Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Plodding through a sleepy home ed week

Monday night went pretty well, we managed to meet up with friends at the Pokemon event and have a little play before admitting that Diana wasn't the only one excited about catching 'em all. We didn't catch as many as we expected but did nab a decidedly average Abra.

Tuesday rolled around with sleepy adults and a hyper baby. This "not really cosleeping" business is getting hard. If it didn't put my joints so badly out of whack I'd just go with it but instead my sleep is so messed up with cot transfers, cuddles and feeds back to sleep I'm just hoping for the end of the tunnel soon. Upon which moment I'm perfectly entitled to be all sad and moany about no more sleepy cuddles (it's the only time I get proper floppy relaxed cuddles, the kid is a constant live wire in the daytime.)

So my lack of sleep caused a minor rift in the Betty-Diana peace treaty but all was solved with the copious application of custard creams and Vimto squash. We pulled out a decent English dictation, quick chat about prepositions and a piece of research on panthers.

Diana had a bash at her Digimon game while I prepped lunch and then we headed out to challenge a local Pokemon gym. We sucked. I think the game is losing its shine for the 9yo with all these career players taking all the gyms and filling them with 2000cp Snorlax and Garrados.

Over lunch we chatted about future plans, college, universities, exams and why Mommy had to redo stuff and important lessons we can learn from this*.

The afternoon brought a new early years group where Turbo wandered happily and Diana made friends with the 4 and 5 year olds. This is a pretty new thing for her. She's always been a bit leery of smaller children, finding them troublesome in their inability to communicate or understand personal boundaries. It was nice to see.

Me and Diana hung out after tea while a tired Bert worked hard to keep Turbo amused.

Wednesday was all about an English workbook, trying out some joined up writing again, logic problems and touch typing.

Then we challenged ourselves on Action Quiz to test our knowledge of UK and Irish cities.

Lack of sleep (for me) continued throughout the week but we had a go at some maths and saw Grandad Train on Thursday with a library trip, sweets and a new Pokemon Go guide for Diana. Me and Turbo were treated to some of this awesome dairy and soya free chocolate, win!

And Friday, after a bit of comprehension work, was all about parks, friends and silliness :)

* 1. don't be a smug git; 2. actually turn up to classes

Monday, 19 September 2016

Average Monday at the Onions

Blimey, what a morning and it's only 10.15 😂

Turbo has the grumps for some reason, my boob hurts like a mofo (blocked duct from a dodgy nursing vest) and Diana's getting over a cold (cough, cough, cough). So, you can imagine how jolly this house is 😂😂😂

We've thrashed through some comprehension, tried some joined up handwriting, practiced spellings and worked on alphabetical order.

Since reading and writing came together we're working more on English skills that we hadn't previously delved in to. It's nice to see it all coming together now, minus the massive stress the whole process used to be. (let me tell you, my kitchen table has been well hidden under - and that was during her phase of *wanting* to do school at home).

The intention is to head out to this event later Pokémonday

But it entirely depends on which one of us implodes first.

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Unschooling with a baby

Yeah, we didn't do that.

Honestly, the effort required to successfully provide a rich environment that was enticing and challenging to my (then) 8 year old was beyond me. I applaud anyone who can achieve that. 

For me, after a blissful start, I was stuck in the house for nigh on 8 months with a fussy pained little Turbo (reflux, dairy allergy, food sensitivities, tongue tie, wailing in the car seat...) He screamed for hours, fed for hours; it was all pretty sad. 

The only way I could save the situation for Diana was through regular family help and a sense of order: morning nap time was work time.

The regular hour we spent on writing, reading and maths has set us a good rhythm and Turbo is doing loads better and is such a happy little chap you'd never have known what we went through. 

Friday, 16 September 2016

Six secrets of a smug home educator

Cor blimey I was impressed with myself, home educating a 3/4 year old. It's easy to come off as an insufferable know it all when you discover home education. NP (that's the old nickname, she's chosen a new one and will be Diana henceforth) is 9 now and we've been through a whole bunch of stuff since those earnest early days. How about a look back now from the other side of early years HE? 

1) I'm really not talking about your kid.

If I bang on about square pegs, institutions, etc it's mainly because my kid was a pain in the backside about attending school, or I had a personality clash with a teacher who was my polar opposite. School might have been shit for us. It might not be for you. Everyone's got their own reasons for what they do.

2) I'm really not saying that you, personally, are a shit teacher.

I know you work hard and have skills beyond my understanding. Good for you. Let's move on.

3) It isn't all fluffy clouds, rainbows and self direction.

Sometimes it's arguments, tired people and raised eyebrows all round. Sometimes it's really shit and then you have to have a word with yourself.

4) Flexibility is the ultimate goal

You do structured home education with a colour coded time table and it's wonderful for a day. Then the 4 year old has a strop about cutting out pictures that start with the letter "s" and won't do her Jolly Phonics. So you unschool and strew and hang out at parks for hours with lovely people and it's all great. Then you panic, install a curriculum and blow it all to hell....Unschooling part two commences...and decommences....and then you "incentivise" learning...and it goes well and then you have curriculum and workbooks and they're half done or not done or thrown at the wall and then all of a sudden she can read and write and do maths and all the other things and you wonder what the f*cking hell was the thing that did it.
(my money is on *all of it*)

5) Socialising is probably the main thing we did for 4 years.

For hours at a time. I'm not kidding you. It was great. And exhausting. Can we go home now and do workbooks? No? OK then.

