Whirlwind Week

Last week was incredibly busy, one where I felt like we were constantly chasing tails.  Besides usual commitments away from home I managed to clock up over 10 hours at Brownies due to lack of adult help there, Pete was away and we had two home ed trips one I needed to sort crafts for.  Although I had regrets about signing us up for various things actually they came good and we had a lovely social week.

Monday was a work/errands day although we did manage an hour or so in the local park catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for ages.  Oh and lots of playing with loom bands in preparation for Guides.


Tuesday was a trip to Portsmouth to see Lucy Hawking (Stephen Hawking’s daughter – author of George’s Secret Key).  Sam had to be really nudged through the first book but displayed some unexpected enthusiasm on the day (think Oscar’s rubbed off) and we ended up purchasing the second to get it signed, true to form he read half of it on bus home and then enthusiasm upped and left.

New playground on the way
Book signing
Reading on the bus

Wednesday was Geography and Spanish and the usual Lego and bubble play with friends.


Thursday we had a lovely bug hunt and outdoor craft session with a few other families.  Coming to the conclusion that these ad hoc, local, informal days suit us best.

Getting serious about it
Building traps – have to admire their thinking
More traps.
Traps turned out to be effective.
Stick insect
Crab shell found on the beach while waiting for the bus home.

Friday, a very kind friend collected Sam to play at theirs for the morning as I was stuck in expecting parcels, meaning I had a couple of hours home alone to sort out some crafts for work.  Then a hurried afternoon finding and checking Jack’s camp stuff as he had a 30 min window between school and leaving for camp!

Bit of time wasting to chill after the stress of Jack’s departure.

Sam was up late most days and work was a struggle to fit in, we managed full quota of English but only half Maths and less of other stuff.  Think it is time to accept that it is break time, my Dad is visiting so time to let things slide for a while.



Don’t be so hard on yourself…

… aka the less whingey version of my last post.  My bit of a grump had been magnified in to a major grump, by various factors I won’t dwell on in case the grump comes back,  and the thoughtful, reflective post I intended to write came out as a rather pathetic whine and moan, sorry.  Attempt two…

I feel I am not operating to the best of my abilities at the moment.  I know I am not the only one.  The word failure which I used yesterday was definitely a bit overdramatic, more like working at B level when I expect A*.

I’m going to ignore work/home etc as everyone inc myself tend to cut a bit more slack in those areas.  Home Ed though is something different, you are out on a limb there, people are very judgy about it (until recently I hadn’t really realised how much) and I think the fear of the consequences for our children if we ‘make a mess of it’ is huge.

Most of the time common sense over rules the fear.  We can see our children thriving and learning and growing as people.  But I find most home educators I know will admit to an occasional panic.

I’ve now been home educating a school aged child for 7 years, over 20% of my life which is quite frightening.  The road is a bumpy one I think most long term home educators will admit.  We’ve come across plenty of stones in our path.  Some require a change of route (eg bit more/less structure, change of curricula, tracking down a new opportunity to make friends … ), others just a gritting of teeth and climbing over them (eg. work/family problems that need your attention).  Very, very occasionally a stone is so big it requires not just a new route but a new destination, for us the lack of suitable/desirable social opportunities for Jack was something we just couldn’t get over, school does suit him better.

I tend to be a lot more positive about the changes of route now-a-days, less wobble inducing ‘it’ s not working, I’m failing’ and more ‘hmm, so that isn’t working because… wonder if this will…’.  Also better at avoiding the paths with stones we would need to walk over – saying no to things, avoiding too many trips etc.  Which makes me more relaxed when we do encounter them, few weeks ‘off’ every now and again doesn’t matter in the overall scheme of things and indeed helps develop different skills such as independence.

Where we are now is not so much stony as a trough.  We’re floating along, probably from the outside (perhaps even to Sam) it looks like we’re on our normal path plodding along.  What they don’t see are the legs paddling like mad underneath.  For many years I would have panicked and looked to change what we are doing because ‘it’s not working’, however actually it is working, I’m just a bit bored of the routine and ready for a holiday.  Part of the problem is me looking to escape the misery that is summer by looking to Sept and what we might do then rather than living in the present.  Planning is good but I am planning next year to avoid following the plans for now.

The problem is if we do lose routine this early in the summer then behaviour will deteriorate massively before end of the break, Sam won’t admit that he likes it but I have no doubt that he does need routine.  Ideally we’d knock ‘school’ work on the head from now until mid Aug when we get home from holiday but with pesky Jack in school we are tied to those times roughly.

