Houses of Parliament

Yes­ter­day was one of those remem­ber for a long time/for ever trips.

Pot­tered up to Lon­don for a stroll on South­bank, cof­fee in the shadow of West­min­ster Abbey and then an edu­ca­tional visit to Parliament.



We toured Houses of Com­mons and Lords and sat in the gal­leries while they were in ses­sion, saw the old parts where the court sat that sen­tenced Charles the 1st, stopped in Cen­tral Lobby a few times which was amazing!

We spot­ted some famous faces such as Floella Ben­jamin in the Lords.  The most famous per­son we saw though would hap­pen to be my least favourite politi­cian ever — Ed Balls!  Unfor­tu­nately I was too busy wor­ry­ing about get­ting on the esca­la­tor (bit of a pho­bia of down esca­la­tors usu­ally avoid at all costs, I can just about cope if no one is behind me and I don’t feel rushed and who was behind me but Ed Balls!) to turn round and kick him in the shin.

Pho­tos not allowed not sur­pris­ingly in main area.  But here’s one of the old hall.

20150324_8After the tours we did a vot­ing work­shop, which turned out to be a lot more relaxed and fun than anticipated.

20150324_9 20150324_10We then had a ques­tion and answer ses­sion with my local MP.  I actu­ally like her a lot more now as she coped valiantly with the fact that a lot of the kids lived out of con­stituency and didn’t know or care who she was, she instead got to lis­ten to a story about cats poo­ing on someone’s lawn but it was okay as the own­ers moved a few weeks ago so they don’t need the MP to go and talk to them any­more.  Then it just degen­er­ated into what the kids would do in power, lots of very wor­thy sug­ges­tions and lots of dis­cus­sion on the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of giv­ing every­one a hamster!

They also sup­plied us with a load of fab­u­lous free resources.


I’d worked myself up into a state of worry the day before most unlike me.  In the end my worry over the num­ber of adults going in and them even expect­ing us was put to rest early morn­ing.  We ended up in the wrong place but that was their instruc­tions and most groups do the same appar­ently!  All went fine until we got back to Fare­ham and I ended up with one vom­it­ing child and one des­per­ate for the toi­let with no work­ing toi­lets on the sta­tion — in my dooms­day imag­in­ings I’ll take that as an accept­able low point on an oth­er­wise fan­tas­tic day.

Oh and here’s our South­bank sight of the day (love South­bank always throws up the weird and won­der­ful).  He was giv­ing it every­thing, wig­gling and singing and you can’t see the ran­dom plas­tic animals.



Posted in Days Out, Politics, PSHE | Tagged | Leave a comment

Filling in the Gaps

I have a habit, prob­a­bly like most blog­gers, of focus­ing on groups, trips and projects but so much more goes on. So here’s a brief sum­mary of what else we man­aged this last week.


Mainly Math­let­ics, focus­ing on col­umn addi­tion and sub­trac­tion and some mul­ti­pli­ca­tion.  Sup­ple­mented with Timez Attack.


Hand­writ­ing was prac­tised.  We use Getty Dubay.  Work­ing on book C so start­ing to learn cur­sive.  Gram­mar was focus­ing on pre­fixes, in par­tic­u­lar dis and un and how they change the word to mean the oppo­site.  We started Writ­ing With Ease level 2 and he’s man­ag­ing the leap up and dic­ta­tion well.  Spellings never trou­bled him.


3 days of Duolingo prac­tice and weekly Span­ish tuto­r­ial with a native speaker.


Using “Latin’s Not So Tough” we started an level 1 which was far too easy, on level 2 now and intro­duc­ing vocab­u­lary.  Isn’t par­tic­u­larly inspir­ing but only takes a cou­ple of min­utes and the sim­plic­ity of it appeals to Sam.  Won’t turn him into a flu­ent Latin speaker/reader but we’ll keep plod­ding through as long as he’s happy as like the idea of a bit of basic Latin to sup­port Eng­lish and Span­ish.  He is already spot­ting similarities.


We read through our sci­ence book on Mon­day to take us up to where we needed to be for Tuesday’s Sci­ence club.  It turns out I don’t really under­stand Elec­tric­ity so well.  I’ve bought a dreaded lap­book that we’ll hope­fully work through this week and next to help both of our under­stand­ing.  One of the big ques­tions about home ed is what hap­pens when you don’t know some­thing — well this — you find out.  I iden­ti­fied my under­stand­ing was lack­ing so researched and found a resource that I think will give us both a bet­ter grasp of it.

