Home Education Forums

Anyone got any recommendations for nice national home ed forums? Supportive, don’t push a particular agenda/approach or more likely object to anyone mentioning any other, fairly busy, decent links?

Or a blog ring?  Somewhere to hang out that is relaxed and friendly?


While we were up visiting the exhibition on the human story we had plenty of time to explore.  I’ve said before that we try not to do lots when we go up and take our time, but we had plenty of spare time on Thursday so we did a fair amount of pottering with no real aim.

We’d caught an early train as Pete had given us a lift to the station on his way to work.  So we had time for a lovely walk through Belgravia, Moomin spotting, some collecting of very large conkers, a leisurely early lunch and time to explore other areas of the Natural History Museum.

Guy the Gorilla
Guy the Gorilla
Looking down at the main hall
Looking down at the main hall
Stones that were found in a penguins stomach (he's pretending to be sick)
Stones that were found in a penguins stomach (he’s pretending to be sick)
Spotting Minecraft minerals
Spotting Minecraft minerals
Section of a giant sequoia
Section of a giant sequoia
Dinosaur skulls
Dinosaur skulls
Drawing dino skulls in his Book of Centuries
Drawing dino skulls in his Book of Centuries
Animatronic dinosaurs (these have given me many moments of amusement over the years)
Animatronic dinosaurs (these have given me many moments of amusement over the years)
Is it a dino? Right every time
Is it a dino? Right every time
Movement - one was him and one was Grandad
Movement – one was him and one was Grandad
Comparing hand to an Iguanadons
Comparing hand to an Iguanadons
Scary baby
Scary baby

Afterwards we weren’t rushing off to get back before the rush hour (s) as I’d arranged coffee with an old friend after she finished work so I spent quite a while sitting outside while Sam pestered the bubble man.

Then we took the opportunity to visit the V&A since it is there.  I have wanted to go to the V&A for about 20 years.  In the end I was rather underwhelmed.  We walked around saying ‘wow’ a lot but while there was some amazing and I do mean amazing art work it all felt impersonal after the wonders of Boxgrove and Paviland.  The architecture of the building was the part that grabbed me most.



Sam was most taken by a moving mirror (movement sensors) and a computer generated design a ring.

Scary baby!
Mirror moving by movement sensors


Sam’s ring

20140926_45I did also really like the quote on the 3rd step.

Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story Exhibition

This is the exhibition that was the focus of this half term’s project.  I saw very little publicity for the exhibition in the press at large however it was the best organised and best curated exhibition I may possibly have ever been to.  Definitely the most ‘wow’ since Tutenkhamen.  The organisers of the BM’s Vikings Exhibition could learn a lot!

The key things to me were the polite helpfulness of the staff, the exhibition wasn’t at all crowded with either people or displays, the exhibition told a story and every thing in the exhibition contributed something to that story and there was a feeling of ‘completeness’.  There were pieces there from all the major finds that we’d read about; the Happisburgh flints, Boxgrove Man, the Red Lady of Paviland and cannibalism at Gough’s Cave  and more.  It really was a case of taking what we’d read and seen on documentaries and making it real.

Sorry camera battery died so these were on my phone

Comparing skull shapes
Comparing skull shapes
Earliest evidence of human occupation in Britain from over 800,000 years ago
Boxgrove Man
Boxgrove Man
Tools found at Boxgrove
Tools found at Boxgrove
The Clacton Spear
The Clacton Spear
Seeing model spear
Seeing model spear
More Boxgrove finds
Red Lady of Paviland
Homo sapien
More tools
OMore tools

Oh and did I add booking us in as a school group was one simple phone call. So wonderfully accomodating to HEers too.

Discovering New Paths

Tuesday’s nature group for various reasons ended up being just me and Sam.  It was one of those times where afternoon could have gone badly.  Sam was disappointed and I was irritable (wasn’t feeling well and had had to get Pete to take afternoon off work to wait in for gas man so we could go).

But irritability only lasted a minute or so as the point of these trips are they are relaxed not something people book, there was no definite arrangement with anyone but friends I knew were sick.  It was the moments irritability of having not wanted to go myself but fresh air as ever proved the way to go.  Sam’s disappointment lasted a bit longer.  However that was soon forgotten in the excitement of unexplored paths.

We found the remains on a Norman castle and a very pleasant afternoon was spent in climbing, pretend games and playing with the camera.

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Home and there was potion making in the back garden with collected ingredients.


More Matisse

The art group I run has carried on looking at Matisse and we’re still on cut out phase.

Moving away from the colours and the ripped paper of The Snail we moved on to something where the shapes themselves have more distinction, ‘Oceania, the Sky’.  We looked at the picture and talked about the shapes they could see and they drew some from memory.  Then we discussed the scale of the picture and how it was first made on the walls of Matisse’s apartment before being screen printed on to linen http://nga.gov.au/international/Catalogue/Detail.cfm?IRN=148088.

