Sunday, 20 May 2012

Why do we home educate?

This is a question that I am asked almost daily. I'm asked it by friends and family, by people in shops and most often by other home educators. I ask them as well of course, the story of how we come to home educate is almost as compelling as a good old birthing story. It's one which, as we tell it, helps to cleanse and focus our minds on the true wonder of what we have achieved.

Unlike a birthing story, which stays the same each time we tell it, the reasons for home educating change with the seasons, and sometimes just with the passing of hours.

In order to fully answer this question, I need to go back to the beginning of my home ed journey. Right back almost 4 years to when George 1 was preparing to start reception class. I had heard of home ed then, I had friends who do it, but we had found a good school and I felt at the time that that's what was 'supposed' to happen. My little 4 years and 2 week old baby was going to school, because that's what you do. He very much enjoyed reception. He had lovely teachers who nurtured and played and taught. It was a relaxed atmosphere and yet somehow I lost my baby. He disappeared and became someone else's child. I didn't know what he was doing. The 10ft high green metal fencing created a physical, emotional and spiritual barrier between us. For 3 years, i listened to those gates shutting behind me, locking him in and me out. Each afternoon I picked up an ever increasingly grumpy and distant stranger. Occasionally I'd get a little insight into his day. A little snippet of information.

Then mid-way through year 2 the unhappiness in him began to show. He also felt alienated from our family. Separated off from the achievements at home. He felt stifled by school. A lot of the things that were being taught didn't make sense to him and he struggled with simple tasks. He's not stupid, in fact quite the opposite, but he doesn't learn well in formal teaching environments. He's not particularly speedy. He's a great thinker and philosopher and so recalling facts quickly was difficult for him. Its expected a lot in school.

Then came the refusal, hiding under the table in the mornings and crying. Being so stressed and exhausted in the evenings that he couldn't even eat. He looked terrible. Huge black circles under his eyes on top of extremely pale skin.

So it led me to thinking about alternatives. During the summer holiday last year, we brought it up with him. The change in him was instant. A little light shone in his tired eyes. The realisation that there was an option other than school. The life started to return. His last day at school was probably the greatest of his life so far. I've never seen such an excited and happy child. A thousand horses couldn't have held him back from running out of the gates that day.

That's what led me to home ed in the first place. Many say I'm over protective, that children should face unhappiness to become stronger. Some say that bullying even is a necessary part of character building. I want to pt it on record now that I DO NOT AGREE! Just as a child doesn't need to smoke in order to know it's not good, a child doesn't need to be faced with bad language, bullies, sexual images and behaviour or negative adult attitudes, to know that they're wrong. I'm not saying that my children came across these things early on in school, but they will eventually, and yes, I do want to protect them from it as long as I can.

Another of my reasons to continue with home ed now we've started is simply to do with EDUCATION.

I have learned more about what education is and what it entails in the past 6 months that I have in the previous 30 years of my own formal educational life. Ive said it before and I'll say it again, I ADMIRE TEACHERS (mostly). They work hard and do an amazing job. They show genuine concern for children's well being, although they are so busy that mostly, its only serious problems that can be dealt with. They teach with skill and patience and dedication. They have to be dedicated to get the job done.

That leads into my final reason for today. The privilege of being able to witness my children learning and knowing exactly what they're learning. To witness a child learn to read, grasp a maths equation that has previously been a mystery, ASK to look at a specific period in history having done anything before to avoid the word history, actually enjoy reading poetry and not be able to pt a book down because there's no time restraint, play so freely because that's what they are - free - is the greatest privilege I could ever ask of as a mother. I am possibly the luckiest mummy in the world!

I'll say this again too, home ed is not the perfect solution. Not always. For most people, school is a good and valid option for their children. For me and my family, right now, school is not where we are supposed to be.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Some things we've been up to

It has been so long since I last wrote that I cannot possibly begin to remember what we've been doing. The boys have really begun getting into this learning thing now and they have been really enjoying themselves with little projects

George 1 has been doing a pile of maths from long subtraction to decimals and minus numbers. He's taught himself largely by trying things out and asking us for help. It's been wonderful to be a part of such a huge learning curve. When he came out of school, even the slightest mention of the word learning sent him hiding under the table. Now he comes to me with topics he'd like to know more about.

George 2 has been continuing with Reading Eggs He is really doing well and is starting to sight read some of the common words. It is such a huge privilege to be a part of this early development. He's also busy learning to tell the time and doing fractions.

George 3, although only 2yrs old, absolutely adores sitting at the table and writing. His mark making is fabulous and he recognises his initial letter everywhere now.

Georgiana is growing and growing, quietly sitting on my knee just soaking up all the love.

So, I've decided to just use photos to show what we've been doing again. A picture speaks a thousand words anyway!

We melted wax crayons onto canvas in an art project. What amazed me was the we all did the exact same thing and yet they all came out so differently. I love them on the dining room wall.

On St George's day we read a story about St George then all 3 boys drew pictures. We then made the pictures into our own story.

George 2 decided to write a wordsearch for DadaSmu based on some work he had done about the Atlantic Ocean. He hid 4 words and did the most beautiful lettering. DadaSmu found all the words and George2 really enjoyed writing it. The hot chocolate always seems to aid concentration somewhat!

Here's George 3 doing his writing

A bit of archery in the afternoons. DadaSmu found his bow and arrows in the shed and the boys had it confirmed that he is in fact the best Daddy in the world!

Here, I wrote out some sentence strips for George 2 to put with pictures of our family doing various things.

George 1 had the same pictures but lots of individual words so that he could make some more elaborate and/or funny sentences. This kept them amused for a surprisingly long time one very wet day.

They made some air dry clay models at our home ed group one day and then painted them at home. George 2 got a fair amount of paint on his head!

Here are some Lapbooks. George 2 has done the dinosaur and Mr Gumpy's outing ones. George 1 did a week long project about roller coasters.

The dinosaur study covered geography, adjectives, reptiles and making a graph showing the sizes of dinosaurs.

The project on roller coasters led to a study of Sir Isaac Newton, history, geography, graph making and lots of new word definitions

Mr Gumpy's Outing covered maths (addition and multiplication), geography (river terms), different types of boats and the definition of mammals

Lapbooks are a fabulous way of learning. The next one we do will be about the Olympics. 

Georgiana is just growing and looking pretty