Spinnaker Tower

It’s nearly two weeks since this trip which is a bit of a dis­grace in blog­ging terms.

The Spin­naker Tower is big local touristy thing to do.  Sit­ting on Portsmouth water­side the tower is a fea­ture that dom­i­nates the local sky­line.  We go roughly every cou­ple of years.  Really they just like to play on the glass floor ;)

Our moti­va­tion for going this time was sim­ply that they had a spe­cial offer on schools rate for a cou­ple of months so I booked a group trip.  I organ­ised a map­ping activ­ity to tick the edu­ca­tion con­tent but really it was about play­ing on the glass floor with his best friend for Sam.  For me I like the views, it was a really windy day too (could feel the tower rock­ing) and the other fam­i­lies on the trip were either new or ones I don’t get to see very often so nice to catch up.

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Had time to pot­ter in a few shops in Gun­wharf and buy the most fan­tas­tic slip­pers ever.


And thanks to miss­ing to bus time to sit and watch the boats, or run about and climb depend­ing on what you wanted.


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Catching Up

Not just with the blog.  It has been a busy few weeks with lots of my evening time spent catch­ing up on Guid­ing stuff and start­ing a new course through Future­Learn, plus Scout and Cub stuff has been tak­ing up a bit of time hence the lack of blog­ging.  But as I men­tioned a few weeks ago we have been strug­gling with the pace I’d set for ‘school work’ this year and I felt we needed time to stop, draw breath and recon­nect with the fun side and catch up with some of the projects that were slip­ping by the way­side a bit.

Last week, there­fore, we aban­doned those things I claim are our ‘essen­tials’ at least in the usual approach.

Maths, we took a con­cept that for some rea­son hadn’t clicked and ded­i­cated our Maths time this week to it.  Sam is usu­ally quite quick to grasp visual top­ics so why ordi­nal num­bers and in par­tic­u­lar iden­ti­fy­ing if a per­son is 5th in line for exam­ple how many peo­ple were before them was prob­lem­atic I have no idea.  Aim of the week was to make the idea as visual and fun as possible.


We played with the cars I’d made , hav­ing races. Link is to Activ­ity Vil­lage where they are avail­able for download.

Did some colour­ing, look­ing for patterns.


We made a bus and played bus queues with Blue Nose Friends.


Eng­lish, we spent the week look­ing at extracts from scary sto­ries and iden­ti­fy­ing styl­is­tic pat­terns.  I’d bought a set of books to help inspire cre­ative writ­ing (not Mr Literal’s strong­point).  They come with a cd-rom and we read through the extracts and used the cd for the activities.

20141007_17 20141007_18

We fin­ished up to the end of the stone age on our time­line.  We added the post­cards of dif­fer­ent human species that we’d bought at the NHM and pho­tos we’d taken of some of the impor­tant finds (Box­grove, Hap­pis­burgh and Pavi­land) as well as some dinosaur pic­tures and a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the birth of the sun — just because.

20141007_21Got up to date with art and sci­ence work­sheets and his nature book.


Car­ried on study­ing liq­uids.  Test­ing float­ing and sink­ing in water and salt solu­tion.20141007_22We also man­aged Span­ish group.  Here’s a photo for once.


Which was fol­lowed by some ran­dom body art.  We’d missed art due to going to see the BBC’s Ten Pieces at the cin­ema.  It was fan­tas­tic and is on iPlayer for another cou­ple of weeks.  Home edu­ca­tors can apply for the dvd.

20141008_4 20141008_5 20141008_6 20141008_7

We also man­aged sci­ence group, a home ed group trip up the Spin­naker and a morn­ing of Minecraft and Simms with friends.  Oh and a wet nature walk in the most fungi free bit of wood­land imaginable.

20141007_54I did get to test out the wellies though.



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Does HE ever stop?

I’ve started the 100 Home Ed days photo chal­lenge and I was faced with the deci­sion of whether to include weekends.

The whole premise behind autonomous edu­ca­tion is that chil­dren are always learn­ing.  We tend to be fairly struc­tured but I do believe that chil­dren can learn a lot when left to their own devices.  I just have my doubts that mine will learn every­thing I feel they need to have the oppor­tu­ni­ties I want them to have if left to it entirely autonomously.

