One thing that I was really quite unaware of before we began our Home Education journey, was the wealth of learning resources available, for free, online. Of course, I knew that there was a huge amount of educational and informative material floating around out there in the ether. However, there is quite a difference between endless swathes of information, waiting to be discovered piecemeal, and resources designed to support a guided learning process.
I will acknowledge here, that not all Home Educators would agree with my current approach. At the moment, we are aiming to provide a ‘curriculum’ of semi-structured learning in traditional subjects such as Mathematics and Science, with more autonomy in the ‘Liberal Arts’. Some would say that I am stifling TK’s natural ability to learn and explore her individual passions in-depth. Others would argue that her day is not structured enough and that we are wasting the valuable learning time that has been saved by removing her from a classroom of thirty other children. All I can say for sure is that, so far, it seems to be working out. If TK had never been to school and I had approached her early years differently, then perhaps I would have embraced unschooling completely. As it is, I know that telling my ten-year-old that her day’s learning is completely her own, would result in her spending upwards of twelve hours playing computer games each day: I believe the habits that six years of split ‘school-time’ and ‘home-time’ have instilled in her, are probably too ingrained to undo completely.
So, for the purposes of traditional, core subjects, I have been playing ‘Frankenstein curriculum’ with all the internet has to offer and have been inspired and overwhelmed by how much is out there. As I discover new corners of the internet, I will be adding them to my Educational Resources pages so that I don’t lose anything. Hopefully, other families will find them useful too; either as a resource for their own Home Educating needs, or (for those still considering Home Education) as an example of how much help is available for little or no money.
Yesterday began with more long division using the worksheets from Math is Fun. Having spent some time on it now, I’m not sure how much fun TK was having but she plodded through the questions and only made one mistake. It was a case of having subtracted one number from another incorrectly, rather than misunderstanding the technique, so I think it is time to move on to our next skill. We will revisit the division and multiplication in a week or so, just to check it has stuck.
After the joy of maths (!) we began the first proper Science we have done at home. I found a brilliant work book on the heart and the circulatory system on the Times Educational Supplement (TES) website. Their teaching resources section is just fantastic and although it’s not all free to download, there are plenty of lesson plans, worksheets, and handouts that are. All you have to do is register your name and email address with them.
The booklet I downloaded (available HERE) was brilliant. It was aimed at teenagers but came with explanatory notes, questions, diagrams to colour and annotate, as well as a PowerPoint presentation which we didn’t use. Instead, we watched a short animation about the heart from KidsHealth which was far more fun from TK’s point of view. Then we talked about the diagram she was annotating and discussed answers to the various questions.
With the morning gone, it was time for me to go to work, so I left TK with my mum to do the grocery shopping. While they were out and about, they picked up the ingredients for the Anglo-Saxon dishes TK is planning to make and apparently had a long conversation about what TK thinks prisons should be like.
Such is the random nature of ten year olds!
In truth, TK has had a political bee in her bonnet for a while now. It began with her plans to invent a “love bomb” which could be dropped on to warring countries to spread peace and harmony (where does she get this stuff?!) Later she decided that she was going to form a political party which she insists is going to be called The Teddy Bear Party, despite my pointing out that the name might damage it’s credibility with the more serious voters. Yesterday’s conversation was part of her ‘Master Plan’; a utopia she is working on inside her head. When she and my mum got in from shopping, she rushed off to start building her prison on Minecraft and that is pretty much what she did for the rest of the day.
Some people might think that allowing her to sit in front of her computer passively for several hours was a terrible waste of time but in actuality, the activity was far from passive: Once I was home and we had eaten, I sat with her while she ‘worked’, and we talked about what she was building and why. She told me all about the fact that what she was designing wasn’t a prison but was, in fact, a ‘correctional facility’ where law-breakers could be rehabilitated. There would be workshops and classrooms for them to learn skills: She wanted them to be able to get jobs and turn their lives around.
Awww, that’s so nice! I thought.
“And they would have an amazing restaurant with waiters!” she continued enthusiastically.
Wait a minute…..
“Do you think that is a good idea if they have been sent to prison?” I asked her.
“Well… It’s supposed to be the nicest prison in The World.”
“Yes, but do you think they would want to leave and get jobs if their prison is like a top hotel?”
“Probably not. But maybe they could all take it in turns to be waiters and chefs and anyone who has real promise can train to be a chef when they leave.”
“Ah, okay. That sounds like a plan”
And so it went on. What was great about this project was that TK had come up with it herself and was so enthusiastic about it all. Yes, it was an interesting lesson in Morality, Ethics and how Society is organised but what I loved was that TK was planning; something that almost never happens without prompting from an outside party. She really wanted The World to be a nicer place and, because she cared and felt her idea had value, she was trying to come up with ways to make it happen. She is still free of all the cynicism and world-weariness that so many of us acquire once we have to think about money and jobs and appointments. I hope she follows her heart and manages to change The World for the better. Even if it’s just a little bit.