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The Lee Academy

Free to play, learn and love

Month

April 2016

Too focused on academia

Lately, I think I have frustrated my very intelligent Mr. 5.

Because he is so bright, smart and has amazing insight into the world, I can’t help myself but try and stretch him more and more.

We had positives this week.
Our next door neighbour has a telescope that weighs more than I do. It has to be taken apart into pieces so you can transport it, and it requires a high degree of patience to learn how to use it. Our neighbour invited our entire family (and a super excited Alexander) over to see a couple of planets. Well, Alexander was there from 6:30pm to 11pm just waiting eagerly to see anything our neighbour had to show him. (He stayed with dad, I went home and went to bed with the other two kids.) He saw Saturn, Jupiter, the Sombrero Galaxy, a few Nebulas, and got a great view of the surface of the moon. He was on cloud nine and it renewed his want and love to be a rocket man.

He also showed great love for his sister (now Miss 4) on her birthday, and is always loving to Mr. nearly 2. He is starting to help independently clean the house and pick up toys, shoes, clothes (HALLELUJAH!).

But we had a negative yesterday and today. 
We sat down to do the sit down element of our homeschooling, namely, math.
Now, generally, Mr. 5 loves maths. He loves it because he’s good at it. So I upped it a little and instead of the usual times tables that he already knows by heart (1, 2, 10 and 11) due to their easy-to-remember principles, I gave him 3 and 5 and 9 this week.

Oops.

He tried and failed 2 times. And that was enough for him to give up. I couldn’t understand what I was witnessing. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, I just don’t like it when I get it wrong. I like it when I get it right all the time. I tried to explain to him that for you to improve, you are always going to have to get things wrong. But you keep trying and don’t give up, and you’ll get there.

But that didn’t work.

I had realised that this week, I pushed too hard. And this week is now called a stalled week. We’re going to stop the schooling this week, and just focus on cooking, craft, gardening and helping each other get the house ready for Miss 4’s birthday party this weekend. (Some would say that this is what you should do all of the time when you homeschool. I guess I feel that I need to be accountable to what they are doing and learning.)

But I forgot to do something so special, so crucial and it was the reason why I homeschooled.

If I homeschooled because I wanted my children to be smarter than everyone else, then I have already failed. If I am homeschooling because I believed that my children would be better off academically, and that they would be able to do this with less stress than their peers, then I have failed.

My reasons for homeschooling are these:

  • To have the time to develop a closer relationship with God.
  • To have the space to develop and grow with siblings.
  • To know who they are and love who they are.
  • To spend more precious time with my children, and allow them to know how much I love them.
  • To ensure they know the community and how they can contribute.

This is my mission statement. And I forgot it this week. I just wanted him to reach his best and fullest potential, that I changed my focus and forgot why I was doing this in the first place.

I am not homeschooling to prove anything. I doubt anyone homeschools to show how smart and perfect their children are.  If you felt your kids were so bright and perfect, why not send them to school and show the world? Homeschooling is not at all perfect and somedays are like an experiment.

I am homeschooling because their relationship with God, us, family, community and themselves is the most important aspects of their lives.

It doesn’t matter how smart they are, how sporting they are, how knowledgable they are (even though they are obviously incorporated into homeschooling). It matters that they know who they are, how to make themselves happy and how they can make the community a better place. And what I believe makes people most happy, is having valuable and meaningful relationships with those around them.

Lets pray that I can always remember this focus and not forget it… again.

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It’s only a matter of time…

How many homeschoolers out there have pets? How many have more than one?

My poor son has been begging me for a pet since he was 3. He’s now about to turn 6.

We went to a pet store that stocks only locally bred puppies from reputable breeders.  We only went to have a look, with the promise that once Mr. nearly 2 is out of nappies, that a puppy would be imminent.

So why do us parents do this! Why do we go into a pet store, show our children the puppies, and then say to them, we have to walk away now, because the timing isn’t right? Someone put a “I’m not too bright” sticker on my forehead. 

Mr. 5 fell in love. He picked out the one puppy, and they both fell in love with each other. Two hours of cuddling, feeding, playing, (peeing and pooing), and the puppy fell asleep on his shoulder.

