Sunday, 8 September 2019

The world is our classroom

All things nature is the theme for this post. With mental health problems on the rise, going back to nature answers lots of questions.

Being outdoors, enjoy the fresh air and playing with, whatever you can find, creates the mental space, creative thinking and freedom to breath. Technology has its place, but there is nothing quite like putting on your trainers, climbing a tree, exploring woods and collecting insects in old tubs.

When I was a child I remember my friends knocking on my door for me, and being told by my mum to be home for tea. I'm not sure how I knew when to return, as I never wore a watch, but somehow I always made it back in time. My Husband often recalls going out on his bike with friends and exploring the Quantocks, travelling miles without worrying about anything. Times have changed!! Are there more dangers around for our children or has our awareness of bad things become greater?? I'm not sure, but either way children still need that freedom to grow.

I have never read a report that says fresh air and nature is bad for our health, on the contrary in fact, It has been found to improve our health and reduces stress. The benefits for children is allowing them the space to learn, explore, ask questions about the world, learn about the environment and understand why we need to look after it, as well as the physical benefits of getting out and exercising.
*It builds children's confidence to explore and test their limits, How high can I climb? Can I jump that stream?
 *It promotes creativity and imagination by allowing them to think more freely.
* It teaches them responsibilities by looking after the places and animals around us.

It is something we like to promote and get out and about as much as possible. The kids could be having a bad day but as soon as we get out the house, their bad moods get blown away with the wind.

One of the biggest things that I have noticed since home educating Violet, is how young she has become in her playing. She is no longer spending lots of time on the phone trying to act 'grown up' with her friends. She is playing hide and seek, enjoying being outdoors and walking more. We are enjoying spending that time with her and we have certainly learnt a lot about her. During the summer months we move her chair and table outside and work in the sunshine, We spend more of our day outside in the fresh air than inside. The beauty of home educating is that, if the weather is nice, we can do our written work in the evenings or early morning and spend the day times out enjoying the weather.

Violet is an explorer, and she often wonders off to see what is just off the path laid out. She wants to climb trees, jump across streams and find new things. We often look around and wonder where she has gone, we call her name and a little voice appears from behind a tree.

The weather plays no part in our plans, we just dress to the weather and play in the rain.
The greatest thing about it all is that it is FREE. We always pack a picnic and don't spend a penny.

This year we have made a conscious effort to spend more time in our garden and encouraging wildlife to us. We have built a bug house, which is now full of lots of creepy crawlies. We have put out food to encourage birds into our garden and created a vegetable patch. The kids have enjoyed growing food from seed and watching for the results. We are now planning more days out to visit local woods, parks and getting to know the area we live in. We make it our daily mission to spend time outside, even if its just a walk in the rain around the block. They say 'the best things in life are free' and we intend to make the most of the world around us.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Do we lose our creativity as we get older???

Since home educating my daughter, I have realised how much she likes art. Every week we need to include making, painting or drawing something. Unfortunately, sometimes, she can be quite critical of her work. I think it looks really good, but she can pick out the smallest problem and want to throw it away. 
This got me thinking about how small children can paint without a care in the world, and the older we get, the less we paint, the more critical we get, and the less confident we are at doing anything creative. Violet is slowly getting better at just going with the flow and making her 'mistakes' into part of the art. 

But why does she need it to be perfect? Let's be honest, 'what's makes perfect art'? and Does perfect even exist?

The first work of art

Small children love getting the paints, playdough, crayons etc out and making a mess through playing. They don't need to be creating anything, they just enjoy the feel of the paints, the sounds of the brush and experimenting with different colours.
They love getting dressed up and using their imagination to become pirates or princesses. They use the creativity of their imagination to fill in the gaps of learning that they haven't yet had.

As Adults do we help creativity?

I know I am guilty of trying to control the mess, and input into what they are trying to do. I clean up as they go along and suggest ways to do things. I ask questions like, what have you made? And the reality was they weren't specifically making anything, they were just going with the flow. But they will feel they need to answer the question anyway, so they will just say something to put a label on it.
I will pull a funny face when they mix all the colours together and everything is brown. But they don't care, they are learning about what happens when they mix them and how much fun it was.

