Weekend Woes

The blog and Facebook memories app remind me that this seems to be a particularly tough time of year for us.  Week before May bank holiday and Cub camp seems to be a period of illness and high pollen count.

Two years ago the two things combined to give Sam the worse asthma attack I have ever seen.  Took blue lights, 4 nebulisers and about 4 hours to stabilise him.  He was fine within a few hours.  Gave me a hell of a scare though.

Friday night saw the worst attack since then.  Luckily we managed to get it under control ourselves using inhaler and the plan they’d given me at the hospital.  By morning he was a bit peaky and a little wheezy but attack was long over.  Made for a sleepless scary night and a weekend spent mostly resting.  We were both asleep before 9pm despite having a teenage sleepover going on.

Today had a relaxed chilled air.  Pete was about having got home from a few days away on Sunday evening.

Sam wrote a letter to a friend.  We started fractions in maths and as extension work got out the pattern blocks.  Then wasted a fair amount of time making patterns and discussing area.

20160425_7 20160425_10 20160425_11  There was Mathletics, Manga High and Timez Attack.  The last two we have not used for a while and there was big disappointment that you can no longer subscribe to paid version of Timez Attack (I had promised to for 3 months from May for the period motivation really wanes).  Manga High has also updated and is not as good as we remembered.

After lunch he read and watched me have a go with the FL mobile app course – I can now make my phone turn green and have a ball that bounces off the sides of the screen 🙂  Feeling quite accomplished!

Then we subscribed Sam to Code Combat – where he spent most of the rest of the afternoon.

Home Ed on the Go.

I have no doubt mentioned before how the term home education makes me laugh.  Most home educators I know actually spend very little time at home.

We aim for four days of what I think of as our core work, the basics of maths and English and the regular practice of languages.  Even this is happening out of the house more and more.  Rather than rush on coding club mornings we take it with us and work in the library before the others join us.  Then we have tables booked in the town library roughly fortnightly.

Friday was one of those table booked days.  Due to holidays and other stuff we were the only regular family to make it.  I’d planned to do some research in the library and it was a miserable wet day so it suited us to go along anyway.  That was always the plan.

We did English and maths.  I meant to photograph his maths because it was a lot of fun. It involved using various graphs to solve a crime.

20160422_102112 We spent some time trying to do our research in the library before giving up and getting some books out. We then headed over to the local studies centre for another look.  Half hour later myself and the lady working there admitted defeat.  Who knew that it would be so hard to find a map of local rivers?  Sam had not taken any part in the search having found a book on local murders to read instead!
20160422_112749 We had a little potter around the geology section before leaving.20160422_114955 20160422_115000 20160422_115058 A petrified tree trunk and Sam acting petrified (or daft).20160422_115207 With rain still falling heavily and motivation to do much when we got home low, we went back to the library for lunch and hot chocolate.
20160422_122917 Mint Aero cake.  Very nice 🙂

River Meon Estuary Walk

We made up for not going to Titchfield Haven on Weds by heading over there with my Dad on Thursday.
We were aiming to look more at the river this time and walked along the west bank and the ‘Scrapes’ for the first time.  These are wetlands reclaimed from the Titchfield canal.

We had a bit of a walk back to the visitor centre to pay (sad at expiration of Culture All pass) and found a nice viewing area and some bluebells.

20160421_16 20160421_19 We bought some duck food and stopped to feed them.  Always feels odd ducks on the sea 🙂20160421_24 20160421_27 20160421_30 20160421_32 20160421_35 Over at the Scrapes we found a seagull nesting ground.  Never heard such noise from birds before.  I did record a video, it is on the facebook page as struggle with videos on here.20160421_36 20160421_38 We stopped in the hide and watched for a while before heading off for a walk.
20160421_46 20160421_47 20160421_48 20160421_51 20160421_54 Sam was fascinated by the green stuff on the stream. 20160421_61 Testing new wellies.
20160421_65Bit of sea wall balancing 🙂
20160421_67This must be one of our favourite places for a walk.

Coding Challenges

This week’s code club was a definite hit.  I read though the challenge on Tues morning and thought ah he’ll like this one.  There was nothing I hadn’t seen him do before but it was a lot more complex and involved than previous ones, lot more coding involved.  He spent the bus journey reading and planning what he was going to do.  It took him the full session to do with a couple of challenges.

