28th Oct, 2018 – A Birthday!

There was much excitement this week as it will be D’s 8th birthday. D requested a party for her friends at the house, so that is what we did. W was great at helping with the preparations (wrapping the presents, filling party bags etc) and a good time was had by us all.

Here is what happened in terms of W’s learning this week, in order of subject:

Play: This week, W has played with her stepsister, D (7) before and after her party, a lot, which is lovely to see.

On Tuesday, W played with me at home as my partner and the children went to see the a movie, which W didn’t want to see (she struggles with any mild peril in films). We first played Mouse Trap, then she asked if I could build some water slides from Lego for the toys from the Mouse Trap game. She enjoyed playing with them in their new water park for a while, then when she tired of that, we played ‘Duck’ (W’s own invented game).

Literacy / English: The board game in the evening was Articulate and W got the highest scores out of everyone for her descriptions of words.

W played I-Spy with us in the car, which is great for W’s literacy learning.

Science / Nature: Our carbon monoxide alarm had gone off in the night (it was faulty. We have 3 alarms, so I tested the other two and it was all fine), so I explained what had happened. This then led to a discussion on what carbon monoxide is, how a fire needs 3 things in order to burn, and then we moved on to learning how the sun burns!

At dinner, W asked what is at the Earth’s core (!), so we talked about magma, volcanoes and rocks.

Then she asked what temperature water sharks prefer (!) so we had to look that one up (20-30 degrees, apparently). We learned where they live and then talked about the difference between fish and mammals.

W used the antique scales to weigh a polystyrene ball (I’m not sure why) and was really pleased when she got it to balance. I asked why the scales balanced and she said that it was because each side was the same weight.

Before bed, W talked about what the role of drone bees are and what the queen does. She also talked about sandstorms and why they change the colour of the sky. 

Home Economics: W did some baking as we needed to make the cake for D’s 8th birthday.

Politics: Somehow we got to talking about the fact that smacking children is legal (none of my children have ever been hit, obviously). W said she thought it was wrong that it is illegal to smack a grown-up, but not a child. Then, somehow, this led to a discussion on laws and democracy again. We touched on dictators (gently) and then talked about how the Conservative party came to be in power if most people didn’t vote for them. In very simple terms, I did a drawing of how many people voted red, how many blue and how many didn’t vote at all (a fact that she was shocked by).

Music: She listened to some songs on her tablet and learned the lyrics to them.

Socialisation: When it was time for the partygoers to arrive for D’s party (E [9], J [7], E [7], and B [7] and all their respective adults), W played with everyone really well. At times, it was too noisy for W, so she would go off and play quietly for a while and then join in again when she was ready.

There were many party games, including building a Lego car and racing it, guessing how many Lego bricks were in a jar, hide and seek, Mouse Trap and all sorts of other games too. All the children (especially D) had a lovely time and D said that it was exactly what she wanted in a party.

In the evening, W was brilliant at negotiation. The house was messy after the party, but at tidying time, W said she was too tired to tidy. I said that that was fine as it was late and she was tired. I asked if she would find it hard to sleep if the rooms were messy and she said that she would (she has always found it hard to sleep in a messy room). After some thought, she then said that she would prefer to tidy before bed. The others said that they did not want to tidy, so she talked to them and explained why she felt more comfortable if everything was put away (important toys getting lost etc) and they then agreed with her and helped to tidy too!

On Monday, we went to our regular social group. We had a lovely time and W was excited that she could bring her siblings, J (10) and D (8) along too this week. She then played with P (5), who had been to our house for a play date last week. She also chatted to her other friends: P (8) and B (7). Unfortunately, it was raining, so the children were not allowed outside this time, which made the hall exceptionally noisy. After 1.5 hours, W had had enough of the noise, so she spent some time with me in a side room in the quiet for a while and that seemed to help. However, every time she came into the main hall, she couldn’t cope with the noise. I will purchase some ear defenders soon and see how she copes at the group with them.

PSHE: At bedtime, W asked about adoption again and talked about the boy she met on the train, so we talked about the fact that adoption is rare and that it would never happen to her. I explained that it is a really good thing for the children who are adopted because their families were either too poorly or too young to care for them, so the children got to live with a new family who could give them everything that they needed.