Teachers in schools are amazing and have a great skills to feed hungry minds but they are ruled by a system which is preparing children for test taking, structure and fitting into one box. The educational systems have put an importance on knowledge over imagination. And as the years go on we have a lot less free creative time and more structure.

Is creativity something that we lose as we get older?

We don't lose it, it just gets buried deep in our busy lives.
Life gets more structured, we gain more responsibilities and we listen to the opinions of  people around us. 

How many times have you seen a piece of art work and said ' I could never create something like that'.  Why do we doubt our abilities? What does it matter if we don't create the same? Have a go and every piece made will be unique and personal to you. 
Lessons we have learnt in life have made us believe we have to do everything right and there is no 'right' to art. We can make a mess, have fun, and it doesn't actually have to have an end result. We almost need to go back to being toddlers and free our mind of responsibilities and allow our creativity to flow. 
Research has shown us that children have 98% creativity but adults average out at 2%.

Just go for 

We are doing lots of art with her since she left school as she really enjoys it. With the help of a lovely friend, she is learning to just enjoy art, try new techniques and not to worry if it doesn't quite look like she thought it would. We are tapping into that natural creativity that she was beginning to lose. If she makes a mistake we just say its 'an opportunity to add a personal touch'.

In this world, now, to succeed you have to think outside the box, and being creative, and coming up with new ideas is an important part of being an adult.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

How does your child socialise???

Socialising and home educating

I wanted to write about home educating and socialising, as I often get questions about how Violet socialises, and even concerns about her being quite lonely. Well, the reality is quite the opposite, so hopefully writing about it will reassure anyone considering home education that you are not on your own.

Home education like being self employed

I think of home education as being a bit like being self employed. You aren't part of a big organisation with lots of other people, you choose your own working hours, you work the way thats best for you, you choose what you want to do, you have to be self motivated and you know the harder you work then the more you achieve.  Home educated children are similar in that we don't go to a big school, we choose how, when and what we learn, and we know the harder we work the more we learn and achieve. I have never heard anyone worry about being self employed and not socialising. They all find people to talk to, work with and still have a social life away from work.

How do we socialise???

We attend activities that other home educated children attend. Home educating is growing rapidly and the amount of social activities, groups and advice on offer is massive. You can be as big, or a small a part of this as you like. The bonus for us is we can go to places during term time whilst it is quiet, we can socialise as long as we want to without a bell going off to interrupt our conversations, and we can so
cialise in the real world.
Violets attends a teenage art group, she spends time with a friend painting (which she loves), she enjoys doing science experiments with her siblings and friends, trips to the library, swimming, museum visits, national parks, sporting activities, the list is endless. Home Educating isn't about sitting at a table for 6 hours a day and not seeing anyone else.

We socialise with everyone.

We get to socialise with many different age groups, Violet spends time with adults who teach and do activities with her, she spends time with children her own age and she spends time with smaller and older children. Some weeks there are so many activities going on it doesn't feel like I see her very much. She has mixtures of friends, some are older than her, some are younger, some that are home educated and some that go to school.  Social situations happen everyday, and although Violet might sometimes lack confidence in talking to new people, she watches me talk to people and learns from me. Confidence comes with time, and she is learning and growing everyday.

Lots of time for socialising.

People think that you need to sit down and learn for 6 hours a day when home educating to keep up with the schools.

There was a calculation done on hours spent learning at school by a teacher. On an average 6 hour school day, you can deduct time for lunch time, play time, switching from one lesson to another, time taken getting ready for p.e and getting dressed again, assembles, packing away etc, we are left with 3 hours of curriculum learning done in a school day. Now over a school year deduct school holidays, inset days, a few sicks days, school trips, end term activities, the odd snow day/school closure etc, we are left with a

1 hour a day of actually learning the curriculum. As we are home educating we learn all year round. We take time for breaks and holidays but we can use everything as an opportunity for new learning. On average we try to spend around 2 hours a day on either online lessons or using workbooks, learning math's, science and english which then leaves lots of time for us to learn about whatever she is interested in.
We have lots of time to socialise and meet new people.