It took all of my strength not to take out the credit card and say “We’ll take it!”

But part of any household, is teaching our kids that we sometimes have to prepare, in order to fully enjoy the experiences in life. And patience really can be a virtue, even if it feels horrible to let something go that you really want. (Or it could just be me trying to justify making my poor son miss his dog at the store, which he named “Rufus”)Alex 1

So… our laundry door needs a doggy door to get to the outside. Our backyard needs a designated “Poo Area”. We need a kennel on the outside, a bed on the inside, a place or a play pen for the dog. It’s a lot when you have to rush…. But when you have until Christmas to get it done, it’s a fantastic project.

So lets get our house ready for this dog, and enjoy it when we’re ready.

It’s only a matter of time now Mr. 5… Watch. This. Space.

 

Good days and the “Did I make the right decision?” days…

There are some days as a new homeschool mum that you question whether what you’re doing the right thing. Then there are days like this, when you know it was the right thing to do.

The Good
We usually start our days at 6am when all three kids climb into our bed. We stay there praying, hugging and playing until about 8am. It’s a great way to start the day on cold mornings.

Mr. 5 then decides to start his worksheets before breakfast. God colouring, Bible verse memorisation, writing, maths and times tables done before breakfast. He sits there for an hour on his own. (Did you need any help darling? No? Okay…) After breakfast he sits on my lap and we cuddle, reading 65 Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths.

We then eventually get out of our pyjamas and dress to go to a homeschool coop (a group of families who homeschool and get together so their children can socialise). We brought a soccer ball and saw all the boys (including Mr. 5) play soccer. They snack on fruit, fruit and more fruit. (How do three kids eat an entire cantelope, bunch of grapes, two punnet of strawberries, a whole homemade apple pie and 3 bananas!)

Afterwards the coop, we go to a large football field and run around, testing to see how fast we can run. Mr. 5 can get across the diameter of the field in 32 seconds. Personal best. Miss 3, 84 seconds. She was being a fairy princess who apparently do not run. They fly.

We then come home and read history. This week, it’s Ancient Egyptian history. Mr. 5 and daddy read about Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. Delving deeper, Mr. 5 wants to know all about the Egyptians. So that’s where we’re at. Today it was about the Nile, Upper and Lower Egyptians and how they became one. He wants to write hieroglyphics. Mummy has to learn how to spell hieroglyphics (did I get it right?).

We then water the plants, which turns into a huge water fight where all the children take off their clothes. Mr.5 teaches Mr. nearly 2 to pee on the lemon tree. They play in the mud, they dunk Miss 3’s dolls into mud, find millipedes (a family of them, eek!), and pick flowers for mummy (aww).

After the bath they desperately needed, Mr. 5 practices the piano for 15 mins and learns a new song. Achievement. Then the kids watch daddy cook dinner.

As bed time approaches, we skip reading time here as the kids are literally falling asleep at the dinner table. They go to bed at 6:30pm, and we hold Mr. 5 and Miss 3 in their beds until they fall asleep. These times are by far, the best part of my day; seeing my older children drifting off to sleep, knowing that they are loved and feel safe in the comfort of our arms.

More important than any Academic achievement or checklist, is that our children feel grounded, connected to each other, their families, but also to their community. Mr. 5 has sometimes been afraid to approach new people. Today, I saw him run up to new friends, and initiate a soccer game. It it still strange to see the transition from when he was shy, to who he is now.

I am so very proud of our children. No matter what, I always am.

And why do I write about these days? (Get ready for the rant that has no full stops)

The Bad
Because I need to read them when I have a day like this. When the day doesn’t start with hugs but tantrums and bad dreams, when Mr. 5 wants to do the work but feels like he might fail so doesn’t want to try, when Miss 3 is being a three-ager, when Mr. nearly 2 wants to be held all day so you can’t do basic things, mess and food is everywhere and the house is trashed, and dinner is not even thought of until the Mr. 1 and Miss 3 are asleep on the floor at 5pm… these homeschool days when nothing is achieved, they are a reality. They do happen. It isn’t always perfect. These are the days when you think, if I had sent Mr. 5 to school, he would at least have been taught something. These are the days when Mr. 5 helps you with housework, helps you clean Mr. 1’s nappy or the excrement on the floor (he is such a good boy), runs around finding tissues for you, and you realise that you haven’t read him anything, the days when you drive a lot, completing errands, and the guilt sets in. And it sets in so deep that sometimes, you can’t sleep. This is when the negativity of some people’s words about “You need to send him to school” cuts so deep, and hurts so much. Because you start to doubt if you can do this at all. Can you really give them your absolute best.

