September is here (and almost over) and 4 year-olds all over the country have been starting school. I can't pretend it hasn't been a little strange knowing that Joseph could have been going and isn't, regardless of how certain I am about the decision not to send him. As far as I am aware Joseph is unbothered by the fact that others are starting school; a while back he randomly told me that he'll go when he's about 10, so it's not something he's currently keen to do anytime soon! I have actually felt a few twinges of sadness over the past couple of weeks, I suppose I've felt a bit like perhaps I'm denying him a rite of passage; starting school is a feature of most childhoods in our culture after all. Ultimately I know that I'd be denying him things I feel are far more important if he did go to school, and there are so many of those that I won't even start to list them here!
I had been nervous about the arrival of September and was worried that I would feel a sudden weight of the responsibility I had taken on; as an acquaintance of mine recently pointed out, at least if you send them to school you can blame the school if anything goes wrong! As it happens nothing has changed and we're continuing to enjoy lots of unpressured time together. Ollie has built a cupboard to store toys and art and craft supplies, I've signed up to lots of online home ed communities and we've been making an effort to spend more time with other local home ed families but other than that we've flowed into and through September without a lot of thought about the fact that we are now 'officially' learning at home.
Joseph spends most of his time happily engaged in games and activities of his choosing. He is still very interested in dinosaurs and the size and speed of everything!! He is interested in reading numbers, putting them together to make bigger numbers and playing around with them in his head, comparing quantities and comparing the speed and height of things with values he has attributed to them. He has developed his own measuring system which involves counting how long it takes him to run his finger from the bottom to the top of something....today he told me that I am 18 tall!!
He also loves doing 'tricks' although you and I would probably call this gymnastics! He takes all of the cushions from the sofas in the living room and lines them up to make crash mats for himself and practises rolling, jumping, leaping and tumbling over them. He has mastered a forward roll with no hands and is getting pretty good at cartwheels! He enjoyed watching the Olympics this summer, and has told us that he's going to be in the Olympics and win a gold medal!
Charlie is busy potting training after telling us that he intended to use the big boy toilet! He really loves drawing and often asks for paper and pens or paints. Callum continues to explore the world in a very physical way by jumping and climbing over everything!! He likes playing with cars and trucks and likes attaching vehicles together and taking things apart!
There have been many mornings lately when it's been around 9am and they are all in pyjamas jumping on Joseph's bed, building pirate ships out of cushions or having races up and down the living room and I step back for a moment to remind myself how wonderful it is that they are able to do this. I'm so glad I don't have to rush them around or interrupt their flow to get dressed and get out of the house five days a week. So many people use the 'but what about socialisation?' argument against home educating yet it seems so much more important to me that at 4 years-old Joseph is given a chance to explore and enjoy the relationships he has at home. The thought that after only 2 years at home together he and his brothers could spend most of every day, five days a week for the rest of their childhoods, in separate places seems sad to me. Mixing with other children is really important and we do a lot of that, but it's important to me that they are given a chance to really know each other too.
Despite the fact that we have spent most of it ill with the usual seasonal viruses, September has been lovely! Even in the illness we are learning to listen to our bodies and rest, and to care for and nurture ourselves and one another. If he were at school Joseph wouldn't have been able to accompany Charlie to his doctors appointment this morning, where he was proudly able to push his brothers along in their buggy telling a poorly Charlie....
"The Doctor is for you Charlie. You just need to sit and wait for a bit and then go in when your name comes up. The Doctor won't give you a needle just have a look at you. Mummy had a needle once but she didn't get a sticker because only boys get stickers!"
He really made me smile! Joseph gets to take the day at his own pace usually, but this morning there was a lot of rushing around to get to the early appointment on time. He was brilliant about it; he knew we needed to get his brother to the doctor and he made no fuss. Perhaps when your mum doesn't spend too much time rushing you around to places you don't want to go, you trust that when she does rush you its because she needs to.
There is not a day that goes by when I don't see all the boys learn something new, just from going about doing the things they all love to do. A while back I wrote about Joseph's natural learning of Maths and the fact that I knew that playing with water would eventually lead him to compare by volume rather than just by the height of the vessel (see 'Maths in Everyday Life' July 2012). Well yesterday when he and his brothers were playing with water at a friends house I overheard him persuading Charlie to swap an interesting looking can for Joseph's jug by saying "I promise you Charlie that this one holds more water!" He led himself to this understanding; learning is unstoppable :)
I wouldn't want to idealise the decision to learn at home or make out that it's all a bed of roses; some days are hard work and I have no doubt we'll face plenty of challenges along the way. This is a long journey and we are only at the very start of it, and I'm reminded of this every time we attend a home ed meet up and mix with families who have teenagers - these people can speak about home education with far greater authority than I can! I've never wanted to speak for anyone else though, this is about the five of us learning together at home. I've joined a group on Facebook called 'The Freedom Journey' where home educating families can share their stories and experiences. Freedom is exactly how learning at home feels to me. I understand that freedom for some mums comes from knowing that you have more time alone now that your children are in school, but freedom for me is about living in a home where we decide what our priorities and commitments are and together set the pace of our own lives.
Some people believe that parents who home educate do so because they want to control what their children are exposed to which is funny, because it's always been the opposite of that for me! I hope they'll grow up living a life where it's normal to spend your time doing things you enjoy with the freedom to choose the topics, people and places that interest and inspire you. Of course they'll face obligations along the way, but these will be real obligations in the real world rather than false ones made up for practise. September has brought a greater sense of freedom for them and for me.
One day last week we were heading out in the car and I was waiting outside the house for Joseph to emerge. Out he came wearing an eye patch and holding an oar in one hand and a tennis racket in the other...
"Mummy" he said, " I've got my eye-patch, my sword and my shield!"
"Wonderful!" I replied, "What more could a little boy need!"
"Erm...nothing else!" said Joseph.
Nothing else :) Let me know when you need anything else then Joseph!