Homeschooling on holiday: our camping trip

We recently took our first family camping trip to one of our favourite places – the New Forest. I had been looking forward to this trip as an opportunity to enjoy some unique learning and bonding with the kids. I envisioned rustic evenings and adventure-filled days.

Yeah, I’m an idealist.

As it happened, hay fever and a terribly uncomfortable gravel tent pitch meant we didn’t embrace the fullness of my camping vision, and had to leave for home a couple of days early. However, we had some fantastic fun with some very special friends (who, very sensibly, ‘camped’ in a nearby cottage). We made the best use of our time that we could, and overall enjoyed learning, laughing and loving despite the set backs.

Day One:  After setting up camp, we spent our first day picnicking, walking and playing in the forest. The kids had tons of fun just ‘being’ in the natural woodland. The educational benefits of being outside are often overlooked and under-supplied, but this day was a feast of connecting with nature.Day one

Day Two:  Having just signed up for membership with the National Trust, we took advantage of unlimited free visits and went to Kingston Lacy twice. This day was our first visit, where we enjoyed relaxing on the lawn, exploring the hidden bamboo garden, and reading poetry in the shade. After a lovely lunch in the cafe, we then went to Studland beach, another National Trust owned area, where we licked ice-creams and paddled in the sea. I highly recommend National Trust membership to homeschooling families. There are properties all over the country, and they offer opportunities to enjoy beautiful gardens as well as historical houses.IMG_2033

Day Three:  Salisbury cathedral is one of Hubby’s favourite buildings, so this day was dedicated to enjoying the architecture with our friends. We were blessed to be there while the boys’ choir was rehearsing, and all our musical drama kids got to watch as the boys treated us to some high quality singing. The kids followed an activity trail here and learnt a bit about the history of the place, as well as appreciating the craftsmanship of the building itself.IMG_2184

Day Four:  We went back to Kingston Lacy to explored the house this time. We got to see beautiful marble staircases, real cannon balls from the destruction of Corfe Castle, the cutest turtle footstool ever, and Prince’s favourite – an extensive Egyptian artifacts collection. The kids completed an activity trail here too, and collected badges at the end. We followed up this morning with a little walk around Christchurch castle ruins and another beach trip. Then we headed home to our oh-so-comfy beds.Day two

Although we didn’t get to do all the things we had planned, our few days away were full of blessings. They gave us a chance to spend more time together as a family. They offered new and exciting learning opportunities. And they created memories which we will hold close for years to come.

But I am never camping on gravel again.


Sunshine soaked learning

“We must challenge people to think, “Why learn indoors?” 
Robert Brown MSP, Deputy Minister for Education and Young People

My poets, inspired by nature.

My poets, inspired by nature.

We packed up a bag of books, snacks, drinks and picnic blankets and headed off to our local field. The sunshine was bright and the weather set to be glorious all day long. I wanted to get out into nature and soak it all up before the heat of the day set in too much. And it was even more delightful than it looked. Although we try to go outside for at least a walk around the block whatever the weather, on days like this we can’t seem to help being out as much as possible. It’s like the sun is calling us, eager to shower us with health and inspiration if we’ll just step outside.

Sunshine girl

Sunshine girl

One of the (seemingly endless) blessings of home education is that we are not restricted by timetables and classrooms. On days like this we can take our work outside with us. And when we do so, it seems that just like the sun feeds the plants, it feeds our minds and increases the fruit of learning. In fact, this is not just a theory – evidence has shown that grades and personal development both benefit from taking learning outside of the classroom. I recently read a publication by Natural England which stated that,

“A recent synthesis of the evidence highlights the wide ranging benefits to children of learning experiences in natural environments (Dillon and Dickie, 2012). However there is also evidence to show the extent to which children are becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural environment (England Marketing 2009).”

(School Leader and Teacher Insights into Learning Outside the Classroom in Natural Environments – A Study to Inform the Natural Connections Demonstration Project, Forward. Emphasis mine)

The benefits according to this study included improved motivation, better behaviour, and increased self-confidence. Really, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I believe we were created to be in nature, and whenever we do what we are created to do, we thrive. (One of the reasons I think education should be child-tailored to individual gifting and passion.)

Who needs sand when you can build with cut grass?

Who needs sand when you can build with cut grass?