I challenge anyone over a certain age to see that and not think ‘Simon’!
So later in the week Sam talked me through making my own version 🙂

The early starts and long days on Monday and Tuesday caught up on Weds and I let Sam sleep until latish anyway but he was so sad when I woke him I left him there and he didn’t get up until 10.  By that time I had become distracted by a project, never a good idea.  My quick attempt to install all the stuff to the computer needed for a course on coding mobile apps (thought I’d get ahead!) did not go well.  In the end it took me 5 1/2 hours to get it working with a lot of frustration on route.

Reminder that for days to be a success I need to devote mornings (at least) to Sam.  Never works to try and split myself.  Concentrate on one thing and do it well is the best approach for me.

On a positive I did get it working in the end and have made progress in the course.  It really would have been a damp squib of a day if I’d failed after all of that!

There was a bit of escape and fresh air at the park.



Kidzania again

It is unusual for me to book a trip to the same place twice in 18 months.  18 months – 2 years is my unwritten rule. I think there are so many interesting places out there I want to visit different ones.  That said when we were on the train home from Kidzania last time they kids were talking about what they hadn’t done and what they wanted to do next time.  This time conversations on that line started before we’d even left the place.

It really is a fabulous place for the kids so much to do.  We’ve had two 4hr visits now and still not covered it all.  Plus the older ones can have the freedom to go alone as it feels so safe and secure.

The idea is they get to experience real occupations and get paid for them (not in real money).  Sam did the air conditioning engineer (several times), smoothie maker, ice cream factory and animation that I saw.  There are fire stations, police, couriers, shops, hotels, dentists etc to work in.  Taking photos is tricky due to light and trying to avoid other children and not being able to spot him most of the time.

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One of the best things about it is the social side.  I think off the top of my head there was about 50 of us last time we went and over 70 this time.  The kids go off and do their own thing (or with a particular friend) but keep bumping in to other friends and having the ‘have you done?’ conversation.  Many of the parents (that didn’t have under 8’s 😉 ) spent quite a long time in the cafe.
The journey is part of the day out.  There were 7 families on the train when we set out and 9 by the time we got off.

On the way home lots of people rushed off to avoid the busy trains, but a couple of us decided rushing wasn’t for us.  It actually took us 45 mins to get out after our allotted time by the time they had done the shop and bank.  So we killed a bit more time in book shops and the Lego store and caught an early evening train home.  Treated them to a build your own mini-figure each.   Turned out to be a good buy as after the first couple of stations when the train emptied they played very happily all three for the rest of the way home!  Virtually unheard of!

Finding the Right Words

Is so important in home ed and parenting in general.  The right words can make a complex idea click or a chore into a game.

I chanced upon exactly the right choice of words on Friday that took him from edge of melt down defiance to excited embracing of a project and flowing with ideas.  I’d love to say it was a well thought out plan and there wasn’t months of cajoling and resistance beforehand but heyho.

I have tried everything to interest Sam in creative writing and failed.  He’s never going to write for fun like Jack but I think we’ve reached the point where a bit of basic skills are needed.  I don’t think he’ll be interested in going to Seniors next year but like doors to be open and this is probably our big gap.  I’ve laid the building blocks and he can be very creative at times but he finds it hard and shuts down.  We have spent all the academic year working on bits relating to writing fantasy stories, a couple of sentences here, character out line there, very small short steps.  We’re now at the point of trying to pull it all together, it is all there.  He thinks he can’t do it though and therefore won’t try.

The frustrating thing is he has spent hours this week describing plans for imaginative computer games, so I know he can be creative.  Inspiration hit!  ‘Don’t think of it as a story think of it as describing the route through a computer game; the quest you need do to win, the magic items etc’.  Never seen such a rapid change, suddenly there was a file with a detailed plot line ready to expand on,

It was bucketing down and Jack was home ill so it was a day for catching up with stuff at home.

We looked at rivers and marked some of the most famous ones on a map.  We talked about the importance of rivers to humans and how so many important settlements are on rivers.  I made cards which listed some of the world’s capital cities and matching cards with their rivers and he used an atlas to help match them.

