Tag Archives: home education

Montessori; body, mind and soul.

P1000158I sometimes think our culture hasn’t so much embraced dualism as a kind of tri-ism. While the dualists liked to separate out the things of the body from the things of the soul, leading to some heresies where a “Christian” was told he could either do as he liked with his body, or must ignore it to death. But now we have separated out body and mind and ditched the soul. Montessori is a breath of fresh air in that she sees persons as whole; body, mind and soul. One interacts with the other.

P1000129In her education the child is not reduced to some one sitting and learning aurally by hearing the teacher and visually by watching the teacher – all very passive, but participates in his own learning and discovery by doing things, touching, manipulating, tasting, smelling and trying things out. I wish I had read her books while I was still doing my MA. It would have helped me a great deal.

I did my MA dissertation on how to bring children with various severe learning difficulties (especially autism) to the Sacraments. Montessori’s philosophy was rooted in three things (as far as I can see), her work with children with learning and physical disabilities, her Catholicness and her degree in engineering. At first sight you may wonder how they connect. Well, as I see it, Montessori learned a lot from the children she worked with in the hospitals. In my experience such children have amazing compensatory coping skills so that they can get a great deal out of life.

When I worked in a children’s hospice we had, what was called a “multisensory room”. Through light, sound and texture we could arrange the room to suit the child. Sometimes it would be warm, darkish and low stimulation, and at other times the children liked the music, bubbles and coloured lights. The walls were white so that they could be anything from low to high stimulation. Many children with autism in particular need low stimulation. There’s some evidence that children with ADHD cope better with it too. Montessori didn’t have to deal with the fall out from the over bright, shouting, busy stimulation directly aimed at children that we have today, but she understood children needing to learn through the experience of their whole body.

Montessori’s degree in engineering definitely influenced her brilliant idea to introduce geometry as a sensorial activity with very young children. It was a particularly brilliant plan in light of the children who first attended the “Children’s Houses”. While Charlotte Mason had the children under her care learn about the world around them through sensorial experiences with nature, the children in Montessori’s schools were in the slums of Rome. There wasn’t a lot of nature to be had. Even so, Montessori records how they found a piece of dump-land near the flats that the children turned into a little garden. Children feel and run their fingers around the shapes and edges whether of the items in the geometric cabinet or leaves and sticks from outside. The lessons introduce the names of the shapes and the children draw them, touch them, make them fit into place and so their whole selves get to discover the shapes.

So, how does Montessori’s Catholicness fit this? In my dissertation I wrote about how a church can be a multisensory room. (Putting aside the stuff that happened in the ’70s where churches became boxes with benches in them). In a church there are stain glass windows, statues, candles, marble, stone and wood. There is the smell of old incense – and at Mass the smell and sight of new incense. All of the P1010039accoutrements of Mass or the church when empty, are one big multisensory experience that does not require the participant to grasp spoken language (although that helps) or to be able to see (that helps too) or even to truly “get it” on a theological level. While the Mass has it all there for the Phd Professor- so everything is there for the severely disabled person. The Church knows that we need to have a relationship with God that is whole. We pray with our bodies, minds and souls just as children need to learn and form their relationships body, mind and soul. Montessori got this. In a nutshell I would say that Montessori produced a method of education based on a philosophy that we all need to interact with beauty.

Chronically ill mother’s homeschool approach.

dys mumI’ve noticed that sometimes the question of homeschooling while chronically ill is lumped in with pregnancy as if they are the same or very similar. They aren’t. Even if (like me) you have the joy of nine whole months of throwing up left right and centre with some “mummy brain” thrown in – pregnancy is different in one very vital way. No one is pregnant for years on end, and many of the more yukky sides of pregnancy are both treatable and manageable. It is also silly to try and lump pregnancy as an “illness”. It is’t, even if the culture of medical elitism tries to tell us it is.

Chronic illness can be neither treatable nor, at times, manageable – and is way more unpredictable. When you plan home ed through a pregnancy you know there’s a point in which you can pick up again. When you plan through chronic illness it’s a whole different set of challenges.

So, what are the things that you can do if the Boss has called you to homeschool and He’s called you to carry the chronic-cross too? You can tell Him what you think of His plan :) – and then you have to get on with it.

First things first. You see that big pile of guilt you’ve got building up over there. Deal with it. Sort out the fake from the real. Bin the fake and get yourself to Confession for the real stuff. If you are too sick for Confession (and there’s nothing mortal lurking about) you can pray a lot. He’s merciful like that. (even when you’ve told Him how you really feel).

Once that’s done (and yes I know it keeps rebuilding, but keep kicking it down) then you can move on to priorities. Prayer first. You’ll get nothing done without help from Upstairs. He has a lot of friends and relations who can be relied on to keep praying for you too. (Where would I be without St. Bridget of Sweden?) One of the wonderful things about the saints in heaven is that they can still pray, even when you, in fog, confusion and befuddlement can’t. Also we are fortunate that God, who is all wise gets a prayer of “Dear Lord, urdle, flurble mup.”

This little conversation is a good illustration of chronics homeshooling.

An article here asks a mum considering home education when she has chronic illness to think of a few things. It essentially says, pray, have a good husband and get some good fellow home ed mums on board to help out. It’s a good plan.

Yesterday a fellow home ed family came over. I’m still pretty crashed from the mini-stroke last week (TIA) but the mum of this family is completely relaxed around me no matter how wrecked I seem. She makes no fuss and simply does her bit around me. She takes the mic and allows me the space to do stuff when I think I can give it a go. Friendships like this are rare and to be treasured (so thanks Jo!)

This is another excellent article looking at a number of seriously chronically ill mothers coping with home ed

Then you must trust. While riding the trust you can plan for what curriculum you need to buy because you aren’t well enough to make it, teach it or organise it. All I can say on this is God Bless America! The UK has a shorter history of home ed (although it’s been around over 25 years) and has almost nothing of quality home ed resources sadly, (I think the awful national curriculum bares a lot of the blame – thanks Maggie Thatcher!). So, look at the American stuff. There’s a lot out there and yes it’s expensive (compared to making your own) and yes, most of it needs shipping and therefore costs are even higher and add the recent sneaky tax on educational materials in the UK and you’ll be in debt – but God never said debt was a sin; whereas not providing the best education you can for your children can be. You do need to plan your debt so you can pay it off, but I haven’t found a way of importing stuff without needing time to pay it off. It’s still a good option done with prayer, discernment and care.

Find ways to make resources do more than one job. Find ways to make cheaper resources when you’re well enough.  One of the things with most chronic illnesses and even acute ones like cancer, is there are good moments when you are more capable. Use them as best you can. I use those times to make and plan stuff that when I’m too sick I just can’t do.

But wouldn’t it be easier to sent them to school?

Not necessarily. First of all you would need to have a school that meets your children’s needs so you don’t have to undo the damage and do the home ed after school because not much ed has taken place in school. (Been there, done that; don’t fancy a repeat) Then  you’d need the energy to take and collect the children every day and cope with whatever fall-out the day has in store for you. That was hard enough when I was well!

Giving your children the best education you can give them is worth a lot and not having to undo stuff from school is a blessing.

Finally, all you can do is plan, pray, trust and take it one day at a time. I know more than one chronically ill mum who home educates children with some serious educational needs such as severe autism. Let them be an inspiration- not a moment of “Yikes! Why can’t I be that good?”

