Bursledon Brickworks

We took a trip up to the Brickworks yesterday with visiting Grandpa.  It has always been on our radar but never quite made it.

Was very pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed it, very little in the way of hands on stuff but what there was actually added to the displays instead of distracted from them (not a fan of lots of computer generated interactive stuff in museums if you haven’t guessed by now).  They have a heritage day in Sept which I have heard good things about but actually one of the big things that contributed to our enjoyment was pretty much having it to ourselves.

Also was nice to have Jack along.  He went through a spell of being horrible to take on day trips; just completely didn’t want to be there and let you know about it.  But Mr Grumpy has been replaced by Mr Cynical and he is prepared to find his own amusement in things (yesterday’s was reading the signs in funny voices and dressing up) and makes me laugh.

20140829_1  20140829_420140829_2 20140829_6 20140829_7 20140829_8 20140829_16 20140829_10 20140829_18 20140829_23 20140829_25  20140829_27 20140829_29 20140829_26 20140829_30 20140829_31 20140829_37 20140829_41 20140829_42 20140829_54 20140829_55 20140829_56

Art 14/15

Another subject we don’t find as much time for as I would like.  This time it is not lack of motivation but lack of time that is the determining factor.  Hoping that by reorganising our schedule/activities a bit and studying alongside others we will find the carve out the time.

Three elements

1) He’ll be starting art classes at a centre in Fareham to work on the lower levels of the Art Award (dipping toe into field of recognised qualifications).  I think that these will only be a short term thing for this term though.  Should add hopefully – will depend on whether enough sign up for them to run the course.

2) Sketching practice.  We’ll be working on observational drawings, taking our Book of Centuries out to museums and a sketch book on nature walks.

3) Introduction to Famous Artists.  We’ll be looking at a different artist every half-term and a different piece of work every week.  We’ve chiselled time out in our week by planning on  slotting it in before Spanish so friends will be joining us.

We are going to make use of stories and start by covering the artists in Anholts Artists series.


I have prepared factsheets on our first artist and works of art we’ll be covering.  We have quite a few different about the artist books although these ones are the best.

20140826_9We won’t do the artist worksheet with the group and we will see on the timing about the works of art ones.  May do the facts element and leave the opinion element to be done individually.  Developing opinions and considering why he likes/dislikes works of art is something I am keen to work on this year.


The second aspect of the artist study is observation.  Very much placing my own interpretation on Charlotte Mason’s philosophy I’ve produced a series of ‘picture study’ worksheets which encourage the children to look at the picture or a particular element ofthe picture in detail and then try and reproduce from memory.


The third element is to produce their own piece of work inspired by the one we are covering.  I’m not an artist (although hopefully not completely incompetent) so focus will be more on expression and exploring different media than on technical skills. Plan for first half term can be seen here – Matisse plan. Over the years I have greatly whittled down my art books to a few good ones that I can draw on for inspiration if needed, Matisse though with his simple lines and strong colours provides all the inspiration needed.


The fourth and final element is to hopefully get out and see as many pieces we are studying in their original in galleries as we can.  Obviously with many that will not be possible, I’d love to visit the Louvre and the Metropolitan in New York but unlikely so will have to do the best we can.  We’ve arrangements to catch the Matisse exhibition at the Tate before it closes in early Sep and will hopefully make it to the National to see what Monet’s/Da Vinci’s they have (undecided which to do next – Monet’s poppies would fit in nicely with Remembrance Day/WW1 plans but quite fancy the idea of Vitruvian Man out of Gingerbread for last session before Christmas).   Earlier in the summer I read newspaper coverage about the artist Jake Chapman claiming galleries were not the place for children – they won’t understand the ‘complexity’ of many works of art.  Well to be perfectly honest neither do I in many cases but I still like looking at them and I think it is incredibly pretentious to think you have in depth understanding of a piece to appreciate it.  The trick to me in enjoying galleries with children is not trying to do it all, go to view a handful of works and focus on them and then leave before anyone gets fractious.

Music 14/15

How do you go about teaching something like music is one of the common questions addressed to home educators.  The accepted answer (unless you are particularly musical) seems to be to join a group class and/or have instrument lessons.

