Saturday, 26 February 2011

Fun Outing

Yesterday the three of us went on a fun outing. Yes it was 'educational' but I didn't push any of that, we just went and had fun at our local Science Museum. There were all sorts of explanations up about things but we just played with everything.

I find it very difficult to strike a balance between showing the girls something educational and mythering them all the time with educational questions or facts so I said nothing about the science behind things and we just admired the 'cool' activities that were there.

They played games on touchscreens and lots of other things. There were even iPads there too that we could play on and lots of interactive fun along with hands on things.

M really liked the airplanes and that was her favourite thing that she saw yesterday. She did all sorts of hands on stuff but I didn't explain anything to her because frankly that is just too much.

L really likes going there too and I think we will make a trip back there when school is back in. It was too crazy with all the children there who were off for their school break. I had to remind the girls that we can go back at a time that the other children are in school so we should let them have turns.

I think next week we'll do a surprise trip in :-)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Today we....

did some reading and walked to the library in the fresh air. It was certainly an adventure doing that.

My recovery from that gastrointestinal upset from Tuesday night has moved a bit south and well, let's just say I feel like I have either been training too hard at the gym (ab exercises) or like I got into a boxing match and my core took a real beating.

It hurts to laugh, cough and walk.

At least my head doesn't hurt today, I wonder what will hurt tomorrow.

We got some books from the library, L got out her new favourite which is in the Skulduggery Pleasant series and M got out two books one called Tasty Poems and one called Witches.

We are supposed to be going to a museum for a short stint of the day tomorrow, but we'll see if that is possible. Walking to the library was a killer! Oh well, I have to get out some how.

We are also going to participate in a Flat Traveller activity. This means we will make our traveller, send them to someone, and they will take our traveller around their area on a tour, take photos of our Traveller out and about in their area and send us a good package.

We will do the same for theirs. So Tuesday is the day we need to get ready to send them off :-)

I guess I have some work to do over the weekend.

Keep smiling :-)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Today was one of those days

Today I spent the day recovering from a bad case of something gastrointestinal but I had to press on. Today was a day where I was thankful for not having to do the school run, or a commute to work. My children still got their education taken care of, and I was able to work.

Today L helped M with her honey bee lapbook. She just did a maze, and some colouring sheets. L also did her own education work which was workbook based.

After I took a break, I also worked with M on her honey bee lapbook. Tomorrow all we have to do is look up a few terms and facts for it and she's finished it.

Tomorrow will be yet another busy day as I have some backlog work to catch up on and then on Friday we are off on a social and educational trip.

Today's entry is very short because my energy levels are down and I still have a mountain of work to plough through that is due first thing tomorrow morning.

Not sure what tomorrow will bring so adios amigos!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A typical day, or is it?

Yesterday I printed of some pages on honey bees because M and I are doing the letter B' this week. What better way to hear the 'B' sound than bees? So M started on her lapbook today on that and will more than likely finish it by Thursday.

L did some workbook pages and read a chapter of our Geography story, The Story of David Livingstone by Vautier Golding, which can be found here online:

This week is half-term break in many places in the UK, but in our household we are not observing it because we are going to be operating on a schedule similar to the Canadian school schedule, which means we will finish in June. We will have a week long break in March though instead (which is what the Canadians do). L chose this because last June we found it difficult to motivate ourselves to get up and study. I gave her the choice of either following the terms as they do here, or a slightly adapted Canadian schedule, she of course chose the slightly adapted Canadian schedule.

We are not taking Easter Holidays or any other school breaks, but then we will finish by the end of May. The curriculum that I follow has three terms and each term consists of 12 weeks. We will finish our 36 weeks of academia when it is the Whitsun Half Term here (Pentecost). The other activities that the girls do such as drama, dance lessons, piano lessons etc will will continue on until the end of July.

Those are of course important aspects of the girls' education, learning how to build friendships, work as part of a team and the discipline of working independently (piano or instrument practice for instance).

L will still be able to see her school friends because her lessons are always finished early in the morning, when most of her friends are just getting out of their beds during this half term week. L is very self-disciplined and gets up and does her work and then gets to enjoy the rest of the day doing other things. Sometimes I surprise them and take them swimming when they aren't expecting it.