We finished off with a large scale group project on my dining room wall. There are moons, suns, kites, butterflies, flying fish, planes, rockets, daleks exterminating sky divers and pterodactyl skulls, all the things you expect to spot in the sky.

20141180Today’s session was on the chapel windows at Vence.  At the front you have the sheets where they were supposed to be drawing them from memory.  This seems to have slipped Sam by and he designed his own ‘face’ version.

Then we made ‘maquettes‘ from cut outs.  When we went to the exhibition at the Tate the thing that impressed me most was the display of ‘Nuit de Noel’ next to its maquette.

20140924_113Once we’d made the cut out versions they transferred them to tracing paper.  I’d used the same card template to draw the window shape on paper for the collage, on tracing paper and on a gift bag.  Some traced through.  They then coloured the tracing paper design.  Having cut out the panel from the bags I taped the tracing paper to the inside (this was the tricky bit) and we popped an electric tealight inside.

20140924_110Here’s Sam’s lit up.  It is actually a ‘holiday’ inspired one.  The face is a pumpkin for Halloween.  ‘Body’ is actually an Easter egg.  ‘Ear-rings’ are snowflakes and the weird blue things are fireworks.20140924_114

Liquid Science

Science group never came off yesterday due to various illnesses but we proceeded with some of the planned experiments anyway.

One of those days that illustrate that the simplest and oldest experiments are often the best.

Testing viscosity by dropping marbles (we used 4 of the same type) into glasses of liquid.  We dropped all four at the same moment or as close as you can with human error.  This made it hard to tell between the quickest 3 so we tested two at a time so we were able to compare and arrange them from highest to lowest viscosity.   We had syrup, bubble bath, red wine vinegar and vegetable oil.

20140924_2 20140924_320140924_6 We then looked at comparing density and viscosity.  We poured the least viscose into a glass and added them in order up to that with the highest viscosity.  In each case we watched the more viscose sink to the bottom showing they had higher density.  Looks pretty but fairly sure it would be horrible 😉

20140924_9 Final topic was surface tension.  After various suggestions and discussions about why/how we get rain drops and puddles we moved on to the old favourite of milk and food colouring.  Some people seem to have trouble with this.  Not sure why or how, never failed me yet.  Bowl of full fat milk, food colouring drizzled over the top.  Touch the centre with a cotton bud soaked in washing up liquid and watch the colour rush away.  Here is the science behind it.20140924_11 20140924_14 20140924_17


Stone, Bronze and Iron Age Workshop

In our local town we have a fantastic resource centre.  Upstairs they have model room sets where the children can wander through, touch items and dress up etc.  Downstairs are the science rooms, full of taxidermy and specimens of butterflies, bones, rocks, minerals and microscopes to explore them.  Due to the nature of the stuff in there unfortunately it is not a place to just wander around, the stuff is too fragile for too much/uncontrolled handling.

What they do is run a range of workshops.  From a home educators standpoint unfortunately they are quite restrictive.  Obviously they are written for schools so therefore are tied to the National Curriculum (of which I may have mentioned I am not a fan 😉 ) so only limited choice and on the same few subjects that we encounter elsewhere.  But they are done much better than most.  The lack of glass cases and the ability to touch definitely works well.

Anyway the change in the NC has led to new workshops.  We happened to be looking at Prehistoric Britain this term anyway to tie into a visit to the exhibition at the NHM so booked a group in to their new Stone, Bronze and Iron Age Workshop.

After a group introduction they picked items to write studies of.

20140918_3 Then in small groups they produced displays of a particular time period.

20140918_5 Writing display plates for them.20140918_6

We then looked around the other displays while some more activities were set up.20140918_9 20140918_11 20140918_13 20140918_14 20140918_20Jigsaw of the Uffington White Horse20140918_16Making copper rings.20140918_17Looking at which animals are native to Britain (opposed to coming over with Romans) 20140918_18Grinding wheat20140918_19Dressing up as Otzi the ice man.20140918_22Another really lovely workshop.


Heritage Days 2014

When the Heritage Days started booking up I gave Sam the local listings and let him pick a few to do.  Possibly choices were slightly odd for 8yo boy (local cemetery, and then an hour and a halves guided walk around a nearby area) but actually neither are completely new to us and built on prior knowledge. On both Sam was only child and did me proud at listening and being interested.

Definitely preferred the graveyard tour as the person giving it was heavily involved in the restoration and was a real local with lots of personal connections and stories to share.  The Stokes Bay tour was given by people who had researched it (well!) but without the personal touch lacked the pizazz.

Didn’t take any photos in the cemetery as didn’t feel right.  But we had a chance to nip in to Crescent Gardens first.


If you are local I highly recommend taking a walk around the Anglesey/Alverstoke area, really interesting history.  There were efforts to turn part of it to be known as Angleseyville (after Marquis of Anglesey).  There was the Crescent (exact same design as Bath’s but money ran out so only half got built), a hotel, bath house, race course on the beach and the church of St Marks.

