If there’s one question I get asked more than any others, it’s “so what do you actually do all day?” I usually answer with “We live our life”, but sometimes, especially for those who don’t quite “get” what we’re doing, it can be a little hard to understand how living life is actually learning, and how a natural life-education can be related back to the strict confines of a school curriculum. So I thought I’d do a little “day in the life” kind of thing, except our days are so varied in experiences and we don’t really have a strong routine, so I changed it to a weekly snapshot. This is basically how we spend our days, and how I link it back to the curriculum in order to report to the Department of Education. And yes, I do get rather creative when I’m ticking those boxes 😉
Last Monday was a public holiday here, so we had Husband home with us. I cleaned the house and stayed inside most of the day, to let the girls spend some time with their Dad, one on one. They helped him in the garden, raking leaves and pulling weeds. In our home, we view this as socialising too. Learning conflict resolution, open and honest communication and fostering a healthy relationship, between family members is just as, if not more, important than doing so with strangers, acquaintances and friends. Learning respect, honesty, compassion, empathy and loyalty starts at home. During the afternoon I implement what I call “quiet time”. Miss 1 obviously naps in the middle of the day, and it wasn’t all that long ago when Miss 3 did the same. So for a couple of hours after lunch, in order to allow the baby to sleep, the girls pick a quiet activity that they would like to do. Sometimes they watch TV, sometimes Miss 5 does Reading Eggs or Maths Seeds, sometimes they paint or draw, sometimes they actually choose to have a lay down. As long as it’s a quiet, calm activity, they please themselves. This particular day Miss 5 made some noise about being bored – on a side note, Husband and I refuse to control or structure every minute of the day for the girls. We feel that “being bored” is a healthy part of a learning environment. “Being bored” will encourage a child to think for herself, to act for herself, to practice initiative and get creative. One of the problems with school for young children, is the level of structure. So much so that, after a time, they don’t know how to entertain themselves without someone telling them what to do – so after a little while of being bored, Miss 5 decided to build a rocket ship. She picked up some loose bolts, screws, bits of wire and odds and ends from the garage, wrapped a bottle in foil and added her bits and bobs to it. Today we ticked a box for socialising, science, health, physical exercise (in the garden with Daddy), as well as science, art, design and tech (building the rocket ship).
As with most state schools, the local primary school had a pupil free day, after the public holiday. Miss 5s best friend comes from a family where both parents work, so to help them out – and because she’s adorable and we love her – Bestie spent the day with us on Tuesday, while her folks were at work. There was lots of cuddles and giggles and general, secret best friend business 🙂 They rode their bikes and jumped on the trampoline (physical exercise and socialisation), they also painted pictures for each other, writing their friends names on their paintings (art and english), they made and decorated their own cupcakes (science, art and health), did a variety of jigsaw puzzles (maths, science, design and tech), and in the afternoon, as we were waiting for Besties mum to arrive, Miss 5 showed off her sewing and embroidery. She then gathered some aida cloth and some embroidery thread for Bestie and showed her how to stitch (which is not only a tick for art, design and tech, as well as developing fine motor skills, but is also a fabulous example of applied knowledge 🙂 )
Wednesday mornings are kept open for swimming lessons. We are lucky enough to have a local swim school that has classes for all three girls, running at the same time. It makes life so much easier for us. This Wednesday we were a little bit more relaxed than usual, as I was feeling a bit off – all three girls as well as Husband have been down with a nasty clod over the last couple of weeks, and I’m struggling to keep it at bay – so after swimming, we had lunch and Miss 1 and I had a little nap, while Miss 3 played outside and Miss 5 did some reading eggs, and Maths seeds (physical exercise – swimming – as well as English, maths and digital media).
Every second Thursday we get together with a small group of local homeschooling families, all with children roughly the same age and all who are fairly new to this life. It’s a great opportunity for the parents to chat and share ideas or thoughts, or brainstorm and get advice, and it’s nothing but pure play for the kids. They take their bikes, or scooters, they play in the sandpit, they run around like puppies, and while there is the obligatory playground there, there are also trees to climb, a lake to paddle in and ducks to watch/chase/feed (And while we go there with no agenda, no structure and no plan on what will be done, or even how long we’ll stay, for the purpose of reporting I’ll tick off the obvious physical exercise, health and socialisation, as well as design and tech (building in the sandpit) and science (ducks/tadpoles/trees/lakes 😉 ).
