Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Housework is overwhelming you?...

Do you home educate and are you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted?... Is your house out of control and you only just manage to keep enough clothes clean for the kids to wear, but they are in a pile somewhere in the house waiting to be put away? Does your garden need weeding and the grass need cutting? Have you forgotten what colour the floors are in your kids rooms?

Can I let you in to a secret? All the above things are normal when you home educate.  Can you be different? Probably not with out killing yourself in the process.

So why bothering blogging about it if there is nothing we can do about this? Because I believe we need to shift the way we think about ourselves and our home.

Here is my list of things that can change:

1) Stop comparing yourself to school mums!

It is tough being a mum, whether you home educate or not, the biggest difference is the sense of responsibility Home Ed mums feel towards their kids education. So the following is a generalisation based on how it feels to home ed, so please don't shoot me if you are a school mum reading this.

There are three types of school mum, ones with all the kids in school who work away from home full time, ones who have some in school and some at home and a few who either don't work or work part-time.

Firstly the ones who's kids are in school and work away from home full time, guess what? There is no-one in their houses messing it up all day. So you can't compare yourself to them. I had a lovely neighbour, who was in this situation, and I always felt like a bad mother and beat myself up about it, when I went over to her perfect home! Everything was organised, floors were clean, everything put away! ARGHHHHH!

Secondly some with kids at home and some at school, these mum's you can relate to, because they will have toddlers probably throwing toys and food around, but still remember they have not also taken on the full responsibility for their children education. So you can't really compare yourself to them.

Thirdly mum's who don't have a paid job or a part time job while their kids are in school. They have free time alone! How they spend it is up to them. You have zero time alone, ever. So stop comparing!

2) Us mum's/dad's who home educate, have mostly been in school ourselves, so a lot of us have the mindset of formal study times and term tables. Lets throw this out of our heads. If you need to take two weeks off to get control of the house because you feel like you are drowning, then DO IT! Stop all study and get the kids to help, and get on top of things, not to perfection, but to the point where you feel like you can function again. You can then start studying again with a clear head. Kids learn a lot from sharing the responsibility of caring for the home.

3) Set a few small routines in place for first thing in the morning. I learn't this from Flylady. If you can get a few little things done every morning, then they at least won't hang over your head. My personal routine is, get dressed immediately, unload the dishwasher, put the washing machine on, empty the kitchen bins (recycling, compost etc), then make breakfast. Then the biggest issue is remembering to move the washed clothes from the washing machine to the tumbler dryer or washing line later, I often set a timer on my watch, as I always forget and get distracted by the kids.

4) Bin ruthlessly, really get rid of a lot of stuff, lets face it, our kids don't play with most or their toys, we have lots of clothes we don't actually wear. Keep only the things that bring you joy, I learn't this from this amazing ladies book, its really works. I am probably half way through the process she suggests and I feel a bit more in control than I did. The best bit about it is that you actually become aware of what you own, then you spend less money, because you know what you have and where to find it.

5) Know you are not a bad mother/father and you are not alone. Its was very hard for me to admit that I was overwhelmed, because when my kids were younger I was considered by family and friends as a bit silly, probably wrong, to home educate. If I was to say I couldn't cope, they would just say, well you can put your kids in school! So ye, its not always easy to home educate.

6) Enjoy the chaos, my kids are now all grownup (18 & 15), they don't really need me as much for daily care. It won't be long before they leave home, and then my house will be tidy, organised and I will be wondering what to do! Enjoy the laughter, enjoy the madness, its only for a season, then you will miss it, trust me!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Should I use a curriculum?...

I noticed a few new home educators have been asking, which curriculum should we use?
Can I suggest, what about no curriculum! No curriculum? Really? ...I am not anti formal learning, I just want to open your eyes to the possibility of the wonderful world of flexible home education.

