Pastels and Pottery

They’ve been the themes for our cre­ative work this week.

Wednesday’s art group looked at Monet’s ‘The Thames below Westminster’.

Look­ing at the con­trast between the sharp fore­ground and the misty back­ground the activ­ity was to draw a ‘soft’ back­ground using soft pas­tels with a sharper fore­ground using oils.  The idea was to do any scene they wanted.

Sam’s is a back­ground of space and plan­ets with a space­ship in the foreground.

20141121_2Here is his pic­ture study and review on last week’s subject.

20141120_30 20141120_31

Later in the week we looked at another paint­ing.  Geor­gia O’Keeffe’s Poppy.  Partly to con­trast with Monet’s Wild Pop­pies, partly to com­ple­ment our work on WW1 and remem­brance, but mostly because I love it.

This is sketched with chalk on a square can­vas and then coloured with soft pas­tels.
20141120_36Final burst of cre­ativ­ity was today.  Jack fin­ished school at lunch time so we spent a relaxed fam­ily after­noon in the local pot­tery paint­ing shop mak­ing Christ­mas presents and decorations.


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A Soldier’s Journey

Tues­day we vis­ited a spe­cial exhi­bi­tion at Fare­ham about the role Hamp­shire played in the First World War.  Amaz­ing the num­bers of men that passed through Southamp­ton Docks on the way to war and heart­break­ing the num­bers whom returned to East­leigh or Net­ley hos­pi­tals injured.

Introductory video

Intro­duc­tory video

Timeline covering Hampshire and the world

Time­line cov­er­ing Hamp­shire and the world



Exploring the life of a cavalry officer through sound and smell

Explor­ing the life of a cav­alry offi­cer through sound and smell

Not impressed with the smell

Not impressed with the smell

Reading displays on women's role locally

Read­ing dis­plays on women’s role locally

A sock knitting machine

A sock knit­ting machine

Dressing up

Dress­ing up

Making a memorial plaque

Mak­ing a memo­r­ial plaque

Finding out about different peoples lives

Find­ing out about dif­fer­ent peo­ples lives



End of exhibition test.  Full marks.

End of exhi­bi­tion test. Full marks.

At home we’re mainly learn­ing about the war through read­ing.  Our book boxes are crammed with books on the subject.


These are the main ones we’ve been read­ing this week.


Did man­age a rub on trench war­fare scene for some variety.

20141120_55 Plus watch­ing clips from this dvd from the free British Legion schools pack.20141120_59

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I often cite flex­i­bil­ity as my favourite thing about home edu­ca­tion.  Being able to retreat under a blan­ket on the sofa to watch doc­u­men­taries when laden with germs, being able to go out at a moments notice to enjoy a rare sunny day, or study­ing by read­ing books on the train or bus on our way to a museum or after­noon with friends are my favourite things about home ed.

How­ever, home ed also requires flex­i­bil­ity from our side too.  Best laid plans … and all that!  Been a week for hav­ing to change plans at short notice.  Luck­ily, we’re good at rolling with it by now.

Tues­day, our arrange­ments to meet friends at a museum were tor­pe­doed by toothache (not ours for­tu­nately).  We decided to save the Portsmouth Museum for another day and go to Fare­ham. All the local muse­ums have WW1 exhi­bi­tions at the moment.

A look at the museum exhi­bi­tion, a bit of spend­ing of birth­day money, a search of char­ity shops for ruck­sacks for the Ruck­sack Project and posh tea and cake, made a dud day into a lovely one.


He can’t look happy in any photo to do with the war.  It isn’t right apparently! 20141120_29


He actu­ally wanted one of these balls as his main Christ­mas present.  I per­suaded him to get one with his birth­day money and rethink that (£1.50 from Wilkos :) ).


Sugar tongs were a hit.  Cup of tea and Vic­to­ria sponge — ulti­mate treat :)20141120_3

Weds, I was caught on the hop when nip­ping to make lunch between Art and Span­ish I found a text say­ing Span­ish tutor couldn’t make it.  As all chil­dren were there we winged it.  Found out the last thing they had cov­ered was clothes so got them to make paper dolls and label the clothes and colours in Span­ish (we had dic­tio­nar­ies to help the adults not that the chil­dren needed them).  Then made Span­ish Christ­mas cards for their lovely tutor.