The inner rational voice says…

  • I’m not on top form physically, cut myself some slack.
  • A ‘B’ is still a good pass, I’d love to be constantly A* but I’m human.  Even with me working below par, objectively, I am still happy with the education he’s getting.
  • If I was teaching I would be feeling just as physically wrecked/fed-up/desperate for the break, and a lot of teachers will be the same, I doubt any practising teacher is in the same form of enthusiasm in July as they are in September.   The guilt in dipping only really kicks in as he’s ‘mine’, but he is fine.
  • Schools are on limited timetables at this time of year, plays/sports days etc will all be disruptive.
  • Even though he is fine plodding through the curriculum, I’m not doing well delivering it because it’s not engaging my brain.  Obviously home ed is 95% about what works for him, but it has to be deliverable for me.   It is not currently so we need a change of tack – not long term, the curricula are good we’ll come back to them in Sept, but for now to engage me in the present rather than planning things that realistically we won’t have time to do.

Now the unsolicited (and possibly slightly pompous – if so Sorry!) advice for others struggling.

If it is a trough; cut yourself some slack, don’t be afraid to make it a bit about yourself and what you need, don’t panic and make mass changes completely unnecessarily, adopt a ‘summer schedule’ that is a change in routine for a while if needed.

If it is stones on the path;  cut yourself some slack, talk to the children.  Talking helps most things.  Give them input into how they work – don’t just interpret  or make assumptions, they will surprise you.  I am upfront about this is what I need you to do (basic maths and english skills really) but they have always had a lot of input into the practicalities and there is lots of room for negotiation elsewhere.  If there are family/home/work problems talk to them at an appropriate level, give them opportunities to help  but also make time (however small) to forget about everything else and read a book, kick a football … But mostly cut yourself some slack, lower your standards and just ride it out if necessary.

We are always our own worse critics so don’t be so hard on yourself!

Sometimes I actually listen to myself and follow my own advice 😉

Fed upness

Just that really!  Moan alert!

I do not like being hot. It makes me grumpy.

My eczema has flared up massively, worst for years, making me tetchy.  Even on my face which I have never had.  Puts me off going out.

Asthma is also not good.  Largely outgrown it but wheezy at the moment.

Hayfever is a nightmare. Glad I don’t drive as feel like I am seeing the world through a haze of watery eyes.

All the above are causing serious sleep deprevation.

Knee is playing up (teenage injury).  Mostly a dull ache, with stairs and walks causing issues, with the occasional loud click followed by excruciating, will I ever move again, pain when the kneecap slips out of place.

Not on form and feeling a bit of a failure at everything.

Low energy levels and hands covered in eczema are seriously hampering housework.  Always grumpier when the house is messy and not clean.

Meal times are out the window as kitchen is a sun trap so hate being in there and not in mood to eat a lot, so diet is picky and too many takeaways.  Feel not doing my mum/wife role properly as everyone even the kids are pretty much fending for themselves.

Motivation to get out and speak to others waning. But at the same time know I am not good company for the boy at the moment so we need the break that is being with others.

As for school work, he is doing fine and really well at keeping going, getting books out and cracking on.  It is me who is causing problems by lacking motivation to sit down with him and getting distracted.  Project work, it is definitely his motivation that is keeping us going – doing volcanoes so he’s happy.  In reality we are probably doing just as much as ever, I am just feeling jaded and like I am not capitalising on his motivation as much as I should.

As for work ‘work’ that appears to have ground to a halt as brain is woolly.

Well if there is anything I have learned over the last 9 years is that this trough will pass, like all the others before.

Many teachers are also operating below par as we limp (literally in my case) towards the end of a very long term.  The guilt is only so strong as it is not my job it is my child.

I’ll ride it out.  Try and avoid the bad habits so we can paddle through the trough and plan my way up the paths at the other side.   Could probably do with trip to the doctor though 🙁


West Yorkshire – Liquorice Art

I am a big fan of using as many different media as possible in art work.  The more unusual the better.

Today’s geography group was West Yorkshire and focused on Pontefract – Liquorice Town according to our book.  Turns out I am the only one to like Pontefract cakes.  However, they had more fun playing with making liquorice pictures than they’d had with the eating.

