{Daughter Diaries} #66

Daughter Diaries 66 | The Open Home

Dear Blossom, I love your sweet anticipation as you await the arrival of your new baby brother or sister. There is no jealousy or rivalry within you, just sheer joy that there will soon be a baby in our home to love and cuddle and squidge and kiss. You’d fill our home with many more babies if you had your way and your open heart and generous spirit truly bless me. You give me courage and confidence for the days that are to come and I’m so grateful for that. Dear Bubbles, your name suggestions for baby have been interesting to say the least, but unfortunately Daddy is not up for calling the baby Buttercup, Pirate Pants or Barnacle, but I do think that last one really did have a good ring to it. Thanks for being willing to pass on that baby of the family position to another and thanks for “patiently” waiting outside the bathroom door whilst I have my relaxing bath time, just so you’re ready to help with rubbing cream into my baby bump. What would I do without you? Dearest Daughters, always remember that no matter how old you get, no matter how many children I have, you are and will always be my precious baby girls.

What funny name suggestions have you heard children come up with?

{Wild Challenge} Feed the Birds

Wild Challenge | Feed the Birds | The Open Home

The girls have ticked off their first help nature activity as part of their RSPB Wild Challenge bronze award, meaning we’re now half way to achieving it! This time they got their hands sticky in an attempt to feed the birds.

We stocked up on nuts, bird seed, suet bites and meal worms and mixed it all together with some grated cheese, raisins and lard. We were able to create 7 yogurt pot sized bird feeders for hanging around the garden as well as a bird food cake to put in our ground feeder.

Our resident robin in particular is especially appreciating their efforts and the girls feel pleased they are helping nature right in their own back yard.

Here is the photo evidence:

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When was the last time you fed the birds?

{March Gratitudes}

Gratitudes March 2020 | The Open Home
For the respite that is nature.
Gratitudes March 2020 | The Open Home
For the artist that is within.
Gratitudes March 2020 | The Open Home
For life amidst chaos.
Gratitudes March 2020 | The Open Home
For the spring that comes after the winter.
Gratitudes March 2020 | The Open Home
For the art of celebration.
Gratitudes March 2020 | The Open Home
For the strength to carry on.
Gratitudes March 2020 | The Open Home
For our lifestyle of learning.

 

These are the inserts from our gratitude journal during March, reminding us that God is good and we are blessed.

What have you been thankful for lately?

{Wild Challenge} Bird Watching

RSPB Wild Challenge | Bird Watching | The Open Home

The girls have ticked off another experience nature activity as part of their RSPB Wild Challenge bronze award, this time by going bird watching. They made use of a break in the rainy weather a couple of weeks back and embarked on a Daddy expedition to the bird hides by vale pond taking with them their nature supplies complete with binoculars, camera, field guide, clipboards and of course, those all important snacks.

They managed to spot snipes and coots, herring gulls and ducks, great tits and pigeons, a robin, blackbird and plenty of crows.

Here is the photo evidence:

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When was the last time you went birdwatching?

{Daughter Diaries} #65

Daughter Diaries 65 | The Open Home

Dear Blossom, it happened! It finally happened! After a year of patiently waiting you have finally lost a tooth! What a momentous milestone for you, my dear. I’m so sorry that we can’t go out and get ice-cream to celebrate as planned, but we shall just have to take a rain check on that and go when the world is a little less strange. Dear Bubbles, yesterday’s nature walk was one of the best, the perfect walk to supersede the island’s lock down. For you know amongst all the craziness of life right now, in that little garden, at that moment in time, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and it felt good to be alive. Nature has a way of making everything feel right, doesn’t it? Dearest Daughters, in the words of Rachel Carson, “there is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrain of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after the night, and spring comes after winter.” Dawn will come my loves, dawn will come.

How do you plan to make the most of your time in isolation?

{Learning at Home} Keep Calm!

Learning From Home | Keep Calm! | The Open Home

As of today Guernsey schools are officially closed, two weeks ahead of the Easter holidays meaning at least 4 weeks at home for Guernsey children with a recommendation to socially distance (not self isolate as yet, unless you’re considered more vulnerable), meaning most families can still pop outdoors for some sensibly distanced fresh air at this time.