She won't get to deal with conflict

I think, thank goodness, that if someone is bullying her she shouldn't have to face them everyday. Let's be honest, if we worked at a place where people were nasty to us we would probably look for a new job. Why should a child have to deal with other children being nasty to them and just accept thats part of life, she is just a child after all.
But the reality is, she will still meet others that she doesn't quite gel with, but the bonus for her is she doesn't have to face them everyday. She will come home from a home ed meeting saying someone wasn't very nice but she will just ignore them and keep away knowing that everyone is different and we can't get on with everyone all of the time. That's life.

What i learnt from socialising at school.

I don't think its important to gain the socialisation skills from a school environment where you are sat for 6 hours a day with people exactly the same age.  You can gain social skills anywhere. I had a positive school experience but here are some of the lessons i learnt from socialising at school:

* Not to ask questions in class, in case I got it wrong and was laughed at.
* Not to sit next to the 'uncool' people.
* People liked you if you looked the right way
* Being bad a sports meant you wouldn't get picked for a team and felt rejected.
* If I didn't understand something you would get low marks and be classed as stupid.
* Being different or unique was not cool.
* I learnt that defending someone or telling on someone would make me the target of bullying.
* To be cool i had to copy others even if I knew what they were doing was wrong.

 I am not anti school and my son, who attends a school, has an amazing school class but unfortunately this was not the case for Violet. I want her to learn to treat people with respect and appreciate everyone's opinion, even if it doesn't quite match hers and to not judge a book by its cover. We wanted her to grow into her own person and find things that she enjoys.

Monday, 25 March 2019

National Science Week

Hands on fun

We have just enjoyed Science week, which, to be honest, is not much different to any other week for us.
We tend to do a lot of hands on work, as this really helps develop Violets learning and understanding.

Violet started her week with a trip to our local library to find some books on science experiments. I gave her the choice of which experiments she wanted to do, just for fun instead of for whatever topic we were currently studying. With each experiment we learnt why things happened and how.
Science experiments are a bit like magic tricks, you watch with fascination and your inquisitive to find out how it was done.

Here are the experiments we done

This was a purchase from the works, and it was a very messy experiment. Violet has a fascination with natural disasters and is always keen to learn more. She learnt how quick avalanches can happen and why it can be a real threat to life and property. The snow kept building and, although it was a small model, it made her realise the impact this natural disaster can have.

Crystal growing
This was another purchase from the works, and is something we have had to keep checking over a week. It is a simple kit to use and made two trays of crystals of which both had different results, proving that the shape and size can alter depending on the way the atoms, molecules and ions join together.

Mentos and coke experiment
This is a great experiment that all kids love. You put a tube of mentos in a bottle of coke and watch it erupt out of the bottle at a huge force.  Violet decided to try it with a bottle of lemonade and a bottle of coke to see if the reaction was different. The best reaction came from the bottle of coke, it reached 36 inches in the air. As a parent, it made me think about what fizzy drinks can do to your insides.

Beat your grown ups in Strength
After watching 'Brain child' on Netflix Violet learnt how to break someone's clenched fists apart with very little effort. She understood how it work and challenged everyone to it.
You have to asked someone, preferable bigger and stronger than you, to clench their fists and put one on top of the other in front of themselves. Their strength and force will be on them holding their fists together. You then tell them you will break the fists apart. This will make them try hander at pushing the fists together, because, lets face it, no one wants to lose to a child. You then hit their hands from the side (not very hard) and it breaks them apart. This is because you are putting a force in a different direction to where they are. The harder they press their fists together the easier it is for a force in the opposite direction to break them apart. Give it a go!!

Marbles down a track
Violet conducted an experiment to see what would make marbles travel furthest down a slooping track. She tilted the track at different angles and changed the material it rolled down onto, such as wooden floor, carpets, etc. the conclusion Violet came to was that the higher the track was tilted and the smoother the surface, the further the marbles travelled. This worked well with the lessons we had learnt at the start of the year about forces, reinforcing her previous learnings.

