O Christmas Tree

Two weeks ago I received an email asking for groups to decorate a Christmas Tree at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.  What a lovely idea I think and email to say ‘yes please’ on behalf of our local HE groups.  Then reality hit and I realised that we had about 10 days to coordinate something!

In the end we gave up normal routine last week in order to go out stick collecting for crafts, attend the adventure playground meet to run a craft session (or just play outdoors in Sam’s case) and make some decorations at home.  Not to mention the need to varnish and thread up all the decorations.  It was worth it though, lots of the group contributed either joining in at the playground or dropping around donations and we decorated 2 trees.

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It was quite a bit of work but has helped shake me out of the doldrums.  I’ve recovered my confidence in myself and found my crafting mojo for work.  The big chill is helping perk up my mood too.  My sort of morning 🙂

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While Sam was left to his own devices there has been lots of weather and maths related conversations.  We made ourselves popular at the bus stop by working out every few minutes what fraction of an hour the bus was late by ;).  Lots of reading, Scratch, a documentary on highway men and a couple of films.  We had Jack off sick one day so there was a bit of brotherly bonding on the Xbox.

Photo of Portsmouth Harbour to end, not a bad view 🙂



Madness and Mayhem part 2

Wednesday, we left our core work in order to get some other things done.  Sam wrote thank you letters for his birthday presents and a letter to his penpal. 20151118_50 We sorted out the final bits for our rucksack for the Rucksack Project, a friend we were due to meet in Portsmouth had kindly agreed to drop it at the venue for me (as I’ve been too badly organised to get it to Fareham like I meant to).

We took some cheques in to the banks.  I showed Samhow to fill in the paying in book and gave it to him saying ‘it’s yours so you can do it’.  His response was ‘isn’t my bank HSBC?’  So we left Santander, where no one in the family has an account, and went to the right bank!  The boy’s confidence in dealing with practical things like this stands out.  Which is good as I’m obviously losing my marbles.

Into Portsmouth where we were meeting some friends to tour the Guildhall.  It had the potential to be really interesting, unfortunately the lady giving the tour was young and nervous and obviously had no idea how to engage with the kids.  Too much focus on the corporate/wedding side.  Sam was in an odd, hyper mood and hard work.  Was a good thing to do though and I saw things I didn’t know were there/hadn’t noticed, such as the murals in reception and a public exhibition of music in Portsmouth.

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Here’s Susie photobombing Sam in revenge for his constant photobombing of everyone else’s photos. 20151118_43  Sam’s favourite bit.


The thing that caught me was this tree


What you can’t tell until you are up really close is that all the snowflakes are corporate logos.  It’s really, really clever!

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Trying to blow away the madness 😉

20151118_49The last two days have been much needed home days.  Catching up on cleaning and work backlogs.

A little bit of what we’ve done.

Discussing ‘fantasy objects’ for creative writing.20151120_16 Catching up on our Christian stories work.  Writing a storyboard for Daniel in the Lion’s Den and learning about parables.20151120_14

Learning about volcanic intrusions and seeing how less dense liquids rise.20151120_6

Making chocolate covered prunes (and apricots) as part of work on Russia.  We also had kiev for tea.  We’ve spent a lot of time discussing communism and the USSR so okay kiev isn’t Russian but fell into our general area.

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Carried on looking at Cezanne,20151120_18Moving on from portraits to still life we started with Three Skulls.  Focusing again on shading.


Scratch20151120_3 Kinect20151120_2 Reading and documentary watching also featured.  He’s loved Wild Weather and we watched something on volcanoes.  20151120_4

Ran out of steam this afternoon as had some sort of allergic reaction to something – lumps, watering eyes the works.  No idea what but a nap and a bath seem to have done the trick.  Wine and the Hobbit now.

Madness and Mayhem

I may have taken on too much the last couple of weeks.  Doing a decent impression of a headless chicken while life rattles on at a very quick pace around me.  Add into the mix that Sam appears to be on another planet and life is interesting.  No idea what has got into him but have concerns he’s becoming one of ‘those children’!  You all know the ones I mean, the ones you all giggle at on home ed trips while their parents cringe :/

Monday didn’t get off to the best start when I dropped a half built Lego model on my toe and got a surprisingly deep cut – but the panic of trying to repair the model was worse!  It picked up though.  We rattled through the morning’s core work and finished off a section of the Europe workbook we’re working through as part of our Geography project.  Then it was time to head to the Dockyard for laser quest.  Still the highlight of Sam’s month.