She asked if she knew anyone who is adopted and I said that she knows many adopted children, but that we don’t ask children about it unless they talk about it first, just in case they aren’t comfortable talking about it yet.

Maths / Numeracy: At our Monday social group, W helped D to sell some things that she had made out of Hama beads. W served D’s customers and helped D to count the change.

W randomly decided to count backwards this week, which is the first time she has done that.

Geography: In the night, W got up when I was still working (I mainly work at night when she is asleep), so she watched me work for a bit and saw that I was looking at Google maps. She asked questions about the British Isles and asked where Ireland was etc, so we looked at satellite pictures of various places.

Art: Then she got out her colouring pens independently and wrote her name lots of times and drew some fabulous detailed pictures of cats…. all at 11:30pm……!

After W finally went to bed, I got back to work at my kitchen table, making it a very long night for me indeed. I hoped to catch up on sleep over the next few nights, but that wasn’t to be as we had some sad news in the middle of the night……

 

 

 

 

21st Oct, 2018 – Random Questions

This week, like last week, has seen the focus remain on play-based learning, with random in-depth questions thrown in when I least expect them.

We have seen friends and had lots of fun playing with toys (and sneaking in the odd educational game too). Here is our week in the usual format:

Board Games: We played the Orchard Toys Shopping List game a few times this week, but noticed that one of the tiles was missing, so we took advantage of the brilliant scheme that Orchard Toys have for missing pieces and sent off for a replacement. W was really, really pleased when it arrived in the post.

We also played Go Fish and Jenga many times.

Literacy / English: W played a lot with her stepsister D (7) this week. They played mainly with their princess toys, with the toys getting married and moving in together. For some reason, each family of princesses needed a door number and a letter, so W and D wrote these for them.

In a shop, we found ourselves looking for clothes, following a recent growth spurt. W read the labels on the clothes to look for the sizes and told me the prices too.

On the way home, W helped to read the train tickets, displays and train signs. 

We later played Articulate as a family, where W was great at both guessing and explaining the words.

Our bedtime reading has been the original Mary Poppins books, which W is really, really enjoying.

Science / Nature: On Tuesday, we watched a weather report on the TV, which W was really interested in. She liked watching the arrows for the wind direction and loved looking at the map of the British Isles, asking lots of questions about where things are on the map. W asked how storms start and why they happen. She then asked how they go away. She was very interested in this and later asked where in the world they happen the most.

At breakfast, W asked me why the outside of her glass of water was wet, so we talked about condensation and water vapour. J followed it up and talked about humidity.

For dinner one night, W put together her own pizza. She asked why the cheese would shrink when cooked, so we had a chat about how and why that happens.

At a neighbour’s house, their dog, Clancy was very wiggly and over excited, but W handled him really well and managed to stay calm amidst all his wriggling…. We later discussed breeds of dog and what happens when two breeds mix.

Maths / Numeracy: At dinner, W’s siblings, J (9) and D explained odd and even numbers to W, so I’ll remember to follow that up when we are looking at door numbers on the street.

We requested to go shopping for a particular toy that she wanted to spend her earnings from last week o, so we popped into town to buy it. When we brought it home, W was so proud that she had earned her own money and bought a toy for herself.

Spatial Skills: At Rainbows, it was my turn as a volunteer to create an activity, so I had all the children build a Lego car of their own design. We then had a race to see which car won. Each child had a set of wheels, a steering wheel and a seat. The whole of the car had to be their own design. They all did amazingly well – even those who hadn’t built Lego before.

Socialisation: W had a play date with P (6) and J (3), who she had met at the scout camp (now a monthly meet up) and really enjoyed it. She loved having her friends round for a visit.

On Monday, we had a day at home, playing and getting a few jobs done around the house that needed doing. A friend was due to come to play, but cancelled at the very last minute, giving us a free day for once!

The next day, it was time for another playdate with her friend J (4). They played together with Playmobil and then played ‘Duck’, which is a game that W made up and one that I am not completely sure of the rules involved….

W’s Aunt came to stay, so W had a lovely time playing and chatting with her.

Geography: W randomly asked me the following, which I had to look up on my phone:

What is the world’s most populous city (Tokyo); which city has the most buildings (Hong Kong); and which is the largest city by area (Shanghai).

