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.

Ups and Downs

I came down with a horrible shivery lurgy yesterday and Sam was even feeling ill enough to declare Flip Out a no show. 
A quiet day was declared. Some maths, english, latin and spanish were done but only a little and nothing taxing.
We started watching a documentary about electricity before iPlayer stopped working and we moved on to Joanna Lumley’s Japan.
Sam played computer, I soaked in the bath.  We sent Jack for Subway (little of what you fancy ūüėČ ) and watched Fantastic Beasts.
Today we both had more energy but not for a proper day out. Instead we finished off Sam’s English for the week, read the last of the science book and made a track for an avalanche.
While that dried we nipped into Gosport for some food shopping but pottered around the charity shops, caught some Pokemon and went to the park first. Back home I spent some time sorting out refunds after a workshop organised for next week was cancelled. Not having good luck on that front this year.
After that we tried tipping different ‘snow’ textures (flour, icing sugar, salt and rice) down Sam’s avalanche board.  
The rest of the day was all about games.  We’d ordered some yesterday from the Happy Puzzle Company because they has a sale and we were surprised to find them here when we got home a lunch time today.  Also picked up a 1979’s Rubiks game in a charity shop and Sam had bought a new DS game.
So we have been playing.  

This is the runaway favourite. Pentago – a strategy game that was the one that leapt out at us as very much both our thing and we were right.  Good battle although Sam as always in these things had the edge.

Balancing Act

We’re in a stage of transition at the moment home ed wise, there’s a feeling that on the horizon it all gets a lot more serious and less ‘fun’.

There’s mixed emotions of trying to keep the fun, flexibility and following our own agenda as long as we can while at the same time starting to work on skills that he’ll need in the future.¬† I know not all home educators think the same but to me if at 16 the same doors aren’t open to Sam that would have been if he’d gone to school then home ed has failed.¬† Realistically that means at least 5 GCSEs inc Maths and English.

I don’t think we need to cover the KS3 curriculum but to move from where we are now to where we need to be is quite a jump.¬† Small steps are what we need.¬† Essay writing and following a learning agenda set by others are something quite alien.¬† We are not textbook, worksheet, writing things down, curriculum following people, just isn’t us.¬† We do some but tend to adapt a lot and outside of Maths and English tend to abandon things very quickly as so much feels like ‘busy work’.

The other motivation is that Sam needs more than sticking and gluing now.¬† I want things to stay fun but they also need to be a bit challenging.¬† I am thinking mainly of workshops we do.¬† I think we’re close to giving up on KS2 ones, they are not holding interest.¬† The one we did today that was planned particularly for us was nice.¬† Not much is capturing my interest when I look about of KS3 though and there aren’t that many children of that age into the whole workshops thing.¬† Days out and seeing and doing are not something I’m going to let slide though I just think there will probably just end up being less ones with the group. Which is a pity as it is how we’ve forged our strongest friendships.

Last Thursday was a day that felt like we were doing education.¬† We were doing our own spin.¬† We didn’t do the worksheets that went with the slideshows we watched on Indian rivers and mountains.¬† He wrote up reports on his blog instead.

We also have a history textbook for KS3.¬† The intention was never to follow it as a course but there is precious little about for looking at the British Empire.¬† The idea is to use the relevant chapters for information, picking and chosing the activities we do from them either as written or discussion exercises.¬† Our first dabble worked well.¬† It’s a nice enough book.¬† Activities are thoughtful and relevant.

The key point of all that drivel is Thursday wasn’t the most exciting day to blog about but it was busy, productive and pleasant enough and probably a sign of the slow drift of change.¬† I am sure that one day this blog will just be a memory as I have nothing of interest to note.¬† I’ll miss it.

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Maths 14/15

Maths is an area that has come together at last.  One of those just keep going subjects from last year.  All I have needed to do is photocopy, write out the problems and patterns, and  make and gather resources.  Taken several days but all prepared until February РI hope!

We are using Saxon.