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Today went exactly to plan (so far) which is a bit of a relief ;).

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Home Days

We are lucky enough to live in an area with a thriv­ing home ed scene. Even with­out doing the larger groups it is easy to find that the days fill up with social and group activities.

In the inter­est of bal­ance I find we need some days to our selves.  I call them home days but like ‘home edu­ca­tion’, the home descrip­tion is loose.  They are days where we have only our­selves to suit.  Over the win­ter we def­i­nitely need them more too.

For us Mon­day is our untouch­able day.  Only some­thing really spec­tac­u­lar is allowed to intrude.  Jack fin­ishes early and is usu­ally home about 2.30 and I have Guides to pre­pare for so Mon­day is a good day relax­ing at home.  I also find the whole week runs smoother if we get off to a good start.

Can also see another change in Sam.  For most of the last year he has often asked which friend is he see­ing that day and grum­bled when I’ve said no plans.  He needs down­time though even if he doesn’t always want it and I cer­tainly do.  But when we were reassess­ing what we wanted to keep/lose/add to our social cal­en­dar he was adamant that we needed days with­out oth­ers.  Today, no query on friends, he did ask if Grandad could come and play though :).

We rat­tled through Eng­lish, Maths, Sci­ence and Latin.  Read and chat­ted about the First World War (sep­a­rate post due on that).  Did some brows­ing and buy­ing, and cre­at­ing a wish­list for some hands on resources. Then post arrived with a new Beano so he read that over lunch.

After lunch we went out for a scooter ride to the vil­lage to pick up some bits and pieces.  Then back along the seafront with some time in the skate park.

20141117_1 20141117_5 20141117_7 20141117_9 Grandad came round to play while I did some house­work and got ready for Guides.  Then there was still time for some com­edy sketches with the ‘sound machine’ and writ­ing of thank you let­ters before I had to go.

Scooter was def­i­nitely a good present and more relaxed approach is suit­ing us.

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Monet — Wild Poppies

First Art group of the half term brought the start of a new artist study.  This time, Claude Monet.

To tie in with last week’s trips and remem­brance day we started with Wild Poppies.


The pic­ture study ele­ment had been tak­ing too long as a group so I got Sam to do it before­hand.  This time from memory.



This week we opened group with look­ing at some of Monet’s paint­ings and a quick intro­duc­tion to the idea of Impres­sion­ism.  Fol­lowed up by read­ing the pic­ture book The Mag­i­cal Gar­den of Claude Monet


The actual art this week was a sim­ple copy the pic­ture job.  We started off with water­colour pen­cils (purely because I’d man­aged to con­fuse peo­ple with what they needed to bring) and ended up revert­ing back to the plan of oil pas­tels as pen­cils were tak­ing too long.


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My chil­dren will insist on grow­ing up and mak­ing me feel old. Yes­ter­day saw Sam turn 9.


The day before we’d spent some time at a soft­play cen­tre with lots of his friends so his birth­day was a much more relaxed affair.  He needed to be cajoled out of bed to open his presents as he was too busy read­ing Harry Pot­ter for the good­ness knows how manyth time.

We picked up his best friend Oscar from the ferry in the morn­ing and came back here where the boys played Sam’s new Xbox game, chat­ted, made a mess of Sam’s room, got on my nerves with the new ‘sound machine’ (every one needs a great aunt to buy those presents that chil­dren love but par­ents hate).

There was cake.20141115_2 20141115_3Play­ing in the park.  Sam’s present was a scooter so there was lots of scoot­ing.  Includ­ing scooter joust­ing with pool noodles.

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Then it was back to Gosport for birth­day tea in KFC.20141115_15 20141115_16 Some night­time scoot­ing round and round the fountain.

20141115_10I got to enjoy the view.

20141115_13Then I deliv­ered them both to Portsmouth so they could have a sleep over (or a stay awake all night over ;) ) at Oscar’s.

20141115_19Love how many hand made cards there are :).


