Field Trip to Benjamin Franklin House

field trip to benjamin franklin house at navigating by joy homeschool blogWhenever I write about a field trip I  feel like I’m back in infants school writing in my “news” book on a Monday morning: “We went to a museum.  It was fun.” (Though back then apparently all I ever wrote as “news” was that we’d been to the rubbish dump.  Easily pleased we were, back then.) (I might get out my crayons to draw a picture to go with this post.)

So.  Last week we visited Benjamin Franklin House, and it was fun, as well as educational.

Where is Benjamin Franklin House?

benjamin franklin house at navigating by joy homeschool blogBenjamin Franklin lived at 36 Craven Street, London, for sixteen years on the eve of the American Revolution (between 1757 and 1775). Franklin first came to try and negotiate with the British, so the building was really the first US embassy.    The house was built in 1730 and is the world’s only remaining Franklin home.  It has been carefully architecturally preserved. So when we were told of the “air baths” Franklin would take – standing naked at tall windows of the very room we sat in – it was easy to imagine ourselves back in time and giggle as we wondered what the folk sitting in the house directly across the narrow street must have made of the sight!

Before our Visit

Our visit fit in perfectly with Cordie’s electricity project.  In preparation, she read aloud to us How Benjamin Franklin Stole the Lightening, a wonderful living book about Franklin’s life and inventions, including how he harnessed lightening in his famous kite experiment.

how ben franklin stole the lightening

Electricity in Action

At the house, we saw a demonstration of the kite experiment, as electricity (generated using a Tesla coil) jumped down a (miniature) kite string into an attached key. A model church next to the Tesla coil showed us how lightening is attracted to tall buildings, and how a metal lightening rod protects the building by grounding the lightening (while a plastic rod has no effect).  A great opportunity to experience the sight, sound and smell of electricity up close!

benjamin franklin house lightening rod experiment at navigating by joy homeschool blog

lightening experiment at benjamin franklin house - navigating by joy homeschool blog

A Trip Back in Time

The museum’s educational team enthusiastically engaged the children in a number of activities throughout the house.  There was even an actress playing the part of Franklin’s landlady’s daughter, Polly Hewson, to take us on a guided historical tour!

benjamin franlin house historical experience at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Polly’s husband ran an anatomy school from the house, so there were hands-on anatomy-related learning activities, including an exhibit of human bones recently found in the basement of the house.

anatomy activities at benjamin franklin house - navigating by joy homeschool blog

Planning Your Trip

The Benjamin Franklin House Historical Experience is open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays (£7 for adults, children go free).  On Tuesdays the house offers pre-arranged educational visits (including to homeschool groups), taking in the Student Science Centre, at no charge.  Check the website for up-to-date information.

Big Rocks Homeschooling – How to Prioritize What’s Important

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One of the many things I love about project-based learning is that it can fit into any homeschool style. This term I have a much more relaxed approach to curriculum – I’m using it as the tool I always intended it to be, instead of being a slave to it – leaving a bigger space for more natural, child-led learning.

The Call of the Familiar (it’s Easiest to Do What You’ve Always Done)

But starting something new – no, sticking with something new – takes commitment. Now that our intense start-of-term enthusiasm has subsided, cold viruses are doing the rounds, and wet weather has kept us indoors for days at a time, there have been mornings when it’s felt so tempting just to snuggle up with the children for quiet English, maths and read alouds. It’s not that I don’t love seeing the children caught up in a wave of passionate creativity; it’s just that the lure of the familiar, the comfortable path of doing what we know, is sometimes hard to resist.

“Big Rocks” Time Management

you can have what you want at navigating by joy homeschooling blogIn his book You Can Have What You Want, supercoach Michael Neill  tells this story about a seminar leader who placed a large jar on the table.

By the side of the jar he placed a bucket of gravel, a bucket of sand, a bucket of water, and three big rocks. He then challenged his participants to  find a way to fit everything on the table into the jar.

After numerous attempts, it became clear that the only way to fit everything in was to start with the big rocks first.  The gravel filled the space between the big rocks, the sand filled the gaps in the gravel,  and the water filled the gaps between the sand.

When it comes to what we choose to make important, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the daily gravel, ground down by the sand, and swept away by the water. What can be tricky is finding ways to prioritize the ‘big rocks’ – those things in your life that matter most. 

