Chocolate, Cathedral and City Museum

Yesterday we went to a workshop at Portsmouth Cathedral on chocolate.  Not a home ed workshop being school holidays but via the power of the internet and sharing events I think we were one of 10 home ed families there and there were others in the workshops before and after.

The highlight was of course making a chocolate lolly but they all listened to a long (beyond my ability to stay interested) explanation on the history and stuff of chocolate.

20160329_111356 20160329_111446 20160329_111507 20160329_111509

20160329_111603 20160329_113635 20160329_115052

They ignored the rest of the activities on offer but did do the spotters guide to the cathedral.  I couldn’t interest them in this which is my point of interest in there.


After the workshop we picked up lunch and I walked over (very slowly – Old Portsmouth is great for avoiding cracks in the pavement games) to the City Museum with the boys.  We headed straight to the garden to have lunch and wait for friend and daughter, so missing the other families who’d come over oops!

Reminded how much I like the museum garden, we spent a pleasant hour sitting and playing in the sun.



We did eventually make it into the museum which is as dull and uninspired as I remember.  They did the Easter trial though and played on some of the old seaside attractions.

20160329_133614 20160329_133824

After our friends had gone, Sam and I paused to have a quick look at the Arthur Conan Doyle gallery and work on a mystery.

20160329_135917That museum really could and should be so much more.

Easter, Storm Katie and DIY

The early Easter and the growing up of the boys means that it pretty much passed us by this year.  There was chocolate, but not a lot and not eggs.  Sam and I had passed through the Lindt shop at Gunwharf the week before and picked up a bunny each, a paw and some truffles.  We don’t do eggs/presents from extended family really although my Dad dropped in one day and gave them some money.  No decorations, not even a bunch of flowers, just never got around to it and kids had no enthusiasm for it.

The days passed pleasantly enough; mix of lazy times watching tv with the boys, working on projects that can get put to one side in busy day to day existence (sewing, Future Learn courses) and working (and for Jack who I’d subcontracted a big task to).  No bank holidays when you work for yourself, usually they are a good opportunity to crack on with stuff.

We managed a blow the cobwebs (and everything else) away walk on Monday morning to see some of the devastation wreaked by Storm Katie.  We had no damage but there is a tree and cables down in the cul de sac (luckily not the tree Pete was parked under).

We even partook of the traditional Easter bank holiday DIY. that is, real DIY really not my thing.  Sam and I made some of the Minecraft papercraft kit he had for Christmas to enter for the Minecrafter skill.

20160328_161032 Sam spent a fair while researching other skills and projects and adding stuff to his to do list.  He then drew a ‘wirefame’ (I had no idea what one was) for an app.  In a display of joined up thinking it is one of his Scratch games adapted into app form.



Away (Finally!)

Lots of time out of the house, a take to bed level bug, urgent work stuff and a lot of HE group planning have left very little time and mental space for blogging.  Not a lot has happened when we’ve been in for the reasons noted above so here’s a very quick summary of life out and about in the last week and a bit.

We had a trial session of an activity group at a local hall.  I was too busy to get all but one blurry photo.  Was a nice afternoon though and will grow into a regular group.20160317_49

We visited the gaming cafe in Portsmouth, this time as a big HE group booking.  Definite hit!  Not enough space in the diary for a regular slot but will book again when I can.20160318_132739

A full day of HE activities on Tues, coding club followed by Adventure playground.  We did some water themed games for World Water Day; a relay race round the playground carrying a bucket on their heads full of balls (which took a long time to pick up afterwards) and then a demonstration to show how germs pass hand to hand.  I didn’t get a photo of the demonstration as was covered in vaseline and glitter and think I may have missed my own child in this one of him racing.  Sun was out a pleasant afternoon sitting in the sun.

20160322_131330We had an Easter party planned for Weds but with sickness and various other things in the way and a severe lack of planning we decided to write it off.  We’d hired the hall though so I posted on list to see if anyone fancied an impromptu Easter session and we managed a more the respectable with less than 24 hrs notice about 9 families.  Everyone mucked in.  There was colouring and drawing activities, Easter paper chains and egg painting.


Chocolate nests.


Plus an egg/sweet hunt of course.


I think our period of seclusion and avoiding group activities is over!