20160415_180315 20160415_111424 We moved on in science to looking at weathering.  We had quite a bit of reading to do and I made the mistake of reading denudation as de-nude-ation which caused much hilarity.  We froze a very full glass of water with a plate and weight on top and saw how the ice expanded and pushed the plate up.  We also took too wet lumps of clay and froze one.  Comparing them today.  Photo doesn’t show clearly but the frozen one was cracked.

20160415_130526 20160416_182417 20160416_182435

We’re sticking with Pop Art for art I think there is a lot more fun to be had here.  We looked at Jasper Johns Map.  After some discussion we decided Sam’s take would be flood filling on paintshop a European map.

jaspar johns

Rest of the day went to play, baking and work.

Fresh Air Fun

Thursday morning, I had the fidgits and felt the need to get out.  So Sam did his maths as he had some of Weds left, it was drawing pie charts and we hadn’t had the statistics the day before, I helped him find the data (I’d asked his questions on Facebook) and the left him to it.  Tesco bought me some food and I dealt with that.  Once maths was caught up on my Dad arrived and we headed 5 mins down the coast to Hill head.

There was a school group rockpooling so we stuck to the park for a while.  We’d brought a ball and kite.  Not a great deal of wind and the middle tension bar was missing on the kite so that was soon abandoned.  Sam played football for a while and I chatted with my Dad.

I then joined Sam and we spent a happy hour making up ball games using the space around us; slide football, kicking over the bank and target throwing through the bars of whatever it is.  Proper play!  Did us both the world of good.

We then headed on to the beach for some paddling and treasure hunting.  Found a large clam and an interesting pile of stuck together shells.

Lovely morning.

Afternoon, we started working through a proper KS2 computing curriculum.  It is really far too simple but by going back over the basic (using the workbook) I am hoping that it will get him into thinking about what processes he goes through and breaking stuff up into smaller jobs.

DIY club – Astronaut

Wednesday was our second DIY group.  We lost a lot of people in the couple of days before/that day to illness and circumstance but was a really nice session.  All the children had done some prep beforehand and had ideas and thoughts to share.  Exactly what I wanted the group to be.
Plus the sun was out so we spent half the session enjoying the hall garden.  Still really loving the hall.

We tested different soil types for pH.

Soil testing

Designed a space suit.20160415_121717

Gave up on the idea of a debate on whether aliens exist as they all said yes, so we let them explain in turn why they thought that then asked them questions.  I was impressed they had all thought about it.  The same was true when we discussed why they thought we needed space law and what laws we had and needed.
We also shared some Russian phrases, in case they ever encounter a cosmonaut :).

You can see Sam’s videos on the Space Law, Russian and Extra-terrestrial life on the DIY Astronaut skill.

Fog, friends and invasions by the French

Tuesday dawned very,very foggy.  This was the view from the top of the ferry.


I was leaving it to fate to decide whether we made it to Code Club.  Having scanned the activity, I knew we were still well within Sam’s comfort zone and I’m struggling to maintain enthusiasm for the early start/cost of going. He loves it though, shown by the fact he set his alarm clock and made sure he was up and ready despite the sleep issues.  He loves the social side of it and he is good at setting his own challenges.  He spent most of the session making new levels and trying to get the transition between them smooth.  I persuaded him to go and help one of the younger children too for a while.  I was feeling guilty for not doing it myself but was having what I though was an eye infection issue (turns out it was probably hayfever as I bought some very expensive eye spray in desperation and it worked like magic!) and was struggling with blueghness and iffy vision.

I think if I shift it in my head to a social activity and forget the coding side it will help me justify the expense.  Particularly as it is regular contact with a couple of people we only really see if we go to Portsmouth and whom he really enjoys seeing (and me their mums) so if we are going over nice that it is for something he loves.

I’m thinking we will make staying for the adventure playground the exception rather than the rule though, we both enjoy it to some extent but are rarely in a good mood when we leave.  Can’t put my finger on why. The only sessions Sam has ever been in a good mood after are the ones which have been virtually empty and he’s been able to enjoy playing with a particular friend.  He seems unsettled by the larger group dynamics and I find the petty squabbles that seem to go on tiring – totally minor, ordinary kids stuff just seems non stop niggling.  So I think we’ll head in to town or perhaps stop in Victoria Park for lunch most weeks, leaving Adventure Playground for the odd time we’ve got a particularly quiet week or we’re both in the right mood.
Return view on the ferry was a lot clearer.

