So little time to reflect and review, and so freeing to not have to either! We really have been living and loving in the moment for most of this year, what with new adventures in horse riding, skiing and an early summer making us yearn for sea dips and boogie boarding, but as it draws to a close it seems timely to reflect, before rolling on into 2018!
Of our three daughters we have one at a private girls school – her choice and she makes the very most of every opportunity given to her and absolutely thrives there. Our other two daughters are home educated – again, their choice, and they too thrive in a different way. Our oldest daughter is out most of the day and busy after school with extra-curricular school hobbies – in particular two school choirs, which she loves immensely, drums, piano, singing lessons and speech and drama. When she’s at home she’s the most amazingly self-organised and self-driven individual I know. We never have to remind her what to take to school, or to do her homework (hubby and I have struck gold with this teenager!).
Here she is singing with her school choir at ‘The Big Sing Regionals’ in Wellington this year (an amazing 270 choirs, from 160 schools around New Zealand participated in ‘The Big Sing’ competition this year!) –
Our other two daughters, Sophie (11) and Alice (7) are unique in their own ways too. Sophie is extremely active and loves to be free to move. Her favourite activity at the moment is ‘parkour’ – and she really knows how to throw her body through space and over obstacles – with confidence, agility, strength and flexibility. She spent a couple of terms doing a parkour class in Wellington – at the local recreation centre – and it helped her to further her skills. She now enjoys practicing at any given opportunity and sees a playground with fresh eyes and a creative angle.
This blog post is going to be predominantly about the younger two – since our oldest daughter is now 14 and very much an independent and wonderful young lady of her own making (who my hubby and I thank our lucky stars for every day – even though she hasn’t let us give her a hug for several years now/thankfully she has good friends that do have that privilege!).
Meanwhile, Sophie and Alice are being home-educated, which makes me feel a little pressured to review and reflect on the past term (only ‘a little’ I must add, and mostly because I don’t trust my ageing ability to recall what we’ve done in the past week or so unless I write it all down!).
Our oldest daughter, after all, is tested and assessed, with regular reports home read and noted (and all of them gave us no parental concern – phew!). So, the younger two, I feel, should be given some sort of half year report (not that I need to do this to meet any government requirements – that’s the wonderful freedom of home education – no tests, no assessments, no reports, just self driven learning for the of learning – and most of the time they don’t realise they are actually learning – because they are too busy LIVING and loving it! #livingthedream !).
Anyway, here’s goes a ‘report’ of sorts.
But first, a little background to our journey and some answers to frequently asked questions:
A lot of my husband’s colleagues, and even football club mates, ask him questions about our home educated children. I guess it’s strange that we have one daughter at a private girls school and two that are home educated. The reality is that we have three daughters with unique personalities and feel able and happy to support them in different ways. The private school our oldest daughter attends is AMAZING, but it costs a fortune and we are only happy to support her attending there because she makes the utmost of every opportunity it offers, thrives at all she does there and is genuinely happy.
Our other two daughters don’t fit that ‘style’ and neither do they fit the state system of over crowded classrooms, where most of the day is taken up with people/child management, timed bathroom and food breaks, restricted physical movement in an enclosed space and studying at pace to suit the majority. They would feel suffocated and heavily restricted in that environment. They learn whilst they move. They are very bright, self driven, and independent learners that require little scheduling. Most of my husband’s friends assume we are doing ‘school at home’ – but it’s as far from that as you can imagine.
A school day is around 6-7 hours. Once the morning tea break and lunch time have been removed, as well as the time taken to do register, assembly and listen to thirty children speak on a given topic the hours of focused learning are already curtailed. Physical education takes up another 3-4 hours a week (which as home educators we spend in nature, mixing with people of all ages in our community – the real world), as well as bi-weekly home-sport meet ups at a sports centre for a solid two hours of sports – again with mixed age groups (and it’s always so brilliant to see how caring they all are for one another and emphatic of each other’s abilities).
