Playing at being tourists

One obvious disadvantage of having my dad living local (outweighed by the positives of course) is that I don’t have a base ‘up North’ to visit the friends and family still up there.  I was going to try and head up this summer for a long weekend but before I managed to do anything about it my oldest friend decided to come down.

We’ve been friends since before playschool, our mums were best friends, we did school and collage together, family holidays, to the kids we’re aunty – so it was lovely to catch up.  Sam found a protege in her 8yo son and I got to know her lovely 4 yo daughter who I’ve barely seen thanks to the distance.

It also prompted us to think of the local area interms of what you’d do if you were on holiday.

Not surprisingly that was playing in the sea.  They couldn’t wait and were in fully clothed on Thursday.  Still managed to hang around to have chips watching the sun set.

20160825_5 20160825_10 20160825_18 20160825_22 20160825_25Friday we headed over to Southsea for a more touristy fix.  Castle, splash park, beach and model village.

20160827_1 20160827_2 20160827_6 20160827_7 20160827_12 20160827_14 20160827_22 20160827_25 20160827_31 20160827_33 20160827_36 20160827_42 20160827_49 20160827_51 20160827_53Saturday was spent chilling out at home mainly.  Sam was teaching my friend’s son Scratch.  We managed to drag them away to the park on the sea front and a ‘Penguin’ (they sell whipped strawberry) ice cream before they headed back north.  Lovely few days.

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Sun, Sea and Specs

Today was another scorcher so down to the beach we went to test out the new bodyboard and hang out with friends.

20160824_1 20160824_1020160824_1720160824_15 20160824_19Unfortunately we had to leave early and head in to town on a very hot bus for stationery and other school supplies as Jack’s return closes in and eye tests for the boys.


Wonderful Winchester

The first 4 or 5 times we went to Winchester I absolutely hated the place.  Poured down on us every single time.  Since then Sam and I took a spur of the moment trip on a sunny day and absolutely loved it, must go back we said.  Taken us about 2 years to slot it in.  I think the answer is Winchester is a place to embrace in lovely weather when we can set our own agenda rather than home ed trips when we are tied and it always rains.  That said it did cross my mind yesterday that a few particular friends would have really enjoyed it too so not saying no company, just no organisation/booked events.

What shook us out of our cocoon was Jack having friends round.  It felt too hot to hide in my room out of the way.  By complete coincidence I’d ticked interest in an event on Facebook (never do that) so I took it as a sign we should go.

It was a Tudor Wedding themed event at the City Mill.  To be honest it wasn’t worth the trip.  It was two ladies in costume acting as servant and mistress explaining wedding customs in the time of Mary I.  Audience was mixed and content wasn’t really engaging for children or that detailed and interesting for adults (not when you have read so many books on the Tudors).  Sam did have to put on a silly hat and learn to bow being the only boy :).  Overall it was a lovely setting and a nice thing to do.  We love the City Mill but it needs something like that to make it worth the visit.

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20160823_23 20160823_26After the Mill and a bit of lunch we went for a walk along the river.

20160823_27 20160823_30 20160823_31 20160823_48To Wolvesey Castle, where Mary Tudor first met Philip of Spain before the wedding.  I had forgotten the history connected to The Anarchy.  I love how knowledgeable Sam is on history.  Not a period we’ve ever covered but he knew all the basics far more than I suspect most adults.  Another yay for Horrible Histories :D.

History aside, this is our sort of place; quiet, peaceful and a fabulous place for climbing and hide and seek.

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We were now melting but Sam wanted to go to the park, so back we went along the river.
At the park we had ice cream and Sam had his first proper look at Pokemon Go and is now a convert.

20160823_52Then to the playground.  Sam must have spent at least 1/2 hr pushing toddlers and small children around on the roundabout.  Makes me laugh the way he gets a trail of little ones attached to him.  The park had a really great set of full seat swings, looked like they would be suitable for physical disabilities, lovely to see and hopefully will see more.

20160823_72 A slow walk back to the station via a book shop or two followed.  Lovely day.

Cocooning and Planning

Far more cocooning than planning going on actually.  Seems odd to be making plans to get us out and about when all we seem to want to do is close the door on the outside world.  With both boys at home we’re happy in our own little bubble.  I’m trying to make the effort to post one group ‘we’re going here’ post every week to stop us completely shutting ourselves away.

It will come to an end though Jack will go back to school (happily really although he will grumble) and Sam and I will embrace the HE social scene again (again with a feeling of dragging ourselves out).

