Thursday, 30 May 2013


Joseph, Callum and Charlie went away camping for a night with my parents last weekend, and when we went to collect them, they showed us around some woods they had been exploring. No doubt involved in some dinosaur related imaginary play, Joseph turned to Oliver and said, "It must be the Jurassic period because there are trees!" Only then did I remember that when we took Joseph to see 'Walking With Dinosaurs' at Wembley Arena recently, we had learned that trees first appeared during the Jurassic period, and flowers and insects during the Cretaceous.

The wonderful thing about having no expectations about what or how my children learn and simply the knowledge that they will, is that I am constantly amazed by them! Rarely a day goes by where I don't 'WOW' at something new they have learned through their own motivation and exploration of the world. Today Callum and Charlie were playing with some pebbles that are piled in a fireplace upstairs and began looking as though they wanted to throw them! I suggested we take them downstairs to decorate instead, and we were soon gluing and drawing all over them. Callum gave me two pebbles and said "I've written 'C' for Callum on them' and made the sound of the beginning of his name.

He has never been given instructions on how to write, or sat down to trace his name (as Joseph was at nursery) but nonetheless he has found the motivation and developed the skills to start to write his name. Callum is rarely still and is usually found running, jumping, climbing and dancing around; I have no doubt that these high energy activities are crucial for Callum as he learns to control his body enough to use fine motor skills.

I didn't expect Callum to spontaneously write the first letter of his name today, or for Joseph to remember that trees appeared during the Jurassic period, so both were a wonderful surprise. It feels brilliant to enjoy what they are learning rather than measuring them against averages and judging them in terms of what they 'should' be learning. When averages and expectations are taken out of the equation no one is behind or ahead, and children are enjoyed for who and where they are.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Giving things time.

When he was 3, Joseph wasn't interested in jigsaw puzzles and found them a struggle. When the nursery teacher came to pay us a home visit before he started pre-school, she brought a range of activities for him to try out and commented that he struggled with the puzzle. I wasn't concerned. I knew that Joseph had good problem solving skills and watched him problem solving in his play all the time, often very creatively. I recall that one day around this time he adapted a toy crane in order to give it a longer string to pick toys up from the floor, so the fact that he wasn't interested in puzzles didn't matter to us.

Last week we were playing with an alphabet puzzle that Charlie had been given for his birthday, and Joseph came over and enjoyed putting it together with ease! It was a gentle reminder that sometimes all a child needs is time. Joseph didn't need practise at puzzles, or any strategies to help him improve his skills at doing them, he just needed time to grow and develop and reach a point where they made sense to him. Fussing over something he found a struggle would no doubt have put him off trying. When he wasn't doing puzzles he was doing other things and developing other valuable skills.

Charlie loves to draw and recently went through a phase where he was asking for paper and pens often. At some point this stopped, and I was thinking the other day that it had been a long time since he had asked to draw. Then last night when his brothers were in bed Charlie asked for pens and paper and settled down to draw. His pictures really surprised me because they were so different from those he had been drawing a couple of months ago, and it seems that all of a sudden they are taking a form that others might recognise. Between now and the last time he wanted to draw, something has happened. Something that needed time to emerge.

Here's a picture of Joseph dancing that Charlie drew a couple of months ago...

Here's a picture he drew of himself yesterday, at his birthday party with wings!

Here's another picture he drew yesterday, of a crab.

He seems to have far more control over his hands now, and is able to draw with more precision. Perhaps his little break from drawing enabled this to happen. I'm glad he wasn't in a place where he was expected to put pen to paper every day, I value time and space for my children and they grow and develop, and as their skills emerge.

Its a shame that anybody ever did a jigsaw puzzle with Joseph for any reason other than because they both wanted to and were both enjoying it. It's joy first here, and learning inevitably grows from there.


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Science and Discovery

We've been meaning to make a home-made volcano for a while now given Joseph's interest in all things dinosaur related! As luck would have it he was bought a volcano kit for his birthday, and so on Wednesday we embarked on making our landscape and setting up the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda volcano.

It was great fun, and all three boys enjoyed taking part. It got me thinking about science and the kind of experiments we did in school, most of which I don't remember off-hand, although I remember thinking it would be a good lesson if the Bunsen Burners were coming out! Sandra Dodd pointed out on the Always Learning list a few months ago that many 'experiments' are not science at all but simply the process of recreating a discovery that somebody else has already made. I think she's right, I don't remember any classroom science experiments that I embarked on without knowing the results I 'should' see.

Small children on the other hand are brilliant natural scientists and are constantly developing and testing theories about how things work and the world around them, in order to expand their knowledge and understanding. So while we were enjoying our volcano a couple of days ago, I was thinking about a game Joseph had been playing the day before which amounted to a pretty good spontaneous science experiment. He was playing with toys and flipping them off of a wrestling platform to see how far they would travel. In no time at all he was chatting about the size and weight of the toys, making predictions about how far he thought they might travel based on these factors, and experimenting with flinging them higher and administering different amounts of pressure to the platform! Here he is comparing two toy penguins...the man in front was in charge of the flipping!

Nobody told him what to look for or what he might find, he was playing and simply making observations which turned his game into a fusion of logic and creativity. Ultimately for Joseph this was play, the means he has used for most of his great discoveries to date! Children's play is serious business!

The discoveries I have made for myself have been the most powerful, so perhaps thats why I am so keen for my children to make their own, rather than following someone else's formula. When Joseph, Callum and Charlie are making discoveries for themselves they are creating. Creativity was limited to certain subjects when I was in school, although even in those I think its arguable how much creativity was really taking place. It's a wonderful advantage of learning at home that we can allow creativity to play a role in every area of our learning; creativity and logic are not mutually exclusive.

"The greatest scientists are artists as well" ~ Albert Einstein


Friday, 17 May 2013


A couple of days ago Joseph asked how clouds are made, and how they float in the sky! It's a question he's asked before in different forms when chatting about rain and the water cycle, but I've noticed many times in Joseph's learning that we revisit the same themes in different forms. It's not a case of information in, knowledge gained. His learning is more complex, interesting and thoughtful than that.

Is surprises me that anybody is surprised that children could learn without school and a curriculum, given how fascinated they are by the world around them and how brilliant the questions and theories they formulate. We live in a beautiful place with amazing skies and cloud formations and we spend a good amount of time looking at the sky, so I guess it was only a matter of time before he looked up and wondered how the clouds arrived there, and how they stay up!

We made our own cloud in a bottle, that seemed like a good place to start!