It has been so long since i last blogged. My hope was to do one a eek…NOT happened just yet! Below is a blog i began a while ago and i have five or ten minutes (hopefully!) to complete it somewhat for you now. Here goes…
My aim in this blog is simply to share a few things we do at home that might also be helpful for others regarding ‘education’ in its loose form. I personally love organisation and planning. It is definitely an area i don’t like to slack in, although these days i usually do due to lack of time but i have learnt to accept that and joy in it a little! I already know that formal education is not what is going to work for our family. If it works for you then i take my hat off to you and am happy you have found what works in your home. For us, as much as my tendency is to get everything written down, have everything prepared for the whole year (just a week would be nice!) and flash cards laminated for every possible word that might show up in a reading book, this is not going to happen any time soon and quite frankly i am not convinced my children would cope well with a six hour day of work booklets. Instead, i am quite settled with the idea of having one or two themes each month to look at. It is tricky with a four year old and a two year old to plan in detail how activities will go, to cater to individual levels and to even contemplate how you work around unexpected naps, unexpected trips to the potty, and a teething non-sleeping seven month old. So for now, our home education is simply life itself with a few themed stories, activities and crafts and lots of love. I am aware that as my four year old approaches September this year she will be reaching that point in time she would normally start attending school and so we will need to start being more focused for at least part of the day.
I have recently read something from a mother who has taught her many children for many years and the eldest children are successfully achieving well at college. She says that she has only sat her children down for one hour a day for focused work. Life itself has been their lesson but she appreciates (as do i) that there are some things you really do have to sit down and learn. This hour might consist of six ten minute sessions whilst they are young, such as phonics, basic maths, colour matching, work booklets etc and as they get older each subject might last longer or progress into project work. ‘Lessons’ such as PE simply happen anyway, i might just have to be more conscious during the winter to deliberately do some physical activity indoors. I think this one hour slot a day is a really achievable idea for our family. It might not happen all in one go; some days it will most likely be split throughout the day. In addition to that as a family we really want to be committed to learning about Jesus and being in relationship with Him. We feel that even if nothing else gets done, that is absolute priority and ultimately when our children one day stand before the Lord, their maths skills or ability to write poetry won’t really matter when compared to the greatness of knowing their Saviour. We are also committed to providing our children with a variety of activities generally anyway. A typical day might consist of crafts, role play, jigsaws, books, cooking, playdough, a walk, a board game etc and so we recognise that providing we don’t deviate from this on a consistent basis, we can’t go far wrong.
I have been putting together resources for different ages and different subjects because i wont have time to plan in depth for every single day (or five out of seven days). I am coming to accept that it is perfectly fine for me to not know everything in advance! It is no hardship for my children to have to sit and wait for a few minutes while i gather the materials necessary for a particular activity. If i truly was able to have everything printed, laminated, pulled out of boxes and cupboards and set up for every day i firstly would have no table space to eat and secondly no time to sit at the end of the day with my husband and have a conversation! There is no problem with the following scenario:
“Right children, we are going to do some adding and taking away now so lets sit down while i look in my ideas folder for something to do…right, we are looking at farms this month and this has a brilliant idea. Can you get me some green and blue paper please while i get some scissors and the farm animals. It says we can cut out some green squares for fields, blue circles for ponds and we can add and subtract animals, the number of legs, the number of beaks, the number of horns and the number of tails. Let’s get to it”. The children are not suffering by having to wait while i take a particular book or folder off a shelf, or whilst we gather the equipment. They are actually learning to listen to instruction and they are developing vital skills in drawing the shapes and cutting them out themselves. Granted, if i had the time to prepare it all i probably would because that’s the organisational nature in me but i think it is important for me to fight that tendency where possible because it can actually be helpful for the children to not have it all done for them. I do know that there are some activities that would require some preparation and i am not suggesting that i have no fore-thought whatsoever, but i am finding comfort in the idea that i don’t need to lesson plan everything for each individual child or subject.
I have put together a file for my oldest two children with some things in it we have decided to attempt every day. This includes a bible devotional for each one and a white board. Our two year old can work at this stage on his numbers and colours so there are a couple of books and activities relating to these areas in his file. Our four year old has learnt the alphabet single sounds and now needs to begin blending those sounds together and so her file contains some books and letter cards to help her do that. We consider these to be the most pressing areas for learning and so if we are unable to touch on these areas in our day to day normal activities such as cooking, we know we can fall on those little packs to help.