Language Arts Beginners Lesson Pack download

Birds lang arts

click picture to go to lesson pack

I have set up a 60 page language arts lesson pack for children aged around 6 to 7 or slightly older. It incorporates Arabella Buckley’s Bird’s of the Air as a listening and basic comprehension lesson. Listening is an important skill that children need to learn to be able to learn other things. Charlotte Mason used “living books” such as those written by Buckley to read to children and have them narrate back in their own words. In the lesson pack there is room for doing that but also simple question and answer format for early writing practice.

I’ve included an introduction to Montessori grammar with cut out sentence strips and cut out symbols at the back.

I’ve tested the pack on my youngest and she did well with it. She is very dyslexic so it does seem to suit children who may have

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extra challenges in learning. I do have the proper grammar symbols and Heleyna loves using them, but you don’t absolutely need them.

The set only costs $2.75 so it won’t break even the most frugal budget.

It introduces nouns, proper nouns, articles and prepositions – which sounds like a lot for a 6 year old, but the visual and manipulative approach with the symbols seems to work remarkably well.

Click on the picture above to buy and the sig below to see everything.

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Making the Montessori equipment do more than one job.

Looking at the Montessori online shops like Absorbent Minds it would be far too easy to spend an absolute fortune making sure every lesson on every album ever downloaded was covered as prescribed. So here’s what I’ve been trying to do.

P1010653I have not gone back to the online shops. What I don’t see can’t tempt me. I remember that I still owe Josh money for the Montessori stuff I did buy!

I did work out over a long time what we needed for the widest possible work using the least possible equipment.

So. I have a lot of bead stuff. They are good for all the math work the three children do, including the Life of Fred books. They are also useful for geometry.  Heleyna (and the others) can make triangles, and other straight sided shapes with the bead bars.  She can also make angles with them. This means I don’t need the rods and have used a free download of geometric sticks for extensions from Livable Learning.

I’ve laminated a lot of the sticks and added small magnets for work on the whiteboard. If you do this a tip if not to put the magnets too close to the end

P1000170of the sticks as you need to be able to overlap the sticks for making shapes and some angles.

A lot of the “flat” Montessori materials are available as downloads to be printed on card and/or laminated. The decisions I have made on this, have been with and eye to the sensorial aspects of Montessori. I have bought things that are important for how they feel as well as how they look so the children learn through their senses and learn to train their senses in things like texture and weight.

I haven’t bought a lot of sensorial materials so I want the children to use other things around the house for that. I bought a set of glue jars  which can be used in various ways; add different beans for different weights. Add hot and cold fluid for baric touch (it’s not quite the same but it works). Different smelly things can be put in them and by  filling them differently with orange lentils they make sound shakers.

We use the trays as work space. Heleyna, in particular is an “all-over-the-place” kind of person. The little rim of the tray gives a gentle boundary to her exuberant nature as she learns.

prismsThe box of prisms for the brown stair can be adapted as spindles and rods for measurement of angle. We’ve also use them to make a narrow line for Heleyna to walk along to practice balance.

They are 1 cm² by 10 cm so they make great little measuring rods too. Heleyna has also used them as building extensions with the cubes and brown stair.

I’m sure I’ll have more multi uses as time goes on.

As I have the hollow cubes instead of the pink tower we can use them not only for tower and stair models and extensions but for pythagorian rules and for measurement of volume. They are also good for listening skills as the children can make the tower with the hollow side outwards and then blow into each cube listening for the faint change in tone as they blow from small to large and back again. We also use them for listening by banging them with a stick for different tones. Heleyna like to play a hide and memory game with them too. Memory games are very useful, especially for children with dyslexia.

P1000172Finally there’s a great way to save money on Montessori models by making them yourself from play-doh. We’ve been studying the earth in geography. The layers of the earth model is £10 + at it’s cheapest. We made one out of play-doh.

‘Scuze my dd’s scary stare there!

There’s a lot more that can be made with play-doh; I have big plans :)

Archimedes lessons

P1000147Having done some of the basic experiments as part of the lesson pack following Archimedes and the door of science (book here) the children have also made the water clock, which is pretty simple to do. You need to make sure the pin holes in the paper cups are big enough for the water to drip though or time will stand still!

From there they have been learning about Archimedes experiments with number patterns. So we have been making triangle and square numbers and then cube and pyramid numbers. It was a good excuse to get out the bead material and the thousand cube box. P1000165

It’s a lovely way to see and present some mathematical concepts.

The children seem to get more out of the lessons when they can stop writing for a bit and make something.

Heleyna tends to join in with those bits as well, so she’s getting a bit of an introduction via the work her older siblings are doing.

Much fun was had.

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Home Education: Learning independence through spontaneous activity

I am reading The Montessori Method (free ebook) by Maria Montessori.  At the root of her method is the idea that children will find things out for themselves and that they desire and need independence. By constantly doing things for the children the parent or teacher is undermining the child’s ability to learn those skills for himself.

She has an interesting view that those who require servants are lacking in ability. Her view that the person who needs help because he has a physical disability is no worse off than the prince who needs help dressing because of his social status.

We habitually serve children; an act of servility toward them, but it is dangerous, since it tends to suffocate their useful spontaneous activity.

She differentiates between true service of others, such has assisting them to reach the independence they need and servility which is unhelpful at best and demeaning at worst.

She decries the mother who feeds her child without ever attempting to model eating herself or to help the child learn to hold and co-ordinate the spoon.  I think there’s a couple of things that cause this problem – which still very much exists today – and one is fear of mess. I have seen mother’s who can’t abide the phase where the child is trying to self feed and makes a right mess of himself and anything within a few yards radius.  There’s an underlying fear of dirt, I think.

The other reason for insisting on feeding a child who wants to feed himself is that awful modern thing of being afraid the child is growing up and won’t be a baby much longer. I have seen mothers who, can’t stand the idea that their youngest child is no longer a baby and they have decided (often without a reason) that there can’t be another.

Montessori bluntly calls mothers who won’t allow independence “not a good mother.”continuing

She offends the fundamental human dignity of her son, – she treats him as if her were a doll…”

Ouch!

I have to say, however strongly Montessori words this, she isn’t wrong. I worked with a class of children aged 4 to 5 and then the next year up when they were aged 5 to 6 (just before I got ill) and was amazed that most of the children couldn’t dress themselves. I don’t mean difficult buttons or laces, I mean putting on underwear and pulling on a sweatshirt. They couldn’t do it. The post-PE shambles, of trying to get 30 kids dressed, was astonishing to me.

Montessori says;

Who does not know that to teach a child to feed himself, to wash and dress himself, is a much more tedious and difficult work, calling for infinitely  greater patience than feeding washing and dressing the child oneself?

This is true. I am much more able to get the children to do things themselves when I am more with-it than when I’m so tired it just seems quicker and easier to do it myself. But it’s a bad habit to get into and one that takes a great deal away from the child.

I remember my friend telling me how she had picked up her son’s friend from school one day (they were both 10 at the time) and on the way home in the car the friend announced proudly that at school that day they had learned to cut an apple with a proper knife. Her son was unimpressed as he made lunch most days, cutting and preparing fruit, bread and whatever else was required with the right knives for the job and had been doing so for some time.

Children who are allowed to be capable are capable. But it takes time and commitment from the parents – lots of time, lots of commitment, at least to begin with. But soon enough a five or six year old can do a lot for themselves and a ten year old can do a lot more.

If you take the time and teach your children to be independent in what they do, they will more quickly learn independent thought as well, finding things out for themselves and asking questions about what they find.

