Bumps and bleeds and blood pressure

Multiplication bump is still providing us with masses of fun.


The break from formal stuff has reinvigorated us and Duolingo is popular again.  He is trying to earn enough points to access the ‘flirting’ module.  Handwriting has suddenly clicked and become small, tidy and more than legible, it’s bordering on neat!

We started late as Sam slept in so only finished up core work about 11.15.  As we did and I was doing a bit of a tidy up before going out, I got a phone call from the person running the afternoon’s workshop to find that the engineers were still working and there were wires everywhere and it wasn’t safe to run the workshop.  After a discussion on size of venue needed we agreed that relocating to my living room was an option but we’d reassess in 1/2 hr – 10 mins before my taxi was due.  Cue stressful 1/2 hr while I tried to warn everyone and clean up worst of mess while debating cancelling taxi/moving furniture.  In the end all wires were put away and venue deemed safe.  Have to see the funny side somewhere in there!

Workshop was a 3 hr first aid session run by St John Ambulance.  Trainer wasn’t best at engaging the kids, we could have done with more adults who knew what they were doing there to support and doing the ambulance in two groups meant there was far too long of the kids not doing anything.  But they enjoyed it and I think most learned something.  I learned that I know more and can do more than I think – there was nothing there that I couldn’t have covered with the right equipment.  Definitely changed plans for delivering first aid to the Guides, will do most myself rather than getting in trainer.

This to me though is what I want from a HE group activity.  We can do a bit of first aid but we can’t bandage friends, use resuscitation dummies and gain certificates without joining with others.  I can cover the academic side easily, we don’t have an issue with friends to socialise with, it is group activities like this that I’d like more of.  But without the hours stress beforehand please 😉

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Water, Water, Everywhere

Core work got done nice and quickly yesterday.  Nothing really to note.

Mid-morning we were joined by friends for science.  It seems ages since our last session due to holidays and illness.  We’ve been a bit haywire since Christmas really as life has got in the way.  To be honest neither family had done our usual prep but we were both keen to get some normality and routine back.  I’m not sure masses was gained educationally, but hopefully groundwork was laid and as we dig in to the background it will make more sense.  Kids had fun though and adults managed some juvenile sniggering so all good :).

Heat was the theme.

We filled two jars with warm water, took temperature and predicted which would cool faster.  Took the temperature later and discussed why.


The big challenge of the day was getting the steam boat to work.  Had to relocate from garden to conservatory and then dismantle the boat and abandon the candle for bare matches but got there in the end and was quite impressive.
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Then we were showing how heat makes things expand.  Balloon on an empty bottle, pop in hot water and the balloon inflates.  Pop it in iced water and it deflates and flops (rather comically :D).

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They were aiming for ‘thoughtful, scientist faces’!

Finally we looked at convection currents by boiling some sequins and watching them rise and fall.20150429_8

We had a trip to the park before friends went home.

After a late lunch Sam helped with some crafts for work.

Then we went swimming after Jack got home.  Not been swimming for ages and very unfit.  Trying to find a way to get it in to schedule regularly.

Home Sam swallowed tea and was off to Cubs where he went pond dipping and found a dead shrew.  I managed some work, guiding admin and a check of camping supplies.

Long but good day.

The United States of Smiley Faces

20150428_2By the end of last week it was evident that Sam was ready to return to a bit more structure.  It is hard to explain it but without it he gets a bit out of sorts, mood is quicker to rise to temper or tears and although he’s doing exactly what he wants most of the time he is less happy than when I’m there getting him involved in other stuff.

So we were back to our core work.  English was handwriting, Writing With Ease and grammar.

Latin, he’s building up his word base.  I found Minimus as part of our big tidy up, may give that another go soon for a change.  Found out they publish some books like Asterix and Cat in the Hat in Latin so building a wishlist.

Spanish, as we’ve not done Duolingo for a month strength bars had faded so it was back to basics (for me too).

Maths we are not following a curriculum this term and focusing on times tables as a confidence boost.  He did some Timez Attack, I upgraded it to the paid account over Easter after months of pestering and he loves it as a game rather than work.  They do 20% HE discount if you email and ask.  We then played Dude Dice and some of the bump games from here which were great fun, particularly as my Dad happened to be here so we had a third player which probably added to the ‘bumping’ and the fun.

The weather is supposed to be iffy this week so we took our opportunity mid morning when the sun was out for a trip to the park.  We’ve 3 nice parks all in easy walk of the house and all with something a bit different to offer.  Very lucky!

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We also started investigating this book.

