Monday, 30 March 2015

What We Have Learned in Three Years of Home Education

Today we celebrate three years of home education - our last ever day of school was 30th March 2012.  At the end of the last day of Spring Term we left school (in Hertfordshire) and immediately drove north... a LONG way north... finally arriving in Aberdeenshire on 31st March for a week's holiday with some good friends.  The holiday had been planned for a lot longer than we had known we were going to home educate, and at the time we were just thinking about seeing our friends and having chance to relax... but with hindsight it has made me stop and think: although we were only temporarily in Scotland before returning home to Hertfordshire, that very long car journey was in a way symbolic of our journey into home education.  At the time we did not know that HE would be such a total change for us - we just knew it was something we had to try but were prepared to go back to school if we had made a mistake... but we have come so far in the last three years, I cannot imagine anything that would induce any of us to want to return to the school system now.  We are totally different people now: the journey has changed us.  Home education for us has not just been a break and a chance to relax and heal - it is now our way of life, and I have learned a lot in the past three years...

1/ Deschooling is a detox.
For the child to recover/ heal after their negative experiences of school, and for both child and parent to remove the old schoolish way of thinking about learning.  It is harder for the parent who has held the "learning = school" mindset for much longer, to let go and begin to nurture new, healthier and more natural ways of learning, so even though your child may be ready to embrace more learning opportunities, don't be suprised if you periodically "wobble" about how well they are doing, it just means you are doing your job well: assessing how you are ALL doing, and ridding yourself of some of the old, deeply held assumptions.

2/ Children learn best in their own time.
Watching baby lions play on TV, I had a random thought: the mother lion doesn't say "now you are going to have a lesson in pouncing" and line them up one at a time to learn, putting stickers on a chart when they do it well - the cubs just pounce, wrestle and play when the urge takes them (which is most of the time).  That is how they learn.  So it is with our children: they just do stuff when the urge takes them.  If they have showed no interest in writing it does not mean they will never write, it just means they are focused on other stuff for now. There are a few children who need extra help or intervention (eg where dyslexia is involved), but most children just pick things up when they are ready, and not according to an externally imposed schedule such as the National Curriculum that sets so many children up to fail at unrealistic expectations.  Give them time and space, and they will get it.

3/  Learning is not linear.
"Children are not railroad trains.  They don't learn at an even rate.  They learn in spurts.  Not only that, but they often don't learn in what seems to us a logical sequence" (John Holt)
Learning can feel like a roller-coaster, with patches of really slow "nothing-much-happening-here" uphill crawling progress, and times of almost free-falling, out-of-control rapid progress.  The point is, it's all progress.  If your child looks like they've stalled, remind yourself that they're just gearing up for another spectacular season of exhilarating advancement.  That's just how it goes, and it can feel intimidating when you have sole responsibility for their educational growth - but having done this for three years with three different children, I have seen it too many times for me to worry about their slow seasons any more.

4/  It is not supposed to hurt.
"Learning can only happen when a child is interested.  If he's not interested it's like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating" (Katrina Gutleben)
If it hurts - if it is leading to stress and resistance, tears, threats and/ or bribes... we're doing it wrong.  Why kid ourselves?  We may have prepared the most awesome "lesson" ever, but if the recipients are not interested, they will not learn.  Simple as.  So there is no point trying to force it - it hurts them and us and achieves nothing.  Ditch the stress, and follow their interests.  Just because you find something interesting or important, if the children don't you could be setting yourself up for stressful and fruitless conflict.  It's not worth it.

5/ It's OK to structure our HE around the parent's needs as well as the child's.
Yes, we want to be child-led, as that is the most natual way for them to learn, and that is vital - but we also need to remember that we parents are the ones with the legal responsibility for ensuring they have an adequate education, so however we do this thing called Home Education it has to be in a way that satisfies us that they are learning.  It took us at least two-and-a-half years here to get a balance that really worked for us all, and it is still a work in progress: a good education has to be flexible and adapt to the whole family's developing needs.