In our hour on the field today we read history, nature studies and poetry. We interspersed this with playing, running, laughing, climbing, chatting, relaxing, eating and drinking. It was a feast of joyful learning, spurred on by the energising sunshine and fresh air. As we packed up to walk home again, Prince said to me, “I’m going to write a poem when we get home – called ‘The Lonely Field’. And he did. Princess asked, “Please can you help me write with dandelion milk?”  (A fun idea we read about in our Nature Year book.)  And I did.

Thank the Lord for the simple blessing of nature, and the delight of home education!

The Visitors of the Lonely Field.

The Visitors of the Lonely Field.

Ten educational resources I love

I’m always on the look out for great quality resources to use at home for learning and Bible study.  Here are ten of my personal favourites.

  • Story of the World.  This is a much-loved read-aloud in our house. It provides a basic overview of world history. Volume I, which we currently use, starts from the first Nomads up to the last Roman Emperor. However, the series takes you right through up to modern times. It has a companion activity book which I also love, but this is quite expensive and I might not get the successive ones as I don’t feel we’ve made enough use of it to warrant the cost.
  • How to Draw.  This is a lovely clear book, which even non-artists like myself can follow and produce great results. It also contains snippets of information about each animal, which gives this book bonus points!
  • Flags of the World.  When I first got this game and read the instructions I was disappointed. It sounded boring and difficult, and not well suited to helping the kids learn. But I was very wrong! Prince and Princess both love this game, and often choose to play it together. Princess can now recognise most of the flags of Europe and have at least a good guess at the capitals of each country, too.
  • Pop-up, Pull-out Picture Atlas.  I adore this beautiful, fun atlas. It has a pop up globe which spins, and each continent has a pull out page with countries and capitals, as well as lists of landmarks and features for each country, flags, population and language info. It’s a bright, attractive book which Princess often pulls out and pages through just for fun.
  • Building foundations of scientific understanding.  I love this basic science curriculum. It covers four ‘strands’ of science:  The Nature of Matter, Life Science, Physical Science, Earth and Space Science. Each strand is interwoven with the others to provide a comprehensive and broad understanding. It is easy to follow with fun and practical activities. When we do ‘lessons’ from this book my kids think we are just playing games, and they beg for more!

    Science fun with Daddy!

    Science fun with Daddy!

  • Where my Wellies take me.  This is a simply BEAUTIFUL poetry anthology. It follows a girl as she walks about her local countryside, with classic poems sprinkled throughout. The illustrations are inspirational and the choice of poems delightful.
  •  This is a free maths games website, which focuses specifically on times tables. It has been great for keeping the fun in maths, and Prince and Princess have certainly learnt from it as they have played. Unfortunately, it does have advertising which is not always ideal. We get around this by minimizing the screen and adjusting the window size to block the ads from view.
  • Jolly Phonics readers.  Although Prince has passed the stage of using readers, Princess is not quite done with them yet. I have never tried any other reading curriculum, but I have been so happy with Jolly Phonics that I have never needed to look around. These readers are designed to work with the rest of the Jolly Phonics resources, but I have found they work very well on their own. Princess is currently working her way through level three, and she is a very competent reader for her age.
  • Kindle.  Owning a kindle has transformed our read aloud time. We suddenly have instant access to many classics – FOR FREE! So far we have enjoyed The Jungle Book, Five Children and It, Pollyanna and are half-way through The Secret Garden.
  • Read with Me Bible and Adventure Bible (NIrV).  These are lovely beginner Bibles. Princess got the ‘Read with Me’ Bible for Christmas, and I am impressed with its balance of detail and child centred text. Prince ‘graduated’ to his first real Bible after he finished his Jolly Phonics readers, and the NIrV is a lovely transition translation.

Learning fun: a useful tool

Some of the fun ways we use the white (green) boards in our house.

Some of the fun ways we use the white (green) boards in our house.

One of my favourite homeschooling tools is the whiteboard. I love how versatile it is! We currently have three in our house, and each of them has a different purpose. We have our “Verse of the Week” board, which we currently use to write one verse from our Friday morning Bible study on each week, and try to memorise it. Then we have our regular notice board, which is topped with an encouraging Bible verse and used to just write reminders and notes on, such as “put the bins out tonight”. Lastly we have our activity board. This is the one we use for ALL kinds of things – from maths to geography to language to just plain silly fun.

