Knowing your limits

Things have been going too well for too long!

After the excitement of Monday’s Parliament trip the week has fizzled out really and I’m not holding out huge hopes for the next 4 days to be honest.  Bugs have hit and hit bad, getting all of us!  Have a humdinger of a head cold and a really chesty cough.  Managed to strain some muscles in my back earlier in the week too, although a couple of days of little movement and a hot water bottle strapped to the back seem to have done the trick.  Only hurts when I sneeze, which unfortunately I’m doing quite a bit.

Core work has been shelved this week and everything else has been a bit hit and miss.  But you know what in the great scheme of things it really doesn’t matter, when I list it I’m sure it will still look a lot.  This is why I prefer to think of my educational planning as a suggested guide, a list of ideas rather than a todo list.

We’ve done some of an electricity lapbook.  Playing again with static electricity.

20150328_5We only lightly touched on our food theme for the week, bread.  Watched the videos from the Eat Happy project and had fun with some bread facts.  Plus we used the free study pack from the Grain Chain to look at different stages in the milling.  Back wasn’t up to kneading so only actual food stuff we made was some bread bowls by hollowing out the ends of loaves for soup.20150328_820150328_6I was looking to clear out some resources so we’ve played a lot of our educational games to make a call on keep v’s go.  Fun afternoon playing mainly maths games.

Sam has been exploring a free trail on Clever Dragons and has had a few goes on Timez Attack – for fun!

He had his group Spanish tutorial and we spent an afternoon in the local pottery painting cafe with friends.

20150329_26 20150329_25

We’ve spent a lot of time working our way through War Time Farm and managed a morning out in the spring sunshine visiting the farm where it was filmed.  Sam was very happy to learn that they didn’t slaughter the pig on the show and she’s alive and no longer fits the name ‘Shorty’.


Lovely morning identifying places from the show, watching the animals and feeding chickens and ducks.

20150328_1020150328_1120150328_1620150328_2120150328_2220150328_2420150328_2620150328_3220150328_3320150328_3520150328_4120150328_2820150328_3820150328_2320150328_37We’ve also managed some film watching – Divergent (with Jack who had a sick day) and The Lion,The Witch and the Wardrobe as Sam is rereading the Narnia series again.  Other reading has been Murderous Maths as I managed to pick up a box set of the old series from Amazon.

Gang Show rehearsals are getting longer with a fortnight to show week!



Houses of Parliament

Yesterday was one of those remember for a long time/for ever trips.

Pottered up to London for a stroll on Southbank, coffee in the shadow of Westminster Abbey and then an educational visit to Parliament.



We toured Houses of Commons and Lords and sat in the galleries while they were in session, saw the old parts where the court sat that sentenced Charles the 1st, stopped in Central Lobby a few times which was amazing!

We spotted some famous faces such as Floella Benjamin in the Lords.  The most famous person we saw though would happen to be my least favourite politician ever – Ed Balls!  Unfortunately I was too busy worrying about getting on the escalator (bit of a phobia of down escalators usually avoid at all costs, I can just about cope if no one is behind me and I don’t feel rushed and who was behind me but Ed Balls!) to turn round and kick him in the shin.

Photos not allowed not surprisingly in main area.  But here’s one of the old hall.

20150324_8After the tours we did a voting workshop, which turned out to be a lot more relaxed and fun than anticipated.

20150324_9 20150324_10We then had a question and answer session with my local MP.  I actually like her a lot more now as she coped valiantly with the fact that a lot of the kids lived out of constituency and didn’t know or care who she was, she instead got to listen to a story about cats pooing on someone’s lawn but it was okay as the owners moved a few weeks ago so they don’t need the MP to go and talk to them anymore.  Then it just degenerated into what the kids would do in power, lots of very worthy suggestions and lots of discussion on the practicalities of giving everyone a hamster!

They also supplied us with a load of fabulous free resources.