At group we looked at elec­trol­y­sis and cir­cuit dia­grams.  Made dif­fer­ent cir­cuits and inves­ti­gated the effects on a bulbs bright­ness from dif­fer­ent num­bers of bat­ter­ies and bulbs.  We also made our own switches.

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Friends round for Sci­ence and a play on Tues, off to another friend’s for the after­noon and then Cubs.  Weds was a group trip.  Thurs had friends for Span­ish.  Fri­day was a play in the park with other home ed fam­i­lies while we failed to see the eclipse.  Love watch­ing how good he is with younger kids and then he got to make a new friend as an old friend’s brother has joined the local home ed ranks.


Posted in Electricity and Magnets, English, Latin, Maths, Science, Spanish | Leave a comment

The moon is made of green cheese

Or it might be for all we saw of it this morning.

Eclipse hap­pened behind solid cloud cover.  Only sign was a freez­ing wind.  So much for my prep buy­ing glasses.

Sam was happy with an early morn­ing play in the park though.

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After a trip to the shops and a bit of a rest (boy not quite right and energy lev­els keep drop­ping) it was on with the dairy topic.

We churned our ice cream.  It is lush, pos­si­bly the nicest vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted.  Faff to make though!

20150320_15We then mixed up some arm pit fudge so he could do the mix­ing bit while he did a bit of Mathletics.


Lunch was a cheesy pic­nic on the liv­ing room floor watch­ing War Time Farm.  We taste tested var­i­ous cheeses (regional British ones).  I’d writ­ten down the descrip­tion from the pack­age so he could guess which was which.  We then tried to describe the sticky tof­fee cheese I’d fool­ishly been unable to resist — vile about cov­ered it.

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After lunch we had another go at mak­ing but­ter and it worked bril­liantly.  Lots of fun shak­ing and rolling it while we fin­ished the week’s English.

20150320_27 20150320_2620150320_28We also watched the Tesco online field trip on mak­ing cheese.  Then made our own fol­low­ing the instruc­tions in their les­son plan.  Per­haps not authen­tic but quick and easy and gave the idea.


We also made some non-armpit fudge.  This is my stan­dard recipe that goes on camps a lot using choco­late Philidel­phia.  We were adapt­able today and made a half batch and used white choc (needs must from what was in cup­board), bit too sweet for me but sus­pect boys will like it.  Plus used up the last of the full fat milk which no one wanted to drink with some sur­face ten­sion exper­i­ment­ing.


Then there was milk­shake, chess and Minecraft.  He’s try­ing to look drunk.


Jack came home from school and went run­ning :D  I only laughed a bit.

This evening while Jack’s at Scouts and Pete is ‘social­is­ing’ he has been ser­e­nad­ing me while I’ve been doing a bit of work and typ­ing this.





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Milking it and the Mona Lisa

By late Weds evening both Sam and I were look­ing rough and feel­ing it too.  Day on the farm was lovely but trig­gered aller­gies and hay fever.  Yes­ter­day morn­ing we were left with the hang­over feel­ing.  I know Sam was def­i­nitely feel­ing rough as his first words to me were “I don’t want to do art group today”.  So I can­celled it.  He ral­lied a bit dur­ing the day but didn’t go to Gang Show — hav­ing friends over for short time for Span­ish drained him.

Soon became obvi­ous we needed a day off rou­tine, but no where near ill enough for com­plete aban­don­ment.  So morn­ing started curled up on the sofa watch­ing War Time Farm, we’re lov­ing the local aspect of it.

20150319_2We then car­ried on with our milk theme.  Ear­lier in the week we’d watched the online field trip from Tesco’s Eat Happy project and looked at this cd-rom.


We’d also done some taste tast­ing of var­i­ous types.  Rice milk is vile!


and looked into pas­teuri­sa­tion.  He wrote a diary entry from the per­spec­tive of Louis Pasteur.


Yes­ter­day was there­fore about using milk.  Inspired by the farm ice cream on Tues­day we made vanilla cus­tard, which has been chill­ing overnight ready to be frozen and churned today.

20150319_3 We also made ice cream in a bag.  It did freeze but didn’t taste great.  Pro­vided fun though.

20150319_7 20150319_8With the left over egg whites from the cus­tard and some manky look­ing bananas dis­cov­ered at the bot­tom of the fruit bas­ket we made cake.  May have started eat­ing it before remem­ber­ing to photograph.

20150319_9 20150319_10 While cake cooked we looked at homogeni­sa­tion and test­ing knowl­edge with a quick cross­word.20150320_4 After lunch and Span­ish group we decided to do art just us.  Mona Lisa was the order of the day.  We talked about the idea of a ‘sit­ting’ and how mod­els would pose day after day, how in the days before cam­eras this is how peo­ple had their like­nesses recorded.  We also focused on the back­ground and how this was an ‘imag­i­nary landscape’.

