Planning Maths fun

Sam’s memory is poor.  His understanding of concepts is good but without the ability to recall facts instantly things are starting to be slow going and he hasn’t been enjoying Maths.

While I’d love him to be able to remember stuff easily, the not enjoying Maths is of far bigger concern.

I don’t think I’m going to find a curriculum that fits Sam better than Saxon and he’s been coming on well with it.  So rather than change curriculum I think an entirely new track is warranted – for a while at least.  So the books are put away for now and we’re going through a period of experimentation, we’ll reassess after Christmas.

One approach we’re using is to make use of computer packages.  I’ve signed him up for Mathletics and we’re using Timez Attack again.  Long term I like the look of iXL more I think.

We’ve a number of board and card games which are coming out.


I’ve invested in one of the Sir Cumference books that I’ve been eyeing up for years.  I’m also toying with the Murderous Maths books.

But the plan is really to spend next month messing around with maths concepts in a fun, relaxed way.  I’ve spent a lot of the day messing round creating maths puzzles tied in to Christmas themes.  We’ll dabble a bit with those.  Will also use 3D shapes and nets to make Christmas decorations.  Weighing and measuring will come in as is the season to bake.  Will do some budgeting/money maths with some Christmas shopping.  If time hope to do some exploring of graphs in relation to Christmas ideas – trying to think of ideas to graph that are not entirely food related…

Pastels and Pottery

They’ve been the themes for our creative work this week.

Wednesday’s art group looked at Monet’s ‘The Thames below Westminster’.

Looking at the contrast between the sharp foreground and the misty background the activity was to draw a ‘soft’ background using soft pastels with a sharper foreground using oils.  The idea was to do any scene they wanted.

Sam’s is a background of space and planets with a spaceship in the foreground.

20141121_2Here is his picture study and review on last week’s subject.

20141120_30 20141120_31

Later in the week we looked at another painting.  Georgia O’Keeffe’s Poppy.  Partly to contrast with Monet’s Wild Poppies, partly to complement our work on WW1 and remembrance, but mostly because I love it.

This is sketched with chalk on a square canvas and then coloured with soft pastels.
20141120_36Final burst of creativity was today.  Jack finished school at lunch time so we spent a relaxed family afternoon in the local pottery painting shop making Christmas presents and decorations.


A Soldier’s Journey

Tuesday we visited a special exhibition at Fareham about the role Hampshire played in the First World War.  Amazing the numbers of men that passed through Southampton Docks on the way to war and heartbreaking the numbers whom returned to Eastleigh or Netley hospitals injured.

Introductory video
Introductory video
Timeline covering Hampshire and the world
Timeline covering Hampshire and the world
Exploring the life of a cavalry officer through sound and smell
Exploring the life of a cavalry officer through sound and smell
Not impressed with the smell
Not impressed with the smell
Reading displays on women's role locally
Reading displays on women’s role locally
A sock knitting machine
A sock knitting machine
Dressing up
Dressing up
Making a memorial plaque
Making a memorial plaque
Finding out about different peoples lives
Finding out about different peoples lives
End of exhibition test.  Full marks.
End of exhibition test. Full marks.

At home we’re mainly learning about the war through reading.  Our book boxes are crammed with books on the subject.


These are the main ones we’ve been reading this week.


Did manage a rub on trench warfare scene for some variety.

20141120_55 Plus watching clips from this dvd from the free British Legion schools pack.20141120_59


I often cite flexibility as my favourite thing about home education.  Being able to retreat under a blanket on the sofa to watch documentaries when laden with germs, being able to go out at a moments notice to enjoy a rare sunny day, or studying by reading books on the train or bus on our way to a museum or afternoon with friends are my favourite things about home ed.

However, home ed also requires flexibility from our side too.  Best laid plans … and all that!  Been a week for having to change plans at short notice.  Luckily, we’re good at rolling with it by now.

Tuesday, our arrangements to meet friends at a museum were torpedoed by toothache (not ours fortunately).  We decided to save the Portsmouth Museum for another day and go to Fareham. All the local museums have WW1 exhibitions at the moment.

A look at the museum exhibition, a bit of spending of birthday money, a search of charity shops for rucksacks for the Rucksack Project and posh tea and cake, made a dud day into a lovely one.


