For a few weeks now, I have been thinking about writing a post about how we are getting along with home educating Buzzbee, but between creating creative ways of helping him learn, in a way which is going to boost his self-esteem and confidence, and also trying to keep up with the unending housework, attend post adoption and school meetings, be a mother/wife/daughter ………. I have not really had the chance, until this weekend, to really sit down and piece together the work he had done during his most recently completed project on ‘Pets’
I have probably written this before, but very quickly after removing Buzz from mainstream education, I learnt that Buzzbee is not the kind of child who can sit at a desk and work through workbooks or worksheets – I can get him to sit for short periods of time writing or completing maths questions, but if I want results from Buzzbee, I have to be more hands-on with his learning, and using projects to do this is providing positive results and is allowing to cover as many of the National Curriculum subjects as possible.
Working independently or reading and writing is a challenge for Buzzbee and one that he would, given half a chance, avoid, but with a compromise of mummy writing down what he wants to say and then he copies it out in his own handwriting, he really enjoyed designing and writing his own ‘Pet owners guide book’ featuring not only how to care for his favourite four-legged canine, Beedog, and our resident felines, but our neighbours’ Guinea pigs have also made a guest appearance. In the pursuit of trying to encourage his literacy skills, I am finding that I need several tricks up my sleeves, but one discovery I have made is that Buzz finds too many words on one page overwhelming and so I have one very important piece of stationary that has turned a stressful exercise into one of relative fun and therapeutic benefit – ‘post it’ notes. I can write a sensible amount on a sheet then stick it to the page I want him to write on and then once he is finished he simply can remove it from the page and do what he wants with it (often this means him trying to toss them into the bin and Beedog intercepting his attempts)
Buzz’s projects tend to develop a pattern of their own and is always driven from whatever has popped into Buzz’s head that morning – and trust me his curious mind is never short of questions and, as I have said before, no two days are ever the same and often the original plan for the day goes out the window when something else catches Buzz’s attention. One example of this is a day that I had set out earmarking the day as a sneaky history of pets lesson, rapidly turning into a lengthy discussion and research about artists and their painting styles. By the end of the day Buzzbee had become a wacky artist and produced his own ‘Pup – Casso’ and ‘Kitty cat’ pop art canvas masterpieces.
Another day it will be obvious from the moment Buzz has woken up that today would be a tricky day and creative thinking would be needed to make sure he felt at the end of the day that he had succeeded in one way or another – he particularly enjoyed trawling through Pinterest researching handmade pet toys and treats and then making them (sadly the dog ate all the treats before I could take a photo but it is safe to say there were no complaints from her either for the treats or her handmade crinkly toy).
The original inspiration for Buzz’s ‘pet project’ came from his curiosity about who had pets and how they took care of their own pets. He started off creating a questionnaire and including all the burning questions he had and then with my help he bravely shared his questionnaire on my Facebook page and to his delight received more than 20 responses including the children of The boys behaviour (Mini and Dollop) , and The puffin diaries (Stig and Tink). When I say Buzzbee was delighted maybe a better description was that he was amazed and taken aback by the generosity of people he didn’t know, who were prepared not only to take the time to answer his questions but to send him supportive messages along with it. For a child who is mistrustful of pretty much all adults (Yes, even his dad and I) to suddenly experience and comment on the kindness of people he has never met, is a huge step for him. I cannot describe the feelings that overwhelm you when you hear your mistrustful son saying “Why did so many grownups want to help me by answering my questions? Maybe not ALL adults are as mean as I thought and don’t think I am a naughty little boy”.
Once the responses stopped coming in, Buzzbee and I began collating the information, and putting the answers into tables, which at some point turned into windows on a house and a roof (one window for each question/answer).
This then opened the door (apologies for the unintentional pun) to expanding his project using first maths and later creative thinking and 3D design with the help of Minecraft.
Buzzbee decided that using the information he had about the different variety of pets that people have owned and how many pets were in each group, he wanted to design his own ‘pet shop’. First we agreed that he needed to work out how much space he wanted to give to each pet and then work out how much space each group of animal’s enclosure would need – he chose a scale of 10 squares for each pet. As he was designing his pet shop, Buzzbee used his research and knowledge of pets to decide where each enclosure had to be – i.e. cats not placed near the birds, or dogs near the cats.
And as a reward for all his hard work (or so he thinks) Buzzbee was given a ‘free day’ and allowed time on Minecraft to make his ‘Pick a pet. Pet shop’ complete with inventive substitutions for a handful of the pets
- Fish were replaced by Squids
- The Bearded dragon was replace by a Spider
- Rabbits have been replaced by Silver fish
- And can you guess what the Guinea pigs have been replaced with? Yes that is right they are now just Pigs
While some who read this #WASO post will just see a post about Buzzbee’s home education journey, for me (and Bumble) this post is not so much about what he has been learning, but about his journey in gaining confidence in his ability to learn, which is something he lost whilst in main-stream education.