Hi friends! Gosh, it’s been a long time since I have blogged. I guess life sometimes just runs away with us, doesn’t it? I’ve been busy reading and reflecting deeply on our home education journey in anticipation of “formally” beginning in September (not that our days will look that different – but more on that soon!), doing a little bit of work on our home, spending time in the garden, and of course running my courses and working with some dreamy private clients too. I’m also still learning to drive, and I’ve just begun attending some counselling sessions, so at the moment life feels joyful but full. I’m hoping I’ll have more time to blog regularly in the Autumn, I miss it!
Reflections on formally beginning our home education journey
As I mentioned above, this September will see the start of our “official” home education journey (though I personally feel we have been home educating from birth!) as Frida would be due to start Reception year of primary school. This milestone has inevitably led me to some deep reflection.
What sort of person am I raising? Which values are important to our family? What do I want to offer my daughter in this coming year? How can I provide a rich, varied, delicious feast of ideas and knowledge and beauty for her? How can I meet her needs, and help her meet them herself too? What brings her joy? How does she enjoy to learn? What does she enjoy doing and learning about? In which areas can I help her grow even taller, and in which does she need more support? In which areas do I need to grow and develop, so that I can show up as the best mother and mentor I can be? How can I best curate our home environment and the experiences I offer her?
This inner work is hard work. I am having to consciously unlearn all I have learnt about the school system (which although problematic in so many ways served both my husband and I fairly well). Parenting comes with so much inner work to do, regardless of educational method, but I feel that home education really piles another deep layer on top of that which needs stripping back, taking apart, and exploring.
How can I ensure we stay true to our values in the face of pressure and comparison? How can I give her a rich, rigorous education without robbing her of her precious childhood and give her abundant time for play? How can I build her connection with nature? Are we definitely doing the right thing? What if she wants or needs to enter the school system one day: are we doing enough to prepare her.
So many fears, I’ve noticed, come from my own worries about being judged as not good enough; that my daughter’s education is somehow linked to my sense of self-worth as a home educating mother. These are the stories I am continually working to unravel and unpick, always coming home to the truth that my daughter guide us when it comes to her needs, and that really, the only person whose opinion on her education matters is her.
Our “style” of home education
We are pretty eclectic at the moment. I’m very inspired by Charlotte Mason’s method, Julie Bogart’s Brave Learner book, the Unschooling / self-directed learning philosophy, many aspects of the Classical view of education, some parts of the Montessori and Waldorf methods, and Reggio and Project Based Learning approaches to name just a few.
I feel confident in picking and choosing the best bits from each to create a home environment and family rhythm which works for our daughter, and I also feel confident in changing and tweaking it as her needs change and develop (and as I inevitably get things wrong!)
In this first year, her education will mostly look no different to now. Abundant time outdoors. Swathes of free time for play. Morning time with poetry, art, and music. Piles of books, on everything and anything. Games. The odd bit of language work, slowly slowly, at her pace. Maths, all the time.
But I will also be a little more intentional about offering her certain ideas and opportunities, new dishes to add to her feast which she is free to pick and choose from. And this is where planning comes in.
My planning process
When thinking about our year to come, I am taking a holistic view: I am looking at the whole of her development, and firmly placing delight, connection, relationships, and joy in the centre of my planning.
I have started off with some bigger picture reflection on our values, goals, and really thinking about my daughter and who she is. How do I want the atmosphere in our home to feel? What is important to her, to us? What would a “successful” year look like (clue: a happy child who feels connected to us, nothing else matters much!)
I then created a big map of what I felt would be good guiding principles and key concepts for this year. This will be my overarching guide for the year, and I will come back to it again and again. You can see it here:
Finally, I took a bunch of pieces of paper, wrote a subject area on each one (it’s just easier for me to organise my thoughts this way but I could have picked any number of categories!)