Our struc­ture tends to come in the form that I allo­cate 8.30 — 3 every day as time to be doing ‘stuff’.  Some of it is recog­nis­ably like school, much of it isn’t.  I have no doubt that learn­ing car­ries on out­side that time,  The other day we had an impromptu day off fol­low­ing a long day in Lon­don.  He spent his time act­ing out scenes from the stone age, build­ing a stone age vil­lage on Minecraft, watch­ing a stone age doc­u­men­tary — spot a theme here.  He was very clearly con­sol­i­dat­ing the infor­ma­tion of the pre­vi­ous day.

Some­times learn­ing is obvi­ous like in the exam­ple just given or at Cub activ­i­ties.  Often it is still going on but on a much more sub­tle level we just need to look for it.  This is why I opted to keep my 100 home ed days to just week days.  I don’t want to look for it.  He might be always learn­ing but I don’t want to be always analysing and look­ing for exam­ples or evi­dence.  On a week­day I try and be actively involved in his learn­ing and I see a lot hap­pen even when we take the foot off the pedal or get dis­tracted by a chore I can usu­ally iden­tify some sort of learn­ing or prac­tice in any activ­ity.  On an evening and week­end and school hol­i­day (we fol­low them with J being about) I need to be just Mum not a home edu­cat­ing mum and let him be and myself unwind.

I’d love to be more relaxed about every­thing and be able to go with the flow the entire time and never feel the need to look for evi­dence of his learn­ing but I am who I am and this is as laid back as I get.

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Touching Base

Life is busy.  Too busy really, fit­ting it all in just isn’t hap­pen­ing at the moment.

The week went by in a blur of Maths, Eng­lish, Latin and Span­ish.  All of which are going well.

20141003_8His­tory just isn’t really hap­pen­ing beyond read­ing our novel which may well be enough but I hope for more.

Sci­ence, I am per­se­ver­ing with mak­ing time for so that is good.  Lots of dis­cus­sion about why the exper­i­ments that we tried on Mon­day didn’t work!  How you can fail with some­thing as basic as float­ing and sink­ing I don’t know.  Really has felt like that sort of week.



Sam has got into a book and mak­ing up elab­o­rate games with play­dough which have not helped pro­duc­tiv­ity as I tend to leave him if he is actively engaged as believe in the value of play and just being.  How­ever, does mean all these fun ways I wanted to cover his­tory and music and PE isn’t hap­pen­ing.  He’s also had a cou­ple of late starts, I tend to let him wake in his own time unless we have to be out, which haven’t helped.


We’ve spent a lovely after­noon at the Dock­yard with friends.  Our Thurs­day trip was less fun than usual as we had a trip to the Car­dio clinic.  A small valve in Sam’s heart didn’t close after birth like nor­mal, doesn’t really cause any prob­lem we just have to be aware of the risks of endo­cardi­tis as he will always have a slightly higher risk.  News was all good in terms of appoint­ments get­ting fur­ther apart and staff were lovely.

Sam got given a copy of his ECG and they were tri­alling a new scan­ner and as Sam was lying very, very still I think they took advan­tage to test the machine more and we had a really, really good look at Sam’s heart with lots of com­men­tary of what we were see­ing (room full of drs and technicians).

20141004_5 Pos­si­bly had the most pos­i­tive response ever to HE.  I have sel­dom had a neg­a­tive pos­si­bly because I have an air of don’t engage, curios­ity often and happy to answer ques­tions and a lot of nice com­ments on how bright and well-mannered boys  which are nice but this nurse obvi­ously ‘got’ home ed imme­di­ately.  Doing the ECG she asked about school, Sam said home edu­cated, response was ‘lucky you, bet you get lots of days out, where’s your favourite place to visit?’.

We spent Thurs­day evening at the Gang Show open evening where both boys signed up this year.  So there goes our lives until April!  Sam seems to be ready to spread his wings a bit more which is good.  I moan about Gang Show but it really has been good for Jack so hope Sam set­tles in too (just wish they had the same rehearsal times).

Fri­day was spent with Minecraft­ing with friends after work had been done.  Not sure where after­noon went.  Might be those gaps I need to cap­i­talise on to help with productivity!





