It's that time of year again when my attention turns to planning for the next academic year. When I say planning, what I really mean is researching and resourcing. We do not follow the National Curriculum. We do not set targets or goals. We do not have a schedule. In years gone by, my planning would be solely based on observation of my daughter's interests and developmental needs, but Bean is 10 years old now, so is much more involved in the planning process on a practical level. This year, the vast majority of the plans have come from her.
Our home education approach is eclectic. We home educate all year round. Some of the year we are project-based (most of the autumn and spring) and some of the year we unschool (whenever we feel the need of a break from our projects, and for most of the summer). We've had more projects on the go in the last 18 months than we'd ordinarily take on due to the pandemic, but we are always consent-based, so while I may make suggestions, Bean has the ultimate say in her education.
This is what we have planned:
Festivals and Celebrations
Our main project for the year will be learning about different cultural and religious festivals and celebrations. For the next year, this will replace our annual continent project (you'll find an Africa and North America story highlight on my Instagram account, and can read all about our North America project on the blog here and here). This project idea has come entirely from Bean. She suggested that it would be fun to learn about and celebrate the festivals as they occur in the calendar, and we are both so excited about the rich learning opportunities this project will present.
There are SO many festivals that take place all year round, all over the world. We can't possibly celebrate them all (well, I suppose we could try, but I think we'd burn out fast!) We already celebrate Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, Christmas, New Year, Valentine's Day, St. David's Day, Mother's Day, Easter, Father's Day and the seasonal equinoxes and solstices. We have decided to focus our attention this year on learning about Diwali, Hanukkah, Lunar New Year, Holi and Ramadan, while trying to squeeze in some of the celebrations that fall on a single day too, such as Day of the Dead, Omisoka, Epiphany, International Women's Day, International Children's Day and Pride. It will depend a bit on what other things we have going on, but there is certainly plenty of scope for celebration.
Our plan is to read books and online features, watch documentary videos, make crafts and cook/bake nice things to eat. We'll also take the opportunity to read a bit about the people who celebrate, the countries they live in and the religions (if any) they practice. We might even try to visit a few places of worship, if that is possible. My hope is that this project will help to broaden my daughter's understanding and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's people, while also being fun, interesting and child led.
Our reading spine for this project will be A Year Full of Celebrations and Festivals, which features a double page spread on over 90 festivals from around the world. It is beautifully illustrated and not too information heavy, so perfect for prompting further research. I've also bought a digital guide called Holiday Fun Around the World from Jessica @thewaldockway which includes an information page with discussion prompts, YouTube playlist, Pinterest board, recommended reading list, recipe card, colouring page and activity sheet for 24 of the 'holidays'.
I've pulled out the few books we have on festivals, celebrations and religion from our home library, but my intention is to source more books on the specific celebrations from our inter-library loan service. I'll have to get super organised, as it can take some time for books to arrive. We are not a religious family, and while some of our projects have touched briefly on religion, this will be the first time that we look in more depth at some of the world's religions. Our Language Arts curriculum from Blossom and Root includes an optional Geography and Culture unit, with recommended reading from One World, Many Religions: The Ways we Worship, so I expect we'll try to tie that in somehow too.
Our next project has been one that I have suggested to my daughter based on observation of her needs and topics of current conversation. She has expressed great enthusiasm, as this is all of high relevance to her right now. This project is quite broad, but will include:
Growing and Changing - Learning about our bodies (specifically the female and male reproductive systems), keeping healthy and fit (including diet, hygiene, rest and sleep, exercise and mental health), puberty, consent, relationships and sex. You can read more about some of the resources we'll be using for this part of the project in this blog post. I've ordered a couple more books from the library, and have Respect: Consent, Boundaries and Being in Charge of You on it's way. The books in the second photograph are on loan from my Mum.
Confidence and Self-Esteem - This is not something you can teach really, but I do believe that we can encourage it to grow through conversation, life experiences and sharing of stories for inspiration and encouragement. I have a second hand copy of Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves on it's way, and have The Confidence Code for Girls on loan from the library, both of which I'll add to our morning basket. I've also been recommended a book for supporting Bean with navigating the issues that arise with separated parents, Split in Two: Keeping it Together When Your Parents Live Apart. At the moment, I advocate for my daughter, but I'd like to support her with beginning to take over some of these difficult negotiations. Teaching our daughters to confidently maintain healthy boundaries is such a challenge, but so important for positive mental health in adulthood.
Staying Safe Online - Bean has recently inherited my old mobile phone. She doesn't currently have a SIM card for it, and I've wiped it clean of almost all the apps. She can take photographs and videos, listen to audiobooks on the Borrowbox app and to music on Spotify (when she is somewhere with wifi). She can play a few games. She isn't yet able to browse the internet. She does, however, watch YouTube at home, and uses Skype/Zoom/Messenger to chat/play with her friends, as well as other online games. I expect that I will get her a SIM card for her phone when she begins to go out with friends, so this will all be good preparation. We'll be reading Staying Safe Online, which we have already started and has some excellent advice and tips.
