Online Advent Calendars

Sam has been asking if we can do the Norad advent calendar again this year. 
Reminded me I promised to share some of the online advent calendars I know. 
When Sam was younger I found we could pretty much cover everything with advent calendars. Found them perfect for helping maintain a feeling of ‘doing something’ and focus when excitement, a packed calendar and the inevitable seasonal bugs turn normal routines on their head. Or for those who could benefit from a spell of deschooling but don’t want to let go of all structure.

Haven’t found a good one of literacy but we have so many Christmas story  and poety books it’s always been easy to tick that box.

I’ve only include ones that look like they are up and working this year. Suspect more will come on line in the next week so worth watching Fb pages of sites of interest.


Primary Maths

Secondary Maths

Christmas Science hand on


RI usually do a video one, can’t find one for 2017 yet but looks like 2016 and 2015 still work.


Liverpool Museums



Project Britain – learn about Christmas in a different country everyday


Exploring Nature with Children – link takes you to supply list, calendar will be blog posts


Explore works from the Tate collections


This is an app , has a piece of classical music every day.


Norad advent calendar – games

Ones to Print

Random Acts of Kindness

I can’t miss these colouring ones as they have been such a big part of my life for years. Have to be a member now for them now. Activity Village colouring calendars.

Boo and Busy

The last few days have all been about adapting to changing plans and inevitably Halloween.

Monday felt like it was our one chance this week to be productive home ed work wise and never really got into our stride. I was having trouble with printing too (trying to prepare for Tues group) just one of those collating going to pot times really. Multitasking never turns out well. I know this so why I keep attempting to do it who knows.

We did manage lots of Maths, plus English , his online Computer Science tutorial, some geography and an activity in preparation for the group that we had on Tuesday. Plus painted some pumpkin tealight holders.

Then it was time for him to suit up in Halloween gear to go to a party with friends.
Tuesday was all go! At the weekend I’d discovered that I needed to use our voucher to get our new Dockyard pass by end of Oct so had to squash in a quick dockyard trip. Then having persuaded Sam that we wouldn’t do Trick or Treating this year a friend messaged me in the morning to say she’d told her kids they were coming with us, so trick or treating needed fitting in too ūüėÄ

The day started at our ‘Citizenship’ group. It’s a 6 week block of activities put together by a group of us, replacing the Mindstorm sessions. We talked about communities and groups that they felt part to. Briefly touching on what makes a community. We did some physical sorting of themselves by certain factors about their identity. Then they had a go at filling in a census form. 

We compared the sort of information on the form to what they’d included on collages that they had made about themselves.

We then used a list of things that could be used to define identity and prioritised them.
Finally as we had a birthday in the group it was cake, singing and ending with a few group games.

A friend kindly dropped us at the ferry so it was time to nip over to the Dockyard, pick up pass, quick snack and play at Action Stations and then back to Gosport for a pumkin hunt. I had ordered some with the groceries but hadn’t come. Supermarkets had removed them in favour of Christmas stock but greengrocers in the village had some.

Home, bath and then a bit of carving, decorating and then Sam painted my face before we headed out with friends (group had grown) for some trick or treating. Lovely evening as local community really goes in for it now.

Not my house I should say. A more enthusiastic neighbour!



Solva 17

Our family holiday posts are very low on activity content but high on lovely scenery photos. Mind and body relaxed and soul restored ūüôā We enjoyed lots of relaxed pottering at the cottage.
A meal or two out and a check to see if the very, very ancient doddery dog in the local pub was still going, the fact he was made Sam’s holiday.
A trip to Havorfordwest to buy books (lovely lady in Oxfam checks stockroom for Beano annuals for us) and a couple to St Davids for ice cream from the gorgous ice cream parlour, art gallery and a Treasure Trail.
Plus getting knocked about and submerged by over your head waves, bodyboarding and fort building at Newgale of course.  

Coins, Cardiff, and Coal

Looking at my diary a couple of weeks ago I realised that this week we didn’t have our regular Mon or Weds activities so took the opportunity to go to stay with my Father in Law in Wales for a few days.