I’d worked myself up into a state of worry the day before most unlike me.  In the end my worry over the number of adults going in and them even expecting us was put to rest early morning.  We ended up in the wrong place but that was their instructions and most groups do the same apparently!  All went fine until we got back to Fareham and I ended up with one vomiting child and one desperate for the toilet with no working toilets on the station – in my doomsday imaginings I’ll take that as an acceptable low point on an otherwise fantastic day.

Oh and here’s our Southbank sight of the day (love Southbank always throws up the weird and wonderful).  He was giving it everything, wiggling and singing and you can’t see the random plastic animals.



Filling in the Gaps

I have a habit, probably like most bloggers, of focusing on groups, trips and projects but so much more goes on. So here’s a brief summary of what else we managed this last week.


Mainly Mathletics, focusing on column addition and subtraction and some multiplication.  Supplemented with Timez Attack.


Handwriting was practised.  We use Getty Dubay.  Working on book C so starting to learn cursive.  Grammar was focusing on prefixes, in particular dis and un and how they change the word to mean the opposite.  We started Writing With Ease level 2 and he’s managing the leap up and dictation well.  Spellings never troubled him.


3 days of Duolingo practice and weekly Spanish tutorial with a native speaker.


Using “Latin’s Not So Tough” we started an level 1 which was far too easy, on level 2 now and introducing vocabulary.  Isn’t particularly inspiring but only takes a couple of minutes and the simplicity of it appeals to Sam.  Won’t turn him into a fluent Latin speaker/reader but we’ll keep plodding through as long as he’s happy as like the idea of a bit of basic Latin to support English and Spanish.  He is already spotting similarities.


We read through our science book on Monday to take us up to where we needed to be for Tuesday’s Science club.  It turns out I don’t really understand Electricity so well.  I’ve bought a dreaded lapbook that we’ll hopefully work through this week and next to help both of our understanding.  One of the big questions about home ed is what happens when you don’t know something – well this – you find out.  I identified my understanding was lacking so researched and found a resource that I think will give us both a better grasp of it.

At group we looked at electrolysis and circuit diagrams.  Made different circuits and investigated the effects on a bulbs brightness from different numbers of batteries and bulbs.  We also made our own switches.

20150318_5 20150318_10 20150318_7



Friends round for Science and a play on Tues, off to another friend’s for the afternoon and then Cubs.  Weds was a group trip.  Thurs had friends for Spanish.  Friday was a play in the park with other home ed families while we failed to see the eclipse.  Love watching how good he is with younger kids and then he got to make a new friend as an old friend’s brother has joined the local home ed ranks.


The moon is made of green cheese

Or it might be for all we saw of it this morning.

Eclipse happened behind solid cloud cover.  Only sign was a freezing wind.  So much for my prep buying glasses.

Sam was happy with an early morning play in the park though.

20150320_11 20150320_12 20150320_8 20150320_14

After a trip to the shops and a bit of a rest (boy not quite right and energy levels keep dropping) it was on with the dairy topic.

We churned our ice cream.  It is lush, possibly the nicest vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted.  Faff to make though!

20150320_15We then mixed up some arm pit fudge so he could do the mixing bit while he did a bit of Mathletics.


Lunch was a cheesy picnic on the living room floor watching War Time Farm.  We taste tested various cheeses (regional British ones).  I’d written down the description from the package so he could guess which was which.  We then tried to describe the sticky toffee cheese I’d foolishly been unable to resist – vile about covered it.

20150320_22 20150320_39

After lunch we had another go at making butter and it worked brilliantly.  Lots of fun shaking and rolling it while we finished the week’s English.

20150320_27 20150320_2620150320_28We also watched the Tesco online field trip on making cheese.  Then made our own following the instructions in their lesson plan.  Perhaps not authentic but quick and easy and gave the idea.


We also made some non-armpit fudge.  This is my standard recipe that goes on camps a lot using chocolate Philidelphia.  We were adaptable today and made a half batch and used white choc (needs must from what was in cupboard), bit too sweet for me but suspect boys will like it.  Plus used up the last of the full fat milk which no one wanted to drink with some surface tension experimenting.


Then there was milkshake, chess and Minecraft.  He’s trying to look drunk.


