Just recently, I have been struck by the fact that, in the last four and half (or so) years of home educating both the children, it has been almost impossible to see the moments of change and growth, while we were in them. I suspect that this may be particularly so if you take an autonomous approach and don’t make much use of graded and structured resources that can provide a framework for measure. I tend to notice one small incident, creation or discussion and then look back and realise that there has been a great development in skill, competence or understanding. And I’m not just talking about the children here! I think I’ve learned some important things over the years and I suspect that they may be more useful as insights into our home ed than the children’s development.
Change, generally, is the one constant in childhood. It is not a problem that we cannot predict what our children will choose, enjoy or dislike – it is important that we remember this fact if we are going to avoid conflict and respect our children’s right to define themselves.
That it is always better to abandon something than turn it into a battle. This goes for activities, games, conversations – whatever. Walking away and giving people space is something I’ve done more and more as the children get older. It’s important in my parenting, as a whole, but even more so because we home ed. I don’t want a home that’s full of tension and fights. Sometimes rows cannot be avoided, but, very often, they can. Problems can still be dealt with. But it amazes me how there are far fewer problems when you don’t approach the issue when angry.
When people are angry, they need time. This is not five minutes. In our family, it is more like an hour. An hour spent calming down – even if it delays your departure to the library or whatever – is an hour well spent.
People changing their minds about what they are doing or want to do is a good thing. It shows that they are reflecting on things. I find this a bit of a challenge because I have always been very much “stick with it and see it through”.
Self-motivation, in enough quantity, leads to a flow and warmth in the house. It is like the movement of a river. People will pick up, engage, put down, wander, re-engage. They may be doing things for five minutes, five hours or five weeks, but the feeling of flow will be similar. When people are feeling under pressure, it will feel like trying to wade through glue. I do not claim that nothing can be achieved by wading through glue, I just know that I don’t like living with that atmosphere.
Modelling concentration, enjoyment, relaxation and commitment is important. I do not just have a right to my own interests and hobbies – I have a duty to show that adults can be passionate about learning. This, for me, covers reading, writing , tv and pc time. It doesn’t mean I spend hours ignoring the children!
Because children’s brains are making new connections and their bodies are improving in co-ordination, as they grow up, a new skill will often emerge like someone pulling a rabbit from a hat. There will be a right moment for someone to learn or understand something and if you are not at that moment it may be counterproductive to be trying. Of course, people need to try things, but they also need every opportunity to say “enough!” or “that’s all I wanted to know” or “I don’t feel ready for/interested in this at the moment, even if you think you know I could do it.”
People often know and understand far more than they are willing to reveal. This depends on the person, of course, but it is always worth bearing in mind. Children are not obliged to share the inner workings of their brain with us just so we can feel well-informed. A respect for privacy is key for me. I need it for myself so I must give it to others.
Sharing our knowledge about the world, in all senses, is education. In our family this is mainly about conversation. But there is as much ‘educational value’ in discussing why it is that someone had an argument with their friend as there is in a conversation about local history.
Children will make linkages you never considered before. This has been a real eye-opener for me. When the children learn something, they will often make a comparison or link that never occurred to me. These can be highly educational!
If people aren’t happy then make changes. I have always believed this but I’ve learned that it is vital in our home ed lives. The last thing I want is for anyone to feel trapped by the choice we’ve made to home ed, which, for me, is about maximising freedom.
So, there we are. Looking back on the last few years, I think these are some of the things I’ve learned. I couldn’t necessarily pin-point the moment I learned any of them. Sometimes I’ve learned them, forgotten them, and re-learned them. But I hope, each time, they’ve got that bit deeper into my brain! I also hope that I can look back on this post to remind myself of these insights if I have moments of getting stuck, in the future.