Wednesday, 29 June 2016

This week our household is still reeling from the referendum in Great Britain. As a European household with Anglo-French children we believe in the European project even if we're not always happy about some of its policies or the way things are run. We also feel there's a need to unite faced with the undeniable rise of extremist populist politics.

In light of this and a very hectic schedule I've decided to give the homeschool files a rest this week and instead in the spirit of five little things, share some pictures which bring me joy. Writing in the Guardian today Zoe Williams warned, these are dark times. In the face of this darkness which I fear is striking the heart of not only my country but many different parts of the world, we all need to remember to share love, kindness and joy as much as we can. 

First tart of the season
Apricots, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and apple purée on a wholemeal pastry base. Served in the sun. Yummy.

Maya's flourishing veggie patch
Rocket, baby salad leaves and radishes already and carrots coming up beautifully. Well done Maya!

Our resident robin
This fellow can be seen perching on the top of our swing most mornings if you take a look outside and he sings cheerfully and brings a smile to my face every time.

Beach flowers
When everything goes to pot, go to the sea. I may adopt it as my motto. These beautiful flowers were out all along the dunes at Kerhilio beach near Erdeven on the Atlantic coast. They smell good too.

I really do love the ocean and it's tides and the way light plays on the white as it foams onto the shore. I could spend an eternity watching it and I'm always reminded of how insignificant we really are faced with its vastness. And funnily enough, it's not frightening just humbling and for me a reminder to live my life fully because it's so brief and to show a proper amount of respect to this earth which was here before me and will be here long after I'm gone. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Homeschool files : managing time and different ages

Two of the questions I get asked a lot is how do you manage your time when you work and homeschool? And isn't it hard to balance the needs of three children spanning such a wide age range? These are tough questions and we certainly don't have all the answers, in fact I would say they are challenges we struggle with regularly. However, I did think it might be useful or encouraging to someone to tell you what we do even if our solutions are not always perfect.

Balancing working from home and home education is not easy but it is a route that many home educating parents take in order to be able to spend enough time with their children. We have several ways of managing it. Firstly we both have set work times during the week which the children are used to and which we work hard to respect. That means that we try not to plan activities or meet-ups during those times unless everyone but the person working can be involved. Basically whichever of us is working is not available, for child care, for housework, for driving etc. 

The parent caring for the children tries to keep them occupied and away from the working parent's workspace. The spring and summer are easier as we spend more time out of doors and take more trips. Now that both of us are driving leaving the worker in peace is more common. Another solution has been working elsewhere, particularly at our local library; it's quiet and most importantly free of the interruptions inevitable at home.  

My partner also works in the evenings after the children are settled. I think the ability to do this or not depends on individual's rhythms and it's certainly not something I could do. I do try to get up early most days so I can do my yoga then, which frees up time on my work days and also to read poetry which is an important part of my creative process. 

So to the second question, the age disparity - we run a range from 3 to 10. Clearly our children have very different learning needs. We have several approaches to this. Firstly we think it's really important that each child has one on one time with both of us and we schedule that in once a week. Monday afternoons are with Papa and Fridays with mum. This means each child is getting two hours of individual time a week. It might not seem much when you think how long kids spend in school but it is not the only time they're learning by a long leap and also this is very effective, concentrated time when the adult's energy is entirely focussed on them and their learning. 

We also take advantage of moments that come up when siblings are busy, to read a book together, talk about something, answer some questions. I also often just adapt things to each child. So if I've decided I'd like the kids do dome some literacy work I might put out a couple of alphabet puzzles for Lotta, work on his alphabet and writing practice with Noah and help Maya write a letter to a friend. And if they're not all doing the same thing then I just get them started one by one and try to give everyone as much attention as I can when and if they need it. To be honest they're often very autonomous once they're started. 

