Friday, 26 April 2013

Lovely things...

After writing 'Something lovely, every day :)' a couple of days ago, I thought I would record something lovely from yesterday. There were lots to chose from, so I'll mention a couple of lovely things related to each boy!

While we were walking to the beach and he was balancing on a wall, Joseph asked if his brothers' eyes are the same as his, meaning can they see the same things he can? We a had a nice chat about this. A lovely glimpse into a philosophical mind! He also got excited about the two of us playing Plants vs Zombies together at bedtime!

On the beach, Callum was (as always) very wet and covered in sand. He asked where he could wash his sandy hands, and I directed him to a puddle of sea water. Once they were clean, he came to where I was laying and said "I can hold you now" and climbed on top of me for a cuddle, telling me several times "I love you Mummy!" As we were leaving, he danced around singing a song about his new coat and then said "Goodbye new friend" to a little girl he had been chatting too!

Charlie asked to come shopping with me, told me that supermarkets are so called because they sell super things, and while travelling down an aisle in the trolley shouted "Guess what I love? YOU!!" He showed me a 'flower' he had spotted in the clouds and when I gave him a pine cone I'd found in the car park, he smiled as though it were the very best gift!


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Something lovely, every day :)

It has been a tough going couple of weeks. To be honest, now that I sit down to write about it, I'm not really sure that I know why fully! Oliver hasn't been here much at all (home 1 day in the last 7), and I'm tired. Joseph wants to stay up later, and the physical task of getting the boys ready for bed alone and completing all the essential jobs that need doing every evening to keep the household ticking over means that I am getting to bed later without a rest in the evening. In addition, Joseph is needing me close by a lot at the moment. He seems to worry if I am out of his sight for too long and likes to know that I am focused on him and his needs. Callum has always liked a lot of close physical contact, and Charlie has some impressively mischevious strategies for maintaining my attention, so I'm feeling stretched. Perhaps the fact that Oliver is away a lot may be contributing to Joseph's feelings, although its interesting that it was around this time last year when I wrote My mummy's boys, and the fear I can't be enough, and I wonder whether the fact they all have their birthdays soon may also be playing a part. I'm not concerned about Joseph's need for me in the longer term, but I am thoughtful about what if anything in particular may be provoking it, and on being mindful about our relationship in the shorter term.

I could go on a bit more about the various things I've been finding difficult recently but it seems a misdirection of energy! A couple of nights ago I had a difficult evening with the boys and felt thoroughly fed up, and guilty that I had been grumpy with them. I began to write a checklist in my head of things it would be helpful to remember when I am feeling overwhelmed, that perhaps I could sneak off and read to give myself a pep talk and use to get back to a more peaceful place. Very often when I find myself getting cross a feeling inside tells me: you won't always have a 4-year old and two 2-year olds, so let this pass! The difficult moment is only a moment, and remembering that helps me to move into the next, which usually feels better!

Yesterday morning I woke with an idea to record something lovely that happens each day, because there is always something no matter how challenging the day has been! So I began the day with that intention, and before I knew it the day was full of wonderful moments to mentally record. Here are a few from the top of my head....

  • The boys all sat at the kitchen table eating porridge and watching one of their favourite programmes together on the iPad, and while they did, I stood back looking at them and having a moment of absolute love! :)
  • Joseph and I had a brilliant sword fight, where he laughed so much he could barely stand up!
  • Charlie came into the kitchen while I was making lunch and sprinkled some (invisible) magic dust in my hand and told me to eat it. When I asked what it was for, he told me it was for hiccups! He then said he would like to help make lunch.
  • When getting shoes on to go outside I put one of Callum's shoes on him and was momentarily distracted. Instead of getting cross with me he said, "I can hop out to the garden!"
  • We played football in the garden, and Charlie carefully carried a snail around while kicking the ball!
  • Callum found a worm, picked it up on his spade and brought it for his brothers to see!
  • I found some dinosaur pictures that Joseph had made and saved on my iPad.

