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.

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.

 

Romsey Abbey

We began our look at Saxon Britain with a trip to Romsey Abbey. Actually our whole project on this was based on a workshop I fancied here. In the end we didn’t have enough interest and I cancelled the workshop! But I decided to take Sam and a couple of friends for a self guided visit.

Good call as we had a lovely day and the Abbey proved fascinating. The website had some interesting looking resources that I printed (and read on the train 😉 ).

The Abbey can be traced back to 907AD and it was believed there was a wooden church on the site as early as 600/700AD. It’s believed that King Edward the Elder (son of Alfred the Great) settled nuns here as a home for his daughter Elflaeda, who became abbess and was canonised and become one of the two patron saints of the site.

The current building is very early Norman c1120-1140 but there is a surprising amout of Saxon history still visible. The building was bought from Henry VIII in 1544 by local people as a parish church (you can see the deeds) which is presumably how it survived the Reformation.

We started with a trail outside.
Saxon wall Civil War musket ball damage. Some weird bird that looks like it was made on Terraria. Tiring work! A Saxon rood. A rood is just the name for a place to pray (I asked!) Part of the original Saxon church.Then it was inside to see Saxon hair – really. Story of it is here. The Saxon foundations. Since it was there it was a pity not to nip into the museum opposite (at the very least it was likely they would have toilets). It’s very small and not much to it and some frightening dummies so not high on our favourite places. Although there were some fabulous capes for dressing up, very HP or Jedi. They do seem to have an interesting schools programme and the coffee shop that we managed to get stuck in getting in the staff’s way looked nice and the garden was worthy of more than the glance we gave it. We were rushing off so we had time to make it to Romsey Rapids/ Rapids and slide closed (as expected) but still huge amounts of fun had and 3 happy. tired children on way home.

Curriculum 17/18

This seems an awful lot but well ‘aim high’ and if it’s too much we’ll adapt and change as we always do.

Maths

Had a serious think about whether we should have a change with the move to KS3 but then decided if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.  So we continue to use Mathletics. Again I’ve allocated the topics – 15 or 16 this time- to weeks and linked online games to reinforce. There is a lot more explanation in the content this time, the format is different from the KS2 years. It still looks more varied than most resources in terms of activities. I also bought subscriptions to MathsWatch at KS3 and GCSE level for us to look at. I can’t see us making much use of it tbh but there for further support if we need it.

English

Made lots and lots of progress here last year. I am reasonably confident in the progress we’re making to feel positive about where we’re going with this.
We are starting Galore Park’s So You Really Want to Learn English series as our main English thread.
I used the junior series with J very suggessfully but felt Sam needed something different at the time but is now ready for this.
I think it needs a bit of supplementing though for comprehension and writing. So we will continue with Writing With Ease  (on the last level now) for narration/comprehension and dictation practice. I suspect he’s beyond it now abilitywise but it’s a style that has worked for us well over the years so we decided to keep going.  I bought them all second hand about 9 years ago so may as well 🙂
For Writing we’ll continue with the Collin’s Aiming For Level books. We are about halfway through Level 4 with 5 and 6 waiting in the wings. The unfussy style works for Sam.

We’ll try and read through the book from each chapter of the GP book. We also have this (more a treat for me I suspect) to offer up some poetry.

Science

Really did find this difficult to plan. I’d actually bought the student book months and months ago but learning science by reading and answering questions alone sounds so dull and not how science should be so needed to turn it into a workable programme.
Unfortunately home educators can’t sign up for Kerboodle (OUPs online resource site) which makes a lot of the teacher’s book I invested in too pretty useless as all the resources for the lesson plans are on Kerboodle. It’s a real pity as it feels like it a good scheme.
So I’ve worked through the Teacher’s Book and Student Guide and for each topic covered I have planned activities from the teacher’s book (if usable), adapted ideas, found YouTube videos for things we can’t do at home, supplemented from Teachit Science and some resources we had at home (our anatomy colouring book should finally get used). I also linked BBC Bitesize clips for as many topics as possible.  Have a list of resources I still need to make (sorting cards and that sort of thing mainly).

Languages

I think the time has come to drop Latin, he’s not enjoying the grammar side. I will leave it on the shelf and up to him.  We’ll keep going with DuoLingo for Spanish, realistically he’s probably not going to study a language to GCSE or beyond, it’s not his thing and he’s unlikely to be a traveller. But we enjoy the competetiveness of both doing DuoLingo so we’ll keep it going for fun.

