Regrouping after winter

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I’ve become familiar with a spiritual exercise called the examen. In a nutshell, you reflect on a period of time and allow yourself to notice, without judging, the moments that brought you life and the moments that, well, didn’t.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the notes I made a few weeks ago after doing a bit of an examen as I drove the kids home one Friday. Here are the notes:

What gave me life today

Hannah slept through. It felt quite early to wake up at 6.30 knowing I had to get up but that meant I had ages to get ready to meet friends at 10.30 and didn’t have to rush. I had a relaxed morning with Hannah, a big pot of tea with breakfast and afterwards Hannah made a jigsaw puzzle and played with her tea set. It was joyful to have the one-on-one time to really observe her and know her and give her my full attention as we played.

Natural rhythms
A 10.3o arrival time also meant Freya could sleep in , and she did. A massive benefit of home ed is she can sleep for as long as her body needs to and wake up naturally (about 8am is normal for her unless Hannah wakes her up).

Mixed ages
We spent today celebrating a birthday at a soft play centre with two other five year olds and also three almost-three year olds, a one year old and four adults. Siblings were able to pay together, apart, and in a group with other friends – making those decisions according to what they needed and how they were feeling at the time.

Physical activity
Climbing, running, pulling themselves up, squeezing through spaces, throwing a ball- developing their gross motor skills and their understanding of their physical relationship with the space around them.

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Reading, and responding to their own needs
I’d never been to this soft play centre so I was amazed to find it has a breakout room with toys,books, drawing materials and dressing up clothes (and a fish tank, to add to the calm vibe!) My sweet, introverted Freya does need her recharge time, and I was glad that she was able to respond to her own need and go and read in this quiet space. She also read a couple of books on the car journey there and a couple on the way home.

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Yes, she is wearing an enormous blue wig, which leads me to…

Imaginative play
Also in this playroom Freya, Hannah and their friends played at dressing up together and with a dolls house.

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Drawing, and learning from others

Freya’s friend drew a scene with insects and sky and grass and flowers. Freya doesn’t often draw as such, but inspired by her friend she sat down with paper and crayons. I looked over her shoulder after a while to hear her explaining to her friend that she was drawing “all my friends and family, like you”.

If I could go back and improve the day, I wouldn’t shout at Freya for proscrastinating so much over getting dressed in the morning, or make her cry by angrily saying we’d just have to leave behind the jumper she lost in the soft play. These are the kind of moments where I know my responses teach my children how to respond, but I don’t always act the way I want to.

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This day took place at the end of January but I’ve been reflecting on it this week because it has helped me to identify some of my core values around home ed. I’ve been feeling quite ‘wobbly’ about not buying the beautiful toys that I see on home ed blogs or facebook groups, especially Montessori ones, which I just can’t justify from a financial and  environmental angle (sometimes I just don’t need more stuff, however responsibly it was produced) and so I tried to refocus my thoughts on what I think my children actually need at this time. I do often experience a fog of “I just don’t know” what is the best for them, or what is the right thing to do, so doing a examen and identifying life giving moments can be very helpful. That day at the soft play shows me how a simple activity of meeting up with friends can meet so many of the current needs of my five year old and one year old.

In conclusion I feel that some key priorities for the next season are:

1. Reading! Even if nothing else happens, all will be well if we read.

2. Playing outdoors

Many of the toys and activities I’ve been feeling guilty about not owning are actually in some way substitutes for playing in nature – handling natural materials, using generically shaped objects for open ended play, playing with “loose parts”, developing gross motor skills in an uneven landscape (i’m looking at you, Gonge Hilltops). Outdoors my girls also seem to argue with each other less, are less dependent on me, and can focus on a game for a really long time! One of the great privileges of home ed is the opportunity to be wherever you want during the day, and I want to give my kids the chance to be outside much more often now that it’s spring!

3. Enabling more independence in the home

Hannah is now at the stage where she is very keen to do things for herself such as butter her toast and pour her own drink, and Freya was incredibly independent until Hannah was born, so I’d like to help her find that again.

Finally a note of gratitude to my home ed tribe. It’s so good to have people to take this journey with.

Linking up with Beautiful Tribe, Enchanted Pixie and Along Came Cherry for This Homeschooling Life.

This Homeschooling Life

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