Tag Archives: Maths


This is the fairy that M made for the top of our tree!


She must have spent 30+ hours on it and there has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  She worked to a deadline too: she wanted to get it finished in time to put on top of our tree, which was being put up during Aunty S’ visit last weekend.

As the deadline loomed there were many moments when her face brightened as she remembered something exciting to do (she always has so many ideas and activities on the go) but she would then droop as she remembered she had to continue to work on her fairy.  By the final day she was weepy and had clearly had enough, but she still ploughed on until it was done.


Bear in mind that this was a self-imposed deadline, and a self-imposed project, and that she’s 9!  I asked her ‘if you could go back in time and tell yourself how hard it was going to be, would you still do it?’ and the answer was ‘yes’.

D (7) has also impressed me with her perseverance lately.  Over the last few years she’s really struggled with anything competitive because she can’t bear to be wrong and she can’t bear to lose.  The other night she asked me for an addition sum.  She couldn’t quite get the answer right though.  In the past she would have cried and raged that she NEVER wanted to do STUPID sums again.  I could see her eyes welling up so I offered to help her work it out.  She refused saying she really wanted to do it herself.  And she did, and she beamed. 🙂



Maths Thoughts

I mentioned last week that M was interested in trying Mathletics again (we had a subscription a couple of years ago but I let it lapse as M stopped enjoying it) and I managed to get a free 10 day trial for her.  I think her main motivation is so that she can do something her cousin A is doing, so it will be interesting to see how long the interest is maintained.

M hasn’t done any formal maths for 2.5 years, yet she is still capable of doing most of the maths that her schooled peer group are doing.  I’ve been feeling very smug about that: just think of all those hours she’s saved doing hours and hours of repetitive worksheets, year after year!

This week we’ve been learning partitioning – both of us know how to do this but what we didn’t know is how to work it out ‘formally’ i.e. in the way that Mathletics wants us to do it. I have been quelling rebellious comments of how there are so many ways to get to the right answer, and how boringly repetitive school maths is;  instead I’m thinking happy thoughts of how M has just assimilated this stuff just through living her life.

We’ve also covered skip-counting – M didn’t know what that was so when I described it to her she immediately said “Oh!  We played that in the park with Daddy!”

The girls asked to do sums in the car the other day – M wanted partitioning questions and D wanted subtractions.  After each sum we talked about how each of us arrived at our answer, and we were all different each time.  I love it: they’re free to do maths in whichever way they please!

During one of our Mathletics sessions, M asked “What is the point of maths?”.  I asked myself that question most days at school, but I found I could honestly answer that all the maths she’s used so far has been useful to her in her life, and that is why she has learnt it. So hurrah for unschooling and life-learning. 🙂

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m wondering about stopping this blog – I still haven’t decided yet but I have been trialing Instagram this week.  It’s a good way for me to track activities that don’t always fit into a blog narrative – sometimes posts can become a bit ‘listy’.  So if you need some daily Educating Sausages love, come and join me over there. 🙂


Grandma and Grandad

My parents came to stay for 4 days and we’ve been doing all sorts with them:

On Friday I had booked in an event at The Bank of England Museum.  It was billed as being for 5-7 year olds which suits both my two (as regular readers of this blog will know, M finds it hard to follow lots of information being given to her in a long stream so shorter, more simplified workshops suit her well).  Unfortunately the lady running the workshop was seemingly blind to the sea of 5-7 year olds in front of her and proceeded to give a 45 minute presentation aimed at 9-12 year olds (I know this because it was on the title page of her PowerPoint presentation!).  As such, we left after 20 minutes feeling frustrated and disappointed.

The museum itself entertained M for a bit but the interactive exhibits seemed to be too old for her (and me!) to understand.  M gave it a score of 5/10.

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D would much rather have not gone at all but gave the museum 10/10 because she got to play on her iPad. 😀


The day felt a bit Mary Poppinsy so after the bank we walked up to St Paul’s Cathedral: Grandma and M sang Feed the Birds while D and I kept our distance.

On Saturday we had a trip to our local Costa’s, a trip into Wimbledon to pick up a clothes order for D (she looks so old/smart now!) and playing at home for the rest of the day.

