Things you learn while homeschooling

by Lilia Efimova on 14 February 2015

Colorful swirl :)Recognise signal in the noise
Literally. Three kids make a lot of noise – they switch activities and materials, they produce a lot of stuff, they occupy lots of space and they are just noisy even if you don’t count the media and electronics that they use once in a while. And when other homeschooling families come over it’s all multiplied.

Would be nice to ignore this chaos all together, but this is not the job. The job is observe, to recognise learning, to see when there is a moment to bring in materials, to offer help, to reinforce an emerging pattern, or stop something particularly unproductive or dangerous.

So I learn. Learn that the noise is the source of everything, learn not to be overwhelmed by it, learn to recognise those signals in the middle.

Focus
There is no escape. There was a time I could switch off email notifications, phone, internet, book a room for a meeting, close the door of my office and focus on the task at hand. Now, while the kids are still relatively small interruptions could come unpredictably practically 24/7.

Instead of waiting for a better moment, I learn to do what I want to do in between. Start a task when it’s relatively quiet, be prepared to drop it when there is a need, say ‘no’ to interruptions when it makes sense, pick it up after a break… And deal all the time with unpredictability – not giving up to it, but learning to ride whatever waves come my way.

Take care of yourself

I had a burn-out once, so I know the symptoms. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the responsibility, ‘to do’ lists or time slipping between my fingers. I’m learning to recognise when I need a break, how to help myself (with sleep, meditation, physical activity or whatever works in the moment), how to communicate it to others and arrange for help. I learn to recognise my own boundaries and to accept them. And then stretch them a little bit further :)

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Of course, there are a lot of other things to learn while homeschooling, like specifics of different methods to facilitate learning reading or math, how to choose and organise learning materials without turning your house into a school or how to communicate with people around about progress of your kids. They come as part of practice, but they are quite specific to education in general or homeschooling in particular. And of course I’m very much into meta-learning and things that are easily transferable to other contexts, so I’ll keep to those three above for a time-being :)

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Educational innovation: schools vs homeschooling?

by Lilia Efimova on 10 February 2015

Last week I saw Wired article The Techies Who Are Hacking Education by Homeschooling Their Kids, then the reaction to it, essentially accusing homeschooling parents from the article for “living in the bubble” and creating nice environment for their own kids instead of contributing to changing schools for everyone, and then a follow-up from a homeschooling side, No one’s going to DIY that for you, sweetheart.

It’s a pity that with the current educational climate there is often either/or situation where both sides do not want to do much with each other. It feels that in the Netherlands the gap between two sides might be even worse. Within the current legal and political situation providing more flexibility and individualisation within the school system may contribute to proposed prohibition of homeschooling (because in this case ‘schools can cater reasonably good for everyone’).

If you look at the parallels in business, this is the choice is between working for a big (hopefully nice and flexible :) company vs. being self-employed (ideally in a network environment ;). Everyone makes their own choice and deals with the consequences. Homeschooling how I see it fits very much with the second option. You do have to deal with more potential risks, but you have more flexibility as well, so there is a great potential for developing truly individualised and networked learning practices. There are many things to learn from homeschoolers both at the family and at the network level.

Homeschooling groupAs a learning professional and a homeschooling parent I would like to contribute to the changes in the system, but I also would like to make the best choices for my kids. And I’d like to do both, without the need to take sides. As kids are getting bigger I am slowly getting more active contributing to Dutch homeschooling scene and I also try to keep up with ideas that come from the schools that push boundaries of the current system (some examples to keep: TV program De onderwijzer aan de macht or Plan flexiklas from democratische basisschool De Vallei).

While the “either/or” situations might be unavoidable at times, at the end it is not that important where educational innovations appear, within a school or at a family level (or somewhere in between), as far as all sides are open to learn from them.

And now back to my daily job of facilitating three learners :)

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Learning is everywhere

February 7, 2015
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Learning doesn’t necessary take a lot of time. It takes a mindset of recognising learning opportunities and going for them. And a bit of practice – of observing, improvising and not making a duty out of play :)

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Facilitating learning of our kids

February 3, 2015
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Where are many ways to do homeschooling, so it’s often difficult to explain what exactly we do. I can go on with specific examples, but also find it important to articulate educational principles that guide our practice.

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Year of confidence

January 2, 2015

Going through the photos of 2014 I just realised what it was for me – a year of confidence. Since I stopped working four years ago things were very much in turmoil – taking care of two and then three kids, homeschooling, being the primary one responsible for running things in the house and garden. […]

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Mixed age group learning

November 24, 2014

My views on learning and parenting are heavily influenced by the ideas of legitimate peripheral participation in a broad sense – making sure that kids experience life in situ, not in a special child-centric settings, but by becoming part of activities of those around them and society as a whole. Which is easier said than done, […]

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Learning spaces

November 12, 2014

My interests in learning and architecture come pretty nice together with homeschooling our kids. It’s fun to observe kids in action and then go along and modify the space around them to support their activities. When I dived into learning about project-based homeschooling, creating a workspace for the kids was the first thing I picked […]

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Facilitating informal learning

November 10, 2014
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It’s always funny to realise how much the roots of what I’m doing today lay in the past: Looking back now I realised what got me into doing my PhD at the first place – fascination with formal/informal interplay in learning… Once I have discovered research on informal learning, I became fascinated with the idea […]

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Book organisation

October 30, 2014

Not panicking anymore, just trying to accept the fact that we are not going to have a perfectly organised kids books in the house. Regardless how many bookcases we have. And that’s also true for educational materials. And art and craft supplies. And what is made from all that. On toys and playing things I […]

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Thuisonderwijzers leren samen: learning with adults

October 3, 2014

This week is National Education Week in the Netherlands and its focus is on learning socially. Dutch homeschoolers are participating as well, with a blog hop Thuisonderwijzers leren samen. For me the social is at the core of learning, so it took a while to figure out what exactly to write about. Learning for a […]

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Sitting on a fence: should I make another blog?

September 27, 2014

I think I’m ready to get back to blogging regularly, but I am caught in a logistical issue: should I continue blogging here or move to another blog (have .nl domain and basic WP installed for a while now).

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Unschooling myself and project-based learning

December 15, 2013

In a sense it feels like starting from scratch. Like I forgot everything I knew from theory and practice under the weight of the responsibility of helping my own kids to learn. At times I feel that I’ve never learnt so intensely and so transformatively as I learn now. It’s very much true that unschooling […]

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Do I give lessons at home?

November 7, 2013

When I tell people that we are homeschooling our kids, they usually say something like “so, you give lessons to your kids at home, right?”. No really :) Like today. When kids woke up we had an idea to eat chocolate before breakfast – just because you need exceptions from the rules once in a […]

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Family sabbatical

January 16, 2013

With the last blogpost published more than a year ago I guess the time is right for an update. So here it is :) Although I shamelessly stole the title of this post from a very nice book, it’s not about an extended family travel. I like how the meaning of “sabbatical” is described in Wikipedia […]

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