Archive for the 'Witchypoo' Category

Doing what comes naturally!

Having a chat with a home ed friend at a group the other day she observed that it would appear that most home-edders grow stuff, have a dog and/or chickens and a lot do all three. Not necessarily as part of their home education, you understand, just as part of their lifestyle. Following discussions with other home edders we extended this list to include having tadpoles in their house each spring. Now this lifestyle element seems to pay dividends when it comes to science as I have found that my children, having grown up around new life and nature take it as read that certain things are required for this nature malarkey to work.

We use Education City as part of our home ed. Now it does follow the national curriculum which makes it a little stifled in some places but its still damn good value for money and my kids find it fun in small bouts! However the science side of the curriculum, frankly, worries me. I’m assuming that tadpoles haven’t disappeared out of classrooms, you can still grow stuff in test-tubes, toilet rolls and tubs and that the nature table is still a good old fashioned staple of halls and corridors and yet even in KS2 science my son still shakes his head, exasperated, at being asked stupid questions about what to give a dry plant (in this case he had the choice of chocolate, water or suncream???!!!!)

Now at no point have we sat down with either of them and explained the intricate ins and outs of plant biology, they have simply “been around” the tending of plants from the get go, either in a sling as babies, pootling around the allotment plot gorging on strawberries and sugarsnap peas as toddlers (and still doing that infact!) or getting involved in the nitty gritty of “growing stuff” as older children and that has been more than enough for them to grasp what is needed for “stuff to grow”.

Learning by osmosis – absorbing information as it happens as opposed to being taught it! So the above question, to even a 2 yr old, seems ludicrous! So we downloaded a Classic Science curriculum designed specifically for home educators by Scott McQuerry. At first glance words like Abiotic and Non-renewable resources jumped out and I considered putting it in the “When they are older” file! However the first two sections have been sailed through smoothly, no hitches; and why? Because we grow stuff and look after animals!

Today we were differentiating between Wants and Needs, Material and Non-material resources, Renewable and non-renewable resources. At the moment we have a broody hen and 4 chicks in our lounge (well doesn’t everyone?). Both my children are completely aware of what this little family needs to keep going so it was just a case of fitting the appropriate vocabulary to this little scenario. I didn’t expect my oldest to have a problem with this but when my youngest started chipping in with his twopenneth that strange “learning by osmosis” thing appeared to have happened again!

A few days ago we had a meeting with our local MP to promote home education and were trying to explain this concept to him. It’s a hard one to get your head around – children? Learning? Without being taught? He did his best and seemed open to the idea if not entirely convinced but then again, I wasn’t convinced till I saw it happening. However we do see it happening everyday, we just don’t notice it or point it out as a successful example of autonomous learning! Babies learn to talk, they single-handedly master one of the most complicated tasks in the world and how do they do it? By listening, absorbing and having a go.

Sadly the eggs we had the broody sitting on hadn’t hatched for our MP meeting and thankfully our broody didn’t do one of those  bi-weekly broody poos that they do (the ones that stink out the entire ground floor in minutes and make you physically wretch) so he didn’t get to see the animal behaviour lessons our chickens have been giving at regular intervals throughout the day. Two little children sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the hutch reporting back to us how our broody is tucking the chicks under her like she did with the eggs, how the chicks tell her when they want to go back under her wings by “doing a little dance” , how our broody makes gentle noises when the chicks have “a bit of a panic” and most amazingly how they observed that one chick didn’t seem to be drinking so the broody took her to the water bowl and gave the chick water from her beak until the chick got the idea. All this in itself fascinating to watch, but wonderful to experience through their eyes. All the more wonderful when the chicks “need” for a feeling of security was referenced as a non-material resource!!

Its little moments like this that remind me why we are home educating. When the children are using the flyscreen as a Tarzan rope, playing catch in the lounge with a golf ball or I catch them debating at the bottom of the stairs as to whether the Dr Who scooter will go down them smoothly or whether they should use the Dalek scooter instead as it has bigger wheels, I console myself with little moments like those above and hope to god the scooter wheel size versus flight of stairs hypothesis stays just that and doesn’t progress to experiment level!!!! 

So how does that work then?

Is a question I get asked a lot….I don’t tend to get the “Is home *wince* schooling even legal” or “What about socialization” very much……..possibly it’s the “Go on then!” glint in my eye that puts people off, but I do get “So, how does that work then?” or words to that effect on a fairly regular basis and it’s not a simple one to answer really. “It just does,” doesn’t seem to cut it and I’m not one for using a few words when an entire soliloquy beckons;  so over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the mechanics of doing this thang called home ed. Conversations over dinner is a biggie for us……anything to avoid eating carrots. I suppose I’m like the random Laban teacher we had at Drama College. Laban was a bit of a random subject, or rather we felt it was so rather than stand up and do “Longing to joy”, which believe me is nowhere near as fun as it sounds, we would get her talking on an interesting subject, she was a very interesting lady, and lo and behold the lesson would just disappear!!! This seems to be my eldest son’s current tactic at meal times, heck even the younger one will chip in periodically with requests for clarification!!! Joking aside it never ceases to amaze me what my kids will retain from a conversation, sometimes, in fact regularly, more than with a guided activity. For example a few days ago I found myself googling impressionists (artists, not the Bobby Davro kind) over breakfast….I had my cereal half eaten and having tried for more than 5 mins to explain impressionist art…. I gave up on crispy cornflakes and reached for the lap top. Van Gogh’s Starry Night – perfect! This was all borne out of a comment that DS1’s collage of planet Earth didn’t look exactly like Earth…….in the sense that it didn’t look like a photograph of it or a detailed painted image. DS1 had decided this by the way, during his depiction of Jupiter through the medium of poster paint. Apparently Jupiter was a lot more Jupiter-esque than Earth was Earth-esque!! So at 8.15 in the morning before I left for work and whilst my other half tidied the kitchen we had a major discussion on impressionist art….with pictures to help from Monet and Van Gogh…..as well as a couple of Picasso’s to illustrate that it doesn’t have to look like the subject to tell a story. After he had satisfied himself that it was OK for his collage not to be an exact replica of Earth (through the medium of scrap paper and coloured rice) and once my cornflakes were thoroughly soggy he declared “Alright Mummy, I think I get it now!” and disappeared off to play Dr Who…….He “gets” it??? At 6 he “gets” impressionist art and there is now no further need for discussion……. I sat through numerous painfully dull lectures, was forced to do a project on it and a talk for A-level general Studies and it took a visit to the Van Gogh museum to get anywhere near “getting it”!!!!

So to my mind, that’s how it works….. He asks, I answer….To put it in high faluting terms “I facilitate learning opportunities that either spark imaginations and go on to be explored or are saved up for dinner time conversations upon the appearance of unrequested vegetables!” Today it was the Feudal system…..incorporating nuns, child brides and heirs………and it was almost at the end of the casserole before he realized that the “potatoes” he’d been scoffing were indeed artichokes…..however….the carrots remained on the plate!