25th Nov, 2018 – animals!

This week was all about animals – sea creatures, pets, land animals, climates and habitats. Here is how W’s learning progressed throughout the week:

Science / Nature: W went over what she had learned last week about bats. It was good to hear that she had absorbed all the information.

We have been working on the days of the week and the names of the months and have made good progress, often reciting the words when we are on a train or in the car.

We watched 2 episodes of Blue Planet, which W was absolutely amazed by. We have the poster that goes with the series already and she loves learning the names of all the different sea creatures. She also learned about the food chain in the oceans, storms affecting the seas, false killer whales and how they communicate with (and remember) individual dolphins.

At the petrol station, I explained where the tanks of fuel are and showed W where they are filled.

W’s stepbrother, J (10) chatted to her about the equator and deserts.

We spent some time looking up where the major organs of the body are. W was interested in the fact that the stomach is behind the ribcage and not in her ‘tummy’.

She asked if frogs have teeth and how they bite things…. then later asked about flamingos: how they eat and how they dance.

On Wednesday, we had to go to the vets to get the kittens neutered. We talked a lot about why neutering is important, then W asked what happens to the cats testicles after they have been removed (!).

We saw lots of dogs in the veterinary surgery, and we chatted to the owners about the types of breed and their ages etc. We ended up spending a long time in there (drop off, collection and waiting for medication took 2.5 hours in total) and W was very patient indeed. She played with another child (4) and chatted to her about the cats.

When we were eventually called into the room with the vet, W learned about the process of having an operation and what happens in what order. She chatted to them confidently. Afterwards, we learned about how to care for the cats for the first week after their operation.

We then watched Jo Brand’s cats and kittens programme, which was educational again.

At the train station, we saw a police dog checking people’s bags. W asked how they are trained to do that and we talked about how they have a favourite toy and they are given that toy when they do the right thing. The police officer came over with the dog and introduced him to her. He was called Bobby and had a business card too. It was lovely that the officer did that as there was clearly a big police operation going on with armed officers too, but he took time out to speak to W about the dog.

We looked at the ‘magic mirror’ that was set up at the station. W loved the fact that she could see herself in it, but that there were other things that she could see in the mirror that were not there in real life. She saw a pride of lions moving near her and absolutely loved it.

Geography: We talked about tectonic plates, mountains and glaciers again, which she loves explaining to me.

South Africa came up in conversation randomly, so we talked about the climate and habitats that are there.

Play: We got the Xmas decorations out and the children loved looking through them all. Afterwards, instead of playing a board game, we played a memory game where we put 5 decorations on to a tray, covered it, removed one, and then the children had to work out which one I had removed. We all really enjoyed the game.

We played the ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ board game quite a few times and, although it’s a little young for all the children now, they enjoyed it and played well.

History: In the car, W asked about World War II, so her stepsiblings, J (10) and D (8) explained a bit about it to her. We also talked about refugees in an age-appropriate way.

Spatial Skills: We did a jigsaw instead of a board game on Thursday, which was lovely. W used to do so many jigsaws when she was 3 and became quite good at doing them, so it was good to see her enjoying them again.

W wanted to check her Lego builds that are on display in her bedroom, so that she could see if there were any pieces missing. We did two full sets and made a list of missing parts, then found the pieces that we needed from her ‘spares’ box.

She later put together her new Playmobil set by herself, following the instructions with no problem.

PSHE: We talked about burials and what happens after a funeral.

Maths / Numeracy: At bedtime, W randomly told me: “3+3 is 6. 4+4 is 8. etc etc”. She enjoys adding numbers for fun and I hope that continues!

On the train on Wednesday, W did some work in her new Shopkins activity book. There were colouring- in activities, writing, spot the difference, mazes and numbers.

On Thursday, she asked to go to her drop-in Maths and Drama classes. In Maths, she was given a worksheet with addition tests and she just sat and worked on it by herself. She asked for help from the teacher when she had run out of fingers to add up on, so the teacher helped her to find a new way of adding when she does bigger numbers.

Also in Maths, she played a numbers game where they drew different parts of a robot according to which numbers came up on a dice. The next game was one where she stood back-to-back with a friend (T), 6, and they each wrote down a number. They had to guess what number the other had from being told what the total of the two numbers was.

Drama / Performing Arts: In Drama, she played games pretending to be animals and also telling stories and guessing which fairy tales they are. She really enjoyed this class too.

Socialisation: At the classes, she saw her friends, B (7), A (5) and T (6) from our regular Monday social group, who were pleased to see her!

English / Literacy: At home, D had put a new poster on her wall and W did a good job of trying to read the words on it.

W wrote wedding and birthday cards for friends and family. She insisted on doing it without help, and did a good job.

Home Economics: We baked a lemon drizzle cake, and decorated it with many hundreds and thousands.

Art: I had a giant box arrive with some stock for my shop and W asked if she could draw on it. She spent ages drawing cats and rainbows on it, inside and out. She asked for a light inside and took her night lights in there too so that she could see her masterpieces properly.