We travelled over Monday morning and spent Monday afternoon touring the Royal Mint.  Little gem of a place, I thought we’d really enjoyed the Bank of England Museum but this was far better (despite the tour guide being adamant that Isaac Newton was Chancellor of the Exchequer!).  Sam struck a new ¬£1 coin.  Couldn’t take photos in the Mint these are just the exhibition after.  If you don’t know the story of the 1933 Penny look it up it’s interesting.  In my usual not observant state I hadn’t noticed the coins now make up the Royal Coat of Arms when placed together.  Interesting to hear about the countfeiting prevention in the new coin – holograms and UV among others.  If in the area definitely worth a trip.

 On the Tuesday my Father in Law had plans so Sam and I headed down to Cardiff Bay for the day.  We caught the waterbus from the City down to Techniquest.  It was horrendously full of school children when we arrived but after about 20 mins they all disappeared off to workshops/shows and we had a peaceful hour, leaving as they started flooding back.  After lunch we visited the Pierhead Building a magnificent piece of Victorian architecture from the heyday of Cardiff docks.  We also stopped at the little Norwegian Church where Roald Dahl was christened.  Before heading back to the City for Lego.

Weds was St David’s Day and we couldn’t have spent it in a more Welsh way.  We headed up the Valleys to the Rhondda Heritage Park.  To be honest it was a bit of a disappointment, lots of work being done for the new season but meant lots of things closed off or not working and all felt a bit builder’s yard and unloved at the moment.  It was a pleasant enough morning though and I think it was still the better option than heading further away and going down a real mine (this was a reconstruction above ground) as don’t think my joints or Sam would have liked going down properly.  Being St David’s Day did stop for a lunch of cawl and welsh cakes.

We did manage to get through a bit of our usual English and Maths in quiet minutes too.  Plus more bridge building.  Love the flexibility of home ed.


Solva 2016

Summer holiday means a trip to the Welsh coast here. ¬†We’re so lucky that family own a cottage in Pembrokeshire that we head to every year. Holidays there are quiet, it is incredibly peaceful and there is little in the way of organised tourism. ¬†It’s watersports and walking territory and I couldn’t persuade the rest of the family into much of either. ¬†To be fair the walks are not gentle strolls!

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Yarnbombing on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

There was lots of playing and digging on the beach.


20160803_54 20160803_111 20160803_12420160803_122 20160803_78Sea swimming

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Climbing and exploring

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We were there for one of the hottest days of the year which we spent hiding in the lime kilns reading ūüôā


There was body boarding – in the rain! ¬†Weather and tides didn’t work together but if you are getting soaked in the sea the rain doesn’t matter anyway. ¬†Made it quiet ūüôā

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We spent lots of time chilling out at the cottage; reading, rewatching old comedies and documentaries, playing games (World of Tanks was the big hit – kindly left in the cupboard by Uncle Dave as a present – no idea of the real rules they were made up as the game went on), building new Lego kits and playing and experimenting with mug cakes.

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20160803_47There was also lots of park and football (sorry forgot to reset the vivid colours after playing with the camera).

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We made time for a sundae and a couple of trips to St David’s for the ice cream parlour there (which is lush!).

20160803_13020160803_159 We did manage a bit of culture with the usual trip to St David’s Cathedral. ¬†This year I did manage to persuade them in to one of the many art galleries where they left daft comments in the visitors book – Sam asked where the corners were?! ¬†The gallery did have a lovely exhibition (not in a round room) featuring Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows.

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On the first day of the holiday Sam asked how soon it was before we need to do ‘work’ again. ¬† By less than half way through he was sitting up late and talking about all the things he wants to learn about and do and most importantly how ūüôā ¬†Taken a long time but am seeing a definite shift in balance between us with him being ready to direct his own education much more. ¬†The general gist of the plans is more time at home (lots of plans of stuff to do) and making much more of the beach and Sam’s newly developing physical confidence and willingness to try things.


Windy wet Wales

We had a windy and wet trip back to Wales to stay with my Father in Law last week.  Despite the weather we did manage a few trips out but we also had some time to relax a bit away from the distractions of home.

