Thursday, 11 October 2012

Not-so-helpful Suggestions...

Much as I love our little routine that we've been getting into, I feel it needs a tweak.  The problem is, where we've had a "no TV or games console until after lunch" rule, it seems to have created a false appetite for those things that I don't remember being there before.  Or maybe it was there - I can't remember if they actually watched a lot of TV & played on the Wii a lot over the holidays, or if that's just how it felt at the time...?! Anyway, regardless of that, we do now have the rule in place, and it does seem that as soon as we have lunch, the TV now goes on automatically.  So I'm just wondering: have I brought that about by having the rule in the first place?  You know how it goes: if you tell a child "don't touch that" they are immediately tempted to touch whatever it is, even though they may not have even noticed it before.  Perhaps by restricting TV access I have made them more aware of its appeal...?
Further to this, I have also noticed that they have not been so forthcoming with their own ideas of things they want to do as they were before the summer.  I have a feeling this has something to do with the slight structure that we have in place.  I ask them to do a bit (about an hour in total) of MathsWhizz and Reading Eggs every week - but other than that we are generally fairly unstructured.  Also, I've been making more suggestions this 'term', which is more of a habit than a structure but still significant.  You see, when they first came out of school they found it very hard to think of what they wanted to do - they were totally used to having entertainment/ learning processes set in front of them.  Through the deschooling process they learned more about themselves and where their interests actually lay: they learned how to think for themselves - they worked out what they wanted to learn about, and just got on with exploring, finding, enjoying etc - and we all loved it.  This term (our first real term of HE if you discount the deschooling) I have asked very little of them, but have made suggestions based largely on things they have previously mentioned or things that I think will interest them.  I saw it as a kind of verbal strewing - just putting the ideas out there and seeing what the children pick up on.  To be honest though - they generally like anything I suggest (I do try to suggest fun things!); we have been busy, learned lots and had lots of fun.  I am just a little concerned that they aren't thinking for themselves so much again, but rather depending on my suggestions before lunch & reverting to screen time after lunch.  It's certainly not a disaster as far as Home Education goes - but it is food for thought.
So I'm off again - pondering; musing - not wobbling exactly, just considering... and thinking we may have our 'half-term' now: we have a VERY busy two weeks coming up anyway, so we may just use that time to back right off from any structure again, and see what happens.  I don't want to extend the 'no TV' hours, or ban it totally, but I really do want to encourage them away from depending on it to entertain them. (Learning on the TV is another matter - we love that!) We currently have nothing at all planned for half-term, so maybe we'll resume a bit of structure then - it depends what I learn from the next week or two...

Meanwhile we've been having a lovely week.  Craft club on Tuesday saw the boys painting the clay models they made earlier this month, and then making "fossils" (as they called them) out of clay, plaster-of-paris, and little toy creatures.  Their clay models are being re-fired, but we were able to bring the fossils home - and today we used a paint-wash to give them a bit of colour (one of just two suggestions that Mummy made today).  The boys are all really pleased; they look great :)

     Middle's "Fossils"                                Eldest's "Fossils"  
Youngest's "Fossils"

Yesterday we went to visit some new HE friends, and had a really good time with them.  It took up most of the day, so we had no time for anything else, but we didn't care - it was just lovely for me to see the boys socialising so easily... and of course, Mummy and the other grown-ups had a lovely natter too!  I realised that one of the things I have really appreciated since we started our journey has been the support of people around us who haven't tried to tell us what to do (even when the experienced Home Ed'ors could doubtless see all of my naive mistakes right here in my blog), but have just stood alongside us and encouraged us that we could find the right way for us. Thank you everyone!

Today has been lovely too.  Apart from the fossil paint-washing, my only other suggestion (I am going to try not to make them for the time being) was to ask Eldest if he still wanted to do some baking (he did) as I had some soured cream to use up, so we made some gorgeous Cinnamon Squares - it made the kitchen smell all Christmassy and we got to eat cake at lunch-time - hoorah!

Also today Middle has been making different types of paper aeroplane.  He has somehow memorised how to make four different types ('bug', 'dart', 'glider' and 'super-cool short plane'!) - three of which were in a book he had months ago, and one of his own invention.  I am really impressed that he's remembered all the differently precise folds - but he's such a visual person, I needn't really be surprised.  He even taught our lodger how to make her first paper plane this morning!  Now that's mastery - when you can impart a skill that you have learned to someone else!

As I deliberately stepped back from making suggestions today, the boys found their own activities - and there was a LOT of imaginative play going on today - Middle and Youngest spent a lovely long time playing with playdough, making all sorts of things - meals, planets, animals and using them in role-play.  Eldest spent a long time in his room, making things with his lego and orchestrating battles etc.  Once upon a time my teacher-brain would not have handled them "just playing" like that (except for maybe Youngest), but the further we go on this journey, the more I see how vital it is: for them to be able to explore in their own worlds causes all the little neurons in their brains to make new connections, and can lead to who-knows-how-many fascinating discoveries.  This is genuine learning.  As Albert Einstein said,
"Imagination is more important than knowledge"
It is not an indulgence, nor is it a cop-out to try to justify them playing as if we feel they "should" be studying (in a more academically acceptable way): it is VITAL  that we allow our children the space for imaginative play.  How else can we provide them with the opportunity to naturally expand their minds?  Feeding them facts is OK if that is what they are interested in, but in encouraging them to explore their imaginations and the world around them, we are presenting them with endless possibilities.  Another one from Einstein:
"The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent or absorbing positive knowledge"
Finally, speaking of Neurons, I thought I'd share Eldest's quiz question for Daddy that he left stuck to his bedroom door yesterday:

For those who didn't already know, the answer is (a) - and I tell you what: if we have that many neurons, and learning new things causes them to connect in new way, no wonder I can feel my brain stretching!


  1. I have wondered the same thing about our no TV rule - it's almost the first thing J asks about once we've had lunch! I think a couple of screen free days might be in order. And I have that very same Einstein quote pinned up on the wall above my desk! R x

    1. Rachel, that's really cool B) I'd love some screen-free days! I am trying to think of ways to distract mine from the automatic 'lunch = TV' assumption. Trial and error coming up, I guess... ;) xx

  2. We have a no TV/computer games before breakfast rule... (used to be no TV/computer games before school). It still exists, but I just don't mention it, so they don't have that craving! A few very busy screen-free days might break the habit ;)
    Our TV usually doesn't go on now until after dinner, unless they watch a film, and then it goes off again afterwards. After dinner we get our Sci-Fi and Mythbusters fix ;)

    1. Thanks Celtic Bells - am thinking the same about busy screen-free days (although we've had a couple of no-limit days too, so I can compare results!) when we were deschooling they got out of the habit of watching, so I'm hoping we can doo the same again...

  3. You have no idea how much your blog helps me! It seems like whenever I'm having a wobble you have had it too ;) Latest two wobbles have been about whether I should introduce more structure.... And whether I need to reinstate our old "no screens except at weekends" rule. I wouldn't say I have come to conclusions on either but you've given me plenty to muse on :)

    1. Ah Tequilamonky, that's kind :) pleased to be of help! No conclusions here either, just musing... maybe when I've been doing this for a decade might feel qualified to 'conclude' ;) Best wishes with your HE journey :) xx