Mechanical hand
Violet picked up a book about star wars experiments and one of the experiments was to make a mechanical hand. Violet wanted to do all of the experiments in the book but this one seemed doable and we had all the materials in our cupboard. She spent a long time cutting, sticking, taping and threading and created a hand that worked like a puppet. We learnt a lot from this and made a few mistake a long the way and had to make some changes to make it work for us. But this is all part of the learning, staying calm when it doesn't quite go right and working out a solution to be problem. The mechanical hand made her think about how she moves her own fingers, and that a lot more muscles are involved than she realized.

We have soo many more experiments that we want to do and we will continue to do them throughout the year, as they are lots of fun for both of us. The beauty of home education is that we are able to do the experiments when we like and enjoy playing for as long as we need/want to. We don't have a bell that will tell us we have to stop.


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Learning through Play

You are never too old to play

When we talk about learning through play we often think of a small child playing in sand and mud. But learning through play is for all ages. Somewhere in late primary school and certainly by secondary school we spend more time in front a teacher or computer than learning with hands on play. This is a real shame as the best learning is done through conducting experiments and gaining a real understanding of the way things happen and why. There is research to show that this, in fact, is the best way to learn.
There is only so much that be can learnt through reading books. The confidence and true understanding comes when actually doing something hands on. I'm sure we all remember Driving a car for the first time, a new job or even starting a new hobby. We start with being really conscious of everything we do but aftertime we become more confident and fluent at doing it. This can only come through the practical hands on experience of doing something.

In our home educating, we try to do practical learning and playing, as much as the sit down studying. We use some fantastic online programs and love the information that comes from reading books, but we always try to back up the things we have learnt with playing and having fun.

In Physics we have been studying 'Forces'. We have been looking into Newtons laws of motion and how force is part of everything around us. Everywhere we go I try to get Violet to think about why things move, or what force makes things stop. The park provides us with lots of learning experiences on this subject. We talk about how the swings move, how different size people might effect the motion and what makes it stops. All this can be applied when using the roundabout as well. Plus we all have fun playing at the same time and get some much needed fresh air.
Violet also went to Kilve court on a home ed field trip, this week, to build rockets and launch them across fields. She enjoyed building the rocket with fellow children and seeing what factors make a rocket go the furthest.

Also in science we have been looking at cells and how they are in all living things. We have been using the online resources, work books but we have also being playing a board game about cells. It is a question and answer type game. You move along the game answering questions about cells and the player to reach the end first wins. Violet has challenged everyone to a game and knows all the answers. Without realising it she has learnt the difference between plant and animal cells and what all the parts of a cell are called and what is their purpose. 
In literature we have been focusing our topic on 'spring'. We are following a 5 week programme which starts with looking into, and understanding, Wordworths poem 'I wondered lonely as a cloud'. This is a beautiful poem and Violet has got to grips with the language used and has been able to write a modern day version of it. Sticking to this theme she has gone for a walk with a friend to find spring flowers and then spent sometime learning to paint flowers. The results of this is a beautiful canvas for the wall and a nice, relaxed Violet.

We have also being using the talents of my sister, who is passionate about horses. She has been taking Violet for horse riding lessons and teaching her about horse management. She is gaining great confidence in riding and caring for the horses and loves spending the day with her Aunt once a week.
Violet and Mark have spent an afternoon making a spinning art machine. This is, again, reinforcing her learning about force but is also teaching her about patience, team work and reading instructions carefully. They both enjoyed this time together building and Dawson really enjoyed painting with the end result.

One of the benefits of Home educating is the ability to do more hands on/ outdoor learning. This helps us connect the classroom knowledge with the outside world and creates a greater understanding and confidence of our topics. It gives Violet the opportunity to navigate the world and to identify her limitations and capabilities.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Every days a school day

February half term 

The title 'half term' might seem a bit confusing as, I reckon, most home educated children don't really have a term time. But due to my little lad going to school we have weeks in the year when he is off that make our days a little different. Because he is home we like to go on more trips, explore more places and enjoy having him home with us. He says that he is at 'Violets school' when he has a school holiday and likes to sit down and do some math's and English with us. We continued with Violets online work but just reduced the amount spent on it as her time spent playing with Dawson and trips to the park are just as important as the sit down learning.

