Educational Report for Frances Raymond (Age 7) and Maddy Raymond (Age 5) â€“ 2005
Our educational philosophy revolves around the legal requirement to provide an education suitable to the â€œage, aptitude and abilityâ€ of our individual children. While our approach is essentially child-led, we go to considerable effort to constantly expose the children to new ideas, subjects and experiences, allowing them to follow up anything that inspires them, with our support and using us as a resource to facilitate their learning. They are given plenty of time to explore their own interests and we ensure that they have practice at essential elements of learning. We strive to keep a balance between child centred and directed learning in essential life skills such as reading, writing and maths.
We believe very strongly that they are naturally inclined to learn and that they can be trusted to do so. Most importantly we want Frances and Maddy to have a love of learning and investigating and feel that those skills and the desire to learn deserve careful protection and encouragement. We pride ourselves in giving them the opportunity to “learn to learn” and feel that essentially that is more important than the individual topics we cover, however interesting they are in themselves.
The two girls have very different learning styles and we encourage them to explore their world in a way that suits them best. We aim to provide an educational environment that stimulates them but also allows them freedom to be children and independent learners. Therefore play, reading and being read to, day trips, holidays which incorporate learning opportunities and socialising with a wide variety of different people are accorded equal value with formal project work or basic skills work. We encourage them to have a sense of completion and achievement over their work and to value all experiences as something that can be exciting and stimulating.
Frances is now into her 4th year of home education as defined by the LEA. She is confident in her own abilities, has largely overcome the speech difficulties her cleft palate gave her in her early years and thoroughly enjoys the lifestyle that home education offers her. She is now a competent reader, works comfortably at or above the level of a Year 3 student in maths, writes functionally when she needs to and with increasing confidence and has retained her love of history and people. She has a burgeoning interest in faiths, partly due to the abundance of devout Christians and Muslims in her life. She is socially confident, although still a fairly quiet child, but liked and accepted in her wide circle of friends. She has had a year of travelling around the UK in a variety of settings and has relished the challenges and opportunities it has offered her.
Frances still likes to work in a way that allows her to do well reasonably easily. She is motivated by being able to achieve a set task that is well within her capabilities but increasingly is learning to explore her own boundaries and test herself. Over the last two years she has been a child who has had some wildly varied levels of skills (excellent empathy and understanding in relation to historical events but a late independent reader, for example) but her skills are now levelling off in a way that means she can achieve far more without support and she is really enjoying the freedom this is giving her. Franâ€™s greatest achievement this year has been learning to concentrate and apply herself for increasing periods of time.
Reading and Writing
Frances was little more than a phonetic and emergent reader in Easter of this year, just as she turned 7. One day she picked up a book and read it, faultlessly. Suddenly all the skills we had worked on over the previous year seemed to fall into place and over the six months or so since, she has worked through all the Oxford Reading Tree books up to and beyond the reading level she might be expected to have in school. She now confidently picks up childrenâ€™s books and reads; including recently attempting Lemony Snicket and reading ahead in a Narnia book I was reading out loud to them. The transformation has been remarkable and delightful. She adores being able to read, loves to be able to discover new crafts on the Internet and read the instructions, or read out loud to her sisters. She has developed a real love of new stories and has no fears about reading to people she knows. She has now reached a point where new words come almost effortlessly to her and is now ready to move off into a world of discovery in the library. Over the last few weeks she has begun a â€œReading Treeâ€ â€“ a bare tree picture that we add a leaf to each time she reads a new book. She is now up to 25 books and aims to get to 100 leaves on her tree.
Frances still has some work to do on writing, which has been more difficult for her. She now writes well in a functional manner; writing out addresses she wants to use, instructions she needs and captions for work or pictures. We use a handwriting scheme at times to help with letter formation, as this is still a little erratic but mainly try to focus on practise and keeping it relaxed. Having witnessed the manner in which she suddenly achieved reading, I am confident that writing will come in time.
