{Home Ed} Introducing Charlotte

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

Since we started home educating Blossom two and a half years ago, six families have been in contact with me directly to discuss the possibility of home educating their little one(s) at home on this island, not to mention the countless others I have spoken with online via a Facebook group for home educators in Guernsey.

They usually start by asking me what do we do and are then very eager to know what we use to do it.

This line of thought often has people bogged down in the “how to” of home educating, most often before they have even given much thought as to the “why” of home educating.

I personally feel it’s important to understand why you want to home educate your kids before you start planning how to home educate them and unfortunately, I’m often not much help when it comes to the “how to” of home educating, especially not when someone is after a curriculum suggestion, as we do not follow the national curriculum nor a box set of curriculum.

What I do follow however, is an educational philosophy.

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

Now if a curriculum is the “how to” of an education then an educational philosophy is the “why”. It’s the guiding principle that keeps the big picture in mind and the reference point for all learning.

This is why when prospective home educators are seeking advice on how to home educate their kids I like to encourage them to first take some time to think about why they want to home educate their kids. I find researching the various educational philosophies can really help with this, enabling you to identify the educational values and methods that aren’t always used in schools, but are important to you.

Now there are many educational philosophies out there and not everyone that home educates chooses to follow one and many even glean ideas from a few. Waldorf Steiner, Montessori, Classical, Charlotte Mason and Un-schooling seem to be the most popular ones, but there are others and I’m not going to go into the details of all of these here as I do not follow them all.

Instead today I would just like to introduce you to Charlotte Mason, the creator of the one educational philosophy that I do follow.

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

Now Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. As a child she was mostly educated at home by her parents and then as an adult went on to become a teacher, lecturer and educator who authored many books on the topic of educational theory. She also co-founded an organisation, the Parents Educational Union later renamed the Parents National Education Union, or the PNEU for short which offered support and resources to parents who were educating their children at home.

As her theory of education became popular the first school based on her principles was opened in 1890 and there are still a few PNEU private schools operating in the UK today, not to mention thousands of home educators worldwide choosing to educate their children the Charlotte Mason way.

Now I won’t go into all the principles of a Charlotte Mason education here nor will I share in detail about all of her wonderful methods, which appeal to so many. I will save that for a later post as this one is already getting rather long. Today I just wanted to briefly introduce you to Charlotte, to put her on your radar and then in my later home ed posts I can unpack the philosophy a little more.

Personally I have found following an educational philosophy, particularly the Charlotte Mason philosophy to be very grounding and affirming in my journey as a home educator. It’s enabled me to better understand my educational values, to keep focused on what I’m trying to achieve in our homeschool and it gives me greater freedom when making decisions as I have some guiding principles to come back to.

So in conclusion today I would just like to briefly sum up, in my own words what the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education looks like. I’m sure that other home educators would explain it very differently, as different aspects of the philosophy may appeal to them more, but for those who are unsure of some of the traits of a Charlotte Mason education then these are the elements that drew me to the philosophy.

Here we go:

“The Charlotte Mason philosophy of education is also known as the gentle art of learning. It provides an education rich in the liberal arts offering a wide variety of subjects that educate the whole child, not just his mind. There is a focus on forming good habits, gaining life skills, spending time outdoors and using quality children’s literature, with short formal lessons being delayed until a child is around 6 years old.”

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

So in my next Charlotte Mason post I’ll share more about how we implement the Charlotte Mason philosophy in our homeschool, mentioning some of the main methods she used that have now become some of the key characteristics of a Charlotte Mason homeschool education.

So tell me, what are your questions about a Charlotte Mason education?

{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:

The Open Home 1465Wild Challenge | Feed the Birds | The Open HomeThe Open Home 1455The Open Home 1457The Open Home 1456The Open Home 1458The Open Home 1459The Open Home 1464The Open Home 1461The Open Home 1463Wild Challenge | Feed the Birds | The Open Home

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:

The Open Home 1438The Open Home 1436The Open Home 1442The Open Home 1439The Open Home 1437The Open Home 1441

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

The Open Home 1092

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?