I can talk with confidence about this, as we have used curriculum, when I first started home education, 18 years ago, there weren't many people doing it. I managed to find a few people and pinned them down and questioned them with my list of 'how to HE' questions. One veteran home educator wisely counselled me not to tie myself to a formal curriculum as it would restrict our creativity and exploration of subjects. I heard what she said, but I was scared and under pressure from disapproving relatives and friends around me, I felt I should formally follow a curriculum as then I won't miss any topic of learning or mess up.

So thats what we did, I found at the time there weren't many curriculums available in the UK, as all of them were developed and produced in the USA. So we used one that was being imported at a reasonable price, which looked pretty comprehensive. We stuck with this until my eldest was 10 years old, but I observed that my eldest son was getting more and more morose, many mornings he would come down stairs, stop half way, sit down with a sigh, and ask me how many pages of work he had to complete today. This wasn't making my heart sing, as my idea of home education was exploring topics and enjoying them, finding things fascinating, exploring the world.

When my eldest son was pre-school age, our favourite thing was to snuggle on the sofa and read lots and lots of factual picture books, my son loved learning, and was fascinated. I didn't see this when he was working his way through work books from a formal curriculum.

I didn't start my younger son on the same formal curriculum, as he was such a lively practical child, he didn't suit this learning style at all. This is when I started to doubt what I was doing. I tried many different learning styles out, we did Charlotte Mason, 5 in A Row, Sonlight, workbooks etc. Non-really suited us, so finally with trepidation, I stopped searching for formal ways to lead our learning and started exploring things that interested us, at the time my eldest was fascinated with marine life, so we started exploring that, reading books, watching documentaries, visiting Sea Life centre, going to the beach to catch crabs and explore rock pools. Suddenly this is where our learning became alive, we weren't restricted by how many pages we had to complete that day, and we reignited that passion for learning and exploring.

Having never liked history at school, I absolutely didn't want to get a dry old text book and teach my kids dates on a timeline. Instead, we read books together of stories set in history, like 'The Machine Gunners' or 'Huckleberry Finn'. We read and listened to a ton of Horrible History stories, my youngest could sing some of the songs from them, learning history with out realising. We visited castles, and places of historical interest, like Omaha beach in Normandy, which the boys were so moved by the cemetery for all the dead, which was very shocking, and helped them grasp the horror of war.  We watched movies based on historical events, which always an sparked interest in the era that the movie was set.  For example, I remember watching Oliver, and the boys starting to ask about the Victorian times, which is not something we had ever looked at, from that we found the amazing 'Victorian Farm' series on TV, plus 'Turn back time' which looked at the history of the high street. We found that so fascinating, we went to visit our local village high street butchers shop, and they had old photos of the shop through the years, they were very happy to chat to us about it.

As well as topic learning, we went out and about joining in with other home educators. We did group art lessons, practical hands on group science lessons, we learnt to build cob walls, we did nature groups with pond dipping etc. We did sports groups, many kinds. We went on trips, walks and park visits together.

We have taken several trips to Europe, where we toured about. In one trip we tried to experience as many countries as we could. Which included learning to speak the languages of the country we were in, reading signs and menus, talking to locals. Experiencing the biggest mountains my sons had ever seen at the time, which sparked a plan to climb all the highest mountain in the UK, which we will have completed this summer. We have been to the Olympics, we have met the Queen, and over the years the boys have gone off on many adventures with their various scouting and cadet groups.

Need I say, we really didn't miss a full formal curriculum, we did use various online maths tutorial programs to keep maths ticking over, but this didn't kill our love of learning in the other subjects.

This is how we enjoyed learning up to the age where my sons started to think careers and wanted qualifications to support their future careers. At that stage we studied IGCSE's with my eldest and are currently doing the same with my youngest, but this is very positive formal learning as we have a clear goal in mind and we are looking to the future. My eldest then went to Sixth Form College to study A levels, where he studied History formally for the first time, his History teacher told us it was so refreshing to teach a student that was genuinely interested in the subject. This week he is sitting his exams and after he will be heading to a top University to study Law.

I hope this might inspire someone to take the plunge and try flexible Home Education.