Had a bit of an insight into how life could have been the last few days. Jack is off school with a bug. He’s not retire to bed ill, absence is more about not spreading germs far and wide. So we have been taking the opportunity to work through various science topics making revision flashcards and checking understanding and trying some exam questions. Plus playing online maths games.

So I have been splitting myself between the two in a way I don’t normally have to. A reminder about how much easier the education side is when only have one at home.

Another huge lack of photos post as life is very reading, discussion and documentary heavy at the moment. There have been things like weaving projects on the go but I miss photos as usually reading while he’s crafting.

I did get one photo of the last couple of days. Sam’s Python etch-a-sketch. Took Pete to find an error in the code that Sam and I spent most of Monday afternoon looking for. Other wise we have looked at comprehension exercise in English. Continue to read Oliver Twist. Lowest Common multiples and Pascal’s triangle in maths. New York state and global problems in Geography. Have finished of our In Search of the Dark Ages dvd.

He’s also had his 4th Lego Mindstorms session. A friend kindly took him so I could stay in with Jack. But I am told they did fun things with sensors.

I put Animal Farm on his Kindle last night and he’s loving it. Currently now working on building a Communist Russia on one of his computer games.

Bounce until you drop

Sam’s first words on getting up were ‘Are we going out today?’, knew he was desperately hoping the answer was no.  However the answer was trampolining which was better than no ūüôā
He was still looking (and sounding – asthma rattle very evident) decidedly peaky but was in the mood to make an effort.  I sneakily swapped around the jobs on our plan for the week so anything vagually active fell today and tomorrow’s work is mainly reading, in other words we can retreat to bed if we want.
Maths was quite active (tired me out anyway) we were jumping, estimating how far and measuring.   There was also measuring different body parts and comparing them.  He’s surprisingly knowledgeable about the Golden Ratio ) Many moons ago I bought this book.  I have largely trained myself out of buying books that ‘might come in useful one day’ and have got rid of many that were cluttering up the shelves.  However I do have a small but excellent collection of ‘books I will make sure I work it so we have a reason to use even if that takes years’.  This is one of those!  Our first project was looking at architecture, we talked about feng shui, read about the Great Wall and made a Mongol yurt.  Mainly from cocktail sticks and marshmallows.

 Then it was an hour and a half of bouncing.  He dropped then, pretty much fell asleep in the car.  We got dropped off in the village so we could collect prescriptions and walked home via library to collect the huge pile I’d reserved.
What I do now when we start a topic is go through Amazon and identify good books (love the look inside feature) stick them in the basket, then go through the library catalogue and reserve the ones they have, removing them from Amazon as I go.  If there are any left I decide if I really do need them and if so order.  Working well as a routine and the library staff like to guess my plans ūüôā
He slumped in a heap of books on the sofa when we got home until he had an urge to make a very red cake!

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark

Friday was the day I push Sam’s education aside in favour of life education instead, he’s starting to leave the venue and potter around the shops in town while I’m busy getting very glittery with other people’s children.  It was time for my monthly picture book group. 

The book was The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson.  This one skipped me by when the boys were little, heard of it and suspect we read it at some point but wasn’t one of ‘our books’ if you know what I mean. 

20161108_29It’s a lovely book and perfect for a group activity.  In it the owl discovers things about the dark and we did an activity for each.

Dark is exciting – we made sparklers.
Dark is kind – I made a picture gallery printable for ‘my memories’. I’ll get it added at some point.
Dark is fun – we made edible campfires.  Biscuits, green icing, a marshmallow dipped in icing and then red and gold sparkles stuck to the centre as the flame and matchmakers for logs.
Dark is necessary – we made beds in matchboxes wrapped in wrapping paper with seviette bedding.  They could do them for Lego figures or mini princess paper dolls.
Dark is wonderful.  I printed off some constellations and they drew them with metalic markers with star stickers for the stars.
Dark is beautiful.  We made a night sky in a bottle.  It’s two thirds just cold water, topped up with a big spoonful of hairgel dissolved in hot water, a dash of black paint and glitter and star sequins.

Lovely session and a must needed mood lifter.  Glitter (even if it is now in every cup and bowl in my house from trying to clean out the bags when I got home) and hugs off small children will always tend to cheer me up.

20161108_34 20161108_32 20161108_28


Book Baskets

A while ago someone started a thread on a home ed forum about ‘Morning Baskets’.