There are so many ways to make learning fun at home, and the white board is an invaluable part of this process in our family. Below is a chart of some of the things we have done with our whiteboard (which is sometimes green… just semantics, y’know…) over the years, separated into categories. And colour-coded. Because it makes me feel more organised than I really am.

Please feel free to download this chart and use it for your own family. And if you have any other great whiteboard ideas please share them – I’m always looking for more 🙂

Fun and educational ideas for your whiteboard.

Fun and educational ideas for your whiteboard.

Encouraging, spiritual and character-building ideas for your whiteboard.

Encouraging, spiritual and character-building ideas for your whiteboard.

A smorgasbord of educational philosophies

During my seven years as a homeschooling Mama I have learnt about many different educational philosophies – Montessauri, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Leadership Education, Waldorf, Unschooling and more. What I love about this plethora of styles and approaches is that they are like a delicious buffet of ideas which homeschool parents get to pick and choose from, and delight in! As I read and learn about this variety of educational philosophies, I take out the bits I like, drop the bits I don’t, and create a personalised approach to education which fits our unique family dynamics.

Prince doing some interest-lead artwork...

Prince doing some interest-lead artwork…

Recently I have been studying the Leadership Education approach, which I am super excited about! We’re in the process of working out how best to incorporate this new style into our learning at home, but so far it’s been an inspirational journey. Today, though, I want to focus on the process of evolving a personalised educational philosophy. One of my favourite homeschooling writers, Jamie Martin from Simple Homeschool, has already written very eloquently on this topic, so I will leave you with a link to her post on The Evolution of an Educational Philosophy: My Journey of Baby Steps.

I pray that those of you considering or just starting out on your own homeschool journey will be encouraged to seek out educational philosophies which inspire you and your own family.

My Homeschool Day in the Life with a 5 and 7 year old

I love hearing how other people construct their homeschool days. I like to find new ways of doing things, ideas I can incorporate and lessons I can learn from. Recently Simple Homeschool ran a ‘day in the life’ series and ended it by inviting readers to share their own days – so I am! I hope you enjoy this peek into our life as much as I enjoy living it!

Friday 14th, 2014 – Valentine’s day!

7:30 am

Wake up! I don’t always get up at 7:30, as I don’t like to set an alarm. I usually wake when the kids climb into bed for morning snuggles, but today they stay in their room playing quietly so I wake on my own. Not sure what time they got up… probably 7ish, as normal. Once I’m up I tell the kids it’s time for ‘Morning High Five’, a fantastic idea I found on this blog recently. I adjusted the download from there to suit our own needs and ended up with this Morning High Five poster – feel free to print and use, but please keep the original copyright info so the right person gets the credit 🙂

How we do morning 'stuff'.

How we do morning ‘stuff’.

We normally complete this list of morning jobs and end with a super excited high-five. Today, though, we have swimming lessons so we skip the chores and get ready to go out quickly.

8:00 am

Princess & I finish getting ready for swimming while Prince, who has finished everything he needs to do, catches a few mins to read some Magic School Bus in his Book Nook.

8:15 am

It’s time to leave for swimming. We are blessed to have private swimming lessons funded by Grandma, so the kids get detailed attention from their teacher and are able to progress quickly and effectively.

10:15 am

We’re back from swimming now.  I get a snack sorted (brownies made with spelt flour and muscovado sugar – that’s healthy, right?!). Prince sets up our next activity (Bible Study) while Princess gets out the abacus and does some counting.

10:30 am

Friday is our Bible Study day (we have a rota of different types of Bible/worship/devotional sessions that we go through each week). We’re in John currently, and read a bit of chapter 2 today while eating our snack. After talking about it a bit we pick a memory verse and have a short prayer time.

11:00 am

We move into ‘Learning Fun’ now. Prince decides to read the Usborne First Illustrated Science Dictionary while Princess writes out our memory verse, taking extra time to get her letters formed right, and everything spelled and punctuated correctly. In between helping Princess and responding to Prince’s frequent calls of “Mommy – LOOK AT THIS!!!” I practice some French on my Duolingo account.

Learning Fun!

Learning Fun!

11:30 am

I call the kids together and tell them we’re going to do some science. Although this is technically a ‘lesson’ we all see it as great fun and more like an investigative game. Today we learn about air as a real substance, and how to demonstrate that it – along with all matter – has weight (technically mass, but we’re not that far yet) and takes up space.

