Test of Strength

I’ve been getting a bit overwhelmed and losing the plot lately with trying to keep all the balls in the air; got behind on where I wanted us to be HE wise, holidays and events coming thick and faster than could keep on top of workwise, one HE/school event after another and the house disintergrating about me.
A quiet week HE wise with a few days off and skipping all groups (although did meet friends for a lovely afternoon in the park), and slowing down in the non-stop holiday calendar that need content for work, plus Sam having his own computer has giving me the break I needed to pause and get back in control of it all.

We’ve nearly caught back up with our reading home ed wise having complete Melusine, spent a long time reading Anglo Saxon Boy (on the list to check for more in series we’re enjoying it) and the Just So stories have been a huge hit. We have had a fun few days looking at the working of joints and muscles and ‘playing’ with a set of Newton scales. A ‘pocket’ of our US history project completed on colonial villages and houses. Plus we finally made it to our new park to meet up with friends on a glorious sunny winter afternoon. One of those afternoons that showcase the best of HE, where you get to sit in the sun chatting watching an eclectic mix of kids play happily. Totally managed to miss all photo opportunities so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Considering Sam and I have been really under the weather this week with colds, and in my case a humdinger of a sinus headache, we’ve been incredibly productive.
Maths has been fractions and English poetry.
We’ve read loads and caught up a bit with History and Geography that we’ve got behind on.
Science we’ve moved on to the human body. I used the fact that we were looking at breathing to get started with some breathing exercises we’ve been given to help Sam manage his asthma better. We’ve a ridiculously expensive set of horns from a therapy place (sure I could have bought it all from the party section of Wilkos much cheaper) so determined that must get money’s worth.

We’ve also looked at the skeleton and labelled some bones.Tuesday saw us at our Citizenship group where we wer looking at designing communities for inclusion.  The session finished off with them designing a home ed commune. Not sure they applied the spirit of what we’d been looking at to this one but they had great fun doing it.

Weds, Sam opted to stay home while I went to home ed group with out him (I had planned the activity so had to go). Was a very calm, chilled session. Sam made himself a paracord bracelet when I got home (I won’t say how many I’ve made the last few days, very addictive).
Thursday afternoon was spent playing games and messing about with my Dad before a bit of a stressful evening at a 6th Form Open Evening with Jack. Bit stressful in own right but they dug up a WW2 bomb on the local airfield which closed roads and combined with rush hour and the local firework display result in complete melt down of the local traffic situation meaning we lost Pete for hours which worried Sam who had stayed at home since we expected Pete any minute.  I was the awful parent who had to run out of meeting to take a phone call!

We’ve finally started reading through this one to go with Sam’s breathing exercises. He’s not happy to hve Anthem for Doomed Youth on his birthday 😀

Tower and Tate

Yesterday we were up in London to visit the Tower as our history course moves on to the Normans and castles. We’ve been a few times now and the Tower is so cheap to get in to (wahay for HE rates) that luckily the fact that the Tower was probably the worst part of the day didn’t dampen day. We walked there and back along the Thames (a long walk, we clocked up over 8 miles) and great fun was had was on the way there. The Tower is actually an amazing place and well worth a visit, home education families can book as a school group making it fantastic value. For some reason it didn’t capture Grace and Ronnie’s interest and while it definitely did engage Sam about 1/2 way round the White Tower he did his trick of suddenly going grey and feeling very ill. An hour of sitting outside while the others explored and some vomiting later and he picked up but we all were ready to go by then!

Sam picked up so much on the walk back that we decided to chance the One, Two, Three Swing exhibition at the Tate Modern. They loved it, we loved it, he didn’t vomit so all good 🙂

Battle and Hastings

When working on Julius Caesar for work over the weekend I came across this quote attributed to him – “Experience is the teacher of all things.” It’s one that I try to apply to our HE style. I do believe that lots can be learned from books but it’s experience, seeing and doing really adds context and helps that knowledge take root. Obviously there are somethings that it is impossible to experience – I can never take him back to the actual Battle of Hastings of course but we could go to the battlefield and see the layout with the hill where Harold mustered his army, the marshy valley bottom where the Norman had to fight upwards from, we can take what we’ve read about and stand there and imagine it all.

