The Changing Face of Learning At Home

Many people have – through no fault of their own – a really outdated view of what exactly homeschooling – or home education as it’s called in the UK – actually is. People still see it as children sitting around the kitchen table, or in bigger homes a dedicated learning room, following a curriculum and doing ‘school’ at home.

There are still some places where that is exactly what homeschooling looks like – school at home – which is generally a state-mandated control on home based learning. We are fortunate in the UK that we are not currently bound by many laws around how we teach our children, or what we teach them, so long as they are receiving an adequate education.

Some people follow the idea of ‘unschooling’, which is a term I don’t particularly like myself because I think it causes a misconception of what exactly it is. People hear ‘unschooling’ and if they don’t immediately think ‘lazy parenting’, they think ‘uneducated’. As a degree level student, who loved most of school, that is exactly what I thought – unschooled children couldn’t read, didn’t learn, and had no chance in life outside of childhood… but this simply isn’t the case.Learning at HomeRead more: The Changing Face of Learning At Home

How To: Help Your Child Develop Fine Motor Skills

The development of Fine Motor Skills in children is very important. We’ve all heard about them, but what exactly are fine motor skills and how can we help our children develop them?

I was reading a very interesting article, a hypothesis, really, by a teacher who questioned the link between various problems students face, and their fine motor skills.  Kathleen Fedele writes:

Ask yourselves how many of your struggling students have fine motor difficulties — poor hand writing, trouble copying from the board, poor cutting and coloring skills, low visual-perception skills, difficulty with puzzles and mazes, trouble identifying letters and numerals, as well as poor reading and writing ability. My guess is that nine times out of ten students who are struggling also have poorly developed fine motor skills. Students need fine motor control for eye muscles to focus and distinguish letters, crossing midline, and tracking — all essential skills for reading and writing.

As a Rhythm Kids teacher, I’m familiar with the need and effect of crossing the midline – left hand to right leg, left leg to right hand etc.  – and I know that repetition is essential for creating new neural pathways… hence the saying practice makes perfect, I guess.

Now, the thought of helping my child to form and maintain new bits in her brain (forming the neural pathways) sounds rather daunting, and I’m not much of an electrician, so I’m not too hot on motors and engines. Fortunately for a human brain all these things can be achieved through play.

Here are some of the things we’ve done over the last five or so months to focus on Fine Motor Skill development:

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1. Water beads. We’re loving water beads now that the weather has changed. One of the things we’ve done with them is transferring them from a wide bowl into a smaller bottle. That eventually turned into a sensory bottle, but more on that another day.

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2.  Transferring pompoms from one container to another. You can also try to move the pompoms from one cup to another with chopsticks, but pouring is sufficient.

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3. Pour, pick up, separate and sort coloured pasta. Also useful for learning colours.

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4. Coloured rice is a similar concept, but much harder as the rice is so much smaller than the pasta. It’s also a great lesson in patience, endurance and perseverance.

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5. Stacking is another way to help develop these important skills. Different resources have different numbers, so some say they should be able to stack six bricks, some say nine. I say stacking is stacking – these are round ad long, so I think three is pretty good! I struggled to get them to stay up!

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6. Threading pasta – I remember making ‘necklaces’ as a child, so some things do come back from childhood!

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7. Pebbles are a fantastic resource and my daughter has hours of fun aligning them, pouring them, transferring from one receptacle to another.

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8. Puzzles are another great way to challenge the brain and develop reasoning and logic skills. These wooden ones also help with numbers, letters, colours and shapes. We’ve also learned about animals through puzzles.

There are a number of lists online with both guides on what your child should be able to do by what age, and also lists of ideas of cheap, often free, ways of helping children learn these life skills through play.