Friday in a Flash

That’s what it felt like, day just whizzed by.

It started with a comic strip work­shop at the local arts cen­tre as part of their home ed work­shop pack­age.  Wasn’t exactly what I expected but pleas­ant morn­ing.  We’d taken some of Sam’s friends along with us and they just cracked on with it with no input from me.  I found the cre­ative side hard, comics don’t inter­est me at all but joined in and had time to chat with other home ed mums I only cross paths with occa­sion­ally.  It was inter­est­ing to see the plan­ning stages of a comic.

First 3 pho­tos are Sam’s, last is mine.  Thank you to Deb­bie for the idea of chameleon specs which meant I could draw Muma­tron as a robot.  I had great fun think­ing up her superpowers.

20150524_220150524_320150524_420150524_1After the work­shop we had lunch with friends (by luck rather than design — the lure of cof­fee won us both :) )

Picked up some shop­ping quickly and then home.

Had time for some group admin.  It seems every time I leave the com­puter  we get another request to join the local group.

Swim­ming fol­lowed and then a leisurely evening draw­ing (Sam) and watch­ing videos on polit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy (me — cur­rent Future­Learn course) and mak­ing plans for next week now the rail strike was ruled out.


Posted in Home Education Group | Tagged | Leave a comment

Value of an early start

Well actu­ally by stan­dards of a few months ago it was still a late start but ear­lier than it has been lately.  Sam was awake of his own accord by 8.30 which is a step in the right direction.

Meant that we cov­ered Maths, Eng­lish and Latin quickly and effi­ciently.  Maths by fin­ger painting :)


Rest of the day was spent play­ing on the Xbox with a vis­it­ing friend.  When he departed at lunch time he was replaced within 1/2 hour by arrival of another friend for a bit of a pre-Spanish catch up.  Tutor and more friends arrived for Span­ish.  Revolv­ing door needed on a Thurs :).  After which we decamped to the park for a while.  We left friends and walked to the vil­lage for bread and milk, return­ing via the library.  They’d just put out some books for sale so we snapped up a bar­gain.  Home it was Scratch, Kin­dle games,  a new book and an early night.

20150522_1Hear­ing that the rail strike for next week has been called off so hope­fully our plans for next week can pro­ceed with­out inci­dent was good news too.


Posted in Family Life, Maths | Leave a comment

Stay at home Tuesday (not going far Weds)

We’re strug­gling even more this week than last time I com­plained, the old hayfever night­mare.  You name it we try it, alter­na­tive and reg­u­lar ther­a­pies.  At best they take the edge off.  Sam spent Mon­day night in my bed whim­per­ing every time I got near to drop­ping off because his throat is so sore, bless him.  Last night was bet­ter but not much.  My throat hurts too and have a muzzy, sinus blocked, sleep deprived head.  I’m not a fan of summer.

It’s a tricky time of year.  We could do with school hol­i­days start­ing now, with the nec­es­sary change in rou­tine Jack being about brings, the hia­tus from home ed activ­i­ties and other clubs and ide­ally a pro­longed break away.  We could down tools and have a break at home but in real­ity I know that it would lead to too long a break and cause more prob­lems in the long run than it solves in the short term.  Voice of expe­ri­ence here!  The ideal would be a half way house, that Sam would get com­pletely engaged in a project of his own inter­est and we’d just go with that.  But he’s com­pletely unmotivated.

We’ll mud­dle through, we always do.  Hope­fully a few weeks of a few trips away from home will help reju­ve­nate us (assum­ing of course plans aren’t scup­pered by rail strike). Look­ing for pos­i­tives I don’t get a cri­sis of con­fi­dence any more.  I know full well that it is exter­nal fac­tors upset­ting our bal­ance and by Sep­tem­ber we’ll be cruis­ing again.  I also know what doesn’t work for us when we hit this block (well lots of things that don’t work, I’m sure there are more to dis­cover) and am get­ting bet­ter at find­ing what does.