And go to Battle is what we did last week. It’s about 3 hours on the train from here so to allow us time to enjoy it fully we stayed in Hastings for a night either side to give us a full day in Battle.

We spent the first day exploring Hastings Castle

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

playing in the park

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

and having fun in the dark walking through Smugglers Caves.  We kept poking the walls as they looked like polystyrene but were definitely real stone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day two took us to Battle Abbey. We started with a long play in a brilliantly designed park. They made the the play equipment look like things that would have been done in that little courtyard of the abbey.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When the billions of school children had passed through at pace we then headed into the exhibition to explore.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before taking the long (and very muddy) route around the battlefield.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a snack and drink pitstop several hours were spent exploring the Abbey. Huge amount to see and do there. Might be the best EH visit we’ve done.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A quick walk about Battle and a nose in the small local museum rounded too the day and we headed back to the hotel for food, baths and bed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Final day saw us exploring Hastings seafront, visiting a few tiny museums, walking through the fishing quarter, riding the Victorian cliff lift and having some ice cream and arcade fun.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A lovely few days away and definitely need a return trip to Hastings when the summer season is in swing, Sam and I loved the place

Diffusion and Independence

Thursday and Friday were perfect home ed days, the ones where it all feels smooth, productive and almost effortless. We’ve been struggling to get that stride going this year but appear to be getting over the ‘back to school’ bugs at last and settling in to routines.
When I’d worked out our planner for the week I had forgotten about the group I run for younger home ed kids on the Friday, which meant getting it all done was always a stretch. 
Thurs morning went very efficiently though and the afternoon was given over to practical science and chatting to Grandad.
We made slides from cheek scrapings and onion cells.  Then set up some diffusion experiments. Gummy bears in different solutions and a bag of flour in an iodine solution. Done them all but they are good to repeat and the fact that the iodine worked really well last time and hasn’t this has given rise to discussion of why not and how some materials let things through and not others.
Then the ultimate diffusion activity – waterbeads. We spent the rest of the afternoon with me reading aloud while he played with them. They are now in the conservatory making Jack late for things as he finds it impossible not to stop and play with them as he passes.  Sam decided rather than finish the last bits of the week’s work off on Friday afternoon he would take himself off to the library to do some on Friday morning while I was at home ed group. He did a few bits in the library before popping to shops and then coming to check on me and taking himself off to finish off the rest over a smoothie in Costa. When you are home educating an 8 yo that you can’t even walk away from to put the washing out because that is all they take to lose concentration people with older kids tells you it gets to this point that you can set work and they do it and you don’t really believe them.

The examples for Friday’s home ed group.

On the Trail of Alfred the Great

I have had a fair few stresses around HE workshops of late that have been making me think time for a break. Today’s though was brilliant so has restored my faith somewhat. It had it’s herding cats moments as ever. Booking and arranging the workshop was so easy though. The education officer really, really seemed to know her stuff and passionate about it too.
I found it hugely interesting and learned lots too.
We started with a tour of Winchester Cathedral, looking at evidence of the earlier Saxon cathedral and influence it might have had and differences.
We then had a workshop tied in to King Alfred’s push to exband liteacy; where they painted an illuminated letter, made a brooch and translated runes.
A few of us stopped in at the museum on the way home too.
Lovely day with a nice balance of old friends and some lovely new people, the two best things about home ed.

Flashcards!

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.

