Category Archives: December

Ya Boo Sucks to the HE Unbelievers

One of the most useful things I’ve found about writing this blog is how it has helped me to gather my thoughts.  I find I have SO MUCH to think about that it’s a relief to get those thoughts out to stop them running round and round my head.

Another useful thing is that it’s a great record of what we’ve been doing.  Some days I feel as if we haven’t really done a lot but when I begin writing it down I realise how much we’ve done.  I don’t feel very busy most days, the pace of life compared to school days is incomparable: no early starts, stressful school runs or angry homework battles.  But looking back on our first 4 months in home school… we’ve been so busy!  But it’s not like ‘school-busy’: it’s fun-busy; exciting-busy; and happy-busy.

We started HE for 2 reasons: firstly, because M wasn’t interested in anything she was learning at her £10k a year school; and secondly, she was miserable there.  Given that both girls clamour to show off their work to anyone who walks through the door I think we can definitely say that both girls are engaged in their learning now.  As for the latter, M is 200% happier and calmer.  She wakes with a smile on her face rather than looking like an angry grump.  D no longer wakes with the question ‘is it a nursery day’ followed by tears.

For my own pleasure, I have trawled my posts and written down EVERYTHING we have covered since home-school officially started in September (we still use the term ‘home-school’ though I can see it is nothing like school as we know it).  I have to say it is an INCREDIBLE list, and I am feeling quite smug about it.  This is a ‘ya-boo-sucks’ to those teachers who said: ‘but you’re not a teacher, ARE YOU?!!!’; ‘Oh your poor children: they really need to be socialised’; and not forgetting the corker ‘but she’ll [M] be missing out on debating skills in Y6’…

  • English: Reading, Reading Eggs, Junior Scrabble, crosswords, word search, letter writing, library Summer Reading Challenge, handwriting skills, verbs, nouns, adjectives, antonyms, compound words, poetry, using a dictionary, alphabetising words and writing book reviews.
  • Science: colours/mixing colours, sundials, cooking using the sun, structures, cooking, leaf identification, Butterfly iDial, growing a courgette, germs on hands, digestive system/body organs, how lungs work, how your diaphragm works, gloop, bubbles, nutrition, making butter, solar system, and the weather.
  • Maths: Mathletics Year 2 completed, Numberjacks Mission to Learn, Numberjacks CBeebies Programme, 2D/3D shapes, times tables, Arithmasticks, addition & subtraction, division & multiplication, bar charts and tallies, counting to 100 and beyond, reading the time (analogue and digital) and regrouping/borrowing.
  • P.E.: trampolining, judo, swimming, cycling, ice skating, dancing, gymnastics, climbing trees, parks and walks.
  • Art/Creative/DT: watercolour, oil pastels, poster paints, Klee, Mondrian, using shapes in pictures, cross-stitch, collage, junk modelling, air drying clay modelling, rangoli patterns, tessellating patterns, making a pulley and marble run.
  • Music: Peter & The Wolf, The Nutcracker and Melody CBeebies Programme.
  • Day trips: Wollaton Hall, (Nottingham) Newstead Abbey (Nottingham), Kensington Gardens (London), Kew Gardens (London), Wimbledon Common (London), Cutty Sark (London) and Painshill Park (Surrey).
  • R.E.: Diwali
  • ICT: LightBot (programming), Mathletics, Reading Eggs, Leapfrog computer games, Use of various Android tablet painting/drawing apps
  • History/Geography: staircase historical timeline, map reading, map making, India, passports including flags of countries we’ve learnt about
  • Games: chess, pirate ships and ship wrecks, travelling the world on a raft with a globe, spies, Lego, schools, Snakes and Ladders, shops, dolls, Connect 4 and jigsaws
  • Life skills: tying shoe laces, telling the time, doing up zips
  • Clubs: social groups once/twice a week, judo, swimming, nature club, and chess
  • Random conversations: death and inheritance, theft, fences and prisons, viruses, supply and demand, slavery, contracts and rental agreements

I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring!

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Do we have an official Christmas holiday?

For the last few days I’ve been ruminating on what to do over the Christmas holidays.  Do we stop all structure in imitation of a school term?  Or do we carry on as we are, with some semblance of structure?

Our natural rhythms appear to have answered this for me, because even though we live life at what I consider to be a gentle pace, it seems that actually it may not be so gentle after all: M is so tired she can barely manage simple addition in Mathletics; and I for one don’t have any mental space beyond making dinner and hanging the washing up.