(N.B. The situation may have changed since this post was published on Monday, 23rd March 2020 at 9:00. Please keep an eye on the States of Guernsey website for the latest updates.)

Firstly parents, please don’t panic! Your kids are home from school for 6 weeks over the school summer holidays every year, often enjoying lots of unscheduled free time and they do just fine.

Yes these school closures could last much longer, but we don’t know that for certain at this stage and you now have time to plan for that possibility over the coming weeks.

Secondly, during these school closures your child’s education is still the responsibility of as the States of Guernsey, Education Department and the schools will likely be providing you with suggestions of projects, online resources and apps to use whilst your child is at home. So again, don’t panic! You will be supported and guided over the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime as a registered, long term home educator I just want to share a few pieces of advice that I give to new home educators, which I hope will also calm your nerves and reassure you as you transition into learning at home with your children this week.

5 ways to keep calm as you transition into learning at home with your children:

 

1. Take things slow

Learning From Home | Keep Calm! | The Open Home

Honestly, even if you treat the next 4 weeks as an extended Easter holiday and simply schedule lots of free play, outdoor walks and family fun activities, you’ll have done plenty.

You don’t have to have everything sorted straight away. It’s fine to take a few weeks to prepare, come up with ideas and formulate some sort of plan. It’s fine to start small and to start slow, introducing one subject into the school day at a time.

Our full days of learning have been a process of two and half years of slowly adding in the next thing, working out what works, rejigging things accordingly and then trying again. Give yourself some grace, you’re learning too!

Just figure out what your priority is. It may be reading practice, maths, a daily walk or craft? Pick one area, establish that into your daily routine and then add in the next thing. It’s like spinning plates. It’s easier to spin the next plate once you’ve already got the first plate spinning.

 

2. Keep it simple

Learning From Home | Keep Calm! | The Open Home

Sometimes less is more and as I said in my last post there are many simple things you can do to learn at home as a family. Think crafts and games, gardening and baking, not tedious worksheets and hours studiously sat around a table.

Learning from home can be noisy and messy and that’s okay! One of the great things about learning at home is that you can be creative in how you learn, when you learn and what you learn. There is no right or wrong way to home educate and every home educating family I know does it differently, so just do it your way.

 

3. Forget about school

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Learning from home looks very different to learning at school. My kids aren’t sent out for break time at 10:00am everyday or sat at little desks whilst I stand by a white board and deliver a lesson. Most of our learning takes place cuddled up on the sofa, outdoors in nature or at the dining table with our craft supplies strewn around.

Just remember…

  • You don’t need a strict daily schedule or even a weekly timetable
  • You don’t need to do maths every day nor cover all subjects every week
  • You don’t need to do school from 9-3 everyday
  • You don’t need to do school from Monday to Friday

You can…

  • Fit in school work around your work and family commitments
  • Create a daily rhythm that works for you
  • School on the days that suit you, taking days off mid week if need be
  • Prioritise the subjects that are most important to you and your child

 

Personally, we do a 4 day school week which allows me to work 2 days as well. We tend to have the academic part of our school day – our reading, writing, maths and main lesson – done by lunch time meaning our afternoons are then free for crafts, time outdoors and lots of free play (or if need be a movie so I can catch up on housework or sleep!)

We don’t do maths every day. We don’t yet do a foreign language or music lessons and we plan to skip geography completely next school term, because we can.

We prioritise history and the arts, literature, nature study and PSHE because they are the subjects we love and find most important.

Work with your knowledge and enthusiasm, follow your child’s interests and figure out what your priorities are for learning at home during this time.

So remember, it doesn’t have to look like school, in fact most home educators educate their kids from home because they don’t want it to look like school! That is why here in Britain we tend to prefer the term home educating over homeschooling, because we are not trying to recreate school at home.

 

4. Rhythm is your friend

Learning From Home | Keep Calm! | The Open Home

The highly scheduled timetable of school is necessary when you have a huge number of kids to control and coordinate, but at home such a schedule is unnecessary and can take the fun, flexibility and freedom out of learning.