Over the summer (using a fantastic process I’ll share in another post) I identified what are the biggest “rocks” that I want to fit into my life. One “rock” was doing more natural (interest and child-led) learning with my children, and project-based homeschooling has been the perfect way to do this. Of course maths and English are important, but (I’m happy to say) doing them has become a comfortable habit – they get done easily without needing to be prioritized.

How to Prioritize Something

Michael Neill suggests that there are three ways of prioritizing something: (1) Do it first (2) Do it now (3) Do it often. Common sense, but a good reminder nonetheless.

And that is how, as well as practising multi-digit subtraction and discussing the beautiful metaphors in Where the Moon Meets the Mountain, last week Cordie experimented with home made light bulbs, and made kites and tepees from wood and hot glue, and Jasper began to learn computer programming with Scratch in between practising his spelling, handwriting, and learning about the differences between rhombuses and trapeziums. 🙂

What are your big rocks?

Learning How To Start

project based homeschooling at joy homeschooling blog

In her blog this week Lori Pickert has quoted one of my favourite paragraphs from her book, Project-Based Homeschooling:

“Many adults, let alone children, stall in the information-gathering stage of a project.  They keep collecting inspiration and ideas without ever moving forward to the point of making something of their own.  Forget about finishing – they can’t start.”

Lori’s post is actually about the difference between good and bad persistence, and in particular how “you’re not teaching the kids persistence forcing them to complete something *you* want them to do.”  But the quote about not being able to start totally resonated with me (in quite an uncomfortable way!) when I first read it in her book, and one of the many beautiful and unexpected benefits I’m getting out of project-based homeschooling is that my kids – unhampered by years of formal schooling – are showing me how to start!

Since I’ve let go of trying to control every aspect of the learning process, something magical has happened around here. My kids are learning so much more!  Cordie (8) has always been an independent self-starter, so it’s in Jasper (7) that I’m noticing the biggest changes.   We have lots of creating space around our home but it wasn’t until I read Project-Based Homeschooling that it occurred to me that Jasper didn’t have his own desk space in our main living area. We have a large craft desk but that has pretty much been colonised by his prolifically-creative big sister, whereas Jasper had made his own a tiny table housing our desktop computer and – guess what – he wanted to spend all his time on the computer!

As part of our reorganization  he has his own desk and – wow! – is he using it. He’s initiated and completed more creative and science mini-projects this week than I would probably have got round to doing in a month (term??)! All thanks to that little space of his own and the magical power of “project-time”. I think the highlight of my week was when he sighed contentedly in the bath one evening and told me, “when I grow up I want to be a scientist (and a quadrillionaire)” – the millionaire/quadrillionaire bit always comes up, but this was the first time I’d heard Jasper talk about wanting to do anything apart from design/test computer games.  Not that I have anything against him working in games, but it made my heart sing to think that he’s beginning to like science (anything!) as much as he enjoys computer games!

Here’s what my children have taught me this week about “starting”: don’t over-think, over-plan, wait for the perfect moment or worry about the mess – just do it!  And when you do, you learn heaps, have stacks of fun, and – when you’re surfing a wave of  authentic, happy enthusiasm – the preparation and clearing up doesn’t take nearly as long as you thought it would.  🙂

project based homeschooling at navigating by joy

Project-Based Learning: Electricity and Magnetism

electricity project at navigating by joy homeschooling blog

Project-based homeschooling in our newly reorganised space has got off to a great start, with all three of us learning a lot! Today I’ll talk about what Cordie (8) has been doing in her project time.

Cordie’s Electricity and Magnetism Project

Cordie immediately knew she wanted to do her first project on electricity and magnetism. Over the summer she read a few books I’d strewed around (in response to her expressed interest) – including  The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip, Thomas A Edison – Young inventor, and How Benjamin Franklin Stole the Lightening.  By September she was ready to get hands-on!

electricity_books_original at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Klutz Electricity and Magnetism Kit

Klutz Battery Science at navigating by joy homeschooling blogWhen we set up her new project desk the first thing Cordie did was decorate it with a picture of Ben Franklin. 🙂  Next she got out our Klutz Electricity and Magnetism kit (which she had last played with a year ago) and experimented with connecting the wires to make the light bulb glow and the buzzer sound.

klutz electricity and magnetism kit navigating by joy homeschool

Then she ran up to her bedroom and used the bulb and wires to illuminate her upstairs landing of her dolls’ house.

dolls house illuminations at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Spot the crimescene

She loved the effect of this, and talked about how she’d like to light up the whole house, but thought it would be inconvenient to have the lights on all the time.  I was very proud of myself for not leaping in with suggestions about switches! Instead I smiled, nodded interestedly, and made notes in my project journal. I’ve included a photo of the lit up house in the photo collage I put up on her pin board, to act as a visual reminder.