Gen­eral grum­ble aside, the days aren’t a total right off.  There are always rays of sunshine.

Sam has spent a lot of time this last week or so on live Math­let­ics.  In the past he has always stuck to the first cou­ple of lev­els which were well with in his com­fort zone.  He has how­ever with encour­age­ment gone up to level 3 which is prob­a­bly about right — 3/4 being his level.  Today he has been play­ing level 5 and actu­ally doing a very com­pe­tent job.  But it was the change in atti­tude from a year ago or even a month that astounded me.  He tells me that he’s addicted to level 5 as it is “a proper chal­lenge and some­times he even gets two wrong and it is not like level 2 where he only makes mis­takes from try­ing to type too fast!” Won­der where my lit­tle per­fec­tion­ist who would wob­ble and strop when he didn’t get 100% and refuse to try again went?

I’m doing a Future­Learn course on Pro­pa­ganda and Ide­ol­ogy which is really inter­est­ing.  Moti­vated by that and cur­rent pol­i­tics I dug out a book on Human Rights I’d bought a while ago.  It’s a real beauty, cov­ers the arti­cles of the UN Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights as a pic­ture book illus­trated by famous illus­tra­tors.  Gave rise to lots of dis­cus­sion.  Will hope­fully find the moti­va­tion to fol­low up (I’ve put a post full of links on the FB page if any­one is interested).

20150519_50 20150519_52 20150519_53 20150519_55Thought this one was worth noting.20150519_54

We’ve also been doing some more hands on maths but the cam­era appears to have gone awol (pre­sum­ably it is in Jack’s room) so some­thing to come back to.  A bit of char­ity shop, skate park, see­ing Grandad pot­ter­ing.  I’ve tried to inter­est him in some com­puter pro­gram­ming with only lim­ited suc­cess.  We con­tinue on the Rain­for­est reading.



Posted in Book Reviews, Musings, Politics, PSHE | 1 Comment

Arty day

Yes­ter­day was an arty type of day.

I had an idea that I wanted to try for a visual maths project that I’ve been wait­ing to do for a while.  Our sec­ond week­end of the year with no Guides/Scouts com­mit­ments (only other was Easter!) gave me time to prep at long last.  I marked a cir­cle on a cork­board and sep­a­rated it into 10 equal sec­tions.  10 equally spaced pins around the cir­cle with stick­ers of the dig­its 0 — 9 stuck next to them.

We then tied wool around pin 0 and started to wrap the wool around the pins fol­low­ing the last digit in the times tables, so for 3 — 3,6,9,2, 5,8,1, 4,7,0.  Watch­ing the pat­terns unfold.

20150519_5 20150519_3In fact we spent a lot of time play­ing with it at the week­end (Sam was intrigued when he saw me make it) test­ing the var­i­ous times tables. So yes­ter­day we used a dif­fer­ent colour wool for each times table 1 — 9 and watched the pat­tern build up, saw how sets of two num­bers that add to 10 make the same pat­tern just one clock­wise and the larger anti­clock­wise.  Will it help longterm?  I don’t know but it gave rise to inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion, was a bit of fun and looks pretty.



Idea came from this video which explains it better.

YouTube Preview Image

For our rain­for­est project (and to leave in the bed to scare Dad!) Sam wanted to dec­o­rate snakes.  We’d ordered some wooden ones from Baker Ross.  We looked at some rain­for­est species and dis­cussed why some are cam­ou­flage and oth­ers bright.


Our final art project on Degas took us back to sculp­ture.  We looked at ‘Trot­ting Horse’.

This is a bronze cast of the wax sculp­ture.  We bought some mould­able can­dle wax from Baker Ross and did some sculpt­ing.  Learn­ing from the many times I’ve done this with Rain­bows we soft­ened it by the fire.

