There's just been one cloud in the otherwise sunny sky... and that is the fact that I am educating three very different personalities at home (and elsewhere). I was about to say three "little" personalities, referring to their age and size comparative to me, the big grown-up - but the truth is, their personalities are every bit as big as mine, and certainly more demanding at times! Anyway, one of the many reasons why people, including us, turn to home education is the opportunity to tailor the learning to the needs, styles and abilities of the individual. Only when you have more than one individual with different needs, abilities etc, that's when it can get more challenging.
Educationally speaking for us, it's not too bad: all three boys do Reading Eggspress and MathsWhizz with varying levels of enthusiasm on different days - and on the whole, that presents no problems, other than making sure they each get their turn on whichever computer is in use. They also all enjoy doing project work and creating lapbooks, in their different styles: Eldest likes creating books with multiple chapters, doing a separate page for each sub-topic, researching information on the web, typing up what he has discovered and finding photos to include - he learns as he creates, but rarely looks at them once finished; Middle likes a simple envelope file with lots of fiddly bits and interactive pop-out bits, he will read books about his subject, and loves me to print off resources so he doesn't have to do too much writing - but he re-reads his lapbooks a few times after he has created them, learning more from them after the process of creating is complete; Youngest loves his lapbooks and takes them every bit as seriously as those of his brothers. I am a lot more involved as he's not yet up to doing much research (he is just reading, but not fluently yet) - although this week he announced that he wanted to do a lapbook on Alligator Snapping Turtles, based on information he had learned from "Octonauts" on CBeebies. He told me what he wanted to include - and I typed it up, found the pictures, and drew the dotted lines for him to write along. He has only just started to learn to write, and I was so proud of him today - he really concentrated and his letter formation is already looking good, for a beginner! *Lapbook photos at the end*
Their further individual preferences are fairly easy to cater for as well: Eldest likes computer games (Grid club a big hit), taking photos, drawing, writing his diary, making up cartoon-strip stories - he needs little input from me as he is older, other than liking to share his findings with me; Middle likes anything creative - baking, art (especially collage), modelling, gardening etc - he positively glows when he gets to do things with me; Youngest also loves computer games, imaginative play, investigating everything (whether it's his or someone else's - hmmmm) - he is quite independent by nature, but needs a fair amount of supervision still: if he goes quiet somewhere I still need to track him down. There is a lot of overlap too - they are all happy to do science experiments, make cakes, explore nature, have a go at an art project, make up games together... and today they spent a good couple of hours all playing "Spin 'n' Groove" on Gridclub - a music sampling mini-program where they get to compose their own music from given samples.
So, as I said, educationally things are OK. Yes I'm busy - there are occasions when one has to wait while I finish with one brother, but it's OK, we seem to have settled into a groove that works for us to make sure everyone is getting on fine, and nobody seems to have to wait for too long. Part of the reason why this works I think is because we keep most of our mornings free for them to be at home, exploring whatever has their interest at the time, doing the more obvious "learning" - and we are all comfortable with that routine.
So if not educationally, what is the issue? Well, it's largely social. Eldest is a proper people-person. He loves playing with friends, and not infrequently mentions that he misses school - largely because he misses seeing his best friend every day - although he is always quick to add that he doesn't miss it enough to want to go back. Middle however is more introverted. Where at a social gathering Eldest will play with many people at once (the more the better), Middle tends to just make one good friend and focus on having fun with them - he doesn't handle big groups so much. He is really very friendly to anyone, he doesn't hang back anymore like he did when we left school - but he is much less confident that people will want to play with him, and if he has a discouraging experience it puts him right off going back. Meanwhile Youngest is mr. independent. Totally happy playing by himself or with his brothers, he is happy for people to play with him if they want, but he doesn't go out of his way to invite them, and at the moment, wouldn't care if we never went anywhere social.
So my problem is always this: where can we go to 'socialise' (for Eldest's sake at least) that isn't too academic (the range between an eleven-year-old and a four-year-old is really quite a stretch and usually leaves at least one of them uninterested), that is on in the afternoons (to protect our little routine while it is working for us), and doesn't threaten Middle, confidence-wise.
We do have craft club - which is so lovely we make an exception to the 'afternoon' rule. As it's on Tuesday mornings it follows pyjama day (which is set in stone: the boys are passionate about protecting PJ Day at home), and they boys physically need to get out fairly early. Heather who runs it is lovely and flexible, happy for the boys to do their own thing, which they often do, and there are always children there to play with after they have finished creating.
Other than that, there is a sports group which we used to go to and Eldest loves. Youngest is ambivalent, but Middle had an off-putting experience when I encouraged him to have a go at something he wasn't sure about, it didn't go well, and he was crushed - I didn't realise how badly until he refused to go back. I don't see the point in forcing him back - he's the sort of child who needs to be allowed time to be ready himself - if you force him, you just set the process right back. However, I really need to find another place for Eldest (and his brothers) to have the opportunity for socialising in larger groups (we frequently have playdates with friends in their houses; socialising in general isn't an issue). Happily for us, a friend has had the genius idea of setting up a fortnightly nature group. I mean, what could be more perfect for us? (I can't believe I didn't think of it myself!) So we have our first outing planned next week, and a few more ideas for following that. I am very excited. So watch this space: here's hoping it goes as well as I foresee...
Finally, before I leave you with Youngest's lapbook, I was introduced to this blog post today, from tutorspree blog, and am sharing it for anyone interested in reading more about educating individuals.
And now (if you've stuck with me thus far, thank you - that was a bit of a mammoth post!)... Youngest's lapbook. I admit, it's not a subject I would immediately have thought of suggesting, but bless him: he knew everything he wanted to say, and he did a great job!