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


Other Stuff 15/16

All the bits not worthy of their own post


Last year’s plans didn’t really come to anything at all.  The ukulele was a flash in the pan interest.  Even our classical concert was cancelled – we did make it to a Gamelan one which sent me to sleep.  I’m not going to make any attempt to ‘teach’ music at all this year.  With only limited time available to cover everything we want to it seems daft to waste time on stuff that neither of us find interesting or useful.

That aside he’s become much more interested in listening to music this year and I aim to set it up so we can have music on in the background while we do work.  From time to time he’ll sit there with youtube piano tutorials and teach himself to play a few lines of a song he likes.  Will leave it at that though.

Nature Study

Just read my plans for last year and laughed out loud.  They were very ambitious for us.  We’re not nature lovers, we like being outside but too many allergies to enjoy anywhere with plants for much of the year and we hate being hot.  More jumping in puddles and home for hot choc by the fire sort of people.

Plan to take a more or less completely unplanned approach this year.  We’ve loads of spotters guides (good ones) and activity ideas books.  Whenever time, weather, health and mood allow we’ll try and get out.  We’ve lots of nice walks on our doorstep.

Will include readings from our Enid Blyton’s Nature Lovers book and her Hedgerow, Woodland and Country Tales in our reading basket.  Curled up on the sofa with a book is our sort of nature study 🙂

 Religious Education and Festivals

Plan to try and address this more this year.  We’ll include some of our collections of religious stories in our reading basket – I have a few 🙂  Also have the Usborne Encyclopaedia of World Religions to read though.

However I have a set of lesson plans bought from Planbee that I will try to build into our week.  Until we get some routine established I don’t know how realistic this is.  If it works we’ll start with looking at Christianity, where the Bible came from, stories from the Bible,  running up to Christmas.

I’ve been adding dates of random holidays and events to the calendar to draw on if we have time to fill 😉

Computer Programming

Sam has been dabbling with this for a while but looking for an ordered approach this year.  We have these to work through.

20150827_3In case any one else falls for it, the one on the right is not identical to the Computer Coding for Kids with Carol Vorderman on the cover but close.  But it has the advantage of not having Carol Vorderman on the cover so we’ll use this one and pass on the other 😉


I have had the IF Odyssey sat on my Kindle for about 18 months.  I am hoping to set up a monthly group to work through this.  Ideally 4-6 children of similar age to Sam.  Thinking that debating ideas with his peer group will add something different to just talking with me.


Organised sports are not Sam.  Thinking one afternoon a week for Laser Quest/Bowling?/Out door Gym/Long walk.  Then if my Dad will provide transport another afternoon for either swimming or table tennis (we’ll chop and change week by week as mood takes us).  This is work in progress!

Reading Basket

I’d like to get into the habit of reading aloud more again.  I’m thinking we’ll start the day with reading on 4 day rotation from the basket which will have;

Nature Stories (Enid Blyton’s as mentioned above)

Aesops Fables

Year of Poetry

Children’s Bible


We’ll also hopefully keep a longer story on the go.  Probably some sort of fantasy book to tie in to creative writing.  Going to start with Alice in Wonderland.



From wanting to see someone (ideally at our house) nearly every day setting us on a social whirlwind that nearly finished me off, he’s had an about turn.  He’s happy to go out a couple of days a week but wants to stay home the rest which works well for me.

We’re planning on attending one of the adventure playgrounds every week.  Plus laser quest monthly.  Working on monthly bowling and philosophy plans and if they come off will probably suggest a walk/soft play the other week.  That’s 2 group events a week possibly.

Looking around at who’s signing up for things I think numbers for trips might be an issue so will not bother with much trip booking this year I think.  Days out with family and friends instead.

We’ll continue to have friends round as we’ve fallen into routines.  Cubs obviously too.

Will also try and get things set up so he can skype etc.  I do a lot of my socialising through the computer I think I need to accept that that will suit Sam too.

Catching Up

Not just with the blog.  It has been a busy few weeks with lots of my evening time spent catching up on Guiding stuff and starting a new course through FutureLearn, plus Scout and Cub stuff has been taking up a bit of time hence the lack of blogging.  But as I mentioned a few weeks ago we have been struggling with the pace I’d set for ‘school work’ this year and I felt we needed time to stop, draw breath and reconnect with the fun side and catch up with some of the projects that were slipping by the wayside a bit.

Last week, therefore, we abandoned those things I claim are our ‘essentials’ at least in the usual approach.

Maths, we took a concept that for some reason hadn’t clicked and dedicated our Maths time this week to it.  Sam is usually quite quick to grasp visual topics so why ordinal numbers and in particular identifying if a person is 5th in line for example how many people were before them was problematic I have no idea.  Aim of the week was to make the idea as visual and fun as possible.


We played with the cars I’d made , having races. Link is to Activity Village where they are available for download.

Did some colouring, looking for patterns.


We made a bus and played bus queues with Blue Nose Friends.


