Planning Maths fun

Sam’s mem­ory is poor.  His under­stand­ing of con­cepts is good but with­out the abil­ity to recall facts instantly things are start­ing to be slow going and he hasn’t been enjoy­ing Maths.

While I’d love him to be able to remem­ber stuff eas­ily, the not enjoy­ing Maths is of far big­ger concern.

I don’t think I’m going to find a cur­ricu­lum that fits Sam bet­ter than Saxon and he’s been com­ing on well with it.  So rather than change cur­ricu­lum I think an entirely new track is war­ranted — for a while at least.  So the books are put away for now and we’re going through a period of exper­i­men­ta­tion, we’ll reassess after Christmas.

One approach we’re using is to make use of com­puter pack­ages.  I’ve signed him up for Math­let­ics and we’re using Timez Attack again.  Long term I like the look of iXL more I think.

We’ve a num­ber of board and card games which are com­ing out.


I’ve invested in one of the Sir Cum­fer­ence books that I’ve been eye­ing up for years.  I’m also toy­ing with the Mur­der­ous Maths books.

But the plan is really to spend next month mess­ing around with maths con­cepts in a fun, relaxed way.  I’ve spent a lot of the day mess­ing round cre­at­ing maths puz­zles tied in to Christ­mas themes.  We’ll dab­ble a bit with those.  Will also use 3D shapes and nets to make Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions.  Weigh­ing and mea­sur­ing will come in as is the sea­son to bake.  Will do some budgeting/money maths with some Christ­mas shop­ping.  If time hope to do some explor­ing of graphs in rela­tion to Christ­mas ideas — try­ing to think of ideas to graph that are not entirely food related…

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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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