Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Schoolrooms and school terms

Do you use a school room? It was something I always thought of as being a nice concept, but when we moved house just before Christmas, we discovered a long thin room down the side of the house which would have been perfect. Indeed, that's exactly what our homeschooling neighbours do!

But four months later, do we have a school room? No. We are transforming it slowly into a study, and currently use if for activities which need a bit of quiet - Skype conference calls for the parents, Rosetta Stone for the boys. But in general, most of our education takes place all over the place, but rarely in a fixed and separate location.

Charlotte Mason famously said, 'Education is an atmosphere and education is a life'. I think that probably sums up why we don't find a school room particularly helpful. Instead, our typical day would look more like this:

1) Bible, history, read-alouds (both parent reading to child and child reading to parent) and any other books we are reading together - outside in the back yard. We have a small enclosed area with colourful flowering bushes around the walls, fascinating birdlife and at least four different types of lizard. In the mornings it is cool enough to enjoy being out there, but by about midday the heat starts to pound down on you and it is time to move elsewhere.

2) We then move to the dining table for spelling, copywork, other 'language arts', maths and bits of science. The dining table is useful because it is right next to the hatch which leads to the kitchen and so I can be in the kitchen but keeping a very close eye on the children. (They are not yet at the age where I am happy for them to be in a different room)

3) Maths often moves to the kitchen (for measuring, chopping, following recipes, baking and so forth) or to the living room floor (lego, building blocks, other forms of counting, adding and so forth)

4) Science often ends up outside, involving growing things, experiments involving water and other slightly messier activities

5) The 'education' tends to be ongoing - we might need to go to the market, or to walk somewhere. Often walking and talking gives an opportunity to further discuss the reading from earlier in the day.

6) Music might involve gathering around the piano. Sometimes we just sing. Other times we get out the box of 'instruments' which can make a fairly rowdy noise. We try not to do that one too close to bedtime. We also have activities out and about - choir on one afternoon, music classes on another morning.

7) Sports of course would never be undertaken in a school room! We have some activities which are great for on the compound. Interval sprint training (such as fartlek) and cycling is good on the road outside, especially in the day when there is not much traffic. Other sports are done as part of a home education group and include swimming, basketball and athletics

8) Spanish (or it could be any language) is best done in the study. Rosetta stone is quite amazing - it tunes into each child's voice and does not let them proceed until the pronounciation is correct. This does need a quiet space as free from interruption as possible

9) Otherwise, the rest of our day is spent dipping in and out of books, playing games, discussing a range of topics, and this will be done where ever we happen to be.

Similarly, another question we are often asked about is whether we take holidays. Often our initial response is that we don't. Taking a holiday might imply there was a need to take a holiday from something, and even when we are out of town, or even in a different country, much of our time is spent learning and exploring the world around us. There will be different opportunities in different places. But we do move with the ebb and flow of life. Around Christmas, the boys did an intensive swimming camp which required being out of the house from 9 am until mid-afternoon. We clearly did not manage quite as many read-alouds or as much maths and science during those weeks! This week, they were joined by their baby sister; that too has caused some distraction and we accept that we might not march through the scheduled activities (we are following Sonlight curriculum as well as the additional opportunities which arise through daily life) at the same rate as usual. I think the beauty here is that our schedule is not imposed on us. We seem to be heading to complete the academic 'year' in approximately the right number of weeks (not that it would matter tremendously if we did not) but that has been through taking things at our pace, having the slower weeks at our convenience and so forth.

I think a lot of these thoughts come back to one's underlying philosophy of education. Why are you home educating? Are you simply aiming for 'school at home' for practical reasons? Or are you taking a more holistic view of education, recognising that just about everything that happens in life has lessons which are of benefit for the children?

So, we are left with a room which needs a little more work at the side of our house. It is a peaceful area and hopefully the work done there will be focussed. Perhaps as the children get older (my eldest is still only six) they will need room to work independently without distraction. But the 'dream' of a neat, ordered, quiet schoolroom with maps and posters on the wall might be passing by.

Where does most of your education take place? Do you use a school room or a set area? 

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