Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Following on from my first post about what led us into home education journey read here
I wanted this post to focus more along the lines of what learning really looks like for us and how I have discovered the best way to bring this into our daily lives at present and how it continues to support George's overall development and growth.
2019 was our first official year home educating as George turned 5 at the end of July 2019 (so technically George would have been the youngest in the class if he had gone to reception in 2018 and although I had applied for School because we hadn't made a firm choice of home education even though I was 99.9% sure I did defer him and would absolutely recommend this to anyone whose child's birthday falls in July or August as it gives your child more time to play and grow before academics which is really needed!)
The way I like to think about Home Education is like having your own personal guide that is able to create a bespoke education that completely suits your needs, requirements, and interests and is able to evolve with you as you grow and provide a stimulating environment that is challenging, playful, curious,and touches all the senses and explores all the various languages a child has.
This is exactly how I see home education, my son has me who is the person who knows him the most because I spend the most time with him and I am someone who is able to understand him and observe him because I have a great relationship with him. It means that I know him really well and I'm able to see what he needs. I'm able to observe his needs, I'm able to talk to him about what his interests are, I'm able to provide a bespoke education alongside him that means he's not in a classroom with 30 other people waiting to be given something to do that is just the same task as everybody else. (A pre packaged curriculum of knowledge.) To me it just feels like an incredible opportunity to follow the things that he is actually interested in and that is what I love about home education and actually we don't have lessons as such we have a rhythm. I learned about rhythm when I was researching different types of educational philosophies and I found Waldorf Education and through learning about Waldorf Education I read many books and blog posts and I even went to visit a Waldorf School and I thought WOW I would love George to go to a Waldorf School, this would be really amazing but because of where it was there was a big waiting list and we would have had to move house to get on that list and who knows how long it would take to get a space it could have been years and it was far away from home and it was an expensive area to live and there were lots of different factors that made us feel that it still wasn't necessarily quite right to make a whole move but the style of education felt really good. It felt whole and and soulful, it felt like there were some really fantastic parts to it that would support George. I got a really good feeling by being there at the school it was an amazing space it felt like home, it was beautiful not like any other school I have been to before.
Such an amazing ethos, they teach subjects creatively through drawing and stories and through puppetry and painting and movement, kinesthetically and so from seeing the school I decided that I could take the pieces from the educational philosophies that suited George's needs and growth and bring them together so that would create a completely bespoke education suited so I would take things I felt would support him.
I learned about Rhythm from Waldorf, it took us a while to find our rhythm. Rhythm runs deeper than a routine, Rhythm is like a flow throughout the day that runs smoothly. You can read more about Rhythm from a post I wrote here
Our Weekly Rhythm
Monday tends to be an adventure day and we will also have a rhythm of the purposeful work that we do so Monday is washing day and the day I give the kitchen a good clean. Adventure could take us anywhere, we often go to an adventure park with friends, and or go out for the day with friends. It is always outside whatever the weather with lots of climbing, socialising, picnicking and exploring. We also do some gardening, but it's a work in progress and something I never did growing up and something I am unfamiliar with. So like the many other things I am learning about it's all about experimenting with this one. Each year we will improve on the last and learn as we go about what is working.
On a Tuesday we do spend time learning a language and we learn welsh, I don't specifically teach a lesson it's very much we will sit together and sing some songs in welsh and there might be some movement songs and we might use instruments to do that and it's very kind of free so we might play a game like welsh snap and then we read a welsh story from a book I try and buy bilingual ones and then we might have a little chat and use some welsh words in that conversation, so for example one week we looked at under the sea and got some materials out and we created a box with water beads and animals which was a great play as he played with this for hours! Songs, games and play and we listen to music and pretended we were sharks and fish. It's different every week.
One Wednesday George spends the day at Forest School with a mixture of children of various ages from 3 -7. He plays with all ages of children. At forest school they spend time doing what they enjoy - Playing. They also can do some woodwork using tools, they can use various materials which have access to, hammocks to sleep/relax in. Woodland cooking, group projects where they might build or make things together. They sing songs and have stories around the campfire and can access plenty of mud and water to play in. They make up their own games and play together or spend time alone, however they need or want to spend their time. They learn about plants and nature and spend their days out in the open air. They risk assess their own climbing and play and know how to ask for support and help if they need an adult. The children are treated respectfully and are encouraged to do real work. They get to experience being around different farm animals which George absolutely loves as he really loves animals.
