The Mona Lisa (as you’ve never seen her before!)

About 6 months or so ago, Lego Boy started at an art class.  He’s not really shown too much interest in drawing before, much preferring to have Lego bricks in his hand than a pencil.
But this group is held on a Wednesday morning and is attended mainly by homeschoolers (which is a rarity here, there are very few homeschool-specific groups) so we thought he could try it out and see how it went.

He loves it.

Right from the start it became clear that Carmen, his teacher, has a passion for art, and a passion for sharing that with her classes.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from Lego Boy, based on his previous lack of interest in the subject.
So when we were invited to a La Joconde exhibition (thats Mona Lisa to non-francophones) I was interested to see what he had produced, particularly as he hadn’t been in the class long.

I was blown away.

La Joconde

The difference in his art in just a few weeks was incredible.

At the exhibition there were slips of paper with adjectives on.  We had to stick an appropriate word below the pictures that we liked.  At the end, each child got a certificate according to the most popular word under his/her painting.

Lego Boy got:

La Joconde la plus brillante.

The theme for this semester is Alice in Wonderland.  I can’t wait for the exhibition at Christmas 🙂

You’re just on holiday all the time!

So declared a neighbour’s kid to Lego Boy one day.   She definitely struggles with the idea that he doesn’t go to school and you can see her thinking it through, and occasionally she’ll come out with pronouncements like that.

Lego Boy is a bit bemused by it all.  As getting his education outside of school has always been an option for him, and even though he knows that the vast majority of children go to school, to him it is such a simple idea, that he doesn’t get what is so hard for others to understand.

He is aware that he is lucky that we give him the option (although sometimes he isn’t sure why all children don’t get that choice from their parents) of going to school or not………

(And he certainly doesn’t think that he is on holiday all the time. In fact there are times when he gets quite cross when I ask him to do something)

But, we only do a couple of hours of more formal work a day, so yes, the rest of the day can seem like a holiday.

Do you have holidays, like half term and Easter

We definitely have ‘time off’.  Whether this is in line with the cantonal school holidays depends.  It depends on if we are doing something particularly engaging that we wish to continue with, or if we need to catch up oth a few things (which I’m aware is a slightly abstract concept, as we don’t have deadlines), or if we just need a bit of a break from sitting down at the table.

This last week though was Relaches, Swiss Romande equivalent of half term.  It normally means kids and families take off for the mountains for a week of skiing, or children spend a week with grandparents.  For us, it usually means at least a few early mornings and a bit of one-on-one time for me and Dino Girl. This is because, with a bit of searching, (and not always online, as the Swiss don’t seem to be huge internet users, particularly businesses) I sign Lego Boy up for one or more workshops, or ateliers.

Last year, he spent a whole week with the maison de quartier sous gare (sort of like a youth club) away skiing. He didn’t want to do the same this year, as he said that 5 days skiing in the morning and the afternoon with no choice to opt out was way too much for him.

However this year I was a little slack in looking for something. A friend saved the day. She told me about Un Jour, Deux Musées, a workshop between two local museums, the Alimentarium and the Musée de Jeu. As they have just moved back to Switzerland and their eldest, F, is not so confident in French, we booked the same day for Lego Boy and F to go to. Unfortunately on the day, F was ill, so Lego Boy went on his own. He had a great time. The morning was spent in the kitchens of the food museum making vegetable lasagne, salad and dessert (never could get out of him what dessert was as he didn’t like it). After a few games and eating what they’d made, they walked to the next village and the games museum (situated in a castle), where they spent the afternoon playing loads of board games and playing in the castle grounds.
As F didn’t want to miss out, we booked for both of them to go a couple of days later. The woman seemed concerned that Lego Boy was doing the same thing again, but seemed placated when I said that he was helping his friend to understand what was going on.

The rest of half term week was spent pretty much as normal, although his yoga, theatre and art classes were cancelled. After a couple of weeks of not doing much ‘work’ we decided to do a couple of tasks each day, just to keep our hand in. Or something.

I guess I should probably start thinking about activities for the Easter holidays now…


That is how much apparently it costs for Lego Boy to become aware of the passing of time, to make him realise that its always better to do what you have to do, what you’ve been asked to do, before you do what you want to do.

4.95CHF: the price of an analog clock in Coop, the local supermarket.

We are lucky in that we now have space for a ‘school room’. Schoolroom implies that we do school work, that we follow a curriculum, but we don’t.  However ‘learning lab’ doesn’t sit well with me, neither does ‘education space’ or ‘work room’.  However it is a room with lots of books, a table, pens, pencils and a computer, so hopefully you get the idea of its function.

