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 feels like a huge milestone.
I’ve been reading an archive post by Adele over at Beautiful Tribe in which she resets her homeschooling intentions for the year. She’s a seasoned home educator and a really wonderful, creative, nurturing person, who writes beautifully. It’s definitely worth a read, along with her entire blog, really.
The post got me thinking about what I am actually trying to achieve this year. How do we want to carve out our time? What are we aiming for? I don’t mean so much in a “curriculum content” type sense, but in a “what do we want our day to day to look and feel like” sense? What are OUR homeschooling intentions?
Do we still want the same things we did when we began this journey, five years ago? Our daughter will have (and certainly deserves!) lots of input into how our year might look. We also have a two year old to think about, who is just as much a part of this journey and definitely splits my attentions four ways at once all by himself!
So, I’m stripping it right back. What are the essential elements we want to embrace this year? To take a concept from tidying wizard Marie Kondo, what sparks joy for us? Those things should be our focus.
Lots of play
I think we can’t go far wrong if we start with play. I have no desire (or, frankly, capacity) to structure every moment of our day. Plus, we would all hate it. Play is a vital, essential part of learning, and downtime is crucial for all of us. More research is being done that proves how fundamental play is for development and how highly it should be valued. I also want us to simply have fun and enjoy this amazing opportunity to learn together!
Spend more time outside
We all love the outdoors, especially woodlands and the coast (see my previous post about our last coastal excursion!). I’d like us to experience as many of the beautiful natural landscapes around us as possible. To soak it all in. I think becoming familiar with nature is a vital part of learning to live harmoniously and sustainably with and within it. We’re so fortunate to have an abundance of natural places to explore!
I’ve found a nature study curriculum called Exploring Nature with Children which I’ve decided to invest in. It has gentle weekly prompts that align with things commonly found in our four season climate to observe or engage with in nature. Each week also includes a related poem, a piece of art, a themed book list and a couple of ideas for activities. We’re going to see how we get along with it. If we’re out in the wild anyway, having a small things to focus on each week seems like a natural extension.
It’ll be up to Aeryn if she’d like to engage with it. Consent is really important to us and, while I’m here to facilitate and provide lots of options and resources, this is all about what sparks her interest and she would like to pursue. I think it will take a while to find a rhythm and get a feel for what works well for us. I have a good feeling that nature exploration will suit Aeryn’s insatiable desire to know everything about everything, though!
Make more time for Storytelling
I love stories. I love most books, actually, fiction and non-fiction. Books have enriched my life in so many ways. I also use storytelling in other contexts, such as playing Dungeons and Dragons and a big part of Ben’s professional role is storytelling. I definitely want reading aloud and sharing stories to be a big part of the way we homeschool.
I’ve recently stumbled upon the Read Aloud Revival, which has podcasts, book suggestions and guidance about how to make reading aloud a part of the fabric of life. I’m still going through their archives, which are extensive! It’s been really lovely to just find people as utterly enthused about reading as me! Many of the books are by American authors I haven’t heard of. This is annoying for getting hold of some of them via the library here but I’m enjoying being exposed to so many new voices.
I must admit, I haven’t read aloud as much recently as I used to. Zephyr turning two has made it much more challenging to do anything more focused because he needs so much more input than he did when he was littler. It’s a balance I’m still figuring out, so our reading time usually happens whe. n there’s another adult around to tag team with. Luckily, Ben is self employed so is around a lot in the day to help facilitate this.
We always read long bedtime stories but I think I want to consciously bring this forward into our daytime routine. There are SO many books I’d like to share with Aeryn (and Zephyr) and they both love books. I know that the older Zephyr gets, the easier this will be when I’m flying solo, so I’m going to be kind to myself if it doesn’t quite go to plan straight away.
Self directed learning
Despite all these intentions, my main aim to give Aeryn the reins. A big part of rejecting a school environment for me is the chance for her to choose freely. We’ll take it all as it comes and just fill our home and lives with as rich, varied and engaging an environment as we can. I love seeing the sparks of joy she gets when a topic really piques her interest! She’s been full up with facts about wild animals for quite a while, so perhaps that will be where we wander first.
Independence by choice
Four seems to be the magic age where children may attend groups and classes without a parent present. Aeryn does a couple of things like this already, a dance class and swimming lessons, but I think it’s important that if she’s feeling nervous about engaging with something new because a parent won’t be with her, that she doesn’t have to until she’s ready. Things don’t have to change overnight because she’s now reception aged. This links back up with our overriding commitment to consent and respect of her autonomy. You don’t have to throw a bird out of the nest to make her fly – when she’s ready, she will go all by herself.
A Gentle Pace
This summer, my Instagram feed has exploded with curriculum suggestions, stunning homeschool room set ups (in enormous American houses – I’m sure half my flat would fit in some of these school rooms!) and more resources, classes and “must-haves” than it would be humanly possible to ever engage with. It’s easy to get sucked into this perfect view of what home education needs to look like. My last homeschooling intention for now is a commitment to go at a more gentle pace. We’re going to ease into the year and this new season of life without buying ALL THE THINGS and signing up to do ALL THE THINGS. Less is more, usually.