Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Too Clever to Ask for Help...?

I have a very lovely friend who has three lovely kids.  One of them is diagnosed 'gifted' (he's a full on fabulous genius), and he and his siblings are home educated, which I think is a big reason why he is still sane. Anyway, his Mum and I were chatting the other day about how difficult it seems to be for him to ask for help if he gets stuck on - say - a Maths problem, and as it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately, I thought it might be worth a blog post...

So, it was established fairly early on that I was "bright":  I was reading fluently age two; at primary school I was entered into a national maths competition and I got one of the highest scores in the country (bear with me: there is a point to all this apparent bragging);  I was first in the class to finish the reading scheme; I was effortlessly top of the class in most things; when the school did logic testing I was told I had an extremely high IQ.

So that was it: I was definitely and officially a smarty-pants.

Why then did this smarty-pants struggle at secondary school?  Why did I find student life so difficult that I dropped out of college?  I have thought about it often, and I am coming more and more to the conclusion that it was because of my inability to ask questions - to ask for help when I was stuck.

You see, I was "clever". That was who I was.  All of the evidence pointed to it, all of the grown-ups around me agreed: it must be true.  It was, if you like, my label.  Let me clarify: my parents, though proud of me for being me, were never pushy or bragging - it was just universally acknowledged that I was clever. And somehow subconsciously it became my defining factor - my strength, my identity.  For me to ask a question or acknowledge that there was something I didn't know or couldn't do wasn't simply a matter of being afraid to show weakness... it just didn't occur to me.  It wasn't pride - I got no sense of inflated ego from it - it was just who I was.  Maybe I subconsciously didn't want to let everyone (or myself) down, but I think it was more that I was "clever" therefore I had to know the answer.  I was "clever" so if everything wasn't easy there must be something wrong with me.  If I had been able to consciously acknowledge that I couldn't get something right first time, it might have rocked my whole world off the Richter scale.  That is not to say though that it was a conscious thing though - not at all.  It was just somehow two sides of the same coin: my cleverness and my inability to not 'get' something.  The first was something I absorbed from the people around me - the second was a wholly inaccurate deduction that my immature brain assumed.  So when I came across something I didn't get, (which didn't really happen until secondary school) it was like a glitch in the mainframe - my programming just did not compute.  My subconscious literally could not accept it, so I guess I went into unwitting denial.  That's easy at secondary school - you just stay quiet at the back and scrape through with good-enough grades.  It doesn't really work at degree level though - hence the dropping out of teacher training college.  Even then - even at the point when I dropped out, I was utterly confused as to how it happened.  I knew I could teach but somehow I hadn't done enough.  It was only later that I connected my failure with not asking for help when I hit an issue.

It was when I got to my mid-twenties that I gave myself permission to not be perfect - to not have all the answers.  It was a huge and liberating deal for me - I can still remember where I was and what I was doing (I was praying) - and it changed my life.  I started to enjoy not knowing because it gave me the freedom to ask questions and find out answers.  I was suddenly hungry to learn - and I was probably nicer to those around me who weren't perfect either.  It was like a fog lifted - the denial had gone and I could function better.  Of course, that much wasn't obvious at the time, it is only with hindsight that I can see better what was going on.

I guess I wanted to write this for people out there who may have gifted/ genius/ intelligent/ "clever" children.  Like all labels, even the unofficial ones - it has its benefits and its drawbacks.  And one of the drawbacks to the intelligence label can be - not in all cases, but some - a total inability to accept not 'getting' something.  It is not conscious.  Asking this person "why don't you ask for help?" is as effective as asking a depressed person "why don't you just pull yourself together".  It's like being stuck.  A glitch in the mainframe that needs reprogramming.