The Beauty
But you wake, to the loving hugs of a lovely little boy, who constantly whispers into your ear as you wake, “I love you mummy… all I want is you.” And you wake and realise that all your children are with you, holding you (one on top of you), just loving you…

And you realise what’s more important than education, more important than systems and what the world has to offer.

It’s them. And you would do anything for them. Because no one loves them more than you do. And this is why someone’s decision to homeschool, or not to homeschool, to send to public school or sacrifice every dollar for private school… should not be judged. We all love our children. We all have our reasons. But one thing is for sure. We love them more than anything else in this world.

 

 

 

 

What “learning” looks like in our house…

Okay children! Time to go outside and play in the garden!
In our house, this means it’s time to turn the hose on, and play in the mud…

There is something so freeing when you see kids released into the backyard, and given free reign over a designated mud patch. Turn the hose on low, and see how they just love mixing the dirt with water, and discovering different textures and thicknesses.

Nothing makes my children more excited than the freedom to make a mess… and the feel of mess.  I just love the laughter, squeals and excitement that occurs when they have fun in the mud.

I don’t know how you would write this kind of learning on paper.
I don’t think you can even quantify what exactly they are learning. It’s unlike maths or reading when you can see a direct quantitative result of the teaching.

However, should you need any reason to put it down on paper, here it is.

Textures and Consistencies 
Our children are learning how to create models out of mud. This requires you to mix the mud to a certain level. Too runny then you need to add more mud. Too hard and you need to add more water. Then try and put it together with little hands. Sounds simple, but I encourage any adult to try it one day. This stuff isn’t sand or clay. And it’s messy. Fun messy, but messy.

Time at play
The longest uninterrupted play time in the mud has been 5 hours. The attention span on one activity is simply amazing, and the freedom to keep doing it until they are done gives them the confidence to be in charge of their own play.

Toilet training Mr. 2
He’s nappy-less. Use your imagination. He’s in the garden. (In case you are concerned, he has never ever done a No. 2 in the mud patch.)

Teamwork
Our children have to navigate each other’s wishes in order for the fun to continue. In this environment, there are never any tantrums, outbursts or acts of selfishness. All the children are happy to bask in the abundance of freedom and mud. They naturally work together without adult instruction, to get to their goal. I find it freeing and beautifully satisfying. I’m not sure how it works, I am just observing something beautiful.

Learning about Nature
We discover lots of bugs and worms, lots of different types of roots and leaves. Lots of secondary discovery happens after when we try to find what the bugs are. (Today’s discovery was a bug that was shaped like a leaf. I had to convince Miss 3 that we need to respect the bug and not put it in a box where it will most likely die. Another lesson.)

 

Their love for each other
So this isn’t something that is normally quantified on school report cards. But something extremely important to me is family unity. What I notice when my children share in these moments of happiness, freedom and teamwork, is that they get along better. They hug more, they talk to each other with more respect, they involve each other and they help each other.

There is something so beautiful forming within the muddy puddles of our homeschool, and it has nothing to do with how smart our children are.  It has everything to do with the beautiful flower being grown in the hearts of our children, that is the love they have for each other. 

 

 

That “but what about socialisation” post…

As a homeschooling mum, the number one concern I receive from other parents is, “How will they learn how to socialise with other people?” For some reason, when you hear homeschooling, you might think of four walls with only mum and the child, 5 days a week.

But homeschoolers like to reply by saying, “Why do they call it homeschooling if you’re never at home?” Unlike school which has children in schools for 6-7 hours a day (with their friends and teachers), homeschooling isn’t the same. We may spend about 1-2 hours a day on solid work ,3 hours if you include the reading element (more for more mature children I assume). But the other 10 hours of the active day (not including sleep of course)… lets investigate that.