I have been trying to interest Sam in these for years and failing.  One of the local home ed groups runs group lessons and I know a few piano tutors so could set something in place easily but he flatly refuses.

Been feeling guilty about failing in this area.  But have decided no more.  Playing an instrument has to be self motivated.  We have a piano that Pete and Jack play quite regularly, guitars both electric and acoustic that he also sees others play and until recently when I decided to end the guilt, a big box of percussion instruments and recorders.  The carrot is dangling there in front of him but if he doesn’t want to bite then I’m not going to use a stick.

The reason I adopt a more structured approach to home education is that I believe that there are some things that children need to learn to be able to have the maximum opportunities in adult life and I don’t have the faith that they will pick it all up by interest alone – but they are mainly reading/writing/maths/economics/politics.  Music for all but a select few really talented, motivated individuals is a hobby something they play and listen to for fun and something they can function quite happily through life without any major knowledge of.

Our music study then for this year is focused on enjoyment of music and basic general knowledge (recognising instruments and composers).  I don’t plan to allocate much, if any, time to it specifically but let it slot in.

  1. Composition:  aim is just playing and having fun.  May work in the odd bit to project work, probably using the chime bars he wanted to keep when we got rid of the rest of the instruments.  But really plan is to make sure the electronic programmes he likes to play with are easily accessible and we remember to use them to help fill in those spare moments. They also tend to be social activities, something the males of the house like to indulge in on a weekend/evenings.  We have an app on the iPad Garageband and his other favourite is Incredibox.  Sure we will add more over the year.
  2. Instrument!  As soon as I decide to stop stressing he decides to take up the ukulele.  I expect the idea of it being him and a book with no teacher swung it.  We will have to see how long interest is maintained.  We’ll keep going as long as he’s actively wanting to.20140714_120140826_8
  3. Being able to recognise instruments.  Every year (Sam was 2 months old first time) we attend a children’s orchestral concert in Jan – just checked and date has been announced for 2015 so am happy.  We also take other opportunities that fall our way to get out and hear/see live music.  We are booked to see a show in Oct (although in the cinema) by BBC’s Ten Pieces Orchestra.  In the run up to these outings we usually glance through Usborne’s Introduction to Music to familiarise ourselves with the instruments/layout although by now he is pretty good.
  4. New for this year and something sadly lacking from my own music education, is I would like him to be familiar with some of the most famous pieces of classical music and to have a feeling of type of music by a composer.  We will be using the book Lives of the Musicians to introduce the lives of the composers.  We will look at one per half term.  We will record details about the composer on an index card to add to our timeline box.  We will then over the six weeks or so of the half term play music by the composer in the background when we are having quiet spells, crafting, lego etc and possibly depending on Sam (some people say music helps concentration) while he is working.20140826_7 Have also come across this cd.  Dread to think how long it has sat here neglected.  One to add to the listening pile in the post Christmas, bleak weather term.  20140826_15

The Promise of Things to Come

I love this time of year.

Summer always feels like a trial with the hayfever, the head to toe eczema, the wheezing, the insect bites (that we react badly to and end up covered in horrible boil like spots), the crowds, the surviving on 4 hrs sleep on a good night, the food debates as everyone lacks appetite and no one can cope with being in our kitchen for more than 5 mins spells as it turns into an oven in the afternoon sun, the heat – have I ever mentioned I HATE feeling hot.  Doesn’t help that the rest of the family suffer too so everyone is irritable and snappy.  May – Aug is not a happy time in the Large household.

September, however, is full of promise…

The cooler nights bring more restful sleep and everything feels better when you get enough sleep.  I become a lot less irritable and rediscover my social gene (it still isn’t massively active but it’s twitching ;))

There is a shift back to school routine.  I love having both boys at home and just relaxing and going with the flow but we are all ready for more routine and catching up with friends again.

There is a sense of fresh slates and newness – much more so than at the start of the calendar year.  Plans made over the last month or so start to be realised.  Shelves are full of new books and long forgotten ones salvaged from middle of shelves as I declare this will be their year 😉  New stationery has been purchased, no delaying the day by pen hunts for us this year (I have found a place to hide some from Jack as think he eats them!).

Have a new diary that is full of exciting trips and opportunities.

My kitchen is usable again and the fruits of the season are waiting to be turned into pies and cakes.  It is the season of soups, stews and fresh bread.