Currently she spends a few minutes each morning writing a short story (a few sentences), a book review of her mornings reading book, or a diary entry of the previous day. I give her support as and when she needs it and we pick up on any issues and practise them.
Frances has become competent at maths in the past year and works comfortably at year 3 level. We use a mixture of a maths scheme (Singapore Maths), revision guides for 7-8 and 8-9 year olds and lots of hands on maths. She has a good working knowledge of times tables, adds and subtracts using units, tens and hundreds, works with symmetry, shape, data graphs and other skills expected of a child of her age. She enjoys maths cd-roms and puzzles like Suduko. Recently she surveyed her friends on a number of questions ready to do a graphs project with her daddy over Christmas. Her mental maths is improving rapidly within a real life setting (how many minutes have we travelled, how long is it till we get there, for example) and she has all the skills she needs for everyday use such as time telling, measurement, money use etc. In addition to this, we use Critical Thinking (logic) books and a variety of games and puzzle books to expand her maths abilities.
We favour a hands-on approach as much as possible and have included a set of pictures of some of our maths work for you to look at with this report. As a rule we spend around 20 minutes a day on formal maths work, but find lots of maths creeps into everyday like and play.
Maddy has spent the 2 previous years in Caverstede Early Years Centre on a part time basis. She is diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome (High Functioning Autism) and those two years were very valuable to her as they allowed her to develop play and language skills in a supported setting. She enjoyed those 2 years very much and we initially considered sending her to school, however it has been clear since she came home that she has relaxed and blossomed as a home-educated child. The symptoms of her AS are much reduced (stress, anxiety, confusion) and she has begun to have a wide variety of interests and skills. Maddy struggles to deal with verbal instructions and fast-paced social cues, so a slower environment and learning suited to her needs have helped a great deal. Maddy learns in a very visual way; we have been able to adapt our work so as to give her visual, pictorial instructions, word charts done with pictures that help her to focus on word shape and meaning and have found maths books for her (her particular passion being written maths) which explore numbers without words as a main component.
Maddy is an extremely self-motivated child. She loves to draw and makes hugely complex cartoon stories in home made books, and keeps scrapbooks of detailed drawings that tell stories or describe events or processes. She is a keen writer and asks for help with words and letters constantly and is learning to read in a competent and methodical manner. She sees patterns and correlations in everything and has a phenomenal memory for fine detail; she can recall exactly what the pattern was on clothing if she draws a picture of someone, or exactly what happened in what order when recalling an event. As she struggles with sequencing and memory in some other areas of her life (a symptom of her AS) we encourage her to expand the skills she has in these areas.
Maddy has a current interest in Egypt and we aim to explore this as a topic this year to allow her to develop herself further.
Reading and Writing
As Maddy is not yet 6, our focus on these skills is very much an interest based and pastoral one. However, Maddy does have an interest in them so we facilitate her as much as possible. Inspired by Franâ€™s Reading Tree, Maddy has Word Flowers; these flowers each contain simple words she encounters in early reading books and each day she and I stand and look at them and make up sentences using them. Often she then writes them into an exercise book and illustrates them. This has been very successful â€“ she knows many of the essential words and has a good understanding of how to change words that rhyme. We often play games where I write out a set of words with the same ending, such as â€“ook words and then we make up sentences with them in. Recently Maddy was slightly obsessed with the word â€œlookâ€ and so we helped her over come this obsession by learning the whole â€“ook family and playing with them, until â€œlookâ€ faded back to normality. These obsessions are a feature of her AS but it helps her enormously to have someone who knows her and spots them quickly and can help her get past them.
Maddy loves to write and her letter formation and attention to detail are excellent for a child of her age. She often narrates a story to me, which I write out and then she copies and illustrates it. She uses her Word Flowers to write independently when she wants to work alone. I would say her literacy skills are on a par with a schooled child of her age, which is pleasing partly due to her learning complexities and partly because we certainly do not spend an hour a day on formal literacy!
