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Monday · Monday September 11, 2006 by june

We’re still very much easing our way back into Home Education having had a busy summer.

Mondays are always the worse morning of the week. No one wants to get out of bed, me included, and the house is usually a mess after the weekend chaos. So it is always a pretty disorganised start to the week.

We are working on a new system for planning the day – more on that later – so today was more organised, and everyone was up and about much earlier than is usual on a Monday. Helped by the fact that ‘The H’ left for London early this morning.

James was the last one out of bed. He was extra tired having been to a camp over the weekend. He started the day by reading Eagle Strike by Anthony Horowitz. He is working his way through the Alex Rider books. These are brilliant books for young people like James who have dyslexia, the writing is straightforward, the plot linear, they are easy to read and yet there is still enough of an interesting story to keep a 16 year old reading. Then he followed that up by doing work on gradients from his Maths book.

Liz’s morning was full of finishing things off from before the holidays. Mainly sticking loose pieces of art work into her sketch book. She played her flute (a tisket a tasket…) . Then she did a section of her maths book – she is reviewing multiplication just now.

The afternoon was a bit of a rush. We had to go to a nearby town to buy trainers for Liz, for tennis, and a music book, for her flute lessons. So that took longer than it should – the shoe shop seems to exist in a different time bubble than the rest of the world.

Came back, and James played his accordion for a while. We are still doing lots of music. Both James and Liz are enjoying learning and playing their instruments. I haven’t managed to find a keyboard/piano teacher for James yet (which is on my list of things to do this month) so we are continuing music reading work ourselves using Usborne’s first book of the keyboard. We are planning to have a ‘lesson’ every Monday evening, and he is doing fine.

Liz worked on her comic, which is left-over work from before the summer. She’s nearly finished, so you’ll be able to have a look soon.

So that was Monday. I even did some washing (well we found Tom’s sweatshirt still festering in his schoolbag where it had been hiding since Friday so – so I had no choice), but the washing-up still needs doing.


Paradigm shift · Tuesday September 12, 2006 by june

“One way to describe the philosophy of unschooling is living as if human beings are already perfect. This is a radical concept and, for most of us, a dramatic reversal of what we’ve always thought about ourselves, about our children and about humanity. The pervasive assumption about human beings, expressed overwhelmingly in our collective beliefs and practices, is that we are naturally bad, lazy and dumb. These beliefs are responsible for most people’s approach toward children, thinking that they must be forced to learn, forced to be productive and forced to be good. Healing this paradigm requires a deep shift in one’s psyche. Moving toward a place of trust in and respect for the inner selves of our children (not to mention of ourselves, and of all people) is usually uncomfortable. And it often takes longer than we’d like to fully arrive at a life of relaxed peace and fun.”

Amy Childs
Easing the pain of our transition to a life of learning
Life Learning Magazine May/June 2006 (Life Learning Magazine May/June 2006)


The rest of the week · Thursday September 14, 2006 by june

We’ve had a good week, and are now well on the way to rediscovering our routine.

James has settled into his physics and maths work really well. I think we are going to try doing physics and biology in weekly rotation this year.

link to comic image

Every year I look at areas that need extra work – This year we are going to be working on writing skills. Both James and Liz have done a really useful piece of writing about what they think is the best movie ever – and why. Well planned, well written, and done quickly – leaving plenty of time for more of the fun stuff. Next week I have a Dr Who writing activity planned. So look out for a post about that.

This was a quiet week for Liz, reading, maths and writing, mainly. Next week we’ll expand on this. She finished her comic (click on the image to see the full page) and had a successful flute lesson with her new teacher. She also made one of these bangles – which was really successful.

The main challenge next week, is to fit all the routine work in before lunchtime.


How important is writing in a child's education? · Friday September 15, 2006 by june

To answer this question it is useful to ask another question first: Why do children in school do so much writing?

One answer has to be that in a school situation you need to be able to assess whether the child is learning. In a class of 30+, there isn’t the time to sit down and talk to each child, and spend time with that child in order to find out first hand how much s/he is learning. So the child writes and the teacher marks – whether essays, or tests, or exams – and an assessment is made.

So, you have a child with dyslexia who does not represent his learning well on paper. He has problems organising the material, problems spelling, even problems with the mechanics of writing, and may not be able to produce enough written work for the teacher to assess. Does this mean that he isn’t learning?

The whole school experience is so centred on the production of written work. If the child struggles with the written work they are already failing. This gets in the way of learning for children with dyslexia. This is a big part of the reason we decided to home educate James.

Do you need to write in order to organise your thoughts and consolidate your learning? Again, if writing is a struggle, it can be more of an obstacle to learning than a help if we insist on writing as the only way into learning. Talking through ideas can be just as useful. Younger children can act out their learning as part of their play. Perhaps it comes down to the need to accept that school education (as we know it in this country) is only one educational model. As home educators, we are free to choose a different model – the one that works best for our family – we can even create our own.

