A short pictorial thought this time to remind you, whilst you can get out and about during the holidays, what’s THE most important of all subjects for your child to learn about. You’ll see why when you read the original post here.
Since it’s that time of year again I thought I’d bring up the subject of holidays and term times, with this story from ‘A Home Education Notebook‘.
Even after Home Educating for a while I could still be influenced by them even though I knew that education didn’t have anything to do with term times at all.
They were usually brought to my attention by the children – and the fact that most other families are controlled by them.
Even this one word could make me feel I was about to be manipulated, probably by something I may not like.
“Ye-es?” I’d reply suspiciously.
“Ruth’s breaking up from school today; it’s end of term.”
“Oh, is it?” I’d feign ignorance knowing full well what was coming.
“Can we break up too?” She’d give a big sheepish grin.
I’d give the usual answer. “Well, I wasn’t aware we had anything to break up from.”
Another grin. “But can we?”
I’d pause, keeping the suspense and the pretence going a little longer. Then; “Yea, go on then – let’s.”
And she’d bounce off to go and do the same things she would be doing anyway, ‘breaking up’ or not.
We’d sometimes go through this little ritual when the schools finished their terms and my children knew their school friends were available for play during the day.
It was partly that, but also because our children did spend some time in school earlier on in their lives and, although freed from it, they still wanted the sense of celebration and release their mates were feeling.
And why not? We all need a change and a celebration. A release from that constant feeling that we perhaps should be doing something more educational than just having fun. It took quite a while for us to get over that idiocy and realise that education just went on all the time, term times, learn times, fun times and holidays.
We educated our children in a mostly autonomous way, with them deciding very much what they worked on but we’d still motivate them to be busy doing something. We’d encourage them to try new things, make and invent, play actively, be engaged, to read, we’d go out, meet others, whatever.
But it was good for all of us, adults and children in the family, to have a break from all that motivation. To switch off the driving force for a while and stop looking for activities or projects that would stimulate, and searching the internet for active learning sites.
We could drift. Do things that merely took our fancy and I could stop looking for an educational slant.
So, on one ‘end-of-term’ occasion, I thought I’d observe what the kids did instead.
The eldest took a heap of books, magazines, sketch book and pens out into the garden, spread herself out on a rug and designed all day, researching her books for inspiration, studying other people’s work and incorporating and adapting their ideas into her own work.
The youngest decided to build a den out there. This required searching out suitable materials within her environment, putting them together and solving the problem of making the structure strong and upright in discussion with me or whoever else was available. Then she spent the rest of the day in creative play, making up stories, reading to her toys, imaginative ideas passing through her faster than hot biscuits passed through her mouth.
In other words the children, ‘on holiday’, covered these skills; reading, research, writing and use of language, drawing and hand eye coordination skills, problem solving, estimating, analysis, use of materials, investigation, construction, exploration, interpretation, discussion, development of imagination and ideas and creativity. All those skills that teachers had to force reluctant children to practice in schools, usually in a boringly academic and repetitive manner, because the children had been removed from the natural opportunity to practice them anyway.
My children had been busy with all this simply because their minds were freed up from the confines of ‘doing education’, a trap we sometimes find ourselves falling into how ever autonomous we try and be.
It was a good reminder that we don’t always have to be forcing everything in order to further a child’s education. And just because there are not set schedules, timetables, term times or regulated practice, it does not mean there will be no learning taking place.
So, just in case you’re wondering what to do in the holidays, just back off and see what happens. Encourage them to develop their own ideas to relieve the ‘I’m bored’ syndrome, and keep these five simple daily practices in mind:
Be physically active at some point everyday.
Get outside, in green spaces if you can but playgrounds and streets are just as good.
Observe the wonderful world around you – on your doorstep – by giving time to looking deeply and mindfully.
Plan, shop for, prepare and cook meals or bake together.
Encourage them in their own projects beyond the usual screen based ones!
All will develop important life skills without you even realising – trust me. And even better, they will enhance your well being too – an important skill for all.
End of July and traditionally the time when you don’t have to worry about education for a while as the schools break for summer!
Of course, this year, there’s been little traditional about education and the routine learning life most are familiar with as Lockdown kicked in and everyone was learning without school. Life has been up-skittled, both for school users and those already home educating whose learning life was also disrupted by being unable to go out and about like normal.
