Friday, 22 May 2009

Autonomy as they get older

As our children get older, I’m very happy with the way our family’s autonomous approach to home ed continues to work for us. I think that there are probably plenty of people who can quite easily understand a happy five year old doing finger-painting and playing with Lego, but who doubt that older children (like ours) can go on learning through their own choice of activities. Well, for our family, so far, this is working really well.

In some ways, nothing has really changed in the way we home ed now and how we did things five years ago. We haven’t felt the need to introduce any compulsion into the children’s activities and we still have a pretty busy lifestyle of groups and so on. In other ways, things have changed a lot as the children get older. There’s more independent activities for both of them – P in particular. The children’s social lives change as they get older. People need different kinds of support - financial is pretty important!

Some things are constant – conversation, books, outings. Some things change – interests (of course), and resources needed and used. Probably the greatest joy for me is the sense of freedom that endures. I love it that my twelve year old can get up at ten and read the paper while chatting with me, before pottering off to a day of things she has chosen and often organised for herself. That does seem rather wonderful when I compare it to the option of getting on the bus to senior school at 8am every morning. Equally wonderful is the freedom for someone to pursue something with a passion. L went to a story writing workshop on spooky stories this week and got up the following morning to finish his story. That took a couple of hours (off and on) and he was able to do it in his pjs.

Of course, every day is not a joyful journey of educational discovery because life has bumps. We get tired. Dani and I have to juggle work, home ed, looking after the house and pursuing our own interests. That doesn’t always happen well and we muck up from time to time. But I’d far rather be juggling like this than packing the kids off each morning and working 9-5. I love the little moments that we snatch when I can just hear everyone thinking happily away to themselves. I love coming home from work to be greeted by excited people telling me all about their varied days.

I have no idea if we will still be doing this, in this way, in another five years. I imagine that things will change as the children hit their mid-teens – in many ways. But, as long as we’re all happy and making choices that suit us, then I’ll be chuffed. If the govt. wants to propose anything that will curtail our choices then they can’t expect us to roll over. This is too precious.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A mish mash

Here’s a few things that have been going on in the Greenhouse (and out of it) lately.

L has been writing lots of stuff - on blog, typed and printed and by hand. He’s also been drawing. He doesn’t want me to give you details but you can read his blogs if you want.

We’ve all been finding out something each week about a particular country. My ignorance astounds me.

People are always asking questions in this house. Recent examples - why does the earth spin? How does fermentation work?

I had a tiring weekend going to work while fighting with a migraine. It hit me on Sunday night, in the end, and I fell asleep on the sofa while D was making the dinner.

P is currently out buying foodstuffs for a picnic. This is the second picnic she and friends have organised for themselves. They are doing the whole thing – picking a theme and a location, buying and making the food, researching transport and so on. I hope they get good weather for this one.

D and I spent a long afternoon tidying and putting stuff in our new loft space. It is a brilliant space but I think we’ll have no problem filling it... One of our aims was to make L’s bedroom much less cluttered so it will be easier to decorate. We’re hoping to get that done over the next month or two. L is desperate for a proper desk.

I have been going to my creative writing course, which is quite intensive. We get very prescriptive homework each week, which is quite unlike any other creative writing course I’ve done. It is good because it makes me tackle weak points in my writing but I do find it hard to give it time when I have so little time for the story I’m currently working on. We shall see.

P has been making pretty bunting to decorate her room. She’s also been taking photos and getting some beautiful prints done. She has a plan for an exhibition but I’d better not say too much about that.

We have the tvs working again, although the dish is currently sitting on some scaffolding rather than the chimney stack. I’m really hoping that everything will get properly finished this week and then the scaffolding can come down and the dish be properly attached to the chimney stack. I must say that having tv back again has made me realise how much rubbish there is on tv. We rather enjoyed a period of cherry picking our programmes.

While we were without tv, we borrowed dvds of Black Books from the library. The kids really enjoyed it. It is a bit ruder than I remembered but never mind!

