Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Structure - not all bad...

It was an early start for us this morning as we needed to get my car to the garage.  With the boys squashed in the back of Daddy's car (he drove my car with the dodgy brakes & we followed so we could bring him back), we had an impromptu Music non-lesson: we put Classic FM on the car radio, and for each tune that we listened to, we all clapped along to the beat (including DS3 who has a very natural sense of rhythm), then we identified the instruments that we could hear playing, and we described the music - was it happy, sad, relaxed, scary?  Finally, we closed our eyes and descibed pictures in our imagination while the music was playing.  There were some lovely descriptions shared, including horses running (and flying), a river turning into a waterfall, a big purple bird in its nest, camping with Daddy - and then DS1 & 2 joined together for the final piece of music, with DS1 imagining Road Runner and DS2 imagining Wil E Coyote: they came up with a kind of tag-team running commentary which was really sweet :)
Once we were home, the boys were all keen to get the rest of their stars again (that's 3 days in a row... it's working really well as an incentive this week)... 
DS1 did two (!!!) pages of Maths, then found his Handwriting workbook and copied out the cursive letters.  His handwriting isn't bad, but the style of cursive he had learned at school was highly looped and I wasn't at all keen on it, so I gave him the option of practicing a simpler style if he wanted to - and he jumped at the chance.  It was slightly boring for him, but he tends to fluctuate between choosing the easiest workbook or the most interesting workbook - and today was definitely an 'easiest' day ;)  He also had fun creating his own board game - something he quite often does (he loves creating and he loves people having to follow his rules ;) )
DS3 had a lovely time with his Reading Eggs again - especially enjoying the extra game where he got to match up the sound to the animal - and once he finished on the computer, he had a VERY happy time doing baking with Mummy... I haven't seen that much mess created in such a short time, but boy, did we have fun!!!  (And the melting choc muffins from our Children's Book of Baking Cakes were scrummy!)

DS2 decided he wanted another go at Reading Eggs himself, so I set him up with a new trial.  I'm still not convinced they diagnosed him at the right level - it seems a bit easy for him still, but I guess it's important that he enjoys it and it builds his confidence.  We'll carry on with the trial and see if it holds his interest - as with his brothers, if it's on the computer he thinks he's playing, so we may well stick with it, not least to build his familiarity with technology, which is increasingly important in this day and age.  Later he also had fun helping me cook tea, chopping veg etc - it is always nice having an enthusiastic 'assistant'... it may take longer in the long run, but as long as I allow extra time, it makes it more fun, and let's face it, it's a really important life skill!
So all in all, that's three fairly 'academic' days so far this week - but really happy ones!  Having read an entry on 'How do I home educate', from my favourite blog, An Ordinary Life, I was encouraged that having a bit of planning and structure does not have to be a bad thing.  Much of the Home Ed philosophy that I have come across so far has leaned far more towards the unstructured, autonomous type of 'unschooling'.  I expected myself to be too stressed to be able to do that (funnily enough, I haven't been at all stressed), and I've been done my best to avoid rigid structure, preferring to give my children space to relax & rediscover their innate love of learning.  However, as the author of the blog above helped me to see, it is possible to have lovely, relaxed & creative time together, while also having some idea of watching their progress.  I don't want to get all inflexible on the boys - I love that they can choose what they want to learn... but it's not completely autonomous.  They seem OK with the expectation that they will do something that looks like schoolwork, and we all love the times when we've been playing and they get a star on their chart when they didn't realise they were learning :)  I can still see the appeal of unschooling - not having to label what they've done, or divide it into subjects - just letting them learn through play.  At the moment though, a little bit of structure is working well for us, so we're happy to work (and play) with that :)

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