So here is me with an ‘imag­i­nary land­scape’ — being shot by a space ship :S  Oil on can­vas.  Haven’t used oils for ages for­got what a pain clean up is.

20150319_12Realised I never men­tion the work­sheets we do on them.  We start off with a pic­ture study in the Char­lotte Mason tra­di­tion.  Look at the pic­ture for a while and then draw from mem­ory adding in as many details as we can.  We also do a fact work­sheet record­ing the medium, date etc and most impor­tantly look­ing at devel­op­ing opin­ions on what he likes and doesn’t.  Here are the Vit­ru­vian Man sheets — detailed art crit­i­cism is a work in progress.

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Posted in Art, Curriculum, Da Vinci, Farming, Geography | 2 Comments

Day on the Farm

A proper Spring day in the coun­try­side today as we vis­ited a local­ish dairy farm.  Mak­ing sure the photo for the link is a cute one.  This calf was less than 4 hours old :)

20150318_23We observed where they made their own ice-cream, the milk­ing par­lour and the behind the scenes oper­a­tions — explain­ing how they keep track of which cows are preg­nant and when calves are due.

20150318_1320150318_1520150318_16Then of course there were cows.  Big ones, some very big as very preg­nant.  Small ones, some very small as hours old.

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Then there were chick­ens, geese and ducks to feed and eggs to collect.

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After lunch while we watched a video about the farm we got to try some of the farm-made ice cream.


Then there was time for a trac­tor ride around the fields and vil­lage.  Here’s some of the views.20150318_48

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Lovely old vil­lage church I’d like to go and nose around.20150318_50

Posted in Days Out, Farming, Home Education Group | Leave a comment


Been an up and down week.  Home ed though seems to be about the only thing going right at the moment though.  Not achieved as much as I’d hoped to project wise but other things were drain­ing my men­tal and phys­i­cal resources.  Try not to let ‘my stuff’ get in the way but it inevitably does at times par­tic­u­larly when I’m feel­ing below par.  One of the rea­sons for keep­ing a blog is to force me to reflect and con­sider on whether I’m get­ting the bal­ance right between home ed and life.  Look­ing at this last week we may not have done as much as I wanted in some areas but we happy we did enough.

As already cov­ered we’ve had art and Span­ish groups, some fun with Maths and fin­ished Writ­ing With Ease 1.

We’ve also had our monthly Laser Quest ses­sion, this remains the high­light of Sam’s month and attended a con­cert by the South­bank Game­lan Play­ers.

We’ve done a bit of work on the idea of dif­fer­ent areas hav­ing dif­fer­ent styles of farm­ing, mostly through look­ing at maps and dis­cus­sion.  We went to a local Farmer’s Mar­ket over the week­end and Sam used the farm­ers mar­ket cook­book we’d picked up to make a cheese and apple panini from local supplies.

20150309_1020150309_14Beans are sprout­ing and being observed.  Our bum cress is also grow­ing (I wanted to do his name!).



We had a flash of more autonomous style when he decided to teach him­self piano through youtube videos and sat there for 3 solid hours com­pletely engrossed.

20150315_1Lots of read­ing going on as we’ve had trips to library and char­ity shops and a box arrive from the Book Peo­ple.  Some old Beano annu­als and other Beano related books, a cou­ple more Mur­der­ous Maths (bed­time read­ing of choice atm) and a twad­dlish diary of a pig have all been read already.  Other books are more longer term resources (bought because I will read and I sus­pect Pete will too, so not a waste if not used) or more sum­mer time as we ease off as tend to find it hard to keep up with any­thing too struc­tured once hayfever sea­son arrives and need some­thing new and fun to grab us.

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At some point with­out me Sam man­aged a home-made keyring and card.  Jack also man­aged to sur­prise me this morn­ing with not only a card but a big box of choco­lates and a very fetch­ing leop­ard print one­sie.  They’re good boys.  I always find Mother’s Day a bit hard, it may be nearly 12 years but will never stop miss­ing my own mum.  I’d hate a big fuss but a home made card means the world.


Notice the not found stor­age for new books yet!


Posted in Curriculum, Days Out, Family Life, Farming | Leave a comment

Da Vinci — Vitruvian Man

After a cou­ple of weeks detailed sketch­ing work this week’s art was about hav­ing fun with an idea rather than any actual art skills.