6/  The "socialisation question" is completely back-to-front.
Society is so brain-washed into thinking that children need school to socialise, that only the bravest people who are willing to question their assumptions will ever learn that actually school's version of socialisation is counter-productive.  Yes, school children spend a lot of time with a large group of peers, but they are pretty much left to their own devices when it comes to working out how to get along.  This "throwing them it at the deep end" is a risky approach to socialisation, and leaves many struggling, which is why bullying, social isolation, cliques, pack mentality, peer pressure etc are so rife in school.  Home educated children are exposed to social situations with people of every age, including adults, peers and older and younger children.  Their groups are less intense, not being all day and every day, and are better supported, with adults on hand most of the time who they can go to if a tricky social situation arises that requires help negotiating.  When parents of schooled children ask me as a Home Ed parent, "but what about socialisation?", I could easily ask them the same thing.

I am immensely grateful for our freedom in this country to home educate our children.  It has brought us so much joy, lessened household stress considerably, and increased our ability to think and learn in meaningful ways.  I have every confidence that as we continue I will learn even more about how children actually learn, and the boys will continue to grow and flourish, socially, emotionally, academically etc - in fact, in every way, as true growth cannot be compartmentalised, it is just growth.

For today though, I have given the boys the day off: no maths or anything structured - just a request for them to make sure their jobs are done and rooms tidy, and then the day is theirs to play as they like.  The beauty of it is, they will still be learning anyway!  Happy 3rd HE anniversary to us!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Child-led Fun

Today we continued the even less structured approach as per yesterday's post.  Yet again the boys took ages to come downstairs for breakfast as they were engrossed in a game in their rooms.  Once they were down they helped me unpack the groceries that had been delivered, and then (even before breakfast) were distracted by the arrival of a map I had ordered.  It's a "scratch map" of the British Isles, the idea being that we scratch off every county we have visited and then try to scratch off as many more as we can during our travels.  They all ran to get coins and were merrily scratching away until we hit a problem: for many of the counties, the top layer was resisting our coins and was impossible to scratch off.  Bless them, they were so disappointed.  Happily I had ordered it through Amazon, who are great at replacing faulty items, so I have arranged to return it and have another on the way - here's hoping the next one works as they were all most enthusiastic about it...

With the map put away again I suggested breakfast might be a good idea (it was 9:30 by now!) - and then as we were all together we had another look at their "Brother Offended" Bible Study, which they are remembering well, at least when they are sat down and not in the middle of an aargument!  After that I asked them what they would like to do for "English".  Youngest chose his workbook, Middle played "Spell Ninja" on my ipad, and Eldest carried on writing a fill-in-the-blanks Pokemon themed story for his brothers (he started writing it the other night at bedtime).

Following that we had a couple of games of Boggle Slam (again, adapting the rules so that Middle and Youngest weren't at a total disadvantage), and then while we tidied up we put on some loud gospel music and had a good dance and play with some percussion instruments - great fun!

After lunch the boys' had some friends around so we al watched a programme on the Romans together.  We may not be studying the Romans at the moment, but our friends are, and I found a programme on the BBC Learning Zone (in the early hours of the morning) that our friends can't record, so we recorded it for them and all watched together.  I was pleased that Eldest in particular remembered a lot of details about the Romans from last year, that he was chipping in with as the programme played.

So as predicted yesterday, today was lots of fun as the boys took more control over what we did.  There are only a couple of differences between what we are doing now, and what we will be doing for the "Easter holidays": firstly, I am still asking them to do maths and english on alternate days, and secondly I am paying attention and keeping a record of what they are doing for my Home Ed diary.  In the holidays there will be no parent-led requirements of the learning variety, and I will be keeping no records (except probably taking loads of photos if we go out, because that's just what I do).  I love our little bit of structure while we have it - and I love the more relaxed approach we're enjoying now too!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Flagging-induced Adaptations

We may have been doing this for many years, but since we embraced our/ my inclination towards the gently structured with parent-led aspects (catchy label, huh?), I have noticed further trends emerging.  If we follow a loosely timetabled week of HE, with two or three activities a morning, as we have been doing (some mornings see more activities than others), generally our (or my) enthusiasm and interest is held for about four weeks.  After that there is a definite waning of energy levels.  It's not just me - I mean, yes this weekend was a bit draining and left me with little motivation to do anything much, but I have noticed that  four weeks after the half-term break the boys are flagging too, especially Middle who is usually a good barometer for when it is time to change approach.