20150519_11 20150519_13 Then of course we had to light them.20150519_16 And being a Guider use them to toast marsh­mal­lows for s’mores :)  Usable art projects are the best, par­tic­u­larly tasty ones.20150519_19 20150519_22

Posted in Art, Degas, Geography, Maths, Rainforests | 2 Comments

Hippity Hop

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” —Dou­glas Adams

Join­ing in with Four Pesky Hobbit’s 5th Birth­day Blog hop.  I was blog­ging 5 years ago but in a more ad hoc way and on Blog­ger which I hate, so sadly those posts are gone.  This blog though will be 5 years old in Sep.

Where were we home ed wise 5 years ago?  Well Jack was 8 and Sam 4.  Sam wouldn’t have been school age though.  At home I was recog­nis­ing that my boys have a need for struc­ture and giv­ing up my dream of lovely free range edu­ca­tion.  Although we were still rather up and down with it.  Jack was work­ing through Galore Park.  I did things like book of the week with Sam and a bit of read­ing prac­tice.  I’d have pre­ferred no struc­ture but I needed Jack to see him doing something.

In the wider world things were chang­ing locally as the older end of the local group became more organ­ised with tuto­ri­als and what has even­tu­ally led to an amaz­ing set up with a home ed run exam cen­tre.  It did leave the younger fam­i­lies rather cut adrift in a way I don’t think the group has really recov­ered from.  What it did though was help the growth of the newly form­ing at the time Portsmouth Group on the other side of the harbour.

Here we are at their back to school pic­nic that Sep­tem­ber.  With some­one who may look famil­iar.  We were mak­ing friend­ships that have stood the test of time.

Bubbles at the NBTS picnic sack race at the nbts picnic

Nation­ally every­one was recov­er­ing from the night­mare that was the whole Bad­man affair.  I don’t think any of us home edu­cat­ing at the time will ever for­give or for­get.  It shows up even now how quickly home eders leap up at the slight­est sug­ges­tion of any infringe­ments on our freedom.

What has changed in the last 5 years.  Well Jack went to school 2 1/2 years ago which was obvi­ously a huge change.  With hind­sight I can see the cracks 5 years back.  Socially Jack needed some­thing dif­fer­ent to what I could pro­vide home ed wise.  Per­haps a dif­fer­ent par­ent or in a dif­fer­ent place could have made it work.  Jack is a social being who enjoys being sur­rounded by the same peo­ple all day every day.  To be hon­est he is just too ‘nor­mal’ for home ed.

It was one of those things that was hugely trau­matic at the time.  I’d like to say I took it all in my stride but I’d be lying.  There were tears and mas­sive feel­ings of fail­ure.  When he actu­ally made the final deci­sion I was okay and prac­ti­cal side kicked in.  In ret­ro­spect it was the best thing for him.  Aca­d­e­m­i­cally he has ended up top of top set of every­thing aca­d­e­mic despite not cov­er­ing NC at all, which silenced a few doubters.  I could no doubt pro­vide a bet­ter aca­d­e­mic edu­ca­tion, but he really does need the social side.

Jack going to school has also been the best thing for Sam.  Who does suit HE!  I am now not hav­ing to bal­ance com­pet­ing needs.  We spend a lot of time social­is­ing, more than I ever thought we would, but in ways that suit Sam.  He has a big friend­ship base and our prob­lem is time to fit every­one in.

When Jack went to school I made the deci­sion to aban­don all struc­ture with Sam.  He’d always had to fit around Jack, now was the oppor­tu­nity for him to have an edu­ca­tion that suited him.  I per­se­vered for pretty much the full aca­d­e­mic year but in the end have to accept we are a fam­ily who needs struc­ture.  Jack needed a lot but con­trol over it, text­books with work for the week allo­cated but left to self to do it.  Sam on the other hand is really not textbook/workbook child but does need me there play­ing games, mak­ing stuff and gen­er­ally set­ting the rhythm of the day.

It is easy to see how the boys have changed in the last 5 years.  They’ve grown taller, more inde­pen­dent through tak­ing their own steps and blos­somed.  Sam is less quirkey than he was def­i­nitely.  I can see a time he could fit into school if he wanted to and I will be okay with that.  I can now see a life after home ed on the horizon.