Thursday is music, puppetry and baking.
On Thursday we listen to a different composer every week and read a little bit about them, we talk about how the music might make us feel and what instruments we can hear. We also make different puppets from natural materials and each week we have a different story from around the world that includes a story and some songs to sing, I practise learning it and presenting it beforehand but we will make the puppets together. I play the piano and can read music so having this skill is very helpful and allows me to have some knowledge of supporting him musically.
We also bake on a Thursday, things like bread, scones, biscuits, sausage rolls, whatever we fancy really! We love listening to different kinds of music too so sometimes George might spontaneously say something like let's listen to some wild music - we ended up finding some awesome dubstep music and it was interesting to see how our bodies responded to the music. We might do this on any day though.
Friday is art expression and knitting.
I usually ask George which material he would like to use, he chooses different things from clay, modelling clay or wax, lino printing, or water colour paints. There is no set thing for what he will paint or any concern for anything final. I encourage him to test the materials and explore with them. As he moves forward artistically he does create figures and pictures that hold meaning for him and he will often tell me about them.
We started finger knitting not so long a go, but have had a break as he was getting really frustrated with it that it wasn't working out right away. Finger knitting is done through stories and songs and movement. We will start back up again with this soon when he he ready and patient enough. Soon I am looking to have more tools available and a workbench where he can explore further with wood and tools. He recently got a pocket knife for his 6th birthday, so we will explore whittling further as he loves whittling sticks.
On Saturdays and Sunday George spends the weekend with his Dad whilst I work and this is our current set up. We have family time in the morning and from tea time on wards and when we book whole days off together. We both work from home so we are always close to each other.
On the weekends the boys typically go out for walks and to the park or to meet friends or family or a bike ride.They also spend time doing work around the house together. They build train tracks and fix things and do gardening and tidy the hedges, play outside with the dog, take care of the chickens, fix and tinker with different things like coffee machines or computers etc They do cooking together and just relax.
How much time do you spend doing what?
Firstly our time is not spent looking at a clock or any kinds of beeping that signify we move to the next thing, It is a flow and a Rhythm with plenty of time for rest throughout the day and the things we want to do. There's an in breath and out breath to the day. There's the times of of the day in the morning and evening where we are together as a family and then there's the free play time where George will do his own thing, and I'll do my own thing like read a book, or be sorting clothes or cleaning etc there's mealtimes where we eat together apart from lunchtime. Then there's the times we spend outside in Nature and there's the times that we come together for stories or music or baking etc
What time do you spend doing what? I have estimated what time is spent for George doing certain things to give you an idea.
Morning Time - 15 minutes a day at breakfast time (stories, songs,poems)
Outdoors - 3 - 6 hours a day
Purposeful work (cleaning,chores,work with meaning) - 1 hour a day ( George typically joins in)
Free play and expression 6 hours a day (usually happens in stretches throughout the day)
Time sat together with Rhythm based plan (things I have planned that are flexible for exploration) - 1 hour a day (welsh, knitting, puppetry, music, art expression over the various days of the week)
Socialising with friends, family, neighbours,groups 15- 20 hours per week
Screen time 8 hours per week ( a few films on the weekend and usually 1 in the week after forest school) We don't use devices or computers. Sometimes we use the laptop for a short time if we are exploring an animal or interest that we don't have a book on.
Time spent reading books and telling stories
8-10 hours per week
Following the interest in the moment
There is also plenty of time to explore things that George is interested in, so it might be a question he has, or an animal he wants to learn more about and this is something that tends to be inspired upon thinking time or being out in Nature and finding animals and just observing and noticing things. Or perhaps a net in the pond and looking at what bugs we can find and describing how they move. So there's plenty of time to just ask ourselves questions and think about what it is we would like to know about something. Or just exploring a question like What if? If I was a squirrel I would, or if I was a mole I would.....If I had wings I would go...
If something become broken or ripped he has learned that it can potentially be fixed. He knows where the sewing box is and will have a go at sewing up a hole in a top or ask daddy to help him with something more complicated that might involve tools.
