30th Sept, 2018 -The Rainbows Promise

Science / Nature: While we were passing through King’s Cross station this week, we saw the Harris Hawk, who works there to scare the pigeons away. We spoke to her handler and asked questions about her diet and temperament. She was later outside and was flying onto the low buildings. W asked why she wasn’t in a cage and why she followed her owner so well, so we talked about imprinting too. W was so pleased to have met her!

On Saturday, we took W’s stepsister, D (7) to a dance class at a school, where W explored the ‘nature’ part of the school playground, in which there were woods! She loved the fact that there was a school with woods….. but when we saw a shed called the ‘behaviour shed’ which children are put in for time out, W didn’t seem to like the school any more…. and neither did I….

On the way home, we saw lots of dogs being walked and we said hello to every single one (after asking permission from their owners first, of course). We learned about breeds and also about muzzles and why we shouldn’t stroke a nervous dog.

We saw a sunflower with a bee on it and this led to a conversation about how bees communicate with each other to find the best pollen.

The next day, we talked about how trees and humans help each other by converting oxygen and carbon dioxide.

On Monday, W helped to cook risotto. She doesn’t usually ask to cook dinner, so this was a great ‘home economics’ learning opportunity for her.

Tuesday was Rainbows day and it was W’s special ‘promise’ day, in which she had to recite her promise and become a fully-fledged Rainbows member with a badge and a certificate. We decided to bake cakes for all the children and leaders, so we spent some of the day doing that. W managed to almost do the whole bake by herself.

Then came her promise. She remembered it all and recited it well in front of everyone and the leader cried as she pinned her badge on her and welcomed her properly. W absolutely loves her Rainbows group and although we are not religious (Girlguiding has a religious Christian aspect), W gains so much from participating in the group and seeing her friends there.

On Wednesday, we were going to do some learning from W’s encyclopedias, but when we got up, we saw that Watson the cat wasn’t well (she had been off-colour for a couple of days, but definitely wasn’t herself today). I had to make some calls to see if we could get an appointment at the vets for her. We eventually got an appointment at the animal hospital and when we arrived, we saw that it was very, very busy, which was great as we got to see what animals had what problems and what medication they needed (it wasn’t very private at all). W chatted to the other customers a lot and then got to watch the vet examine Watson and diagnose a large abscess. The vet then took Watson into a different room to operate and brought her back to us, dazed and rather sore.

We had instructions from the vet to clean the wound twice a day with boiled salty water and to give Watson a tablet once a day, which W was happy to do. She asked the vet herself whether she needed to keep the other cats away from Watson – something that I hadn’t thought of myself.

We read a few of W’s encyclopedias from the library about cats and big bats.

Geography: On the train home, W asked about zones in London and we talked about zones 1-6 and where we live. She thought that we live in the furthest place from the centre and was surprised that there is even more of London past our house.

Politics: At dinner, we talked about the Royal family again and how their ‘wages’ are our taxes. She was interested in what our money pays for, such as bin collections and schools and learned that everything costs money.

Literacy / English: Our board game for a couple of days this week was Articulate, which W is great at. She guessed really well and described things really well also. It is unsurprising as she is such a chatterbox….

There was the book fair at the school when we went to collect W’s stepsiblings, so the children all got new books. D sat and read to W, which she loved.

Later, when we were all playing charades, W said that she wanted to write down everyone’s initial and make a tally of how many goes each person had had. She did this entirely by herself and it was really good.

Art: W again did lots of colouring this week.

Play: W played lots of imaginative games with her stepsister, D (7 years old) and their My Little Ponies.

On Sunday, I had a cold and we were meant to go to a museum, but I didn’t feel up to it. Instead, W and D had an amazing day together, just playing with their toys. They also went outside doing tricks on scooters and bikes, which was actually quite good. W has been quietly practicing riding her big bike (donated by a friend) and is getting quite good at it now (with stabilisers)

Also this week, W helped me with my work, packing parcels and sticking stamps on the letters, which was great as she doesn’t usually want to (and doesn’t have to). I made a big box for a parcel and W climbed in, so I let her play with it for a while and she turned it into a car, a lorry, a cat bed, a regular bed etc. She had fun in it.

Numeracy / Maths: When we played Monopoly Junior, W was again great with her mental maths.

At breakfast, W decided to randomly tell me the answer to some sums, such as ‘Mama, did you know that 3+2+1 is 6?’ And then she would show me how she worked it out. It was great to see her do that entirely by herself.

Later, we went into town to buy a toy with W’s earnings from her work earlier this week. She was really brilliant at knowing what she could and couldn’t buy. She had £12 and was saying “I can’t buy that because 25 is bigger than 12”. She settled on a toy from TK Maxx, which she was overjoyed with and played with over and over again.

At dinner, W was talking about numbers (I can’t remember why) and did some addition and subtraction on her fingers, completely of her own choosing.

Thursday brought more addition and subtraction during play. W wanted to tell me how many of a certain thing that she had and what the difference was between that and another group of toys.

Socialisation: Monday was our social group day and we were lucky enough to have D there with us. They played a lot with the other children and generally had fun outside and inside with W’s friends.

….So that rounds of another week of home education with us. Next week, we are playing a game of W’s choosing, which is apparently called ‘Unicorn Vets’…..

Milestones

When W reached CSA (Compulsory School Age), I found myself thinking that we had hit a major milestone – that now it is official and W really isn’t going to school. We are ‘officially’ home educating now, although you could say that we have been home educating for years, since nothing has changed in terms of her child-led learning. We have been doing it all along.

Of course, we have had other milestones along the way. I remember when W was 3 and I received letters telling me that she could have a place at nursery, which I ignored at the time. This felt like a minor milestone. Then the deadline for applying for a school place (in reception year) neared and I had fleeting worry that I should apply, just in case. However, I didn’t. I strongly believed that home education was right for W at the time, and when the deadline did actually pass, I felt a sense of relief that the decision had been made and that now we could just get on with it.

But then her peers started school in the September when she was 4. I saw all of the Facebook posts, chatted to my friends about their excitement at their baby starting school, how cute they look in their new uniforms and how their friends from nursery will be in the same class as them etc etc. I couldn’t help feeling that W was missing out and that that was all because of me. What if she actually would have liked school? What if she needed more than I could offer her?

At this point, W was still nervous of loud noise. She didn’t like big groups of people and was a sensitive soul. Should I have pushed her to overcome her fears or would that make her withdrawn? Should I go with my gut and keep her out of the institution that is school, until she is actually ready and more able to cope with the challenges of the classroom? Is any child really ready at only 4 years old?

All these questions would pop into my head at night and I found that I was asking myself over and over if I was doing the right thing. If so many people were doing the same thing as each other and sending their 4-year-olds to school before they were even CSA, surely they were right and I was missing something?

However, I had read the studies and reports on the fact that the UK starts formal schooling when children are too young. The evidence is clear (More information can be found in this New Scientist report and this report by the Foundation for Economic Education, both taking evidence from, and linked to, various respected studies on the subject) that early school enrollment is having a negative effect on our children’s health, wellbeing and also educational attainment.

So what could I do to feel better about my decision? How could I find my ‘tribe’ who would support me and my daughter through our brave and unusual choices

I joined all the home education email, Facebook and real-life groups that I could find and talked to as many people as I could about home education. I asked them about their journeys. Some home educated from the start, some took their children out of school when they found that they could not cope with the school environment. Some were radical unschoolers, some were structured home-schoolers, and some were somewhere in-between, but all had an absolute belief that what they were doing was right for their children. That they were their child’s advocate when others wouldn’t listen. When parents of schooled children questioned my new-found friends on home education, they responded that they were certain this was right for them. Not for everyone – but for them.

I started to feel more assured of my decision. I felt that maybe I could educate W myself and maybe it would turn out ok, as my new friends were telling me.

Later that September, when W and her peers were still 4 years old, my friends with school children started to tell me of the difficulties their children had settling in to their schools. They told me of the tears at drop-off time and the stress and tantrums when they came home, exhausted from the day. Of course this wasn’t the case for all of them – a few of my friend’s children settled-in straight away and loved school from the beginning. However, the majority didn’t and that is when I knew absolutely that I had done the right thing for W.

I am not anti-school – far from it, in fact. But I do dislike the all-or-nothing approach that our government and Local Education Authorities have towards school. Children either attend school for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, or they are home educated. There is no in-between (flexi-schooling is vanishingly rare and in almost all cases a temporary measure leading to full-time schooling).

If only we could make our own decisions about our own children’s education in the way that we want to.

If only our government actually informed every parent that their child does not legally have to go to school (or be home educated) until the term after they turn 5 years old, instead of sending letters to parents giving them the false information that they need to enroll their child in school for their reception year. What would be the effect on the nation’s young children if all parents were told when their child is legally supposed to start education, I wonder?

Anyway, one year after W would have started her reception year, W has reached CSA, I have never felt more certain that I am doing the right thing for her. We have had so much fun so far, and I have loved to see W’s development in a way that I just wouldn’t be able to see if she were in school. I look at her and I see how happy she is, and I know I have done the right thing for her as an individual.

23rd Sep, 2018 – socialising

Last week, I was worried that we had not done enough socialising and that we had spent too much time at home…. However, this week more than made up for last weeks lack of playdates with friends, so I’ll start this diary entry with:

Socialisation: On Monday, a friend came to play with W and they had a lovely time with the dolls house etc.

We later went to our favourite social group, which was busy again. We met yet another family with two Mums, which brings the total to 4 families at this group. It is lovely for W to be able to see so many children with families like hers.

On Wednesday, a neighbour, T (6 years old), came over for a playdate (who W met when searching for our cat’s collar). The children all had fun playing with her.

On Thursday, it was time for another play date: this time with B (6) and T (2) who we know from our Monday group. W was keen to show T how to be careful and gentle with the kittens.

At Rainbows, W played really well with the other children and also included the new children in the games.

And to round off a week of socialisation, on Friday at the park, W played with her friend, J (4 years old). They enjoyed climbing the big climbing frame and generally running around.

Literacy / English: As usual, on our train journeys, W practiced reading signs at the stations.

W is loving having her things accessible at the desk now (more about this here), and is sitting down to do colouring-in sheets at least once a day, deciding for herself when to just sit down and work on it.

Science / Nature: On Tuesday, we watched W’s favourite vet show on TV, which she loved. She particularly liked the bit about hoof care in horses and how quickly newborn horses can walk.

We saw a fox outside Rainbows and discussed why it was out in the evening and what it was going to eat.

W spent time in the garden, collecting acorns for squirrels and talking about oak trees. W made a mini garden in a planter, with shells, planted acorns and a section for an acorn display

Numeracy / Maths: At Rainbows, W did some dot-to-dot puzzles and then got to colour them in, which she really enjoyed. She did really well and recognised her numbers up to 48 with only a little help.

Next week, she is doing her ‘promise’, which she is really excited about as she becomes a proper Rainbows member then.

Earlier in the day, W had asked to do some paid work with me, so she set about categorising some items for my shop.

Play: W built one of her Playmobile sets. She was determined to do it herself and was proud that she had managed it without adult help.

This rounds off a busy week of socialising, to contrast with last week’s home learning. I am learning now that we can’t do everything in every week, but that all subjects and learning opportunities balance out over the months (and years).