reflections on our home learning journey 4

Where last week was a roller coaster this week has simply been. It was not helped with me navigating it with a migraine which has made my mornings somewhat slow and foggy. Lessons at home are also not helped by Kanga teething and unsettled. She has decided that it is high time she was up and walking and so is very frustrated and lets the world know when she finds herself flat on the ground having tried to get from one piece of furniture to another which requires letting go. A report this week indicated low-level disruption in classrooms can hinder learning. Well I know I am not the first home schooling parent this week to remark that the same can be said at home from time to time. But the blessing of being at home is there is room for flexibility and adapting. Which is exactly what we did on Thursday morning when I was re-emerging from my migraine state and everyone was out of kilter. I was encouraged reading an article on the BBC where Richard Branson was speaking of allowing his staff to pick and choose when and how long they took time off work, rather than setting a set amount of annual leave. Staff tended to take time when the team were in a good place work wise, and did not take excessive time away and honoured the team. So with renewed confidence we decided to put lessons to one side and go and run errands in the village and bake a scrumptious chocolate fudge cake. DSCN1788 I am very thankful chocolate is not a trigger for my migraines. Along with the renewed confidence came doubt though as I stepped outside the front door for while we are both very confident of the choice we have made with home education we then have to live it out in community with others who may be supportive, curious, unsure or totally skeptical and I find myself doubting as I ponder what they might think if they see us having fun out and about when ‘surely we should be doing lessons.’ Later that day I then came across an article highlighting the importance of play as a means and end in itself and it not always needing to come with an educational, social or health measured outcome and that children these days do not get enough free play.  I watched my children build bridges and forts with the sofa cushions and remembered their interaction on the rides outside the supermarket and let go of my guilt that I had not set an agenda for their play in the midst of a day ‘off lesson’ and let them have a bucket full of free play and soaked in the enjoyment of their imaginations.

I was reminded on Monday afternoon that large busy groups at the moment are not life giving for me right now, which is hard as our church group is growing and thriving which is exciting to see. But my intention to catch up with lessons in the afternoon instead was a non starter. And my inner self often reacts with panic to that as my personal monologue then tells me that the whole week is going to be a right off and that this whole journey is going to be lost. Yes I tend to over dramatise outcomes. But with a change to our Tuesday routines with art and music with others now being every two weeks I was able to catch up with lessons on Tuesday morning and still do art with my boys. This week it was Egyptian headdresses.DSCN1744 We then all headed to the park for a fantastic fall walk and play with some bark rubbings along the way. That was the highlight of the week seeing Bob and the other children forming friendships and heading off creating dens and fishing and paddling, while the mums re-lived their childhoods collecting chestnuts with the little ones.DSCN1770DSCN1745DSCN1758DSCN1755

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this new pattern for Tuesdays it works well as our church group is every two weeks and so will work in with me being able to not worry about trying to do lessons on a Monday afternoon but can do them on a Tuesday morning, but I will need to be extra organised with dinner for Tuesdays. That is part and parcel the blessing of these days as we adjust and adapt our weeks and work out what is best for us and how much we can all manage. Bob also added into his week french on a Wednesday afternoon at an after school group. He has a love and fascination for languages so we will see how he goes with a modern language as so far his main exposure to languages has been Biblical Greek and Hebrew through his Dad’s study.

This week also found us being asked about ‘socialization’ and the need to ensure our children are getting adequate socialization. In all honesty it is a question I dread because my I am not sure what lies behind the question and so list off any number of ways our children interact with others in the week – home school co-op, church, french class etc. We are not living hermit lives and so I wrestle with why we are always being asked that one question. What is it that causes school families to always come round to that question of homeschooling families? Surely all of us should be seeing our families as starting points for building relationships and that it is from there we move out but why that move outward can only be done by being in a school context from as early an age as possible confuses me.   Just as they are learning all sorts of other basic skills they are not mature enough to necessarily make wise judgement calls in friendship forming.  There will be plenty of time when they are older when they will be out making their own friends and relationships and I want to give them a good grounding in what good, healthy friendships are. And rarely do I get the sense that that is the answer people want when they ask the question. I am not saying that that cannot be done through children going to school  and yes my own experience of school days no doubt impacts my perspective on this but we made the choice together to  home educate and Mark has a positive recollection of school days in contrast. Teaching about relationships can happen in school and parents can train their children as well,  just as leaning to be relational with others can happen through being home educated. My brother and sister in law have sent their girls to school but have been very intentional in getting to know the families of the friends their girls have made and been creative in this with ideas we hope to incorporate with our children as they grow and another family we know intentional chose the home they bought so it would be a place with enough space for their boys and their friends to spend time and her shopping also reflects that their home can be overflowing with a number of teenagers. Either way there needs to be an intentionality to know who our children are building relationships with at any age. I don’t think this paragraph is perfect, I am writing with my own blinkers, I am not trying to be divisive but I have reworked it so many times I am going to let it stand as it is.

