Mixed age group learning

by Lilia Efimova on 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, especially when you go outside of a single family level.

Cooking on the fireOne of the things we enjoy in that respect are family-focused camping trips – ecocamp in Russia, Russian-speaking camp in Germany or homeschooling camping in the Netherlands. Although for a period of time, they give a feeling of that village to raise a child where adults and kids are engaged in authentic activities.

But in everyday life there is not that much things you can do in a mixed age group on a regular basis. Adults go to work and kids go to school. Older kids can work as apprentices with adults, but that’s will take a while for us. Sports, clubs, courses are all either for adults or for kids. There are a few exceptions, usually targeted at parents of babies or toddlers, but even those are usually not accessible if you have more than one child. And, as kids spend lots of their time in school or kids-oriented settings, it’s also not very common to bring them along to where adults do their things. I tried for a while to find offline volunteer work that I can do with the kids, but gave up – at least until all of them are older.

We do get together a lot with other homeschooling families, but many of those meetings are still playdates or kids-oriented activities. Of course, there parents also do something – share experiences and fun or pick up on each others brains, bringing occasionally something to do for themselves – but most of the times it still starts from the kids interests.

Making musicGiven all that I was very happy with the idea of getting together with other homeschooling parents to do something interesting for ourselves – learning improv and making music. So far we had a few meetings, trying to find out a way of doing things together while keeping an eye on our kids. Most of the times kids were busy with their own activities, but they came to look, to ask questions or to play along. We’ll have to see how it goes, but so far it was lots of fun.



Learning spaces

by Lilia Efimova on 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 up. We made a desk a while ago for Alexander in his room, but it’s rarely used, so it was clear that the workspace had to be where the action was – in the middle of our living room.

Living room workspace evolutionOver time I have learnt that with kids the best thing is to go with prototyping: put something in place, observe how they use it and then go a little bit further. In this case we planned to make the table at the same height as our dining table, so chairs could be easily shuffled back and forth. But we saw that our prototype was used a lot while standing, so we ended up with a lower height. Eventually we added a working surface, a white board and storage containers.

It is used – every day. Mainly for drawing, writing, arts and crafts, but occasionally other things, like cooking or performances. It also doesn’t scale – a three of them painting just fit and if I want to join there is no space :)

Lego tableBut it’s not the only space. A huge white board in front of our dining table is used for drawing, playing with letters and hanging items that need attention. A Lego table we made a while ago, trying to contain little Lego pieces away from our youngest. Now it’s used by all three of them. It has storage bins inside, a construction space on top and it can slide under the bed when not in use (which is rarely :)

Kids also have their working places where we do things. Robert’s “man cave” in the garage has a shelf with kids’ instruments and a workbench at kids height, which is used for wood projects or working with limestone.

Self-made sewing deskAs now there is more interest from the kids in sewing and other textile crafts that I do in the attic, there is a learning space “under construction” there. Alexander wanted a desk there, so he had to make it. Looking at him Anna made one as well. I assembled a little sewing kit for Alexander, but I guess I have to make a storage bin for them with supplies and tools that they can use without asking.

I like to experiment with growing things to eat in our garden and of course kids help there a lot. They have kids-sized garden tools for a while, but this year they also asked for their own vegetable garden. So in early spring they’ll have their own space to experiment.

UntitledOf course, learning happens everywhere. It’s just lots of fun to observe how they use the space and to think what else we can do to make sure that they can work (more) independent, have necessary materials and tools nearby, and are reminded about work in progress and inspired for new projects.

{ 1 comment }

Facilitating informal learning

November 10, 2014

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 […]

0 comments Read the full post →

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 […]

0 comments Read the full post →

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 […]

0 comments Read the full post →

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).

3 comments Read the full post →

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 […]

3 comments Read the full post →

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 […]

2 comments Read the full post →

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 […]

3 comments Read the full post →

Not bloging, identities and Happy New Year :)

December 31, 2011

I go to Nancy’s blog to look for the Pear & Cranberry Chutney recipe to cook for tomorrow and then remember that I have a blog too and that it had been silent way too long. So here I am :) The truth is that I feel a bit like a caterpilar in a cocoon […]

8 comments Read the full post →

A long due update

May 5, 2011

It’s hard starting after a break – there are way too many stories to tell and way too many thoughts that came in between. So I start somewhere. I had a burnout – going on and off after my PhD defense and not very obvious behind the usual “not feeling normal” during my pregnancy. But […]

7 comments Read the full post →

An afterlife of a paper tea box

February 7, 2011

Paper tea box that’ve been at Alexander’s play kitchen for ages went into recycling. A few days after he founds a lid of it and then realises that the box is not there anymore and can’t be brought back. The tears of loss come and then I embrace him in my arms to tell a […]

0 comments Read the full post →

While it looks still…

November 18, 2010

…there is a lot of turbulence underneath. I’m trying to figure out if I had a burnout (looks very much like it) and what is a way out. Still rethinking work-life balance. My professional values and parenting values align quite well, but the realities of putting them into practice do not mix well. Looking at […]

2 comments Read the full post →

The first dress

September 23, 2010

They grow so fast. Of course I knew it. But to know, theoretically, and to feel time slipping away from you are two different things. The box with baby clothes, first sizes, just-in-case-there-will-be-one-more, is almost ready. And there is that first dress that doesn’t fit anymore. I just can’t put it in the box – […]

1 comment Read the full post →