20150428_3Bought as a bit of a punt as a potentially fun way to look a bit at politics in the run up to the election.  Generally not fans of anything too gimicky or that tries to read too chatty (HATE the ‘for dummies’ books and SotW for these reasons). This though is good, so good Pete wanted to join in.

So far he’s claimed his land (our living room), named his country ‘United States of Smiley Faces’ and designed a flag.


A Sciencey Sort of Day

Was Sam’s summing up.

After days inside waiting on deliveries, tidying out cupboards and dismantling and building furniture today was a day to get out.  For various reasons though didn’t want to go far and just ended up nipping into Fareham for a bit of shopping.  It was out though and we took my Dad along for the ride, having not seen him for a week.  Most of the return journey was spent discussing the structure on the hand – in particular why when you move one finger others move too.

This afternoon I wanted to finish off our electricity lapbook as it was starting to linger.  Before we did though Sam decided to have a second go at a lemon clock.  We’d bought one and had a go earlier in the week being unable to find the one I ‘knew’ I had in.  Of course I then found the original.20150424_1

Only it turns out the original was actually a box of kitchen science experiments.  So after the lemon clock we got distracted by …

invisible ink


vinegar and baking soda volcanoes

20150424_1020150424_11and rockets

20150424_7taking finger prints

20150424_14 20150424_15There was also looking at the sun (solar glasses had been found).


We eventually got back to electricity project and finished off by reading this book (the Science Works series is great), talked about the impact of electricity on human lives and put together the lapbook and spilt a drink all over it!

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Then there was the science of optimum bag packing.  Cub sleepover!  I mentioned in my last post the difference in him the last year and I suppose that I’ve changed too.  Last year at the same event I worried, this time no.  Helps that his Cub leaders are fab.


Random photos of the week.  We’ve been doing a lot of moving stuff and building and dismantling.  Definitely a life skills week.  Sam is possibly second best in the house at this now :).  Also tried to get out in the sunshine and escape to the park when we could, sometimes with friends, sometimes just us.  For some people they won’t get what a big deal seeing Sam on the monkey bars is.  He is petrified of falling and it is only recently he will attempt the bars or fireman’s pole. Yes his feet are only a foot or so off the ground when he starts but for him that is big enough to be scary.  Children are all so different.

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Finally one of me.  Took the Guides to the Fire Station on Monday and I got to have a go with the hose.



Earth Day Crafting and a give away

Still recovering from Gang Show and doing a massive move around of stuff, new book shelves etc.  Means normal service is suspended but I am trying to add something to my todo list every day for us to do together to stop the hose taking over.

Yesterday being Earth Day we stopped for some Earth crafts.

We painted a paper lamp shade (have never got round to putting up a lampshade in the hall – only been 13 years).

20150423_2 We also made a candle holder.  We found a round vase in Wilkinson and glued on small pieces of blue and green tissue paper to make the world.  Then sealed with a layer of glue.

20150423_5 Finally I made a felt book.  I’ve decided if something really appeals to me and I know I’d enjoy making it I’ll have a go even if it is completely unsuitable for my boys (they can count).  Which brings me to the give away – the book needs a home, happy to post to UK.  Leave a comment here or on Facebook and I’ll get Sam to pick one at random.  If anyone fancies making their own instructions can be found here .

*I followed the instructions and glued, next time I do something like this I think I’ll sew. I’m not so good with the glue gun.  Less burns and will be a bit neater.  I’d be a bit wary about leaving a really young one alone with it in case they can pull a bit off.  I’d hope not but wouldn’t like to promise.

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Gosport Gang Show 2015


Jack has just finished his 4th Gang Show and Sam his first.  Pic on the flyer is Jack last year in the middle – being thoughtful 🙂

For those who have never seen a Gang Show it’s a scout and guide run show of singing, dancing and drama sketches.  Over the course of the week they probably perform to several thousand.  7 shows in 5 days in a local theatre (no high school hall for this lot 😉 ).  Rehearsals start back in October and from January have a full day most weekends too, some weekends both days if they have a promotional event.

It’s a long haul and a lot of commitment – J has missed one rehearsal in those 4 years.  A lot of commitment required from those who provide (or organise) transport and are expected to drop everything at a moments notice to fit around plans (lucky to know timings of week end events the day before).  We grumble a lot ;).

That aside what the boys get from it is huge and priceless.

The camaraderie and friendships they build are far stronger than those they form anywhere else.  Lots of time, killing time waiting for curtain call I suspect.

Sense of responsibility, commitment and teamwork.

Mostly though it is the confidence they gain.  Watching Sam in particular on stage, can see he is a different child to the one he was a year ago, really blossomed.

