Cultivate verb : To nurture and help grow. To prepare ground. To develop, enhance, encourage, foster, refine. From the latin root Cultus, meaning ‘care’. I find something profound and quite enchanting in the cultivation of plants. All a plant will become, all it needs to…
Tag: home education
I know, I know, in my last post I said I have a tendency to over commit to drastic change, but this really isn’t a change! I’ve just been sifting through our ideas now we’re further into this journey.
I will never stop learning how to be a home educator. Could anyone stop learning how to do anything, really? I remember, I asked once in a karate class in childhood how my teacher felt when she got “to the end” and got her black belt. She told me she hadn’t got to the end, that she’d finally reached the beginning. That simple response completely flipped how I considered learning and mastery forever.
I’m always reading more, learning more and thinking more about home educating. Partly, this is a personality trait – I am TERRIBLE at sitting still and feeling I’ve done “enough” of anything. But it’s also because I find it all so deeply interesting! I love pulling apart what we’re doing and why. If I can’t find the why, I rethink the what. I’d definitely be a Ravenclaw.
Forever Finding Out
If you love learning, crave understanding and know how to find out what you want to know (including how to critically assess, test and apply that knowledge), everything is open to you. This applies to me, but is also the crux of what I’m hoping to give my children as we meander the homeschool road.
There is no timescale to measure up to and no age limit to finding things out. If Aeryn or Zephyr decide at the age of 57 to learn architectural drawing or robotics or Irish dancing, I hope I will have given them the courage and skills to do so. Equally, if they aren’t ready to read until they’re seven, that’s fine! Home educating for me is about a fundamental paradigm shift in our understanding of what learning is, where or when it happens and how inseparable it is from the rest of life.
Finding Ideas I Resonate With
A lot of (usually freely shared!) wisdom can be found when we connect with the home educating communities around us, online and in person. I try to listen really acutely to those further along this journey, who often tell their tales so candidly, and really consider their words and advice. Even if it’s not the approach we naturally gravitate towards.
Home educating is quite a radical act. It breaks away from the recognised system in a quiet yet profound way. Kindred spirits are welcome and, often, very needed.
I also love to read articles or books and find approaches or ideas that spark joy (thanks, Marie Kondo!). My favourite book recently was The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart. I’ll come back to this one in a later post because I could wax lyrical about it, but it’s definitely worth a borrow from the library!
It’s hard going, but I’m becoming more willing to accept shortcomings in myself and realise that progress is being made, for all of us. As a recovering perfectionist trying to finding a growth mindset in adulthood, this is a pretty big step. I think it reflects the huge amount of work I’ve put into improving my mental health. I’m much more at peace, which is a more stable base from which to provide an enchanting education. It’s exciting to feel energised again!
So, what’s new?
Much of what I set out to do in my homeschooling intentions post months ago still holds true. Autonomy and self directed education are of paramount importance to us.
I suppose you could call us eclectic homeschoolers, if you want to label what we’re doing. I’m inspired a lot by elements of Charlotte Mason (particularly her views on creating an “atmosphere” of education) and unschooling, but I’m definitely not a purist. We’re simply forging our own perfect-for-us path through plenty of trial and error; a heck of a lot of freedom and play; loads of nature and outdoor time; and a little of caffeinated creativity (well, only I’m caffeinated!).
I held off introducing formal learning consciously. Not because Aeryn is incapable, but that it isn’t developmentally appropriate or needed. Many studies have shown that there are huge benefits to delaying formal academics, and costs to introducing them too early. A three, four or five year old needs to move, explore, socialise, discover, linger, play and play and play. Numbers, letters, history, scientific concepts and the like appear because they are integrated into everyday life, reading aloud and organic discovery.
Oh, how quickly my very well thought out ideas wash out with the tide of my real life children. While I understand all the benefits of waiting until she’s older, Aeryn has decided she’s ready to learn to read and I am happy to support her. I totally get it, I was an early reader myself. Books gave me (and still give me) so much joy. Children know when they are ready to do something, usually because they start trying to do it. So, we’re working through a mixture of key word recognition, simple stories, letter sounds and writing with purpose to figure it all out.
We’ve also started consciously working through some maths concepts, after many requests to explain why numbers work the way they do.
I suppose, in a way, she’s made it easy for me to make it look like home ed “works” from the outside – explaining why your 8 year old isn’t reading yet to an interested party is far easier than explaining why your just turned 5 year old is. The education system is overwhelmingly focused on learning outcomes, over learning processes, despite the research. Which is such a shame. The breadth and depth of human understanding can’t be distilled to a pass/fail dichotomy. And there is much power in the word “yet” when it comes to mastering concepts, at any age. But to constantly justify yourself or your family’s choices is a huge mental load to carry, and not a discussion I especially enjoy most of the time. I’m introverted and find it quite exhausting.
The most important thing is Aeryn is happy. She still loves playing in sand pits or rolling down hills like Zephyr, running wild in a field, imagining intricate worlds and digging at the allotment to make things grow. These activities are just as important as academic skills. Reading and maths have just slotted in alongside everything else, weaving into the tapestry of our lives. They aren’t more or less than. They just are.
Keeping the hygge
I still want to keep much the same as it always has been. The cosy, warm, familiarity of our time together continues to be the cornerstone of our home education. The extraordinary ordinary. Hygge in the sense of special, simple, contented moments of beautiful day-to-day life together. I want to notice and appreciate the present and altogether slow down. We have ended up in a situation where we have an out-of-home activity every week day, so I need to be really careful to protect the downtime we do have and appreciate the small moments.