Nice numbers this time after last month’s spike.  Laser quest is my favourite activity to organise.  Dockyard are so easy to deal with, we’ve a decent core group and always a few extras so last month when we hit maximum was my only concern on numbers, he loves it and I enjoy having time to chat to other home eders in a way many activities don’t give you.

Back home and there was lots of snuggly reading time.  A friend at laser quest had kindly given us two Usborne versions of classic stories.  By bed time he’d read Frankenstein and was a good half way through Moby Dick.  We’ve since gone on to add the Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde versions of the series on to the kindle, definitely loving the gothic horror at the moment.

Tuesday saw us back in Southampton for the second time in 8 days.  A lift from a friend meant that we were able to get the days Maths and English done first though.  The purpose of the visit was a workshop at the Apple store.  It was one of those things that pop up in your inbox and you just think – ooh yes.  The idea was they were using ipads to create advertising posters.  It wasn’t hugely educational, but don’t think any of the kids had used the programme before and they all stayed on task for the full hour and a half session even though it was on the shop floor so plenty of distractions.

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They all were given a tshirt and a usb wristband.  10 out of 11 managed an advertising poster (although Ronnie’s was a photo of Sam with text along the lines of – ‘iPad, so simple even Sam can use them’ – did make me laugh).  Sam made a wanted posted instead :/


Poor Grace.  She was only his target because she’d pose for a photo.  Ronnie wasn’t playing ball. The accusing finger amused me.

After the workshop we stayed in Southampton and had lunch in our favourite ‘Chocolate Cafe‘ (it’s a good job we only make it to Southampton about twice a year).


Then went to Toys R Us to spend birthday money.  Luckily we’d had a reccy last week so he knew what he wanted and it wasn’t too horrible an experience.

20151118_11 After nearly 2 hours on the bus on the way home thanks to traffic.  Cubs wasn’t on the agenda.  Instead it was an evening of new Lego and Hexbugs.20151118_12 20151118_15

Think I may have to split this post into two and stop there so I can get on with the day.

Birthday Boy

We lost Thursday in a mix of appointments and chores.  A non-day really.  We did do stuff but nothing to note.

Friday marked the start of birthday celebrations for Sam’s 10th birthday.  We seem to have fallen into Birthday sleepover routine which is a nice, and low stress for me, way to celebrate.

We picked up Oscar at the ferry and headed up to a local soft play centre for the afternoon.  I think these places are the work of the devil.  We haven’t been to this particular one (Monkey Bizness) for at least 4 years but it is definitely still a cut above the other local offerings which all feel dark and scummy.  Fun City in Fareham at least has the advantage of cheapness but Playzone is just horrible in every way.  This one is light and airy with an appealing cake selection and passable coffee at least.

Back home and there was just play.  We had planned to go out to watch a local fireworks display but they weren’t so keen by the time it was leave the house time.  A walk on the beach to see if we could see something from here was the compromise (possibly if we’d gone at the right time 😉 )

13-2-15 003 Take away for tea and a film finished off the night.  I do believe they stayed up until midnight so they saw in Sam’s birthday :).

20151114_1 Sam’s birthday was a home day (apart from returning Oscar).  This is how he likes them.  A day for playing with presents and eating cake.

Now I’m not a person who goes by boys and girls toys and age things mine get what appeals.  However if this isn’t the a present haul that screams 10 year old boy (obviously with a geekish rather than sporty leaning) I’m not sure what is.


20151114_6 20151114_5Did I mention that there was cake?

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Flowing, Fizzing and France

Can tell I’m feeling more myself when the alliterative blog titles are back.

Weds was a rare day in (although one with deliveries and boiler servicing to work around) and a day for hands on learning.  We sped through Maths and Languages to get on to project work.

In science we were looking at lava flows.  We started by looking at viscosity by pouring a tablespoon each of various liquids onto paper and watching the flow and comparing the area they spread over.

20151111_41Contrast could be very clearly seen between water and treacle.  We talked about what type of volcano each would form.  Oh and discovered that you can write with treacle 🙂

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Sam made minibooks about different types of volcano and one to show how a caldera is formed.


