Monday, 20 February 2017 I doing enough?

As a normal home educating parent I think it's normal to worry every now and again and have a wobble about whether what I'm doing for the children is enough. When we're having a lazy day and feel like we're not doing anything that looks like "learning". Then I have to take a step back and look at (or ideally jot down as it makes you see it so much better) what we actually HAVE been doing. When we're in our PJs and F, my nearly 5 yr old has been laying on the sofa for the past hour watching Netflix... but in actual fact he's been watching a children's cartoon programme about underwater volcanoes and how they erupt to make islands. (Science, geography, geology). When we start chatting about the time I (his mum) went to Italy and climbed up Vesuvius and then back down to Herculaneum and how the preserved buildings looked. (History) He's full of questions and I answer them as best I could, making a mental note to pick up "volcano" books then next time we go to the library.

Later on, we bake cakes. He helps to measure (maths) and stir the mixture, watching how the ingredients mix together and also watches through the glass oven door to see the mixture turn into fluffy cake (chemistry).

During lunch we chat about our cakes and a bit more about volcanoes and how tomorrow we'll make some salt dough and make our own volcano, what colours we will use and the ingredients we might make. He'll chat about how he thinks he might make it stay upright and planning how he wants it to look. (Design Technology/science)

After lunch we put our coats on, discussing the weather and how many layers we might need and head out for a walk to the park (or a scooter). Large motor skills are really important, not only for health but also to build vital muscle control for future writing. We talk about the trees and the branches and how bare they look at the moment. We also spot a pink cherry blossom tree and get excited that it is a sign of spring and how we can't wait until the warmer days come and we can spend more time outside. (science) At the park he climbs, swings, runs and slides (PE).

When we get home, F decides he wants to do some drawing. He draws his favourite thing - a train and takes great care in doing all the minor features such as wheels, doors, windows, station signs, tracks and even buffers. He asks me to remind him how to hold a pen the right way as he really wants to do it the way the rest of us do. (literacy/art)

He does a puzzle (matching - maths) and then builds some lego (art/dt/hand-eye coordination/maths) and then asks to go on the tablet. He chooses to play minecraft giving me a running commentary of the amazing world he is building (dt/art/science/geography/maths and probably others I've not thought of).

At bedtime we read endless books with him picking out sounds of letters he recognises already.

This is a quiet "lazy" day when I don't feel we've done anything educational and I start to panic that he's learning anything. So stepping back and writing it all down helps to make me realise that it really is impossible for him to not learn. Even lazy days are full of great learning experiences.

Here's to more lazy days in our HE life!! xx

Saturday, 4 February 2017

"What do you do all day?"

I was asked this recently when discussing our life with a friend. This was a friend who doesn't quite "get" home education. And who can blame them? I didn't get it either before we started it. Not really. I was interested in it, and I was jealous of the people who did it. No ties to school runs and expensive half term holidays. Time to enjoy their children before they grew up and flew the nest. But I didn't really understand what it involved.

Since we've started home educating, I've realised that there are generally two types of people who don't "get" HE. The first type are the ones who think our children sit at home all day not doing anything constructive and don't see anyone else in the outside world ("but how will they learn how to socialise??" and the second type are the ones who think the children are chained to the dining table spending 6hrs a day writing in exercise books while I stand in front of them "teaching".

Well, maybe there are those extremes in the HE world, but I am yet to meet anyone who's home ed looks like that. Our reality is this:

I have three children aged 4 1/2, 11 and 14.

My 14yr old has decided on the subjects she'd like to take at GCSE level and has always been a bit of a book-work type of person and so she is quite happy working through ks3 text books. In September we will buy the correct text books for the exams she would like to sit. These will be English IGCSE, Maths GCSE, Geography IGCSE, History GCSE and Biology IGCSE. We'll buy the text books and those along with past papers and various online resources and you tube videos she'll hopefully feel prepared enough to sit the exams in 2019. A lot of home educators don't do them all at once. Often they take one or two each year over, maybe, 3 yrs so that there is much less work and pressure to get the work done. However, my daughter is more of a "let's get it all out of the way all at once" type of person - possibly a bit like her mother!! So she's opted to do all 5 at once - but take 2yrs to study for them. She also does 2 sessions a week working alongside a football coach, coaching children aged between 4 and 11 which is what she loves most of all. Although she doesn't see it "education" she also comes along with the rest of us for trips out which I am sure she learns more from than she realises! (See below!)