Face by Sam20140618_1

Face by Ewan20140618_2 Man by me20140618_4 Man on a bike by me20140618_7 Monk in a Viking attack (yes that is blood on the side of his head) – by Sam obviously20140618_8

House by me – yes I do forget this is for the kids at times.

20140618_10Another face by Sam
20140618_11Man on a tractor with sun and rain shower by Amelia

20140618_16Franz Ferdinand being shot by the ‘Black Hand’ by Sam – who obviously knows more about WW1 than I think.


Hitler sun – Sam and Amelia20140618_19

Then to mark Halifax as well and despite being the only adult in the house, we made a very simple toffee, with limited success.  Edible but very sticky – was only sugar and water we were dubious at best.  Special award goes to my friend who did not panic when she returned to find me dangling her 3 yo over the hob so he could have a go at stirring boiling sugar!


A Better Day

Yesterday was a lot smoother affair.  The ‘essentials’ were all done by 11.

Even baking of brownies for Maths (weighing, measuring and following instructions).  After dry brownies last time we ignored their recipe and went for our own.  Microwave brownies, but we reduced the flour to 65g and added 100g choc chips.  Only thing I ever use the microwave for is reheating cold coffee, warming milk and jacket spuds but am now a convert.  May never make oven brownies again.

We then headed in to Stubbington for a picnic at the park with friends and to meet a new local home educator.  Followed by a quick library visit.


Then home via bank, beach and ice cream.

Jack had not gone to drama so boys played Minecraft while I was working on plans for next academic year.

Then being a summer’s evening older child took younger child to Cubs and I made jam.


Wading through Oobleck

Probably best sums up yesterday 😉

We got through ‘the essentials’ in the morning but only just (usually finished around 10.30).  There was a lot of procrastinating from both of us.  Work wasn’t difficult, no upsets, just on a go slow and felt like wading through oobleck.

Afternoon was a real wading through oobleck experience – trail from the conservatory to the kitchen.

We started watching by watching the volcano episode of Earth, Power of the Planets 

Then we moved on to playing with thick card (tectonic plates) on oobleck (magma) and seeing how as the card was pulled apart the oobleck moved up in between, and how when the card was wet and you pushed them together the card folded and made ‘mountains’.

And then there was mess making 🙂



We followed up by making a jigsaw of the tectonic plates



We’ve been drifting for a bit with this so when I forgot to prepare last week’s maths and English it was the catalyst we needed to prioritise it.

Display of our crafty Viking offerings.
Display of our crafty Viking offerings.

Where we went

We started off the project with a visit to the British Museum’s exhibition and ended with a trip to Winchester Cathedral.  I considered a trip to Bosham so we could have a play at being Canute failing to turn back the tide but decided that was overkill and unfortunately York is just too far.


What we did

Activity book from the British Museum (ours came from the village book shop)20140615_3

Work sheets from David Ford (I wouldn’t recommend them though,  the Anglo Saxon stuff is really good but not these so much).


Made a timeline from index cards and pegs (the cards will be added to our timeline box – another post there)

20140615_2920140615_30We worked our way through Hands on History Vikings, reading the content and making the crafts (with some tweaks of course).

Treasure Chest
Treasure Chest
Story Stone - featuring Thor and his hammer.
Story Stone – featuring Thor and his hammer.
Viking tunic dyed with onion skins
Viking tunic dyed with onion skins
Elvis the Viking with a papermache helmet, a card sword and a paper plate shield.
Elvis the Viking with a papermache helmet, a card sword and a paper plate shield.
And some weapons for Sam - card sword was a precut one from Baker Ross with a card shield with a foil covered yoghurt pot glued on for the centre.
And some weapons for Sam – card sword was a precut one from Baker Ross with a card shield with a foil covered yoghurt pot glued on for the centre.
War banner
War banner
Dragon ships figurehead
Dragon ships figurehead
Weather vane
Weather vane
Merchant scales
Merchant scales
Thor's hammer cast from plaster of paris - it is all my fault it looks more like an arrow.
Thor’s hammer cast from plaster of paris – it is all my fault it looks more like an arrow.
Tafl boardgame - click on the pic for how to play
Tafl boardgame – click on the pic for how to play
Viking apple juice
Viking apple juice
Vikings writen in runes - if we'd have had time we'd have had a go at carving them in a plaster block.
Vikings writen in runes – if we’d have had time we’d have had a go at carving them in a plaster block.
Cup like one found in a burial cache
Cup like one found in a burial cache
Lego longship
Lego longship

After researching buildings and townships, built a Minecraft Viking settlement.

