Blowing away the cobwebs and knuckling back down

Took a long time to recover from the coldy bug that was afflicting us.  Definitely was still affecting patience and mood up to the end of last week.

On Thursday, the sun shone.  Things were slow to start and I could feel my patience fraying early on, so as we weren’t expecting Sam’s friend round for usual play and I didn’t really feel up to swimming or gym, I made the snap decision to make some use of our Culture All pass and rang my Dad to suggest a day out at Staunton Country Park.  Sam changed his mind while I was on the phone and we had strop and tears (really was that sort of week).  Glad I pushed on though as once there he absolutely loved being out and the October sunshine really worked it’s magic.  Sometimes Mum really does know best!

Playing in the maze.  He beat me through it nearly every time.  He said every but there was some debate at what constituted the end of the race 😉

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Walled garden and glass house.

20151009_4 20151009_5 20151009_3 Autumn colours and a little bit of the Enchanted Wood.

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Didn’t bother hugely with the animals, but couldn’t avoid the peahens, miss the donkeys or pass up the opportunity to see piglets about 12hrs old.

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Plus just enjoying being outside 🙂

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Cold was finally going on Friday.  A very procrastinating start did unfortunately snap my frayed temper first thing.  To the level I had to send Sam upstairs for 5 mins and ‘start the day again’.  Never pleased with myself when I shout and I don’t often.  We did however manage to put that behind us and have a fantastically productive day.

All core activities managed for the first time that week (Spanish and Latin had got a bit put by the wayside).  English involved writing an application to be a ‘fantasy hero’.


Maths involved looking at ‘split strategy’ for multiplication.  I am still unsure what I think about the teaching of lots of different ways of doing the same thing (this is the first year that we’ve ever really done anything so tied to NC).  I like the idea there is no right way of doing something and as long as you can show how you are getting there great, means that if you don’t get it one way you can try another.  However, think there is a very high risk of muddying the waters and losing some kids completely in a school set up.


In science we looked at the the magnetism of the Earth.  Made a compass.

20151009_22 Demonstrated lines of magnetic field with iron filings and a bar magnet under the paper.20151009_25

Then had fun collecting the iron filings.  Getting them off the magnet was harder.20151009_28

We looked at how the bible in English is a translation and listened to a clip of some of the reading in Hebrew, unfortunately the end of the first sentence sounded very like a swear word and things rather degenerated in to giggling (I have a juvenile sense of humour).  We then looked at different Children’s versions of the story of creation and discussed how they were different.  The Brick Bible was a hit.

We then watched an interesting documentary about William Tyndale.

After lunch we caught up on art.  We did some refreshing of ideas about perspective and vanishing points.  Then we looked at a colour wheel and the idea of complementary colours (colours opposite each other on the colour wheel).

The picture was Van Gogh’s Cafe terrace.  The idea was a collage with pastel highlights but definitely more pastel than collage.

20151009_32 20151009_33We finished off by rounding off Sam’s spy project by designing a spy watch.

20151012_1We looked at Enigma and made a mini enigma machine from a kit we’ve had for years.20151012_2Then completed two more Cryptographer challenges on to earn master level.  He encrypted and sent a message in morse code and with the help of Pete who was home learnt a bit about and decoded a message in Base 64 (please don’t as me).


The Week is Whizzing By!

New term routines are pretty well established by now and time is starting to pass at a bit of a gallop.  So another rapid catch up post.

Saturday saw us at the Mayflower for Horrible Histories.  We’ve seen quite a few of these now.  Think this may be our last though, we’ve enjoyed them but I think Sam’s outgrown them and Jack didn’t want to join us.

20150928_1 - Copy We rarely go into Southampton so we took the opportunity to explore Toys’r’Us and discuss ideas for Christmas and Birthday.  Sam has never really done toys that much so has always been hard to buy for as he never ‘wants anything’.  We then ran back to Argos (who had a 3 for 2 offer on) to actually buy some toys with his own money that he has been hoarding since Christmas!20150928_2 - Copy

Home ed wise there has been more verb and sentence work.  Maths we’ve moved on to multiplication and division.
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We spent most of the rest of Monday playing with codes and ciphers.  Plus a bit of Scratch.

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We didn’t bother with ‘work’ yesterday morning.  I was running the activity at localish HE group so wanted to get there early and also as it was the last day of Argos’s 3 for 2 sale I spent some time shopping!

