This has been a ridiculously busy year even by our standards.
We have gone from being the sort of automomous home educators who do pretty much what we want aside from on Saturdays (music centre and drama), Sundays (church) an odd after-school activity (maybe gym, maybe GB, maybe scouts) and quite a few (mostly one off) Learning Zone activities, interspersed with the odd play, art exhibition, lots of seeing friends and work.
That sounds like lots but really we had quite a few days to just do what we feel like. This was our plan when we were just starting out on official home education (i.e. when Rebekah hit 5). Having looked at lots of ways of doing things and reading lots we decided that Rebekah was learning loads as we just went about our everyday lives. We saw no reason why on her 5th birthday this should change. So we decided to just carry on like this until it stopped working and she stopped learning. this didn’t happen so now she is nearly 14 we are still educating autonomously.
However rather than spending days waking up and seeing whether we feel like making playdough, going to the beach, creating volcanoes, making sculptures, writing newsletters, listening to story tapes, cooking or playing games, our lives seem to have many more planned activities in them which have to happen at set times.
Night Hikes and Hot Chocolate - haven't had time for one of those for a while.
Chilling out with friends at Blackgang Chine
What things have added to our busyness?
As I said we’ve been used to doing mostly our own thing, pretty informal and without much structure. Last year Rebekah(age 12) thought she might like to do A levels at the college which requires 5 GCSE equivalents. So we started to look at how this might be achieved (while still , of course, doing everything we previously did). A plan was hatched and the following qualifications studied for this year.
Modular maths GCSE (starting Sept 09 ending Nov10) (Ruth is doing this too).
RS O level (starting <ahem> February(ish) 2010 ending May 2010).
ECDL (a level 2 computer course starting sometime 2010 when Martin could fit it in and ending July 2010).
Although even working at RS can be done in the garden with a cuppa.
That gets three out of the way and only two more to do over the next two years (of course now we’ve started down this track she has changed her mind and wants to the the Countryside and Management BTEC which with 5 GCSEs she can do at level 3 but she could have started with nothing at level 1 <grrrr>)
So this is (educationally – although that is a bit broad when you are autonomous and most of the stuff in other categories counts as educational too iyswim) what we have tried to fit in this year (this is only Rebekah’s list but most of the stuff Ruth has been doing too)
- Maths sessions – 3 hours a week with 4 teenagers (well Ruth is a nearly teenager) plus extra maths ourselves.
- RS revision
- 12 week course working with the rangers
- ECDL classes taken by Martin and with a couple of friends
- Expedition club
- Circus skills
- Band practice
- Music centre
- Singing lessons
- Drama (although partway through the year Rebekah decided to give this up as she had too much on)
- Trip to Germany with LZ
- LZ play
- Walk round the island
- Walk across the Island
- Walk from one ferry-port on the mainland to another
- Youth night
We've even done maths homework on the ferry.
And that’s without the ongoing one off activities – science sessions, nature walks, rocket science, trips to the mainland etc.etc.
Making volcanoes in the back garden.
This may not sound like a lot to some of you but there is still all the other important things to do in our lives -spending time with friends gives good informal learning opportunities (she learns more guitar skills from Levi Dawson and at some point she teaches them to someone else – perhaps Caleb Dawson!!!) as well as being essential for our overall well being, time spent reading (one of Rebekah’s great pleasures since she was tiny), time spent doing things just because we feel like them right now (fimo, felting, walking, playing Carcasonne) all these things are very important to us and our way of life. You may wonder if this is still autonomous, we believe it is, even though the days are more planned and structured it’s at the children’s request so that for us makes it autonomous still.
So that’s broadly education, what else has been going on in our lives making it so busy?
Well there was a little bit of political activity going on in the home education field this year, you may have heard about it. I’m not going to go into it now but we seem to have 3 pages of blog posts that are tagged Badman so if you are interested you can have a look. So this year we have spent lots of time reading government documents, discussing the issues online, discussing the issues with local HErs, going to local protests, going to protests in London, writing to our MP, writing to other MPs, writing to Lords, meeting our MP, watching Parliament TV, explaining issues to the children etc.etc.etc. This took up quite a bit of our time and lots and lots of our emotional energy. We were fighting for our way of life that we had found to be so rich and varied and enjoyable and wouldn’t want to change. We’re out of the woods for a little while thanks to a change of government. There were a few surprising side effects. Rebekah watched hours and hours of parliament TV, even I couldn’t force myself to do this and waited for edited highlights to be delivered to me from Martin, Rebekah or internet friends. There were laughs about it all courtesy of this wonderful blog. Our MP actually listened to what we said and spoke up for us rather well in the House of Commons.
Our local Not Back to School picnic and bubble blowing protest.
The mass lobby at the Houses of Parliament.
Well between us we’ve had about 7 p/t or self employed jobs this year (cafe church, webmaster, numeracy tutor, project manager, ECDL tutor, Street Pastor something or other (structural and technological and fundraising stuff), funding bid applier). Martin’s main work has ebbed and flowed and eventually they’ve merged with another organisation. So I think that’s quite a lot of balls to juggle, not to mention childcare and car use to juggle with as well. ‘Nuff said really.
Now to those of you who don’t live on “The Island” this may seem a strange category.
Aside – We had mainland friends visit us a while ago who thought it was really funny how the locals called the Isle of Wight “The Island” we assured them that we were fully integrated here and also referred to as this and that anything visit off the island from Portsmouth to Aberdeen could all be dismissed a a visit to “The Mainland”. Conversation goes like this “I haven’t seen you around recently have you been away?” “Yes I’ve been visiting relatives in Liverpool” “ah, the mainland”.
Anyway for an Islander, or even an overner like me, getting off the island is an exhausting (not to mention expensive) business. Some years we only manage to get away once or twice. By the time we get to September this year I think we’ll have clocked up at least 12 trips, this all eats into our time as well. Being the Scrooges that we are we generally try to fit in lots of things to every mainland visit because once you’ve paid the extortionate ferry costs you may as well make the most of it. This tends to lead to trips to the mainland being a stressful affair as you have to time everything right and fit in with the people you want to visit and make sure you manage to get back in time for the ferry you have paid for. So even a holiday can turn into a stressful round of fitting things that don’t quite fit together.
So these have been the main areas of busyness in our lives – there are also church events and duties, Learning Zone activities (to attend or to organise or to open up for). These are mostly hugely enjoyable but when you are trying to cram them into a too busy life even the things you want to do can become a burden.