This week we went to some beautiful places and because we are lucky enough to live in Somerset there are lots of places to explore without spending a fortune.
We went to our local museum in Weston super mare. They were having a history week and everyday was a different time in history. When we visited on Tuesday, it was Roman day. The kids got to see artifacts and dress up like a roman. The museum itself is lovely and we plan to go back to see all the things we missed on this visit. This place is free to visit but do accept kind donations to help keep the place running.

We took the kids tobogganing at our local ski centre in Churchill. Both kids were a bit dubious about the activity. Violet didn't really know what it was and Dawson, after looking at the pictures online, just kept saying 'scary' to me. But OMG the kids both loved it, the faster the better. We had just as much fun watching them as they had flying down the slope. Its an activity we will definitely recommend to anyone and will be doing again.

On Thursday Violet and her Dad (Mark) went to Hinkley point for a tour of the power station. This is a nuclear power station and they offer free tours and information sessions to explain nuclear power. Violet (and Mark) learnt the chemistry about nuclear fission and enjoyed seeing around this massive building. Both of them came back buzzing and would like to join the next tour to have a look around another part of the site.

The weather, here, was like a summers day by the weekend and we all wanted to get out to explore and enjoy the unusually warm February weather. So we packed our wellies ( a must when exploring with kids so they can jump in streams and puddles), food, water and ventured to Clevedon. We went to the Ty Sculpture trail for the first time. This place was recommended to us by another local Home ed mum. It is a beautiful trail put together in the woods by a father who unfortunately lost his son at the age of 21. His son, Ty, used to spend his childhood exploring these woods which his house backs onto and this trail is in memory. In the forest is a 'bubbling' pond, this pond produces bubbles for an unknown reason which the kids found very interesting. The trail is free to visit.

We also went on our annual trip to snowdrop valley to see the thousands of snowdrops that grow there each year. It is a muddy walk but the kids loved the exploring and playing in the stream. We had friends and family join us so we had a total of 9 children out on the trip and they were all fantastic.
All in all we have had so much fun, lots of fresh air, lots of learning, exploring, making fantastic memories and none of it has broken the bank.

We always say that we 'home educate' and not 'home school' for the reason that what we do is nothing like a school. We are not replicating a school, we are not 9am-3pm Monday to Friday. We are educating in a way that suits our child, every hour, every day and  every week of the year.



Saturday, 23 February 2019

The start of our story

My name is Chelle and I am mum to 4 beautiful children. Courtney (16), Violet (11), Dawson (7) and Baby Darcy. I decided to start this blog about my decision and Journey in Home educating Violet.

I am not anti school and think we are really lucky to have our education system but every child is different and that system doesn't suit them all.
Courtney had a wonderful school experience  and is now doing an engineering apprenticeship and I couldn't be more proud of the young lady that she has become.
Dawson has special needs and we are lucky to have a school near us that offers him amazing support. His year group of children (and parents) are so lovely, he has some great friends and he enjoys school.
Violet on the other hand has had a very disruptive year group all through primary school and we hoped the mix in secondary school would help dilute this however when she started her secondary school her attitude towards us and learning was getting really bad.

As a parent i am no different to anyone else, we all want the best for our children. Violet approached us about home educating her and sent us links to lots of sites. After we looked into it we decided to give it go in the hope this would be a good option for her and she would, again, enjoy learning.
We had our own fears about our ability to do it and to do her justice as she is a bright kid. But we could see she was unhappy and the fear of her spending the next 5 years unhappy was far greater.

In October 18 we took the leap and deregistered her from school. Yes, it really was as easy as that. A letter saying we would be home educating her and she never returned to school the next day.

We next had to 'unschool' ourselves. Violet was so used to having 6 lessons a day that she was trying to copy that at home. We could not sustain that. She would start one subject and just as we really got into it she would assume we had to finish to do our next lesson. So now when we start a piece of work we can keep learning and gaining greater understanding and interest without stopping. We decided to cover the basic subjects maths, science and English every week and we would then choose other areas of learning to spend time on. Violet has a very creative side and a love of maths but really struggles with English. So we work at her levels of understanding and build from there. We use a variety of resources and get out of the house to learn as much as we can.

We are not teachers, we don't have all the answers and to be honest we are learning with her. But we are having fun doing it and getting to know Violet in ways we never had a chance to before.

I look forward to sharing our journey with you.