Acid and alkali reactions were the order of the day.  Lemon volcanoes


and dripping food colouring on to paper coated in a dried bicarb of soda paste and then coating it in vinegar so it fizzed and the colours ran.
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Plus lots of play.  After initial 5 sec grump when I said his best friend wouldn’t be there, he decided it was fine as he had other friends :).  As it happened none of his usual friends were there but he didn’t seem to notice and moved happily from playing with one person to another.  20150929_8


End of Week bits and bobs

On a bit of an emotional roller coaster at the moment so the 100 days happy thing is proving very timely.  Here’s not the place for that though so on the home ed front we’ve…

Finished the first maths ‘block’ on numbers.
Been working on similes


Been to a friend’s house for play.
And to the park for play and exercise and Grandad time.20150924_3
Target practice with a new dart gun.
20150924_5Started working through the Harry Potter films yet again in preparation to visit the studios.20150924_7

Reading about spies and from the bible and our book of bible stories.  We’re not religious but I feel the history of this country and the world is so tied into religion a knowledge of the views and stories of the major religions is vital to try to make sense of the world.  The focus this week was on the books of the Bible and their different authors/styles/genres.  We read some stories of Moses and talked about the plagues of Egypt.

Working on his Spy book.

20150925_5Making a Lego vehicle with Grandad for a project.

20150925_9 Trialling an art activity for a group using bicarb of soda and vinegar.  Definitely what I think of as ‘process art’, the process of making it is more important than finished product.  In this case the end product won’t last long as the bicarb flakes off but it is fun to do.

20150925_14 20150925_22Lemon ‘volcano’.
20150925_25 20150925_29That still left an afternoon for reading (mostly Asterix I think) and games.

Happy Days

We’ve done nothing spectacular the last few days but they’ve been good ones.  Relaxed and filled with things we enjoy doing.  They’ve not been with out downs and niggles but I am trying very, very hard not to let my frustrations on a matter that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) effect my family influence my mood too much any longer.  With that in mind when an email landed in my inbox from the 100 Happy Days challenge suggesting I sign up to do it again for the last 100 days of 2015 I thought it would be a good idea.  I’ve a few ‘challenges’ to get over between now and Christmas so could do with a daily reminder to focus on the stuff that matters most.   Album of photos is on the Facebook page here.

Anyway we’ve been looking at linking verbs in English, making paper chain sentences and having fun with making sentences from cards.  Sam decided ‘delicious’ was the adjective of choice, resulting in some amusing sentences and ‘the best English lesson ever’.

20150922_220150922_6Monday afternoon was spent in Action Stations and in particular laser quest.  This still remains the highlight of Sam’s month.  20150922_3

20150922_4 Tuesday was a stay in to sort new fridge sort of day.  I’m not sleeping well and wasn’t feeling up for anything that needed too much motivation from me.  So after the Maths/English/Latin/Spanish we curled up and read some of Enid Blyton’s Nature Book, Bible stories and Aesop’s Fables.  Then stretched out and watched an episode of Orbit as part of our Science project.20150922_7 After sorting out the fridge and having lunch we talked about some of the spies we’ve read about.  Did some secret writing with milk as it is one of the inks used in Francis Walsingham’s time. 20150922_8 Then we made a scytale, a coding device used by Greeks and Spartans.20150922_11

We submitted it and Friday’s blackberry picking to which led to distraction.  So the boy busied himself with Scratch and I had a bath and tidied up.  Then he was off on a Cub hike while I got to enjoy time with older one.

P.S. I’ve managed a fair amount of sewing in the background too which makes me happy 🙂

Slowly does it (Start of Term Lurgies)

There was a definite taking it slow about Wednesday.  Sam got up late, complaining of sore eye and with a very noticeable case of the sniffles.  I was feeling rather sluggish too.  Seems Jack’s ‘back to school lurgy’ has spread.  A day to take our time over things and accept any thing done as a bonus – pressure in this situation will only result in tears from someone.

Sam did some Duolingo while I set up a maths game, I’d sneaked ahead on the leader board and that needed fixing.

We then played the maths game.  Numbers 1-50 on cards and a base card (or scribbled piece of paper) each with numbers 1-6 down the side and space for a card next to each.  We drew a card and had to place it on the paper.  The idea was to fill your card with numbers in ascending order.  Once a card was down though you couldn’t move it.  Winner was the first to fill their card.  After a few goes, we each wrote 10 numbers between 500 and 1000 on cards and played with them.

20150909_63 20150909_64We then had some fun on Mathletics with Roman numerals (well I thought it was fun!).  English consisted of copywork, spelling and starting memorising a poem.


Which he illustrated – with vomit :/

Rest of morning disappeared in playing on Live Mathletics, Reading Eggspress and reading from Enid Blyton’s Nature Lovers Book.  If you are even slightly interested in the Charlotte Mason approach I can not recommend that book enough.  For every month of the year it has two stories describing nature walks.

I was expecting us to fizzle out after lunch but Sam picked up.  So we introduced our artist of the half term – Van Gogh.  Again another huge recommendation for the Anholt’s Artists picture books!


