Sunday, September 07, 2008

Benignly playing schools

We've been doing some very schooly home ed 'work' here, this past week. It all started with the back-to-school stuff in the shops and Lyddie asking about it and coveting some of the colourful folders and pens. (Even if we manage to escape the system, it seems we can't escape its influence.) I answered her questions. ("You can go too, if you like," I said. "Nooooo thank you," she replied very quickly. "I'd rather stay at home. But I'd like some of those folders and pens, please." So we bought some.)

Next thing: to work out what to do with them. She asked and I explained that people usually use them to divide up the different subjects they're studying. She asked what subjects were, so I told her a few, but said they could be anything she liked, really. She decided on the following, and wrote labels for them all:

That's (from top left): discovery; number; poem; form; fairies; history; story; circle stories; and adventure. Just in case you can't read them - I had to go some distance away to fit them all in ;-)

Writing all the labels took some time and was done very carefully.

Then she had to decide on content. "Let's write a story," she's said every morning this week, at around 8am. These have mostly consisted of her dictating and me writing. (We started with her dictating, me writing and her copying, but she eventually got tired of doing that.) And pictures - they're all illustrated.

I love her stories. She's given me permission to blog a few of them, so here they are, all her own words, with absolutely no prompting, questioning or correcting from me:

The dog and the cat: they don't like each other.

Once upon a time, there was a dog and he was walking in the park with his owner. And a cat, who was walking in the park with her owner. And they met with each other, and had a fight.
And when they had finished the fight, they went home and had a bath.
Of course, they lived in the same house as each other and the cat was called Sarah. The dog was called Erin.
And their owners weren't very happy that they had a fight, but the dog was only a puppy and the cat was only a kitten, so their owners just had to care for them.
And their owners gave them some food and they just got along with each other.
And that's the end.

The three fairies.

Once upon a time, there were three fairies and their pet was only a rabbit. Their rabbit was bigger than a mouse, although the fairies did not know that they had a curse on them, by the evil fairy Sarah.
She had black clothes and she had hair dye, but she'd already used it. And now her hair was as red as anything.
The fairies had six blond rabbits, which fought, and Sarah had six black rabbits. The fairies were called Nightgirl, Lucy Light and Rain Rain Sky.
Sarah had done a plan on the curse and the curse was that the fairies would be under her power for a long long time before their friends could come, because they were the most powerful of all.
The fairies had more magic than Sarah and their magic was:
"Night sky, please help us".
- which causes lightning, and they lived in a castle made of diamonds.
Their other spell was:
"Light, Light, help us! Make the grass grow longer to help us!"
BUT their other power was the most powerfulest power of all, because it came from the fairies' own hands and not from the sky. Nettles come out of the fairies' hands when they are fighting and the fairies rescued the others and Sarah's plan was ruined and they all lived happily ever after and that's the end.

The muffin and the baker.

Once upon a time there was a baker and he baked the most yummiest muffin in the world. But he didn't know that his muffin had a life and it ran out of his bakery shop.
A cow was walking by. The muffin told it about what the baker was doing, running after him. And then the cow chased after him! The poor old muffin.
A crocodile was living by the river. He gave the muffin a ride across the river and he lived happily ever after. The end.

There are half a dozen others where those came from. Lyddie has certainly got the creative writing bug! And a poem:


Life full
Life full
Get an eyeful
Of my trifle.

You like? ;-) I do!

In the 'form' folder (the only one that was my idea) we practice the mechanics of writing. I make a note of the letters and numbers she's struggling with as she writes, and later we work on improving those.

I'm amazed that she actually wants to work on improving her handwriting skill. This wasn't something the older children ever wanted to do, but I think they'd been put off by the formulaic methods employed in school. Lyddie didn't need to write 20 a's to 'get it'. I did the first one there and she did the other five, and that was it. Time to move on. She's very happy to work as long as it's on her terms and we don't labour anything unnecessarily - which, of course, is the main advantage of home education.

The progress we make in one hour-long session is phenomenal. I'd say it equates to about a week in school terms, having been an NTA in the older children's school many years ago and seen through adult eyes how things have to happen in those environments. This was of doing it is so much more refreshing and enjoyable - it's just.. bang bang, get it done. Move onto the next thing.

Home educating a child who has never been to school is a completely different experience. The older ones were so reluctant to sit down and apply themselves to anything involving paper, or even learning, that we had to give up and completely deschool - a process that never quite ends. (Though the condition does improve over time.) In Lyddie's case, blissfully, there's no need to deschool, because she's never been schooled. So she's very happy to be neatly and profoundly creative with a few colourful folders and pens.

I've learned a lot from experience and observation though, over the years. When the child says start, you start. When the child says: let's do it this way, you do it this way. And when the child says stop, you jolly well stop! Hopefully if we continue on that basis, she'll never need to deschool.


Blogger Sue said...

