Friday, 19 September 2008

A day in the life of the Greenhouse family

I have been interested to read some ‘days in the life of’ blog posts at people’s blogs recently. It is so interesting, the way the internet can introduce us to people we’d never meet in our day to day lives. I’m sure it’s a good thing.

One of the reasons we moved to this blog was because I don’t feel comfortable talking in detail about what the children are doing. So, let’s see if I can give you a rough idea of our days that doesn’t break my own rule ;-)

The most notable feature in the way we live our family life is probably the fact that it is rather structured for people who purport to be autonomous home educators! This is because the children have a lot of commitments. It is also because both D and I work outside the home so we have to make sure that we can get to work and be at work without it interfering with the children’s things. We have timetables on the big noticeboard in our kitchen. This is useful in reminding us where we’re meant to be – and when – but is also so that we don’t add in impossible things.

Because we have these timetables, each day of the week has a distinct character. Fridays are pretty laid back, for example, whereas Mondays involve a lot of coming and going – as do Thursdays. If something swaps from one day to another then we’re often in total chaos.

So, on one of the days of the week, this might happen...

Dani gets up and heads off to work at about 8.40am. Sometimes both children are awake by then, but often L is still asleep. If he is, he usually wakes when she opens the door.

I will shower and dress and be offering breakfasts or making packed lunches, by nine. Children appear when they want and either make their own food or ask me to do it. I pay attention to what is eaten because I know it will influence ability to cope with whatever the day may throw at us! Leo copes better with a substantial whack of protein in the morning so he might have egg or vege sausage. If someone doesn’t have much breakfast, and they’ll be out for lunch, then I add more to their pack and remind them to raid it mid-morning.

P might head off to a local home ed group, leaving me and L with a couple of hours at home. I will take my cue from him and we’ll either do things together or separately. I’ll be trying to fit in things like getting washing on the line and washing up dishes. We might read our books side by side or he might be on the computer or pottering about. We might work together on his maths book or write stories. He might have a creation on the go and spend time in the re-cycling collecting materials. There’s always some drawing and sometimes things like fimo or watercolour painting. I’ll give him a hand with his keyboard practice if he wants me to – acting as music stand and occasional metronome! We talk and also enjoy silent time. The tv isn’t really on in the mornings here. In years gone by we used to watch schools tv but this isn’t very popular now.

It is equally possible that L might head off to a group and P and I will be at home. We have some scheduled slots for things she’s decided to concentrate on at the moment – but these are, of course, changeable if we feel like it. We also play cards or other games and chat and drink tea.

P might re-appear, or she might have something else to get to. I suppose I can tell you the bare bones of what these things might be! Maybe it’ll be art, or French with my mum or a sewing workshop. Soon it’ll be a self-managed learning group. She will be in touch with us throughout the day if she’s not with us.

D and I may ‘change mummies’ at lunchtime. If it’s what we call ‘tight changeover’ then I will be ready for work and on the doorstep as she comes along the road. We will exchange a few words. If we need to say more then I’ll be on the phone to her as I walk to the bus stop.

I find my journeys to work a very restful time. I will listen to music or have a read through of a story I’ve written and do some editing. Sometimes I listen to other people’s conversations. At work I do worky things until 7pm during vacations or 8pm during the term, when I head home.

The afternoon at home might involve a group activity for someone, or a visit to the grandmothers’, or time together. If Dani has time alone with L she’ll do some stuff with him – often his chemistry set or another messy experiment type thing. She’s very good at helping with materials and so on. If she and P are alone they’ll often do something outdoorsy – a bike ride or trip to town for something. When she has both of them for an afternoon – and there’s no groups or other social stuff – she often takes them to the swimming pool and/or library.

Whoever is around, later afternoons tend to involve some tv watching and/or quiet time for people. If the sun is shining, the kids may play in the street for a while – chalking on the pavements or dangling hulk from the upstairs window and swinging him about... If we’ve ended up in the park with other home edders (which happens most weeks) then we might be there until quite late.