Thinking Love, Little Lessons; Alfred the Great

AlfredI’ve put a new lesson pack up. It’s a 24 page pack following Alfred of Wessex by Frank Morris. I’ve added extra historical information and there’s mapwork and artwork to be done.

There’s a genogram to complete – a simple one as an introduction to this process.

I’ve added a timeline and a couple of journal pages at the back. You can click on the picture or HERE TO GO TO THE LESSON

Don’t forget to look at the other lessons including the FREE STUFF

The Alfred pack is  only $2.00 so it won’t break the Home Ed budget.

Meanwhile I’ve just learned that the Govt of the Netherlands are out to trample the intrinsic human rights of families by banning home education. Governments are supposed to protect the rights of the people, not remove them.

You can sign the petition HERE and remember evil prevails when good men do nothing. Although I have to say I disagree with that little saying as doing nothing is not good.

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Home education; Simple Archimedes experiments

The children are reading Archimedes and the Door of Science and then following along with this lesson pack on Archimedes. Along with some questions and mapwork and a little Greek there are some basic experiments looking at some of the rules Archimedes discovered.

P1000133Even though the book and lesson pack are aimed at children Ronan and Avila’s age the experiments can be done by younger children too so Heleyna joined in with them. The first one looks at buoyancy and viscosity.  They filled a bowl with clear water and salt water, oil and syrup and then observed how the liquids separated. The they gathered some objects; marble, grape, cork and so on and dropped them into the bowl to see if they floated or sank and if they sank how far they sank. They were to write their observations. As a short extension we looked at emulsions. Mix the oil and water quite hard. Left to settle the oil and water separate again.

P1000136Then we make a hydrometer. A beaker is filled with “layers” again of water, sugar water, salt water, and cheap vodka (we have a bottle of cheap vodka for science of various kinds and for colour mixing for cake painting)  Then take a test tube and fill it with P1000137beads, beans etc – cork the top and place it in the beaker and see how it behaves.

After that we filled the beaker to the top with water and looked at the curve the water makes at rest.

Finally we did the displacement experiment. We filled a beaker with water and put it inside another container. Then the children added marbles to the beaker and measured the water that spilled into the  other container which told us the volume of the marbles we’d placed in the beaker.

Home education; freedom of the soul.

We know only too well the sorry spectacle of the teacher who, in the ordinary schoolroom must pour certain cut and dried facts into the heads of the scholars. In order to succeed in this barren task, she finds it necessary to discipline her pupils into immobility and to force their attention. Prizes and punishments are every ready and efficient aids to the master who must force into a given attitude of mind and body those who condemned to be his listeners.”

The Montessori Method, Dr Maria Montessori 1912

This paragraph follows an explanation of slavery. Montessori saw clearly that the school system in which a special bench that forced a child’s upright posture so they could sit all day and be talked at by a teacher, and go home saved from scoliosis, was all wrong. Of course, the doctor notices that children who are allowed to move around and find their own ways of learning are not in danger of twisted backs in the first place.

She finds the system of punishment and reward petty (red marks, detention and stickers are not designed for moral growth but merely conformity) and points out that without heroism – that is the will to do what is good because it is good – then corruption and cowardice are the results.

I think a brief look at our politicians clutching their Oxbridge degrees in one hand and what amounts to an allergy to telling the truth on the other, has to be a prime example of what Montessori warned us.

All parents have a right and duty to the education of our children, and we most definitely need to ensure they learn right from wrong. The tyranny of relativism was a mere yapping puppy in Montessori’s day. The Enlightenment had already brought some darkness in that area but it hadn’t grown to the proportions our poor children are faced with today.

Education is more than leading the child out. The child must grow and mature and as each child does this in his own way we can’t force understanding on them all at a certain age. Their age is mostly immaterial to their growth, maturity and ability to learn.

As Catholics we have a theology of the person that is deep and well considered. We know that the Sacraments give grace and so we get our children baptised but we also know that while the missing grace of Original Sin is mended by the graces that come with baptism, there is still the scar – the concupiscence – that we must all deal with. We tend to bend towards sin. But spend any length of time with children and you’ll notice that while they might need good guidance, boundaries and sensible discipline, they do have a strong sense of justice, if not mercy. Young children, particularly those under 7 or 8 – the age of reason, need close adult supervision to help form their conscience and curb tendencies to cruelty or meanness. We teach them to share, be gentle with others, and how to listen and basic safety.

Without this early formation children often lack social skills, basic kindness and even language. A classroom with at most two adults to thirty 4 year olds is not the place to do this basic learning; and that’s before you factor in the bizarre targets of the National Curriculum!

There is a cultural view that targets, exams and state provision are the be all and end all of education. I’ve even heard of parents who refuse to work with their OWN children when they can’t get the school placement they want, because they insist the state should provide.

Then there are parents who brag about how their child got A*s or whatever, in exams, but seem to have missed that their child is miserable, angry, incapable in social settings and lacking basic morals.

It’s well past time to change all this. When we consider that Montessori (and Mason) were writing over 100 years ago we look pretty dumb that we still haven’t set about changing things so that our children get a genuine education.

I was so wrapped up in the school model of education when I first began home education that when my children began to read books as Charlotte Mason would have them do, I got restless thinking that just sitting there reading wasn’t “doing” anything. How could I possibly know that my daughter was learning anything while she sat with a cup of tea in one hand and Notes From the Underground in the other?

But then I think it was C.S.Lewis who said that his best education came from being left to read the books in his uncle’s library. It took me a while to realise that when the children were “just reading” that they were learning. They expanded their reading and vocabulary. For Iona it helped her writing fluency and did more to stop her reversing letters and built up her general knowledge better than all those worksheets put together.

Home education; planning and organisation

This term I’ve set out to make sure the children have all their work planned and set out for them in two-week stints. This means they should always be fully prepped two weeks ahead so that no matter what happens they can simply get out their work and get on with it. There are some bits and pieces that don’t lend themselves completely to this – such as anything Montessori that I have to teach or some other bits that require help , but I am thinking that even then some of it should be easy enough for someone else to take over should it be necessary.

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They each have a file with a timetable, dividers by day for two weeks and all the instructions and worksheets set out for the right day.

Ronan’s file has most of the “share” worksheets for when they are working together on something.

The timetable is set out showing subject areas for each day and what they must complete each day. I don’t set down a time

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for this as it will vary depending on the length and difficulty of whatever they are doing. The only “rule” is that it must be done.

Ronan has really taken to this system and uses it well. Avila tends to forget to look at her timetable so can miss things out if I don’t remind her. But she’s getting there.

P1000097They each have a Learning Box in which workbooks, spare notes and reading books are kept. You can see that we also cram in the library books so they don’t go missing in the house vortex spaces.

Extra curricula is kept on the bookshelves in the order in which we use them (more or less) I’m not obsessional enough to have them all coded but I hope I’m obsessional enough that anyone could walk in and not get completely lost with what we are up to.

It really has saved time. Things like having the pens in their learning boxes so they aren’t constantly off looking for things is a great help and being able to just put my hand to whatever book we need straight away is much less stressful that having to hunt around for it.

Some of you might be thinking this is an awful lot of work. Well, yes and no. It’s pretty time consuming when I’m getting it all planned but as it rolls out I only need to plan one week ahead to keep two weeks ahead if you see what I mean and while that’s time consuming up front it saves a lot of time later. It’s still flexible enough I think – so far.

I’ve also decided to try and cut back the sheer volume of paper we still seem to get P1000093through. Heleyna in particular is using a whiteboard more often (the modern version of a slate or wax tablet). I am long past that awful phase of thinking that unless the children produced a mountain of worksheets that they weren’t learning.

