This week’s Geography group on Leicestershire focused on the National Space Centre.

We made balloon rockets across my living room (no photo, I was balancing on a chair).

Investigated forming moon craters by dropping bouncy balls in flour.


Made puffy paint from pva and shaving foam and made moon pictures.


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This was followed by lots of mess and they made impromptu ‘reverse pictures’ – spread the puffy paint everywhere and then drew in it.  Brilliant stuff, so very tactile.


20140430_7While the adults got that mess up, the children went back to the flour.


A really fun, very messy session 🙂  Trying to work out what county I can tie filling a paddling pool of shaving foam to play with into!


Geography group fell on St George’s Day this week.  So we had to bring aspects of that in.  The fact that Northamptonshire is home to Althorp, the family home and burial place of Diana, Princess of Wales ‘England’s Rose’ gave us the tenuous link.

We made felt roses from a kit (I don’t advise it they were tricky).

20140427_2And iced some cakes.  I don’t think we’ll take up cake decorating.

20140427_3Then we honoured Silverstone and the British Grand Prix by potato printing chequered flags and building marble tracks to race marbles.


I fancied doing this but didn’t have time to go and buy a cheap noodle.

Back to routine

With Pete back to work and Jack back to school, Tuesday was time to establish a bit of routine again.

20140422_58Maths was working on adding groups of numbers (i.e more than 2 at a time) and little tricks to make things easier like grouping into sets of 10 or pairs that he finds easy to remember.  This is one of the places where I really see a difference between the boys, Sam treats these little tricks like they are exciting magical secrets and takes them on board, to Jack it is interfering and he knows better, if he stares at it long enough the answer will appear to him (and it usually does with no idea how).

This little gem was hugely pleasing 🙂


We are adding map drill to our ‘essentials’ (another post there).  To add a bit of interest opted to do it online, old-fashioned skills using modern technology.  This site is probably one of my absolute favourites, the games aren’t fancy but they are simple and the kids learn from it, unfortunately I tend to forget about it.  We are starting out with basics and labelling continents and oceans.

Our focus on the mechanics of writing are paying off.  His handwriting, spelling and punctuation have taken a massive leap forward this year.  What I need to add to the mix is some work on conveying his own ideas in writing.  A while ago we dabbled a bit with this having used the next one up with Jack.  He wasn’t ready at the time or it was just too much work with the other thing we were doing, whatever the reason it didn’t work at the time.  Now the start at least is probably too simple but I know for Sam he needs this for confidence building.

We wound up ‘table work’ around 11am and needing some groceries for lunch headed out for a walk, we took a detour and walked over the Alver Valley looking for wildflowers with a spotters sheet from Nature Detectives.

At home we added some photos and a pressed bluebell (from the front garden not promoting picking wildflowers!)



Before some bible stories and crafts to top up our Spring display.

20140422_52 20140422_53Before heading to Cubs for some map reading (required him to tell me about coordinates in great detail on the way home – loves stuff like that).


Easter is a religious holiday to me and not being a religious family it tends to pass by in a whirl of cracking on with jobs about the house and general chilling as a family.

I don’t like all the secular hype that is starting to go with it now.  We do have an egg each, with the shops full of them it would feel awfully mean to say no on principle and somehow buying the boys one has led to Pete and I having one too.

20140422_8And thanks to a couple of pounds at the market I did do them a little hunt.

20140422_4 And we did a fair amount of baking.

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I also made sure to refresh Sam’s memory of the Easter story.   We may not be a religious family but I probably am best described as agnostic.  I believe that it is important for the boys to respect people’s faith and be able to make their own choices and the best way to do that is through knowledge.


And he made an Easter scene and a story wheel for Holy Week.

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One of the essentials of childhood…

…donkey rides 🙂  Oh how I loved riding donkeys.  Horses meh, they have a tendency to bite me, but donkeys I love.

20140417_36 20140417_41 He looked absolutely petrified when they first moved.

Staunton was heaving and we largely kept to the shade and quieter parts but we did get to see baby lambs.

