On this course I try not to make too many sweeping statements or generalisations; I strongly believe that home education is a journey and every family needs to take their own path. But if there was one thing I would say is more-or-less *essential* for a positive home education experience, it would be observation.
I’ve found that having a clear sense of where my daughter is at – what she is interested in, what skills she is working on building, what challenges she’s currently facing, her current desires for her education, how our relationship is flowing – alongside a really clear sense of our family values and my “why” allows me to make clear decisions when it comes to our home education journey together. Later in this module we’ll be discussing ideas such as academics (delayed or not?), whether we should have a parent-led structure or be child-led, and we’ll be looking at some different philosophies of home education.
If you only have time for one section of this module, I really recommend making it this one (especially the task). Learning to truly observe our children can give us more confidence, more clarity, and more calm; in short, it can be life-changing.
Watch me talking about observation – why is matters so much, what advantages it brings, and why it can help us in every aspect of our home education.
I liked these articles related to observation:
- From the Reggio approach: “The Pedagogy of Listening”. Carlina Rinaldi writes about listening here with a school setting in mind, but I think there’s much here for home educating parents too. If you want to learn more from Professor Rinaldi I loved these videos here (short) and here (long). More on the Reggio approach (which is intimately connected to observation here and here.
- From the Montessori approach: “Everything you need to know about Montessori observation and why it’s helpful“, “How to observe your child the Montessori way”, and “The art of observation”.
Most writing on observation is done through a classroom perspective, though it’s such an important part of home education too! As home educating parents, it’s something we will be doing naturally anyway – we know our children better than a teacher could – but I’ve found it’s still helpful to be intentional when it comes to our observations, especially when making choices relating to educational materials, plans, or parenting choices.
A task for you
I’d like to invite you to keep a little observation diary for each of your children over the coming week.
You can do it in any way you like, making notes throughout the day, or writing a summary in the evening, or both. I will be doing this alongside you!
Some prompts if you’re feeling stuck:
- What seems to interest them?
- What are they drawn to in their unstructured time?
- What does their play look like?
- How do they use art materials?
- How do they interact with others?
- What makes you laugh?
- What interesting things do they say?
- How do they move their bodies?
- What questions are they asking?
- What skills do they seem driven to learn?
My advice would be, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You don’t need new notebooks; taking notes on your phone, or on a few pieces of paper stapled together, or an old notepad will do perfectly. That said, if you want to you and have the time then you could create a beautiful decorated journal – and keep going past the week. Whatever works for you and inspires you
I would also pay attention if you find yourself moving from simply observing – noting what your child is doing – to judging or evaluating. The idea is to keep it neutral, to look at how you can support your child where they are at, rather than imposing your own value judgements on them (eg. instead of “my child needs to move a lot”, which is a neutral description, we might find ourselves thinking “they just can’t seem to sit still – how will they ever get on if they don’t learn!”). This can be really hard! I have found this a big area of focus on my own deschooling journey, and I’m still grappling with it.
Now we’ve looked at the importance of observation, it’s time to start thinking about some “big picture” home education questions. First up, should we “delay” academics? What does that even mean in the context of home education? Let’s explore further…