We’re in yet another busy week.  I forgot to take an antihistamine today and am feeling groggy and ready for bed but I know if I don’t blog regularly I lose the small stuff.  Rather than divide things into days I thought I’d focus on what we’ve been up to when we’re in.

Position has remained the focus in maths and we’ve had some fun with maps, compass points and routes.  We’re still getting on so well using the worksheets that back up Mathletics, there is very little repetitive practice, the concepts are clearly explained and they are fun.  After a bit of a dip he’s found his enthusiasm for live Mathletics again and managed to spend about 40mins on there earlier.

Prepositions still the order of the day in grammar.  Still giving a surprising amount of fun.  We’ve been making up daft sentences from two nouns and a preposition and we spent a while using a set list of prepositions to describe position of things in Hokusai’s The Great Wave.  In one of those little tweaks I’ve opted to switch from 2 handwriting, 1 spelling and 1 vocab session each week to 2 spelling, 1 handwriting and 1 vocab.  His handwriting is actually really quite good now.  He doesn’t join up a lot but if I am honest I still print a lot.  His spelling isn’t bad either really, just has more pages left in the book 🙂  Spelling is more fun too.

We’ve talked about why we need water from a health perspective.

Made a poster

20160317_45 Set up an experiment to grow mould on bread.  We put a piece of bread in the bag touching as little as possible, one he handled a lot before bagging and then washed his hands and did the same to a third and finally rubbed one on the toilet seat.  Waiting to see which grows most mould quickest.


I had intended to do something on health risks of unclean water but forgot!  Might try tomorrow or leave to next week.

We did some baking.  Pig, chick and bunny biscuits for Sam, coffee cake for me.20160317_51

We’re looking a Pop Art still so read about Roy Lichtenstein.  Looked at some of his advertisement/product inspired art.  Sam drew a computer and outlined in sharpie.  To paint in dots he stamped from bubble wrap  for big areas and pencil rubber for small. 20160317_53 20160317_54

20160317_61 We went to the park.  Not technically home but in our ‘home day’ area.20160317_6020160317_56

Made a slow start with Python.  I think I need to read it and work with him though.  He has been researching costs of Raspberry Pis.  Music and appalling puns are the other big things at the moment.  He’s developed a taste for Green Day!

Tick Tock

Today has been one of those days.  I cancelled all our usual plans to allow us to have a relaxing, respite day so we had some chance of getting Sam to Cubs (he’s been too drained the last two weeks).  Plus with a busy week I wanted some time to get some work done with Sam, some crafts done for work and tomorrow’s new home ed group planned.  Didn’t end up that relaxing or productive in the end.  I should have known when I received a phone call from a venue clarifying details of a trip while I was cooking breakfast!  Who phones at 8am? Apart from Kidzania obviously!  Time has been like sand through my fingers today and I just don’t seem to have got on top of stuff.

Never mind, group is pretty much sorted and we covered the basics and a bit of science.  I managed coffee with a friend who kindly dropped round to bring me a microwave.  For an unsociable, lacking in social skills grouch I do actually have an awful lot of very, very wonderful friends :).

We had a fun game in maths of coordinates 3 in a row.  2 dice one with numbers, one with letters A-F, each person a different colour pen.  Roll the two dice and put a cross on the point on the grid.  First with 3 in a row to win.

We also made a geological clock.  Probably learned more about the maths of turning a bar timeline that we measured in mm into degrees and a circle than about geology really.

20160315_3Then coloured one we found on the British Geological Survey website.  Combined effort, I would say so we had a good opportunity to talk about it (which we did) but really I just enjoy colouring far more than he does.20160315_1 Tied to the random ceiling hook we have.  Love my hook, no obvious purpose and in an odd (anything hanging off it a risk to head and face) place.  Good place to display carefully selected things though.
Pretty much filtered out then.  I did manage the crafts for tomorrow and just finished instruction sheets.


Sam managed to do his codeclub assignment in 15 mins.  Still struggling with whether it is worth crossing the harbour for, not as long as they are doing scratch I think but hoping it will prod him on to Python which he is finding more difficult (not surprisingly) and he enjoys the social aspect.  By chance a friend from the club was on the site at the same time as time this afternoon and they spent some time chatting.  He did also make it out for a beach hike and chips with Cubs 🙂

Realised end of last week and start of this fizzled out on the blogging front.  There was a similarity to today, home ed admin – mainly of the trip booking variety plus hayfever induced headaches and can’t be botheredness.