Snap Circuits

Primary-Plus2-box-200w at navigating by joy homeschool blogNext Cordie wanted to browse Amazon for electricity kits.  She found this one (which I was happy to invest in on the basis it goes right through to KS3 (the end of middle school)).

Electricty Kit at navigating by joy homeschooling blog

This was the perfect next step – having played with the Klutz kit she understood that circuit components contain metal wires that have to be connected, but the relative ease of being able to snap the the Primary Electricity kit parts together meant she could make more complex circuits without the fiddliness of ensuring the wires were properly connected.   Knowing that there are no loose connections prompts a young scientist to look for other explanations as to why a circuit isn’t working!

Cordie’s spent most of her project sessions since then methodically assembling the components of the kit, following instructions in the accompanying manual.  I’ve sat quietly beside her as she worked, lending a hand on request to snap together tricky parts or to read aloud from the manual while she does the assembling.

Collaboration

I learned from Project-Based Homeschooling that collaboration is an important part of project work, and this has happened naturally so far. It first happened at home as Jasper (7) watched Cordie put together circuits and asked if he could play with the kit too.  They spent hours over the following days putting together and discussing circuits.  (During those few days I had to bulk buy 2 Amp fuses, much to the consternation of the nice elderly gentleman in the local electrical shop, who looked at me with concern and asked  nervously, “Is it the same appliance that keeps on breaking?”)

electricity project at navigating by joy homeschooling blog

Mad Scientist in the background

Cordie also discovered that a friend at our home ed group is interested in circuits too, in particular robotics circuits, and they’ve agreed to take their kits along next time, to explore together.

How Project-Based Learning Feels

Obviously a lot of learning is happening during these project sessions, which lifts the heart of any homeschooling mum, but there’s so much more to it.  I’m absolutely loving observing Cordie’s natural learning process in a way that wasn’t possible when I thought my role was to actively direct the process.  A few times she’s said she’s worried I’m bored (sitting quietly, doing as she asks) and each time I’ve given her a genuine reassurance that I’m really enjoying just being there beside her.  I sense that she’s beginning to relax a little now and trust that this is the real deal, that I’m not about to pounce and take over her project, or wander off bored and do my own thing. And that trust and sense of ease is carrying over into the rest of our homeschooling life.

Jasper has been using his project-time quite differently, but with equally pleasing results. I’ll talk more about that next time.

How to Organize Homeschool Supplies to Encourage Project-Based Learning

How to organize homeschool resources at navigatingbyjoy homeschool blog

My last post was about how Lori Pickert’s book Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners inspired me to make changes in the way we homeschool and showed me how to make those changes.  One thing I learned was the importance of creating a physical environment that encourages project-based learning.  For example, how learning materials are organised.

Who Controls the Best Resources?

I’m not naturally the tidiest, most organised person (anyone who’s visited our home will agree!), but I used to pride myself on the fact that our “school supplies” were neatly stored in categorized tubs behind closed cupboard doors – ready to be brought out, “Hey Presto!” style, by me (wearing my magician’s hat), when I had a wonderful about how to use them. (Or, more often, to languish in the cupboard, never to see the light of day, while I browsed Pinterest and the blogosphere for more  wonderful ideas.  Ahem.)

I guess giving the kids access to the best tools only while they were working on what I wanted them to do was a form of bribery.  They had plenty of coloured pencils to make pictures of their own ideas, but the Prismacolors were special – they were reserved for when the children were executing my ideas, for when they were pleasing me.

Wow, have my eyes been opened to these subtle but insidious ways we exert control over our children’s learning process!  What message was I giving them about the value of their own ideas in comparison with mine?  (Don’t think I’m being too hard on myself, by the way – I’m laughing as I write this – partially in relief at having had this epiphany sooner rather than later!)