Politics: W asked about the laws around school and didn’t understand why, if you were enrolled in a school, you had to go full time and not just sometimes. She thought that that was a silly rule….. I’m inclined to agree. I dislike the all-or-nothing aspect of school, as detailed in my blog post here.

We had another political discussion on a train journey later in the week when W asked what the difference is between a dictatorships and democracy.

…So that was our week of child-led learning…. As a parent, I do feel I have to be prepared for any question at any time. I often have questions sprung on me like the ones above, with no indication that it is coming (and no opportunity to think about my answer properly)! I think as W gets older and the questions become more difficult, I may have to tell her that we will look it up together later, so that I get time to think about my answer first…..

14th Oct, 2018 – the Royal Albert Hall

This week, W’s learning was mainly play-based. However, we also had some brilliant social education (called PSHE in schools), learning about the situations and lives of people that we met while travelling.

We saw an older, blind man teaching a much younger man, who was also blind to use a white stick. W was fascinated by how the younger man was going to learn to get around. We have seen (and also helped) people who are blind get around, but I think W was really struck by the fact that people have to spend a lot of time learning these skills. It led to some brilliant conversations about disability, with W asking many questions.

Another opportunity for social learning this week came from a random meeting with a family on a long train journey. We got talking to them and it somehow came up in conversation that their child was adopted. He talked about his birth mum to his parents and also to us. W listened with interest and later asked me many questions about him. We have talked about adoption many times before as some of her friends and family members were adopted, but W seemed interested in this particular boy’s life. We talked in vague, age-appropriate, terms about the reasons why a child would be adopted and also about the many positive aspects of adoption.

I feel it is so important to talk about other families, whose situations may be different to ours, in the hope that our children will grow up being trailblazers in accepting and embracing difference without a second thought.

…So, now that we have covered PSHE very well this week, here is what the rest of the week looked like, in subject order, as usual:

Science / Nature: We watched some builders and crane operators for a while as they were building a new tall building in central London. W asked lots of questions about how a building is built and why it doesn’t fall over.

W later asked to go to the park to feed the squirrels, so we looked online to find out what the best food for them is, which turned out to be apples and sweetcorn. At the park, we found that most of the squirrels wanted the apple, but two did not (and the ducks ate all the sweetcorn).

On the way home, we saw a ginger cat with one eye, so we talked about how she was either born with one eye or had an operation on it because it was sore and that it wasn’t sore any more. 

W had her daily vitamin, which led to a conversation about the vitamins D, A and B12; why we need them and where they come from.

W asked why her hair is the colour that it is, so we discussed (with the help of a diagram) the genetics of hair colour. We talked about my hair colour, W’s donor’s hair colour and what colour hair she could have had from those different genes. 

On Friday, we posted some ink cartridges to recycle and W learned why it is important to recycle as much as possible. W wanted to know why it mattered if the landfill sites got really big.

The batteries in one of W’s toys had run out and W wanted to replace it herself. She used the screwdriver very well, and again this gave us an opportunity to talk about recycling.

On Wednesday, W decided to weigh some of her toys to see the difference in weight between them. 

Maths / Numeracy: We played Monopoly Junior and W did well again at adding and subtracting money. We talked about currencies – she knew that dollars are American and pounds are English. 

W helped with my work (because she wanted to) and looked for items with certain 4-figure numbers on. She did really well holding 4 numbers in her head and getting them in the right order.

Home Economics: I made Yorkshire puddings and W helped with every stage. She really liked mixing it all together and sieving the flour. She was great with weighing out the ingredients.

She later helped me to cook dinner. She separated the leaves from the stalks of parsley, cut the stock cube up, zested the orange, opened packets, added ingredients to pans, measured out the honey (and then licked all the honey off the spoon).

Socialisation: At the weekend, Grandma and Grampy came to visit and the children loved spending time with them, chatting and playing.

At our regular Monday social group, W played with a few of her friends and their dolls.

The next day, we tried a new Home Ed group, which will hopefully be running monthly. It was at a Scout camp and was fabulous! There was a campfire where we toasted marshmallows, a wooden climbing frame, lots of space, a hut, a craft activity, and lots of other things to do. W saw a friend who she has met before and played with her for the whole time that she was there. Her name was P (6) and we have already arranged a playdate for next week. They got on very well. There were other children there that she knew well: T (7), A (4), E (6), and a few others too. We will go again!

