Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Busy House

It's been heaving with children in my house these last few days. On Monday I had eight here at one point - all under 8 - and on my own!! Then yesterday Jacob's friend came mid-morning and stayed til after tea. More 'girls' today when a couple of my friends came over for coffee. But it's been really nice and the children have enjoyed having lost of friends around - something that taking a summer break affords because all their friends are 'free' too. It's my day-off tomorrow. I'm going into Crewe to stock up on stationary and the like for next 'term'.

Yesterday was a pleasing day. Both boys went up a level in their swimming lessons. Joel is now in Level 3 (where Jacob started off a year ago) and Jacob is up to Level 6 - they are SO pleased with themselves and I am too. Jacob's front crawl is becoming really quite 'slick' now - he just needs to build his stamina and determination a little and master the breathing a little more.

Inspired by Merry's essay, I thought I'd let you all in on where we are 'at' this year.

I'm really beginning to feel I'm getting on top of my plans for next year now. I must admit I have felt a little daunted at the thought of the responsibility of schooling two boys, but I've decided on a lot more varied and 'light' program. Some things they will do together at the same level - like R.E, art, music, PSE, DT , because they will be new to our program. I know that sounds strange to some of you, but until now I've concentrated on Maths and English because I felt it really important to get a good grounding in those before 'adding in', AND the thought of teaching art fills me with dread so I'm hoping that a friend of mine will take that on. If not the guidelines I downloaded will be of some help I hope. Same goes for R.E, Music, Design Tech' & PSE ('Citizenship'). It sounds heavy but it's not really and I'm going to do these on a loosely rotating cycle. Then I've added in History and Geography which are new too, so we'll do that together and the resources I'm using seem to involve lots of 'hands-on' learning (i.e. making things!). Then all the other stuff will hopefully work as 'parallel' learning - same topic at different levels (that's maths, English, bible study, etc...).

But my main change for next year will not be so much content (although that is massively changed), but approach! Yes, we will still be 'structured' & even have a timetable of 'what when', but I have only scheduled a three day week for Joel (2 full & 2 half days) and a 3 and a half day week for Jacob. That leaves him with a day and a half for 'catch up' work (to finish of anything he needs to from the rest of the week), or do 'topic' work. Then I'm also not making out a daily schedule of each subject - we'll do what feels right for that day and stop when is suitable and we've had enough of it - it can carry over into catch-up time if need be. Every now and then I plan to just announce 'no school' day - just for fun and to keep us fresh and maybe even 'no school week' (?!) I'd like to tackle some 'unit study' work and anticipate that these might take just a day at times, or up to a week at others - flexibility is the name of the game this year. I reckon the only time I might like a little more 'concentrated effort' is towards the ends of each term when I'll want things rounded off and not left hanging into the next term. I'm quite excited about it all. I hope I can transfer some of that to the children.

The girls will both be out two mornings a week and Abbie will be out three, so life should be a little simpler. I won't have to try and keep them occupied at the same time as working with the boys, but I have got some materials to do with them when they are around, so that they feel involved more too. It's hard though, as Phoebe has so little language and Abigail is so independent- she just wants to do everything 'her' way! It's great though, I find myself really looking forward to the day when Abbie starts schooling too - it'll be like my own little classroom and I can do lots of 'group' activities with them all and they will be able to bounce ideas off each other instead of just me (something I do feel they miss out on being at home). Abbie is already beginning to show a desire to learn and trying to write the letters of her name. She can manage the A , the L and the b, but it all looks a little random - still, she's only 3.5!

Video night tonight with Paul, so catch you all tomorrow.


Alison said...

Oooh, a day shopping for stationery - brilliant :) Get me a few spiral-bound notebooks .... oh, and some fancy pens, please :)

Well done to the boys on their swimming!

A couple of art things that I've picked up on my surfing: which is loads of free art lessons, and which is an entire beginners' curriculum.
Merry might have something interesting for you one day too ..... ;-) (she whispers hopefully!)

merry said...

First of all Caroline, i just wanted to send you an enormous hug for the courage with which you address the things that might need changing in your particular approach. And i KNOW that sounds horribly touchy feely but i just wanted to say it because i find it really daunting at times to thrash out my feelings about this "most important of things" in public and you are right down one end of the sliding scale on the blog ring. Takes guts to evaluate in public i think.

I really hope you find a place where all of you feel comfortable and happy with what you are doing. I do know that spontaneity works and i know i was particularly lucky to fall in with people from early on who made it something so clearly workable but i also know that we all have our own tolerance zones. I know i will be HEing in 1 year and in 6 years very differently to how i do now. I want to enjoy it too and i want my children to be happy.

I also wanted to ask you if you would do a version of mine and Joyce's essay too - why you started with structure and how you are modifying your approach - i think that would cover three view points really nicely. (I'd like others too but those three are a good start!)

Alison, I'm off to Lincoln on Saturday to get the ball rolling on that idea :~) More soon i hope!

Caroline... can you get me some gel pens... ;~)

merry said...

I meant to add... one of the tiny snippets of CM reading i did which really changed my views went something like this... (paraphrasing from memory wildly)

Just because a child cannot access on its own some of the great literature and issues of the world does not mean that they shouldn't be exposed to it. Yes, its important to keep working at the basic skills but nothing gives a child a greater desire to learn how than knowing what is out there to discover. So do the basics in tiny chunks and then fill the day with everything about the world that is interesting, even if it means reading it to them.

I thought, if it wasn't an opinion that you had come across, that it might tie in nicely with some of the new things you want to cover, while taking some of the "must get maths and english" pressure off. I do think that Fran has really loved her projects over the last year - its given her a real passion for new things.

Hope that helps :~)

Caroline said...

WOW - what amazing encouragers you all are! And yes Merry, I shall try to post up a version of your essay - soon as I get time. I'm sorting out the study tonight, so - maybe tommorrow or over the weekend. And thanks again all. I had a great day today - save for getting soaked in a thunder storm, but hey! I'll blog tommorrow.

karen said...

Hi Caroline

I haven't commented much on your blogs as yet but I am reading with interest. Well done to your boys on their swimming and thanks for sharing your insights into your family world with us.