As promised ~ I thought I'd fill you all in on how our mini-skool is working, now that we have doing it for half a term already! The verdict from the kids is that it is brilliant (except that of course it is still school)! And the verdict from me is that it is BRILLIANT!!
The children get up and ready for school and can start whenever they are ready. For the girls this often means they are begun first as they are currently my early risers. Taz usually starts on the dot of 9 as he is my routine-fixed child. Bugs, well he gets up whenever the fancy takes him, but knows that the work must get done regardless and actually has been great at it (better than I expected). He sometimes tarries things over to Friday, but he still does them, so that's fine :D
I really can't believe how well this is working actually!
Lilo is even good at coming and getting me to do her two-a-day with Mummy and then doing her other few things before she sidles off to play for the rest of the day (mostly).
DD comes and gets me when the mood takes him and I down-tools to work with him when he does. I'm fine with it like this at the minute for him, as he is really only ready for school on his terms. He is, despite that, learning really well :D. I could still use a workbox for him, but all too often he would say he didn't want to do whatever I put in it and disappear to avoid doing it! We actually seem to be achieving more with him deciding what and when to do things. These days I'm very much of the idea that 6-7 is a better age to start any (semi)structured learning ~ and he is not yet 5!
Stitch spends too much time of square screens, but I'm trying out the idea that maybe he will saturate himself and become bored enough to come looking for other things to do! I'm not convinced he will mind ~ it doesn't seem to happen in this house, especially with the boys! Meanwhile he is learning tonnes from the things he plays on, so it can't all be bad :D. Occasionally he will choose a tot-shelf activity and then either myself (if I am not working with anyone else) or one of the big-kids will down tools to play with him. These are nice times usually, but somehow I just think being a toddler is not a challenge to him! Everything I create he seems to do with ease and much as he enjoys the activity he doesn't often choose to repeat it. I'm struggling to think of things to stretch him whilst still keeping the activities appropriate to his age (iyswim). He doesn't much like pencil work so colouring is not an option. He isn't much into sticking either, though he will occasionally if he's in the mood. He likes painting sometimes and enjoys cutting, but these are not everyday activities here (neither would I want them to be!). All that said, he is happy and learning well enough, but I do often wish we lived near enough to a playgroup for him to be able to benefit from some time there ~ not so much for the social aspect (although I think he would enjoy that), but for the variety of resources he would be exposed to which I simply do not have the funds to buy (oh, I wish I did, but then I wouldn't have the space!).
Anyway ~ back to Mini-Skool. It basically is a glorified tick-box system that some of my friends are working with, but more visual (for my very visual kids). I like that it is adaptable for 6 to any age and much as I might need to make new tickets every now and then as subjects change, there really is very little work involved in maintaining the system. Every now and then I throw out a worksheet or two (if I've noticed something needs more work doing on) and that is considered to be the ticket for whatever subject it fits with. It is flexible, so on an 'off' day the kids can choose to do lots of crafts and reading and then just catch up on the academics on a day when their brain is working better! There is no 'dreading' of particular days because each day is the shape they choose it to be. The may still prefer not to do certain bits of work at all, but at least they can set to those when they are in the right frame of mind instead of just because it is next on their list/thing in the box. There seems to be plenty of fun and more craft happening and generally my 'school-room' (there's no getting away from it, that's what I have) is a happy place of positive learning, as opposed to the grumpy place of drudgery that it has been at times. There are still grumpy times, but they are much much fewer and further between than they were in the past :D
At LAST I think I have found something that works for us :D I have found a method of semi-structured-autonomy ~ if there is such a thing!! :D Admittedly the younger ones get most of the 'autonomy' side of things, but even the older ones have a good deal more say in their learning than ever they did before. Taz, for instance, HATES art with a passion. SO, I allow him to sit in only on the 'theory' part of the lesson and then he goes off to watch the Yesterday channel and chalks that up as History (partly because I've not really done any History with them this half term and he is more interested than the others in it ~ he likes a programme called 'World War 2's Greatest Battles' and I'm sure it is educational so I see no reason to not allow him ~ besides no-one else wants to learn about that!), or does his drum practice, or something else that only he does :D Bugs has his photography and Flickr account that are exclusive to his learning. Minnie does some sewing. TP hasn't found her 'thing' yet, neither has Lilo, but I'm sure they will soon enough and with this system there is room to accommodate individuality. Another great thing about this, is that it has made room in our lives for music :D!! I am now teaching guitar to Bugs and Minnie, and TP, Lilo and Taz are starting up piano. I don't play piano, but I do know 'how' it plays, so I can instruct them and Paul can polish them up :D Taz did start once before and his fingers seem to have remembered a fair bit, so I'm hoping he will get back to where he was pretty quick and move on. Lilo and TP are starting from scratch, but that's great :D It's so good to hear music (albeit hesitant, scratchy music) in my home everyday!
So ~ there you have it my self-review of my very own system. If you fancy giving it a try, just email me and I'll give you pointers, but at the end of the day I think we each have to find what works for us, our families and our kids. Trying out other people's methods is a great way to find our own! If I had never heard of, or tried Sue's Workbox System, I would never have come up with this and for that I am VERY grateful.
I haven't yet got around to re-utilising the workboxes, but I will. I have a plan...