Half-Term

Not really sure where this last week has gone. It has not been either restful or productive. One to write off.
Generally lost my mojo and feeling irritated with the world.  Actually not the world, just certain aspects of dealing with Home ed group stuff. 
Work hasn’t gone smoothly, struggled with motivation and found a big problem that can only be blamed on me which, while I think the worst is fixed now, didn’t help mood.

What have we done?

We wrapped up our human body project by reading about death and thinking how evolution might take humans in future.
We built Kinect bridges with friends.
We went in to town to run errands.

There has been baking.  It was my birthday mid week so Sam made a cake.

Lots and lots of DS play after he bought a strategy game for it.
New How It Works Magazine has been devoured and discussed.
There was an animal handling session at the local home ed group.
An afternoon with grandad.

Plus some slumped in front of the tv time watching documentaries about castles and archaeology.

A Good Problem, But Still a Problem

That old chestnut, socialisation, is starting to rear it’s head as a problem again but not in the way outsiders might expect.  Actually been an issue in this way for some time just happens to be in my mind.

The problem in our local area is actually the sheer scale of numbers of people home educating.  Once upon a time I probably knew nearly everyone home educating with in a 30 mile radius of our house by face or at least by online presence (well on the mainland).  Now I am aware I almost certainly don’t know everyone in a 3 mile radius!  In fact there are probably similar numbers in that 3 mile radius now that there were in the 30 mile radius 12 years ago.

How can this possibly be a bad thing? Well obviously in many ways it is wonderful, there are many more people to gel with and many more activities to chose from.

I do worry about new members though.  As the groups have grown people understandably separate out into smaller groups (I hope not cliques although can see why people would say that).   People don’t see the same people so regularly so at events new people get missed as it’s not obvious they are new or just someone you don’t know. Plus people are often distracted, catching up with someone they have known for 3 years but haven’t managed to cross paths with in 6 months, and despite best intentions might not make it over to talk to that person on their second visit. 

Also where do you start?  When I started out the local HE group had 2 activities a week and if you wanted to meet home eders you went along to them.  I can only imagine what looking at this whole long list of stuff on offer does to people and how scary it is to try and find your way in.  Because there is so much on so easy to put it off to another day if you are nervous about going along.  Sadly for shy/anxious children, those with ASD, or those newly deregistered the scale of numbers must be off putting.  We regularly get at least 25 and can be 50+ children to social activities, the group that runs tutorials gets many, many more.  That many children even when actively engaged are noisy.

As an organiser the biggest problem is how do you cap numbers without guilt (lots of guilt)? I find myself frequently booking more than one workshop from the same people just so we can fit in more but that is still not enough.  In the middle of a set of two workshops where we will end up accommodating around 70 children. The same activity was offered on a drop on basis a very easy trip away only a month ago and still I ended up with a waiting list.  Not just me doing it either, virtually every local trip/activity fills really quickly.  I can imagine running a trip/activity is a scary prospect for many now.  The organising is a much bigger job than it was.  Invite only stuff makes me feel uncomfortable, we’ve been left out and hasn’t felt nice but when you can only accommodate a handful I get wanting to make sure it is your child’s friends.

One real positive of the growth is after a few years where every activity was dominated by younger children and the only way to ‘socialise’ with over 1o’s was to attend tutorials is we do have a real thriving group of 11-14yo out and about at trips and social activities, which is very nice to see.

I am not sure where I was going with this (started it too long ago!) more a general observation and wondering what the next 5 years will bring. Already we see moves where organisations are taking responsibility and creating events for home educators to book with them. Wonder if that is the future? More organised with services provided professionally/semi-professionally? Is it the death of every one bringing an activity to do at a church hall table style of group? What will all this mean for the feeling of ‘community’?

For us personally we are happy, we get a good mix of big group socialising with lots of ages, time with friends, time with family and time just us. We don’t have anywhere near enough time to spend as much time with each friend as we’d like unfortunately, but have accepted that we can’t do it all.

Taking our Time

Friday was a much better day. 
It started with watching a documentary about conception, Sam was quite disgusted and Pete was sitting at the table cringing and asking if I was sure this was appropriate.  They do make me laugh 🙂
We quickly did English and Spanish.
Maths had us making and using timelines.  Rather than make one of his own life, since we have done that many times, we got down the What on Earth Wallbook and did a question and answer session.  We must be the only home eders to really not like these.  We find there is far too much info on them for us to absorb, neither of us do busy pages.  Looks good on display though but this is probably only the 3rd time we’ve used it in about 5 years.
We had two days worth of Latin to do so we revised every flashcard and then recycled them ready to start a different course after half term as this one isn’t working well any more.  The big pile is the right pile 🙂
It was now about 10 am and the day had reached a crossroads. So I gave Sam the choice, we only had one item left on the list for the day a ‘winter story walk’, which would involve going out, but we did have left over items from Thurs which could be done mostly from sofa.

