Living to learn? or learning to live?

As a home ed parent I often find that friends and contacts come to me and ask me questions about what we get up to. With schools around my local area being what they are, bullying being so rife and considered by many school head teachers to almost be a normal and expected part of growing up and the general dislike of the pressure children are put under to perform, it seems like a tempting option for many who want to find out more. I get asked questions like “how do you do it?” “How do you know what to teach them?” “how much does it cost?”. I try to answer these questions but can only do so from my own personal experience. In truth the answer to these questions will vary depending on who you ask, and sometimes even depending on when you ask them.

Approaches to home education are infinate. as unique as each family, as each individual. From a strict structured time table right through to radically unschooling and everything in between. Needs depend on the child, and they change. Many families plan to follow one approach and then things change, its ok. Have faith in your children, they learn what they need to know!

Sometimes I may have answered referring to online resources, downloadable curriculum and shop bought work books. Other times I may be a lot more relaxed and answer that I dont teach them, I allow them to learn about whatever interests them. Some months I feel like I am being bankrupted and need a 2nd mortgage to cover their activities, when in actual fact that is my choice to pay for different lessons and activities to broaden their experiences. Its not necessary at all, but it brings us back to the ever common question of socialising. The opportunities are endless, and we have to be selective both time wise and financially.

It is important in my opinion to offer different opportunities to allow the children to find things that they can become passionate about. To allow them to build their knowledge of themselves. We attended a workshop last week in clay animations. A discovered that she actually really enjoyed it, she liked taking the time to put detail in to her animation, plan what was going to happen and make it work. J wasnt so keen on the day due to circumstances beyond control. We discussed this and he is greatful that he was able to try it and has expressed a desire to try again in different circumstances which I am able to arrange for him. Neither had previously been interested in this subject having never tried it before.

We have found Js niche, photography is his thing. When he started his first photography course he wasnt keen on any of the technicalities, prefering to point and click and hope for the best but now he enjoys looking at his photos of the pc, playing around with contrasts. He tweaks the settings on his camera when taking photos and explores different angles and is looking forward to entering his first photography competition this month.

I have been asked, once again, about plans regarding nursery for N. Once again I hear myself describing how well he is doing with peers of all ages to learn from and mix with. I  consider  the damage that school did to my time with my older children, what it did to their spark and passion, the repair work I have had to do  with them. I dont know why anyone would question my plans for the younger children, of course those who actually know my older children dont question it at all they have seen how well it works. you can read more about this here  N is doing well, he is confident, he is happy. He is learning numbers and letters, he knows colours and is learning opposites. He loves being read to, he loves drawing and tracing over lines. He is always on the go experiencing and living life. I have no desire to stifle that with a classroom.

We have been unintentionally not doing academic work for a while now. This is totally ok too. Interests come and go like the tide, and learning is everywhere all of the time. So we have enjoyed time with friends and family in different locations. This included a trip to see the Grey seal colony at Horsey (a fab photo opportunity for J) and a trip to the heights of Abraham to explore the mines and caverns as well as walking down along a natural fault line. We are going back to basics with geography as school appears to have killed the childrens spark of curiosity in this subject but when out and about we find it is very much still there buried deep inside. We have visited theme parks, which are great fun but also to hear the progression and the children talking amongst themselves about forces pushing them in different directions and holding them in their seats is great to listen too. Life skills are covered, map reading, navigation, laundry, cooking, cleaning and caring for younger siblings. They are progressing at their climbing and continue to cover various issues with connexions such as healthy living, bullying and addiction. We have continued with watching documentaries together as a family. Most recently these have included the Secrets of The Tower of London, Great British Castles and an all round favourite was The Kindness Diaries which sparked  some fantastic conversation! We have a “to watch” list which begin to cover themes around gender and sexuality on bbc iplayer as this is a current interest, we visited the British museum to see the LBGTQ exhibition and the children were shocked and saddened at the laws still in different parts of the world, it was quite eye opening for them in terms of how lucky we are here. With the upcoming general election we also cover a lot of politics, history and laws, it is living life.

Academics arent going anywhere.



A long and busy month of April

I logged on and saw that my last post was over a month ago. I wasn’t surprised, things got busy as life tends to do and time at the computer was the first thing to go. As it stands I am writing this on my phone, while sitting under a sleeping baby.

Yes, our family is now one more, I am a proud mama of 4. Baby Michael arrived on the 23rd March. Born at home, pretty quickly. He beat the midwife, caught by daddy while the older 3 were downstairs in the living room.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since, A and J have their commitments, climbing, ice skating, photography etc that continued. We have enjoyed lots of time with Ryan being home, paternity leave followed by the Easter long weekend. We have visited several woodland areas, English heritage sites and had other days out. Getting used to getting out the door on time with everyone has been a learning experience in itself. A new baby brings lots of practical learning opportunities and increased independence.

The older children have been building their photography skills. Both are doing well. J especially has really developed an eye, he will take a photo of a patch of stinging nettles from such an angle with lighting that really makes you stop and admire them in ways I never thought I would. He has developed the patience to sit and wait for the perfect shot whilst watching the herons nesting, able to catch on camera the moment an adult heron returns to it’s waiting chick. We have decided to enter some of his photographs into a wildlife photography competition.

We are looking forward to our first trip of the year. A weekend to Norfolk, which will include a visit to spot the seals and allow more photography oppprtunities and a trip to bewilderwood. Then driving across and up past Birmingham.  We will visit a military vehicle museum, Alton towers, Cadbury world and more. Following the theory that learning is everywhere and stepping away from the idea that education has to be seperate to fun, which is a rather disturbing and disheartening view that many seem to hold.

Around us through April once again the subject of schools came up, specifically? Nursery places for N. Friends and acquaintances were finding out which places their children had been given, excitement, disappointment and worry covered my social media. I saw the increase in posts on the early years home ed groups as others were not allocated appropriate places, while in other parenting groups I see parents asking for advice on where to buy the smallest school uniforms. I wondered if I would feel like we were missing something, but I’ve watched N, I’ve seem him interacting with so many people, mastering so many skills and gaining knowledge and there’s nothing but certainty and peace with our decision. I am glad that I can continue to enjoy my spring and summer, our time together isn’t on any kind if countdown. We have so much time, so many adventures ahead of us, bringing nothing but excitement.