So this morning it was time to mix it up a bit.  The boys played in their rooms for quite a while (which in itself showed that interest in parent-led stuff is tailing off) and eventually appeared downstairs for breakfast, after which they did MathsWhizz happily enough.  After MathsWhizz they disappeared again to entertain themselves and reappeared about half an hour later asking what was next.  I said it was time for Art and showed them a nice activity I had planned, based on Matisse - their faces ranged from polite interest, through tired, to disappointed.  I could not muster the enthusiasm to carry all four of us through the activity, so I said they could choose their own Art activity instead.  Eldest immediately ran to draw a picture of himself and his brothers playing in a console game, Youngest painted a picture of his favourite animals, and Middle painted some abstract pieces (he loves just experimenting with colour and texture). It reminded me that although there is a place for learning techniques and experiencing different media (which is why we use the Deep Space Sparkle resources etc), Art is also about self-expression, and sometimes the boys need me to just back right off and let them explore how they would create things, not just how other artists have painted etc.

Eldest's "Playing the Game"

also by Eldest

Middle's first painting, "Woven wood"

also by Middle

Youngest's "Bluebird and Fox"

rather sweetly, Youngest also had a go at learning the style and method of Middle's first painting

After art (which they all thoroughly enjoyed), we were due to do a spot of History, but none of us were in the mood for reading an old story and drawing a related picture, so we played a game of Scrabble Dash instead (which Eldest won).  I realised afterwards that it is aimed at ages 10+, but as we had altered it slightly to let Youngest and Middle see the challenge cards before Eldest and me, it was a well-balanced game that we all enjoyed. Then over lunch we watched a recorded TV programme about the Plantagenets, so we did get our bit of history in eventually.

This afternoon they have been taking it in turns to play on their Pokemon typing adventure and generally finding their own entertainment while I had time to sit down and do the online grocery shop, do some thrill-less but essential housework and type this up.  Writing my blog is invaluable for giving me a chance to reflect on how we are doing, and I hope it also encourages others to know that you don't have to choose one style of HE and stick to it: we fluctuate regularly, and clearly we are now coming into a couple of weeks of even less structure before we have a couple more weeks of no structure at all (aka the Easter Holidays).  So for the rest of this week and next I think I may have a look at the remaining timetabled activities just to see if there's anything that we really don't want to miss - but then will just focus on Maths and English (both twice a week), and lots of child-directed activities.  It's going to be fun!

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Eclipse that We Couldn't See

In a "normal" week today would have been the boys' day of no structure or parent-led activities, but they ended up spending Wednesday doing nothing but tidying their rooms, so no structured work was done that day!  Also, with the partial solar eclipse (85% here) due today we just couldn't ignore it, so I tried to find several fun ways for us all to engage with it for a couple of hours.  It's ironic that most of my concerns about appreciating the eclipse were to do with whether or not our pinhole viewers would work.  In the actual event it didn't matter as there was total cloud cover for almost the entire two hours, rendering the pinhole viewers totally redundant  It didn't stop us having fun and learning though, as I had found a selection of activities etc through inspiration from Pinterest, Youtube and the TV listings.

