Tag Archives: teaching

Organic, Free-Range Children

So Matilda’s gap year has come to an end. 2014 has been an adventure in homeschooling. I’ve had a teacher’s dream job – a classroom with one gifted student, eager to learn.

This is the year I made new friends, learnt Japanese, went on interesting excursions and got re-acquainted with our local library.  Matilda now plays guitar, tutors one of Christopher’s friends, plays a mean game of netball and can rollerskate with the best of them.  She also walks taller, stands up for herself and chatters warmly and effusively to her new friends.

She’s still a sensitive child – she wouldn’t be Matilda if she wasn’t – but her eyes have lost that hunted, anxious look, she eats her lunch and goes to sleep at night.

Of course, it hasn’t all been easy.  It’s hard work organizing regular social catch-ups for Matilda and regular sanity-breaks for myself, and I often feel I could be doing more with her (her brain is enormous).  It’s no picnic having to explain myself everywhere I go, either (No, she’s not sick, we homeschool.  You want me to explain my reasons for homeschooling in 140 characters or less?  Forget it.  She’s sick.)

But it’s a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

I love the lifestyle.  I love learning about how Matilda learns.  I love the rich curriculum and I love being able to tailor it to Matilda’s needs.  I love the freedom and the simplicity.  I love socializing with other families.  I love the space it creates for extracurricular activities.

I feel like the most stress I’ve dealt with this year has been related to Christopher’s school.  The pick ups and the drop offs.  The tiredness and crankiness.  The readers and the homework books.  The bullying and standard-issue cruelty.  And the endless, endless admin.

Homeschooling is rather strange, I guess.  But sending my children off to a one-size-fits-all institution for an inefficiently mass-produced education is a different sort of strange.  Not that I’m anti-school.  And not that I’m telling you to homeschool or judging you for not homeschooling or waiting for you to list the manifold reasons why you can’t homeschool.  I’m just trying to work out what works for my family.

All through the year, Christopher had begged me to homeschool him too and I’ve struggled to find a reason not to do it.  It was difficult saying goodbye to the school, but in another way, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

So, I’m committing to one more year of homeschool.  After this year, things get a little more complicated.  Harry will be old enough for school and Matilda will be in Grade 6 and might benefit from a year at school before she goes to high school.  But I’m only doing things one year at a time.  I will have a clearer idea of where to go later this year.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

Am I a mad person?

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Homeschool – Week One (and a bit)

Oh, blog!  How I have missed you!

I have been homeschooling Matilda for a week now, and, while I’m sure we are still in our honeymoon period, it has been rather blissful.  My darling girl seems so much more relaxed these days, like a weight has been lifted from her small shoulders.  Annie and Harry have been easy to manage as well, and happy to potter about during school time.  We’ve had a few minor disasters, like Annie consuming an entire tub of butter and finding Matilda’s precious fruit-scented highlighters and doing this to Matilda’s Maths book:

scribbles on maths book

but this is no more than usual.  Matilda shrugged when she saw Annie’s handiwork and said philosophically, “At least it smells nice now!”.  Harry stuck blu-tack up his nose last week too, but that happened outside of school hours so it doesn’t count.

Lunch tends to be a relaxed affair.  We work really hard in the morning to get everything done, with a little break at 10 for morning tea.  Matilda loves to set up picnics for her brother and sister.

piccnic basket

Twenty minutes worth of peace for me to eat my own lunch was an unexpected bonus of this scheme…
picnic

For the first week, I’ve been sticking to the core curriculum (Maths, English and Inquiry Unit) and keeping it simple and achievable.  I’ve also done some assessment to work out what areas I’ll need to focus on most.  I keep a PDF of the Grade Four curriculum standards in my phone and I take sneaky peeks of it at times to make sure I’m keeping on track.  As we get more settled, I’ll introduce Art and Music, Religious Education, Japanese and Phys Ed, plus maybe some additional Science and Technology (some will be covered in the Inquiry Unit).

Which brings me to the most important thing: our Inquiry Unit for this term involves Matilda setting up her very own blog!  It’s connected to my account, I hold the password and will have to manually approve all of the comments before Matilda sees them, so I think I’ve covered my bases as far as cyber-safety goes.  Matilda’s much more motivated to write for me when there is a distinct purpose and real audience to write for.  I can’t imagine she would put the effort in if it were just a report for me to correct.

Matilda's First Post

Here is the link:

http://matildasgapyear.wordpress.com

Matilda’s very happy to adopt the pseudonym I assigned her in my blog, Roald Dahl’s Matilda is one of her favourite books, after all.  If you get the chance, pop over there and leave an encouraging word or a ‘like’.  Comments give her such pure glee (so, she’s just like the rest of us, I guess)

So, all in all, it’s been pretty smooth sailing this past week.  Yesterday, Tilly was tired and reluctant to do her Maths.  I gotta admit, it was deathly boring stuff.  But inspiration struck and I pulled out the toy abacus and we did the problems that way.  Later, when Matilda was suffering from brain fog when trying to write a plan for her next blog post, I showed her a trick.    She wrote out any ideas she wanted to include as dot points in random order, then we got out the scissors and cut out strips with a dot point on each.  We shuffled the strips until we got them into an order that made sense, then stuck them back on the page.  Plan done.  Magic!

But, for all my boasting, it’s been keeping me humble as well.  When the Student Wellbeing Teacher from Christopher Robin’s school asked Matilda what she had been doing at school, Matilda shrugged and said “nothing much!”.  And when Matilda’s nanna asked what Harry and Annie do while school is on, Matilda announced “they just watch TV!” (OK, so they watch Play School while we do Maths, but they’ve always watched Play School in the morning.  It won’t kill them…)

I’m still learning, so if any of you know of any handy blogs or online resources I should check out, please let me know!