Thursday, 7 January 2010

Seven days with three four-year olds passed like that

This is not a normal post for gritsday, so look away now, unless you are the person with toddlers, and grateful for any second-hand straw you can snatch hold of.

This post is also because I have some sort of compulsive disorder which necessitates record keeping and planning. It is better than hand washing or counting doorhandles, so look on me kindly, for I could have chosen worse.

You ask, How did you do it? I got through the early years by planning, thinking, doing. Each Friday was my library night, where I would sit alone in the library and throw out new ideas for the weeks ahead, browse books, take time to read, reflect, and think freely.

Because amongst all the four-year old activities of fuzzy felt, TV, den-making, clay, garden play, pizza making, was the project week. Here's the seven-day salvation called Sight.

Day 1: Sight test at Boots opticians.
Check out the optician's cool equipment. She has loads of lenses that clickety click and rattle when she drops them in the slots of the glasses that whizz around your eyes. If she's really cool, and you're really good, she shows you her charts and lenses and colours, and all the zappety-zap pictures she can take of the back of your eyes. We come home and make our own charts which we then hang up all around the house.

Day 2: Dogs Don't Wear Glasses.
Seymore's owner needs glasses. That, and lots of other fun-to-look-at books on wearing glasses from the library. (These days, we only need the emergency library toilet five times.)

Day 3: See through it.
The toy library loans us prisms, moire pattern sheets, and colour paddles. We supply the torch, paper of different thicknesses from transparent tracing paper to opaque card, and we play at science. Don't ask me what we're going to find. There is no lesson plan, no target, no goal. Simply observe. Then say what you see.

Day 4: Coloured vision.
Make glam glasses from paper frames and colored acetate, and see how the world changes colour.

Day 5: Distortion tricks.
Bendy mirrors, curves in metal, reflections from bowls, they all make great distortions. And we might even try and draw what we see.

Day 6: Can you spot?
We explore the pictures of Magritte; we get out the art for kids books; we get busy sticking and pasting collages, the more bizarre, the better.

Day 7: Eye health.
We think up all the jobs and activities where people wear goggles and glasses to protect their eyes: skiers, chemists, swimmers, fire personnel, machine operators. We wonder when is eye protection a good idea? And when is it a nuisance?

I have maybe three or more years of these weeks, all neatly stowed in folders, in boxes, around my feet. Plans, days, photos, resources, notes. Every week a project week. Things to do with birds, bats, water, fish, trees, soil, rock, clay, puppets, buildings, flowers, transport, the colour green, rivers, bridges, the planets...

If you are an autonomous home educator, your eyes will now be rolling around 360 degrees in despair at the early Grit. If you are a school-at-home type of home educator, you can probably map on for me the National Curriculum attainment targets I unwittingly aspired to.

I was the person who lay frozen with fear in bed at 5am and thought I do not want to rise from this bed and know that my heart beats through this day. But if I have a goal to help the driblets make three sets of paper glasses with coloured acetate lenses, I might just make it.

Step by step, the children, and these plans, led me through the early stages of our home education. At first I realised I was doing a better job than the local primary school, that my kids were happy and occupied; then I saw life was opening out with new possibilities that I had not thought about before; soon I was visiting places, wanting to go out, making connections and discoveries in the world, that I could not have done before.

And that's what this week, along with so many others, helped to bring about.

Is that useful?

Don't find it too useful though, because next you might be reading John Holt.


sarah said...

We were "unit study" learners too in the early years. Oh the enthusiasm I could muster for planning a wonderful unit! Now we're mainly unschoolers, which is what seems to happen to so many long-term homeschoolers, probably because it works best (but possibly because mama gets sick of teaching when not teaching does just as well) but all that unit study practice really taught my dd to see connections and to go deep with a subject.

sharon said...

But all of those projects helped the Gritlets learn how to think and question. Good training (if that word is not an obscenity)for the free range variety of education.

Rachel M. said...

Sounds like you have enough material to publish a book! Go for it!!!

Sam said...

Love the funky glasses :-)

I tried to be that organised at the beginning, but quickly discovered that it wasn't working *shriek*

No..wait..I was never that organised *sigh*

Grit said...

i think it does help the kids to look for connections, sarah, and i think it is a good way to start because it makes the grown up feel *useful*. it certainly gave me a reason to get out of bed. that is not to be underestimated imho!

they are more free range now sharon; i still do projects with them, partly because i feel i need to keep one eye on approaches should circumstances change round here and they need to enter the school system, also because i want to introduce new things and they are fairly used to a project approach; it sometimes now feels like a brainstorming session in a project management team.

rachel, that would be lovely, and i think something ideas-based would help; although home ed is going to be different in every family, and for every child, i would have appreciated not having to reinvent the wheel in terms of ideas on starting out.

sam, i bet you are disguising your talents.

kellyi said...

I think there is a market for a home ed project ideas type of book.

Your ideas are genius, and as I sit here, half terrified about what I will fill the next week with now they are bored of snow, I am grateful to read your blog (may be you should have another "ideas" blog - please?)

MadameSmokinGun said...

Wow - you busy thing!

When we 'started' (pistol shot - now!) I used to lay out on our big table paper and charcoal, or clay and tools or collage bits and glue etc each night. Then I decided that what was better to wake up with than a laid out table each morning was a CLEAR table each morning (oh so clever - child-led autonomy I could call it - much less arsing about to be nearer the truth - extreme smugness the reality).

Now if I wake up at all before noon I'd be hugely surprised if I could even find the bloody table.