Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Better than expected

We've had two very productive days. By 'productive' I mean that we have 'done school' both mornings and have managed to cover all the things I thought we 'should'.

Having just read this post about unschooling, I'm not so sure that I 'should' be concerning myself with any sort of curriculum or mummy-driven targets, but that's a whole nother debate. I, currently, feel better/more organised/more in controlled/more justified in my approach/more comfortable if we all have some sort of routine and structure.

I like to have targets (quite flexible ones, but targets never the less) and things ticked off lists. Maybe I'll have to learn to let go more but that's how it is for the moment.

I feel best about home educating on days when we've done some English, Maths and violin practise in the mornings, and fit in some art, French, Science or whatever in the afternoons.

It's not that I want the afternoon activities to be like desert after you've eaten your greens - the 'fun stuff' after  the 'boring stuff' - more that I'd like the children to have a good grounding in basic literacy and numeracy and I think we can achieve that with a directed, consistent effort and that other things can be learnt indirectly, in a less formal manner.

Oh well, the pros and cons of this approach can be argued but this week, I feel good because we've done a lot of literacy and numeracy.

Better still, Francesca has developed a WHOLE new work ethic. She actually gets on with things faster, rather than procrastinating. She finishes all her school work before lunch, rather than dragging in out until late afternoon. She is proactive about moving onto the next activity, even if I am waylaid elsewhere.

I've tried to lay the praise on really thickly today, in light of this productive streak. I feel as though we (she!) is really starting to reach her potential, whereas previously I was frustrated by the day drifting by and wanting to put a rocket under her but not really knowing how.

Perhaps my unerring, "You take your time but then miss out on X" approach is paying off. Or perhaps she's just growing up. Or maybe she's settling into the not-school way of life. Who knows.

Maybe Elizabeth's academic progress is spurring her into competition?!

I've noticed a real maturity in Elizabeth this last fortnight. She's got a real desire to do what Francesca can do. I've even bought her the Reception level Heinneman Maths books, which she's very excited about. Here she is showing daddy, on the day they arrived:

A few months ago, Elizabeth couldn't/wouldn't have sat and done maths (as such) and I wouldn't have suggested it but now she's ready. She's keenly working through the Heinneman Maths and is very enthusiastic about having her maths time when Francesca does.

Here they are today, both working away keenly:

Francesca has just been reunited with Heinemann. I'd bought her a Colins maths book in the summer holidays, when we were just trying home-ed for a few weeks. She didn't enjoy the Colins maths much and has finally reached the end of it (hooray!)

Now, she is finishing off the pages that were not done in her Heinemann maths books from school, prior to starting the Year 2 books that I have bought her for this year. She loves the Heinemann maths! She was so keen, she didn't want to break for lunch and she never once asked for my help - not because she wasn't challenged but because she was happy with the level of challenge.

I'm looking forward to doing some starter activities on whiteboards, involving both girls, then setting them off to do some of their own work books. Hey, I even got to hang out washing today, while they were both beavering away!

Francesca has done some minute maths every time we've done maths. She's definitely improving. Today I gave her some really easy sums (plus 1, only using numbers up to ten) and she did 19 sums!!! (versus a high of 9 when working with numbers up to 100). Anyway, it gave her quite a confidence boost, which is great.

For English, Francesca wrote an email to Grandma and Grandad, yesterday, which was a bit of a cop-out literacy-wise because her typing and IT skills slow the process down so much, but it's all good experience.

Today, wearing her blue princess dress, I asked her to write a description of herself, which she did willingly, with the usual creative spellings ("phonetically plausible" as they have been described!) and none of the usual procrastination.

On the basis that her peers at school get spelling tests, and the fact that her spelling is so - err - creative, I have decided to try getting her to learn some spellings of her own. This is the list for this week:

It's a rather arbitrary list, chosen from among the common errors in the work that she has done. I'm going to encourage her to work with the words on her own, in time for a test on Monday. I'll remind her about the 'look, cover, write, check' method for learning spellings and see how she likes it.

I will not, as the Y1 teacher at school is alleged to have done, threaten her with detention if she doesn't learn them(!)

Elizabeth, meanwhile, is making great strides with her reading. I've made her a word wall with the key words as specified in the back of her level 1 Oxford Reading Tree books. I've broken it down into two sets of 12 words each - some happen to be on yellow card and some are on orange. The orange ones are harder. Elizabeth plays with her word wall (and me) every day, reading the words and putting them on the wall, or taking them off the wall (anything to interact with the words and become familiar with them). This is going to become her sight vocabulary and already, I am noticing increased confidence with her reading books. There's less of the 'stare out of the window and guess' type reading and more pointing to the words and sounding out. She must have done an hour's literacy this morning, what with word-walling, reading two books and then moving onto learning the next few phonemes. She listened to the Jolly Phonics songs and did 4 more phonics worksheets. Wow!

As I say, a most productive few days! 

In other news, we baked hallowe'en gingerbread biscuits:

Actually, we made rice crispy cakes as well.

And this afternoon we had a brilliant, brilliant time doing fireworks art with friends (their HE diary is here), who let us loose with glitter, shiny paint, glitter glue and even a salad spinner to make some special spun-paint effects. The children loved it and I wished I'd taken a photo.


  1. This all sounds like remarkable progress for everyone. Great to read about it.

    Your afternoon art was a very brave venture!!!

  2. "chosen from among the common errors in the work that she has done" - good, this requires 'thought' on the teacher's part and might be more of a challenge for 'Home Teachers' without an Education background like you.

  3. I liked the unschooling post. Quite balanced in putting over what I have sometimes perceived to be a militant viewpoint, which can put people off I think. I am still deciding how structured/unschooled we will be in the coming years - I guess the boys will help to show me the way!