Full Week

The lack of blog posts this week is down to dodgy internet.

It’s been a busy week and with so much to cover there is little time for reflection so expect lists!
We have managed recorder, breathing and poetry every morning!
Monday, we also practised his poem for a short perfomance he was giving at his oracy group and watched a video looking at permance poetry. Online Mathletics came next followed by his skype Computer Science tutorial.
English, maths and some US geography filled the rest of the morning. We had Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech on in the background since it was his birthday. We listen to it every year (that I notice the date anyway), lots of discussion followed. The poems in his book that he is reading aloud from all had a race/civil rights theme this week, I suspect not coincidentally so discussion has been ongoing. I seem to recal there was a poster drawn to recruit people for the Crusades too.
In the afternoon we met other home educators for a stroll on the beach and a play in the arcade. After that is was back to watch a documentary about architecture of churches (shows it sinks in, we were in Chichester cathedral later in the week and he pointed out something to me as English perpendicular style ūüôā )

Tuesday started with our introduction to oracy and debating group. The children all read a poem or did a small speech. They were brilliant, not just at having the confidence to perform but at the listening and supporting one another, we couldn’t have asked for more they are a fabulous little group.
At home we watched an episode of Saints and Sinners (medieval religion thing going on!) and did maths, English and a quick look at the Crusades.

Weds we went to Chichester to visit the Cathedral.  A friend joined us with her eldest and I took a couple of friend’s kids. Definitely proving a nice idea to take just the older ones sometimes.
Lunch in a freezing cold park (the boy was rolling down the hill, coat is a disgrace) was followed by an afternoon sketching around Pallant House Art Gallery. What the gallery lacked in decent art works (there were some okay stuff but the main visiting exhibition left me cold) it made up for by being a lovely building with some fabulous pieces of furniture and staff/volunteers who were incredibly welcoming and lovely with the kids.

Thursday was our home pj day. I thought our plans would be forgotten for the day since we had no internet and our planner is online. The internet actually came on by the time we needed to check anything. We decided to do some swapping about of plans anyway. The storm had woken me up at 12.30 and I hadn’t really slept since which led to not being in the mood for science practicals. We shifted the more hands on stuff to Friday on the planner and opted to do two days worth of Maths and Writing with Ease instead as they were table jobs and we felt lazy.
He had a long play on live Mathletics. We then did some Geography looking at the weather of the UK and then migration. The discussion of migration led to watching the American episode of The Incredible Human Journey. The afternoon was spent working on activities from his history pocket looking at school in Colonial America. He made a quill and tried handwriting and then did some colouring while I read aloud from King of Shadows.

Today was a very pottering sort of day. English was finished off for the week including a book review, so was US geography and the school history pocket. For the pocket he made a horn book and compared his daily routine with one for a child from that time. Definitely prefered his.
Much of the day went on a frustrating python project that none of us (not even Pete) to get to work.
We couldn’t be bothered with some of the hands on stuff for science after that as mood had gone but it was rehash of stuff we had done before anyway. We did set up some crystal growing with copper sulphate solution. Once I had got him to stop playing with the bag of copper sulphate, for some reason tipping the bag about and fiddling with it has taken up a lot of attention today.

Plans are only a safety net

We’ve been at home the last two days, 3 days of social activities takes it’s toll and we need some home time.

Been a lovely mix of ticking things off the planner but lots of making it up as we go. I always say my plans are only ever a safety net and self led direction is the ideal. It’s been a few days of taking a basic idea on the plan and changing it into what he wanted to do, which is fair enough.

The suggestion for English on Thurs was to rewrite one of Shakespeare’s love sonnets that we had been looking at all week. Sam doesn’t do lovey stuff though so unprompted he sat down and wrote his own sonnet – about the Battle of Agincourt!

Also on Thurs we remembered the breathing exercises, did some algebra, read about life as a nun, made a collage of seasonal foods in Colonial America, looked and the particle model interms of states of matter – there were even worksheets!

In the afternoon Grandad was round and there was playing with Lego Mindstorms (video on the fb page) and board games. Pete is off on a Friday again so the day has a much more go with the flow feel rather than the routines we have fallen into when it is just me and Sam. A lot of the morning went on recorder practice. He was googling techniques and tunes so left him to it. We managed more algebra, dictation and spelling practice.

This week’s copy of ‘This Week’ arrived and was read and discussed.

