E+E Column: Not back to school

September has snuck up on us, seemingly out of nowhere, and with it a new academic year. Both online and in real life, parents I know are talking about their children returning to school or starting for the first time. However, for the second year running, Sophia (my only child currently of school age) won’t be going to school. I still see September as a milestone of sorts though, not least because we do roughly stick to national term times in our home education. It’s a chance to reflect on the past year, assess where we’ve reached and what areas might need attention and to plan ahead for the coming year.

Last year we threw ourselves head first into being officially home educated by following a curriculum (albeit a fairly gentle one). It was a lovely start to things and helped give me something to follow whilst I found my feet with Sophia. The first term was a roaring success but the novelty and ease of using a curriculum wore off with the subsequent two when you added a restless three year old and new baby into the mix. So this year, we’ll be winging it a bit more. Sophia is a competent reader, getting better every day – her first real reading love is the Rainbow Magic fairy books, not quite War and Peace but we’ve all got to start somewhere! She loves maths and requests to do workbooks or exercises with manipulatives (such as cuisinaire rods or money) with me at the weekend so I think as long as we keep up with those and add in handwriting practice we’ve got our basics covered. We’ve inherited several science kits that she is keen to try her hand at and our home education group is looking at the Victorians this term so I think we’ll take that project home to expand on.

However, having just said all that, I am a firm believer and advocate for play based and informal learning in the early primary years. Countries with a school starting age of 6 or 7 consistently show children with higher academic scores and in my mind, more importantly, higher levels of general well being and happiness (though I admit, I’m still not quite sure how you measure that) than the UK and other countries where children are more likely to start at age 4. So this year I’m going to encourage lots of play, make sure we continue to spend time outside everyday even when the weather turns, spend lots of time with friends and ensure we do lots of crafts and baking. I’m taking a holistic approach to incorporate learning into every moment of our day, from watching the formations of geese fly south whilst out walking to measuring ingredients for some delicious creation that we can then curl up and watch Bake Off with! And I feel certain that by next September, I’ll be looking back and marvelling at how much she has learnt, informally and through play as well as through our more structured time, and once again, will be feeling blessed that I’ve been able to join her on these early years of her learning journey.


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