Maddy loves to work with numbers. She is quick to see patterns and has a good head for working out her own methods for achieving an answer. She likes to play with pattern blocks, geometric solids, Geomags, tessellations, maths rods and hands-on puzzles.
Maddy particularly likes written maths, though this would not be my preference for a child of her age. She is currently working through Singapore Maths Grade 1 (equivalent to Year 2 so about a year ahead) and very much enjoys the addition and subtraction sums and the variety of shape and measuring work in that. She enjoys a variety of cd-roms and online games on a variety of websites. We aim to support Maddyâ€™s interest in maths to the hilt without pushing her beyond her capability or interest.
Additional Subjectsâ€“ both girls work together on the following areas, accessing the opportunities at their own level. We modify the activities as appropriate.
To a great extent I am a believer in the Charlotte Mason ideal that children should be read to constantly, allowing them to explore worlds beyond their own reading skill level. We live in a house full of books and the children have full access to all the ones appropriate to their age and requirements. During the first part of the year we followed a Charlotte Mason reading curriculum which included stories from British History, Bible stories, poetry, famous tales from around the world and so on. We have read fiction that has taken us to the magical worlds of Narnia and the Faraway Tree and plenty of places between. In the New Year I am planning on doing a similar scheme with a more secular base, which will explore the myths and faiths of people around the world.
Typically I read to the children for 30-45 minutes a day; currently we are reading a set of stories that explore the meaning of Christmas to different people. Through the year we have learned about Robin Hood, King Arthur, the Romans, Beowulf, Isis and Osiris and many more, all through the medium of good quality literature. The children have a good understanding of the difference between myth and fact and weâ€™ve had many interesting talks about how some of our stories have come into being. A great example was during a visit to Hinchingbrooke Ancient Britons Day, when they experienced the story of Boudicca being told by a very dramatic bard! We have also begun to take the children to the theatre, this year a notable visit was to a production of The Tempest at the Broadway Theatre and they have opportunity to listen to lots of literature on audio cds in the evenings or when working on artwork or craft.
When we find a book that enthrals us, we aim to use it to widen our general educational scope to some extent. For example, while reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, we made Turkish Delight, drew pictures of snowy woods, talked about magic and myth and looked at the Second World War to put the story in context, as well as discussing the issues of trusting strangers and the notion of treason and treachery.
Much of our science exploration still happens as a by-product of normal life. The children are as curious as any children and spend lots of time asking questions, all of which we endeavour to answer honestly and with interest. This year we have explored the realities of human reproduction (stimulated by the birth of their latest sister!) healthy eating, recycling, magnetism, volume and the properties of water.
The girls have worked on our allotment, mainly discovering that thistles grow very fast, but also learning the difference in types of vegetables and how they grow. Theyâ€™ve learned about roots, leaves, water cycles, fertilisation, harvesting and then reason for flowers and why we need insects. Theyâ€™ve grown flowers in our garden, learned how to control weeds. They had the rather sad experience of their pet rabbit dying from myxomatosis and found out all about why that disease was introduced to Australia, why we control diseases like Rabies and what quarantine means. Weâ€™ve discussed Asian Bird Flu, vaccinations, transmission of germs by sneezing and why washing hands is important. During a butter making morning we learned all about the benefits of boiling utensils and talked about why this is so vital in hospitals.
Some of our best scientific experiences this year have been during days out. We have visited @Bristol, a massive Science Discovery Park which we went to with a large group of Home Educators, spending the day looking at evolution, ecology, recycling, animal groups, the solar system and a variety of hands on science experiment set ups. We also went to Snibston Discovery Park twice, and spent lots of time looking at energy, illusion, engines, forces and more. Both parks have huge opportunity for real hands-on science; playing with keystone bridges, parabolic sound mirrors, polarising mirrors, water forces and so on. Along with a revisit to Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh (volcanoes, evolution and space), Suffolk Wildlife Park (African Animals and animal encounter), a local Butterfly Park (reptiles, butterflies, birds of prey, mammals and insects) the girls have had an interesting and inspiring year when it comes to science exploration. As well as our garden and allotment, the children visit the ever-changing environments of the park, Ferry Meadows, Burghley House and Sacrewell Farm on a regular basis. Further opportunities have presented themselves at the local museum where we have joined workshops on bugs, and on forces and motion. We have also had an ant farm in the house and very much enjoyed feeding them and watching them tunnel.