For me?  I’ve grown into my own skin.  I read Katie’s blog ear­lier about her need to deschool and was think­ing in some ways my expe­ri­ence was the oppo­site.   I started look­ing into HE 11 years ago.  Blogs and forums gave me the image of home ed as a lovely ideal, fam­i­lies hap­pily fol­low­ing their children’s inter­ests, chil­dren spend­ing days out­side with mag­ni­fy­ing glasses, like minded fam­i­lies meet­ing in church halls for crafts, social­i­sa­tion would never be an issue.

It wasn’t my expe­ri­ence though, my kids seem to be woe­fully lack­ing in nat­ural curios­ity.   They don’t really play.  They don’t seem to get ‘in to stuff’.  Social­i­sa­tion we found that those lovely wel­com­ing mixed age groups were hard to find after our ini­tial year or so when the group was all I could have wished.  We live in an area with huge num­bers of home edu­ca­tors but it is still easy for peo­ple to get lost in the wash.   As groups got big­ger they started seg­re­gat­ing by age and we found our­selves cut adrift as Jack’s friends were all younger sib­lings so able to tag on to the older group.  Younger groups started to mate­ri­alise but it’s no fun being the old­est all the time.

I went through years of self doubt.  It must be me doing it wrong!  I’ve chopped, changed, spent sleep­less nights.  In many ways I don’t feel a nat­ural home eder.  We have rules and bound­aries, I’m not reli­gious but not in the slight­est way ‘alter­na­tive’ in any­thing else.  I’ve felt judged by the home ed com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly when Jack went to school or when I have, heaven for­bid, occa­sion­ally raised my voice.  It has also brought out my judgey side and I don’t like that, it is a per­son­al­ity flaw that I try to con­trol but chil­dren run­ning riot in cafes while I strug­gle through with a hot drink or throw­ing stones at oth­ers while par­ents com­pletely ignore them does instinc­tively make me tug up my judgey pants.  I won’t start on peo­ple who book and then either don’t pay or show up for trips or who con­sis­tently show up 1/2 way through a trip or activ­ity as I will start to rant.

In the last 5 years I’ve grown to accept that I am best avoid­ing too large a home ed gath­er­ing. I still organ­ise lots but very much focus on what suits us, I know my lim­its and have strict guide­lines.  Very rare any­one is late for me now or doesn’t pay, I’ve trained them well :).  I am best online so I work through forums try­ing to offer sup­port and advice where I can.  I am not ashamed to say that there have been times where home ed is hard.     Most impor­tantly I now hap­pily accept my chil­dren are who they are and are con­stantly chang­ing and I edu­cate each in the way I feel suits them best at the moment.  I don’t worry about the future, what will be will be.  You know what, I think actu­ally I am pretty good at this home ed lark.


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Posted in Musings | 7 Comments

Procrastination and Productivity

The con­trast sums up Thurs and Friday.

To be hon­est not a lot seemed to hap­pened of note on Thursday.

We man­aged Eng­lish, Latin and Span­ish before Sam went to a friend’s house for a cou­ple of hours.  When he got home there was just time for lunch before more friends arrived for their Span­ish tutor.  By the time that was over day was dis­ap­pear­ing. Math­let­ics again sucked up a sur­pris­ing amount of time.  Read­ing about the rain­for­est con­tin­ued and then there was some play on Kinect Adven­tures.  We had a rare evening where no one had to be any­where so a fam­ily tea and board game evening followed.

Actu­ally that sounds a rea­son­ably full day.  I guess it was me doing the pro­cras­ti­nat­ing then as I’d had big plans for when he was out that never came to fruition.  I’ll blame the down­pour as it was hard to con­cen­trate with the noise (con­ser­va­tory is not the best work­space at times — deaf­en­ing out there).

