reflections on our home learning week 22

Pondering this week with a very wide awake Bob beside me; who is very excited about his upcoming birthday and trip to grandparents for the week and having spent most of the night awake and then finally crashing on quiet time for the afternoon he is now not ready to sleep. While Zog has bounded off to bed the past couple of nights with delight that he too now has a quilt similar to his older brother. I have been working on it for a long time as spare time has been sparse over the past two years and he is delighted to now have it.

It has been a mixed week for what has been accomplished – writing has been an uphill battle but asking Bob to label the planets on his picture of the solar system was happily done. We were inspired by watching a programme on the solar system one morning; allowing me to finally conquer the mountain range of ironing; to then go on and draw it and write the names of the planets.

For maths I have just come across this new resource which looks like it will become apart of our journey with numbers. http://www.playdoughtoplato.com/15-editable-math-fact-games The boys have already enjoyed doing a maths fact treasure hunt and solving the clues. There are more resources on this site that I suspect we will be investigating. I have made peace with the fact that I am not a technological whizz nor do I have the time or mind to come up with creative ideas and that I am willing to spend a little money and make great use of other people’s work. As my father used to say when I was growing up there are folk out there qualified to do repair work in the home and there is no shame asking them to do it instead and then paying them a fair price for a good job done.

It was also great talking through homeschooling with a friend this week who is considering it. While thinking about the conversation it gave me time to see where we had come from and the lessons we had all learnt along the way. Thankfully it reaffirmed for me that this was the right choice for us as a family and that I am thankful that it is possible for us to be doing it. There are still days when fear is the bedrock I am standing on that impacts my expectations, patience and confidence and hope and then in contrast there are days when I am free to be confident and in turn the children are free to be themselves and all round lessons are learnt with ease and willingness and joy and there is a greater level of co-operation.

Kanga has been teething this week non stop it feels like and so many activities have had to be done with her in the sling, swaying and speaking over a disgruntled girl but so long as the boys have had a look in on my time they are unphased by Kanga’s frustrations even if they distract me.

In many ways it feels like it has been a normal week with no major high, lows, accomplishments but then again that mountain range of ironing was dealt with while learning about the solar system and our bedroom got a good tidy up in one of those beautiful hours when all three are playing together happily for an extended time. Moments like that, when I peer into Bob’s room and see all three playing and building lego are blessings to me.

Now for a weekend before a week of Mark staying home to write write write and for us to all go to grandparents. While we are taking lesson material with us I doubt I will get to reflect next Friday I will be assembling a young boy’s Egyptian pyramid cake to celebrate him turning 6. Where have those years gone?

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reflections on our home learning 19, 20 and 21

So this has not been a good winter for us with bugs. The latest visitors were croup for both Kanga and Zog and on top of that for Zog he continues to battle recurring tonsilitis and this time scarlet fever got added into the mix. So, little sleep or sanity has existed round here for some time. The weather has not been our friend either, though Bob and Kanga are more up for bright cold days, Zog neither likes the cold or has the energy thanks to rounds of tonsilitis to cope with getting cold, that getting out has been next to impossible and so why not add in some serious cabin fever and a week with Mark away and you can understand why there have not been reflections these past few weeks.

If nothing else this year is teaching me to remember that we are not trying to replicate school style learning at home. We are learning at home in a way that works best for us as a family and plays to each of the children’s strengths in ways that is not possible in school. There are days when ‘lessons’ with worksheets have happened and there are days when learning happens under the duvet reading book after book. There are days when I am very thankful to iplayer and the wonderful history and science/nature programmes that the BBC do. There are days when the heart and character are given attention over writing and addition. There are days when play has been the order of the day.There have been days when I have had to use my best negotiating skills I have to solve disputes of volcanic potential. There are days when simply getting food on the table is a win. There are days when I have been so thankful to friends who have shown up with dinner. There are days when I love this journey and days I question every decision I have ever made in my life. There are days when comments from others don’t even get noticed and days when they knock me for six.

There are also changes in dynamics amongst the troops as Bob is becoming more Daddy orientated and all craft work is made for Daddy. Daddy has become the go to person. And at the same time he now offers to help me more with tasks around the house and I am learning to draw him into those moments which then become more than the quick momentary job I was going to do but he is learning what it means to take care of a home. And I believe one reason he is doing that is both in spending time with me in new ways but also because he sees his Daddy doing things around the house so it is not a woman’s only role. He has heard me say that I want to do this for Daddy and for the family at times and so he too wants to help me take care of the home for Daddy. While this is a stepping stone we celebrate in Bob, his younger brother is somewhat unsure of this change as he is still very much in the world of play and Mummy and he senses Bob growing up in a way that he is not rightly ready for. This can bring its moments but also I have come to be thankful for learning at home so that there are still plenty of moments of play between them and space for their relationship and friendship to continue to grow and deepen. One of the richest times for me recently has been watching the two of them curl up together on the sofa with a stack of books and go between independent reading/looking at books, to times of Bob reading aloud to Zog and the joy in Zog’s face having his big brother read him his favourite books and the quiet satisfaction in Bob’s face as he does so.

