This past year has been the year where I really shed my expectations and conditioned ideas about what school can be.
I had intuitively felt we were carrying too much baggage but was afraid to let it go.
So now "officially" we don't "do" school. We just live.
And it is enough.
As the years have ticked by I have learnt to trust my instincts more and more.
I have begun to work with my body not against it. It's need for nutrition, rest, and movement are more valued than before.
The children naturally work with their bodies needs much more instinctively than I do.
They also don't have any guilt issues around taking a nap, or moving, playing, eating, drinking when needful.
I have found that by being aware of our bodies we are able to naturally self regulate into healthy patterns.
Trust is a big thing in all this home schooling malarky.
I think modern life has made us lose touch with our bodies and our natural instincts.
We deprive ourselves, push ourselves, then indulge carelessly until the guilt makes us feel shamed enough to begin the purging cycle once again.
These cycles can be related to eating, cleaning, exercising, working, consuming, and other addictive habits.
Unrealistic expectations, and relentless multitasking all atrophy our connection with soul.
I could write an entire post on how modern media, WiFi, the culture of fear, pollution, bad nutrition and the systematic secularization of the sacred are numbing our ability to connect with our spirit but I'm aware that I'm already rambling far too much already.
What has all this got to do with school?
When I was at school a teacher of mine used to say, "lessons are not just learning facts, they are training for the mind."
What kind of training could this be I wondered ? I still wonder this now. Do I want to "train" my children? Do I want to be "trained". Not so sure I do.
Although without a doubt I've been conditioned into a belief system which has very hardwired and narrow views on what is natural and healthy for a small, growing human being. I
t has been such a long process of "letting go". Letting go of my preconceptions about what being human is and finding my feet without fear.
So how does this work in practice?
Here's a little peek into a one of our days.... How about yesterday?
Well yesterday We woke up around 7.
Kids all came into bed with us, we chatted, they got hungry, Emmy and Boo took the younger ones down, made breakfast ate.
Boo brought Tani and I a couple of scones and some tea. Tani and I chatted a bit on our own, then got washed and dressed.
Tani went to work. I made us all more tea. Girls were playing with Fina's new birthday toys. Before long lot's of half drunk cups of cold tea began to litter the draining board to keep company with the loitering breakfast bowls.
Emmy went upstairs to work on some content for a local business blog that she writes for.
I read picture books with Nola.
Nola went for a nap.
Fi began stitching a teddy bear from a kit she received as a birthday gift while Boo, Tilly and I took it in turns to read aloud from The Hobbit.
Tilly and Boo did most of the reading while I got to grapple with at least one knotted thread every five minutes :)
We took a break, Tilly went outside to play tennis with Fina.
I went on Pinterest with Boo. Boo likes reading the quotes. She wanted to know what this one meant so she printed it off, took it downstairs, found definitions for the words she didn't understand and we talked about the meaning of the quote, the language used, the context and time in which it was written and whether or not she agrees with it and why.
Tilly came inside a bit sad because Fina kept hitting the ball too high and lost it in the hedge.
I got to go on a treacherous ball finding expedition.
I ask Tilly to help me make salad and pittas for lunch. We have some very interesting and artfully shaped peppers for our salad bowl.
I remember, out of the blue, that we didn't do morning prayers because I didn't want to interrupt the girl's morning play. Wonder if I should suggest them now. But....
Nola wakes up, grumpy and hungry. She eats half the salad off my plate and pushes her own on the floor "accidentally" when I suggest she might like a salad all of her very own.
Girl's ask if we can go out. It's drizzly and rainy. I do some quick mental maths and realize we would only have an hour before getting ready for tennis anyway so decide to stay home.
Emmy practice's a new piece on piano. She is trying to teach herself from grade 6 to 8 this year so she can take the exam without the expense of lessons. Her beloved teacher retired last year and as we are saving like crazypeople this year we're going to hold out.
It is not as easy as she thought it would be, but we get lots of free impromptu classical performances.
Boo gets her lap harp and finds a harmony and they work together on a piece.