Already talking of next year’s 🙂

They both managed to sneak in here somewhere.  Congratulations to all who took part, you were all brilliant!

Oh and mid Gang Show week I became Mother to a Teenager!!!  Had 2 shows that day so party was fish and chips beforehand.



Da Vinci – Last Supper

Realised I missed our last Da Vinci art study.

We actually skipped one of them altogether as too ill but I’d planned the Last Supper to be our last one to tie in to Easter.


The Last Supper isn’t actually a fresco as it was painted on a dry wall.  However it looks like a fresco and in the spirit of trying something different we went for a fresco technique.  We mixed up plaster of paris in a plastic pot, when it was nearly set but still damp Sam painted it with normal block watercolours.

The idea was to do an ‘Easter theme’ but I’m told that each colour represents a season so not only is it ‘eastery’ it is ‘christmassy’ and ‘halloweeny’ too.  Not much you can say to that 🙂20150415_3

Eggcellent end to a Smashing Project

Sorry 😀

We have had really good fun with our farming project even though illness managed to scupper the end and our bread week never came off.  Our egg theme actually ended up taking 3 weeks as we have been taking things very easy and are now in holiday mode but it was Easter so – can’t have enough eggs at Easter.

We looked at different eggs. These are duck, chestnut maran and bluebell aurancana.

20150414_15 Did some baking and cooking with the eggs.

20150412_2620150412_24Made mosaic pictures with the shells. 20150414_14And a spring flower wreath with the boxes.20150414_3We watched the videos on the EatHappy site and did the activities on egg formation and maths that were linked.

20150414_18We tested eggs for freshness


We had a go at turning an egg inside out.  It failed but we hadn’t used sellotape.
20150412_16  Showing weight distribution by standing on eggs was more successful.

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We had fun with a charity shop kit for building egg towers. It held the egg for about 1 1/2 seconds 🙂


20150412_2120150412_23Easter wise, boys had an easter egg obviously but only one smallish one. we opt to make rest of our treats.

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Creme egg spring animals with fondant icing.

20150406_15Sam wove a basket from card and raffia for some decorated eggs.  We have Dennis the Menace and Voldemort.
20150404_520150404_6We brought our farm project to a (rough) close with a collage farm.  I say rough as still watching Edwardian Farm and dabbling in farm based stuff for work.


Not much of note…

…actually as ever adds up to quite a lot.  Illness is finally at long last starting to ebb away.  I’ve spent a lot of the last 10 days on the sofa/bed/bath so lots of self directed learning going on (probably 😉 ).

Fire station theme continued with lots of (fake, cheap, rubbish) lego building and playing.  Don’t recommend fake Lego but suppose we’ve had our moneys worth from the building alone.

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A trip to the library provided reading material about fire fighters plus lots for our new after Easter project as well as trashy novels some light reading.  We also collected our fired and glazed pottery.

11084265_10153327616920832_3128992210581656803_n 11084303_10153327621120832_3035632709514332475_nPlenty of computer play.  Timez Attack, Minecraft, a trial of Clever Dragons, some military strategy type stuff (medieval and WW2), Scratch and designing and building his own Legoland.

He’s devouring his Murderous Maths books which are giving rise to interesting discussions.

We’ve watched more TV than usual not surprisingly, a couple of films, a documentary about voting, moved on to Edwardian Farm and Jack and I are working through Doctor Who series 5 (Sam dipping in and out).

Electricity project has continued when energy has allowed as has farm project with an egg theme for Easter – both will get their own posts.

20150406_4 20150406_5 20150404_4 20150404_6 20150406_16 20150404_9It’s a creme egg sheep although we all agree definitely more like an Adipose20150406_17 I’ve been using the enforced inactivity to crack on with some sewing.  Good philosophy for life 😉


And we made some balloon Minions just because 🙂20150330_3



A Gentle Guiding Hand

We are a house of lurgy at the moment so not a great deal of note happening.  Therefore there has been a bit of time to reflect.  I’ve also had time to glance at the educational philosophy I wrote several years ago and realise how outdated it is.  It sounds a lot more structured than we actually are and rather anti-unschooling which has never really been my view.  Definitely time for a rewrite.

This April marks 10 years of attending home ed meets and 8 years of having a child of compulsory education age.

When the boys were younger we definitely had a seasonal approach to home education.  Indoors more over the winter; reading, working on craft projects, more structured education.  Basically free range over the summer when there were a lot more social opportunities and the boys just wanted to run about in the park.