Play: W and her stepsister, D, played princess families for ages.

At the park, W took a doll onto the climbing frame and the swings to play. We also played frisbee and W is getting better at trying to catch it instead of ducking!

Whenever we have been at home this week, W and I have played with her dolls. At the moment, she is enjoying teaching her dolls how to walk, eat food, making beds for them, comforting them when they cried etc.

W also wanted to play at hiding things in the garden. She was very good at actually hiding things, but found it hard to resist pointing them out… She now understands the concept of ‘getting hotter’ as you get nearer.

The bedtime ‘board’ game this week was actually ‘GO Fish’, which W always enjoys.

Spatial Skills: One evening, W built a 3D wooden butterfly that Grandma had given her. She did very well with it, even though she hadn’t built that type of thing before. She put things together the wrong way around (I let her) and then realised when other bits didn’t fit, so she tried again. She was very calm and patient with it, and was so proud when she finished it.

She later put together a Lego toy with no help at all.

English / Literacy: On Sunday, W asked to do some homework, as her stepsiblings were doing theirs, so I got some activities out for her to do (writing practice) and she did those.

Later in the week, she did two more pages of her workbook, then played I-spy with D, learning a little more about spelling.

We filled in a couple of days on the calendar with things that she had wanted to do and she was good at understanding the length of time that would pass before we would be able to do each.

On a long train journey, we learned a little phonics from train station signs, as usual.

At Rainbows, W made a Thank You card. She decided to write a card to Grandma to thank her for coming to see her.

W also made a card for her friend’s first birthday. She made flower shapes with stickers, drew a rocket ship and Mars, and made up some song lyrics for it.

Music: The next day, we went to the Royal Albert Hall for the Primary Proms, which was brilliant, as it is every year! We learned that the Hall was built for Prince Albert. W didn’t remember being there last year, so it was like a new experience all over again for her. She absolutely loved all the music and said that her favourite bit was a band who sang a song about bullying and a song about love.

The host taught the children about Morse code, music in 4, 3 and 5 time, the differences between the planets, counting in time and asymmetrical ostinatos! It was very educational and also very fun!

RE: On the way home, we talked about Ganesha as the taxi driver had an ornament on his dashboard.

…So, there is all the incidental and planned learning that has happened this week. I must remember how important it is to show W her work folder from time-to-time, so that she can see how much she has done and how far she has come with her writing especially. I was reminded of this again when the grandparents came to visit and W proudly showed her giant learning folder for Reception year to them. I think it was good for me to hear again how much W is learning as I still have those days when I fear I am not doing ‘enough’, whatever that is…. 

29th April, 2018 – Mail

W had a busy week in terms of learning this week. As I follow her interests and we learn as we go, I find that some weeks are far ‘busier’ in terms of learning than others. Some weeks, she is a sponge and wants to take everything in, and others, she is happy to relax and observe the world instead.

So, here is what we did, arranged by subject:

Logistics: W asked how parcels are sorted by Royal Mail and how the postal service knows where to send the parcels. We talked about how this is done (I have a had a few postie friends in the past and know a bit about it). We then watched a video of a cargo plane being loaded.

W also learned about TV aerials and satellite dishes because she noticed ours while we were out in the garden. She asked how a TV signal is brought into the house and to the TV, so I showed her where the cables go and what they do.
Science: While enjoying her ‘Gelli Bath’, she learned about density and we spent quite a while working out what different materials would float or sink in the jelly. We also then spent some time trying to get the jelly to drain through her old stacking cups with small holes in the bottom. W was trying to work out how big the holes needed to be before the jelly would start to drain through.
We then sprinkled the dissolving salts into the bath afterwards to dissipate the jelly. W watched this, fascinated, while I explained the process to her.

We found an old chicken bone out in the garden and W asked why it was so light and hollow after being outside for a long time, so we talked a little bit about decomposition.

When we went into our town centre, W watched a skip being unloaded and loaded again. She absolutely loves watching them, so we had an opportunity to see hydraulics at work.

Later, W asked how our waste water is recycled into drinking water, so we watched 4 little videos on how that happens.