Out of all of us, D leads the most simple life and probably spends 90% of her day playing.  Not that she isn’t learning anything, but she certainly doesn’t do as much formal learning as M (which is how it should be considering her age!).

Consequently, M and I are very ready for a holiday, while D has bags of energy.  She is desperate to do Reading Eggs and has to be coaxed off in order to give her brain a rest.  With this in mind I’ve resolved to take the holidays as they come.  If they want to do formal work, they can, if they want to watch Tinkerbell all day, they can.

I’m sure some of you are thinking that you don’t really ‘holiday’ from home education because learning is everywhere, but this Christmas we will be at my parents’ in Nottingham for 2 weeks and so for us it will be a break from the norm.  Knowing the sausages, they will be learning in every which way: they are unstoppable.

Here are a few snapshots of what we’ve been up to today in Nottingham:

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There’s been a long game of chess this afternoon which, according to Granddad, is “very tense”. M didn’t seem in the least bit perturbed though.  Granddad has asked to continue the game in the morning, ha ha.  Watch this space to see if he will be beaten by a 6 year old…

Yesterday, Tolworth Roundabout. Today, The Shard!

So today found us in a much more sophisticated environment – we went for a meal in The Shard!  For those who don’t know, The Shard is currently the highest skyscraper in the EU with 87 floors.

We went to the Aqua Shard restaurant on the 31st floor, and even from there the views were incredible.  The food and the service were nothing to write home about but J wanted to give the girls a proper grown-up dining experience, which he succeeded in doing.  And we all admired the views.  Well, I say ‘all’, but J has vertigo.  Why you would book a restaurant on the 31st floor if you have vertigo beats me…

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I am happy to say the girls are becoming seasoned Londoners: tackling the crowds and the long tube journeys with ease.  They recognised quite a few sights from The Shard such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge, the Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral.  Next job for me is to get them fitter so we can do MORE visits to London!

An ‘Exciting’ Visit to a Roundabout

D has been longing to visit Tolworth roundabout for ages.  Yes, really.  We drive through it every week on the way to our Thursday group.  They’ve recently redeveloped it with trees, fencing and stripey pathways which is probably why D was attracted to it.  I needed to pick up a bit of food to see us through until we leave for Nottingham on Thursday so I suggested that we visit Tolworth roundabout while we’re out.

So the girls had a quick run around on the stripey pathways, marvelled at the fact that they were walking under a road in the subway and held their noses at all the delightful smells which came our way.  Bizarrely, they actually seemed to enjoy the trip!!

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We’ve had a very lazy few days as the girls are still recovering from a very full on Friday at a friend’s birthday party and then a very late night celebrating their Nanny & Granddad’s wedding anniversary at a restaurant.

Mentally, I’m done.  I am ready for the Christmas holidays!  For the next few days I will be packing and sorting until we hit the road on Thursday.  I don’t have the brain power to think about projects or anything.  I just want to sit down with a glass of ginger wine and watch a movie.  However, we have got one more VERY exciting trip before we leave, I will leave you on tenterhooks until tomorrow…

One last thing, here is a picture of the Christmas lanterns the girls made the other day.  Gorgeous, aren’t they?

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Painshill Park

Just a short post to say we had a lovely time at Painshill Park today.  The fog made it beautifully atmospheric.  We went on a hunt for Santa’s Grotto, which was led by a mad elf.

After all the walking, the girls were too cold and tired to continue after lunch so we went home, drank some hot chocolate and then headed out to swimming lessons.

Little things:

After reading a Wonderwise book in bed tonight, D told me that she would like to have seen a dinosaur rotting underground.

Maths with ‘Hen-Peas’ and Lego

Hi all, another Christmassy day to day!  The girls were taken by their Aunt Sh to a Santa show at Wimbledon Theatre this afternoon as an early Christmas present so I got a few hours to do sneaky Christmas things while the sausages weren’t around.

Knowing that they would be occupied for the afternoon, we got some maths done this morning.  M came unstuck when she tried to do some subtraction using numbers to 20 in Mathletics so I got her going on a few simple sums in her maths book.  This led on to teaching her ‘regrouping’, or ‘carrying over’ as it was called in my day.  I did show her this a few months ago but she seemed to have forgotten!  I got the Lego out and we went through it a few times and after a while she seemed to grasp it.  She insisted on trying one herself and then had a strop because she couldn’t do it.  Ho hum.  I’ll try again in a few days…

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Meanwhile, D has been desperate (!) to do some work on times-tables so I got her going on the whole concept of multiplication today and she really enjoyed working the sums out using chick-peas (which she rather cutely mis-named hen-peas).

