Archive Post: When Home Ed Mum is Sick

We have spent the last couple of weeks feeling collectively poorly and miserable. We have had a string of bugs and viruses to fight off: having a larger-than-average family often means that we don’t seem to go very long between one of us being ill, especially at this time of year, and if one of us catches something that we all catch in turn, the period of illness can be quite prolonged!

I suppose that for parents of children in school, when mum is ill there is the advantage that it’s ‘just’ a question of summoning up enough strength to get the children to school and then the day is potentially free and easy to stay in the sick bed (assuming sick-leave from paid employment is an option)…. But to be honest I don’t know how ‘working mothers’ manage it.

I have seldom thought of home educating as an easy option (for many reasons!) and yet, as sorry as I have been tempted to feel for myself during my bout of ‘flu, I actually think that in this case I do have the easier time of it: apart from the postman delivering packages, there’s no real reason why I need to drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn (doubtless though, he thinks I’m a shocking layabout!) and, when things are really bad, there’s no reason for anyone to get out of their pyjamas before midday.

As to what our home education has looked like during these weeks, it’s certainly unlikely that we would be mistaken for a ‘home-school’. But has it been educational? It has been less formal even than this ‘un-schooler’ would have liked but, on balance, I think I can say ‘yes’. We haven’t missed a single day.

We can almost always manage some read-alouds: we’re currently enjoying L. Frank Baum’s original “The Wizard of Oz”

and Robert McCloskey’s “Blueberries for Sal”.

When Mummy has been at her worst and incapable of doing anything much more than lying on the sofa, croaking instructions (“shut that fridge door!”) the little ones have had fun learning to make their own breakfasts, and sandwiches at lunch (while I looked on, shaking my head about all the mess to clean up later!). Hours of imaginative play, and lego construction and so on – that I might normally veto or at least curtail in favour of more academic pursuits – were enjoyed at length. Not to mention all the running about that healthy Mummy would never normally allow!

I must admit as well that the TV (schools programmes and at least nominally educational videos mostly) got much more use than normal. During these few ‘sick’ weeks we became autonomous educators by default!

It was definitely a relief to finally get out of the house properly this week (playing in the garden just isn’t enough). I did wonder whether, given the choice, the children would prefer their home-ed experience with healthy mummy or sick mummy, but for my part, I’m so glad it’s over! (roll on summer…)

 

 

[Originally posted on my Multiply blog]

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Phonics Fun

alphabats

Dragon-tamer caught the reading bug early. After learning the alphabet with a little help from the Alphabats books, all I had to do really was read a lot to him, help him learn a few sight words with Ladybird Key Words, and by book 4a he was off into the brave new world of easy-readers.

Pony-rider, on the other hand, has been a little bit more complicated to teach. In addition to trying the Ladybird Key Words reading scheme, we’ve used Alphabats, Letterland, Jolly Phonics (lots of Jolly Phonics, in fact: Board books, to introduce the letter sounds, the Phonics Handbook, and the Jolly Phonics ‘Read and See’ series – two packs of books with 12 titles in each: quite cute, but not enough to tempt her…). We tried Sonlight’s “I Can Read It” (what was I thinking of? Thorough, certainly, but nowhere near high-interest enough, at least as far as illustrations are concerned!). I even looked into Ruth Miskin books and Debbie Hepplethwaite’s “Synthetic Phonics” (current favourite of the UK National Curriculum people) but it didn’t seem to offer anything new. Finally, and reluctantly, after many recommendations, I thought I would try “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.

Not only does this US scheme use small print in so many colours it makes me feel dizzy, it infuriatingly tells me exactly what I must say to the child. I can’t stand it! Neither can Pony-rider, although Motor-biker who is almost 2 years behind her absolutely loves it! The ‘say-it-fast’ concept really appeals to him, and he has no trouble now with the idea of blending letters together into a word.

