Friday, January 01, 2010

Hello 2010, how wonderful it is to see you!

I am definitely glad to see the back of 2009, as mentioned in my previous posting, it wasn't the best of years for us as a family.  I now feel fully refreshed, eager to get on with things, with completely positive thoughts about the future.  I am very much looking forward to "getting stuck in" with the home-education side of things in particular, lots of plans have been made - places to go, people to see, things to explore and learn about.  All good stuff :o)

The start of a new year is always a period of great reflection for me (as I'm sure it is for many others).  I have a long hard think about what we are doing and where we are heading.  I think about things in the past, the good and the bad, and try to come up with ways of improving or avoiding those issues.  I am an organisation queen, stationary loving freak, which battles with the "free" home-ed style we have.   When we first started to teach the children at home, I was in love with the idea (don't laugh) of having our days mapped out - timetables for subjects just like school.  I sat for hours formulating plans, thinking about curriculums, researching subject matter, and working out projects and achievement aims just like in school.  I had notebook after notebook, file after file, full of worksheets, plans, lists, organisation ideas, etc etc.

I quickly fell flat on my face with such planning.

It was soon realised that our family was never going to work with such structure.  We couldn't stick to timetables, and it was only causing us (ok, mainly me) stress and frustration in trying to do so.  I found it hard to accept that all of my hour upon hour of working things out had gone to waste, and I also found it difficult to believe that we could succeed without following a school-type structured day.  Afterall, I was a child of the system and at that time knew no other way.  However, after a great deal of research I soon discovered that children could still learn without being force-fed the information that somebody far away somewhere thinks that they should learn.  Children could still learn without sitting at a table doing workbooks, printed worksheets, and pages and pages of writing to prove that they understood a subject.  And maybe best of all, we really didn't need to follow the standard national curriculum.  We had the luxury of being able to tailor-make an education to suit each child's interests, personality and learning style.  We could look at a topic of interest in far more depth and detail than the National Curriculum in schools allow.  We didn't just have to adhere to the parts of a subject that would mean exam questions could be answered correctly.  It was like a lightbulb moment, and it completely changed our home-ed lifestyle, actually, it completely changed our whole way of life.

I now have 4 very happy children - which has been my main aim throughout our home-education adventure.  Chelsea has a gigantic thirst for knowledge (some could mistake it as just general nosiness *grin*), with a constant curiousity about life.  She will spark many discussions about the hows, whys, and where's of the world and I am often in awe of just how much she knows about diverse subject matters. Joseph has overcome his battles with speech dyspraxia and is now an avid reader, particularly of non-fiction books. Again, I am continuously amazed at what he knows, the facts and figures that he is able to retain, and his in-depth study of subjects that interest him (The Tudors and World War 2 being examples).  It has been fantastic to see his self-confidence build and he is now comfortable in the company of many, young or old - a far cry from how he was when we first removed him from school.  Tiegan has taught herself to read, with no help (or hindrance!) from me.  I just provided the reading material, a listening ear, and a voice that read to her on an almost daily basis.  She now practically eats up any book (fiction or non-fiction) that she finds with relish.  Callum knows all of the letter names, has learnt to read many "short" words and can count to over a hundred with ease - again with no coercion or help from me, it's just been natural curiosity and a learning thirst that he has felt the need to quench.  He is interested in everything around him - from spiders on their webs to the clouds in the sky - and has an incredible imagination, role playing seemingly constantly.

I consider my role as a facilitator not a teacher, I provide the resources, the equipment, and the opportunities.  I don't pretend to know everything, and actively learn alongside the children most days.  When there is something I don't know the answer to, we usually find out together - helping to provide the children with that important skill of researching for their own needs.  We may ask other home-educating families, use books (mainly library, often charity shop bought, or bought cheaply from Amazon, Book Butler, The Book People, or Ebay), we get in touch with clubs or associations, look for relevant websites using search engines, or ask on forums for help.  Once that all important spark of interest has been formulated (perhaps from a news report, magazine article, tv documentary, or from an overheard conversation), it is easily turned into something of "educational value".

All of this doesn't mean that I let things slip without planning.  I still spend hours thinking about possible learning opportunities or subjects that may interest the children.  I like to have a "back-up" for those days when things are slow and motivation is lacking.  Nothing is ever forced upon the children, that would spoil the appetite for learning that has been nurtured, but I spent much of New Years Eve looking through our resources and putting together a list of project suggestions.  I just jot down the topic and a few cross-curricular ideas, maybe a few craft ideas and places to visit if the subject matter fits. I will also  brainstorm ideas with the children, so they have a large amount of input into their own learning, I just try to make it as educationally as well-rounded as possible.

The children have already made some requests of things they would like to do in 2010.  These include re-doing the caterpillar to butterfly project, and Tiegan would also like to raise Ladybirds this year too.  All of the children want to grow the vegetables again this year, and the elder two want to visit Stonehenge.  We are planning a visit to London at some point in the year (when we can find a good deal on accomodation!), and we are all creating a nature journal/scrapbook for throughout the year.  Chelsea has already made a start on that today with a poem about January:

The skies have gotten darker.
The wind is blowing colder.
The Earth's another year older.
This is January.

The people of Earth are starting new.
It is like a new life for me and for you.
Some folk are thinking of the good they can do.
This is January.

New Year is a time for celebration.
Can you hear the cheers across the nation?
Fireworks bank in many locations.
I love January.   

I am slowly but steadily re-launching the Classroom Free website, aimed particularly at people living in Devon, but hopefully it will be a useful resource for home-educators elsewhere too. I am constantly getting emails from people who have found me through the website, so it's obviously being discovered and read :o) The idea of the site is to add project ideas, useful website links, an events around Devon calender, local group links (where permitted), and to have a home-ed in the news page, where people can see links to various news reports and petitions etc. If anyone would like to have a link on the site, please get in touch and let me know - I am happy to add links to home-edders personal websites, forums, blogs or business sites (run by home-ed families). Likewise, if you have any ideas you wish to contribute, all will be gratefully received. I know that I am constantly being contacted by new home-educators, so will aim much of the information at those just starting out. I clearly remember feeling overwhelmed at times, wondering how on earth we would get into a routine or how we would find a method that suits us all, amongst having many other worries.  I hope to provide a website that will ease some of those fears and anxieties and be of support to home-educators in a small way.

Right, must go and watch Dr Who...

Happy New Year everyone!


  1. :)))

    Happy New Year to you all too!

  2. I can relate to that organisation obsession. Even though we don't do structured curriculum things anymore, I still have loads of notebooks for different things - many lists lol!

    Thanks for your support with the Home Baked Challenge :o)

    What did you think of DW? I was in tears!

  3. Happy New Year to you too Jules!

  4. I constantly struggle with my need for organization and planning and my daughters need for clutter and unstructured time. We are beginning to find a happy middle of the road that works for all of us, but it has been a LONG time coming!
    Thanks for sharing and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  5. Have just been reading through a few of your posts and I think that the way you home-educate your children is great. Even though we are more structured, which I think works best for us right now, I sometimes would like the learning in our house to take place because THEY want to, and for them to initiate it. We do have our little moments like that, but not many.

    You also take beautiful photographs too, I'm quite keen on photography also, and have a blog, but having problems with my camera/memory card at the moment, so it's kind of come to a halt for now until I figure out the problem :(

    Btw, big fan of Dr Who also :D