Jack came home from school and went running 😀  I only laughed a bit.

This evening while Jack’s at Scouts and Pete is ‘socialising’ he has been serenading me while I’ve been doing a bit of work and typing this.





Milking it and the Mona Lisa

By late Weds evening both Sam and I were looking rough and feeling it too.  Day on the farm was lovely but triggered allergies and hay fever.  Yesterday morning we were left with the hangover feeling.  I know Sam was definitely feeling rough as his first words to me were “I don’t want to do art group today”.  So I cancelled it.  He rallied a bit during the day but didn’t go to Gang Show – having friends over for short time for Spanish drained him.

Soon became obvious we needed a day off routine, but no where near ill enough for complete abandonment.  So morning started curled up on the sofa watching War Time Farm, we’re loving the local aspect of it.

20150319_2We then carried on with our milk theme.  Earlier in the week we’d watched the online field trip from Tesco’s Eat Happy project and looked at this cd-rom.


We’d also done some taste tasting of various types.  Rice milk is vile!


and looked into pasteurisation.  He wrote a diary entry from the perspective of Louis Pasteur.


Yesterday was therefore about using milk.  Inspired by the farm ice cream on Tuesday we made vanilla custard, which has been chilling overnight ready to be frozen and churned today.

20150319_3 We also made ice cream in a bag.  It did freeze but didn’t taste great.  Provided fun though.

20150319_7 20150319_8With the left over egg whites from the custard and some manky looking bananas discovered at the bottom of the fruit basket we made cake.  May have started eating it before remembering to photograph.

20150319_9 20150319_10 While cake cooked we looked at homogenisation and testing knowledge with a quick crossword.20150320_4 After lunch and Spanish group we decided to do art just us.  Mona Lisa was the order of the day.  We talked about the idea of a ‘sitting’ and how models would pose day after day, how in the days before cameras this is how people had their likenesses recorded.  We also focused on the background and how this was an ‘imaginary landscape’.

So here is me with an ‘imaginary landscape’ – being shot by a space ship :S  Oil on canvas.  Haven’t used oils for ages forgot what a pain clean up is.

20150319_12Realised I never mention the worksheets we do on them.  We start off with a picture study in the Charlotte Mason tradition.  Look at the picture for a while and then draw from memory adding in as many details as we can.  We also do a fact worksheet recording the medium, date etc and most importantly looking at developing opinions on what he likes and doesn’t.  Here are the Vitruvian Man sheets – detailed art criticism is a work in progress.

20150320_5 20150320_6


Day on the Farm

A proper Spring day in the countryside today as we visited a localish dairy farm.  Making sure the photo for the link is a cute one.  This calf was less than 4 hours old 🙂

20150318_23We observed where they made their own ice-cream, the milking parlour and the behind the scenes operations – explaining how they keep track of which cows are pregnant and when calves are due.

20150318_1320150318_1520150318_16Then of course there were cows.  Big ones, some very big as very pregnant.  Small ones, some very small as hours old.

20150318_20 20150318_3320150318_21 20150318_19 20150318_17 20150318_22

Then there were chickens, geese and ducks to feed and eggs to collect.

20150318_29 20150318_27 20150318_2820150318_31

After lunch while we watched a video about the farm we got to try some of the farm-made ice cream.


Then there was time for a tractor ride around the fields and village.  Here’s some of the views.20150318_48

20150318_40 20150318_38 20150318_43 20150318_45 20150318_46 20150318_42

Lovely old village church I’d like to go and nose around.20150318_50


Been an up and down week.  Home ed though seems to be about the only thing going right at the moment though.  Not achieved as much as I’d hoped to project wise but other things were draining my mental and physical resources.  Try not to let ‘my stuff’ get in the way but it inevitably does at times particularly when I’m feeling below par.  One of the reasons for keeping a blog is to force me to reflect and consider on whether I’m getting the balance right between home ed and life.  Looking at this last week we may not have done as much as I wanted in some areas but we happy we did enough.

As already covered we’ve had art and Spanish groups, some fun with Maths and finished Writing With Ease 1.