12:15 pm

We finish our science lesson and I switch on Classic FM for some background music. Princess plays around with a left over balloon from the lesson, while Prince goes back to reading his science dictionary. I get online to check emails, catch up with Facebook, and work on my blog – frequently punctuated by exclamations of interest from Prince and calls that I “must” come see some thing or other. Love it!

12:30 pm

I grab the kids a piece of fruit each and we snuggle up on the couch to read a bit of the poetry book we are going through: Where my Wellies Take Me by Michael Morpurgo. I love this book – it has quality illustrations, a good selection of poetry and a delightful nature-centered story line.

12:45 pm

I get ready to make lunch, and Princess decides to help me. Together we mix up a yummy-scrummy scrambled eggs with tomato, onion and fresh basil. Meanwhile, Prince signs into his Duolingo account and does half a lesson of French.

My Princess mixing the eggs.

My Princess mixing the eggs.

1:15 pm

Lunch is ready! The kids settle down to eat while they watch a nature documentary – ‘Life in the Undergrowth’ today. I eat at the computer to catch up with some more online stuff, then unpack my Book People order which arrived earlier in the morning.

1:45 pm

Princess has finished eating, and although the nature documentary is still on, she has had enough of it. Now she moves to the table and makes nature pictures for “sick people” – her aunt, her great-uncle, and her special friend, a girl we support through Gospel for Asia. I sit with her and wrap my husband’s valentines present (‘The King’s Speech’) and make him a card. At 2:00 pm Prince finishes watching ‘Life in the Undergrowth’ and joins us at the table.  He wraps his cousin’s birthday present ready for her party tomorrow.

2:30 pm

We now have a couple of hours just moving from one thing to another. This time is filled with reading some of the new books, maths on computer, more Duolingo, unpacking the dishwasher, and Skyping with Grandma.

Enjoying the new books.

Enjoying the new books.

4:00 pm

I call the kids to the couch again, and we snuggle together while I read the next chapter of our current read-aloud, ‘Pollyanna’.  I LOVE this book!  If you have a Kindle you can get it for free, which is simply awesome.

4:30 pm

It’s tidy-up time. We always try to tidy up before Daddy gets home. Usually this is when I also make supper, but Friday means Family Night and take-out chips for dinner!

5:15 pm

Daddy’s home! We settle down to watch an episode of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ while we eat our chips. Prince has a slight earache, so I make him up a ‘garlic hearing aid‘ which seems to sort it out.  I love garlic on so many levels.

6:30 pm

We send the kids up to get ready for bed. Daddy helps them, then we all climb onto our bed for Bible reading with Daddy. He’s reading right through the Bible, and tonight we are in Genesis at the battle of four kings against five. At one point Daddy reads something about ‘tar pits’ and stops to check if the kids know what those are. This conversation ensued:

Daddy:  “Do you know what tar pits are?’
Prince:  “No.”
Daddy:  “They are pits which are full of black, sticky, thick, icky, gooey stuff.”
Prince:  “Like tar?”

7:15 pm

After praying with the kids we go down to watch ‘The King’s Speech’. I get foot rubs, which is always one of the best parts of my day.

10:00 pm

Bed! After a super fun day of learning and love it’s time to sleep. What a blessed Momma I am!

Ten things I love about home education

I met someone recently who said to me “I’ve always thought I would homeschool my kids if there were no other options.” I smiled, and replied, “I’ve always thought I would send my children to school if there were no other options!”

A lot of people look at me in awe when they find out that we home educate.  They say things like, “You must be so patient!”, “That must be hard!” or “I could never do that!”.  Well, the truth is that is can be hard, I  have to learn patience, and actually you could do it if God called you to it.  But my most common response to comments like these is a broad smile accompanied by “Actually, I LOVE it!”  And I do.  I really, really LOVE home educating my children.

So here is a list of just ten things I love about home education, in no particular order.  These are not necessarily reasons for homeschooling – you can find out more about why we choose to homeschool here – but rather some of the aspects of home education that I personally enjoy.

Whatever type of schooling you feel God has called your family to, I hope you enjoy – and perhaps find some inspiration in – this list.

