So it’s Autumn half term. Except, of course, you don’t technically have a half term when you’re learning all the time. ‘Learning all the time’. This is how I’ve talked about homeschooling with Boy1. I think he was a little worried that he wasn’t learning anything now he’s not in school. Because we’re very much taking an unschooling approach I can understand his concern, especially since he was in school for two years. He has a strong image of what learning looks and feels like in its most structured, institutional form. And of course so do we, as parents. We’re all having to go through a process of realising that learning happens just as life does. All we are doing at the moment is having fun, taking things easy, and providing as many opportunities that might spark an interest or enrich the everyday. Apart from the first two weeks of the school year when I felt perhaps a little over enthusiastic, we’ve not sat down at the table to purposefully learn anything. And even when I did sort of try (it was handwriting, it was his weakest skill in school, he really doesn’t enjoy it) I could feel his little heels digging in with resistance. So instead we are now wholeheartedly embracing this period of deschooling instead. Ridding ourselves of the notion that learning can only take place in a structured chair and desk type way. It’s liberating, actually. And this is now less to do with Boy1 and far more to with us as a family. It is not without its downsides. The Man has been working from home. A lot. We don’t have an office space for him yet. This is not easy in a small house. But even this situation has its silver lining. If he gets his work done he is then far more available to the boys that he’s ever been before and even though its me as full time carer who is holding the reins for the majority of the time, just a short time with Daddy is fruitful. He knows so much more than me about the cosmos, nature, engine parts, Lego…you know?
A natural rhythm to our weeks has taken shape, with regular home ed group meet ups, and horseriding, and youth theatre. I think Boy1 has struggled with the change in our routine. Despite preferring to be at home instead of school, he did cope with some of his sensitivities a little better by having a rigid school day routine. But I think we’re coming through this phase slowly. He has found it hard adjusting to being with Boy2 all the time quite tough. There is a 4yr age gap and despite being the best of buddies for the vast majority of time, there has been a fair bit of brotherly waring too. Surprisingly, it has often been instigated by the bigger, placid one; this is a definite shift in the usual status quo. The minute Boy1 has dedicated time with me though, he is quite literally angelic. To be fair on my littlest man, he has had to undergo a massive change in his routine, too. He was used to hours on end with just me and yet now he has to share me with his brother. He has, from what I can tell, taken to this with no noticeable change in behaviour. He was a (loveable) beast before and still is!
I lieu of a first term parent consultation evening, I’m going to take the opportunity here to jot down some of the extra things we’ve been doing that we might not have if we weren’t homeschooling. It will serve as a useful reminder that we are exposing ourselves to learning and socialising opportunities all the time…
We’ve joined the home ed group on the beach several times, and played by the waters edge with friends. We’ve picked apples and caught lizards in the community orchard. We’ve waded in puddles, streams, rivers and the sea. We’ve made a Shaun the Sheep from plasticine with the help of a real life model maker from Aardman Animations. We’ve used the iPad to make stop motion animation shorts using lego, to practice our cursive writing, to read animated comics and to learn maths in a fun way. We’ve gone to the library and discovered how much fun the local mobile library is. We’ve learnt how sad it is to lose a pet and how exciting it can be to get a new one and learn how to look after it (she’s a Caramel Corn-snake, by the way). We’ve discovered that, without any pressure, we’re much better at drawing and writing than we realised. We’ve discovered a new passion in horse riding; fortnightly lessons are simply not enough. We’ve gone to work with Daddy, overnight, and really enjoyed the one-to-one boy time. We’ve attended the Primary Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and were blown away not only by the building, but the percussion performance of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme tune. And today, while I sit and type this in the comfort of a cafe, Boy1 is having some independent time on a Glacier Explorer’s workshop as part of the Kent Children’s university. This list is by no means exhaustive but it serves as a reminder that learning can and should be, fun.
And what about me? On the whole I think the new pace of life suits me far, far better than the frantic scrabble to get out and on with the school run. I’m learning to let go a little (baby steps on this front). My anxiety has mostly been much better, excepting the last week. I think this has far, far more to do with the changing season than I’ve ever given myself credit for in the past. And let’s not forget we’re heading into lurgy season, my own personal emetaphobic nightmare. But that’s my cross to bear and I will do my level best to try and not let it effect my mood for the sake of those around me, especially as they’re so much more under my wing than before. The darker evenings don’t suit me one little bit but at least the sun is shining today, after yesterday’s storm.