Two days later, we watched a large area of crazy paving being laid and levelled near our house. She also saw a digger / ‘grabber’ move the rubble from the ground to a lorry, which built on her understanding of hydraulics again.
Play / Socialisation: W played a lot with D and J over the weekend. They played Charades, hide and seek, and role-played with Lego. In the Lego game, they collected together all their Lego vehicles and minifigures and took them on a long journey to the Lego house and to the new Lego playground, which they had made.

We went to our local social meet-up and W played with a few of the children. She also chatted confidently with some of the adult visitors, who had come to find out more about home education.

On another day, a friend came to visit, so W had an opportunity for lots of playing, including role play, charades, hide and seek, and small-world play.
Materials: J, D and W (mainly D and W) spent a long time preparing and painting the railings and gate outside our house. They learned why surfaces need to be prepared first and how the paint sticks to surfaces. They were absolutely brilliant at following instruction and putting only a thin layer of paint at a time onto the metal. They are very skilled at painting, since they have done quite a lot of it in the past.

Our neighbour was breaking up their tarmac path in order to lay tiles, while we were painting our railings. We watched him physically break the tarmac into pieces, saw what was underneath and then W later watched how the path was leveled with concrete as a foundation.

W randomly wanted to watch a Youtube video of someone putting some doll furniture together, to see how it was made and she enjoyed seeing how it was done.
Biology / Nature: At the dinner table, we discussed how snakes eat, including how they kill prey and how they can swallow such big animals, by dislocating their jaws.

D and W did some gardening and gave some snails some water since it was a very hot day. They put them into a shady spot in the back garden where they would be more comfortable!

Over dinner the next day, we talked about what Praying Mantes eat and how they mate. We then moved on to spiders and snails too.

W also asked what a tiger’s roar sounds like, so we watched a video on that and also listened to recordings of other big cats such as the ocelot, lion and sand cat. We then looked at what other sounds the cats make, including the sound that lions make to locate other lions and the tiger’s ‘chuff’.
Spatial skills / sorting: W played with her Lego minifigures, putting them together according to the instructions from their respective sets, so that they would be ‘correct’.
Arts: W watched a CBeebies Shakespeare Play again, which she loved.
Geography: W watched the London Marathon on TV. She learned why people do it, how long it is, why there are different races for different people, and what the route is. When she watched it, she pointed out various landmarks too.

W asked about time zones around the world and which places are the furthest away in terms of geography and in terms of time difference.
Maths: W also learned about money and we have discussed how money is a finite resource and she is starting to understand that, if she buys items for a certain value, she has less money for other items.

Literacy: W decided to read one and a half books by herself, practising the sounds ‘th’ and ‘ou’.

W also did a few exercises from her workbooks and magazines, including: cutting-out shapes, colouring in, putting stickers in the correct places and answering questions about a story.

Her final bit of literacy learning this week was finding my notebook, writing her name in it and then writing ‘poo’ lots of times on various pages. I discovered this the next time I started work…. It made me smile during a very mundane work morning!

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)

15th April 2018 – A birthday

W had her 5th birthday this week, so we had a great time seeing the grandparents and playing with new toys. She was lucky enough to get this Stephanie’s House Lego set (age 6+) and built it almost by herself. She showed good concentration and is now very good at rotating objects in her head to see where the Lego pieces might fit. A few days later, she built her new LEGO Minecraft set and then played with it afterwards, role-playing showing her minifigures around the new sets.

Building her new Minecraft set had spurred W on to play real Minecraft on her tablet, where she built some more of a house that she has been creating. I have to say that I am amazed at how quickly children can pick up the game and learn how to create things on it. I don’t let her use the multiplayer mode yet, but she is happy enough creating her own ‘world’ in the game so far.

I’m pleased that W plays with Minecraft Lego as well as Friends Lego. I need to point out that we do not do ‘boy’s toys’ and ‘girls’ toys’ in our house. Toys and clothes are not gendered here. The children are free to wear pink or blue or any other colour that they choose. They can play with any toys that are age appropriate (and are not guns) regardless of which gender they are marketed to (more information on this can be found here). I read a fantastic book, backed up by a great deal of research on the subject by Cordelia Fine, called Delusions of Gender. In it, she debunks ‘neuro-sexism’ and explores how society will have us believe that there are huge differences in male and female brains; and seeks the scientific proof to the contrary.