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A lot more Lego was played today.  There was quite a silly argument and a fall-out between the girls over the Lego school M has built.  I refused to get involved as the girls are pretty good at sorting themselves out.  It ended up with D sobbing in bed upstairs so M (off her own back) wrote a very sweet note to her which said ‘I’m very sory’ and they came downstairs the best of friends again.

After dinner tonight the girls made a Christmas lantern, I’ll post a picture of them tomorrow when they’re dry.

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We read another Wonderwise book at bedtime today called ‘What’s Under the Bed?.  It has so much information in it but is presented in such a friendly way that it seems more like a little story.  The book went down really well with both girls, M said she would love to go fossil hunting and D loved looking at the picture of tree roots.  It never ceases to amaze me how keen they are to learn!

Little things:

Aunty Sh told me today that when she takes the girls out she gets lots of compliments about how well behaved they are.  I’m well aware of how excellent they’re behaviour is but it’s lovely to hear from someone else!

“Oh No, Not That Boring Book” or “What’s an Assembly? It Sounds Hard”

Today I was determined to get some formal work done.  As Christmas draws near there seem to be so many ‘Christmassy’ events going on, plus our usual weekly events, that formal work will no doubt suffer until the New Year.  I have a mild sense of panic about this but in my heart of hearts I know that they’re already ahead of their peers in most subjects.  However, I can’t get rid of the feeling that I ought to be working them hard in order to prove the worth of home education.  Not sure who to, maybe to myself?!

Amazingly, M was in a similar mood to me and got to work on Mathletics, announcing that she wanted to get a certificate today.  She got going on her new Year 3 levels and managed to finish one and got a certificate too.  It was surprisingly easy for Year 3?!  We then had a break to get dressed and she obligingly agreed to read a chapter of her ‘Little Princess’ book.  Meanwhile, D was playing with her Ariel mermaid doll and listening to M’s story.

D asked if she could do Reading Eggs but once she got onto the reading book at the end it was an absolute struggle to get her to finish it.  It was like getting blood out of a stone.  It’s at times like that when I do wonder if I should just suggest we do it another time, or if I should force her to plough on.  Today I chose the latter, with the promise that she could play on the Numberjacks Mission to Learn website afterwards.  Hilarious that I can get her to read a book with the promise of doing maths at the end!  Such is the wonder of Numberjacks.

While D was on the computer, M practised her handwriting (by request) and then we did a bit of work on fractions.  I don’t think I mentioned that we did a bit of fraction work last week but M stomped off in a huff because it was too hard.  So today we tried again but this time I got her to work it out in Lego pieces.  She loved it!

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This soon led to more Lego playing and both girls settled down to a VERY long game of schools.  In American accents.  M’s newly built school is much loved by both girls, she’s even built an assembly hall in there.  D later said to me ‘What’s an assembly?  It sounds hard.”  Funny that she may never experience one.  What a shame that would be…

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It was only 10.30am (?!) at this point so we had coffee time and then I suggested we read the Weather book and perhaps continue with our lapbooks.  Which was greeted with groans and ‘Oh no, not that boring book’.  I was amazed as they both loved doing their weather project a couple of weeks ago?!  M decided she’d like to do her lapbook but quickly abandoned the idea when drawing lightning became too difficult.  Hmm, I think I need to approach this from another angle but I’m not sure how yet.

Aunty Sh and a lot of other relatives came to pick M up to take her to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park this afternoon.  She was very excited to go!  We felt D was a little young to cope with the long journey and late night but hopefully we’ll be able to go next year.

We had a very quiet afternoon as D was so busy with Lego, she was utterly absorbed for over an hour.  She made a ‘Van-o-controllery’, as you can see:

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We read D’s beloved ‘See Inside Space’ book for her bedtime story tonight.  She made a few very cute/strange comments about how perhaps Jupiter should share it’s moons out with the other planets since it has so many; how she gets mixed up sometimes between Yuri Gagarin and Dennis Tito; and how she would like to see Einstein’s dead body.  Yeeessss, bit of a fascination with dead bodies at the moment, I think.