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Learning at home however you do it, whatever pattern of structure or unstructured you go with has incredible highs and lows but the reaches of the highs do make up for the deepest depths. And having gritted your teeth through a lesson or 10, thinking nothing is going in, at some point the connection will be made and in the middle of a conversation you will hear your child say or explain something and realise they have never not been learning and can also apply ideas to real life situations which is ultimately what you want them to be able to do.

Bob is now more confident in telling people he learns at home rather than go to school and it was fun to sit back and listen to him and the barber the other day have a lengthy discussion about the Egyptians and the Valley of Kings. And very thankful for a barber who seems willing to talk history with him. Also this term our craft projects which are more often than not history based have taken on a 3D reality which is creating a new dilemma of where to keep such projects. I do photograph them to put in his folder but they have taken him time and effort and I don’t want to discard them straight away.

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Half way through this year I am also gaining understanding of how we are doing and how I work best and while I would love to be original in our activities and come up with my own lessons I simply do not have the time or energy and so have bought a couple of work books to go with curriculum that we are using to provide me with step by step lessons rather than trailing the internet and my brain for ideas for the topic. It has taken the pressure off me and gives me the freedom if I do want to do something different but on days when I need it there it is. And as we look to next year I am feeling more confident of what we will need and ensure I spend wisely but don’t do it on thin air either. The other lesson that a friend and I were talking about recently is that we need to plan our lessons beyond Christmas because Christmas time does not give you that time you think back in August that you will have to plan the next term and you find yourself trying to cajole children who can see right through your lack of planning on dark wet days and pity parties and frustration take up residence.

But the evenings are now getting brighter, there is hope to be had and books to be read, lego to be built, walks to be taken and maybe one night sleep to be had. And learning is always happening, the question as parents we need to be attentive to is ‘ what are they being exposed to and therefore what are they learning?’

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Strength in the Name

A good few years ago now I remember enjoying this Vineyard song:

You are the sovereign I Am,
Your name is holy
You are the pure spotless Lamb,
Your name is holy…

You are the Almighty One,
Your name is holy
You are the Christ, God’s own Son,
Your name is holy

In Your name, there is mercy for sin
There is safety within, in Your holy name
In Your name, there is strength to remain
To stand in spite of pain, in Your holy name

I remember too enjoying it all the more after a terms worth of study in the book of Exodus, as the reality of just who the sovereign I am demonstrates himself to be in history came home.  I came across the following quote which I must have first read at a similar time, but wrote down some time later, just before beginning my PhD work.   It is from a lesser known Puritan writer and is one to allow to sink deep into your soul, especially if, like me, you are prone to forgetting where your identity comes from and is secured by:

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.

Exodus 34:6-7

“Well, you say, but though God is able to help me, I fear that God is not willing to help me, and therefore I am discouraged.

But be of good comfort, says the Lord, for my name is Merciful, and therefore I am willing to help you.

But you say, though the Lord is willing to help me, yet I am a poor unworthy creature and have nothing at all to move God to help me.

Yet be of good comfort, for the Lord says again, My name is Gracious.  I do not show mercy because you are good, but because I am good.

Oh, you say, but I have been sinning a long time, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years.  If I had come to you long ago, I might have had mercy.  But I have been sinning a long time, and therefore I fear there is no mercy for me.

Yet, says the Lord, be of good comfort, for my name is Slow to anger.

Oh, you say, but I have sinned extremely, so many sins that I am never able to reckon up and to humble myself for them, I have broken all my promises to God and all the vows I made to him, and therefore I am discouraged.

Yet, says he, be of good comfort, for I am abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  Are you abundant in sin?  I am abundant in steadfast love.  Have you broken faith with me?  Yet I am abundant in faithfulness also.

Oh, but though the Lord is all this to his chosen ones like David, Abraham and Moses, yet I fear the Lord will not be this to me.

Yes, says the Lord, keeping steadfast love for thousands.  I have not spent all my mercy on David or on Abraham or on Paul or on Peter, but I keep mercy for thousands.

Oh, but my sins still recoil on me.  I am the greatest sinner in the world, for I have sinned all kinds of sin.  I fear there is no hope for me.

Yet, says the Lord, be not discouraged, for I forgive iniquity and transgression and sin, even all kinds of sin.  This is my name forever.

Oh, but I am afraid to lay hold on this promise, for I think this is a doctrine of license.  Do not say that, says the Lord, who will by no means clear the guilty.

But if there is ever a poor, drooping, fearing, trembling soul that desires to know my name, here, says the Lord, is my name by which I will be known forever.

The name of God quiets the heart against all discouragements.”

William Bridge, A Lifting Up For The Downcast (London, 1961), pages 270-272.  Slightly edited