Well, after 14 weeks of home schooling and 17 weeks of being home thanks to Covid-19, N’s school year 4 was over last week. Six weeks of the strangest summer holidays anyone could imagine are here, and we wonder what next year will bring in terms of how school will work. Other than being back in school, and hoping it’s nearly back to normal just with lots more hand washing and not crossing over into other class friendships. You never know how the summer will pan out for this virus.
Year 4 is over. It’s certainly a year that every school child will look back on and remember how different it was. And hopefully that’s it’s a one off and will never happen again.
The year brought good progression for N (I’m hoping many months of home school hasn’t regressed that progress too much.
How’s year 4 been?
N always copes well and takes most things in his stride. With double years in most classes, N was still with the same teacher, but was now in the top of the class expecting to show the year 3s how it’s done. The hard work he’d done in year 3 meant he was now moved up to a top maths table, and was doing better with his english too. Being with children who are generally quieter and get on with their work (often girls), really helps N as he does struggle to focus when there are distractions around.
Maths has continued to be a subject he’s enjoyed, and while he’d say he doesn’t like topic, he has got into each topic really well. He’s been proud of some of his artwork (who knew he was good at drawing animal print), and was confident in his speaking in the class assembly.
As expected anything with a historic theme he really enjoys in topic, and I’ve been trying to get him excited about geography. Having the internet to bring recent earthquakes and tsunamis to life with a bit of reality rather than just reading about it, has helped his interest.
They do learn a lot more about the work old and new, than we ever did in our topic work at school. Giving children a chance at this young age to learn how to research and understand what is good and bad to use, is such an obvious way to get them on the path for independent study if they go off to university.
Reading continued to be a no for N. Reading out of school basically stopped in the first half of the year. The occasional bit he’d read to himself, but otherwise we just recognised that any reading would need to happen in class. Luckily his reading ability is on track, it’s just got the potential to hold him back on other subjects as reading is so important for increasing vocabulary and nuances of everything else he has to read.
Thankfully home schooling meant he had to read each day, and there were less complaints. We’ve even had occasions where N has enjoyed reading….although I’m still waiting for him to finish 3 half read books that have been discarded around the house.
N has really worked at reading comprehension this year, with booster sessions in school, and he’s been happy enough doing them during lockdown times at home. He’s still lazy and will try and not think of any answers that don’t actually appear in the text. Anything he has to think off his own back is harder work. When we discuss it, he’s fine and can work it out, but thinking to write is on paper is an extra step he can’t be bothered with. Sigh.
Before the music teacher went to have an operation, N was loving her music lessons. A mix of music history, music culture and experiences, and practical lessons, he would always come home raving about the stories she told and what they’d learnt. I was sad that he didn’t return to choir after 2 years of being in it though. And I still can’t persuade him to learn an instrument.
All change with home school
Since 23rd March, N was at home doing school work, alongside me working from home. I’m not a fan of working from home, and N would probably say the same about doing school work at home. Thankfully he did tend to just get on with it, but with a lot of moans about anything that required more than a paragraph of writing. Stories really aren’t his thing.
School dropped off work packs of maths sheets, comprehension and exercise books. Then he was also set topic work, english activities and spelling which would come round weekly. This would all keep him going for at least half the day, with additional online resources to log into if needed.
There’s certainly some learnings to take away from the home school experience. Firstly, N is a rule follower which we knew. So set out work, and he’ll do it. It might not be to an acceptable standard (in my eyes), but he’s done all the work, and it’s mostly been him just getting on with it, with a few pointers from me.
Stories aren’t good. Whether planned or not. Probably the most successful day was when I just told N to write and not worry about a topic or plan. Just keep writing for a set amount of time, about whatever and wherever the flow took him. It was probably the most he wrote in one go across the whole 4 months. It’s definitely a method that works for getting words out, and having him not worry about everything else. Otherwise his stories just end up being real life and not original at all.
Topic work the way they teach it nowadays will be so much better for learning how to do independent work during studying when they’re older. We never learnt to research when we were in school 30 years ago, but while N sometimes doesn’t think about the questions he needs to find answers to, he’s capable of looking out good information. Even if his laptop’s search engine doesn’t quite work like my google skills! I think I need to do more decent searching to get it working better and trained to bring up the right kind of stuff for his level
While being at home he’s learnt about natural hazards – earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis; The USA, and the Vikings and Anglo Saxons.
Alongside school work, he’s also been out helping on the farm. He’s had orphan or unwanted calves to look after, feeding them each day. A puppy to bond with and train. Helping out with other jobs on the farm. He’s also become an expert of artificial insemination of cows which always seems to appear as conversation at the dinner table. He’s also been practising his shooting as well as learning to drive one of the tractors.
As things stand now
I think N has coped amazingly well with everything that’s gone on this year. He’s enjoyed school for the time he was there, working hard and really progressing his writing and spelling from where he was in year 3. His confidence has increased in and N certainly has plenty of opinions to share. He’s happy to share his out of school experiences with teachers who’re interested in similar things. Having a teacher who was also into tennis helped.
N’s awareness of what’s going on around him is high. If I need to know what’s happening at school, N will have taken in what they’ve been told and can let me know. He’s quite perceptive of what other children might be feeling and can put forward his thoughts on why something is or isn’t working. He might not want to propose his ideas to a teacher, but he does have them. That little bit more encouragement is needed if he wants to suggest a change, although he does seem to be over the ‘sensitive’ period around his birthday.
With Covid-19, N has watched the daily briefings with us, and has a good understanding of what is going on and what his thoughts are about it. He’s always watched the news with us and it’s really helped him understand what’s going on in the world. This year’s been a massive current affairs year with politics in the UK, USA and Hong Kong being at the front of discussions cropping up with N.
Next year at school
Going into year 5, we need to get him reading and taking note of learning via that route. His best way of learning and remembering is verbally and practical experience. But that’s not always realistic with school work, so we need to get him concentrating more on what he reads rather than just skimming through it.
Hopefully when he returns to school in September, it won’t be as much of a shock as we expect. A move from a male teacher to a female one. I’m sure there’ll still be some restrictions in place. An unknown for after school club. I’m not back in the office until at least October but probably longer, so he won’t immediately need an after school club. But after that who knows. He’s too old to be going where he was before, but meal wise, he can’t wait til I’m back from work. So it’s still all to be worked out.
I hope he’ll continue to enjoy and try sports, and continue his tennis efforts. He’s not really a team sport fan, but last year he loved trying Aussie Rules football, and enjoys a bit of cricket at home. With Covid he’s missed out on a full summer of swimming lessons in and out of school. School swimming finishes in year 4, and I doubt he’ll agree to go back to normal swimming lessons (he was moved up to stage 7 the Saturday before lockdown happened).
Maybe this year will be the one he stands for and gets onto the school council or sports committee. He was sad not to last year, but in the end, he’d only have got half a year in before school was out. So maybe this year or Year 6 will be his year. He liked to help out with sports and playground duties when needed, and takes responsibility. So much so that he had a lot of opinions on who was doing a good or lacklustre job at their roles. He’s obviously inherited my opinionated nature, although hopefully he is more tactful about sharing those opinions.
Year 5 will be an interesting year, and one I hope he grabs with enthusiasm and effort.