Direct Access to Materials

In Project-Based Homeschooling, Lori talks about the importance of children having sight of and easy access to all the materials they might be inspired to create with.  Cordie (8) and I had great fun one weekend liberating our resources from their cupboard “prisons”. Prismacolor pencils, Caran D’Ache watercolour crayons, fancy papers, Crayola Model Magic, paintbrushes, canvases, film canisters, a collection of corks and balsa wood, charcoals, dozens of different kinds of paper, glues and tapes… all my “secret supplies”… were  merrily piled up in the middle of the room (“go free, bronze acrylic paint! Go free, watercolours!”) before being re-homed  in transparent (Ikea) storage containers in full view and easy reach around the room. (OH it felt good! :-D)

how to organize resources for project based homeschooling at navigatingbyjoy homeschool blog

Clean Up Time

Another suggestion Lori makes is that, as well as being able to get materials out, children should know how to put them away and clean up after themselves afterwards. As well as honouring and supporting children’s independence, this also makes it more likely – in the long run – that I’ll let them go ahead with messy projects. Yes, it means taking the time to show them how to wash out the paint palettes and brushes, and maybe putting up with less than perfect cleaning up for a while, but it’s just too tempting to put off teaching these important skills in favour of the easier (in the short term) “Oh I’ll just do it myself!”  (This is one I’m going to have to practise!)

I’m loving watching the children exploring our newly re-organised project space. 🙂

Project-Based Homeschooling

project based homeschooling at navigatingbyjoy homeschooling blog

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert is a rare book that both inspired me to make changes in the way I homeschool and gave me the practical means to make them.

I’ve long enjoyed Lori’s  Camp Creek Blog (now Project-Based Homeschooing) and loved the idea of seeing my children happily immersed in projects of their own design, but I never took any action on it beyond occasionally prodding them with a “Wouldn’t it be fun to do a project? What would you like to do a project on?”  Strangely, my 7 and 8 year olds never ran with that approach.

Lori’s book has made it all much clearer and helped me see where I’ve been going wrong in the past.

How I Explained Project-Based Homeschooling to my 8 Year Old

I made these notes to help me explain Project-Based Homeschooling to my daughter Cordie (8 years old):

Who does what in a project? You lead the way and have all the ideas, I do what you ask to support you. This could mean buying materials, helping you find a book, helping you find something online, talking through ideas together, reading something aloud, helping you find software, planning a field trip etc. Or me just sitting next to you making notes as you talk to help you remember your ideas.
How long is a project? It can be as short or as long as you want it to be. From one day to a year! You get to decide when it’s done. Between projects you’ll be able to use our project time to explore our  materials or do whatever you want.
How do you choose a project topic? It can be on anything at all you’re interested in, and whatever particular aspect of that you want. For example, if you did electricity and magnetism, you might start finding out about it generally, then find one aspect or one person you want to find out more about, and you might go down that path for a while – whatever you want.
There are three main parts of a project: finding out about the subject, finding a way to share it with other people, and actually sharing it. Sharing it might mean by means of a picture (in paint, pencil, charcoal, watercolour pencil – whatever you like), a three-dimensional piece of art (in clay, wire, junk, pipe cleaners, wood, sand etc) or using photographs, video or computer software, or you might make a little book about it, or write a play and perform it with costumes or puppets… or any combination of different ways.  When you’re ready, we can share it with our family, invite friends over, take it to our homeschool group etc.
Working with other people: As well as sharing what you create with other people eg by inviting them over to see an exhibition of your project work, we can invite people to join us at other stages – for example, if we are doing a particular piece of art, or going on a field trip. Sharing and discussing ideas with friends and family often leads to new ideas!
When do we do project work? We will set special times in the week when I will be 100% available to you to support you doing project work – if you want to do it.  If you choose to spend project time reading, playing or anything else while you think about your project, that’s ok too.
What if you don’t know what topic to start with? You can take as much thinking time as you need. One way of using project time until you come up with a project idea is to explore our materials eg experiment with charcoal, paint or modelling materials.

3 Reasons I Love Project-Based Homeschooling

There are many reasons why I absolutely love the idea of project-based homeschooling.  Here are just three.

Children Own their Projects

I love that each child “owns” his project – he decides the subject, how to do it, how to share it, and when it’s complete. The adult’s role is to mentor and support in whatever way the child requests. This is going to be a learning experience for me – my natural way is to either take over, or leave them to it – but the practical point I learned from the book is to schedule blocks of time when I am able to give 100% of my attention to each child to support, facilitate and mentor them in their project.