I’ve lost the Greek pronounciation CD mind….. well, nothing’s perfect.

Home education; is there another method that genuinely works?

I know this isn’t true across the board in home ed circles. I am quite sure there are the cliques of home ed parents competing over Primula’s grade or some such thing. Thankfully, I haven’t been at the receiving end of that.

When I have a worry about how one of my children is learning or even a new discovery that works well, I can ask and share it with other mums who home educate and we’ll throw out ideas or straight forward reassurance.

So home ed mums are saints then? Sadly not, we’re all just human like everyone else. What I think helps us as a group is our education system is so different from the school system, and that’s because, as a group, we don’t have a system. There is no box we have to fit into or fail. There are no tests, no competitions or standards written and ticked. We have our children and they are all so very different, learn differently, have different needs and skills, that there isn’t a box to push them into.

There’s also a very high proportion of children with  “special needs” ranging from simply developing a little slower than average through dyslexia to autism and physical illnesses of various types. And there’s also the gifted children who usually have an area of learning where they outstrip others, but might be less gifted in other areas.

The nature of home education tends to mean that a lot of parents (not all) have an inherent respect for children, where they don’t need reminding of Charlotte Mason’s maxim that children are persons. We spend a lot of time together as families and we learn to adapt around babies, tantrums, learning approaches and mums needing a cuppa and a chat.

We work as a community with all it’s diversity and colour. Some of us have been doing it for years and others are just starting out.

I haven’t been told how brave I am for quite a while but new families often face this sort of back handed compliment. But I don’t think those of us who home educate are brave. I do see parents taking the first steps with trepidation and some fear, and I suppose it does take some courage, but when I see schooled children I think it’s their parents who are brave.

Since “official” kinds of education were invented by the ancient Greeks, Spartans and Rome children didn’t go to school until they were at least 7 to 8 years old and often went even later. It was understood that the foundational part of a child’s education was in a rounded upbringing with social skills and practical skills before the academic side was handled.

Within family and community children learned and grew before attending a more institutionalised system.

This was the system from ancient times until the end of the nineteenth century and it worked well.  Figures show that literacy levels in both Britain and America were as high as 95% before the Education Acts brought about mass schooling. Now they are nearer 60%.

I was told recently by someone who knows that many parents who find their 4 or 5 year old can’t get a school placement refuse to do any work with their own child because they have decided it’s the job of the state! That’s a shocking sign of how upturned our culture’s thinking is!

I think we actually need more families to avoid schools. The standards of education are having serious knock on effects among adults and our culture as a whole as we see not only the rise in illiteracy, ignorance and lack of ethical thought, but the sinking of science and medicine. There are studies and even pieces of research that are being published in what once were respected journals that surely would never have seen the light of day 100 years ago, simply because they are so badly designed and written.

Ken Robinson, John Holt, John Taylor Gatto and others including Dr Temple Grandin had spoken over and over about the state of education and they are being ignored. It’s up to us, as parents, to listen and be willing to bypass the shoddy standards and search for the best education we can offer our children. The more I look, the more I am convinced that home education is becoming the only answer, or one answer among very few others indeed.

While the mainstream media like ITV are asking whether home education can make the grade – surely they should be asking why school education is failing so very many children.

New Lesson in my shop: The first Christians and the Milgrim experiment

I’ve uploaded two new lessons to my shop.

MilgrimThe Freebie is a short lesson for older children on the famous Milgrim Experiment. I think it is less well known these days, but has a lot to teach us about the proper obedience due to authority and when to say “No!”.

Milgrim did his experiment in 1963 in light of the outcome from the post World War II Nuremberg trials, in which Nazi concentration camp soldiers were tried for war crimes. The men nearly all used “We were just following orders” as their defense.

Milgrim gathered a group of students and put them in a situation where they were to believe they were giving an electric shock to an unseen but heard subject in another room. He wanted to see how far the student would go in inflicting shocks to screaming subjects, no matter how apparently painful and dangerous, if someone in authority (in a white coat) told them to. The results were shocking and in some cases enlightening.

Click on the picture to get this freebie. Read first before you decide for your child.

The second lesson pack is a 53 page study of the Acts of the Apostles based on First ChristiansMarigold Hunt’s The First Christians (kindle) or Paperback here. There are questions and mapwork and added pieces of information from history and Biblical study.

There is some picture study from fine art depicting events from the beginning of the Church.

The set costs $3.73 and apart from the good price you’ll save in shipping. So you know you want to buy it. Click on the picture to go to the shop.

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Home Education; Study looks at why people choose to do it.

Over the years there have been a number of studies asking home educators/homeschoolers why they do it. In the past the American results have had religion either number 1 or 2 but over here it comes much lower down the list.

A recent study reported HERE shows that reasons are shifting in the USA as well. Now school environment is the number one reason to homeschool and standard of academic instruction comes in at number 2. That matches up closer with UK studies.

ITV Wales recently produced a fairly long report (not sure how long this link will be live) about families choosing to home educate. The title question “Can home education ever make the grade?” made me laugh.  Studies have shown over and over again that homeschooled/home educated children do better across the board than their schooled peers. When you consider that the HE community has a much higher number of children with learning problems (who have often had to be pulled from school) then I don’t think we do too badly.  In fact when Ed Balls came after us, his side kick Badman had to make up statistics to try and make us look bad.

For me, I think the biggest advantage home education has over schools is that our children get to read whole books and are encouraged to read every day. In teaching them to read I listened to them one to one every day. No school can do that unless they a) have hardly any children or b) have an army of volunteers.

The other massive advantage we have is not being tied to a curricula or methodology or philosophy of education. We are free to adjust to the child’s learning rather than forcing the child into a pre-packaged box.

Most importantly of all, many home educated children are taught how to think and how to learn, not what to think and what to learn. Schools are far too prescriptive and narrow.

And finally, socialisation. Yup. It’s much easier to get your child properly socialised in the natural community of home education than in a classroom with one or two adults and 29+ other children, all the same age.

What about religion? Doesn’t it count? Well, for a lot of home educators it probably doesn’t. For us it does, of course. Having the freedom to choose an orthodox and well written religious curriculum has been very good.  I want them to have access to their Faith, history and heritage that sadly even Catholic schools don’t seem able to offer.

The bottom line is that parents have an intrinsic right and deep responsibility to the proper education of our children. Our children do not belong to the state or to teacher’s unions. They are free persons belonging to a family. If, as a parent, you choose to delegate some of that responsibility to a school, then you are still the primary educator and are obliged to ensure the education is best for your child. Overall, although home ed is very hard work at times, I think it’s easier than trying to keep on top of what happens in school.

Will there ever be TV news stories questioning whether schools are good for our children? Why is Ken Robinson so roundly ignored?

The idea that home educators should be monitored by the people who can’t provide a decent education in schools is never going to wash.

My Lesson Packs and a curriculum list websites.

selz shopI am announcing the launch of my lesson pack shop. There are plenty of freebies that many of you may have seen before on That Resource Site. Please have a look if there’s stuff you missed last time or something you’d like to recommend on.

I am also going to sell some lesson packs. Some will be study packs associated with books we use on our curriculum. Click on the picture above to go and peruse. Please do pass on the link

My Amazon Shop

 to anyone you think might be interested.

My Amazon shop continues as usual. Please feel free to give into any temptation to buy stuff from it.

Click on the picture to visit it.

