Thursday, 31 March 2016

Holiday from Autonomy

Since my wobble-inspired "back-off" revelation back at the beginning of Feb, the boys and I have dutifully been doing Not Very Much by way of structured HE activity other than a small amount of Maths Whizz and Literacy Planet curricula.  As mentioned in the other day's post (here), they have still been growing and learning autonomously, and I have deliberately focused on other things to allow my subconscious mind to get used to the idea of rejecting the exam mindset and being able to take a fresh look at Eldest's learning needs without preconceptions.  I am still deschooling.  It's proving a stubborn mindset to shift, but I am determined.  So I have had little to blog about as the boys have been very much in charge of their own learning and I have forced myself to leave them to it.

However this week things shifted a little.  We suddenly felt ready for a bit of structure, and I looked at our calendar and could see that we had a window of two fairly uneventful weeks before lovely friends come to visit and our life gets more distracting again.  What a lovely opportunity to enjoy a few parent-led fun activities without fully committing to our usual lightly-structured style (there's nothing wrong with that in itself - I am just very wary of slipping back into the old way of thinking still and need to be sure that the exam mindset is well and truly exorcised before re-embracing anyother structure)

So it turns out that whereas we used to roughly run alongside school terms and holidays just because it usually suits us that way, we have now done a complete reversal and have had almost no structure for most of the last term but now that schoolkids are on holiday for a couple of weeks, we are having a sort of holiday from autonomy with two weeks of planned fun.  Following our reverse holiday we will then go back to no structure in time to enjoy the empty parks and attractions!

We enjoyed our nature-walk and creative writing, and I sat with the boys yesterday and we wrote a list of the 'learning-type' things we would like to do over the next fortnight. It was a lovely list and is going to keep us busy, though as with our usual plans it is all subject to change!

Our ideas included but are not limited to...

Poetry Picnic (like Poetry Teatime, but earlier in the day!)
Board game
Creative Writing
STEM challenge (using the Dyson challenge cards or making up our own)
'Arty-farty' project
Trip to Park
Baking/ Cooking
PC/ ipad app challenge
Nature walk
Bible chapter
Book quiz
History story
Documentary-type TV/ Youtube programme

If we try to do each of those once a week, that gives us at least three items per day.  We've managed to get quite a few done this week (details to follow tomorrow hopefully) and are looking forward to having another go next week.  It's been lots of fun, not least because of the novelty factor and because we all had a say in what we wanted to do, so although it probably counts as parent-led (because I suggested making the list) and definitely counts as structured activity, it's still pretty autonomous.

I love the concept of having short structured activity breaks in between longer stretches of child-directed learning - it certainly flies in the face of the current trend of overloading the nation's children with lessons, tests, homework and even extra-curricular activities all crammed in with no space for them to just have unstructured fun.  It reminds me of an article I read earlier this week (here) explaining how simplifying childhood can have significant benefits for their mental health. The Home Ed lifestyle may not be for everyone, but when I think what an increasingly rare gift it is to be able to bless our children with the space and freedom to just be kids - I wouldn't swap it for anything!

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