So.  A few ways that you can help re-write the program, from my experience...
  • If your "clever" child asks a question at any point, a good first response is "That is a SMART question".  It really helps to equate asking questions with intelligence.  After all, we know there really is no such thing as a stupid question if you don't know the answer, but a child with the "clever" label may not get that at all.  
  • Try to find other 'labels' for your child as well.  There's nothing necessarily wrong with them knowing they are "gifted", but it helps for them to also regularly hear about their kind heart/ sense of humour/ perseverance etc, so that their intelligence does not become their whole identity
  • If you see your child struggling with something they clearly don't 'get', proceed with caution.  Failure is actually a very important experience for them to have - don't feel you have to soften the blow of them not 'getting it' - but it really helps if you can be there to help them see the learning process as a positive experience.  Learning is not about exposing the weaknesses in their intelligence - learning is a chance to flex their intelligence muscles.
If anyone has found any other ways to help their "clever" child, please do comment below - I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Lessons from an 80g Hedgehog

It's a good job Home Ed is so flexible!

Yesterday I had all sorts of plans for things we could do, but I had a phone call in the morning from a man who got my number from the BHPS - he had an abandoned nest of baby hedgehogs in the garden (mum had been run over), and could I take them in?  Of course I said yes, and then spent the next couple of hours running around like a mad thing making sure I had everything I needed and that it was all disinfected (+ feeding equipment sterile)  The boys did their Mathswhizz and then just got on and played, all day, doing who-knows-what (I have nothing written in my HE diary for yesterday as I was up to my ears in cleaning gear and newspaper)!

When the hoglets arrived I was relieved to discover that they are about 5 weeks old, and therefore capable of self-toileting (tiny babies need help) and feeding ( I'm giving them a mixture of puppy formula and liquidised catfood - yum!)  The boys all had a good look, a collective whispered "Aaaah", and were then ushered back out to play so I could check, weigh, sex and settle the hoglets.  Three are over 140g, but one just 81g.  The little one has been named "Minnie".





All hoglets came through their first night, but this morning Minnie was a bit colder and weaker than the others, so she has been put into an incubator by herself (with two cuddly toy hedgehogs to snuggle up to). So, the downstairs cloakroom has been taken over as usual for the three siblings (Tig, Pip and Star) - and as there are no electric sockets in there, the kitchen is now also out-of-bounds to the boys while Minnie's incubator is in there.  We need to keep the room as quiet as possible to minimise stress for her.

It's not ideal: the boys now have to keep the noise level down outside the kitchen and cloakroom.  They are pretty good at this actually (fairly used to it), and it helps that the weather is nice so they can go outside to play often.  It can be tempting to feel guilty about disrupting the boys' life like this, but actually I think it is such an enriching experience for all of us, and they learn so much from it.  For a start they have seen a hedgehog, which is more than most children, and they have held a hedgehog (one of last year's bigger ones - not one of our current babies).  They all know about nocturnal animals, and they know that hedgehogs love to eat worms and beetles.  They know that the average hedgehog litter is about four babies

But more than the basic obvious facts, they are learning that all animals grow at different rates: the boys will not be able to leave home and look after themselves for a good many years yet; the hedgehogs will most likely only be with us for a few weeks before they can fend for themselves.  They are learning that different animals have different needs - eg cows milk will make a hedgehog very ill, but certain puppy formula is close enough to hedgehog milk for them to thrive.  They are learning about survival of the fittest - it is only humans who pay extra attention to help the weakest ones survive.

AND, thanks specifically to Minnie and her siblings, they are learning that sometimes the needs of others (eg for quietness, urgent attention etc) trump their own.  My boys are young, sure - and they are my overall priority, I'm not going to neglect them - but it is good for them to learn to think about the needs of smaller, weaker creatures.  They are learning consideration: I sometimes need to remind them to be quieter or be noisy somewhere else - they do forget - but they all understand and agree that it is important, and they love the little hoglets, so although it does not come naturally to be quiet, there are no complaints.  (I'm just grateful for the good weather and outdoor play!)  They are learning to be caring - to find out and meet the needs of another (in this case specific food, warmth, more quiet!) - not for personal gain, but just because we love them and want them to do well.  They are learning responsibility: if we do not feed, water and thoroughly clean them out daily, the hoglets could die.  It's not just something we do for fun when we feel like it - they are depending on us.  They are learning compassion - the desire to relieve suffering of those in difficulty. They are learning about hygiene while I scrub the hutches with disinfectant and sterilise equipment.  They are learning kindness and gentleness (which is why I won't let them handle Minnie until she is bigger - the older ones they may be able to handle in a day or so).  They are learning about sacrifice - while the hoglets are so needy, we're not having friends over to play (happily we can go out to socialise still).