Sun was out on Fri­day though.  For the first time in a fort­night Sam got up in his own time at a rea­son­able hour.  We fin­ished Eng­lish, Latin and Span­ish quickly before going out.  I needed a cou­ple of bits from the Range so my Dad drove us up there and then we nipped in to Explo­sion for a while.  I like Explo­sion, not as a big day trip but can hap­pily kill a cou­ple of hours explor­ing and hav­ing cof­fee out by the water.

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Home, lunch, more Mathletics.

Then it was art.  This week’s pic­ture was Degas’ Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando.

We dis­cussed how Degas pic­tures weren’t posed and how he cap­tured peo­ple (mainly dancers) as they did things such as put their shoes on, fas­ten straps etc.

With soft pas­tels he had the chal­lenge to pick any sport and draw an activ­ity con­nected.  His chose football.


We then made a rain­for­est in a jar.  Per­fect activ­ity to dis­cuss ecosys­tems and water cycles.  More read­ing about the rain­for­est followed.

20150516_7  20150516_8 20150516_9Final activ­ity of the day before every­one wan­dered off to do their own thing was swim­ming.  While me and the older two are doing lengths (on a health kick) Sam has taken it on him­self to learn to swim.  We tried lessons about a 18 months ago and they didn’t go well, nei­ther of us liked the teacher.   Any­way as ever with Sam he gets there in his own time and a cou­ple of weeks after pick­ing up swim­ming again hav­ing not been for a cou­ple of years he’s start­ing to be able to swim a few strokes.  Not the best style in the world but nei­ther Jack or I have either.  It is being able to enjoy and keep afloat if need be that mat­ters to me.  Should say we are really lucky in that there is a pri­vate hydrother­apy pool at the end of the road.  Hire by the hour and have it to our­selves.  Lovely and warm too.

20150516_12 20150516_13


Posted in Art, Curriculum, Days Out, Degas, Geography, Rainforests | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Oh She Had a Fishy…

Yes­ter­day we had a trip to Brighton to the SeaL­ife cen­tre.  The idea of the trip was to look at their rain­for­est area.  In real­ity we took some friends along and just had a fun, relaxed, keep los­ing chil­dren sort of day.  Sure things were learnt (par­tic­u­larly about sea anemones grab­bing fin­gers) but more play­ful type of day.

I was impressed with the aquar­ium far, far bet­ter than South­sea (as a vis­i­tor attrac­tion).  Highly rec­om­mend the glass bot­tomed boat.

Unfor­tu­nately my cam­era died 5 mins after we arrived so had to resort to phone which minus flash is rubbish.

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Ran­dom pho­tos of the rest of the day.  They spent most of the train jour­neys play­ing Story Cubes to Sam’s delight (he wasn’t the one to bring them).  He loves Story Cubes as I may have mentioned ;).


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Posted in Days Out, Geography, Rainforests | Leave a comment

Quiet Days

We’ve stayed very close to home the last few days. Not got many pho­tographs.  Guess that’s a good thing as means I’m join­ing in 😉  Fur­thest we’ve been is the bot­tle bank but we’re lucky enough that even that’s a nice trip as it’s on the beach.

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So what have we done?  We’ve messed around with the dic­tio­nary prac­tis­ing skills there, usual hand­writ­ing etc, lots of Live Math­let­ics (lost pretty much all of Mon­day morn­ing to that), quite a bit of Duolingo.  Lots of Story Cubes as a new set (actions) fell through the door yesterday.

We’ve been read­ing for our Rain­for­est project, watched some of The Liv­ing Planet and Sam painted the box that we are build­ing a for­est in.

Friends joined us for a nice relaxed sci­ence ses­sion.  The theme was sound.  We looked at how it trav­els.  They felt the vibra­tions in their throat  and then watched them on the end of tubes.  We made cup and string tele­phones and a giant knot.  We also made bot­tle glock­en­spiels.  Finally we lis­tened to sounds bounc­ing off dif­fer­ent sur­faces to try and hear which worked best.

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Was a hard sac­ri­fice drink­ing all those bot­tles.  Dedication 😉

I’ve been try­ing to catch up on some work projects I’ve let slip.  Con­ser­va­tory full of cows now.  Still behind but get­ting there.  Also had guid­ing and home ed goup admin to catch up on.