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Large Decoration with Masks

Art group this week con­tin­ued with Matisse.  We fin­ished our look at his cut outs with a look at Large Dec­o­ra­tion with Masks.

We started off with a look at the nat­ural shapes and talked about exam­ples we had seen from these in recent weeks.  We then high­lighted the sym­met­ri­cal nature.

Using mir­rors (I have mir­rored tiles for  sym­me­try work — no frames) we pro­duced pic­tures inspired by Matisse.

As you can see Amelia went down the nat­ural route while Sam did the masks.  I love how from the same start­ing point it goes in such dif­fer­ent direc­tions.  Like Matisse we were focus­ing on sym­me­try of pat­terns rather than sym­me­try of colour.

20141003_16 Large Dec­o­ra­tion with Masks was made on ceram­ics so we painted our tiles.  The brief was just sym­me­try, results were var­ied as ever :)

20141002_2Sam’s 2, a cyclops and not sure. 20141002_1

Posted in Art, Curriculum, Matisse | 1 Comment

Home Education Forums

Any­one got any rec­om­men­da­tions for nice national home ed forums? Sup­port­ive, don’t push a par­tic­u­lar agenda/approach or more likely object to any­one men­tion­ing any other, fairly busy, decent links?

Or a blog ring?  Some­where to hang out that is relaxed and friendly?

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While we were up vis­it­ing the exhi­bi­tion on the human story we had plenty of time to explore.  I’ve said before that we try not to do lots when we go up and take our time, but we had plenty of spare time on Thurs­day so we did a fair amount of pot­ter­ing with no real aim.

We’d caught an early train as Pete had given us a lift to the sta­tion on his way to work.  So we had time for a lovely walk through Bel­gravia, Moomin spot­ting, some col­lect­ing of very large conkers, a leisurely early lunch and time to explore other areas of the Nat­ural His­tory Museum.

Guy the Gorilla

Guy the Gorilla

Looking down at the main hall

Look­ing down at the main hall

Stones that were found in a penguins stomach (he's pretending to be sick)

Stones that were found in a pen­guins stom­ach (he’s pre­tend­ing to be sick)

Spotting Minecraft minerals

Spot­ting Minecraft minerals

Section of a giant sequoia

Sec­tion of a giant sequoia

Dinosaur skulls

Dinosaur skulls

Drawing dino skulls in his Book of Centuries

Draw­ing dino skulls in his Book of Centuries

Animatronic dinosaurs (these have given me many moments of amusement over the years)

Ani­ma­tronic dinosaurs (these have given me many moments of amuse­ment over the years)

Is it a dino? Right every time

Is it a dino? Right every time

Movement - one was him and one was Grandad

Move­ment — one was him and one was Grandad

Comparing hand to an Iguanadons

Com­par­ing hand to an Iguanadons

Scary baby

Scary baby

After­wards we weren’t rush­ing off to get back before the rush hour (s) as I’d arranged cof­fee with an old friend after she fin­ished work so I spent quite a while sit­ting out­side while Sam pestered the bub­ble man.

Then we took the oppor­tu­nity to visit the V&A since it is there.  I have wanted to go to the V&A for about 20 years.  In the end I was rather under­whelmed.  We walked around say­ing ‘wow’ a lot but while there was some amaz­ing and I do mean amaz­ing art work it all felt imper­sonal after the won­ders of Box­grove and Pavi­land.  The archi­tec­ture of the build­ing was the part that grabbed me most.



Sam was most taken by a mov­ing mir­ror (move­ment sen­sors) and a com­puter gen­er­ated design a ring.

Scary baby!

Mir­ror mov­ing by move­ment sensors



Sam’s ring

20140926_45I did also really like the quote on the 3rd step.

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Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story Exhibition

This is the exhi­bi­tion that was the focus of this half term’s project.  I saw very lit­tle pub­lic­ity for the exhi­bi­tion in the press at large how­ever it was the best organ­ised and best curated exhi­bi­tion I may pos­si­bly have ever been to.  Def­i­nitely the most ‘wow’ since Tutenkhamen.  The organ­is­ers of the BM’s Vikings Exhi­bi­tion could learn a lot!