History

The textbook I bought last year because I couldn’t find any decent British Empire resources turned out to be so good that I bought the full set to use as a spine.
How much we’ll do the exercises in the books and how much we’ll just read and discuss is one to wait and see.
I’ve planned fortnightly trips to enhance up to half term and a pencilled in set of suggestions for the rest of the year.
We’ll read some non-fiction and as many suitable fiction books that we can fit in too.
Plus of course have lists of documentaries to watch. 
Looking forward to this one a lot, it’s a time period I never covered at school but have read quite a bit on. The religious and political history especially interests me and a few trips pencilled in that I am quite excited about.

 We’re also planning a year long project on America, combining history, geography, politics etc
Historywise we have a collection of biographies to read, a few American Horrible Histories, US History for Dummies (and may well end up with more from the series), and some fiction.  We will also work through some of the Evan Moor History Pockets.

Geography

Planning to take 2 paths through Geography this year. One is to simply work through this course.

The other is to work through the Trail Guide to US Geography.  We did the World one years ago and it was a bit of fun. We’ll do crafts and cooking alongside too.

Computing

This subject marks something new in our HE journey this year as he starts online lessons in Computer Science from LearnTec.  We’ll supplement with more work on Python. He is also booked on a 6 week Lego robotics course.  Waiting for this place to open properly and announce programme as he’s enjoyed the workshops he has done there this summer so hoping it will be something we can tap into regularly.

Art

We are currently finishing off the Explore Arts Award . Planning to dedicate the summer term to the Bronze award. In between the two we will try some of the drawing courses on Jam plus one of our monthly Weds groups has a decidely arty lean. We will of course catch as many exhibitions that catch my eye as we can – there’s one at the Portrait Gallery I fancy, the Russian one at the Tate, and Impressionist one coming up, Cezanne…

Design & Technology

Planning to work through this book. There is surprisingly little practical as in making stuff with tools, it’s more about the design process. Working on arranging some workshops for the summer term to allow him to get some experience of the practical side.

Citizenship

Obviously this is something we cover all the time with discussion and life.
But we are going to work through this book (and read the story books we have for each religion).

The Christian chapter is quite short and falls in the run up to Christmas so hope to do some research on Christmas rituals.

Our Tues group will cover some Citizenship topics. This book is proving helpful with ideas.

Politics and philosophy will be touched on too.
We’ve so many resources and books here on the subjects, he reads the newspaper most days so this is something I am not planning for we’ll cover it because we’re interested. I am hoping we’ll find sometime to get involved in some volunteering/community project but not sure what diary can stretch to yet.

Revolution and Illustration

I may have used the words ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier’ yesterday and that was before we met Lucy Worsley :D. Looking down on original medieval documents and books will do that to me.  For a history geek with a love of books, yesterday was as good as it gets. Sam was very good natured and rustled up enough enthusiasm and interest to let me indulge.

The day started with a trip to the British Library for their Russian Revolution exhibition.  Was very well done, interesting, spacy and cool (BM could learn a lesson or two).


After a trip around the corner for lunch in what I think of as a proper London ‘caff’, the sort I’d have breakfast in to mop up the hangover 20 years ago, we went back to the British Library for a general look about.
We stayed about an hour exploring their Treasures of the British Library exhibition before deciding there was a real danger of never leaving. Bit like the Land of the Lotus Eaters that place 🙂  We’re back in October for the Harry Potter exhibition and can’t wait.  Need a general no agenda potter just to absorb the place too.

We walked over to Kings Cross to visit the House of Illustration instead. With a pause to goggle at the wonder of the St Pancras Hotel.
 Then a much, much longer pause to get very wet (no change of clothes this time – oops). House of Illustration, I would have been disappointed in if it had been our main agenda for the day. For a diversion while in the area it was enjoyed by all. I’ve spent years telling Sam he’d like anime, he’s finally convinced.

As an unexpected bonus the walk back to the bus took us past the Youtube offices and the very nice security guard let the kids go up and have a quick gander at the offices.  No guesses where they want to work now 🙂 There was a shop too full of ‘Youtuber’ tat.  I feel very, very old as I really don’t get the whole ‘youtuber’ thing :S

Summer Days

Blogging definite slipped way down list of priorities. Probably should be when I should try and make the effort to blog more really when we go more relaxed and unschooly as I miss recording exactly how much can be learnt this way. I no longer feel the need to though, I am happy with what we covered this year, he’s entitled to a rest and a holiday and if he was learning nothing for a month or so would it be an issue – no. In reality you can’t stop a child learning, he’s like a sponge, I just feel no inclination to analyse and document it.

What have we been up to practically since the last post?