Its been the week its been. No great highs, no eureka moments, but we are not who we were a week ago. We have all learnt lessons, all been challenged, we have had to go back to the drawing board to work out what needs adjusting to make the week flow for all of us. We have laughed, we have read, we have had moments to live out loving others, we have had to say sorry to each other and forgive each other. We have needed God’s grace and because of it we have kept putting one foot in front of another.

 

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reflections on our home learning journey 3

This has been one of those weeks that has had a whole feast of emotions and rollercoaster moments but the one moment that still makes my heart beat fast and makes me smile was when I had set Bob his grammer work while I nursed Kanga. This day’s lesson required Bob do do some copy work of two simple sentences to show the difference between common and proper nouns. It was the first time he would be doing any intentional free hand copy work using lined paper. Based on any previous experience with birthday cards and thank you cards the idea of these two whole sentences being copied caused an inital guilty moment as I was concerned at how many pieces of paper it would take to write two sentences. To my utter joy and pride Bob completeted this task using simply two lines on the A4 page and while space between words may not have been generous one could clearly read his writing and he had formed his letters evenely and within the lines which I had not required of him as I simply wanted him to get used to the idea of writing and not feel constrained.

The second high came today with reading as I moved Bob up a level with his reading and he protested saying he could not do it and I said that that was fine as I knew we were going up a level but we could do it together. Well aside from one or two new words it turns out he could do it by himself which gave him a massive boost of confidence. While I have been confident of teaching our children most subjects the very basic skills of mastering reading and writing have been the two that have caused me most fear and concern. Veteran homeschoolers have assured me that they will work it out when they are ready and it will come but I still had my doubts. So this week has provided both Bob and myself with extra confidence and hope for the journey. This has been doubly important to me as someone with dyslexia and so I have struggled to find resources to help me teach him these basic skills. We do not know if Bob also has dyslexia but I can already see in his learning style many of the same hurdles and obstacles that I faced and still battle with and I want to provide him with a framework that will serve him well throughout life whatever path he chooses.

After the bumps of last week and talking with another friend and remembering the wise words of another homeschooling mom; who once took a week off from ‘lessons’ as such and spent a week focusing on her children’s characters as those needed attention; I took Monday as a day off from the usual maths, writing, and reading and Bob and I made an emotions chart. DSCN1735This has been a great tool in our family this week and a served as a great springboard for conversations and a way of talking through situations without complete fall out happening at times. In the mornings we all clip our peg onto an emotion and as the day progresses we can move our peg around, sometimes talking about how some situations can leave us feeling a number of different ways all at once. It has been good for Bob and Zog to identify feelings and to see that Mummy and Daddy have them too, and how we can all feel different ways in the same sitaution depending on what is happening. It has been humbling to find oneself in God’s classroom right within your own home on how well one respond or rather how badly one responds to emotions. I have always had plenty of emotions but have never really paid attention to my emotions and my reactions in a constructive healthy way. This was not the place or way I would have imagined if I ever plucked up the courage to deal with my emotions but God has a way of providing a better way and while I have had to face some hard truths about myself and in turn regrets about reactions in the past I am thankful for the humbling journey of parenting an intelligent child with a deep sense of justice and another bright child who is very open about how he is feeling to make me face up to my own emotions and responses. I have been thankful for this article online this week in light of this learning curve I have found myself in. http://www.feminagirls.com/2014/09/16/funner-part-3-emotional-control/#more-6476

Again we have come to the end of another week of learning in the big and small moments of the day. We have adapted the times we do DSCN1736lessons to fit around appointments and time with friends. We have allowed the schedule to be our friend rather than our slave. It has been there quietly in the background to provide a framework but within which we have been able to move the pieces around. It has been a week when we have seen God bless our faithfulness when we had nothing left to offer the week but still stepped into it somehow. We spent time with friends practising our Egyptian writing. Its been a week when we have lived deeply within Ancient Egypt and grappled with Egyptian names and learnt more then a mother needs to know and simply scrapped the tip of the tip of the iceberg of the joy and inquistivness of a 5 year old boy of the process of mummification.

