Thoreau Quote

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Home ed in the holidays........It really is a full time education!

So the end of term arrived and the summer holidays began. We've always followed term times a bit, even during the years that all four children were home educated. You can't get away from it completely - on the whole their drama classes and Scouts followed term times, plus their friends in the village all stopped school, of course. Even the home educators group we went to ran only during term time. So we followed suit.

What this meant for us was a relaxing of the 'full on' nature of home ed. If any structured activities had been going on, we stopped them completely. No workbooks, no projects. We didn't ever do huge amounts of structured stuff anyway so I'm not sure they noticed a great deal of difference in that respect, but I certainly did. I felt free of the pressure to provide any activities or experiences for them, like I had given myself permission to just let them be, going through their day from one thing to another completely aimlessly if they liked! Everything just got a bit more relaxed. Even the TV/Xbox/PC rules, although I still had to keep an eye on that or it could be screen based activities 24/7.

Now they're older it works roughly the same. No GCSE studies over the summer, no daily Conquer Maths topics. Everyone just gets on with their own things. It's a little different in that I now have to be even more aware of the amount of time spent in front of screens - as a rule teenagers are known to be somewhat addicted in that respect and mine are no exception. It's also a little different now A is at school. Whereas B, J and I need a little space from each other, A is now around during the day and wants things to join in with so a bit of balancing is required!

On the whole it's been pretty laid back though. But don't think that means that no learning has been going on. It's obvious that it's happening all the time.

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There was the Olympics of course. I LOVE the Olympics, always have, which is a bit ironic seeing as I never do any sport myself, but there you go! I declared that just for this once the TV was mine. For 16 days I was going to have the Olympics showing as I got on with work and other commitments and the rest of the family were welcome to drift in or out of it as they wished. It's only once every four years so I decided I was allowed to be selfish! As different children watched different bits we all learned about countries we'd not heard of, sports we didn't know, the diversity of nations, the rewards of hard work and commitment. We saw the first female competitor from Saudi Arabia and the first Paralympian to take part in the Olympics. We talked about cheating and drug taking, the disappointment faced by some competitors. We learned about the history of the games and recalled talking about Jesse Owens' success in the Berlin Olympics during the History GCSE studies. We watched the medal table change and talked about alternative ways of measuring a country's success, such as how many medals won per head of population. And all that just through chatting, no plan or structure required.

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Recently we took a trip to Thorpe Park. We were fortunate enough to have received free tickets through a friend (wouldn't have paid the entrance fees even if we could afford it!). First lesson - handling disappointment, when the very ride that was most looked forward to wasn't working. With teenagers this is slightly easier than similar disappointments with toddlers, but it was touch and go for a bit! On the way around we all remarked how easy it is to spend an awful lot more money on top of the entrance fee, despite the fact that we'd brought a picnic so didn't need to buy food. A pound for this, a pound for that, £3.00 for a Fast Track ticket if you want to avoid the horrendous queues.

We also learned that the walk-in driers provided at the exit of the water rides (another £2.00 each) are rubbish and that it would have been a good idea to pack spare clothes!!

As T remarked, 'It's full of ways to take your money!' Too right - another lesson learned?

There were in fact two or three rides not working so all visitors were being given a free ticket to come back another day. 'Hmmm...', we thought, 'If they're so quick to forego the entrance fee, doesn't that tell you something about how much money they make on all the extras inside?'

Having said all that, they really enjoyed the rides they went on and we'll probably make use of the free return tickets, and budget ahead to buy several Fast Track tickets for the most wanted rides, ignoring all the other money grabbing optional extras. After all, it's not about never spending your money, it's about being aware of the power of marketing, making informed choices and sticking to a budget. 

Blimey, and I thought we were just going to a Theme Park!

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When the children were younger, there were often days that went like this:

Child: 'I'm bored!'

Me: 'How about we (insert activity here)?'

Child: 'Nah...'

Me: 'OK'

Child: 'But I'm bored!'

Me: 'What about (insert alternative activity)?'

Child: 'Nah...'

And so on. You get the picture. It's much the same now they're older, when I issue the 'Screens off' order! But years ago I learned a trick. Rather than try and suggest activities ad infinitum, I would just pick one and do it myself. I wouldn't invite them, but nine times out of ten they'd end up joining me anyway :)

Last week, unusually for me, I had an urge to paint. I'd seen instructions for a brightly coloured abstract that I thought even I could handle so I started to get the materials out. Hmm, I thought, I wonder if that trick still works now they're older...

A was with me like a shot. That's not much of a test though since she is always motivated to do pretty much anything and she had some unopened acrylics she was keen to use. More surprisingly was that J joined us and we spent three hours painting while listening to Frank Sinatra (who the older ones had heard of through Family Guy, lol!)

Despite a near disaster of me dripping blue paint all over my laptop keyboard (aarrgghh!) it all went pretty well. Here's J's geometric abstract:

And here's A's painting, inspired by one she saw for sale earlier in the week:

Both created from their own imaginations. I, however, have very little imagination and had to follow a set of instructions to produce this:

I was pretty pleased with it though :)

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Last night it was just the girls and I. I'd bought a couple of steaks so we took advantage of the weather and had a mini barbecue, complete with a treat of wine for me and fizzy drinks for them. Oh, and a bit of ice cream! We ended up sitting outside until midnight. No-one wanted the TV, we just turned off the lights and watched the stars come out. We spotted a few constellations we recognised and the Milky Way and were pleased we lived in a rural area with very little light pollution. We saw the International Space Station pass overhead (we've been out space-station-watching a few times so we recognise it when we see it now!) and did a quick bit of research to find out who is in it right now and how long they are up there for.  We realised that it's not that long ago that the idea of Americans and Russians working together up there would have been unheard of!

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So there you have it. A selection of just a few of the ways in which our learning has continued this summer. No lesson plans, exercises or 'writing it up'. If you're home educating younger children and have been wondering how autonomous education works when they're older, I think it's kind of like that!! We're not a 100% autonomous family, at least two of my children struggle to motivate themselves all the time and need some guiding (and indeed appreciate it - so maybe that is kind of autonomous after all!) but a great deal of education happens just by us doing things and being together. And that's education for all of us, myself included.


  1. Fab paintings everyone! Love the colours.

  2. Great post Jane; I completely identified with it all! x Going to pass it on!

  3. Great reading Jane and lovely pieces of artwork :) reminds I need to start thinking of supplies we'll need for our Art sessions :)

  4. Thanks for your kind comments :) I'm not very artistic myself but I do find it therapeutic!

  5. i think that looks really good. i have a problem with a no ideas DD currently and sometimes she will join in and sometimes not! I have come to your blog from the new blogring [we are petits haricots]

  6. I've never got on with painting, but that geometric one looks fab, might have to give it a go.

  7. Thanks for your comments and thanks for the blogring Jax - it just might get me blogging more often, this feeling that I'm being watched!!


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