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Relocation

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Lula B x

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How a Homeschool Schedule Works for Us (Sometimes)

how a homeschool schedule works for us (sometimes) at navigating by joy homeschool blog

We started puppy training classes this week with Harvey, our four month old cavalier spaniel/bischon frise cross. The classes are on a Wednesday morning and take out (for the next few weeks) one of the six half-days we actually spend at home.  Of course all of us, not just Harvey, are learning at the classes, but it is putting a bit of a squeeze on our week!

The solution, it occurred to me, was a schedule! (Colour-coded, naturally.) Don’t you just love the beautiful dance between structure and free-wheeling that is homeschooling?!  At the start of September (all those many – er, weeks – ago) I happily shared with a good homeschooling friend that we were taking a fairly autonomous approach this term.  She said that her family were doing the opposite, and had begun the new school year with a very structured timetable.  At the time we laughed, and said we’d each probably be doing the opposite before too long.  And so here I am, colour-coded schedule proudly in hand. 😀

I wrote a few weeks ago about how we’ve been using the big rocks time management system to prioritise project-based learning around the good maths and English habits we already have in place, and that’s still working well as a guiding principle. But recently my left-brain had begun to get a bit antsy about how weeks were slipping by without Cordie doing any copywork or dictation, and then she decided to try a new approach to learning maths, which was great but required a bit more planning …  and my free-wheeling right-brain decided it was time to take a back seat for a while.

And guess what? Just like when I move around the furniture to the exact same position it was in 6 months earlier and declare joyfully that it looks “So Much Better!” – we’re getting so much done!

On Thursdays we only have until 1130am at home, but by the time we left the house this morning we had done a stack of English and  maths, Cordie had had her project time, the children had enjoyed plenty of time playing in the garden, and we’d even done some history notebooking and had the paints out making Anglo-Saxon coins!

anglo_saxon_coins_

Here’s how a schedule works best for us:

In short bursts. Once it’s helped us find our groove, I’ll happily let the schedule itself  fall by the wayside.  It’s served its purpose.  “Tools, not rules” as my friend Sarah and I say. I can always create a new schedule when the need arises again. (And that colour-coding is so much fun :-D)

A schedule saves time spent arguing about “who goes first” with mummy in the morning. Even though both Cordie and Jasper enjoy their one on one time with me, tearing themselves away from their book/lego/trampoline and  getting around to actually starting is a different matter.

I see a schedule as a set of goals rather than a strict timetable. Although there are times written on our schedule, I rarely look at the clock. The timetable just serves as a rough guide to who does what next.  There’s plenty of leeway for following rabbit-trails and spending a whole afternoon doing  projects or partnership writing a long story if the mood takes us (right brain satisfied), but the timetable helps me remember what else I’d like us to cover in a week (happy left brain).  Win win. 🙂

Where are you at right now in the scheduling/free-wheeling dance?

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.

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.

Our Week In Pictures

Paralympics at navigating by joy homeschool blog

At the London Olympic Park for the Paralympics

Teamwork in the woods at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Teamwork in the woods

Making "paint" at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Making “paint”

Beach Walks...at navigating by joy homeschool blog
Beach Walks…
... introducing the puppy to the sea at navigating by joy homeschool blog

… to introduce the puppy to the sea

Sailing with Daddy at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Sailing with Daddy

Harvesting crops at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Harvesting crops

Return from Cub Camp at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Return from Cub Camp!

Poetry Teatime at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Poetry Teatime

Last Days Of Summer

Yay, the sun came back!  Poor old Big J had to go into work today (bank holiday Monday) but the children and I enjoyed the welcome return of summer at the start of our last full week here before schools start back.  As homeschoolers we can, in theory, stay down here at the coast for as long as we want, so you’ll know where to find us should we find ourselves basking in an Indian summer…

But as so much of the appeal down here lies in the community, it will probably suit us to head back inland this weekend and start our own “term” with the rest.  (Not to mention Beavers, home ed group, swimming, drama classes, music, French… just typing that list makes me feel slightly anxious 😐  I’m sure I’ll embrace the change of pace once it’s upon me…!)

Beach Bonfire Tonight

Pebble Surfing (apparently!!)

Bank Holiday England

We had typical English bank holiday weather this weekend by the sea – super-windy, with spells of bright sunshine and more than a spot of rain. But of course, with true British spirit, we didn’t let it spoil our fun. We made the most of the shiny new car’s people-carrying properties and took my parents-in-law (visiting this weekend) to a nearby seaside town where we had fun at the fair and a bracing walk along the prom.

I managed to get in two photos today!!

This evening my father-in-law (a cruise veteran) and I, armed with binoculars and my iPhone, invented a new pastime – cruise-ship spotting.  We identified first the Queen Elizabeth and then the Crown Princess as they in turn sailed past our stretch of coast 🙂

Watching The Sunset

Nine Years

On this day nine years ago, I married a man who has become my best friend.

Brilliant, funny, kind, caring, creative, clever, gorgeous J, father of my two beautiful children.

Thank you for being my husband. I love you.

Big J with little J

Cricket & Consequences

It’s been a week of cricket!  C started on Monday, looking very much the part in whites handed down (along with Trixie cat) by our friends who emigrated to Australia.  Being on our own reminded J and I of our days before C left school.  We played lots of games and looked forward to picking C up once we’d had enough of the peace!

A game of "consequences"

After a day at our home-ed centre on Tuesday, J decided to join in the cricket on Wednesday and Thursday so I had two whole days to make a start on the decluttering I’d planned for next week while the children are at summer camp.

J's Room - unrecognizable compared with before!

Plus lots of planning for the next school year which, inspired by all the wonderful homeschooling bloggers out there, is definitely my favourite pastime at the moment! I just need to work on that non-strong suit of mine – finishing, in this case ending up with something we can put into practice in our homeschool come September!

 

Summer School

I had thought we’d carry on with our usual homeschooling routine (such as it is) over the summer, varying it only in that most of our group activities (drama, Beavers, home ed group etc) will stop for six weeks and C and J will be doing a couple of sports courses/summer-camps.  Plus more long weekends and the odd week at the beach, of course.  But now that old school-friends are on school holidays, it occurs to me that a change of pace will be good for all of us.  Then when everyone else starts back at school in September we can take advantage of that back-to-school energy that will be everywhere around us to start afresh.

A few things I’m going to continue as normal: J has been really gaining momentum with his reading and handwriting so we’ll be carrying on with Handwriting Without Tears, Sound Phonics  and reading from Reading Literature: First Reader, all of which take only a few minutes each day.  We’ll put aside our Singapore Math textbooks but keep practising number facts with games and maybe read some Living Maths books together; we’ll save our new science curriculum, REAL Science: Life, Level 1, for September but have fun with The Ultimate Book Of Kid Concoctions. And of course we’ll continue to read aloud and listen to the wonderful living books none of us perceive as anything but pure enjoyment.

Meantime, the children are indulging in a Harry-Potter-fest! Having listened to The Prisoner Of Azkaban at the weekend, they went straight onto The Goblet Of Fire on Monday – all 17 CDs of it!!  I seem to remember that the books get much darker as the series goes on, so I’ve suggested that the next one be read rather than listened to. Hopefully that will put a natural age restriction on the content!

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