He opted for out so we headed down the beach.  We talked about what we could see, hear, smell, taste and touch so he could do a descriptive piece when we got home.  We skimmed stones, built stone walls and watched the tide destroy them and paddled.

Sun came out while we were down there so we spent a bit of time geocaching (3 logged).

We were at the village by now so popped in to a couple of charity shops, had lunch in Subway and first ice cream of the year.

I managed to update Pokemon Go while Sam had his ice cream so we did some Pokemon hunting on the way home.

When we got home Sam wrote up his creative writing piece and then played on his kindle.
In the evening I managed to win at All The Kings Men (bit like chess)- twice!  First win ever I think.  After a very rare take away curry I settled down to watch a documentary on the history of archaeology while I did some sewing.  Sam went to bed but got up again (bit unsettled a night for some reason) and watched the documentary with me. 

Fasting and Friends

Thursday was a rubbish day really.  Most of morning wasted at an appointment that never happened. I usually try to keep appointments to Fridays/holidays so they don’t mess with our routines but for medical tests you go with what you can get as they trump other stuff.  Can’t look after others if don’t look after myself.  I’d fasted for this test too so wasn’t feeling all that well by the time I cut my losses.
Then despite it not being half term yet in our county the trampolining place was crammed to the rafters with other people’s kids! I escaped to the cafe only to find a party in there making that unpleasant. Plus they don’t sell drinkable coffee.
Productivity not surprisingly low so we end the half term with jobs on our planner which is not what I would want.
Positives of the day were finding out that Sam’s military strategy computer games have given him an unexpectedly good knowledge of world capitals. I got to sit and chat with people I don’t see much of at trampolining. Then I found Sam huddled in a corner with a group of friends that were his good group of friends 5/6 years ago but we haven’t seen that much of for a good few years but you wouldn’t know that from how comfortable they were. Oh and I got a bear hug from my friend’s daughter – with mine not huggy types I have to rely on others for those bone crunching kids hugs.
Days like that happen though and onwards and upwards and all that.

 

SeaCity

Our previous visits here hadn’t left me with a favourable opinion so I wasn’t expecting great things when we visited on Weds but we ended up there for nearly 5 hours and really enjoyed it.  Our reason for going was really to treat a friend to a day out as they had never been, and they help us out loads with lifts. 

One of the things I have pulled back on a lot over the years is doing educational trips with groups, unless there is a considerable discount or workshop involved as in a group the ‘education’ side inevitaably gets lost to play.  Not that play doesn’t have a place and sometimes we do stuff predominantly for social/play reasons.  However, we find that Sam and Grace are a very good combination in a museum setting.  Outside of that sort of setting there can be a fair amount of mutual antagonism and almost sibling level insult hurling.  In the right set up though they pair up incredibly well, they are pretty much intellectual equals and rather than distract each other they spark each other off, pointing things out, discussing stuff and help maintain interest. 

Personally one of my favourite things about this building are the original features from it being a courthouse.  The cells are now the toilets.

We spent well over 2 hours in the Titanic gallery.  The court house was not surprisingly the kid’s favourite.

After lunch we did the history of Southampton gallery which I don’t find that inspiring but when you compare to Portsmouth museums is thousands of times better.  Do like the moving stained glass, that is a nice touch. The temporary exhibition was about the story of cruise ships.  Interesting snapshot of how other (richer) people lived!

Topsy Turvey Day

Isn’t an exaggeration to say I really love home ed today.  Having had Jack home sick for a week really does highlight how much less of an impact ill health has when home eding.

Today Sam was complaining of feeling ill.   He fell back to sleep on the sofa so I left him there and when he woke 3 hrs later he stayed there and watched the last two episodes of Sam Willis’s Outlaws series as he fancied rewatching it after recent weapons series.

It was about 1pm by then and he made lunch and seemed fine.  So we did English, Latin, Spanish and Maths inc playing a time game.  Then curled up and did some reading of Factory Girl.

He then played on the computer and baked a cake.

Do have to love the flexibility and freedom home ed gives.

Bridges

With a stomach bug in the house last week we’d postponed our science session to this.
Morning was spent on maths, English, latin and Spanish. Sam finished the physical geography section of our unit study on Asia.
Then we spent a bit of time sorting out coins to use as weights for the afternoon and putting away a Tesco shop.
We started watching Victorian Slum and then read a new My Story Factory Girl until everyone showed up.