These are just some ideas and as I said at the beginning they're far from perfect. Sometimes we get very frazzled and frustrated and envy our home educating friends who have only one child! But it all passes and in the muddle and the mess somehow everyone is learning, everyone is progressing and each of the children are emerging into themselves more and more each day. 

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Homeschool Files : Climbing


Climbing is an activity we began this year. Both Noah (6) and Lotta (3.5) take part and have stayed motivated and enthusiastic all year. Last Sunday our climbing club went on an outdoor trip to La Chaise du diable (The Devil's Chair), a site next to our river, the Blavet a little further down stream towards the ocean. 

It was a lovely day and the children and their dad were delighted to put all their new skills to the test in the great outdoors. As a mother, watching these things is all kinds of nervousness combined with pride and delight in their achievements. My heart really was thumping as I tried to hold the camera steady and record their scaling of this impressive cliff for grandparents and posterity!

Coming down

Lotta only climbed once, up at the top she suddenly noticed me and took fright. Our lovely instructor Julie, who is always kind and supportive, told us that one climb is usually enough for smaller children. Not only are they impressed by the reality of climbing a rock not an indoor wall, they also get tired quickly from all the muscles they have to use. Noah climbed three times, three different climbs. Seeing their satisfaction makes the effort of the thirty minute drive to the climbing wall each week feel worth the while.

I think they've learnt a lot from climbing. It's an activity that requires discipline, a calm head and a steady hand. You have to be observant to find the right hand and foot holds. You also have to listen to what's going on inside, how your body feels, where it will fit best with the wall or the rock. I believe that the skills they are learning practicing climbing will serve them in their daily lives helping them to stay calm under pressure, observe data and analyse it quickly, problem solve and have confidence in themselves; their bodies, their instincts. 


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Five Little Things : blooming spring!

Hedgerow flowers
The verge in bloom
More cultivated plants
Field full of Cow Parsley
Bee in the Foxgloves
All this beauty was observed whilst out walking with Lotta (3.5). Flowers uplift me, bring grace and beauty, a feeling of plenty into my life. I am glad when I am mindful enough to notice them, appreciate their value and be grateful for them. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Homescholing Mama : Poetry Masterclass Ty Newydd

Through the train window - Wales

Over the last couple of weeks it was my turn to further my education. I headed off to Wales to participate in a poetry master-class with the great poets, Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy, former national poet of Wales and poet laureate of England respectively. 

To say I had a great time would be a glaring understatement. I found myself thinking perhaps I'd died on the plane and gone to heaven! Surrounded by like-minded people, or should I say similarly bonkers people in a beautiful house I was told to treat as my home, there to write poetry and learn from the best - what more could I ask for. 

The view from the garden

Ty Newydd is a very special place, a beautiful, old house with a lot of character, it's been lovingly renovated with great care and attention paid to comfort. The result is a cosy, homelike haven in which people come to write and learn. It's rural setting close to the sea, surrounded by rolling hills and fields makes it very peaceful and refreshing. On my walks I saw wildflowers, herons, plovers and sheep (I'm rather partial to the latter who aren't so common here in Brittany).

The back of the house
With all that beauty around you, the inside more than matches up. After all, what more can a poet ask for than a room full of poetry books! The Ty Newydd library pictured below is probably one of the most beautiful and cosy rooms I've spent time in. It was the venue for nightly poetry readings firstly by Carol Ann and Gillian, then the wonderful Imtiaz Dharker and finally on the last evening, us - the participants. I loved spending all day working on poetry, eating a fantastic meal and then getting right back into poetry again right there in that room.  

View of the garden from the Library window
The other end of the Library

After a week of workshops, group work and rich conversation, I've come back inspired and invigorated with a bunch of new friends who are all as talented and amazing as each other. I feel very lucky to have had this time for myself; to learn, to grow, to meet new people and take a few steps further with my writing. Thank you to my family, especially Frank for managing without me for ten days and to all the wonderful people at Ty Newydd who really make the house a home from home for all who visit!