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We stopped for a McDonalds for the first time in a long, long time, just felt the urge.  It was a very pleasant afternoon.  Sam talked non-stop about coding and various potential games, was nice to be out of the house with a relaxed frame of mind to just talk and listen to him.  I try but I am sure I don’t do it enough.

Coming along the sea front on the way home there were a ‘lot’ of naval ships off Lee and Stoke’s Bay, I jokingly commented a mini invasion looked in the offing.

That night was Cubs, we’re counting them down for the move to Scouts.  The walk to pick him up was to the noise of what sounded like a load of helicopters and the walk back to a booming voice from a tannoy.  Couldn’t make out the words.  Where I was growing up this sort of thing would of been hugely exciting and we’d have had to go and investigate.  Life is much more interesting down here and mild curiosity is the response rather than huge excitement.  I suspect the French waited for the evening sunshine to invade rather than braving the morning fog 🙂

Making It Up Monday

After pretty much 3 weeks break, Monday saw Jack back to school and Sam in need of a return to routine.

I know many home educators don’t ‘do’ school holidays with the argument it is all life.  While I totally agree with the philosophy and never thought school holidays would effect our routines that much, in reality though of course they do.  Very obviously they do now with Jack in school, but even long before then.  For personalities like me and Sam who naturally gravitate towards routine (creatures of habit), term time with Jack leaving and coming back at regular times (and the noise of the school run out side the front door), a pattern of home ed group activities and extra curricular clubs and the pattern of places being enjoyable to visit in the week day time means we fall into a natural relaxed rhythm.  That of course goes out of the window when we don’t have the anchor points of activities, our out of the house places are invaded by others, there are schooled friends to catch up with, to say nothing of a teenager (or several) hovering about the house.

Actually it is quite nice to have regular short breaks in routine, stops things getting too ‘routine’ and dull.  I turn my attention to other things  such as household jobs and work projects to try and keep our term day times as uncluttered as possible.

What I also do is plan for the term.  As I have mentioned before my planning is more a list of things we could do tied into certain projects and preparing the materials/supplies so they are ready to be picked up when/if required.  No planning leads to frustration when we want to do stuff but don’t have stuff we need and lots of wasted time and debating about what to do.  The point of the ramble so far is that because I was so busy with work and trying to spend what time I could with older child this holiday planning did not happen.

However we muddled through Monday quite successfully.
Maths and English were prepared back in August so they just happen with no effort.  Spanish and Latin needs no input from me.  So the core work which is the basic block of the day was easily done and dusted by 10 ish.

We chatted about future plans and bought some resources from Amazon.  Lot of discussion was given over to talking about ways to extend his interest in computers.  He had a go at touch typing using BBC’s Dance Mat.  We’ll settle for it wasn’t for Sam!  Touch typing he is keen on the loud, singing goat really didn’t appeal.

I decided to read through the introduction to rivers in our Geography Encyclopaedia as a stress free way to introduce the topic.  Possibly a good thing I hadn’t done too much planning yet as if I’d have done my usual list of ‘what would I like him to know’ I think we could probably tick off most things already.  He knew a lot more about it than I expected (we have never touched on subject formally), even being able to describe the formation of an ox-bow lake.  Turned into more of a question and answer session and decorating faces with (washable) pens.

20160413_4 We watched a few episodes of Horrible Histories over lunch.

Afternoon went in research and prep for Weds DIY session.  Lots of discussion followed about aliens and then random science and ethics of things like cloning and zombies.  Long discussion about ‘growing’ organs for transplant and the moral distinctions between that and cloning whole humans.

Sam then decided to build a calculator on Scratch.  I hung around and watched and chatted with him for a while before realising the discussion was getting far too surreal for me.  Lef Sam on Scratch and I headed off to do some of my latest FutureLearn courses.  Been really disappointed in some lately – I am very much I have started so I’ll finish person but have given up on a few lately or really struggled to the end.