Learning by somersault


My daughter is six-and-a-half. In Australia, she would be enrolled in a school. As it is, we are on the other side of the world, so her learning is a little less structured.

She is at a Dutch school a couple of days a week. But here, school for six-year-olds is more play and less formal learning.

She’s rapidly learning Dutch, and her little mind is blowing and growing as she becomes a small bi-lingual human being.

Meanwhile, I am keen for her to learn a little literacy and numeracy for when we are back in Australia. I don’t want her to be too behind. So she is doing distance education one or so days a week through the public school system.

Between various work opportunities for parents, my daughter’s Dutch school, bike riding, visiting forests and living with lots of people, there isn’t a lot of time to do home education. And admittedly, structure and routine isn’t her parents’ forte.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter had a break through with her reading. Sounds started to blend. And she started to ‘get it’. It was exciting.

The logical next move would be to build on that, add more words, try more sounds. But being the unstructured, slightly chaotic folk we are, we went back to other things, and formal learning slipped on the back burner.

Two weeks later, after a four-day week at school {early mornings/not enough sleep/four days speaking in a second language}, my daughter was understandably exhausted.

After a day or so recovery, we attempted a little home schooling. There was resistance. Hesitation. Immediate giving-uppage.

As a parent/’supervisor’, I was frustrated. I possibly lost my rag more times than I am proud of.

We escaped, and went to the forest. She played on a fallen log with her little sister, and went from floppy girl on floor to alive and amazing human, playing in nature.

At home, we tried a little more learning. After one happy and successful worksheet, she was off up the stairs, busying herself with other things that interested her.

Next day, we make a pact. Nature play first. Then learning. Both children learnt to somersault and swing like monkeys from the monkey bars. It was 4pm by the time I could finally drag them home, and sit down for a little learning.

But of course, 5pm is a little late to start homeschool.

So I am pulling my hair out. Not because of my daughter’s strong-minded, spirited personality, but because of my own disorganised chaotic parenting. I’ve done this all wrong.

That night, my husband and I have a D&M. I’m failing, I said.

You’re not. She’s tired. She’s learning a whole other language. Maybe we just need to step back, and she’ll learn to read when she’s ready.

The next day, slept-up and back to former glory, my daughter bounced out of bed. She grabbed the reading sheet, sounded out a word or two, then insisted we go to the park. I need to practice somersaults. Bring the worksheet, Mum. Somersault, then word. Handstand, then word. Then the blood will be in my head, and it will work better.

The girls ran ahead. Pippi Longstockings and her little side-kick, Annika. We waited, while Pippi climbed over the fence, rather than walking around it. She couldn’t do it at first, so persisted until she could.

Somersault. Headstand. Climb tree. Word. And repeat. She disappeared into the bushes at some point with the reading sheet, to practice sounding out words on her own. Then I sat on the grass in the sun, with Pippi and Annika, and sounded out more words.

The girls played hide and seek. Climbed more trees.

It was after 6pm by the time we left the park.

This morning, I still didn’t have a structure or organised plan. But I did have a well-rested happy little girl, who was easily convinced to do her worksheet before anything else. By 9am, she’d done two beautifully, and a craft project. Now, she’s upstairs, happily chatting away to others in the house.

I don’t know if I am cut out to be a homeschool mum. But I am appreciative that my daughter is who she is, and learns the best way she knows how.

  • Ahh yes. They learn when they’re ready and learn how they want to. Ava doesn’t like to be pressurised to do her homework. She’ll do it when she’s good and ready. Your little ladies are learning so much, experiencing a different culture and language. They’ll be just fine 🙂 xx