Victorian Festival of Christmas

Following on from the Victorian Christmas theme of Thursday afternoon, on Friday we went to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for the Festival of Christmas.

Lovely day.


History Group Trial

For a while now a few of us have been working on trying to set up a slightly more formal home ed activity for some of the ‘mid age’ children I suppose the best description would be.

Our aims are primarily about developing social skills.  One of the problem of home education is the one to one element (or one to two or whatever).  Obviously from nearly every perspective this is ideal.  However having done numerous home ed workshops in museums and the like over the years, I see kids that struggle in formal ‘learning’ situations, and I’ll include mine in that.  They struggle with sitting, listening and sharing ideas in group situations, either through enthusiasm sharing too much and not allowing others to get a word in (yes that is you Sam!) or not having the confidence to join in at all.

They also don’t get as many opportunities to work and discuss ideas with people their own age/ability.  Of course as parents we spend huge amounts of time interacting with our children but with the best will in the world it is very difficult to act as ‘equals’, we adults tend to have a wealth of experience that we draw on, kids on the other hand far out strip us in enthusiasm, attention to detail and inventive thinking.

Obviously to some extent these skills develop informally in the organisation of playground games.  But I see time again kids who are perfectly confident playing in their friendship group, losing confidence when it comes to sharing their knowledge and ideas in more formal situations.

The relaxed informality of home education socialisation and the comfort and involvement of adults is to me infinitely better than school based socialisation.  However, there are times as home educated children I feel they need to fit a more standard model of social behaviour, for example to gain the most (and allow others around them to gain the most too) from educational workshops which are all geared around social norms associated with schooled children.  And while creativity, independence of thought, initiative and enthusiasm are all very important skills and attributes which are fostered by home ed, the ability to sit and listen in meetings, speak up in a room of colleagues and work with a group of people towards a project are all practical skills which we need to help them develop too.

Therefore our aims were

– To encourage co-operation and group work skills

– Foster independence.

– Develop confidence; both in their own abilities and in their ability to speak and interact in group situations.

To take some of the fun and positive aspects of school and try to make them work in a relaxed, comfortable group.

History as a topic was purely arbitrary, something the kids were interested in and a topic that allows us the option of lots of visits/use of local resources.

For the trial we did an hour in the morning looking at aspects of what history is and how we study it.

It started off badly when I forgot the timeline but we skated over that and the kids got involved in organising themselves into a timeline based on their dates of birth.

They then used photos they had brought to make timelines of their own lives.

And we looked at different sorts of evidence, working as a group to sort them into primary and secondary sources

We finished off with a look at a set of sources to see what deductions they could make about a particular person.

After lunch we moved on to the practical session, Victorian and some other families joined us.  In groups the kids moved around 3 activities.

Making sequin baubles with me

Crackers with Susie



And sugar mice with Claire

Finishing with some games

Did it work? Not sure.

Kids had fun and enjoyed themselves which is obviously a major plus.

Initial email we sent out got the pitch a bit wrong I think and put of some of the 6/7yo who are not fluently reading or writing but could have coped fine.

Noise in the room was too much, it was difficult to concentrate for me and kids.   Bad acoustics and I need to get better at asking parents to stop gossiping at the side of the room.

Need to get feedback of others and I think we need to look at another potential venue and see how other potential activities in the pipeline pan out before committing.



Being Boys

Having had a weeks break we were back to work on Monday.

Work has been done quickly and efficiently.

We have also found time for visiting friends,

woodwork (the current hobby)

digging up treasure (amazing what you can find in our garden – glasses, spiderman, no end of coins…)


Now Sam is 6

I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

A A Milne’s words not Sam’s, although he likes being 6 very much, apparently.

Which is not really surprising as his birthday brought about a week of treats.

Monday was his actual birthday and presents were opened amidst the gambolling about in excitement.

One of his presents was a s tool kit and a load of balsa wood and dowelling.  The morning was spent with constructing.

At some point the boys abandoned Pete to it and went off to build Sam’s new Lego kit

The finished boat 🙂

In the afternoon they had friends round to play, made a lot of noise and ate a very gooey cake.

Bit gaudy but exactly what he wanted

Tuesday we caught the train to Cardiff to stay with Grandpa Bob.

