Andy is sitting hunched over his computer. He has been there on and off for the past fortnight. Only one more week until the official start to the new school year and Andy is busy writing lesson plans for his primary school class. I don’t envy him. Homeschooling is so much easier. I don't have to spend weeks planning work for my students. I don't even have to spend a day. Perhaps I can do it in half an hour.

The girls have been on holiday now for nearly two months and I am sure they've learnt a lot in that time. I could let them continue doing things their own way. But… it wouldn’t hurt to gather a few things to strew in their pathway. It might result in the girls finding some things they’ll enjoy but have never considered learning. Surely it can’t hurt to enrich their environment a little?

So how quickly can I do this? Here's the plan. I am going to start with a walk around the house and see what I can gather that looks interesting. Is your home bursting with all kinds of wonderful resources that get bought and never get used? Ours is. Perhaps it’s time to pull a few things off the shelves and put them in a more prominent spot where the girls might stumble over them and be tempted to use them.

So I am walking and looking… and soon I have a big pile of books and DVDs. I also grab a bit of paper and scrawl a list of website resources the girls might enjoy... I have 'planned' the first term of the new school year.

So what's in my pile and on my list?

Playing Shakespeare: “A series of master classes with the greatest Shakespearean actors of their age.”

The Shakespeare play Hamlet which we can read aloud.

We can watch Hamlet starring Mel Gibson and 

the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet, starring David Tennant

We've been reading Charles Dickens' Bleak House. We could watch the BBC mini-series which the girls got for Christmas. 

They’d love to explore the blog David Perdue’s Charles Dickens’ Page.

Some books for reading: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Heidi’s Children 

and we could watch the movie Heidi.

I could suggest  some blog writing and editing of the girls' NaNoWriMo novels.

Poetry? We could finish reading Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Princess. This poem was the basis for Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Princess Ida.

I am sure everyone will want to choose another Gilbert and Sullivan operetta from our DVD boxed set... 

Some history?  Would the girls enjoy the Reformation novels of Robert Hugh Benson: Come Rack! Come Rope! The King's Achievement and By What Authority? I have already downloaded these from ManyBooks

The younger girls might like Fr John O’Neill’s Nor Life Nor Death and Cappy. I bought these historical novels from Cardinal Newman Faith Resources.  They certainly enjoyed Benjamin by the same author.

Science?  The Science of Superheroes by Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg. 

What Einstein Told His Cook and

The Science Chef...  Science plus some cooking.

Then there's the very entertaining website, The Periodic Table of Videos for some chemistry.

Human Society and its Environment? The Seven Wonders of the Industrial World book and DVD. That might fit in well with Charles Dickens.

Creative and Practical Arts? Photography using new Christmas cameras. Photo editing using Picnik and BeFunky. Use the photos in blog posts? Some comic generating using Strip Generator and Toodoos. Doodling?

We could make sock creatures using Charlotte's Christmas book: Stray Sock Sewing Too by Daniel.

Charlotte discovered some interesting art videos on the Kahn Academy website. 

We could browse the book What Great Paintings Say.

We’ll continue to read the Bible Alive meditations every morning together. 

Would the girls like to return to the Teen Guide to the Bible by Alfred McBride? 

They’ll certainly want to continue reading The Creed in Slow Motion by Ronald Knox. 

And I saw some videos on Youtube called The Mass in Slow Motion

A Saints book? In God’s Garden by Steedman.

Just maths to go… The girls will enjoy playing the games on the MangaHigh Maths site. I found a site with some fascinating maths doodles:  Vi Hart: Maths Doodling

Then there's the usual singing and piano lessons, practices and performances, St John Ambulance, swimming lessons and lap swimming, running...

Yes, it took me about half an hour to gather my pile of books and DVDs and a make the list of websites. 

What shall I do with these resources? Pop them in a basket? Strew them on the coffee table? Write a list on the white board where anyone looking for inspiration can see them?

And what if no one likes my learning suggestions? What if the girls aren’t at all interested in the books and DVDs and websites I am strewing in front of them? No problem! I won't have wasted much time, and perhaps if they don’t like what I found, I might delve into them myself. 

And what will the girls do instead? I am sure they’ll find something equally interesting to keep themselves occupied and learning. Because when you love learning, it’s amazing the adventures you can have even without anyone planning anything for you to do.

I'm all finished but Andy is still working away. He is a very dedicated teacher. His class is going to learn some fascinating things next term. It's just a pity he can't do things the unschooling way. But we can. Aren't we so very fortunate?

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  1. This is a great post with plenty of links to books, websites and other resources. It must have taken ages to put together and many homeschooling parents, (and non-homeschooling) should be grateful for what you've put together here. Thanx for taking the time and trouble Sue.