 

 

DSCN1737And I am rediscovering a love for colouring in, it offers for Bob and myself and more often than not Zog, times of real connectedness and a space for conversation while everyone is working on their piece of art work. Sometimes they request we colour and other times when I know we need to reconnect or need to create a safe space or a place of peacemaking I get out the colours and and colouring pages and start colouring and soon I have companions at work alongside me talking about the deep things of life and faith, the funny moments and everything in between. So may I encourage you this week if you are looking for new ways to connect why not try getting out some colouring pages and colours and draw up a seat and see who joins you at the table.

 

reflections on our home learning journey 2

Where does one begin to reflect on the week just gone. It is certainly not one I want to see repeated as far as my parenting goes. I have failed, sinned, repented and been forgiven. I was not simply short tempered but without any fuse at all at points. Logically and in moments of calm I can identify all the triggers but that does not justify the level of anger and frustration I have shown this week.

Mark and I have often said this first year with three has been about survival. And this week has felt like it has been an edited version of the year.  Not because we have three and at times find ourselves out numbered and in need of more solid sleep, but because of lots of big and small factors which have woven their way into our lives over the year. It has felt like we are madly treading water and every time we raise our heads up we are pushed right back down again. We are running on empty spiritually and that has a massive impact on us as a couple and as we parent. I have thrown the lot at God and He has thankfully not fought back, a lesson I need to hold tighlty too in parenting. I have jumped 10 years down the road and thought that if things haven’t changed we are going to be dealing with juvenille detention centres. It turns out though when you dare be honest with other mums of boys they are thinking just the same thing too, so maybe there is hope in all this if I stay the course and keep on being faithful in the day to day acts of teaching, training and discipline and as our children grow too, that between God, their growing maturity and wise parental input we might just all make it to being grown ups who can make a postive difference in the world.

In the midst of that I have been thankful for Mark who stands firm in it all, he is a man with his heart and mind anchored firmly to the gospel but not detached from reality and not afraid of his, mine or the childrens emotions. Thankful for a week of frozen left over meals to keep us going. Thankful for two dear friends whose emails and texts have been gospel centred and truth filled and have offered us community even when that is not the norm here. The reminder of the need to teach our children not just the happy stories of the Bible but also the lament psalms. This was a timely read http://thegospelcoalition.org/article/teaching-our-children-to-lament

It has been a week when maths, history, spelling, reading, writing, grammar, and science have all happened and infact happily happened. It has been all the moments around them that have been fraught with emotion, anger, weariness, colds, coughs and tiredness. But they have been invitations to dig deeper, to challenge what our hearts and minds are like. To repent and offer repentance, to show grace. To see what it means to live mercifully toward one another. It has taken me all week to realise they were such invitations and not instant battles that I needed to be victorious in.

We have seen Bob grasp concepts in maths, we have seen his pencil work come on in leaps and bounds. We have seen him show courage when needed and the difference in him when others embrace him for who he is. We have seen depths of character in both boys. We have seen Zog take on awareness of others emotions and his desire to see healing and restoration, to carry the burden of another one in his tender 2 year old heart. We have witnessed Kanga’s adventurous spirit take her to all sorts of places that we thought were unreachable to 9 month olds.

It has been a week when I have read and re-read this adaption from Eugene Peterson in ‘ The Pastor’  that is on one of our kitchen cupboard doors and been reminded what a gift this season extends to us. In all this week has held there has been a beautiful mystery unfolding in God’s way in our home day in day out and will continue to do so as we journey onward.