The key things to me were the polite help­ful­ness of the staff, the exhi­bi­tion wasn’t at all crowded with either peo­ple or dis­plays, the exhi­bi­tion told a story and every thing in the exhi­bi­tion con­tributed some­thing to that story and there was a feel­ing of ‘com­plete­ness’.  There were pieces there from all the major finds that we’d read about; the Hap­pis­burgh flints, Box­grove Man, the Red Lady of Pavi­land and can­ni­bal­ism at Gough’s Cave  and more.  It really was a case of tak­ing what we’d read and seen on doc­u­men­taries and mak­ing it real.

Sorry cam­era bat­tery died so these were on my phone

Comparing skull shapes

Com­par­ing skull shapes


Ear­li­est evi­dence of human occu­pa­tion in Britain from over 800,000 years ago

Boxgrove Man

Box­grove Man

Tools found at Boxgrove

Tools found at Boxgrove

The Clacton Spear

The Clac­ton Spear

Seeing model spear

See­ing model spear


More Box­grove finds


Red Lady of Paviland




Homo sapien

More tools

OMore tools

Oh and did I add book­ing us in as a school group was one sim­ple phone call. So won­der­fully acco­mo­dat­ing to HEers too.

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Discovering New Paths

Tuesday’s nature group for var­i­ous rea­sons ended up being just me and Sam.  It was one of those times where after­noon could have gone badly.  Sam was dis­ap­pointed and I was irri­ta­ble (wasn’t feel­ing well and had had to get Pete to take after­noon off work to wait in for gas man so we could go).

But irri­tabil­ity only lasted a minute or so as the point of these trips are they are relaxed not some­thing peo­ple book, there was no def­i­nite arrange­ment with any­one but friends I knew were sick.  It was the moments irri­tabil­ity of hav­ing not wanted to go myself but fresh air as ever proved the way to go.  Sam’s dis­ap­point­ment lasted a bit longer.  How­ever that was soon for­got­ten in the excite­ment of unex­plored paths.

We found the remains on a Nor­man cas­tle and a very pleas­ant after­noon was spent in climb­ing, pre­tend games and play­ing with the camera.

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Home and there was potion mak­ing in the back gar­den with col­lected ingredients.


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More Matisse

The art group I run has car­ried on look­ing at Matisse and we’re still on cut out phase.

Mov­ing away from the colours and the ripped paper of The Snail we moved on to some­thing where the shapes them­selves have more dis­tinc­tion, ‘Ocea­nia, the Sky’.  We looked at the pic­ture and talked about the shapes they could see and they drew some from mem­ory.  Then we dis­cussed the scale of the pic­ture and how it was first made on the walls of Matisse’s apart­ment before being screen printed on to linen http://nga.gov.au/international/Catalogue/Detail.cfm?IRN=148088.

We fin­ished off with a large scale group project on my din­ing room wall. There are moons, suns, kites, but­ter­flies, fly­ing fish, planes, rock­ets, daleks exter­mi­nat­ing sky divers and ptero­dactyl skulls, all the things you expect to spot in the sky.

20141180Today’s ses­sion was on the chapel win­dows at Vence.  At the front you have the sheets where they were sup­posed to be draw­ing them from mem­ory.  This seems to have slipped Sam by and he designed his own ‘face’ version.

Then we made ‘maque­ttes’ from cut outs.  When we went to the exhi­bi­tion at the Tate the thing that impressed me most was the dis­play of ‘Nuit de Noel’ next to its maque­tte.

20140924_113Once we’d made the cut out ver­sions they trans­ferred them to trac­ing paper.  I’d used the same card tem­plate to draw the win­dow shape on paper for the col­lage, on trac­ing paper and on a gift bag.  Some traced through.  They then coloured the trac­ing paper design.  Hav­ing cut out the panel from the bags I taped the trac­ing paper to the inside (this was the tricky bit) and we popped an elec­tric tealight inside.

20140924_110Here’s Sam’s lit up.  It is actu­ally a ‘hol­i­day’ inspired one.  The face is a pump­kin for Hal­loween.  ‘Body’ is actu­ally an Easter egg.  ‘Ear-rings’ are snowflakes and the weird blue things are fireworks.20140924_114

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