Another new birthday present that W received this week was this Disney Princess Heart Box, which she spent some time decorating. She then really wanted to paint this Galt Toys Tea Set. W enjoyed choosing the colours and styles that she wanted on each item. She liked it so much that a few days later, she went on to paint a couple of china chicks for us to have as Easter ornaments. They turned out great and are now part of the Easter box of plastic eggs and trinkets that we get out every year.

W, D and J all did some ‘work’ for me on my business when they wanted to. This is both educational and a great way for them to learn about the value of money. I have written more about the subject in my blog posts about pocket money and chores.

The next day, J, D and W all played together at a soft play centre. On the way there, W wanted to spot which bus was ours. She looked out for the correct numbers on the bus and found the right one in no time. She then spent a long time talking to J on the journey, and teaching him all she has learned over the last few weeks, showing that she has taken in a lot of information.

Later, all the children watched two videos together, as they needed to wind down after such a busy day. Whenever we watch a video, we have the subtitles on. The older one likes to read them to catch anything he may have missed (or to pick out inaccuracies), the middle one likes to read the words of the songs so that she can learn them, and it is helping W to be motivated to learn to read as well.
Three friends came to the house later in the week for an Easter egg hunt. My partner had set up clues for the children to follow to find eggs around the house and garden. D and J’s clues were written, and W’s were in words and pictures. They all did well to work out the answers and find their eggs. After much chocolate was eaten, they all played noisily in the park and the house and properly enjoyed their day! We had another social engagement later in the week when another friend came to the house to play and much fun was had again.

In addition to the planned play dates we had, there was also an impromptu social opportunity for W, when one of the trains that we traveled on this week was delayed, meaning a 3 hour journey for us. W spent the time playing with 4 other children (ages 9, 7, 5 and 3), sharing her toys and role-playing moving house, going to prison (!) and playing doctors, amongst other things. The other children loved playing with her and they all got on very well for the whole time we were travelling.

Back at home, W wanted to work on some activities in one of her magazines, so she read a few words of an Alphablocks story, even reading a couple of words without sounding them out first. She also matched some sticker shapes, followed dotted lines with her pen and cut out some shapes.

Since we are lucky enough to have all the children at home because of the school holidays, we visited Deen City Farm. There was lots to do and the children learned about what goats, sheep and cows eat. One of the goats ate a piece of the paper packet that the food was in and we had a discussion about what would happen to the packet and why goats eat things that they shouldn’t. They also learned the difference between herbivores’ teeth and carnivores’ teeth, since they noticed what shape the goats’ teeth were. We had a chance to pet rabbits and guinea pigs, and to ask lots of questions of the staff there.

We saw owls and W asked why the owl was awake in the daytime. She learned about how owls are bred and tamed, and how they are cared for. We then watched a riding lesson and then pooped in to see the rabbits and guinea pigs being cleaned out.

After looking at all the animals, it was time to play in the playground. Even though it was the school holidays, we managed to find another home educated child there to play with. W chatted to him and played with him on the slides and climbing frames.
D and W played catch at the bus stop on the journey home and then D later read her book to both W and J while we waited. W just loves being read to and loves books in general, so having D read to her benefits them both so much. We had one of those perfect parenting moments at that bus stop. You know, one of those moments where all the children are behaving perfectly and doing something very sweet while people look on and smile. It was definitely one of those times where I felt all smug (before the children’s grumpiness kicked in a few minutes later, but I won’t mention that…..).

Subjects covered:

Economics (business), Maths (receiving wages for ‘work’), Spatial skills (Lego, Minecraft), Art (pottery painting and decorating jewellery box), English, Biology (mammals’ teeth and animal characteristics), socialisation (friends visiting, meeting a new friend at the park, sibling play, extended family visiting). Technology (Minecraft).

Can You Work and Home Educate?

I hear this question a lot from people who are considering home ed. There is a belief that home education is expensive (more about that in a later blog post) and that you won’t be able to work while doing it either. Neither of these are true. Home education is as expensive as you want it to be and you can definitely work while doing it – you just have to be creative.

However, I’m not going to say it is easy – it isn’t – but raising children can be difficult anyway and we’ve managed to do that so far, right?