So first of all, after realising there was nothing but cloud visible in the sky, we watched yesterday's episode of "Stargazing" from CBeebies.  My boys don't really watch CBeebies any more as they've outgrown most of the programmes, but the quality of their educational programmes are excellent and their simple explanations invaluable. It was a great introduction. We didn't get to see the eclipse at all here, although we did notice it get darker for a while - instead we watched BBC's "Stargazing Live" for live images of the eclipse as it was appearing in other locations, including above the clouds.  While we watched we made a craft found on Pinterest using card and split pins, showing how the Earth revolves around the Sun, and the Moon around the earth, which kept the boys engaged...

by Youngest

by Middle

by Eldest

Once the programme had finished we went out into the garden and enjoyed a bit of kinaesthetic learning, with the boys pretending to be the Sun (Eldest), planet Earth (Middle) and the Moon (Youngest).  Eldest jumped up and down doing star jumps to show the Sun's energy; Middle turned around and around, (showing day and night by pretending that a spot on his chest was England, making it night when he faced away from the Sun etc), and while he turned around he also moved around Eldest in a circle to show the passing of a year.  Then Youngest ran in circles around Middle - he got a bit over excited at first and ran around Eldest too, but soon got the hang of it.  It only took a few minutes but helped the younger ones in particular to better grasp the mechanics of how it all works.

When we came indoors we watched some Youtube clips that I had cued up (the solar eclipse in Varanasi; an eclipse seen from the International Space station; types of solar eclipse; and a 90 second explanation of the eclipse), and then finished up with a very simple piece of eclipse art...

Youngest wanted to draw the eclipse first... I love his spelling

Middle's eclipse...

Middle enjoyed it so much he did a second one

Eldest's "Annular eclipse", including the six points of light that we saw on a photo of one

Youngest's Eclipse

It's beautifully bright and sunny now that the eclispe is over, but although it's a bit frustrating, it's still a good thing: the boys are happily running around outside in the sunshine while I type this up!

PS update: Today after lunch Middle and Youngest finished their illuminated verses started a couple of weeks ago - they worked so hard on them, I couldn't not share them...



PPS another update: I forgot to say: as today was the last day of Shakespeare week (we won't be continuing over the weekend), the boys took all of the remaining adjectives and nouns out of the tubs, and chose their favourite two (they couldn't narrow it down to just one),  so finally, here are today's Shakespearian insults: "Thou languageless, simpering ticklebrain", and my favourite, "Thou lily-livered, odiferous pantaloon"

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Shakespeare all Week

As mentioned yesterday, this week is officially "Shakespeare Week", so I thought it was a nice opportunity to have a bit of a look at some Shakespeare with the boys - and today was our best day to do nothing but Shakespeare.  We continued with the Shakespeare-inspired insult-of-the-day, today's being "Thou superfluous, stretch-mouthed block!", and then read a book about Shakespeare (Usborne).  It turned out to be quite long, and Youngest's interest started to wander, so we paused after the first three chapters to do some activities.  I had downloaded a few of the activity sheets from the official Shakespeare Week website, but the ones I printed turned out to be too schoolish and didn't go down well (although Eldest completed his quickly)...

One of the things I love about Home Ed is the ability to adapt our plans as we go along, or even ditch them completely in favour of something else.  And that's what we did today.  Of the many sheets I had printed off in my enthusiasm, only the one was completed by Eldest - and we couldn't read through the book in one sitting, so instead we watched an interactive film exploring the Globe which they really enjoyed, plus some Horrible Histories clips (the bard on Mastermind, and Shakespeare's song), plus the trailer for "Bill" (if only the actual film had been released in time for Shakespeare Week).  Then the boys were happy to listen to the second part of the book, and they drew pictures inspired by the story...

 Youngest's page one: "flip the page to see who is writing"

Youngest's page two: "Mr William Shakespeare"!

