It is hard to believe another couple of months have flown by, we are very nearly in April and I haven’t even taken stock of February yet! Looking back over the last month or so I am really glad we now have a bit more structure to our days and weeks. I have noticed the difference in how I feel about days at home and how we all get on! We have continued to take a sound a week and look at different artists, cook something, and investigate animals.
Valuing our children’s artwork and helping them value it too
I love seeing how the boys engage with the artists we have been looking at. During February we read the brilliant book The Dot (D week), studied Escher (E week) and tried our own tessellations. We also drew our own self portraits after looking at Lucian Freud (F week). The boys have enjoyed trying different art techniques and I love that they are learning about what creativity means and seeing that not all artists produce work that looks exactly like the objects, places or people who they are painting or drawing.
The Dot, by Peter Reynolds, is a great book for children! One of my reasons for looking at different artists, and their work, was to encourage the boys to be less concerned about what their artwork turns out like and more willing to just have a go with painting or drawing; to enjoy the process of creating rather than simply focusing on the end product. This book is brilliant for this as it encourages and values children’s drawing and the individuality of what is produced regardless of what it looks like!
I was surprised that the boys were willing to have a go at Self Portraits at their age. I thought they would be more concerned about what their drawings looked like, but on reflection these were more my concerns than theirs! I did art to GSCE level and I always struggled with drawing people, I avoided it if I could. So when I suggested this to the boys I think a lot of my feelings about getting us all to put pencil to paper to draw our own faces, were my own issues! It was a reminder to me that children have a wonderful way of giving things a go and not having the same worries holding them back as we do as adults. In order to be able to see ourselves to draw I put our long bedroom mirror on our kitchen table and they loved sitting and looking at their reflections and drawing themselves. I was amazed by what they both produced!
In order to show value to their artwork I have been trying to peg the boys’ paintings and drawings up in our kitchen. But only two months into this year and it is pretty chocka block with artwork. I didn’t want to just get rid of things secretly, or start hoarding away picture after picture! So when I saw this fantastic idea on Instagram, where children were encouraged to make a collage using their artwork, I decided this is what we would do.
It was such a simple thing to do but the boys loved it! I bought two IKEA frames to use. We got out all their pictures and then they spent time choosing their favourite bits from all the things they had made, everything else went in the bin (they put it in themselves!). We then stuck all the bits they had chosen onto cardboard from cereal boxes! The final result for both boys was wonderful and we’ve hung the pictures up in our living room so they can see how much we love what they’ve produced. We will do this again soon because we are already gathering another load of pictures. I will just make sure we keep a photo of each collage they produce so they can remember some of the things they have made and all the effort that went into them.
Play, Play and More Play
Even though I studied Child Development and the Early Years at University, then trained as a Play Therapist, I still find that I forget the value of children’s play so often! I am enjoying the daily reminder of how our boys are learning through every aspect of our life together and through the various different ways they play each day.
One of my highlights is seeing how the boys play when they are outside. I have never been someone who has particularly enjoyed being outdoors but I am learning that there are so many wonderful benefits to getting out whatever the weather. I’ve even invested in my own waterproof trousers (not cool but necessary!!) This past month we have enjoyed a number of woodland meet ups with other Home Educating friends. Here the children have made and played in dens, pretended to be wild animals and chased each other, splashed in puddles, rolled in mud and enjoyed picnics together! Playing outside more has been great but I often find getting everyone and all our stuff together to go out can be quite stressful so I have been trying to make the most of what we have nearer to home; our own garden and the beautiful river and nature reserve.
We’ve enjoyed times wandering around our garden looking for signs of Spring together and bike rides down to the river (occasionally even before 9am!) Getting outdoors to play in some form or another has become one of my daily priorities and I’m increasingly aware that we all benefit from this when we have done it!
A while back the boys made bird food with my Dad which has encouraged more birds in to our garden and we are enjoying seeing what comes to nibble on our tasty treats! It is so lovely to be able to see into our garden through our kitchen doors and watch the birds enjoying breakfast whilst we enjoy ours and having known very little about birds in the past I am beginning to learn about them with the boys. We’ve got a beautiful book called Our Garden Birds by Matt Sewell. The boys love the illustrations and descriptions in this book and we have set ourselves the challenge of learning the names of ten birds and being able to spot them over this year!
I have just started reading a brilliant book called Brave Learner, by Julie Bogart. It is inspiring! She talks about how we can help our children to grow and maintain a love and wonder that they naturally have for learning about life, the world and anything around them. It has reminded me that when the boys were both really little I used to be daily amazed by how they were engaging with and exploring the world around them and how everything, every little opportunity to play was teaching them new things!
It is interesting that whilst I’ve been reading this book with the boys in mind, I have also just finished reading a book called Rest (with me in mind!!) As I reflect on that book I wonder at what point we start thinking of learning and rest/play as separate? Alex Soojung- Kim Pang begins his book (p.1) by saying “This is a book about work. It is also, of course, a book about rest. This sounds paradoxical, but it illustrates the book’s central idea.” He returns numerous times to this argument that rest and work go hand in hand; that when we are resting, or involved in “deep play” our brains are still very much active, learning, thinking through new ideas and engaging with problems often in a more creative way.
I love that childhood is a time where we don’t have to really draw lines between work and play/rest and that I have the opportunity to really value my children’s play for what it is, their way of learning!
Deliberate play vs unstructured and free
Sometimes the boys’ play is unstructured and undirected by me but at other times I am more deliberate about guiding the direction of their play. Interestingly I think both the books I have been reading have helped me to see the value in both these ways of playing.
Every day we have a “quiet time” after lunch. This is a particular time where the boys play undirected by me. They have space away from each other and from me to play quietly and I am often amazed by the things they do; what they build, write, draw or create. When I first started encouraging them to have this time I mainly saw the value it had for me, the bit of time for rest that I had lost when they had dropped their naps was replaced by this short period of quiet playing. However, as time has gone on I have become more aware of the benefits to them, and their play and learning, that come from a period of quiet, uninterrupted play.
There are also periods of time in our day where we play in a more deliberate way together; cooking, building or art. We are also focusing on numbers in our maths time together and I have been bringing out a tray which has lots of different objects on it which they use for playing around with numbers! I have begun reading a bit about Maths mastery recently. I realised that whilst our eldest is actually really able when it comes to maths, I want to encourage him to have a depth to this rather than rushing him on to the next idea. So currently we are enjoying having fun with numbers; looking at them, writing them, ordering them, building towers to represent them, working out all the different ways we can make each number and spotting the numbers out and about and around our house!
Farewell February and welcome March, more of Spring, more fresh air and more opportunities for us all to learn and grow!