Finally I have set up a blog called LEADING THEM OUT in which I am building an eclectic curriculum based on what we use or want to use. It is not prescriptive, as that is hardly home eddish is it? But I hope it will be useful.  If you have ideas for the curricula just add them in the comments box on the appropriate page and they’ll be there.

I do like looking over other curricula for ideas and so I hope this site with offer ideas in the same way. I am hoping to provide links to good free and downloadable resources to bypass postage and import tax.

I don’t know how well this will all go but I hope I can off set some costs while offering some good value to other families at the same time.

The signature at the foot of posts in the future will always link to the shop. So you can easily access it. So wish me luck and pass it on. Say a prayer and wish me luck.

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Home Education: Term Begins, Day One fully survived!

Term started 9 am sharp this morning. The children had already been up breakfasted, done the dishwasher and played.

I had new folders and workbooks all laid out neatly and thought I’d done well. Avila pointed out the lack of music set up so I did that and Heleyna sat down to her lesson asking bemusedly where the keyboard was!

Ahem. Keyboard duly installed. It is much easier to learn to play one when you actually have one in front of you apparently.

The new folders went down well and I had hoped we would finish everything by half-two today. We finished at twenty-five past two!

They tidied up pretty quickly and I finished off.

So, first day fully survived. Whether the rest of the week will go as smoothly remains to be seen :)

I’m returning to a more literature based approach for now. I’ll see how that works out.

Using ancient myths to teach universal truths.

D'Aulaire's Greek MythsMost home education curricula and book lists include fairy tales and myths. There has been some discussion and disagreement about the place of these stories in a child’s education.

Dr Maria Montessori wanted children to be rooted in reality and to that end she felt there should be some caution in the use of myth and fairy tale with children, particularly the very young.

Now, I too would probably not read Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book to very young children, for the simple reason it would be too much, but I believe that myth and story have a very important place in children’s development and culture. I would also steer clear of the overly sweet and dumbed down versions poured out of publishers for undermining of children’s faculties.

In one of her less well known works Montessori wrote

Educationsists in general agree that imagination is important, but they would have it cultivated as separate from intelligence, just as they would separate the latter from the activity of the hand. They are vivisectionsists of the human personality. In the school they want children to learn dry facts of reality, while their imagination is cultivated by fairy tales, concerned with a world that is certainly full of marvels, but not the world around them in which they live. Certainly these tales have impressive factors which move the childish mind to pity and horror, for they are full of woe and tragedy, of children who are starved, ill-treated, abandoned, and betrayed. Just as adults find pleasure in tragic drama and literature, these tales of goblins and monsters give pleasure and stir the child’s imagination, but they have no connection with reality.

I agree that educationalists from the 19th century onwards have been vivisectionists of the personality; in fact I would say of the person, but I disagree with her statement that fairy tales have no connection with reality.   The golden core of the ancient myths and fairy tales is true and that’s why they have endured throughout human history.

We are designed to long for truth even if we aren’t too sure where to find it.

Charlotte Mason insisted on a literature rich curriculum in which the books were well written and respectful of the child’s intelligence and imagination. There was so separation for Mason or Montessori of the different thought processes in the child. Instead they both recognised a whole person (made in the image and likeness of God) and respected the inherent dignity of the child as a person.

From the safety of the great myths children (and adults for that matter) can explore the natural law. They can see the battle between good and evil and the courage to overcome fear. The ancient myths show flawed heroes and great good done by those heroes, often in the face of fickle gods who never seemed to have anyone’s best interest at heart. In these stories a child’s imagination is fed so that they can begin to think out the reasons for what is real. Children are natural philosophers.

Despite having written the Narnia books C.S.Lewis disagreed with his friend Tolkien on the use of myth.

“Myths are lies,” said Lewis, “and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver.”

Tolkien disagreed. He had spent a great deal of his academic life studying the ancient myths. “Far from being lies,” he insisted, “they are the best way, sometimes the only way, of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible.” He saw in myths, even the pagan ones (or perhaps especially them) a light cast on truths that might otherwise be lost in the darkness of man’s error.

Hydra

 

The ancient pagans had a kind of innocence and wisdom so that their myths hold lots of little golden nuggets. It’s good for children to see that all men throughout history have been made in His image and have some of that image to share.

But it’s also good psychology in that children (and adults) get to face their fears and work through them in story. It’s a lot of what ancient stories were for in the first place. But they also point us to the depths of the natural law so that we see we are all human, together, no matter what. I think the pagan myths actually point us back to what has been the Christian construct of personhood, showing that there was some understanding of the human as person right from the beginning.

Sign

You may notice I’ve added a signature which links to my shop. I’ll “formally” launch the shop next week as term starts.

Home education; Avoiding the do do – go go – get get approach.

victor-hugo-author-doing-nothing-is-happiness-for-children-and-misery-for-oldThere are a great many teachers out there who are fed up with the notion that their job is not so much to offer an education to children, but to offer to entertain them. They will be bored, rude and badly behaved, goes the mantra, unless the teacher performs some kind of circus act before the white board. To this end a number of bright and loud edutainments are sold to schools to keep the children interested, even as their attention spans diminish.

I think this strange cultural virus has infected some home education families as well. Partly because home educators get accused of all sorts of strange behaviour, including keeping our children locked indoors, tied to the kitchen table, some home educators feel the need to be out of the house at all hours, providing lots of stimulating edutainment,  just to prove the opposite. There are even families on a very tight budget who feel, somehow pressured, to go charging off to every home ed event and outing they can possibly squeeze into a week.

It’s an easy temptation to fall into. Those of us who are tied by both financial considerations and, like me, being too ill, are actually let off the hook a bit. Even so, I did go through a silly guilt trip that I wasn’t dashing off to all the outings and that my children were actually at home doing a lot of their learning.  As it happens they do have activities outside the home and home ed activities with other families, some here, some elsewhere. The way their activities work means they have both schooled and home educated friends. I quite like that.

It is the psychologist Dr. Ray Guarendi who coined the phrase “do, do, go, go, get, get” to describe the way some parents insist their children are at every and any event, after school club and organised meeting and have every gadget, latest this and that; whatever pours out of the dodgy factories of China.

One of the reasons I don’t like this approach, (and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dr. Ray pick up on this particular bug bear of mine) is that I think it’s bad for children to be perpetually organised. The idea that if their time isn’t coordinated by an adult they will get up to no good is at the root of this I think. The importance of free time and quiet time and simply play time has been subsumed into all day timetables for children as young as 3. It’s inhuman (imho). Some of it seems to be more about adults being afraid of free time with their own children, than about ensuring a child receives all the opportunities that are for their benefit.

The problem with the do-do-go-go-get-get approach is that it is self perpetuating. The children, including home educated children, can become institutionalised in that they can’t be bored. They can’t do nothing for while, and they can’t make their own activities. Someone must give them something to do. The game must be pre-organised.

They become used to never having to just be.

None of our greatest thinkers learned like that. C.S.Lewis talks of having hours P1000113with books in a library. Charlotte Mason walked the moors and woodlands around Ambleside and so on. Even in fiction, such as Sherlock Holmes, there are times of complete inaction where the only thing happening is thought.

While I am sure the children are looking forward to the return to cubs and beavers and ballet, and the coninuation of swimming; And while they have seen friends and will have the weekly small home ed group and monthly big one, I think the holidays have been good for them (and me). They have played, made things, sat around reading, sat around not doing anything at all.

