Friday, 7 March 2014

Zone 00 :: Ourselves and The Learning Zone

This past few weeks I have been working on a permaculture based design for our home school.  Even though I have not formally undertaken a design course some of the principles are fairly easy to understand and apply to everyday living.  There are various design systems but I decided to opt for this one:

S ~ Survey
A ~ Analysis
D ~ Design
I ~ Implementation
M ~ Maintenance

Survey: I think Benedict has some form of dyslexia and as a result struggles with written work, sequencing and remembering instructions.

Him and I are both disillusioned with the current system.  He is not motivated and I lack inspiration and in all honesty we would much rather be doing other things!  Him ~ Lego and Minecraft and Me ~ Knitting and Sewing.

He enjoyed the rabbit trail before half term but when quizzed about what he had learned he couldn't remember a thing!  He can however remember what we ate last year in July at Mrs Miggin's Coffee House on the way to Beadnell!

Benedict responds well to interactive lessons; he has enjoyed the primary history interactive and dig it archaeological games.  He also enjoys autonomy when it comes to choosing the maths topic on Multi-step Maths.

He recognises that he is isolated but the thought of school scares him.  He is quite traumatised from his previous experience of school ( being to afraid to ask the teacher for help and feeling constantly ill due to the diabetes) and he projects this fear into new situations.

Since being tied to the school run for Pip, this has affected our ability to make good use of field trips in other areas outside of our locality.

We spend all of our time stuck in the same four walls.

We have different learning styles:
Benedict is primarily auditory, followed by concrete/kinaesthetic
I am primarily a visual with some kinaesthetic.

Analysis Part One:

Resources ~ We have a wide range of materials within the home:

Books ~ fiction and non fiction
Games ~ educational and those just for fun
Puzzles ~ jigsaws, word searches and quests.
Art and Crafts
Sewing and Knitting Materials.
Music and Story CD's
A well stocked kitchen for cooking and baking.
Garden waiting to be planted and maintained.
Manipulates ~ Lego, Cuisenaire, Montessori, Meccano.

Limiting Factors ~ 

Unpredictable Health:  This often affects our ability to find a workable plan for each day.

Time and Energy: We are following two different rhythms, Pip in school and Benedict at home.  Him and I also have different bio-rhythms; I am a morning person and he is a night owl!

Social Interaction and Isolation: Benedict's contact with others is very limited. 

 We have missed the fortnightly home ed meet and a get together with friends as a result of my ongoing poor health.  Benedict's diabetes is too unpredictable for anyone other than myself or Dave to manage, so leaving him with others outside of the family is not an option.

Benedict spends a lot of time in self made "comfort zones" as a result of this, either with Lego, Harry Potter books and computer games.  He also seems to be stuck in a time warp and whilst his contemporaries have moved forward and are transitioning to secondary school later this year, he seems to be still stuck in primary mode.

I am really worried about Benedict's long term mental health as a result of all the health issues within the family.

Feeling Overwhelmed:  We often feel out of our depth!  Benedict often feels swamped with information and struggles to break a task down into small steps.  The sole responsibility of Benedict's education and ultimately his future rests on my shoulders and I often feel inadequate to the task.

Analysis Part Two:

What functions are required to meet the needs of Benedict and Me?

Positivity ~ things/people/treats to look forward to.
Outside ~ regular time slots outside of the home.
Learning Styles ~ use auditory and practical techniques to reinforce a concept.
Creativity ~ junk models, knitting, sewing,photography,gardening, new skills.

What are the resource leaks?

Unhelpful learning concepts, too much desk work, uninteresting materials/topics and not enough variety.

What are our goals for the remainder of the year?

Benedict ~ to develop greater independence with tasks around the home, assume more responsibility for diabetes care, learn a new skill, nail primary maths and english!

Me ~ sign up for the permaculture  design course on-line and remember to action those activities which are good for my general well being.

Design Criteria:

It has to be sustainable as it needs to work when I am ill.

Instructions/lists need to be visually clear so that B can work independently if required.

Needs to have a core of subjects on a daily basis with other items around the periphery.

Desk work needs to be kept to short, twenty five minutes maximum.

Any desk work needs to be followed by a get up and moving activity.

Regular agreed rewards help with motivation.

Most Importantly, use Benedict's visual board as a planning aid!

Benedict worked on this design last week when Dave was away in Edinburgh.

So with all this in mind I designed a Learning Tree as our visual reminder:

It was interesting putting this design together as initially I had thought of putting the core subject along the bottom, since they would form the focus for the day.  However I realised that like a tree the system needs a healthy root stock and that could only be brought about by caring for both mine and B's general well being.  After all if we are nutritionally depleted like a tree we are unable to make new shoots and flourish!  The leaves are a reminder to spend some time each day nurturing our well being.

You will see that I have taken some of Benedict's visual board ideas and incorporated them onto the tree; history, den building and cooking.  Having a dog is out of the question but we do have an animal sanctuary not far from here so we could offer to walk a dog once a week, this serves several functions at once; he gets chance to be with a dog, we get out of the house, it is a chance to meet new people and they also have a cafe as part of the complex so there'll be a warming pot of tea at the end!

Implementation:  Our proposed learning ideas for next week are as follows.

History:  primary history extension sheets, you tube videos, make an Anglo Saxon tunic, horrible history books, map of Saxon England ~ have any place names remained?