Project Work is Authentic

When I was at school I used to cringe at assignments that asked me to “write a pretend newspaper article about …” or “design a poster pretending you are…”.  What the child writes or creates in this kind of project-work is different.  As Lori says in the book:

“In authentic project work, the representations aren’t pretend. They’re real.  …  Your child makes something genuine according to his own ideas and plans.  He  builds something because he wants or needs it.  He does real work for a real purpose.”

I’m all for pretend play and encouraging kids to use their imaginations.  But for kids to do their best work, to learn and to love the process, the ideas have to come from inside them, they can’t be contrived.

Children Learn Real-World Skills

As well as learning about the subject of their project, children doing project-based learning are acquiring life skills that will serve them in the real world.  They are learning where and how to find what they want to know, using real, twenty-first century resources.  They’re learning how to put together what they have learned in meaningful ways, and they’re learning how to present their ideas in ways that make a contribution to others.

You’re Learning Too

Beginning something new takes courage and commitment.   I love that Lori reminds us (homeschooling parents) to treat ourselves in the same loving way as we do our children.  She jokes of the attitude of school adminstrators she has met,

“Your kids should learn at their own pace, follow their interests, and you should trust that they’ll eventually learn everything they need to know.  You, on the other hand, should get with the program, right now, 100%, or else.” [my italics – that really made me laugh! I think I have a mini-school adminstrator on my shoulder.]

Instead, Lori reminds us,

“If your child deserves to learn at his own pace and have his own ideas, so do you.  Whatever you champion for your child, make sure you also give to yourself: the right to follow your own path, work at your own pace, follow your own interests, make mistakes, and try again.  Whatever you want for your children, you are far more likely to help them achieve it if you live it yourself.”

Ahhh, sigh of relief.  I don’t have to get it all 100% right immediately. I can risk beginning this!

Celebrating Midsummer with Poetry

midsummer poetry at navigating by joy homeschoolers

Midsummer’s Night  is my favourite night of the whole year.  I don’t much like holidays or even birthdays, when there’s pressure to do certain things.  But on Midsummer’s Night there are no expectations.

I feel a connection with the earth, and ancient people (of which I am, ironically, reminded when I see traffic signs warning of delays near Stonehenge!).

Once, before children, Big J and I celebrated Midsummer with an evening picnic in London’s Hyde Park (back in the days when Hyde Park was on our doorstep).  Most years I don’t actually do anything in particular on this day.  But I always enjoy marking the occasion in the quiet of my own mind.

Earlier this evening I put out our poetry books in preparation for poetry tea with friends tomorrow morning.  And I lit a sweet “Midsummer’s Night” candle I came across at the garden centre last week.

When C came home from her Stagecoach class she began looking through the poetry books as she ate her snack.  I joined her, and we ended up reading poems aloud to one another for a joyful half hour.

Completely spontaneous, loving, togetherness on my favourite day of the year.   [Deep, long,  blissful sigh of contentment and appreciation.]  🙂

Field Trip to Butser Ancient Celtic Farm

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

What better way to round off our study of the Celts than to visit a “real” (reconstructed) Celtic village?  I love the way learning leads the way to new experiences – I didn’t even know Butser Ancient Celtic Farm existed until recently, and there it was just 40 minutes’ drive away, waiting for us to spend a very pleasant Sunday exploring.

Everything at the Farm has been constructed using authentic Celtic/Iron Age materials. The houses looked just like our model Celtic Roundhouse (not! :-D)

The Farm was having a Celtic weekend when we visited, which meant there were lots of hands-on activities to try.

C ground grain into flour (rather coarse flour – apparently Celts’ teeth were very worn down!).

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

She mixed flour, yeast, oats and water to make a kind of bread which she baked on a Celtic stove.

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

She also made yarn out of sheep’s wool.

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

We crushed chalk, used for building roundhouses and levelling their floors.

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

There was even a mock archaeological “dig”!

The site also houses a reconstructed Roman villa …

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschooling

…complete with underfloor heating.

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - Navigating by joy homeschooling

There was an opportunity to make mosaics in the Roman house.

mosaic making at butser ancient farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

While C was baking, spinning and grinding,  J was hunting around the village for the answers to a scavenger-hunt-style quiz on Celtic kings and Roman emperors.