My 11yr old is much less workbook-y. He learns best by hands on or documentaries. He uses a maths programme called conquermaths which he's really enjoying (considering maths was always his worst subject at school) alongside Prodigy Maths which is a game based mental maths type game. Again, he'll do this voluntarily without protest which is a huge plus in my eyes!  He is a natural writer and although we do use CGP books for English, he also supplements this with his own story writing. Science we cover in various forms such as Mystery Science which is an online lesson with hands on experiments to complete as well as some written work. We also watch endless documentaries which cover a huge variety of topics relating to science, geography and history. He's also just become interested in hiking and so we go for regular walks locally in the countryside and he'll soon be the one reading the OS maps instead of me. What better way to learn geography skills than getting out there and having weekly (or more than weekly) field trips. These trips often involve stopping off at historic places of interest whether it be old churches, English Heritage castles or just for some stone skimming on the beach!  Talking of beaches, in the warmer months he has his swimming lessons here (when I say lessons, I mean he spends hours having fun in the water but over the summer managed to really improve his strength in swimming) but in the cooler weather we go to the local pool which has discounted HE swimming sessions. Also at the beach we do lots of exploring of the shoreline or rockpools and enjoy identifying things we have found along the way.

My son is a keen photographer and artist and so he often will be seen taking endless photographs of the scenery we've come across or the items he has found and then sketching them once he gets home.

On top of this, he has extra curricular groups/lessons that he attends - drama, parkour and football.

My 4yr old would have started school last September if we had sent him, although he is not legal school starting age until September this year. His education is mainly play based. We do have our routines such as bedtime stories every night and a reading programme called pippoplearning most days. He also chooses to go on Teach your monster to read as and when he wants (often a couple of times a week) and has also recently got interested in minecraft. But mainly he plays. He plays with small world toys such as trains and tracks, cars and his road mat, mini people or character figures, construction toys such as lego, zoobs, wooden blocks and wood and nails! He's also following in his brother's footsteps and is very into drawing at the moment which I am encouraging no end as the more he draws, the more he develops his hand muscles ready for writing. He has written a few things when he's asked to copy something but right now I'm not pushing the writing as he loves drawing so much and feel this is enough at age 4 to develop the correct muscles. He watches tv and you tube - he's so interested in things and how they work that he'll do anything in his power to find out the answers to his questions. As I type this he is watching "Britain's Secret Seas" a bbc documentary which he is absolutely glued to right now, but also watches various cbeebies programmes - the ones with "real" information being his favourite such as "Do you know", "I can cook" and "Octonauts". There's also a programme called "Magic School Bus" on Netflix which at first seems like an annoying Scooby Doo style retro cartoon. However, on closer inspection, it has a huge amount of scienctific teaching that goes on there - some things both myself and my 11yr old didn't even know ourselves so often we find ourselves all watching it as a family. You tube favourites also include "Come Outside" with the lovely Pippin and Auntie Mabel.

On top of all of the above, he also obviously joins us in our walks and explorations, swimming and football. He also does his own two dance classes and gymnastics. All of which he adores. We also meet up with friends at least once or twice a week for play dates either outside or in play centres. He mixes with other children most days and so do my older children either through groups or going out with friends and so I can honestly say Home Ed children really don't miss out socially. In fact, in my own children's point of view, they have a more active social life than most school children who have to sit next to whoever they're told to rather than a friend of choice.

At the weekend we do normal family things once their dad is home - zoo trips, country walks, chores such as shopping and DIY.

Would I change my life? Never. It is the best thing we've ever done!! xx

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The good things in life...

"When you finally get something good, enjoy it. 
Don't always go looking for something better."

I saw this quote on facebook today and it really struck a chord with me. Many years ago when my eldest, who is now 13, was very tiny. I used to read a cute little book to her. It was about a mouse family who took walks along the sand, swam in the rivers, lived in the country with fields and trees where they made rope swings and went for jogs... you get my drift. When I read it to my little girl, who was then a toddler, I would tell her that one day we'll get to live by the sea and have walks along the sand, be able to climb trees and swim wildly in the sea or rivers. 

A couple of years later, when my daughter was 3 and my, then youngest, was 8mths old, we moved to live near the sea. Unfortunately I had long term postnatal depression that lasted from when my son was born until he was 2 1/2 yrs old so, despite it being exactly what I had wanted for years, it wasn't something that I appreciated fully for a long time.

A lot has changed over the past 10 years that we've been living here. We've had good times and bad times, the last year being one of the worst we've ever had for varying reasons... but all of that has led to something amazing happening. I have felt this on and off for the past few years now, but not as much as I feel it now. I am so so happy in my life right now. So grateful for what I have. I'm approaching 40 and I guess it's a time in my life that I can look at it and see what I've done. I have achieved SO much. Maybe not in the same way that someone else might view achievement. But for me it is all I ever wanted. 

