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.
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.
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?’