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We read

(pics are links to Amazon)




(actually we didn’t use this but only because I forgot about it until we were tidying yesterday – I do like it!)





We watched



Turned out to be a lot of fun.

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 photo bc6b61f4-5556-4b25-8fc2-416c509a8a19_zpsa41cc596.jpg

Making the most of a bad job!

Friday wasn’t a fun day!

When Sam was in hospital a month or so ago the x-ray showed a shadow on his lung.  At the time it was agreed that it was almost certainly the position he was in (portable x-ray being done while he was still on Nebs and really struggling and tiring) but better safe than sorry and to have one done again in 4 weeks when sure infection was gone.  Been over 4 weeks and realising there was never going to be a good day it was a lets get it over with.

Unfortunately lets get it over with involves a 30 minute bus ride, 10 minute train and then a long (up hill) walk.  So good hour and a halves journey by the time you factor in waiting for public transport/getting lost and basically writing off the day.  It was also HOT.  I don’t like summer.  Obviously I am sorry for those who had floods/damage but personally I really enjoyed the winter storms – Sam is also a wellies and mac person.  Train journey was spent trying to cajole him into reading a book because I’ve signed him up to go to a talk from the author.  I will never learn – do not sign up for HE trips, only very rarely do they seem to work for us unless it is something I have booked with him in mind.  Actually I’m on his side on the book I only lasted a chapter – sigh.

We have been toying with going up to the WW1 Remembrance Centre on Portsdown Hill so in an attempt to salvage the day I had made tentative arrangements to call a friend from the hospital to see if it was an option.  In the end we were only in the hospital 12 mins, they were fantastic.  But no one was in a fort/museum mood so we settled for friends coming to meet us for lunch and a potter around the charity shops.

Managed to pick up a much needed new swim suit and a nice new top.  Plus a fabulous nature studies book.



A very old book, I LOVE old books.

20140615_12This is the young man the author was rambling with.



And these were part of a 5 books for 99p offer (have to be a Guider to get the excitement of the find I suspect 🙂 )

20140615_15I had a reasonably pleasant time anyway.



Winchester Cathedral

Monday morning I opened up the folders to find we had completed all the work in them!  Normally I try and make sure all the prep of worksheets (we only use them for Maths and English) happens during the holidays as easier to do it on bulk and days run so much nicer when it is all there ready.

Anyway decided as this is such a long half term it wouldn’t do any harm to leave Maths and English for a week and we’ve spent the week finishing off our Viking project.  Lots of crafting and reading.

To round it off we visited Winchester Cathedral to see the mortuary chests containing the bones of Canute and his Queen Emma (although no one is sure who is in which chest after the Roundheads emptied them out and they were salvaged by local people).  Of course in the way of these things they were away being restored.  Cathedral though has a really good kids trail, perfect level of information and takes just right length of time and it was a beautiful day where we needed to get out of the house.  We made the most of the journey from an educational aspect anyway.  Spent the journey there reading about Vikings in Britain, the Danelaw, Danegeld and Canute.  The journey back was spent with him recapping what he knew (lots about how they lived, time frame to be worked on).  Public transport has some advantages – not many but some.

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Memorial stone to Canute and Emma.


Smiling in a cathedral is ‘wrong’ apparently 🙂  Little doorway leads to tunnels under Saint Swithen’s tomb.


The beautiful West Window.

We then went for a lovely lunch (blackcurrant and vanilla cake – yum!)




I had intended to go to the City Museum but felt we’d done enough and needed an afternoon in the sun.  So we walked through town to find Alfred the Great and spent the afternoon in Abbey Gardens.

20140612_17Last time we were there he was still at the driving trains age – now he was at the train robber/Bond villain age climbing along the sides :).  Forget what a nice park it is.

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And some photos of the stream as it is just pretty.

20140612_2320140612_2420140612_26And one final photo.  Where as life can be amazingly beautiful when it is in abundance as the photos above show.  In isolation it is just amazing!  Platform of Fareham Station – how determined and hardy is this little thing 🙂



South Yorkshire

I think Yorkshire may be big enough to see us through to the end of term 🙂

Today we were on South Yorkshire.  The book focused on Sheffield and it’s connections to steel and silver and… nudity.

Decided that metal work was the way to go 😉

So we made some lovely butterflies and dragonflies from foil, wire and beads.


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