I live in that house by the sea. We have a woodland running along the back of our garden so our view from our decking and our bedroom window is nothing but green trees and an abundance of birds and wildlife. 

We have been lucky enough for a colony of bees to set up a temporary home in our garden 3 years running and a permanent home once. We don't have a lot of flowers in our garden, but we do have lots of green hedges, and I guess that's just something they must like.

 We go for walks along the sand, swim in the sea, the children climb trees and play in the woods. 

We are lucky enough to have made some wonderful friends since we have lived here and my parents and sister also live within walking distance to our house.

I haven't made a huge career for myself but I do what I love. I write. I create. And I surround myself with my beautiful beautiful children. Home educating 2 of them is amazing. In July I will have all 3 of them here with me learning and enjoying life together. We have great plans for the future and we are so excited for what we hope to achieve. Our home, however busy and hectic it gets, is where all our hearts lie. I love my home and have big plans on how to make the spaces within it work better for when we are all here (watch this space).

I was always the one who was "looking for something better". There was always something that I was searching for to make my life complete. But this is it. This is what I dreamed of when I was a child. This is my life. C x

Monday, 2 May 2016

The end of a perfect day...

We have all had the most lovely afternoon today. We met up with some lovely friends of ours who we haven't seen for some time. The children had grown up together and to be honest I was a little worried how they would be together seeing as it had been so long without contact and definitely for T, life has changed quite dramatically since the last time she saw them. But I needn't have worried. They slotted back into their close friendships as if they'd never been apart. We had a gorgeous (if breezy) stroll along the beach, stopped for coffee and snacks at the park cafe and then wandered back to our car. We had lots to catch up on and I feel, as I often do, that we never had enough time to be together to really catch up with all the news.

However, having decided we will have a weekend away together in a couple of month's time we now have something fabulous to look forward to and a much longer catch up to be had.

I am very lucky to have a selection of very close friends. I'm not one to have a big circle of friends, but the ones I have are extremely dear to me. I guess, again, that's perfectionism. Just any old "friends" won't do. They have to be perfect ones. And I think the ones I have are pretty close to that, and for that I am hugely thankful. xx

Put on those dancing shoes!

I am so incredibly proud of my two boys right now. My middle child, C, who is 11, has recently started drama classes at school. He's been chosen for a speaking part at the end of school performance and has been praised for his acting skills by his drama teacher at school. He's such a shy quiet boy normally at school that this is such a massive achievement for him. So much so, he's wanting to start outside drama classes at a "proper" stage school - of which he will be starting after our holiday in May.

My youngest child, F, who is 4, has recently started a dance class. His teacher, after only the first lesson said how fabulous he was at listening and she could really see him exercise his problem solving skills to figure out how to do various moves.

After a few weeks, the teacher announced that she wasn't going to keep going with the parent and child dance classes on a Thursday and that we could either go to the Tuesday class or they could start the "big" class for 4-11yr olds doing musical theatre and possible street dance afterwards. After speaking to her, she said that she though F was more than ready to take on musical theatre and so he started the class last week. This is an extract from the diary I jotted down while I waited for him:

This is my first experience of leaving my little boy and I'm so glad he won't be going to school in September.

He's currently having his first musical theatre class with an age range of 4-11 year olds so being just 4 (2 wks ago) he's by far the youngest. Thankfully we started parent and toddler dance classes in the same place a few weeks ago so he was a bit aware of what he was getting into, but he still looked far too tiny and shy when I left him there.
It's only half an hour and I'm in the foyer, a mere 20 seconds walk away from the room he's in. It's the tiniest theatre... but it's his very first glimpse of independence.

My tiny baby boy is growing up so fast and I'm so so incredibly proud of who is becoming.

I needn't have worried. He absolutely loved it and announced that next week he will stay for the second half an hour too so he can do street dance after musical theatre.

My grown up boy in his grown up world. Love him to pieces.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Late night ramblings

It's funny how things pop into your head when you're meant to be sleeping! I've just been looking at Street view for a friend who's looking for a house but I ended up looking up my old house where I grew up! 