Planning the social is where I start our HE planning every year as this is the one that is hardest to get right and I’m least able to control.  Last year we found a lovely hall and set up some good activities and have so many more in mind.  It has just been a case of spending a bit of time this week trying to sell it to more group members so we keep up attendance and they remain feasible.

Again, as I’ve explained so often, Sam he needs variety.  Weekly stuff is a struggle to do.  Even code club – his hobby, with his best friends became too much (I think the dodgy computers really didn’t help).  I have been trying to put my finger on what it is and think I have it.  He is my child and like me while he enjoys socialising I think it is mentally taxing to him.  So when we leave a group or activity tired there is a tendency for him to pick up on one small (tiny, minute) thing that wasn’t right – a voice too loud even.  A week isn’t long enough to forget (I think often it becomes a far bigger deal in his head over the following days – overthinking is a family bad habit) and focus on the fact that he enjoyed everything else.  A fortnight or ideally a month lets him forget completely and he’ll be enthusiastic again.  Going somewhere or doing something different is okay.

Therefore what works for us is a routine with a lot of variety.  The big discussion from holiday is we want more time at home and making most of what is on our doorstep – sea, skatepark, Alver Valley, Action Stations.

Routine for the coming year will hopefully look a bit like this;

Monday – Start the day with something out and about – skatepark, bodyboarding, a walk at the country park (or another nice local space).  When we’re feeling a bit more social and fallen into routines more will probably post plans to the local group if organised enough to make plans. I think once we’ve emerged from the cocoon we’ll enjoy it more with company.  I will wait and see how early it is we find ourselves going out though, suspect that will decide whether it is even worth asking others!  Will make the rest of the day a cosy, crafty, reading sort of day.

Tues – PJ day.  This is going to be our sacred ‘day at home’.

Weds – Our big social day.  We’ve two monthly home ed groups planned that will work to fall that we have a group fortnightly.  Workshops and days out, sometimes alone but mostly with others will take care of the rest.

Thurs – a morning at home and then an afternoon with Grandad and plans to attend group trampolining fortnightly and hopefully swimming on the other weeks.

Fri – still a work in progress.  I have a monthly HE group for younger ones.  Now Pete is off on Fri may leave Sam at home as per original plan, will depend on what Pete is up to.  Have the library tables reserved for 4 Fridays too, have offered a book/board game group as they weren’t be used for drop in with your own stuff sessions but no take up and it something we are happy to drop.  Will offer once more as posts get lost over the summer before cancelling.  Goes against the grain to give up free space even if we don’t need them.

Most planning energy has gone in to group stuff although have managed to sort out craft cupboards, order some new resources and plan maths and English in detail.


The learning packs from Mathletics definitely met the criteria last year of including online stuff, teaching worksheets, lots of variety and hands on activities, all within an easy to stick to frame work.
This year is definitely a case of it isn’t broken don’t fix it.
It isn’t a programme for children to get on with themselves.  Lots of two player games and activities.  Works well for us though as Sam likes me about and likes doing different things.
We’ve upgraded from spreadsheets to online planners though, to give Sam more control as he can allocate jobs to days now.

I’ve allocated the 10 topics to weeks over the year.  For each topic I’ve given him a list of online games (from Mathletics) to go with the pen and paper stuff.  Where appropriate I’ve fitted in some of their enrichment tasks.

I have learnt my lesson about not printing the assessment stuff because of course we never looked at that.



Still our hardest area but starting to come together.  Spelling, grammar and handwriting are reasonable.  Creative writing is still not happening.  I had planned to give it up as a bad job and focus on building up basic report style stuff starting to get ideas out of his head and recorded.  We do so much verbally.  We’re a long way off exams but feel we need to move more towards recording information, baby steps. Sam specifically stated creative side was something he wants to develop though – just need to make it fun.

Plans are to keep working on comprehension through narration.  Mostly through Writing With Ease 3 but perhaps using a bit of narration on our read alouds.
Spelling, punctuation and grammar – will read through Usborne’s Improve your English and do some of the activities (verbally mostly).
To help with structuring writing we’re going to work through Collin’s Aiming For Level 3 Writing and hopefully start Level 4.  These are old versions so don’t follow current NC but I prefer that.  What I like about them (and think Sam will too) is that they are written for older children who need support and as such aren’t fluffy and cartoony like a lot of junior age resources.
Story telling, the aim is to just have fun.  I bought this Show Me a Story book years ago and love it.  It is one of those that you browse time and time again thinking oh I’d love to do that but it never seems the right moment.  I think it is probably a now or never agewise.  We’ll use the hands on activities in the book to make and use story prompts and will do it verbally.  I might transcribe the odd one for him to embellish and improve but we will see.
Not sure if we’ll do regular handwriting practice yet it will be see how things go timewise and if we feel it is a benefit.  If so we’ll stick to Getty Dubay as they have served well (and I have the next book ready).


