It’s our first week of home educating and it’s exhilarating and challenging in equal measure. The hardest part is giving individual attention to each child. And I only have two children and no tiny babies! My 7 year old is totally fine with me giving the attention I need to give to my 3 year old. He can happily look after himself but with Lego, battles between action figures, dressing up as Tintin or Batman or building cool new track layouts with the wooden railway set. Occasionally he’ll choose to read a reasonably challenging fiction book and my heart soars! But if I’d rather he did something more traditionally educational, like read a fun ‘Usborne’ book about what the Earth is made of or something, he’ll invariably stop after 10 minutes or so and potter off to do something more entertaining (options previously mentioned!) So, that’s a bit of a problem. I have to ‘watch’ him somewhat if he’s doing anything other than purely playing – as important as play is for a 7 year old’s development.
Our 3 year old daughter is finding it challenging having her brother at home every morning, although only when I need to give him undivided attention otherwise she’s very happy to have the company. Although having said this, my attention seemed to be hardly ever ‘undivided’ with errands to run, cooking to do etc… but she didn’t have to compete with Edward too! Whenever I try and do something with Edward that really needs my focused attention, like his touch typing computer game (I have to watch he’s got his fingers on exactly the right keys or he’s not learning properly. By the way, I hope once he’s learned to type he’ll be off writing the amazing creative stories he has in his head but is so reluctant to write laboriously in beautiful cursive writing) she goes crazy and wants to do the same game at exactly the same time. If I want to read a story to him that is a bit too involved for her she goes crazy too. Petra has an amazing attention span for listening to stories, for a 3 year old, as has my son, but there are limits of course and ‘Harry Potter’ is hers whilst Dahl’s ‘The Enormous Crocodile can be read over and over again. I haven’t quite worked out this dilemma yet but no doubt will do. In the near term more familiarity with the new set up will be bring peace I think, as will maturity in the longer term.
What am I most enjoying about home educating, with my 5 days of experience (well, 4 days of ‘proper’ teaching, whatever that is for someone leaning towards ‘unschooling’)? One of the highlights was reading a story to Petra that featured an eagle feeding it chicks and being able to walk over to the computer and show her how this is done by real birds on ‘YouTube’. How amazing it that! My kids adore this. We also looked up how a real elephant feeds itself leaves with its trunk – after looking at an illustration in ‘The Enormous Crocodile’ and how sheepdogs herd sheep in the middle of reading ‘The Sheep-Pig’ by King-Smith when my son asked what herding was. The kids are much more likely to remember how these things are done than just by hearing my explanation, although I always explain verbally first, to develop the skill of understanding something from a verbal explanation and to improve their vocabulary. But the visual image is so powerful; it’s such a joy to have the ability and leisure to tap into this!
Yet another wonderful spontaneous moment was when I whipped out some almonds when my son, to my horror, was having problems with a fractions worksheet. I am learning where his knowledge gaps are but horror will have to learn to go away once I’ve released my expectations about keeping up with a specific curriculum and think of all the other much more exciting things he’s going to be able to learn. Worksheets will hopefully eventually go the same way as the horror but are a bit of crux for me whilst I’m starting out. Since Edward’s so used to them from school though, a few minutes a day seem not to bother him at all, especially when I let him use something tangible to learn from at the same time. What a difference it made to give him something physical, the almonds, whilst explaining/reminding him of an abstract concept. He obviously still needs the visual aid at the moment and therefore should have it.
And lastly, so as not to make you sick with envy ;), I thoroughly enjoyed a bedtime chat about Rio, carnival and samba which had obviously been percolating in Edward’s head since last night since that was when he’d watched a part of the animated movie ‘Rio’. He suddenly said how much he hoped we go there (it’s on the cards to take full advantage of flexible home school holidays and spend a month in Rio in June when everyone else is in school!) and we discussed how much he’d love to go to Carnival and dance the samba and what sort of costume he’d like to wear and how he had practiced some kind of sword dancing with his friend in the garden in the morning based on a dance he’d seen some man do in the movie (home educating flexibility again to enjoy a friend’s half-term holiday which didn’t coincide with his old school’s holiday – ‘old school’, past tense, how good that sounds!). It was so lovely to see that imagination firing on all cylinders! And lovely to think that tomorrow morning, we can wake up at leisure, look Rio up on a map, look up some costume images on the computer and have a go at drawing some for ourselves (I wish I could make some costumes but I’m not a ‘craftsy’ person, as opposed to ‘crafty’ person which sounds dubious!) and dance to some downloaded samba music and have a great fun, thoroughly educational, thoroughly energetic not-sitting-down-at-a-desk learning time!
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