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And a fantastic peacock display.

20140417_34A lovely day catching up with friends.

20140417_33Show me the way to go home,

I’m tired and I want to go to bed,

I had a little drink about an hour ago

and it’s gone right to my head, hey!





In praise of Jack

Over the last year or so I am aware that I spend a lot more time talking about Sam than Jack.  Mainly because this is a record of our home educating journey and for Jack that journey has come to an end, but also as they get older I am more trying to be more mindful of their privacy.

But feel the urge to be embarrassing mum.  My oldest boy turned 12 today, next year a teenager.  He is growing up so quickly and already there seems little ‘child’ left and get a real sense of the man he may become.  His English teacher is already talking about the possibility of him making a living from writing :).

I haven’t always done the best I could as a mother and have definitely made mistakes but more by luck than judgement he’s turning out rather well and he’s given me several reasons this holiday to realise how pleased and proud of him I am.

Of course there is a sense of pride in what he achieves.  Recent parent’s evening all we heard was praise but don’t think we were the easiest of parents.  Not interested in arbitrary levels or how he compares to others.  But I hope and believe we have a bright, intelligent boy who is willing to have a go and try hard at things which aren’t his natural skills (and can cope with a bit of ribbing about them not being his skills 😉 ).

Last week was Gang Show and 6 three hour shows over 4 days.  He performed well, stood up on stage in front of 100’s of people day after day with a self confidence way beyond mine.  But it was way more than that.  It was putting life on hold for 7 days of hard work and very late nights.  Months of rehearsals, losing an evening and a day every week, even showing up the weeks he had completely lost his voice, with lots of being moaned at and having things chopped and changed.  Mid week he was given an award for, in his words, “something along the lines of ‘not being anything special but being the backbone of GangShow’ “.  Gave us a bit of a laugh but did please me to see his effort, attitude,  and  general good naturedness acknowledged.

He’s got more life skills and self confidence than many way beyond him in years.  I won’t say I don’t worry about him (he’s my son it’s my job) but he’s doing me proud.  I can ask him to rustle up a meal if I’m busy, leave him home and not worry, let him go out with a be home at such and such, only thing stopping him heading into town on the bus is waiting for friends to do it with.  He’s proved himself able to deal with problems with common sense.

As well as all that he is also developing an awareness of others that I take for granted.  Out in town on Monday I was complemented on the boys manners and told I was bringing them up well on 3 separate occasions, I laughed it off but actually I have a nearly teenager who offers his seat on the bus (believe me this is quite a rare being), who automatically picks up the shopping in the supermarket to help, who is concerned over family budgets, who instinctively say please and thank you (to me as well as strangers), none of them massive things and all things I take for granted but obviously there are enough about who don’t to make people comment that mine do.

He seems to make friends easily but also enemies as he seems to have inherited the family trait of not suffering fools gladly which is not so good. But I think he’s proved a generous, loyal friend to those that matter to him on a few occasions this year and I think those that matter to him are the sort that are worth it 🙂  He really does have a nice bunch of friends.

I am happy and proud that my son is turning out to be smart, reliable, a doer (school council, Scout competitions – happy to sign himself up for anything) and may I add an incredibly sharp wit who is very good company.  He is also developing a mature sense of himself and an ability to see the funny side and laugh off or along with teasing.  I have to say not only do I love my son but I genuinely like him too.

There you go gushing over, I’ll have to keep close eye open for the next pot hole on the parenting road, must be due a trip down one very soon after that smugfest.

I will also add in balance that he is a slob and the state of his room drives me to distraction!!!


One of those times when the day was saved by Pete’s amazing ability to absorb and recall facts and my slightly compulsive tendency to hoard craft supplies.

The day began with a brainstorming of what we could come up with of interest to do with Bedfordshire.  Having discounted planes as we had focused on them recently, I was at the stage of planning how we could build a model airship when Pete came out with Luton FC are called the Hatters!