Yesterday I said that we are putting an emphasis on writing skills this year. So how does that fit in with what I have written above?

I do think that writing is an important skill. I expect my children to learn – at some point – how to write effectively. With James, that point has come quite late in his educational journey. When a child is struggling to acquire reading skills, it is very difficult to teach effective writing skills. It isn’t that we have never done writing before. It is just that, now his reading skills are better established, we can look at achieving more with writing this year.

This has come at a good time for Liz, who has aways enjoyed writing, but is now ready to take a more formal approach to her writing skills.

In summary, I think that writing is not the only way into education. In fact it is possible to learn quite successfully without using reading or writing skills. However, the ability to be able to read and write are necessary skills to learn in order to live and work in our society.


Monday - here we go again · Monday September 18, 2006 by june

We should have gone to the local Home Education group today, but we didn’t. So I haven’t been very popular. Anyway, I soldiered on.

I was up very early, but the other two were very slow to get going, specially Liz. She has done her maths (long multiplication). We are using a Dorling Kindersley sticker maths book as a base, whilst doing other supporting work around it. She has done a lot of reading – the books really need to go back to the library. And, flute practice (Amazing Grace).

photograph of Liz's crystal

Yesterday, when we were walking on the beach, Liz found some crystals. She was so excited, and it is certainly the first time we’ve found anything like it on our beach. Liz was climbing on some rocks, and must have disturbed these when she jumped down. So, the first thing she did this morning was sit down with the rock book and try to find out what kind of crystals they are. We have an idea, but would like to know for sure. Anybody?

I promised her that we would bake. She is making a muffin recipe book, so we plan to make a new (to us) kind of muffin. We have plenty of the day left to do this in. We find that Home Ed officially ‘stops’ when Tom comes in from school at 4pm. But, can informally continue (Tom included) until bedtime.

James started with reading. Then on to maths – and made a bit of a mess of it. We ended on a positive note, and hopefully he’ll remember that when we go back to the page tomorrow.

His afternoon has been taken up with a physics experiment. Using Archemedes to measure density and work out whether two similar objects are made out of the same metal. He’s just finished off with accordion practice.

Over lunch, James Nintendoed and Liz played on Neopets. Sometimes what they do in the gaps is as interesting as what they do in the ‘official’ Home Ed, but not today. Everyone’s energy levels were low today.

I really need for everyone to be up earlier tomorrow.


We're getting there · Tuesday September 19, 2006 by june

Well everyone was up and ready to go before 9am and, as a result, we got moving so much quicker.

We started on the Dr Who project this morning. Which went down well all round. (I’m thinking about writing it up fully, and putting it on the web site, so I won’t go into too much detail here.) As a result James has spent every spare moment today on the bbc.co.uk Dr Who website (check out the ‘webcasts’ and ‘ebooks’). See what I mean when I say, “what they do in the gaps can be much more interesting than the routine Home Ed activities”.

Liz is still trying to finish those books because they really do need to go back to the library. I still can’t understand how it is possible to read more than one book at a time. One of the books is Hugo Pepper by Paul Stewart – I read this on holiday, and it is such a clever book. I’ve also read Corby Flood, which is equally good. Tom is a great fan of Paul Stewart’s other books: Muddle Earth, and The Edge Chronicles series.

They both did their maths, James coped better today – he seems to have done a reasonable job of learning this unit after all. They both did their music. Liz and I played London Bridge is Falling down as a round, which was fun. James has taken on the task of learning a tune by ear from a CD – he’s doing frighteningly well – it constantly amazes me how good he is at this stuff. So he did more accordion than usual today.

Meanwhile Liz and I prepared for a D&T activity we are planning to do by watching the videos on the website.

Tuesday evenings bring a “everyone is going to a club” runaround (one of them goes to two on a Tuesday evening). So I’m now in a mad rush to get food on the table before 6pm.

So that’s it today. The routine Home Education work is getting sorted out and planned into our day, and we had lots of free time – which is how we like it


And so on... · Wednesday September 20, 2006 by june

What I’ve been doing over the last week or so is establishing a routine. So that we can get the more “traditional” school-type work organised, and out of the way of the more spontaneous, child led learning that happens everyday.

That isn’t that the other work isn’t child led: more about how that works later – it deserves a post of its own. However, I will say that as James has got older the work that he wants to do, and the work that he needs to cover (he has a career in mind), is much greater, and takes up more time. There is also a degree of shuffling that goes on each day to make sure that I can be there for each child. Also, more shuffling to make sure the house is cleaned, there’s food to eat, etc… and that I get some time for myself.

So, Maths (just a short session today) and English (more Dr Who), reading, music practice (both of them are doing really well there).

