Home education diary, October-December 1998

Our planned 'timetable' (see September 1998 for details) had worked so well for the first fortnight of September that we continued with it for the first week and a half of October. We were delighted to discover a local art class on Saturday mornings with an ideal teacher who encouraged each person to work individually, so we enrolled both boys there. 

Then we had another visitor - Richard's mother - who came out for a week, so we took a 'half-term break'. During that time Daniel continued doing extensive programming, Tim did some tapestry work and other sewing with his Grandma, both did music and read a lot, and they both went to their art class on the Saturday morning. We went for lots of walks, and visited a little village in the hills called Lefkara, where traditional lace is made, and where there''s a museum.

In the last 10 days of October, we continued with our timetable, approximately, and it seemed to work well.

In the first week of November, we followed the timetable - roughly - for three days, then on Thursday Tim was incredibly tired for some reason. So he read for a while then worked on his tapestry, while Daniel spent four hours writing a computer program in C++. On Friday Tim was fine again and we followed the timetable.

At the weekend we went to lunch with friends, who gave us their grown-up son's old electronics kit, much to Tim's delight. And during the following week he was so interested in it that he spent most of every morning experimenting, coming up with new functions, reading the manual, and generally teaching himself about wiring - something which is a total mystery to me so I couldn't help at all. Richard answered some questions and gave some advice in evenings, but mostly it was self-teaching. Meanwhile Daniel was still busy programming. We did French or Greek most days and also a bit of history, but other than that ignored the timetable.

In the third week of November, we were even more flexible. By then we were working on French Linguaphone as well as Greek Linguaphone; during this week we covered French lessons 7 and 8, and Greek lessons 10 and 11, as well as doing some French worksheets which I'd prepared from a text-book. 

Tim did a section of maths from the Steps book, Daniel did unit 19 from the Letts KS3 maths book. We read about Indians and the Chinese in the world history book, and also researched Buddhism and Hinduism, and they created sheets covering these cultures in about 1500BC onwards. We looked at a KS3 poetry text-book, and wrote some limericks.

In addition, Daniel spent time designing a poster on Corel Draw for the youth group, who are having a Tear Fund supper, both did some programming, both helped make some fudge and peppermint creams, both did some playing with midi on a keyboard we had been able to borrow; both helped to reinstal Windows on their computer, which had crashed. Then we took Thursday and Friday off, as it was US Thanksgiving, and the local American school was also having a break!

We continued home education - with less and less adherence to the timetable - until about mid-December, when we took a break for Christmas. During the end of November and early December, we did some more French and Greek Linguaphone, plus working on French CD-Roms of various types. 

We did a bit of maths, although not as much as planned, and Daniel did some programming, with help from Richard in evenings when he was getting stuck. He's starting Visual Basic now, something which I have no clue about! 

One morning, Daniel asked me what sines and cosines were, as he'd seen something in a magazine that used them - so I got out a GCSE maths text book and gave him a half-hour explanation, which he seemed to understand, and then tried out with my help. In one hour he had apparently learned what would have taken several weeks in school, three or four years later! Since he went on to use the functions successfully in programs, it appears that he even understands.

We did a bit more LOGO after a break, following a section about co-ordinates and equations, we read and researched about ancient Greeks and their legends, we read about chemistry elements, and then did some acid/alkali tests using Daniel's chemistry set which we'd brought out with us. Also Tim and I made our Christmas cake, Daniel designed our family Christmas card, and they both went to several carol practices before singing in the concert in the town hall, and on Christmas Eve in hotels. We spent a fair amount of time transposing carols in Noteworthy Composer so Daniel could play his clarinet with them.

Conclusion:

This 'term' seems to have gone well - having a basic structure appears to be a good thing, so long as we don't stick to it slavishly, and are flexible about doing other things as interests arise. The boys are still enthusiastic about home education - as I am! - and we're delighted to have found the art class, although Tim seems to be finding it rather long and dull. I'm not sure that the boys are covering everything on the National Curriculum - Tim in particular doesn't appear to be doing a lot of maths - but they're certainly learning plenty of other things, and enjoying life considerably more than some of their friends who go to school out here.

I'm feeling pretty positive about the whole 'secondary education' thing - there are some very good text-books around, and I realise that these days most science experiments have to be done by a teacher, for safety concerns, so we can probably do almost everything at home - or else find something on TV or the Internet. Anyway, it's unlikely that either of the boys will follow careers needing a lot of science. Tim has a very good understanding of electrics and electronics (or so it seems to me!) and use of tools; Daniel has an excellent grasp of programming. I doubt if they'd have done either of these things to this extent if they'd been in school.

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