Middle's picture of the Globe on fire

Eldest's Portrait of Shakespeare

Finally we watched an animated version of the Tempest from a DVD set that we have - I'm also planning to watch A Midsummer Night's Dream with them on Thursday, and will continue with the insults all week  As an English major I'm thrilled to have been able to share some of Shakespeare's world with my boys in a way that - eventually - they found fun.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Shakespeare and Starry Nights

Last week carried on getting busier and busier after my last post, up until Friday when we organised a cake and book sale with some of the local home educators to raise money for Red Nose Day.  It was such a lovely opportunity for our children to take part in raising money for charity and thinking of others before themselves - all while eating yummy home-made cakes, making crafts and playing with friends, as well as buying bargain books... and between us we raised just over £200!  It was a lot of fun, but I was pretty tired afterwards, and the house was a mess from all the baking, book-storing etc - so Saturday was spent cleaning while hubby took the boys out to the park etc - and then yesterday was spent with our lovely mums.  So today I was ready for a more relaxed pace.  Not so the boys, though, they were raring to go!

We started with the usual MathsWhizz: all ticking along nicely - followed by our continuing Bible study on "Brother Offended" (teaching them how to respond to perceived (usually petty) injustice without immediately telling tales, retaliating etc).  Then we had our planned art lesson, which I have to say, has turned out to be one of my favourite so far.  It's a Deep Space Sparkle one on Van Gogh's "Starry Night".  Before we started on the lesson we read a book on Van Gogh, and I showed the boys my Starry Night interactive animation app... I can tell you, it's mesmerising - we could all have played with it for ages!  Anyway, after at least ten minutes of changing the swirls by drawing with our fingers on the ipad, we started on the actual lesson, but immediately the boys decided that they wanted to do it as a collaborative piece, rather than one each.  Maybe they were daunted by all the little dashes, but although I had reservations on how well they would share (considering that they are all usually highly protective of their pictures), I agreed, and we found an A3 sheet of black paper to work on together...

Middle drew the outline of the Cypress tree, Eldest the horizon with mountains, and Youngest the moon - all with oil pastels. Then we selected some small paintbrushes and using the 'double-loaded' technique (dipping a brush into one colour then another before applying to the paper) we started filling in the moon and stars - and their radiating light lines.  Eldest wanted to do the long swirl of light across the sky, then we all filled in the darker bits of sky before Middle and Youngest painted the moutains and Eldest and Middle painted the fields in the foreground.  We left it to dry while we had lunch (and watched another episode of the Secrets of Castles), then we coloured in the Cypress tree with oil pastels, and cut some little shapes out of our stash of painted paper, to stick on to the painting for townhouses.  We are all absolutely thrilled with the finished result - I really don't think it could have gone better!...

Afterwards, although the morning was over (I usually keep the parent-led activities to 'mornings only'), I squeezed in one last (very short) activity, as it is officially Shakespeare Week!  We are planning to do a bit more on that tomorrow as Art took up most of our morning today, but I thought it would be fun to look at Shakespearian insults, so I found a PDF on TESconnect and printed off a list of adjectives and nouns that he used in his plays for insults.  I cut them up and put them into three pots (two for adjectives and one for nouns), and then had the boys blindly draw one word out of each pot, to write on a piece of paper and beome our "insult of the day"  I started with "thou", which the boys know was Shakespeare's way of saying "you", then Eldest drew "fell-lurking" (meaning 'savagely-waiting', used in Henry VI pt 2), Middle drew "decayed" (meaning 'ruined' or 'impoverished', used in The Comedy of Errors), and Youngest drew "boggler" (meaning 'vacillator' or 'mind-changer', used in Anthony & Cleopatra).  We found a great "Shakespeare's Words" website which helped us to quickly track down the meanings and source of each word - and then we wrote down our "Shakespearian insult of the day" to stick in a prominent place.

To be honest, I think the idea of an insult of the day clashes somewhat with the theme of forgiveness etc that we are studying the Bible for, but it's just meant as fun, and fortunately is too much of a mouthful for them to proclaim with any frequency!