Having organised time, clubs and outings aren’t bad in themselves of course. Children do very well in them, but they shouldn’t take up every hour of a child’s waking life. We know very well that this approach isn’t doing schooled children any favours at all. We know they go to school, go to the afterschool activity, go home and bolt down their tea before homework and screen and bed. That’s a bad way to live. There’s no time for family life or even friends, just doing and doing and then sleeping.

So as we gallop towards term I must remember, they need time to be, and I don’t need to timetable them to within an inch of their lives.

End of term. Little garden party for the children.

Iona and her friends organised a garden party at her friend’s house. They have one every Summer and then a dinner party here in the Winter for Christmas and the Christmas tide birthdays.

Well, little Miss Heleyna was somewhat put out that these events went on and she was not invited to them. “Aha!” she cried, “When I’m a grown up girl I will have a garden party and not invite you!”

TRADITIONAL-SCHOOL-MILK-BOTTLE-CRATE-MILKSHAKE_1Feeling a touch chagrined on behalf of her youngest sister, and being in possession of some very neat mini milk bottles and some left over paper straws Iona decided that an end of term garden party for the children was in order.

So today the washing line was hung with bunting and the garden table loaded with finger sandwiches, crisps, homemade sausage rolls and many other goodies. There was pink milk and chocolate milk with proper paper straws.

All followed up with ice cream.

A lovely day.

I’ve looked at the photos but I wont upload them as I haven’t talked to the other mums about permission. Must do that.

Heleyna is keeping silkworms.

P1020705For her birthday i n April Heleyna got “nature!” as she calls it. Part of her nature presents was a silkworm rearing kit. Sadly, thanks to the lovely cold start to summer the first lot of tiny worms died. Insectlore answered my email and sent us more eggs straight away. Very impressive, so I recommend them.

P1020721The second lot began hatching on the 8th May and now we have 16 lovely worms of various sizes. The two biggest are named Rhubarb and Rupert. Then there’s a Russell and a Bernard, but I don’t know which ones. The rest are not yet named. In order to keep this lot alive through the cold where’s-the-summer days I’ve lent them my lavender heatable velvet cushion. So they sit in style and can be kept around 20 to 23° C and be happy.

The kit comes with mulberry mash to feed the little darlings with. There’s a plastic tub and some mesh for them to climb on as well as tweezers for adding food and very gently lifting them up if you can’t manage with your fingers.  So long as you keep them warm they seem to do fine. They are easy to clean out. I recommend a paintbrush (size 6 or 8) for carefully moving them when they are little and for brushing the pooh out.

They are slow growing, thanks to how cold it’s been this Summer, but that just makes them last longer. Heleyna loves them but Iona thinks they are disgusting. I am rather fond of them.

P1020873 P1020876They should make it to about 7.5cm and then start their silky cocoons. As moths they are flightless, so they wont be scattered around your house and garden.

We will be making a lapbook about them.

We’re running out of food for them now. The food is a mash made from Mulberry leaves and Insect Lore sent enough to see the worms through but because we’re on a second batch and the weather hasn’t been good enough for them, we’re nearly at the end. I emailed Insect Lore about buying some more. Again they got back to me straight away and are sending more food out, at no extra charge.

I know a lot of people think the live animal kits seem a little expensive, but the aftercare from them is very good and they obviously do care about what happens to the wee beasties, which is good and sign they have respect even for them.

home education: Curriculum planning for grade 1 (year 2)(age 6 to 7)

P1010150I use the Summer term to step the children up towards the next grade of work. I’m planning what I hope to do with Heleyna over the next year and will be planning and prepping through the hols. This is an overview of what I hope to be using – not everything and subject to change; but a general overview.

I haven’t added into this list all the Montessori lessons I hope to do with her. I will blog them as we go along. I do have a friend who has planned her entire homeschooling year for both her children!! As I am not as awesome I just haven’t.

READING

We are still working through Reading Eggs and I will be using the Grade 1 reading and maths from more.starfall. (need to pay)

She is back on the Oxford Reading Tree books we have on long term loan from a friend and I’m adding in some Oxford Owl (free)books now and then.

Language Arts

She’s working through Draw Write Now Vol 1 and will move onto Vol 2 and so on, as we have the box set as well as the Starfall downloads (free) and the occasional worksheet I make for her. I hope to step her up to the Seton English 1, but she is still struggling with reading so I don’t want to overwhelm her or put her off. She is making progress; pushing her to work at “grade” might hold her back, rather than help her.

MATHS

For maths she’s working with Montessori bead material and number placement while we have adapted some of the Math U See Primer work to the Montessori approach. She’s also working through MCP Math level B. Now don’t have a dicky fit about that – she just happens to be very good at maths so she’s on a book that is stretching her a little. It’s well designed to move slowly through the concepts so she is getting them well.  She loves Complete the Picture Math Grade 1. I might buy her the ebook Half and Half Animals as well, as I think it will help with the dyslexic tendencies.

RELIGION

We are reading a good children’s Bible together and working through Our Heavenly Father from Faith and Life series. and Religion 1 Seton. I’ll also continue her Bible stories.

I’ve got some lovely Amy Steedman books on my Kindle from Yesterday’s Classics 

Our Island Saints

LANGUAGES

She’s starting Song School Latin which she loves and I do a little from Getting Started With Latin with her too. It’s also good revision for Roni and Avila.

She is joining in with Song School Spanish  and I am using a little Getting Started in Spanish with her too. With the other two she’s enjoying SALSA Spanish (free) and of course the freebies on Headventureland.(free)

SCIENCE/NATURE STUDY

We are using Behold and See Science 1 as a base for science but with lots of Montessori stuff alongside it. I think we’ll go down the lapbooking and notebooking route more often as the year goes on. Some free LAPBOOKS HERE

Read alouds: (These are still a bit of an issue for me as I just don’t have a voice very often these days) I do want to read Pagoo with her; or get Ronan to read it to her and we’ll do some lapbook/notebook work.

I also have some other nature books to read with her.

MUSIC and ART

Children’s Music Adventure keyboard lessons and introduction to composers.

artist lapbooks

Greatest Artists

History and Geography

Montessori resources for Geography.

History Pockets Ancient Civilisations

Our Lady’s Dowry and Our Island Story (which I am not that fussed about) and/or Cambridge Historical Reader.

Rivers and Oceans by Barbara Taylor (I don’t know how easy it is to get)

General list if resources:

Study Jams for science and maths

Possibly Tigtag but certainly not for nearly £100. I’ll see if they do a home ed deal.

free lapbook resources

Starfall downloads and More.starfall(1st Grade curriculum)

Oxford owl and ORT reading books

Draw Write Now

MCP Maths B, Mathematical Reasoning B and Draw maths 1

Seton: religion 1 and (possibly) English 1

Behold and See with Montessori printables etc. for science. Nature study. This, make your own constellations activity looks worth doing. And THIS ONE

Listening time.(free)

The Velveteen Rabbit

Rapunzel

Aesop’s Fables  to go with Aesop Lit Pockets from Evan Moor

Story Nory

Classics for Kids- greatradio/podcast of music from classical composers with a story about their life and times.

Reasons to home educate

P1010037A friend posted a link to THIS ARTICLE which notes the massive rise in homeschooling families across the states of America. The article suggest the 75% rise is due, largely, to dissatisfaction with the school system there.

I don’t know what the figures are like this side of the pond (I think we learned in the Badman Balls days that statistics were completely arbitrary and meaningless, because they weren’t accurate) but I do remember that reports went out a few months after the election when Badman and Balls were no longer able to come after us, saying, registered home ed families in Oxford and someplace else had risen by 50%. It was almost as if the negative publicity the media had tried to give us had backfired and simply made more people aware that home education was a good choice for their children. The 50% had to be children taken from school and therefore registered with the LA and didn’t include those families who had never sent their children to school.

