As September draws closer, I am seeing a lot of “prepping for the new school year” posts on social media from homeschooling families. So I thought I’d tell you a bit about our approach for the year ahead, and share our main “homeschool” space with you.
As ever, I remain eclectic in my inspiration (inspired by Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, and unschooling to name just a few) but this year our approach can probably best be summarised as “relax and follow the child – and then relax some more”.
The older Frida gets the more I am drawn to an unschooling approach where the only one in charge of what Frida learns is her – no curriculum, no learning goals, no eye-wateringly expensive Montessori materials (though this is mainly because she shows zero interest in them at the moment, apart from her globe which is still used all the time – I think many of the materials are brilliant for supporting learning and would certainly not rule out purchasing more in future if they fit her needs and she wanted them), no adult-set learning themes, nada.
The more I read, the more convinced I am that I want Frida to learn at her own pace, following her own needs, and the more confident I am that I don’t need to be teaching her to read or write. It’s definitely a journey for me; at Frida’s age I was reading confidently whereas she shows no interest in reading independently, though she can read short words if she wants to. I have had to get go of a lot of my expectations around what she “should” be doing and learn to just enjoy my daughter exactly as she is. I feel so relaxed about our year ahead, and right now it feels like a good fit.
Our approach for this year will simply be:
- copious time for self-directed play
- abundant time outdoors in all weathers
- hours of reading great books together
- playdates with good friends
- involvement in practical life activities
We will still follow a daily and weekly rhythm, and continue with our beloved morning time and tea time practice as these work really well for us (though this may well look a little more relaxed, at the moment most of our reading is about dinosaurs as that’s what Frida is interested in). This year I would also like to meet more home educating families locally, as a lack of real-life support networks is something I am aware of, as well as continuing forest school, regular swimming, and visits to all kinds of museums, galleries, and parks.
This approach has the added bonus of not needing me to prepare anything, and much as part of me feels a bit sad to be missing out on planning – the stationary! The sense of control over the future! – I know that I would only feel disappointed when we inevitably didn’t stick to whatever I had planned out. I know that Frida has no time for a piece of paper with a plan on!
The only preparation I have done for our “homeschool year” is to buy a few new books for Frida, but I do this regularly anyway so it’s nothing out of the ordinary and they’ve been chosen to fit her current interests. I have also decluttered and refreshed our main “homeschooling space”, and am planning on doing a bigger room remodel (repaint, new shelves, fresh varnish on the floor boards, new fireplace, rip out old tiles) when I have more time over the next couple of months – so I guess I am still doing some planning of a different sort!
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while – thank you! – will have seen this room go through so many changes already (here are a couple of iterations: when Frida was nine months old and then when she was 28 months here). Each change has reflected our shifting needs and priorities. As well as being our main “homeschool space” (it’s not really any more or less a homeschool space than the rest of the house, but it’s where we spend a lot of our time when we are at home) it is also our dining room; our home is not huge, so some spaces need to be multifunctional, and it means no space is wasted. When we bought our home we opened up part of the wall to the kitchen, so it makes it very easy for me to be busy in the kitchen whilst chatting to Frida as she plays in the adjoining space.
Our space reflects our current approach – lots of books, lots of toys, space to play, some free-access art materials, plants and flowers. Very few “learning materials” and nothing that doesn’t get genuinely used on a near-daily basis.
So what has she got out? The star of the show is still a box of magnetic tiles, which are played with for hours each day (!) and a Grimms large pyramid. She also has: stickers, paper, play-dough (not the one I would have chosen but it was a gift), modelling clay, some games, wooden dinosaurs, some second-hand Octonauts characters (also played with for hours – she loves them, so they stay, although I don’t love them), a Grimms ammonite puzzle, and some loose parts and treasures. Inside the storage stool with the globe and atlas is a wooden train set. The rest of her toys are either upstairs in her playroom (which will eventually have her bed in too) or in a cupboard, for this space I think this is more than enough.
I have to admit, I hesitated a moment over some of these photos. Our flowers are looking a bit sad, one of the plants is being slowly nursed back to life from the brink of death, we really need to repaint… I could go on. But this is reality! Our home is a work in progress, and it’s not a show-home. It’s lived in and loved and that’s what matters. It’s gloriously imperfect – and I’m willing to bet yours probably is too.
Are you planning for the year ahead at the moment? What kind of approach works for your family?