We even did a worksheet!

Been a very busy few days here and not sure where to start.

Title is a bit flippant, we do use worksheets/books for a bit of English and some of Maths on a regular basis and have a Latin workbook.  We do as much hands on or verbally as possible though.  We try and give them a wide berth for anything else as the overwhelming majority seem to add so little to learning, they are for practice/fillers.

We’ve been revising word types in English.  Sam wanted to draw the kitten he described.


Creative writing was looking at a setting and describing characters that might feature in a story set there.


Maths has been volume and capacity.

Lots of playing with centicubes, displacing water and making boxes.




Science has been more fossils.  We did a quiz and talked about how fossils are found and recovered.  We made fold mountains from plasticine and talked showed the effect of the top eroding.

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Then we got out the collection and talked about the fossils we have.  Sam did some observational drawings.


He compared the feel and look of chicken egg and bone to fossilised dinosaur egg and bone.20160226_20

We talked about Otzi the ice man (and had a bit of a stray into cryogenics).  Froze a cherry and shell in ice and saw the change (or not) in texture when ice melted.

Made cast fossils

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and track fossils.


We started work on our water project for this half term by looking at the water cycle.  Read about it, labelled a worksheet and played a game from Twinkl.

20160226_31 Made a water cycle in a jar.  We didn’t actually see any ‘precipitation’ but we could see the water condense into bigger and bigger droplets and see how they would fall.

20160226_2820160226_27 Art theme this half term is ‘Pop Art’.  We started with Warhol.  Sam drew (pressing hard to get an indent)  a ‘celebrity’ onto a piece of polystyrene foam (pizza base!).  It is grumpy cat.  Not having a roller or sponge to hand and not realising that until we were past the point of no return we fudged it and rubbed paint over the foam with kitchen roll before printing.

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We also printed out 4 black and white mugshots and coloured them in, cut them out and mounted them.

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We have also in the last 3 days; spent time outside, been to the library, baked, played games with Grandad, Sam went to the village on his own in the gallop to independence and had our first group study session at the town library.  Only a couple of tables reserved for people to gather to do their own stuff at but very well attended and tables proved insufficient really.  Went to the park afterwards but far too cold.

20160226_1 20160226_2 20160226_4 20160226_57There has also been reading, Horrible Histories, Minecraft and quite a bit of Scratch.  Here’s the two latest projects, both works in progress apparently.  He’s done the projects as asked by the book but now he can see things he wants to do to them.

Friends, Fossils and Wonky Wheels

Tuesday is now an extremely busy day.  We’ve started a new Home Ed Coding Club that requires us to be in far end of Portsmouth for 10.30.  With not knowing how long it would take to get there and wanting to pick up some supplies for the afternoon activity in the city centre we left home before 9!  Think we will probably do that every week as that bus is usually on time (next one is very unreliable) and 2 ferries are running so the trip is smooth.  Will get us to library rather early but we’ll take our Maths and English to do there.

Sam really enjoyed the club, not sure he followed the instructions but it was comfortably within his abilities.

We had some drama when, at the furthest point from home I have ever taken it, the wheel fell off my (admittedly overloaded) granny trolley.    Had visions of being stranded at the library for ever ;).  But nice friend who knew the area better went out and bought me a new one while I grated soap for the afternoon’s activity and ‘supervised’ the boys.

On to the afternoon and since we’re over in Portsmouth and a short walk away from it makes sense to go to the Adventure Playground meet.  Not sure we’ll go every week, might opt for Victoria Park sometimes for a change as far prefer the place  (I don’t know what it is about this playground it is perfect on paper but gives me the heebie jeebies) but we’ll see. It was nice to sit in the sunshine and chat over lunch while the kids played.

I took some of the activities I’d planned to do with Sam for our ‘How the Earth Works’ science project to the group.  We started off looking at some fossils and then ‘making’ them.

The one from the book might be a fail long term, but worked quite well there.  We cut sponges into bone shapes.  This is Sam’s skull, others were more bone shaped and then there were random bits of sponge.

I made up a saturated solution of Epsom salts and the children soaked their sponges before taking them home to see what happens as they dry out.

