Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Rollercoaster Days

It's been a funny week so far.  Some of it really pants, and some of it heart-warmingly lovely.

The horrible bits have largely revolved around me: my stress; me losing my temper; my guilt at shouting at the boys... with other challenges thrown in such as one boy drawing on the beige stair carpet with lead pencil, another boy having a complete hissy fit over something apparently tiny, and general sibling squabbles and other petty problems as well. 

BUT, as another HE Mum whose blog I love posted earlier this week, in One Of Those Days, it's how you deal with horrible days/ weeks that makes the difference.  So if I focus on the positives and brag slightly on my boys, it's not because I want you to feel inadequate (I REALLY don't!): it's because to focus on the negatives would depress me and make things worse.  I don't want to live in denial, or try to maintain an illusion of perfection - I just want to acknowledge the rotten stuff, try to learn from it - and then focus on the good stuff and acknowledge that actually, despite the stuff that I get wrong, every day that we home educate is a good day.

By the way, a lovely quote for those of you who find HE blogs discouraging at times...
"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel" - Steve Furtick
So on our manic Monday, after I had a sudden and stressful need to clean the house top-to-bottom (obviously apart from the room that all the mess was shoved into!), and after the carpet graffiti 'artist' had had a long enough time-out for me to calm down, followed by him trying to clean the carpet himself (lesson in consequences of destructive behaviour - I did help him after he'd realised the seriousness of what he'd done), and after the mega tantrum had passed, and peace was restored... after all that stress, we had quite a nice afternoon: the house was now beautifully tidy, and I felt the need for a nice cosy time, for all of our sakes... so we snuggled up together on the sofa and watched a Christmas Movie with popcorn and no lights on except the twinkling tree.  Oh it was lovely: such a peace-restoring time... and actually, it was the first time this year that I have taken time to breathe deeply and enjoy the beginning of the festive season, gathering my precious ones around me and indulging in the warmth of our family closeness as we make plans and celebrate Christmas.

Tuesday started well: we were all up early, dressed and looking forward to the last Craft Club of the season - we even made some gingerbread cookies to share there.  Then we got in the car - and it wouldn't start.  Flat battery.  We were all really upset, but nothing could be done.  A taxi would have been too expensive; going by bus was too involved - by the time we got there it would have been time to come home.  So after dealing with tears and pouting, I decided we would go out for a walk to blow the cobwebs away (it was a lovely mild day) - so we walked through the local lanes to the smallholding where we buy our free-range eggs (proper free-range, not the sort that claim to be free-range in supermarkets but turn out to be a con).  Eggs purchased, we strolled home again, talked to the horses in the fields, planning Middle's birthday party next month, and I just enjoyed having Youngest's little hand in mine, while listening to Eldest and Middle have a really lovely brotherly conversation.  Peace was restored.

Home again, and having stressed myself (and the boys) silly the day before, trying to get the house immaculate, I did what any normally insane person would do: I got the glitter out (and some stencils, metallic markers etc).  Oh my goodness, we had a good time!  I deliberately made no plans, set no expectations - didn't even tell them not to waste the glitter (after all, I had bought two big tubs of it, and we're not likely to use it again this year)... we just got creative and had fun.  There was so much glitter over the bench that Youngest stood up in it and made like a camel doing a happy little sand dance.  It didn't even take that long to clean up again afterwards!  It was such a happy time, even finding the glitter today that has spread to every corner of the house makes me smile.

 Middle's "Christmas" and "Tree"

 Eldest's "Christmas Fish" and "Macaroni Penguins"

 Youngest's "Do Not Disturb" (apparently) and "Candle"

Today has happily been a bit less tempestuous.  There has been more time to notice the 'little' things from the week so far.  For example today's word play, first making a Christmas crossword on the fridge out of magnetic letters, and then a game that Eldest and Middle love, where every word has to start with the same letter (inlcuding names) - so if everything starts with P, they would call me Pummy, eating a Panana etc. Youngest (age 4) has always hated this game, especially if his brothers changed his name, but today when they played it he suddenly 'got it', and was delighted to change everyone's names, working them out for himself - he especially loved it when he got to call me 'Dummy', 'Bummy' 'Gummy' etc. He just suddenly clicked with letter sounds as components of whole words. That's proper literacy right there - but they were all just having fun playing a game (as it should be)! 