We eat together when we can. When I’m at work until eight then the other three will usually have eaten before I get in. Evenings are actually rather lovely now. If no-one is going out – I go to writing, Dani to knitting and P to a bookgroup and Woodcraft– we’ll usually be together in the living room. Saturdays often seem to involve a roast dinner. We have some favourite family programmes – lots of comedy, Doctor Who (of course) other dramas and some factual stuff. We also watch stuff like X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing. At the moment we all like to watch Who Do You Think You Are?

Kids usually go to bed at 9.30pm and have half an hour of the book they’re currently sharing with a parent. After ten they are in their rooms until morning – reading or sleeping. D and I will talk, watch programmes on tv or computer, plan things we need to plan, do banking and so on. There might be some fundraising or other admin for a home ed group. There’s cups of tea in the evening too. We often go to sleep way too late – way after midnight. Sometimes I fall asleep under a woollen blanket on the sofa and D wakes me to go to bed.

That could be any weekday. Some weekdays the kids are with me all day because D’s doing 9 to 5 at work. Weekends are a bit different because the kids don’t have any groups at weekends. I work a lot of weekends, which means D and the kids are usually together and they often see cousins.

We do a lot of groupy stuff but it is important to the way we home ed. I’m happy that the children have autonomy in their learning but, for me, it is necessary that they are offered lots of interesting opportunities. I also think that being able to get along with other people is probably the most vital life skill there is. That doesn’t mean you have to live in a social whirl – I often crave time at home – but no-one lives in a complete social vacuum.

We often have days that are a break with every routine. Today, P went on a five mile nature walk with other older HE kids – led by rangers from a nature reserve. One day soon we’re going on a biggish home ed trip to a planetarium. When groups aren’t happening much (over the summer) we do quite a few days out.

I rarely get a whole day at home. I would do that more if I could but it’s impossible at the moment. We are very lucky that we’re generally a healthy bunch (migraines aside) and so we can stand the pace. The children get time at home – but mostly in chunks here and there. It amazes me how much they get done when they’re here! Mess making, especially...


Gill said...

Oh, that was a very enjoyable read! Yes, quite organised and busy - it wouldn't do for me, but then, I'm not you! Having said that, it comes through in your writings that you're all obviously very happy with your lot and that the children are absolutely flourishing with all their groups and activities.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like bliss to me! :)

I admire you for arranging your days so carefully to get the most out of them. I also admire the quite obviously clear way you communicate with eachother as parents. You are undoubtedly providing your children with the time and space to explore:)AND taking care of eachother and yourselves too - your balance is striking.

ooer, that sounded really school reporty. Forgive. Lovely reading about your day. I've now gotten to thinking about detailing a typical day that goes pear shaped- lol, because I realised today that the structure we set is such support...and the chaos is what we are fighting against drowning in, but that the days that 'fall apart' often have some sort of great lesson in them.

Allie, *whine* *yearn* just read your post about the writers group *pine* it sounds FAB!!! Oh for something like that here!!! I'm not jealous, but crikey, I'd LOVE to do summat like that.

EF x

Anonymous said...

LOL, Gill and I were typing at the same time.

EF x

mamacrow said...

I always like reading 'day in the life' posts! this was v interesting - it pulled together lots of things you mention in passing, and I could 'see' the pattern more of how it works.

must do my own post, but each day is so different... mind you, a sort of weekly pattern is now emerging (YAY!) so maybe I'll post on that!

Allie said...

Hi all,

Yes, it does suit us rather well.

EF, I know how lucky I am to have found this writing group. I guess part of it is just urban life - more people so more such things going on - but also, Brighton is the sort of place where having an arty 'other life' is rather common (in people from certain backgrounds...) so you're never far from a group of some sort.

Joyce said...

You articulated really what I feel about our "autonomy" as well. We both work (albeit round one another as much as possible), and Hannah has lots of very physical activities, so we sort of need a bit of structure and planning, she needs a certain amount of rest, and we can't just lie in bed in the morning, so it means having a fairly settled bedtime. Sometimes I feel we don't practically fit in with the autonomous end, and we don't philosophically fit in with the structured end either. Oh well, somehow it works.