before you jump in with the kids. Searching for things while the Ps are waiting often results in arguments or a loss of interest! I guess that being an ex-primary teacher gives me a slight advantage in knowing where to look for age-appropriate resources, but to be honest, if you type ‘Space for kids’ into your search engine pretty much everything you need for that topic comes up! And saying that, some of the programmes that Poppet most enjoyed about space were aimed at adults. When I pointed out a shooting star and she explained to me that I shouldn’t call it a shooting ‘star’ because it’s actually a meteor, and then went on to explain nebula and supernova to me, I was astounded by her level of knowledge – kids really are sponges!!
5. Be prepared. Have a variety of links, games, visits and activities under your belt. Something that looks amazing to you might only engage your kids for five minutes, while something else could have them hooked for days! I also like to mind-map our ideas just so I can refer to it on those days when we need a bit of inspiration. (Poppet also enjoys ticking things off!)
6. Be flexible. I always come back to this with home education! I know some people follow a very structured timetable, but in our experience there is no point in being too planned – kids’ focus shifts, they ask questions and your learning can go off on a complete tangent! While making diya lamps this week, Pickle started asking about light and shadows, so we ended up at the library looking at science books; it now looks like we might end up doing a mini-topic on electricity!
7. Have fun! One of the main reasons we decided to home ed is to get away from the rigidity of formal education. Therefore our main focus for any topic is that the learning is FUN!!