I’ve now got some sewing to do too as Sam returned home from Cubs with these.  Very proud to have his Chief Scout Sil­ver Award.


Posted in Heat and Sound, Science | Tagged | Leave a comment

Politics, Pavement Painting, Passion fruit and Pools

Been a much needed at home few days.  Hayfever is kick­ing in and the boy is strug­gling with morn­ings and evenings which causes all sorts of prob­lems.  Change of rou­tine needed I think, I’d hoped to make it to June with­out hav­ing to slip into sum­mer mode but not look­ing likely.

Days blur a bit so two days in one.

Pol­i­tics have obvi­ously been on the agenda.  We’ve read through the won­der­ful Who’s In Charge.  I had the shock­ing real­i­sa­tion that I bought it last Gen­eral Elec­tion for Jack and by the time the next elec­tion rolls around he’ll be eli­gi­ble to vote!  Where does time go?

We looked at man­i­festos and party polit­i­cal broadcasts.


And wrote their own (Jack wanted a go when he got home)20150508_20We’ve done lots more work from the cre­ate your own coun­try book we started a cou­ple of weeks ago.  The end result is our United States of Smi­ley Faces Fact­file.  Fab­u­lous project.  Sam was also very taken with the notion of Cyber Yugoslavia.


Sam read The Acci­den­tal Prime Min­is­ter.  Lots of dis­cus­sions have been had; suf­fragettes, secret bal­lots, class sys­tems, feu­dal­ism, Peas­ants Revolt, Marie Antoinette, immi­gra­tion, racism, slav­ery and so on…  We’ve been and voted (well I did) and watched a lot of news coverage.

Art this week was The Star by Degas.  We read this lovely pic­ture book that tells the story of the life of Anna Pavlova illus­trated by Degas’ artwork.


Then using an activ­ity from My Art Book we had a go at pave­ment painting.


Ours didn’t look like theirs 😀  It was still dry­ing at this point did come up really white.  The paint is corn­flour, water and food colouring.

20150508_220150508_4Since the chalks were out the rest of the gar­den got dec­o­rated too.

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Rain­for­est project went on the back burner really but we did man­age a fruit salad made from ingre­di­ents grown in rain­for­est regions.  We kept the head of the pineap­ple to plant.

20150508_14 20150508_16Finally we’ve man­aged to scratch out some time for reg­u­lar swim­ming again :)


Posted in Art, Degas, Geography, Politics, PSHE, Rainforests, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

United States of Smiley Faces Factfile

Image3Sta­tus: Democracy

Area: 5 square metres

Cap­i­tal City: Happyville

Pop­u­la­tion: 4

Lan­guages: Eng­lish, Minionish

Cur­rency: The Happiness

Gross Domes­tic Prod­uct: :) 1, 000,000,000

Motto: My Dad is Grumpy



National Day: Video Game Day, 14th May

Main prod­ucts: Cheesecake

Main exports: Stress balls, cups of tea

National Anthem

To Demons by Imag­ine Dragons

I am draw­ing smi­ley faces
I am draw­ing smi­ley faces
Because I’ve got a pen
Because I’ve got a pen

I am very happy
Because I’ve got a pen
And draw­ing smi­ley faces
As I’ve got a pen
And the ink is red


  1. Every­one is treated fairly.  Nobody is left with­out edu­ca­tion.  Every­body gets treat­ment if they are ill.
  2. We believe every­body has a right to be paid fairly for their work, to have a home, to live safely in peace and to have choco­late on Weds.
  3. This con­sti­tu­tion is the top law of the United States of Smi­ley Faces.
  4. The gov­ern­ment has 3 parts Leg­isla­tive, Exec­u­tive, Judicial.
  5. The 3 branches have sep­a­rate responsibilities.
  6. Chang­ing this con­sti­tu­tion will require the approval of 2/3 of the cit­i­zens of the United States of Smi­ley Faces.

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