So although I could feel guilty if I was just looking at the academic side of things, education is all about the whole child developing and growing into a well-balanced person - and in that respect our little 80g hoglet and her siblings are proving to be pretty good teachers, and my boys excellent learners!

DISCLAIMER, just in case: I wrote this post as a way of reflecting on our own journey - I am in no way advocating the taking in of a wild animal as a project.  It is illegal and could cause unnecessary suffering.  Anyone who finds abandoned or poorly hedgehogs (or any wild animal) needs to phone their nearest rescue centre.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Painting and Poetry

I've been tired today.  A flare-up of pain that I thought was gone has discouraged me a bit.  I do like to find the silver lining in every cloud though, so I decided if I had to be home taking it easy, at least that would give the boys and me the chance to do some learning together (we've been out a lot this week), and as the boys had done all of their required Maths and English for the week, that left this morning clear for 'fun stuff'.  I confess, I went a bit overboard with ideas that I had been storing up for a while...

We started with some painting, as we hadn't done any for ages, and we all enjoy it.  To be honest, Eldest wasn't keen to start with - he was just in a funny mood - but he did get into it.  We took inspiration from a "Terrific Toucans" project that we found on the Deep Space Sparkle website, looked up some photos of toucans on Google, then drew our outlines with black oil pastel.  Outlines complete, we painted in the colours and finally went over the lines with black paint (using fine brushes).  We were all really pleased with the results!

Youngest's toucan.  I now regret not taking a photo before the paints came out as you can't see all of the details now, but he had a great time - and no prizes for guessing that his favourite colour is green!

Middle's toucan - I love how carefully he coloured in all of the different sections!

Eldest's toucan - so full of character, I love it!

Mummy did a toucan too!

The toucans were quite quick and easy, so we went straight into the next activity: I read chapter two in "Kings and Things" to the boys.  Now that we have 'finished' the Romans, we went on to the chapter about the Anglo-Saxons.  After that Eldest wanted to know more about King Arthur, so he found another book on the Saxons but was disappointed that King Arthur wasn't in it, so we had a quick browse online before he lost interest (will see if I can find some better books).  Youngest was still drawing pictures of Boadicea - he was very struck by the story of the beautiful lady who killed herself - and obviously hasn't quite got the message that we have finished with the Romans for now!

Next, as Daddy was home, we went on to Mummy's next 'great idea'.  The boys love telling Daddy how well they are doing in various things, so I had decided to put this to good use next time he was home, which happened to be today.  Inspired by Brave Writer, and her "poetry teatimes", I pulled out some books of poems, and the boys and I chose some to read to each other - then I asked the boys if they'd like to write a poem each to read out to Daddy after lunch.  Normally they would probably not have been keen, but with Daddy as a potential audience, they went for it...

"If I was a poop
I would swim in the toilet
I would get flushed to the sewer with my friends
I would swim out to the city and show myself
And all the people would get gross-en-ised"
by Youngest

"If I was a bee
I'd feel so free
I'd fly and flee
And drink all your wee, and then
I'd fly and flee all over again
Then I'd eat a pea"
by Middle

"It runs around in the night
But's never here when it's bright
It has prickles that are sharp
I wonder if it'd like a big carp
Don't come close
Or give it some toast
It's not very tall
but it can go in a ball.
It's a hedgehog!"
by Eldest

For our poetry recital we asked Daddy to come and sit in his big armchair with home-made refreshments (smartie cookies that Middle and Youngest had helped me to make after they wrote their poems)  The boys stood up one at a time and read out their poems, to rapturous applause, and then the poets got to eat their smartie cookies too!  It was a lovely time!

By this point I was becoming aware that our morning had been heavily parent-led.  Not that there is anything wrong with that necessarily - and the boys certainly seemed to enjoy all of the different activities - but I do like them to have opportunity to follow their own interests too, so I ditched any further ideas that I had up my sleeve (they will keep for another day), and sent them off to play.  Youngest went straight for riding his bike, Middle made video films on his camera, and Eldest found a pile of quite simple history books to read through, before downloading a program to help him make minecraft animations.  And that left me with time to catch up on my blog - hooray!