Recently we have had the pleasure of school holidays. “But you’re a homeschooler, surely it doesn’t affect you.”  Well it does.

Normally, homeschoolers dislike school holidays because all the special places (museums, public pools, zoos, etc) are crowded and it is actually the time we spend more time at home. But school holidays are great for one thing… there are plenty of people who want to catch up with you. Our school holiday calendar was packed solid 2 weeks before school holidays began. Popular kids obviously.

So these school holidays, and especially this week, we caught up with people every single day. It actually surprised me how much socialising happened here.

We immersed ourselves in a group of homeschooling families. There were about 10-15 families that got together, and loads of children from different backgrounds, beliefs and ages. We saw our extended families; 6 cousins, aunties and uncles, overseas visitors and visited nursing homes. We met with swimming mates and friends we met randomly at various places that we somehow clicked with. We met with old friends that we have seen ever since our kids were sleeping newborns. We also caught up with adults who did not have children, and I witnessed how relaxed my children were socialising with them. We caught up with friends that went to kindergarten with our two eldest. We socialised with many friends from our local church.

Were there any difficult times? Yes. There were times when our shy child would have to approach a bunch of children and ask to play. And there were times when a disagreement would occur and they would have to work it out themselves.

But there are also beautiful times. There are times where the older children would help the younger children (unrelated children), including feeding them food and helping them climb equipment. There would be times when teamwork would naturally occur to satisfy a common goal. And the most important of all was seeing our children play, feeling confident about themselves and their relationships with their friends.

How long did these kids play for? The shortest time was 2 hours. The longest time was 8 hours. 8 hours of continuous, uninterrupted socialisation.  It is beautiful, and I just love seeing my children so free, happy, confident and fulfilled.

As school holidays end and our so called pool of friends lessens, I am inspired by the friendships my children have formed in this journey thus far, and the choices they are making of the friends who make them feel happiness inside.

Yes, it is a lot of more effort on the parent’s part to ensure that their homeschool child receives the adequate socialisation. Importantly, it is really important to ensure that the children are socialised with peers of their age group, as well as all sorts of different age groups. It is also important that they socialise with a diverse group of friends.

But the most important thing for me, is that they are happy.

The value of hard work

I really dislike the word ‘hard‘ in hard work.  From the outset, it plagues the notion of working hard with difficulty, almost -immediate procrastination and misery.

I have sometimes struggled with the notion myself, and I’ve never wanted to call myself lazy, but sometimes, if there is an easier option, I might just take it. Unfortunately, important life lessons aren’t going to be taught if we always choose the easier option.

Someone once said that Success comes from Talent yes, but Hard Work is what makes it happen.

Mr. 5 is (in my humble opinion) brilliant when it comes to Maths. He can do addition without counting all the way up to his 20s, he can subtract, and he is starting to memorise the patterns of times tables. Maths is easy for him. The concepts just come to him. Show him once or twice, and he’s got it. He likes it.

Mr. 5 however, use to struggle with phonics. And yes, I understand he is 5. Not 8.

But he tells me he wants to learn how to read… so he can pick up a book called ‘Captain Underpants’ and read it himself. So he has the motive… But he has realised that it is actually not easy.

He tells me its hard.

And I empathise, and agree. But here it is. If you work hard and push through, each day will get easier. And once you have it, if you keep at it, and work hard, you will master it. 

We have said to him, sometimes in life, you have to do the things you don’t want to.

Mr. 5 admires daddy going to work everyday with a smile, even though sometimes he doesn’t want to. It’s difficult being out the door at 6.30am and back home by 6.30pm. It’s difficult being away from the family for so long and sometimes not seeing them because you work late. But why does he do it? He does it because he works hard, and because he loves us. He works so we have food, shelter, and security. He does it because he loves you.

Hard work is necessary in achieving goals. Goals are set, and you go for them. Sometimes they are easy. But most of the time, if the goal is important enough, it will require hard work. 

So lets aim for those Captain Underpants books!

 

And just to finish off, here we have Mr. 1 (nearly 2) loving the vacuuming. This has nothing to do with the post, I just thought you might enjoy how cute he is.

IMG_9092

 

Not all days are perfect…

So although I write about a lot of things that go right, we also have those days that don’t go well.

