My last post was meant to be about Home Education Groups but unfortunately I got a little carried away while explaining that my-children-socialise-very-well-actually and didn't get around to talking about the groups at all.
There are a lot of groups out there.
There's a great big group that meets once a month for themed crafts and playtime*, a science group that meets to do experiments, a conservation group that meets up in the woods, a book group which discusses books and shares creative writing projects, a construction group that meets to, well, construct things, and any number of other activity groups, sports groups and general social groups.
Then there's our new group.
It's a local group, started on the grounds that "we need a local group", and currently very small: only three families came to our last meeting although more are expected in future.
We're still finding our feet a little with this group, figuring out what the format is going to be.
Some ideas have had to be set aside, others introduced when we felt something was missing.
It's a work in progress but the wonderful thing is that because it is so small and new we are able to shape it to fit our needs, without worrying about the traditions of a dozen other families.
Currently the structure is something like this.
Thanks to the vagaries of the public transportation system Eleanor, Phoebe and I get there before everyone else so I find our room** and get things set up a little bit, locating drinking water and generally trying to minimise hazards etcetera.
Everyone else turns up, the children play for a while.
We attempt some sort of game or activity, the children either embrace this and run with it, reinvent it completely, or abandon it in favour of being pirates or something.
We subside into parental murmurings while the children get on with playing.
Generally there's some sort of free activity like building with blocks, drawing, or building with boxes then drawing on them, available which the children will embrace enthusiastically just as we're starting to wonder about lunch.
If the weather's nice we'll go outside to eat packed lunches and let the children play.
If not we sit inside and talk over our sandwiches.
After lunch we get out some more activities, we're vaguely attempting to add a theme to each day so if we've been clever these will tie in to that: next week we'll be doing dinosaurs, with play-dough fossil printing as my contribution to the activities***, last week we celebrated Yorkshire Day so everyone made white roses out of tissue paper.
We might include some reading and writing games like word jigsaws or Flagman****
Then, after the kids have had time to run about a little more we'll settle down for a story to let everyone calm down and get used to the idea of going home.
Finally we pack up all the bits and pieces, everyone says goodbye to everybody else, and off we go again.
It seems like a fairly simple, practical timetable put like that, but that's only because you can't see the joins.
It's taken us three meetings to get to this point, discarding some excellent ideas because they simply didn't work, adding others almost by osmosis as they seeped out to fill an empty space, puzzling over how to make sure everyone is involved, or how to deal with the tears at Going Home Time.
I doubt its form will remain stable for long: There's been talk of music for games or home time, someone will start bringing something, or suggest an idea, or notice a problem, and the next thing we know we'll be doing something new because "we always do it this way".
I don't know what our little group will become over the years, for now, like us, it is just beginning.
*Honestly, I could write a blog just about this group, the only reason I don't go into more detail here is Home-Ed paranoia.
Expect a post about that later.
** Which is harder than it sounds.
***Technically Eleanor's, in fact the whole dinosaur theme is her fault really as she wanted to share her project with everyone.
****Eleanor got upset when we tried to hang the man so we gave him a flag instead.
*****If an episode of Walking With Dinosaurs counts as a film.