I wanted to write a bit about our plans for education once we move to Portugal and also a bit of an update about what we’ve been doing after embarking on our flexi-schooling journey last year.
As someone who loves the idea of home education, mainly the freedom of children being able to follow their own interests, learn at THEIR own pace and not have to conform to the norms of society, I found the decision to put J, my 5 yr old in school for a few days a week pretty difficult. That and the fact that we aren’t the best at making decisions in anyway! There were many reasons at the time why we made this decision and my vision was aways for him to only be in for reception, where it is mainly play based anyway. I then figured it would give me a bit more chance (as time permits with a 2 yr old!) to focus on where we were going to move next and I guess, crucially, get the money together to do so.
Although this vision is actually happening and if you follow this blog you will know we are now moving to Portugal at the end of October, the whole school thing did make me feel a bit differently about school. We were so lucky with the school we found. J was in a very small rural school of 30 children, with a real family feel, mixed year groups and playtimes/ lunchtimes where all age children played together. I loved that about it as I felt it was kind of like a little tribe, the older ones looked after the younger ones and the younger ones learned so much from their elders, which I think is how it should be. Also the teachers were all for and able to follow each child’s interests as much as possible, within the restrictions of the curriculum, as the classes were very small and had lots of teaching assistants. The ethos in general at Langdale school is one of inclusiveness and they always supported our choice to flexi school and J was always welcomed warmly by all the children.
Having said all that I still found the things I don’t like about school were still there and even with such a lovely school you can’t escape these things. The curriculum being quite fixed and the general rules about school some of which I feel are unnecessary, but I guess are needed if you have a group of children. Uniforms I also can’t stand, although I did get used to it after a while, I always felt like it took their own identity away a bit, much like the whole school system does. J definitely fitted ok into the system though and we never had any problems getting him there, mainly because he got to play football with the older boys each day, which is his passion and one of the reasons I actually sent him to school, as I just don’t really fancy playing footy twice a day every day! He was actually really upset on the last day to leave because he really looked up to a year 6 who was leaving to go to big school and he was sad he wouldn’t see him anymore.
It was kind of this that helped our decision not to put him back in this term. We felt that we’ve settled into him learning at home again now and it might upset him more if he had to settle into school again only to be taken out again to move away. I wasn’t sure it was the right decision on the first day back in September but I talked with J about it and explained that it would be year 1 so he would be expected to sit and do work more and he said he was happy to stay at home then! When I asked about his friends he then reeled off all the friends he’s got and when he sees them like friends we meet up with regularly, the home ed group we go to, friends at football training, his cousins, his brother and us. I thought it’s so sweet he thinks of people of all ages his friends and I think many people, especially school kids, think their friends have to be the same age, when you get so much from having friends of all different ages. J plays with toddlers, kids his own age, older and even calls some of our friends his friends too!
I’ve also found he’s also been so much easier to be with since being away from school. I’m not sure if this is because he’s not as tired, or if he’s happier as he can follow his own interests or maybe some of the influences he got from school I don’t know, but i definitely feel more confident about it now as I see how well he’s doing and we will follow down the same path with our 2 year old too. In fact I can never see us putting him in school to be the right thing as he’s such an adventurer, I’m sure being confined to a classroom just wouldn’t be his thing – he needs to be out and about outside!
So finally I get to what we will do in Portugal. We plan to carry on with home educating the boys as we will have lots of land where we are and we plan to get out and do bushcraft and a lot of outside play and learning with them. We are also going to be looking at an alternative school in the town we live called Expression Education, which will be bilingual and will support families who are home educating and want their kids to only attend a couple of days a week. It sounds like a fab place where the kids will learn around projects (rather than singular subjects) and led by their own interests as well as about the local seasons and culture too.
At home we are planning to follow a bit more of a routine – mornings getting up and out and doing some chores around the quinta (small-holding) with the boys, maybe a nature walk and some activities or exercise, back in for lunch where I’d like to get them involved in prepping (hopefully picking) the food and then afternoons while little F sleeps we can spend some one-on-one time with J and either Garf or I do some online work. This will obviously be a rough structure and will fit around visits from/ to friends or local places but I am definitely looking forward to a more simple life with a little structure/ routine to the day. I think it will keep us all focused on our new surroundings and bring us together as a family.
At the moment we are just enjoying learning at home and playing. Garf and I both work from home, him in his parents hotel business and me doing design work online so we juggle work and being with the kids between us. We get out and about most days in the local area or meeting up with friends and family, going to home ed groups or exploring the Lake District with our dog. We also enjoy being creative making things, doing experiments, reading books, looking on you tube, watching animal programmes, doing workbooks with J, playing board games (including chess), baking, learning and talking about football for J (this includes lots of subjects including maths with his footy cards, art designing kits, sport, geography learning about teams and where players come from etc etc). At the moment we are also talking and learning about Portugal to get the boy ready for the new country we’ll be living in. If you want to follow our preparations and move I am doing a series of videos on Instagram as you cans see below.
Here are a few photo’s of what learning looks like for us at the minute…
day trip to Lowther Castle with cousins this summer
baking bread buns
our home ed group doing a bushcraft day
sawing elder tree to make beads at a home ed bushcraft day
experimenting with circuits