Like so many other parents around the world at the moment, N is at home school. I say home school rather than schooling because I’m not a teacher and I’m largely leaving him to it. I’m also working full time as well while the OH works on the farm. So our kitchen table is set up with us across from each other.
Home school takes on different meaning and method for everyone. All schools have provided different amounts and type of work, different demands. Children learn differently and parents have different ways of dealing with education during these strange times.
I’m a big planner – I’m a project manager after all. I like a checklist and order to work through. But N is a 9 year old and while he likes routine, he also has a sunny garden, puppies and 2 new calves to feed and look after. As well as a dad who will happily encourage him out to work on the farm. I also need to be flexible. There’s only so much pushing a child to do work they don’t want to do.
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Thankfully N enjoys school and loves at least one subject – Maths. He’s a people pleaser and rule follower so he will work hard at school. At home he’s more lax and I do have to chivvy him into actually doing the work he’s been set. It’s hard to decide though – cover everything not so well, or doing fewer pieces of work at a better standard. Unfortunately, he’s not going to take a lot of notice of my pushing him to do more detail, better thinking ahead of time. So we’re getting through everything, but I would hope in school his standards would be higher.
N’s argument is that in school they usually spend 1 hour planning their English writing, then another few hours across the week finalising it. At home they’ve been given comprehension and a writing activity to do each day. More than an hour is really too much for N in one day so it’s a struggle getting both of them done, and getting him to work faster if he’s going to plan. Quite a few times, I’ve written out basic planning for him otherwise it takes him so long to write his plan, that’s the time gone and he’ll never actually get anything definite written down.
Added to that, he now has topic work as well. More writing and research. Although I’m the one really excited about this term’s topic because it’s Tremors, ie earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Natural Hazards was my favourite module during my Geography degree, so he WILL like and work on this topic! I’m not looking forward to the creative aspects they’ve got for some of the activities though. We might stick to using lego rather than recycling and craft supplies.
Our approach to home schooling
Our school provided learning packs for all the children and a suggested list of work they should cover each day. Maths ties in with a topic each week, comprehension is from a pack, and then there’s a writing activity set for each day around either their topic work. Or they can choose if they’d rather write about something else. Every day they should be doing a times table grid, reading, and across the week some topic work. They can also do some online work – maths, English, science or IT choices. N was doing maths, but now with the extra topic work, he’s less keen. Maybe if the weather turned to rain, he’d want to go out less and wouldn’t mind doing more work.
So each week I have a checklist (handwritten), which has all the tasks he should be doing, and then I can tick them off by day.
Some things like spellings have options: writing spellings into sentences, finding a synonym for each, and using spellings for handwriting practice. N splits these over 4 days.
Before Easter N started off doing all his maths first because he likes that better. But now he’s realised that getting the work done that takes him longer, earlier in the day, means he can whizz through the maths and get out to work on the farm earlier.
A typical day starts early. 7.15ish if N hasn’t gone out to walk the dogs and check the cows in the morning. He aims to get everything done by 10 but now he’s got the extra topic work, he might go out at 10 but dip back in after lunch to do finish the rest of the day’s work.
Our education order of the day
- English writing activity – this varies by day, it could be write a poem, story, information text, newspaper article, fact file, letter, and Fridays are always diary of the week.
- Topic work – we’ve split the work across the week, but it varies from written research, diagrams, experiments and more art based activities
- Reading comprehension – a choice of one from a booklet provided
- Maths sheet – this week is all based on data and charts (thanks to anyone who answered his question on Monday’s ‘what’s your favourite cake?’
- Time table grid timed challenge (he’s gone downhill badly after 2 weeks off for Easter. Not helped this morning by doing it while I was on a zoom work call)
- Reading – hmmm, would do anything to get out of this.
- Mathletics – online, it’s meant to be a warm up but he’s slacked off this post Easter
- Purple Mash – online, on science, ICT or anything he fancies. But he’s not keen and whatever I try and look at is blank.
If N isn’t finished the day’s work by morning break time at 10, sometimes he’ll just go out on his bike and to play with the puppies in the field. Or he might go out to work with his dad. I get some peace to work.
Alternative home education on the farm
Most of N’s day is spent on the farm. He probably does 3.5-4 hours of school work, with a bit of reading on top. But the bulk of the day he’ll ride out on his bike, or take the dogs for another walk.
One of his favourite jobs is feeding the weakling calf Maggot, who had to be taken off her mum because she wouldn’t feed. Maggot turned out to be a girl calf, and N has been doing a great job of measuring and mixing her milk and feeding her. Now he’s gt a second calf to feed as well – a twin whose mum would only look after one of her calves.
They’ve also been turning the cows out into the fields the last few weeks, so N has been helping out recording the bolus of the cattle before being turned out (they get a magnesium supplement as an initial boost before it being added to water troughs). .
There’s also some new limousin cattle on the farm, and as N has decided this breed is now his favourite, he wants to make sure he’s out when they go and check them in the fields.
The 2 puppies are growing by the day. Now about 4 months old, the in law’s Alsatian is like a beast already, and our labrador isn’t far behind the older labrador we have. N is trying to train ours, with not much success before, but he’s having a great time trying and building great bonds with the dogs.
The rest of the time is spent out on his bike. Luckily I don’t have to dig my bike out from the shed it was dumped in as he’s got the room on the drive and lawns to cycle.
He’s also learnt a bit about birds. Nowhere near as much as I knew at his age – I was in a local nature group – but his lack of knowledge isn’t quite as embarrassing as it was before. We’ve been putting out bird feed and he now knows the difference between blue tits and great tits, and has also seen chaffinches, as well as watching a buzzard try and swoop in at the feeder to grab a bird.
I’m not a gardener, but I’ve been meaning for ages to try growing veg from scraps. We have a science experiment going on growing spring onions in water. Although the lettuce attempt isn’t sprouting still. N is actually quite excited about growing these, so we might try more if we can.
I’d like to get N writing about what he’s doing on the farm, but he’s not ken on that idea. So we’ll continue doing the work he’s been sent from school. It’s working for us at the moment, and I’m still able to do my work without too many distractions.
So far, home schooling is going ok here. N seems to be getting on with most of it without too many moans, and most of the work is being done. If I can get him doing more reading I’d be happier, but lockdown isn’t treating us badly. Thank god for all the outdoor space we have. And that our school isn’t doing regular check ins like some schools are.
How is home learning going in your house?
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