This afternoon as going to be gaming-free but it didn't exactly work out that way as the boys have a new DS program: a Pokemon-themed learn-to-type game - so I was happy for them to go on that while they are still enthusiastic about learning to touch-type, as I think it's a really important skill for all nowadays.  Middle and Youngest have also returned to the Starry night app from earlier, and Eldest has been drawing  Minecraft village while I typed up today's blog entry.  All in all then, that was still a busy day, but a happy peaceful one!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Whole Body History Lessons

Wow, two busy days in a row!  I still can't work out a reliable pattern to our days, energy levels etc.  Generally things are better on Mondays, but not so much on Tuesdays - usually that is... still, it's lovely when all the boys (and I) are full of enthusiasm for learning at the same time, and that was our lovely day today.

We started with handwriting this morning, and then Eldest got back to the art activity that he had found yesterday - a sheep picture using wool wrapped round card to print the grass with!  Of course all of his brothers also wanted a turn, and it wasn't difficult (Youngest just needed a little help cutting out the 'cloud' shapes for the sheep) so they made their pictures almost entirely without my input.  While they waited for the green paint to dry, Eldest and Youngest helped me to make some orange chocolate and pecan cookies... yum!

Then while the cookies baked they removed the cloud/ sheep templates and then added black faces and legs... finally adding googly eyes when everything was dry...

Eldest's "Sheep Family"

Middle's "Strange Sheep"

Youngest's "Sheep Kissing Butts"

Next it was time for some more history.  Today we were due to be looking at the Magna Carta, but I didn't want to just jump from (last week's) William the Conqueror to John I, so we did a whistle-stop tour of the monarchs who reigned in between first.  I had a book on King John to read to them, so we did a more active way of looking at the kings first: I typed out a couple of short sentences for each king and printed them onto paper - each child was given two or three pieces of paper to read out in total, and for each sentence we also came up with actions to go alongside the words.  For example, Youngest read out "I am William the Conqueror", and we all punched our fists in the air for victory.  When he mentioned the Domesday Book we pretended to be writing information down and all cried out "we're DOOMED!".  For William Rufus someone else had to shoot him in the back with an arrow (our arrow had a sucker end instead of a sharp tip!)  We had so much fun acting out the various stabbings and tempers etc that I thought I'd write it down and add it to the PDF (here), in case anyone else fancies a go.  I will have to update when we get through the rest of the Plantagenets though - we stopped at King John today.

Following the mad activity, the boys settled down nicely for the story of King John and the Magna Carta. The book I read was a bit long, so I did skip some of the details in case they might have lost interest.  I was impressed though that they stuck with the story right to the end, without me skipping too much at all. Then the boys drew their own illustration from the story and watched the Horrible Histories special episode on the Magna Carta.  I'm hoping we might fit in a trip to Runnymede this weekend - we'll have to see how good the weather is.  It would be nice, but I don't mind too much if not - we had so much fun today as it was!

by Eldest

by Middle

by Youngest

Monday, 9 March 2015

Swapping Pyjamas for Wellies

Well that was a fun day!  Mondays are usually sacred to pyjama-wearing and staying at home, but today we had an invitation that was too good to pass up: to meet with a few friends not too far away and explore their local nature reserve this afternoon.  Wellies and a change of clothes were advised: what further temptation did we need?!

So this morning we dutifully did some "work": Mathswhizz to start with, and then the boys did some more on their illuminated verses while listening to "Spring" by Vivaldi.  Eldest has now finished his; Middle's is almost complete and Youngest is still working on his - he wasn't really in the mood today.

Eldest's illuminated Bible verse

After the boys worked on their verses I introduced them to a game that I had been taught last night by a friend.  Said friend very kindly left the game behind so I could see if the boys liked it as much as I thought they might.  They did.  It's called Fluxx (we played the star version), and I have no idea how to describe it, except to say that it's a card game for which the rules change throughout the game, and which involves very little strategy: winning is more about chance than skill.  It took a little while to get used to, but the boys all got the hang of it quickly enough to enjoy the game, and I think it will become a firm favourite.