Matilda, Nola and I check the plants and take notes on how the veggie plot is coming along.
We talk about which flowers are blossoming and which need dead heading. Nola gets a little overexcited with the dead heading part, and harasses the rabbits somewhat till I agree to sit one on my knee for her to pet.
We talk about the difference between perennials, biannual and annuals. And Matilda squeals with delight at the new baby leaves that are beginning to grow on her African Violet cutting.
Fi bounces on the trampoline and squeals and chatters and shows me a number of impressive "Circus Tricks" that she is going to do when she finally joins the circus, ( a perfect occupation for her I think) and then squeals some more.
She does this a lot. Bouncing mainly, but squealing too! and chattering....Oh the chattering!!!
I have tried to force her to sit down and work with me on her reading and maths before, but she simply can't do it. And if she does do it she'll be a spring unsprung afterword and quite out of sorts.
I'm glad we can wait until she is developmentally ready to take an interest in books.
She is such a free spirit and a beautiful, strong, effervescent soul. I don't want to dowse that.
I tell the three middles to put their tennis clothes on and collect their rackets . Adding as an afterthought oft neglected.... ( REMEMBER TO FOLD THE CLOTHES YOU'RE WEARING BACK INTO YOUR DRAWS...UNLESS THEY ARE REALLY FILTHY INWHICHCASE THEY CAN GO IN THE LAUNDRY BASKET!!!)
In the gentlest, calmest of tones of course....Ahem.
I get Nola changed.
Boo cries and cries whenever I brush her hair, so I chop about 3 inches off the tangled ends and promise her she can choose a style on Saturday and I'll give her a proper grown up haircut.
I wrap a handful of banana muffins that Tilly made a couple of days ago and fill a couple of bottles with water and we head out the door.
We get to tennis about 5 minutes late as usual.
While Tilly And Fi are at Tennis. Emmy, Boo, Nola and I visit a friend.
She is having an art class and Boo and Emmy watch while I take Nola out in the garden where she fills her pockets with "beeeful dones" "beautiful stones".
Then we say farewell, pick up the two stragglers and drop Boo off for her lesson.
When I arrive home a friend who is staying with us has graciously washed up and started dinner.
The girls watch "Kristen's Fairy Garden" and I tidy up a bit and go and have a cup of tea upstairs on my own.
Tani and Boo arrive home. We eat. Tani drops Emmy off at her scout group because they are having a camp this weekend and she is a young leader which means she gets to do all the camps.
It's a beautiful rainy evening. I love the sound of rain outside at dusk. The leaves of the sycamore are emerald and sparkling.
We say prayers by the window I light some candles. Nola keeps trying to touch the candles so they are quickly blown out. The sacred moment is undermined somewhat by little wriggly, squirmy, girlie.
Tani takes the girls to bed. I work on some knitting and sewing for my shop downstairs.
Once girlies' are "eventually" asleep (or at least not running in and out of one anothers bedrooms on important covert missions such as finding their special chicky, or retrieving a long lost book.) Tani joins us and I work and we chat and drink a glass of red wine, till around midnight. I come upstairs read a blog post or three and fall into the loveliness that is complete darkness and silence of those moments before sleep overcomes.
And thus, I present one random day among many :)
I think the essential ingredients to our home school are these.
- Working with and not against our bodies needs.
- Trusting my instincts and being flexible.
- Creating a home where beauty is honoured and mess is embraced.
- Strewing, and exposure to many different things that will ignite their curiosity.
- Facilitating and supporting their passions.
- Reading and learning from living books.
- Saying Yes to the children! As much as possible.
- Remembering to also say yes to myself which might mean saying no to them at times.
- Learning how to work together while honouring the differences between us.
- Lots of outdoor time, even if that's just garden play.
- Art and Crafts.
- Time for friends and community.
- Making a conscious effort to learn from and respect other cultures, belief systems and perspectives.
- Doing less. But doing with a sense of purpose and meaning.
- Allowing natural day to day life to be the primary teacher.
- Making time every day to honour the sacred and holy.
- Integrating the sacred with the everyday; making everyday work a form of prayer