20140731_22It is expensive (we’ve bought second hand though) and American (deals in imperial measurements, US money and annoying scripts) and I think the level is considerably below that expected in the UK (do not expect Grade 3 to anywhere near cover the UK yr 4). ¬†Also the paper of the workbooks is horrible, thin and scratchy so I end up photocopying it all which is costly and takes ages. But for us all those negatives are outweighed by the positives.

The gradual introduction of ideas and repetition works for Sam, the lower expectations help his confidence as he is generally within his comfort zone and the hands on/short tasks work well as he doesn’t get frustrated/lose interest.

Each session starts with a ‘meeting’, where the date and temperature is recorded, practice on reading the time, working out patterns and skip counting and a ‘problem of the day’ is covered. ¬†We don’t use the meeting book/strips that come with the course, we have a door!


Calendar and temperature charts.
20140730_7 Patterns are printed and in the maths folder.

20140731_16 Skip counting is done running round in circles (backwards when counting backwards obviously).  Problem of the day is written in a little box РI wrote 70 of them on Monday so they will definitely be used all the time this year. I got fed up of writing them last year and we stopped using them but as they often introduce a new idea first I want to use them hence the mammoth writing session.

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After the meeting comes the lesson. ¬†This is usually only about 5 minutes and usually hands on. ¬†I refuse to follow the script so I skim read and pick out the important bits. ¬†Sometimes we’ll skip altogether if he obviously understands or it is not relevant/doable in some way (try getting gallon/half gallon containers easily and cheaply in the UK).

Have been making or¬†printing the resources that we need for the lessons up until February, ¬†Here’s just a selection. ¬†Really pleased with the ordinal cars ūüôā


The lessons round off usually with a practice of some simple Maths facts.  We use an online bomb timer for the fact sheets which appeals to Sam.

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Then there is a practice sheet (we only do 1 the course has 2, one for later in the day) which brings together some of the things from previous lessons to practice and jog memories.


Maths resources.

Over the years I have bought and got rid of a lot of resources, these are the ones we do use.


Pattern blocks – far and away the best ‘manipulative’ I’ve bought. ¬†Useful for maths (and used a lot in Saxon although we had them for a long time before) and great fun for making pictures and patterns.

Snap cubes¬†– close second to the pattern blocks. ¬†Fantastic for adding, multiplying, volume, area, perimeter, building guns….



Balance scales – lots of fun to be had comparing weights that just can’t be had from standard kitchen scales.


Base 10 – we don’t use much any more but Sam still likes to play with it and as the base 10 system is so important we’ve found them very useful for adding and carrying etc.


Geometric shapes – tbh these are mainly used for playing in the sink and mixing potions, but they are used a lot and we do talk about the shapes/edges/vertices sometimes so I hope some unconscious learning goes on ūüėČ

20140731_4Newest addition. ¬†Not anticipating a great deal of play value from this but saw it on a blog and thought ‘more fun then flashcards’.



Collecting Resources (Free Stuff)

With the new academic year on the horizon I, like so many others I expect, keep getting distracted by sparkly new resources.  However, there is not much we actually need.  We are still mid book with Maths and English having started in January with the current set of books, and having bought several years ahead when they have popped up second hand on the lists.

So I have distracted myself by tracking down free resources to support project work (actually got distracted again and started looking at more…). ¬†All the links below provide free resources inc free delivery.




The British Legion produce a fabulous schools pack.  We received the 2013/14 pack but later in the year they sent through the 2014/15 pack off their own steam.

20140731_15Booklet from the OU.  One for older children probably.

Not received these yet as only ordered this morning. ¬†DVD’s from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.



Teaching pack, posters and recipes on grain farming.

20140731_7Masses of resources ordered from various places on the FACE website.


20140721_620140731_8 Posters and teaching pack from the RNLI


Posters and leaflets on road safety



Free sample storystarter kit from Lego Education.



Blood and pus

By Friday last week my fit of the blues had been joined by a disgusting snotty cold courtesy of oldest child.  Could have been an awful day but it was saved by a small Superdrug bag I have been keeping aside for such an occasion.