Every morning when Lego Boy gets up, he goes straight to his computer.  He loves watching lego reviews on you tube and checking out the lego website to find out the latest lego sets, their pieces (and their price, so he can figure out how long before he can afford to buy it).  Normally, this is by 7am/7.30am.  Any time before that and I suggest he goes back to bed (here we’ll gloss over how lightly I sleep that I wake at the slightest sound, maybe thats for another post).

I always  like to try and start ‘work’ at 9am, as we normally do a couple of hours, and therefore we can be done before lunchtime with plenty of time to get to the shops if we need to get something for lunch.
Before we start, I ask him to be dressed, have clean teeth, had breakfast and sorted out the chickens (not every day, as we take it in turns).  Even though he normally has at least 90 minutes to do these things, up until today he is normally so engrossed in the computer that at 8.30am I have to remind him what he has to do, and so it is always a rush and a bit stressy (I know that if we had a later start time it would still be the same thing).

This morning, having bought the clock and just put it in the room, with no reminder from me, at 8am he came downstairs stating that he was going to do the chickens so that he was ready in time.

I was speechless…..which takes a lot.

I know this may seem a small thing, and there are those of you who are wondering how I could possibly write a blog post about this, please believe me when I say that this morning everything just seemed so much calmer, and as a bonus all formal learning was done by 10.30, which meant I could plonk my self-pity at my cold on the sofa with my crochet and Murder She Wrote.

So, today’s Tip of the Day? Buy a clock.

Back to ‘School’

We home educate/home school our children. Okay, so Dino Girl is only 2.5, but I include her in this because for us, home schooling is part of our family life, it is as much a lifestyle choice as anything.

(I intend to do a ‘Why’ post at some point, just because people always seem interested, but for the moment, this is mainly a ‘How’ post)

In Switzerland, all 26 cantons have differing education laws.  Home education is included in this.  In some cantons it is illegal, in some you have to be a qualified teacher, but in our canton, which is probably the most liberal of the lot, we are free to home educate as we wish, just having to have a yearly inspection.  We had  our first one in November, and passed, no problem. (She talked to us about our approach, and asked Lego Boy to show her some work.  She was only really interested in the few workbooks he’d done, rather than the more interesting (to us and him) projects, which to us gave us a good indication of the departments attitude to home ed.)

A friend once explained our approach as eclectic.  I think this is a good description.  We don’t follow a curriculum.  We aren’t very structured, but we aren’t completely unstructured either.  We don’t unschool, although I think if we lived somewhere, like the UK, where there are no inspections, then we would explore unschooling more.

Since moving house we have a dedicated room to work in.  The benefits of this are that everything is contained in one space, and I don’t have to constantly clear the dining table to eat every day.  Of course we are not restricted to this room; we read in bed, craft normally happens in the warmer months in the conservatory or outside (easier to clean up) and we are often out and about.

Lego Boy seems to prefer structure in terms of knowing when we are going to start every day (normally 9am, but sometimes earlier if we are ready) but we have no fixed timetable for when we do things. Normally the night before I will write a list of things we are going to do on top of the chest of drawers and each drawer contains the items needed for that task (books, paper, etc).

How do I decide what we are going to do? I consider what we did that day, what projects are ongoing, if Lego Boy has shown an interest in something new recently, and then we also have the basics too. We live in the French speaking part of Switzerland, so although we don’t teach in French, it is important that Lego Boy is able to converse and work in French particularly if he decides to go to school at any time. The inspector is only really interested in French, Maths and German for the swiss and people here long term. He doesn’t have to start learning German until next year (and we’re lucky that The Hub is fluent in German and works in the German speaking part of Switzerland), and Lego Boy seems to take after both his parents when it comes to Maths, even though he doesn’t believe he is any good at it (no idea where that came from). So its just the French. He has a French teacher for an hour a week, and she focusses mainly on grammar and pronunciation. With me, he does reading, spelling and all other general French stuff (French teaching (for native speakers) seems to be very ‘old school’ here, with lots of focus on grammar, hand writing and copywork).

As an example, this is what we have planned for today.
French spelling, English spelling (using Montessori reading word lists), reading aloud his French book Pit Le Pingouin, Life of Fred (a series of Maths story books based on Maths in life), making a cuneiform tablet, reading a chapter of The Story of the World history book, working on his Pets project for a presentation to our homeschool group, and continuing to read The Hobbit, which he is really enjoying and we will probably do a project about when he has finished it.
This will be done in about 2 hours, and then he is free to play and do as he chooses.

He also goes to a yoga class, has theatre group, goes iceskating with friends, is part of an English homeschool group, goes on trips with a youth group, goes skiing with The Hub at weekends, and has regular playdates with friends and neighbours. He has a social life that I am envious of!

And now, as it is past 9am (and I have already lost a draft of this blog post) we need to get to it. We can’t have him slacking now, can we? 😉