Welly shopping is needed, much prefer boots to sandals and love walking in the rain.

Being able to get out and about, air is breathable, midges are gone, there are puddles to jump in and the changing colours to watch.

Harvest festivals, Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas lie just ahead – a crafting/baking frenzy.


And in celebration, colours of early Autumn across the Alver Valley yesterday.

20140825_1 20140825_3 20140825_5 20140825_6 20140825_7 20140825_8 20140825_9 20140825_11 20140825_13 20140825_14 20140825_15 20140825_16 20140825_19 20140825_20 20140825_22 20140825_12




Science 14/15

Science is my home ed stumbling block.  Not because I find it difficult, just because it isn’t something that seems to capture either mine or Sam’s passion the way History for example does, so it is something we need to make time for rather than something that happens naturally.

The other issue has been finding the right way for us to study it.  I believe very much on learning science through hands on exploration, however this approach is messy and time consuming and feels very bitty, we seem to have focussed on ‘wow element’ rather than the basic nuts and bolts.  But workbooks for science just don’t feel right.

Therefore the plan is to take the book The Way Science Works and use this as a base for our studies.  It covers 6 topics;

Looking at Matter

Atoms and Elements

Forces and Energy

Heat and Sound

Light and Colour

Electricity and Magnetisim

So will work out as one per half term.

The book features double page spreads of information, punctuated by experiments to illustrate points, the majority of which look very doable at home.  I am hoping that we can achieve the balance I want by reading the info, doing as many of the experiments that we can fit and consolidating by doing small notebooking projects/worksheets I am preparing to sit alongside.

To help with motivation to fit it in to our schedule we have arranged for another family to join us once a fortnight.  The idea is to do much of the practical work together with the reading, follow up work (friends may not want to do the pen and paper side) and some of the longer experiments particularly those that need several days to complete at home in between times.

Nature Study

I may not follow it to the letter but I do love Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education therefore I hope to resurrect the idea of a regular nature study session.  As much as I would like to fit in an ‘outdoor hour’ everyday, I am realistic enough to know it will never happen.  We have too many regular activities and while we probably get out most days, majority of that time is spent walking and/or bussing to one place or another.  The aim is  then to find a small space in each week to be outside for the sake of being outside.

I am hoping that we can combine it with the science group and possibly open invitation so friends join us twice a month but will depend on how organised I am and how science comes off with timing.

The plan is a four week schedule

  1. Pick an area to be the focus of a nature diary (probably a wooded area of the local nature reserve near the river) charting the changes in the seasons, mostly through photos and discussion.  Hopefully with friends.
  2. A practical activity – rock pooling, animal tracking, wild flower walks, bug hunts, bird spotting etc.   Hopefully with friends.
  3. A garden based activity – planting, weeding, harvesting… now I have a usable garden.
  4. A nature inspired craft, either done outdoors or using the spoils gathered on a walk.

I will not plan individual activities more than a couple of days ahead as nature stuff is very weather/tide/health dependable.  But here are just a few of the books we will draw on.

20140824_3We’ll also supplement with a bit of reading.  These both cover events in nature month by month.



Geography 14/15

While we have been having great fun with our Geography group, I want to cover more and different aspects so we will move back to studying Geography individually.

Planning two ongoing projects;

One is to get an idea of where places are in the world.  We will start Postcrossing again (although limit the cards we send – last time we got carried away and costs very quickly mounted up).  Postcards sent and received will be marked on a world map.  We’ve also signed up to the World Wide Culture Swap, although waiting to be allocated a group.  We’ve done a few mini-swaps and loved it.  Also plan to make regular use of these games to practice locating countries on the world and at continent level.

The other is to get a sense of the geography of Britain.  Sam has expressed a keenness to begin ‘flat travelling’ again.  The idea behind flat travelling is based on the Flat Stanley books, a ‘flat traveller’ (small card figure – we have had penguins and monsters in the past) is sent to a host who take it round their local area, take photos and then post back, usually with a journal and other little souvenirs (often just free leaflets etc).  In the past we’ve done international swaps, but when I was asking for groups to swap on on a forum I had an offer to swap from the UK and must admit I am quite taken with the idea of trying to visit as many UK counties and cities as possible.  Hoping they will be more likely to make it home too as postage is lower and less opportunity for parcels to go astray.  We will have a colouring map of the UK and colour in counties as we visit, keeping a folder of returned ‘journals’.