My categories are:
- A topic of “all about me” (encompassing geography, history, human biology, evolution, our own family history, and so much more)
- Nature and gardening
- Literacy (including reading and writing, though this will likely not look traditional, more to follow soon…)
- Beauty (including art, music, poetry, verses to memorise, mindfulness and more)
- Personal and social developments, including habits
- Celebrations (Autumn Equinox, Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, Christmas, New Year)
I then used each piece of paper to brainstorm ideas for the term ahead (September – December), and also noted any books, curricula or resources we’ll be dipping into. I certainly won’t use these brainstorms as a strict plan, but it will allow me to have a rich store of ideas that I can dip in and out of, to present to her when I feel the time is right. I can also add to these whenever I want; I’ve deliberately kept the style a little scruffy and loose. I’ve added all of these to a ring-binder. Again, see below for an example:
I plan on doing very little detailed forward planning, blocking out times each day or week for each subject – I don’t think that would give us the freedom we are looking for – but I will absolutely be “planning from behind” and keeping a personal diary of what we do each day, the books we read, the trips we go on, the documentaries we watch, and any milestones we hit (again, these might not look like “traditional” milestones!). I’ll also be printing out photos each month to add to my “records”.
I will also have a few things which will be planned each week or month, eg. gardening projects, topics from our ethics curriculum, French goals, and so on, which I will also add to the ring binder. And I will likely spend a little time at the end of each month ensuring that I have all of the books / experiment materials / cooking ingredients / exhibition tickets / other materials needed gathered for the month ahead.
Again though, there is no pressure here at all on either of us; the idea is that this planning will provide us with more freedom, not less. If Frida doesn’t want to do something we have loosely planned, then that is 100% fine. It’s her life, her education. Not mine. All I will do is suggest and support, not dictate or control.
I will also be revising our daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms next month, and adding these to my ring binder.
Some planning resources I have used
- The Brave Learner book (honestly, this is SO good!)
- Intuitive Homeschool Planning guide (currently only available to members of the Homeschool Alliance)
- Rethinking School book (this is really useful for thinking past the traditional schooling model)
- Home Education Volume 1 book (good if you’re Charlotte Mason inspired; I’ve also started to slowly make my way through Leah Boden’s course on Charlotte Mason)
- My own Rhythm in the Home course. I can’t decide if it’s cool or geeky that I use my own work (maybe a touch of both?) but I’ve come back to it time and again. This August I’m running a fresh round of the course, and I’ll be going through it again alongside all of the other participants, this time sharing my thoughts and process with those on the course. I’ve never done that before, but I think it’ll be fun! There are still a few spaces left if you’d like to join us.
- Charlotte Mason homeschool planner (this was sent to me as a gift; it is a Christian resource, with mentions of bible study / verses, but I’ve found some of the prompts in it useful for a secular family like us and I’m going to print out the monthly planner sheets to put in my binder as they have the week’s nature study theme added in)
- A whole bunch of books on many different education methods! Too many to mention here.
I also find this article reassuring and inspiring.
So what’s going to be new?
The biggest change is that I’ll be turning to a number of books and curriculums (I’ll share these and some other resources I’ll be leaning on in another post!) to gather ideas of how to grow and stretch my daughter’s interest in certain ideas. This might look like getting ideas of how to develop a math concept she’s interested in, finding fun projects to suggest to her that we could work on together, guiding some of my choices for the books we read together, or learning some science experiments that I can in turn share with her. This means that it’s unlikely that she will feel much change, but there will be a little more work for me behind the scenes of our daily and weekly rhythms as I prepare books, ideas, concepts to introduce, and so on.
Some other changes:
- I’ll be being stricter on myself with ensuring we are doing a little French every day, and having a weekly longer French session together too. I may also introduce some Latin vocabulary.
- We will be starting an ethics curriculum, though again I doubt Frida will notice this as the work will be on me and it’s discussion based, so no worksheets or anything.
- We’ll (probably) also be following our nature curriculum more closely, though we’ll see how that goes and might skip some weeks. We will also be working together on a collaborative nature journal.
- I’ll be more intentional about offering regular opportunities for handcrafts.
What will be the same?
Although psychologically it will likely feel different to me, things should look pretty similar.
- We will still be very much child-led, and I am keen to follow her down rabbit holes of wonder and imagination. I will not force any part of the educational feast I am laying for her down her throat: what a miserable feast that would be!
- We will continue with some gentle, slow phonics learning, and will continue to follow her fast explosion into maths.
- We’ll still be sticking with morning time each day, and tea time most days (including a weekly French tea time).
- Play is still the most important thing, alongside delight, joy, wonder, and connection with us and others.
Phew! If you read until the end, thanks for sticking with me! Like I said, I’ll be sharing more of our curriculum and book choices for the coming year(s) soon.
If you’re currently in the planning stages, how are you finding it?