The holidays are here. But not for us. More on that in a moment.
Firstly, I would like to point out that I am in favour of the six weeks' holiday for schools. For those staff and children who have packed more than a year's worth of work into 39 weeks, they not only deserve a break, they need one. Very much so. For them, the summer is a time of recovery, reflection and preparation. To shorten it would be a mistake.
Why then, are my children and I not 'breaking for the summer'?
Haven't we worked hard enough?
Am I just plain mean?
Many people have asked me, "Have you broken up for summer?" and "Have you finished work now?" and so on.
No. We haven't.
We are home educating, which is quite different from recreating 'school' at home.
We do not sit down at our desks between the hours of 9 and 3.15, thence to leap joyfully into the sushine. Far from it.
You're more likely to find us playing games, indoors or out, than filling in a worksheet.
You'll catch us Doing more than Listening.
Our days consist of following our interests and curiosity, far more than we follow any arbitrary agenda.
Isn't that the point?
Because I only have three children in my 'class', their learning can be very self-directed and individually tailored.
Because I live with them, 'school' can take place over breakfast, in the bath and at bedtime.
My children get out their Maths books when they feel like it. There is no Maths lesson and therefore there is no End Of Lesson.
Learning is part of life. It happens all the time.
Isn't that true for you, too, as an adult? When you want to know about something, you find out. You don't say, "Oh, it's after 4pm, I'm not going to learn anything else today."
We don't do 'school' - we live life. We explore, we question, we investigate, we experiment, we play.
For my part, I try to follow some advice I read early on in my home ed journey and leave an interesting trail.
If I start baking, measuring, drawing, building or whatever, I soon have several curious little people wanting to have a go too. It works.
At other times, my children go off and occupy themselves, increasingly with role-play games and still lots of Lego, Gears, Marble Run etc.
When they start to get frustrated with each other, I direct them to something else.
I never sit them down and tell them what they have to learn.
So, if by 'break' people mean letting my children go off and do their own thing, entirely, I'd ask them, what's fun about that? Un-directed youngsters soon become fractious and start fighting. I certainly don't want to spend 6 weeks listening to my children being silly or, worse, parking them in front of the tv to keep them quiet.
I love doing interesting things with the children. That's why I home educate. I love art, baking, board-games, word games, making music, singing French songs. I love going for walks, exploring, collecting leaves, playing outside. I love play-dates and picnics. I love National Trust gardens and farm shop tea rooms.
I hate noisy, silly behaviour from unattended children who have long-since finished their cooperative play and have overdosed on CBeebies.
Why, when our life of learning is so fun, would I want a break?
So no, we haven't finished work. We never even started :o)
Making 6's from different combinations of Duplo:
Beating eggs for bread and butter pudding (Elizabeth and Sebastian had already buttered the bread):
Mixing in the cinnamon:
Elizabeth helping Sebastian with his sticker book:
Francesca arranging stickers on her 'dressing up fairies' book:
That's not to say that Elizabeth didn't LOVE playgroup and all the people there, but my life is so much easier.
How lovely, this morning (well, it was 'that' morning, since I'm posting this belatedly but you get the gist) to get straight into action with Elizabeth.
She was up early, finished breakfast and helping me shape bread rolls before Francesca was even dressed.
Here are her buns:
Then we made and played our own game of Go. You might have to Google it because I don't have time to explain it all now. Suffice to say that it is part of our New Approach to Maths.
Our New Approach To Maths
Among my home-educating friends, a discussion has cropped up.
It is about Maths.
This discussion rumbled tentatively into action a few months ago when we watched a wonderful TED talk by a school Maths teacher, saying that the Maths curriculum is mostly boring and irrelevant. He said that Maths could best be learnt through playing games and exploring and discovering. I forget the rest but it was a stirring talk that prompted me to rush off and acquire more games.
The question of Maths has re-asserted itself again, this week, via A Mathematician's Lament by Paul Lockhart. In his lengthly (and amusingly well written) lament, Lockhart is addressing the same issues of a tedious, irrelevant Maths curriculum and what should be done about it.