Grandma showed M how to make drop scones; Grandad tried to encourage D to play her guitar (better luck next time, Grandad), we had funny face competitions, musical statues and card games.


D has asked me to make another soft toy – this time it’s a pink Minecraft chicken.  Yes.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time on it already: the pattern has been done, the pieces cut out and some of the bits sewn together.  I can feel old rusty cogs grinding into action as I re-learn my pattern cutting skills.  This is D stuffing the chicken feet:


M also worked hard with Grandma – pruning our ‘Sleeping Beauty’ hedge, much to our neighbour’s delight. 😀

I’ve recently taken up Face Yoga in an effort to release tension from my face (it’s working!). Both the girls have been having fun joining in, and it even led to M asking what a 45 degree angle is.

Grandma had recently learnt that Emily Davison stayed near us on the night before she died under the King’s horse at Epsom, so we had a chat about suffragettes with M (more links to Mary Poppins).  M has also recently asked about yellow box junctions, which led to a very long and detailed explanation and a diagram!


We had a listen to a Radio 4 programme that Grandma had recommended – Word of Mouth on Radio 4.  I found an episode on Roald Dahl that kept the girls’ interest for a few minutes, particularly the story of what Roald Dahl said to Michael Rosen’s son when they met.

And then it was time for the Grandparents to leave!  Wowsers we packed a lot in.  They will be very much missed. 🙂

Edible Maths

M has been working hard at eating her 8mg of iron a day – just shows how far she’ll go to avoid taking medicine!  An off-shoot of this has been adding up the iron mgs each day and asking me to calculate how much she’s eaten.  Yesterday she got frustrated because she didn’t understand what I was saying when I said she’d eaten ‘1.4mg’.  In essence, she didn’t understand decimal fractions.  So I sat down and tried to explain it to her (all the while realising how rusty my mathematical thought processes are) – there were a lot of tears and anger but M determinedly persevered (and I kept my cool).  Well done us. 🙂

I tried many different ways to explain it (while wishing I had invested in an expensive fractions maths set I was eyeing up a few years ago) but what worked in the end was drawing out the ‘ones’ divided up into grids of 10, which she can then colour in as and when she eats.  She hasn’t grasped it totally but she’s comfortable with the concept and is happy to use the grids to track her progress from now on.

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We had a similar situation a few months ago when M decided she was going to use Khan Academy to learn maths – all was going well until it suddenly switched from simple additions and shape recognition to subtraction complete with carrying over (or regrouping as it now seems to be known).  I spent about an hour explaining the process and she got there in the end after a lot of angry tears but unfortunately it put her off Khan Academy for good.

I got through maths at school by parroting back everything I was taught, I had no real understanding of it and the whole thing seemed totally useless to me, though I can now appreciate how certain aspects of maths have everyday applications.   I love how M desperately wants to understand the roots of mathematical concepts and I can see how she’s gradually getting a grounding for maths that will mean she’ll eventually have a true understanding of it all.

Thankfully she can learn at her own pace, and work on concepts as and when her brain is ready to assimilate them.  What a privilege. 🙂

Butser Farm and Minecraft

It’s been an odd week, it always is when we have no classes to anchor us.  Days drift and merge but time flies by so that every day I’m surprised when bedtime comes around. 🙂

This week has of course featured Stampy, a lot.  And Babbaville – the latest developments are that M put the finishing touches to her boat, adding signs so the Captain, First Mate and crew know where to sleep; she reorganised her department store so that items are categorised better; and we turned the difficulty level up to ‘high’ because M wanted to overcome her fear of mobs (it worked and we got some nice enchanted armour out of it).

A couple of really noticeable skills from all this Minecraft playing: we’re now really good at working as a team – helping each other, dividing up jobs, and playing to each other’s strengths; and maths – the other day M was working out whether it is better value to smelt with 9 pieces of coal or a block of coal (which is made with 9 pieces) – turns out the answer is a block.

Also, the learning threads that come from Minecraft – M wanting to know what the correct terms for the second in command on a ship, the crew and where they sleep; and D wanting to make her own iBallisticSquid soft toy, which led to a trip to Tooting Market to buy fabric (always an experience with all the produce and smells).  D helped me to draw a cube net for the toy pattern and then I spent almost a whole day (!) making Squid.  It is very much loved which is a relief as there were heart-achingly silent tears when she realised the Squid toys that iBallisticSquid was promoting (on a two year old video) were no longer available. Phew.

