People often wonder what the best hints are for frugal home education/natural learning.
I could say an AWFUL lot on this subject ;o) , but my best advice is to be satisfied and content with what you have, and model/teach your children to be content and satisfied too.
BUT as a home educating parent
it is still our responsibility to facilitate learning and provide
resources. Teach yourself to open your eyes to exciting
and wonderful ways to use what you have, and the things that come along
cheaply or free. For example - for small children if you find some little baskets,
or lovely wooden bowls in the op-shop (or re-use shop) for say $1 each -
that would be a sensible purchase.
Make sure they are not junky horrible bowls or baskets, and ensure that they are a pleasing shape and size.
time you are at the beach have the children collect shells or some
lovely rounded stones etc. The children can wash them when they get
home (make sure none of the shells have little creatures living in
them!) then put them baskets to be played with carefully.
idea can be used for seed pods, autumn leaves, acorns - all sorts of
lovely natural (FREE!) goodies that are so much nicer to play with than
over-priced expensive plastic faddish junk.
I have lists of "Things To Collect" in my Adventures In Natural Learning Handbook - one list for birth to approximately age 2, and another for children over 2 years old.
The best way to start a collection like this is to read through the list and mark the items you'd really love to have. Keep an eye out for them, or something like them when a bargain comes along. You can also request things from the lists when people ask about birthday presents.
These lists can give a family a good direction to go in to prevent clutter and rubbish and faddish toys that the children lose interest in, but have to be stored away annoyingly because a child has become attached to it!
I think many experienced home educators will have ideas on items they have purchased thinking they would be really good - but they have ended up being a waste of money/space and time. Hopefully my lists will give some direction to those who are starting out/want to clear the decks and start again.
Some children are REALLY drawn to having collections. I know that many parents despair when a collection is of LARGE items or expensive things.
Our younger boys are VERY GRATEFUL that our oldest started collecting Action Man figures and bits and pieces when he was younger - all Op-Shop and market stall finds. A pair of trousers here, a handful of weapons there, a boot here, a vehicle there, the swimming guy, the mountain climbing guy ... He now has four boxes full of Action Man stuff that the younger ones are allowed to play with from time to time. Another collection our oldest started about 10 years ago is a swag of these delightful fellows:
Smelly Bellies were around when he was very little - but they were too expensive to buy - and I was annoyed by the fact that the marketing gimmick was that each Smelly Belly came in an egg - you never knew which Smelly Belly was inside the egg. Not nice!
But, fast forward 10 years later and Smelly Bellies started to appear in the bottom of toy boxes at the Op-Shops!
Some were 10 cents, or 20 cents, some were 50 cents. I remember one very exciting haul - we found handfuls of them at the ReUse shop, I think we paid a couple of dollars for those.
We rarely see them now, so I'm glad our son made his collection when he did. What sort of collections do your children have?
Three of us started playing this game. I tried to get the fourth child interested, but he didn't want to know (we had never played it before, and he prefers to watch and see what everyone is doing before he tries something - I respect that).
However, by the time we were half-way through the fourth child had become very interested, and I asked him if he'd finish mine off because I had to go and do something ... er ... very important.
He really enjoyed himself too!
This is the way we played the game: First I printed out some easy-to-colour cartoony pictures of people. You can use anything you like.
Each player has 4 random colours to work with (actually I chose the colours carefully). We used marker pens, but you could use crayons, pencils etc.
You must colour the picture just using those 4 colours.
When the first picture is done your set of 4 colours gets moved to the person on your right, and you get a new set of 4 colours from the person on your left.
And so on.
It's really interesting to see how other people colour the same image with different colours.
The viking below was coloured by my 14 year old who is VERY good at shading and mixing colours!
A wee word about routine/schedule/breathing out/breathing in etc (depending on what philosophy you like!).
Different parents/children like different amounts of structure. From complex down-to-the-minutes charts that neatly orchestrate a large family with many jobs to do, to nothing written, no plans, free-and-easy-and-everyone-is-happy-with-it families.
The down-to-the-minute charts are fun to make, but they DO take concentrated effort to train everyone in how to follow the chart (I kno this from experience!). Also, Mum needs to follow up to ensure people are doing what they're supposed to be, and have completed jobs correctly. It's totally do-able if you have the energy and the enthusiasm!
The free-and-easy approach sounds great and it can be (I know this from experience too!!), but if you find your children bored and bickering, or wrecking things due to lack of direction, then you might feel to instigate a little more structure.
There is no ONE correct way. Find the way that most people in your family are happy with (sadly, often, you can't please ALL the people ALL the time!).
And in different seasons of your life you will probably have to change it up a bit. That's fine too.
Finding your way on the routine/daily flow path starts with looking at when you get up in the morning and when you go to bed.
It can help to make a wee chart for yourself.
Slot in any sleep times that younger ones have.
If your smallest is just a baby, then it might be best to let things rest for a wee while, till some order presents itself with feeds and sleeps.
So, after wake up, naps (or quiet time after lunch where everyone reads/plays/listens to music/stories by themselves depending on age) and bedtime, slot in your meals and snacks. Then you can see you have "pockets of time" to spend however you want!
A day at home with young children might look like:
Wake Up, dress, wash etc
Breakfast, cleanup etc (vacuum, clothes washing, make beds ...)
PLAY, mostly without Mum, or do jobs together
Morning tea, cleanup etc
Read out loud, puzzles, baking, colouring, Lego - together
Lunch, cleanup etc
Outdoor time, painting, gardening etc
Afternoon tea, cleanup and start tea prep
Play, mostly without mum, watch video etc
Tea time, cleanup etc
In summer play outside, winter play inside
(You can create "mini-routines" for any of these events i.e., bedtime routine, morning tea routine etc if you want to)
Because YOU know your children best then you can have things to suit their energy levels at various times of the day.
As your children grow the routine can stay the same if they're happy with that, you might notice the need for more time alone for some children to pursue things they're interested in learning deeply, or a child may want more time with you discussing things, researching, needing you to be more available with your confirmation, love or attention.
Routine/Schedule can seem like a complex thing - especially if one has experience of an institutional setting (school, preschool, kindy etc) where they NEED routine. If your child has been in that situation (or if you have taught in that situation) you might feel that it would be beneficial to create that situation at home. But you don't NEED to, and often it can cause more stress as you try to deal with "interruptions" and "zig-zags" in the day.