Leo was very clear, at the age of three, that he didn’t want to be left at nursery school. The experience of a just a few days trying shook him up a fair bit. We backed off and I did, occasionally, worry that we were ‘storing up trouble’ or that he would never be happy ‘to be left’. But his evident happiness that it was no longer necessary to struggle with the issue made us sure we’d done the right thing. Earlier this week, Leo started at an art group for home educated kids. When I spoke to him about whether he was happy to be there alone, he was certain that he’d be fine. He is just eight years old and he was calm and confident, pleased to meet the ‘real artist’ who runs the group and show him some of his drawings. It is lovely to see how Leo has grown, bit by bit, in confidence and is now ready to go along to anything that he fancies and give it a go. There are plenty of kids who are happy to do that at four or five, but Leo has got there in his own time, and that’s the only time that matters.
Pearlie is ever more grown up too. She’s learning all the skills involved in being independent as she goes about the place alone. What I like about our life is that she can make the choices that feel right that day. Rather than having to get on the school bus, one day at the age of eleven, and then every day after, she has the opportunity to build up to longer journeys – or make a big leap if she’s in the mood. I put a great deal of store in listening to yourself, judging what feels right by how you feel, not what you think you should be able to do – or not do. P is remarkably capable in the world and enjoys her independence, but it’s on her own terms and in her own time. She's so sociable - spent the whole day with other kids and adults today in two different home ed groups and at Woodcraft. She's looking forward to a Woodies camp in the summer and a trip to the Isle of Wight with other home edders but without us!
In the last couple of months, Leo’s handwriting has developed into a, very fine, script. This has been just another stage in his development as a literate person. He’s taken every step at his own pace – and in his own way. By his sixth birthday he could read more or less anything that fell under his gaze, but his writing was still likely to have reversed letters, no gaps between words or punctuation to speak of. His spellings were largely phonetic and his letters a mix of upper and lower case. This never stopped his enthusiasm for writing and I’m sure that he learned loads through this early writing. His adoption of this new writing style has been really rather easy – maybe because he had laid all the real foundations of writing already – in his own way. He already knew how to spell, a lot of rules of punctuation and had considerable stamina. If we’d given him a pencil at five and got him sitting down tracing joined script (like they do in the schools round here) who knows what we would have been disrupting? I did offer to help him learn to write like this and I have supported him in his learning, but he was happy to put in some time every day because it was the right time – the time he wanted to learn a joined script. And, so, here it is - Leo’s achievement in Leo’s own time. And for his own purpose...
Pearlie is at a moment in her life when she is ready to understand a lot about how the world works – politics and all that. She reads First News and the local paper every day. She watches the news and reads websites and loves to watch Have I Got News for You and some of Bremner, Bird and Fortune. I guess there are many eleven year olds who would find both those shows impenetrable and uninteresting. But this is the right time for Pearlie and so she is getting what she can from them at the moment. She really likes the bit in BBF where posh London types are having a dinner party. There’s so much there to observe and learn from – the politics, satire, good writing, excellent comic timing... The right things at the right time for P.
I guess it isn’t always a case of waiting. Sometimes our kids do things that take us by surprise because they happen before they’re ‘expected’. But, either way, the right time is the right time and the order in which those things come along is the order that’s right for that child. Home education gives us the freedom to respect the pace, the order, the style of our kids’ learning and I love it. Of course, there will be times in the kids’ lives when they’re under pressure, when they need to get to grips with something quick, or suffer the consequences. That’s true for all of us. But I hope that lots of time learning things in their own way will keep them confident and engaged with the world. I think it’s true so far!