Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A bit of reflection...

September is really here. This morning was first morning back at several of the local schools – including the one the cousins go to. I had to get up early as we were expecting a British Gas engineer any time after eight. I found myself glibly telling the kids that the "gas man" would be coming and they should get dressed if they were bothered about being seen in pjs. Opened the door at 9.20am to rather cute gas woman – and was shocked at my own lazy assumptions. There were days when I’d never have used such language! Anyway, she got tea and checked boiler and pronounced it fine.

I find it astonishing that it is three years ago that Pearl left junior school – two weeks into her first term. What shocks me most is the realisation that Leo is now, more or less, the age that Pearlie was back then. I think it may be the fate of the elder child to always appear to be ‘getting really grown up’ and for the younger to be seen as ‘still a baby’. I don’t think either does the poor child any favours – but it is hard sometimes to stand back and see where the kids really are.

Almost more surprising than the changes in the children over three years has been the transformation in our day to day lives. I can’t really say that we’ve been on a long philosophical journey – we were always drawn to child-centred and autonomous approaches to learning – even when P was going to school. But what has changed a great deal is the way that we can choose the structure of our week – how we spend our time. We do have far more external structure imposed on us than many home ed families – because of the way that D and I work part-time around each other and the fact that the children choose quite a lot of group activiies at the moment. But, that is nothing compared to the thirty hours a week school pattern that we lived for the years that P was at school. The mornings, in particular, I remember with some anxiety!

At the moment we have a big layout on our notice board showing the days of the week and the various combinations of activities and available people. We have been thinking over the summer about this. It does look rather busy – but still contains long stretches of hours where we are free to choose what we do – and more and more this is real choice for all of us – not just the kids! The more observant among you may have noticed that I often find moments to blog during the day now – in contrast to when the kids were younger. This is because they tend to need my input less these days – or in a less concentrated way.

Yesterday P spent most of the morning engaged in writing a letter to her ‘other pen friend’. He is an animal rights activist in jail in the USA. She first wrote to him at the suggestion of the young anarchist who is play worker at one of her home ed groups. Dani and I are very pleased that she gets input from young anarchists on a regular basis! In her last letter she asked him a little bit about his conviction and he told her about a campaign web site where she could find out more. She did this yesterday morning and we discussed the various issues involved in the case – and animal rights in general. My input in this was just to have a look at the web site and chat really! Oh, and to give up my computer use a little later when P was writing the letter so that she could check a spelling. We do, of course, have dictionaries, but P has found that the quickest thing to do is to Google the word and see what most people think. This appeals to me as an approach – sort of wiki spelling…

Leo needed a bit of help with cutting a window and door in a very tough cardboard box that he was using to make a home for his Dalek Sec Hybrid action figure. I also got some fabric down off a high shelf so that he could make him a bed with covers.

It’s not always that way. Some days I am wanted far more – if only to referee pointless arguments about who did what to whom. And sometimes I can’t resist the niggling worry that makes me stick my oar in and try to ‘check’ or ‘make sure’ about some skill or bit of knowledge. I must confess that I also do tend to ask the kids if “they have a plan for the morning/afternoon” if they are watching TV with a glazed expression. And I’m far more likely to ask that if the TV in question is a repeat of ‘Basil Brush’ than a history programme or BBC children’s drama! If they say “no” then I will go away – but not necessarily with an easy mind. I guess that there are some who would say that I am not really trusting in autonomous learning at that moment – and they’d probably be right. But I think that it would be very unhealthy if I didn’t sometimes have doubts. And I will usually just remind the child that I am available to help or participate if they need me for anything.

I guess there is a fuzzy area around offering, suggesting, implying and nagging! For me, as long as there is no insistence on my part, I don’t hold back from making suggestions. I hope that my relationship with the kids is strong enough that they are able to see the suggestion as just that. Personally I often like to be given suggestions of activities if I am unsure or aimless. I very rarely take them! But, other people’s ideas will sometimes kick start my brain – and I think the same thing happens with the kids at times.

