I love the fact that no matter what plans you make in Home Education, when you are even partly child-led, they have their own agendas. My plans have to be flexible, and fortunately I thrive on that.
Following on from the decision during the week to do a background project on World Geography, I had ordered a few supplementary items that I thought would help kickstart the project. In my mind I was thinking that we would "start" on Monday as that's when Daddy goes back to work, but in reality, as I should have known, as soon as the mysterious packages arrived and were opened the boys wanted to get stuck in. In fact, they were engrossed well before the ordered goods were delivered...
We have a lovely big IKEA shelf unit, largely filled with HE type goodies (books, games, other resources), and thanks to my slight OCD tendencies, the shelf contents are arranged methodically by subject. Having had a sort-out the other day I shuffled some of the contents around, which unsurprisingly made it all look fresh and appealing to the boys (apparently supermarkets deliberately use the same 'shuffling' technique to get shoppers to spot things that they had previously walked past without noticing). While I went out of the room for something the boys discovered a set of ten "Horrible Geography" books that we have had for ages without any interest being shown. When I came back each of the three boys had their nose firmly stuck into one of the books - even Youngest who is not a fluent reader yet.
Of course I was thrilled - and if nothing else it verified that I was on the right track with my chosen background project! So when our large map of the world arrived today it went straight up on the wall (it turned out to be too big for the kitchen door), and I left the other bits just 'strewn around' (ie deliberately but 'casually' lying in places where I knew the boys would spot them). It really wasn't long before Youngest picked one up and asked if we could play. It was Top Trumps, "Wonders of the World" - quite a quick game, as they are all tired from a sleepover last night so it did descend into competitive squabbling quite quickly, and was put away for another day - but they were all keen on it, so I count it a successful purchase. Next they spotted the book that I was most pleased at finding: Angry Birds Playground - Atlas. Angry Birds are a big hit in our house at the moment, so I was pretty confident that this would grab their attention, and sure enough they were quickly snuggled up together, Eldest turning the pages and Middle reading aloud to Youngest, all squabbles momentarily forgotten. Lovely :)
Never mind that I wasn't mentally prepared for them to be "learning" again just now - that's just proof that this is their education, not mine. Home education is the most fulfilling when parent and child are in tune with each other, such as being able to predict what background project would be appealing at any point, but even then I can get caught up in the planning, and I have to be willing to jump on board with them as soon as they're ready, whether I feel prepared or not, else I risk holding them back and stifling their interest as it is just appearing. If I try to control them and limit them to 'my' way of doing things in my timing, they will quickly become frustrated and disinterested. So leaping on board at a moment's notice it has to be!
In my mind it's like taking the boys to a beach where I know there are decent waves, but they are the ones who choose when they're ready to get surfing - and being young enthusiastic creatures, they just leap in when I would naturally still be paddling in the shallows trying to prepare myself. There is that split-second moment of "hang on, I wasn't ready" before I realise if I want to do this with them I'm just going to have to go for it, ready or not! In reality none of us are actual surfer-dudes, but that doesn't stop the exhilaration of spotting a wave of learning opportunity and leaping on together. Some waves fade away fairly quickly, with others we just lose focus and fall off, and with some we ride the glorious crest for ages. I wouldn't miss it for the world.