Minecraft’s creative side is obviously huge:  M made a replica of a road this week and D spotted a natural island that was the shape of a dolphin – we just added fins and covered it in blue wool.

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Onto real-world news – J has taken the girls to the park quite a few times, and also to the hospital to visit his brother (who is now recovering from a quadruple heart by-pass!).


We have been on a trip to Butser Farm for a workshop organised by another HE mum.  We had booked it last year but M was too ill to go but we made it this time!  When we got there I was wondering ‘what was I thinking?!’ because there was FAR too much talking from the leader which didn’t engage either of my two (blank stare from M who couldn’t take in a word of it and D on the verge of tears from the boringness-missing-stampyness of it all).  BUT it all came together later on.  The girls did cordage, spinning, pottery (using real just dug up clay), copper jewellery making and clunching.

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It was an amazing trip but the following day D needed some serious Stampy watching to recover.  We had a birthday party to go to that day though but luckily our friend was thoroughly understanding of D’s need to escape into Stampy’s Lovely World – D was full of excitement about the party but in the end just couldn’t seem to cope with it.  She did enjoy swimming in their pool at the end though.

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M has been doing lots of paper craft – making tiny Washi Tape bags for her Sylvanians; doing her first paper cutting with my knife for J’s birthday card, and quilling.  I showed her how to use Instagram and Pinterest on her iPad and they’ve really inspired her.

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We also watched Star Wars for the first time to see what all the fuss was about (neither of us was that enthralled to be honest) and M asked to watch Doctor Who so we’ve started on the Christopher Eccleston series, which she really likes.  Unfortunately it’s far too frightening for D and even with headphones on she still ends up seeing images that upset her.  She won’t leave the room but I have to watch with M to explain what’s happening throughout so I think I will have to turn the sofa around next time we watch. :/

This marks the first time that M has requested to watch a film/programme she’s heard about, rather than the suggestion coming from me.  She’s noticing much more around her than she ever did before – I once commented that she wouldn’t ever be influenced by peers as she was so much in her own bubble, but this is no longer true: she picks up on every over-heard conversation and questions it, she asks about images she sees on the news, culture, behaviours and jokes.  She picks apart and examines everything!

And finally, we ended the week with a trip to the Common to meet friends we haven’t seen in AGES!  We had a lovely time and no-one fell in the lake which is always a bonus.

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Maths and English in our House

I stopped waving workbooks under the sausages noses about two years ago.  For me, the whole point of home education was to reinstate a love of learning (I say reinstate because M’s was wiped out by 2 years of school) and workbooks just weren’t cutting it.

Of course, there are other ways to teach Maths and English: there are countless ‘FUN!’ ideas out there.  But for me, setting up a game with the purpose of learning a concept feels too contrived.  The sausages would also be suspicious about it – they have a sixth sense for things like that.

In this house, home education has become about learning for the real world.  I can see where certain maths concepts come in handy just in day to day life but English as a subject?  Nope.  The only reason I can see someone needing to study English for 12 years is to pass an exam at the end of it.  You can appreciate plays and books without having to learn all the gubbins the government would like you to know.

Here’s a few examples of how we do English: D puts on plays using her toys as the characters; M recites and re-enacts entire film scripts; they make up rhymes; we watch films; we read books; they constantly (and I mean, constantly) critique plots and look for the reasons behind a character’s behaviour; they learn new words; they have even started critiquing sentence structure (!); they write cards, messages and sometimes emails to each other and family members.  Even Shakespeare made an appearance the other day: M asked me if anyone has ever died on their birthday and I remembered Shakespeare (possibly a myth though), which led on to me telling them how he died 400 years ago on D’s birthday and that he was such a good writer that people still love his stories today.  Both sausages were agog.  This is the sort of lead in that usually happens in our house – there may now be a request to hear one of his stories soon.  These are all the examples I can think of from the top of my head but there are probably more.

