reflections on our home learning 12

As a teething 1 year old with a temp of 101, potty training, continued birthday celebrations and plumbers showing up and not showing up has impacted our week I have been stretched ever further in unstructured learning. As the start of the week saw Kanga and me revert to what felt like new born nursing patterns and a stack of new library and birthday books it has been a week for reading, drawing and character building. Bob has gone to bed every evening with a stack of paper and pencils and completed a number of pictures oftern capturing stories we have read in the day. His drawing is becoming much more complex and detailed. Writing has been practised with the number of birthday cards that have been needed to be written. Maths have revolved around the number of candles on cakes, the number of grandparents, cousins and adults coming and going for different meals and the number of cups of tea drunk. And he and I have loved reading Mary Poppins this week. I am hoping to borrow the DVD this weekend to watch with him.

Zog is now keen to identify his letters as well as numbers which he can do up to 10 both with the number and with objects. He often is keen to have his ‘folder’ down about 15 minutes before dinner time to do ‘school’ and I am learning to go with the flow as his concentration is probably only 10 minutes at a time and so I can make it work if I am willing. He has a far greater concentration span if scissors are involved and then he can keep himself entertained for hours, I just have to make sure he is not so lost in his world that he has not moved on from cutting the pile of paper I gave him to simply whatever comes to hand. The table cloth has experienced my lack of attention, though my mum would say that was nothing to the fringe I gave the newly hung curtains in our landing when I was about 4 or 5. It was a long while before I was given a pair of scissors again.

While I look forward to more solid sleep and time to be able to be more prepared in advance and return to a rhythm of more structured ‘lessons’ I feel that I am more confident of the seasons of uncertainity, that learning can and does happen in different ways and that there are no lost times when it comes to learning if books are being read and that is always going to be happening around here.

reflections on our home learning 11

I really have no idea how we have notched up 11 weeks already. It is a week with which on the one hand I would like to go back and start again. A week when I responded differently, when I approached the week differently. Birthday weeks with family celebrations add excitement and hyperness to the mix and I have not worked out how that looks when trying to cover lessons. Evenings have not been ours. And I have realised how vital that day to prep the 7-8 weeks in detail is, having done it for the first half of this term but not as detailed this time due to the way the half term holiday unfolded. I have an overview of the week and the material to cover but I am simply one session ahead of Bob if even that at times and he sees through that and I am not impressed with myself either, leading to me getting ratty and finding any reason other than myself to blame .

Having said that I would like to go back and start again I have to let it be the week it has been as I cannot go back and re do it. And this is where these times of reflecting and prayer are so important. I can look back and see where I need to say sorry, where I need to forgive, ask for forgiveness, extend and receive grace and mercy. Be honest with myself, with God with others. And when I write it down like that I am struck by how relational life is. One cannot give and recieve without relationship, without others and so I stop and am thankful that my life is filled with relationships. Relationships that grow and blossom through the acts of redemption, grace, mercy, and thanksgiving.

And this weekend we have a big celebration of life with Zog turning 3 and Kanga turning 1. We will be surrounded by family and my mind goes to all those who have loved our family along the way who are scattered far and near. I had my ideal how this weekend would look, the homebaked menu, the detail and attention. This week though I have been reminded of how life is filled first and foremost in relational ways and so I have laid down my ideals for the sake of those I love and spent time with them even if it has not been perfect because I have had to wrestle with the letting go and allow the supermarket to be the main provider of the menu. The relief that swept across Mark’s face when I laid my ideal down and said yes when he offered to go and buy the food made the wrestling far easier and worth it. That is the blessing and gift of living life relationally first. It is not simply a life lived for others without any thought to self. For to truly live for others will mean a wrestling of ones own dreams and ideas and a need to lay those down and unless I am alone in this, we do not do that without an internal wrestling and so live is lived both outward toward others and inward as we genuienly lay down ourselves.