  • Seeing first-hand the progress my children make on their learning journey.
    Whilst parents of schooled children can certainly track their progress to a degree, I love being an intimate part of that journey, witnessing the struggles, the light-bulb moments, the eagerness and the delight.
  • Being a key decision maker in the educational content, timing and presentation.
    I feel privileged to be able to make choices about what my children learn, how they learn it, and when they learn it. We are not constrained by a classroom full of needs, so learning can be a personalised timetable, allowing children to take time when needed, and rush ahead when talented.
  • Learning out & about!

    Learning out & about!

    “School” in PJs, the park, the car or the couch.
    I saw a funny video once, in which a homeschooled teen talked through common myths about homeschoolers, debunking each one in turn.  But the last one, he acknowledged to not only be true, but to be one of the greatest benefits of home education – doing ‘school’ in pajamas!

  • Sharing my faith throughout the day.
    Being with my children all day is not boring or difficult – it is a blessing beyond any other.  It gives me countless opportunities to show them grace, love, joy, perseverance, forgiveness, petitioning in prayer and personal Bible study.  This can obviously be done with schooled kids as well, – but with long school hours, homework and extra-curricular activities I have heard many parents talk of how busy they are and how little quality time they get to really spend with their children.
  • Crowd-free day trips and holidays.
    This is a sweet benefit!  We always try to go to the pool, the zoo, the museum and on holiday during school term.  This saves money (always helpful in a one-income family) as well as having SO – MUCH – SPACE!  Awesome.
  • Sibling love.
    Another frequent assumption about home education is that siblings would simply go crazy and kill each other.  Let me put you at ease on this: not only do they not kill each other (a definite bonus), but in my experience homeschooled siblings tend to get on very well! My own children are best friends. I am not saying they never argue or get frustrated with each other, but every homeschooled family I know has siblings who are friends. Every one! And I think this is because they spend so much time together, not despite it.
  • Best of friends!

    Best of friends!

    Learning together.
    I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember most of what I learned from my schooling! But now I get to learn it all again, and this time I’m really interested.  People often ask if you have to be a qualified teacher to home education.  You don’t.  Learning alongside your kids is not only acceptable, I think it is desirable.  When children watch adults seek out education and enjoy learning new things, they tend to follow this example.

  • Learning year-round.
    Learning is a life-time occupation.  Having a natural learning approach means we don’t really ever ‘break’ from schooling.  Rather, we are always open to learning, and welcome it as a natural part of life. We do have periods which might look more or less like school to the outside observer, but in truth we aim to keep an attitude of learning in everything we do, all through life.
  • Peaceful paced life.
    Some homeschool moms might read this and think I’m crazy.  Home education is not always calm and quiet, it’s true. But it allows me to set the pace I think is right for my family, and most of the time I find this is a pace of peace. I don’t have to rush my children out the door at 8 am, trying to avoid the school run traffic. I don’t have to force my four-year-old to spend six hours at school and pick her up exhausted (okay, she’s actually five now – but I was glad of it last year). Whilst we still aim to get up and make most of the day, it is done with a spirit of joy and peace rather than obligation and force.
  • Taking responsibility for my children’s upbringing.
    I find this a hard one to explain without causing offence, so I make a disclaimer here: I totally believe that each family MUST make decisions regarding schooling options for themselves.  You should not homeschool because it is right for my kids – only if it is right for yours.  And as long as you have considered the individual needs of your own children, your family unit, and sought God’s guidance on this fundamental aspect of parenting then I respect whichever schooling option you have chosen.  If you have not prayefully considered the options, I beg you would do so.  Kids spend so much of their time at school that to say ‘it doesn’t matter’ is just not true.  I am thankful for the example set for me by my parents, and I am thankful that God has chosen our family to be home educators.

Leadership Education

I am currently reading Oliver & Rachel DeMille’s ‘Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning‘. I was directed to it via a blog I enjoy regularly, Simple Homeschool. Jamie Martin does a fantastic job of explaining Leadership Education in practice over there, and I recommend you check out her many posts to find out more about what it’s like to live this philosophy.

Although I am not even half-way through this book yet, I have found it to be inspiring, practical and fitting with my own ideals of education. The focus is on educating a child in the things that matter most, first. Then it follows up with inspiring a love of learning which will lead children to seek out a superb quality education. It talks a lot about tailoring education to each child’s unique talents and gifts, and seeing the goal of education as preparing them for their personal ‘life mission’. This might be in international ministry, an office job, a world-renowned scientist or a homemaker.

