Saturday 11 July 2020

So you're thinking about home educating?

(This post includes affiliate links)

Hi friends.
As we approach the summer holidays I am getting word that many parents who have been doing lockdown schooling/distance learning at home with their children are considering taking the leap and opting out of the school system and home educating for real.  How exciting!  I thought I'd put together a little blog post to help parents with the decision making process of whether to choose full time home education or not as there is a good deal to consider before making the change.

The last three months have been a very strange time, parents have been plunged into a home schooling situation with no previous experience, time to read and research or organise resources.  I hugely admire the hard work you have all done with your children, it must have been a huge and unexpected challenge and one that I do not envy.  I spent many years reading and researching before embarking on home education but you have all done superbly with only a few days notice, it really is remarkable, even more so those parents who have been tying to work from home at the same time, phew!  I don't now how you have done it, home educating your children is a full time job!

Of course actual home education is a little different from what you all have been doing, so here are a couple of things to ponder:

Do you like spending time with your children?

When you opt to home educate you are opting to spend a large amount of your time with your children.  Home educating usually calls for some sort of personal sacrifice.  It is not possible to do an out-of-the-home Monday to Friday 9-5 job if you are home educating your children, (so it is likely you will have a drop in income as well) You will not have your children's teachers popping onto your laptop screen for hours of teaching each day, you will be their main teacher.  You may decide to send your children to some groups and private part time schools for part of the week, and do some online learning, but you will still be spending the bulk of your time with them so it is important that you enjoy their company most of the time.  There will of course be times when your children drive you insane, it's not going to be perfect all the time, but if you really find spending time with your children tedious then home education probably isn't for you.  It's a big commitment and not something you can always undo very easily, they may lose their place in their school and be behind on the school curriculum if you decide they should go back, remember that they will likely be with you when you need to pop to the shops, visit friends, and even to the Doctors!  These can all be learning experiences, but having your children with you does change the way you run errands and do your chores.
Educating your children though school makes life easier in so many ways, they are exposed to many different learning and social experiences through school and it is important that we fulfill these essential experiences through our home education.  Unlike lockdown schooling/distance learning, where we have been stuck in our homes not seeing anyone, you will have to take responsibility for providing opportunities for your children to interact socially. Of course there will be everyday interactions with other adults, at the library, the shops, church and the leisure centre for example and family get togethers, and you may continue sending your children to after school activities such as Scouts, sports groups and holiday clubs.  But you will also probably want to seek out other home educators and groups where your child can get to know other home educated children.

What will it be like to home educate when school aren't sending you all the lessons and resources?

Once you fully opt out of the school system you are on your own.  This is both wonderfully freeing and terrifying in equal measure!  The local authority do not offer much in the way of advice on where to go for resources (nothing you can't get from a Facebook group or knowledgeable home-ed parent anyway) or how to begin planning your own curriculum and schemes of work, there is no set curriculum you must follow, no targets set, no deadlines to meet. The world is your oyster, but when the options are endless we can become paralysed by choice. How will you approach home education now you are not constrained by the national curriculum? There are many theories of education that you can opt or buy into which range from buying a big box curriculum to un-schooling with no plans or curriculum at all. There are free curriculum, expensive curriculum, ones with testing, ones without, online plans, free websites and those with subscriptions.  It is worth having a good old think about how you will approach home education now that you are free. Here are a few popular approaches that you might consider:

Unschooling -
Charlotte Mason -
Semi-structured -
Classical -
Montessori -
Waldorf/Steiner -
Eclectic -

This is not an exhaustive list but will give you an idea of some of the ways other home educators approach their children's education.  I have tried to direct you to resources that do not require you to invest huge amounts of money on educating your children, as this simply isn't necessary.  A big box curriculum may make you feel secure and take away decision making but it is not essential to successful home schooling.

So there are a couple of aspects to consider in the next few weeks if you think home ed might be for you.  If you decide it is (and your child is registered with a school) then all you need to do is send your school a letter declaring your intention to home educate and requesting them to remove your child's name from the school roll.  That's it! Then you are free!  Over the next few weeks I will do some more posts on home education to help new home educators with the decision making and options.  In the mean time you might like to take a look at some of these books that could help you on your journey.  These include my affiliate links.

Saturday 4 July 2020

Gratitude Mandala

I thought it was time for another post where I share with you one of the pages from my "Mama Space Journal".  If you recall I designed my "Mama Space Journal" specifically for mums in need of self care, it contains 50 prompts to encourage relaxation, reflection, creativity and mindfulness.