We’ve also had our monthly Laser Quest session, this remains the highlight of Sam’s month and attended a concert by the Southbank Gamelan Players.

We’ve done a bit of work on the idea of different areas having different styles of farming, mostly through looking at maps and discussion.  We went to a local Farmer’s Market over the weekend and Sam used the farmers market cookbook we’d picked up to make a cheese and apple panini from local supplies.

20150309_1020150309_14Beans are sprouting and being observed.  Our bum cress is also growing (I wanted to do his name!).



We had a flash of more autonomous style when he decided to teach himself piano through youtube videos and sat there for 3 solid hours completely engrossed.

20150315_1Lots of reading going on as we’ve had trips to library and charity shops and a box arrive from the Book People.  Some old Beano annuals and other Beano related books, a couple more Murderous Maths (bedtime reading of choice atm) and a twaddlish diary of a pig have all been read already.  Other books are more longer term resources (bought because I will read and I suspect Pete will too, so not a waste if not used) or more summer time as we ease off as tend to find it hard to keep up with anything too structured once hayfever season arrives and need something new and fun to grab us.

20150315_6 20150315_3 20150311_4

At some point without me Sam managed a home-made keyring and card.  Jack also managed to surprise me this morning with not only a card but a big box of chocolates and a very fetching leopard print onesie.  They’re good boys.  I always find Mother’s Day a bit hard, it may be nearly 12 years but will never stop missing my own mum.  I’d hate a big fuss but a home made card means the world.


Notice the not found storage for new books yet!


Da Vinci – Vitruvian Man

After a couple of weeks detailed sketching work this week’s art was about having fun with an idea rather than any actual art skills.

We baked and decorated Vitruvian Gingerbread men.  Cut out two figures, ripped the arms and legs off one and stuck them to the other.  A finger dipped in water helped with the joining.

20150312_13 20150312_15 20150312_16We also drew around one of the children and made our own life size version.

20150312_12 20150312_18

Home Education Philosophies

Today this blog article was posted in a group and it really struck a cord.

I feel I’ve long left those days behind me but remember the early days of reading Montessori and thinking what a brilliant approach but feeling like we failed to master it as it just needs so much stuff, of having a few too many plastic toys and allergies to nature to get on with Steiner although it sounded wonderful, to have children who like to read twaddle as well as living books, to have children who don’t seem to have that natural curiosity that unschoolers tell us all children possess if we nurture it (I obviously have the same luck with natural curiosity as I do with plants).

Long since accepted the only way to home educate successfully (and I’m defining successfully as happily with the occasional reassuring glimpse that something has gone in) is to follow the beat of your own drum.  I can’t say that without Gerald from Giraffes Can’t Dance pop to mind :).  Definitely a far better and happier person for it too.

So my advice to new home eders is forget methods and philosophies.  If you’ve the time read around and get ideas but home educating should be about the freedom to adapt to the child.  There is a danger that by adopting a philosophy too rigidly that you can lose sight of the child, you may firmly believe in the rhetoric behind a philosophy but doesn’t make it right for your child.  I love Charlotte Mason’s ideas but Sam hates being read to so we can never adopt them too closely.  Home ed is about dancing to your own soundtrack, usually cobbled together from various philosophies.

The best maths manipulatives

are edible 🙂

We finished off volume 1 of Writing With Ease this morning and having got on really well with Maths and having easily completed his bronze certificate on Mathletics in 3 days it was time for some well deserved fun.

He’s been learning about column addition and subtraction this week so decided a physical demonstration was in order.  Actually he instinctively grasped the ideas of carrying/borrowing so wasn’t needed but don’t really need an excuse for skittles.

I drew a set of columns on one sheet and wrote some sums on another.  We then laid skittles on the columns to represent the numbers, different colours for hundreds, tens and units.

For addition we would swap 10 unit skittles of 1 ten etc and the other way round for subtraction and carrying.



I did notice that actually he was doing them written first so probably a waste of time as a learning exercise but fun and we ate the skittles after (wild berry – very nice!)