As you may know, I try to blog at least once a week, and Sunday evening is often my time to stop and reflect. I find it helpful for a number of reasons:
1) Sometimes there are specific issues or challenges that need contemplation
2) Sometimes there are milestones to celebrate or record
3) Sometimes the week has simply seemed so hectic that there has not been much 'down time', and reflection is a helpful discipline.
When I blog, I try to consider:
1) Is there anything remarkable about the week (either good or bad)?
2) Is there anything that might be helpful for others to read about (or links to share)?
3) Has anything education-related occurred locally or nationally that deserves comment?
4) Have I had any significant conversations or encouragements?
5) Have I remained focussed on God through the week?
6) Have we kept to our main aims for our family?
7) Is there anything I need to be held accountable for? (I know you don't know me, but somehow by blogging it helps in this way, because the same issues tend to recur)
8) Is there anything I need to do differently in the week ahead?
These last few weeks have been busy with work-related trips up and down the country - and this is going to continue for about another month. We try hard to focus on the positive, but there has also been quite a lot of tiredness, and I can see the boys really need a few good nights of sleep in their own beds. On the one hand, they are accustomed to moving around a lot, to sleeping in cots/ beds/ floors/ sharing beds etc - and we hope they keep this up as a useful skill, but on the other hand, there is something about the ease and routine of being in one's own home, having the space to choose what to do and to take time over things.
Today I'm going to write about how we structure home education whilst on the move:
1) Firstly, it is a great advantage to be home educating, because our current lifestyle would simply not be possible if we were tied to being in a particular place at particular times. It is important to emphasise that we had chosen to home educate regardless - and probably in consequence we respond to different opportunities because of this choice (rather than it being the other way round, home education as a convenience to fit our lifestyles).
2) We have the same basic daily routine wherever we are. Breakfast, Bible, reading, writing/drawing/colouring and then out and about. Home for lunch/nap, and then more creative activities or field trips in the afternoon. Home for dinner, Bible, singing, prayers and bed. (Sometimes we make a full day outing, and the youngest nap in the car, but we try to break the day into two whenever possible). We take our basic materials (notepads, coloured pencils, some favourite books) with us when we travel. Currently we get the older boys (5 and 4) to write a sentence about something they have done or enjoyed in the past few days, and then to draw a picture of it. Sometimes we get them to write letters or postcards home. That way the writing and drawing has a real purpose, and we encourage them to start reflecting on what they have learnt, enjoyed and the reasons for that. It is interesting to see the differences in what they choose to focus on. Without discussing the educational methods in detail, it is important to note that the Bible is central to most of what we do, and in addition to Bible reading and prayers morning and evening, we often reflect on and discuss matters arising during the day in the light of Scripture; indeed in some environments the stories of the Bible acquire a new clarity (such as the woman at the well in the middle of the day, when we were living in a very hot, dusty land where women drew water from the wells in the cool of the morning or evening, but NEVER at midday!).
3) We even keep breakfast the same. We go through 1Kg of porridge every week. So, the day before a 5 week trip to Africa, we might buy 6 Kg of porridge to take with us. It sounds a little mad perhaps, but we have found at least having one meal of the day utterly familiar, at least at first, really helps.
4) Creative play using everyday objects. We've always encouraged them to be resourceful in their play. So often they make complicated games using sticks and stones and leaves. At the moment, a major theme is camping, hunting and exploring, so often there are imaginary fish being cooked on imaginary bonfires. To me this is beautiful for several reasons. Firstly it encourages resourcefulness, but it also allows their imaginations to really flourish. I find that these days children don't have much free time, and also that the entertainment to which they are exposed tends to crush imagination.
5) Plenty of physical activity, usually in the form of long walks. I often reflect on Deuteronomy 6 where we are instructed to teach our children as we walk along the road, and as we sit at home, and generally as we go about our daily lives. Often the richest spiritual and educational opportunities occur at random moments, flowing out of questions that the boys have raised as we walk along the road. The physical activity also helps them focus their energy and to eat better and sleep better.
6) Another huge advantage of regular walks around your district is that you get to know others in your community and to become known. This both helps you to settle and feel 'at home' more quickly, but also allows relationships to build whereby we can share our lives and our faith. And the children are very much a part of that. So whenever we land somewhere new, particularly if we are going to be there for more than a few days, we spend a lot of time exploring the neighbourhood.
7) Not trying to do too much. As you will know if you are a parent with young children, there are some environments where they do not thrive. We find going to peoples houses, or spending too much time indoors can be challenging. As Christians, there are often evening meetings and Bible studies and other activities to get involved in, and it would be easy to take on too much. Sometimes we need to say no, and to prioritise settling our family. I used to feel more guilty for that, but it is our primary responsibility (see reflections on Third Culture Kids), and other areas of service and ministry are so much more effective if the family are well settled.
8) Finding the local markets, buying local food, trying new dishes and delicacies. I've reflected before on the vast curriculum that is involved in cooking - and this continues to be one of our main activities. One of my sons particularly comes alive in the kitchen, and when he is unsettled and not behaving well, sometimes the challenge of cooking or baking really helps him focus.
9) Embracing the unique opportunities of that environment - whilst keeping the general structure and routine of the day very stable, we usually have a short walk in the morning and then an afternoon activity out and about - so that can involve whatever is unique about where we are currently. And by having the other things stable, I feel the boys can really appreciate these things without being overwhelmed.
10) Sleep. Sensible bedtime routine (of course the children go through tricky periods like any others). And sometimes as parents, we need to accept that the most useful thing we can do with some evenings is get to bed early too.
For those of you who move around, or who are considering it, I hope some of this is helpful!
- 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.