It’s all been very weird. Hard work. And worrying for all families. I know there are thousands worrying about their children’s learning. The original home educators among them, even though they’re used to a slightly less orthodox learning schedule.
So I reckon it’s time to take a break from all that fretting about education and learning, about how much to do, or worrying about what has not got done! Now’s the time, as the lockdown restrictions hopefully lessen during the summer, to enjoy the outdoors even more, enjoy family activities safely spaced, and let go concerns about making it ‘educational’.
You never know; you may see magic happen.
For there’s something important to know about learning – something many home schoolers already know;
Even though you may not be thinking about it, it will still be going on.
Children learn and develop every day, from everything they do, see and experience.
You can’t stop them learning. They’ll be developing in ways that enhance their skills and understanding which will in turn reflect on their progress when they get back to more formal activities.
So just enjoy your summer. Stay safe. and trust in the process.
And I may take a little blogging break too and return later in the summer with more words and pictures! Although I’ve tried that before and it hasn’t always worked for, like with learning; you think you’re not doing it but ideas are generated all the time.
Sometimes all we need is some space to let new ideas flow, children and adults alike!
Someone told me recently that although they’re not home educators, some of the posts they read here are still useful to help them understand and keep a healthy mind towards their children’s learning whilst they go through school.
He’s not the first to have said that! I’m really chuffed! Because education is education wherever it’s happening and whatever you’re doing, home educating or not.
So with those parents in mind, along with all the home schoolers who visit here, I was thinking again about the holidays (see my recent blog post ‘Is there ever a break from education’) and how parents worry that they should be doing stuff with the kids through term breaks, or the kids will regress.
Firstly, they won’t regress – as much as schools like to threaten that! And secondly, it’s true; we should be spending time engaged with the children whenever it is – term-time or not. We should equally be spending time not engaged with the children. This is all part of parenting – and as some fail to understand – education is very much dependent on parenting!
But we don’t need to stress over it. Most of what we do with our children will further their skills and knowledge in some way or another, from outings to cooking, from gaming to catching a bus, watching stuff together, chatting – it doesn’t have to be academic. Small things can make huge differences.
Taking that further, there are four very simple things to do in the holidays that can impact on your children’s development, but which might be overlooked as we are seduced by stuff that’s more glam or expensive.
Read to them as much as possible, be a reading family; encourage reading by reading yourself – doesn’t matter what
Talk with them and respond to their thoughts, questions, ideas
Encourage their curiosity (which is their inbuilt desire to learn) by facilitating activities that involve; exploration, variety, investigation, experimentation and creativity in all its many forms
Be active as much as possible, essential not just for body, but heart and brain health too!
These can cost nothing but your time, but by doing the above at some point every day you’ll be furthering their education in ways you may not understand but which make an important difference.
Whenever we approached the time of year associated with school holidays we always got asked in relation to being home educators; “Will you stop educating for the holidays?”
Which just goes to show how most people are still conditioned to think that education only ever happens within certain times and structures like timetables and terms.
Of course; it doesn’t!
We witnessed proof of that regularly throughout all the years our children were learning out of school. And the longer you home educate the more you’ll see that happen in your house too. How learning takes place all the time, through all activities, even sitting on the toilet we discovered one day when a little voice pipes up from behind the bathroom door;
“Mum, how does the wee get inside?” And we have a short biology lesson at night before bed.
These are the little ‘lessons’ the children remember the most. And despite seeming a terrible hotch-potch style of learning, the amazing computer that is the brain pieces the bits together into a coherent body of learning and knowledge that contributes to the children becoming educated. Consequently, holidays don’t mean the children stop learning – so you can cease to worry about that!
However, there is another aspect that you home educating parents might like to consider and a question that regularly arose in my exhausted mind early on – do we have to do ‘learning’ all the time? Is there ever a rest?
Well the answer is this; although children never switch off from learning – it’s just a natural part of how they live their inquisitive lives. (See the chapter ‘What about term times, learn times and holidays’ in ‘A Home Education Notebook’). But as parents you have to occasionally switch off from the incessant drive to make use of every learning opportunity (like the toilet incident). And you have to also switch off the feeling of guilt if you don’t!