Once we had played, Eldest wanted to do an art activity, but we needed the time to get our spare clothes etc ready for our trip out, so we've planned the art activity for tomorrow instead.  We loaded the car with wellies and spare clothes... and then discovered that our SatNav was in Daddy's car!  A short while later, having worked out generally where we were going, we made our way - and found it without too much trouble (only had to ask for directions once).

It was a glorious walk!  Particularly because there was a stream running through the woods which the boys gleefully climbed into at first chance and waded along...

Eldest climbed out again surprisingly quickly - he just wanted to walk and chat.  It's sad to think he may be growing too old for such mucking about, but maybe he just wasn't in the mood today.  Anyway, Middle thoroughly enjoyed wading, despite quickly discovering that his wellies leaked... and as for Youngest - well, he got soaked up to his armpits and absolutely loved it!  In fact I think the highlight of his day, or even week, may have been when his wellies got stuck in mud and he had to be carried across the stream in his socks!

After we returned from our walk and changed out of all sodden clothes, we stayed at our friends' house and the boys played with their friends... there were quite a few boys present, and any thoughts I had that the walk may have worn them out were quickly disproved by the gleeful shireks and stampede that ensued.  Sadly two of the boys were hurt in the chaos - Eldest is still sporting a fat lip, bless him, but he himself said it was simply down to overexcitedness, and he hid the item that had initiated the rambunctious behaviour, in order to help the others calm down.  I was really proud of how he handled it - my boy is growing up!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Playdates and Domesday

After Tuesday's busy-ness at home, Wednesday and Thursday this week were all about socialising!  I jokingly said to a fellow HEor that I wouldn't be blogging about Weds because we hadn't done anything, but actually we were out all day: in the morning we went to the local soft play area where the boys had a great time with their friends and I sat and nattered with the other HE mums over copious amounts of tea.  Middle struggled a bit as "everyone" was playing his big brother's game and not his - but although they weren't excluding him, he didn't want to play their game.  Well, that's just a life lesson sadly.  We all have to learn that we can't make people do what we want, and although I felt sorry for him being sad about it, it was an important opportunity for him to learn resilience - and I'm glad he was able to come and talk to me about it while he worked it out, before going off to join in with the others.  After soft play we went to our regular gaming club, where the kids bond over their favourite console games (Mario, Pokemon, Minecraft etc) and the parents sit in another room and drink yet more cups of tea etc!  You can see why I joked that I hadn't done anything... not exactly a hard day!  It's so important for home educators to network though, to encourage each other and share resources, and even just enjoy some adult company amidst all the child-centredness of our lives.

Thursday brought Niece over for the morning, and we all went to the Home Ed swimming lessons together, then came home and watched several TV programmes on animal conservation (something that all four children enjoy) before Niece went home and the boys did some handwriting.  After lunch we had friends visiting, and the children all got straight on the Wii while mums chatted (and yes - drank more tea etc!)

After all that gaming I felt the boys needed a break, so today has been designated as a computer-free day (other than my blogging, obviously!).  They were really happy to focus on some learning time this morning, and we have had a more schoolish time than usual for us.  They started with MathWhizz and all managed to quickly finish within a couple of minutes of each other, so we had plenty of time for today's history "lesson", as re-arranged on Tuesday.

I knew that I wanted to look at the Domesday Book with them, but struggled to find resources in the usual places online, so I widened my search and found an excellent (if somewhat teacherish) PDF on the BBC website, giving information on the Domesday Book and suggesting exercises for children to do.  I loved the idea of doing our own mini census, so roped in some volunteers online to answer the survey questions for us yesterday, ready for the boys to look at today.  This morning, then, after a lengthy conversation on why we thought William the Conqueror had the Domesday Book written etc (Youngest wasn't very interested but the older two did really well), we filled in our own survey sheet and then read the others. The boys especially appreciated choosing their own silly names (Muddy Slug, Oshawott and Mr Bottom) and reading others' funny details, like the dogs whose job it was to bark at the postman, and the mother called Smelly LeBelly).  Then we worked out the average (mean) ages of the members of each household, and then the average age of everyone in our whole mini-census (it was 30).  The boys also worked together to produce a bar chart showing how many rooms were in each house - 6 rooms being the most frequently cited...