Our field trip was a perfect complement to our study of the Celts and a great introduction to the Romans. 🙂

How to Make a Model Celtic Roundhouse

how to make a model Celtic Roundhouse at navigating by joy homeschoolers

This full-size model was not made by us 🙂

As our year studying Ancient History draws to a close, we’ve returned – for the first time since we looked at Stonehenge – to the ancient peoples who lived in our part of the world:  the Celts.

I like to use living books as much as possible, but I didn’t find many on the Celts suitable for younger children, so I decided to go hands-on instead.

how to make a model Celtic Roundhouse at navigating by joy homeschoolersAt our library we found Step Into The Celtic World.  I asked C which of the projects appealed to her and she chose the model Celtic Roundhouse. This tied in perfectly with my plan to visit a local Celtic Ancient Farm!

We only loosely followed the book instructions, partly because I’m not very good at following  instructions (or even reading them – ahem), and partly because the dowel rods I ordered online took several weeks to arrive.  (Big J later told me I could have picked some up at the local DIY store;  I have much to learn about hands-on project supplies.)

What You Need

  • A long strip of card (for the walls of the house)
  • Straw (the type that’s like hay, not the drinking-type)
  • Plasticine (for the walls).  I found this “animators’ plasticine alternative” very cheaply on Amazon.
  • A large, thick piece of card for the roof
  • Glue

How to Construct the Roundhouse

how to make a model Celtic Roundhouse at navigating by joy homeschoolers

1. Cover the long strip of cardboard (wall) with a thin layer of plasticine.

2. Press scraps of straw into the walls. (I forgot to get a photo of this.)

3. Stand the wall up in a circle shape, leaving a gap for the doorway. You might want to use tape or glue to attach it to a base to help it stand up. (My photo was taken before pressing the straw into the walls.)

how to make a model Celtic Roundhouse at navigating by joy homeschoolers

4. Cut out a cardboard circle for the roof.  Make it into a cone shape that overhangs the walls.

5. Now for the messy bit!  Cover the roof with straw, using glue to stick it on. The picture in our book showed long neat strands of straw coming together in an orderly thatch. The only straw I could find was scrappy bits used for small animal bedding. But as I reminded C and J, the Celts used whatever materials were available locally to build their houses. 😉

Verdict

Our Celtic Roundhouse may not be the prettiest ever, but we were pretty pleased with it! We had so much fun working on it together, and it definitely enhanced our subsequent experience of visiting an Ancient Celtic Farm.

I’ve been wanting for a while to do more hands-on projects as part of our homeschool.  They’re memorable and fun, and this is the age to do them (my kids are 7 and 8). My lack of practicality – combined with perfectionist tendencies – has held me back in the past, so I was very pleased that we got round to doing this project (and simplifying it to work for us).

Further Resources

If you want to make a more sophisticated model Celtic roundhouse, try this one.

A Day In The Life of a British Homeschooling Family

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Like many homeschoolers, there is no “typical” day in our household.  Our week is loosely structured around external activities like sports classes and our weekly homeschool group, and there are certain subjects that I aim to cover in a week, but other than that,  I like the flexibility of a routine rather than a fixed schedule.

Having said that, here’s an example of a typical, non-typical day!

530am I get up.  I’m not normally this early!  But it’s such a beautiful morning already  I decide I’ll enjoy some quiet time to myself.

645am I go back to bed and meditate/play Words with Friends until 730. I love how my iPhone lets me have a permanent scrabble game going with my mum who lives in Wales!

830am We’re having poetry tea with friends later, so I bake some gluten free/sugar free cookies with the children.  J has been so much calmer since we reduced his dietary sugar, gluten and dairy five months ago (on the advice of a complementary health professional) .  Since most bought products are either sugar or gluten free, I find myself baking a lot.  I’m not an experienced cook, so the recipe substitutions I make can be a bit random, as can the end products. Luckily the children are very forgiving.

850am As we put the eggs away, J asks if we can make pancakes.  I promise him that if he gets on with his maths and English without any fuss, there’ll be time to make some before we set out for our friends’ house.

855am Incentivized by pancakes, J physically drags me into my office, where C and J do most of their individual schoolwork. He does copywork from “Fox In Socks” and we practice phonics and spelling using The Wand.  For today’s maths we look at negative numbers in Primary Grade Challenge Math.

