"Mum, Mum, it's been snowing! We don't have to do school!"
Isla was referring to the conversation we'd had four years previously, when we'd discussed the pros and cons of home-schooling. Whether I had actually said, "You never have to do anything remotely schooly while there's a hint of frost in the air" or "We can go sledging for a day when we get the first snowfall" is somehow remembered differently by us all. Suffice to say, that for at least one day, and when the afternoons are conducive, the sledge is king.
We began our home-schooling journey in a structured way. Each day was timetabled and stuck to fairly rigidly. Although there is still structure in what we do, I have come to see that when the children are given the opportunity to direct some of their own learning, they are keen to take that responsibility and the joys that come from these aspects of our day can be very rewarding.
To some extent, I've had to develop faith in the fact that Finlay and Isla genuinely do want to learn. Fears that giving them choice would result in illiterate, innumerate adults are beginning to dissipate. Instead, it's a great joy to see them enthusiastically engage in activities which interest and stretch them and we are all glad that our days have loosened up in this way.
Sewing has come into this category. The cold weather has prompted a run on hot water bottles in the Dunnett family. Availability of covers has been somewhat scarce, however, and Isla especially was growing tired of tying an old T-shirt round hers each night. She had soon hunted out some felt, come up with her own design and wanted me to show her how to go about making a new cover. This was a short, practical project with a genuine purpose and Isla (and I) were very proud of the end result. Various sewing skills were, of course, learnt along the way.
Our afternoon list of potential activities is varied and keeps growing. Sport, music, baking, sewing, sledging, gardening, art, craft, photography, nature walks, and so on, are just some of the things we enjoy. They can be weather, mood or inspiration dependent.
It's a learning process for us all and as long as I don't make any rash promises about jumping in puddles every time it rains, we should be okay.
Flora Dunnett is a trained primary, Rudolf Steiner and TEFL teacher. She home-schools her two children in the Borders.