I don't seem to have said much about homeschooling of late, so here's a sample of what we've been doing, how things have been going, and what I've noticed in the last few months.
It seems whatever project we pick, some school somewhere in our are will be using the same theme.
I suppose it's only logical that there should be some overlap, given a finite number of possible themes and the high number of schools, classes within those schools, and children to a class, but it does seem as though, whenever we choose a new theme, we will inevitably head off to the library only to discover that almost all the books on our subject have just* been taken out by children whose class are studying that exact same theme.
There then follows a small interlude during which the librarian observes that it isn't really a coincidence because "It must be on the curriculum for this term" and I explain that yes, evidently it is, but that wouldn't make a difference to us because we don't follow the curriculum** whereupon the librarian cheers up, recognising that the lack of books is unimportant as we don't need them for school.
And so my hair grows ever greyer.
Fortunately there are usually one or two books on a usable subject floating around the place, so we don't have to leave empty-handed.
More fortunately still we are not dependent on library books.
As with every project we've done so far, we've developed a sort of timetable: roughly similar things will happen on any given day of the week, not because we've decided that they must, but simply because they happen to fit in nicely among our other activities.
So on Monday, once the workbooks have been put away we paint, first a flat representation of the planet or thing we're studying this week, then a model to add to the solar system slowly growing around our dining-room light.
Onto the flat version Eleanor will write the name of the planet or thing, to add it to her Wall of Words***.
On Tuesday we'll listen to some appropriate music**** and discuss the way it makes us feel, then look up some facts about the planet or concept we're studying for Eleanor to write down and illustrate.
On Wednesday, if we aren't going anywhere, we'll catch up on anything we've missed, draw pictures of the Roman god associated with our planet-of-the-week, look at videos on our topic and somehow fill an empty day with a hundred little things.
On Thursday, Friday and the Weekend we do everything else.
So far everything has included spinning around like loons, moon-gazing, star-gazing**** visiting the National Space Centre, making bottle rockets that refused to take off******, making balloon rockets that didn't, and making Europa Pie.
Almost exactly a year ago we made moon pies to take with us as part of a picnic lunch on Phoebe's birthday.
This year I somehow got the idea that it would be hilarious to make frozen moon pies, in honour of Jupiter's chilly moon, Europa.
This doesn't really warrant a post of its own, being nothing more than a glorified ice-cream sandwich, but in case anyone should want the recipe, here, to round up the post, is what we did.
Step one: make some cookies.
We used this recipe, I suggest you use a different one though, for while this recipe may be deceptively seductive in its chocolateyness it yields, not chewy, chocolate cookies, but enormous, crumbly chocolate-filled biscuits, with more in common with prepackaged Maryland Cookies than with genuine American squidgy things.
Additionally, these biscuits are far too thick to make a decent sandwich******.
So, step one: make different cookies to the ones we made.
Step two: splodge ice-cream onto half the cookies and use the other half to turn these into ice-cream sandwiches.
We used chocolate and caramel ice-creams, because the similarity to Mars bars made me giggle.
Step three: put the sandwiches into bags and put them back into the freezer.
Step four: if you are completely lost to all sens of restraint and human decency, melt some chocolate and trickle or pour it over the frozen-solid sandwiches.
Then return them to the freezer.
Europa is smooth and slippery after all.
Use white chocolate if you're weird like that.
Step five: realise that these things have achieved monstrous proportions and cannot sanely be eaten in their intact state.
Slice into crescent moons and serve for dessert.
Step six: bathe and attempt to convince children that it is bedtime.
Use a broom to remove youngest from ceiling if necessary.
* Usually within the last hour
** In the sense it it intended here anyway.
*** This wall has been going, in one form or another, since our first project and I've mentioned it before, but since then it has gone through several evolutionary stages.
In its original form it was just a wall with interesting words on: Eleanor would choose a word, I would draw it in bubble-letters, she would decorate it, then I'd stick it up.
From here we moved on to topical words, such as Roar or Feathers for our Dinosaur project, then started to move me out of the picture as Eleanor first traced over my words, then began copying them down for herself.
These days she writes the word herself, in pencil first then, once I've checked her spelling, she traces over her lines in pen.
At every stage the goal has been the same: to increase her vocabulary and general literacy by familiarising her with the words.
At some point this is going to stop being particularly beneficial, but by that time Phoebe will be ready to start colouring and decorating words drawn for her, so I suspect the Wall will be with us for quite a while.
****Guess which suite is most popular over here at the moment?
**** Or blundering around in the dark and the rain, talking about clouds and light pollution.
****** Then talking about why.
Hurrah for the science of failure!
******they might be rather lovely served hot from the oven with a dollop of good ice-cream on the side, though.