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.