Number Caterpillar

Ever since I made Youngest his number caterpillar he has used it again and again, and it has become pretty worn - so I decided to make another.  Now that I have learned how to embed pdf files into my blog, I thought I'd do one that others could download and use if required - so here it is, our number caterpillar file.

I created it initially so that when Youngest wanted to write numbers he had something to copy if he couldn't remember how to form them.  Hence the red dot on each number, showing where to start writing.
He has recently got interested in odd and even numbers, so I added a little colour coding - and made it easy to count in fives or tens also.

It's just a little number line, but feel free to download if it helps!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Finishing off the Romans...

... for now, at least!

Hooray for Pyjama Mondays being resumed!  We've had a lovely lazy day today, only interrupted by the arrival of our new washing machine, for which I am hugely grateful!  (Boys + outdoor play = dirt!)  As if it wasn't enough for me to conquer the mountain of washing that had grown over the weekend since our old machine died on Friday, the boys had a nicely productive day too.  MathsWhizz to begin with - all three boys really did whizz through their work, which set them up nicely with a 'can do' attitude, so while Youngest decided he wanted to do some Reading Eggs as well, I made the most of the quiet and asked Middle and Eldest to help me make a Roman timeline.  I wasn't sure how well received the idea would be, but happily they were keen, so I fetched out my resource kit that I had prepared a few weeks ago...

I wanted a timeline that could stretch beyond the Romans with time, so we colour-coded the cards.  (A6 cards, or in our case - several sheets of A4 card, each cut into four equal pieces).  I found a great list of some key moments during Roman rule over our country (thank you Woodlands Junior School timeline), and tweaked it to make a single list, then printed off some sheets of blanks with the time period (Romans) at the top, and date (some estimated) at the bottom, plus flags of the nations where the events occurred.

Of course, under Roman rule our modern flag designs did not exist, but it still helps to give an idea of where significant things were happening in the world that affected us as a nation.  If you're interested, you can find my pdf here.

I printed the blanks off, then Middle and Eldest chose five each to fill in with the details - I did the remaining six.  They cut around the blanks and stuck them on to the coloured backing cards (purple for Romans - Anglo-Saxons will have a different colour when we get round to them).  Then a paper-clip was attached so we could hang the cards on to a ribbon.  This method allows us to slip further cards in when we find other significant events that we missed out first time around.

We hung the ribbon up on our bookcase, and made a game of having the boys hang their cards on to the ribbon in date order, while reading their card aloud.  It felt a bit schoolish, but actually they instigated it, and it was surprisingly good fun (the hilarity was helped by the ribbon that kept collapsing every few minutes)

This afternoon, with the Romans fresh in our minds again (or at least, as far as I'm concerned, finishing off the subject for now), we dug out the mosaic craft kit that had been hanging about since the sticker mosaic dragons went down so well.  This time we used proper tiles, grout etc - the boys had a great time!  There were plenty of Minecraft designs, unsurprisingly (those pixels lend themselves well to 'squarey' mosaics)! 

Youngest's "Dragonfly"

Middle's "Bob from Monsters versus Aliens" and "Enderman Head"

Eldest's "Minecraft Squid" and "Zombie Head"

Mummy's "Pig", "Tree" and "Creeper" (Youngest enjoyed the grouting more than the designing, so I had 'help' with grouting all of the above!)

We finished the day off re-watching the Horrible Histories "Rotten Romans" animation.  I feel satisfied to have started and finished a topic.  I'm sure that our studies were not exhaustive, but we can always come back to it another day - and besides, how lovely to have started and finished a topic with such satisfying enthusiasm!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Getting Out and Getting Active

It's all been a bit quiet on here lately!  I guess that's because we've been having a busy week - not quiet at all in real life!  We missed out on our usual "PJ Monday" because the boys were in urgent need of a trip to the barbers - and then on Tuesday we all went to craft club - hooray!  It's the first time I have driven anywhere except around our local town for months and months.  Craft club is only in the next town, so it wasn't a long journey, but nonetheless it felt like a real achievement - and most importantly, pain-free too!
Then Wednesday brought us some lovely visitors, and today saw swimming lessons followed by more lovely visitors.  Busy busy!

