About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Treasure

This morning something happened that I am sure has many hidden lessons.

I've mentioned elsewhere that my boys are fascinated by ancient history. The eldest (now nearly 6) is confident he wants to be an archaeologist. Everywhere he goes, he finds 'treasure'. Often this is old pieces of wire, broken pieces of pottery, but to him, these are precious and evidence of previous civilisations that capture his imagination. Recently they learnt about Pompeii, and also about some Biblical archaeology which relatively recently has verified things from the Bible which had been questioned by some historians. On a long road trip last week, we listened to an audiobook about pirates, and of course there was hidden treasure there too.

Whilst scrabbling about in some dirt in Dorset my other 5 year old produced a small coin, about the size of a penny. It just looked like a penny or indeed nothing at all. However, we took it home. We had noticed a slightly irregular margin and wondered whether it could actually be an ancient coin, but it was only this morning as we cleaned it up a little more and inspected it with a magnifying glass that we saw the writing Henri and realised it was a gold 'angel coin' from the era of Henry VIII. It is actually genuine treasure, which just confirms to the boys that there is treasure everywhere.

This was all very exciting, and much of the rest of the day was spent looking at coins, learning about the history of money, of hammered coins, of different currencies and uses in different cultures. Even as adults, there was just that sense of excitement that we had found treasure.

Jesus spoke of 'childlike faith' several times. Now, this did not refer to worldly things such as finding buried treasure (indeed the Bible warns against treasure on earth, reminding us that 'where your treasure is, there your heart will be also'). But there is something about the innocence of childhood that they do not believe anything to be impossible. They take things literally, and if the Bible says it to be true, it must be true. They don't have any difficulty with Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, walking on water, calming the storm - because they know that He was God and of course He could do these amazing things. Of course He hears and answers our prayers. They have a beautiful acceptance in their faith that adults so often lack. We tend to look at the facts, at the circumstances, at what we think we 'know'. The children simply accept, believe and expect great things.

As adults it is very easy to dismiss their comments. A couple of years ago in autumn, as we strolled through a very familiar park, one of the 3 year olds said, 'Look at those apples' and our immediate response was, 'Don't be silly, there are no apple trees here'. But of course, they were apples and we went on to find half a dozen wild apple trees in that same park, and each autumn have foraged plenty. Even now I have a spiced apple cake baking in the oven made out of apple puree from last year.

As parents home educating our children we must be so careful not to quash their innocent questioning and not to dismiss comments that sounds off the wall, because they just might be right. For our boys, I think the fascination with ancient history has been firmly consolidated now, and I don't imagine they will ever forget the day that they genuinely found treasure. Or maybe they are simply thinking, 'of course there was treasure, there is treasure everywhere'. Maybe its the parents who will never forget!

Whatever is happening this week, I hope you are able to take the time to be challenged by and to learn from your children!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Worldschooling

Until last week, I had never heard the word 'worldschooling' until I came across this ironically entitled blog post: '10 ways worldschooling has ruined my childhood'.It was an enjoyable and challenging read, written by a sixteen year old girl whose childhood has been on the road with her three brothers and parents who make a living by freelance IT-based work. Her mother actually develops curricula and resources for like-minded families and has a parallel blog here. And you know how it is with blog perusing, one click leads to another and quickly it is possible to amass much information (and for me, often much inspiration).

Our family has a similar philosophy in many respects, although we do not live simply to travel. Through our work, we often move around for courses, conferences and periods of time (weeks through to years) in different countries. Wherever possible we travel as a family, and embrace the educational opportunities that the different countries and cultures present. The boys seem to thrive on this, and do have a very global perspective - it is not unusual for them to have friends who do not speak much English, or to be part of a group of children from many different countries.

One of the blog posts I read was on just how it is possible for a family to be able to live in a way which allows 'worldschooling' - many of these are principles I share:

1) Live simply. A lot of what is seen as essential in our (when I say 'our' I am referring to our life in urban Britain) culture is actually not necessary at all. Never before has society been so materialistic. There are constant messages that life would be better or easier with some product or other. If you are frequently on the move, you cannot become too attached to things. When we travel in the UK, if not using public transport, we drive a small Renault (not a 'people carrier'). People sometimes ask how we manage this, but actually it is a blessing - we are forced to consider what we really need, and to travel without clutter.

2) Eat simply and seasonally. We cook everything from scratch and one of our first tasks in a new place is to find the market and find any local seasonal produce to sample. I say it often, but I believe through cooking and experimenting with ingredients and flavours, the children learn many useful skills - from literacy and numeracy, through to science, art, technology and hospitality. It is also a lot cheaper this way! Sometimes other families comment to us that their children would refuse to eat this kind of food. For us, it has never been an option - from infancy if they do not finish something on their plate, we don't give them an alternative.

