Well very quickly my dreams of a lovely free range education with lots of home ed group socialising, autonomous learning and projects following Sam’s interests proved to be a pipedream and the blog went largely unposted on.
Firstly I looked around at what was on offer home education group wise and the answer was not a lot really. There were social meets in Adventure Playgrounds, one was ruled out as I couldn’t get back for Rainbows, the other was in a really scummy venue that I hate, I would have considered it but Sam didn’t want to go. Actually Sam seldom wants to socialise so anything we do has to be driven by me, if I am a bit meh then it is not sustainable as an activity as if I am dragging my feet and I ask Sam then that is it we won’t go, very few things he would choose to leave the house for if it was up to him. Things this side of the harbour like swimming/bowling and a new group that started up were all bad timing or we tried and Sam refused to go again for one reason or another. Found ourselves in a bit of a limbo as he was too young for most activities but emotionally too old for the ones he was the right age for. His best friends are Jack, his brother who is a mature 11 and Oscar, who is just Oscar (and wouldn’t want him to be anything but), Sam is not sure how to deal with the average 7yo and tends to recoil back into himself.
Autonomous learning, you’d think I’d have realised by now that we are not an ‘autonomous learning family’. I have no doubt that children do learn autonomously and certainly see that my boys can and do learn a lot from play and exploration. However, my children don’t seem to want to play and explore, it is only when I ban all the things they do want to do (Xbox/computer/kindle) that they may consider playing, generally they will lie on the sofa with a book they have already read at least twice asking when they can go on…
Sam would quite happily open up Minecraft at 7am and would be dragged off it for bed. If he is playing he won’t even come off for food unless told he must, he will not go out with friends etc. Oh yes, I am sure there is a lot that can be learned from Minecraft but much of that requires the child to be keen to explore around the idea. Not Sam, any hints, suggestions, attempts to engage him in anything around the subject are waved away, he will spend months doing the same thing over and over. And from experience if it is not Minecraft it is something else. Sam is an obsessive, singleminded personality. And so is Jack to a lesser extent. May be a boy thing.
I have come to the conclusion that my role is to steer my children along, finding ways to interest them in learning the basics and providing them with the materials, books and wealth of experiences to tempt their interest and on the rare occasion something does enthuse them going with it.
And that brings us to projects. I knew it already really from numerous lapbook related fiascos over the years but needed this year to bring it home — nothing kills interest (mine and the kids) in a subject quicker than doing a ‘project’ on it, immediately we start to move away from what we were interested in and get caught up in activities that we must do and finish, it becomes a chore.
Well that is why last year failed, but why are we back here?
Well it turned out that I wasn’t forcing Sam to dance to a particular tune, we were following the right path already, I just lost sight of it. Reflecting, I can accept who we are and that all of us need some level of routine, rules and boundaries for our own peace of mind, recognising that we are happier spending our time as a family or in small groups of people we grow to really care about, and knowing that the best way in to a subject for Sam is through reading about it, so rather than waiting for them to want to go to the world I have to bring the world to them through books. So there we go Life, Love and Literature pretty neatly sums up our home education approach