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Science play

Life is all about look­ing on the bright side.  Tues­day was a mis­er­able, wet day but look­ing for pos­i­tives it made it dark,  which when you want to play with torches and shad­ows is very helpful.

We were start­ing this half term’s sci­ence project on light and colour.

First exper­i­ment was look­ing at angles of reflection.

20141113_6We the moved on to refrac­tion.  We sent directed beams through con­vex and con­cave lenses to see the bend in the rays.  One of those jobs that required too many hands for pho­tograph­ing.  How­ever they dis­cov­ered a far bet­ter way of illus­trat­ing the effect of refrac­tion by play­ing with the lenses and torches.  Self dis­cov­ery is always best.

Shin­ing a torch directly through a con­vex lens shows how the light is refracted to a focus in the centre.


While shin­ing it through a con­cave lens refracts the light away from the cen­tre.20141115_18Our sci­ence ses­sion fin­ished with lots of play with shadow puppets.

20141113_18 20141113_19 20141113_10Inspired use of one of my chairs to make a prison.





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That whole socialisation issue…again

Social­i­sa­tion and home edu­ca­tion comes up time and time again on home ed forums and is some­thing I’ve come back to time and time again.

In the past I think I’ve given quite a neg­a­tive pic­ture, it is cer­tainly some­thing we have strug­gled with.  The boys have seemed to have just been the wrong age or we’ve found things too hard to get to by pub­lic trans­port or we’ve just strug­gled with dif­fer­ent expectations/needs to oth­ers.  Some peo­ple are lucky and just seem to slot in, for oth­ers it’s harder.

There have been a few occa­sions recently when I’ve sud­denly stepped back and realised that actu­ally we are (well actu­ally Sam is) a lot more social than I think.

His con­fi­dence and inde­pen­dence has sud­denly grown hugely.  He’s sign­ing up to take part in lots of Cubs activ­i­ties with­out any hes­i­ta­tion, includ­ing nights away.  Most impor­tantly he’s caught us by sur­prise by sign­ing up for Gang Show.  It’s a bit of a pain tbh as it is a lot of com­mit­ment and he and Jack have dif­fer­ent start/finish times.  But what it has done for Jack in terms of friend­ships, fos­ter­ing a sense of group belong­ing and con­fi­dence can’t be mea­sured and for Sam to not only cope in the the busy, hec­tic envi­ron­ment but actively choose to be there is such a huge step.

The sec­ond thing that I’ve noticed is that he is find­ing it eas­ier to approach and chat to peo­ple.  I was watch­ing him in the break between laser quest games and he wasn’t in a cor­ner with his best friend, he was hap­pily milling around talk­ing to oth­ers, some he didn’t know.  I’m not sure if this is nec­es­sar­ily a change in him as he’s always com­fort­ably man­aged when we’ve met up with indi­vid­u­als or small groups of new home edu­ca­tors.  It may just be that he doesn’t have the same inten­sity of friend­ships that he once had. It feels much health­ier and Sam seems hap­pier too.  To be fair he’s never really had that sort of rela­tion­ship with his best friend, they only really do the ignore the world thing when they haven’t seen each other for a long time.

As a result he is much hap­pier in group set­tings.  Thurs­day we were at a soft play cen­tre.  Lots of his friends were there as being the day before Sam’s birth­day we’d asked them along (so a kind of party) but there were also some new home edu­ca­tors.  Every time I glimpsed Sam he seemed to be play­ing with some­one dif­fer­ent or there was a big group all together, lovely to see.

One of the biggest things for us has been walk­ing away from groups for a while and nur­tur­ing indi­vid­ual friend­ships.  I feel now Sam has a wide group of friends rather than a cou­ple of friends and a lot of acquain­tances.  Which is lovely, until the birth­day party issue arises and it crosses your mind that there can be such a thing as too many friends ;)

Think we’re ready to start dip­ping our toe into larger scale HE events again.  He’s grown up a lot lately and he’s ready and needs to mix in some of the older groups.

