When my eldest son was three, I was told by the local Education Authority that I would have to either move or home-educate as they were not going to help with his education if we stayed farming our island home. As so many families have been thrown in to home educating during the pandemic I wanted to pass on some tips that I have learnt along the way.
I loved having the perfect opportunity in the school holidays to play games with my children. They accuse me now of being far too competitive, but I argue that there is a difference between slightly handicapping yourself to make it a more level playing field and just being a pushover. If they had known that they were going to win every time it would not have been a challenge.
In any case there were some games at which I was hopeless and because they knew that they had beaten me fairly it gave them great confidence in themselves, but equally if I won at a board or card game it challenged them to do better and taught them how to lose but still get up and keep going.
I loved playing games with the boys and found some great geography games such as ‘Where in the World’ and ‘Explore Europe’ which helped my geography as well as theirs whilst we raced around the world. You can make up your own version using maps off the internet, train and flight schedules and perhaps mirror the ‘Race across the World’ TV show. There are lots of good games to play that use maths and english skills. Rumikub, Scrabble, and even card games such as Cribbage are great for polishing mental arithmetic!
The boys were lucky to be able to roam the island and had a lot of space to play in, but they also had to make their own entertainment, which really developed their imaginations. Rory used to fly his Playmobil helicopter with a washing powder bag slung underneath. He would take cargo in it from one place to another, mimicking the Northern Lighthouse Board helicopter that flew stores to the lighthouse annually here. He would say that he learnt how to gauge the centrifugal force and wind factors in order to land neatly on his homemade helicopter pad. Recently I asked Rory why he finds it so much easier than I do to reverse a tractor and trailer. He replied that he spent hours reversing his toy tractor and trailer and that maybe I should do the same!
It is great fun thinking up ways to spark imaginative play. Offer five props with which to make a shelter; five elements from which to make up a story and act it out; five obstacles that they have to negotiate to reach a goal. My father would amuse them on wet days with riddles such as the famous one about crossing a river in a small boat with a goat, a fox and some cabbages. Better still if you can make up challenges for each other and do them together. I bet you will be amazed at how imaginative you can all be.
We all learnt a lot from playing games and laughing together and I loved being a child again for a blink. I hope you are finding time to have fun too.