A huge surge of nostalgia washed over me when I saw it. I could feel myself being transported back there. My lovely house - half of it (the garage and my old room above, along with half of the kitchen on the back of the house) is what my builder father built almost single handedly with his own bare hands. The front garden which no longer has our pink blossomed cherry tree, the bumpy slope leading from the main road down to ours which we spent many a day rattling down on our metal skates or our rickety old scooters and skateboards. I even “walked” via Street view to the local streets where my friends lived, where we used to zoom round corners on our bikes not even considering if there would be any pedestrians in our path! Once round the corner I spied the back view of our house. Of the extension my dad build pretty much on his own of my brand new bedroom. Of the flat roof of the garage which was directly outside one of my bedroom windows where a smoker boyfriend used to be banished to if he wanted a sneaky fag!
The dual carriageway adjacent to our road which we used to dash across at warp speed when we were far too young to collect our football that we'd kicked by accident over the fence and into the path of oncoming cars and lorries!! 

The same dual carriageway that my dog pelted across to get home when she'd been attacked by another dog in the field opposite, into the path of a lorry that hit her so she tumbled over and over but still managed to get up and run home and was actually miraculously fine!
The dual carriageway I’d walk along on many a Saturday night at 3am with a friend to get back from a night club in town. The dual carriageway I crossed daily even though I didn't need to just so I could catch a glimpse (and sometime an exciting snog) with the builder who had worked across the road for several months and who made my tummy full of butterflies whenever I saw him.

Perfect memories.

Friday, 8 April 2016

I need sleep!

Devices are a curse! I love and hate my tablet all at the same time!
Our house is device filled and school holidays often result in an overuse of them by all of us. The older children have ipads and I have a tablet and a laptop.
My youngest, who is nearly 4 and naturally wants to do everything the rest of us do, now frequently asks to borrow my tablet and if the rest of us are using ours, I have no right to say no really.

Don’t get me wrong, I'm not anti device for him. He rarely watches tv and so his screen use is in the form of educational games and you tube videos about trains! Both of which have taught him a huge amount about letters, sounds and numbers. He could tell me more about trains, tracks and models than I have ever known in my whole lifetime and he’s adamant he wants to be a train builder when he’s grown up (this seems to flit between being a model train builder and a real train builder!)
However, despite this, I still have a constant battle with myself as to whether their usage (or should I say OUR usage) is excessive or not.
Ok, so back to what I was saying about me and my sleepless nights (I do have a habit of going off on a tangent – forgive me!) You know how it is, when things that feel ok in the day time feel like the worst things in the world during the small hours.  This is what keeps happening to me. In the day, we do our “thing”, we go out together, the children play together, I look forward to July when we will kiss goodbye to the school system once and for all and we can enjoy learning and being together. Then at 10pm when I’m thinking I should be heading off to bed I decided to take my tablet to bed with me just so I can check that educational website I heard about the other day. Or while I’m there I’ll just plan a quick timetable of what our days will look like (seeing as it’s only April and I’m thinking ahead to September it’s really not something that needs to be done NOW!). Oh and then I’ll decide to start looking up interesting documentaries on You Tube that we can all watch to start off a topic of some sort! (Incidentally, I found one that I think my 11yr old will like – not watched it all the way through yet so you might want to check it first but it’s here:

So, there I carry on… watching, reading, researching, planning… until I realise it’s 1am and I’ still not asleep! But not only that, but I'm not even tired any more! My brain is whizzing with the “what ifs”. What if I fail them? What if they’re all together far too much and they end up hating each other? What if I don’t push them enough socially? (I'm incredibly shy sometimes and am totally out of my comfort zone in a group situation). What if they struggle to make friends because of this? And a million other “what if’s” that float around my head at 1 am!
So I lie in bed thinking of all of these things until it’s closer to 3 am when I finally drift off to sleep. At 7am when my son wakes me I feel like I've been out on a wild night out, dancing until dawn. I groan and roll over and hope he goes somewhere else to play for a while. But having been a parent to a young child for the past 13 years, I've learnt by now that that is highly unlikely. So I haul myself out of bed, bleary eyed, to go downstairs to make myself a very strong much needed coffee.
While I drink said coffee, I sit and ponder about the “what if’s” I had the night before. I tell myself that I won’t fail them. They are in charge of their own destiny, so if they want something enough I will make sure I help them to achieve it. They will be together all of the time but this will only make their relationships stronger. I have already seen T’s (13) and F’s (3) relationship blossom and me and T are now closer than ever before. I’ll make sure I encourage time apart through socialising with their own respective friends, working privately if they need their own space and having time just to myself and one of them at the weekends when G is home.
I think they’ll be OK socially. We’re all sociable in our own ways. This may not be in a large social group as such but we all like to get involved in group “lessons” as well as socialising with people daily on a more one-to-one basis. We already see people daily either as informal meets with friends or organised dance and gym classes and have plans for more things in the future. So in the light of day, my worries and “what ifs” don’t feel so worrying after all.