Tuesday was one such day.

Mr. 1 didn’t sleep well, and ended up sleeping in my bed, on my head.

Miss 3 had to see a specialist for her eyes. (She’s fine by the way).

And Mr. 5 just didn’t want to read that day, and didn’t want to do any math. He just wanted to hug.

We said we would skip the day.

Most days, we get through the set work (which takes 45 mins) and high five when they finally get something (instant recognition for hard work). Most days we have about 9 hours of learning based on cooking, gardening, playful self-initiated learning and socialisation.

But some days, you just need to curl up, hug away the clouds, read a tonne of books and watch Octonauts. And bake cup cakes.

A perfect unperfect day.

 

Self-Initiated Learning

 

What is self-initiated learning?

Self-initiated learning takes place when a child finds a topic and starts to learn all about it. Given the proper support and backing, this child could keep learning about a topic beyond their expected knowledge for their age, because learning about something you are interested in, is not difficult. 

Most of the excitement, most of the learning and most of the lessons in our family are all learnt through self-initiated play and discovery. This is how our children are wired. This is how our children respond. We are here to support and aid in that learning.

The most valuable learning seems to occur when the child initiates it themselves. 

Homeschooling also means that they can continue along a path of learning for how ever long they need without interruption.

But we have also found that self-initiated learning sometimes needs a backing in order to take place. For example, Mr. 5 is obsessed with the human body and our Universe. He knows most of the major bones in our human body. (Know where your Maxilla is? He does.) But he wouldn’t have had that if he wasn’t first shown a book on the subject. He wouldn’t have learnt all he could about blackholes, galaxies and types of planets outside of our solar system, if we didn’t stare at them first at night and just talk about them.

Mr. 5 has never known much of history. This week, we began a simple conversation of what history is, and archeology. This was Monday. Today (Thursday), he and Miss 3 planned to dig up our mud patch to re-enact an archeological find. (They found lots of dead “fossilised” snail shells.) Mr. 5 also made up a new song:

Ar-che-o-lo-gy! We dig dig dig.
Ar-che-o-lo-gy! We find find find.
Ar-che-o-lo-gy! We dig dig dig.
Ar-che-o-lo-gy! It’s fun fun fun.

Now yes, do we get Mr. 5 and Miss 3 to learn letters, phonics, maths and reading? Yes. I understand the apparent dichotomy of wanting self-initiated learning then also getting your children to sit down and do these things. By the way, it only takes 45 mins a day.

We want them to be able to read, write and understand basic maths. We want them to also have a fantastic broad general knowledge of the world and what it offers (history, geography and science). Because our belief, is that for our family, once they have a handle of the basic skills, when they open that door to the world (or it’s been open for them), the world is truly their oyster. The world opens up. The learning can take flight. And they can truly follow their dreams and fully discover what makes them tick and what can make them happy. 

Isn’t that what we all want for our children?

 

 

 

Praying like children

When I first starting planning for homeschooling about 2.5 years ago, I thought that the most important thing I could teach my children was how to pray. I felt that if they had a relationship with God that was produced on a firm foundation, that their actions, desires and choices would all have a sounding board from the Bible itself. Most importantly, I wanted them to know how precious they are to God, who created them.

However, hearing the simple prayers of children today, this is what I heard:

Miss 3:
Dear God
Thank you for the trees and birds.
I want to make people happy.
I am scared of bugs. Don’t tell my brother. (Who was next to her during prayer).
Amen

Mr 5:
Dear God
Thank you for the planets and all the stars.
I want to make you (God) proud of me.
I’m not scared… well, maybe of bee stings.
Amen

What profoundly struck me is that when they asked for what they wanted, they didn’t ask for a drum kit, telescope, magic clip dolls, Disney princesses to come to life etc. Usually when we pray as adults, we ask for carparks, or health, or to save something, or to get a job, or to help us with exams, or just help me through the poo of life.

But they prayed to make people happy. They wanted God to be proud of them. How profound. And how beautiful child-like.

No wonder God loved the children, and welcomed them. They adored him, and revered Him with a natural wonder. They have a natural born respect for the awesomeness of God.

So maybe they can teach me something about how to pray to our God.

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