A quick Google search discovered that according to Wikipedia “The hat making industry began in the 17th century and became synonymous with the town. By the 18th century the industry dominated the town. Hats are still produced in the town but on a much smaller scale”.  Since this was the last Geography group of term what else could we do but Easter bonnets 🙂


What’s in a name…

One frequent conversation we have tends to go a bit like this…

‘No school today?’

‘I don’t go to school’

Quizzical look at me.

‘I teach him myself!’

Spectacular misrepresentation of our day to day lives but is an answer most people can understand.

The other day I was thinking a bit about the label ‘home education’.  Labels make me laugh (or sometimes cringe) they never adequately seem to cover our lives.

In this instance the thing that amused me was is I was thinking how little of our education actually happens at home.

Last Monday we covered PE and PSHE at the local soft play.  Economics and maths in the supermarket (shopping for Guides always involves lots of multiplication and price comparisons).

Tuesday we headed to London for a talk on Superhero Science at the Royal Institution and to explore their Michael Faraday museum.

20140402_39 20140402_40 20140402_43 So that was science!  Every trip to London also has some element of History – we walked up past Buckingham Palace and through Green Park and therefore discussions over the old park gates and the history of the royal parks, Culture – the flag over the Palace, we went past the Ritz which led to discussions on afternoon tea, Nature – pigeons are fascinating! and map reading.  Besides the practical aspect of using the map in town, a portion of the train journey was spent exploring the A-Z and locating random places.

20140402_38Train journeys covered, from memory, endangered animals, definitions of what makes a country a country, creativity (Minecraft), logic and strategy (chess), map reading, maths (time).

Thursday; local history in a local museum, science and nature looking at sea creatures, in tanks and through the microscope, elsewhere in the museum, history in the theatre watching a play about WW1 following with lots of discussion over lunch.  Following lunch more economics/maths and discussions about different handicrafts with a trip to hobbycraft.

This Monday we went to Titchfield Abbey and covered History, both the history of the Abbey with a detour into Tudors and religion with the dissolution and consolidating WW1 with reenacting battles.  There was PE, football and lots of running about.  We also visited the garden centre for a bit of science and nature, comparing different plants and discussing how they grow.

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Even our most sit down round the table days (Wednesdays) are not necessarily what people imagine when they hear ‘home education’ we are home but the rest of the people around the table aren’t as we are joined by others.

When the boys were younger we had a lovely t-shirt that I hope is still doing the rounds through the local group somewhere – it said ‘The world’s my playground, I’m home educated’.

I’d take it further than that, for us and so many home educators I know ‘the world is our classroom’.  There are some things school does better, some things I can’t replicate in terms of resources and experiences but there is so much that I can provide with a bit of planning and research. There will be a time when our education will become more home based as exams and teaching to tests rears it’s head, a case of needs must.  But until then we will continue to make as much use as we can of the world and people around us – education without boundaries 🙂


Wednesday really didn’t go as expected.  That isn’t really a bad thing. Although in reality we did end up being quite close to the plan despite my willingness to abandon it completely, rather thanks to the stubbornness of a 6 year old girl.  But when they are keen roll with it 🙂

Illness and work commitments depleted numbers so I cancelled Spanish.  When friend showed up late I ran out to meet her, while the kids were still in the car to give her the option to head to Paulsgrove instead.  Kids had other ideas…so in they came to play 🙂

While they were eating lunch I picked up some craft stuff for them to do with the view that we’d save the ‘lesson’ for a week until the others were back.  No my original plans sounded more fun apparently!  Well had to go with it.

After the shortage of ideas last week for Hertfordshire there was so much we could do for Buckinghamshire.  In the end knowing I had this in the cupboard we settled on Bletchley Park and a day of codes and ciphers.


We made an Enigma machine and coded their names.

Semaphore could have gone on all afternoon!  This is Sam spelling SAM 🙂

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Jack had created a picture code for them.


And we finished with some keyword ciphers.  Sam decoded a nice message inviting him to a party and send one saying …’my bum stinks’… sigh! Such a boy!