Reading aloud, frequently, spontaneously, even if nothing else gets accomplished, is also a mainstay. We read SO many picture books last year, but Aeryn has also enjoyed a good 10 or more long chapter books since the Autumn. It fills me with so much joy to share books I love with both children and discover new ones together.
All in all, it’s all very similar to how it was back in September, I’m just framing things differently in my mind. My karate teacher’s words still ring – the more I discover about myself as a parent and us as a home educating family, the closer I feel to the beginning.
Happy Not Back to School week! Instead of uniforms, classrooms, school runs and assemblies, we decided to spend the week camping at Croyde Bay, on the North Devon coast. It felt like the most natural thing in the world to just continue living our lives…
In two weeks, Aeryn would have been starting school. Instead, we’re treading a different path. In some ways, nothing will change; we’ve been connecting with home edders, attending meet ups and approaching all of life as learning since Aeryn was tiny. In other ways, it…
I love the coast. The sea breeze, the huge waves, the salty air. The hidden, secret, tucked away corners of Eden you find down tiny lanes that fall into a breathtaking sea are my idea of a perfect beach. So, Covehithe Beach in Suffolk is exactly my kind of beach.
Covehithe beach is a short way down the coast southwards from Lowestoft beach. Unlike Lowestoft, which sports a pier, numerous beach huts, an arcade, cafes and more, Covehithe is almost completely deserted.
How to find the beach
It took us a while to even figure out where to park the car because the route to the beach is barely signposted. Luckily, a passing dog walker gave us a heads up (park on the left hand fork as your back is to the church, avoiding yellow lines as the parking wardens are very strict with tickets). There are also a couple of spots near the old church ruin (also brilliant to look around!), but you can only stay a couple of hours.
The beach path is around 100 yards from the church and seems to lead to a farmer’s field. There’s an old noticeboard and a dog waste bin at the entrance and nearly nothing else to show you where it goes. It veers to the left around the field, then continues right. It’s just about flat and wide enough for a pushchair, although it is very uneven, but you will have to lift it down onto the sand at the end of the path.
It’s a bit of a trek…but worth it!
The walk took us about 15 minutes with a four and a two year old. Gradually, the path morphs from field track to a trail with trees on either side. Further on, we found sand dunes colonised with long grasses. You can hear the waves crashing as you make your way. There are little breaks in the foliage giving a glimpse of the ocean, which only built the excitement.
We got to the end of path and the dunes parted, falling away to a near empty beach. It was littered with driftwood, with tide lines of pebbles in the sand. A strong wind was blowing when we arrived and it was quite overcast, but breathtakingly beautiful. We saw a solitary dog walker and not a soul else for over an hour.
In the distance up the coast, you can see the stark white Lowestoft Lighthouse blinking away. It captivated Aeryn. We had stood at the foot of it just a few days before so to see it again from afar was really special. It gives the coastline such a strong sense of place and makes Covehithe feel both connected with the rest of the beaches in Suffolk and also completely remote.
Getting stuck in
We scrambled down to the sand (which the kids loved) and wasted no time choosing a spot to set up our blanket. Not knowing how far the tide might come up the beach, we decided to stick near the dunes. It was still nowhere near us by the time we left, luckily. It’s always worth checking tide times!
Aeryn and Zephyr were the only children on the beach for the entire time we were there. In total, there were perhaps 20 people in four hours, nearly all dog walkers or couples. One family with teens wandered past. Aeryn especially couldn’t believe the difference after our trip to Lowestoft, which was so busy and bustling.
A little bit of wilderness
Covehithe has a rugged, wild charm about it. The wind whips the waves so they can be really quite powerful, even in the shallows. We decided to just paddle instead of swim and still got totally soaked. Just standing in the water feeling the force of the waves, gazing back up towards the beach to see Zephyr and Aeryn chasing each other, was pure bliss.
There are collections of pebbles like murmurations across the beach, of all shapes and colours, which we all enjoyed collecting and comparing. Zephyr tried his absolute hardest to throw every stone he found back into the sea, which he thought was terrrific fun. I have a sea glass collection and found some beautiful pieces to add to it in amonst the rocks.
I suppose collecting sea glass is really beach litter picking, as it isn’t supposed to be there. I find sea glass an exquisite reminder of just how powerful the ocean is. It’s amazing how something jagged and broken and useless can become so tactile and beautiful. I hope to make a couple of the pieces into jewellery at some point.
We paddled, built sandcastles, ate our picnic, made rock towers and searched for Covehithe’s famed driftwood. An entire driftwood tree, roots and all, was just up the beach from us. I went and sat on it for a while and watched the waves crashing in front of me while the children built pebble towers.
My favourite beach in Suffolk
I wondered if all the people at Great Yarmouth or Lowestoft or Southwold had any idea what they were missing. An article by Daniel Start for the Telegraph lists the 20 best hidden beaches in the UK and Covehithe beach is the only one in Suffolk that makes it (at number 7). An acolade that is well deserved.
Sure, there’s no ice cream stand, or cafe, or quintessential beach huts, or pier. But there’s also no crowds. No litter. No competing for a teeny stretch of sand to spread a towel. The sand is beautiful for building castles. The sea is perfect for splashing around in, especially in August and September when it’s the warmest it will be all year. The driftwood is also stunning. All of the essential components of what makes a beach a beach are right there. We found our own fun with fewer distractions, so it was also a cheaper day out. It was our favourite excursion of our week away in Suffolk and I would have happily spent another week just at Covehithe.