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.