As for maths, again it’s all through day to day living.  A few examples: D was doing a count down for a race through her imaginary D-Land – she got to one and realised we weren’t going to make it in time so started dividing the one into fractions; M was making chocolate cornflake cakes and needed 100g of chocolate – 1 square was 5g so she started to work out how many squares she’d need; M made up a car game a few years ago – if you pass a car on the motorway you get 1 point (or 2 if it’s a lorry), when you get overtaken you take a point away (she recently modified the game to go into minus figures for when I’m driving slowly), the aim is to get to 100;  working out how many  seconds/minutes/days/weeks they have to wait for something (at the moment we’re on a very long countdown to D’s birthday – she just told me it’s 576 hours away); both girls do a lot of mental maths for fun and D’s calculator is one of her favourite toys; not to mention all the maths that goes on when playing Minecraft, board games, measuring for craft etc etc.

Putting my school goggles on, it seems miraculous to me that everything the sausages need to learn, they can learn through play.  Taking my school goggles off, of course it isn’t miraculous – it’s totally natural.

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Toys, Minecraft and Saving Up

How did it get to midweek already?  I keep meaning to blog more often but the days go by so fast!

Our weekend was spent mainly around the house although J did take the girls for a long play at the park on Saturday.  M was struck by a huge amount of lethargy on Sunday – it was v odd!  She was adamant she was too tired to go out so she played Animal Crossing, Facetimed her cousin A, watched films and played chess and Ludo.

The weather was beautiful on Monday and I had to go into Wimbledon for a couple of things.  M had already decided she wanted to buy some more Lego so she was very excited to come too.  D also came along and managed to walk all the way in without one grumble. 🙂  M spent her money on Frozen themed Lego which came with Elsa and Anna figurines – she is so chuffed with her choice and has rebuilt it twice already.  Usually she likes to build Lego sets and then sit back and admire them but last night her play developed further and she decided to narrate the story using her Frozen book and act out the whole film using her Lego!

Meanwhile, D had bought 4 more My Little Pony soft toys, which completes her set of ponies.  She is so pleased with them.  They have all had a wash and a hair cut already and now she is drawing out their ‘elements’ on card that will go around their necks.

After we had dropped M off at art class on Tuesday, we went to our usual cafe and D was telling one of the Mums all about the ponies’ personalities and the difference between unicorns, alicorns and pegasi – she has an impressive amount of My Little Pony knowledge!

M finished off her clay tablet at art class.  I absolutely love it!

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This week is the second week of M’s Minecraft course and her first assignment was to watch a video about peasants from Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives.  It’s a very good watch and Terry Jones is up M’s street, humour-wise – but she really struggled to watch for more than 5 minutes and ended up getting angry and upset about it.  I ended up watching the rest (I was finding it hard to answer all M’s questions as the subject is pretty new to me too) with the thought that maybe I could just summarise it for her to save her watching it again.  However, after a couple of days rest she was ready to try again and she managed to watch it all the way through!  What seemed to work was me pausing the video at intervals to tell her what was about to happen – she seemed to get less stressed about it all anyway.  She’s now got to make a peasant’s house in Minecraft using the information she’s learnt and she’s really motivated to give it a go. 🙂

I’ve been looking at our trampoline, which is well past it’s best, and wondering how we can afford to buy a new one and then I read about a 365 day saving challenge on a Frugal Facebook group.  You basically save 1p on day 1, 2p on day 2 and so on until you have over £600 at the end of the year.  So I emptied out my purse of change and the girls and I worked out each day’s savings (there were quite a few since we’re starting 2 months late).  It was an amazing maths exercise, not to mention learning the different coins.

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And to finish off, THE TOOTH IS FINALLY OUT!!!  Hooray!!

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History, Films and Maths

We’ve been watching a fair amount of telly over the last few days, interspersed with other activities.  I’m getting really into history documentaries at the moment – I prefer to watch them in the daytime, partly because the sausages sometimes take an interest and partly because I’m too tired to concentrate in the evenings.  This week I watched The World’s Most Beautiful Eggs: The Genius of Carl Faberge; Tutenkhamun: The Truth Uncovered; and Stonehenge: A Timewatch Guide. The girls tend to be busy when I watch telly which is nice as it means they can dip in and out of my programme, depending on how interesting they find it.

