About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A field trip/ break from blogging!

In a couple of days, we are going on a field trip. Several months in rural Africa, working in a clinic and being involved with a pre-school project. (Slight touch of irony that we may be more involved in pre-school activities in rural Africa than in this country, but that's something I will write more about some time!). It's a great way for the whole family to be involved in mission work; sometimes it makes me sad when children are almost seen as 'getting in the way' of parents' ministry, and this is an ideal opportunity for the boys to have a role, and see how they too can glorify God.

Being able to do this type of short-term project is another great reason for home education! For our family, this type of flexibility is ideal. There are no complications regarding 'taking the children out' of school, and the day-to-day activities we do will have the same foundation whatever country we are in.

The internet connection will be very limited, and so I won't be able to post much on this blog. I intend to keep reflecting and writing, and then share some of these following our return. I am also looking forward to reading some good books! I am armed with:

For the Childrens' Sake by Susan Macaulay Schaeffer, which has been highly recommended by a good friend

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver which I have been told might help me feel less guilty about not always achieving a million things every day (!)

and I have also just obtained a copy of

The Complete Writings of Charlotte Mason which I am very excited about, but only plan to take Volume 1 on this trip! I have heard so many people comment on Charlotte Mason and I have noticed that much of her key tenets align with my own philosophy of education and childhood, so I am keen to read direct from the source.

Its a busy few days, trying to pack with three active little boys roaming around. Our African adventures will include a wedding, a third birthday (the request is for a 'slug' cake, which should be quite easy to achieve) and of course Christmas which will be very different to that in our UK environment. I'll be excited to report back in a few months time!

I pray that these next few months are a time of blessing for you also, and that you can see God working through your efforts to 'train up a child in the way that he should go'.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Learning Styles: a simple lesson

I've recently posted about how our children surprise us by their level of understanding of the things of God. This morning was another such example. I was running a little unprepared for a Bible study, so read the passage (Joshua chapter 8, all about the conquest of Ai) out loud whilst the boys were playing with their cars. I tried to get them to sit still for the Bible story, but to be honest, was a bit lax (in my view) and allowed them to play around me whilst I read on. However, suddenly the three year old was underneath the dining table, busily working on something. I asked what, and he explained he was setting an ambush. He then basically re-enacted the story I had just read using his toy cars. I was challenged! I had not thought he was listening, but in fact he was processing the story the whole time. This made me reflect on learning styles, and how boys in particularl can be more 'kinaesthetic', liking to fiddle or doodle rather than sitting stock still (and indeed may be mislabelled as having some form of ADHD...). I need to consider this in more detail, but today, just wanted to share an encouragement!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Challenge: Fatigue and illness

When I was researching how to set up a blog, I read several sites containing 'top tips', and one of these was never to write a blog post on a bad day! Apparently, people browse blogs for encouragement and inspiration, not to read about the trials of another person's life. However, my intention is to keep the blog honest, and whilst celebrating some of the delights and adventures, I also what to share the challenges and trials, and how we can work through them. Perhaps some readers can offer their strategies in similar situations!

Yesterday, I was just simply exhausted. I could list reasons, but perhaps those don't matter too much as each of us has busy lives and can relate to tiredness. Also, sometimes I find the days when I can 'justify' being very tired, are not all that tiring, and on other days, I can feel ready to drop without a good clear reason. We were all a bit unwell. I don't mean properly unwell, of the type where you are admitted to hospital or where it is a necessity to ask for extra help with the children. Just chronic, grumbling conditions which had flared up (for me), together with seasonal colds and the after effects of travel vaccinations. Enough that none of us were at our best. And I started to ask myself whether it was really 'worth it'. I spoke with my husband (now back from a short spell working overseas) and told him of my concerns. As usual, he reassured me, but I remained uncertain. Are our principles really achievable? Whilst I can look back at former posts on this blog regarding our reasons for home educating (which were actually written with this kind of day in mind!), are we honestly being realistic? This morning, having had a soak in the bath, taken a good dose of the right medicines and slept better than for the past couple of weeks, things do indeed seem brighter.

The question is simply this? What do other home educating parents do on the days when they would like nothing better than to crawl back into bed with a hot water bottle and some paracetamol? What do you do when you almost feel yourself falling asleep whilst reading stories? What about if you have 'non-urgent' health needs which require attendance at appointments? How do other parents manage these things? You can't take a day off from parenting and home education, can you?

For me, one thing that has become clear over the years is how physical tiredness makes everything seem bleak and impossible. Sometimes, simply a good night of sleep can make a world of difference. (But that itself can be unachievable at times, and that can be a frustration too. It can seem so much easier said than done!). Another thing, is to be honest with my husband. I've mentioned this on previous posts, but we are blessed to be very much united in our approach to raising our family in what we believe to be a godly way. He can't always solve the problem entirely (for example, although wonderful, he cannot breastfeed a baby!) but small things can make a big difference. And simply feeling listened to and understood can help combat that sense of isolation which can become overwhelming. Also, it sounds like a Christian cliche, but to spend time praying about these things is important - perhaps especially on the days when you feel that you have not got sufficient time or energy to do so. Our God is gracious and compassionate, and will not be shocked by our worries or emotions.

