School holiday time and it seems inevitable that once you have children your life is governed by those school term times and holidays.
Not if you home school though, for life and learning become quite integrated. And the longer our children learned out of school the more we realised that life is always full of educative experiences, holiday or not.
- Travel, going away, or simply visiting family in other locations provides new stimuli and opportunities to broaden understanding. Whenever children are experiencing new things, new places, new habitats, new cities or countryside, new activities from map reading or surfing to ordering your dinner in French or using public toilets in Greece (quite an experience!), they are learning. Their mind is being expanded and challenged, their skills and understanding are increasing, confidence grows. Even being in an airport or station can do that.
- New pursuits, especially physical ones, challenge our kids and when they are challenged they are developing. Challenges like ‘how can I stay on this skim board’ or ‘how can I raise some extra cash this summer’ stimulate mental development, and all physical activity increases blood to the brain and therefore extends mental capacity, as well as being good for the body and general wellbeing. It all educates in one way or another.
- The relaxed social interaction you get on holiday, with a wide range of people of all ages and from all areas of life, like visiting distant family or meeting others on trips and holiday venues, increases the children’s social skills and therefore confidence. It gives them opportunities to learn to interact in a more normal social setting than the tense and restricted one found in school. It provides opportunity for conversation, language development, increased understanding and empathy for others and many other essential social skills.
- Even time at home without being entertained gives kids valuable opportunity to think about personal pursuits and their own lives. Home educated children have lots of time to find pursuits that engage and motivate them. That stimulation spills over into many aspects of their lives, their education included and it teaches them ways to be independent in what they do, how they think and how they lead their own lives. They learn how to take charge of themselves – an essential life skill. Holidays provide time for school children to get back into the habit of doing what they love and find out what really makes them tick. An opportunity to have charge; an advantage in personal development that kids learning out of school have all the time.
So rather than breaking off from education for the summer we often found the kids were learning just as much from doing things they loved; reading in the garden, going out, creating, building and crafting, exploring and investigating their outdoor environment, or beginning a new project, and life was very much the same as it had been all year round. And when we got back to more academic skills in the autumn we found those had increased too, simply from having time to exercise their minds and bodies without restrictions.
Motivated children are learning children. Personal time to find out what they love to do and what motivates them is essential for their development. That’s why children educated out of school are often more motivated than children who’ve spent all their lives being dictated to.
It is also why the policy of preventing parents from taking their children on holiday in term time is so bizarre. Travel and all new experiences teach children something. Sadly, rather than acknowledging this, schools are more concerned about the fact that children missing during term time threaten overall league table results.
But holidays are as educational as term time. And when your children are educated out of school, you begin to understand that there needn’t be a distinction between the two.