  • Joseph and I looked at a book about Egyptian soldiers while I made dinner, and then when Callum came into the kitchen, Joseph showed him some pictures and told him what a battering ram was for!
  • While we ate dinner, Charlie climbed onto my chair and kissed me on the head.
  • Oliver arrived home before the boys had gone to bed, and Callum and Charlie told him in the beautiful way only 2-year olds can, how we had made a bug catcher in the garden and found some frog spawn and a frog in the paddling pool!

Maybe I will jot a little something lovely down every day, and record it here to keep me focused on how good life is; today I was looking for lovely moments and so I was showered in them. If I had woken intent on recording my woes I'd probably have seen more of those!

I feel better than I did two days ago and nothing has changed other than my focus. It would be nice to send Ollie something nice about our day at home when he's away, rather than send him a text message saying I'm too tired to chat on the phone. Feeling good has a funny way of spreading when its allowed to! :)

How I manage my own stresses and challenges is really important in a home where we've decided to learn without school, and lead by example rather than doctrine.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Kissing joy as it flies...

We were all packed up and ready to go to home-ed group yesterday morning. It was a beautiful, warm sunny day and as we got outside the boys all said "We want to go to the beach!" I knew some friends were heading there, so we grabbed a bag of toys and went along to join them!

When I first started to consider learning without school as an option for our family there was a William Blake poem that kept playing in my head:

He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

He who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity's sunrise

Life feels good when we're able to go with the flow and enjoy each day for whatever it has to offer, without binding ourselves to an idea about how things will go. I realised a while ago that learning from home would give us a wonderful chance to kiss joy as it flies; yesterday joy for the boys was flying to the beach, and so despite our plans, that's where we went to kiss it!

The boys don't know this poem yet, and I've yet to talk to them about William Blake! No doubt one day I will, when I talk about the things that inspired me to embark on this journey. For now they can simply feel it!


Thursday, 18 April 2013

One year on...

Its a year today since we declined Joseph's offer of a school place. I left it until the eleventh hour to hand back the forms, and even had a phone call from his allocated school reminding me that they needed to be returned! I was nervous about declining, it felt such a huge decision and I dreaded having to answer the "What school is he going to?" question, with "He's not" and then feeling compelled to explain our decision.

My Mum works at the school Joseph had been allocated, and a year ago today I met her at lunchtime as I often did on a Wednesday. She offered to return the forms for me, and as I handed them over she asked what our decision had been, knowing that we were considering home education. I told her we were declining and she didn't look disappointed or shocked, so that was a good start! As I drove the boys home that afternoon I remember feeling like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders rather than feeling like I had burdened myself with greater responsibility as I had half expected to. Once the decision had been made final it felt instantly fantastic. I knew we had done the right thing, and one year on it is undoubtedly one of the best decisions I've ever made.

So here we are a whole year on, and life is good. All three boys are happy and healthy and constantly surprising me with their fascination in the world and desire to learn about it. Deciding to home educate hasn't required that I do anything much differently than before; I spend lots of time with them, watch and get involved in the things they enjoy and help them expand these if they would like to. On the days that we stay at home, we are often buzzing around the house following a trail of their fabulous ideas before we are even out of pyjamas! Learning is something that all three of them do spontaneously as a result of going about their lives and being in the world, rather than something that anyone else makes them do. Joseph was asked recently "So come on then, what have you been learning about?" and he looked at the questioner as though she were from Mars! Learning is not separate from anything else Joseph and his brothers do, and Joseph already seems to understand this.

The decision to learn without school was about more than education, it was about prioritising our life together as a family and the relationships within it. The boys are fortunate to have one another, and we want them to grow up really knowing their siblings, rather than having their morning games disrupted in order to rush them out of the door, and then being reunited exhausted, at the other end of the day. Relationships outside of the home are really important to us too and we are fortunate to have a network of wonderful family and friends close by that we continue to spend time with regularly, along with a whole range of new families we have met as a result of deciding to learn at home. It has been wonderful to spend time with other families who have taken the decision to learn without school, and to learn about their lives and motivations for taking the decision. We are lucky to be part of a thriving local home-ed community with a constant stream of lovely trips and activities to take part in. This feels like a good and healthy way of life, and there is something really wonderful about families coming together for the purpose of supporting their children to learn, engage with the world and make connections with others.

