Monday, 23 May 2016

Home schooling trial - day one

I thought when we got back to Australia, the school issue would be sorted. The schools are a lot less silly here in than the UK, and WA has one of the best curriculums, in my humble opinion. We bought a house near a school we like, in easy walking distance in fact. We enrolled in the kindy that feeds into it, we have friends going to the same one...

But it seems that homeschooling idea is still alive and kicking in both of us. Arthur was really excited about starting Kindy. It is a lovely little Community Kindy with a great outdoor space which he loves. He was so excited to go on his first day.

First Day at Kindy

But all his enthusiasm has waned. After three weeks he was asking when we are going to homeschool again. After a term and a half I struggle to get him there in the mornings.

We did homeschool in the UK for a year when he could have been in Pre-School there. They start very young, he was just three, and so we opted out and joined our local homeschooling group. We had so much fun, met some great people, and learned that homeschooling isn't as scary as you might think. 

I hadn't really thought about doing it here though. At least not until Arthur mentioned that he would like to. OK, lets think about. We decided to connect with the local group and join in some activities and try and make some friends. We have made some great friends here, but they are all going to school. Many different schools, but all are choosing school. We did a couple of trips, to the fire station and the weather station and have started regular homeschool multi age soccer lessons. Arthur has already made a friend.

child with hose on home ed trip to Albany Fire station
Trip to Albany Fire Station

I don't have to be convinced that homeschooling is better. I long ago stopped worrying about the social skills, which is generally everyone's first question. Homeschoolers get to mix with a far broader range of society, in a real and purposeful context, much more so than kids who go to school and are in a class with other kids all within a year of their age. One to one has to be better than 1:30. I know my own child and what he can and can't do, what his interests are, his strengths and weaknesses, what he needs to know next. The question for me though is can I really do it? I am a solo mum with no family in this hemisphere. Will we drive each other crazy? Can we afford it?

I don't know the answer to either of those last two questions yet, but I think we've got far enough that we have decided that we'll give it a try.

One of my last reservations has been about homeschooling an only child, but actually, as we have been to soccer and the kids garden club, I have become convinced that I should homeschool because he is an only child. He has played freely with kids of all ages. Older kids show him things and teach him things and take care of him, he does the same for the younger ones. He will never get the chance to do this at school, or in little league sports or cubs or anything, The closest thing he is going to get to big or little brothers and sisters is through the wider homeschooling family. 

Until last week I thought he would carry on at Kindy for the rest of the year. It is play based with a lovely outdoor area. He has some great friends there too. He loves the parts where he is free to choose what he does. A short break during the day and then after kindy they are allowed to play in the yard with whoever they choose. Throughout the day though the teacher chooses who they play with. I can fully understand her reasons for this, it helps with the harmony of the group, some kids work well together, some kids don't. Sometimes you have one who needs help from one that can do the task in hand. We need to learn to work with a variety of people... But Arthur loves it most at the home time when he can play freely with his friends in the grounds while I chat with their mums and dads. 

There is also a lot of things in preparation for school that they have to do that he really does not enjoy, like waiting for others (to sit still and listen and be ready to learn, or to line up ready to go outside etc), working or playing in pairs with people he wouldn't choose other wise, having a rest when you don't need one ( he loves rest time on the days he's tired and hates it when he's not). He really hates Brain Gym , and I have to say I am inclined to agree, from a scientific perspective its a big (unfunny) joke, but I can see how it helps to train the children to sit still and be quiet, a necessary skill for school. He is also the eldest in his class, and I think very unchallenged by many of the tasks. 

Our idea was to stay at kindy for the rest of the year, and get to know the homeschooling community, and then make a decision about school or homeschool. But maybe this isn't going to happen. It has been harder and harder to get him there in the mornings. We have been up to 20 mins late. A couple of weeks ago he had a total melt down when I was trying to leave. This disrupted the class enough that the teacher asked us to decide if we want to continue going as she can't have that happen again. We missed the next Monday as I knew he would protest again, I was kindy mum on the Tuesday so that was OK, Wednesday is a short day with more play time, and a toy library where you can get things to bring home, so he was happy with that too. He said he didn't want to leave kindy as he likes his friends. But as the weekend went on he began to dread it once again. He really doesn't want to go. A good friend suggested that we take a couple of weeks off and see if he misses his friends so that is what we decided to do. It was quite confirming this morning when he woke up and I said "Do you want to go to kindy?" he said "No, I'm too tired" I then asked if he wanted to go and use a voucher we had for a Children's farm and he jumped out of bed and said "Quick quick, lets go and feed the animals lazy bones" . After a couple of week he may miss his friends though so we'll see. 

So, today we have had fun. We went to the Aplaca Farm , petted Koala's and fed kangaroos, goats, sheep, alpaca, and ponies. We saw highland cattle, pigs, foxes, rabbits, parrots, chooks, ferrets, guinea pigs, a camel, some donkeys, llama's...  Arthur was invited to bottle feed a three week old lamb. We played some musical instruments in the cafe and talked to a variety of people from different parts of the world. We then went to the beach, where he wrote his name in the sand, created some sand art, built a tunnel in the sand, enjoyed the waves and the clouds. We also went to a cheese factory and tasted cheese from different countries.  Arthur also navigated all day using google maps on the iPhone. He was able to tell me when a junction was coming up, which way I needed to turn, and ready the numbers to countdown the distance to the turning, 1.2km, 1.0, 800m 600m etc. and what land features we were passing, (lakes rivers, ocean etc) from the map. I think we covered all areas of the curriculum. 

Pentland Alpaca Stud and Animal Farm
Patting the Koalas

Pentland Alpaca Stud and Animal Farm
Feeding Alpaca

Pentland Alpaca Stud and Animal Farm
Feeding Alpaca

Pentland Alpaca Stud and Animal Farm
Feeding Hayley the 3 week old lamb

Greens Pool
Greens Pool


Elephant Rocks
Elephant Rocks

Greens Pool
"That was a nice rest" 

Apparently he deliberately showcased that he can do big R's and little r's 

Sand Art by a 4 year old
Herbert

Sand Art by a 4 year old
Herbert

sand tunnel
Engineering a tunnel in the sand


OK, so I know, who wouldn't enjoy a day like that more than school? But seriously we did tick all areas of the curriculum for something (yes I checked!).  Tomorrow will be a little more boring. In the morning we will be at home. We may do some number or letter work, or read some books, just to balance things out a bit, then in the afternoon I am at a training course so he has to go in the creche. He's going to miss his friends and the toy library on Wednesday, so we'll see how we go. If he wants to go back the next week I will of course let him go, if not we are going to go to a second week of trial before making a decision. I think two weeks will give us a realistic impression of what it could be like. Its an interesting experiment. I think we could manage this homeschool thing though.