He can’t look happy in any photo to do with the war.  It isn’t right apparently! 20141120_29


He actually wanted one of these balls as his main Christmas present.  I persuaded him to get one with his birthday money and rethink that (£1.50 from Wilkos 🙂 ).


Sugar tongs were a hit.  Cup of tea and Victoria sponge – ultimate treat 🙂20141120_3

Weds, I was caught on the hop when nipping to make lunch between Art and Spanish I found a text saying Spanish tutor couldn’t make it.  As all children were there we winged it.  Found out the last thing they had covered was clothes so got them to make paper dolls and label the clothes and colours in Spanish (we had dictionaries to help the adults not that the children needed them).  Then made Spanish Christmas cards for their lovely tutor.

20141120_44 20141120_42

Today went exactly to plan (so far) which is a bit of a relief ;).

Home Days

We are lucky enough to live in an area with a thriving home ed scene. Even without doing the larger groups it is easy to find that the days fill up with social and group activities.

In the interest of balance I find we need some days to our selves.  I call them home days but like ‘home education’, the home description is loose.  They are days where we have only ourselves to suit.  Over the winter we definitely need them more too.

For us Monday is our untouchable day.  Only something really spectacular is allowed to intrude.  Jack finishes early and is usually home about 2.30 and I have Guides to prepare for so Monday is a good day relaxing at home.  I also find the whole week runs smoother if we get off to a good start.

Can also see another change in Sam.  For most of the last year he has often asked which friend is he seeing that day and grumbled when I’ve said no plans.  He needs downtime though even if he doesn’t always want it and I certainly do.  But when we were reassessing what we wanted to keep/lose/add to our social calendar he was adamant that we needed days without others.  Today, no query on friends, he did ask if Grandad could come and play though :).

We rattled through English, Maths, Science and Latin.  Read and chatted about the First World War (separate post due on that).  Did some browsing and buying, and creating a wishlist for some hands on resources. Then post arrived with a new Beano so he read that over lunch.

After lunch we went out for a scooter ride to the village to pick up some bits and pieces.  Then back along the seafront with some time in the skate park.

20141117_1 20141117_5 20141117_7 20141117_9 Grandad came round to play while I did some housework and got ready for Guides.  Then there was still time for some comedy sketches with the ‘sound machine’ and writing of thank you letters before I had to go.

Scooter was definitely a good present and more relaxed approach is suiting us.

Monet – Wild Poppies

First Art group of the half term brought the start of a new artist study.  This time, Claude Monet.

To tie in with last week’s trips and remembrance day we started with Wild Poppies.


The picture study element had been taking too long as a group so I got Sam to do it beforehand.  This time from memory.



This week we opened group with looking at some of Monet’s paintings and a quick introduction to the idea of Impressionism.  Followed up by reading the picture book The Magical Garden of Claude Monet


The actual art this week was a simple copy the picture job.  We started off with watercolour pencils (purely because I’d managed to confuse people with what they needed to bring) and ended up reverting back to the plan of oil pastels as pencils were taking too long.



My children will insist on growing up and making me feel old. Yesterday saw Sam turn 9.


The day before we’d spent some time at a softplay centre with lots of his friends so his birthday was a much more relaxed affair.  He needed to be cajoled out of bed to open his presents as he was too busy reading Harry Potter for the goodness knows how manyth time.

We picked up his best friend Oscar from the ferry in the morning and came back here where the boys played Sam’s new Xbox game, chatted, made a mess of Sam’s room, got on my nerves with the new ‘sound machine’ (every one needs a great aunt to buy those presents that children love but parents hate).

There was cake.20141115_2 20141115_3Playing in the park.  Sam’s present was a scooter so there was lots of scooting.  Including scooter jousting with pool noodles.

20141115_5 20141115_7 20141115_8 20141115_10

Then it was back to Gosport for birthday tea in KFC.20141115_15 20141115_16 Some nighttime scooting round and round the fountain.

20141115_10I got to enjoy the view.

20141115_13Then I delivered them both to Portsmouth so they could have a sleep over (or a stay awake all night over 😉 ) at Oscar’s.

20141115_19Love how many hand made cards there are :).


Science play

Life is all about looking on the bright side.  Tuesday was a miserable, wet day but looking for positives it made it dark,  which when you want to play with torches and shadows is very helpful.

We were starting this half term’s science project on light and colour.

