I haven't blogged as much as I would like lately. I haven't spent as much time as I would like considering educational theory, learning styles, resources, schedules, timelines and goals. And yes, there have been days when I have felt a little guilty about this, before remembering that this is one of the joys of homeschooling. And also, one of the reasons I have had less time to consider the theory is because we have been busy putting things into practice. When things have been busy, I find it really helpful to stop and reflect, even if briefly. So here are 10 reflections on the past weeks:
1) Enjoying watching their different learning styles develop and finding ways to tap into both. My eldest (aged 5) I find easier to understand. He likes learning new things. He enjoys copywork, and even though he is very energetic, can sit very patiently and colour in neatly. My second (aged 4) seems more complex to me, although I recently spoke to a friend who described similarities in her son who is exactly the same age. He can write all his letters, but he seems to pretend not to remember when I try and get him to write. He will say silly things, like 's' when it is clearly an 'a'. But for some reason, he really enjoys writing on wipe-off books with dry-erase markers, and when I sit him down with these, he will write and copy beautifully. I don't know why this is, but its been very satisfying to find a system that he embraces!
2) My eldest learning to read. This is interesting. Some days seem really positive and exciting. Other days, gets quite upset when we ask him to read to us, and refuses to do it. I think part of it is frustration, perhaps being so close, and yet so far. It is difficult at times to know whether to push on, and tell him not to be silly, and that many good things require hard work to get there, or whether to leave it for another day. I probably use both approaches at different times, and can't pretend to have it all worked out yet!
3) Watching them learn to play well together, including the 2 year old. They love races. We often do staggered starts so that they all end up at about the same time. We send them on paths that form a triangle or a square, and its great to see them understand rules and competition, and to enjoy being physically tired from the effort. We've recently started going to an athletics club for 5-8 year olds, and I enjoy seeing a healthy form of competitiveness, and also discipline developing.
4) Frustrations with some of the online forums I am part of (mainly Facebook groups). I get particularly frustrated by some of the Charlotte Mason ones, which prohibit discussing any other method. I also get frustrated by those that wish to adhere so very rigidly to what one woman may have thought - for example, questions like, 'What would Charlotte Mason have thought about X, Y or Z (in modern life)?' or 'when Charlotte Mason suggested short lessons of about 20 minutes, did she mean to have a break between these or not?' - my frustration is that people seem constrained by a particular method, as though it is the gospel truth that must be adhered to with 100% accuracy. I feel grateful for the ability to embrace the best of several different methods and adapt things to our specific family dynamics. (And I have been restrained and not made comments to some of the frustrating posts, although I think I will remove myself from some of the groups soon!)
5) Meeting a new home educating family this weekend, who have just moved to our city, who have children of similar ages to ours, and who are involved in similar professions to my husband and I. This was a great blessing and encouragement - and also made me thankful for Facebook and forums and 'modern' ways of meeting others.
6) I've been surprised and encouraged lately by about five conversations where I have told people that we are home educating and had a very positive response. Indeed, I have not had a negative reaction for a long time. People from various walks of life have been positive about the benefits it brings, and have been very interested to know how things work out in practice. It has made me realise that we can sometimes bring our own baggage and preconceptions into conversations. I hadn't really mentioned home schooling much before, because it almost did not seem relevant. However, now the oldest two are both 'of school age' people are asking where they go, or whether they are starting in September, and so it is an ideal time to explain what we are doing. Maybe it is partly our own confidence now, maybe it is because they see the children as normal, lively, healthy and well-adjusted, I don't know what it is, but reactions seem quite different than they did two years ago when I started writing here. (Indeed one reason why I started the blog was because of feeling isolated and misunderstood!)
7) Relating to the comment above, I've been surprised by how many people have said, 'Oh, you are homeschooling' as though this was a completely normal and acceptable option. In fact, maybe it is. I am familiar with some of the data, that increasing numbers of families are choosing to home educate for a plethora of reasons. In the UK, there have been recent teachers' strikes and there is increasing disillusionment with the system. But its surprised me that people see it as a perfectly reasonable option.
8) Starting to plan the future. I've reflected before about being 'strangers and aliens' in this world, how we are simply pilgrims passing through. For some time, and particularly since the death of my daughter, I've been aware of how we can't make presumptions about tomorrow, and that the only day we are really responsible for is today. Jesus speaks about that when He tells us 'do not worry about tomorrow, for each day has trouble enough of its own'. Whilst living for today, we are aware of a transience of our situation here. Another year, and it will be another big move. The real benefit of this is that we embrace every opportunity, make the most of every day, take each moment, each relationship, each activity as it comes because we know that these things won't always be possible. Later on, we might feel sadness and loss, but right now it just enforces that we are living for today, and that feels good.
9) Long summer days, days of freedom, days of long walks and picnics, of adventures outdoors, of butterflies and barbecues, days when we pack our books and a picnic blanket together with plenty of sandwiches and just head out to where-ever we end up. These are lovely days. Often older women tell me that these were the happiest days of their lives, when they had young children around them all the time. I hold onto that - there are times when I feel so tired I am almost dizzy, but there is an innocence, simplicity and freedom that I wish I could capture and hold forever.
10 Little personalities that develop and surprise me. Yesterday morning, by husband had gone to a 6am prayer meeting, and my 5 year old said, 'Mummy, I promise you, they won't be singing. Not the men. Their voices will be like 'uuughh, ugh, ugh' [excellent impression of what a man might sound like trying to sing at 6am]. It made me laugh a lot, and also conveyed quite a lot of his understanding of things. I love the fact that every day, even the hardest of days, is filled with a reasonable amount of laughter. And at the end of the day, those are the moments I hold onto.
- 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)