After that I wasn't sure if the boys would be interested in further work, but they expressed a desire to do something arty, so we moved on to the next BBC-suggested activity and looked at the "illuminated" aspect of the Domesday Book.  We also looked at other medieval manuscripts and noted that monks produced a lot of this style of writing as a way of giving glory to God.  I asked the boys to choose a Bible verse that they particularly liked (Eldest chose his own, Middle and Youngest chose one each from a list of a few suggested verses that I had typed up just in case), and then showed them how to draw a margin and box for the initial letter.  Bless them, they all tried really hard to do their best writing, after which I agreed they could leave the rest for later as making something really beautiful takes time.  So their verses aren't finished yet, but I can give you a glimpse of what's been done so far...

Eldest's verse

Middle's verse

Youngest's verse

Funnily enough, even though they said their hands were too tired to carry on with their illuminated verses, they immediately found some more squared paper (discovered when making the bar chart) and started drawing platform-game-inspired drawings before we finally stopped for lunch and a tidy-up, going outside to have a good run around in the fresh air (much needed as they had gone somewhat hyper), and then coming back indoors to find their sticker-books on Knights & Castles and getting stuck in while watching the Blue Peter World Book Day episode. I love watching what the boys choose to do with their free time on gaming-free days - it makes we want to do it more often, although I suspect they may be less keen!  Still a good day though!


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Some Days You Just Survive!

That was a busy weekend!  We came home yesterday after a long weekend way with the family, and were all very tired - no surprises there!  Usually when we are away for the weekend and come back on a Sunday I mentally allow Monday as a lazy day because I know everyone will be tired, but this weekend as we didn't get back until Monday I somehow forgot about the whole tired thing, and decided that as we were missing two whole days of HE this week (Monday travelling and tomorrow at soft play) as well as Friday last week travelling, we needed to plan for some more busy days... today being one of them.

Big mistake.  I can't even imagine what I was thinking.  Well actually I'm pretty sure I wasn't thinking. Suffice to say this morning did not go as planned.  Our bit of Bible on forgiveness, brotherly love etc did go nicely (phew) and the boys all managed Mathswhizz, allowing for Eldest's internet connection dropping out, Middle being distracted by other programs on the PC, and Youngest having a couple of "not interested" moments!  This took a long time however, and my other planned activity for the day - history (Domesday Book) - was something that I felt needed more attention that the boys were clearly able to give.  Fine, I thought: I'd just swap today's activity with Friday's, and do some art.  I decided to avoid painting, just in case they were still a bit reluctant as last month, so I chose something different (but still from Deep Space Sparkle): a lesson based on Keith Haring's art.  You know, it was a lovely activity, and once they settled they really enjoyed it - but I have to confess that to begin with there was a fair amount of jostling, shoving and over-tired sniping, which at once point culminated in me telling them I felt like sending them back to school.  Of course I wouldn't send them back, and they know that (I made sure they still knew it), but I was so fed up of the complaining that for one moment I really was not enjoying them all being around me and they knew it!  Really if I had not also been so tired I think I would have spotted that it might have been a good idea to ditch the plans entirely, but brain fog over-ruled sense and experience, and we pushed on.

Actually, in the end we enjoyed ourselves and the boys did produce some nice art before we finally made lunch and switched the TV on (to watch "Meet the Orang-utans" ) with a collective sigh of relief.  Note to self: no matter the day, always allow downtime the day after a long car journey!  And really it could have been worse: I could have attempted the history "lesson" *laughs hysterically imagining how that would have gone*. So OK it could have been better, but at least it wasn't a total disaster!

Mummy's "Night Fever"

Eldest's "Butt-kickers"

Middle's "Acrobats"

Youngest's "Party People"