Here’s a blog post on the subject

Another blog post

And a thread on Simply Charlotte Mason

As those who know me, or follow the blog, can imagine, I found the idea rather appealing. ¬†However the level of organisation and dedication to keep going with that sort of thing is beyond me, I’m in awe and a bit scared of people who can carry it off. ¬†Most of the baskets I’ve seen have a very strong religious element which just isn’t for us. ¬†Also to be perfectly honest it sounds like there is more ‘work’ in some of these baskets than we manage in a day.

I am wary¬†of anything that feels too schooly, or set in the ways it feels a bit forced and doesn’t work with Sam. ¬†I think if I had 2 or 3 plus at home and we needed a bit more structure to accommodate the different needs then a small scale version may work as a way to bring us together but not for my one.

Couldn’t quite give up the idea though, so for the last few months have been playing a bit with the system to come up with something that works for us. ¬†What we have settled on is a basket of books, adjusted every half term, that features a collection of fiction and non-fiction. ¬†There are some tied in to the season, others to our current topics and the odd random one. ¬†We have so many good books that they get lost on the shelves, the hope is by making some of them more easily accessible and changing them regularly we make better use of them. ¬†The idea is that it is there to draw on in spare 1/2 hrs before lunch or while we’re waiting for visitors etc. ¬†Sometimes for me to read to him but other times for him to read himself (he prefers reading to himself much of the time – he likes the sound his voice makes in his head :)) and then talk to me about – the latter when I need 20 mins or so to do something perhaps.

20150107_18 The current baskets.

The small ones have some maths card games and the books we’re reading for Science in, not really part of the book basket scheme but easily accessible.

The main book basket contains

What’s Where in the World

Basher Books The Periodic Table

The Nature Year – January

Enid Blyton’s Nature Lover’ Book

Johnny Ball Think of a Number

Once Upon a Time Map Book

The Great Race – The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone

My Granny Went to Market

The Story of Scotland (nod to Burns Night)

The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales from Around the World

Proverbs from Far and Wide

Myths and Legends of the World

The Puffin Year of Stories and Poems

Fireside Stories

The Beatles Yellow Submarine

Shake Rag from the life of Elvis Presley

Lots of around the world tales to tie into mapping project. ¬†If you haven’t guessed – huge fan of Barefoot books.

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands (Geography and Charlotte Mason)

He’s got the whole world in his hands
He’s got the whole world in his hands…

It is going round and round and round in my head!

Geography is one of those subject areas where home ed resources are thin on the ground and what is available is very American.  Of course it is easy to cobble together projects on countries and landforms but I have been looking for a more cohesive, flowing approach.

I came across this – based on the original work of Charlotte Mason

20130926_46Well it definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste! ¬†Not surprising for a resource written by Charlotte Mason it has a Christian bias. ¬†I am not Christian but am very open minded about religion, suppose my religious views are best described as agnostic.

Anyway the book is a mix of poems/readings designed to spark discussion and non-fiction texts with questions to follow up. ¬†Definitely not a full ‘curriculum’ more of a discussion starter to be followed up by reading around, watching videos etc. ¬†With a groaning bookshelves all over the house this approach works really well for us.

Having skim read through it the only sticking point from the religious aspect looked to be the first lesson

How All Things Praise the Lord
by Lord MontgomerySun, moon and stars, by day and night,
At God’s commandment give us light;
As when we wake, and while we sleep,
Their watch, like guardian angels, keep.The bright blue sky above our head,
The soft green earth on which we tread,
The ocean rolling round the land,
We were made by God’s almighty hand.

Sweet flowers that hill and dale adorn,
Fair fruit trees, fields of grass and corn,
The clouds that rise, the showers that fall,
The winds that blow – God sent them all.

The beasts that graze with downward eye,
The birds that perch, and sing and fly,
The fishes swimming in the sea,
God’s creatures are as well as we.

But as He formed for better things,
As servants of the King of kings,
With lifted hands and open face,
And thankful heart to seek His grace.


Considered skipping it, while I am open-minded, I do (and if you ask Sam he does to) firmly believe in the ‘big bang’ and evolution. ¬†But decided that was definitely over thinking it and a form of censorship, where there is obvious bias my approach is to read and then discuss why it might be told a certain way and what we believe (not always the same thing – I am keen the boys make up their own minds in matters of religion). ¬†We discussed how Sam believed the Earth was formed and then read three variations on the Christian story of creation.


We then read the Barefoot Book “Whole World”¬†which takes the Christian hymn “He’s got the whole world in his hands” and by alternating between between he and she turns it into a message about ecology and how everyone on the planet holds the world in their hands and has a duty to protect it.