A trip to the park.
20160128_9 Lego building.20160128_10 Chess, including lessons in forcing checkmates with rooks (not from me!)20160128_16 Sword play after we added to our rather large already armoury.20160128_45 Most children cuddle soft toys mine sits there cradling a wooden sword ūüôā
20160128_44 Lots of reading.  I got talked into this on our travels and we spent most evenings staying up later than I wanted as we were enjoying The Eagle of the Ninth.20160128_47 One reason why the NHS is in trouble!  He found some crutches lying about and spent a lot of time practising on them.20160128_48 There was a trip to the Lego shop in Cardiff for some pick and mix Lego figures.  20160128_153 Plus lots of time working through the games cupboard.20160128_155 20160128_156

I spent my time working on newspaper puzzles and getting stuck in to a new sewing project.  Which I left the instructions for at home and have used the wrong number of threads for.  Oh well it looks okay as is.

Christmas 2015

Another quiet Christmas.  Big bonus of this year is, apart from minor sniffles, for the first time since Jack started school no one was ill.  Build up was slow.

Sam playing with Christmas themed Lego.

Christmas Eve is possibly my favourite day over Christmas. ¬†The boys and I always do the local panto and then have lunch (tweak to tradition this year we moved up a grade from Burger King to Nandos ūüėČ ) and a potter around the shops while Pete finishes off the housework. ¬†Home for a treasure hunt, new pjs/dressing gown. annual, mug and chocolate.
Christmas day was a relaxed, present opening sort of day. ¬†We don’t do a big lunch, a treat lunch but nothing that takes prep or washing up.

20151228_120151228_620151228_5What has followed are days of Lego building and reading.20151228_1220151230_520151228_13

For me it was reading, sewing and finishing off some Futurelearn courses I’d put on the back burner.

For Jack it’s been a time of Fifa 16, ‘feet of flames’ (I bought him surprise footie boots and I picked well it seems) and hanging out with friends.


Boxing day was time to get outdoors.  A bit of a kick about and a walk along the sea front.20151226_100632 20151226_102241 My Father in Law came for a few days in the post Christmas period so we took a trip to Titchfield Haven for a lovely, windswept walk.

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Oh and we may have had a special day out on New Years Eve ;). ¬†That one deserves a post of it’s own.



The last month seems to have vanished in the blink of an eye.

Home ed filtered out really and I can’t recall anything of note. ¬†We did have an end of term picnic but I really wasn’t in the mood for it by that point. ¬†Work, Guiding, household chores and holiday prep dominated the first few weeks of July.

Then the last two weeks were holiday. ¬†Rural Wales and we leave the car behind means it really is a break, don’t even get phone signal.

20150801_3 20150801_5 20150801_14Peaceful best describes the break.

We walked the cliffs and coastal path (in the rain),

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played at the beach

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and the park

20150801_13120150801_176and garden

20150801_125 20150801_174had leisurely pub lunches

20150801_129 20150801_186and ice cream, lots of ice cream

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lots of board games, quizzes, word games, reading, sewing and even some colouring.


We even managed a bit of TV (well dvd) the boys loved Police Squad and Yonderland.  Sam was also very taken with Ghostbusters.

Holiday did the trick and relieved the stress that was catching up with me.  Have a few big decisions to make about the causes of that stress but have a bit of breathing space.  Taking  a month off home ed now while Jack is about to unwind, work (as in paid type) and plan.

Solva 2014

Won’t go down as a spectacular holiday as we were all ill at some point. ¬†In the case of Jack more than once! ¬†However no one died which is our barometer for judging holiday success (we have had some rotten ones) and there was lots of chilled out family time which is all we really ask for.

Since this is predominantly a home ed blog, from a learning perspective nature and in particular the method of reproduction of various species was the big interest of the holiday following encounters with jellyfish. ¬†Buterflies proved especcially interesting ¬†We worked our way through Andrew Marr’s History and Making of Modern Britain and far too much Dad’s Army (history ūüėČ ). ¬†Sam got into the Harry Potter books (hurray for kindles) and has worked his way all the way until near the end of the HalfBlood Prince.

