Last week we ventured out one afternoon for a spot of foraging. We were on the hunt for blackberries and managed to pick five pounds worth. We were also looking for rose hips which we weren't so lucky with either a human or bird had beaten us to it as the bushes were stripped bare, I left the few that hadn't been picked. In the morning before we went out we did a bit of investigating and reading about fruiting plants. I thought it would be good to show how these plants germinate, flower and fruit and devised a life cycle of the plant, to any botanists reading this who are squirming as I have used the wrong words - please put me straight! As I was devising my cycle I was struck by how similar it is to the learning that takes place in our house.
As we enter our sixth year of official home education I can hostly say that I am totally comfortable with it. Of course I have times when I wobble and wonder what I am doing, but don't we all have them whatever path we choose in life? I love the groups we engage with, the friends we have made, the activities we join in with. It has been hard work, lonely at times, especially in the early days, but it is always worth it. A seed is sown by a variety of sources a book, a documentary, a friend, an idea, which germinates a desire to learn more about it, the learning, growth, happens all over the place and from many sources as it flourishes, flowers, it often leads to learning about other things too, pollination, sometimes following unexpected directions on the way, if the learning, fruit, draws to conclusion (usually temporarily) a new seed is then sown.
Our rhythm has also followed this cycle over the years, evolving from ideas that I try out to see what works best for us. Now that it is September this is a time of year that I often review it and make changes. The summer is a time for being outside as much as possible, for going away and for our regular commitments stopping for a time, at the end of August I find myself thinking about the rhythm returning as our groups start up again and the weather turning cooler drawing us into our home more. This summer has felt more chaotic that usual, my voluntary commitments taking over our lives at times and I have realised this year that, rather than try and keep the same rhythm going for a whole year I should alter it with the seasons, maybe one for autumn and spring, one for winter and one for summer. That way perhaps I wouldn't feel like I was fighting to stick to the same rhythm all year and our days and weeks would flow better. I am still learning what ingredients we need to make our rhythm tick and those seeds of learning sowing and germinating. So as we head into autumn I have started to pull together some ideas.
A day to focus on music, I added this to our rhythm earlier in the year. I think I need to more focused on what we are doing each week I have ideas to play instruments new and old, learn some new to us songs, try out some clapping rhythms repeating the focus each month. In the afternoon we attend a singing group with friends which also includes time for a play. Sadly we won't be attending the afternoon concerts that I discovered earlier this year, they now clash with Forest School! I had forgotten about them completely when we were rearranging our day earlier this month, you can't do everything!
A day for nature, outside for the afternoon whilst the weather is still good, birdwatching, bike riding, walking or exploring. The morning spent with some time learning about something we will see or do in the afternoon. Perhaps with crafts, stories and poems to enhance our learning. We have been reading the relevant pages from the lovely book Come Out of Doors : A guide of nature lovers by C. D. Dimsdale, it has a short chapter for each week of the year. This day may change as the Winter and cooler, often wetter, weather sets in.
A day at Forest School. This is a whole day activity we leave the house soon after breakfast and return in the middle of the afternoon needing some quiet time with a book or maybe a DVD before tea. Each week we focus on a topic or theme for which each family prepares facts, poems or short stories to share. We have a book which each family takes home for the week to write up what we have been doing, adding pictures, the shared facts, poems and stories. We will do our preparation for this as part of our nature day, most likely making it our focus during the Winter months.
A day at home to rest, tend to the home, garden and ourselves, maybe invite a friend(s) over to play in the afternoon. I have yet to decide the focus of this day. I am thinking it should be different each week maybe science, craft, art and something else rotating during the month. I will see what we feel like doing and what I have had time to prepare.....
A day in our local town, our food shop, a visit to the library to change our books and our weekly swim. Taking the children swimming regularly has done wonders for their confidence and skills, eighteen months ago neither of my children could swim now they can both swim a length of the pool unaided and jump in the deep end (3m) without fear, but plenty of caution! One of our local groups sometimes meets on this day and we will join them if they are doing something that takes our fancy.
Interspersed with all this will be lots of play, drawing, maybe some writing, probably some maths. these all usually just happen and take whatever form the children choose, perhaps doing mental arithmetic in the bath............On the days we are at home for lunch this is the conclusion of our morning, taking our time to enjoy our food together at the table. We finish the meal with the chapter from our current book I read to them and a poem relating to the season or the days focus, before heading out for the afternoon.
At some point each evening, before bed I tell the children about what we are going to be doing the following day. If we are going out what time for my eldest, in simpler terms for my youngest, what we need to sort out before we go and when we are likely to be back home. I find this gives them a chance to think about what they might do and when the next day. When they go to bed I talk with each of them about their day, asking them what the best thing for them has been and telling them mine, bringing the day to a close.
I am still working on how to fit in all the bits that keep our home ticking over like the laundry, cleaning and hoovering. The last two need more attention at this time of year when we are in the house more. The garden also needs some time spending on it to get it ready to overwinter, preparing for next spring. Whatever we end up doing it is always a matter of balance, of not having too much time out of the home or in it, of not being too busy, of not having too much structure and maybe most importantly of being mindful that if something is not working then it is not a failure, perhaps a change is needed. Home education really is a way of life.
The seeds are wild carrot plants, all in the same patch. I was struck by their beauty and the different colours of each seed head, I am guessing as a result of different stages?