915am  J makes pancake batter. He and C got very good at making pancakes shortly after we changed his diet – gluten and sugar free English pancakes, made with goats’ milk, work really well!

10am We arrive at our friends’ house.  C and J run off to play with the other children (aged 12, 10 and 9)  while I catch up with my friend.  Later we sit at a beautiful table and eat cookies, drink tea from fine cups and saucers, and take turns reading poems aloud. These are the friends who introduced us to the Brave Writer lifestyle, and I love sharing Poetry Tea with them; it’s such a pleasure hearing the poem each person has chosen.

I read “A Summer Morning” by Rachel Field, because even though it’s only May, temperatures have been in the 80’s today.  After the weather we’ve had in England recently, it definitely feels like summer!

1130am On the way home we stop off at the park to enjoy the sunshine.

12pm We make another stop, this time at the garden centre, to pick up some compost: it’s finally safe to put the tomato and pepper plants outside!

1230pm Lunch.  J learned how to make cheese and ham tortilla flatbreads at our homeschool centre yesterday; he decides to make them again today. It requires a brick, apparently.  C obligingly finds one in her den at the end of the garden.  J teaches C how to make his new dish.  I do the bit at the hob, involving flattening the tortilla between the griddle pan, a saucepan and a tea towel-wrapped house brick!

homeschool gardening - navigating by joy

1pm C waters her vegetable patch while I plant out the tomatoes. J bounces on the trampoline then retreats from the heat inside.

phantom tollbooth - navigating by joy homeschoolers145pm C and I go to my office for her English and maths. We continue our discussion of literal versus metaphorical meaning using The Arrow and our novel, The Phantom Tollbooth. We discuss what clichés are and pick out a few from a list I had printed out; then we start an exercise from The Arrow, creating a story taking metaphoric meanings literally. It’s about a king standing on the tip of an iceberg.  C enjoys this so much that when I suggest finishing, she begs to do a bit more! Always a good sign 🙂  We finish by reading aloud a chapter of The Phantom Tollbooth.

We use Primary Grade Math Challenge for maths and C answers the level 2 questions on negative numbers.

245 pm Science: we continue our space travel project. The children make edible space shuttles following directions in this NASA Educators’ Guide.

We watch a You Tube video of the shuttle taking off and look at a printables of the parts of the space shuttle and the sequence of take-off, orbit, and landing.  C and J then assemble their own shuttles using bread, carrot, celery and hummus.  I video them “narrating” their own take-off to landing sequences on my iPhone.  C leads the narration but J contributes a piece of information he remembered from our recent visit to the Kennedy Space Centre – something I hadn’t even realised he’d taken in at the time – I love it when that happens!

edible space shuttle - navigating by joy homeschoolers

J follows his space shuttle snack with a plum from the fruit bowl, and then asks me to point out to him the plum tree in our garden. We look at the hard, grape-sized plums on the tree and I tell J how I ate the sweetest, juiciest plum from it on the day we moved into our house on 31 July 2007.  He said he is going to keep an eye on the plums’ progress. Sometimes I wish I made more time for formal nature study in our homeschool; then I realise that thanks to the huge amount of free time they have to spend outdoors, C and J are actually quite in tune with nature and the seasons.

boudicca - navigating by joy homeschoolers4pm History: I decide to squeeze in a bit of The Story of the World before swimming classes. J groans (he never likes the idea of history) but he soon joins C pleading for more when I stop after half a chapter on the Celts.  Half a chapter is all the Celts get in The Story of the World, but as they are our bit of ancient history, we’re spending a bit longer on them than our curriculum suggests. I read from our living book on Boudicca while C spontaneiously makes a Boudicca “doll” from a feather the cats brought it.

5pm C and J go to their swimming classes while I squeeze in half an hour in the gym. When the children were at school, exercising often felt like a chore.  Now I cherish my gym time!  We eat dinner at the sports centre cafe, and C and J have some time jumping around in the soft play area.

7pm We go straight from the sports centre to take C to Cub Scouts (where she is one of only two girls). Normally this signals the end of my day’s “work”, but Big J’s commuter train is delayed tonight so J and I go back out to collect C from cubs at 830.

930pm I’m relaxing with an alcohol free beer and watching The Vampire Diaries.

A good day!

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