It doesn’t matter how often we do this activity we can’t do volcanoes and not model the formation of a stratovolcano.  Start with a cone of playdough with a chamber and crater.  Set off a vinegar and baking soda explosion and cover the the tracks where the ‘lava’ runs with more playdough and repeat.  Great fun 🙂

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We finished up with modelling volcano plugs with cakes and chocolate.  Making a hole in the middle of a fairy cake and filling it with melted chocolate, then ‘eroding’ the cake (soft rock) when the plug had hardened.

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We’re at the perking up our Europe project stage by starting to try and look at a country a week.  This week is France.  We started with a lunch of French onion soup (no one will eat it besides me so while I love home made it just wasn’t worth the time this was a horrible packet mix to get Sam to taste it), baguette and brie.


Then we spend a ridiculous amount of time, effort and thought on constructing a model of the Eiffel Tower from spaghetti and marshmallows.



Time and Space

Yesterday’s walk to Cubs was longer than usual as they were visiting the parish church.  We spent most of the walk discussing the merits and the ethical issues of being able to fast forward time (it is Sam’s birthday at the weekend and it is too slow in coming!)  While I acknowledge that at times it would be appealing – Sam’s missed bus argument was persuasive – I was not convinced.  Often days where we are ‘making the best of things’ turn out to be good days.  Last week the internet, tv and phone all went down, we made a snap decision to go out for a meal.  Yesterday was exactly one of those ‘skip if you could’ days on paper but turned out to be a lovely day.

Monday was a good day too in a different way.  We were booked into a film about the international space station as part of the Into film festival.  Only one we’ve booked as tbh I don’t like doing the cinema in the mornings (and Sam doesn’t like it at all really), the cost of travel is usually more than the DVD and some are on Amazon Video.  However, the space thing looked something different as there was a Q&A after with someone from the UK Space agency.  These things are always a bit of a wildcard as to whether they capture Sam’s imagination – this one did.  He now wants to be an astronaut if he can’t be a rich entrepreneur who tells people they’re fired.

Took a photo in there on my phone.   Came out as a rather atmospheric pixelated arty picture.  Appalling photo but I quite like it.


Now the bus diverts via Fareham it takes us nearly as long to get to Southampton as it does to get to London (we cheated on the way there and went to work with Pete and jumped on the bus near there missing out a good 45 mins of the bus – was an early start though!)  So decided we should do something else while there.  Had a google in the morning and chanced upon a new exhibition at SeaCity with images of space.  Highly recommend it, very pleasant way to spend an hour.


Tuesday started with a trip to the nurse, booked early so Sam could go to cafe for breakfast with Pete.  To salvage the early start/out of routine we made the most of being out and spent a lovely half hour or so on a very windy beach.

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Back home we warmed up with hot drinks and spent a very productive rest of the morning working on pen and paper and computer and app style learning.  The bread and butter basics.

Afternoon was spent on Scratch and then on a new Lego – took about 1 1/2 hrs to build.  Love that he’s got back into it again.

20151111_2620151111_3120151111_32Evening and it was Cubs at the church with a tour and apparently they made churches from cocktail sticks and jelly babies.

Really enjoying the slower pace of life at the moment.  Sam’s reading, lots of murderous maths and playing with the concepts, Horrible Science and more coding books.  He wants to talk to us about what he’s reading too which is interesting (and slightly mind blowing).  Also strangely he’s go into folk tales.  Lots of coding, Lego and Minecraft is resurfacing as an interest  Feel like we’ve got some much needed time and space to relax and explore.


Intermittent Signal

Nearly there with the finding the mojo thing but not quite.  Mentally have come out the funk I hope but practical stuff like unreliable internet signal and putting my knee out have hampered.

We have made the best of things and spent a lot of time reading together which is nice,  Aesop’s Fables, Enid Blyton’s Nature Book, Children’s Bible, various non-fiction relating to volcanoes and I managed to find a book about the Gunpowder plot suitable for Sam (everything else seemed to be written for 5 yos).  He also read a book of folk tales to himself inspired by the story from Writing With Ease this week – he’s gone on to read a few books following on from these exerts now.  He tells me he’s reading Lord of the Flies too and enjoying it :/

Maths has moved on to addition and subtraction and we’ve had fun with some games.  Still using the printable activities and online versions of Mathletics hand in hand and it’s working well, the playful/puzzle element works well for Sam.

