Filling in some blanks

Looking through some photos it appears that we have been doing more ‘work’ than I thought, so quick catch up to round the year off.

We’ve continued with looking at prehistoric people.  We’ve been watching ‘The Incredible Human Journey‘ and read ‘Maroo of the Winter Caves‘.  This lead on to looking at homes in prehistoric times.

We made a snow house like the one described in the book from icing and marshmallows instead of snow.

Marshmallow snow house if it isn't obvious!
Marshmallow snow house if it isn’t obvious!

And a cardboard cave.

It is decorated with ave art which isn't clear here.
It is decorated with cave art which isn’t clear here.

We also took a Sam led trip into a look at navigation.  We have a couple of these Thames and Kosmos Little Labs kits.  They are very expensive for what they are and you could do it all better and cheaper but we like them and more importantly sometimes I don’t want/haven’t the motivation to do it myself.  Sam found it in a cupboard when we were sorting out and moving into the conservatory and was motivated enough to spend two days doing the activities so no complaints here.


We started with scales and plan drawing, inc of the rec.

20131235 20131241 20131240

Much to amusement of the neighbours we did a trail around the area – me following chalk arrows at a discrete distance.



School detour - don't think anyone fell for it :D
School detour – don’t think anyone fell for it 😀

We also had fun looking at maps and playing with the compass.

And although there has been no recording on paper we have been reading and talking about the Victorians.  We started with a group session at Fareham Museum,


had a lovely trip to Farnham (on to do list to go back in nice weather and do the town trail)

20131320 20131322 20131325



a day at the Victorian Festival of Christmas  and finished back at Fareham Museum looking at life in the workhouse.

We also had group sessions on Twas the Night Before Christmas and Germany and trips to Funcity and the park.


Oh and some work on seasons.

Hand and finger painting the seasons.
Hand and finger painting the seasons.

And a closer look at Autumn.

Autumn display
Autumn display

There has also been a lot of storytelling; verbally, written and the Kindle and not forgetting comic strips

20131337And if this is a dry spell, think how much we can do when I am motivated 😉

We don’t ask for much…

… which is good.

Christmas was a bit of a wash out (literally with the weather).  Jack has been ill since school broke up and is still struggling and he gave it to me which resulted in me spending about half of Christmas in bed (and a good proportion of the time I was up building a Lego jetpack – way more complicated than necessary!).  Presents were nothing spectacular this year – Sam had a subscription to the Beano, which while it was what he wanted it was a bit difficult to put under the tree.  Jack had Fifa 14 – to replace last years Fifa 13, which no doubt will be followed by Fifa 15 next year ;).  Although I did get my picture of a goose 😀


But despite bugs and weather we still had a good time.  Christmas for us is about relaxing and enjoying each other’s company, which we have done!  Boys have been on form – lived in their onesies, happily played together and with us (we got a fair few games between us), the surprise hit present was an electronic hangman!

Christmas Eve and new onesies
As well as cushions, blankets and annuals.
Remote control bug
Remote control bug
Marble run
Jose Mourinho came to visit 🙂
Subbuteo – he had Chelsea and Liverpool (who have been rechristened Cardiff for Pete)

And some more fairly random photos.

Sock snowmen and pottery ornaments.
Sock snowmen and pottery ornaments.
Fabric chains – 5 years now I think and still going.
Decopatch – shudder!
More enjoyable and better outcome - felt banner.
More enjoyable and better outcome – felt banner.
We have now got it so pretty much everything on there is homemade or bought on a special day out so has a memory attached. Apart from the tinsel 😉
Gingerbread house - not my forte!
Gingerbread house – not my forte!
More gingerbread on a gingerbread plate
Pottery painting
Ice cream cone tree from home ed group
Sweet tree gifts from Sam
Having breakfast with Santa (clever Oscar won it as a prize!)
And my favourite, Village carol singing


Festival of Christmas 2013

Found camera 🙂

Christmas for us starts the last weekend in Nov with the annual Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth Dockyard.  Over the last few years it has become more shopping focussed and less entertainment but as we have a pass that includes entry (as does Sam’s best friend) it is still a very good day and this years was better than the last few.  Really enjoyable day.

Travelling show
Travelling show
He’s there every year and is good.
The Santa shows are odd!
Victorian Santa
Nothing really to say 🙂
That fake snow is still everywhere!
Victorian fair
Playing on the Warrior after storytelling session
They could work the swings this year.
Warrior by night
Toasted marshmallows before home


A Little Bit of Structure?

This is one of my favourite topics and something I have read quite extensively about over the years and come back to time and time again as I believe in constantly tweaking our approach, anyway feel free to switch off…

The structure v’s unschooling/autonomous split is one of those things that rears it’s head fairly regularly in the HE community. Not so much in the flesh as when you are out playing or doing activities it is irrelevant but on forums.  It can get heated at times as unfortunately I think the most critical people of home eders are other home eders, we all get used to having to defend our choices to outsiders and have a habit of turning that on each other.

