September highlights: our home educating month

September would have seen Ophelia start reception had she been in school. Talitha would have started Year 3. Our fourth year homeschooling, we’re continuing to join the gentle flow of me offering activities and them telling me what they’d like to do (or just going off and doing it). Here are a few highlights from the month just gone by. I must start writing these down as we go along as I struggle to remember!

First up, when we read about Qin Shi Huang in Story of the World, China’s first emperor, Talitha gasped when she heard that he burned books he considered dangerous. She even said: “I’m horrified! I love books!” Never mind all the people he executed… 😉 We’ve just finished up the Julius Caesar chapters, which she’d been looking forward to. She especially wanted to hear about Cleopatra. We’re also listening to Our Island Story on audiobook in the car and both kids were thrilled to spot Stonehenge on our drive back to Cornwall from London this weekend as they’d just listened to the Merlin legend.

A few people have asked me what a reception year looks like in our home. I did a lot more planned activities with Talitha but this second time around I’m a lot more relaxed. Ophelia mostly spends her home days dressing up, dancing, drawing and requesting picture books. She’ll drift in and out of what Talitha’s doing if she’s interested and I’m often surprised by how much she takes in. Lately, she drops very random facts about Space and ancient Rome just to keep us on our toes. I can’t say what I’d do differently if she were a first child. Probably just go out more to play with other children.

Speaking of which, we’ve met up with friends a lot but our two favourite days out were trips to the Flicka Foundation donkey sanctuary, a home education workshop at Falmouth Art Gallery and the incredibly quirky Moseley toy museum. Look at all the Meccano!

They are loving doing Mystery Science together. They watch the videos and do the experiments together and Talitha reads aloud any bits that need reading to Ophelia. They often come away with their own questions – which reminds me that we need to do some reading about floating soon. Lots of questions about floating came up when we were reading about astronauts moving in space.

We finally finished Swallows and Amazons! It took us rather a long time to read because we just didn’t reach for it in the summer months. The upside of that was that Ophelia was actually following it in the end. When we started it, I think it was quite hefty for her but she took a sail with Laurence the other day and announced that she was “able seaman Titty”. We much enjoyed the book on the whole but I’m looking forward to starting something new. I might suggest to the kids we choose an audiobook as I feel like I’m doing a bit too much reading aloud these days (and I like being read to too!).

Oh and I loved reading Anna Hibiscus to Ophelia. I bought it for Talitha, who’s now read a few of them, on the recommendation of an online friend whose son loved it but I finally took the opportunity to read it aloud and Ophelia kept asking for more and more. I think for now we’ll keep doing separate chapter books if we can.

We’ve been following Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons when Ophelia feels like it. Sometimes she loves it but sometimes she’s not interested. Talitha pointed out that where we’re at is actually way below Ophelia’s reading level and started writing sounds and simple words for her to read. So I’m going to see whether she wants to skip ahead, keep playing Teach Your Monster to Read (an off and on favourite) or continue as she is because she’s clearly learning to read, albeit in a completely different pattern to her big sister.

We signed up for the British Red Cross’ #milesforrefugees, setting ourselves the challenge of 108 miles. This was pretty unrealistic as we can’t really walk to places in the countryside, it needs to be a set walk which couldn’t always happen with needing to make the most of the boat and people getting ill. I realise I should have just mapped the miles spent walking around the places we were at as we probably did do quite a bit of walking! Anyway, we changed to the more achievable goal of 22 miles (a lesson in itself!) and got there in the end, raising £100 and learning about the charity’s work and refugee experiences along the way.

Talitha has started doing a few bits on Easy Peasy Homeschool, which I wasn’t sure about before as it’s free then decided to try it at least for maths – as it’s free. It’s turned out to be quite a hit as she can navigate it independently. She asks to do the language arts, maths and Bible lessons most days and is really enjoying it.

Violin practice continues to structure our mornings. It’s been a bit of a slog recently so I suggested Talitha look for a song tutorial on YouTube. Learning to play Happy Birthday was just the treat she needed to help her keep going. I’m finding it all a bit much at the moment, though. It helps to remember that she loves it when she gets going but I sometimes wish we weren’t doing the Suzuki method so I could just leave her to it.

In terms of “extra curricular” activities we’ve switched everything to after school as daytime commitments were making our weeks feel too busy. We are at capacity, though, and it’ll likely be a case of swapping if they decided to take on something else. They’re both doing dance and swimming and Talitha does Beavers and violin.

And not to be left out, I’m enjoying seeing two-year-old Delilah’s fascination with the names of colours and count with great certainty: “2, 6, 8!”

Other home education reflections you might enjoy:
Our home education year – looking back
Eight reasons we home educate
Finding peace on hard days home educating

I tend to do lots of stories on Instagram about what we get up to, homeschooling in Cornwall, so do come join me there.