English, we spent the week looking at extracts from scary stories and identifying stylistic patterns.  I’d bought a set of books to help inspire creative writing (not Mr Literal’s strongpoint).  They come with a cd-rom and we read through the extracts and used the cd for the activities.

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We finished up to the end of the stone age on our timeline.  We added the postcards of different human species that we’d bought at the NHM and photos we’d taken of some of the important finds (Boxgrove, Happisburgh and Paviland) as well as some dinosaur pictures and a representation of the birth of the sun – just because.

20141007_21Got up to date with art and science worksheets and his nature book.


Carried on studying liquids.  Testing floating and sinking in water and salt solution.20141007_22We also managed Spanish group.  Here’s a photo for once.


Which was followed by some random body art.  We’d missed art due to going to see the BBC’s Ten Pieces at the cinema.  It was fantastic and is on iPlayer for another couple of weeks.  Home educators can apply for the dvd.

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We also managed science group, a home ed group trip up the Spinnaker and a morning of Minecraft and Simms with friends.  Oh and a wet nature walk in the most fungi free bit of woodland imaginable.

20141007_54I did get to test out the wellies though.



Music 14/15

How do you go about teaching something like music is one of the common questions addressed to home educators.  The accepted answer (unless you are particularly musical) seems to be to join a group class and/or have instrument lessons.

I have been trying to interest Sam in these for years and failing.  One of the local home ed groups runs group lessons and I know a few piano tutors so could set something in place easily but he flatly refuses.

Been feeling guilty about failing in this area.  But have decided no more.  Playing an instrument has to be self motivated.  We have a piano that Pete and Jack play quite regularly, guitars both electric and acoustic that he also sees others play and until recently when I decided to end the guilt, a big box of percussion instruments and recorders.  The carrot is dangling there in front of him but if he doesn’t want to bite then I’m not going to use a stick.

The reason I adopt a more structured approach to home education is that I believe that there are some things that children need to learn to be able to have the maximum opportunities in adult life and I don’t have the faith that they will pick it all up by interest alone – but they are mainly reading/writing/maths/economics/politics.  Music for all but a select few really talented, motivated individuals is a hobby something they play and listen to for fun and something they can function quite happily through life without any major knowledge of.

Our music study then for this year is focused on enjoyment of music and basic general knowledge (recognising instruments and composers).  I don’t plan to allocate much, if any, time to it specifically but let it slot in.

  1. Composition:  aim is just playing and having fun.  May work in the odd bit to project work, probably using the chime bars he wanted to keep when we got rid of the rest of the instruments.  But really plan is to make sure the electronic programmes he likes to play with are easily accessible and we remember to use them to help fill in those spare moments. They also tend to be social activities, something the males of the house like to indulge in on a weekend/evenings.  We have an app on the iPad Garageband and his other favourite is Incredibox.  Sure we will add more over the year.
  2. Instrument!  As soon as I decide to stop stressing he decides to take up the ukulele.  I expect the idea of it being him and a book with no teacher swung it.  We will have to see how long interest is maintained.  We’ll keep going as long as he’s actively wanting to.20140714_120140826_8
  3. Being able to recognise instruments.  Every year (Sam was 2 months old first time) we attend a children’s orchestral concert in Jan – just checked and date has been announced for 2015 so am happy.  We also take other opportunities that fall our way to get out and hear/see live music.  We are booked to see a show in Oct (although in the cinema) by BBC’s Ten Pieces Orchestra.  In the run up to these outings we usually glance through Usborne’s Introduction to Music to familiarise ourselves with the instruments/layout although by now he is pretty good.
  4. New for this year and something sadly lacking from my own music education, is I would like him to be familiar with some of the most famous pieces of classical music and to have a feeling of type of music by a composer.  We will be using the book Lives of the Musicians to introduce the lives of the composers.  We will look at one per half term.  We will record details about the composer on an index card to add to our timeline box.  We will then over the six weeks or so of the half term play music by the composer in the background when we are having quiet spells, crafting, lego etc and possibly depending on Sam (some people say music helps concentration) while he is working.20140826_7 Have also come across this cd.  Dread to think how long it has sat here neglected.  One to add to the listening pile in the post Christmas, bleak weather term.  20140826_15

Cramming it all in

Felt a bit like we have been against the clock this week counting down to Jack finishing school yesterday.

After Monday’s get things done day, Tuesday was a day to catch up with friends.  This often goes by wayside in school holidays as more difficult to get about with a grumpy preteen in tow.  On the plus side I think we’ve passed the worst of it as preteen is generally happy and old enough to be trusted to do his own thing, plus I like his friends so if I’m taking Sam out for the day to meet friends, will just take preteens enmass – less trouble to take 2 or 3 than 1.

Anyway back to Tuesday and we had a pleasant morning drinking coffee, gossiping and playing iPad at a friend’s before meeting another friend at the Dockyard for picnic and Action Stations.  Think we’ve long since exhausted any educational benefit but to the boys it is a large playground and they love it.