We were looking at the parts that make up the UK and the differences between things like UK and British Isles.  The usual discussion about the flag came up (he is put out Wales isn’t included) so having shown him St David’s cross he redesigned the Union Flag. 

We finally finished putting together the history pocket on Daily Life in Colonial America.

While we did I read aloud from this. We are enjoying it very much.

Sam read about the Normans over lunch.

Afternoon was given over to computers. Python coding and a long play on Crusader Kings.

Back to Reality

After all too short a Christmas break it is back to business this week.

The New Year seemed a good time to make practising Sam’s breathing exercises every day a priority. 2 days in to term and we managed them both days! We have some exercises, a set of horns and a bit of recorder practice and then we use A Poem for Every Night of the Year to read aloud from and practice breathing in speech.

On Monday after the breathing exercises there was time for some online Mathletics before his Skype Computer Science tutorial. After this it was Maths, quick recap of basic algebra, and English, narration and a short piece of writing describing a play/programme/film using some of the given vocab. He chose to do it on a scene from Peter Pan Goes Wrong which was rewatched a few times over Christmas. I have promised a trip to the Comedy About a Bank Robbery this summer and he’s already on can’t wait mode. I think we’ll probably end up going in the Easter holidays instead ūüôā

Sam did 10 minutes on his US geography project and then made a fake sampler as part of our look at colonial America.

After a quick lunch we headed to the park and he spent an hour playing with a friend. The cold put every one else off. I think there is something up with my temperature control as after walking up I had to take off coat and jumper as was sweltering. So not looking forward to summer.

Home for an episode of Sam Willis’s Castles documentary before evening drifted away.

This morning (after breathing exercises) it was off to our new block of Tuesday morning sessions which this half term is an introduction to debating and oracy.
I was alternating between popping up to be classroom assistant with pens, card etc and trying to work using my phone so wasn’t really on the ball with what was going on but a good time was had.
This I did get, this was practising giving and following verbal instructions with mixed success, not something Sam excelled at.
Another episode of Sam Willis’s Castles when we got home. We’ve moved on to Chemistry in science and looked at the particle model. We began a look at the role of the church in Medieval England with a think about a Priest’s role and then we looked at doom paintings. Sam drew his own while I read. The second man is hanging by his tongue (he read a C14th description of hell it isn’t his imagination). Little nod to musical tastes with Stairway to Heaven and Highway to Hell featuring.  The fiction book we are currently enjoying is Susan Cooper’s King of Shadows about a boy who time travels back to Shakespeare’s Globe. Loving it ūüôā

  Despite a couple of very relaxed and enjoyable days I can’t shake off a bit of a jaded feeling. I think it’s a combinating of GCSEs looming up with J and the fact I think I have just been doing home ed group stuff for so long now it feels like a job and not one I am particularly enjoying at present.

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

Castles (again), Catching Up and Cooling Down

Wednesday was forecast to be a scorcher so decided to stay close to the sea for the breeze.

We headed over on the ferry to Portsmouth.  Stopped at Gunwharf shopping village for sandals, sunglasses and more antihistamines and suntan lotion.  With Sam all kitted out for summer we then walked along the seafront to Southsea Castle.


I love this walk. ¬†Gives us fantastic views back to Gosport, takes us past no end of naval heritage and then of course there is the hovercraft to watch. ¬†It wasn’t too hot yet and even rained which was nice.20150702_2 20150702_3 20150702_4 20150702_6¬†Southsea Castle is an odd one really, not that much to see. ¬†Small, compact and some nice educational activities though. ¬†Cannons to climb on and fabulous views.

20150702_7 20150702_8 20150702_920150702_1420150702_1520150702_18I don’t know why this tickled me so much but it really did. ¬†20150702_12We’d been joined at the castle by another home education family, one we’ve known about 5 years but very, very rarely see now a days. ¬†So it was more a social trip.

With the sun coming out we headed to the nearby splash park.  More paddle than splash, but more shade for parents which I was grateful for.

20150702_20 20150702_21Another lovely afternoon.

We broke the long, hot walk back with ice cream and arcades.

20150702_27 20150702_29 20150702_30 20150702_32

Reminded myself how much I like this end of Southsea. ¬†I really could do with so many more days in a week, so many people we love to see and places we love to go but struggle to fit it all in. ¬†Talking of places we love – not happy with the painting of the Spinnaker. ¬† Red or blue I don’t care. ¬†You see it for miles around and I love the white against the sky.