First experiment was looking at angles of reflection.

20141113_6We the moved on to refraction.  We sent directed beams through convex and concave lenses to see the bend in the rays.  One of those jobs that required too many hands for photographing.  However they discovered a far better way of illustrating the effect of refraction by playing with the lenses and torches.  Self discovery is always best.

Shining a torch directly through a convex lens shows how the light is refracted to a focus in the centre.


While shining it through a concave lens refracts the light away from the centre.20141115_18Our science session finished with lots of play with shadow puppets.

20141113_18 20141113_19 20141113_10Inspired use of one of my chairs to make a prison.





That whole socialisation issue…again

Socialisation and home education comes up time and time again on home ed forums and is something I’ve come back to time and time again.

In the past I think I’ve given quite a negative picture, it is certainly something we have struggled with.  The boys have seemed to have just been the wrong age or we’ve found things too hard to get to by public transport or we’ve just struggled with different expectations/needs to others.  Some people are lucky and just seem to slot in, for others it’s harder.

There have been a few occasions recently when I’ve suddenly stepped back and realised that actually we are (well actually Sam is) a lot more social than I think.

His confidence and independence has suddenly grown hugely.  He’s signing up to take part in lots of Cubs activities without any hesitation, including nights away.  Most importantly he’s caught us by surprise by signing up for Gang Show.  It’s a bit of a pain tbh as it is a lot of commitment and he and Jack have different start/finish times.  But what it has done for Jack in terms of friendships, fostering a sense of group belonging and confidence can’t be measured and for Sam to not only cope in the the busy, hectic environment but actively choose to be there is such a huge step.

The second thing that I’ve noticed is that he is finding it easier to approach and chat to people.  I was watching him in the break between laser quest games and he wasn’t in a corner with his best friend, he was happily milling around talking to others, some he didn’t know.  I’m not sure if this is necessarily a change in him as he’s always comfortably managed when we’ve met up with individuals or small groups of new home educators.  It may just be that he doesn’t have the same intensity of friendships that he once had. It feels much healthier and Sam seems happier too.  To be fair he’s never really had that sort of relationship with his best friend, they only really do the ignore the world thing when they haven’t seen each other for a long time.

As a result he is much happier in group settings.  Thursday we were at a soft play centre.  Lots of his friends were there as being the day before Sam’s birthday we’d asked them along (so a kind of party) but there were also some new home educators.  Every time I glimpsed Sam he seemed to be playing with someone different or there was a big group all together, lovely to see.

One of the biggest things for us has been walking away from groups for a while and nurturing individual friendships.  I feel now Sam has a wide group of friends rather than a couple of friends and a lot of acquaintances.  Which is lovely, until the birthday party issue arises and it crosses your mind that there can be such a thing as too many friends 😉

Think we’re ready to start dipping our toe into larger scale HE events again.  He’s grown up a lot lately and he’s ready and needs to mix in some of the older groups.

Shifting Sands

I can feel the shifting sands under my feet at the moment.  We’ve had a period of calm where we really found our grove both educational and socially but once again the ground is shifting and I’ve been thrown off balance a bit.  Not in a bad way, I’ve felt this often enough to know that it is the way things go, good to be kept on my toes. Life is a ever changing journey and home ed is life and part of that journey.

On the simplest level our approach to home ed has always been very seasonal. Not to the extremes we once were when the boys were young and we’d have a very home based structured winter schedule and an almost autonomous approach during the warmer months.  However the colder snap is definitely drawing us in and shifting plans, I’m in to busy period of work so that also plays a role in our routines.

But it is more than that stirring the sands.  Home ed group wise dynamics are changing as new members become involved and the existing brood grow, we’re seeing long term activities change and evolve.  On the home front, my Dad moved from North Wales to our road last week.  This is the biggest change in family dynamics since Sam was born.  I’ve lived at least an hour and a half train ride from family for most of the last 17 years and for the last 13 years we’ve been about 7 hours away from my family.  It’s a good change, but a change – there is another person to build into our week and it is going to take a while for us to find new routines that work.  Finally and maybe most importantly Sam is growing up.  He is 9 this week and has over the last couple of months blossomed with confidence and independence.  We’ve new activities he has taken on to work around and how we learn and socialise needs a bit of a refresh to accommodate his changing needs.

Interesting times ahead.