I am helping P cover all the MEP year seven maths books. She is aiming at completing them all by mid-July – her target, of course, not ours. She did a mock foundation level GCSE maths paper on the BBC website a few weeks ago and managed to get 80% which would be enough for a c at GCSE, I think.

I showed L how to add up in columns the other day and he was pleased with the fact that this meant he could now add up huge numbers. The workbook we were looking at only had three digit numbers, which I thought was odd. I mean, how many nine year olds can resist adding up millions? Once you ‘get it’ it really doesn’t make any difference how large the numbers are, does it?

We went to see No Fit State Circus on Friday. This was rather spectacular but poor old L was struck down with a migraine and had to go outside and miss the second half. Dani walked around outside with him and he managed not to throw up. They waited on the windy seafront for me and P to emerge. I’d certainly recommend the show but probably not if you have really little ones. Being on your feet the whole time and being shunted about by stewards is rather taxing for small people.

L went to a book signing, which you can read about on his blog - linked earlier.

Dani is knitting a lot. She has a little notebook full of strange markings, which she keeps at her elbow... All very mysterious to a non-knitter.

I’m sure there’s been loads more happening but I can’t be bothered to tell you more now. Time to make lunch, I think.

Sunday, 3 May 2009


We are still here but circumstances have made blogging rather tricky recently. We have been without a tv for a couple of weeks – as the builders have been re-building the chimney stack on which the sky dish sits. This means that the computer has been being a tv fairly often. When it isn’t being a tv then it is in great demand as a computer. I tend to get two minutes here and there.

Things were also further complicated by a trojan that got on the pc and caused some chaos before we dealt with it. A local computer guy came to work on it for us as D had exhausted her abilities. My abilities with such things go about as far as running a scan and then making panic noises... All is well now, though we are using Vista which is taking a little bit of getting used to.

The building work should be over in a couple of days (probably by Wednesday night) and we are full of plans for moving some stuff to the loft and then re-decorating Leo’s bedroom. The garden is also in urgent need of some attention. We need the scaffolding to go before we can really do that.

May is Brighton Festival month and we went to a free event last night at a park nearby. It was good but pretty packed. The kids did a good job of slithering through the crowds so they could see but I spent rather a lot of time looking at the backs of tall people. We’re planning a trip to the circus later in the week and I’m hoping that the fact that it is not a seated event doesn’t mean I have same experience.

P had her birthday last week (12!!) and we are having a little family picnic tomorrow. She got a camera as her main present and has been enjoying exploring the features.

I have been watching a lot of X-Files with L. I have been rather enjoying it. It isn’t something I chose to watch when it was made (sci-fi and conspiracy not really being my sort of thing) but my horizons have been widened by having someone in the family who is drawn to such stuff. I was counting my blessings this week that this period without tv has occurred when there is online tv and also when the kids are older and we don’t have to have endless repeats of The Fun Song Factory or Scooby Doo! Those things were great when they were little but it is nice being able to truly enjoy the same programmes.

I went to the first week of my new writing course. It’s hard to judge on one session but I hope it will be useful. I have homework! Whether or not I get it done is very much dependent on my getting a turn on the pc. Everyone here is just going out to a knitting/crochet event but I have to leave for work in half an hour so I can’t do it now... Ho hum.

D and the kids went to a St George’s day event recently and D brought me home a book and a rose. The stories are by some of my favourite authors but they are based on/influenced by operas and I know virtually nothing about opera. A learning opportunity – should I get time!

Kids are busy as ever. We still have a plastered grandmother. She is back at fracture clinic this week – so fingers crossed for that. Summer is galloping towards us and is full of all sorts of exciting events.

The home ed review team should be reporting in this month and everyone is rather on tenterhooks about that. I must confess that I’m trying not to get too drawn into the internal home ed politics of it. There’ll be decisions to be made when we see what they propose. Until then I’m trying to keep focussed on doing what it is we really want to do with our lives. Things in my life (most unbloggable) are dealing me a hefty reminder that we should live each day as fully as we can.