We finished off with a piece of artwork.  We cut a circle from 12by12 scrapbook card and decorated it with pictures of animals/landforms etc cut from magazines, then added brightly coloured cut out handprints.


Book Group – Enid Blyton’s Hedgerow Tales

Hedgerow TalesOnce a half-term I run a home education bookgroup from my local library, which has a lovely self contained childrens area and on a Monday morning is usually deserted.  I try and pick books that I have not read and that have something we can hook onto in the local area where we can go afterwards as some people travel for a fair distance.

So far the books have been a great success with Sam at least (he is 3 books into the Swallows and Amazon series now and is learning to swim as he wants to sail) – if mixed responses generally. ¬†But the point is to challenge them to read something they wouldn’t normally pick up.

This half-term I picked a book I’d seen someone mention on ALBOS as it seemed fitting to the time of year. ¬†The book is a collection of 7 (I think) short stories which follow the form of conversations between animals who live in the hedgerow. ¬†However, sweet and fluffy it isn’t! ¬†Animals discuss their homes, their adaptations and there is a lot of being eaten going on. ¬†I thought I’d lost Sam early on as he looked quite traumatised half way through the second story when a baby hedgehog met it’s end in a badger (and it got worse from there!). ¬†But after a lot of discussion about the balance of ecosystems and how if they didn’t eat other animals then some animals would die out, he really got into the book (although hates rats now!) and we have two more of the series Woodland and Country Tales on order.

Numbers for book group were thinner on the ground than normal due to holidays/illness/other commitments but space is very limited and we were bit crushed last time so not necessarily a bad thing and we had enough for a nice gentle low stress meeting.

We normally open with a discussion on what people liked and didn’t about the book. ¬†This time as we were low in numbers and half the group were new and their book hadn’t arrived I read one of the stories instead (the one where nothing got eaten!).

We then stood in a circle with everyone being a different plant or animal, with me in the centre as the sun.  We passed balls of wool around following the track of some of the food chains illustrated in the book to make a big food web.

Then we played ‘hedgerow bingo’ – children had cards with 9 creatures mentioned in the book and but rather than call out names I read descriptions of them (trying to pick things mentioned in the books).

Finally we made origami foxes and origami rabbits.


I had ntended that we stick them to card and write a conversation between them, but the beauty of small groups is that it is much easier to adapt to individual needs and sensing we had reached our limits I decided to leave it and we packed up and went for a walk to look at some real hedgerows – blackberry picking over Browndown ranges.






http://www.ecoenchantments.co.uk/mycraftypage1.html  (I LOVE the ice decorations definitely something to try if we get a real prolonged cold spell).


Roald Dahl

” …Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. ¬†Those who do not believe in magic will never find it” ¬†– Roald Dahl

Friday was Roald Dahl’s birthday and we attended a workshop at Search in Gosport.

This place is a bit of a gem. ¬†Calling it a museum is wrong as it is unlike any other museum we have been in. ¬†In many museums the hands on element can often feel ‘gimmicky’, they have been told to engage kids so they have buttons to press. ¬† Search isn’t a place to walk around and look at the exhibits, ¬†and isn’t open to the public generally. ¬†It is more like a series of classrooms with very good props. ¬†The learning element comes from the work the staff put in planning activities that encourage children to interact with the museum collections.

Over the years we have done many sessions both with the home ed group and public sessions, on a whole host of subjects and they have all been excellent. ¬†And the staff ‘get’ home educators and their quirks! ¬†Nice touch are the university students (at least I assume that is what they are) who work there, roll back the years and I spent many of the summer workshops leaving Jack in the friendly hands of one while I chased toddler Sam along the corridors and they are very good at helping with the shyer child in a group, being younger they aren’t as scary.

We will almost definitely stop by the Animals in Winter/Victorian Christmas public session on 30th Nov if anyone wants to join us http://www3.hants.gov.uk/gdc/gdc-events-detail.htm?id=197845

Anyway to Friday’s workshop. ¬†They started off with whole group activity looking at sets of objects and guessing the book they were supposed to represent. ¬†Apparently our kids were far and away the best group all week at this. ¬†Can’t say I was surprised by that. ¬†I suspect most home ed kids are quite widely read and read to purely from the having more time perspective and also each family will have read different books. ¬†But probably the biggest reason is that by choosing to book on the trip as individuals it was the kids who were enthusiastic (and some of them were bouncing literally ūüėČ ) about Dahl’s books or those whose parents got them confused with their older brother who were on the trip.

Then it was group work exploring the individual books – using the stuffed animals to look at animal adaptations for digging (Fantastic Mr Fox), looking at creepy crawlies under the microscope and catagorising them (James and the Giant Peach), backwards writing (Esio Trot) and more.