If you step back from it occasionally nothing terrible will happen! Okay – you might have missed an educational opportunity, but this will not scar your child for life and there will be other opportunities. More importantly, if you don’t, you’re the one who will be scarred from not giving yourself a mental break and keeping it all in balance.
Balance develops healthy individuals; children and parents.
I thought this was worth a mention because like the saying; once a parent – always a parent, it is also the case that; once a home educator – always a home educator. In both cases you have to find a healthy and balanced way to proceed through it all.
Don’t ever fret that your children are not learning whilst you step back a bit. They actually need you to back off a bit as much as you need to. And never feel guilty. Just because you home educate, it does not mean that you have to utilise every second. Kids at school wouldn’t. Teachers wouldn’t either.
So you could use the term time holidays as an opportunity to step back, or you could just try and create a generally balanced family life and approach to learning and resting whatever you’re all doing and whenever you’re doing it, and disregard what the school lot are doing and the term times associated with them!
What better time than this to celebrate the season of rebirth, regrowth and the earth’s burgeoning vitality. When days of longer light can make me feel that my own sap is rising along with that of the trees and plants!
Spring amid the concrete
And what better time than this also to get yourselves and the children outside, experiencing and learning about our essential connection to the earth, how all species are connected to the life of others and imperative for the longevity of the planet, for our own health and wellbeing and that of the children.
I was reading recently about how the increase in childhood conditions and diseases may be exacerbated by our children’s decreasing contact with the earth, the soil, fresh air and green spaces in particular. And how parents should do all they can to reconnect, to encourage learning about the natural world supporting us, and perpetuate a care of it. From the tallest tree, to the tiniest insect, and all those essential organisms we can’t even see – it’s all important!
What better time to do this than when Spring makes it easier to be outside, when it is so pretty and inviting and downright dramatic with its April showers!
So why not get out to spot and experience:
Birds – with bits in their mouths, either for nest building or for baby feeding, or singing their Springtime songs
Insects – from creepy crawlies in the crevices to the first bee or butterfly you’ve seen this year
Rain – appreciating the fact that it is essential for survival. How often do you consider that? And consider also ways in which you can economise with your water usage – waste less of this essential resource
Young – the best time for seeing newborns, especially lambs. There may be a farm or a centre nearby you can visit, a river for ducklings
Plants, shrubs and tress that are beginning to leaf up or bloom. If you have a garden get the kids involved in growing things, in pots if you don’t, in order to learn about the vital elements needed in order to grow; nourishment, light, water – which we need too! Along with health giving contact with soil!
You may live in a concrete environment, but that is all the more reason you need to teach the children about the earth that lies underneath and to find ways to get them back in contact with it. Otherwise how will they know it’s there, grows our food, supports our lives, and that it needs our attention? Use the season to celebrate this earth and the abundance of life bursting around us, on which all ultimately depend, however city central we live.
I get fed up of looking at words so occasionally I do a bit of artwork especially at Christmas when I get the urge to make a few cards.
And I’m posting a card for you, dear readers, because Christmas seems like the perfect time to say thank you.
Thank you to you all. To all who’ve been with me through my books, to all who’ve shown such warm support for my work over the past year – for many years some of you. Your little messages here, on Facebook and other platforms, your reviews and your kind remarks have kept me going.
It’s been heartwarming. Thank you.
May your Christmas be heartwarming too and full of love and may that continue throughout the coming year.
I just had a super little holiday in the Yorkshire Dales. The best thing about it was being outside on the hills and hollows from dawn to dusk almost, the weather being absolutely perfect.
It was the perfect holiday for me because outside in a natural environment is where I really love to be and, as you’ll know if you’re connected to me on Instagram, I’ll take most weathers. But last week’s constant light and sunshine was an amazing bonus I couldn’t resist. So constant, in fact, I nearly had heatstroke.
The only thing that was less than perfect was the bag of rubbish!
There we were tramping up this hill, so far from anywhere that only the dedicated few would make the effort to go. So you’d think it would only be folks who really appreciate it who’d go there. Yet what does one of those folks do? Decide to leave their plastic bag of picnic rubbish; sandwich packets and plastic bottles, polluting that glorious environment, expecting someone else to pick up after them.
I ask you – what kind of mentality do they have?