Our two year old isn’t really old enough for home education in a formal sense but he often joins in with his big sister with in many areas so it is helpful to have something catered for him that he understands and he can feel like he is joining in. He still loves the usual pre-school activities like water and sand play, role play, playdough, mixing and sorting items like pom poms and buttons and so i have also been working on getting those kind of activities written down so that when i need something quickly for him to do i can pull out those ideas and choose one (my brain will often have a mind block at the very moment i spot he needs to get stuck into a different activity and i often fall back on the ‘lets get the diggers and cars out’ phrase. It is good for them to try different things so i LOVE the ideas i have found such as pushing pipe cleaners through a colander or filling jars with magnetic items and giving him a magnet. These activities are more educational than we realise and i desire for our life to be one big fun adventurous lesson so these kind of ideas ready and waiting on my dining room shelf are just perfect. The only thing with this is that it does take time to get the ideas written down. If you have the money you can simply buy the books that are designed for educators but if you are like me and prefer to save the pennies, i think it is worth trying to make time to sift through the internet for ideas because on a day to day basis it will save time.
I do try to keep the children’s toys and items organised as much as possible simply because i fell it keeps things a bit more sane. I know that if we are using bubbles as a theme i can go get the box of dolls and fill the bath with bubbles so they can bathe the babies rather than searching through all their toys to find the dolls. I know that if we are looking at bugs i can go and find the bugs in the nature box without having to pull everything out from under their bed to only be able to find one butterfly. Regarding activities i like to keep their games together because much of them come under the ‘maths category’, i like to keep lacing and threading things together, scoops and jugs together for use with sand/water, and so on.
So (i hope this isn’t boring you…it might be useful information!!) our house typically looks like this: the children’s bedroom contains boxes of grouped toys and games without a specific educational benefit. Our dining rooms has a maths box (educational games, dice, matching activities, number work, shapes included), a literacy box (spelling games, alphabet jigsaws, letter threading etc included), a nature and science box (magnifying glasses, animal facts, bug counters, habitat games, magnets included), fine motor skills box (beads, threading, jumbo tweezers, felt boards), and then some sensory and bits and bobs boxes (such as sand, scoops, spoons, little pots, pom poms, cotton wool balls, pipe cleaners, buttons, little animals, beads, artificial leaves etc – items that be used for just about anything…throw them in a bowl and do some sorting/mixing/measuring etc). My shelves house themed baskets for activity books and worksheets and items i can get to quickly-maths, literacy, completed work ready for filing, empty folders and wallets etc. I also keep my resource books and ideas here, as well as all the children’s biblical books so they are to hand. There will come a time when the preschool and early years resources will no longer be required. I have to be honest and say i am nervous about this and feel slightly overwhelmed but i will continue to collect resources as and when i can for different ages and trust that i can learn alongside my children whatever is required for that time. I don’t need to know everything or be skilled in everything. I simply have to trust God for His provision and for His unquestionable ability to point me in the right direction.
Just quickly before i end this (i’m sorry if this post is just not applicable to you at all…don’t feel bad about not reading it!!), here are some example themes we have looked at over the last year or intend to visit over the coming year. I am quite flexible with these to be honest. Some months we have looked at something completely different because children’s interests change. I do want to make sure that what we choose to look at is something that excites my children and so if something catches their attention we often choose to deviate and go with that. A good example would be a program my daughter watched and instantly was captivated. It was all about our feelings and how to manage them. I decided to use this theme of feelings and emotions and was able to find activities and bible stories and songs relevant for particular emotions. She was more engaged with this that what she perhaps would have been with frogs for example!
Sept – Apples, autumn
Oct – Harvest, pumpkins, trees, autumn
Nov – bonfire night, senses, fire safety
Dec – nativity, gingerbread, winter
Jan – winter, polar animals, our bodies
Feb – transport, love, family
March – spring, easter, gardens
April – ponds, spring, rain/water
May – farms, bugs
June – fathers day, pets, summer
July – summer, fruit/veg, stars/solar system
August – sport, under the sea, camping
We feel it is nice to have some kind of theme to fall back on or to help inspire ideas. We try to use things going on in our everyday lives to help generate theme ideas. For example, we had somebody treat our children to a theatre trip to see the Gingerbread Man as a birthday present. We knew it was going to be in December so we used gingerbread as a theme to follow so we could build up the suspense and excitement for the theatre trip. We also like to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers in our garden and we also help on the church allotment so it is fitting for us to look at harvest time so they can learn about it building up to the time when they get to dig it all up!
This is the simply the way we are doing things in our home. It might change (in fact it probably will knowing me!) but this is what i feel is working for us now. We are on a journey and i constantly feel like i am forever making plans and never quite completing them but i am coming to terms with the fact that this is life and my children are learning all the time just by our efforts to give them something wholesome and fulfilling, even if the planning often feels done in vain or there is not even time for planning. But that is ok! I am excited and overwhelmed. I put myself under too much pressure. BUT i love our family and the road we are on and we just want to give our children the best of ourselves and help them most importantly to know who Jesus is. If all but one of our efforts fail, please Lord may it be a relationship with you that succeeds in their little hearts and lives.
All my children are now awake and waiting for some cheese on toast…no time to spell check today so here’s hoping it all makes sense and is not just one big ramble!