It has also been a week when grammar and maths have played second fiddle to character as Bob has had to step back and allow the attention and gifts be toward Zog and Kanga. It is often a hard lesson for other siblings at this stage in life to allow others to recieve all the gifts and attention and one’s own birthday can seem forever away. But when both your sibilings get to revel in all the celebrations and gifts at the same time and you have to stand back and let them play first with their new toys as well as have a Mum who is present but distracted with trying to keep what she can of her ideal for the party alive and wrestling with what she has to lay down it stretches one thin. Bob has done really well with delighting in the others and helping them get excited but he is ready for us now to move on to normality, to Advent, to events that he has equal particiaption in.

As for lessons they have carried on, we are off schedule but I am at peace with that. That sentence alone shows we have come along way as I would never had been at peace with that or dared admit that 11 weeks ago.  We are picking up on lessons I had not timetabled such as character and sibling friendships. We are growing, we are learning, we are finding our feet in this journey and adapting the pace of lessons. And tomorrow we will feast with family in the deep dark wood and enjoy Gruffalo cake and Owl icecream along with some roasted fox, scrambled snake and knobbly knees and give thanks for the youngest two in our family who are full of life, adventure, fearlessness and determination. I cannot think of a better way to round off a week that has been a reminder of living relationally.

reflections on our home learning 10

Colds have continued to have the upper hand this week, especially for Bob and myself. This has meant that once again this has been a week of going with the flow which is the gift of educating at home. Bob’s colds are intense and draining on him, and considering how healthy he is otherwise, I am willing to go with him on these. His sinues become so painful that wearing his glasses is sore which impacts his concentration and focus on reading and writing. Sleep has been unsettled if not fully disrupted and stamina is low for all of us. It has also been a week when unscheduled potty training has started and Kanga has viewed naps as utterly unnecessary and ignoring all indications that they would be highly beneficial for all of us if she did nap.

I came across a box of board games at our local charity shop; whose takings are going to take a serious dip once we leave the area; last weekend. So the week has been spent introducing Bob to Ludo, Chinese Checkers and Draughts which has been lots of fun and has allowed for some maths and logic to happen by the by. It has also been a week when we see the fruit of his perculating thoughts. Bob often takes things onboard without you realising and then mulls them over for an unknown period of time and then starts talking about them out of the blue and now even expressing ideas and thoughts in writing and detailed pictures, which are still done with either only a grey pencil or biro and any suggestion of including colour is met with resistance. This perculating takes courage on our part because it takes time and there also needs to be space given to Bob to just perculate and not always be adding new things or simply plodding on in order to keep up to speed with my timetable of lessons. But then we have a week like this one where colds have slowed us up and given him the space he needed to start processing and articulating his thoughts and we are once more reminded of how he learns best.

One such example of his perculating mind this week was on quiet time when I could hear him chatting away quietly and realised he was speaking French. He has been doing French once a week this term and while it has often been talked of as the highlight of his week there has been little evidence of Bob actually speaking any French. That is till this week when on quiet time he has taken to talking to Zog in French and teaching him animals and colours along with his lines for the play they are going to be doing of Owl Babies. And clearly Zog is taking it on board because now when we read Owl Babies when we come to Bill’s lines which Bob has to learn they both say them.

And as always if I am willing to admit it I have been learning more about myself. This week both through a great book we are reading on marriage and also as I see Bob wrestle with emotions, self awareness and consequences of actions and see the mirror held up to myself of my own stubborness and rebellion. I feel so much for Bob as I see so much of myself in him in his reactions and because it is only really now that I am seeing them so close am I seeing them for what they truly are in me. And so I have no idea how to help him navigate these feelings constructively as I do not know the best way through them in myself yet. What I do know is that I long to protect him from them and the long term impacts they have if not faced up to before reaching 40. But he is only 5 and so working out how to help him appropriately while working out how I need to address them in myself looks different even if ultimately the gospel is the only way forward for us both.