I'm not at all worried about discussing our decision with anyone any more and will happily tell anyone who asks, whether they be a friend of a friend or the cashier at Sainsbury's! As I told a friend only yesterday, when we decided to learn at home we knew no other families who had taken this path, and so being open about what we are doing and how we are doing it seems really important to me. It's not that I want to 'convert' anyone to home-ed (as I've said many times before this is a decision based on what is right for our family and not what I think is right for anyone else) its simply that the more people who know someone who home educates, the more 'normal' it becomes, and the more possible it might seem for anyone who is considering it.

Joseph has become aware that some of his peers now go to school although he has no interest in following them. He sees himself as having chosen to learn without school and wonders why other children don't also make this choice. This has initiated some interesting chats about choice and the extent to which it may or may not be available. About one of his friends who attends school, Joseph recently said "I could help her learn at home, I have lots of good ideas!" I love the fact that for Joseph what matters is not what you know, but how you learn!

Thank you to everyone who has been supportive over the past year, and to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog and understand the choices we have made for our family. There are times when the decision is a challenge, when I'm tired and Ollie is working away and there are three small boys who need my attention and interaction, but I never regret that we chose this path. This is a great way of life for us, and although there will no doubt be challenges ahead I am excited for the future! Thank you to all who play a part in our life, and makes it as rich and interesting as it is for our children.

If there is anyone who reads this and feels that perhaps learning without school could be a good choice for their family, I would say explore that feeling and look into it. The ability to enjoy my children for the whole people they are, rather than seeing them viewed through the narrow focus of the school system is a joy I would not be without!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Waiting for Spring

No doubt about it learning from home in the winter months has been a challenge, with coughs and colds and very cold weather keeping us indoors more than we would usually like! It feels as though we haven't been up to much other than hibernating maybe, although there is still enough going on to prevent me from writing about our activities as much as I would like! So I've put together a photo montage of some of the things we've been up to while we wait for spring to arrive! It was fun to do, and helped me see that actually we've not been hibernating as much as I thought! Looking at all that we are doing, rather than thinking about what we're not is always a healthy activity!

Click the link below for lots of pictures, hope you enjoy :-)

Waiting for Spring Photos


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Joseph and the Otnos!!

I picked up my iPad today to use the Internet and found that the last person to use it had been googling 'Otnos'. I assumed it must have something to do with Oliver's work initially, and then it clicked...Joseph loves the Cbeebies show Octonauts and so he must have been searching for the games he likes playing on their website! Once I sounded it out for myself, and thought about how he and his brothers often pronounce the word, it was obvious.

Little moments like this make me very happy, and it feels important that I record the process of his unfolding literacy skills because although I have never doubted that without schooling and phonics lessons Joseph and his brothers will learn to read and write, watching it happen is magical, and it feels a privilege. He may not receive 'teaching' but he is read to by people who love him a lot and who will always read the books he wants to listen to, he has access to words in all kinds of different places, he has someone to ask questions about all of the words he sees every day in a real and useful context, ("Mummy what does that sign post say?") and he has as much access as he would like to the things that interest him and which provide a motivation to read and write. It's happening, and while I'm excited Joseph takes it all in his stride! To him I'm sure this is just another skill he is discovering he has, no more important that when he realised he could jump 5 steps down the stairs! That, in my mind, is exactly as it should be.

Reading and writing for Joseph will never be loaded with expectation, fear or shame and this makes a life without schooling seem more than worthwhile. Words and language are Joseph's to use for his own purpose, within the context of his life as he is living it right here, right now.

On a side, Joseph chalked this on our garden path this morning, and said its a picture of his Daddy! His drawings are changing all the time and becoming more detailed as his fine motor skills develop...this one has a particular detail that made us chuckle, and reminded us what a great sense of humour he has! :-) I'll be using the lovely sight of this 4 year-old's chalky handwriting to cheer me up on many a cloudy day across the years!