Tuesday, 8 May 2012

How to Home Ed and other quandaries

This morning the two younger boys were both fighting off the sniffles - and first of all, I had to rejoice that I didn't have the old quandary over whether they were well enough to cope with school: do I write it off as a little cold, send them in and risk them becoming more poorly, or do I keep them at home (and take time off myself) so I can watch over them and risk them missing something important for no reason?  Hooray for the end to that dilemma :)
However, just because we're not at school any more, it doesn't mean an end to soul-searching questions.  Home Educators just have a whole new set of questions to dwell on.  At least for us, unlike those in school, most of it is done without the scrutiny of anyone else... unless you write a blog of course!  (hmmmmm, it seemed like a good idea at the time).
One of the things I maybe didn't take into account enough when we embarked on the adventure that is Home Education, was that it would be me who had the most learning to do! It's OK, because I'm loving it - I'm learning about my children (three of my very favourite subjects), myself, all kinds of different things about educating at home that had never occurred to me - and so much more! And I love it all :) It's still a huge learning curve though - and a bit overwhelming at times.  I keep reminding myself to take it easy, and just have fun with them, all the while observing and learning. But maybe it would have been easier if I could just make a choice between structured and autonomous? Would they actually make the choice to learn if we went totally unstructured?  Would they go off learning altogether if I enforce school-routine at home?  What if I'm messing my children around - or worse, holding them back - by not sticking to one single method...?
I keep reminding myself that these questions are normal, and not to get stressed by the not knowing.  Hubby and I are 100% convinced that we are doing the right thing in educating the boys at home - and that confidence goes a long way (there are many Home Edders who don't have the same surety or even support from their partner - my heart goes out to them: this is not an easy option).  Yet even with that conviction, once you have made the decision to Home Ed, there is very little guidance on how to go about it.  Don't get me wrong, there are lots of really helpful books, websites, blogs etc out there that are an invaluable resource, not to mention the support of other Home Edders - but when it comes to finding out what style of learning suits your child, and how to help them achieve the best for them, you are the only one who is going to work that out - as you go!  And if you have more than one child (they are all SO different), well, your work is really cut out for you! 
Of course, I could have just gone for a pre-packaged curriculum, which might have seemed like it would have made life a lot easier and taken the dilemma out of what to teach them - but would it have stimulated them?  I really don't think it would have worked for my boys, so here I am, on the road full of questions, reminding myself of advice that I would give to any Home Ed novice: "By all means, read the books and blogs, chat to other parents - but don't be tempted to compare what you are doing to what they are doing.  Their children are not your children.  Their family's needs are not your family's needs.  It is good to be inspired, but the moment you allow yourself to feel inadequate, take a break and focus on what you have already acheived" (keeping a diary is great for recording the good bits to encourage yourself with later).
And if all of that sounds a little heavy, well let me reassure you I don't feel that way: I am still loving it... even the unanswered questions!  I just want to record my thoughts & questions as we go along - hopefully to encourage myself when I look back on our beginnings, and also I hope it might encourage someone else in a similar boat. 
So anyway, back to the here and now... we've had a tricky week of bereavements and illness, and that has made it hard for us to find our groove for the past few days, so we went for the star chart today, just in a gentler way (I dropped the amount of stars required to allow them to play Mario, which was today's incentive).  DS1 chose a science project found in his Science Experiments Project book, which involved reading, writing and - unsurprisingly - science; DS3 could not be removed from his Reading Eggs 'game' (that is, until Mummy asked if he wanted to help bake smartie cookies...); DS2 despite feeling poorly spent a good half an hour on Maths-whizz, and then had another go at Reading Eggs (am still not sure it's the right level for him, but he's enjoying it, so I will probably just go along with it).  They watched 'Come Outside' and 'Our Planet' on CBeebies, had time in the sunshine on the trampoline (yay), and even got their rooms tidied up!
So, quandaries and questions notwithstanding, I reckon all in all today was another pretty good day :)

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