24 August 2019

It all comes with experience


Making a decision to do something that is different or outside the mainstream can feel very isolating.  In those early days when you have yet to make contact with likeminded folks, when you need the most support as you wonder whether this path you are taking is the right one, it can be a lonely journey.  In a week or so's time the children in my part of the world go back to school for the start of a new school year.  Once again my children will not be doing that, their peers are starting the last year of primary school (Alice) and beginning the first year of lessons/learning towards exams in the summer of 2021 (Cameron).

I was educated in the school system, a very different system to the one that is around now (it was pre the National Curriculum) and one of the big changes that I have made over the years we have home educated, is rethinking my ideas about how we learn.  Through our weekly rhythm we build the structure of our learning and over the years we have gone from no structure* at all, to some, lots and back again, for now we are in a much more fluid unstructured phase with learning driven by the children and their interests and me holding it together and facilitating where necessary.  To trust that your children will learn by them being in charge of their learning is a leap of faith and one that society struggles with, sadly there is a large element of society that seems to believe that learning only takes place in the classroom with a teacher.  I wonder how much you have learnt since you left compulsory education and where that journey has taken you?  I am willing to bet you have been really motivated, learnt lots of new skills, and it has made you the person that you are today.  Most importantly though, you have been in charge of the direction it has taken.

It makes me really sad that so many children today see learning as a negative, something that is imposed on them by others and that only takes place within the four walls of a classroom.  I remember taking a friend of Camerons out on a walk with us one afternoon in term time (their school was closed for emergency maintenance), whilst we were out we were observing and learning all the time.  The friend commented 'oh, I didn't realise that this was a field trip, I thought we were going for a walk'. Learning for us is woven right through our lives, we don't make a distinction between learning and life, we don't have 'holidays' from learning, we also don't and have never replicated school at home.

As I enter my eleventh year of home education I do so with a mixture of trepidation and excitement.  It never ceases to amaze me the wonderful course our life has taken on this journey, but I would be lying if I said it has all been plain sailing.  It took me a long time to realise that we need and thrive on having a shape to our week through a rhythm, it is the beating heart of our lives.  It took me a long time to realise that that rhythm would and needed to evolve as the children grew and their needs changed. I would get frustrated that it was beating perfectly and then something would come along that meant it needed to change.  That frustration was a waste of energy, energy that I should have been focusing on working out the changes to make it beat smoothly again.  We have had a number of changes over the past few months, a group coming to end after five years, friends moving away, friends leaving home ed to start school.  Some of the groups we attend stop for the summer so our rhythm is always different for that period, come September when they start again I still don't know how it is going to beat, plans are being made but have yet to be finalised.  Not so long ago this would have really bothered me, now I am going with the flow trusting that all will be well, what will be will be.

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*when I talk about structure I mean a timetable with learning driven by me in a role akin to a teacher.  Our more structure learning times have been based on topics decided by them with me facilitating much of that learning through one on one time with them.

The photo at the top of this post is of a drawing by Cameron.  He has always loved to draw and I could fill all the walls in our house with his drawings.  Lately he has wanted to improved this skills and we found great book on the library shelves which he loved so much I bought him his own copy, he is slowly working his way through the tutorials.  He has expressed an interest in a career in design and we are now working towards him achieving that goal starting with the Arts Award, this picture is part of his portfolio.

20 August 2019

Daybook


Outside my window it is mostly cloudy with the smallest patches of blue, will today be a dry day or more rain I wonder?

I am thinking about some dear friends who have just moved a long way from us, over to Ireland, I miss them all very much but hope that they are slowly settling into their new home and life in a new country.

I am thankful to all the lovely bloggers who left such lovely comments on my last post which was my first in three years.  I am so grateful to have been welcomed back so wonderfully into the world of blogging.

In my kitchen is a bowl of pancake mix fermenting well (it is supposed to be doing that!), a bowl of chickpeas soaking for making humous, a bowl of quinoa soaking for tea tonight, a pan of dandelion root tea waiting to be drunk and pile of washing up on the side.