Reading 'Leadership Education' on my Kindle, thanks to my amazing Granny who just knew I "needed" one!

Reading ‘Leadership Education’ on my Kindle, thanks to my amazing Granny who just knew I “needed” one!

After reading through the theory part of DeMille’s book, I put together a personalised summary of the principles and beliefs that Leadership Education promotes. I emphasise personalised for two reasons: First, having not yet read the whole book I may have misinterpreted some aspects, as I don’t yet have the whole big picture. Secondly, I have included notes and quotes which reflect what I take from the book, which is not always exactly what the book means (though in most cases it is). I originally wrote this summary for a friend, but found it a helpful overview myself. I share it with you below, and hope you too find it inspiring, encouraging and useful.

I would especially like to hear from others already using Leadership Education, or those who have read the book and have more comments to offer about it 🙂

Please note that all text in quote marks come directly from the book.  I have not attached page numbers as Kindle versions don’t provide that information.  If you would like to know exactly where a specific quote comes from, please do ask and I’ll provide you with a proper reference.

Basic Premise

There are two main methods of education:

  • Conveyor belt
    • offers all children a set knowledge base without consideration of their specific gifts
    • expects all children to learn through the same (or at least, very similar) methods regardless of age
    • focusses on academic achievement as the main goal
  • Leadership
    • focusses on each child’s unique gifting and starts with this as a basis for learning
    • believes that children learn differently at different stages of life, and adjusts methods accordingly
    • lays a foundation of morality, spirituality and character development, believing this is of central importance to all other learning


There are six stages of learning that students should progress through chronologically

‘Nearly all development occurs in stages or phases. This is also true of education. We believe it is important to take advantage of each phase of development to its fullest.’ Ages for the stage are guidelines only, as each child is unique in development.

Foundational Phases

‘over-programming’ during these phases can cause conflict in the child. This is a crucial time to figure out ‘what is success? What is maturity? … What is my relationship with God? What is my relationship with others? What is my duty? And so forth.’ ‘When we give inappropriate attention to academic achievement during these phases, it can teach our children that they dislike academics because everything is “hard” and “boring,” and/or offer our children an alternative source of self-worth that is inferior to a genuine and positive self-concept resulting from living according to true values such as faith, good works and accountability.’

  • Core:  birth to eight or nine
    • ‘During core phase we lay the foundation for all learning and service in the child’s life.’ The ‘curriculum’ is made up of values, relationships, identity and responsibilities.
  • Love of Learning:  eight to twelve
    • Pressure to learn formally in this stage can cause negative attitudes to learning. ‘These are the years when children dabble with learning, getting to know “what’s out there.”’

Educational Phases

‘During this period the bulk of a person’s “book learning” takes place.’ Through this phase the student will being to use about 70% of their time in intensive learning. Important topics are ‘our place in history and the cycles of society.’

  • Scholar:  twelve to seventeen for girls, thirteen to eighteen for boys
    • ‘At first, the new scholar may only study a few hours at a time, but … by the end of Scholar Phase, most student are studying well over forty hours a week.’ Students are still free to study their own choices of topics, though teachers should encourage and inspire them to ‘see the value, relevance, and excitement of studying other important subjects.’ Teachers should be careful not to ‘knee-jerk’ and require conformity to conveyor belt education at this stage, however some formal education at a college or similar is often useful for some topics. Mentors are key during this phase, and ideally fathers should be one of these. During these teenage years, ‘A leadership view replaces the conveyor-belt search for identity with a quest for vision and mission.’
      • NOTE:  there is a “semi-phase” before scholar, termed ‘transition to scholar’. I have not read further on this yet.
  • Depth: eighteen to twenty-four
    • ‘During depth phase, mentors asses student strengths and weaknesses, help students fill in gaps in their knowledge, go into real depth in their areas of strength and passion, and otherwise lead young people in preparation for their life mission and focus.’ As youth typically leave home for college/uni/work during this stage, it is vital that you prepare them to find mentors of their own who will encourage them wisely. This should be a time of mastering self-control and developing education to career-level.

Applicational Phases

‘Leadership Education will naturally be followed by a life of service and leadership.’ This is the time to carry out one’s personal mission work, and to have an impact on future generations. ‘The greatest component of the Applications Phases is not education per se; it is application of one’s education and whole soul to improving the world.  These phases do not have age guidelines, but relate more to the two periods of life as an adult, and then as an elder.