Over the next year we plan to join The Young Scientist Club, which sends out a monthly kit of themed experiments, which will formalise and expand the opportunities we have. We have also started to join up with another Home Educating family, doing groups of experiments on a theme, on a regular basis. This gives us the opportunity to share skills with another set of parents and widen the scope for learning that the children have available to them.
At this stage of the childrenâ€™s lives, we believe that history forms a sound basis for every other aspect of their education. Having the opportunity to explore the past gives us endless jumping off points into new and exciting subjects all the time. The following is a lit of educational days out we have undertaken over the last year, all of which have provided some opportunities for extended learning.
Sequences and the History of the moving image – Peterborough Museum.
Castle Priory â€“ ruined Cluniac Monastery in Norfolk.
Hatfield House â€“ revisiting the Tudors and Stuarts.
Shuttleworth Aircraft Collection â€“ intro to 20th Century wars.
Castle Drogo â€“ intro to Victorian and Edwardian living.
Ashby Castle â€“ intro to Civil War.
Calke Abbey â€“ extraordinary derelict National Trust Property.
All of these trips have inspired either short conversational looks at different periods of time or longer ones where we have used books to find out more or the internet, or done short craft related projects.
A short project into Scottish History was inspired by these visits during a holiday.
William Wallace Monument
Rob Roy Exhibition
The girls got very excited by Scottish history and revelled in the colourful tales and the fabulous castles and lochs. We bought a childrenâ€™s history book and several short stories and read all about the monarchs and other characters of the area.
Trips related to Ancient Britain Project.
Hinchingbrooke Park – Ancient Britons Day and Archaeology Display
Archaeology Discovery Day
Grimspound Settlement on Dartmoor â€“ Ancient Britain Project.
This is a sample of what we have been interested in this year but it should be noted that as we learned about these topics, we also accessed lots of other skill and subject areas at the same time. The majority of our history learning takes place via â€œliving historyâ€ fiction, in other words stories written with fact as their basis in a way that brings it alive to the listener. Frances has a timeline book and we plot all the history we read about or explore into the timeline. We have used a set of playing cards that depict British Monarchs to portray the English history and plot world history below that, using simple and memorable events to prompt her recollection and colours to depict time periods. This is invaluable in helping her to understand how world events affect each other, and it is interesting to note that this method is now being spoken of as being something that needs to be re-introduced into schools. We are very much enjoying two books of these stories which our helping us enjoy Englandâ€™s past.
At this time the majority of our history work is based within the British Isles, from the myths of early Britain, to the names and stories of important monarchs. Following our trips to Grimspound and Stonehenge we enjoyed a protracted Ancient Britain project but we have also enjoyed learning about the Romans in Britain, King Arthur, Robin Hood, various Saints and Boudicca. (Please see Ancient Britain Project, included with report.)
We are now entering a new phase, prompted by interest in a historical figures colouring book, and are about to start looking at Richard the Lionheart, the Middle Ages and the Crusades. For this we have begun to use the second volume of â€œStory of the Worldâ€ which focuses on this period and will provide the resources for a coherent look at this period of world history. This book introduces regular map work as well as narrative and craft based projects and comprehension questions.
We also anticipate spending some considerable time on Egypt this year as it holds particular interest for Maddy.
Much of our geographical work is taken up within history studies, however notable topics this year have included Australia, where we looked at Aboriginal Art and animals and made illustrated maps of the continent as well as trying out some native Australian art techniques, Native American lifestyles, Tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes, African animals, landmarks of Britain, the spread of the Roman empire and why it spread in the way it did, clothing and town life through the ages and a variety of day trips exploring the varieties of landscapes within Britain during out 11 weeks away from home this year. We have also had day trips to Pick Your Own farms and compared the methods of food production there to our own allotment â€“ it was particularly interesting to visit the strawberry fields the afternoon after picking our own tiny strawberry crop and comparing the difference.
