Can I admit that 2016 was a good year? Enjoyable and productive, full of family, friends and fun.

Personally I end the year over a stone lighter (even allowing for Christmas) than I was back in May and feeling better for it.  I managed 9 big sewing projects. Ones below were my favourite.  I met my Goodreads challenge of 52 books (probably will make it 53 before the night is out) and used the challenge from Modern Mrs Darcy as motivation to read some different choices/ones that have sat on the shelf for years.   I even managed War and Peace and quite a decent quota of Shakespeare (still too many I don’t kno as well as I’d like).  I managed 30 – yes 30!!! – FutureLearn courses.  To be honest that was too many and made it in to work, there was a few more I didn’t finish/left.  That said there were some really, really good ones in there – Shakespeare in his World, Teaching Literacy through Film and A Royal History of Food and Feasting stick out.

As far as HE goes we’ve had some fantastic trips and lots of making use of what is on our door step, lots of fun project work and chilling at home too and regular HE groups that work well for us.

January – Romans were the order of the month and we seemed to be out a lot! This time in Wales.
February – I could have picked from loads of photos of hands on projects to show us being busy and productive at home, brilliant geology project but St Paul’s was the stand out trip of the year I think.
March – 2016 was the year I finally found a venue that I could run the HE group I have always wanted from. Here was an Easter session.
April – lots of time out but we were having huge fun in with lots of geology experiments and Surrealism themed art projects.

May – Spring had sprung and lots of photos of us hanging out by, in and on rivers for our geography project and in lots and lots of parks just because we could.
June- with our Dockyard pass due to expire we ended up there lots! Just as the’d put in an indoor assualt course (we bought a new pass!)
July – Summer meant work was set aside and the beach (and dockyard) embraced. The second half of the month was spent in Wales enjoying the peace.
August -bought many more days on the beach. My oldest friend visited so we had fun showing them about.
September – New academic year and new projects – lots of making food related models of human body parts.
October – Studying Queeen Victoria and having fun with friends seems to be the order of the month.
November – One of the real hits this academic year has been adopting a day that is pj day every week. We’re both thriving on it.

December – HE groups have gone from strength to strength this year. Lot of fun making bath bombs.

Posh Shopping, Fond Farewell and Christmas Lights

Yesterday we had tickets for a bus tour of London to see the lights.  Jack’s off now so had both boys with me.  Having mused on the idea of wha else to do while we were there we settled on Harrods. Spent an hour or so browsing food halls and treated ourselves to some Christmas spiced tea and coffee.

After a restorative hot chocolate (Harrods was busy!) we decided that since we were on the right road we had to go and say goodbye to Dippy.  We only had 40 mins to spare so it was a quick whip round the dinosaurs for old times sake.

I will never stop being amazed at how marvellous and how detailed this building is.  Think I love the building more than the exhibits.
Then it was to Victoria for an open topped bus tour of the ity to take in the lights.

Fabulous day, even allowing for our Harrod’s carrier bag ending up full of vomit on the journey home.

Christmassy Creativity and Bouncing

Very late I am starting to catch the Christmassy vibe at long last.  I know lots of people were grumbling in Nov at the decorations but it really does kill the festive season for me having it in your face for so long, it’s hard to be excited about it when it goes on so long. 
Anyway I started the day playing with making snowflakes.
We had a few activities to finish from Sam’s creative writing scheme.  We started with Stories from our Neighbourhood.  Sam made a collage of a street and added details.  Later in the day he wrote a small story about it.  I like the flying shark!
The second activity was our Christmas Story Walk.  I had intended to just walk round the local streets enjoying the lights one evening but all but 1 of my neighbours seem to have gone discreet and tasteful this year.  So we roped Grandad in for a trip to Keydells, a nursery about 1/2 hr away where they have a Christmas Woodland Walk.  This is a staple visit for many friends but without the car we’ve never been.  Probably a good thing as with his dummy/auton phobia it would not have gone down well when he was younger, we were both a bit freaked at some of the figures now.  Definitely Christmas with a sinister twist.  He took my camera and had a whale of a time though.

After the walk we had a brief look around the nursery, nearly fainted at what they were charging for decorations.  We were going to have lunch in the cafe but crikey it was loud, full of oung children, just being young children but in a small space so we headed to the Tesco opposite trampolining.
Trampolining was quiet thanks to huge numbers of the group being at the panto but it was lovely, a chance to play and chat with people that we don’t normally.

Manipulatives and Bath Bombs

We’ve finished Maths for the year so Weds was a bit of playing with investigative maths which quickly turned into playing with cubes.

The morning pretty much floated away from us that way.  We did manage some reading curled up in bed.
The afternoon had us at the hall for our DIY.org group, where we were making bath bombs.  Loving this group, the children are all of an age they can work in groups and it’s a lovely bunch and gives me scope to do things that need more adult leading or cooperative work.

We made two types of bathbomb, citrus stars and chocolate mint cakes, plus an awful lot of mess. A lot of mess. 

After they had a choice of paper crafts or garden. Garden won!

Evening was spent playing a board game that is a simple version of chess, drawing and watching a documentary about C17th London.  Catch up isn’t working on Virgin so we are working through things I’d recorded and we’ve not got round to watching yet.

Stimulating the Senses

Morning started with finishing off Sam’s patterns and algebra unit with a game of pairs.  Also the week of his Writing With Ease – although this week’s naration book has gone on to the kindle and he’s reading the series This is why I love using WWE he’s gone on to read so many books we’d never have encountered otherwise.

The rest of the day was dedicated to science as we had two week’s worth to cover and I may have got a but over enthusiastic with the planning so after a trip to the shop for supplies, post office to get last of Christmas posting done, a chapter of the History of India and lunch, we squished what we could into the afternoon.
Pretty much everything took so much longer than anticipated, even the reading as we got distracted by visual illusions.  But that was due to Sam’s enthusiasm so can’t complain.
The spoon trick to pick up the vibrations worked really, really well!