We baked and dec­o­rated Vit­ru­vian Gin­ger­bread men.  Cut out two fig­ures, ripped the arms and legs off one and stuck them to the other.  A fin­ger dipped in water helped with the joining.

20150312_13 20150312_15 20150312_16We also drew around one of the chil­dren and made our own life size version.

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Home Education Philosophies

Today this blog arti­cle was posted in a group and it really struck a cord.

I feel I’ve long left those days behind me but remem­ber the early days of read­ing Montes­sori and think­ing what a bril­liant approach but feel­ing like we failed to mas­ter it as it just needs so much stuff, of hav­ing a few too many plas­tic toys and aller­gies to nature to get on with Steiner although it sounded won­der­ful, to have chil­dren who like to read twad­dle as well as liv­ing books, to have chil­dren who don’t seem to have that nat­ural curios­ity that unschool­ers tell us all chil­dren pos­sess if we nur­ture it (I obvi­ously have the same luck with nat­ural curios­ity as I do with plants).

Long since accepted the only way to home edu­cate suc­cess­fully (and I’m defin­ing suc­cess­fully as hap­pily with the occa­sional reas­sur­ing glimpse that some­thing has gone in) is to fol­low the beat of your own drum.  I can’t say that with­out Ger­ald from Giraffes Can’t Dance pop to mind :).  Def­i­nitely a far bet­ter and hap­pier per­son for it too.

So my advice to new home eders is for­get meth­ods and philoso­phies.  If you’ve the time read around and get ideas but home edu­cat­ing should be about the free­dom to adapt to the child.  There is a dan­ger that by adopt­ing a phi­los­o­phy too rigidly that you can lose sight of the child, you may firmly believe in the rhetoric behind a phi­los­o­phy but doesn’t make it right for your child.  I love Char­lotte Mason’s ideas but Sam hates being read to so we can never adopt them too closely.  Home ed is about danc­ing to your own sound­track, usu­ally cob­bled together from var­i­ous philosophies.

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The best maths manipulatives

are edi­ble :)

We fin­ished off vol­ume 1 of Writ­ing With Ease this morn­ing and hav­ing got on really well with Maths and hav­ing eas­ily com­pleted his bronze cer­tifi­cate on Math­let­ics in 3 days it was time for some well deserved fun.

He’s been learn­ing about col­umn addi­tion and sub­trac­tion this week so decided a phys­i­cal demon­stra­tion was in order.  Actu­ally he instinc­tively grasped the ideas of carrying/borrowing so wasn’t needed but don’t really need an excuse for skittles.

I drew a set of columns on one sheet and wrote some sums on another.  We then laid skit­tles on the columns to rep­re­sent the num­bers, dif­fer­ent colours for hun­dreds, tens and units.

For addi­tion we would swap 10 unit skit­tles of 1 ten etc and the other way round for sub­trac­tion and carrying.



I did notice that actu­ally he was doing them writ­ten first so prob­a­bly a waste of time as a learn­ing exer­cise but fun and we ate the skit­tles after (wild berry — very nice!)

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Beans means …


Our look at food and farm­ing last week led us on to pre­serv­ing.  We’d watched them pre­serv­ing food on Vic­to­rian Farm and the con­cept of pre­serv­ing is not new as we always make jams.  So we used the Tesco online field trip Saucy Baked Beans to look at canning.

We started off with a quiz to see what we knew about baked beans (not a lot!)

20150308_24We read about the his­tory of food preservation

20150308_28And dis­cussed advan­tages of canning



Maths on Fri­day was to make a can.  Con­cepts cov­ered were 2D and 3D shapes, nets, diam­e­ter and cir­cum­fer­ence of a cir­cle and Sam was very happy as got to use his cal­cu­la­tor for real maths.  This really has to be my focus after Easter mak­ing maths more prac­ti­cal and engaging.

20150305_7 We researched some of the dif­fer­ent canned food that you can buy around the world.  We also looked at labels and the infor­ma­tion included on them, such as cook­ing instruc­tions, nutri­tion…  Then Sam made a label for his can of ‘smoked rattlesnake’.

20150305_9 We used the pho­topack from Tesco to look at dif­fer­ent beans

and used a vari­ety of dried ones to make a mosaic.

20150305_11We con­sid­ered beans as seeds and after soak­ing to soften a bit dis­sected some to see if we could see the plants inside.
20150308_1020150308_620150308_1720150308_7Then we planted some so we can watch them sprout.20150308_19We also had a go at mak­ing our own baked beans entirely unsuc­cess­fully; beans refused to soften, sauce was nasty and even the cam­era ate the photos.

Posted in Curriculum, Farming, Geography, Maths | Leave a comment