I look back over the years of our home education journey, and I marvel at the amount of money I wasted.
I was one of those parents who wanted to try every new curriculum, every new method and tried to integrate everything, everyone else was doing that looked good into our home ed life.
What a fool.
We started home educating in N.S.W Australia, where there is a registration process. My husband also had the expectation, that we do some book work. He liked to know maths, English and science were being covered off.
Given these two factors, I think I was easily lead astray when it came to wanting to get it right.
It wasn’t long into our home education journey, that I realised the farcical nature of the registration system, and started to relax on that side of things. However, it was harder to escape hubby’s expectation, so I was always looking for new ways of home educating our 4 little ones (the 5th came later).
And perhaps some of my failures are stories for other days, as there really is some very good curriculum amongst the bookshelves now gathering dust if you like that kind of thing. However, despite training as a primary school teacher, curriculum never really sat right with me. I was far more interested in children learning what they were naturally interested in. I think though, the fear of falling through the cracks, and needing educational poly fill later on, kept me tied to someone else’s (my husbands) expectations of what we should be doing.
It wasn’t until my three eldest had gone on to school/college/university, that I started to really home educate the way I always wanted too. I suppose, by then, we had seen it work. Our kids had gone on to sit exams, earn qualifications and defy all the negative stereotypes that people have of home educated kids.
But how will they ………………………………………………………………………….?
(insert your most infuriating question)
I decided that we would unschool, or rather probably really become more autonomous. I am not very good at the label thing, and never seem to pick the right one. What I think really happened, was that we became us, in a borrowed outfit.
We realised there were things the two remaining children were interested in, but they still needed a little structure. That is the beautiful thing about home education. You can tailor it individually to what your children need, and what works well for you as facilitator.
Around the time we were playing with balance, a friend introduced me to her structure, which another mutual friend, had introduced her too.
They called it the highly educationally scientific name of ‘Do 5 things.’
We adopted it.
On the days we are home, like today, Joey is required to do 5 things. They can be any things he likes, as long as he is learning, creating, making, playing, designing something. Sometimes a 5 thing may involve Minecraft, if there is a new red-stone contraption he would like to try, or historical building he wants to re-create. It doesn’t include Minecraft if it is playing on a PVP server or the like (building a Minecraft PVP server however…).
He often chooses to do IXL maths or English, or work on his cursive handwriting (which he asked to learn). He always chooses to read. He likes his Mystery Science, or various kits we have around the house. When we had our builders in, sometimes one of them, would set him a task or ask him to help with something.
I find it fascinating, that even though he could do anything during the day he often chooses easily timed, easily measured quite structured activities. This is obviously his personality.
And that is ok. That is what I love about the ‘Do 5 things’ structure. That there isn’t any right or wrong. It just sets the expectation, that learning of some sort will happen during the day, but how and what they learn, is up to the child.
On the days where we have activity on, depending on the time of the activity and the intensity of that activity, I will subtract the amount of things I expect of him. For example, earlier in the week, we spent the whole day at Norton Priory, that day, I did not expect any more of him. The day after, when he had a two-hour science lesson in the afternoon, I expected two things to be done before we left.
It is easily tweaked to our day, it is not something that becomes a yucky awful thing, or that we are slaves to – it is just an expectation. In the same way, I expect him to empty the dishwasher in the morning. No more or less emphasis. Just something that needs to happen in the day.
I don’t think this kind of structure is necessarily for all children. Some cope very well with days of autonomy and freedom, and find oodles of interesting things to fill up their days. Certainly some of my other children did. However, every now and then, you have a child that likes to know the boundaries. Joey is that kind of kid. He likes to know what you expect of him.
So for us, this is the perfect solution.