Saturday, 13 August 2011

family time

We’ve taken some time out to just be with family. With visitors from Australia and a great-granny to share our days with, we were more focused on family the past four weeks than anything else.

And now, as life returns to a more routine pattern, we spend our days crafting and creating as we discover an alphabet that we’ve been playing with for some time now.

Our alphabet tree project has a trunk! A very brown, very bare trunk…with branches, and stands tall awaiting the arrival of some leaves. Weekends are family-focused, which really just means that we have no real plans other than any made with family members. Sunday is lunch at granny’s place: and all the cousins will be there. This opportunity to gather and chat and share happens often in our family, which always give me a great sense of belonging (even when some of my ideas make me the one out).

So I’m off to get the bean salad ready for the family lunch, and make rotis and curry for our dinner, while the boys play knights and transformers(!?!) and this came out of playing lego for what must have been hours!! Big Daddy fell asleep to scenes from “The Living Planet”… and I caught up on some much desired blog-reading (my books are for ‘quiet time’, i.e. when everyone else is in bed). Too cold to do much else, I’m afraid.

This day has been the coldest in all of winter (according to my internal thermometer, anyway). Warm baths and hot chocolate are so on the menu!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Winter’s sun, and other delightful surprises

Another lovely sun-filled winter’s day; and with temperatures comfortably above 20degrees Celsius, we headed for the beach! It was incredibly warm, even bordering on hot! Tiddler and Sprog joined BigDaddy for a run through the shallows…and made a few friends along the way.
They stopped only to build and count castles in the sand fairly close to the waves. And that turned into a math lesson! We counted the castles and with every wave that leveled some, we made the necessary subtraction and counted the remainder…easy-peasy.
Sprog has always been a people-person, and I’m never surprised when he goes off to join a gathering of children and comes back to report on all the information he has gathered. Today was different, because he made friends with a brother and sister who spoke a foreign language…well, tried to anyway. Upon realizing that they spoke no English, Sprog came to brief me on the situation; I offered the possible solution of introducing himself in Spanish…he wasted no time uttering, very enthusiastically, the few Spanish phrases I knew. This was a moment of pride for me, because for years he refused to acknowledge other languages, and got quite annoyed when I spoke anything other than English!?! Perhaps I am hasty, but I do blame it on the fact that for the past three years we lived in a wee village where nobody uttered sounds in anything other than the English language. Just before we left I had made friends with a Turkish ex-pat whose children were great friends to my two; and this gave us an opportunity to observe other children who are multi-lingual.

Moving back to Cape Town has meant that the boys often hear quite a few different languages being spoken; and that has created a welcomed degree of comfort with ‘foreign’ languages. Tiddler and Sprog have even asked me to read books found at the library that are written in other languages! It’s not that Sprog has suddenly opened himself up to hearing other languages; it is rather that he understands the value of being able to communicate in another language. Pretty profound, I’d say…wouldn’t you?

A bientot, Poisson Rouge

The UK was great for internet access; and certainly a lot cheaper. This meant that we could spend ages on the net playing games on Poisson Rouge and Starfall. Now most home educating families know that when I say we were “playing games” it’s code for “ we were learning all the time and in a fun and entertaining way”! Have a look-see and you’ll know what I’m talking about. The boys loved those sites, and because we don’t get ‘unlimited’ internet access now it means that we have had to find alternatives. There are some days, though, that we do visit those sites, but not nearly as frequently as we did in Scotland. We learnt to sing “Frere Jacques” , match tricky geometric shapes, and so much more.
So, I’ve had to come up with alternatives. BigDaddy was an inspiration for developing new made-by-us games that we can play on the pc. They look like games, but are really just about moving the cursor…that’s how we’re discovering the alphabet.

This unschool

sandcastles being swept away by a wave becomes a lesson about subtraction

Most of the home educating families I know all have changed direction, curriculum, teaching method, and even philosophy along the way. So I’m pretty open to our own evolution as a home-educating family. And besides, the whole point of it all is freedom of choice. That is what we try to ensure: a sense of democracy; of the value of our opinions, thoughts and ideas in making a decision that affects our family in its entirety. We all have a say in how the day goes. If certain events arise that force us to reconsider our plans and decisions, then we discuss it and make alternative plans. It’s easy-going and fair. I’m a lousy unschooler…in fact, I don’t know if I truly am an unschooler. I must admit that I love lists and potential schedules, but at the core I cherish the moment; and the freedom to find that treasure in the now. So, even though I have a year-plan schedule filled with projects and themes based on the local DoE curriculum, everything we learn is a by-product of experiences we make during the day. Quite often what gets ‘planned’ in the schedule gets ‘discovered’ during the day, week or month that it was ‘scheduled’ for. Yes, most of it does happen accidentally on purpose. It’s a bit like experience-strewing! Strewing is a well-loved unschooling technique in our family.  And one thing we are always reminded of is that our children are learning all the time; and if we’re open enough, we may, too.
Well then, the fact to face is that there are days when we’re unschooled, and days when we’re free-schooled; days when we’re scheduled; and days when it all happens at the same time and we just don’t stop to analyze, because we’re just having fun.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

the homecoming

Back in Cape Town after quite a few years away means that we have come home, but our perspectives have changed; evolved, really. I met our first 'homeschooling' family just before we got on a plane to Scotland. There really is only one word to describe them: peaceful. Their young son, who had been HE'd from birth, is just the most amazing young boy; and what stood out for me was that he could communicate easily and confidently with adults as well as the young'uns.
When 'invited' to send my nearly four year old, at the time, to school last year, I was amazed and stunned at the general perception that wee ones should be dumped at school for half the day from as early as four years old. And once I started looking into what our options and rights are, it was an easy decision: afterall, we've been 'homeschooling' since birth!