Wednesday, 26 November 2014

What works for you

A lovely friend posted a question on Facebook today, and as I typed my answer I realised that it was getting a bit long, so I turned it into a blog post! (Thanks for the inspiration, lovely friend!)  She was trying to find information on how different HE families plan, facilitate or structure learning and spend their time, so apart from sending a link to my downloadable planner, my thoughts were as follows...

It totally varies with the seasons here (the family's seasons, not necessarily the seasons of the year, although the two are often closely related).  Currently what is working for us is an agreed amount of time (eg 30 minutes) or pages (usually two) in Maths/ English every day.  That is the obviously parent-led bit for us: I have been known to refer to it as my Home Ed blanket - if they do nothing else, at least I know they have the very basics of literacy and numeracy.  We also play a lot of number and word games, write stories, read poetry etc.  Brave Writer is a favourite resource.

After that come project ideas found by me on Pinterest/ Facebook subject groups/ general browsing/ our own resources.  Sometimes, if I'm inspired, we will have a "background project" running with lots of activities around the same theme (although they still learn whatever grabs their attention whether on theme or not).  Sometimes the boys will choose their own topic to explore, and if I am stumped for where to begin, lap book sites such as Homeschool Share can be a real Godsend!  At the moment there is no single idea from any of us (Christmas is looming: I reckon it's going to be all festive baking and glitter crafts for the next month), just lots of ideas that they boys can invest in as much or as little as they like.  I have found as time goes on that I seem to approach different subjects in different ways...

If it's Art-related, I can generally suggest a project from Pinterest or Deep Space Sparkle (my favourite art lesson website) and the boys will almost always be happy to give it a go. Sometimes they choose their own project - and they draw a LOT of their own pictures etc.  I think most children are born with a natural interest in Art, and as mine - unlike me - have never had anyone tell them that they are 'no good at it', they still approach it with enthusiasm.  I really cherish that!

History tends to be more story-based.  We have LOTS of history books here, some of which are great for reading aloud, such as "Kings and Things", and "The Story of the World".  I like to choose a story to read to them, and then step back and see where it leads us.  Often it inspires all sorts of questions that I hadn't anticipated which can take us on a wild Google surf, or to other books, or even days out.  Sometimes the boys will draw a picture of an aspect of the story - I find it fascinating to discover the bits that grasped their imagination.  When there is a particular subject that I think they would enjoy looking at (such as Romans, last summer) I make sure I have a good look around for resources (craft ideas etc), and possible places to visit for as long as their interest is sustained.  Thank God for the internet!  It makes a home educator's job so much easier!

Geography was not very appealing to me until recently (a throwback to dreary school lessons I guess).  Ideas and links from fellow HEors led me to Postcrossing, a free subscription site where you can send a receive postcards, all around the world.  We have a globe, and a big world map on the world, so we can instantly reference which country we are posting to/ receiving from.  This is often a fleeting reference but can lead to further conversations.  We also like jigsaw maps and games like Mapominoes, for finding out where countries are  The boys likes watching "Wild Earth" type programmes (volcanoes, crazy weather etc) on TV.  Again, we have lots of books on the subject, that are never looked at while on the shelf, but if I just leave them hanging around, one or two at a time, it's surprising how quickly they are picked up and devoured.  Strewing, oh-so-subtly, can inspire all sorts of interest.

Science is generally more hands on (though we haven't done many experiments at home lately as the boys have been going to a Science club lately where the planning and preparation was all done for us!)  Then they absolutely love nature documentaries on TV, and there are plenty of ideas on Pinterest, not to forget science kits in the shops.  The electronics kit is a particular favourite here!  I think I need to look through the experiment books again soon, and get some bits in for our own kitchen science... maybe in the new year...

Generally, as with most things, I think it's all a matter of experimenting until you find a method that works for you (and be prepared to adapt it with time).  I still find my planner helpful as it gives me an overview of ideas that we can choose to follow or not, and drawing it up prompts me to browse for ideas when I am running low in inspiration.  Usually I sit down with it on an evening over the weekend and come up with ideas for the coming week.  It doesn't rule us though - if we end up doing something completely different to what is written down, that's great!  It's just there to give me ideas if the boys have nothing in particular that they want to do.  it can feel quite parent-led at times, and what usually draws these seasons to an end is when the boys are showing signs that they want to be less directed, or if I feel that their innate desire for learning is being quashed by my leading in certain directions.  At the moment, though, I am careful to only choose a couple of activities per day - and the afternoons are always the boys' to choose what to do with.  lately there has been a bit of a computer-gaming feel to the afternoons, but that can change in time - we often have a 'no computers' rule for afternoons to make sure that the boys are still engaging their brains creatively in other ways too.

So that's what works for us (for now, at least!)  I'd love to know: what works for you?

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