Wednesday we rounded off our Volcano project with a trip to the Earth galleries at the Natural History Museum.

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One of the things I love most about visiting London is all the discussion and debate that arises, can barely walk 10 yards in London without coming across something interesting and if we can we always walk or bus if possible so we can see stuff.  Weds had us walking an hour through Belgravia looking at the big houses, landscaped squares, playing spot the embassy and discussing the potential pitfalls of socialism and why communist systems haven’t really worked.  Should have only taken half hour but I got distracted by Sam explaining how he would radically reshape the political systems of this world by dissolving all country boundaries and having a large, central, elected, representative council to make decisions.  Bit of a radical socialist my younger son!

Did have a laugh on the way there.  I was reading about volcanoes and obsidian came up, so I asked Sam if he knew that volcanoes made obsidian.  His answer was ‘yes, of course’ followed by explanation on the use of obsidian in Aztec culture.  The lady he was sitting next to sat there looking at him open mouthed  😀

Thursday we had a group trip to a local church where they have a recently reconditioned organ that had been played by Handel.

Information about the church.

Was a lovely trip, opportunity to do something different.

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They also had a chance to go inside the organ to see all the pipework.

Friday, we worked on Sam’s volcano lapbook before he went to a friend’s house and I took the opportunity to crack on with the big end of year clear out.  Far from tidy yet.

…and breathe!

Very, very busy few days.

Friday was a messing about at home day. Maths, Latin, history and geography were all touched on.  Geography was another lesson from our Charlotte Mason book, this time a poem about all the wonderful sights of the world (it is also a lesson in history as we’ve had to touch on the lack of air travel and that there was still a lot of exploring to do – pre climbing of Everest, reaching South Pole and of course Space travel).

We followed up by looking at a picture atlas (Usborne) and then drawing own version.  Influence of Minecraft evident as lots of showing of diamond and gold mines.

20140129_7 20140129_5Strategy games are still the order of the day, rest of Friday passed in chess, 2001, Stratego and Minecraft.


Saturday passed in homework, chores, Scout/Cub chess tournaments, running errands in town for me and messing around on Sporcle.  Boys (Jack in particular) are very good at naming countries.  Before cuddling up and reading Percy Jackson, Jack and I are long term Rick Riordan fans and while Sam listened to the Egyptian series, we’ve never done Percy as a read aloud and he’s loving it.


Sunday was another chores and paperwork day but kept getting distracted and ended the day thoroughly frustrated and fed up.  Getting roped into this by a desperately keen child who lost interest very quickly, didn’t help my mood.

20140140A couple of games of 221B Baker Street did help lift my mood though, heartily recommend it for those with older kids (Sam is too young to play independently).

Monday started a lot slower than I wanted. With a migraine threatening it took me ages to get out of bed so just had time to get everything ready for group and get out the house.  It was the first day of the new bus timetables and it was chaos on the buses and they were packed and uncomfortable.  Really should learn to drive but it scares the life out of me.  Will just have to adapt plans and not go into Fareham very often – Gosport is easier now and now bus goes along Stokes Bay and outside splash park so it isn’t all bad.

Group was Australia Day, was a bit hectic and confused but the kids loved the ‘trials’ and the coins which is what matters.


We had to get some library books for Guides so we went to Fareham library for the first time in ages…


…may have got a touch carried away.

Bit of shopping, home, printed lots of resources for Guides, ordered supplies for Geography, more stuff for Guides, went to Guides and then spent several hours making Maths resources for Sam.  Very tiring day.

Tuesday was maths and english followed by our annual concert.  Every year we go to a classical concert at the Guildhall for school children.  It is fabulous, I can not recommend it enough!  We started as we do every year with lunch and a play at Victoria park, when we were at the park as school arrived, so we fled!


Sam singing the song.  He gets really into it, it’s funny 🙂20140129_29


We had time for coffee and penguins in Waterstones and a bit more shopping.20140129_30

Before a very wet ferry ride home.20140129_31

Tea and Sam was off to Cubs (more codebreaking), while I treated myself to letting older boy watch FIFA videos while I had hot bath, then wine and Call the Midwife 🙂

Busy few days, frustrating at times but generally good.  Ready for a rest now.


Sketch Tuesday – something that lives in the forest

I aim to try and follow some of the Harmony Fine Arts Grade 1 course this year (like the idea of using it as an overview hence the earlier grade).  There will be a LOT of tweaking of the art side in the later half of the course as not particularly impressed with it but will try and use it as a template. Will definitely aim to follow the music as this is an area my skills and knowledge are not as good as I would like and I need a bit of hand holding.

Alongside this I hope to make ‘Sketch Tuesday’ from the Harmony blog a regular activity.

This week was the theme of ‘something that lives in the forest’.

As Sam had a new sketching set from The Works we looked at the different pencils and discussed the different hardness of nips and how you might use them for shading.

Here is Sam’s tree

Sam age 7