People often ask what home education entails, as they either have an image of wild children swinging from trees in a totally unstructured environment, or that we basically reproduce school at home. The truth is that while some families are completely unstructured, and some have a timetable of lessons set in a classroom at home, virtually everyone we have met falls somewhere in between.
Something that most of us semi-structured types enjoy, however, is the chance to schedule lots of outdoor learning and playing time. Most of the people we see regularly are of the same mind as us, that children can’t bounce off the walls if there are none, and that lots of running and playing builds healthy bodies and minds that are receptive to all sorts of learning opportunities.
The amount of time we spend outdoors means that we eat outside more than most people, so when I was offered the chance to review a picnic set from value homeware supliers B&M stores for British Picnic Week on the 16th June it seemed like a perfect match. We eat outdoors because we are outdoors anyway, but what a great way to encourage kids to go outside in the first place than with the promise of a picnic party!
Our day today started with breakfast together before the hubster headed off for work, then we sorted the library books into ‘keep’ and ‘return’ piles ready for later. This job done we spent half an hour reading before I let the boys loose on the exciting parcel of picnic equipment we had collected from the store the day before.
The package included a 27 piece picnic bag set, a cute tartan picnic rug and a bag of colourful reusable ice moulds. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting great things as the picnic sets I’ve seen friends using have been heavy, cumbersome and with almost no space for the actual food, so I was pleasantly surprised by the light construction of the set and the capacious food compartment.
The boys enjoyed taking out the contents and examining each piece in turn, Toby particularly liked the plastic glasses ‘for vine’ he announced as he pretended to drink from them (we need to work on his pronunciation of ‘w’) and dabbed his mouth with the cheap and cheerful cloth napkins supplied. I had already put the ice moulds in the freezer the night before, so once we had packed up our picnic they were ready to drop into the bag. Picnic set inspected and picnic packed, we headed off to pick up our friends ready for Spanish lesson in a neighbouring town.
The kid’s Spanish lesson today was held on the seafront for a lovely twist on their already super fun weekly lessons (we have been insanely lucky in our teacher), then we headed over to the park to play and try out our new picnic set.
The long shoulder strap of the bag along with the lightness of both the picnic bag and the rug were much appreciated as I also had the library book bag to lug along. The wind was fierce (of course, this was perfect as we are promoting British picnic week after all) but we found a nice spot protected from the wind by a nearby seating area.
The kids played and we all sat on the comfy picnic rug and ate our food, enjoying a treat of ‘glasses’ of pink lemonade nicely chilled by our cheery ice moulds and periodically waving our arms at the gull who was eyeing up our fruit pies.
The kids were so excited by each new element of the play park that they had mastered, climbing higher, spinning faster, swinging more than the time before. This sense of physical achievement really builds their self confidence, which translates into other parts of the day, such as Ollie sitting to read out loud to the other kids in the library when just a short time ago he lacked the confidence to read out loud to others.
At the library, as well as Ollie entertaining the younger kids with his reading, Toby admired a nice new pencil case his friend had
sewed for him in return for the one he had sewed for her and I hunted for a missing book – seriously, I swear every set in the library has the middle book in the series missing! Fortunately, plenty of other books to stock up on.
Then a farewell to our friends, a stop by the DIY store for supplies for a project, then home for reading on the patio while eating ice lollies, and the hour of TV the boys get a couple of times a week while I pottered around doing jobs ready for the hubster coming home
Each day is different, depending on what opportunities crop up and what lessons are scheduled – for example over half term they had a six days of hour-long, free, tennis lessons at 9am courtesy of the local tennis club, so the more usual routine of up to an hour of literacy and numeracy before going out just didn’t fit in. Later each day we made the most of friends being on half term holidays so they could come over to play, including an impromptu guitar lesson in our living room. Tomorrow we’ll get our literacy and numeracy in before heading out for a day with friends in a forest not too far away (with a Spanish learning CD on in the car on the way there). Usually we spend Monday afternoons doing some sort of science investigation, then often another at some point in the week, along with heaps of nature exploration. The boys normally get involved in preparing and cooking food most days. We read together every day and I answer endless questions of why, how and when. They do gymnastics, go swimming, draw, paint, garden, make music and build fantastic Lego creations each week.
There is often a line drawn between home educated and schooled kids, but as far as I’m concerned every parent (or
Grandparent, other relative, carer etc..) worth their salt home educates their children whether or not those kids spend part of their time at school. Every time you read with kids, make something with them, play tea parties with them, kick a ball around with them, you are educating them in both academic and social skills, you are building their self confidence, helping them to grow up to be well rounded, and I love picking up great parenting ideas from other folk, regardless of whether they identify as home educators or not. Good quality time spent together, screens off, full attention on each other, is time to be treasured, and I think British Picnic Week is a great way to remember that in a fun and silly way.
Notes: we were given the 27 piece picnic set, picnic rug and ice moulds to review and to promote British Picnic Week, the Perspex serving bowls, images and opinions are all my own and possibly that of the gull who apparently also thought our picnic looked tempting. You can find pictures of dainty sandwiches, home baked cakes and roses carved from apples on Pinterest but I suspect you won’t find anything that gets eaten as fast as Toby ploughs through a plate of tomatoes and seafood sticks!