James did ‘Toe by Toe’ and spelling. We use ‘Stareway to Spelling’, which is a very methodical spelling programme. We have found it works well for James, and also for Liz, even though she doesn’t have dyslexia.

In the afternoon, James started on his Biology. He is drawing, and labelling, a skeleton. I have to say I hated biology at school – we had such a boring teacher – so doing biology now with James… well let’s just say it still isn’t my favourite subject. Luckily, James is more enthusiastic.

Liz spent the afternoon decorating a T-shirt. This is an activity the kids saw on SMART , and we have had the T-shirts (waiting to be decorated) for months.

James has spent a big chunk of the rest of the day researching Blu Tack. Don’t ask!


The need to be flexible. · Tuesday September 26, 2006 by june

We had to change our plans for Thursday and Friday because James made a committment to something at very short notice. As a result, he needed to spend most of those two days (and Saturday too) working on it. I wasn’t too happy at the time – it was a lot of work – but he did it, and it ended up being a worthwhile diversion.

Otherwise, he managed a little maths, music practice, and some reading. Although the work he did involved a lot of writing, and learning about presentation skills, so you could say he did a lot of literacy work over those two days.

Liz muddled along and did lots of flute, some maths, T-shirt making, and drawing her Neopets. As well as making a beaded ring and doing lots of reading.

We had a busy weekend, James was busy all weekend. Liz had tennis on Saturday, and Tom went to visit a friend for the day. On Sunday we all went to visit Grandma.

So… back to Monday again. We had a good day yesterday. We went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the theatre – and that took up most of the day. Later James made the evening meal for everyone. He’s going to do this every Monday – this was his first time and he did really well.

Today is this week’s Monday. Everyone was up later than usual, Liz has a sore throat and is feeling weary, and we are all taking ages to get moving.


Getting easier... · Thursday September 28, 2006 by june

Liz is starting to feel better today. She has still managed to do some work, just not as much as she would usually.

We have finished the second part of the Dr Who writing work, both Liz and James have done really well there. James told me how much he was enjoying the writing work we are doing at the moment. “It is so much easier than the writing work we usually do”. I think that it is easier for him because ‘writing’ is easier for him now. I have noticed a real difference in his attitude to doing the work. He seems less lost, disorganised, and frustrated. As a result he is working faster, correcting his spelling as he goes along, and what he is writing is much more interesting – I presume he is finding it easier to get his ideas down on paper.

James has been working from his maths book. We have been using the Smp Interact series of books since James was 11. They are very good and I can recommend them (In fact I do – at every opportunity).

Liz has just started working on the Springboard (into year 7) Maths material from the dfes standards site . This is a good selection of work that prepares children for secondary level maths work. Ideal for a good run through in year 6 – even though it is not meant to be used for this. I did the same with James when he was 10, and it worked really well. So yesterday we dug out the cuisinaire rods and looked at how square numbers make squares.

Liz did her flute practice (so how does The Entertainer go again?) and James sort-of played his accordion. Liz also started the keyboard book the boys are working through. I decided that we may as well get all three learning the keyboard – since it’s there to be played.

James did biology too, he has finished his skeleton. And, Liz has nearly finished her T-shirt… I forget what else has been happening.

I’ve recorded some of the radio 3 schools programmes to use later. “Music Workshop” is a musical (with rap) based on Macbeth. Sounds like it’s going to be good.

I also found the time to make myself a planner. Using printouts from D*I*Y Planner . I even did some housework, tidied my desk, played my flute and (tried to play) the keyboard. So I guess that means the days are getting back to normal.


Yet another Monday morning... · Monday October 2, 2006 by june

They still keep on coming. Well Liz is better, but now I’ve come down with a cold myself. So, today has been quiet.

We’re nearing the end of the Dr Who work. Both Liz and James are just finishing their drafts of the third piece of writing. Tomorrow they’ll write it up in their books, and then go on to read the rest of the Dr Who story. (I will try to do the write up for the website over the next couple of days).

Both did maths today. James has been doing a “review”, which is turning out to be patchy, as usual, but I’m finding that he is becoming more successful at these reviews with time. It used to be “Oh no I’m being tested!!” and he would go into a frightened mode – which meant it was very difficult for him to work well. Liz has been doing some worksheets on sequences.

James did his music practice – he’s learning “The Cup of Tea” at the moment. Liz did her flute (those notes are very high in the second half of The Entertainer – ouch! – but she is doing well).

James worked on his comic this afternoon – I’m hoping he’ll finish it this week. He is cooking a meal for us all right now. Later he will do some keyboard, and hopefully he’ll redo a couple of maths
questions before he goes to bed, so we can move on quickly tomorrow (I hate it when we get bogged down).

Liz spent the afternoon making her talking picture frame Which was very successful, and she thoroughly enjoyed herself. She has also been busy updating her blog – so she spent all her ‘luchtime’ writing!



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