In the café on Friday, W entertained herself by drawing in my notebook, making more pictures of cats.

All her free time at home on that day was spent decorating the giant cardboard box again. She has now branched out into drawing butterflies too.

This rounds off our animal-themed week nicely. At the moment, W is interested in all living things, whether they are sea creatures or land animals. She has such enthusiasm for learning when it is a subject that she enjoys, and I hope that continues into her future.

 

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…..

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!

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….

21st Jan 2018 – Pocket Money

Our learning this week began with a long conversation as we were travelling through London. W wanted to know how ice melts, so we talked about temperatures and solids turning into liquids (all explained in a way that she can grasp at age 4 and 3 quarters). We also passed by some celebrations for the Chinese New Year, so we had a long chat about what it means and how it is celebrated.

She wanted to know again how an underground tunnel is built, so we talked a bit about that too, and I made a mental note to take her to the Transport Museum in the future, so that she can see some examples of how it was done. While we were on the underground, W wanted to count the steps whenever we went up or down some, so we did that, checking her knowledge of numbers over 20.

Once we were on a train, W asked to do some colouring-in (good pen practise) and then did a page from a workbook on rhyming words, which she enjoyed. I find that, if W does ask to do some work on paper, she will often only do one sheet or two maximum. As I said before, I am not pushing her to do any at this stage as I want her to enjoy it and not see it as a chore.

I give W a small amount of pocket money to help her get used to the value of money and to hopefully learn about the benefits of saving versus spending. At the moment, she likes to spend it as soon as she gets it on a small item. She wants the bigger items and is slightly disappointed that she can’t have them because they cost more than she has. When this happens, I do explain about saving and the fact that she could afford bigger items if she waited a week, but W is still at the stage where she would rather have a little item now instead of a bigger toy in a week. That is fine by me, but hopefully she will learn delayed gratification in time.

On the subject of pocket money, I don’t give money for routine chores around the house as I believe that chores are for the good of the family and none of us get paid for them. I worry that W will grow up not wanting to do chores if she does not gain from them, whereas the true gain from chores is simply living in a tidy house where we can relax. The Washington Post had an interesting article on the subject…. So, an allowance it is! W counted her money (with help) while we were out to see if she could afford a particular toy or not (we are at the ‘is this a bigger or smaller number than this?’ stage so far) and was delighted that she had enough!

Readers: at what age do you think children should get pocket money, if at all? Do your children have an allowance or do they work for money? I’m keen to hear your opinions on this one.

On the way home from our shopping trip, we walked through a park and W asked what breeds the different ducks were. I knew a few, but we also had to look up a few on my phone. We both learned something then!

At home, W played with the fridge magnets and asked how they worked and why they stuck to metal. We tried them on different materials to see which ones they would stay on to and which they wouldn’t. We touched on the science of magnets a little also.

Later, we had a conversation on politics… W wanted to know why people would vote for a president who is not nice to everyone. It was a hard question to answer, but we did cover the subjects of democracy and majorities and also the media and people’s own beliefs. In the end, I don’t think W understood why people would vote a certain way, but at least she learned a little bit about how democracy works (or sometimes doesn’t….).

This week, W asked us to read more of the Lift-the-flap Science book and she really liked the sections on evolution, energy and electricity this time.

As with almost every week of our lives, Lego construction featured heavily, with all the educational benefits and opportunity for valuable playtime. Another brilliant game that featured this week was all three children (current ages 9, 7 and 4) setting up a ‘museum’ together. They brought toys to their museum to use as exhibits, made written signs and collaborated together to decide how much they should charge people to visit and how that money should be spent in the museum!

Whilst we were out on an errand, we spotted an engineer working in a hole in the ground, fixing communication cables. We stopped to have a look and he very kindly chatted to W about what he was doing and why. This was an excellent spontaneous lesson for her – the type that we can never really plan for, but are a welcome surprise when they do happen. I’m always grateful to those people who take time out of their working day to talk to an inquisitive child. It not only helps them to learn, but increases children’s confidence and social skills too.

On that note, I had to do some work on my business myself, as I do every day when W is happily engaged in something, or asleep. W decided that she wanted to help me, so I asked her to count items for me and add them together. She did very well and managed about 20 minutes. Any work that the children do on my business is paid work, but they never have to do it. They can choose to do real work at any time and they also choose when to stop as well. They usually do a maximum of and hour and a half per week each, if they do any at all and I think that is fine. They are paid for the work that they do and can choose to do it at almost any time.

We had our usual board games before bed every evening and the children chose mainly games with numbers in, like this Orchard Toys Bus Stop Game.

One day this week, W wanted to learn to count backwards, so we had a go at that.

We also went to one of our regular social groups this week. W had a great time playing table tennis, building towers with blocks, matching numbers with dominoes and playing chase with the other children. When we had finished there, we went to a cafe and W started counting things again. She had a go at counting in twos at one point, so we spent a bit of time on the two times table.

Reading all this, it seems that W learned so much in the course of a regular week. I am so happy that we are able to do this organically and at her own pace… and I hope that because of this, she will never lose her zest for learning…