Sam then spent nearly an hour in the conservatory painting his own sunflowers.  He used cotton buds to dab on the paint for a more textured look (standard poster paint thickened with pva for more texture).


20150909_71 By this point in the day I was flagging and had got distracted trying to get our membership of sorted.  We joined well over a year ago but have never actually used it and log in details were long forgotten.  Think we may have a go at some this year.

While I was pottering on there Sam read through an introduction to our spy topic.


Then we started working through one of our computer coding books.  It is nearly identical to the kids version with Carol Vorderman on the cover.  Hadn’t realised that when I bought it, but sold on the other one now.   He’s comfortable with Scratch so nothing new really just adding a bit of structure and logical progression.

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After doing the project I left him playing on it.

A lot better day than the start suggested 🙂

Beaulieu Motor Museum

This week my dad has a friend visiting and wanted a big day out.  His friend loves cars so we opted for Beaulieu Motor Museum.  It’s one of the few ‘big’ local attractions that I had left to visit (I think!).  Can’t say cars interest me at all (I don’t even drive!) but I’d heard good things about the grounds and Abbey from friends.  Had also decided to use the fact that there is a small exhibition about the SOE (Special Operations Executive) that had a training school there to be the spring board of a history project for this term – Spies!

That said we didn’t do the house or Abbey really.  Both Sam and I were a lot more interested in the car bit than expected.

I was very taken with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 🙂  Sam’s favourite bit was the Top Gear simulator.


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Grounds were lovely as was the drive through the New Forest – had fun pony spotting.  Leaves are starting to change colour, berries are ripening and acorns and conkers are forming.  Love Autumn 🙂


Not Back to School

Jack’s first full day back at school and Sam and I marked it by going to the group Not Back to School picnic.   Took Sam a while to relax into it but eventually he found a group on the edge of the moat and they made ‘fishing rods’.  Only Sam being Sam added stones and turned his into a mace.


Chatting to a new lady she commented how many of us there were.  Yet only a small proportion of the home educators I know were there.  It shouldn’t but it does still surprise me how much the home ed social scene has changed in 10 years.  Not necessarily for the better or worse just different.  Size plays an awfully big part in that, there are so many more of us about.

When I was looking back on old blog posts earlier in the week I found this; Portsmouth Home Ed Groups first Not Back to School picnic back in 2010 🙂


When we got home we decided to start Sam’s spy project by watching Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale.  Crikey it dragged on!  The window man arriving part way through to measure up for my new doors was a relief not intrusion.

Plus as we discussed James Bond is not so much a spy more an assassin.

History and Geography Projects 15/16

The 6 projects a year, 3 with a History bias and 3 with a Geography bias worked really well last year so we’ll keep going on that path.  I say bias because the two are so entwined.

We don’t have a set approach to project work.  Sometimes we’ll produce something like a lapbook often we won’t produce anything at all.  Most often we’ll have a sort of display of craft projects.  Sometimes I’ll plan in depth, others I’ll buy in some resources, book some trips and let things unfold and see where we go.

I tend to have a broad agenda of a few things I’d like him to take away from a project (and these shape the resources we use).

For example our first project of the year will be spies (we’ve planned a visit to Beaulieu so looking for something to leapfrog off it).  It would be easy to get caught up in the gadget/tech/spy fiction side but this is supposed to be a history project.  So the things I’m looking for him to take from it are the idea that spying has a long ‘real’ history (not all James Bond style) and in particular an overview of the Cold War factions.

I’ve bought these books.

The orange one is excellent, exactly what I wanted.  We could achieve my aims just by reading this.


I’m really planning just on reading and discussing.  Will try and add some cards to our timeline box.  May stick True Spy Stories on the kindle for reading out and about.

Besides Beaulieu which is a family thing I’d booked a couple of group home ed trips to add the local context but looks like I won’t have the numbers to go ahead.  Not bothered by one, was a ‘may as well’ booking, but disappointed to cancel the Dockyard one, the idea of looking at spy history in Portsmouth really appealed.  Will just have to see what I can find out so we can look into it ourselves.  Going to take it as a sign that I should do trips just for us this year and stop booking groups until I’m ready to book KS3 ones as lots of Sam’s friends are just slightly older.   I’d decided we wouldn’t do Bletchley Park as too far for the day and didn’t fancy an over night – seriously reconsidering!

We can’t do Spies and not do codes and gadgets and James Bond so sure all of them will feature.


Don’t plan on spending a full half term on this one, suspect 3 or 4 weeks will do.  The project scheduled in next, Europe, has the potential to be much bigger and I’d like to leave the run up to Christmas for looking at European Christmas traditions.  So we won’t linger on spies.

Other projects planned for this year are:


Greeks (possibly moving on to History of Sport – Olympics!)

Water use and sanitation