Digging for grubs!

About a week before the workshop I realised ¬†Sam had only read one Dahl book (it is J who has read them all – 2 kids are obviously too many to keep track of ūüėČ ) and that had been several years ago – found them scary. ¬†So we have been on a bit of a blitz and managed to read Esio Trot and James and the Giant Peach and are now into The Enormous Crocodile.

I know Roald Dahl Day is gone but here are some links to activities for anyone interested,











Home Ed Groups Galore

Yesterday we started our new book of the week

We experimented with changing textures and made bread (Sam told the lady in the co-op tonight that it was horrible).

Time for Maths and English. Then we headed over to Stubbington to meet some members of FareGos for a new meeting in the new Guide hall. Was only a few families there but the kids had great fun running around the hall. We didn’t bother with setting up any activities, a ball and frisbee and open space and that was all they needed. There was also time for some tree climbing before Sam’s gymnastic class.
Today we headed over to Portsmouth to join the home ed group there for book group. We were looking at the book Flat Stanley. Jack and Sam were very vocal during the group discussions.
Then they made a new flat traveller and passport each.
The room is attached to an Adventure playground which Sam was so excited by – especially the sandpits. Jack got stung by a bee about which he was very stoic.

At home I decided to test out a recipe for next months session which the boys decided to take as an invitation to empty various things out of the kitchen cupboards and mix them up to see what happens. Various pots of green salty water with tissue paper in and things like that are now sitting in the kitchen.
Finally Jack had Cubs at the Tennis club.
Tiring but enjoyable few days.

Back to Work

With one thing and another we really came off the boil over the summer and didn’t seem to achieve anything and behaviour definitely seemed to suffer as a result. Therefore, decided to start the new academic year with a new ‘structured’ approach. How long it will last time will tell but so far so good and everyone seems happier.

The idea is that for Jack morning is work time. I give him a list of things to do in a book and he manages them. After that he is free to do as he wishes. Haven’t told him but I have relaxed my computer/tv rules as to be honest if we are working all morning then out late afternoon for whatever that day’s activity is there isn’t a huge amount of time for him to play on them anyway. However, he does seem to be self regulating and is happy grabbing the last of the summer sun in the garden.
Workwise Jack is using CGP for Maths, Galore Park for English, Science and History, DK Spanish and Geog and everything else I make up as we go along.
For Sam, we are trying to follow “The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading” as well as learning the dolch words. I’m not convinced by phonics personally but Sam seems to struggle a bit with picking out sounds in speech (and as a result it can be difficult to understand him sometimes) so thought I’d see if this helps. Maths we are finishing off his Heinnekken books but plan to start Math-U-See in the next few weeks.
For everything else for Sam I am hoping to use an approach inspired by “Five in a Row
The idea is that you read a book for 5 days on the trot and each day follow up with an activity, covering art, science, humanities, creative language and applied maths. I loved the idea and some of the books were nice but having seen the manual it left me cold. There was little progression of ideas and there was still an awful lot of planning needed.
Therefore I have decided to raid my bookcases and the library and come up with my own version. Advantage being I can feed in from what Jack is doing, home ed trips etc. Having sketched out a term I still have loads of books/idea so hopefully will
manage at least a year or so.
Anyway this weeks book is
Part of a vegetables/healthy eating theme as I try to inspire Sam to not be so fussy.
Monday, Jack worked through Maths, English, Science and labelled some maps of America, including playing the states games on here and the joined Sam for his ‘Oliver’s Vegetables’ activity of making food pyramids.
Then Sam started his new gymnastics class which he loved.
Tuesday – while Jack and I explored physical maps Sam played with the blocks from his Math-U-See.
Then we tried identifying vegetables
Tying together Jack’s science (human body) and Sam’s vegetable theme we used all of our senses to describe a carrot.
And then turned it into poems

A Carrot by Jack

Long, orange gun
Snaps with a bang
Sweet tasting
Smells like a rabbit hutch
A Carrot by Sam
Smells like dino poo
Rough and cold
Crunchy like crisps
Afternoon left time for an Egyptian v’s Persians battle

And bubbles. Always time for bubbles.

Jack had his first recorder/piano lesson which was a hit and then started Cubs coming back buzzing and excited.
Jack wrote and with a bit of help laid out a magazine article about foxes.

On the vegetable theme Sam made some dye from onion skins and dyed a t-shirt
Then I showed that you don’t need to be a ‘dangerous boy’ despite what the book says to build a fab den.