Beating those Recording Blues
Many home educators bemoan the fact that recording their children's learning takes as long, if not longer, then helping the child learn in the first place. This doesn't have to be the case and really depends on how you go about it. I used many different approaches over the years and designed a system that worked for us which generally took only five to ten minutes a day (when we actively recorded, which wasn't all the time). Every now and then I'd spend an hour or so putting together a summary and tweaking our learning plan to reflect any changes in direction we'd taken. That's not a lot of effort for an educational program for three children.
I think people say it's tedious and time consuming because it's something that we don't want to do in the first place. I've met parents who probably wouldn't be home educating if they felt they didn't have to, having come to it because school had failed to deliver an education that met their child's needs, or it wasn't a safe place for the children. Many of these parents use a school-at-home approach which emphasises teaching and lesson plans, text and work books or online lessons. The parent assumes the role of supervisor, often hoping the materials are adequate to 'teach' the content or skill required. Personally, I see home education as an interactive process, where the more experienced, knowledgeable person sets an example to follow, demonstrates skills, spends a lot of time talking and playing in all kinds of situations and circumstances, and involves everyone engaging in meaningful activities within and outside of the home. We're on a learning adventure together. With this kind and level of interaction recording becomes much less tedious and daunting.
Jotting down a few anecdotes or evaluative comments throughout the day in a diary doesn't take long. Keeping it all in your head - your goals and objectives, how it's all going, what you need to tweak, etc, is far more onerous for most people! Not only that, but it's very easy to forget those 'aha' or insightful moments where you realise or witness your child passing a milestone or suddenly 'getting it'. And it's easy to feel overwhelmed, begin to worry that the children aren't learning what you want them to, repeat 'lessons', run the risk of your learning program becoming 'boring' for the children, etc, if you aren't keeping track in some way.
As we moved from using a school-at-home approach to an unschooling one I found keeping records absolutely invaluable for maintaining my confidence in what was then a very much unproven educational approach. I collected anything that my children wrote, dated these 'samples' and filed them in folder, sometimes pasting them into a scrapbook. Cameras in mobile phones makes capturing copies of the children's activities and work so much easier! For my grandchildren I take photos and upload them to a folder on the internet, jotting a few comments about what I thought the children were learning as well as what they were doing. Over time the collection becomes a comprehensive record of learning across the curriculum. I make a mental note to include activities that illustrate learning in each area of development - this helps build my confidence my children aren't missing out by not being at school. A few words, an image - these were enough to jog my memory and enable me to talk for hours about how my children were learning and progressing - giving other people confidence in home education too!
What is important is finding a method of recording that works for you. As a home educating mum my diary lay open flat on the kitchen bench with a biro ready for those few words to be added at different intervals throughout the day. It has to be easy to do, on hand and visible or we won't do it.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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