  • Mission
    • This phase is about ‘building the two towers of family and organization’.
  • Impact
    • This phase is about ‘changing the world to be whatever it should be for your grandchildren and their children’

 Learning Keys

There are eight keys of great teaching which can be applied throughout the phase, which enhance learning.

  • Classics, not textbooks
    • ‘Great works inspire greatness.  Mediocre or poor works inspire mediocre or poor learning.’
  • Mentors, not professors
    • Different emphasis ‘professors’ teach a set curriculum, ‘mentors’ find out student goals, talents etc. and ‘develop and carry out a plan designed to effectively develop his genius and prepare him for his unique mission.’
  • Inspire, not require
    • Lack of inspiration should cause the teacher to question ‘what do I need to do to spark their passion to do the hard work?’
  • Structure time, not content
    • ‘Great teachers and schools allow young students to follow their passions and interests during their study time and inspire them as needed to take on areas they may not initially recognize as interesting and desirable.’  This requires a degree of trust from the teacher, both in the student and the method.  ‘Students must have the freedom to fail in order to truly take responsibility for their own progress.  They must know that their education, their life, their mission, will hinge upon their own choices.’
  • Quality, not conformity
    • Resist the pull to conform to educational norms if they do not contribute to the lessons which need to be learnt at each child’s specific stage.  Also, ‘Great teachers inspire and demand quality, ever urging their students to higher levels of excellence.  They shun mere conformity and expect their students to think and perform to their ever-increasing potential.’
  • Simplicity, not complexity
    • Don’t feed students overcomplicated curriculums.  This fosters a dependence on experts and an attitude that he/she is not able to learn and understand for themselves.  Rather, ‘students study the greatest minds and character in history in every field, write about and respond to what is learned in numerous settings, and apply it in various ways under the tutelage of a mentor’
  • You, not them
    • ‘Focus on your education, and invite them along for the ride.  Read the classics in all fields, engage mentors who inspire and demand quality, structure your days, weeks and months to include study time for yourself, and become a person who inspires great education.’
  • Secure, not stressed
    • Try to ‘know what you are doing is right and that you are doing it effectively’.  Use your own system of knowing what is right to evaluate Leadership Education and see if you believe it is right for your family.  If it is right, then learn to do it effectively by taking advice from others who have done it before.  Being secure instead of stressed will result in peace, focus and joy in your educational journey.

Behind the Scenes

Seven is a really big number.

Seven is a really big number.

I’ve recently started a new schooling system. With the advent of my Prince turning SEVEN (shock, disbelief) I have felt the need to take my relaxed, interest-led, natural learning method a notch up the formality rating. Whilst I still absolutely believe in the benefits and necessity of keeping learning fun, relaxed and relevant, I also have found that some days my kids need a little prompting. With their limited world view there are some things they don’t learn about, simply because they don’t know about it. This is where I come in! I see my role as ‘Chief Instigator and Inspirator‘. (Yes, I know that’s not a word.  But it should be.)

When I let my children learn naturally, I am usually surprised at how much of what they do would be classified as ‘official schooling’ if I had instigated and formalised the learning which happens. For example, yesterday Prince saw a French book lying around so he picked it up and began reading. Sitting next to him, I peered over his shoulder and pointed out that if he read the helpful translation lists at the top and bottom of the pages he would then be able to understand the cartoon strips. With a little help he then read two pages of French conversation, practicing pronunciation and extending his vocabulary! This is my ideal:  unprompted interaction between kids/parents/tools produces effective learning.

But natural learning is not what this post is about.  Why?

Whilst I see first-hand the benefits of learning as opportunity and desire present themselves, I have also seen that there are some things I’d like my children to know which don’t come up in our everyday life very often. Also, there are some days when I feel we have done very little learning of any kind, and although I am comfortable with this every now and then, I desire to foster a habit of industrious activity rather than laziness. SO! Here is my new and improved ‘Natural Learning with a Structured Twist’: It’s very simple really. I started by drawing up a Monday – Friday timetable. Under each day I put in topics that I think are important to make sure we hit from time to time. Over a few weeks I tweaked this until I ended up with this:

My super-secret, under-cover Spring '13 timetable!

My super-secret, under-cover Spring ’13 timetable!