Catapults, Capitulation and Castle Building

Seem to have built up a collection of started but not finished blog posts :/

Monday was a stay in doors and wait for the electrician sort of day.  Pete was pottering about having appointments.

Bit of English, last test to complete Mathletics year 4, some live Mathletics and a bit of Timez Attack took up first part of the morning.

We then got into some catapult building.  Firstly from the physics kit we have.

20150629_11 20150629_12 20150629_14 Secondly from a book and kit.  The cardboard catapult was surprisingly sturdy.20150702_3520150629_1620150629_17Then there was some Minecraft castle building.  A concentric castle.
20150629_18One of the hardest things I have to master home ed wise is when to give up an idea.  Our attempt to keep up with the 30 Days Wild had been limping for days.  High pollen counts and itchy skin flare ups made messing around outdoors not something appealing.  So take from it we had some fun and let it go (hard for me to do :)).

I took the guides to the pottery painting place and picked up Sam’s plate.


Alver Valley

We are so lucky in where we live. The beach is 5 mins walk in one direction, country park with meadows, river and woodlands 10 mins walk the other direction.  Unfortunately nature hates me and a trip to the country park usually needs a cold bath and very early night due to puffy, sour eyes (7pm early!) so have to pick our moments when we go.  Do like it up there though, just in the pollen season can only go when we have no evening plans.

The main purpose was a bit of butterfly spotting for our 30 Days Wild.  Very tricky to photograph butterflies.
20150616_2320150616_1¬†20150616_8 Did get these noisy characters though20150616_12I’d posted we were going on the home ed group so others joined us for a picnic and play in the woods.

20150616_4¬†This is an old motte (so we were doing castles too ūüôā )20150616_7¬† ¬†Always fun watching dogs swim in the river.20150616_13 20150616_20¬†On the home front, Timez Attack is back in favour and he’s come on so far and gained so much confidence with his tables.

Science of Siege Engines

In the last few years I’ve seen this workshop arranged a couple of times by others in the local group but for various reasons it has never worked for us to attend. ¬†However with a science topic of forces and a history topic of castles this half term we had to have a go. ¬†I wasn’t sure we’d manage to get a big enough group with it having been done a few times recently but we did comfortably.

20150610_17The workshop was based in one of the Palmerston Forts built in Victorian times to defend Portsmouth from the French. ¬†You can’t go anywhere locally without falling over these things. ¬†Fort Nelson has been converted to a museum and houses some of the Royal Armouries guns and cannons collection. ¬†For good measure it also has a breathtaking view over Portsmouth Harbour.



In the workshop itself the children were split into groups and they had an introduction to siege weapons and identified the various sites of push and pull on a catapult.  Then in their groups they designed and built their own catapult.

20150610_6Then they had some attempts at firing it.  Firstly investigating how tight they needed to twist it and secondly the effects of different sizes and shapes of items being fired.

20150610_9Then we got to go outside and fire the trebuchet.

20150610_10 20150610_11Sam was relieved to find it considerably smaller than the one at Warwick :).

We didn’t really stay and explore as I’m still battling the lurgy and I’d left my Dad and oldest child (inset day) hanging about¬†waiting for us. ¬†But here are 2 of the impressive guns.

20150610_16 20150610_15

At home there was lots of TV РStory of the Castle and Merlin to carry on the theme.  Wallowing in the bath.  Plus building an insect trap in the back garden for the 30 Days Wild challenge.

20150610_18 20150610_19

Today was the last proper trip I’ve arranged before the summer break this year. ¬†I’ve had the common sense to realise that I don’t need the stress when we’re hayfevery and woefully lacking in sleep. ¬†I’ve learned the hard way not to rely on getting Sam out of the door.

I’ve organised more trips than ever this year. ¬†They’ve been stressful at times but that has always been because of issues with the organisers not home educators. ¬†I’ve joked before about the ‘herding cats’ analogy but some how this year on all but 1 trip I’ve had everyone turn up or apologise beforehand and pretty much everyone on time. ¬†I’ve not had one trip I’ve ended up out of pocket on, after a few blips at the start of the year not had problems collecting money. ¬†Children and adults have behaved well on every trip. ¬†Not one trip has left me thinking ‘never again’ or even¬†‘never taking them again’ ¬†(had quite a few of them over the years). ¬†I’d like to think I’ve finally nailed it but think luck and a truly lovely, huge bunch of local home eders are the key.

3 Days 3 Castles

Our new project is castles/knights/middle ages/Arthurian legends keeping a very open mind about where this one takes us.