Bit of a disaster when they announced that we can’t have half price rate for laser tag any more.  Makes it too expensive to keep doing but begging for a rethink and looking at alternatives as far and away Sam’s favourite activity and I like having the chance for a relaxed chat with the other parents – or sometimes being a passenger for my friend’s 3yo as he repeatedly crashes the helicopter simulator.  Sam didn’t get upset though in fact he was quite enthusiastic about one of the suggestions to the level he ‘might actually prefer that’.

On the work front nothing spectacular to report.  We’re enjoying position unit in maths.  This was reading and following directions.20160312_40 20160312_41

Prepositions are proving surprisingly fun in English.  Lots of moving about; climbing on the table and under etc.  Last week’s Writing With Ease used the Wizard of Oz.  I put the entire series on the kindle as he enjoyed the extracts and I think he’s on the third book.

We had a friend who moved last year drop by on Thursday so my plans for productivity failed there too.  It was far, far nicer to see them though, long over due catch up 🙂  Then various people were in and out collecting stuff and my dad showed up for a long discussion of what we think is wrong with my toilet (my house really is rubbish!)

We had our second library session on Friday and it didn’t go as well we lost all the kids quite early.  Think no one was really in the right positive work frame of mind and it spread.  Might suggest we take some games next time.  Do 40 mins work and play games after.  Although we usually play games as work 🙂  We did manage all our English and Maths and coloured most of a geological map.  I had a headache and needed to get home for someone to collect some games so we never made it to park after.  Pity as bus was late and we spent 40 mins in bus shelter instead and it was sunny and warm.

Time seems to be galloping along at the moment.  Life has frustrations but they are minor.  Once I’m on top of the headaches, poor sleep patterns (mine but starting to be issue for Sam) and asthma, we’ll have things going well I hope.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

…or sick children in this case, you stay home and do a long overdue clear out and bake cake.  When life gives you fatty burgers that go up in flames, you eat the cake washed down with wine.  Life is definitely what you make it and cake helps a lot!

We had been looking forward to the HE trip planned. I’m fine after yesterday’s cold worries – must be hayfever, wet and grey today which always helps.  But in the end it was an easy call.  Sam was pale, waxy and hot to touch when he woke up, no way was he fit enough.  Decision made all we had to do was make the best of the day.  

There was lots of reading.  He’s quite taken with The Wizard of Oz.  Still working through the Horrible Science books yet again.  The magazine on Minecraft coding has been devoured.

We worked through the first part of the week on cel animation on the FutureLearn course on animation that we started ages ago.  We did do the activity but it was a mistake and his heart wasn’t in it.  Lot of jollying along needed from me.

I did spend rather too much of the day with my hand in the toilet cistern.  Don’t know what was wrong and what I did to fix it but it works so we’ll settle for that.

On the more productive use of time I did get around to listing lots of games/old resources on the local HE selling site so have (or will have) more space. Oh and made cake (not icing the top makes it more lunch box friendly).


Flip book app and computer games played.  More Horrible Histories was watched and we watched Bill this evening when Jack was back.

A day not without it’s negatives but as ever more positives.

Teetering, Treats and Technology

The sniffles and wheezes I mentioned yesterday are tightening their grip.  I felt absolutely foul first thing this morning. However I tried a dose of anti histamine in case early allergies and picked up massively, dipped a bit as afternoon came on.  Thinking I probably have a mild cold, but mostly allergy based ‘bleughness’ for me.  Bit of a blow to get hayfever this early but am not ‘ill’ so life plods on.  Sam is crashing though, anti histamines not really helping him, think he probably is feeling the allergies but more to it with him.  He was close to tears on the walk back to town from Codeclub, not that he didn’t enjoy it but it exhausted him, the afternoon has been up and down emotionally and Cubs was not pushed.

He wants to go on tomorrow’s trip and despite it being a horrible journey there (can be in London quicker – when booked it I had planned to probably get a lift to work with Pete cutting out an hour of bus but with that typically great timing he’s off to Leeds for the day – he definitely has worst of it!)  I think Sam’ll enjoy it a lot if well enough making it worth the effort.  Keep fingers crossed for us!

We did manage an early start to catch the more reliable bus and did Maths, English, Latin and Spanish at the library before the Codeclub started.  He is awake!