    Learning should be fun, not prescripted. It's a pity that school children, and teachers, have to follow a prescribed syllabus and curriculum set by the State (in the UK). Even the WAY you teach to read and add up is prescribed. For example, you no longer teach the alphabets (a b c ) but teach phonetics (or should that be fonetics?) so that children learn the sound a letter makes.

    What nonsense! How about the sound of kn like in knots, or ght like in thought? Surely if fonetics rules OK then such words would be spelled nots and thot.

    Sorry to go on a bit Sue. I'll stop now. Sorry ... nao!

    God bless.

  2. P.S.

    Try learning Chaucer in its original language using fonetics !!!

  3. Sue- What a fun post to read! In fact, I think you just planned MY next term too and it only took me about 10 minutes of reading and smiling to get it done! ;)

    Good luck to Andy in his new school year. My husband is about halfway through his first year of teaching and he is just starting to feel a little more confident. The challenges are many in the classroom and he constantly reminds us how blessed we are to be able to make our own curriculum and enjoy our educational pursuits in our own home and at our own pace.

    Blessings to you all, Kari

  4. Victor,

    Learning should be fun? I agree! Yes, we have a lot of freedom as homeschoolers, beng able to choose our own curriculum and resources. We are very fortunate.

    It can be frustrating for teachers in the school system having to use the prescribed curriculum and set methods. Andy tries to bring as much fun into his classroom as possible. It takes more effort and time but I am sure his students appreciate it. Andy refuses to use the dreaded black line master worksheets!

    I guess it is not possible for everyone to homeschool so it is important to have good teachers as well. It is very interesting having a teacher and homeschoolers in the same family. We discuss methods and resources and educational philosophy. I definitely think I have it a lot easier than Andy!

    I wonder if you have a special interest in education, Victor. I can hear your frustration over the prescribed curriculum from here!

    It took me much longer to write the blog post and add all the links, than it did to find the resources. It can be frustrating to hear about a good book etc and then not be able to find a copy. That's why I added the links. They link mostly to Amazon but it's possible to find the resources at other places.

    Chaucer? Some years ago we bought secondhand copies of Chaucer, the modern English versions. The only problem was each copy was a different edition and the translations didn't match up word for word. This was very frustrating when we were reading the poems out loud together. So I went back to the shop and bought copies in the original language. And then we couldn't pronounce anything! We understood very little too. We decided we liked the versions written for children best.

    God bless!

  5. Kari,

    I am so glad you liked my method of planning. I could just imagine someone shaking their head and thinking how haphazard and irresponsible my planning sounds. I guess different methods suit different people and this wouldn't work for everyone. But we love learning the adventurous way!

    I am amazed at how many homeschooling fathers are teachers. Yes, our husbands have a far more difficult job than we do at times. Freedom to do what we please is a great gift.

    Andy is about to begin his second year of teaching. He will return with a lot more confidence than he had this time last year. Your husband has done the hardest bit. I bet the second half of the year will bring much satisfaction and rewards as he gains in confidence.

    Prayers for your family!

  6. Homeschooling in the UK is frowned upon. There are private fee-paying schools which have their own curriculums but, like all schools, they are liable to school inspections by the State. There's little room for a teacher to be creative because there's prescribed ways on HOW to teach. For example to multiply 1.5 by 10 you DON'T move the decimal point to the right; but you leave the decimal point where it stands and you MOVE the figures (1 and 5) to the left. Children find this harder to understand and to do mentally. The same applied for divisions.

    Not surprisingly, children from private schools tend to perform better, and since they are not under such controls, they tend to go to better Universities.

    State schools are funded by the tax-payer. Parents who send their children to fee-paying private schools effectively pay twice because they do NOT get a reduction in their taxes. There are cases where parents have no option but to send their children to fee-paying schools especially if you live in an area where State schools are poor and have poor academic results - or OFSTED ratings. OFSTED is the Government body which inspects State schools and issues public reports with gradings of the schools performance.

    I remember having to learn Chaucer in the original language. I wonder how many school children now even know who Chaucer is. Shakespeare is still taught but the actual books/plays are prescribed from a list from year to year.

    You're so lucky to have home-schooling.

    God bless.

  7. Victor,

    Yes, we are very lucky to be able to homeschool. There are some guidelines we have to follow but we've never had any trouble working with them.

    You said that parents using private schools pay twice. As homeschoolers, we pay for state education which we never use. I guess the government would say it's our choice not to use the state schools.

    I have homeschooling friends in Australia, Canada, US... but not the UK... no that's not right. There's Suzy. Is it possible to homeschool in the UK but difficult to satisfy the authorities, I wonder?