What a great post - so inspiring! Autonomous ed seems to be working brilliantly for you and Lyddie. I'm (almost) envious... I do miss the home ed days, but since mine were older when we started, we never had that total innocence about structured learning, and enthusiasm for all the basics.

1:31 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Sue. Yes, we've been really enjoying ourselves. I keep having to pinch myself though, to check I'm not dreaming! Good memories to store up for later :-)

2:30 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger Allie said...

I love that writing. The castle made of diamonds is wonderful.

Our L has always been enthusiastic about writing and is very happy to apply himself to booky things when he's in the mood. I was amazed at the way he worked through a cursive script book when he decided he wanted a more grown up style. I suggested he'd learn it quickly if we did a page a day and he was ready to do that each morning. He even thanked me for doing it with him! I am sure that never having gone to school means that he doesn't associate such stuff with someone else's agenda.

3:48 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

"He even thanked me for doing it with him!"

Oh, that's lovely :-)

I think you hit the nail on the head re: agenda.

4:37 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger Betula said...

I love autonomous education :-) We've been making an alphabet frieze over the last week. DD2 (3.5) wants one because she's very interested in learning her letters at the moment. DD1 (5) wants one so she can have something to refer to when she's doing writing without having to ask me or DH. DD1 is like a butterfly - she'll do a little bit and then go off to something else. DD2 has done twice as much as DD1 simply because she likes doing things for a long, long time. So I'd add another thing to your last paragraph - when they say 'I want to keep going' you can let them - no having to stop for the bell, or change of subject :-)

4:53 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger these boots said...

Lovely stories (both L's and the ones on these comments!)

A and M are learning to read! Yes, it's finally happened at age 5 and nearly 7. We had a false start around a year ago which was more led by my mum than anyone else, and it stopped A 'writing' her little spontaneous notes etc. for months. But A decided for herself a couple of weeks ago that it would be useful to be able to read (mostly so she can write poems, from what I gather) and so my long-suffering Mum came over and did maybe half an hour's concentrated work each day for around a week. This was backed up with the girls committing to learn 3 words a day each from flashcards with me. Now they are at the stage of reading their own books! We had a bit of a break when we all got interested in other things, and now we're back to the 3 words a day flashcards, to build up vocab. I was amazed at how hard they worked, and how quickly they got 'results' and success.

5:03 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Clare, you make an excellent point. It's what Gatto was saying about the lesson of the bell in Dumbing Us Down, isn't it? Your alphabet frieze sounds great, and I enjoyed reading about the differences between your girls' learning styles. Something else we can cater for easily with such a high adult: child ratio and a completely free curriculum :-)

Lucy, how exciting! And brilliant that they're learning together. So your Mum has both hindered and helped, you think? ;-) Sounds like she's at least balanced out her own input! I've never thought of using flashcards. I wonder whether our L would be into that idea. I think we might have to get some and see.

5:33 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger Betula said...

You've just inspired me to blog about the frieze, Gill, so it's up there now if you want to see it (proud Mummy moment ;-) - oh and also a smug 'you see autonomous learning works' post too LOL)

8:15 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Excellent :-)

9:36 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger Ruth said...

I love Lyddie's stories. The boys don't associated files with school either, having never been, and both have a few each for various things they do. B latest has dinosaurs. D has one for his Redwall stuff.

10:01 pm, September 07, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Ah, I thought you'd have some! Lyddie sees all history in terms of dinosaurs I think - she's very into them.

Um.. *totally clueless* what's Redwall?

7:36 am, September 08, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh, is it this? Looks interesting...

8:49 am, September 08, 2008  
Blogger Lucy said...

wonderful stories! love hearing about your home ed with a non-schooled child, very interesting :)

7:57 am, September 09, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Lucy :-)

8:34 am, September 09, 2008  
Blogger Minnie said...

My dd learned how to read not through books but via magazines.. the ones that interested her, of course:o) I did indulge/facilitate her choices (cost a small fortune) but it worked!! I have hundreds of books for all but, no, she prefers the mags. I never pushed her to read/write for fear of putting her off for per the older kids. They don't enjoy reading at all. Not one bit. Makes me feel incredibly sad, just from a personal point of view because I love reading so much. They went to school, their sis doesn't anymore. She obviously asked questions through curiosity or doing all those blummin' mag quizzes, etc so her comprehension and spelling improved. She writes happy, short stories, but she prefers reading to writing. We got slagged off by an lea official because she couldn't write joined up at 6, so it's put her off, I think!! She loves following story lines. Drawing/art is important to her too. I can see she is being sensible by pacing herself. The structured stuff would do her head in. I've bought her really pretty journals and files to encourage writing (which is very neat when she does) but she still prefers reading. Sorry. Waffled.

12:40 am, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh, my brother was like that! I think some people have more.. (can't think what to call it..) graphical, than textual intelligence, if that makes sense. Not sure I have any kind at all this morning.

7:07 am, September 10, 2008  

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