13th September 2015

Boring title, but oh well.  This is mostly for record of what got done.  A lot has changed since I last blogged here.  Rather than just home educating A, I’m home educating A and then home educating V part time as she’s still going to nursery for part of the week.  However, V has gotten chicken pox.  So, for the next week… possibly for as many as the next two weeks, I’m home educating both.  If it works out without me going completely bonkers, I’ll likely start looking into having V home full time.

It seems like I’ve restarted HE a number of times now; it feels like I’m on my 3rd incarnation.  I had an ‘official’ start date for A back in July 27th.  I thought this would give me plenty of time at the end of the year should we fall behind in our very ambitious home education curriculum.  We did okay on that system, but there were some shortfalls.

A asked to learn to read even though I was prepared to hold off on formal reading lessons until later this year at the extreme earliest.  What I intended to do before then were recommended lessons from ‘The Bowdoin Method‘ as I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a second hand copy.  The book itself is lovingly written and I’ll likely retain it in the current incarnation of our curriculum to further our ‘About Me’ weekly unit as there’s a great chapter to share to encourage building self esteem.  In practice, the lessons were daunting for me because while it incorporates normal daily activities from the home, those daily activities are from the 1970s and our home life doesn’t look like what’s described in the book.  However, many elements from its lessons have been incorporated into our days.

This was going to be supplemented with activities from Get Ready to Read — I did all of the pre-assessments and such and we did some crafts from it.  But it didn’t catch on because I wasn’t organized enough.  I was also doing pre-reading exercises from Learn With ESA and we were toying with free trial memberships of Reading Eggs.  None of these really stuck with A and on a lark, I tried lessons intended for later in the year from “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” and it stuck with A in a big way.

I think he liked it at first because it was so intensely hands on with my participation in it.  Though as the lessons quickly grew longer and A didn’t fully understand what was being asked of him, he quickly became frustrated.  However, he still insisted on plowing through, asking for reading lessons every day even though they were often ending with frustrated arguing.  To help incentivize, we did do a sticker reward chart.  But after about ten more lessons, A found his intrinsic motivation again and hasn’t asked for stickers.  I also did consider breaking up the lessons into shorter bits as each lesson is made up of a number of tasks and it would be a matter of doing some tasks one day and the rest of the tasks the next day… but A didn’t seem to need that.

So now “Teach…” makes up the backbone of A’s reading and writing curriculum.  I did try V on “Teach…” but its clear that she has some more development to do before she can take that on.

For maths, we started out on MEP Maths.  I personally still like this system.  I was told that A was great at maths by his nursery, however I learned that he was only good at counting.  A really struggled with some of the concepts presented in the early lessons of MEP Maths.  So for now, I’ve put that aside in favor of hands on maths activities like playing with lego and tangems as well as doing some workbooks that have an informal feel to them.  I’ll likely pick up MEP Maths again later in the year, but with lessons broken out over a number of days.

I had some themed activity packs which A enjoyed and learned some from, but I think we were going through the different themes too quickly for A to really dig in to develop some deeper interests with each and it turned him off to these overall.  I also had some early geography set up that I bombed on spectacularly.  And then the subject area I thought I’d have the most confidence in deploying: sciences– I completely sucked at delivering to A in a way that kept his interest.

So it was back to the drawing board.  For the second incarnation of our home education curriculum, I also needed to see what I could do to include V as we were heavily considering taking V out of nursery for a couple of days per week because childcare cost has just spiraled out of control and I was really struggling to afford nice craft materials for use in home educating.

Sensory Play seemed like an obvious add-in.  I had observed A in the park starting to make up for the time when he was a baby and a toddler, who never wanted to get his hands dirty… now he was bringing home half the sand pit with each visit.  And V was much more crafty than A, so clearly I could use that to encourage A a bit more creatively.  Then a friend of mine completely rescued me insofar as my failed attempts at science and nature study when she published Exploring Nature With Children.  Its not only made up the backbone of our nature study, but it has also inspired our arts & crafts projects, fiction & non-fiction book selections for reading, and offered ideas for poetry to begin sharing with the children.

I spent a few weekends ‘practicing’ managing both in a home education setting with my husband downstairs ready to rescue me if things got too much.  We did pretty well.  So our restart date was set to August 24th.  The reboot went well, but things still weren’t quite jiving.  Since that reboot, I had read up on Reggio Emilia inspired home education and liked some of what I saw there.  While I was brave enough to move all crafting materials into the kids’ reach, I’m not brave enough to have full days where they’re directing their own learning– mostly since I’m not certain they’ve been exposed to enough to really know what they’d like to develop deep interest in.  But I have made time for developing deeper interests, expanded on crafting a great deal and dropped any geography aspirations (for now).

I have lessons drawn up for all day learning but we usually doing get to doing everything.  We do work out of workboxes because the kids love it.  And while sometimes I’ll talk in this blog about what I have planned, its really for recording what got done.  And I’ve already taken much more time on this post than I originally intended.

So… what got done today… we were already ahead of everyone else for nature study (and when I say ‘everyone else’, I mean everyone participating in the learn-a-long being hosted here) we had a relaxed visit to the woods and did a little bit of science citizenry for OPAL besides reviewing things we had already learned from previous nature walks using ‘Explroing Nature with Children’.  The children demonstrated good understanding of places to find mini-beasts, expanded on their knowledge of the different types of seeds, and both noticed many autumn changes that we had been talking about from our fiction and non-fiction reading.  We had intended on going to Rufford Old Hall as a part of Open Heritage Day, but again… as V had chicken pox, I didn’t feel it would be appropriate.  The children enjoyed themselves a great deal and we have horse chestnuts and more acorns to add to our nature shelf.