In Isaiah Chapter 40 verse 11, we are told, 'He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.' What does that mean, other than that He does understand that having a young family can be a strain in so many ways. In Matthew, we are reminded to: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Then there is the story related in 1 Kings Chapter 19 where Elijah was exhausted and discouraged, and God provided first of all sleep, then nourishing food, and then spiritual encouragement. We do well to learn from that.

I would be interested to know how others deal with these challenges in their lives!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Homeschooling boys

Are the differences between girls and boys nature or nurture? Does it matter? Do they affect our educational choices? Or are we perpetuating stereotypes by considering the sexes differently? This is an area where my husband and I have some discussion! He tends to take the view that all children are the same, and that we as both individuals and society tend to impose stereotyped behaviours on them from an early age. I used to believe that to be the case, but now, whilst I do agree that there are these cultural and societal expectations, and whilst there will always be exceptions, that some important differences do exist!

I'll share a couple of illustrations from my experience (although you could argue that these are just further stereotypes of individuals who have been shaped through stereotyping but I'll dispense with the caveats now and just get to the point). Friends who have girls are more likely to invite me and the boys round for coffee and suggest that whilst the children play quietly, the mothers can drink coffee, chat and then pray together. What a lovely idea! I'd adore that, but I know that it just would not be possible, not with my boys at their current stage. The other weekend we went to a childrens' party which began with sitting round tables and doing lots of crafty activities involving small pieces of paper and glue; indeed my friends with girls talk about things like 'cutting and sticking', when that is not particularly something my boys enjoy doing. The afternoon got off to a difficult start for them, as they wanted to run around the hall and chase the balloons, and we ended up leaving quite soon. (You could argue that this is because I don't tend to do these type of crafts, but instead we do plenty of painting, drawing and baking which require just as much precision and concentration). But you start to get a picture. My friends' daughters enjoy a trip to the park, but don't seem to bounce off the ceilings if they do not get taken outside into the fresh air on a regular basis; conversely, the boys seem to NEED that time outside at least once, but often twice per day.

And so our lives (and education) takes its shape around these things. Structured, short activities, but I take care to intersperse the quiet, concentrating type activities with those which are more physical (for example, we will do some baking when they wake from this current nap, but I have plans for a long walk as soon as things come out of the oven!). I was interested to come across this website which specifically focusses on homeschooling boys. A couple of years ago, I would have dismissed this as stereotyping and not helpful, but I read on and indeed saw described many of the things I have come to observe in my own children. Some of the suggestions are things which I have come to do instinctively, and others will be helpful to me as our education develops over the next few years.

It is hardly a secret that mainstream education is often more unhelpful to boys. Girls tend to learn to read and write earlier, whereas boys are more prone to be labelled as having attention or educational difficulties; indeed, I read a recent report that suggested that up to 25% of primary educated boys are currently diagnosed as having some form of special educational need. Without minimising the challenges that can be introduced by genuine special needs, I cannot believe this statistic to be true. I am convinced that much of it is that young children in general, but particularly boys, do not thrive in an environment where they are made to sit inside and concentrate and be part of a large group with little individual interaction. Further difficulties are introduced when children are given an unhelpful label from an early age, as they start to see themselves as problems, or people lower their expectations. Even through secondary school, girls increasingly outperform their male counterparts, and I do not believe this to be due to an academic superiority but rather that they benefit more from the current educational 'system'.

I do think some people take the stereotypes too far. Discipline, for example, should be given to all of our children. I have known several parents laugh at the blatent and destructive disobedience of their sons, and make a comment along the line of, 'Boys, what can you do!'. I remember the very negative comments I recieved when my second child was a son. 'Now you'll have your work cut out', I was told. 'Now you'll see what life is really like'. It was generally assumed that raising boys would be far more challenging, and less rewarding, than raising girls. (These comments were unusually insensitive given that I had already had and buried a daughter, but I'll not get into that right now!)

The challenges are different! I spend far more time outside being physically active than I might do given the choice. At the end of the day, my back, legs and arms can be incredibly painful. I am physically exhausted (bearing in mind, that on the days that I 'go out to work', I run the 5Km distance there and then back again in the evening, enjoy climbing mountains for relaxation and could hardly be considered a 'couch potato'!) But it is a different kind of tiredness, and a different kind of challenge. What I have noticed quite clearly is a deterioration in the behaviour and obedience of my sons when we do not spend enough time burning off energy; so simply we need to recognise and adapt to their needs. I would hope that we all do this for all of our children. Perhaps a greater challenge would be to have a family where each child had very different needs, and there was a greater need to add balance so that they could all be met.

These days, I am interested to read articles and blogs which do indeed focus on some of the differences, and discuss ways to best educate the energetic bundles of creativity that are our sons. I hope other readers here find the recommendation helpful.

I'd be interested to know in the experiences of others, particularly those who have experience with both sons and daughters!