Friday, Miss 5 decided she was done with her “space theme”, and she wanted to move on. She decided she is moving on to Dinosaurs. This is fabulous news for me, as, when she was Miss 3, she was dinosaur crazy. I have so much on hand in the way of resources, toys, puzzles, games, documentaries, movies, iPad apps and knowledge that I acquired, I really don’t need to research at all!! Watching her when she was 3 was actually the first time I really considered homeschooling her. As I saw first hand just how much information – actual valid, credible and incredible information – could be learned by someone who was so passionate and wholly immersed in what they were learning about. So Miss 5 spent Friday putting away all of her space related books and paraphernalia, and going around the house collecting up all of her dinosaur related items. She also came up with the idea of a dinosaur diorama (she calls it a stage). She found some cardboard cutouts of different dinosaurs and put them together, then cut up a cardboard box, taping into a shape that she was happy with, after that was done, she asked me to scribe the “master plan” so we would know what craft supplies we would need. Miss 5 has determined, that while she is learning about dinosaurs, she will make the diorama her major artwork, instead of doing lots of little art pieces. She also added some more to her embroidery. She is stitching a cross stitch picture, that she plans on adding to some cotton quarters, given to her by a friend of mine, that will eventually become a blanket for Miss 1. (So today we have science, english, design and tech and art – dinosaurs – and design and tech, art and maths – sewing and cross stitch)
Miss 5 and Miss 3 went to a pyjama party disco/movie night with Miss 5s musical theatre and dance school on Friday night, and it was a late night for both of them, so we kept Saturday clear for the recovery, which was just as well, as everybody slept in! I also had plans for a night out with some girlfriends of mine, Saturday night, and Husband was preparing for a trip away for work this week, so Saturday was spent very low key, in our PJs, on the couch and having naps. And I probably could link it to something, but I’m not. Let’s call it what it was, a lazy day off 😉
To treat the girls before he is away for a week, Husband agreed to take us to the art gallery on Sunday morning – another aside here, we aren’t pretentious about teaching our children, we don’t do lessons on things like the 20th century Surrealist movement, or Beethoven’s fifth. But we do expose them. We make sure that they regularly see different art. Sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we don’t. I play music all day, sometimes classical, sometimes opera, sometimes punk 😉 The girls hear it, and sometimes they comment, sometimes it’s just background noise. The point is that they have that exposure, and hopefully, when they’re ready, it will lead them to more – so we took a little wander around (art and english) and then we had sushi for lunch at the girls’ favourite Japanese restaurant (geography – talking about Japan and where it is – health and science). The park where we have our homeschool play dates just happens to be around the corner from the Japanese restaurant, so after lunch they had a grand old time running around, playing chasing games with Mummy 🙂 and playing on the playground. And, of course, they ended the day with their feet in the lake and a tree climb (PE, health, science), perfect.
There are so many resources and activities available to homeschooling families here in WA. If I were to book everything that was open to us, we’d never be home! Everything from the WA Symphony Orchestra putting on specific performances, to the local ice skating rink allocating a time, and a discount, for homeschoolers. Monday we participated in a session run by the Department of Fisheries, specifically for homeschooled children. The children were able to see the tanks and displays in the departments office, as well as view (in Miss 5s words) “real live scientists” in their labs, going about their business. They were then taken into a room where they discussed what the department did, and how important it is to ensure the protection of our oceans. They were given large tubs of flotsam and jetsam collected from the beach and, in groups, they categorised what they had found. We rounded the lesson off with a trip to the WA aquarium, AQWA, just around the corner. (Science, maths, english, geography).
Some of the things that aren’t listed here, are things like the reading eggs and maths seeds programs, which Miss 5 does every second day or so. Our reading time, which happens always before bed, and often while they are eating breakfast or lunch or as their “quiet time” activity. Also every Monday I do an exercise class for mothers with small children. The children all play together in the same room, while the mums do a circuit workout. Obviously Miss 5 is the eldest, but she still has fun playing with the little kids and occasionally she joins in on the Circuit with me, which is really great! She also does a musical theatre class on Monday nights, with her bestie, and has, just tonight, informed me that she would like to trial a martial arts class. It’s worth mentioning that we have signed up for some homeschool design and tech classes run by the local Bunnings Hardware, one of which we have tomorrow where the children will build items out of clay, as well as some puppet shows run by the Fremantle theatre company. The most important thing, I think, that is worth mentioning is every two weeks (alternating with the homeschool play day) we meet up with two other families for our newly formed, but much adored, homeschool co-op. The three families have very similar views and very similar ways of learning, so we get together once a fortnight, and offer the children an outing that we think they would enjoy. As parents, we help facilitate the children’s learning experiences, but for the most part, they forge their own path and always come away from the day with something. We have done bush walks, nature play, and a trip to th Landsdale Farm school – which I’ve mentioned before and is one of our favourite places to go. This Friday we are visiting the Children’s Forest in Whiteman Park, where we will endeavour to see how many of the 50 activities we can tick off.
As cheesy as it sounds, we truly are living a very blessed life at the moment 🙂