But it was really time to relax.  Lots of photos below.

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Holidays – costs (bit of a rant)

Sorry, ranting again.  Part of me thinks it would be much better for my blood pressure to quit Facebook, even people I like very much can press the wrong buttons through it.  It is very, very rarely anything they say (I have nice friends!) more the things that somehow end up forwarded on to my feed.  The big thing that is currently cluttering it up is people complaining about fines for taking the kids out of school and the cost of holidays during school holidays.  And actually with Jack in school now it does directly effect me.

The second one I have no problem with people having a bit of a moan about, they are not cheap and they go up so steeply.  But I do get very annoyed at people complaining it is not fair!

It is basic economics, we live in a Capitalist society.  They are companies who provide these holidays not government funded services, therefore their purpose is to make profit. They will charge as much as they can for any given time.  They can only charge what people will pay or they are left with empty accommodation and reduce prices.

By complaining about these costs it is really a complaint that some people have more money. The answer is socialism!

What are the options for reducing costs? Tax breaks for the companies if they offer so many holidays below a certain cost, state regulation and interference in the market, government subsidies, government run holiday parks? All options that are financially a disaster, the tourist industry is massive and generates lots in taxes, capping that means less money in the government purse to pay for essential services. And using government money to fund holidays is ludicrous, even if the funding was capped to a few (let’s not worry where the money is coming from – libraries, social care?) it would be a nightmare to administer and there would be moral outrage in the Mail every week!

As to fines, I have a bit more sympathy here but more sympathy for the teachers. ¬†Those of us who are parents of school age children now are children of the 70’s and 80’s, in those days there was no Ofsted, no league tables or SATs, no National Curriculum, schools had more flexibility so they could be more flexible.

Schooling is very different now to 30 years ago.  When I was training as a teacher it was in the early days of the numeracy and literacy hours (no idea if these still exist), and there was a big book for each that told you what you had to teach in any given week.  I suspect and hope things have improved from then but know there are still a lot of controls.  Controls not just on what is taught but how it is taught with a big emphasis on group work.

Many parents use the argument that children learn a lot on holiday through experience and the cementing of family relations. ¬†I absolutely believe this and is one of the major reasons why we home educate. ¬†But a school is responsible for the education of 100’s of children. ¬†Children missing weeks of school cause disruption to the education of others. ¬†It takes up valuable teacher time to ensure that these children cover what is missed as well as being disruptive to group work and classroom dynamics.

Attendance policies are clearly laid out in school documents, people know the score when they send a child to school.  And lets make it clear it is a choice.  No one has to be tied to school holidays, home education and private school (usually comes with much longer holidays) are perfectly legitimate options.  All three have pros and cons, expensive holidays being one of the cons of school. But you make your choice and have to take the rough with the smooth.

What is the alternative? Teach children that we can pick and choose which rules, and most rules exist for a reason even if we may not see/agree with it, we follow (never ever get me started on under 13’s on Facebook – you’ll regret it!), that our own short term pleasure is more important than our responsibility to support the needs of others?

Harsh I know, but that is the way I see it. ¬†After all, no one ‘needs’ a holiday, it isn’t that long ago that the only days off were Sundays and bank holidays with no entitlement to annual holidays. ¬†There are some cases when yes time out of school is justified (weddings/funerals/medical/Service personnel leave…) and schools should be more amenable here and probably would be if there were less ‘just holidays’.

All that aside I do think this is an issue partly of the government’s making with over regulation of education. ¬†If schools were given more flexibility then perhaps they could organise it that they had ‘lax weeks’, the sort of weeks where they focus on the more fun side and do trips etc and perhaps they could say to parents we will consider holiday requests during these weeks. ¬†The education time table of terms and long summer break is rooted in the farming communities of Victorian times, long outdated. Everything about state education is in need of a big overhaul and updating, we don’t have the mass employment in factories any more that schools were set up to prepare people for. ¬†We need education to be more flexible in every way.