They started off with a sheet of paper and 5 paper clips and using what they’d learned from the chocolate bridge of a month or so ago made and tested bridges to span a 20cm.  They were encouraged to then improve their designs.  The group was set up with the aim of doing the Crest awards. However as they are very much child led and group work focussed we thought it would be a good idea to build up to the level of cooperation and independence they would need.  But they are clicking and working very, very well as a group. I thought we’d be months to get to the stage I could simply walk away giving them written instructions like I did yesterday, but very pleasantly surprised at exactly how easy they find it to cooperate.  It was watching this particular bunch squashed around a table on a train one day playing games though that was the trigger for the group so not a complete surprise that they are good together just pleased at exactly how good.  Think it might be added to my to do list today to track down our regional Crest coordinator and try and get wheels in motion.

After that they shared their ideas and built a newspaper bridge.  Which held the lightest child (our poor guinea pig) for a few seconds before collapsing. Note the human safety net 😉

Version 2 was an intricate woven affair (with a fair amount of tape!).
It did hold every child in turn!
After 7 children it started to give though so Sam finished off the job.Then a tug of war with the rolled up newspaper began.
While all that was going on the parents were able to have a look at various KS3 books we have between us and discuss how we do stuff at home. We’ve all got current yr 6 or 7 children and all go for relaxed structure so nice to have a chance to chat. I so rarely do!

Day Off

We finished Thursday with our planner for the week clear.  Very nice feeling, made Friday in to a lovely, relaxed, pottering sort of day.
Sam started the day with a long lie in while I went to the doctor.
Then there was Beano and book reading, board games, computer play (Sam), sewing (me), we watched a full drama-documentary on the Great Wall of China, there was brick and airfix soldier play (they have been in boxes for a long time of late but for many years were the only toys he regularly played with), long baths and early nights.
A much needed good, relaxed end to the week.

Puberty is Done!

Part of me would love to completely unschool I completely and utterly embrace the idea that children learn what they are interested in.  However, ignoring the fact that both Sam and I are creatures of habit and life is a lot happier when we have a ood routine, I major reason for not totally embracing the whole unschooling thing is a lack of faith they will learn everything they need to this way and a feeling that waiting for children to show an interest is limiting to them.  Sam has embraced many things that aren’t his natural interests and he probably wouldn’t have got to on his own but by presenting something to him in the right way to grab his attention it has sunk in.
The reason for this is that I have been waiting for ever for Sam to ask ‘those questions’ I don’t believe in the birds and the bees talk I believe in answering questions when asked to the level they can understand and need to know.  Only child number 2 has been flatly refusing to ask questions about things he probably needs the answer too in the not too distant future.
Hence opting to do a human body project for science this year as a route in.  Normally I let Sam choose the projects but I felt this one needed doing.
So we’ve read books and answered questions from scientific point. I expect more questions but at least it is now planted in his mind.  This is the book we have – highly recommend – they have a girls version too.
Dealing with reproduction from a scientific perspective meant that we spent a lot of time discussing dominant and recessive genes.  I have a lot of recessive genes and Sam has a lot of dominant ones! 
I learned the name for the lump some people have on their ear – it is called Darwin’s Ear Point. I love how much HE teaches me. Sorry for sideways photo.

In a not really anything to do with home ed more a pointless pottering thing to do, we filled a balloon with water beads.  It is great fun to squish. 

So Many Biscuits

One of my primary aims of this year was for Sam to develop more independence over managing his ‘workload’. Evidence suggests that it is working.  We have routines and he knows where the tasks are noted so more often than not lately he’s just started getting on with stuff.
Which when you are running an activity for about 30 children and want 5 biscuits a child and spares for breakages is a bit of a godsend.
It was a hot morning!  In case anyone is interested this is the recipe I always use if I need biscuits to hold shape and they have the advantage of being quick to bake so good for mass production.  Do chill the dough for a couple of hours though – well worth it.

We were trying different icing techniques.  Sam got some quite impressive hearts and waves.  I gave up on techniques then as they wanted to do their own things.  Always go with the flow.

Mainly as I couldn’t face the cleaning of the floor that going outside would have entailed and it is much easier to tidy up if the children are otherwise engaged, I gave them a length of paper and pens to write ideas for future sessions.  Gave me some laughs but also interesting.  One thing that is becoming apparant is how much this monthly session is coalescing into a group mentality rather than a collection of families.  Children look and listen to me and apart from those supporting younger siblings, parents muck in to help the group as a whole as needed or gossip on the edge.

We spent the rest of the session on playing ‘chair football’.  Good evener out of height, speed and strength so fun for all 🙂  Surprised how many did immediately jump in to play.  Never sure of doing games at home ed groups as does scare some of the quieter ones but they all seem keen at the moment and I am on a quest to sort out a big enough parachute for a large number of older children before the summer.  Oh and reading their wish list balls for dodge ball.