So, no quiet days at home so far this week, but that's been fine.  Flexibility is the name of the game! Especially when the weather is this glorious... every now and then I think of an activity we could do, but by then the boys are usually already outside riding their bikes or playing ball games, having water fights or even skipping  as was yesterday's fun before the rope ended up being tied to a toy tractor to tow it up the road with the passengers and "pullers" taking it in turns!

Now I am fond of my little activities, and as Julie at Brave Writer said recently, "You feel better when you Get Stuff Done".  And it's true - you really do.  Or I do anyway.  It's so easy to keep the wobbles at bay when I have a nice little list of a few things that I have noticed the boys do every day (not that that means they aren't learning when I'm not paying attention - but that's another blog post).  But this week I haven't even stopped to fill in the blank spaces in my Home Ed Diary.  The week has been passing too quickly, and I've even lost track of how much Maths or English (our two mainstays) the boys have done!  Gasp!

Happily a friend posted an article on Facebook yesterday that made so much sense to me - it headed off any wobbles that may have been lurking ready to pounce in a weak moment (probably the next time I compared myself to an HE friend or heard the "should" word).  The article was titled "The Real Reason Why Children Fidget", and as a Mum of three energetic boys I was instantly clicking on the link.  I recommend you read the article - it's neither long nor complicated, but basically it explains that modern children have significantly poorer core balance than children thirty years ago, and fidgeting is a way of their bodies trying to counteract the sedentary nature of their modern life.  To quote the author:
"many children are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular (balance) system today--due to restricted movement. In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time"
Oh that resounded in me.  None of my boys find sitting still easy.  Even Eldest, who was holding his own at school before we left - it was not at all uncommon for him to be listening and participating in a lesson, while lying on the floor, waving his legs around, or if he was sat at a desk, moving his head in time to imagined music.  Let alone Youngest (little mr energetic)... I can not imagine how badly it would have gone for him in school.  They are all just normal, healthy, active boys.  Not ADHD sufferers, not stupid, lazy or wilfully destructive - just full of physical energy, the way boys are.

I have long held a theory that boys are like puppies: give them a good run and they will be more able to control themselves.  Of course the aforementioned article is not about behaviour exclusive to boys - girls are energetic and need activity too, although there does generally seem to be an increased ability to sit quietly.  It's just that my boys are the ones who take most of my attention, so I know a bit more about parenting (and educating) boys.

So the combination of the article and what I know to be true of my boys helped me to relax even more about the lack of 'educational activities' right now - because their chosen 'activities' are - excuse the pun - keeping them active!  They are moving their bodies in all directions for hours at a time, and by doing so are developing healthy, strong bodies with good core balance that will stand them in good stead as they continue to grow.  I'm sure I'll get some of my "educational" ideas in there at some point, but meanwhile, I'm just happy that they're getting out and getting active!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Morbid Education

Well today took a strange twist.  Slightly gruesome (so don't read if you're squeamish), but fascinating nonetheless.

It started typically and not-at-all-morbidly with the boys peering into our butterfly habitat to see if the last remaining butterfly had emerged from his chrysalis.  It hadn't.  We watched for quite some time, imagining we could see little wiggles and skin splitting, but in the end decided that despite the encouraging shouts of "Come on Chris, you can do it!", we needed to let the other butterflies free as they had emerged a couple of days previously, and we hated seeing them trapped (plus it was a lovely day outside, perfect to release them). The four butterflies were released, and Chris-the-chrysalis carried back indoors.  Of course, the moment we turned our back, Chris emerged, so he was dutifully released several hours later after his wings had unfurled and dried enough for him to fly away!