Some reading for anyone interested.






We then walked up over Workhouse Lake, to Gosport Park for a play and conker collecting.

20140913_12 20140913_13 20140913_16 20140913_18 20140913_21 20140913_22Sunday’s walk was called Secrets of Stokes Bay West.  Quite a lot was fairly familiar as we’ve done fair amount of local history stuff but still enough to interest us.  The big thing that we took from it I think is a desire to go hunting for prehistoric arrowheads at low tide.  I suppose the parts that interested me most were the history of Bay House and Alverbank as this is what I knew least about.  Also surprised to learn about brickworks in Stanley Park.  Sam liked the stories of the tank training not surprisingly.







The bay
The bay
Battery No. 2
Battery No. 2
Bay House (now Jack's school)
Bay House (now Jack’s school)
Alverbank Hotel
Alverbank Hotel
Stanley Park
Stanley Park
Badger Sett
Badger Sett


Arty week

Making a big effort to reconnect with my crafty mojo at the moment and bring more hands on stuff into our education.

Weds was the first of our new art group sessions.  3 other families, 4 children plus little siblings as laid back as groups get.

We started off with a story

20140916_5Before moving on to look at and colour ‘The Snail’.


We ended with sketching outlines of animals and creating a ripped up paper collage version.

Michael’s Giraffe
Sam's T Rex
Sam’s T Rex
Amelia’s much tidier interpretation.

On Friday we began Art Award lessons.  Unfortunately there were not enough children to run the classes so it has been postponed while they try and recruit more children.  But it did mean that Sam and his friend Michael had the really rather lovely teacher to themselves.  She really just seems to have let them loose with a choice of materials and they really had fun.  Two children produced really different work out of the same session.  Here is Sam’s.

Colour mixing
Lino printing
Starting a sketch book
Colour wheel
Colour wheel

If anyone local is interested please ring the Ashcroft and sign up.

We have also had an autumny craft burst.  Primarily for work but lots of fun all the same.  Making our own paints from berries, grass and mud I think has to have been the messiest and most fun.  Particularly when you take them outside afterwards to mix up and get messy.

20140913_39 20140913_42 20140913_44

Love working with Autumn colours.

20140913_74Display so far.  Very tree focused at present but plans to diversify.




Science and Nature

Home education is a huge learning curve for me as well as the boy.

One of the biggest things I took from the last academic year was if we struggle to find time to fit in a subject area than the best approach to help with both our levels of motivation is to study alongside others.

The other major lesson is I find structured groups don’t work for larger numbers or for a big range in ages.  Actually I will clarify that they don’t work the way I need the group to work.  If we are studying something with a group it is probably at the expense of doing it privately (only so much time available).  Therefore I need it to have a logical flow and ideally a plan, be pitched at right level for Sam, he needs to ‘learn’ from it rather than just be there to have fun with friends (not that that isn’t important but times and places) and be a pleasant place.  Kids need to all get on and adults need compatible objectives and expectations.  I use the word compatible because I don’t think two people will ever have the exact same viewpoint.

Anyway on Tuesday we started a fortnightly Science group.  Just a couple of families – 6 children, 5 of them very close in age.

First session went well.  We are looking at matter.  The children will be producing project folders at the end but the aim is to do the reading and consolidating ourselves on non-group weeks and the messy hands on stuff together.

We started with some basic questions, then gave them all some cards to sort.  Any unsure ones were opened up for discussion.

20140910_10 We then looked more closely at solids and tested the hardness of different materials and ordered them.20140910_11 We moved on to look at how you measure density of non-regular shaped solids by making shapes out of a certain weight of plasticine, dropping them in water and seeing how much water was displaced.   My seal on the spout was not watertight so our findings were unreliable but fun was had, particularly with wet, sludgy playdough.


We finished off with testing melting points.  I learned another valuable lesson – clean the testtubes before you go out.  I have a table top hop incase you are wondering.  I wanted something the children could gather around and see.  Kitchen hob was awkward and can’t really cable up  a bunsen burner in the middle of my dining room so this was my solution ( and a good one it seems).

20140910_16 After science we have set up a nature group opened up to everyone.  Nature walks and play are one of those things that work well across the ages and the more the merrier and no size constraints of venue.  The Alver Valley Country Park is on my door step so we headed there for a wildflower walk.  Nothing too organised just a group of families with spotters guides.  I can recommend this one as sorts by colour and is incredibly clear (if anyone can tell me where I can get the fungi one at a sensible price I would be grateful)


Here is Sam’s nature diary record (can’t promise the names are all right).


Despite the relatively nice weather the river was flooded so shoes came off and there was wading.  Ducks were happy enough.20140910_20We also saw a few different types of caterpillar which took me by surprise for the time of year.