If you want to home educate in England and Wales you do not need to be registered with the Local Authority. However, if you have removed your child from school you will need to write to the head and s/he will pass this information onto the LA who will automatically register your child. So, as we pulled two children from school we are registered, whereas many of our friends are not. On an even weirder note, in some families one child could be registered and LA loose the paperwork so that other children aren’t. It happens.

A family can choose to register with the LA if they want to, but as there is little to no support from the LA there doesn’t seem much point, and therefore very few families bother.  Nevertheless, despite all the information and legal niceties, far too many HE families report threatening behaviour from the LA person- usually a welfare officer. We have been very lucky in that the LA people with whom I have dealt have been respectful and made the effort to get to understand what HE is. For friends who come under a different authority that has not been the case. There’s been some rumblings that the Local Authority people want to “build bridges” with home educators and in some areas those bridges could be built. Sadly, when yet another family is door-stepped by a Welfare Officer and where “safeguarding” gets bandied about for no reason, those bridges soon tumble. (Part of this, it seems to me, is rooted in the ignorance of the EWOs involved who must think the propaganda about “isolation” is true and come a cropper when some new and apparently green home educator gets help because she knows other more experienced families).

One of the major reasons home educators get cross with poor behaviour from the LA is because so many of us saw our children failed miserably in school – which is under the remit of the LA.

I know many home educators who have chosen this route for very positive reasons. They love the way they can tailor the work to the child and the choices of method, philosophy and resources that are available to home edders that aren’t available in schools. We see our children grow and explore and have time to just be. We see them learn to be with their siblings, setting up close relationships for life. We see their enthusiasm for learning and we can prioritise things properly, adjusting them as necessary.

We are also home educating at a time where resources are abundantly available online or via the post and many of those resources are free. I think many of us who have been doing this for some time have made free resources available and have benefited from other families’ freebies.

Unfortunately there are many negative reasons for home education. Children who are bullied, ignored, too sick, and/or where the school won’t or can’t handle basic medication, or with shamefully unmet learning needs, are removed by parents and successfully home educated. The question that some of us are asked “Do you think you can do it better than school?” has to be answered with a resounding “Yes!” In my case it was more “I couldn’t make it worse…” but now I just know I am offering the children something positive that isn’t available in school. When you look around nearly all of us have at least one child with a “special educational need” (SEN) and yet studies show that home educated children generally out perform schooled children in educational and social testing.

I do love seeing my children enjoy learning and not being ashamed of wanting to learn. I also love that they can have difficulties in certain areas and not have to be ashamed about that either. I love the different things we can go off and study as we aren’t tied into a curriculum. If they struggle with something we have the time and the genuine love to work with it until they are over the obstacles.  

I can tell when one of them is too tired or has simply lost that concentration and can send them to do something else, take a break or just make a cuppa while they recharge and then they can come back to it fresh. Sometimes we decide today isn’t going to work so we can put the lesson off until another time.

I love the way the children at Home Ed Group work together. Ages and special needs of all kinds are unimportant – everyone chips in. If problems occur the mums can deal with it straight away, nipping things in the bud and helping the children remember how to behave properly. We aren’t saints, and neither are our children – all the more reason to be there to deal with bad behaviour straight away.

One of the other major advantages in home education – at least for us – has been helping the children to learn independently.  It’s something I remember someone from the Open University saying about home educated youngsters who took on OU causes under the age of 18. They could already work independently and so could get on with things without the tutor having to say when to open the book and how many pages to read.

Home Education isn’t for everyone. It’s not a panacea against all educational and family problems; but the fact is, it is good for many families and I suspect would be better for a lot of children who are currently being failed in school.

Studies that have been done make interesting reading in that they show children from poorer backgrounds who are home educated do as well as children from so-called “middle class” families.  Schools can’t make this claim sadly.

Home educating is hard work, and there are times when I wish I wasn’t doing it; but overall I think it’s working well for us and most importantly, it’s working very well for the children.

Further reading

The Pagans Are Happy to Socialize Your Children

Home Education; my child hates (insert subject) In our case it’s maths.

A couple of years ago I remember listening to a homeschooling conference speech in which a veteran homeschooling mother spoke of the dangers of forcing a child to stick with a curriculum that isn’t suiting them. She had chosen a Maths curriculum for her son, in line with one used by other families in her homeschool co-op and he hated it. Thinking that he needed to continue with it because the lessons were done as a group she kept him at it. In the end all she and her son had to show for it, was his utter hatred of maths. Not a good result.

math-memeNot long before that I had taken Ronan off Math U See and he was doing Life of Fred with some Mathematical Reasoning. Then I reintroduced him to Math U See and all went well for a while.

We’ve hit the arithmetic wall again. I’d been working with him on it and then I even did the notetaking with him telling me what to write. Nothing was working. He was continuing to do Life of Fred and some other bits of maths but the core was the dreaded Math U See.

So, I’ve taken him off MUS again. I then spent an afternoon trawling curriculum sites and website. I’ve printed off some Grade 3,4 and 5 worksheets to see what would happen.

Without telling him what I was giving him I gave him some worksheets at Grade 3 (he is at the end of grade 4) which he did  in a couple of minutes. So I’ve given him end of year grade 4 test papers which is is coping with fine. Obviously his ability is “at grade” for want of a better system of assessment. He’s even done some MUS problems (Shh! Don’t tell him) without any problem simply because he didn’t know they were MUS. Honestly!

As we come to the end of term I’ll slowly get him up to grade 5 papers and see how he does. I think when we come back in September he will be fine starting his Grade 5 on Grade 5 level maths.  Then I’ll rethink his curriculum from there.

I think I may have to just accept that while the girls are happy with MUS that it just doesn’t suit Ronan. It’s more important that he learns his maths and gets on with it, than he uses the same curriculum as the girls (and his friends).

This site is good Mathgametime.

And this UK based site for Maths innovation (menu list)

Math Mammoth is well known.

I am also looking at Right Start Math but I don’t think we’ll use it as it doesn’t really go high enough as yet – although the new geometry course does look very good. Going to do the placement test though after he’s finished with the sample worksheets and see.

I think I might get some more maths from The Critical Thinking Company for him.

UPDATE – more sites to consider.

Teachingtextbooks 

Mangahigh haven’t checked this out yet.

 

Will the changes in GCSEs help home educators?

The Conservatives Hold Their Annual Party Conference - Day 4Michael Gove is setting about changing the way GCSEs are done. My dh says one of the changes will be that pupils will be reading whole books for English. That has to be a change for the better – if it happens.

Gove is ditching course work and continual assessment, probably, in light of the unsurprising news that parents and even teachers were doing the coursework for pupils, on a rather embarrassingly regular basis. So, those who cheated were getting better results than those who did the work for themselves.   Gove is moving to an exam only GCSE. Is this a good thing? Umm, I don’t know, but it might make life just a tiny bit easier for home ed children.

If this actually happens then I wonder if home educators might feasibly have an easier time accessing exams.

As it stands most people seem to either send their children to school or college for GCSEs or they (like us) go through the IGCSE route with the massive exam costs that go with it.

There had been some colleges willing to take pupils at any age, so long as they were ready, but that door got slammed when funding changes ensured that pupils able to take GSCEs at 13 or 14 would not be able to and would therefore have to wait until they were of a bureaucratically acknowledged age. I can’t help wondering, sometimes, if Gove et al actually want children to be educated.