I need to have lessons done early in the day because I work from home providing administrative support to clients. I also am trying to find the time to set up my therapies practice. I need to know that the lessons are done early in the day, so that I can still connect with my clients during regular working hours. They know that I am not available up until a certain point of the day, and they respect that.

I sometimes must work late into the night, and then get up early in the morning and work some more when the need arises so that I can ensure that the time set aside for lessons is adhered to. This might make me sound like a Drill Sargent Major but I promise you I'm not! I am firm and flexible at the same time. In other words, my children can negotiate with me and make bargains on their work schedule but they know that there are expectations and that we have to learn to work toward the expectations as goals.

I have to be fairly regimented because of my work schedule and this means that we split a lot of chores up. Some people might think that I am being cruel to the girls expecting them to tidy up after themselves and put their belongings away but I think I'm being reasonable and realistic. If we don't learn to put our things away, the house falls into a state of chaos and I can't have that with my work schedule and everything else.

It is a division of labour split as evenly as possible. I tend to take more of the cleaning workload on simply because I'm faster but L is a willing helper and she understands the importance of learning these skills. When M is older, she will take on some chores as well. I think having a four year old clean the toilet is unreasonable, but she does like to 'help' with sweeping the floor and cooking/baking. She makes a mean chocolate cake!

What is a typical day? The short answer is there is no 'typical' day but the most common day is doing our education work from 8 am until 11 am and that includes the life skills work such as learning to cook and clean and meal plan. No, I am not raising my girls to be 'housewife' material, if I had boys, they'd be getting exactly the same life skills because everyone needs to know how to look after themselves.

But wait! Kids are in school for six hours a day, surely three hours of education is not enough! Yes, actually three hours of education per day is plenty because in school they aren't actually doing academics for the entire six hours they are in the building.

They have one hour off for lunch, 20 minutes off for 'register', let's take off 45 minutes for daily assemblies (including time to get to and from and back to classes again), so I have just knocked off two hours and five minutes from the school time table. There is a morning break and in some cases an afternoon break so that is 10-15 minutes long but in actuality allowing time for getting ready to go out and then back in again to their classes afterwards you need to add on an extra 5 minutes, so again an extra 40 minutes gone! So now we are at 6 hours less 2 hours and 45 minutes which leaves us with 3 hours and 15 minutes.

I think that my three hours of one to one time or two to one time is worth at least double the time that they have in school so in actuality, my children are getting two days worth of education at home. I usually divide this down even further; typically a child in school gets about seven minutes of one to one attention/help from their teacher or teaching assistant. If you look at that, that means that a child in school gets 35 minutes a week of one to one time with their teacher or teaching assistant. Mine have more than that in a day of lessons with me.

So I digressed again, sorry about that. Typically our days go 8-11 with education, then after that, they are free to do what they want either reading, computer work or watching a film. If there are afternoon things on, we try and go to those, such as a monthly book group, L goes to a monthly history group and has to do work in between sessions and then we have monthly swim sessions.

L is also involved in a radio show, which again I think is wonderful. Once a month, she and two other home educated people go to a local radio station and have either a 30 minute segment or a 60 minute segment.

That is a wonderful opportunity for her I think!

Sorry I seem to keep avoiding this 'typical' theme. I guess really and truly there is no 'typical' day for us we have some general patterns, but by and large no two days are really ever completely alike.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Home Education FAQs

Many people ask me what I do with my girls at home all day. There really is no simple answer, so I guess that means I have to, as usual, give the long drawn out version.

We start each day with academic lessons, and L has a longer 'school day' or lesson time than M does simply because she's much older (nearly eight years older) and is at a different point.

How did we get started in the field of home education?

Back in November of 2009 I became very disgusted digruntled disillusioned with the current school system.

Home education or home schooling is something that I had thought long and hard about ever since L was a baby, and it took me nearly 11 years to get around to officially doing it.

I felt that the way the schools teach things was not adequate, it might help a child pass exams but surely there is more to getting an education than passing exams, isn't there?

I also saw some gaps in the teaching, which also meant gaps in learning, so I decided to take her out of school for what was going to be six months and in order to get her up to a higher standard for secondary school.

After one term at home, she decided that she preferred home schooling, or home education and so we continued and gave up her place at the secondary school.