The idea is that as the water evaporates the salt in the holes in the sponge will crystallize and the sponge will feel hard.  Mimicking how minerals get into the holes in bones under the ground and harden so when the bone itself has decomposed there is still a hard bone shape.

Will have to see.  Epsom salt experiments are not working well for me lately.

The other activity had a far more impressive outcome but was not such a good activity for a group of kids.  Should have tested it as was making it up but got it to work with help.

We looked at amber and talked about what it was and how it formed.

Then we took plastic flies (any plastic bugs would do 😉 ) and popped them into a silicon ice cube tray.  Think this would work with non silicon if you greased the holes with vaseline.

We then melted our soap.  I’d grated it first to speed up melting.  We used Pears for the colour.  Found one bar made 3 ‘amber soaps’.

20160224_1 Having failed with doing it over a pan of water we resorted to microwave. Short 10 second bursts and stir.  It was setting almost immediately it came out so rather than each child spooning their own cube it was a quick adult tip it over job.  Would benefit from a shake at this point to get the bugs further into the soap.

20160224_4 Doesn’t look good at this point as all the bubbles rise but when you break off the loose bits of soap from the pouring and turn over the soap.  Voila!


Really pleased with result!

We managed Cubs and yoga after we got home.  Very full day.



St Paul’s Cathedral

Have I ever mentioned I love home ed?  One of the major selling points is the trips and opportunities on offer, at prices we couldn’t afford full price and at times when places are quieter.  If you are prepared to do a bit of organising or find a friend that is ;).

Some of these trips (such as this one) I suspect appeal far more to the adults but we hope they build memories and experiences for the children.  We did get a small demonstration of this on Monday, when shown the organ at St Paul’s the children were able to relate it to a workshop about 18 months ago in a local church where they’d been allowed to play the organ and see the pipes.  Plus the talk of Nelson when we went to see his tomb is obviously something very familiar to them.

St Paul’s was amazing; really, really amazing! We had a tour, looked at some of the tombs (Wren, Nelson, Wellington), marvelled at the ceilings, heard how it was built, which bits were damaged and rebuilt etc.  Then we climbed the 500+ steps to the three galleries.  The Whispering Gallery where you could hear the voice of someone speaking into the wall reverberate to the other side of the gallery was I suspect one of the kid’s highpoints.  The views from the external galleries were the best bit to me though.

The only photo we were allowed to take inside was the children in the choir seats.


So lots of outside!
20160222_142129 SAM_2155 SAM_2157 SAM_2159 SAM_2160 SAM_2163 SAM_2164 SAM_216720160222_151248Plans for the morning went a bit pear-shaped as they have a habit of doing.  Meant rather than travelling as a group we ended up all making our own way.  Actually as much as we enjoyed the time with friends, it was lovely to have a chilled morning.  Seems ages since we’ve been up just us.  Entertained ourselves on the train with the puzzles in the newspaper, spent some time playing in puddles and had a leisurely early lunch while we dried out a bit.

20160222_110734With time to waste we popped in to the Tate Modern.  Not my cup of tea but Sam is getting surprisingly good at interpreting modern art.  Was hoping to catch the popart exhibition as seeing how much he enjoyed doing surrealism last term I thought the more modern playful stuff is the way to go and had picked popart for this term but exhibition closed last week.  We did, however, find a gallery with works by artists we recognised.

Mondrian’s20160222_115945 Picasso20160222_120156 Dali20160222_120216Plus plenty of ‘what on earth is that?’ stuff.  Sam could recognise a human body in this :/20160222_115734Quite liked this one.
20160222_121046 This one is just someone trying to wash the wall after a child has been scribbling really.  I have a patch like this under my stairs to show how often I decorate.20160222_121249

Once More Unto the Breach

Half term passed by in a bit of a whirlwind.  Mostly the boys entertained themselves and I tried to catch up and get on.

Work is really busy and will remain so for a good while but it is mostly behind the scenes stuff that is taking the real time and effort.  For a supposedly creative job I have been spending a lot of time on spreadsheets.  Definitely a daunting task ahead!  But I am so lucky to love my job.  My biggest issue is finding enough time to do all the work I want to.