Being Welsh there is no way we can look at castles without a trip to visit some family and welsh castles. ¬†I make no claims on how many castles in Wales I’ve visited over the years, quite a few but I know I’ve only scratched the surface. ¬†Much more familiar with N Wales though so the trip was a chance to explore some new ones to me.

Day 1 – Castell Coch

This is one familiar from a distance but never visited.  Look at the photos on here of it from a distance and you can see why this one was an intriguing one to want to visit.  A real life fairy tale castle.


Originally the site of a Norman castle, the motte was reused to house a stone fortress in the 13th Century by Gilbert De Clare before falling into ruins for approximately 500 years.  In the 19th century it came into the possession of the Marquess of Bute who had it rebuilt as a country retreat by the architect William Burges.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


For our Merlin fan friends, here is the castle in starring role.

Day 2 – Caerphilly

The largest castle in Wales and a castle that makes you think ‘well that is a castle’!

20150606_51Concentric design, a castle within a castle within a castle.  Built in the 13th Century by Gilbert de Clare it played an important part in battle to subdue the rebellion of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh and here’s more Merlin

And Dr Who, they use Caerphilly quite often.  Think it was Nottingham castle in the last series.

Day 3 – Cardiff Castle

We’ve been to Cardiff Castle a few times now but it’s handy for the train. ¬†It feels more impressive stately home than castle in general. ¬†It was restored in the Victorian era for the Marquess of Bute by William Burges (those of Castell Coch). ¬†However there is a Medieval keep on a Norman motte and the walls are built on the original Roman walls showing the site has been a fortress for a long time.

I managed to get Sam into the wartime shelters in the walls this time (last time we were there he was scared of the recording of Neville Chamberlain booming out).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If anyone is wondering what all the stuff on castle green is, we made the mistake of going the day that the Manic Street Preachers were playing.


Warwick Castle

This was the motivation for staying in Birmingham. ¬†The ease of travelling to Warwick. ¬†Actually kind of wish we’d stayed in Warwick. ¬†It was a lot quainter than I imagined and the walk from the station to the castle took us past 2 quilting shops and a bead shop. ¬†I like beads, not as much as buttons but… ¬†Probably best for the boys we didn’t stay there :).

The topic for next half term is castles, so thought in light of the general lack of motivation starting with a bit of a pizzazz  would be good.  Plus I had Clubcard vouchers to use, often struggle a bit to spend them.

Thoughts on the castle… Actually it was a lot more ‘castle trip’ than I was expecting. ¬†I was picturing a glorified theme park type thing really. ¬†But it was a castle you could walk around, climb the battlements and explore the beautiful grounds. ¬†It was busy but you never felt people were on top of you (except in the playground – Sam loved it, Jack and I hated it). ¬†There was a fair amount of touristy stuff and it certainly isn’t a cheap day out, ¬£9 each extra for Dungeon tour, ¬£5 for this, ¬£5 for that… But sometimes days like that are worth it and this one was.

Definitely captured Sam’s interest in the Medieval and Wars of the Roses. ¬†Hopefully something I can hold. ¬†Was a lovely day out.



The boys had a go at archery.

20150528_57 20150528_58Sam went to knight school.


20150528_69 20150528_71 20150528_74 20150528_75



We had a look around the grounds, which are really beautiful.  There was a Victorian Mill on site.

20150528_80 20150528_81There was a Horrible Histories Medieval village to explore.

20150528_82 20150528_83 20150528_85 20150528_86Stocks and a ballista.

20150528_55 20150528_87

Over lunch we watched the firing of the trebuchet.20150528_89 20150528_91 20150528_93

Then we finally made it in to the castle.

20150528_95 20150528_101 20150528_103 20150528_105 20150528_106


Sam and I toured the dungeon. ¬†He was very proud as they didn’t recommend it for under 10’s as too scary (wasn’t really). ¬†Jack doesn’t do enclosed spaces so he entertained himself buying sweets and stationery in the shop. ¬†We then nipped in for Sam to buy some knights and weapons (just what you want to carry around for the rest of the trip).
20150528_112We walked the walls.  Surprisingly encountering a peacock up there.20150528_107 20150528_109


After a play at the fabulous castle themed playground we ended the trip with an outdoor theatre performance ‘Horrible Histories Wicked Warwick’.

20150528_118 20150528_119

We did stop for a quick look at the birds of prey on the way out.