Learning Online and Lego

Monday saw Sam appear bright and early and, most surprisingly, dressed ready for his first online computer science lesson. All went well and he hung around chatting online for a while after.We didn’t really achieve as much as we should have done with the rest of the day and have paid the price for the rest of the week. I think the reason is he’s struggled far more with maths than I thought he would. Definitely need some revision of the basics.
We had a pleasant afternoon reading and weaving though.Tues was the second of our six week Lego Mindstorms course. The pace quickened a lot and session went much better than the week before. Afternoon was again a lot slower and less productive than ideal.

Going to skip over Weds as was trip day so a post in own right due. Today’s mental energy has gone on complaining about yesterday’s trip! We’ve plugged away though and done lots of table based work. Including having some fun with divisibility tests.

We did do some practical science but no photos to brighten up the post as was busy dropping balls 🙂

At which point he announces that he feels like he’s half way home from a trip to London having drank a gallon of coke. This was further clarified as ‘not immediately going to be sick but nor feeling too good’. Computer play and wrestling watching since then!

Getting to Grips

New challenges are coming thick and fast. On Monday he starts online tutorials so a good period of time on Thurs was given over to making sure we have everything installed and can working and logging in to a trial lesson (one to check we could log in!) He’s quite excited and looking forward to it so touch wood it might well be something we explore more of in future.

Thursday was mainly a quiet day at home. Lots of time spent reading aloud from Oliver Twist. The problem with a more textbook focussed, structured way of working is it’s not so interesting to blog about.

There was maths, I had a reminder that mistakes need to be very sensitively dealt with! Tough one! Moving on to English and I let him chose his own writing assignment based on the topic of ‘hunger’. He chose to write a report explaining what a Trash Cafe is and why he thinks they are a good idea. We’re yet to make it to our local one (run by a local home eder) but both taken with the idea. We’ll manage it one day. Science was planning an investigation and geography was some mapping work on Massachuessetts. Also started our first History Pocket looking at the Colonial America.

Friday was much more hands on. After maths and some spelling work we did the science investigation that he planned yesterday. It was looking at how temperature effected the amount of salt that could be dissolved in water but really the point was the process of investigation (importance of control variables, fair test etc).
Then we did some marbling. Inks were a bit rubbish so not pleased with result but he enjoyed the process. Then we tried this and failed completely.

We still had quite a bit to do but I was feeling fidgetty and given the choice Sam opted for having some ‘homework’ for the weekend and so we went out. Picked up a magazine each and read them over lunch in Costa before a quick trip the local gallery for their Royal Navy in the time of Jane Austen exhibition. Was a good choice as a lovely few hours.

New Routines

It’s been a hugely busy few days. We’re getting used to new materials and new styles of working. Definitely can feel the increase in structure and amount of writing, he’s got a good attitude though and I’m pleased and impressed with what he’s managed.

At the weekend we finally managed to put our flat traveller through the laminator and into the post.And took our visiting one down the beach.We are into researching things and answering textbook questions in exercise books. 
In English we’ve been looking at extracts from Oliver Twist and non fiction works on hunger. Science we’ve been looking at how to think and investigate scientifically. I messed up and we may have had a false start and done some work on cells (which we’ll get to properly in a few weeks).
Maths it’s the usual revision of place value and addition. History we’ve been looking at early humans in Britain as part of a brief pre 1066 overview.Project wise we are looking at Maine and reading about lobsters and lumber. Tues morning saw us at our new group for the first in a 6 week block of Lego Mindstorms sessions. Sam enjoyed it. I had to leave the room as struggled with the way it was presented. Hopefully teething issues though. In contrast the lady providing our Saxon archaeology workshop this afternoon was excellent, so good with them. Definitely need to do more. We’ve also been reading lots – an Anglo Saxon non-fiction book, an adaption of Beowulf by Rosemary Sutcliffe (love Sutcliffe’s books for bringing history to life) and Oliver Twist.  Started watching In Search of the Dark Ages by a very young Michael Wood. From the clothes and hair I doubt I could have been much more than 5 when it was filmed.