M arrived home shortly afterwards, full of excitement about her trip and wanted to add a few words to the blog:

It was great at Winter Wonderland.  We went on about 3 train journeys to get there.  When we got there, there were lots of rides to go on.  I went on the carousel that had ponies on it that went round and round and round.  Then I went on a seat that went round and round and it once went up, that’s when I felt dizzy!  After it stopped, I went in a Fun House, it had about 6 layers.  Once, the roof went down and the floor went up!  After we’d gone all the way up and all the way down again, we went in a path and at the sides there were ice sculptures and it was -8.  The best bit of it was the stocks.  [Cousin] put his tongue out in the photograph.  After that we went on all the trains to home.  The end.

Ice Skating and Grumps

Yesterday, J had the morning off work so he took the girls to the park before our Thursday group.  The girls also fitted in quite a bit of Lego, M is constructing a school (!) and D is allowed to help quite a bit.  It’s taken quite a few hours so far and looks very good!

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At our Thursday group the girls made more pomanders and M ran around like a wild child for 2 hours.  D has a bit of a run around but tends to stick close to me at the group.  She is very chatty with everyone, particularly the adults, I just assume she will gain in confidence in time.

When we got back, I dropped them off at their Aunty Sh to have fun with their teenage distant cousins who are over from Australia.  When they returned home they both had their hair plaited and pinned, and make-up and nail varnish on.

This morning I ran around tidying the house, does it look any different?  No.  Don’t know why I bothered.  I like to think that home educating excuses me from having a tidy house anyway: messiness looks more creative.

Today, we left at 11am to drive over to Guildford Spectrum for a home-ed ice skating session.  We’ve been meaning to go for ages but haven’t got around to it for various reasons.  D didn’t want to do it but M was very keen because her friend M would be there.  We arrived at around 12 and M was out on the ice straight away.  She made it all the way around the rink (gripping the sides) on her own.  I didn’t skate, partly because I am hopeless at it, and partly because I had to look after D, but I really felt for M out there – she was so valiant: trying something completely new all on her own and with such perseverance.  Our friends turned up a little later and so she then had company on the rink and went from strength to strength.  I was very impressed with how much she progressed during the 2.5 hours we were there!

D stayed with me, utterly bored and we were both freezing!  She has no desire to try new activities – I’m hoping the fear of it will pass as she grows older.  We read Ant and Bee together (D reads the red words and I read the black).  She was really keen (probably because she realised it was the only entertainment she was going to get!) and read a few black words as well as the red.

M really enjoyed skating and is very keen to go again.  I’m less keen because of the drive to Guildford but I’m sure we can manage it every few weeks or so.

I’ve had a fair amount of grumpiness from M, starting after her bedtime story last night when she asked me to explain a word to her.  There is a general routine to M’s anger where she asks me a question, I answer it, she says she doesn’t understand (in a rising panicky voice) so I try to explain again, then she interrupts my explanation with some angry retort to tell me to stop explaining.  Last night I was too tired to respond like an adult: I just said she was rude and went downstairs without another word.  We’ve had similar routines today.  She’s very bright and most things come easily to her so I know she finds it very hard when she actually doesn’t understand something but its very frustrating for me!

Lego and Pomanders

Yesterday we were out all day, hence no post.  We somehow managed to leave the house at 8.45, it was really hard!  I don’t know how we ever managed the school run before…

The morning was spent at Sutton Sports Village where M had a great time trying out gymnastics, tennis and dance.  It was a free taster session to assess demand from HE families for certain sports.  Gymnastics was M’s favourite so hopefully we’ll be able to sign up for a class after Christmas.

After that we popped over to my father-in-law’s for a few minutes, hoping to see the girls’ Nanny and her sister who is over from Australia for a few weeks.  Unfortunately they were out so we left to go to a friends’ house we’d been invited to.

We spent a few hours at our friends’ house and the kids made paper chains and snowflakes, while we mums chatted.  M didn’t want to leave and it was 5.30pm by the time we got back.  I decided to treat ourselves to fish and chips and ice-cream.

Today was a bit slower: we made pomanders, played Lego, did some Reading Eggs and M finished the Year 2 level on Mathletics!  I decided to make a roast for lunch (why??) and it was all a bit hectic while I cooked so I put the telly on for half an hour which made D cry because she wanted to carry on doing Reading Eggs.

After lunch we headed for David Lloyd to do a few pages in the girls’ workbooks and then go to swimming lessons.  We got back at 5.30pm and the girls headed straight back to Lego and pomanders!

Actually, having written down all our activities, it doesn’t seem like a slow day at all…