The lovely sunny weather was too nice to avoid, so I was pottering about the garden doing a few tidy-up jobs (not too many though: overly manicured gardens are not welcoming to wildlife).  Knowing that the blue tit nest box was now uninhabited (except for poor Runty's little body), I decided to carefully clear it out.  I was trying to do it quietly, in case the boys were upset, but Youngest saw what I was dong and asked if he could see "dead Runty".  I was a bit surprised but agreed, and out he came to have a look, calling his brothers who also came and joined us.  They were fascinated.  They asked lots of questions and I was careful to be matter-of-fact about it all, despite feeling a bit sad too.  Eldest was probably the least inclined to join in, but they all had a good look - first at Runty himself: we looked at the construction of his wing, and Youngest wanted to see Runty's 'poohole' (the nest-box poo-sacs had been a source of great amusement) and then the little maggot that crawled out of Runty's body.

By this time I had managed to carefully retrieve the actual nest.  We were fascinated to compare Runty's body with the size of the nest and consider that he was squished into it with six bigger siblings before they fledged.  I was also intrigued by the grit that we found at the bottom of the nest but so far have not found out what it was or why it was there.

As I had lifted the nest out, I found a tiny egg underneath.  It had obviously been dislodged from the nest at some point, and was either never brooded or just not viable - but that was probably just as well as we think this was the nest of first time parents, given some of their odd behaviour (such as poking a chick in the eye instead of beak) - and given that they only successfully reared six chicks (blue tits can have up to sixteen eggs at a time, more usually 8-12), had there been more chicks, there would have been less food to go around, and possibly even less survivors.  Anyway, it was fascinating to compare the tiny egg with the size of Runty, acknowledging that he was too small for his age to fledge, but even so, the growth from egg to Runty size in less that 3 weeks was phenomenal.

Once we had finished our inspection,we  moved the nest to somewhere for safekeeping, and were simultaneously amazed and grossed out by the maggots that fell from the bottom of the nest!

OK, that's all the gruesomeness over!

What a great opportunity to get that close to nature!  Even in death, Runty was beautiful and fascinating... I have to admit it was not something I particularly enjoyed doing, but it was a privilege, and very interesting. Still, by now I was in the mood to get out and enjoy some nature of the more alive variety - so we went with some friends to our local park, to feed the birds and spot some babies, and take some more pleasant photos...

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

It's The Little-Big Things...

I was talking to one of my favourite people on the planet today - she is about to step into the wonderful world of home education, and we were discussing how one of the drawbacks of sending your child to school is that you miss out on so much of how or what they are doing.

We all know the sheer joy of the "little-big moments" - or even the "tiny-huge moments".  You know - like the first gummy smile, first faltering step etc.  One smile or one step seem so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but when it's your baby's milestone, they are enormous!  It is so sad that when they go off to preschool or school, we start missing out on all the apparently small successes that still deserve to be celebrated.

I was enjoying some such successes today, and after the earlier conversation, was really revelling in them. For example, today I saw Youngest make another leap of understanding in his literacy.  His reading has been coming on really well anyway, blending sounds into words, sight-reading, contextualising etc but today we were out at a shop called 'The Range'.  He looked at the sign and read it with ease, and then said "If that had no 'e' it would say "rang" (pronounced correctly)!  My little guy took a 'rule' that he had learned about our language so far in books, Reading Eggs etc, and applied it to an unrelated scenario.  Such a tiny thing in one sense, but I noticed, and I celebrated inwardly - I was just so glad that I was there to acknowledge his growth.

Another "little" moment that I had today was when Youngest and Eldest, motivated by a shared competitive spirit, "played" on Mathswhizz for hours.  You see, in Mathswhizz there are a couple of league tables.  There is one where you challenge 'buddies' to see who is best at a certain level.  I don't like that one - it is too discouraging to the 'loser'.  However there is another leaderboard where the leader is simply the person who has the most points this week, points being gained by taking a lesson or test at their level - so it is possible to win just by completing lots of lessons.  Well, Youngest just happened to notice that he was top of the leaderboard, above his big brothers - and there was no way Eldest was going to leave that standing, so he got on to Mathswhizz as soon as he could, until he had beaten Youngest.  Youngest was thrilled to have the challenge to immediately play some more until he was top again - which he did.  What a blessing to a home educator to have children asking pleeeeeeeease can they can do more Maths - it doesn't happen often, so it was another "small" moment that I was so happy to acknowledge.

