Gran – despite her robust diet of packaged meals, meat pies, toast & jam, dry biscuits and Promite, fizzy drinks, milk chocolates and prescription medicine – still has a fairly tenuous grip on life. Especially after her near dead experience last November.
Grans health (and a society gradually contracting as a form of risk management for our global community against COVID 19) is the reason we started home schooling this week. Our schools are currently still open, but will wind down next week, breaking early for the Easter holidays. However, over the last two weeks we’ve yanked the Little Fellas from their extra-curricular activities in order to preserve our Gran. So as a family unit we have already been home together for a fortnight.
The first twenty minutes of our home schooling adventure on Monday morning felt really awkward.
Plus my mind was starting to fill with thoughts that bubbled up to the surface and distracted me from spending time with the reading that was going on before me. After a time however, my thoughts began to consolidate and I saw the potential and the potential pit-falls before me.
“How are we going to sustain this? And for how long?”
“Our kids education is in our hands.” Gulp.
There was a real sense of being personally responsible at a ground zero level. The home ground. Our little paradise was not just an adjunct to learning, it was now a learning institution.
Both of our school teachers were really very generous and helpful in setting us up with materials and getting us access to the on-line learning that they use in the school.
As an aside – I really didn’t want to be writing anything of the COVID 19 virus on this blog and so I’ve held out until now. But this is how we have come to adapt over the last couple of weeks and when the Little Fellas look back on this in years to come they can see a little more of the world that was not apparent to them at the time. If you’d told me I’d be writing about my experiences of home schooling our kids a month ago I’d seriously have laughed. If it is indeed possible to laugh seriously. (?)
So after our first week of home schooling, these are what I have noticed. They are probably not new to those who already home school their kids, this is from a somewhat forced hand shall we say, but a welcome one.
10 Things I like about Home Schooling
- Straight off the bat, in the first half hour I could see that we would discover first hand the strengths and weaknesses of each child in each subject. An opportunity awaited.
- This allows us to customise the learning experience to the individual child ie. breaking up desk maths with laying on the rug and going through flash cards as a game.
- We can more easily adopt various learning strategies rather than a generalised learning style. I’m not all that keen on using on-line learning so I try to break up the content to keep it interesting and then for those moments when we need to get other things done, allow for screen time and learning on the tablet. Still under a watchful eye and with assistance. It gives them space.
- The learning spills over. We are more mindful of the learning process and I can see how we are slipping in extra teaching throughout the day. The Little Fellas love it. We sat in the dark with a candle and a ping-pong ball and I explained to them about the hemispheres and the seasons and with the addition of a larger ball, how the moon phases change.
- The Little Fellas are actually getting into the swing of things early. Despite initial objection to a morning walk down the beach they are continuing their projects when they rise – and wait for their morning walk.
- We keep to a rough routine that tracks their school time table, but on the whole we’ve found we start earlier and ‘finish’ earlier. We are all aware that the learning doesn’t stop at 2pm but it simply changes. They help in the garden, help in the kitchen, go for a bike ride or work on art projects.
- Variety is alive. They read us their books. We read them from history books and science books. They want to colour in a kookaburra and so they find the bird book and look at what colours a ‘real’ kookaburra is. They’ve taken a skink from the grips of a magpie and brought the limp, lifeless little thing inside. Within minutes we had it preserved in a jar of methylated spirits for further observation. We’ve grafted a bright, colourful cactus scion onto a graft stock. A seemingly simple project turns into a multidiscipline approach incorporating art, science, writing, maths and also reading.
- They drink water. I’ve been telling them I am earnestly going to talk to their teachers if they don’t get to drinking their water at school. More often than not they come home with relatively full bottles. As a result they don’t get breakfast in the morning until they’ve had a glass of water to start the day. That way I know they’ve had some to begin with. At home they now drink regularly because the glass of water is there on the table all the time. Waiting.
- When the big emotions show their full strength we can deal with it then and there. The big questions get the time required to answer them properly. We supplement this with the odd YouTube clip or piece of on-line research, if not immediately, then booked in for a later time.
- I’m taking the opportunity to speak to them about subjects such as gratitude and consideration – and why they are important. We have to be mindful of Gran and her certain requirements or comforts. We send out text messages, short videos or photos to family members of some of the days little moments. To share a little of the experience.
What we have to look out for:
- Sticking to a routine or structure. It’s easy to get distracted at the best of times. As a pre-emptive measure I reduced the furniture and clutter in the living areas so that there was less visual distraction. Toys, phone calls, deliveries all still invade but can be dealt with without to much interruption.
- Keeping the break times interesting. The Little Fellas are not getting to play with their usual little mates so we have to vary things so that each break is looked forward to. I enjoy doing what we call Rumble Time with them. We have a mat that gets put out, we have rules which we go over before we start and then we get into some rough and tumble. They love it.
- Time outside is important. They get a play at the park, their morning beach walk or a bike ride, some time in the garden. They might get to chat with their friends over the back gate at a distance and this does them good.
- Hide the food. They get their breakfast and school snacks. Where possible I hide bowls of fruit or containers of snacks in the fridge. If they see it, they want it. As an aside to this I have sat down to teach number values using match sticks and sultanas. If the mathematical workings are correct they get to eat the sultanas. This somehow also takes the edge of the inevitable – ‘I’m starving’.
- We’ve had trouble and concern over computer tablets getting removed the night before or in a dawn raid and accessed. Even viewed at night after bed time under the rugs. They get locked in the office each night. I just need to make sure the office key is available to lock the door with! Sneaky monkeys!
- I want to say that we probably move through the work quicker, but in doing so we also add in little extras. Plus if there are other interruptions or diversions this can spread the time out. As above, if there are tantrums we deal with it – which can take time and some space.
- While mentioning space, one of the first flow on things we did after they ‘finished’ school on Friday was to come home and set up their own desk and study area. This happened somewhat by default, but in retrospect I think it was a really worthwhile thing to do on many other levels too. It provided a context for a continuation onto something new and different. There was a novelty to it, a personal learning space and an organisation physically and mentality – readying the mind for what was to come. I think we need to keep this learning space special, unique and workable.
- I’ve found there is some nice flexibility to it all. There needs to be if it is to work. We just need to remain mindful that we cover the days items. Both of the Little Fellas are learning a musical instrument so this normally happens before they leave for school. Now, in consideration of the other, one does their music practice and the other will do so later in the day. Having two different instruments being played at a beginner level in close proximity does not work for learning or calm nerves.
You probably haven’t noticed, but I’ve categorised this post under People Care and Produce No Waste. People Care speaks the obvious, but Produce No Waste is a reminder to me that no opportunity is to become a wasted opportunity in our home schooling experience or in our time yet to come. I want to make the most of this opportunity and give our kids a really unique experience that we simply could not have afforded previously. It’s a silky, slippery irony isn’t it? Such a twist.
To be honest, I see Gran’s room as having transpired into a Den of Doom & Despair. Even her demeanor has changed. There are regular news updates on the TV. Statistics. Announcements. News flashes. National addresses. Just the general fall-out of it all in daily life and the consequences to come. Personally, I stay clear of the media reports where at all possible.
I stand committed to the story I tell my boys. That there will be so much more good to come from all of this. It may not come tomorrow, but it will play out in the years to come. And there will be changes that occur that will impact them in their life times. I don’t know how I know this. But that is what I think.
So I will continue to record how these changes impact our own little paradise here in this corner of the world. Refining, organising and capturing my thoughts and concepts digitally.