Back to School (sort of)

The last six weeks have flown by and somehow, we’re now at the beginning of September and with it, another school year. Although we’ve chosen to home educate we still follow national term times and so have spent the summer in the same manner as thousands of other families…having long lazy mornings, plenty of beach trips, a bit more TV than usual and generally just relaxing after a year of more structured learning and activiites. This September, my number of school age children has increased to two as Isaac would be starting reception (and Sophia year 2) if the kids were at school.

Up unto this point, I’ve slotted learning with Sophia into life with the boys with us finding chunks of time wherever convenient to carry on with what she’s studying. However, I’m guessing that this year I will need to adjust that style slightly as the balance leans heavier in favour of ‘schooling’ as opposed to entertaining babies and toddlers! I will do the same with Isaac that I did with Sophia at this age and that is to take a very minimalist approach to education. 4 is still so young and I know that at school, a large part of reception is learning through play. I’m also aware that generally speaking, boys tend to be slower than girls in terms of sit down learning. Although having said that, Isaac has expressed an interest in learning to read and write so I think we’ll slowly start with that and see how he gets on. I’m looking forward (mostly!) to the challenge of working out what his learning style is and identifying the best way to capture his attention and engage him. I’m slightly apprehensive about how much Elijah might interrupt us but hoping I can distract him with certain activities or toys when the older two need my attention.

From past years experience though, I know the biggest challenge for all of us will be establishing and maintaining a routine over the first few weeks. After a languid summer of spontaneity and no commitments, adjusting to having certain groups to attend and things that we need to achieve each week will be a bit of a struggle I’m sure. The big two have also taken to sleeping in late and still being in PJs come 9am and although we don’t have to be dressed and out by a certain time, I like to get into the habit of being ready for the day by a reasonably early time. I’ve got mixed feelings about the end of summer but can at least say with confidence that we’ve definitely made the most of our summer and are probably ready to get back to some semblance of normality this week. So parents of Exeter, I salute you as the summer holidays have finished and although I don’t have the school run to do (and massive sympathy to those of you that do!), I’m feeling solidarity with you as we start another academic year.

Sophia enjoying her summer off!

(Published in the Exeter Express and Echo on 5th September)

Home Education: it starts here!

It suddenly hit me this week that if we were taking the school route, Sophia would be starting next week.  I felt a bit emotional,  my little girl all grown up. A bit silly really given that she’s not going anywhere. But it feels like a milestone nonetheless.

I’ve spent all summer knowing that I should make a plan for September but avoiding it. I’m still an advocate for play based and informal learning in the early primary years but Sophia craves more than that. She loves sitting down and ‘doing lessons’ with me so I knew I should really formulate some kind of plan for us to follow rather than floundering each day when she asks me what we’re doing.

Today I had a light bulb moment. I looked at the Wee Folk Art Homeschool Companion Guides a year or so ago but had pretty much forgotten about them or dismissed them for one reason or another. Today I took another look, showed them to Dan and made a decision to have a go at following them, starting with the first unit ‘Harvest Time’. I’m planning on starting the week beginning 15th September (thought I’d put a date in here so I have to stick to it)!

I think they should suit us perfectly, a gentle approach and a good mix of science, literature, narration, writing and what they call ‘social studies’ (it’s an American programme). It doesn’t cover maths but I’ve found a free Maths curriculum from the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics from the University of Plymouth that looks pretty good which I think we’ll use to cover Maths.

I’ve finally got a printer (just needs ink!) so think we’re pretty much ready to start. The Wee Folk Art guides have a book list which I need to source but I’m hoping I can get them second hand or borrow from the library as it’s quite an extensive list! I feel quite excited but also a bit nervous. Mostly I’m just determined to stay on track and actually try and keep up with the plan.

People often say I’m ‘brave’ when they find out that Sophia and Isaac won’t be going to school and up until now, I haven’t really agreed. But right now, I definitely feel like I’m taking a big step; I’m putting myself (and Dan) chiefly responsible for their education and that is at once, both terrifying and empowering. Of course, I would like to think that I’m humble enough to admit defeat if it turns out that I can’t meet all their needs and if school would be the better option, but I’m excited to jump in with both feet and give home educating the best shot I can. And Sophia is excited too; excited about her home education groups starting again, about the prospect of a new forest school, about doing regular lessons with me. And I think us both being on the same page right now is a good start to the coming year.