Gove has also announced that GCSE exams will be harder. I wonder if this means GCSE and IGCSEs will now be on the same level. At the moment it is generally recognised that IGCEs are harder and therefore of a higher quality.

While on the surface these changes might look good, I’ll wait and see. It’s under this Government that UCAS as ditched equivalencies making Open University points worthless while easier exams are accepted.  It is going to be a massive shift in emphasis from getting an education to jumping through hoops and I am yet to be convinced that this will happen.

It is very frustrating to see that in America many universities are welcoming homeschooled students with open arms because they have noticed how much better educated they are, on average, than schooled children; that over here doors that were open or opening have been shut. UCAS needs scrapping completely, as it’s nothing more than a tick box machine that rejects well qualified students simply because there isn’t a box to tick.

American universities have a massive advantage in that they still meet with would-be students and actually interview them. This helps form a view of whether a student can actually do the work of the degree. Having a box ticked that shows a student has a good memory, is hardly a ringing endorsement as far as I can see. Having a folder full of lovely exam results but an inability to work independently or treat other people with respect is not a good start in adult life.

I am glad I don’t have children old enough for any of this right now. Whether it will be better or worse by the time they are old enough I don’t know.  I did think the children could get work and do a part-time degree with the Open University but they have jumped on the “charge excessively” bandwagon and their courses are simply no longer affordable.

As things stand I would prefer my children to do one of the very good quality homeschool Highschool Diplomas, but as UCAS narrows it’s boxes this might not be the right choice – unless they don’t want to go to Uni over here or at all.

As more distance learning is launched I’ll be keeping an eye on what options the children might have.

Confessions of a Home Educator; I’m not teaching them much,

A lot of homeschooling parents will refer to themselves as their children’s teacher, and I suppose all parents are teachers to some extent in that we have to teach our children how to do things or about stuff. This side of the pond home educators tend to say they are not teachers, but rather they facilitate their children’s learning. I think I’m a bit of everything, but that’s what comes with being a mother. All mothers who mother are teachers, facilitators, mediators, and loads more just by dint of bringing up children.  Is it different being a mother who home educates to being a mother whose children go to school?

Honestly, yes. It’s quite different. There are some things that overlap. I no longer have evenings filled with homework and grumpy children who have done hours at school and now have at least a couple of hours of homework. All the homework is done in learning time so their evenings are their own. In fact quite often their afternoons are their own, and they have learned to cook, paint and do some rather odd science experiments in that time. Quite often learning does happen in the evenings but it’s because they’ve found something that interests them, not because I’ve nagged them to get it done because it must be handed in.

But the main reason I don’t see myself as a teacher is because I don’t have a clue about a lot of the things they are learning. I never did grammar at school so now that Ronan is doing lots of it, I can get completely lost. Fortunately his workbooks are clearly laid out and so if he gets stuck we go through it together. Usually he gets it before I do.

Thankfully the children are not limited to learning only what I can teach them, and this has been good for me too. I am learning maths (properly at last) alongside the children as they watch the DVDs or Khan Academy vids. I am learning Latin (I only know choir-Latin) and Greek thanks to the great curriculum I am able to get from America where homeschooling has been going on longer and where there seems to be a commitment to good resources. I am also learning Spanish with them.

I’ve picked up my love of history again we learn together and there’s plenty of stuff they have taught me over the years as they went off following an interest.

The joy of home ed is I don’t have to be the teacher who knows and talks at them about what I know. I can be just as ignorant of the subject as they are and we work on it together. The fact that so many suppliers offer CD, DVD or other forms of lessons makes this so much easier.

No more “prove it” fears.

We are registered with the Local Authority because I pulled the older ones from school. I was obliged to write to the school explaining I was removing the children to educate them at home. The head then sends the letter to the LA and so we are registered. Families who have never sent children to school don’t have to be registered.

In the early days I was paranoid that I wouldn’t have enough “proof” that I was doing what I said I was doing so we got through a LOT of workbooks and worksheets and I took (and still take) lots of photos.

As it happens I’ve never had to show the LA person anything as they aren’t obliged to look and they aren’t obliged to look because they don’t offer anything to help.

P1020699I still print off a lot of sheets really but now that I’ve invested in a good quality whiteboard the children can use that for lessons and rub it out later. I don’t need to have “proof” on paper.

I haven’t been seen by the LA for a couple of years, which I assume means they are happy with what I am up to.

Confessions of a home educator

P1020692Like most home edders I get the usual reactions from strangers who ask why the children aren’t in school. “We home educate,” I say and one of the set questions that comes back is ,”Are you a teacher?” And I always answer “No,” because strictly speaking I am not a teacher. I never did a PGCE or achieved QTS, so I’m not a teacher. However, just between you and me, I must confess I did teach.

I worked in a primary school Reception to year 1 (that’s pre-k to K for American equivalency). I was taken on to support one child for five mornings a week, but in fact had 8 children with quite significant “special needs” each morning, leaving them with no extra support in the afternoons.

I taught teens who had been expelled from school, or had been in YOIs or prison; many of whom had genuinely been missing education, some since primary school. At the same college I taught adults and supported adults who were deaf, blind, lacking limbs etc.

I also taught at the University.

So, yes, I’ve done a bit of teaching and so I am sure some people will believe that’s the experience I rely on when home educating the children. Well, it isn’t. In fact it has been more of a hindrance than a help as we set out to home ed. I had to unlearn quite a bit.

The first lesson I had to learn was school standards are meaningless.  The huge temptation to wonder if my children were at the “standard” or “level” of other children their age became rather silly when I realised that each child was a mix of “average” and advanced or behind, depending on the subject and that they studied so much stuff that wasn’t part of school life that they couldn’t be measured against the school standard. It’s not easy to let go of these deeply rooted ideas about what constitutes a standard of education, but honestly, it needs to be done.

You may object. “Surely,” you might say,  “Refusing to bear in mine standards and targets, can lead to allowing the children to slide into ignorance and never learn anything.”

I suppose it’s possible that someone would decide to home educate and then simply not bother to do so. But that’s not me. There may be occasions where home ed families are keeping up with the Joneses on grade books and whatever, but most of us are using so many different  curricula, methods and resources that it isn’t possible, and that’s before you add in the gifted and SEN kids that are part of the groups.

I have had to learn that it’s no good trying to make a child fit a method, I need to make the method fit the child. This is how I’ve ended up with such an eclectic approach to educating the children. Each child is different and each child is, as Charlotte Mason reminds us, born a person. As soon as you respect the personhood of your child, you ditch all the extraneous things that treat your child as a cog. It’s not as easy as you might think. I’d spent a long time learning to teach to the crowd and stick to the formula. Now I had to work alongside, rather than teach at a person and quite often learn from them.

I love the way the children will go off and learn something completely independently and then come and tell me about it later. I love that their learning is so mixed, and I especially love that they are not embarrassed to be enthusiastic about what they learn.

There are times when I think we aren’t getting very far and they give the impression they aren’t learning anything. But just as I am thinking, “It’s all a waste of time, they aren’t learning anything!” one of them will come out with something I was sure s/he hadn’t remembered or understood.

Of course that’s the other confession; I so still sometimes think home education is about filling my children with knowledge about stuff, when in fact, home education is about teaching my children how to learn, so they can learn for the rest of their lives.

So many ways to learn, like this very funny Three Little Pigs with some Classical pronunciation Latin words…enjoy.