Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Great Outdoors wk 22: 8.5 hours

Half term week is always a strange one for us, out of routine and we avoid anywhere likely to be busy with the kids being off school. This week we've had lots of lovely quiet play dates with friends,  enjoying outside time in the process. A highlight has to be the sculpture trail we found at a nearby nature reserve that we hadn't visited before. The kids and their friends loved running ahead to find the next one. There was also a lovely bridge over a stream that we spent quite a while playing on, throwing leaves and twigs into the water and balancing on rocks. We've finished off our outside time this week with a trip to the allotment, to put the pumpkins and courgettes in and to do a little weeding. However, rather than joining in the kids instead played happily in the sandpit, listening in they were creating mountains in the sand for adventures. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Great Outdoors Wk 21: 13 hours

I've been back and calculated our total time spent outdoors so far this year, playing, learning and exploring in various ways - the current total stands at 154 hours and 15 minutes. 

Regular readers will have seen on my home ed posts that we are big fans of Charlotte Mason, a 19th century educator. She recommended that children between the ages of 0-7 should spend 4-6 hours outside everyday. In today's day and age this seems an unrealistic amount of time. But this daily length instead calculated over 3-4 times per week works out at about 1000 hours per year. 

Over on the 1000 hours outside blog, you can read more about where this figure comes from, the research supporting it and the developmental benefits of outdoor time on this post here 

I think we will still be a long way off the 1000 hours total by the end of the year, but nevertheless I'm enjoying keeping track of our time outside and seeing the difference it makes in the kids, in both the short term and over a longer period. Some of those benefits that I've seen, and many other good reasons for getting outside, are listed on this blog post from the 1000 hours outside website

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Great Outdoors Wk 20: 13 hours 15

Highlight of the week has to be the super Batwalk that Luke and Eden went on at the local park on Friday night, coming home with lots to tell! 
Here's a collection of pics from the week..

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A new year on the allotment

I'm excited about our growing year ahead on the allotment. This will be our fourth summer having our allotment here in the Midlands. When we first took it on back in August 2012 it was covered in weeds upto our waists. Every year we seem to make a bit more progress in staying on top of the weeds. We've realised how important (and helpful) it is to keep the ground covered over when plants aren't being grown. The plot looks tidier, and more importantly the weeds are suppressed. The committee on our allotment are very strict about keeping weeds under control. 

Today was the first nice day of this year for the kids and I on our allotment plot. The kids seemed to appreciate the better weather down there! To my surprise they straight away got stuck in pulling up the surface weeds growing over our geotextile ground cover. 
The rhubarb patch has gone bonkers this year already! Previous years the crowns have clearly been spending their energies establishing roots and this year it seems to have really taken off. We cut 20 stalks to bring home, which barely made a dent in it at all. I'm going to need to look up some varied rhubarb recipes that don't involve the word 'crumble'.
I found some spare strawberries from last year lurking by the shed, so moved them to the end of our asparagus raised bed. I'm really chuffed that we have our first asparagus shoot! We planted 5 crowns last autumn, I hope the others start to show signs of life soon too. 

Finally, we put our potatoes in. Two rows of Charlotte potatoes, second earlies. Luke prepared the ground for us one evening earlier this week and Asher especially loved dropping the potatoes in the holes, learning about putting the shoots facing the right way up, covering them over and watering the rows. Asher at the age of 3 is a very hands-on learner, and his engagement in activities like this really confirm this for me. 

When we got home we made a 'rhubarb crumble cake' together and enjoyed it for our pudding for tea. Well earned after our work on the allotment. I'm looking forward to many more occasions spent down there this year. As the kids get older, not only are they able to help more (and as today showed, cheerfully help), but they can also learn so much along the way. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Social skills in home education

Usually the first question asked about home education is 'but what about socialisation?' This afternoon at the park I watched Eden, aged 5, making friends with a just turned 1 year old. They were sharing lovely moments together. I watched Eden proudly holding the hand of this toddling unsteady one year old learning to walk. She spun her gently on the roundabout. She asked the little girl if she'd like to watch her ride her bike, she showed her where to stand for a good view and waved as she cycled past. The little girl responded by putting her arms out for a cuddle when Eden returned. Lots of moments. All the time Eden was chatting away to this little girl's Mum, completely comfortable in this social scenario of young and old. 

It was an example of how broad the social skills are that Eden is developing. She may not be in school 5 days a week, spending her time with 30 children of the same age, but who decided that was the necessary length of time required for children to be adequately socialised?

If we wanted to, there are local home ed groups and activities to get involved with everyday, we're spoilt for choice. We see our friends perhaps on average 2-3 times/week, which suits us as a family and it varies week by week depending on how we feel. But when we do see them, the children are spending quality time together often with no other agenda than to just have fun. As adults we catch up with our friends by going to each other's houses, out for meals, the pub, church. Thinking back to my own school days, my memories of quality time with my friends didn't happen at school, but rather I remember visits to friend's houses, going to kids' clubs together, sleepovers, parties, and trips to the fair. Our home ed children go to friend's houses, parks, soft play centres, parties, church, children's groups to see their friends. They will spend a few hours at a time, a morning or afternoon together, with no agenda and no interruptions to their play.  Eden will just as readily play with a baby, enjoy a shared interest with a child of similar age, follow the lead of a much older child in play, or chat to an adult. In the home ed community I see first-hand the children mixing together, boy and girl, old and young, comfortably talking to everybody, seeking common interests, cooperating, and inviting others to play. Research supports that home educated children are ahead in social skills for a number of reasons, including having a wider range of role models than that typified by peer-interactions at school. 

We may not be seeing our friends everyday, but that doesn't mean that the kids stop socialising inbetween. Home educated children have many opportunities to regularly and actively socialise with people in their communities. Social skills are transferable. The kids chat to each other, us parents, the grandparents, they use FaceTime. They're out in the real world, doing life everyday. They talk to the shopkeepers, the shoppers waiting in the queue, the librarians, the people at the bus stop, at the allotment, the museum, the dog walkers we pass with Viking, other children at the park, at church, at home ed groups. They are exposed everyday to people interactions of some form or another. Their communication is broad, with people of all ages and backgrounds. 

"But what about socialisation?" 
My opinion is that more thought is needed as to what 'socialisation' actually is. Is 'socialisation' the same as 'forced association' with 30 other children of the same age sat in a classroom? I believe our children's interactions with people can be a much richer experience than that. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015


Today we visited a local community gardens for 'Nettlefest', an interesting event to celebrate Nettles! With having the kids and Viking our guide dog pup with us, we didn't make it to any of the talks or workshops unfortunately, which were all about how to utilise nettles, an abundant free resource! We were however inspired, and when we got back home Luke went out to pick some nettles and began making some nettle beer, convenient as our previous home brew is running low. 

There was lots of other things to do around the community garden. We visited the beehives:
Did some chalking on the pavement (and inevitably clothes!) 
We decorated biscuits, and Viking was popular with some of the other kids there. 

The highlight for us though was the pond dipping. Asher surprisingly caught 2 newts, before Luke caught a third. Eden was a little disappointed not to catch any, but instead she helped release them back into the pond, having a hold in the process. 

An enjoyable afternoon of family time together. 

The Great Outdoors wk 18-19: 21 hours 20 mins

Last week we took advantage of the 'Sun' holiday scheme to visit my grandparents in Southport, staying right next to the beach. The kids loved exploring the dunes. We took along our Axiski to test out on the dunes, a little sceptical as to whether it would actually work on sand as promised, but it did and we had a lot of fun with it. 
Eden sliding down the dunes on the Axiski: