5th Aug 2018 – a playful week

This week, the focus was mainly on play. W has spent a lot of time playing with her toys. Some nights, she even struggled to get to sleep because she had so many ideas floating round in her mind of what to do with her toys the next day. Having read the research on the importance of play (an example here), I knew I needed to let it happen as much as possible as W clearly had a strong need for it this week.

So here is the breakdown of our week of mainly play-based learning:

Socialisation / Play:

W played with B (6), who came over for a visit.

Later, E (9) and F (6)  arrived for a sleepover. They all played hide-and-seek together and later played with Lego.

The next day, W, her sibling D and her friend F played ‘library’, which involved setting up a library in the living room. They used all of their books, which were brought down from upstairs in many stages! Tidying time was fun on that day……

W has played ‘small world’ at different times this week, with various toys – first with her Shopkins in the doll’s house, then with her Playmobil farm and later with Lego.

On Sunday, my parents came for a visit and the children loved reading with them, playing with a frisbee in the park, going to the library for more books and then making cookies and pizzas at home.

At our Monday social group, W played with B (7) for most of the time. They put on a show on the stage, before which, W wrote some tickets and gave them out to everyone.

W played with her minifigures and Lego animals for a long time, in which she got the horses ready for riding, the minifigures rode them and then brought them back to a stable to care for them.

As usual, we played board games in the evenings. This week, W requested the “Guess How Much I Love You” board game when it was her turn to choose (the children take it in turns to choose a board game each evening). It is a very simple game, but lots of fun and the children love it.

We went to our local pool, which the children really enjoyed. We spent some time jumping over the waves in the shallow area and generally messing about – exhausting but fun!

Science / Nature:

W learned about bones this week, as our accident-prone kitten Flash had broken his leg! We have no idea how he had managed to do it – he is still an indoor cat until he is ready to venture outside. We got up one morning to discover he couldn’t walk on one of his legs, the poor thing. We took him straight to the vet’s, where W learned about the care of a broken bone, how it heals and why it is important for Flash to rest. She also learned about pain medicine and anaesthesia too.

We have a grapevine in the garden and W looked at it one day and asked how grapes are harvested. We ended up watching a Youtube video of the big machines that do the harvesting. She watched the video twice and asked questions about how the machine was cleaned and where the grapes are taken after harvest.

W rediscovered her dinosaur encyclopedia and asked me to read it to her. We read the whole thing entirely. In it, she learned about the history of life on Earth and we went through the timeline of what creatures were alive at what times in history. We also covered prehistoric sea creatures, dinosaurs, reptiles and early humans.

W particularly liked the parts about evolution and also the birth of the Earth and how it came to exist. At the end, she was fascinated by how the dinosaurs and parts of the environment turned into coal and oil.

Later, W wanted to watch a vet program on the TV, so we did. We had previously been talking about operations and how a person feels no pain at all when operated on, and how the body then heals itself. This tied in well with the program as they showed a small clip of an operation on a dog who had swallowed some stones. I asked W if she definitely wanted to watch the clip and she did. She was totally fascinated and enjoyed it.

We saw a little bit of the next program on the TV and that one was about elephants. She learned a little about droughts, conservation and safaris.

W helped to bake cheese scones and a chocolate cake with her siblings and my partner, which I count as science, but was mainly fun, I think!

In the bath, W wanted to play with her Lego minifigures again and she noticed how some minifigures stand on the bottom of the bath because their hair is less dense than the rest of the figure. W really enjoyed experimenting with them, and it followed on well from Last week, when W was doing the same thing with her Playmobil toys in their little swimming pool.

We went to the pet shop to buy our cat Watson a brush. While we were there, W wanted to look at all the animals and she mentioned how you care for each one and what they need to keep them happy.

When we got home, the first thing W wanted to do was to brush the cats and I showed her how to get the cats used to the brush gently, instead of holding them still. W did very well at letting them sniff the brush first and was very gentle with them, meaning that the cats were happy to have her brush them whilst they lay down.

On the train, W said that it would be funny if there was no gravity on the train and we were floating. That reminded me of a video I saw of what happens when you wring out a wet cloth in space, so we watched that and then ended up watching ‘9 facts about foxes’ too.

Literacy / English:

Unusually, W asked to have lots of books read to her this week. She took in all the stories and then requested more.

When we had to take the train, W helped me at the ticket machine to type in the code to retrieve my tickets. She loves doing this and she is becoming quite quick at it. Then, when we were on the train, she found our carriage and seat all by herself, by reading the ticket.

At dinner later in the day, W helped to set up a ‘restaurant’ where she helped to make menus, tell me the prices of the food and serve me my dinner. It was a great game to play and was very funny!

Numeracy / Maths:

W spent time categorising toys in her bedroom by type and by colour, just as she did three weeks ago.

She did some addition whilst we were at our Monday social group as a couple of children had made things to sell, so W tried to add up how much money she would need to buy these things.

We have been working some more on telling the time as W seems very ready now. She is not too keen on waiting for things, so being able to tell the time is really helping. When W would ask when something is going to happen, I used to respond with ‘after lunch’ or ‘two Mr Bloom episodes’, but now she needs more information than that. Every time she asks, we go to look at the clock and I will show her where the hands need to be before the thing happens and this is really helping with her understanding the concept of time.

Later, we popped to the shop that W likes as she wanted to buy a toy with her pocket money and she did well adding and subtracting amounts to work out which toys she could buy together.

History:

At breakfast, we discussed when the Queen was born, when the Queen mother was born and whether or not they were alive during the second world war. We then did the same for her grandparents’ birth dates.

W said that she had visited the Great Wall of China, which is odd since she has never left Europe. On further questioning, it turned out that W meant she had been to Chinatown in Manchester! This later led to a discussion on Hong Kong and its history.

Art / Design:

W did a craft activity at Rainbows, which was to make a rabbit out of card, and then on the way home, W was singing a song that she made up about loving animals so much!

Since W has been playing long games with the Lego minifigures and horses, she asked me if we could make stables for the horses to rest in. I asked her exactly how she wanted it to look and we made a diagram together so that we both knew how to make it. She was very clear on how many stables she wanted, what the roof should look like and where the paddock should be. She helped to choose the pieces from my Lego spares and we then built it together. W was really pleased with the result and spent hours playing with it over the week (and I got to build some Lego, so it was a win-win for us)!

 

29th July 2018 – Planning our Summer

As we have two children in school and one who is home educated, the summer holidays are an important and special time for us. One of the things we like to do at the beginning of the break is to write down all the things that each of us want to do during the holidays. We write them on to a triangle of brightly-coloured card and make a type of bunting out of them. This is then hung on the side of our staircase so that we can see it every day. I spend time looking at the calendar and planning when we can do each of the things, making sure that we have plenty of rest days in between. Once this is done, we are ready to start our 6 weeks of family time together!

So I suppose it is best to start with Literacy in this diary entry as this was W’s opportunity for writing this week…

W’s writing on her bunting cards was sometimes going left to right and sometimes going backwards. One of her cards had writing that started the correct way round and then went round in a semicircle and then headed backwards! Apparently this mirror writing is common in children of her age (she is now 5) and will settle down with time. I’m trying my best to not correct this as I am happy that she is writing anything at all at the moment, so I don’t want to put her off when she has only just started. As a reluctant writer, W is doing really well to write at all.

PE: In the swimming pool, W wanted to try swimming under water for the first time. Previously, she hasn’t liked getting her face wet, but she was very brave and took her armbands off – a big step for her.

I remember when W was a toddler, she wouldn’t even go into the water, other than to sit on the side and dangle her feet in. It has taken many swimming trips to get to this point – and we haven’t forced her to go in the water at all – so it is lovely to see her confidence growing now that she is ready.

Numeracy / Maths: W looked at her “Telling the Time” book and did well with guessing the o’clock times.

At dinner, J and D helped W to do some mental arithmetic, just for fun. I love it when the children help each other to learn – it means I can do a little less!

W also did a Tangram puzzle. She started a few months ago with trying the more simple puzzles, but has now moved on to the harder ones and likes spending quite a bit of time on them. I can’t recommend these puzzles enough!

Socialisation: W went to a friend’s birthday party in a church hall. She had  a look at the church and asked questions about where the priest/vicar stands, who owned the church etc. She was also very keen to look at the graveyard and to have the inscriptions on the gravestones read to her. She likes to find out the names and the dates that they were alive.

On the way home, she saw two of her other friends T, (8) and M (5) with their mums, so they came back to the house for a little while to play.

At our Monday social group, W played with different children than usual – U (8), H (8) and N (5). They all played ‘Paw Patrol’ and she seemed to have a lovely time charging about with them with a toy plane, instead of playing with the quieter ones and her soft toys. This is interesting because I have seen how W adapts her playing style according to who she is playing with. One of her siblings likes to play quietly with small toys in a more structured way. The other likes to charge around the house and make noise while playing, and W is happy to play with each of her siblings, either charging about with the eldest or playing quietly with the middle one.

Later, W’s friend B (8) arrived, who W loves, but hasn’t seen for ages because she has been in hospital. W was so pleased to see her and they stuck together and chatted a lot for the last part of the session.

As usual we played a board game in the evening at home. The current favourite is Charades for Kids, and W is getting quite good at demonstrating things to us. However, her demonstration of ‘getting on a bus’ involves W being the actual bus and crawling on the floor, which can be hilarious…..

At a friend’s house, W played with T (8), B (5) and T (4) who had cerebral palsy and was in a wheelchair. W asked me lots of questions about T before and after we were with him and I answered as many questions as I could. We also talked in general about disability. At W’s age (and any age), I believe it is so important to be around a diverse range of people, and also to talk about the difference between us all in order to learn about and normalise difference. As a family, we socialise with all ethnicities, sexualities, nationalities, religions and abilities.

Science / Nature: W asked what leaves are made of, so we had a discussion about cellulose and chlorophyll. Big brother J then asked about atoms, while W listened in on the discussion about atoms and free space.

W went to the dentist, where she got to see an x-ray of teeth on the computer screen. She identified the fillings (bright white) and talked about why a crown looks different too.

I had cut my finger earlier in the day and W asked how the skin is repaired by my body, so we had a quick chat about scabs and fibrin.

At dinner midweek, the family ended up having a discussion about Pluto and whether or not it is a planet. We looked at the diameter of Pluto and the diameter of the Earth on a poster that we have on the wall in the dining room, and compared the two. After that, we did a demonstration of the volume of a sphere, split into other spheres, with Play Doh and scales…. Apparently the Earth can fit 151 Plutos into its volume!

After all of this, we had a board game (Wild World Lotto) and then a chapter of her book.

At a friend’s house, there was a pond (covered with netting) and a fish tank, and W told me some facts that she knew about fish, algae and lily pads that she has learned previously.

Also, there were two cats there (Molly and Cashew), one of whom was a bit nervous, so W spent some time with that cat and learned how to be calm and quiet enough for him to relax enough to be stroked. She really persisted with him, without causing him stress, so it was really good to see her patience pay off when she got to play with Cashew in the end.

When in town, W looked at the fruit and veg at the market and spent some time identifying them all. She tried Swedish cinnamon buns too!

W experimented with what floated in her Playmobil Swimming Pool, and also what slid down the slide quickly or slowly.

Play: Again, W has done lots of small world play and her games are still very elaborate and quite sophisticated now. She is happy to make up games to play with her toys and they go through many stages of situations and changes while the game moves along.

W spent nearly all day on Thursday building all of her Playmobil sets (with help) and setting them out in the way that they were pictured on the boxes, so that she could create a Playmobil ‘world’. She showed excellent concentration throughout. Her attention span is definitely increasing now

Art: At a friend’s pottery studio, W spent some time examining the pots that people had made and she picked out the different features and said why she liked them. Said she wants to be a pottery examiner when she grows up, and to give out prizes for the best…

Economics: We visited the Bank of England Museum, which is the childrens’ favourite London Museum, for their “Gold Rush” activity. We got there as soon as the museum opened so that we could get a first-come-first-served ticket for a presentation on the gold vaults….. which we managed to get! The children all got activity sheets and had to search for clues around the museum to try to work out who broke in to the vaults in the 1800s. W did well at searching for the clues and letters around the museum (it was aimed at older children, so she needed a bit of help).

When they had completed the activity, they all got a prize, which was a little gold bar brooch, which they were very happy with!

After that came the presentation on gold, in which the children learned how much gold is in the vaults, who it belongs to, what the Gold Standard is, where gold comes from, how purity is checked, what the numbers on a gold bar are for, how it is recycled and many, many other things.

I must say that the presentation was excellent. The staff at the BoE museum are always great with the children and the museum itself is often calm and quiet – a bonus for my children, who are not keen on noise or crowds at all.

Then we realised we had done all of this learning on the official Unschoolers “Learn Nothing Day” (July 24th every year)…. so we failed that completely! There is always next year, I suppose…..

1st July, 2018 – the Maritime Museum

This week was an exhausting one – it was filled with the usual (and unusual) learning and a fabulous trip to Greenwich to the Maritime Museum, but was also marred by the illness of our lovely kitten, Flash. I feel like I need a week’s rest to get over this one….

Here is what we did – arranged by subject, as usual…..

Maths: W surprised me by counting in twos and said she had learned it from D last week. This is another example of the children teaching each other, without my input, I suppose. I love that this happens on a regular basis and I love that the children gain so much just from being together and talking.

Another way that the children learn together is from our daily board game session. We play board games every evening after we have tidied the away the mess of the day together. This week, we played Monopoly Junior a lot. In this game, W will happily add up the rent on her properties when she has more than one. I haven’t ‘taught’ her how to do this – she has just learned that she needs to ask for money from one of us and needs to work out how much to ask for. It takes her a few moments, but allowing her to do this for herself means that she is included in the game as much as any other player and gives her a sense of achievement too.

At one point this week, W asked to buy some accessories for one of her toys with her pocket money. We bought it together online, so she read out the numbers from a bank card for me. Her understanding is growing about money, especially that if you spend it on one thing, it can’t still be there to buy something else.

Sport: At Rainbows, W learned about the Olympics and what the colours of the flags represent. She coloured in her own flag and wrote her name on it and then she drew a picture of her favourite sport (swimming).

Social: Also at Rainbows, W learned some new songs and a game called ‘On the deck’, which she really enjoyed. She mixes very well with the children there and plays happily with them before the session starts too.

Another opportunity for socialisation came at our regular meet-ups, where she saw her friends and had the chance to just play for a few hours.

On the train, W played with two children, aged 8 and 9. They showed each other gymnastics moves, played noughts and crosses (which she had just learned to play) and played with toys together. After that, W chatted to their grandparents as well.

It makes me so proud to see W developing her social skills like this. She is very happy to talk to children that she has just met and comes across as confident and self-assured. A reminder that our teachers in school were right – we were not at school to socialise – we socialise through life whenever we want to!

History / Geography: We visited the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where W really enjoyed learning about boats, battles, kings and queens and everything in-between.

There was a giant map on the floor and we spent quite a bit of time walking to different countries of the world and talking about how far from each other they are. We also discussed notable things about the countries – such as Tokyo being the most populous city, which she has learned before, but now she could see a giant example of where it was in the world.

I do love this Museum – there is so much to do and so much to see. In the daytime, it is not crowded at all and the staff are so helpful too.

We also visited Queen’s House in Greenwich, which W loved. She asked me to read every information section about each room. She learned about the house and what it was used for over time. She learned about the art in the rooms and also the design aspects. All of this information was gained from the little plaques on the walls and from the knowledgeable staff there.

We talked about the steps in the house being worn down in the middle and had a mini-lesson ourselves on erosion.

We talked about the different roles and responsibilities that monarchs had had in the past and how that had changed and then W also asked about their staff and what they did.

She is very interested in the Royal family and asked again how succession to the throne works. She still doesn’t seem impressed at the fact that one is born into the role and does not ‘earn’ it.

Science: We looked at a huge propeller from a boat and learned how it made the boat move. We then related that back to the cruise ship that we had seen on the Thames last week.

W was lucky enough to go inside a traditional windmill – not working, but all the equipment was there. We talked about how it was used to make flour.

Also saw a beached anchor – related it to how it is used on boats (specifically Capt Turbot’s in Paw Patrol)

W asked in conversation why brothers and sisters can’t marry and that lead to a discussion on genetics and mutations, in simple terms!

Later in the week, W asked to learn about types of cloud, so we looked them up on the internet and she was interested in the different types and their names.  She learned a tiny bit about how they are formed, which we can build on when she is older.

Later, we went to the vets again with our cat, Flash, as he had been very poorly indeed. W learned about dehydration, infections and antibiotics. At the vet’s we saw posters on the wall about kidney disease in cats and saw a picture of the kidneys, learned about their function and also saw an ultrasound of kidneys.

I have tried to shield the children from how serious Flash’s illness was. He became so seriously ill that he could not even lift his head. I had been giving him tiny amounts of water in a syringe every hour day and night as he was not able to drink either. I had washed him as, of course, he wasn’t able to use the litter tray. The poor thing had just been in his bed, not moving apart from constant involuntary shaking.

It turned out to be a serious infection and thankfully he recovered over time and started to eat after around 5 days. The children were worried about him, but none of them knew that he could have died. To see him so poorly and to think that we could have lost him was very hard indeed.

I think the best thing that I have seen this week is Flash playfully batting his brother on the nose, proving that he is starting to get his strength back!

At dinner, W learned from my partner about blood pressure and why low blood pressure makes you dizzy and can give you a headache.

Play: In the Maritime Museum, W played with me in the mini fish market, making up prices for the products and selling them to me.

W and D played many games as we traveled in the car this week. They came up with games such as car spotting, pretend computers and vets (using soft toys as patients).

Literacy: At one of our regular meet-ups, W asked me to help her make a menu for her pretend café. I wrote the menu for her, but asked her what the letters in some of the words should be. She then went around the people and asked them what items they would like from the menu.

Later that day, W wrote a card to her Grandfather for his birthday, all by herself.

On the train later in the week, we made up a story together, which she loves to do. I usually make up the first part, then she says what happens next and we continue taking it in turns to create the story. It is usually very funny, though I’m not sure how much the commuters enjoy our raucous laughter….. but that doesn’t matter, because the point of all this is to have fun. Isn’t that even the point of life? We are here for such a short time, we should enjoy it at least!

3rd June, 2018

Another busy week in terms of learning this week, which involved a birthday party and two family visits:

Play / Social: We visited our favourite social group as usual and W played with four friends in the sunshine.

The grandparents also visited for a while, so the children enjoyed lots of imaginative play with Grandma.

And then, more family: the children’s cousins, who are 13 and 9, came to visit later in the week.  W loved playing with them and the children all get on very well together. We went to the park, fed the ducks and squirrels together and also played silly games there.

The next day, it was time for a birthday party for both D and J’s friends. The children had a great time there and W played with four children that she knows well, on the bouncy castle.

Spatial Skills: At the social meet, W enjoyed completing a puzzle where she needed to fit geometric shapes into a pattern.

When the grandparents visited, W got the chance to watch me and her grandfather build a wooden step for the garden. She was very interested in how it was put together, and even helped us for a while.

Later in the week, the Play-Doh came out, which was surprising as W has shown little interest in it lately. However, she was very keen to make cupcakes and various creations out of it this time. It was actually great to see how differently she plays with it now, compared to when she was tiny.

W spend a lot of time with me in the mornings (before the others got up) building the Lego Disney Castle, which is a Lego set for age 16+. It is a huge set and very difficult to put together, but W needed minimal help, possibly because she builds Lego so much already. I must say here that this was not our Lego set – it is far too expensive for us – we were putting it together for the purposes of a photograph later in the week…. A great educational opportunity!

Literacy / English: On our train journeys, W attempted to read the train signs, as usual. She also read all the tickets that we had collected from the station for our forthcoming journeys. She wanted to know the seat number and carriage for each one and I let her go through all the tickets (there were loads- I like to book in advance…) to check all of them.

The Local Authority sent us a form to fill in about W’s education (more about this in a later blog – coming soon), so W answered a couple of questions that were relevant to her and also drew a picture for the EHE officer.

While Grandma was here, W did a little writing and drew some pictures to show to her.

One of the cousins read stories to W and then also made up stories for her. W loves it when her cousin does this as she is very skilled at story telling. Although W was mainly listening to the stories and not telling them herself, it is a very important part of learning for her to be able to understand what makes a good story and why.

I read W’s new Great Women of the World book, which she really loved and seemed to remember details from the book a few days later.

History: At bedtime (I’m sure she was stalling…), W asked lots of questions about royalty and how Kings and Queens become so. She asked about our current Queen and about how many children she has and their titles and status. She also asked about previous Kings and Queens and royalty in other countries. We looked up a list of them online and she was very interested in the fact that the members of the royal family have historically married members of other royal families (or the same one….).

On a train journey, W wanted to know how trains can move onto different train tracks and go in different directions, so we looked at videos of train points on Youtube, which she enjoyed. She learned about how points were operated historically, compared to now.

Science / Nature: One evening, W enjoyed telling us all that she has learned about bees recently. She showed us how much she had remembered by describing how bees are kept and looked after, what different types of bees there are, how bees swarm and why etc etc.

We also observed a bumble bee when we were travelling to our social group. The bee was busy on a flower and calm, so we were able to have a good look at it, noting it’s different features.

W asked if there were any black flowers in the world, so we learned a bit about black tulips and how they get their colour. W is also learning a lot of flower names and types through her Nan, who is a keen gardener, and also from my partner, who is working on a ‘flower a day’ project at the moment.

W’s grandparents left a Nature workbook for her when they said goodbye, and W enjoyed completing a few pages of that on a later train journey.

At the birthday party, the children had the opportunity to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen, which W thought was amazing. The man helping the children to make the ice cream explained the properties of liquid nitrogen and described the process of the ingredients turning into ice cream too. It became a science lesson for them and it was also a really fun thing to do at a party, I must say.

Also at the party, W learned about generators and how they work, because the bouncy castle generator needed fixing while we were there. We watched people fixing it, filling it with petrol and starting it again.

Then there was a boat race. The children put together boats, which had been made on a 3D printer, and had the chance to make sails. We then put the boats in the water for a race.  During this, W asked why a boat would go slower if its sail got wet and also why it needs a sail at all.

W learned a lot about climate change one morning as D asked a question about it and so W started to ask questions about it too. We covered Solar Power, Elon Musk (!) and fossil fuels too. Obviously, we need to touch on this subject again many times in the future as it is such a big subject, but it is good to give the children a basic understanding to build on later.

Board games:  W played Monopoly Junior with D and one of the cousins, and had a great time doing so.

Politics: W asked why there were red posters on our street, so I took the opportunity to teach her about elections. She is very interested in how democracy works and why some people would vote for someone who doesn’t want everyone to have equal rights. It was a difficult thing to explain as I’m not really sure why someone would do such a thing myself….. As with climate change, this is another example of a subject that needs further exploration at a later date, as there are so many layers of different issues involved, that it is impossible to cover it all at once.

So, watch this space…. I’m sure you will read here about many more discussions on the big issues of the world over the years to come….

22 April 2018 – co-operation

One of the things that W loves to do is to collect the post in the morning and separate the letters into piles according to who they are for. With 5 members of our household, it is a great opportunity for literacy learning. I love the way that learning just happens as we move through life and skills are gathered and improved upon with little effort on my part, really.

Another example of this is when we passed a brick wall and W commented to me that she wondered how many bricks there were in the wall, and set about trying to work it out. We stayed a while by that wall, talking about multiplication and trying to add it up in our heads. To her, it was a bit of fun; to me, a great opportunity.

When we finally reached the train station, W had a go at reading the screens and finding the correct platform and seat etc.

Of course, we could only do this as we weren’t in a hurry that day. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to stop for a while, but I try to do it whenever we can.

Our destination was a meet up for home educated children at a park. W played with the other children and adults there and then also played with some equipment where she had to pour sand onto different levels of it. W was trying to figure out how heavy the sand had to be before it tipped onto a lower level.

On a different day this week, W wanted to help me with my work, cutting out labels for customers and opening my parcels. For her, this is great fun. She likes to see what stock has come in. I suppose it is like opening presents in a way. She is becoming much more dextrous with the scissors and also with tiny items.

Another thing that W and I like to do together is to watch the Shakespeare on CBeebies plays. Their plays usually pop up around Christmas time, but are also available at other times of the year. We watched A Midsummer Night’s Dream this week, which W absolutely loved. W doesn’t cope well with any mild threat on TV or in films at all, and these plays are brilliant as they are a gentle introduction to Shakespeare’s plays without being too fast-paced or scary.

On Tuesday, W wanted to spend her birthday money. When she bought the items, we spent some time working out how much of her money had been spent and how much was left. She paid for the items herself at the till.

On the way home, she was asking what my favourite animals are and then asked a lot of questions about tigers and how (and why) some types became extinct. She learned what the biggest and smallest types of tiger are and where they live.

J and W later played hide and seek, which W loves to do. She now hides completely for the others to find her, but does giggle when she is there!

All the children then played Charades together and W is learning how to demonstrate something in a way that others understand. She is working on it… for example, a plane is demonstrated by her jumping up and down and a vacuum cleaner is shown by V waving her hands above her head….. It is a work in progress!
But the point is that they had lots of fun trying to figure out what she was demonstrating…

The next day brought yet more playing – W and D have had a very calm and lovely time playing with their toys together many times this week and are learning now to cooperate during their play and to make things fair in terms of following one person’s rules of the game and then making sure that the other child can have a chance at playing by their rules too. Again, it is a work in progress, and because we are a blended family, the children are getting to know each others ways and preferences. It takes time, but I know we’ll get there and they are doing really, really well.

Topics covered: Maths (bricks in the wall), English (Shakespeare and reading names on parcels), Biology / geography (Tigers)

Socialisation and Home Education

Whenever I talk to other people about home education, the socialisation question almost always comes up. Actually, it is a bit confusing for me as I wonder where people have got the idea that home educated children don’t see other children. Where did it come from? It can’t be that all these people know some home educated children somewhere who sit at home and see no other children at all, because I’ve never met any and I’m fairly sure that this mythical family doesn’t exist…

Is it from the media? It is certainly true that there have been a couple of cases where the children in a family have been held captive and haven’t been allowed to see the outside world, but these are extreme and incredibly rare cases. It is estimated that there are between 40,000 and 80,000 home educating families in the UK. Is it the popular belief that all of these families are hiding from the world at a desk at home?

The truth, in fact, is that us families see each other. A lot. The friendships that home educated children have cross all age ranges, social strata and are neurodiverse. They form friendships according to common interests and not simply because they are exactly the same age or ethnicity etc. Schooled children are made to sit with the same people of the same age for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. The potential for these children to find other people who like similar things and play in the same way is drastically reduced as the ability to mix with a varied range of children is almost completely closed to them.

I would like to suggest that actually, us home educators are as worried about socialisation as much as anyone (because we are questioned about it so much, perhaps), and because of this, we go out of our way to seek groups and play opportunities for our children in order for them to form many friendships. It has to be the case that our children are having so much opportunity to mix with children with common interests, that they could be forming more varied and meaningful friendships than those children who happen to be in the same class, age (and often gender) at school.

So, if you are new to home education, or have been doing it for a while and are worried about socialisation, here are some tips for how to get your children out there and forming lasting friendships:

1. Join as many home education Facebook groups as possible.

I have found that the vast majority of meet-ups are advertised on local Facebook groups. Just search for “home education [your area]” in the Facebook search bar and it will bring up groups local to you. Try searching by county and also towns local to you. You’ll find a range of meet-ups and groups at various dates and times available to you.

2. Don’t worry if you’ve been to a meet-up and your child didn’t play with anyone.

As is the case for adults, children also need to find other children that they ‘click’ with and have the same interests as them. Don’t be disheartened if you have been to a group (or a few) and your child hasn’t engaged with many people. It will come. Keep going to different meets until you find your ‘tribe’… Those people that ‘get’ you and your children and welcome you for who you are.

With more reserved children, it may take a few visits to the same groups for them to ‘warm up’ and step outside of their comfort zones to talk to other children. I find this especially true for those children who have found school stressful or difficult socially. They need time to adjust and to regain their confidence for making friends. For some, school settings can be damaging socially (it certainly was for me, but more about that in a future post), and it takes time to undo the fear that some children experience when walking into a busy room full of children again. Give it time.

3. Chat to the parents!

When you go to meet-ups, make sure you chat to others. It can be daunting, but I have found that there is a big sense of community amongst home edders and they are happy to share knowledge and tips with others as they have been where you are too.

Other parents can tell you about the social meets and groups that are not advertised on the Facebook sites. These meets are many and varied and are often arranged by a group of friends whose children get on well together. If your children have common interests with the others (and even if they don’t), they will be welcomed along and you will have a full social diary in no time!

4. Go to your local park in the daytime.

Do your children play with other children at the park? If they do, walk over to the children’s parents and chat to them. If your child is playing with another child for a long time, go and say ‘Hi’ to their parents and introduce yourself. Parks are very busy after school, but if you go in the daytime, it is much easier for your children to play with one or two other children and have the space to run around. I have found other home-educating families this way and have made some great friendships, for me and for W. It is a bold step to go out of your way to meet people in this way, but you and your children could end up with friends for life, who live very near indeed.

5. Go on organised trips.

Organised trips for home educators happen all the time. In fact, they are so frequent that I have to pick and choose only the best ones for W to go on as there is so much choice.

Ask other parents at regular home-ed meets to join you to email lists and Facebook groups that are advertising trips at the education discount rate. It is not expensive to go on these as home educators can get the schools rate when they go in a group. Adults are often free and children’s tickets are at a drastically reduced cost, often with workshops included in that price too!

Search on Facebook for ‘Home education trips’ to find some of these.

When you are there, you will meet even more families similar to yours, especially if you are going to s specific workshop for a specific interest.

6. Relax

Try not to push your child to mix with others if they are not comfortable doing so yet (especially if they have recently been deregistered from school and are still finding their feet). Our job is to provide the opportunities for them to play with others, but not to push them into it. If a child feels pressured to do something, it is less fun and less meaningful for them than if they had done it under their own steam.

Model the behaviour you want to see in your child. Talk to others (adults and children) and show that being with others can be a fun experience. Take it easy, though. It takes time to step outside of your comfort zone, just as it does for our children.

We have all been there. We have started the home-ed journey with nerves, trepidation and doubt. We all found each other somehow and have the common goal of doing the best for our children. Taking the first step of de-registering (or even deciding to home educate before school age) is a huge decision to make, but we did it. And we did it with our children’s best interests at heart. And that is the point of all of this, after all.