Also today, Middle did some handwriting practice.  I know this seems ridiculously unimportant - but the point is, he was in a real slump.  I almost gave in and thought 'no point asking him as he obviously doesn't want to', but right at the last moment I applied reverse psychology and then he did it so quickly...

Mummy: "I'm not sure you could do all that writing anyway - it would take far too long"
Middle: *pause to do some plotting*, *assumes innocent expression*, "I'm just going to play with my pencil" *hides book and face behind arm*
Mummy: *suddenly completely absorbed with something in the other direction for a few moments*
Middle: "ahem"
Mummy: *all amazement at the sight that lies before me* "How did you do all of THAT writing so quickly???  You cheeky sneaky!"
Middle *giggling delightedly at tricking Mummy*
repeated a few times until both pages complete

Again: such a tiny thing, but so important to a boy who can so easily have his identity affected by whether or not he is good at something, whether he has succeeded or failed.  Quite often I won't push the boys to work if I think they're really not up to it - but sometimes Middle in particular needs help pushing through a mental barrier, otherwise he starts to feel really down about himself.  Today he overcame and enjoyed doing it too.  Yes it was tiny, but it was still huge!

We had other tiny moments too: when two of our butterflies emerged; when Eldest sat for hours doing a detailed 'painting by numbers' kit (he doesn't usually enjoy painting); when Middle and Youngest got absorbed in a Shakespeare animation that Eldest had put on... the list goes on.

newly emerged butterfly

Eldest's painting

Our 'Home Ed' days are very rarely significant in an obvious way, but pretty much every day there are any number of moments that could pass us by if we're not paying attention - moments that if the kids were in school we'd never have a clue they even happened.  I am so happy that I get to celebrate the little moments that are unimportant to anyone else, but so big to my children and me!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Too Tired to Work...

Days like today make me even more grateful for the benefits of home education.

All the local schoolkids are back at school, hopefully having had a nice week off.  At the end of last week I had thought that today being a 'Pyjama Day' at home, we might finish off our Roman studies by making a timeline that I had been working on, and doing some more mosiacs, requested by the boys.  However, we had a really busy time this weekend - drove to beautiful Bourton-on-the-Water for an explore, then to a local motel (where the boys were too excited to sleep well).  On Sunday I was in Tewkesbury all day for a wild hedgehog first aid course, while the boys and Daddy visited family, then explored a local National Trust venue.  We got home at 8pm, and the boys were overtired so took over an hour to go to sleep.

Consequently today is a T-I-R-E-D day!  They all woke up when they were ready - none of them would have been in time for school - I dread to think what prising them out of bed would have been like.  All have been mooching around.  I had thought of putting Mathswhizz on the computers, but it just feels mean: they wouldn't be able to concentrate.  Mid morning I got out the cards that I had put aside to make the timeline with, but they had absolutely no mental energy or enthusiasm, and I asked myself why I was pursuing it when they were obviously so tired.  A couple of years ago I would probably have pushed them further, simply because I had it planned in my head - and probably ended up with a lot of complaining, arguing, and not a lot of "work" achieved.  Happily now I have a bit more experience under my belt, and recognised that it was purely my interest that I was imposing on them.  That's not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but on days like today it would NOT have been a recipe for success or fun.  So we ditched it, along with the mosaic plans.  I'm not sure when we'll get to do it, but it doesn't matter: today was NOT the day!

Incidentally, this works well for me as my back is grumbling a little after a whole day with lots of sitting (at a desk & in the car etc) - and it means I can spend some time with the boys watching our garden for the fledgling blue tits who couldn't wait and left the nest box as soon as I wasn't watching!

So, anyway, sorry if this sounds like gloating, but I'm so glad they didn't have to go to school with their peers today: I just know it would not have gone well, even if I could have got them to school on time, let alone whether they would have been able to concentrate on their studies or had the emotional strength to behave immaculately and not come home with demerits etc.  I'm grateful that we are at home, taking the day at our natural pace - and if that means lots of snuggles, TV (they're currently watching the DVD box set of "Wild Tales"), and mooching, then that's fine by me - I'm sure normal energy levels will be resumed tomorrow, in time for lots more fun!