The other big job going on is a huge burst of organising on the home ed group front.  In recent years the local home ed scene has centred on the group run tutorial centre and Portsmouth.  Neither of which really work for us.  The groups both side of the harbour have grown huge and definitely enough people to sustain more activities.  So I’ve been busy emailing, visiting places and planning.

We held an open coffee afternoon for the group which cost me two days of the week in prepping.  Worth it though as met some nice ‘newbies’.

The hall we held it in is brilliant and has been booked for a monthly festival themed craft/activity session.  A smaller hall has been booked for a monthly group for younger children that I’m planning to run as a volunteer.  A different hall for a monthly group for the ‘tween’ age.  Space also reserved for a fortnightly open access time in a local library when people can show up and work/chat.

The biggest event of half term was a family meal out to celebrate mine and Pete’s birthdays/anniversary which were this Monday but Jack would be at school.  We went Turkish as something new for us all and really enjoyed it.

My birthday set me wondering what my 17 yo self would have made of my life. Well even then if asked what I wanted to be the honest answer was a mother.  The other answer in the ‘suppose I’d better have a career’ way was a teacher.  Because that fitted around family and I love engaging with kids.  I think I can be very, very satisfied with the way life has gone.

Rock Cycle

We’ve been trying to catch up on the science plan (not going to happen but aiming to tick off a chunk and then see where we are).

We’ve been looking at the rock cycle, reading about it, drawing it and demonstrating with Starburst.

20160212_1 Heating20160212_2 Igneous – heated to very hot20160212_3 Metamorphic – heated and squished20160212_4 Sedimentary – squished20160212_6 We then toasted the spares 🙂 Nothing to do with rock cycles but tastes nice.


We looked at examples of the different types from our rock collection.


Igneous rocks; we demonstrated how they formed from melting and cooling by melting chocolate and cooling chocolate.

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Metamorphic; we followed the recipe in one of our rocks activities books foe ‘metamorphic bars’ from melted marshmallows and rice crispies (or coco pops as that is what we had).  Not convinced it demonstrated particularly well but there was heat and pressing involved.

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Sedimentary: we made our own rock from plaster of paris and coloured sands.  We added shells in between layers as fossils.  Think he plans to smash it up at some point to ‘excavate’ them.

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We also looked at binding agents that would help rocks form.  We made sandcastles from a mix of sand and another ingredient (plaster of paris, cornflour, salt and soil) left them to harden and then tested which withstood water being tipped on them the best.
20160219_1220160219_1620160219_21We’ve also set up an experiment to try and form a stalactite.  The jars contain a saturated epsom salt solution.  Now on 3rd different string type as trying to find one that will actually absorb the solution!  This one might be a fail 🙁


Always Look on the Bright Side

I’ve been trying to book a venue for a coffee afternoon for our local home ed group.  Found somewhere very suitable and booked it in.  However trying to get answers to basic questions such as; are there cups, key arrangements etc was proving difficult.  Lovely lady but not chatty on phone and didn’t answer emails.  In the end decided it was best to nip in, ask questions in person and check out the hall.   Only time I could go was Thurs morning.

On one hand it was a faff I could really have done without.  As mentioned we’re considerably behind on my plans in some subjects and it was our first chance this week for a productive burst.  Without a car it is difficult to just nip anywhere!

However I’m in a positive frame of mind.  The only person who says we’re behind is me!  They’re my plans so I just need to rewrite them and pow not behind any more 🙂  In the medium term spending an hour or so getting things sorted now was worth it rather than having doubt and unknowns, less work overall.  The sun was shining and the hall is not far from park and beach so we took the morning out for a walk, play and ice cream; made a virtue from a necessity.

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In case you were wondering.  The people in the hall are lovely, the hall is perfect, I got the answers I wanted and can picture how it will work (not just for coffee but for another plan)


Yesterday we had a home ed trip to Fishbourne Roman Palace.  Was more than a little stressful in the run up (collecting payments was a bit blood from a stone like and lots of changes from my original list to those who were actually there on the day) but day ran lovely and smoothly.