Following this article from the Daily Mail, I’ve been discussing the merits of unschooling with some friends on Facebook.  Now hoping I haven’t upset anyone as I know I come across as quite anti-unschooling and while I’ve tried going down that route and it didn’t work for my family (result weepy meltdowns from insular children) I am most certainly not anti it (was my goal when we set out on HE as a journey) and the friends who came down on the unschooling side have lovely, bright, well mannered children so it obviously works for some.

The whole article is written to be inflammatory and as for the comments shockingly narrow minded (:0) – really not positive propaganda.

In practice I suspect the majority of home eders fall between the extremes and labels are arbitary. I call us structured but in reality besides handwriting, mental maths and group stuff we have done little that could be construed as ‘structured’ since June as life has taken over.  Feel a bit guilty but he is still learning loads.

What makes us ‘structured’ in my mind is that I do limit screen exposure (too much = glassy eyes and meltdowns and inabilty to engage with anything else in this house) and I do try and have a routine where we do activities together of a morning for a few hours (games/stories/crafts – little that many would recognise as ‘school’).  In practice it doesn’t always happen but generally the days go a lot smoother if we follow this routine.

We also have some things we believe it important/essential for our children to know. I see knowledge as building blocks and it being my responsibility to make sure the basics are covered, I just don’t have the faith to trust that they will learn all this themselves (and here I am referring specifically to my children).  But I don’t aim to teach as I firmly believe that children learn best when they want to learn.  My role is to make them want to learn and to give them the tools and opportunities to do so.  They are given lots of control over how the basics are covered workbooks, games, computer, books (we cover an awful lot by just reading), groups, discussion, crafts, documentaries, and lots of opportunity to follow their interests beyond the basics.

To use the analogy of leading a horse to water…

I can lead them to water but can’t (and wouldn’t want to) make them to drink.  I need to make the pool enticing to tempt them to drink.  I might need to try several ways, we may go away and come back several times and sometimes I have to pick and choose which pools are important to spend my energy on and which to let go.  If they run off to drink from another pool I certainly won’t pull them away, I’ll do my best to top it up as long as they want to drink.

I do own various curricula but I see these as something to refer to, a suggestion for me rather than something to rigidly adhere to.  We work best with flexibility.

Even at our most structured we’re never talking more than a few hours 3 or 4 days a week sneaks up as they get older (less if extra group events) steered by me so still plenty of space and time for play and mental processing.

So our approach really is ‘a little bit of structure‘ (link is my favourite home ed forum – lovely friendly people, welcoming to everyone).

Blogging Absence – Life happens

Things have been a bit slow on the blogging front lately (and work and responding to emails and few other things …sorry!) as life has taken over and I’ve been tired of an evening, then had a bout of insomnia in the middle of the night and been tired in the mornings too.

Some things good, some things bad.

My conservatory has been finished (minus some plastering) triggering a big sort out and move around of things and need to acquire (and put together) new furniture which has effected pretty much every room in the house and is still ongoing.

My Dad visited for a fortnight and we did some flat viewing with the view to him moving down here next year.  Kids already are excited, they both have a fantastic relationship with my Dad, far better than I could ever have hoped for given the distance and infrequency of contact.

We also had a trip up North to catch up with other family and go to the christening of my oldest friend’s children.  Sam was most taken with the sausage rolls at the party afterwards 🙂

We’ve also had number of home ed trips/events to keep us busy.

There have been crafts to finish for gifts.

And not forgetting a special event to celebrate!


On the negative side every time I think I have this parenting lark sorted it would appear not… had more than a few headaches and sleepless nights there but touch wood issues dealt with and things are picking up again.

The more important issues there at least stopped me worrying about more minor things that I had given too much head space and emotional energy. The move to the new hall for home ed group backfired spectacularly. Couldn’t tell you how or why,  I’m definitely not blameless I made some wrong decisions and over reacted when Sam got upset, but still rather baffled by it all. Anyway we ended up with a group with an unpleasant atmosphere and more importantly one Sam refused to go to.  Lessons have been learned.  Can’t say the outcome makes me feel good – we have ended with a smaller group of mainly Sam’s friends.  I have always hated the idea of running a group that wasn’t open to all and feel like I have been forced into taking ‘sides’.  But I know I can’t take on responsibility for the happiness of others and I tend to overthink things. I do this for Sam and what we are working on now is so much more what suits him and he is happy again and that has to be the most important thing to me.

Also on the negative side of things that have taken up my time and energy – Halfords are awful!  Who knew purchasing a bike could be so stressful!

In the meantime structured home ed is down to handwriting and mental maths and Spanish lessons but learning of all sorts continues unabated 🙂