Other topics have included a mini project on views of earth from space, the solar system and constellations, all of which we anticipate revisiting over the next year or so.
One particularly special topic occurred on top of a Scottish mountain mid holiday. We found ourselves in an area that had been de-forested as part of a timber-cutting project. For about an hour we explored the remnants of the forest, observed the re-growth of trees on the surrounding slopes, looked at the effect of the cutting on the vegetation and found evidence of re-growth among the dead ferns and along the tiny streams. We found ourselves looking at a miniature landscape, with the greenery returning to the areas being fed by a new stream and were able to help the children relate it to some pictures they remembered of the Nile delta in a favourite book. It was a fascinating hour of observation that has stayed with them and been returned to for further exploration in the 6 months since the holiday. It was, in effect, the perfect example of our educational approach, allowing the children to learn from the environment at any time and supporting their interests and excitements.
Religious, Moral and Personal Development
This year we have read through a childrenâ€™s version of the Old Testament and spent some time working on some of the more exciting and memorable stories from it. In addition we have read several sets of stories of faiths from around the world, visited the Cathedral and Peterborough Mosque, followed the Christmas story through and explored its meaning and generally taken time to look at and begin to understand many of the religious and cultural clashes that make our world so complicated. We have also spent considerable time listening to Greek myth stories and discussing how their (and the Romans) idea of individual gods has changed into the more common single god of modern faiths.
We work very hard to be honest and open with our children and answer their questions. We discuss war, famine, and oppression and so on when they ask, normally prompted by snippets of news broadcasts. Recently we have explored the notions of charitable giving, Fair Trade buying, votes for women, child labour in the past and currently and the impact and realities of recycling on our world.
The girls have a current interest in Islam, mainly prompted by the large number of converted Muslim families they know, so our first task for next year is to spend some time exploring Islam and comparing it to Christianity. We have a book of Islamic heroes and a book on Saladin to bring this topic alive as well as a variety of factual books. Hopefully this will fit in well with studying Richard the Lionheart.
Art and Craft
This year has been a very positive one in terms of creativity. The girls have had lots of opportunities to explore new crafts, which I have listed below.
Drawing characters from a step-by-step book
(Observed) lace making
Necklace making with plastic and home made beads
Coil pot making
Free clay work
Vegetable and plant dyeing
Carding, spinning, winding and crocheting from fresh fleece
They are currently keen to learn to knit and crochet proficiently, having visited a farm and had the opportunity to make wool to crochet straight from a fleece.
The children have full access to computer, the Internet (supervised and with child-safe filters), television (in reasonable amounts), DVDs etc. They use the computer and a good range of software competently and are aware of safety issues when online. Frances now uses Google to find information and enjoys sites such as Cbeebies and Education City. Maddy also enjoys Cbeebies and also likes to use a set of software called Studydog, a US reading awareness game which has helped her reading skill enormously.
The girl currently attend a gymnastics class each week, ballet and tap lessons and Brownies or Rainbows. In addition we have a weekly Home Educators group aimed at 0-8â€™s where we explore topics such as Native Americans, Pirates, Dinosaurs, Colour, Shape and so on. Frances has attended a week long musical theatre workshop and also stayed away from home on her first Brownie camp and we have also had 5 week long holidays either on camps or in youth hotels with around 80 other children, all of which they have loved and had a fantastic time. They certainly donâ€™t lack for a social life!
We have visited National Trust properties and taken part in various group activities, been to some film showing for National Film Week and had a film crew visit our house for a day as part of a BBC documentary. The girls continue to enjoy programmes in simple foreign languages and have picked up some Spanish and French from these and we have also continued to learn British Sign Language, something Maddy enjoyed while at nursery.