For weeks my Facebook feed has heavily featured photos of greviously wounded Brownies and Guiders. ¬†It is one of the challenges for the Big Brownie Birthday badge to make fake wounds and show how to treat them. ¬†Decided that before attempting with Guides a trial run was in order ūüėÄ ¬†Have I ever mentioned I love Guiding ūüėČ ¬†A wet, miserable Friday seemed perfect.

Despite the fake skin getting off to a bad start the wounds worked well.

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So did the bruises although isn’t clear from photo that he has a big black eye.


And the burn looks like someone vomited on me ūüôĀ


Sam then spent the afternoon reading about first aid and watching videos on basic procedures on the brilliant Red Cross Education website .  I tested him afterwards and now have a big bruise on the shoulder blade when he demonstrated what he would do if I was choking Рbeat me up it seems!

Rest of the week had passed peacefully enough, lots of Percy Jackson, a jigsaw and a look at British landmarks

20140214_3Skiing and beach volleyball on the Kinect, baking and when the sun briefly showed it’s face a trip to the park, where it hailed on us!



England Is Truly A Magical Place

It really is.

The school curriculum (and therefore textbooks etc) focuses very heavily on human geography, how we influence the environment and very little on establishing a sense of the actual layout of the world.  Home educators tend to go the other way, looking at individual countries as projects.  We tend to, if not forget to look at our own backyard, struggle to find the resources from which to do so (most being American).

So as so often I find myself constructing a ‘syllabus’ for myself. ¬†Have a small group of friends (children 61/2 to 8yo) joining us to work on the the project which is nice and will hopefully keep us both motivated. ¬†My aim is simply by the time we’ve worked through it that they have a general idea of where some of the landmarks and major towns/cities are and little mental ‘hooks’ to give them a little context to places and that they have had fun, very hands on approach.

20140124_2This book forms my basic guide.  It is a story told in the form of a poem about a pair of children flying around England in a dream, it takes them to visit lots of places and gives little nuggets of information.  I have to say it is not quality literature but the idea is nice and it gives us a start every week and a route to follow.

This week we started off by reading the introduction and finding the (global) places mentioned on a world map.

Then moving on from looking at the UK last week we looked at the Union Jack and how it was broken down.  As a group they made an England flag (very good teamwork skills).

20140124_6Followed on to talking about St George (turns out to be a bit of a specialist subject of Sam’s patron saints ¬†– who knew?!). ¬†They then designed their own shield.

20140124_3Have to love Sam’s motto!

Guided tour of our ‘Home Ed Room’

6 1/2 years after I started ‘officially’ home educating (and 9 years since we made the decision to go down this path) I finally have somewhere set aside to store resources and keep projects on the go. ¬†Somewhere where I can shut the door on it all of an evening!

It certainly isn’t essential to have a designated area and we will no doubt continue to do the vast majority out of doors or under a blanket in front of the fire. ¬†But I have somewhere to keep the masses of ‘stuff’! ¬†It has taken me about 3 months since they started putting it in to get it sorted but I am very, very happy.

20140105_13In all it’s glory. ¬†I even have my own blackboard! ¬†Although have never been able to write neatly on them, as a student teacher I viewed them with a shudder, much prefer whiteboards.

20140105_7Space for posters and timeline.  Cupboard has space for models on top and games/resources inside.  And yes the Lego is in there too!

20140105_8Neatly sorted books and cupboards.

20140105_9Craft materials and junk modelling stuff accessible!

20140105_10Colouring things and drawers full of glue/scissors etc – all easily findable.

20140105_6Cool frog thermometer.

20140105_4New season display ready to start.

20140105_11‘Maths door’. ¬†I’ll explain more another time.

Really rather chuffed with it if you can’t tell ūüėČ

Filling in some blanks

Looking through some photos it appears that we have been doing more ‘work’ than I thought, so quick catch up to round the year off.

We’ve continued with looking at prehistoric people. ¬†We’ve been watching ‘The Incredible Human Journey‘ and read ‘Maroo of the Winter Caves‘. ¬†This lead on to looking at homes in prehistoric times.