An issue that we are currently dealing with is music practice. With a mixture of band sessions and occasional one to one lessons for Leo, we are currently spending roughly £100 a month. This does affect the way I feel about the kids’ desire to play – or not. That sort of money is very significant in our budget. I know (from music lessons as a child) that you can either pick up something new in your time with the teacher (if you have done some playing between lessons) or you can find that you are just treading water each session, getting back to where you were at the end of the previous one. And your teacher will get less and less motivated if you are clearly never playing between sessions. I am not very inclined to see that happen at such a high financial cost to us as a family! I will never insist that they play (life is way too short to treat music (music!) as a chore) but I have given them the message that they need to do that to make the outlay on lessons worthwhile. I’m all for intrinsic motivation but also think that my kids need to know the financial realities of our lives!

Anyway, the silent reading and painting going on here has suddenly given way to a slight spat! Someone’s head bumped someone’s chair… So, I’m off to offer a snack and make a cup of tea.

12 comments:

Wobblymoo said...

Google is a great spell checker, why waste time getting the dictionary out :)

Anonymous said...

We use a dictionary a lot in our house. We look up the particular word we need to know about, then challenge each other to test our knowledge and understanding of other words on the page. Sounds boring, but it often causes hysterical laughter in our house.

Lucy said...

Lol at your gas-man language!
It's really interesting (and very reassuring!) that you sometimes have wobbles over autonomy as you are the epitome of autonomy! I'm finding it quite challenging to have the faith although I do believe in it. Our children are still young so there's no pressure on us yet but there's already niggles that maybe I should be doing more. Everyone else seems to have a plan.

Lisa G said...

Oh so glad I'm not the only one who has doubts sometimes. I believe in autonomy but when they're watching crap on the tv, it's hard sometimes to feel at ease with that!
Anarchist play workers! Brighton must rock, I'm going to have to come down and visit sometime!

Liza said...

as someone who often gets the wobbles about autonomy it's good to hear that others do to.

I'v recently introduced A to dictionary.com much easier than trying to use a dictionary for a very impatient boy who needs to find the word NOW!!

Liza said...

grrr i missed out an O, it was a typo honest.. i can spell really i can!!

Elaine said...

We found a small spell checker , JR can enter a word phonically and it comes up with suggestions. She likes to play a game where she tries to enter a 'word' that it cannot find a word for

Michelle said...

lol at gas person identity!

I am reading blogs whilst C has managed to spend all mornnig watching c**p cbeebies tv (pc is in same room as tv). I have pointed out she's tv-d all morning but this didn't seem to bother her. It will later though when she realises she has no time to do the painting she said earlier (watching big picture little picture) she wanted to do.

I am trying not to let it bother me (but it does - would rather it was productive tv viewing!) and am salvaging some morsals of comfort in that she is Hama beading at the same time.

Dani said...

Very kind, but I'm sure we're not the epitome of autonomy - I think that's Gill.

Anyway, I find it consoling, when the kids are spending hours watching repeats of kids programmes they've seen before, to think about the unexpected educational spin-offs we have seen from such things. Like Leo's interest in eggs being sparked by his (thankfully short-lived) passion for Power Rangers Dino Thunder. Or the observation he made recently about some detail of the animation in Horrid Henry. After all, you really do never know what's going on inside their heads...

HelenHaricot said...

I worry on the sibling thing,especially witha larger gap that we push SB forward as she is the oldest,and hold BB back.I am suprised looking at old photos what we did with SB at the same age.

'EF' said...

Yeps, Gill is THE autonomy DIVA as far as most of us are concerned, but there's more than one way to skin a c.....stopping there thinking how pc it would be to finish the sentence.

Arggh...reminded now of those school morning rushes...just awful, but something one just gets into and forgets there could be another way.

Many other ways, we all choose our own :)

Deb said...

LOL at the gaswoman, and agree on the oldest=grownup, youngest=baby thing. Not sure where it leaves any in the middle ;-)