Everyone was there pretty much on time or managed to let me know before I left the house which is all I ask.  Venue were lovely and accommodating.  Gentleman running the workshop was great with the children and they were all great; lively and engaged.  Educationally it’s always hard to say what they gain from it.  Tend to find workshops are often quite basic in terms of knowledge and when with friends having fun takes priority.  I believe the experiences accumulate and knowledge is built on and made sense of, usually shows itself weeks later.  There is a balance, if a topic is new and I want to ignite an interest usually just me and him works better, however with an established interest or something more random being with friends opens his eyes again and reawakens interest.

Dressed upSAM_2128 Arch building
SAM_2130 Mosaic makingSAM_2133 Roman kitchen with busy slavesSAM_2135 BuildingSAM_2137 Fishbourne is of course most famous for it’s mosaics but these mostly passed the by the kids SAM_2136 SAM_2139 SAM_2140 Garden was where they wanted to be. SAM_2142 SAM_2143SAM_2144

After a nippy picnic we headed off.  At home Sam got out a mosaic kit we’d bought and made a dolphin mosaic coaster (note the concentration so tongue out :))SAM_2146 SAM_2148

Bit more mosaic making today.  A Lego one this time.  A lot of time was spent spinning it to see how the middle made a circle.


Surrealism and Socialising

I’d hoped to have finished our ‘blocks’ in maths and English last week so this week could be a leisurely finishing off projects week.  Things though never, ever go as planned and we needed the time off far more last week when we were ill.  Means we’ve had bits of maths and English to finish off this week and we’re a lot further behind in projects than I would have hoped.  Easily sorted though – Romans we’ll spend a bit of time consolidating and talking about today and tomorrow and then let go, Science will rework plan over half term.

So Monday and Tuesday were spent tying up loose ends before rushing off to catch up with friends.

Monday there was time for a bit of maths, English, Latin (finished book so must buy next one) and Spanish before we went into Gosport to have a chat with the library staff about using rooms/space there for HE activities.  We had a Subway that I’d promised him last week just before he was sick!  Then it was a very bobby ferry ride to Portsmouth for home ed laser quest session and a bit of time in Action Stations.  Pete is away a lot this week so it was a tea and TV evening with the boys.  They’ve got a taste for the animated films they enjoyed when they were really small so we watched one of the Ice Age films.

Tuesday, we had longer at home before needing to go out so we finished off the half terms English and Maths and did some Spanish.  We also finished off the half term’s art project on Surrealism.

Turn of ‘automatism’ and inspired by Joan Miro’s ‘The Great Carnivore’  we drew squiggles with black pen and then ‘turned them in to stuff’.

20160209_2 Fish and net by Sam20160209_4

Face by meSAM_2149

We also made a video of Sam ‘defining surrealism’ and submitted his projects to DIY.org for the Surrealism skill.

There was some time to browse the post.  On first impressions this book seems really good.  I’ll update as/if we ever use it.

20160209_3  Tues afternoon was spent back in Action Stations we were there early enough for a play.

20160209_134802 Then it was a friend’s birthday party.  Laser quest again before heading over to a soft play centre for a few hours and tea.  A brilliant afternoon, thank you Kate and Mike.20160209_150448

You can’t pour from an empty cup

Sorry this is another self-indulgent post (although quite a positive one ;)).  Seemingly not tied to home ed but of course it is all inseparable from life.  I know I’m a much better at giving my children what they need and deserve when I’m feeling ‘together’ myself.  I’m sure we all are.

As anyone has read the blog for a while has probably spotted I’ve not been that ‘together’ for a good 6 months, possibly longer.  There have been some very embarrassing on reflection, over-sharing, quite frankly raving posts.  I fixated on one particular aspect of my life as a major (if not only) cause and I really thought once I’d removed that stress from my life, ping I’d feel myself again.   Hasn’t happened unfortunately.