Money - I set up a bank account for Bean soon after she was born, so that I had some way of safely saving money for her, but she doesn't have access to it. She has been having a small amount of pocket money since she was around 5 years old, but it's never been enough for her to buy anything significant, or to save. I paused giving her pocket money at the beginning of the pandemic because she didn't have any means of spending it (I bought books and toys for her online). Now that she is 10 years old, I really want her to begin to get a grip on managing her own money. There's a really excellent chapter on 'Raising a Financially Literate Tween' in Sarah Ockwell-Smith's book Between and I am basically following the advice shared there. I have signed Bean up for a GoHenry prepaid debit card, and have set up weekly pocket money. She can spend it on whatever she wants to, and it is not tied in to chores or behaviour. I especially appreciated the advice on 'Raising Children to be Entrepreneurs' highlighting that it is often assumed that we need to prepare our children to work for someone else. I'm self employed, and I'd like to think that my daughter can earn a living doing something that she feels passionately about. I have a few ideas up my sleeve for Bean to earn extra money this year, and I feel confident that motivation levels will be high! We also have Money for Beginners to pop in our morning basket which covers a wide range of topics related to money. We really enjoyed the Politics version, so have high hopes for this one too.
Cooking - We are hoping to resume our fortnightly cookery lesson with Sara @live_learn_cook this autumn. It's such a lovely class, with an experienced cookery teacher and a small, mixed age group of keen young chefs. Everything is provided, so the class is excellent value for money. Bean is at the age now where she can manage almost all of the preparation and cooking herself, so we leave with our arms full of delicious food, and our 'cups' full after a couple of hours chatting with like minded home ed friends. This autumn I plan for us to cook lunch at home on the alternate weeks when we do not have our cookery class. I'm going through a phase of feeling quite fatigued by cooking meals. I've stopped meal planning in recent weeks and I feel like we're always eating the same things. I've borrowed Jamie's 30 Minute Meals from my Mum for us to work our way through. We may not manage them all as we don't have a microwave (this particular recipe book calls for a few key pieces of time saving equipment), but it's a good place to start.
Sewing - Bean still enjoys sewing and has recently discovered that she enjoys embroidery too. I don't have any firm plans in place for supporting her here, but I think we'll pick up a few more sewing kits (like this one) and embroidery kits (like this one) for her to work on honing her skills. She has access to an overflowing cupboard of scrap fabric, a sewing machine, sewing supplies etc. Perhaps, this year, we might focus on making repairs. I expect there will be more handmade clothes for her 'cuddlies' and dolls, as well as pillows and blankets and aprons and such like.
Meeting Bean's social needs can be a fragile balancing act. She finds large groups very draining, as well as time away from home with her Daddy, so needs plenty of downtime afterwards. She is quite a homebody really, and benefits from our enabling home environment which has been carefully set up to encourage independence and meet her interests and developmental needs. She routinely asks for a quiet day at home but rarely asks to see or speak to her friends, despite having strong friendships. We value our time together at home to rest and reconnect as highly as we do our social needs. We carefully plan our week to allow the time for both.
Bean would like to continue to attend her Farm School setting one day a week this year. I've offered to increase her attendance to two days, at her request, but she's now feeling a bit undecided about that. We may give it a try at some point during the autumn term and see how she goes. At Farm School she has the opportunity to socialise with a large, mixed age group of children. They care for the animals, take part in some optional adult led activities related to the weekly theme and play large group games, as well as having plenty of time for chatting and free play. Bean has made lots of new friends at Farm School and it is a real highlight of her week.
Bean's other weekly commitment is a gymnastics class, which she has been attending every week since she was around 5 years old. The classes run all year round and she is 100% committed. Pre-pandemic she attended an Acro session too, which sadly doesn't seem to be resuming. She is really keen to increase her sessions to two again once restrictions are lifted, but we will have to wait to see what her options are. Again, she has made lovely friends at her gymnastics class, some of whom we see socially outside of the classes now too. Recently, one of the parents said to me, 'Oh, she's home educated? But she's got such great social skills!' Yes, yes she does.
Each week we try to fit in 2-3 play dates, either in person or online. At the weekends, and during school holidays, we try to meet up with school friends. Ordinarily, I'd have some childminding work too, but my little mindee starts school in September and I'm not taking on any new families while we await the building work for our extension. We're hoping to try a local HE meet in the autumn, to see if that is a good fit for us, and will hopefully be resuming our cookery classes, but again, this will be dependent on the pandemic restrictions.
Language and Literacy
Our language and literacy focus, as always, is reading and discussing a wide range of interesting books together. Reading together every day has resulted in a child with excellent vocabulary, a vivid imagination and a growing awareness and understanding of a wide range of topics. Spelling, punctuation, grammar and composition are all skills that come from reading, so I feel confident that she is making progress. Bean is now reading independently, but I still read aloud to her every day. Our home is littered with teetering stacks of books and our reading time together is something that we both treasure enormously.