Another BIG mis-conception of ‘home schooling’ is that children never leave the home and don’t socialise – really?! There are hundreds of other home educating families in Wellington and we, like any caring families bringing up children, understand that it takes a village to raise a child. We make the most of our children not being shut away, behind a fenced playground and closed doors five days a week, to socialise with other home educated children in sports, drama, arts and theatre visits. We talk to people on the street, in the cafes, museums, art galleries and sports centres. In term time everything is so much quieter and we rejoice in enjoying facilities that aren’t overcrowded.
When it comes to learning our children follow their interests and we provide resources to encourage them. If they get into coding using ‘Scratch’ (for example, Alice, our 7 year old in term 2) then we will let her go full speed till she exhausts herself – that might mean all day, late into the night, or a whole week of programming (within reason – we will of course intercept with a suggestion to take the dog for a walk, head out for sport, take break to make a smoothie and eat!). One of the bonuses of home education is that children have the opportunity to get really engrossed in a subject and ride with it till they feel ready to move on. They don’t have to switch from ‘maths to english’ at the sound of a bell. They can spend a whole morning learning about how air moves (as we did with a ‘Steve Spangler Science Kit in term 2) and stay focused.
When they take a break they head outdoors to swing on the hammocks in the garden, climb a tree, play some piano, dance or make a smoothie. Both Sophie and Alice are confident in the kitchen (there is no need for ‘home economics’ classes). Sophie cooks up roast potatoes for lunch or a stir-fry (she hated packed lunch boxes at school). They make pancakes for breakfast and dippy eggs – they aren’t rushed to make breakfast and they contribute to tidying up. They work as a team in the home and there isn’t any tension between home and school.
Also, learning holds more value when a child has chosen to learn – just like for an adult decided pursue a new hobby. If they choose a book to read and have the freedom to read it without time constraints, they will savour it and digest it – just like a good meal! This isn’t to say my husband and I don’t suggest topics and things to study – we are life long learners ourselves and are forever seeing the world with learning opportunities abound. We struggle to differentiate term time from holidays with our home educated learners – as they are learning all the time. When Alice wanted to get a new guinea pig, after one of our two had passed away, we spent time reading about how to introduce a new guinea pig to an existing one. Life is learning – she read, she thought, she problem solved how to house them both in a safe environment.
Weekends meld into weekdays, nights into days. Evenings in our home are filled with board games as a family and music. My husband and I both play piano and keyboard, our children love to sing, dance and ‘jam’ in the evenings. There isn’t the time for me to blog in the evenings, like when they were babes. Our evenings are richer, busier and more family focused. They sleep when we sleep. There is no banishment to the bedroom at 8pm so hubby and I can be alone. We are a family and we love spending time together. This doesn’t mean we are always in each others faces. Quite often we are all in different places, one reading, one sewing, one playing music, another two making slime together!
When winter struck, with wild Wellington winds, we took ourselves indoors and enjoyed time at trampoline parks and indoor sports venues.
Indoors we’ve taken to science and are thrilled to have signed up to the monthly ‘Steve Spangler‘ science club box.
It’s a surprise as to what we’ll receive each month. This term we’ve explore ‘air’ and ‘bubbles’.
We also studied ‘crystals’ thanks to a great little book I got from ‘Scholastic book club‘.
And electricity and what makes a good insulator and a good conductor…
Our drama fun this year saw the girls getting involved with ‘Primarily Playing With Shakespeare‘. Their home ed drama group spent a couple of terms rehearsing their scene for ‘As You Like It’, which was then brought together with other schools (each school performing a different act of the play), in a performance at a school in Wellington.
In addition our 11 year old, Sophie, auditioned to perform in the World of Wearable Arts Show in Wellington – and got through! She played the character of ‘Lucy’ on alternate nights, sharing the role with another three girls; so she performed four times in total (as well as being there an additional four nights as a ‘body’ double for the other Lucy – when they had to pop up out of trap doors on stage!). It was an amazing experience for her to see a show of that magnitude come together.
We’ve also found a new outdoor pursuit – horse riding! We go once a month, to a lovely stables in Ohariu Valley, just outside of Wellington. We spend most of the day at the stables, helping to muck out the stables, prepare the food and water for the horses, groom them and then saddle them up for a trek. It’s a great way for us all to learn something new together.
It’s been an amazing year and there’s so much I’ve not had time to write about, but every moment has been very much cherished.