English, as mentioned he’s been inspired to read the book from this week’s WWE Andrew Lang’s The Crimson Fairy Book, not something I’d have expected to appeal to him so always pleased when he tries something different.  We’ve had fun recapping adjectives in grammar.  In creative writing he designed a kingdom.

20151107_1  Have managed some practical stuff.  Pressure and volcanoes in other words mentos and cheap cola and lemonade.  I managed to end up dripping :/  Volcano jam tarts, but we didn’t make the main vents big enough so they exploded out of the sides.20151104_9 20151104_4 20151104_520151104_11Weather has really not been good (which hasn’t helped the knee) so there has been kinect and table tennis to burn energy, with Grandad and Jack respectively.20151107_2 20151107_3

By the end of the week I was a bit stir crazy but couldn’t think of anywhere that was inside, I could sit down and we both fanicied.  Then inspiration struck.  I spent Friday morning sitting on a friend’s sofa with cups of tea while Sam played Lego and Magic with his friends.

Weekend was productive.  I managed some work, lots of Futurelearn study and a thorough house clean as well as time spent relaxing with boys.  Bit of a Dr Who marathon.

Sam caught up with Art and started our Cezanne study by looking at the ‘Portrait of the Artist’s Son’.

He then drew a picture of Pete. Sorry for bad photo.

20151107_4Sam is still loving DIY.org and made a character cake for his baker patch pretty much independently.

20151107_7 20151107_8 20151107_12 Then of course they were both on parade for Remembrance, first time in many years I haven’t been with them.


Missed lots like our Geography and RE projects but no photos to jog me and trying to recall too much for one post.  Lots of planning of days out and activities going on too.  Here’s too better internet signal and more regular blogging.

Out of the Fog


I know I’ve mentioned a few times lately that I’ve been struggling a bit.  Not with HE really, but with other things. The knock on effect though has been to crash my energy levels and motivation in general and everything including HE was feeling hard work.  Determined now that it has gone on too long and it’s time to put it behind me and find my joie de vivre again.

Halfterm wasn’t exactly the relaxing break I was hoping for, it was non stop hard work but maybe that in a way was better.  I’m much better when I am busy with stuff I ‘have’ to do.

Yesterday was an odd ‘bright start’ sort of day.  The world was almost wrapped in a blanket of fog.  That said we started early, had all our ‘core work’ done by 10am.  Managed some work through the Europe project – still on the worksheet side and moved on from looking at the origins of the bible to bible stories.

We even had time for a decent reading session – a couple of bible stories and the last two chapters of Alice in Wonderland before it was time to go out for bowling.

Back home there was Minecraft for the first time in months as he felt inspired to build an ark.  Then a family quiz night to end the day on a relaxed note.



Half term, House Stuff and Halloween

I really don’t know where half-term went.  I seem to have blinked and missed it :/  I vaguely recall watching Dr Who with Jack at one point – otherwise he’s been away on camp or out with friends for much of it (or they’ve been here en mass).

There was some ‘work’.  Finishing off of stuff from our lazy few weeks before half-term.  Caught up with all the multiplication games on Mathletics and spent some time playing Timez Attack for fun.  He wasn’t hard to convince to do our last pencilled in Science activity for the half term as it was demonstrating plate movements and boundaries using ryvita on oobleck.  Have to love oobleck!


The other big finishing up job was our Van Gogh unit which finished with Self Portrait at the Easel.

He painted his own version with oil paint.20151029_120151030_3The rest of the week seems to have vanished in work on the house.  The boys had new windows and we have had both doors replaced.  Means we took the opportunity for a sort out and  lots of flat pack furniture building.  Still have to decorate!

There was time for library and Lego.  Old interest reignited.


Plus it’s been Halloween!

We’ve made fancy food.


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Had a lovely party with friends mid week.

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He is still stained from that fake blood 5 days later!

Decorated pumpkins and made soup.20151101_7Had fun with more decorating.  Didn’t get many photos as the living room was taken over by teenagers watching films.  Jack too old to trick or treat which makes me feel old!

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Sam not too old to trick or treat though 🙂  Love the local atmosphere.