3) Recognise that education is a life. Things are learnt so much better through practical experience and engagement of all the senses than through being 'taught' about them. Often it doesn't feel like 'school' or feel like learning, but that is one of the great beauties of all home education, but perhaps worldschooling in particular.

4) Having a close family unit - when you live and travel in close proximity to one another, any disagreements need to be dealt with quickly. I would be lying if I said my boys always got along in perfect harmony; they do not! But we deal with things quickly. At home, they share a bedroom. There are occasions when I see a short term benefit in separating them, but the longer term benefit of being able to share a room, share a bed if need be, being able to sleep just about anywhere is huge.

These are just a few thoughts. This month we have been on the move again, and as well as on the move, have experienced weather from snow two weeks ago through to glorious summer sunshine today. We've learnt a lot of geology - from the incredible limestone formations in the Yorkshire Dales, through to the incredible rock formations and fossils of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. We've been to the largest iron age hill fort in the country, to a Norman castle on the coast, and to two well-preserved castles which have taught us much about how people used to live in different ages. As we have moved from place to place, there has been a continual stream of questions and much soaking up of information. I increasingly appreciate that our choices regarding education are simply a logical step from the worldview and priorities that we share. It has been interesting to read how others have taken home education on the move to a much more extreme level - I don't think our family would do this (although perhaps a road trip from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa is a possibility) but it's been fun to read!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Preparing for Easter

Do you ever find it interesting that in many countries, there is a long 'advent' period and build up to Christmas, whereas Easter just sort of happens? My boys pointed this out to me after Christmas, when we completed a timeline based on the Jesse Tree project. They asked to do a 'life of Jesus' timeline leading up to Easter, and so for the past 40 days we have been working through it every morning.

We've enjoyed doing this, but it has been more challenging than the Jesse Tree, for several reasons:

1) The Jesse Tree tended to focus on clear stories of people who were in the genealogy of Christ. It is quite easy for young children to visualise some of these stories, or to have at least a superficial understanding of who people were, where they had come from, the key events of the story (and possibly how they fitted into the genealogy of Christ - my eldest seemed to understand this more than I expected).

2) In the Life of Jesus, I have tried to focus on actual physical events (such as miracles, having his feet anointed, finding a coin in the mouth of a fish, events surrounding his betrayal, arrest and trial) rather than on teachings, fulfilled prophecies or other aspects which are important but might seem more nebulous to a child. However, even so, there have been some parts they have found very tricky indeed! For example, John Chapter 3, and the story of Nicodemus going to Jesus at night. They have no problems with Nicodemus going out under cover of darkness, and they quite liked that part. But Jesus' teaching, so familiar to most of us adults, was quite difficult for them. What does it mean to be 'born of flesh and born of spirit'? What does it mean to be 'born again'? Also, Jesus uses irony: 'Can a man enter again into his mother's womb?' - but the boys don't yet appreciate irony and how keep asking whether they could go back into my tummy, and what that would be like!

3) It challenges me because we try to use the whole of Scripture and not to present 'child-friendly' or diluted versions. The reason for this is that there have been many occasions where we have been stunned by their accurate understanding of areas of our faith that many older people really struggle with. It is very much the 'childlike faith' that Jesus commends. In fact, we have found presenting a simplified story, or missing out on some of the less pleasant aspects (such as in the story of Noah, the fact that most people who were alive at that time would have died in the flood) just tends to cause more confusion.

4) It is delightful to hear their questions and see them trying to bring it all together. We try to provide them with the tools - the Bible in its fullness, a listening and patient parent available to answer many questions and provide clarifications, other resources, books and stories, biographies of believers, sometimes Bible cartoons - to enable them to do so. So perhaps the fact there have been some days when the questions have seemed unending is evidence of them grappling with the most important truths. So perhaps I should rather be rejoicing that the timeline project has stimulated them to think and weigh things up.

Tonight my five year old wrote a hymn on a piece of paper and secretly brought it upstairs so he could sing it to us at bedtime. It went 'God is good all the time. He is amazing. He died on the cross to save us from our sins', and had a slightly undulating tune. But it was great to hear his spontaneous song of praise. Over the past week my youngest, who has just turned three, has also started to sing these 'new songs'.

The boys are asking for the next Christmas timeline, and whether or not we can do timelines in Africa. There is something about the pictorial representation of the stories that builds up day after day until it is complete that really captivates them, and I'm pleased we have found something which can be a simple family tradition.

How do you keep Christ central at Easter in your family?