I have finally finished a cardigan that has been on the needles for over a year, I will share on another post, I am now looking forward to casting on some new projects for now I am using up some ends of balls, I am creating a new cowl for me.

Cameron now has paper round in the village, this afternoon I am going to take him to a nearby town so that he can spend some of his hard earned pennies, he is saving most of his earnings but every now and again he will make a small purchase or two.

I am wondering if the large number of small changes that we have had in our lives over the past few months are now going to stop piling up.

I have a huge pile of books on my bedside table waiting to be read, at the moment I am reading a couple of them, So Shall We Reap by Colin Tudge in which he proposes some interesting alternatives to our current intensive and industrialised farming methods to feed the world.  The other is a completely different book, The Gut Wellness Guide, I am working my way slowly through this book which is a mixture of self help techniques and easy to read science of how your body functions.

I am looking forward to this week which is full of time at home, last week was really busy out and about somewhere every day.

Around the house there is washing drying (too much rain at the moment to hang it outside), a sleeping bag airing after recent use on a scout camp, a bag of out grown clothes waiting to go into storage in the loft, items precious to Alice that she doesn't want to pass on, all down the hall is a procession of lego vehicles waiting patiently for play to start again.

I have recently read a few books about the pace of life in Scandinavia and what makes their populations happier in worldwide polls, I came across some wonderful proverbs in one of these books a favourite quote amongst these was, 'better an honest no than an insincere yes'.  This is most definitely my moto in life, something I was following before I knew it was a Swedish proverb!

We have a few plans for the rest of this week, which involve mostly being quiet and restful at home.

With all those changes that we have had over the past few months I am pondering our rhythm and the shape of our week in the months to come, Alice and Cameron are both still home educated and have not expressed any desire to start attending school any time soon.

I have recently become the proud owner of a new laptop, after seven years of use my tablet was getting a little slow and unreliable, I am learning, slowly, my way around this new device.  The last laptop I owned was in the mid 90s when I was at university the new one is very different to that machine!

I am wearing a made by me linen top, linen trousers and am barefoot.

I love the quiet in our house in the mornings so I am listening to, and enjoying, the stillness and the silence of the house as the day slowly gets going.

A peak into my day.

16 August 2019

Checking In


I hadn't planned to be gone from this space for three years, I can't quite believe it has been that long, in some ways it feels like forever and in other ways just yesterday.  I am not going to fill in those three years in this post that would make for a rather long read and probably bore you to tears in the process!

It all started with a fall down the stairs*, not mine or me, but in the aftermath it sent my life in a direction that I wasn't quite expecting, this wee space got put on the shelf and forgotten about for a while, life was such that I went offline completely for a while.  When the dust had settled, and life was in a new normal, the blog remained on its shelf neglected and forgotten.  That one event, three years ago, was a stone falling into water, the ripple effect on our lives followed a motion that three years on we are still feeling some of the effects of and our life has continued to be somewhat unexpected in the direction it is taking.  Despite that it has bought my extended family closer together and we have all supported each other.  It is at times like this that make you realise how lucky you are to have the support of family around you when you need it most.

The last few months, in particular, have been rather unsettling with several major and some minor events all adding together to make us all feel a tad unsettled, throwing rekindling this blog into the mix might seem like a foolish decision to make.  Some of those events have meant that our lives are currently going through a period of change, the rhythm and routine of our week is going to look very different in the coming months so I am hoping those changes will mean that blogging can, once again, fit into my life.

It has not been all sadness and unexpected events.  We have had some wonderful moments too, including a month long trip to the Bahamas to visit friends, many nights camping, canoe trips to beautiful parts of my country and watching my children develop and grow.  They are now 10 and 14, my 14 year old is already taller than me and the ten year old is not far behind on the height stakes.