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Shifting Sands

I can feel the shift­ing sands under my feet at the moment.  We’ve had a period of calm where we really found our grove both edu­ca­tional and socially but once again the ground is shift­ing and I’ve been thrown off bal­ance a bit.  Not in a bad way, I’ve felt this often enough to know that it is the way things go, good to be kept on my toes. Life is a ever chang­ing jour­ney and home ed is life and part of that journey.

On the sim­plest level our approach to home ed has always been very sea­sonal. Not to the extremes we once were when the boys were young and we’d have a very home based struc­tured win­ter sched­ule and an almost autonomous approach dur­ing the warmer months.  How­ever the colder snap is def­i­nitely draw­ing us in and shift­ing plans, I’m in to busy period of work so that also plays a role in our routines.

But it is more than that stir­ring the sands.  Home ed group wise dynam­ics are chang­ing as new mem­bers become involved and the exist­ing brood grow, we’re see­ing long term activ­i­ties change and evolve.  On the home front, my Dad moved from North Wales to our road last week.  This is the biggest change in fam­ily dynam­ics since Sam was born.  I’ve lived at least an hour and a half train ride from fam­ily for most of the last 17 years and for the last 13 years we’ve been about 7 hours away from my fam­ily.  It’s a good change, but a change — there is another per­son to build into our week and it is going to take a while for us to find new rou­tines that work.  Finally and maybe most impor­tantly Sam is grow­ing up.  He is 9 this week and has over the last cou­ple of months blos­somed with con­fi­dence and inde­pen­dence.  We’ve new activ­i­ties he has taken on to work around and how we learn and socialise needs a bit of a refresh to accom­mo­date his chang­ing needs.

Inter­est­ing times ahead.

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Costs — School v’s Home Ed

Fol­low­ing on from this BBC arti­cle there has been a lot of dis­cus­sion on home ed forums about rel­a­tive costs.  The over­whelm­ing major­ity of peo­ple claim home ed is cheaper, makes me won­der how they home edu­cate and what school they send their chil­dren too. as that is so not my experience.


So far School child has cost me around £30 in clothes for this aca­d­e­mic year.  He still fit­ted most of last years uni­form so just have new shoes and 2 pairs of trousers and some socks.  Even last year with the whole kit it rolled in at less than £100 for clothes, £150 if you include shoes and train­ers — only other footwear he has are hik­ing boots.  He needs and costs me far less in clothes now.  He spends most of his time in uni­form, school or scouts (that usu­ally gets 3 air­ings a week), or pyja­mas.  Of course he needs other clothes for weekends/holidays but far less and they last far longer.  Non-school child still needs school trousers and shoes for scouts and other ‘smart’ needs.  He also needs more in vari­ety of clothes and footwear and they seem to get trashed quicker.  Plus he’s with me!  Now Jack is in school clothes shop­ping is lim­ited to a once a year online shop from Sports Direct and a few bits for Christ­mas.  Sam passes through places with me and we see stuff we like and pick up bits here and there.


School child cycles pretty much every day.  Bus is for really wet and windy days, punc­ture or other bike prob­lems and far below par days.  Prob­a­bly comes in at con­sid­er­ably less than £50 a year.  I am not sure I want to think about how much I spend on trans­port going on trips and to home ed activ­i­ties with Sam — last week buses, fer­ries and trains came in to around £75.  It was a busy week and included a trip to Lon­don and a boat there.  How­ever even though we have reduced excur­sions from what the once were, I’d be sur­prised if I get much change from £50 most months just on local trans­port plus we’ve been to Lon­don 3 times this term already.


Is this really a school cost?  Always sur­prised to see it included.  If you have chil­dren sur­prise, sur­prise they do need feed­ing.  Only spe­cial things I buy for school are car­tons of drink which roll in at oh £3 a month? Every­thing else is bread, cheese, cucum­ber, fruit etc.  Stan­dard inclu­sions in the weekly shop.  I sup­pose he does have an amaz­ing abil­ity to get through lunch boxes so can add maybe £10 a year there!  Home eding we often end up pick­ing up lunch out because I haven’t had time to pre­pare or we need to retreat to the warmth for a cof­fee and a break.  Def­i­nitely could cut costs if I had to here but would not be cheaper than school lunches, would just be the equiv­a­lent of school lunches taken out.  Eat­ing at home is no cheaper, a sand­wich is still a sand­wich whether you take it to school or make and eat it fresh.