You will need to make sacrifices. Instead of arranging childcare around your work, you will need to arrange work around your children. Self-employment or freelance work is probably the best type of work for home educators, simply because of flexibility, but it can be done if you work away from the home, too.

In my case, I am self-employed. I work for an hour or two in the daytime, whenever W is otherwise engaged in play or an organised activity, and then I work from the time she goes to sleep until I am falling asleep at my computer, usually at around midnight. I am lucky in that I can be very flexible in the daytime as I don’t have appointments or (many) deadlines in my line of work, but I find that simply fitting the hours in can be a struggle. For example, tidying, cleaning and cooking has to be done in the daytime when W is awake. I don’t get the chance to clean up after bedtime as that is the time that I am working. I very rarely watch TV in the evening, but this is the sacrifice that I made to home educate W. I do realise that it isn’t for everyone. It is difficult – very difficult – sometimes, but I do strongly believe that the benefits of home education far outweigh the costs to my free time (and the loss of the money I could earn by doing something else if W were at school). I get to spend hours a day at the park, in museums or seeing our good friends (see my post on socialisation here), so this ‘sacrifice’ is definitely worth it for us, by a long way.

In a two-parent family, you could tag-team, in that when one of you comes home from work, the other can work from that time. It takes a lot of organisation and again involves unsociable hours, but it can be done. I know of a few families that work in this way, with one partner working two or three nights a week and the other partner working in the day. Again, it involves sacrifice. You will see a bit less of your partner, so the time that you do have together becomes all the more precious. If you find that this is the best working pattern for you, do make sure that you can fit in just a little bit of together time now and then. Savour the moments that you do have.

I have spoken to many home educators on the subject of work. I know editors, people who teach languages online at home, transcribers, bloggers, eBay sellers and many, many other freelancers. I know people who have had high-powered jobs, but have given that up when making the decision to home educate their children. I know single parents who home educate, some working and some not. I also know many people who are fortunate enough to survive on one person’s wage, within a two-parent family. Every family’s situation is different and it is important to make the decisions that are right for you, as a family. It is about looking at where you are now and what you want your future to be.

Questions to consider:

Do you have extended (or nuclear) family support to cover for the hours that you will work?

If your children have grandparents, aunts, uncles or other trusted extended family that would love to have regular time with them, take them up on their offers. Your children will love the time and attention from them and you will have space to work for a little while, when the opportunity comes up.

If not, are there other hours that you can do when your children are asleep or occupied at workshops, groups or lessons?

If your child is old enough, and ready, there are many and varied lessons or workshops that your child can do without you needing to be present (subject to all of the relevant DBS and qualification checks, of course). You would then have an hour or two to do some work while these happen.

Are there working from home opportunities that fit your skill base?

Try searching for local or national jobs that can be done from home. These are very often lower -paid jobs, but can be much more flexible in terms of hours. Be careful to never pay anything up-front and to check that any company is a reputable one before you commit to anything.

Is it possible to work fewer hours at your current place of work, or to ask for more flexibility with the hours that you do have?

Often people think that they cannot change their hours or request to work from home, for fear of upsetting their employers, but it might be worth an ask, at least. Explain your situation and your reasons for doing this. If you have an approachable boss, you might just be lucky.

I do realise that this is not an option for many people, simply because the job that you do needs you to be present at work for all of your hours, or because your boss is not approachable at all….

If you have a partner, can you work opposite hours to them?

Draw up a plan of how that could look for your family. How would you feel about it and how would your children feel about it? Could you trial it for a while and see how it works for you?

Have you researched local groups or lessons locally that your child will benefit from, while you can also work?

Check local Facebook groups and email lists for all the current activities, clubs, lessons and groups that your child could do. At this point, I have to say that it is important to not book in too much, especially if your child has only just been deregistered from a school environment. Make sure you have plenty of down-time and free-play opportunities in between organised activities.

In the end, the decision to home educate and to make a change to your working hours or overall employment lies with your family only. Only you know what is best for you and your family and no-one can tell you what to do for the best. Have a think about what life would be like if things stayed the same. Would things be better or worse with a change? You can’t predict that, of course, but sometimes it is better to make a change, than to keep things the same, for fear of making the wrong decision. Maybe this could be the change that you all needed. Maybe this could be the best thing for you all and you would be a happier and more relaxed family because of it. You will never know until you make that leap….