Now, I know how formal this looks. But looks can be deceiving. The key to keeping this natural is this: KEEP IT SECRET! I don’t let my kids know that behind the scenes of our seeming unstructured day is a chart which prompts Mommy to casually say, “Hey guys!  Let’s play ‘Flags of the Word’ together!’ on Tuesday. Or that when I start playing a French computer program on Wednesday, and they just happen to be sitting close by, I am actually taking advantage of their inability to stay away from electronic media, and capitalising on the attention I know they immediately pay to All Things Computerised.  As they listen and – usually – come and join in with me, they are absorbing new words, better accents and French sentence structures without any idea that they are ‘being schooled’. When I write maths problems on our activity board for ‘fun’, this is exactly what they think it is – little do they know that it is actually Friday’s ‘Basic Skills’. In reality, this is not a timetable for the kids – it’s for me.  I am kept accountable through the structure, then implement it through life in as natural a way a possible.

Another key to the natural flow of this new system is flexibility.  One of the joys of home education is it’s flexible nature, and I never want to lose this.  If we don’t get to History on Monday – never mind.  We’ll pick it up on Tuesday… or next week.. or we’ll do double another time… or we’ll forget about it.  Since we don’t break the year up into terms and holidays, but rather school throughout the year (and indeed, the days and weeks), there is no pressure to make sure we cover every thing, every day.  If we miss something, I can always put it down to an inset day 🙂

Reading is Princess's newest learning passion!

Reading is Princess’s newest learning passion!

Lastly, I hold to my belief that children learn best when they are self-motivated and interested. If a child is showing a new passion for music, then take time to indulge that for a while, even if it means cutting back on writing. If, as happened to us, a recent trip to France sparked an enthusiasm for French, then this is a great time to become immersed in French books, programs and conversation. If science needs to take a back seat for a while, so be it. You can always come back to those subjects you left behind, but you can’t always recapture the spark of excitement which lives in your child temporarily.  Don’t miss it – nurture it!

I know that formality, structure, and curriculums are the favourite choice of many home-educating families. But if you’re looking for something a little more natural, then maybe you want to create your own Behind the Scenes timetable.  And maybe you have some other great ideas for keeping the balance between structure and freedom?  Please share them with us all 🙂

A delight-directed journey to the ocean

I have mentioned before that we take a natural learning approach to homeschooling our kids. Delight-directed learning is another term I like to use to describe what we do, and I’d like to share an example of the way this works in our family.

Octonaut happy kids!

Late last year the ‘Octonauts‘ became a popular cartoon series on TV here in England. Although we don’t generally watch TV, we happened to stumble across this program and Prince instantly became hooked. For those who haven’t heard of it, the Octonauts is about a team of animals who go on missions under the ocean to help sea creatures who are in trouble. Having checked it out, my husband and I agreed the cartoon was fun and harmless, and so let him watch it whenever the opportunities arose. Quickly the Octonaut fever grew, and by the end of Christmas he and his sister were the lucky owners of almost all Octonaut gear available! It was then that I started to notice his increasing knowledge of sea creatures and the ocean.

By May this year Prince’s love for Octonauts had started to fade slightly, but replacing it was a deeper interest the real ocean and the creatures who live in it. For his birthday we decided to celebrate this with a trip the to the London Sealife Aquarium, which he LOVED!  From then on his passion has grown and grown. As he showed greater interest, we helped him to learn more by providing him with books, documentaries, posters, field trips and other sources of information (some of these were free, others we spent money on).

Allowing Prince’s learning to be directed by his delight has had amazing results. In less than a year he has gone from knowing practically nothing about the ocean, to being an expert on sharks (most especially the great white, which he thinks is just beautiful) and knowing more about the ocean than anyone else I know (adults included).

It may be obvious that through this passion Prince has learned a lot about science, but what may not be obvious is that it has also contributed to other areas of his education too. For example:

– His reading has improved as he borrows, buys and reads every book he can on the topic.
– Similarly, his vocabulary has increased to include many specialist words he would not otherwise have come across.
– He is grasping mathematical concepts such as percentages, size and weight measurements.
– He has written and illustrated several books on the ocean and its creatures.
– He researches and draws anatomically correct pictures of varieties of different species.

Delight-directed learning really is a delight, and I am so thankful to God that we are able to pursue this style of home education!

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