Hmm. Now we have a problem: Pony-rider’s self-esteem has taken a blow, and although I have always tried to avoid making learning to read a big issue, the fact that Motor-biker is fast over-taking her is not popular! So I’ve been on the lookout again for something new. What I’ve found is My World’s “Now I’m Reading” by Nora Gaydos and illustrated by BB Sams. (Another US programme, so watch out for different spellings, not to mention alternative words: ‘Rooster’ for ‘Cockerel’, and ‘fox kit’ instead of ‘fox cub’.) We have the ‘pre-reader’ set, aimed at ages 3-6, which comes in a cute case with 10 books and a set of 40 stickers.

Presumably, this ‘pre-reader’ set is designed for the parent to read to the child rather than for the child to read, but Pony-rider is absolutely smitten! She read right through the whole set the first day I showed it to her, totally without my prompting! The other sets are as follows: level 1: short-vowel sounds, basic consonant sounds; level 2: long vowel sounds, reinforcement of set 1; level 3: consonant blends, double consonants; level 4: multi-syllable words & compound words and finally, Independent: high interest topics, using previous skills. The blurb on the back says: “the greatest success comes from a balance of phonics and literature-based reading: Now I’m Reading! ™ successfully combines both to build confident, independent readers”. Well, I’m amazed, but I have to concur! I’m not sure that we’ll bother with the other sets though…

 

This post was originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, and while this is a good few years old and we encountered more hurdles and pitfalls on the road to reading, this is a good reminder that each child is different, and home education affords the possibility of tailoring your approach and resources to their individual needs and styles of learning.

New Term #homeed #dyslexia

dyslexia2

I’m spending today planning, thinking, wondering how to proceed when we start back with homeschooling tomorrow. I’m glad of an extra day, as I have been putting off thinking about it, and the weekend has been busy with visitors. But my eldest is still home as it’s a teacher’s ‘inset’ day, so I decided I could do with an ‘inset’ day myself.

The weather is very grey and depressing after the lovely sunny weather and I am really hoping it will start cheering up again as I am feeling that I need to get out more and get away from things this term.

I am wondering again how to deal with the severe dyslexia problem. I am out of my depth, and I just don’t know how to connect with any resources or helps that might be available. I have suggested calling it a day and trying school, but that’s not an option Motor-biker will consider so I need to do what I can here.

Starting back after a break is always hard – trying to get into a stable routine, getting up early and getting stuck in is a challenge after holidays. But I’m just wondering if I need to re-think our whole way of doing things (again).

When Dragon-tamer was at home, he pretty much taught himself because he was a book lover and found reading easy and fun. Pony-rider is the same, and she is happy to explore her own topics and she’s not one to get bored because she can’t think of anything to do.

The two youngest though, Motor-biker and Baba Zonee, are both struggling readers, get bored very easily and aren’t really interested in anything and certainly wouldn’t pursue their own interests unless they include watching TV or playing computer games. It’s a whole new paradigm for me.

So for the last 2-3 years we have done much more formal lessons than I ever did with the older two, and I thought I was doing the right thing, and that I needed to do it, but I have the overwhelming feeling that none of it is going in at all. They’re still not interested in anything, still not willing to study topics on their own, and they still can’t read.

So I’m still not sure how I will approach tomorrow. I am wondering about abandoning the formal lessons and going back to Sonlight (for anybody not familiar with it, it’s an American, literature-based curriculum which we loved and which I used for years with my older two).

I never needed to do much in the way of formal work with the older two – they just picked it up along the way, and because they were such wide readers, they had no problem with spelling or grammar or writing – it all just came naturally.

Was I wrong to assume that the younger two were different? Should I have given it more time? Would they eventually pick up what they need just by listening to me read to them? I know it’s possible because it happened with my two oldest, but they were readers. Can reading itself be transferred by osmosis? I’m just not sure anymore.

By the way, I’ve added hashtags to the title of this blog post as an experiment, in the hope that they’ll appear when the post automatically feeds through to twitter.