This week I wanted to share with you my Gratitude Mandala. I have decided to share this prompt with you next because, as with the Zentangle I shared with you last time, this prompt is very visual, is relaxing and doesn't require us to practice any particular drawing or artistic skills.  This prompt does ask you to think a little more deeply, beyond the simple visual and physical process of drawing, into reflecting on the goodness in your life.  This is still a fairly easy thing for us to do as we all have many things to be thankful for and it doesn't require too much soul searching.  So it's a fairly un-challenging prompt to complete next, easing you into a creative journey.

I am drawn to gratitude mandalas because I love the idea of combining the meditative patterns and shape of a mandala with the uplifting effect of practicing gratitude. I first became interested in the idea of sacred geometry when I developed an obsession with collecting antique doilies! I expect you're wondering how doilies connect with mandalas, well I loved the patterns created with needles and hooks in doilies, but being completely useless when it comes to these tools of the trade I found that I could actually draw similar designs with pen and ink on paper that were almost as satisfying as the doily itself. From practicing these circular geometric patterns it didn't take me long to learn that they strongly resembled the circular mandala patterns of Hindu and Buddhist religions.  After further reading and research I came to understand that patterns like these aren't exclusive to the eastern traditions but appear in virtually all religious traditions around the world.  Being a Christian myself I was particularly drawn to the repetitive shapes and patterns that occur in the stained glass windows, knows as Rose Windows, of Gothic churches especially those of the famous churches such as The Notra-Dame in Paris.  We also see this circular sacred geometry in the dream catches of the Native Americans, Roman tile patterns and in Islamic art.  It seems us humans have been inspired by these forms for thousands of years, maybe this is because they reflect the fascinating geometry we see in the natural world, from the spirals of a snail's shell and the petals of a flower to the leaves of a cabbage.

The idea of combining a mandala shape with gratitude isn't my own, an idea that has been floating around on the internet for many years, and because I thought it was such a great idea, I included a template for one in the "Mama Space Journal". As quick google search with come up with lots of inspiration and ideas for how to design a beautiful and unique mandala.

But why bother altering to something already beautiful and relaxing to create by adding in gratitude?  Well, expressing gratitude has shown to be very beneficial to health.  When we express gratitude the brain releases serotonin and dopamine which make us feel good and can improve our mood.  If we practice gratitude regularly we can strengthen neural pathways, ultimately creating a permanent state of positivity and gratefulness within us. Because of the overwhelming nature of motherhood, it can sometimes feel like we have little to be grateful for, it's hard to feel thankful when our daily activities often revolve around feeding babies, wiping bums, cleaning spills and washing endless piles of laundry, but taking time to find things to be grateful for is part of looking after ourselves, it is a form of self care that can be a tool to improve our mental and emotional health and increase our capacity for joy and peace. With a gratitude mandala we combine the relaxation of drawing in a circular motion with the positive effects of expressing gratitude, it's a win win!

The way to make the most of this exercise is to begin by creating some mental space ready for the task, as always some child free, quiet time is ideal, but any snatched moment will also benefit your mental health and get the creative juices flowing.  If you are able to meditate for a few minutes before you begin that will really help you to relax and get the most out of your creative engagement. Here are a few guided meditations you can access for free on Youtube: for a ten minute meditation, for a five minute meditation, for another five minute meditation.

I began my Gratitude Mandala by creating a colourful background to my page with watercolour paint.  I actually stuck a piece of cartridge paper onto the page and traced the circle template through because I printed my "Mama Space Journal" on ordinary printer paper which doesn't accept watercolour paint very well. I created a sort of rainbow of colour around the circle with my paints which is something I often do on my pieces as I love colour.  You might like to create a background for your mandala, it could be created with watercolour, pencil crayon or collage. When my watercolour background was dry I simply wrote all that I was grateful for around the central circle radiating out from the centre like the rays of the sun. I wrote whatever came to mind and if I was stuck I just looked round the room for ideas.  I wasn't worried about making the writing legible because the benefit of the writing was the process not the end product, so try not to worry about your handwriting. You could also write your gratitude going round in a circle or even with wavey or zigzag lines.
Here are a couple of videos of part of the process and a photo of my finished result.  I did a little mandala in the centre circle and embelished over the top of the gratitude with colouring pencil and coloured drawing pen.


I hope you enjoy completing your gratitude mandala and you get as much from it as I did.  I'd love to see how you get on so do send me some of your pics when you're done if you're happy to share.  If you want it get involved head over to my Etsy shop and check out my "Mama Space Journal".