Showing an upside down image with the help of a magnifying glass.
Trying to see changes in pupils due to light/dark.
Testing range of vision
And looking through colour paddles
Identifying where sounds come from.
Hearing the vibrations come up the strings when the spoon is tapped.
Cup and string telephone.
Balance. Turns out standing on one leg on a cushion without a blindfold was hard enough.
Smell and taste tests
Trying to identify by touch through thick gloves.

Evening was spent writing Christmas cards, reading and drawing.

Water, Water Everywhere and a bit of Indian Culture

We’re in mopping up mode, finishing off units and wrapping up projects.  After some maths and English Monday morning was mostly sppent playing with water colours.

Sam painted spots over the paper and we left it outside in the rain (amazing how few rainy days we’ve been home – this one has been on the list for a while).  Produced a good effect.  The line is him dropping a pencil on it while it was drying.

Sam also painted a reflection with an oilpastel cityscape

And we both did a water silhouette – paint a simple outline then fill in with water and add splodges.

There was even more art work as Sam worked on his penguin scratch art while I read aloud from our Story of India book.

The afternoon was dedicated to Indian culture, we read info and stories, listened to sitar music, watched Bollywood videos, coloured in costumes and played snakes and ladders and ludo.

Experiencing The Globe

I firmly believe that the best way to learn is to experience. I know Sam only remembers a small fraction of the trips and activities we’ve done but that’s enough and I see and hear him making links all the time so even that which he can’t consciously remember sinks in.
When opportunity for free tickets for a Winter community/schools concert at Shakespeare’s Globe dropped into my email box (top home ed hint – get yourself on every educational mailing list going!) I couldn’t resist.
It was such a fabulous place, amazing building and lovely atmosphere. We had the excitement of being given seats in the gentry box too! Concert was lovely too.

We had a list of potential places to visit lined up after but as we’d walked along the South Bank the Christmas festival was much bigger than anticipated. So since everyone had been ill and no one was over blessed with energy plus we were seriously weighed down.  Neither of us could resist these but not the lightest thing to carry.

Also couldn’t resist stocking up on weapons on a really fabulous stall.  Better quality and cheaper than EH, the usual stockist of Sam’s armoury.  There were some lovely stalls actually and cheaper in general than usual Christmas market.

Those children don’t do the posing for photos thing well.  Unless they have weapons it seems 😀

Another lovely day and definitely need to go and watch some Shakespeare at the Globe at some point in the not too distant future.

Never Too Old To Play

Wednesday saw us back at the hands on centre for the second of the two workshops that I’d booked.  This time it was Sam’s group’s turn to do Victorian Christmas.
I wasn’t sure how it would go down with the kids as most were on the very top edge or older of age range the session was aimed at.  But I sold it to those going as it’s December lets not worry about the academic and have a bit of festive fun, the centre did also tweak considerably for us to take account of age and made it more fun. 
She also ended up throwing her plan out of the window anyway on the day as we lost a few through illness so were a smaller group than anticipated and all bar a few know each other really well (and new ones slotted in well) and it soon became apparent that they kids had come in the spirit I’d hoped, they’d come to have fun!  The structure and most activities went out of the window in favour of letting them indulge themselves in roleplay.  Was so lovely to see them playing together so happily. 
There’s a lovely bunch of kids but they are all growing up and the childish play seems to be slipping away so lovely to see they haven’t lost it 🙂

Call in the Substitute

I jokingly said to a teacher friend this morning that I might have to resort to calling in my substitute teacher today (Pete and I have come down with what Jack had last week), the TV 🙂


We do love a good documentary and try to have one on the go tieing into our current topics.  We don’t have one at the moment though, I’d recorded something about the brain but on closer look it was about experimenta psychology and I could see it not going down well with Sam so in the end we settled on last years RI Christmas Lectures – obviously I’ve had a healthy year if we’ve not got around to these yet 😀

We’ve actually achieved a surprising amount considering how rotten I feel. Sam is going through a spell of self motivation and is happy working at ‘sit down at the table stuff’ rather than our usual more hands on approach.

He’s worked on story telling and started preparing a speech, started to get to grips with Latin grammar not just vocab, practiced Spanish, we’ve read lots on the jobs of the brain and worked though loads of memory games and activities (and improved his Scratch memory game), completed his unit study on countries of Asia, read lots of the History of Asia and had a lot of fun with maths. He’s looking at patterns and algebra and we’ve been doing investigations with Pascal’s Triangle and Fibonacci sequences – exactly the sort of maths that he loves.

Snotty nose, sore chest and almost no sleep in 3 nights aside, it hasn’t been a bad couple of days. 

Osborne House

If you haven’t noticed we’ve been studying Queen Victoria this term. We started with a trip to Kensington Palace, her birthplace, and the plan was to end with a trip to Osborne House.  I hadn’t realised that it closed for the winter season though so plans had to be tweaked and we left it for a few weeks and went this weekend when their Victorian Christmas event was on.  Was absolutely lovely and puts Portsmouth Dockyard’s event to shame.  Definitely need to go back now I know how easy it was when the rest of the house is open and we can do the beach and Swiss Cottage.

Sorry for the masses of not great photos (no flash and rooms in shade) but hopefully here’s a little taste of the house decked out for Christmas.















20161204_51Outside there were regular shows including falconry and a fire-eater and a flea circus, bands, musical organ, Santa, traditional hoopla, coconut shy, a carosel and swings.  All free, only thing extra to pay for once in was food.







There were some lovely views back across the Solent too.20161204_56