A rhythm on the other hand can be your best friend! A natural ebb and flow to the day where chores follow breakfast, maths follow chores, then a morning walk and lunch, followed by a family read aloud and afternoon of play. The day may start at 9 one day and 10 the next, but the flow is the same.

There is no pressure, no falling behind and flexibility to linger longer over that book you’re all enjoying so much or to skip maths today because you woke up late and need to get outdoors for a walk before the rain hits.

The predictability of a daily rhythm is reassuring to many children, helps you keep your sanity and ensures you get stuff done, but it’s flexible and enjoyable in the process.

So think rhythm over schedule – you can check out our daily homeschool rhythm {HERE} if you need some ideas.

 

5. Learn together

Learning From Home | Keep Calm! | The Open Home

One of my greatest privileges as a home educator is that I get to share in the joy of my children’s learning. I get to watch them connect the dots, help them to grasp a new math concept, read to them words of wisdom and learn right along side them.

So Embrace this moment. It may be inconvenient and it may be far from your first choice world at the moment but in the grand scheme of life this time at home learning with your children will be fleeting.

In a matter of weeks or months they will be back at school and during this uncertain and unpredictable time you want to show your kids that when life throws you lemons you can make lemonade!

You want to make this time enjoyable for you all so that in years to come when you look back and think of the school closures of 2020, you’ll remember with fondness that not only did you survive but you thrived!

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So those are 5 things that I hope will guide and reassure you over the coming weeks as you navigate learning at home with your children.

Remember to be kind to yourself and to be gentle with your kids. It’s an unsettling time for us all and if we adults are feeling anxious it’s no wonder that our kids may be acting out too. Even my girls who don’t attend school have been unsettled this past week and they don’t face the same extreme changes that school going children are going through.

So keep calm, keep it simple and watch this space. I have a few more posts lined up over the coming weeks for those of you who find yourself thrown into learning at home, which I hope will give you some practical suggestions and usable resources, all of which have been tried and tested by a long term home educator, me!

So tell me, which point above feels most relevant to you at this time?

{Learning at Home} Keep it Simple!

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

Along with the rest of the world, many families on island are now faced with the prospect of possible school closures in the face of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) world wide pandemic.

Now if you do find yourself stuck at home with your kids during this time, firstly do not panic, all will be well, you will survive and may even find that your child’s learning will thrive during this time, even if you do get a little cabin fever along the way.

Now remember that during this time at home your child’s education will still be the responsibility of their school and if living in Guernsey, the Education Department and I’m sure they will be providing you with ideas and resources that can support your child’s learning from home.

Also remember that your kids are home for a good 6 weeks during the school summer holidays every year, often enjoying lots of free play and unstructured time and their education does not suffer because of it.

However, as a home educator I appreciate that you may be feeling daunted at the prospect of suddenly having your kids at home with you all day and somewhat overwhelmed by the thought of having to guide their learning during this time.

I therefore thought I would share a blog post or two over the coming weeks with a few ideas and resources you can draw on to help support your child’s learning at home should you find yourself in that position.

*Please note that my posts here will focus on learning with primary school aged children as that is the experience I have as a home educator.

So lets jump in and lets keep it simple.

10 simple things you can do to learn at home as a family:

 

1. Chores

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

I start here on purpose. Chances are if your family is now home for most of the day then you’re going to have a lot more mess and clearing up to do. To preserve your sanity and to help make time and space for enjoying this home learning experience then everyone needs to muck in to help keep this new learning environment at it’s best. Chores are an important part of family life as it is, enabling children to serve others and feel like contributing, needed members of the family. Plus life skills are just so important, I mean, who wants an 18 year old that can do long division and algebra but can’t even do a load of laundry!? Not me! So get them making their beds, emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, sweeping the porch, setting the dinner table and contributing to family life.

 

2. Reading

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

I know, I know, you know this one! Of course reading! Whether it be read alouds as a family, older kids reading to the younger kids or your new readers doing individual reading practice with you, do it all! I’m sure your child’s school will provide you with reading lists to use at home, but if you find yourself with extra time on your hands then this is a great opportunity to get out those books you’ve meaning to read to your kids for some time. Perhaps there is a series you could work your way through, the Chronicles of Narnia, The Famous Five, Harry Potter, there are so many to choose from. Don’t have the books at home and can’t get to the library? No problem! Then just get an audio book subscription like Audible and listen along.