I bought this book,  potentially to use as our main programme of study but really to see what sort of things would be covered in school at his age.  As I suspected not a lot!  Book is about 6 years old so maybe things have changed but not banking on it being much better from experience of what Jack is being taught.

Anyway have come to the conclusion that I will never find a decent Geography curriculum for primary level so need to construct it myself.  Therefore the plan is for 3 half term long Geography projects a year, alternating with the History projects.  Well maybe not alternating as History is tied to exhibitions so has to be fitted in to tie in with them, but 3 of each in a year covering one at a time.

Planning to cover one project based on place.  This year we will do a maps theme working through an atlas workbook supplemented with practical activities.  In the future we will hopefully work on continent studies from Prime-ed.

Another on habitats/ecosystems/physical features – this year we will look at Rainforests.

The third project will be on human geography.  This year will hopefully be farming.  Probably in the summer term as a good one for days out :).

History 14/15

I have come to the conclusion that we can not fail to cover enough history, it is something that interests us both.

The issues we have are spending too much time on it at the expense of other subjects and getting bogged down too much in the same few topics.

Therefore the plan is to pick 3 ‘topics’ and study them project style for 1/2 a term at a time alternating with Geography to cover 6 projects a year.  Well maybe not alternating as very much dependant on dates of exhibitions/events.

Despite my natural inclination, I have decided to drop the idea of covering history in chronological order.  Although I think it is the most logical approach the evidence suggests in practice we get bogged down with increasingly detailed studies of Greece and Egypt.  Plan is to move between different time periods bringing everything together with the help of various timelines.  We’ll take exhibitions/events as our inspiration.

Initial plans have been made for projects on (started to detail them on my project blog);

Ancient Britain – Stone/Bronze/Iron Age – with this new on the KS2 curriculum this year there seems lots on at museums to see.  Plus really fancy the Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition at the NHM.


The third project of the year is undecided at the moment, I have resources collected on Medieval Times/Castles and Ancient China but it will depend on whether any interesting trips/exhibitions come up next spring.

The aim is to keep everything fun and practical.  Lots of visits, reading and crafts.  We may stray in to lapbooks for some projects but not all, some will be entirely hands on.

We will try and have a read aloud fiction book and at least one good non-fiction to act as our backbone for each project.  By reading these, narrating them back and working on hands on projects to bring elements of them to life, alongside documentaries and visits then hopefully we can cover subjects at a level to provide a base to build on in more depth later if required and contribute to a general overview of history.


As much as I would love to study History chronologically, in practice it doesn’t work as we get caught up in too much detail and of course so much happens at once, so have come to the conclusion that if we stick to that approach we may never get past 500 AD.

Therefore in order to bring things together we need timelines.

When the boys were younger we had home made wallpaper timelines up the stairs and a printable timeline in a folder that we glued bits on to.

20140820_13We’re past this stage now and were never that good at keeping up with them anyway, boys just do not like glue!

We have a large bought time line that we look at regularly – The What on Earth Wallbook.

20140820_12 We use it to look up what else was happening at the same time as what we are studying and discuss where things fit in with time periods we know about.

For each time period we look at we have started to produce our own hanging timeline.  Events are recorded on to index cards and pegged onto a line (bit of wool hung between hooks) with wooden pegs with the date written on.  Hoping the details on the cards will get fuller as time goes on.

20140820_2  When we round up the project the cards get added to the box in chronological order where we can see how they fit in with other events we’ve recorded.

20140820_11I’ve also bought some coloured index cards for the upcoming year to help bring together other subjects areas, one colour to add famous artists as we study them, one for composers/musicians, another for scientists/discoveries/inventions and fourth for other events/people we come across.

We also have a very Charlotte Mason inspired ‘Book of Centuries’.

20140820_6It is a square photograph photograph album covered in some fabulous British Museum fabric I was lucky enough to find on ebay.

20140820_5Inside on each two page spread is a grid for recording events on the left and place for sketching on the right.  The book fits nicely in my bag and we take it to museums with us to draw items that appeal.  Each century from 2000BC has it’s own spread, so each year has it’s individual space on the grids.  Had to be flexible with pre 2000BC or would have needed rather a large book.

