We’re pretty near the end of September now, so how has this first month back to learning been for you and your family?
The Excitement of September
For the most part I’ve really enjoyed this month. I feel such a renewed sense of purpose and excitement! For much of August, I felt like a child on Christmas Eve. I read home education books, listened to podcasts and webinars. I organised my planner (there’s a blog post coming!), re-organised the playroom/dining room and had lots of conversations with my daughters about what we wanted our academic year to look like. Some of you don’t enjoy that process, you want to get stuck into the learning, but I absolutely love it!
So the beginning of September came and myself and my daughters were excited to get stuck back in. Just a quick mention of my husband here, he’s usually fairly hands on with what we’re doing depending on his workload but, generally speaking, home education is more my domain than his. In August I’d asked the girls what they’d like to learn about; my plan being to use a topic-based approach to start the year off.
Our youngest, now 7, declared that she wanted to do a dinosaur topic. This came as no surprise to anyone, she loves dinosaurs and could absolutely teach me about them, never mind the other way around.
So dinosaurs was decided on as our main topic, to take us to around the half term mark in October. I’ll show you in another post how I created a rough plan of what we were going to do. Our eldest, 9, asked if we could learn about Ancient Greece after dinosaurs. Now, both of my daughters know that I have a passion for all things Ancient Greek, they’ve heard many times about my trip to Greece and I’ve told them plenty of Greek myths. I’m still not completely sure if she chose this because she thinks it’s a topic I’d like, or if she has a genuine interest but we’ll run with it and see how it goes.
Being out in nature is something both of my daughters absolutely love, so I wanted to make sure that we were getting plenty of nature through our weeks. Although it’s aimed at little ones, I bought Hygge in the Early Years‘ Wanderlust curriculum, basically because it was on offer for £5! It’s got a weekly theme for every week of the year and is totally adaptable for my daughters’ needs.
I’ll admit that my childhood was not very outdoor-based, so nature study does not come naturally to me, it’s something I’d easily forgot to consider. Having a weekly theme takes the worry out of this for me. I can get books and resources in advance and also have a seasonal guide for things for us to look out for when we’re out and about.
So far we’ve had weeks on owls, apples and mushrooms. We’ve dipped in and out of it as it’s not our main topic but it’s been a nice supplement to what we’re doing. I feel that it’s important to me for the girls to be aware of the seasons and the natural world around them, and it’s something they value too.
I am absolutely going to invest in the Exploring Nature with Children resources though, but probably for next September onwards.
If you haven’t come across Pawprint Badges yet, do go and have a look. They’re basically like the badges you earn at Brownies or Scouts. You choose a badge to work towards, in your own time, download the free resource pack of suggested activities and then buy the badge when you’re done. I’m going to sew the girls’ badges (which are lovely big, embroidered ones) onto fleecy blankets for them to keep in their bedrooms.
There’s a huge variety of badges to work towards and the suggested activities are great for all ages. We’ve earned our squirrel badges this month and we’re currently working towards our Harvest badges. I love that the activities are fun and engaging, but there’s some very real cross-curricular learning opportunities too. For example, for our squirrel badge we listened to some stories from the Hindi religion about Rama and Sita, and Rama and a squirrel and then we went on to build a suspension bridge!
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September hasn’t been without its challenges though, despite our positivity. At the beginning of this year we were getting ourselves into quite a nice little rhythm with our regular groups and outings together. My daughters were just starting to gain in confidence and make new friends too.
We had two social groups, an art class and a forest school group that we were attending regularly, and we were about to add an indoor climbing group when lockdown first started. We also had a weekly trip to our local library followed by reading together at a local community coffee shop. As things currently stand, none of our groups have started up again and who know when (or if) they will? Thankfully our library re-opened a week ago, a relief to us all, and so has our beloved coffee shop. So we have that lovely anchor point in our week to look forward to again. We also started guitar lessons, which the girls have been looking forward to for months.
I’m so aware now that the girls only have each other, myself and my husband for company. Our area has gone back into a local lockdown, so visiting friends is out of the question. I’ve spent the past twelve months arguing with people that home education doesn’t have a negative impact on our ability to socialise only to now find that we are feeling a bit isolated. It’s a good job that as a family we all enjoy each other’s company really!
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Looking Towards October
As far as socialising goes, who knows what October will bring? We’re going to carry on with our library trips, reading in the coffee shop and our guitar lessons for as long as we can. I’m also mindful that another full lockdown is a possibility, so I’m making sure that we have plenty of things we can do at home.
After reading The Brave Learner, I’ve set up an “always open” art table in the kitchen, complete with trolley full of materials. I’ve bought some lovely craft kits for us to do together. We’ve started Poetry Tea Time. We have so many books from the library to snuggle up and read together. I’ve found documentaries and films we can watch together on Netflix or Disney+. If we do end up having to stay at home for a length of time again I feel much more positive about it and better prepared.
So how was September for you? I’d love to know what topics or curriculums you’re following, or what you’ve been up to so please leave me a comment!