 

3. Writing

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

Writing does not have to be boring form filling, spelling tests and comprehension worksheets. I’m sure during isolation your kids will be missing school friends and family members so help them to stay connected whilst working on their writing at the same time by sending letters and postcards to friends. A simple postcard a day really will suffice. Gather them up at the end of the week and pop out for a quick stroll to the nearest postbox (if you’re not in official quarantine) and grab some much needed fresh air too. Perhaps stock up on postage stamps ahead of time.

 

4. Baking

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Missing all those sweet treats and coffee dates that made up part of your week? Well baking is a great way to eat cake whilst incorporating math skills in a hands on way. Stock up on ingredients now before school closures or quarantine hits and then once a week get your kids weighing ingredients, doubling recipes, halving the batter and setting the timer. Make a real party of it too, something to look forward to at the end of the school week or perhaps something to fill in the space where the kids are missing out on attending a group. Maths at it’s sweetest! (Pun intended)

 

5. Games

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

Most board games include some sort of math skills, whether it be basic counting, sequencing or even geometry. Great for turn taking, patience building and family bonding too. There are also card games and parlour games, whatever takes your fancy. Perhaps pick a game a day or even schedule a (screen free) games afternoon once a week.

 

6. Crafts

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

If you’re anything like us then you’ll still have boxes of unopened craft kits ready and waiting following Christmas. Whether it be candle making, soap making, sewing kits or simply painting and play dough, now is the time to do them all. Pull out the paints, open up the boxes and let them get messy and creative and enjoy the sensory experience. You could even start a hand made project ready for Father’s Day or even Christmas depending on how time consuming and technical it is.

 

7. Gardening

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

Gardening is such a great way to teach a variety of subjects. Maths is involved as you count out seedlings, writing as you label pots, natural history as you identify flowers and nature sciences as you discuss the benefits of composting and mulching. If you find yourself stuck at home and getting cabin fever then get out in the garden as much as possible if you have one. Weed, plant, identify birds, make a bug hotel and get your hands dirty all in a good way.

 

8. Music Practice

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

If your child is already learning a musical instrument then they now have plenty of time and no excuse not to be practicing it, possibly even twice a day! By the time they go back to music lessons and school orchestras they’ll be able to impress their teachers with their self directed progress.

 

9. Screen Time

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There are math apps and language learning apps, yoga videos, nature documentaries, as well as the usual computer games and TV shows that kids just love. Identify the apps that will aid your learning and then slot them into your daily and weekly rhythm in a way that is predictable and clear, making screens work for you and not against you. Perhaps you’ll allocate 15 minutes for a math app every day after lunch, a yoga video twice a week and a movie on the weekend. Whatever works for your sanity and your kids learning.

And remember screen time has it’s place in learning, but don’t allow it to be a crutch. I say this from experience when I advise that you use it wisely and sparingly and set the boundaries of it’s use from the get go. Poor behaviour, lack of attention and sensory meltdowns tend to come part and parcel with too much screen time and not enough time outdoors.

 

10. Free Play

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Last but by no means least don’t underestimate the importance of free play. More and more schools are adding free play time into their schedules and rightly so, it’s a great opportunity for children to express themselves, practice new skills and process what they’ve been learning in the classroom, not to mention de-stress. The chances are if you’re feeling worried by the current health pandemic then your kids are too, however much you’ve tried to protect them from the constant news updates and daily conversations that are hard to avoid. At times like this up the free play accordingly, they’re gonna need it.

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So yes, I know, simple things that deep down you already knew, but as Julie Bogart says in her excellent book The Brave Learner, “everything can be taught through anything” and sometimes we just need reminding of that.

And remember, just because your child is home from school doesn’t mean you need to recreate school at home. Free yourself from that notion right now and embrace the freedom and creativity that comes with learning from home.

In my next post I will share with your some of the free online resources I use on a regular basis to aid my daughters’ education at home. I’m sure you’ll find them useful too, but in the meantime you may find it helpful to read about our homeschool rhythm and see what a day in the life looks like for us.

Got questions about learning from home with your kids? Ask away in the comments below!