To paraphrase and massively over-simplify: children do not gain much from being taught formulaic methods and 'rules'. They are missing out on the simple joy of discovering for oneself the patterns and beauty of maths. They are also missing out on the elegant history of maths and mathematicians: how these so-called rules were arrived at in the first place.
The answer is to create more opportunities for playing with logic, reason, patterns, shape, volume etc.
Et voila. We've made and played with our Go board. I've drawn out a Nine Man's Morris board and I've set the girls a challenge to think about. More on that later.
Yesterday Elizabeth finished playgroup. It was the last session and I am sad and glad about that at the same time.
She has loved playgroup and will miss it. On the other hand, I am really looking forward to the increased productivity that I hope will result from not having our day tied to the playgroup schedule.
Even though I've had loads of help from kind friends, taking and bringing Elizabeth to and from playgroup, the fact that she comes and goes not only divides our day into two small halves, it also disrupts Francesca while the two of them 'greet' each other (by which I generally mean fight to re-establish dominance)
Now that Elizabeth will be officially not starting school in September, I'm planning to take this opportunity to add more structure to the girls' day and encourage more formal learning: a set number of maths sessions per week, perhaps; more joint English work; shared French lessons and so on.
More on those vague thoughts later, I expect. But for now, I leave you with....
Our parting gifts for the playgroup staff. Elizabeth wanted to make them some little chocolate cakes. So we did!
Images from this week - actually, we did a lot of things but it was mostly playing out in the sunshine and splodging in the paddling pool. These are the more educational-sounding activities that we engaged in.
Extra Duplo borrowed from a neighbour to use for maths:
Speaking of maths - some early sorting and counting with draughts:
Francesca enthusiastically making a pop-up card from Grandma and Grandad's present:
Said pop-up card written to thank her friend for her present:
This was lovely! Sebastian and his friend here, taking tea together in the playhouse, complete with full role-play 'house'. They played for ages, encompassing pretend bedtime, then the cockeral crowing (as it never does here! but it does at this little girl's grandma's, apparently) and breakfast time (Sebastian felt it a priority to point out, several times). I loved hearing Sebastian fully engrossed in proper imaginative play with a real friend.
Can't say I enjoyed hearing that quite so much, but it was clearly very satisfying for the drummer himself.
The first two from a morning when Elizabeth was at playgroup, Sebastian was playing with playdough and Francesca was doing maths. I had my computer on! Not for long, but never the less, it felt like An Important Moment.
We've had lots of picnics this week - the girls get out the rug and arrange the toys, then I produce a big tray full of bread, salad and cheese. Easy!
While Francesca was having her violin lesson, Elizabeth and Sebastian did PE (we could call it that, couldn't we?!) with the ladybird-patterned ball. Sebastian calls it his "ladyball" but perhaps we shouldn't mention that.
Ok so THIS was today (having posted up many updates from the last week or so, all at once! The cinema was Saturday, Fallodon was Sunday) Now we're up to date.
We did quite a bit of playing out, despite the weather being patchy rainy and not so hot.
When it did actually rain, we aborted our picnic in the park plan and had a picnic in the sitting room instead. I randomly decided to speak French during this, so we revised a few things and learnt some words and phrases to do with food and eating.
We played this video of the elephant song in French and had fun learning a bit about the vocabulary therein and learning to sing the song together. It's a really fun song and we all enjoyed it.
Later, we started to paint the clay ladybirds that Elizabeth and Sebastian had made last week from air-drying clay and pipe-cleaners. 'Ladybirds' is an increasingly loose term, given that our pipe-cleaner legs are purple (Elizabeth's) and white (Sebastian's) and the body-paint is yellow (Elizabeth's) and purple (Sebastian's). Let's hope I can find some black acrylic to do faces and spots, otherwise these are going to be unreconisable as ladybirds. They'll have to become 'beetles'.
Francesca painted Sebastian's for him. It was probably neater that way.
He didn't mind a bit. He had great fun with the acrylic paint anyway, on some paper.
And we did some Maths, with Lego. Francesca really "gets it" if she can work with something concrete and visual. Otherwise, sometimes, (like today!) she is just lost/unable to focus.
Elizabeth practised writing some numbers, then she read some of her old/easy reading books to me, which is great for her confidence.
Finally, after tea, the weather held long enough for us to make it all the way to the park.