When we decided to learn at home we hoped that it would enable us to have more flexible time together as a family. Oliver works all over the country and so can be away for several days at a time, but also works from home when he is not away which means that when he is around, the boys get to spend time with him during the day, and he is often able to join in with home-ed activities. We also hoped that because the boys would not be at school during the week, we might get the chance to take them away on some of Oliver's work trips and give them a chance to explore other parts of the country. We have now reached a point where this is far more of a possibility; Callum and Charlie no longer use cots, we don't need to take quite as much 'stuff' with us, and the boys are easier to entertain in the car with chat, games and books meaning that we don't need to rely on them sleeping through journeys as much as we used to!! Last week Oliver was called to Wiltshire and I was feeling a bit stagnant and uninspired after the busyness of Christmas and New Year, so we decided we would all go!
The journey was fine and when we arrived at Oliver's first customer after a 3 hour drive we were extremely fortunate to discover that it was located right by Wiltshire's biggest indoor play centre! Perfect! The boys had a fantastic time burning off lots of energy while their daddy worked down the road and I read a book! It was then a short drive to our hotel where we ate, bathed and slept very well. The boys were very peaceful during the night, no doubt comforted that we were all in a room together.
The following day Oliver had a full days work nearby and as luck would have it I remembered a friend who lived in the area and we met with her and her son, had a walk along a canal, played in the park, drank hot chocolate on a barge and then went to her house for lunch. By the time we returned to the hotel Oliver had finished work and the boys had a brilliant time playing in the play area in the attached pub where we had dinner. Our trip was going well, so we decided to extend it by driving to Somerset the following day to visit Oliver's grandfather and introduce him to Callum and Charlie for the first time. There was plenty for the boys to explore in the area around his home too!
We drove from Somerset to Reading and stayed there overnight to break up the journey home to Kent.
During our little road trip Joseph sat in the front with Oliver and I sat in the back between Callum and Charlie. This seemed to work well; I could read them stories, dig around for snacks and drinks, chat to them about the scenery and stroke them off to sleep while Oliver and Joseph played I-Spy and nattered away in the front! Car journeys often provide me with an opportunity for thought and reflection and this seemed to be the case for Joseph too as he asked Oliver, "Why are we on this earth?" and other fantastic questions! Oliver spoke to Joseph about the things that make this planet habitable compared to others, while I sat in the back pondering which one of the myriad of potential different ways I'd have gone about answering that question! They watched birds of prey hunting above and Joseph shared out sweets and watched the sat nav. When giving out muesli bars Joseph said "We should have brought 10 so we could all have 2 each!" Just being together is a great opportunity for learning!
On our first morning away I read Sandra Dodd's daily blog 'Just Add Light and Stir' as I do every morning, and it really spoke to me. The post, which was titled Same and Safe talked about choosing activities that were new in order to promote learning. Over the past few months Oliver has invited us along with him on work trips several times and I have always chosen to stay at home. We have everything we need here, plenty of friends to see and places to go so packing up a car and travelling around when we could just stay at home seemed like an effort! I realise now how much of a coping strategy 'same and safe' became for me after having the twins. Joseph was still so small and dependent when the twins arrived and so I found a range of activities that I knew I could manage in order to feel confident managing the three of them alone outside of the home. We had a routine of groups we would attend and places we would go during the week that gave us all lots of stimulation and socialisation, and that most importantly, felt safe. I needed our activities to be predictable because I had three very small children who were not predictable! Reading Sandra's blog reminded me that I don't need this coping strategy anymore, we've all moved on and grown and its easier now to wander from the well-trod path. What is more, veering towards the new and not yet experienced is absolutely necessary for the life of learning at home we have chosen. Same and safe served a purpose and got us all through a couple of very challenging years, but now we are ready for the new! We have a lot of lovely comfort activities that are same, safe and loved by us; books we read over and over again, films and games we never tire of and a beach we will never get bored of exploring, but there is a whole world out there to wonder over and explore, and that's what we intend to do. The boys jumped at the chance to go away with their Daddy and had a fantastic time, Joseph even asked to stay longer after initial concern that he would miss his home! I'll be far more willing to jump at the chance to go away in future, and I'm planning to get a going-away bag stocked up so that we can go without too much packing - Oliver's trips are often short-notice.
Sandra's reminder came at just the right time. Its a New Year, and we're looking forward to all the new experiences it brings.