I've been quiet on here recently, probably because like everyone else I've been simultaneously trying to keep my head above water in the busyness of daily life homeschooling four children, while attempting to process everything that has been going on on the world stage. This season has been unexpected, and while both exhausting and really, really hard at times, I am also eager to cling to the Lord's promise that he brings all things together for the good of those who love him. And in the midst of all of it, I have seen so many gifts of good... I really hope you have found some snippets of gold for yourself as well...
These are strange days, aren't they? And yet, three months in, I'm finding that lockdown life has become a safe space for us. It's certainly intense... its emotional... its incredibly hard at times, and I'm feeling large levels of struggle with the lack of personal space most days... but its also been littered with so many blessings that I wanted to record it. More for my own benefit than anyone else's, but somewhere along the way, this space has become my record keeper. I know we have had so many privileges in all this and they are not lost on me - the privilege of me working from home anyway in what I call the gaps and the naps, the privilege of a garden, the privilege of the children having each other, and the privilege of Dave being in a secure job that has needed to continue through all of this... I realise daily that our experience has been very different to many, and I truly don't take any of that for granted.
Most of all... I'm daily thankful for the privilege of hope, and the certain promise that my God holds all this craziness in his hands. He is working his purposes out, even if in the middle of the storm, we can't see them.
I have been so unbelievably thankful for the children's school... they have been absolutely incredible, both in providing helpful material, and supporting us as a family. I genuinely don't think I've ever appreciated their teachers more! We spent the first ten weeks of lockdown figuring out a rhythm with school. I attempted to be some kind of homeschool ninja and simultaneously juggle three curriculum with the work we were being sent, while also trying to amuse a preschooler. We managed by the skin of our teeth, and we had some fun along the way, but to be honest I just felt exhausted most of the time, and there were numerous pressure points throughout the day which were not great for family dynamics.
And then after May half term I just decided I would do homeschool as I would really do homeschool. Those of you who know me well, know that I have long toyed with the idea of pulling my kids out of school. The idea of being able to teach them together, having quality time with them, giving them more rounded opportunities and investing in a more creative curriculum than the National Curriculum currently allows for (our teachers do a wonderful job of keeping it as creative as they can) has long been an idea that has simmered in my mind.
I don't know what it was about May half term, but after discussing with Dave, we decided I would stop trying to cover three curriculum daily, and pull the kids together into one big project. We would learn together.
I can't tell you how much life its breathed into our homeschool experience.
Our days now have fallen into a steady rhythm... we begin the day in the Bible, and then memorization. We have been learning a verse a week to song, and I've been amazed how putting the verses to a simple tune has enabled even our youngest to memorize decent chunks of Scripture. I'm hoping that memorising truth in a time of uncertainty will help give them the building blocks for firm foundations through the storms of life. For the verses, I have the wonderful Jodi Mockabee to thank. We invested in her Africa curriculum (which is AMAZING value for money for 5 weeks worth of learning) and got the verses to song to go with it. For £15, it was money well spent!
After memory work, the children all separate off for maths and SPAG (spelling and grammar!) We are continuing to use the school-provided work for this. They are all at different levels and stages and the provision has been excellent. The girls are pretty capable of just getting on with their work, and this gives me some time to do some focussed work with Jonas (which Elias usually joins in with) - phonics is not comfortable territory for me and it has been a steep learning curve. But the three of us are learning together... though Elias doesn't know a single letter of the alphabet, he now recognises "oy" and when he sees it he chants "OY! A toy to enjoy!" which usually tickles Jonas and I! I love all the learning by osmosis that our littlest is doing.
Once maths and grammar are done, we begin our Africa project... we are looking at one country every day with a fairly broad stroke, but I have genuinely learnt so much already! The tactile and creative approach to learning has been so good for all of us... and the quality of work has gone up a hundred fold. There is something about presenting your work in an artistic way that just breathes life into it. We've been using the Charlotte Mason method of Notebooking, and it has been SO much fun, and the children have been so eager to show Dave all the things they've done.
This week alone we watercoloured to our heart's content, made "Pap" (a traditional meal in many African countries), learnt about the Great Rift Valley and interviewed my cousin who is living in Cameroon. I'm truly thankful for all the fabulous resources from Jodi Mockabee and the ever wonderful Twinkl!
For me, its been a steep learning curve in accepting the freedom to do things a bit differently. I like to do things by the book. I have watched first hand how much work the teacher's are putting in to this (I'm married to one!) and I will admit to having a certain amount of guilt for moving away from what they are preparing.
But honestly? It's made for a much happier family life, a much calmer rhythm to our days and the children's teachers have been super-wonderful and supportive...
I think in the end, what I've discovered is that I am easily learning as much as the children, if not more. Not only on a curriculum level (I am loving studying a continent I've never looked at in great detail before, and a study which I hope will create a helpful backdrop for some work over the summer in response to the recently highlighted racism that I think its important to proactively respond to) but also on a personal level. This whole experience has been deeply impactful in terms of personal growth... in terms of understanding my children's individual needs and what makes them tick... in terms of understanding what I need to stay sane... in terms of what kind of learning works for us as a family, and what doesn't...
I'm hopeful that as we come out of this (oh how I long for the day to be able to hug my friends and family again!) we will look back on this time as precious... as an opportunity to slow down and stop in the midst of a hectic lifestyle and just be together. And learn. And grow.
That this won't be the "generation of lost learners" as one newspaper put it, but rather, a generation of children who learnt more than just academics...
I'd love to hear your experiences of homeschooling! Have the hard days outweighed the good days, or vice versa? What has worked for you? What have you learnt? I'm more convinced than ever that community is helpful for growing in this! Please do share your ideas and any helpful resources in the comments!