We don’t always follow the school terms because we generally don’t need the respite of holidays. But I burned out in a big way this last year, trying to do too many things at once. We started the farm and I upped my freelancing, I also simultaneously increased my volunteering as a breastfeeding counsellor and wrote and performed a collection of poems at a literary festival. All amazing things but a lot to take on all at once. We also had the busiest year in terms of activities the kids were doing outside the home. It’s meant a lot of frustration because we’ve not had enough time home together doing the things we’d like to do that take a little more space and planning.
So we’ve taken a break over the summer. I didn’t run a breastfeeding group in August, the kids activities mostly paused over the summer (swimming has continued) and my mother came to stay a few weeks. And it’s been brilliant having the space to dream together, for me not to feel like there’s something we want to be doing that I’m not getting around to sorting and not having to get to as many places by a certain time. I’m also loving just being able to catch up with people outside of groups.
I don’t usually feel like I need to do “back to school” – in fact, I’ve actively resisted it in the past. But it’s been so good to have this change of pace that I’m enjoying gradually preparing to bring a new energy to our life together in the latter part of the year. This is what I’ve been up to.
It seems almost silly to call this a big part of the home education plan but I find when I’m feeling that life is too busy, quite often my surroundings are too. So many areas of our home had inadvertently become dumping grounds and I was feeling oppressed by the visual clutter. I also kept feeling like I needed more, more, more which is always a sign that I need less. I see this as the big work of my role as a home educating parent: helping to curate a space that everyone can rest, play and be productive in without becoming overwhelmed.
So I’ve been on a huge drive to pass on everything we own that we’re not using while also taking a look at whether we could repurpose or mend some things. Not only has it meant reclaiming space but I’ve been able to look at our home in a new way and it’s helped me feel grateful for what we have and excited about what we’re doing as a family. The kids feel it too and have been helping me work out where things go and what we can let go of.
Much in line with decluttering, I’ve been taking a good look at our calendar and all the things we could do, talking with the kids about what we’ll say no to so we don’t put too much pressure on our time and finances. So I’m carving out good chunks of time to be home and thinking about how we can drive less. When considering new resources I’m trying to use what we already have, limit spending, avoid re-cluttering our home and be realistic about what we’ll actually get around to doing.
Simplifying has also meant thinking about how we can make more space for learning to happen in the everyday life things that need to happen. So often I’d rather do things after the kids are in bed or when they’re otherwise engaged so I can get them done quickly without having to deal with little hands that want to help. That means that a lot that needs to get done, doesn’t.
So I’m thinking about how we can be less busy so we have more time to do things together like cooking, repairing, building, baking, cleaning and gardening without me getting frustrated that it’s not happening at the speed I’d like it to. We also need to spend more time as a family on the farm, which is only going to happen if we reduce some of our other commitments.
I’ve found it really helpful to take time to reflect and write about how I’ve found the last few months and what I’ve noticed in our family and myself. I’m not at all a consistent journal writer but just grabbing a bit of paper and getting some thoughts and feelings out has given me enough of a picture of where I’ve been and where I want to go in terms of holding space for my children’s learning.
Since Laurence and I very much home educate together, this break has been a time of talking about what we want to offer our children in these short years that they are home with us. Simply, we’ve been chatting about what we want to do more of as a family, what we want to let go of and, in practical terms, about how it’s going to work as we continue to juggle time with the children, our work and everything else. It’s been helpful to chat about where each of us is feeling pressure, what needs accepting, what needs releasing and what needs a mighty shift.
We’ve also been planning with the children, asking them what they’d like to learn or do. Sewing and knitting have come up, as has snail keeping (!!) and learning more about the human body. I’ve been mentioning my ideas about what we could do, like delve into the Middle Ages and bring more maths and science into our weeks. We’ve been working out together how we could fit things in like what nights would be best if Talitha wants to cook, what would make violin practice easiest and what supplies need to be out and on hand for any creating they want to do.
This is an ongoing process. A group decision in August isn’t a binding agreement on a Wednesday in October but having an idea of what we all want to do and how we can make what’s needed available means we’re better prepared to have more satisfying conversations about it when plans need to change.
This is the time of year when a lot people are weighing up whether home education is for them so I’ve made a video with Laurence where we answer questions people sent us on Instagram about how we made the decision together and how it works for us. Take a look and please do subscribe to my channel. I have more home education videos planned. Do pop me a comment if there’s anything you’d like to chat more about.
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