“When I am with my congregation, (our children) I want to be a patient parent. I want to have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing and saying in their lives. I don’t want to judge them in terms of what I think they should be doing. I want to be a witness to what God is doing in their lives, not a school mistress handing out grades for how well they are doing something for God. I think I see something unique about being a parent that I had never noticed: the parent is the one person in the community who is free to take our children seriously as they are, appreciate them just as they are, give them the dignity that derives from being the ‘image of God’, a God created being who has eternal worth without having to prove usefulness or be good for anything… I don’t want to be so impatient with the mess that I am not around to see the miracle being formed. I don’t want to conceive of my life as a parent so functionally that the mystery gets squeezed out of both me and our children.”

reflections on our first week of learning

My hope is to take time each weekend to reflect and write about the week of learning; to stop and consider moments that might otherwise get missed. To provide myself with a map of where we have walked, climbed, sat and rest, splashed in streams of unfettered joy or much needed grace and mercy. To remind myself of the wonder of all that God has placed within our family, to see our children anew. And I write publicly because I believe it takes a village to raise a child and many of the villagers in our family’s life are scattered across the four corners of the world and I seek their wisdom and insight and voice in this journey, so please speak up our children need your voices too.

I love order, I love lists, I love new folders and pencils and sheets of paper waiting for all that creative potential. I crave plans, established consistent routines. Grace is unatural to me, set ways is the air I breathe. This might be one reason we are on this path; yes I can give a number of reasons why we have chosen to home educate our children; but they are not the only ones on the path and so along with them I am learning, being stretched, having my eyes opened and at the end of the week I think I am willing to say that is a good thing.

We have not reached the place my timetable had us by Friday, the laundry pile had become not just a mountain but an entire moutnain range. Though to be fair I suspect a small person who loves ‘hanging up clothes’ thanks to a Maisy mouse episode may have something to do with the number of clothes that keep finding themselves in the laundry basket. My menu plan has not run smoothly from one night to the next due to the fact that some days seemed to miss out entire nights of sleep and so freezer meals were essential. We have navigated the tail end of the two younger ones with colds and teething only for the eldest to go down with a cold and unless you have seen Bob with a cold this is no small matter. For Bob a cold means major sinus issues (too young for any medication), eyes that will only half open and the heaviest congestion I have come across. As he put it himself this morning when asked how he was doing his response was ‘I feel like a melting iceberg’.

But saying all of that we have covered maths, history, writing, spelling, grammar, reading. And we had a fantastic day with our home ed families together day on Tuesday, enjoying cave painting, music with lots of animal songs and a great time in the park. Taking Kanga in the sling and leaving the stroller at home and also wearing my new welIMAG0281homeschool pitville park sept 2014lingtons freed me up to wander off the beaten path and paddle in the stream. I was free to enjoy myself and have fun with our boys. It was a moment of grace that I was not anticpating but it meant I enjoyed an afternoon of pure small boy delight and see the park through their eyes. And Kanga was far happier too. I have learnt to teach subjects standing up, curled up on the sofa, to do jigsaws with my hands while teaching another subject in order to keep two boys going. I have learnt to let Bob take his worksheets to his new (to him) old fashioned school desk to do independent work and learn how to use his time. I am learning to get my head around all sorts of Egyptian names as we study Ancient Egypt. That in particular has been humbling to me as I long to see the light come on for Bob and his reading and there I am with all my dyslexic ways of seeing the world of print wrestle with names that make no sense to my understanding of sounds and want to just skip over them but cannot as I am reading aloud.

Humility has been my word for this week as I see Bob’s wrestle with flexibility when I suggest doing something differently or trying something new because i can see that that might help him, knowing full well that such a suggestion made to me would be met with absolute resilance with all of my inner most being. I have been reminded that the blessing of home education means you can adapt and tailor lessons to the individual child even when it means letting go of the plan I had made for DSCN1705how the lesson would be best learnt. I have rejoiced when Bob embraced the cave painting project for normally he is a boy who is hesitant with colour and paper and tends to do monotone minute pictures in one corner of the page but with this he filled the entire sheet.

I have been humbled by the deep sense of justice and injustice Bob sees in the world and how quick he is to spot it and that God has called us to parent him in that path. He keenly feels injustices beyond him, as well as his own, and that challenges me because while I can see injustices I only feel my own. He reacts deeply and intensely and I need to take a deep breath and consider when he is frustrated where the injustice he feels lies, and sadly too many times it is my own short fuse or ability to change the boundaries on them over often small inconsequential things but things that matter all the same.

It has not been the week my timetable and planner had but it has been a good week for which I am very thankful for and one day that timetable and planner will take their rightful place in my life as a means of grace rather than a rule to live by.

 

(group photo taken by Bethan)