I guess this is where per­cep­tion comes into it and there is a marked dif­fer­ence in Primary/Secondary.  We only did a year of Pri­mary and there was more of a drip, drip £5 here, £10 here — some that did make me roll my eyes.  I can imag­ine it mount­ing up.  Sec­ondary doesn’t seem to ask for money for small trips.

At Sec­ondary trips cost £100’s how­ever lim­ited num­bers go and the pres­sure to sign up isn’t there.  The most expen­sive one Jack has done so far was £40 to go and watch Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­tory.  But if he does do more (and I am hop­ing he will) then to me they are not a school cost.  They are vol­un­tary oppor­tu­ni­ties being offered to my child.  He and we wouldn’t dream of sign­ing up purely because oth­ers are it is the oppor­tu­nity that is key and if some one was to offer the same oppor­tu­nity to Sam I’d grasp it for him too if he wanted.  If I want to repli­cate the same oppor­tu­ni­ties for trips abroad as the school offers it would cost far more as we would all be going.  In some cases that is prefer­able of course, things we’d like to do as a fam­ily in oth­ers I’ll hap­pily pay the teach­ers to do the hard work.

I do spend a lot on home edu­cat­ing days out (mostly on trans­port and food which I’ve already cov­ered).  I could cut down but get­ting out to muse­ums etc and expe­ri­enc­ing and see­ing is such a cen­tral part of our edu­ca­tion phi­los­o­phy that to save here would change the way we edu­cate and I wouldn’t be pro­vid­ing as good an edu­ca­tion as I want.


Mine read a lot.  School v’s home has no impact on costs for gen­eral read­ing mat­ter.  Apart from J has access to a bet­ter library at school than the local children’s one.

For text books, I have spent £1.98 on bag size dic­tio­nar­ies for Jack since he started school.  How much have I spent on edu­ca­tional books, resources and tutor­ing for Sam in the last 2 and a bit years?  A lot!  I would esti­mate about £100 a month eas­ily.  I could spend less but I can afford what I do spend and books and hands on mate­ri­als play such a big roll in our edu­ca­tion style.  We do sell on stuff after use so do recoup some of the costs.


At school they are all cov­ered and Jack attends 2 or 3 free after school clubs.  At home all this needs pay­ing for indi­vid­u­ally.  Of course it is optional and actu­ally for Sam doesn’t cost that much.  What he does as evening activ­i­ties he would still do if at school.  But to give him the same oppor­tu­ni­ties as Jack to take part in group sports and/or drama would add up.

Char­ity Donations:

Another gap between Sec­ondary and Pri­mary I expect.  Unless a child is moti­vated to organ­ise some­thing them­selves at Sec­ondary then the char­ity con­tri­bu­tions asked for by the school (well J’s school) are £5 a year ish.  Aware Pri­mary rates are a lot higher!


School =free, home ed = costs.


This is the biggest finan­cial fac­tor.  Home edu­cat­ing requires very inven­tive strate­gies if both par­ents are to work.  How­ever, many man­age it (includ­ing us) and school is not child­care, there are hol­i­days, sick days, early fin­ishes, sports days and parent’s meet­ings.  I did com­ment that when Jack was in pri­mary school there were weeks it felt like you were there every day for some­thing.  Work and chil­dren are a hard com­bi­na­tion to balance.


The bot­tom line though is the costs of home ed and state school do not com­pare as they are so dif­fer­ent an expe­ri­ence.  For me home ed is more com­pa­ra­ble to and def­i­nitely cheaper than an Inde­pen­dent school.

I do spend a lot on home ed and there are sav­ings I could make but for me I feel that to offer the depth of edu­ca­tion I want we need the books, resources and days out.  We need tutors to fill the gaps in my skills (lan­guages and music really), the home ed group costs to get the group experience/social aspect.  We don’t spend a lot on any one thing but it does add up.  But for Sam home edu­ca­tion is undoubt­edly a hap­pier and health­ier place and you can’t put a value on that.

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