I have a small room set up with all kinds of different open ended materials.
Cardboard is probably the best type of open ended material to create things with that you can throw away and recycle again afterwards. Building with lego is something he spends hours doing constructing his own vehicles for hours on end and then playing with them is something he does often.
I keep card board folded away in a big tub and have a section of tapes and scissors. Often he will get an idea and want to make something, it could be a den or a seat or a person, a sword, a hideaway, a slide. The list is infinite really! So this is easily accessible.
He could feel inspired to make something from a story I have told or read to him, such as after a story one day he asked for some felt and sewing things as he wanted to make a little blanket for a little animal.
We have lot's of art materials available to use anytime from colouring pencils, felt pens, paints, play dough, modelling beeswax, lino printing, various paper and pads, sewing, weaving, knitting, crotchet, water colour paints, felting and wool, scrap material and paper for projects, Stamps and rollers and crafty bits and bobs, buttons and all little knicks and knacks. Oil pastels, inks, food colouring, tapes and wire.
My husband will often bring something out he's working on after dinner it might be something he is fixing and George will often watch and ask questions and Adam will show him which parts he can tinker with and learn how it is put together.
Any question can lead to any topic or connect to any thing, which is why there is loads of time in our day to explore this, one day he might be interested in volcanoes or in a country or clouds or anything! at one time is was Australia so we looked at the history of the country and the animals and the people etc and each questions helps you learn more about the interest and the world.
How wonderful it must feel as a child to be able to follow those creative urges and have materials provided to you to do so. How nourishing for the child.
It is wonderful to be able to ask a question and to mull over it. Rather than to have an answer provided for you right away. Which is why if he has a lot of questions I will write then in a book and I will say let's think about what you might think about that questions first and then over time look into it in different ways. I believe not rushing to google for the answer right away is a good thing always, it's important to think up our own thought and ideas and explore books,m videos and a plethora of other ways too. Sometimes there may not be an answer, so it's about that exploration of mulling over something and seeing where that thought could lead.
Every morning when we gather for breakfast we have what I call Morning time. Morning time is singing seasonal songs, reading poems and having a story or more if George wishes. (Sometimes George will get a huge pile of books which is wonderful!) It's typically 15 minutes in the morning where we both connect with this and it can be longer if George wants more. It's quite flexible. I always leave out some art materials on our table to explore with. There's always colouring pencils and paper and I'll mix up one other option such as stockmar beeswax, water colours, oil pastels. We always have some fresh flowers on the table. In the colder months of the year we will also light a candle.
Often is will be just me singing. Every child responds differently to music and movement. Sometimes he will join in. Other times he will request a song, other times I will leaves pauses and he will spontaneously start singing the words or making up new words. I don't fuss over having the exact words correct over the songs and encourage and laugh and changes as he may sing a tune and change the words. I am open to playfulness and creativity in all aspects of everyday life and this is a big way I now I support my son's creativity, imagination and musical life.
Everything is Connected
What I believe about education is that it's not about we have got to learn math and science and we have got to learn to read and write, learning is happening all the time in every moment of the day, it's not something that only happens when you are sitting at a table with a pen and pencil reading a book or answering some questions in a workbook it's just not the only way that learning looks like. If we can unlearn what we have learned we can understand that everything is connected to everything and so we don't need to separate all the subjects into these separate pieces of information that seem to lack any connection to one another.
When we learn through living in every day life we can start to see these connections. We can notice the intricate patterns of nature that form beautiful patterns of mathematical systems. Flowers, shells, trees, webs, honeycombs, etc We can listen all around us to the music of nature and language. We can explore how things change form in the metamorphosis of the butterfly and the frog by exploring where they live and how they move and grow and watching the process.
We can understand how things work and how things link and connect all around us.
Children are wired for learning. They come here curious to communicate and connect with every thing and every one around them to develop their understanding of the world.
Who does any adult think they are to not give their children this basic right?
We are all free to learn. We are all free to direct our own education. Directing our own education gives us choice, spontaneity and fulfillment. Most of all it gives us a natural, unquenchable motivation for a thirst in taking the lead in our own learning journey ultimately leading us to find life more enjoyable and meaningful.