What I learned from our first year of home education

Talitha would be starting Year 1 today if she were in school. This is significant to her because she has friends in school and because it gets mentioned in her church group. We don’t follow the national curriculum so it doesn’t mean much to me other than we’ve talked about it because it matters to her. I am, however, keenly aware of her age. She turned five in June which means that we are now legally home educating. This doesn’t particularly change anything that we’re doing but it’s another big step, you know? Yes, we’re really doing this.

As we come to the end of what would have been her Reception year, our first year of officially home educating, I’ve taken a moment to reflect, not on what she’s learned but on what I have.

Stop comparing
Home educating, like all things parenting, is vulnerable to the beast that is comparison. It’s too easy to compare myself to other parents. I wish I were as organised, creative or relaxed as they are. Or worse, I could compare what my kid is doing to what others are, whether they’re schooled or not. Should she know that by now? Would she be if she were in school? Has she done that too soon? Have I pushed her without meaning to? Is this the right approach? Maybe they’ve got it right and I haven’t. It can go on and on.

At some point in the last year, I decided not to pay too much mind to what anyone else was doing. We just have to do what works for us and no one else is going to be able to work out what that is. As for what the kids are doing, they really are all different so that’s another reason to keep my eyes on what’s in front of me.

Respond positively to criticism
I’ve been surprised by how sensitive I can be to perceived criticism. I’m putting this down partly to this having been a stressful year with being pregnant and hideously tired and Laurence’s job situation changing all the time, often taking him away. I think it’s also to do with there being no concrete measure of success to what I’m doing and I don’t cope so well with that. No one is coming along with a red ink pen to tick my life decisions. The fact that I even want that hugely exposes the lasting impact of my own schooling.

I am trying to remember that what looks like criticism is often curiosity or a well-intended suggestion. I’m also trying to invest less in what others think of me and to avoid getting in too deep with people who leave me feeling negative.

Don’t buy everything
One of the amazing things about home educating today is the sheer number of resources available. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy enough to find something for everything – and possibly get ridiculously overwhelmed. I confess I have a habit of shopping around – Ooh, that looks good – but realistically, my five-year-old doesn’t need that much. A lot of the time we can make do with what we have or there’s something free online or at the library. So, I’m trying to be more disciplined about using what we’ve got and only looking for something else if the need arises. Mostly, I’m the one who needs to do more reading and thinking – for my own benefit!

What I learned from our first year of home education-2


It’s all learning

I knew this before but I’m even more aware of it now. Whether she’s in the garden, playing dress up with her little sister or drawing alongside friends – it’s all learning. Education isn’t something that starts when I say – in fact, most learning happens when she says. She’s often doing her thing and working things out quietly while she plays, stops to ask a big question all of a sudden or debates something with a friend.

Learning happens regardless
This has been such a lightbulb. This year has ended up being a lot less structured than I planned, mostly because I was exhausted with the pregnancy and then, more recently, busy with a newborn. I felt awful about the fact that I was often having to say “not now” to things Talitha wanted to do together and I am looking forward to being able to make more plans with her now that I’m feeling loads better.

But learning has happened regardless. Periods when we hadn’t done anything to do with maths or reading for weeks, we’d come back to it and she’d got there on her own, either by looking at books quietly or just things clicking as she played. She can read enough to do a lot of things independently now and though she may have got there faster if she were in school or if I’d spent more time on it with her (she showed all the signs of reading early) I’m happy that she’s got to where she’s got in a way that hasn’t been stressful for either of us and that she can really take ownership of the process.

This is about all of us
More than ever, I’m convinced that home education for us is a family-led pursuit. It’s not just about my agenda or theirs, it’s about figuring out what works for all of us as a family. We are all happier when we have some plans in place but we must not be inflexibly ruled by them. Sometimes one child’s needs must be attended more urgently. And in the excitement of trying the latest thing with the eldest child, the younger ones must not be neglected. My own needs, too, matter. Having a childcare day once a week massively helps with that.

What I learned from our first year of home education

We don’t have to go out all the time
The final thing I’ve learned is that we don’t have to have a routine packed with groups, workshops, outings and even play dates. We can mix it up. Sometimes we thrive on being out loads. Sometimes none of us want to leave the house for a while. Most weeks are a happy mix of both. This is a relief for me, especially with a new baby who needs quiet time at home. I’m sure it would be different if my children didn’t have each other but even though they do fight, they get so much from playing together. It’s alleviated Talitha’s manic need to have somewhere we were going and someone we were seeing every day back when she was three.

We all need order
I’ve never been very good at the whole tidying thing but this has been the year we’ve started to crack it. We still have a way to go but high usage items now vaguely have their place and the kids (and I) are getting better at putting things away before moving on to the next thing. Investing time and energy into this means that I am much happier and they are able to play more creatively because they know where to find things and remember what’s available.

Watch the child

I’ve been reminded again and again that one of the reasons we’re home educating is to give our children the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Sometimes we’ve hit pause on something (like an online maths game) because it just wasn’t clicking and then Talitha’s suddenly wanted to give it a go at a later date and suddenly found she’s able to do it.