    I think I only read two Shakespeare plays while at school and Shakespeare was taught in such a way, I didn't even realise how good those plays were. Since then we have become passionate about Shakespeare and the girls and I aim to read all the plays. We are well on our way to doing that. Yes, homeschooling is good, and we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn such interesting things.

    God bless.

  8. Sue, were your ears burning last night. This post was very much the center of conversation at our homeschool mom's meeting. There are three of us who are struggling with butting heads with kids over learning and thinking that there has to be a better way. So your post came up and we shared it. But we were wondering what would you do if they hated everything you chose and didn't want to play? What does a bad day of unschooling look like in your house? What happens if they go for weeks and don't want to do anything that Sue Elvis would consider enlightening or productive? Just trying to wrap our heads around it here. Thanks!

    And I love that you used the word "fortnight."

  9. Pam,

    No, my ears weren't burning! Actually, I am surprised you were discussing my post as I thought I had very few readers for the homeschool posts.

    My children have a lot of interests which I have spent a lot of time nurturing and sharing. I don't have any trouble getting them to learn and they are very open to new suggestions. If I buy a new book, everyone will gather round eager to have a look and share it. I guess that's what it is all about: sharing. For us, education is a family affair. We spend a lot of time together learning, reading, discussing, listening, watching...I don't expect my children to do anything I am not prepared to do myself. They see me learning and want to do it too.

    With sharing comes a commitment. Although my children are independent learners and will go off and get involved with things they are interested in, I feel I must be available to listen, discuss, suggest resources, even learn the subject myself. It does take time but it's also very enjoyable.

    Of course, there are some things my children are interested in and I am not. They are very musical and I am a hopeless musician. But I don't have to encourage them to practice the piano etc because they are self motivated. I can still share by listening to their performances, driving them to lessons, strewing a few G&S musicals or CDs, looking for any resources that might help them...

    I think my children will probably enjoy all the resources I intend to strew for this coming school term. I know and share most of their interests so I've got a pretty good idea what they like. But if they happen not to like something (maybe I won't like something too!) then we'll just return the resource to the shelf and choose something else. There are so many interesting things in this world to learn about. We couldn't possibly learn everything so I don't think it matters if we change our 'plan' and do something else.

    This comment is getting long so I'll post the second half in another comment!

  10. Pam,

    The second half...

    I am guessing you want to know what happens if my girls refuse to learn something I feel is important like maths. Yes, I would like my children to learn maths. But there are many ways to approach this subject. I am always looking for new ways to interest my girls. For example, I've just found a website with a section containing maths doodling videos. As the girls enjoy doodling, they might like these. I think children will learn even 'essential' things like maths if they see a need. It might not happen according to my timetable but I am confident it will happen.

    A bad day of unschooling? These happen when I am over-tired and grumpy. On these days I don't feel like reading out loud or getting involved with whatever my children are doing. I have found it's best to take time and do something I enjoy like writing and blogging, and usually my girls will follow my example and write too! Of course, children can get out of sorts as well. A change of pace helps: going out on a picnic, having a reading day. We still do productive things but recognise we need a 'different' type of day. I think I have got better at recognising when something is not working and being willing to change direction instead of persisting at all costs.

    Talking of productive and possibly unproductive days... For the last 7 or 8 weeks we have been enjoying our long summer break. I have been focusing on my own interests and spending a lot of time with my husband while he is home on holiday. The girls have had a lot of time to spend their days exactly as they want. They've read Charles Dickens' "Little Dorrit" and "Bleak House" and watched the mini-series, they've been sewing, knitting, drawing, painting... they've read historical fiction, other fiction, cooked, gone running, tried Zumba, written blog posts, written stories, taken photos, edited them, used them in blog posts, listened to music, watched G&S, practised the piano, sang, performed, discussed, listened, shared, prayed... It's been a very productive holiday even though I've not been strewing or suggesting or even thinking about education. This makes me think that children can be trusted to fill their time productively even without outside help.

    "butting heads with kids over learning" Yes! I used to do this in our early days of homeschooling. I would say such things as, "It's YOUR education. You HAVE to learn. I've done my education. Now it's your turn." It was me against my kids, trying to force them to learn by using my authority as their parent. The better way was to stop fighting them and start sharing with them. We do things together, encourage each other. Education is not something school age kids have to do. It's something we all do and we can all share. It involves listening to each other.

    Pam, I am writing this in a hurry so I hope some of it makes sense and helps. I appreciate you leaving a comment and I've enjoyed thinking about the answers to your questions.

    God bless!

  11. Thank you Sue for your thoughtful responses to my questions. I see some excellent nuggets of wisdom there I need to take, work on, and make my own. For example you talk about education being about sharing and how if you do things you are interested in that they join in. So often I am trying to be involved in what my kids want/need to do, but I really don't talk to them much or let them in to see what I am doing. How do they know what I am reading or learning about. How do they know I am writing a blog and communicating with others. I am a life-long leaner, but lousy at letting them in on what I am doing. Love your bad day advice as well. Thank you and thank you for letting me ramble on.

