Thursday, 4 September 2014

My role is to facilitate, not to teach

Day 4 of home education:  yesterday I wrote how well our loose 'timetable' of activities before lunch was working for us and how much we're managing to cover 1:1. Some might call this approach a semi-structured method of learning at home. Today I would say the opposite has been true where learning is concerned. We still covered maths and reading, but on reflection it's very obvious to me that the MOST learning today hasn't been our maths and English, it happened unplanned and unexpectedly, very much in an unschooling way. 

For example, first thing this morning the kids decided to get their new Lego building kits out (a present from daddy). Both of them watched me and helped where they could, in following the instructions to put it together. Using concentration, fine motor skills, team work, seeing the big picture to name a few skills in the process. Perhaps more importantly for my under 5s, they spent a lovely time playing together with their newly built vehicles, Eden helping Asher fix his, Asher being patient with Eden and asking to take turns. I was very proud of them both. Nurturing the sibling bond is so important and a huge advantage to home education. 

Another example of unplanned learning today was a trip to the park. I had our guide dog puppy with me, so spent much of the time on the playing field right next to the enclosed play park while the kids played. With me not around, I observed the kids playing so well together, helping each other out, laughing and having fun together, enjoying each other's company, forgiving each other, thinking of each other's needs (turn taking) without my being present. If I had been there, both would've wanted my attention and wouldn't have played so nicely, or would've turned to me to intervene rather than work out their differences between them in the amicable way that they did - they're only 4 and 2 and yet they managed it perfectly well on their own! 

But my biggest pride today in their learning comes from our geomag play this afternoon. We have learning shelves where I store all the special learning toys, things I only bring out every so often, as I know they have high play value and don't want them to become part of the furniture and taken for granted. The kids have free access to these shelves, so if they do ever want to get anything out we always do, but the rest of the time they're stored away. 

Today was one of those days where Asher went to the shelves and picked our geomag set to play with. Now he is only 2.5, and we haven't had our geomag set out in ages, in fact I don't think he's ever had a long, proper play with them as they're full of small parts and a swallowing risk for babies and toddlers putting things in their mouth (he doesn't do this anymore and is more reliable). Today however, Asher absolutely loved playing with them! If you don't know what geomag are, they're a magnetic construction set consisting of magnetic balls and bars. Both kids stayed so focused on these this afternoon for so long, building away and making some awesome creations all on their own. I'm super proud of their creativity! Asher made an amazing flower, and Eden some beautiful jewellery. Their interest was a strong motivator for how much they learnt through this activity. With parent-led activities (or teacher led lessons at school) yes the children will learn, but to me it's clear how much more depth there is in their learning, when children are given the freedom to choose what and how to learn, when their motivation comes from within. This freedom and flexibility for each individual child's learning is why I love home education. 

I don't think I'm at the stage yet where I could completely put myself in the unschooling camp of home education I don't think I'm brave enough despite seeing all the advantages. I'm not sure I'll ever be brave enough! But in the years to come I can see us as a family using a mix of unschooling and Charlotte Mason methods in our home education. One thing's for sure, as the parent, I'm not trying to be a teacher, my role is facilitator for the kids' education, it is them that need to lead the way. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Day 3 of home education

Another awesome day of learning! It's early days but we seem to be falling into a rhythm of home ed that's working well for us so far. It was 12 months ago that we first started considering home education - how far we've come in that time! We're drawn to Charlotte Mason principles, and I've done a fair amount of reading up. We like the outdoor aspect, and learning from living books. It makes a lot of sense to us that her motto 'education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life' rings true. 

Having said that, Eden, our oldest who is nearly 5, has always enjoyed, and thrived, on structure in her day. So, while Charlotte Mason would not advocate formal learning until at least 6, we've started a very flexible timetable, which includes hands-on maths and reading continuing what Eden can do already through play, and in addition, building in Charlotte Mason's 'extras' - composer study, picture study, French, nature study. We also do daily bible time and handwriting, Eden loves to write! 

Over the last 3 days following our loose 'timetable' I've realised just how much we've covered and achieved in just a few hours. Educating 1:1 appears to be very efficient! It gets to lunchtime and it feels like it should be much later in the day with everything we've done. It's not like the topics we cover have needed a lot of planning either - a lot of it happens naturally, organically, with one activity flowing into the next being led by Eden's interests. For example, we followed our maths lesson curriculum today on my iPad (saves the trees). When we got to the colouring page of two girls, which I obviously hadn't printed out and was just going to chat through instead, Eden asked to have a copy so that she could colour it in, cut it out and make paper dolls. So this led to an activity in itself. I love her creativity! 

It doesn't always work to plan though - this morning was our first French 'lesson' - I thought we could learn an easy French song using YouTube. I found a lovely farm animals one with a simple tune. Unfortunately it went straight over Eden's head - too fast-paced and it felt like it was a complete waste of time, but then on the other hand she has been exposed to listening to French this way. Next time though we'll try something different. 

With the planned stuff over, we headed outside for the afternoon (Charlotte Mason style). The farmer was harvesting his wheat in the fields across the road so we went to watch, and then had some garden time. After mixed weather for a few weeks it's back to warm sunshine again - always seems to be this way in September. 

A quick, but necessary, visit to the library after tea finished our day. Eden collected her summer reading challenge certificate, which ended today (hence the necessity of the visit). I love that both the kids look forward to visiting the library each week. Even active Asher loves going to pick his books, as soon as he knows it's library visit day he'll ask in his own way a dozen times if it's time to go yet! When we arrive they both grab a book and find somewhere to sit to read it. It's very sweet to watch! 

Two tired kids in bed by 7. While I wouldn't say our daily routine has especially changed all that much (I've always encouraged the kids to be 'busy' and limited screen time) I think the slightly more pro-active learning approach over the last 3 days has challenged them enough to be appreciating their sleep at night! 

I'm still super-excited to have started our home ed journey. It's such a privilege to be present in the many moments of learning, seeing something click, observing the progress in Eden's reading, watching her creativity, answering really thoughtful questions! And for Asher, who is going through the disagreeable toddler stage (at home at least, he's an angel for everyone else!) celebrating the small victories; like today there have been moments of obedience and other moments of him *nearly!* saying yes. It may not seem much, but it's taken a lot of parenting input to get to that point and seeing a little self control shining through in my nearly 2.5 year old. Looking forward to another fun-filled day of learning tomorrow! 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Happy non-first day at school to us!

Today we officially became a home educating family! We celebrated Eden's non-first day at school. She had a great day, full of learning and surprises. These are just a few moments from the day. While I had some activities planned, many more developed naturally as a result of the children's creativity and curiosity. Looking forward to tomorrow!