It has also been a week when I am reminded how much the children respond to where I am at spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It is also interesting as I think about how it is my spiritual loops and battles that Bob picks up on even if I have said nothing to him, while Zog responds to my emotions. We are in the process of working out the next step and I am an all or nothing girl and so with word of a possible opportunity which we are waiting to hear more on I have already searched right move for a home for Joshua’s Tree, (and found one), discoverd a couple of churches and a home schooling community all in the same area. But while we had hoped to hear more this week re the opportunity we have not, (there was never a point when we were told we would hear this week, it was the self imposed time frame I put on it) and so I have been looping myself in all sorts of ways without trying to let the children be aware. Despite not letting them know about this situation both Bob and Zog have picked up on and acted out of my spiritual and emotional lop the loops.  It will be intersting to see how Kanga responds to me but seeing it written down like this reminds of the importance of building in her and myself a confidence about our physical bodies from early on. I do not want her to grow up hearing me speak negatively about my shape which for the most part I do not have an issue with. It is not the figure I once had but it is the body that carried 5 little ones for different lengths of time and the gym has not been my prority. But twice recently a comment has been made suggesting that a new baby is on the way, which it is not. This has been hard to hear and has knocked my confidence and my resolve to not resent the added curves I have gained but I do not want Kanga to grow up body fearlful from the start. I know where my mind has taken me on that journey and I do not want that to be her path.

I think if you had given me this description of how one of our 10th week would look like back in August just as I was drawing up my nice neat timetable I would have laughed, smiled, walked away and panicked quietly inside. Surely by week 10 we would be will under way with our routine and pattern. But sitting here this week I am much more confident that we have all grown and learnt new things about our world, our family and ourselves since last week and have even made some progress with maths and Bob has read aloud some great stories. Learning thankfully happens whether you intend it or not with children.

reflections on our home learning 9

What a difference a week can make so far as the weather is concerned. Last week a picnic lunch in the park and t-shirts. Today the wind and the rain and the chill have decidedly moved us away from our Indian summer into very definite UK bleak late autumn. And with the change in weather have come the colds which have left everyone feeling under par and out of sorts. I have stayed strong till today but this evening I have joined the rest of my family. Thankfully I was up for going out yesterday which was my first full day out without children since Kanga arrived 3 weeks short of a year ago.

I suspect this week might be summed up more along the lines of go with the flow. For many in the homeschooling community unschooling is a style they have embraced so I do not want to trample on toes and I know little about it but I suspect this week might mirror their style of learning more than the classical education approach we are more generally following. Especially today, because while some may say that today looked unruly, chaotic and crazy, learning was happening by the bucketful and so I do not want to write it off. Unschooling, partly because I have not given time to research it and partly because anything which has a hint of disorganisation (however structured it actually may be) causes me to run in the opposite direction. Today though I realised learning was happening. We were watching the Birds of Prey in the BBC series Wonder of Animals and the next thing is I have Bob and Zog dressed up as birds of prey having found their biggest jumpers, to act as wings, and toy animals scattered around the house as prey. They then were re-enacting the behaviour of eagles and other bird of prey while Bob gave a flying commentary on all that he had learnt about these birds.

One highlight for me this week was on Wednesday which is known as Bonfire Day here.  We focused our learning around one of my favourite Naughty Little Sister stories by Dorothy Edwards. The story is called The Bonfire pudding and we used the story for writing work, narrative, reading and maths, baking and science. I had not yet succumbed to the cold and was trying to spur the boys on. In it the grandmother and little girl make the family Christmas pudding. Rather than pudding we made the christmas cake which I have made withe the boys for the past couple of years on the 5th Nov.

We had great fun on Tuesday with our co-op group for art and music and nature walk. For art we used conkers we had collected on another walk to make paintings to wrap around rainmakers which we made for music and then on the nature walk we used our sense of sight.

While there has been learning going on for the boys I feel this week has been about my growth in self awareness and understanding. Partly I had offered an off the cuff prayer of becoming more honest and more self aware with myself, with Mark, with God, with others and God unsurprisingly has taken that off the cuff prayer and turned things as He often does on its head. This week without knowing, though I would not put it past Bob to know in some way, God has opened my eyes to myself through our son Bob and his reactions and responses. The very ones that usually wind me up, for me to come face to face with in myself this very week.