I have missed this space, the writing, the sharing, the connecting with like minded people the world over.  I have been reading a few of my favourite blogs these past few weeks, you may have noticed me paying you a visit, and note that the world of blogging and blogs has changed a little in my time away from it, there are so many different social media platforms now, but, to me, none compare to blogging and I am looking forward to reconnecting with you all through this lovely medium.

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*my mum who broke her ankle rather badly, she is doing fine now.

16 August 2016

Around Here




Well that was a long break!  I hadn't intended to pause quite so long between posts but life has been busy trundling along and blogging has very much taken a back seat.

Inspired by this lovely blogger I have been doing some planning.  I usually think ahead to our next project(s) but these past few weeks I have planning much further ahead.  She planted a seed a while ago now when she blogged about planning for a whole year at a time.  When I first read the post I thought it would never work for us, but the thoughts stayed with me and so I found myself sitting down and planning a whole year for Cameron.  At the moment it is mostly just a framework, I have organised the first six weeks and will work on the next six soon, with our Advent project that will take us to Christmas.  I spend quite a bit of time each weekend planning the following week and whilst I will still have to do a little each week I am hoping it will reduce the time I need to spend.  In a way I had already started to do this as the work I am doing with Alice at the moment we started back at Easter and it will take us up to Advent.  I will plan her next year in early 2017.

We have been enjoying lots of lovely books recently.  I read a chapter book to them both every lunchtime, it always needs to be suitable for them both and is often aimed at Alice rather than Cameron, to balance things up for him I also read them a different book each at night.  We are on Swallows and Amazons for Cameron and the Little House in the Big Woods for Alice, these are both my old copies from my childhood, the latter I bought when I was seven the former when I was twelve.  It has been lovely to revisit these old favourites.  I am reading a fascinating History book myself, about the social history of the Home during the different periods of prehistory.  The author is an archaeologist who has been working on this period for many years, I have read other books by him and have enjoyed them.  I am glad I found this on the shelves of my library.

Last Friday I had intended to write a daybook post, the in the kitchen and around the house categories would have made interesting reading on that day.  I had taken delivery of a big food order from a wholesale company part of which was frozen.  We have a large chest freezer in our garage which was in desperate need of some attention, it is not it was full but there was not much space due to the large quantity of ice that had built up inside.  In order to be able to get the vegetables, fruit and butter in there I needed to empty it and scrape out the ice.  Have you ever emptied your freezer and found unexplained objects in there, perhaps it is just me, I think I went through a period of not labelling things thinking I would remember what they were!  The ice came out easily, not really knowing what to do with it I put it in the bath to defrost!  The unexplained objects were put in boxes in the kitchen to defrost along with several very old (2011) bags of fruit, we had a delicious blackberry and apple crumble for tea that night.  Now that the frozen items were dealt with I could check the rest of the order off which resulted in big bags of food on the hall and porch floors.  Cameron slept through all these goings on (he was very tired after a long cycle ride with friends the day before) and when he did he was most bemused by the ice in the bath and the food all over the floor!

We visited a local pick your own recently, it is a place that I have driven past numerous times but have never actually been too I wanted to take a look round to see what it was like.  It was a really wet day and we were the only ones there, but we came home with four kilos of plums and plans to visit again, hopefully to pick apples and pears in a few weeks time.  I have had a go at fermenting some of the plums, not sure how they will turn out but they smell good!  The emptying of the freezer made me realise how many blackcurrants I have in there so I have used a kilo to try my hand at blackcurrant vinegar.  We have tasted this but have never made it before, I will let you know how I get on.  The weather here has been cool and wet for the past three weeks but that has gone now and it has warmed up considerably and everything is drying out.  I have been wanting to pick some comfrey leaves to make into a salve, I already have some plantain leaves soaking in oil to do the same with them, but they need to dry when you pick them.  I think that will be this weeks job as long as the weather holds!

I would like to say a huge thank you for the wonderfully supportive comments on the recent post I wrote about home education.  They were very comforting to read, thank you all so much.

07 August 2016

How does your garden grow?