In the Autumn we will resume our Language Arts curriculum from Blossom and Root, starting with A Midsummer Night's Dream and then moving on to Wonder. We are enjoying the gentle pace, working our way slowly through the parts of the curriculum that Bean enjoys (the books themselves, discussion prompts and word play activities) and skipping the parts that she doesn't want to do. The reading lists alone are well worth checking out if you are looking for a nice variety of interesting books to share. Many of them are available as audio books if you're not keen on reading aloud.
We'll also be working our way through as many of the recommended reading books in Pie Corbett's Reading Spine for Year 5 as we can manage. I've attended a few workshops with Pie over the years and respect his work and value his book choices. We've read all but one of the books recommended for Nursery - Year 4 and Bean has enjoyed them all. We've also discovered some new authors along the way. I recently stumbled upon a whole series of other recommended reading lists from Pie for each year group (page turners, storytellers, poetry, independent readers, rich and diverse books and comfort reads) all of which you'll find here, so I guess we'll be exploring some of them too! I really recommend having a look at these lists if you're struggling to find suitable books for your child. We've managed to get most of them on loan from our local library.
Lastly, we'll be taking monthly trips to our city centre library to collect the books that we have ordered in, and to browse their collection. Our local library has still not opened for browsing, and has such limited opening hours that we've found we're happier visiting the main library in the city. It is worth the trip. We'll continue to borrow audio cd's for the car, and audio books on the Borrowbox app too.
Bean's math skills are strong, and solving mathematical problems in context is something that she really enjoys. For me, this is the purpose of math, so I haven't paid much attention to age related expectations. If she decides at a later date that she wants to gain a mathematical qualification, I have no doubt at all that she has strong mathematical foundations in place. If she is driven to study hard for an exam, then I'm sure she'll be able to learn what she needs to pass it. She's certainly demonstrated this with her gymnastic achievements. With this in mind, we'll be continuing to learn math through practical, real life application (shopping, cooking, playing games, solving real life problems etc.) as I believe this to be the most relevant and effective way for my child to learn.
We have a small but growing collection of board, card and dice games which we both love to play and which cover various math skills without being too obviously math based. In my opinion, a pack of playing cards and a set of dice are two of the most versatile math resources, as there are so many ways to play with them. We really enjoy strategy games such as backgammon and mancala too, which are brilliant for developing math skills. Bean was gifted some chess pieces for her birthday this year, so I expect we'll try to learn how to play that too.
I have a second hand copy of Maths Games Lab for Kids on the way, which I'm hoping will inspire some fun new games, and offer a progression from Games for Math which we have enjoyed working our way through but that Bean is beginning to outgrow. The others that we have in the Lab series have been excellent.
I'm planning to dust off our Spielgaben set, which we haven't made the most of in recent years, and have a go at some of the hands on, practical math guide activities included, beginning with fractions. In fact, we have quite a few lovely math resources which I'd love to share with you, but far too many to list here. Perhaps I'll write a blog post review of math materials in the autumn, if you'd find that useful? We have some lovely story books with a math focus too, which is another way to factor math in without the need for flashcards, worksheets and lessons, if that is not your child's thing.
I was also thinking that I might challenge Bean to 'set up a business' this next academic year, as part of our Independence project. My idea is to give her a small budget for materials, advertising etc. and support her in budgeting and planning, with the goal of turning a profit. I feel pretty confident that she'll be keen to give this a try. There's been some interest in our local home education community for a seasonal 'market' where the children can buy and sell their handmade and homemade wares, so I'll be getting on the case with organising that.
Art and Craft
Our focus for the autumn term is going to be painting, using the book Paint Lab for Kids, which Bean was gifted for her birthday. Bean loves painting, and these types of open ended, process art invitations work so well for inspiring creativity. I'll often set these up for Bean when I would like to read aloud to her, as they are enough to sustain her interest and attention at the table for a decent length of time. We need to stock up on some art supplies which will be a fun shopping trip to take together at the beginning of term. If we exhaust the ideas in the book above then we may dip into these as well.
Depending on when our painting project comes to a natural close, I have some books lined up for a photography project too. Both of these were bought new, but heavily discounted, in TKMaxx. Photo Adventures is an activity book with lots of fun suggestions for building images to photograph using household items. Jelly, Garbage and Toys is a similar concept, but using some very inviting materials such as melted chocolate to make masterpieces. I've no doubt at all that Bean will love that!
Lastly, we still plan to explore some Art History using the guide from Meet the Artists. You may remember that this was on our plan for the last academic year too, and we never got around to it. We have everything we need to start a short study on Frida Kahlo. This time around, I think we'll aim to look at one artist a month, so the curriculum guide will last us the full year and beyond.
I hope that you find this blog post interesting and useful. You can follow along with our projects this autumn in my Instagram stories, where I will create a story highlight for each. If you'd like to read about out home educations plans for the last academic year (age 9) you'll find them in this blog post (along with links to our plans for the previous year, age 8).
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.