We were in exquisitely beautiful countryside, we’re actually able to walk this land as a privilege not a right, we are as such extremely lucky, and that’s how people wish to repay that privilege? By expecting others to clean up after them as they take their personal recreation and enjoyment. This being land where people live and work and depend upon for their livelihood? Never mind the risk to other living things.
How do people get so ignorant? I fail to understand what kind of education they can have had.
As I walked back down the hill, I picked up the dangerous bag, carried it back and disposed of it.
It would have been easy not to.
But I’ve learnt from my daughter. Her integrity almost puts mine to shame. I would never throw litter down – but I don’t often pick it up after others either, as she does.
She and I were walking together through the park in town where someone else has flung their discarded litter about the place. There are bins provided – very near – but no, it’s too much effort to carry litter to a bin. So she picks it up and puts it in the bin in passing. Such a simple unselfish act, she takes upon herself. She does it whenever she walks through and sees the need.
We’re often accused of making our home schooled kids dependent – or depriving them of independence by keeping them at home. (Total balderdash as you can read from this recent post) Yet I see her independently taking responsibility not only for her own rubbish but for the rubbish of those ignorant gits who are dependent on others picking up after them.
Ironic isn’t it!
The hills and remote places were otherwise glorious. And do a great deal to heal the sometimes less glorious thoughts that creep in about the less glorious others we have to share them with.
I’m off on a little holiday. And looking forward to refreshing and rubbing the mould off my stale bits!
It’s easy not to notice it growing. But when I get so bored that complacency and loss of love of the nice things sets in so bad that I realise I’ve even got used to life looking grey and fuzzy, I know I need to do something about it.
New experiences recharge and polish up those rusty complacent bits.
It’s the same for the kids. they seem to come alive in new places.
Far from switching off their brains, new experiences boost their development and education in ways we sometimes fail to appreciate. New experiences bring new opportunities for discussion and questions, consequently new language (even if still English), new imaginings, development of new neural pathways and growth of intelligence. It’s all good stuff.
So whenever you have the chance to get away and take the kids with you rest assured you’ll be developing their mental agility as you develop their horizons – yours along with them. And enjoying yourself meanwhile. Holidays are as educational (if not more) as studying at home.
Home educators have the chance to do that all the time, funds allowing. Anyway, cheap holidays (we used the relatives in different parts of the country mercilessly) are as valuable as exotic ones. It’s the newness that counts.
It’s such a shame that schooling inhibits so many families from doing the same, pretending it disrupts the child’s education. It doesn’t really. What it more accurately disrupts is ticks on sheets and stats on tables, but I’ve never considered that true education anyway.
True education takes place in true life – not necessarily school life. And it takes place any where at any time, as most home educators discover, whether on holiday or not.
So wherever you take yours, may it be a happy and restorative (if educative) one and make your mouldy bits shiny again! More whenI’m back.
One of the beautiful things about life with young children – as well as the children themselves, of course – is their awe and delight in
Take a moment with the kids to appreciate the little things like droplets on a feather
the simplest of little things. A ladybird on the pavement. A tree for climbing. A hole in the undergrowth just right for crawling into. A wall for walking along. The feel of mud through fingers. The splashy noise of puddles.
It’s such a magic time and parents get the joy of sharing these things – if you take the time, that is.
Are you missing it?
A way of not missing it is to slow down and look at the little things as if they were new to you too. Indulge in the delight of really looking – like kids do. Of looking through the lens of their eyes, seeing things as if for the first time. What better way to spend the weekend?
Easter is traditionally a time of regrowth and rebirth. Maybe you could do your own bit of rebirthing and learn from your kids – learn from the little people who are usually learning from you. We’re never too grown up to change. Learn how to see with a different view – their view – their delight.
So how about, whatever the weather, leaving the phones and tablets behind, getting out in a green space somewhere, and observing the world with renewed eyes, attitude and time frame?
Take time to replenish yourself by going at their pace, change your momentum and the way you race by all the tiny wonders around without really seeing, without really feeling the awe. Slow down. Look closely. Absorb yourself. It’s quite a meditative practice – just what we need sometimes!
And renewing yourself will help you be the best parent you can be – one that’s never to busy to enjoy the little things with the kids. They’ll remember you for that!