Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Art and Structured Autonomy

Hooray for another nice gentle day :)  We are currently car-less - have paid for our tax disc online but it hasn't arrived in the post.. it had better arrive tomorrow in time for the 'Not-back-to-school picnic' with the local HE group!  So we're not exactly housebound but we are restricted to anywhere within walking distance of home.  Fortunately we have some nice walks nearby, although we haven't left the house yet today, having been too busy having fun :)
When we got up this morning I asked the boys what they wanted to do today.  Middle was very decisive: "A little bit of MathsWhizz, a little bit of Reading Eggs and a little bit of cooking".  His "little bit" of MathsWhizz turned into a  big bit, and he ran out of time for Reading Eggs as he was having so much fun on MathsWhizz (so much for the other day's slight wobble of concern that he doesn't want to follow a maths program!).  He was going to help me cook tea but we had an impromptu visit from friends this afternoon so we ran out of time - playing with friends is more fun anyway - he'll be happy to cook tomorrow instead. Youngest was too busy zooming around to answer my question, but he found plenty to occupy himself with - watching Middle on MathsWhizz then having a go on Reading Eggs amongst other things.  Eldest was showing definite signs of post-holiday droop - he also had a go on MathsWhizz, but then went into a mooch, even using the B-word this morning ("I'm bored") for the first time in ages - proof as far as I'm concerned that too much time playing on the Wii (or other games consoles) suppresses their ability to think creatively.  I almost regret letting them play on it as much as they have this holiday, but they needed a change of pace as much as I did - and it was nice to see them playing nicely as a team.  So no regrets - I'm just glad to be back to a more structured autonomy (as opposed to the more lax autonomy that saw the boys playing computer games & watching TV so much).  By 'structured autonomy' I don't mean anything rigid - I just mean that we have an outline to the day that helps to give us focus, and train us all in good habits: eg beds are made & rooms tidied before we come downstairs for breakfast; the TV stays off until after lunch (as does my laptop); computer time is limited to an hour each, so that everyone gets a turn.  Within those few guidelines the boys are free to explore what they want - so a nice mixture of structure to provide a gentle rhythm to our days and autonomy to release the boys to explore their own creativity and interests.  It does feel like we're getting back into our groove after time off over summer :)

At one point this morning Middle asked me if he could do some Playdoh, and I remembered I'd bought a pack of Air-drying clay a while ago, so asked him if he'd like to do clay-modelling.  Well that suggestion went down really well, and he ran off to find his brothers and ask if they wanted to join in... five minutes later and we were all sat down at the kitchen table with a quarter of the block of clay each - as usual I try to join in with their activities as much as possible: it encourages them and we all enjoy it.  Photos below of the project so far... obviously once they're dried we'll be able to paint them too :)
 "Snowman" by Youngest
(he spent ages just poking, squishing & moulding - loving the kinesthetic experience before he decided he'd had enough & hastily fashioned this snowman, donating his left-over clay to Mummy!)
"Pistol" by Eldest
 (He spent a lot of time getting the smooth texture just right - I'll be interested to see how much detail goes into the painting stage)

"Bob" (barn owl baby), "burger and chips on plates", "loveheart", and "little ball" - all by Middle
(He absolutely loves all things arty and gets very absorbed - not wanting to waste the tiniest bit of clay, he just kept making models until it was all used up)
"Barn Owl" and "Hedgehog" by Mummy
(Hedgehog was an afterthought - hastily made with Youngest's left overs, before I quickly checked that he had washed his hands properly!)
Hooray for spontaneous clay modelling...  Home Ed is such an adventure!  As we don't use a curriculum I never really know what the day's learning is going to look like - and that is part of what makes it so much fun.  I usually have ideas up my sleeve in case the boys need kick-starting, but our days almost never look like what I expect when we get up (in fact, I rarely have expectations any more) As a friend recently posted, children just have an endless capacity and desire for learning and exploring!  Last term when we were just starting it was just a pet theory of mine that children are naturally curious and love to learn naturally - but having had a term of seeing it in action, I do feel even more convinced - I have more faith in their capacity for enthusiasm, I'm more confident in my ability to set appropriate but gentle boundaries - and I'm excited to find out where the adventure will take us this term :)

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