"Learning never exhausts the mind."
" Learn how to see, realise that everything connects to everything else."
Leonardo Da Vinci
Beautiful Art by Katie Daisy - Quote by Leonardo Da Vinci.
All learning cannot be measured
All learning cannot be measured, it's absolutely barbaric that everything is measured constantly and it's just not important and its not where true learning happens. This is why I chose to move away from the mainstream education system of forced learning for memory only. To real life experiences, plenty of time for exploration, time for rest, and fulfillment and joy in life.
True Learning happens when an individual is able to have their own thoughts feelings and input into a situation, true learning happens when a child feels fully safe in an environment where they are fully able to explore and be curious and not be restricted by what they are wearing or how they are sitting or who is in the room. True learning happens when a child is free to choose what they want to learn about and what they are interested in. And that they are able to move and express and explore in a way that feels good to them. True learning happens when a child can ask questions and explore those questions. True learning happens when there is plenty of time to just be.
In our home education at home it feels like everything just weaves in beautifully, that's the best way to say it that everything feels like it just weaves in and when we are home George takes part in different aspects of running a home and the most interesting thing about this is that he wants to do that, there might be some days where he is really involved in his play in which case I wouldn't say I'm going outside to do the washing now because he's engaged in his play and I believe that is more important but most of the time he will want to come with me and loves to put out the washing and when the washing is dry he loves to fold the washing up and these are skills that he is building and learning, they are apart of his everyday and he is excited to learn these skills. He enjoys doing these skills and he does them with joy and he takes pride in his own things. He also is very thoughtful and he thinks about other people and is thoughtful, In a way I'll do that mummy. I would like do that. He loves getting out the sock basket and organising all of the socks into pairs and folding them into piles. George very much enjoys helping with so many aspects of the home. If my husband is gardening George will go outside an grab a rake and start tidying or grab a brush and do some brushing. He asked for tasks and loves to clean the windows and feed the chickens and collect eggs.
He enjoys purposeful work for nothing more other than pure joy in it and the satisfaction of doing it well. He enjoys being part of doing it with us, and alongside us.
Children love to be involved in real work that holds a purpose and matters in the home.
George loves to join in with cooking and we bake together on Thursdays, it could be bread or scones or biscuits or cake and he enjoys peeling veg and cut for soup or a roast dinner.
The easiest way to start learning Maths is when it actually makes sense to children. It's not a workbook with unrelated things that don't mean anything but for a purpose and used in real life, you can connect to Maths and numbers so easily when you are baking a cake and are required to measure out the ingredients. Each of the items are being measured, milk, flour, butter, sugar etc. Just the other week we measured some material to make some puppets for a story. Or we count how many vegetables we need etc You can connect with Math outside in Nature when you experience the beautiful patterns and shapes all around us.
So he is learning about how to measure a t spoon, a cup, half a cup etc all real life work in the home where math makes sense and these foreign symbols start to have real meaning and connect to the world in a meaningful way.
That is very much a part of our education at home. It is not school at home it's very much about being together, having a Rhythm which guides us through the day and my child's interests and also being a part of the home and learning every day skills.
Socialising is not limited to only playing with children of 6 years old who are all the same age. Playing with other children of different ages all the time leads George to learn certain skill sets which could be remembering to look out and help the younger ones, taking care of the younger ones who might need more encouragement when it comes to climbing trees or riding bikes. With his own age and older children it's learning to communicate their own rules to the game in a way that is fair and involves everyone. There are always so many different skills and communications happening all the time. As well as requiring more patience and listening skills.
Time in Nature is time well spent
We spend a lot of time out in Nature and go for walks in the country where we live, spend time at parks,streams, beaches and meadows, forests and woodlands, local ponds, castles and gardens. We spend a lot of time observing wildlife in our garden and everywhere we go. We love listening to the birds and we find and experience lots of creatures where we live, we always find shrews, moles, squirrels, mice, rats, herons, birds of prey, and we follow the cycle of the happenings of creatures throughout the seasons.
We have had frog spawn at home and taken care of them and watch them metamorphose into frogs and we have had caterpillars and watched them metamorphose into butterflies.
We have also hatched