My Local Authority put M in a school that was a 15 minute drive away from my home, which I thought was ridiculous when there are five schools within walking distance of my home. I decided not to bother putting her in school either, and that ended up being a good practical decision because it would have meant too much driving, as we were down to one car due to car troubles. (Drive M to school, DH to work, back home again, then collect M from school, then back home again, then collect DH from work, no thanks!)

So there you are, in March 2010, I declined two places at two schools for my children, and that meant I took on the full responsibility of their education and did not delegate it to someone else.

So what do we do all day? As I said, we have our lessons first thing in the morning, and quite often have completed our lessons before my DH goes to work. M does her lessons slightly later in the day because she gets up slightly later in the day.

My afternoons are spent working (sometimes) and the girls pretty much do their own thing, whether that is reading, watching a film or computer work. Sometimes we go to home educator gatherings and socialise (yes gasp, shock, horror! We socialise!!!)

Each girl gets one on one time with me which I think is invaluable, there is no waiting for help on a problem that they are stuck on, and some things are covered together, such as art study, composer study, folk song study etc. Those are topics that we can cover together.

What do you use? Do you have to use a set curriculum? Does the Government give you any money? Do they tell you what to do?

The Government has no say in the education that I provide to my children, and in fact they do not provide any financial support either. Currently as the law in the England stands, I do not have to teach any set curriculum, follow a time table, observe school term dates/timetables and I don't have to use the National Curriculum.

Well, I don't but at the same time, I do feel the need to, even though it's not a legal requirement. How so? Isn't that a contradiction of terms? It is and it isn't. At the moment in England, there are two categories of home schoolers or home educators, the 'knowns' and the 'unknowns'.

The knowns are people like myself who have taken their children out of school, and the school told the Local Authority about us, or they voluntarily declared themselves as home educators to the Local Authority. Of course the other ways that people become known are through GPs, A&E incidents, nosey concerned neighbours and so on.

The unknowns are people who are not on the Local Authority's system/books/database for whatever reason. That could be because their child/children have never been to school, they moved from one town to another and didn't declare themselves (currently there is no legal requirement to inform the Local Authority that you are home educating).

Why do I feel the need to follow the National Curriculum if there is no requirement to do so? Simply because the National Curriculum is a set of subjects with learning outcomes or targets. I am a busy person because not only do I teach my children, I work from home and am trying to start a business. I don't have time to fight with the Local Authority over suitability of education. Yes, I agree that may seem like a cop out.

I can hear the 'unknowns' right now screaming at me 'But you are making it difficult for us! You do this and then the Local Authority expect us to do it too!' I may be happy to send a report, but I am NOT happy to have a home visit! Other people are happy to have a home visit and give the Local Authority absolutely nothing! I do this because it gives me peace of mind.

So what do I do all day? Enjoy the fact that my girls and I can do things together, we set our own hours and 'terms' and holidays, and best of all, the quality of the education that they are receiving is second to none.

What about the social? My standard answer that stops everyone from asking quesstions is: I can teach my children to burp, fart, spit and swear just as well as anyone else, if not better! The next sound I hear is their jaw hitting the floor. I do love shock value, I must confess. Seriously though, socially my children have clubs/programmes/lessons that they do where they are 'with children their own age' (for the record I have never been in that situation again - I am usually the youngest person at anything I go to, well, now that I'm getting older, I'm one of the youngest but there is never anyone my age.)

What's your style then? That's the name of this blog so what is your style?

My style is Charlotte Mason with strong Steiner overtones and a bit eclectic because I use other resources that are not necessarily Steiner or CM.

Do my children like the education they are getting? Yes. L tells me she doesn't want to change anything. She also says that she does more in the comparatively short time (compared to a school day) at home than she did in the school day. M is keen to do 'lessons' or 'preschool' at home and then next September she'll do 'big school' at home like her sister does.

We are all different and we all have different views. There are as many ways to home educate as there are families who home educate.

Am I wrong for doing things the way I do? Some might think so, and that's fine, I'm not interested in a competition or a debate.

Am I right for doing things the way that I do? In my opinion I am and in the opinions of my children I am doing things the right way for them, and we are the ones who must live with the consequences of our choices and actions.