Another month on and my garden is still doing well.  We went away for a fairly long period at the beginning of July and I was worried how the garden would fare in our absence.  We are fortunate to have a lovely neighbour who is always more than happy to water it and generally keep an eye on it whilst we are away.

I am not going to take you another tour as I did last month just show you what has changed and grown.



The view from the gate has changed.  The honeysuckle is now in flower and has the most wonderful aroma as you walk past it.  It is as unruly as it looks, it gets a severe haircut every year but still.  The Rowan/Mountain Ash tree behind it is now in berry, a beautiful orange shade which will ripen to a deep red by the autumn.


My herb bed is producing in abundance, everyday I am out here picking for meals often twice a day.  I have plans, in the next week, to start picking to dry herbs as well as to soak in oils for eating and medicinal purposes.  You can see the tallest of the sunflower plants just off centre in the photo.  It is in bed which is slightly higher than the herbs so it is not as tall as you might expect.  The flower head is appearing but is not quite there yet,  I suspect I shall miss its display as I am away for two weeks at the end of the month!


The turnips,


 carrots,


and garlic are growing well and are about ready to be harvested.


I planted out my broad bean seedlings and they have more than doubled in size this month.  They are covered in flowers so I hope we will have some beans to harvest soon.


The french beans have also grown considerably in size.  They have yet to produce any flowers, I do hope that they are not growing tall to the detriment of bearing fruit........


In the polytunnel the cucumbers are growing really well, all six plants are producing several fruits.


The courgettes on the other hand are big plants with plenty of flowers but the few fruits that do appear are not growing very well, I am going to give them a feed this week to see if that helps.


The beetroot seedlings are growing really well.  I haven't been able to get beetroot to germinate over the last couple of years.  It is one of my favourite vegetables so I am really pleased to have these plants this year, even if they will only supply us with one or two meals.


The kale seeds that I sowed at the beginning of July have germinated and started to grow.  Just need to keep those pesky slugs and snails at bay!

I have harvested three pounds of gooseberries and eight of blackcurrant this month.  We have continued to enjoy a continuous supply of salad leaves and have eaten most of the pok choi plants that I shared last month, they were delicious!  I have already sown more in the hope that they will have enough time before the light starts to go to grow into big enough plants to harvest.  This is the first year I have grown this plant after getting some in a veg box a couple of years ago.  Now I know how quickly they grow and are ready to harvest I will sow less at a time and more often to ensure a more steady supply.

What was growing in your garden in July?

01 August 2016

July in Photos

I cannot believe July is over, that was a super fast 31 days full to the brim of adventures and time outside.  I usually join Hawthorn Spellweaver for these posts, but not this month.  She kindly took the trouble to email me the prompts for July, as I was away the first two weeks of the month, but I am rubbish at checking the email address for this blog so I didn't pick up the email until the end of last week.  Sadly I hadn't taken any pictures that matched the prompts for July so I will give you a selection of my own choosing.


We started the month by travelling south for a family holiday.  We had dry warm weather, which makes camping so much easier, we picked the location for a few reasons but one is that the south of England generally has warmer weather over the summer than where I live.  In the weeks leading up to our holiday it was much drier and warmer where we live, I was worried we were in for a cold, wet week!





We enjoyed hours of cycling on fantastic off road tracks through beautiful countryside.



The area is famous for its wild ponies and cattle.  Some of the properties have commoners rights attached to them which allows the owners to graze their livestock on local land*.  They often came wandering though our campsite.


When it comes to food on holiday I have, in the past, done a lot of cooking prior to going away, reheating it when we were to eat it.  It always meant a huge amount of work in the week leading up to going away which often meant that I was exhausted by the time we actually went away.  I tried a different approach this time taking a box of basic ingredients and buying fresh ones locally.  There was a fantastic farm shop a two minute drive from the campsite which supplied most of our needs.