Eldest was "bored" at one point, but instead of moaning at me to find entertainment for him (he seems to have learned that that usually results in him being asked to tidy his room - spot Mummy's cunning ploy), he disappeared off to his room and invented a game that is a kind of cross between chess and Gogos (cheap weird plastic collectible figures).  He calls it 'Gogo chess', and although the name may not be very inventive, the game certainly is.  It has clear rules and is kind of and is absorbing to play... clever chappie!

And Middle has totally grown in confidence with his drawing.  He rarely wants to colour his creations in - I'm not sure if that's our of preference or because he runs out of steam, but regardless, his pictures are increasingly noticeably in detail, and more importantly, he loves it - he's found his 'happy place' - ie sat at a table (or on the floor, or leaning on a book), with a pen/ pencil in hand, drawing a picture.


There's another blog that I follow, and the author posted this week about criticism that she had received making her re-evaluate her home education/ lifestyle, in Still Learning.  Readers here will know how little time I have for the 'shoulds', aka, other people's narrow-minded judgements (or our own subconscious ones) on our parenting/ education/ life choices - but this lovely blogger goes further and states the things that she does value about their life.  I encourage you to have a read, it's really uplifting.  Sometimes the things that people think are important, turn out to be the least important.  And I'm not just saying that because I'm a fan of hers who aspires to a similar lifestyle!

Over all then, it's been such an up-and-down few days - a proper rollercoaster (no, I am NOT the rollercoaster-enjoying type), and it got me thinking.  We can have days that I rate as rubbish because it's too easy to fall back into schoolteacher mode, and I wobble, and make the mistake of comparing the 'labours' (or lack of) of our HE day with the labours of a typical school day - but nowadays I am getting quicker at ignoring that out-dated 'teacher-voice' because when I think of the lesson plans that I have written in the past, all of them always focused around one main point that I wanted the children to remember or achieve, if nothing else.  And if they could get that one point in a few minutes, what was the point in the rest of the lesson? (was it to fill time while their class-mates also got it? was it to keep reiterating it in different ways to make sure it really goes in, in case they weren't paying full attention?)  I look back at my own time at school and think about what I actually learned.  I learned that I'm rubbish at History, Science, Geography, Art, average at Maths, and ok with English and languages  (notice it is all performance-based, nothing to do with what did I love or what inspired me and brought me to life).  The facts that I learned I have largely forgotten - and if you ask Joe Public what he was taught at school, chances are you'll get the same response: "nothing much".  We remember the teachers, and how they made us feel.  we remember the bad ones who made us feel lower than low, and we remember the good ones, who encouraged us to reach for the stars, to believe in ourselves.  But do we remember, do my students remember those 'key points' that were the focus of each lesson plan?  Not often (and I really tried to be an inspiring teacher).  All of which brings me full-circle to now, home educating my own children.  To be frank, their appetite for learning far exceeds my ability to "teach" - and that being the case, I just need to make sure they have the resources they need to go as far as they like, unhindered by the 'single-point' focus of a lesson-plan.  If my boys are inspired and take just a few minutes to learn one piece of information or grasp a new concept or get absorbed in a new experience, why should I expect them to then spend the rest of their day in a forced learning environment?  Quite simply, there is no need.  If they then want to go on learning as much as they can about one subject, why would I try to restrict them to my idea of what they ought to achieve in one session?  Again, there is no need.  The Home Ed lark really makes a lot of sense.

Wow, what was a lengthy post!  I'll stop now... thank you for sticking with me through my rambles! 

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