A good few months ago a friend queried if I might be hitting the perimenopause.  I had never heard of it and said ‘don’t be daft I’m 36’.  This last week though quite a few coincidences have pushed it into my consciousness and I suspect that actually I may well be, I seem to be a walking textbook case of symptoms and even Pete can recognise a lot of them.
The mood swings and crippling anxiety that are the things I’d most picked up on and probably most evident here.  But lack of ability to concentrate (have really struggled to be on form with work), mixing up words, general ditziness (I tried to put a tassimo disc in the washing machine drawer to make coffee yesterday 😀 And things like that seem to be occurring almost daily…  not since the seriously sleep deprived baby days have I been this bad) have all been there.  Plus a long list of physical symptoms, the most obvious being really bad insomnia, nightsweats and frequency of migraines that I haven’t experienced since a teenager.
Unfortunately (sorry for the tmi) the most clear symptom that something is awry won’t work for me so am left with arm chair diagnosis based on other symptoms or going to the doctor for tests.  Don’t like doctor and not ready to resort to treatment yet so going to delay that option for now.

Instead I am going to settle on I don’t know if it’s the perimenopause or just the fact that I’m 37 in a few weeks and there are hormone fluctuations as I get older. Or even that it’s not that at all and I’m just a bit stressed and all the symptoms are in a way contributing to each other, lack of sleep can account for a lot.  Whatever the cause the treatment needs to be to look after myself better!

So plans are

  • Work on diet.  Both for weightloss as put a bit back on over the winter (still well over a stone and a half lighter than this point last year but could do with losing that again) and also on quality of what I eat and upping intake of various vitamin etc.  Not sure I completely subscribe to the food as medicine view but can’t hurt.
  • Supplements/herbal remedies.  I’m wary of many of the herbal treatments I’ve seen listed for menopause, some of them have listed side effects I really don’t want.  But prepared to try some of the milder concoctions.  At the very least replacing some of the coffee I drink with herbal tea has to be good.  Having seen my Mum really suffering in her 40’s with osteoporosis I know I need to do something with calcium in my diet and suspect that I don’t and never will (milk doesn’t agree with me) eat enough.
  • Exercise.  I’ve sorted out pilates and yoga classes.  Yes I know!  Exercise and other people, two things well out of my comfort zone ;). Whether I’ll keep going with both I don’t know, probably too much in terms of money/evenings out.  I’ll try both anyway and see which fits in better.  We’ve sorted a good time in the week for me to go for a long walk alone.  Plus trying to build more opportunity for ‘activity’ for Sam as well into our weeks.
  • Mentally give myself a break.  Much easier said than done.  But will try.
  • Get out more.  I’ve been really anti-social lately and the less I speak to people face to face the harder I find it to do.  Even people I like very much!  I will never be a social butterfly but I do need contact with others or I’m going to become a mad hermit, so need to make more effort.
  • I also need a project, probably something voluntary, ideally with not huge commitment (probably not weekly).  Something that can give my organising need a bit of outlet, somewhere I can make a difference.  Organising stuff home ed wise just isn’t doing it, need something outside of my family.  Have a few ideas.

A plan in place already seems to have shaken me out of the doldrums a bit.  I’m in full on planning mode which makes me happy 🙂


I keep mentioning Scratch so thought I’d share some of Sam’s projects.  Some are projects suggested in books we have (but usually tweaked to add his own touches), others are done under his own steam.  All he says need improvement.  He’s his own worst critic.
I don’t know whether he’ll keep up with the whole coding thing but right now he’s loving it, absorbing loads and it’s fired his creative side (which I hadn’t thought existed 😉 ) and his interest in maths so what is not to love.
He showed me a few projects he’s working on, but we haven’t shared here, which have really impressed me.  He’s remixing a game of someone else’s and drawing so much on things he’s learned just by experimenting.  Then there is a game he loves online and I don’t like him playing (the game is great but you play with others, who will use swear words for names – not a children’s game) and he’s working on recreating it himself in Scratch.

Move the cat around with arrow keys to pick up ice cream (have to hover for a few seconds).  Getting hit by the balls drains strength.  Stay alive as long as possible.

An art project really.

Use the arrows to get through the maze.

Move the cat by dragging your mouse around, avoid the ghosts and lightning.

Use your arrow keys to move and press space to throw the bananas at the bats.

Move your mouse around to move and try to stay alive for as long as possible avoiding the dragon.