He hates change of plans or gets very nervous about new places and people. It is not that I did not know that about myself either but I had never embraced it and named it for myself. When I stopped to listen and feel those moments in myself I realised how full embodying they are and while it is necessary at times to push through them there is nothing wrong in stopping and heeding them first. That has made me sit up this week and give more time to Bob as he fnds himself in those places, for while I as an adult may be able to make some attempt at articulating that very physical response how we can expect him at the age of 5 to do so, especially when I have neved modeled ot him that I feel the same. I have simply turned my feelings in military drill mode to get out the door, if for no other reason than to try and beat my own feelings back so that we get out the door at all and go somewhere new.

A different moment of learning came for me when I suddenly heard myself talking to a friend at the start of the week after a couple of days of little adult conversation and there was no stop button for my tongue. Not only was there no stop button, I was aware of how fully physically I was feeling my reaction, my cheeks reddening from below my neck line, my heart rate racing. It was not that I had anything exciting per sa to share but I was giddy with excitement in talking to a friend and I was reminded in that moment of how I wrestle when Bob starts telling us or someone about something in hyper mode. I want him to breathe, to calm down, to slow down, to give the other person a chance. And I realised in that moment two lessons, though both are similar. Bob’s love langauge for want of a better way to describe it is time. He craves reading with people and talking about topics of interest with anyone and some days there just is not enough time or will power on my behalf to give him all the time he needs so when someone finally listens or shows an interest he just goes for it. I am no different but as an adult I have tried to minimzie it before ever embracing or naming it in myself.  Mark and I have both recognised that we are in a season where we do not have the level of community and friendships we had at Regent and because we are in a season here where we are not here for the long run building that level of community here where others are or appear to be more rooted makes that harder for us and for them. But we are made by God to be in community, we are made to be with others, to walk life together with others. And when I don’t get conversation that feeds the soul and allows me to offer something to the table I binge talk when the moment comes along and then withdraw embarressed and check myself to keep my mouth shut the next time so others have a chance and don’t get time to contribute. The later is not a healthy response. Bob and I while both introverts we also need to be able to communicate and talk with others regualrly and for that not to happen leads to hyper over flows. What I need is to take time to be with others and was blessed by Mark making that happen yesterday when I got to spend the day with a friend. It is not easy in a season with 3 at home and one still nursing and evenings unpredicatable and exhasution but it can still be done, we just need to be intentional for both Bob and myself.

This has been an eye opener for me both in reagrds to how I respond to Bob in those moments and how I help him to embrace and name his physical and emotional responses in those moments and seek ways with him to navigate them and likewise with myself and how to prepare for times in advance which we need to go through and are goind to push us out of our comfort zones and how to direct our steps to minimise those events where possible. What this embracing, naming and working out will involve and look like I am not sure, but having come this far I know I do not want to go back.

Bob is continuing to love his French class and they are a doing a play of Owl Babies and he will be Bill in it. We have been encouraged by his teacher who having been unsure how much he was getting from the class before half term has realised that while he may not say much he is understanding everything fully and that one on one is happy to talk with her in French. But that is true Bob, he will not do something in public unless he is fully confident he has it right. So I am not holding my breathe on him actually performing as Bill but for now I am happy he has been included and wants to be Bill. Zog is making great strides off his own back as far as counting goes, not simply counting 1 to 10 etc but actually able to count and identify numbers of objects. He still struggles though with age and numbers and so thinks because he is two he should get two pieces of cheese, two DVDS, two cookies etc and when we are counting people he has to be counted 2nd because he is 2. So he is in for a surprise in 2 weeks when he turns 3. And not to be out done by either brother Kanga has well and truly found her walking feet and the kitchen bin and the toilet and the tin of yeast which must go all places with her.

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