20160308_094649 The afternoon was full of little treats that helped keep him going.  We’d picked up The Pheonix and the magazine about Minecraft coding in town.  Then when we missed the bus by minutes (they don’t work with the ferry!) we managed to find the book about the Internet in a charity shop and he’s loving that.  Neighbour met us at the door with a parcel with the ‘stikbots’.  These are bendable people, good for stop frame animation.  I bought him a set with a camera tripod.  I though (correctly) he’d enjoy playing with them anyway without filming.  As we’ve watched the first 5 Horrible Histories dvds lately it seemed a good time to complete the set.  Oh and I put the Oz stories on his Kindle.  So a chilled afternoon (well I worked but hey ho I am fortunate enough to actually like my job 🙂 )
20160308_160203 20160308_141708


Just Keep Swimming

Have a feeling the busy schedule is about to catch up with us.  Sam is very sniffly and wheezy and I’ve sneezes, sinus pain and a tight chest.  Hoping it is a cold rather than onset of pollen allergies.  For the second year running we don’t appear to have had any winter to speak off I don’t feel ready for summer by a long way!

We’ll have to see about impact on the week.  Sam is keen to go to Codeclub but more than happy to forsake the adventure playground after – it is something we both like the idea of from a distance but having been a couple of weeks ago we’re not that fussed to go back for a while.  Maybe we’ll be more in the mood as weather warms up.  We also have a HE trip planned and not organised by me so being ill is an option 😉  He’s keen to go though so think we’re pretty certain to make it.

Today has been a much needed quiet day at home.  We caught up with last week’s overdue maths and english and managed today’s too.  All very efficient the two days’s worth of work took about 1 1/2hrs.

We’ve started position in Maths so added a game of battleships to the morning’s lesson.


Finished off focus on water efficiency with some calculator work on dripping taps and a household water use audit.  We played ‘splash’ top trumps and made a sand bottle weight to add to the toilet cistern to help save water.


We also finished off our work on crystals by a lot of looking at calcite and amethyst and some household crystals (sugar and various salts).

20160307_10 20160307_12 20160307_14We read about crystals, chatted and made a birthstone wheel.  Sam made ‘gems’ by colouring rock salt and then when they’d dried out mixing them with glue and shaping into rocks.  About 30 seconds after this photo was taken I thought I’d better move the food colouring before it was spilt and yes, dropped it of course.  Make a habit of doing that!

20160307_16 20160307_1 20160307_15 20160307_17

Rest of the day went watching Horrible Histories, browsing and uploading projects to, messing about on Scratch and sorting and testing old games/HE resources to have a bit of a clear out.  Oh and FutureLearn courses if you are me, have 4 on the go (5 next week) may have over stretched myself :/.



It has been a long, long week.  Not a bad one at all, opposite in fact but busy, very busy.  I’ve tried to blog a few times but have been so tired by the time I’ve tried that trying to make sense of all the thoughts flying about has been beyond me.  It feels like we’ve entered into one of our periodic spells of change.  Not as a result of things not working more as result of growth, opportunities there to grab and mental shifts.

There is a sudden loosening of the reigns and letting go.  He’s not really been asking or pushing but it’s more a shift in my head that I’ve recognised that he’s suddenly more grown up and I can trust him to have a bit of common sense.  Having sent him off to the village last week this week as seen more steps towards independence. When a we experienced a blip in communication meaning that the sleepover I thought was a couple of weeks away became rescheduled (when I was already in bed on Sunday) for Monday I instinctively thought that we could solve the which side of ferry to meet dilemma easily if he could catch ferry on his own.  He didn’t bat an eyelid at suggestion,  so I saw him on one side and 7 mins later friend met him at the other.  All the ‘knowing’ he’d be fine doesn’t stop the sick feeling of watching them get further away though.


This was followed by him taking himself off to Costa for lunch on his own on Friday while I was running a craft session for younger children (in the same building).  Oh and another sleepover on Friday night.

This is where home ed has a distinct advantage over school.  One of the criticisms often levied at home ed is that you are mollycoddling them and they won’t learn independence if they are always with a parent.  My experience is to the contrary.

Firstly I’d quibble about them always being with a parent; they have attended Beavers from as soon as possible and done pretty much every day trip/camp offered and from a young age there has always been ‘swapping’ of children for home ed activities, they have never been ones to need me in classes or workshops so if adult places have been scarce (or one of them wasn’t the right age) I’ve sat outside.

