1. We capitalise on common interests
Our girls are great star and moon spotters. Looking up at the night sky is something we all enjoy, so we make an extra effort to encourage engagement here. We have a night sky app (Stellarium), we’ll stay up late and head to the garden or for a walk on clear nights. We attend shows at our local planetarium. We inherited an old telescope and we kept it, even though our very small flat at the time definitely didn’t have space for it. We also just shout “MOON,” whenever we first see it, every day.
2. We don’t set an alarm
Especially after star-watching nights.
3. We read. A lot.
Library books, book sales, birthdays; we collect a lot of books and we read them every day. There isn’t a goal to hit each day, but at this point, reading is a natural part of our daily rhythm. As a minimum, we end the day with three stories at bedtime. That is rarely the first book we have read each day.
4. We use our Happy Lists
Our Happy Lists are updated regularly and visible to every member of the family. They are a wonderful way to improve a normal day at home and focus on the small things you can do regularly to lift your mood. For the full benefits Happy Lists have bought to our home, see here.
5. We own a one-button coffee machine
And oh how we are thankful right now that this is the case. This is the reason coffee is on my “Happy List”, no matter the season!
6. We slow down dinner preparation
At least twice a week, we ensure there’s a little extra time in the evening to slowly chop the peppers up, or peel the potatoes. We involve our girls and we try to do it at their pace.
7. We take a note of our children’s questions
Once you start making a mental or physical note of your children’s questions, you’ll notice that similar topics pop up. Space, dance and engineering are all popular topics in our house right now. As is what the next snack will be and when they can eat it.
8. We encourage our children to ask questions
You know how it goes when you take a walk and there’s a hole in the ground surrounded by construction workers and your children immeadiately want to know what they are doing? We ask.
9. We follow our children’s interests
Our children have a higher level of engagement in topics that interest them. It can also be a helpful way to incorporate some core subject skills, such as maths or writing. Real Family Journey have created a great resource to deliver maths learning around your children’s interests and it’s available free for the duration of the current school closures.
10. We use what we have
It’s really easy to be consumed and overwhelmed by all the resources available out there. When a new topic or interest comes up, we shop our house first. You’ll probably be surprised when you collect all the relevant books, toys and materials together at the amount of relevant supplies you already have.
11. We invest in our passions
After we’ve shopped our house, we look for project-based learning or interesting materials that encourage what our children are most passionate about. After the fourth viewing of Moana and copious singing sessions, we bought the piano music for the soundtrack and a book which included some miniature Moana figurines. This is a homeschool investment for us.
12. We share resources
Our Playmags were actually a birthday present for our eldest two years ago. We all play with them regularly. Resources like this one remain in the shared space, downstairs. It’s not that they have to share them when they are actually playing with them. But they are made available for all to use.
13. We are all involved in day-to-day chores
There’s a lot of life lived in this house. It’s fair to say that my husband and I do the bulk of the chores, but we don’t wait until the end of the day. The girls love hoovering, they’ll put their clothes away, they’ll clean the windows any day of the week quite happily. We are all responsible for the space we live in.
14. We acknowledge our limits
We have a ceramic sink and I like our kitchenware. I do not involve my children when I wash dishes. I find I spend more time wincing and intervening and it does not end up being a positive experience for anyone. My husband can. The children manage fine when they help him wash the dishes. But I know my limits.
15. We know our favourites
Who remembers Come Outside, with Auntie Mabel? My girls love this show. It’s a winner no matter the mood in the house. Other things on this list include two Nosy Crow life cycle apps that are sadly unavailable to download at present and Playdoh. They are familiar, safe and accessible activities.
16. We enjoy the flexibility
We can holiday during term time easily. Same for visiting popular tourist attractions. Although obviously not during a pandemic. We can and do take our daily walk at any time of the day though.
17. We learn all day
It’s not a “pens down at three o’clock” sort of learning experience. Our learning follows natural curiosities and life skills, whenever they may be. We see a high level of engagement as a result of this.
18. We explore our local resources
We really enjoy getting to know the places around us that are easy half-day trips or day-long adventures. We’re sticking to our neighbourhood for now, but we’re getting to know it really well!
19. We play board games
Our favourites are cooperative games aimed at children, but we do also play around with the scrabble pieces and let them explore our entire collection of board games. Usually heavily supervised.
20. We celebrate the people in our lives
As part of a large extended family, there’s a birthday around every corner. My daughter learned to write by making and sending cards to everyone. Including the postman.
21. We celebrate effort and improvement
The first time our eldest daughter calmed herself down using ten deep breathes, I recounted the whole effort in front of her to my husband. We photograph their art, or display some of it. We write down the stories they tell. We share with our extended family. We make sure they know we appreciate and respect their hard work.
22. We create comfy spaces
Predominantly designed for reading in, these are little pockets of comfort in the house where each of our children can relax on their own and enjoy some space. A reading nook, chair with a big blanket, inside teepee or cushions against the wall on the long side of the bed will do the job. We have a minimum of one “comfy space” for every member of the family.
23. We demonstrate learning as adults
We want them to see that learning is life-long. We read alongside our children and let them join in with a session of language learning on Duo-lingo. We tell them when we are learning something new and how we plan to do that.
24. We listen to a wide variety of music
It all started with “Year of Wonder; Classical Music for Every Day,” by Clemency Burton-Hill. Now a typical day consists of harp, piano, classical Spanish guitar, synth-pop, chart music and 80’s rock classics. We’ll try it all once.
25. We talk about why
If we have a particular way of doing things, we try to talk about why. Why we prefer locally sourced meat, why we recycle our cardboard, why it’s okay to climb the spiderweb at the playground but not safe to climb the railings of the very old bannister at home. We demonstrate our why.
26. We encourage relationship building
If the morning has been long and the afternoon looks longer, I start lunch with a thank you and an apology. There’s always something to recount. It clears the air between individuals as we head into the rest of the day together.
27. We try it anyway
My eldest daughter was three when she first expressed an interest in knitting. She was curious about the different textures in our clothing and how they were put together. I looked around and couldn’t find any resources for such a young age. She persisted, and at four, we finally picked up a set of knitting needles and two balls of wool and muddled through together. She still knits, although Nana is now championing this particular interest. It wasn’t a personal strength!
28. We keep it simple when life gets busy
We utilise our Daily Bookshelf on days when life has taken over a little. These books have been the springboard for so much learning in our house, with only a few minutes needed in any one sitting.
29. We each carry water flasks
Nobody is happy dehydrated and sometimes life and learning get too busy to stop and get a glass of water.
30. We understand our own commitments
When we made this decision to homeschool for our family, my husband and I set out some clear goals and expectations. These weren’t achievement based and they were very thoroughly considered and quite lengthy. But it can be expressed in its simplest form as follows; spend time with our children as a family and encourage joy in learning.
31. We wake up and go again tomorrow
Not every day works brilliantly. Our life gets busy, our children have loud, cross days, we have seasons where focus is a distant memory. Our favourite part, recounted at the end of the day, is always a good marker for the family mood overall. If one or more of us is having a hard time pinpointing a favourite part at the end of the day, we all sit and discuss how to make tomorrow work better for us. Just for a few minutes. Then we wake up and go, all over again.