This morning was a big LEGO step forward in our home ed journey. We opened our doors and hosted a wonderful 90 minutes of LEGO led play. It was Cheltenham's first ever LEGO club and after today's success I'm hoping for a similar turn out every week!
All of the LEGO at today's club was Jenson's, (yes, he has a lot - I"m a car boot junkie!) We'd discussed how lots of children were going to be coming to our house to play with his LEGO and I had suggested he put any very special models on a shelf in his bedroom, which was out of bounds. He accepted that anything left in the yellow trays was there to be played with by everybody. I think this was a great exercise for him to do. Like me, he didn't know anyone who was coming, so to hear that a bunch of strangers would be entering his home and playing with all his LEGO would have been a big deal for a five year old. Being able to choose which pieces he was willing to share and which he wasn't gave him some control over the situation. It also made him think about which pieces were special to him and which he was prepared to share with the other children. That's pretty complicated stuff for a five year old to grasp. I don't think they cover that in the current school curriculum.
After we prepared the room, I asked Jenson to show me how excited he was about his new LEGO club. See this picture below!
Having had a great response to the event post on Facebook I was slightly nervous about the number of people that were potentially coming. We don't have a massive house. I've held birthday parties for Jenson and his school friends previously and those parties have always resembled something of a riot. I was sceptical about how much LEGO playing there would actually be.
All my doubts were totally unfounded. There must have been at least fifteen children in the room at one point, twenty five with parents and carers too. The home ed kids have a calm about them that I've never seen when large groups of children, or any children for that matter, get together and play! For 90 minutes they were engrossed in their activities, be it constructing, building, sharing, eating (food, not LEGO!) I have to say it was a delight to watch.
I've always sort of known it but today I actually saw the massive difference between school children and home educated children. School children are expected to sit, listen, eat, play, and learn on cue for at least 6 hours of the day, every day for five days a week. Having had to perform all day, come home time these kids are ready to let off some serious steam. Home ed kids just don't have that pressure. No one is expecting anything from them. These kids can get up when they're ready. They can eat meals when they feel hungry. They can play together when they want to be social. They can play on their own when they need some time out. They can hide in a den if they feel afraid and they can shout if they feel angry. Sure they have their temper tantrums but they don't have this massive pent up angst that you see in so many kids; that I saw in Jenson until he quit school.
I was particularly pleased to see Jenson mixing with the other children so well. There was one little boy who he took a particular shine to; eight year old David. He is an American lad who was there with his two brothers. This is the pair of them in the picture below. They sat and chatted about what they were making, they swapped components and when David got up to go and see his Mum who was sitting at the dining table with one of his brothers, Jenson quite quickly followed. This type of socialisation, where children of different ages mix freely is something you just don't get in school. At school, children are classed according to age and not ability. There are certainly far fewer opportunities to mix with older children, despite buddy systems, which I always feel are very contrived. Here there was no class or peer group. The children were able to play, move around, interact whenever and with whoever they liked. And they all seemed so happy for it.
As I moved around the room chatting to some of the children, I saw a lot of great models being made. I was pleased to see how far the LEGO was stretching too! Having been nervous about the number of people coming I had done a quick scout on eBay a few days earlier to see if there were any cheap LEGO bundles for sale locally. There were but I didn't buy any. I'm glad I didn't as there was plenty to go around. We had made a special stop at IKEA on our way back from Devon last Thursday and bought the yellow trays you can see in the pictures. They were perfect for sharing: shallow enough for kids to rummage in yet large enough for two or three pairs of little hands.
After 90 minutes of solid LEGO play, Mums started trying to herd their children home. There were a few protests, especially when they weren't allowed to take their models with them. Jenson however has seen the real advantages of hosting his own LEGO club; he gets to play with all the fantastic models the kids have made!!
I had considered putting an honesty box out similar to the ones I saw at BrickLive. An empty your pockets on the way out kinda thing! However, after spending all morning in the company of these children and after one child had handed in a 20p piece that he had found jumbled up in one of the LEGO boxes, I quickly realised that no honesty box was needed.
And finally, the shot below caught my eye as people were leaving. The shoes all looked really happy: kicked back and paired perfectly with laces lazing lovingly over each other. It kinda resembled how the mood had been inside all morning. Can't wait for next week!