An Interlude

As this blog shows I get to do a lot with Sam.  Not so much with Jack whose life is far too busy to accommodate much time with me.  The slightly ironic thing is our interests overlap much more.  Theatre and musicals in particular being one.

We simply had to go and see the new musical for Disney’s Aladdin, to this day we are all word-perfect on the songs (and much of the dialogue) it has been watched so often.  Sam wasn’t bothered either way so decided to leave him home with Pete.

Lovely couple of days shopping and exploring the West End (including a little detour down Charing Cross Road to restock book shelves).  Although it was far too HOT!!!!

Oh should have said Aladdin was amazing!  Really, really fabulous.  So colourful and the staging was brilliant!

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The photos below are from M&Ms World.  A shop dedicated to M&M merchandise, we simply couldn’t resist. 20160812_120240 20160812_12110520160812_121538



False Start

I don’t normally suggest we do any ‘project stuff’ over the summer, it is Sam’s time to chill and lead the way (aka hide out in his room watching youtube!)  However there was an exhibition on at a local gallery finishing last weekend that seemed a perfect stepping stone into the art work planned for this term.

We are planning to dip our toes very gently into working for an outside qualification and start on the Art Awards.  As Sam isn’t 11 until Nov so we thought we’d test the waters with the Explorer with me playing a big part in helping him plan and structure it (he has his own plans for the Bronze).  I had the idea of theming the work around nature.  So this exhibition was right up our street.  It was about making paper and I had envisaged us having a go at a bit of paper making after.

20160815_199 I had given us over an hour to explore the gallery as we’d never been (felt guilty as on doorstep nearly).  Well we won’t be going again!  14 mins we took and most of that was spent sitting in a chair grumbling.  There was nothing to see!  One big display and one short info board which you couldn’t really see as they had it in an activity area and there was a class on.  Then 3 (interesting enough) collages stuffed in the corner of a cafe with arm chairs in front.

I don’t think I have ever been more disappointed in a gallery.  The art work was interesting, needed more of it, more explanation and proper display space.

We spent more time sitting outside in the sun or in Sam’s case sliding up and down a torpedo.

We’ll forget that as our start point, can’t say it inspired either of us.

20160811_4Day wasn’t a complete loss.  We spent some time in the Game Over exhibition at the City Museum before a picnic and a play in the museum garden with friends and other random children hence no photos.


Hodge Podge days

The last few days have passed in a bit of a blur, routines are out the window as we adjust to summer and the presence of teenagers in the house. Both Pete and I have a change in working arrangements so everything is feeling rather mixed up.  Plus I’m going away again this week for a couple of days with Jack.   They’ve been happy enough just hard to think what we’d done.

Thursday was a bit of housework and a Doctor Who watching session.  Everyone is reading (or has read) the new Harry Potter.  The excitement of having tablets and laptop has yet to wear off and there has been a lot of time on them.

Friday was a day out.  We went to Victoria Park for a play with friends and see the animals.

20160806_2 20160806_3 20160806_6 I looked after Sam’s friend for a while so his Dad could go to an appointment and we ended up in Games Workshop where Sam was given a lesson in Warhammer.  I may live to regret that.  We went back after dropping off Sam’s friend so Sam could have a painting lesson.  Luckily we got kicked out so the ‘helpful’ man could have lunch.

Heading towards home we decided to stop at the dockyard for a free event they had on.  Were glad we did.  Sam loved the task of putting money in the boat, as much as you could with the boat still floating and being allowed to keep the money if it didn’t sink.  He was good at it and netted a surprising amount.

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On Saturday I left the kids at home and went to Little Woodham with my Dad to see the kiln lit.  When I got home at mid day I ended up waking Sam!  Pete and Jack had assumed that when he hadn’t appeared he must have come out with me.

20160806_33 20160806_36 20160806_38 20160806_40 20160806_42 20160806_48 20160806_50 20160806_51 20160806_55 Rest of Saturday was spent ironing to catch up from holiday.
Sunday was a pottering sort of day.  I did some photo editing for Pete so he could order a friend’s present, dyed Jack’s hair and me and the bathroom, tried my best to clean and did some organising and planning, fillng in our diary and printing and starting to organise Sam’s maths for Sept onward.  Bit of family sportwatching going on too.