20140820_7 20140820_3





English 14/15

We continue pretty much as we were.  I break down Language Arts into 5 short activities a session which should take 5-15 minutes each and we aim for 4 sessions a week.


This is remains our biggest focus.  The plan earlier in the year was to eliminate as much writing from elsewhere in our school work as possible and focus very much on quality over quantity.  There was a very noticeable improvement through out the year, which has slipped a bit over the summer.  The emphasis now is on correcting that slide and starting to try and encourage him to transfer what he can do when practising handwriting across to general writing by gradually increasing the amount we do elsewhere.

We are using Getty Dubay and have gone back to basics as there are still some letters that he has to be reminded consistently how to form.  He is working through book B but should hopefully progress through book C and on to cursive before the end of the year.




On the suggestion of another home eder, one session a week (perhaps more see how enthusiastically it is greeted) we’ll have a go with calligraphy instead.



Bridging handwriting, grammar and comprehension we are using Writing With Ease (WWE).  Starting with level one as writing is not something that comes easy.

20140121It follows a four day cycle.  Days 1 and 3 are copywork. Days 2 and 4 are a narration exercise, where I read a passage aloud and he answers questions verbally.  It is all based on classic children’s literature.

Midway through the year we should progress on to book 2 (picked up second hand along with books 3 and 4 – in for the long term 😉 )


We using Spelling Made Easy (with a lot of tweaks).  We’ll finish level 1 mid year and move on to level 2.


I have set up a four day cycle.

Day 1 – wordsearch


Day 2 -Look/copy/write practice


Day 3 – Worksheet made from combination of textbook and theirs (didn’t like them)



Day 4 – Test – complete with penguin



Starting book 2.

20140818_24Another four day cycle.  Day one introduce the concept (find a game to supplement if needed).  Day 2 and 3 are exercises from the book done verbally.  Day 4 is the sum up exercise typed.

Creative Writing

We have been using TCR Building Writing Skills to help develop ability to structure ideas.  There is quite a jump however between Words to Sentences which is nearly completed and Sentences to Paragraphs.  Also if we do a lesson a day, four days a week we will progress through it far too fast.

So plan to slow down to one or two sessions a week allowing time for more ad hoc writing activities.  These will be flexible and planned as we go, taking account of things such as thank you letters, flat traveller journals, need to practice particular skills etc.  I have found Sam a penpal to help encourage him in his writing.

If things go well you never know I may get to use some of the numerous story telling resources I have collected over the years.


We seem to have worked our way through the worse of the trash literature phase to my relief.  Percy Jackson and Harry Potter may not be quality literature but they are good stories and not computer generated tripe of the Beast Quest/Astrosaurs school.  The aim is to keep tempting him into trying new series.  Time Riders look like they may be a goer after he finishes Harry Potter.

We will have a read aloud for most of our History/Geography projects – we have Sun Horse, Moon Horse by Rosemary Sutcliffe, Poetry of WWI, Around the World in 80 days  and Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson lined up.

To encourage a trip back to some of the classics for our bedtime reading we will pick some of the books featured in what is possibly my favourite browsing book of all time – Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer.  Following with testing the recipes of course.  Expecting the recipes to strongly influence choice of reading matter.

Poetry/Speaking and Listening

Read the idea on a forum one time and loved it.  Hoping to introduce ‘Poetry Supper’ evening roughly weekly when all the family picks and performs a poem after tea.  Will have to see how this one goes.


Solva 2014

Won’t go down as a spectacular holiday as we were all ill at some point.  In the case of Jack more than once!  However no one died which is our barometer for judging holiday success (we have had some rotten ones) and there was lots of chilled out family time which is all we really ask for.

Since this is predominantly a home ed blog, from a learning perspective nature and in particular the method of reproduction of various species was the big interest of the holiday following encounters with jellyfish.  Buterflies proved especcially interesting  We worked our way through Andrew Marr’s History and Making of Modern Britain and far too much Dad’s Army (history 😉 ).  Sam got into the Harry Potter books (hurray for kindles) and has worked his way all the way until near the end of the HalfBlood Prince.

But it was really time to relax.  Lots of photos below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.