We still have a similar season rhythm although for different motivations.  In the Autumn/Winter/early Spring my energy levels and drive are at their highest so I am in a position/mood to arrange longer more interesting trips and to source resources etc to follow them up, to arrange group trips/activities and more social occasions, to have the motivation to do messier more involved projects.  I hate summer, detest being hot 20 degrees is as much as I can comfortably stand.  We’re all wheezy, itchy and seriously sleep deprived from about May to September.  I can’t commit to activities as both of us have up and down health/moods.  I struggle to deal with the social side as pretty much get a 4 month headache and tend to find other people’s children are much louder than mine (although mine are loud enough in a group).  Sam also lacks motivation to leave the house.  Summer is when his drive has to carry us.  We let the more routine stuff and plans slide and take things day by day.  In reality I suspect we don’t actually look that different to outsiders more a mental shift in my head.

Perspectives on Learning

I believe it is necessary to be interested in something in order to learn, engage and gain something from it.

However I feel waiting for children to show an interest in something is doing them a disservice and carries a risk of quite a narrow education.  I see it as my responsibility to extend my children’s horizons, it is my job to introduce new interests and make subjects that might not otherwise be, enticing to them.

Skills that need practice I feel need some sort of motivation from the child themselves before they can be fully mastered.  I believe pushing a child to read or write for example when they are not ready does more harm than good.  I see it as my job to provide the building blocks, the tools that will let them pull it all together when they are ready.

In Practice

I aim to provide a balanced, well rounded curriculum.  I believe in being flexible and constantly adapting to current interests and situations.  At all times the focus is on how the children learn and their input into what we cover and how is huge.  This doesn’t mean however that we only ever do things they request.  I am the adult I believe that life experience has given me a better grasp of ‘the bigger picture’, I also know my children well enough to know experiences and interests that I believe will benefit/interest them that they would never consider themselves (don’t always get it right).

I come up with ways to make projects/subjects as interesting to the individual child as I can.  Experience says with the right hook most things are interesting.  Sometimes the interest flags very quickly. I try not to have a long list of learning objectives from a topic, a couple of key objectives and the hope/expectation that when they dig below the surface they will find their own interests.

Sometimes despite my best efforts there is no interest there so the topic subject is left.  Either I’ve not found the right tools/approach to entice interest so I need to go away and research or I’ve picked the wrong time and we need to return when they have matured a bit or that the subject is just not of interest at all, in which case I need to assess how essential I feel it is that they learn about it and either come up with another approach or let drop.

Subjects we lack internal motivation for I try to find external motivation, but in a fun way.  One of our favourite and most successful approaches is to study in small groups with another family or two.

Skills such as Maths and basic writing skills I believe need to be practised regularly but are far easier and more fun if broken into small individual blocks.  We make as much into a game as we can.  I believe that when a child has the basic skills behind them, they will be able to pull them together themselves with little adult support as soon as they find a reason that they need to.

Why a ‘gentle guiding hand’?

Because that is how I see my role.  Even though I take a more structured and adult interventionist than many I still see my role as to stand behind and let him lead.

My intervention takes the form of trying to find things that I believe will interest him and make them as engaging as possible.  I can provide a gentle push from behind to guide him into the topic (usually a big day trip or a practical activity) but if despite that there is no interest there no amount of pushing from me will make him learn anything about that topic that will last longer in his memory than a day or so.

At times he will have interests that he has developed of his own that he wants to run with and my hand is needed just to help rather than guide.  In the most practical sense my role here is usually orderer of supplies, but at times it is gently guiding him to consider new aspects of the interest.

This is the hardest part of home education knowing when to offer guidance and when just to help or keep out all together.  Spotting when an interest is exhausted and the situation is drifting with no one gaining anything and when it looks like not a lot is happening externally but things are going on internally, recharging and internalising.  In other words when to apply that guiding hand.  I still and no doubt will always get it wrong sometimes.

Assessing Home Ed

We very rarely have a ‘finished project’ to show.  We produce little in the way of writing as it is not something he enjoys or feels the need to do.  In time if exams are to feature I know we will need to develop this area, however at this age it is not a concern.  We practice skills such as handwriting, grammar and spelling so that when/if the time comes to build up this are the foundations are there.  The way my son demonstrates learning is through discussion, while I do do some prodding at the time to check if things are going in the real proof of the success of home education is what comes out in everyday conversation.  That is how I know he is understanding, internalising and making links.  It is a test of faith but 8 years in I’m a lot more confident.

The other aspect is that I can see sociable, caring, thoughtful, reasonably well mannered boys in front of me.  We have a good balance between opportunities to develop social skills and here I include the ability to work in a group rather than just socialise.  There are strong long term friendships as well as ease at making new friends.