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.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Random reading and encouragement

Two weeks ago I had some major surgery to my stomach, and as a result I've been having to rest quite a bit more than usual. I've taken the opportunity to browse through some home education resources online, and thought I would share some of my findings.

One of the first places I turn for encouragement is to blogs. The reason I love them is because they are a reminder to me that no two families are the same, and that is one of the biggest attractions of home education. You can pick and choose from curricula and methods, according to the learning styles, needs and desires of each individual child, according to where you live, the resources that surround you, the time of year and other individual preferences. There are simply innumerable combinations in how this can be done. An article that inspired me was written by a woman who took her first child out of school early on because he was simply miserable and bored at school; she goes on to describe the next twenty years as an adventure of unique opportunity.

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I was not aware of many other UK-based Christian home educators, so I was encouraged to find this list recommending 16 such sites. I particularly enjoyed Delivering Grace; I have much in common with the writer of that site, and we've been able to encourage one another in unexpected ways.

Another thing I consider periodically is the depth and breadth of subject matter that we cover. I would not say that we are following any particular structure at the moment, but are more child-led, spending time following a particular interest of theirs. Often it tends to become a bit of a 'unit study' - for example, they are interested in ancient history and castles, and so we will try and visit castles when we can, visit relevant exhibits in museums, get related books out of the library, and we built them a massive castle out of cardboard boxes  for Christmas (having recently bought a clavinova and some shelves, we had huge boxes!); this often leads onto role-play, and sometimes a discussion of the type of music and dancing that may have taken place.

Anyway today I was considering the Core Knowledge Sequence UK table which takes you through each of the major disciplines (language & literature, history & geography, visual arts, music, mathematics and science) for each Year group. I like to see where we are up to, and whether we are providing a reasonable balance and structure. What struck me looking at these tables was the amount of attention given to language (primarily reading and writing skills) and basic numeracy in the early years; the contrast with what we are doing is that we are exceeding all the recommendations in all the other areas except perhaps those two groups. But at the same time, through developing the other areas, there is a natural progression to include elements of numeracy or literature as we explore those topics. The difference then seems to be context; not only do we want the children to be able to read, write and have numeracy skills to a certain level, but we want these to be relevant and integrated into life as a whole rather than isolated classroom skills which may have little bearing on their daily lives. And as I considered this, I was again grateful for the path we have chosen.

I've thought quite a bit about reading skills lately, not least because my two four year old boys show quite different learning styles.There has been quite a bit of debate in the UK press about the use of phonics. I find it interesting to consider how the approach may benefit some children and yet be harmful for others, and think that having a unified approach to the delivery of teaching in schools has to be harmful. Yes, of course a good teacher will be able to identify different styles and needs within their individual children, but will a teacher of a large class of pupils really be able to tailor the delivery of teaching to suit each child?

Generally, I have found my reading refreshing. I have not had any major flashes of inspiration or desire to change what we are doing, but rather have been encouraged to keep going, keep taking one day at a time, to keep embracing the opportunities that arise through daily life, and to thank God for the gift of every day.

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