At Bob’s as ever there was lots of chess

Weds we went to the theatre to se Horrible Histories Awful Egyptians.

Lunch at KFC, with Tatty Puppy (birthday present)

Then to the Build a Bear workshop

Kitty 2 (Sam's) and Daniel (Jack's)

And then killed a lot of time pottering in the Lego shop, building some minifigures to take home.

Thurs was a pottering day.  They washed our, yes that’s right, OUR car.  Ready for Pete to arrive mid afternoon to practice driving it.

Friday we were back at the theatre for the Ruthless Romans




Lest We Forget

Living in a military area gives added significance to Remembrance Day.

Never manage to actually get a photograph of him on Parade (I”m usually in it too with the Rainbows) so took some of him looking smart and clean before we went.


Needed a bit of an airing today as thanks to colds/coughs we’ve not left home much lately.
So we headed up and pottered down to the local skatepark.

Jack is getting more adventurous (and falling over more!)

 Sam was quite excited about the half a dead fish we found on the beach! He told the library assistant VERY loudly about it, and his theory of a shark eating the other half!


Colds, books and things to come

Apologies for short and rare posts at the moment. Have spent the last three weeks really struggling to shake off rotten colds and failing badly.

Then we’ve been distracted by bookcases collapsing which has resulted in a major clear out and furniture rebuilding/rearranging.

Besides our normal academic work much of what we’re doing I haven’t wanted to include on the blog for professional reasons.

I’m working on writing an Art Course for Activity Village, which involves producing pieces inspired by famous works using a range of art materials and approaches.  We are having great fun with this and the boys have produced some wonderful pieces.  Need to pick a Da Vinci as I really, really want to see the new exhibition at the National Gallery.

And of course Christmas is on the horizon! As everyone else has been making Halloween crafts we’ve been busy making a mess with glitter and sequins as we work on Activity Village’s Advent Calendar.

Really excited about this year! Helps that I’m way on course to have done my part by mid November for once, rather than struggling to stay a few days ahead 🙂  Adina has produced some gorgeous pictures (we don’t always do the colouring part but will this year – envisaging a big display in my front window). The crafts are lovely and simple, not that I’m blowing my own trumpet – but I am genuinely really pleased with them, boys have worked hard to help and had fun doing so (helped by payment by blue nose friends!).  And the printables we’re creating are lovely too, helped by some gorgeous illustrations that are a pleasure to work with.



Guy Fawkes

We’re not big fans of fireworks here.  View them as a ridiculous waste of money and Jack doesn’t like the noise.

But I did get Sam some indoor sparklers to play with on Saturday night.



Halloween ranks nearly as high as Christmas in the boy’s calendar.  Costumes were planned far in advance. Even if I did only sew them up on Sunday!

Jack is ‘Death’ and Sam is his ghost assistant. He was ademant that he wanted a sheet with eyes cut out of it as a costume, for once an easy option.

We spent the day pottering about and produced these lovely ghosts, some jellies in the shape of pumpkins and some chocolate ghost and pumpkin biscuits.I finished off Sam’s bag and made him some little decorations using a free pattern from Paper and String

Jack also got a set of decorations and at the last minute decided he wanted a bag too.  So I used the motifs from the Paper and String pattern and some glow in  the dark thread and tada…Early evening some friends came over so after playing on the Xbox Kinect for a while and a spooky tea, it was time for some Trick or Treating.

My photo really doesn’t do justice to the effort this house made.  The window had an optical display, there were loads of talking statues, pumpkins in every window, one of the graves popped open and there was a ghost in the backgarden that waved over the fence.  Not to mention a fully dressed up Zombie opening the door and chasing people he recognised with a chainsaw.

At home we waved off Jamie and Harvey switched off all the lights and read by torchlight.

I must admit I was a bit of a misery about Halloween. I got dragged into Trick or Treating when Jack was young by the American mother of his best friend.  However over the years I’ve grown to really enjoy it.  The kids love it and there is a lovely atmosphere out on the streets around here.  Trick or Treating has become so much the norm.  It seems an unspoken rule that people only knock on marked houses.  We had to bring stuff in abot 6.30pm though as dispite doubling the amount of sweets from last year and baking two dozen cakes, we ran out!