I’ve also realised that she and her little sister are very different people. Talitha was writing her name before the age of two and knew all her alphabet sounds. Ophelia isn’t doing any of that but she could count accurately earlier than her big sister could, understanding the correlation between objects and numbers. One drew earlier and the other built earlier. And none of this is any predictor of their future abilities, education or career paths – just as the earlier walker isn’t necessarily the one pegged for athletic prowess. Being home educated simply means that they can progress to wherever they’re going just as they’re meant to.

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Do you home educate? Please do consider linking up any post about something you’ve been up to below. All approaches welcome! x

Other posts in this series:

July
June
What I loved about our first “term” of home educating
This Homeschooling Life – the very beginning

Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up



This Homeschooling Life – What April looked like

With pregnancy exhaustion getting the better of me most days, it’s easy to look back on a month and think it shapeless. I’ve started writing little notes about what happens during the day and photograph more intentionally so that I remember that a lot is happening even when it feels like nothing at all. The deepest learning doesn’t always look like I might expect. Recording it informally allows me to pause long enough to notice it.

This homeschooling life - April-3

We finally finished reading The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I suggested we could find a craft to go with it since Talitha was keen to make something. Looking together on Pinterest, she was hooked on the idea of replicating this cardboard model. I inwardly groaned, wishing she hadn’t spotted it. She promised she would do most of it, picking up on me finding the idea daunting. I used a scalpel to, badly, cut out the shape of the tree and fitted it together. She and Ophelia painted it and then Talitha made everything else herself, including Dame Washalot’s washing line complete with laundry and a finger knitted basket for the children to make their way up the tree. She says she wants to make the Land of Goodies for the top.

We’ve just finished reading The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell. I wasn’t familiar with him at all as an author but I’ve been amazed at how much he packs into an exciting story with ease. The chapters are rather long but Talitha has never not asked, “Just one more!” when we’ve got to the end. His characters meet and speak to lots of animals and travel all over the world so we’ve looked at the continents they visit on our world map as we’ve gone along and looked up videos and pictures of the animals online.

Next up, Talitha’s keen to start The Magic Garden by Lynne Armstrong-Hobbs. We’re especially excited about this book because we happened to meet the author at Waterstones over the weekend! I’m sure I’ll be sharing both our impressions come this time next month.

Do check out my Love Reading and Writing board on Pinterest. I collect ideas for literacy play and to go along with stuff we’re reading.

I’m always amazed by Talitha’s ability to absorb and hold on to facts she finds fascinating. The Dinosaur Train love is still going strong here but now she’s also moved on to Jim Henson’s Sid the Science Kid. We watch both on Netflix. She often comes away from Sid episodes with ideas of things she wants to try and regularly applies concepts or methodology discussed in the program to real life. From ancient Egyptians using incline planes to move heavy objects to different ideas for melting ice, there’s a lot going on in this show.

This homeschooling life - April-4

This homeschooling life - April-2

We’ve lots happening in the garden at the moment. The girls’ potato plants have sprouted and we’re imagining what’s happening inside their bags. They’ve also planted wildflowers from a Kew Gardens’ educational programme and hung up a couple of bee shelters which have utterly fallen apart. We’ve resolved to build sturdier ones soon. In the meantime, it’s exciting observing the seedlings coming up.

I realise I never mention sort of “extras” that Talitha does but they are a part of our set up so it’s worth bringing in here. Talitha’s been continuing to enjoy ballet. I’ve ummed and ahhed about trying to convince her to try something else but it’s local, reasonably easygoing, relatively cheap and she loves it so we’ve agreed to carry on. She also goes horse riding with other home educated children once a month, which is a real highlight to the month for her. A couple of weekends ago she also started going to Blackbird Early Years Music classes, which creatively offers children a playful introduction to music practice and theory.

This homeschooling life - April

She’s recently got back into Mathseeds. It’s an online maths programme which teaches through games. She lost interest for a few months but a few weeks ago asked to try it again. We haven’t been “working” on the things that she was finding hard so I expected taking it up again to be short lived but, to my surprise, she had no trouble picking up where she left off and moving on. Her brain seems to have bridged the gap on its own.

A last thing to mention is that she’s become obsessed with making pom poms recently. I’ve been making headway on crocheting a baby blanket for the new baby recently and Talitha would finger knit while I had my kit out but she came across my pom pom maker and asked to use it. I was pretty uncertain she’d manage it on her own but not only has she cracked it but it’s become one of her favourite things to do! Now to encourage her to keep dreaming up things to do with them. She’s made toys for the cats (her idea) but we’re amassing quite a collection! We’ve had some really sweet moments around the dining table, post-breakfast all busy at our crafts, me crocheting, Talitha making pom poms and Ophelia stringing beads or cutting yarn.
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Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Laura who blogs at Side Street Style
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up