  12. P.S. I am a huge fan of your homeschooling posts. Please keep them coming!

  13. Pam,

    Thank you for your encouragement with the homeschooling posts!

    I wrote the previous comments in a hurry as everyone was waiting for me to finish so we could go on a picnic. It's Australia Day here, and also my daughter's birthday. Perhaps I could think a bit more and write a longer post on this topic...

    Sharing our own interests? Children are usually very eager to do exactly what their parents are doing. Did you read my post "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do..."? I bet your children grow up wanting to take beautiful photos like you, and I can just see your daughter putting together wonderful scrapbooking pages and of course, they will blog which means they will be writers... It is such a thrill to pass on skills and share interests. It also makes for very close relationships.

    I'd love to have a mothers' group like you. It must be so helpful to discuss things face-to-face. Thank you for sharing with me here

    God bless.

  14. Hi Sue, great post! We are reading The Creed in Slow Motion as well and it is wonderful. I've got it on my Kindle but I'm planning on buying it in book form because I think it is such a treasure.

    I knew someone who homeschooled in England. She stopped not because it was too hard requirement wise but because everybody in the family decided it was a good move for them all. And I think on our unschooling Catholics list we have someone from Ireland (Anna) and someone from Wales (Catrin). So I do think people homeschool in the UK but I don't think it has the following that Australia, Canada and the US has.

  15. Faith,

    Yes! "The Creed in Slow Motion" is such a great book. We love Ronald Knox's humour and way of looking at things. It certainly is a delightful read as well as being very helpful.

    I haven't been able to find a copy of "The Mass in Slow Motion". It must be out of print. I so wish there was a Kindle edition!

    It might be interesting to ask our UC friends from the UK to tell us more about their homeschooling and the requirements needed to be registered. Perhaps I shall start a new topic!

    Lovely to hear from you, Faith!

  16. But what about those things you think they should learn, but you know they don't want to (thinking of my Lu and her loathing of the maths). Just asking...feeling insecure.

    1. Hi Lucy,

      I guess there are always things we'd like our children to learn. Perhaps we want our children to share our interests. Or we might need to fulfil the homeschooling registration requirement. Maybe we just think the subject will be needed in the future.

      I have to prove my children are learning maths in order to receive my registration. I look for interesting ways to present it other than making them sit down and fill in workbooks. I try to take advantage of maths in our everyday life. I strew books and games... My girls enjoy playing computer games where mathematical concepts are needed. They are actually signed up for Mangahigh maths. They are interested in this at the moment... but don't use it in an organised and school-like way... Later they might not want to do this. That's OK.

      I read an interesting article which said that the whole of the mathematical curriculum can be completed in only a short time if left to an older age. Children seem to learn better and more quickly if they are ready, rather than if they have reached 'the right age.' They also learn better if they see a need for what they are learning. So I suppose a child who 'hates' maths could leave the subject for a while and not be disadvantaged. They will soon catch up when they have see a need to learn it. In the meantime they might be learning maths through cooking or telling the time or shopping... without even realising it.

      I did a lot of thinking about higher levels of maths. I did advanced maths while at school and while I enjoyed it, I have never used it. So I didn't insist my older children did that level of maths. I reasoned that if they ever needed to know more maths, they could always learn it. I guess this comes back to 'children will learn what they need to know.'

      Lucy, I do believe we can trust our children to learn what they need to know. But I also know it can be difficult sometimes to relax and have confidence... and there are requirements that sometimes have to be fulfilled.

      My family have been discussing the fact that children who don't want to learn, can't be forced to learn. At school and university there were many things I had to learn but didn't want to learn. Now I can hardly remember anything about those things. It wasn't valuable learning at all.

      So can a child be shown a concrete need for certain skills? Can they be convinced it's an interesting subject? Can we give them a desire to learn it? Or can it wait?

      I don't know if I have answered your question at all or just added to the confusion!

      Thank you so much for stopping by and making me think...

  17. My kind of planning, Sue. I have so many great resources in storage in TX. As soon as everything is unpacked I will put things out. I also like to sort our picture books by season and then I have the Mondays with Mary book that takes you through the liturgical year.

    1. Elisa,

      A good supply of our own resources is a real blessing. Sometimes I use the library too. I walk around gathering books and DVDs I think might be interesting, and then I leave them on the table in the family room, to tempt someone!

      I have heard of the "Mondays with Mary" book but haven't got a copy. I shall have to put that on my list.

      Now I have admitted I have a planning post on my blog, I hope that doesn't mean you will feel compelled to stay away. I'm still not a super-planning mum!


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