We made a snow house like the one described in the book from icing and marshmallows instead of snow.

Marshmallow snow house if it isn't obvious!
Marshmallow snow house if it isn’t obvious!

And a cardboard cave.

It is decorated with ave art which isn't clear here.
It is decorated with cave art which isn’t clear here.

We also took a Sam led trip into a look at navigation. ¬†We have a couple of these Thames and Kosmos Little Labs kits. ¬†They are very expensive for what they are and you could do it all better and cheaper but we like them and more importantly sometimes I don’t want/haven’t the motivation to do it myself. ¬†Sam found it in a cupboard when we were sorting out and moving into the conservatory and was motivated enough to spend two days doing the activities so no complaints here.


We started with scales and plan drawing, inc of the rec.

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Much to amusement of the neighbours we did a trail around the area – me following chalk arrows at a discrete distance.



School detour - don't think anyone fell for it :D
School detour – don’t think anyone fell for it ūüėÄ

We also had fun looking at maps and playing with the compass.

And although there has been no recording on paper we have been reading and talking about the Victorians.  We started with a group session at Fareham Museum,


had a lovely trip to Farnham (on to do list to go back in nice weather and do the town trail)

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a day at the Victorian Festival of Christmas  and finished back at Fareham Museum looking at life in the workhouse.

We also had group sessions on Twas the Night Before Christmas and Germany and trips to Funcity and the park.


Oh and some work on seasons.

Hand and finger painting the seasons.
Hand and finger painting the seasons.

And a closer look at Autumn.

Autumn display
Autumn display

There has also been a lot of storytelling; verbally, written and the Kindle and not forgetting comic strips

20131337And if this is a dry spell, think how much we can do when I am motivated ūüėČ

Staunton Country Park

Well it was a bit of a stressful start to the day.  Having to get out by 8.30ish, make picnic, deal with builders arriving at 8, sick husband, people chopping and changing plans and a toddler hiding car keys.

BUT in the end it all came together, only lost one family, we were less than 10 mins late and as I’d allowed 15 mins between asking people to show up and workshop start time as far as the venue was concerned it didn’t impact at all, and actually as everyone was there waiting and had made a start with the money it was very easy.

Workshop was lovely, mostly out of doors – exploring the senses

Sight - matching a colour palette to colours in the walled garden
Sight – matching a colour palette to colours in the walled garden
Picking herbs and making a 'smelly cocktail - I had more than one thrust directly up my nose!
Picking herbs and making a ‘smelly cocktail – I had more than one thrust directly up my nose!
Just a sweet picture - not seen each other for a while as life has got in the way and obviously was felt
Just a sweet picture – not seen each other for a while as life has got in the way and obviously was felt
Listening (and climbing) - don't think the idea of silence was understood ;)
Listening (and climbing) – don’t think the idea of silence was understood ūüėČ
Blind centipede went down very well
Blind centipede went down very well
Making prints in playdough
Making prints in playdough
Treasure hunt in the rainforest/greenhouse
Treasure hunt in the rainforest/greenhouse

Then we had a lovely afternoon, picnicking…

Picnicking with extra guests
Picnicking with extra guests

…playing in the park and playbarn and chatting to old friends and new members. ¬†Then a long play in the maze.

At home, boys played minecraft together, Jack went to Scouts and Sam and I investigated the parcel that came from Learning Resources a few days ago. ¬†We played a game that is similar to Connect 4 but you have to use primary coloured tiles to make secondary colours – surprisingly difficult and good fun, and good reinforcement as Sam wasn’t entirely confident on the colour mixes. ¬†Then we looked at the base 10 kit, discussed what the pieces represent and then Sam built with it and I read to him. ¬†We’re reading Maroo of the Winter Caves¬†to tie in to our Stone Age theme in history.

Model home education day (after 9.30am ūüėČ ), they don’t happen that often!

And finally one more photo just because it is a lovely one.

Best Friends :)
Best Friends ūüôā