We had a day’s home ed trip learning about Victorians and riding steam trains on the Watercress Line.
It was my Dad’s birthday last week so we spent some time with him on Thursday at Titchfield Abbey, playing with Nerf guns and treating him to lunch out. Sam very patiently spent a good deal of time helping a random toddler fire a small nerf gun (was scary to watch!) He is like the Pied Piper, collects small children about him whereever we go it seems.

Thurs afternoon was spent making vast quantities of playdough as Friday was the last under 10’s group of term.  Lovely session, 5 new families along and a lot of mess to clear up.  I do love playdough. 

Sam spent the time I was at the group shopping for a birthday present for my Dad and hiding out in Costa. We had lunch and shopping and a leisurely afternoon as Sam had bought Sim City for his DS.

Weekend was normal pottering (aka kindle/computer/ds play) with the exception of popping to see Grandad with cake and presents (birthday was Sat).

Plans for this week went by the wayside. We had a home ed session booked on bushcraft on Monday and plans to go geocaching yesterday.  Eczema flare up meant poorly cracked skin and swollen feet though and didn’t want to take risk of infection (we do get them).
Monday was spent finishing off cartoon strip for the HE comic we’re getting published, reading (History of the Russian Revolution in prep for tomorrow) and then computer play really.

Yesterday after starting off the day with a horrendous sick head ache I managed to make it out to see a hall for potential group meets with a friend and we followed up with tea and a chat while kids played Lego and Pokemon. Afternoon went in board games and then when Scratch wasn’t working he agreed to try a Python project. He ‘wants’ to do Python but wants to do it immediately and gets frustrated so needs coaxing. After a bit of a hiccup we did get it working to draw a robot though.

Today was my last Home Ed group session for rhe academic year. After an early morning BP check up Sam spent the morning programming a art project on Scratch based on Kandinsky’s Circles. Group was a  bit of a manic one (you can tell by the fact that my coffee was so cold I didn’t even attempt to drink it) but a lot of fun and messy children.

Bristol

We couldn’t look at the industrial revolution without a trip to Bristol to explore the works of Brunel.
We had a very wet day exploring the docklands and SS Great Britain, a very windy day at the Clifton Suspension Bridge (and visitor centre) and a quite pleasant day pottering around the old city. 

Over the Hill

We were watching a documentary yesterday that featured a ride downhill on a gravity powered train (on the Blaenau FFestiniog railway actually 🙂 ) and that is what we feel like we’re on now, a downward slope to the summer break.
Sam had a bad night’s sleep and ended up napping on the sofa until quite late.  Despite that maths was done, English too including lots of making up of silly stories, Latin and Spanish.  We finished the last of the My Story books we’ve been reading for History and watched an episode of Full Steam Ahead. Finished the last of our Asia unit study and the book we’ve been looking at about Japan. We watched some youtube videos on Japanese theatre and kendo, tried counting in Japanese and drew some Pokemon.
Day ended with some rare Minecraft playing on a Harry Potter server and then finishing off the latest Trials of Apollo.



Steam and Explosions

I’m angry, really bloody angry.

The last few days have shown the worst side of home ed, the flakiness and the lack of awareness of others that some home educators show. 

I am generally quite laid back about things now, I do get irritated by persistant unreliability and in particular lack of communication, it is so easy to head off potential worry and problems. Also a lot easier to be accommodating if you know there are issues such as social anxiety, chronic health problems.  Communication really does solve most things and avoid ruffled feathers.

Generally I can’t complain with trips I run. I jokingly say I scare people but maybe I do.  What has annoyed me is seeing over 50% of people cancel on the last minute on a friend. Definitely far, far more annoyed watching it happen to someone else.

It’s like people don’t consider that even though there might be no costs setting up the trip was still a lot of work to do in organising. They don’t seem aware that low numbers can put a trip at risk or make it not work as well for those who do show because some things do benefit from a critical mass of children or just frankly just be embarrassing. They seem blissfully unaware that we all contribute to the reputation home educators have and the effect that has on venues offering activities or the willingness of other home educators to organise activities.

Anyway it has also shown some of the best sides of home educators too as I do have a cracking bunch of friends to moan and grumble with.

And in the case of one to try and stop an explosion with!  Today’s Weds outing saw us near to home doing a town trail in local town solving clues. Great fun and really makes you look at things you don’t normally notice. We only managed half before rain and ill child (not mine) stopped play, so another hour or so still to do 🙂

At home we read and discussed growth of factories, steam powered machines and the effect on the growth of towns.
Looked at religions in Asia.
Finished a handwriting book and he was pleased to see the improvement.
Did some more on shapes; terminolgy and drawing regular polygons.