Monday has been a housework, accompanying my Dad on an errand, learning some coding from FutureLearn, Pinterest and resource searching for projects sort of day.  Feeling rather sluggish and bleugh, have big plans for the week ahead though.


Big Butterfly Count

Organising a home ed trip even a casual meet up the day after you get back from holiday sounds a bit of a stupid idea but I knew Sam and I would benefit from a few hours out and without the prod to go we wouldn’t.
I was right it did us good.

We headed to the Alver Valley for a walk, picnic and to count butterflies.  We were joined by 5 other families none whom we know well, 2 we’d never met at all.  We met up at the car park so walked part of the park that I don’t know, down by one of the lakes and into the meadows.  Need to do it slower with wildflower guide.

In the end it was the adults who did the butterfly count while children ran about and foraged.  Ripe blackberries in the first week of August!!!
Lovely day with lovely company, nice way to get back to normal life.

Butterflies were too quick to get a photo of.  Very hard to identify too.  Was a ‘there goes a brown one’ sort of identifying.

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On the way home we stopped to pick up some fruit from the shop as Sam had been inspired by the mixing of blackberries and water in various pots to want to do smoothies.

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Bit of Self-Indulgence

A long time a go I wrote a post about how hard it is to maintain your sense of self when home educating and in many cases juggling work and other responsibilities. It was something that clearly resonated with others.  Several years down the line all I can say is it gets easier, much easier, to find time as the children get older.

The trick is to keep yourself safe during those hard years.  Let your children see you as a person with wants and needs of your own.  Don’t be afraid to say no occasionally to them in order to do something you want.  Learning to compromise and balance needs of others is a valuable skill.  Keep up with hobbies even if it is very ad hoc.  When life is busiest I am known to write 1/2 hour sewing or read a chapter on my to do list.  Keeping myself sane is just as important as doing the laundry.  Talk about things other than children!  Hard sometimes as it can seem they are the world and in home ed spheres they are the link that binds, but talk politics, food, fabric, pets, what you did at university, any complete rubbish that fills your head don’t be just so and so’s mum.  One day you will find yourself with space to be you so don’t forget who ‘you’ are.

Anyway where this was coming from was the trip to Wales saw me with more time than ever on my hands, it wasn’t a case of grabbing half hour here and there but having hours where I could fill my time as I chose.  I’d left tablet behind so no work or home ed admin or even Futurelearn courses (spent a lot of time on these this year) could intrude.

I read a book on 70’s politics, one on a family of Maharanis, Wolf Hall as have been meaning to read that for a long time and a rubbish book on someone’s travels tracking down Doctor Who filming locations.

I finished the last in the series of season trees I have been cross stitching.  To get this done in a fortnight says exactly how much time I had 😉

20160803_188 While sewing I worked through documentaries on Coast, human evolution and the behind the scenes one at the Commons.  Sam joined me for most of Coast.

There was time for jigsaws (of maps, love maps).  Didn’t get a photo of the football club one we did, this is Cardiff.

20160803_132There was walking, book shopping, family games and pottering about in the kitchen playing with making mug cakes.

There was list writing – always planning :).  Plus some time for drawing (Sam looks evil), not well but I do enjoy it, could be better with practice and more patience but not something I find the time for that often.

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And the reason for the self indulgent post really is that I spent a lot of time playing with a new camera so wanted to dump the photos somewhere 🙂

Playing with settings

Random photos

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Cardiff Bay

Worth a separate post to Doctor Who as it is some where I have fallen head over heels for and could spend hours and hours walking around.  At one time it was one of the most multicultural areas of Britain and the first million pound cheque was written at the coal exchange.  The grand old buildings such as the coal exchange and old terraced streets stand surrounded by shiny glass and chrome and it feels like there is a bit of spirit and vitality to the place.  Definitely somewhere to spend more time (when it isn’t raining).

Views over the bay.

20160801_130939 20160801_130930 The Norwegian church where Roald Dahl was baptised.20160801_130702Peace statue.

20160801_131106The Senedd.20160801_131633Millennium Building.20160801_132031The entrance to Torchwood 🙂


Then opposite the Millennium Building there was a Beach Festival with sand, deckchairs, tropical bars and rides.

20160801_134241 Sam had a go at zorbing (there was a lot of crawling 🙂 )20160801_133753 20160801_133812



The fun house

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To see Sam going on rides and activities is still a surprise, he wouldn’t do a playground slide a year ago, but a good one.  They both had a go at shooting sweets.


By then the rain was heavy so we retreated to the city centre shopping malls for coffee, Lego store and Hamleys and a long look and a lot of books from Oxfam.