But mainly they have been able to grow their independence at their own pace, no school saying they must be left, no pressure for long school trips.  Every step they have taken away from me has been because they have been ready and wanted to go.  We have had wobbles – last year’s shambles of a Gang Show camp unsettled Sam and he stayed close to me for a good while after and I don’t know what happened (almost definitely something very minor) but something upset him at a friend’s house last year and the idea of going again was quite traumatic but we had a few cosy months, mainly just me and him and confidence returned and he is off again, more confident than ever before.

They are also more confident with doing ‘normal’ things; like ordering in a cafe, crossing the road, asking for things in a shop, finding things in the supermarket, knowing their way around town and catching a bus because they do them all the time.   They have proved themselves able to exercise a bit of common sense and deal with problems.  Jack got rather lost riding his new bike home from town when he was 11.   Came across a garage, realised he shouldn’t have passed a garage so was lost, went in to garage and asked for directions.

As for schools and independence, according to Jack with nearly 4 years of school behind him now, teachers talk a lot about it but in reality there is very little scope for the children to exercise any.

Other notable points in the week; we read about and finished up looking at fossils and moved on to crystals.

20160301_11 20160301_21

I should say the thing covered in sand on the right is a track fossil (fossil of a burrow – or track of pencil pushed into sand in our case).

We attempted to grow geodes from egg shells which failed dismally (I think the ratios on the instructions were really off).  Also tried to dissolve limestone in vinegar and see if crystals formed.  We’ll never know as our warm place was tucked in the corner by the heating grill but someone still managed to kick it all over the living room carpet!

20160301_16 20160301_18

Tree worked though.


As did growing from a seed crystal and our rock candy was very successful this was after only a day.

20160302_5 20160302_6 20160302_7

He also eventually broke into the geodes he’s been working on for a month.  There was then some suspicious hanging about in garden where some of the path appears a bit more broken than it was before and there is a big hole in the flower bed.

20160303_4 20160303_5

We didn’t manage all the ‘work’ I wanted to this week, too many things to adapt round but never mind.  We did manage some playing with the scales though for maths.


We did fit in a lot of socialising though, planned and spur of the moment.
Monday was sleepover at his best friend’s, I collected him Tuesday from coding club which he is still loving and I am loving as I don’t run as much as I love organising stuff it does both me and Sam good to go to places where I get to sit back (I get to sit with some of the younger ones who need support reading :)).

Wednesday was our first club which all went a lot better than I could have hoped for.  All older children really, well Sam’s age and year or two older.  Which is really good as often feels as if they all seem to disappear about this age from the more social activities.  Mostly people we knew but that we don’t see often so was nice.  Sam happily worked on a project with people he didn’t know.  We did some work for the animator patch, making zoetropes and stop motion films.


Thurs was a bit of a break.  Only person we saw was my Dad for an afternoon of board games, mainly Dobble and City of Zombies – both I highly recommend.  We did play a water themed game too to continue our water project from the morning.

20160305_162725The morning’s project work, colouring while we listened to podcasts about how the water cycle works and how the water reaches our houses, a poster on what we use water for and a quiz.


Friday was the first session of a monthly group I’m running for younger children.  Idea is Pete should be off work on these days but didn’t come off this time, he was off work but in Cardiff.  Never mind Sam came, we managed to pick up some much needed new shoes and trousers (growth spurt!), he helped set up, played a bit with a 3 yo who wanted his attention (little boys seem to like Sam), then entertained himself on his kindle before going for an early lunch.

I enjoyed myself chatting to parents I wouldn’t normally see and of course I love coming up with the activities for this sort of thing.  Here’s just a few of them – it was Spring themed.


After that popped over to a friend’s for a couple of hours for Lego, Minecraft, tea and a long over due catch up.  By the time we got home neither of us were in the mood for the work we’d have done in an ideal world so Sam played minecraft and I did some admin/put away the craft stuff from Weds and Friday’s groups and then we packed for Cub sleepover and put his DIY patches on his camp blanket.


Good week if a long one, not a pace we could maintain.  We definitely need our day at home every week though if we are going to do what I think of as a basic level of education alongside sufficient chill time.

Oh and I never mentioned a St David’s Day baking burst – nothing like home made warm bara brith for breakfast.


Plus a burst of stitching to try and finish my Winter tree in winter (failed but was done on 1st March)