A collection of my favourite ‘tools’ that help support our learning lifestyle. Some are practical, some more abstract but all incredibly useful. The list is in no particular order…
- Family meetings – A great tool to really help focus the mind. Everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the agenda beforehand and minutes are taken, by a willing volunteer, so we can look back at what we’ve discussed. It’s a great chance for everyone to share ideas and make suggestions for new ways of doing things. We talk about all sorts of things from outings we’d like to plan to meal planning to big family decisions, whatever anyone feels they would like to bring up. It gives us a chance to regularly review what we’ve been up to and make plans for future projects.
- Room rescues – These are Flylady inspired and are about making ‘tidy ups’ less overwhelming and more enjoyable. Just set the timer for five minutes and the transformation can be amazing. It is great when we rescue rooms together, everyone gets involved and it can be lots of fun but even on your own using a timer just seems to get the job done so much more efficiently.
- Clean canvases – Rather like room rescues, these are about making spaces more usable. When someone wants to get on with a specific project in a particular place then we endeavour to create a clean canvas where they can get stuck in.
- Trust – Humans have an innate desire to learn and develop. The proof of that is everywhere but should you need reminding, just take a minute to consider the amazing feats of human history and evolution or, just spend a few moments with any baby or toddler to see the drive to learn in action. Since becoming a parent I have read loads of parenting books but many of them just haven’t sat comfortably with me. The ones I do love, and I hope to do a post listing some of my favourites sometime soon, are the ones that remind us to trust our instincts. Taking the time to breathe and learning to shut out some unhelpful scripts we have picked up along the way can really help us tune into that inner wisdom and have confidence in trusting ourselves, trusting our children and trusting the natural process of learning.
- Connection – By this I mean the feeling of really being in tune with our children and developing a deep sense of closeness and attachment. Taking the time to get to know them as individuals and forging lasting bonds that enable good communication and respect to flourish. Developing that connection and providing our family with a safe and loving space they can always rely on gives them a secure foundation on which everything else can be built.
- Kindness – Such an important concept. When I am floundering around, unsure of how best to deal with a situation if I can have the presence of mind to make the kindest choice then that usually feels like the ‘right’ one. Remembering that the connection to our children is what is really important in each moment helps to put this into perspective – this is what they will learn from and what they will expect of the world around them. Some might say that is unrealistic, the world is a harsh place and they might as well get used to it… not only do I have a more positive view of the world in general but also I believe that cultivating that expectation of kindness is a protective mechanism for individuals and for our global future. Abuse and violence will not be seen as a necessary evil and will not be tolerated, promoting the search for peace and building more positive relationship patterns. And getting back to the here and now…stress affects our ability to learn and we are all for learning here!
- Strewing – This is an idea from the wonderful Sandra Dodd, you must check out her website – an absolute goldmine of useful information but beware you could be there for days! Somewhere on the site Sandra or one of her equally inspiring pals likens strewing to scattering rose petals in the path of someone we love – it’s about leaving interesting things around that may be picked up and spark someone’s curiosity or just brighten their day. It’s a lovely way to introduce all sorts of things…new games, pattern blocks, books that you think someone might love, unusual craft bits and pieces, retro technology, whatever you like and think others might too. There is no pressure or expectation on anyone else to do anything with the items but if they do…well then the fun can really begin!
- Invitations to play – A lovely idea we spotted on the ‘Learn with Play at Home’ website. Like strewing but I guess a little more formal. Setting out all the necessary bits and pieces for an activity but still without any pressure for them to be used in any particular way. A game board could be left with all the pieces set up to start playing, or a collection of cardboard boxes and sheets could be gathered to enable den-making. Recently I left the following invitation on our dining room table and it was taken up with great enthusiasm. I’m sure one of us will get around to posting the finished map when it’s done.
- Presence – Actually showing up, but not just physically…it is so easy to wander through a day spending much of it in our heads mulling over to-do lists and fretting over things that are in the past or may be in the future. The first step is to notice when we are not fully present in the moment and then actively work at stepping out of our heads and back down into our bodies, paying real attention to the people we are with and the action that is happening right then and there. Sounds obvious but this can have such a powerful impact on how our days flow.
- Community – Everyone needs support. Making decisions about how to live your life that may seem so far from what you see around you can really intensify that need. Close friends and family are so important and we love them dearly but in addition to this we may wish to seek out others who have made similar choices, who have experience and knowledge that may be useful to us in navigating these new paths. Community does not have to be local, we have gained so much from the national and international home education community and find comfort and confidence in their presence, although, of course, those local people are lovely too!
And there you have it, an insight into those tools that I lean on to help keep life sparkly here in the home-ed heads world. Of course there are many more that I could have mentioned and maybe some of those will work their way into future posts, but for now… have a warm and wonderful week.