We don't usually take a planned 'holiday' from home education mostly because we don't differentiate between family life and learning.  July ended up being a month when we only had one week of our usual rhythm, and on one day of that week we had great fun at a friends house making huge bubbles.  It was a really easy activity to set up and provided plenty of entertainment.  The bubbles were amazing to watch as they wobbled through the air, seemingly fragile, but covering considerable distances on occasions.






Last weekend we travelled to visit friends and their local air show, I had never been to one before and had no idea what to expect.  It was incredibly busy, especially to us small village dwellers, but we managed to find a quietish spot looking out to sea with the crowds behind us.  There were so many different displays going on, WWII planes, parachute displays, a beach assault, gyrocopter and helicopter displays.  The highlight for me was definitely the Red Arrows we saw them twice and they were fantastic on both occasions.

My diary for August is looking very empty, I have plans for a few of the days but nothing else at the moment.  I know that we will slowly fill it, but I am looking forward to a very slow, gentle month.

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* all land in England is owned, the right to graze your livestock on land owned by others is a very old one in some cases it has been around since the time of William the Conqueror (nearly 1,000 years)

27 July 2016

Critiquing the Unknown

As I walked past a bench, in my local town, I caught a snippet of the conversation the ladies sat there were having.  It might have just been a conincidence that they were discussing home education, but as Cameron had just walked past I couldn't help but think that that had something to do with it.  Their words pricked me like a pin, widening the wedge that I feel is being driven into me by some.

When you chose to do something that is 'different' it is inevitable that you will come up again a difference of opinion.  When that opinion becomes a challenge or a criticism it is harder to deal with, especially when it is made by people who have no experience of home education, it is akin to reviewing a book without reading it.

I am under no illusion that home educating is an easy choice.  Every decision I have made and will continue to make has been considered carefully with each of my children's individual needs at their heart.  A few days ago most school children in England finished school for the Summer, it is the end of the school year here and for Cameron's peers at school this is a big time in their life.  After seven years of being at the same school they will move up into the school where they will remain for the rest of their school life.  Cameron will not be joining them, he will continue to be educated at home.    My decision has engendered criticism amongst a small proportion of my friends and family.  Talking about it to a friend recently she suggested that some are critical through fear, that by my actions I am myself being critical of them and their choice of education for their children.

I am not anti school.  I never have been.  My niece has just finished her A levels and her school life.  She absolutely loved school and is really sorry it has come to an end.  She is a really thoughtful, perceptive young woman about to go out into the world on her own, for whom school was absolutely the right setting for her to learn.  She was the right shaped peg.  Schools, by definition, cannot completely individualise each child's learning.  Teachers only have so much time for planning, I know how long it takes to plan for my two children so to do so for a class of 30, even allowing for some similarities and repeating in subsequent years, it would be a huge task. So you end up with a plan that will suit some, hopefully most, children but not all of them and however hard you try, round pegs won't fit into square holes properly.  I am absolutely sure my children would be the round pegs.

There are plans to make the English National Curriculum more knowledge based a move which I will admit to being completely baffled by, knowing facts is not my idea of preparing our nation's children to be the employees of the tomorrow.  I believe they need skills such as motivation, self confidence, problem solving, initiative and organisation all of which need to be learnt not taught and are much harder for them to learn quickly.

So to the ladies on the bench I would like to know why you think that it should not be permitted to home educate a child at secondary school age (11 - 18).  I would like to know why you think that the National Curriculum is the only framework for learning.  I would also like to inform you that if my children wanted to learn about nuclear physics* it is perfectly possible to do that outwith a classroom.

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*what I actually overheard was......education at primary level is all very well but at secondary it shouldn't be allowed, they wouldn't be able to do nuclear physics at the kitchen table now would they...........

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I am sorry if you were reading any other posts here in the last week and found yourself unable to leave a comment. One of the links I had added to the last post I published seemed to corrupt my blog and disabled all links, it took me a while to work out what the problem was. A huge thank you to the lovely people who emailed me to let me know, it was much appreciated!