6) Burnout is inevitable

We are not superhuman. The smug lists of activities and facebook boasts are our way of making ourselves feel better for being shit human beings for half the week and feeding them ham sandwiches for 3 days running cos we've all got flu and cba.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Home Education 2016

Home Ed seems to be getting some positive press these days. It's kinda cool. When we started it was an absolute labyrinth to find out:

1) if there were home educators nearby
2) where they met
3) if we were welcome

For me, it involved a backdated search of a yahoo group and a few cheeky emails to a randomer I'd found who had once posted about a group that might have met on a wednesday 2 years ago. The person didn't even home educate any more, but was pleasant enough and supplied me with the proper information.

So I toddled off with the 3 year old in tow and found my people. 

These days a quick facebook search brings up 3 separate groups for my town alone, with more for the surrounding towns and cities. Spoiled for choice :) 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Learning to Read, Home Ed Style

So, y'know, screw this system: Too Much Too Young


You have no idea what an utterly shambolic waste of time it is trying to teach some 4 year old kids how to read and write. 

I'm not kidding. I just spent nearly 4 years attempting it. Do you know what worked in the end? 

Waiting until she was ready.

Sure, there were times like this when I thought I had it all worked out. I have the whole lot of Jolly Phonics; songs, workbooks, teacher guide, A4 exercise book to stick each lovingly coloured worksheet in...

My grand phonics plan worked for about a week or two at a time. But she eventually thought it was a pile of crap and threw a strop when I tried to do it, so it sat in the cupboard. 

Next came The Reading Lesson (not an affiliate link, what do you think I am? A proper blogger?)
Sometimes this worked. Most of the time it didn't. I think we did chapter 1 about 5 times.

But, gradually she learned letters and sounds. She learned some words even. She played xbox games and learned what was useful to her. She saw an episode of Pokemon (thanks Netflix) and got hooked. Someone bought her a Pokemon game. I think reading might have become useful and relevant to her around the start of 2014, age 6. Through osmotic repetition and much (*much*) pestering asking-of-adults she learned some words.

I put up a 100 common words poster. I took a chance and bought some *really* old Pokemon readers for 1p off Amazon for her 7th birthday. Taking it in turns, we worked through the pages. This was something she could do - the stories and many of the words were familiar and she was memorising more as she went along. We borrowed audio books from the library. So. Many. Audio. Books.  We played Reading Eggs.

She still wasn't confident. She still told people she couldn't read. She still panicked when pressured to learn by anyone. I learned to let it go, mostly. And to stand up for her.

This year I decided to clear out my cupboards. I found the wipe-clean alphabet books and stacked them away for future offspring. I chucked away the Jolly Phonics workbooks. I looked at The Reading Lesson and remarked to Mr Onions I was putting it into storage. He had other ideas. He set her a challenge. Do some reading lessons every day for a week and I'll buy you a toy.

I'm not a bribery sort of person. I was all about the intrinsic motivation, star charts were the devil. But I was (skeptically) willing to give it a chance. And she did it. By Jove, she did! And after the first challenge was over, she carried on. It became part of our evening routine, she was learning and trying and finding she could do it, no reward required. She was 7 years old and she learned to read in less than 6 months. Now she proudly tells people she can read. 

She's nearly 8 and we're still working on it. We're getting early readers from the library and working on them every week. She has a huge love of stories and we've got into a habit of hanging out at the library for an hour each week reading to each other, coming away with more and more books every time (last time we went in the assistant gave me a bit of a look and reminded me we had 22 books out already but they're at risk of closing so I say they should lap up the issue numbers.)

Those 4 years were a bloody hard slog. It was draining, it was frustrating, it was pointless. She didn't have a reading related disability, she wasn't naughty, she just wasn't ready. But it took 4 years of getting it wrong, learning for myself, trying a bit of autonomous education and then building up her confidence, (something that had been taken away from her by all sorts of pressures, not least the diabolical time she spent in nursery school, aged 3) in order to achieve this. 

People, look to your child. Listen to her. Know him. They'll get there. Some earlier, some later, some in a completely novel way. It'll happen. Some even do it completely on their own, like our friends who learned to read without being taught. And if school doesn't appreciate your child is an individual, who will learn at their own pace, know that it's not your fault. It's their shoddy, broken system.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Supermarket blues

I find it really hard to understand people who can't hear what you are telling them. There's this woman in our local supermarket who has, to date, said 'no school today' on three separate occasions and been completely unable to conceive that NP doesn't go.  How many times do I have to field the same question and get bullshit in return? It's like she's reading a script and can't deviate. The interaction generally goes like this:

"No school today?"
"No, she doesn't go"
"Is she poorly?"
"No, she doesn't go to school"
"Are you poorly?"

"Are you off work today"

One time I *thought* she had understood, because she said:

"Oh, what's wrong with her then?"

But perhaps this was along the "off school ill" track rather than the "you must have a problem child" track like I assumed.

I find it so difficult when people do this to me. I like to be honest, I also like to meet social nicety-requirements. I don't think I can do both of these with this person. My brain diverts to 'unknown response' when people refuse to acknowledge what they hear, and want to carry on with the narrative they have in their minds. It's so uncomfortable having to correct someone, but equally uncomfortable to deny our reality. I am at the point of dreading the moment we reach the checkout and she is the only one available.

We shop at 8.30am, getting in at the least busy time which benefits us both emotionally. I am not willing to shop at other times for the benefit of stopping other people from feeling uncomfortable about our Home Educating weirdness.

So what's my conclusion to this situation? I'm not going to stop taking my daughter to the supermarket with me; there are so many *educational opportunities* there. 

Like seeing the difficulties people have in interpreting information from their own eyes and ears.

Reason 231 for Home Educating: learning that people are different to you.