Practical Tasks:  help mum menu plan and budget for an on line shop, continue with kitchen tasks, learn a new skill ~ ironing.

Creativity:  finish junk model space station, make some play dough for Pip, learn to knit a square.

Big Wide World:  library visit with mum, bake a snack to take on a walk.

English:  read aloud,narration and copy work on one day, grammar exercises on the days in between.

Maths:  multi step maths on line and maths around the home.

Faith:  bible stories, stories about the saints and general catechises.

Obviously the core subjects are pretty standard and the other areas listed are just suggestions to get us going, I don't expect us to hit all those activities in the one week but it will be interesting to see what we do actually manage to achieve.  In the past I have been wary about stating our intended learning as it seemed that any plan was doomed to fail, but not this one!  I will evaluate at the end of the week using the what worked/what didn't principle and make adjustments accordingly.

Maintenance:  There needs to be a weekly review for at least four weeks to ascertain how things are working.  I will need to design a user friendly chart that will identify if the design is working.  To help with this task there are several questions to consider:

Is the design helping to achieve the broader educational goals as well as both mine and Benedict's needs?

Are new problems being created?

Is the design realistic and achievable?

Are there any unnecessary costs?

If you actually got to the bottom of this ramble then thank you for your reading x 


  1. Dear San,

    I think this has been very good for you to spell it all out. I love your tree!! When I read this and the solutions you came up with on one page I thought about online classes for Benedict in addition to your ideas. Have you ever thought about enrolling him in one of the online schools like Fisher More Academy or Oak Meadow Online curriculum? The first one would give you help in Math, English, and Religion and would allow Benedict to interact with other children, even though it is over the computer. The second one would cover more subjects, but has it all spelled out for you and Benedict could learn even without your help if you were not feeling well. The first option might be a problem if Benedict got sick and he had to miss a class, but it says they would help you to catch up. I bet if you asked them about falling behind due to illness they would be happy to help you out and tell you if their program would work for you or not. Both options would give you a consistent program with some feedback from a teacher in the most important subjects. Both options are not cheap, but maybe there are payment plans available. Once he is older, there are many more online possibilities for him. (Kolbe Academy and Angelicum Academy are two schools that come to mind here). Oak Meadow has a Waldorf background. Benedict could read over the online samples and see if he likes it and understands it. Fisher More is catholic and uses Math-U- See. You could take a placement test for it and watch a demo video with Benedict to see if he likes that better than Oak Meadow math. You could also look at the other books they are using to see if they match his learning style (Didn't you do the Mercy Academy online learning style test? With that in mind you could look at both programs and see what would be better for him.). Oak Meadow does not have religion, though. Since he is an auditory learner, Fisher More might be better for him. Jonathan is also one and his online classes for literature are really good for him because he gets to listen and talk. He really likes to contribute and is always well prepared for his class now. Before doing those online classes it would take forever for him to finish (or start) a book. I don't want to interfere with your teaching and learning methods, but I thought a good dose of outside help might be good for both of you. Fisher More is also offering a webinar to help you understand their program. The drawback with them is that you would have to wait for the next school year to start. If you wanted to try a literature online class for Benedict you could try the one at Angelicum. They accept students anytime. There are also courses at L.P.H., but they have also already started, but might be of interest later on.

    Again, I hope that this is not too interfering, but I think it would give Benedict some feeling of accomplishment and encouragement apart from home.

    Whatever you decide I think you have found a great way to move forward with teaching and learning.


    1. Dear Eva,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and links to various places of possible help. You are definitely not interfering! Your help and support has always been invaluable and for that I am very grateful. I will check out your links over the weekend.

      Once again thank you so much for your words of encouragement and support.

      Love to you

      San xx

    2. You are so welcome! Have fun reading and sharing with Benedict. I remember that on Jonathan's learning style evaluations was written that he is very good at picking out his own materials and would know what would work for him. Although he needs a lot of encouragement to keep working, this is certainly true for him and he can judge like no other child of mine what works for him and what doesn't. That doesn't always mean that I won't make him do things I deem as good in general, even when he complains, but life doesn't always cater to all your interests, likes and dislikes, so good training here. Charlotte is the opposite, she hates making decisions and does not know what materials would work for her at all. Have wonderful weekend!

    3. Dear San,

      I just read that there are some serious financial problems with the college Fisher More Academy is associated with. I have not idea how involved the Academy is with the college, but for now it might be wiser not to look at their program too closely. I have been reading about Fisher More College for about an hour now and it doesn't look good what is happening there financially right now. This all came out of the blue. So maybe it is better to stick with programs like Oak Meadow or Kolbe or Seton or Angelicum or even OLVS. None of them has online interactive classes for little children though (except the Socratic Discussions at Angelicum). If interested, I can e-mail you more about the crisis at Thomas More College.

      Sorry about all this.

  2. I have no suggestions as I take a very different path, as you know. However I do feel for your quandary about where to go next as you will now from my blog. I may also feel differently in two years time when C is at the same stage at school as Benedict. Your situation is so different from mine in that school IS an option for me should that be what we need, it will never be for you and that burden must be great. Added to that your own health I think you are amazing. You are always mindful. Would it perhaps be better for your own sanity to record achievements/learning in a given week and then match them to your goals rather than the other way round? Whatever you decide to do I hope you find the direction that you both want.


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