June was dreary and miserable but July brought real, actual summer. Picnics at the allotment, artworks al fresco and day after day of schedule-free, agenda-free time outdoors and free play.
July also brought the end of Cherry's formal education journey for now. She has attended three short morning sessions at preschool for the last two academic years, however in recent months I began to cut her sessions down and attend home education groups instead.
Her final preschool session was sports day which was lovely and I felt pretty emotional. Cherry made lots of friends at preschool and had some good experiences. I hope she maintains these friendships, regardless of the fact that her path is slightly different to her peers. Violet will also attend for short sessions from September as I would like her to have the experience of preschool and to make friends independently of Cherry.
Our home education journey continued as normal. This month brought some notable achievements from both children, mainly involving numbers. I am impressed how numerate they both are, because I don't feel I've really brought much in the way of basic maths to our time together other than the obvious counting of things.
But in a way that proves the theory of learning through everyday life, because they have both easily grasped concepts such as basic fractions, measurements and sequences through things like baking and artwork.
At one point this month Cherry announced she wanted to count to 100 and proceeded to do so flawlessly. Noel and I were deeply impressed but a quick read around helped me understand that reciting numbers from memory is just one small part of mathematics and that it's far more important she understands what groups, sequences and patterns of numbers look and feel like. For example if I were to put 100 beans in front of Cherry and ask how many there were, she would probably have no idea. It's all useful to know for future reference and highlights the importance of learning taking place in the real world in a connected way. A sequence of numbers, however impressive, has very limited use without a wider context.
Our artwork has continued and Cherry and Violet have completed some self-directed projects including making a 'car' from a few old boxes, and making Olympic torches. The latter was an activity they saw on CBeebies and decided to replicate themselves and they assembled all their materials and got stuck in. It was fascinating to watch, especially when Cherry became frustrated with one element of the work. They are so different in personality, and it really shows when they are approaching practical or manual tasks. Home education is a journey for all of us and I love the way I learn more about them, just by observing.
Both Cherry and Violet love making things and I can really see a difference in them since our early days of messy sessions around the kitchen table. When I watch them become entirely absorbed in their work, it makes all of those frustrating times when doing any kind of arts or crafts involved copious amounts of yelling, grabbing and demands for more resources only for the entire thing to be over in less than five minutes, worth it.
We finished reading The Enchanted Wood and blazed straight through the sequel, The Magic Faraway Tree. I am conscious I don't want to stop reading picture books, so I made sure we mixed up our reading. This is really more for Violet's benefit, as Cherry would happily listen to chapter after chapter of a book. I can see that one challenge of home educating will be bearing in mind our second child. It's tempting to steam ahead with Cherry as it's so rewarding watching her develop and learn and of course, everything she does is 'new'.
We had some messy sessions in the garden with potions and a mud kitchen, headed to a couple of meetups with home educating families including pond-dipping and hunting for rosemary beetles at the lavender fields. I think we have science and nature study covered at the moment!
This month I started reading more around unschooling, the concept of autonomous self-directed learning. There are many different approaches to home education, from rigorous structure to complete and total freedom for children to do whatever they want, whenever they want. At some point over the next month Noel and I will start thinking more seriously about what home schooling will look like for us, how our days will be structured and what, if any, goals or aspirations we have for the children's learning. We will also start thinking about resources and environment.
But this month really was all about summer and holidays. Cherry, Violet and I went on a mini-holiday together, staying with my mum and dad for a few days and taking advantage of their location to visit the beach - where Cherry blagged the pair of them an unsolicited SUP lesson - and a well-known 'adventure farm park'.
Then at the end of July we packed our bags and boarded a plane for Singapore, from where I am writing this. Noel and I could never claim to be Worldschoolers by any means but we travel far more and far wider than I ever imagined we would, through circumstances and opportunities we never thought we would have. To allow our children this aspect to their education is unexpected but very, very welcome. It will certainly help us bring all manner of abstract concepts to life in a very relatable and connected way - which is after all what home schooling is all about, to us.