The girls, D in particular, have been watching all three of the Narnia films over and over and also Hotel Transylvania 1 and 2 – the questions that arise from films get more and more complicated!  M is starting to get a grasp on story telling and asks questions about certain scenes or characters and how they link into the plot.  I’ve said before that their telly watching isn’t ‘zoned-out-gorming-at-a-box’ type viewing: they’re really engaged and learning so much from it.  I sometimes use their film time to do some cleaning but recently I’ve been using the time to get some cross-stitching done so I’ve been around to answer tons of questions. 🙂

D was sick in the night this week – she appeared to be fine but a little tired the next day.  She spent a good couple of hours in recovery on Wednesday, watching Storybots Dinosaur Songs on YouTube.

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On Thursday we went to Wimbledon Common – it was absolutely freezing but D of course was boiling hot and took her coat of almost straight away :).  It was so quiet and peaceful there, particularly by the lake – it’s the first time we’ve been that way since D fell in and she was ok about it.  The entire walk took on a Minecraft theme with D marching ahead to collect diamonds and kill off mobs.

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We spent Friday morning at a friend’s house – after a bit of playing together and trying out their indoor swing chair and hammock, the girls got to work on designing t-shirts.  They had such a lovely time!

In the evening, in the middle of our bedtime stories, D’s new calculator arrived from Amazon – she was so excited and asked for sums immediately, M then wanted to join in too so I asked M the sum while D checked her answers on the calculator.  Hooray for maths in bed at 9pm. 😀

Maths and Cocooning

Our half term week has continued as it began – slowly and peacefully… sort of.

I can never get over how we seem to be doing so little but under the surface we’re actually doing quite a lot!

On Wednesday, J took the girls to the park in the morning and in the afternoon their friend B came over to play.  They began with Minecraft and then finished with a game of football in the garden. 🙂


On Thursday I gave up all hope of going out and mentally prepared myself for another day indoors.  D is definitely cocooning – I like that word, it sounds much more legitimate than needing a pyjama day!  The girls spent the day doing Minecraft, listening to ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ on Audible, and playing on their homemade boat.

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Another reason for the quiet day indoors on Thursday was because we had booked to go to a maths workshop at Curious Minds (our usual social group) on Friday.  We haven’t been to Curious Minds yet this year: by the end of last year, M had stopped playing with the other kids (she’ll play with them on separate play dates, but she just didn’t seem to want to play in a group) and D’s best friend stopped attending so D no longer wanted to go, so that sealed it for us really!  I can’t say we’ve felt lacking socially as we’ve had plenty of play dates to compensate but I have missed that ‘anchor’ to my week.  However, I feel sure that they’ll want to give it another go soon as we have a lot of happy memories there.

Anyway, back to the maths workshop – a lady had been brought in to Curious Minds to do a workshop that she does in schools, it was basically getting maths concepts across to the kids using balloons and bubbles.  It was a tad long (6 hours) and the lady rather ‘schooly’ but M really enjoyed it and stayed for the full day!  It was the opposite of fun for D though but she was really brilliant and played with friends outside for hours and hours.

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After a few recent class-type learning experiences, I think M might be wanting to try a regular class in something, which I will have to start looking into.  She really seems to get a lot out of that environment.  D on the other hand, has no wish to learn from anyone who is telling her what to do: all these people get the same label – “bossy”.  Her learning is very much self-directed, which is absolutely fine by me.

Parks, Cards and Half-Term

We made it to Morden Hall Park the day after writing my last post.  First of all we went to the garden centre so that M could choose some seeds to grow plants for her Brownie gardening badge – she’s decided to work towards a few badges in her own time!  In the shop, D was like a dog straining on a leash so we made some quick choices (mint and coriander) and headed for the park.  We ran around the playground, swung on the zipwire, played chase and cracked ice on the puddles.  M found a few daisies and made a chain and D showed me around her ‘house’ (a den in a bush).

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When we got back D put on a show for me with her toy bunnies.  At the moment, if she’s not doing maths, she’s watching films or playing with her bunnies.  The other night she was working out the 7 times table so she could figure out how many days were in 4 weeks. 🙂

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On Saturday, the girls were meant to have two play dates but one cancelled and only M went on the other one because D was in tears about her wobbly tooth.  So D stayed with me and worked on her favourite maths app.  M had a wonderful time with J and her friend B at Mercedes-Benz World.


D’s tooth finally came out later that day – hurrah!! However, we’re not totally in the clear as her second front tooth is hanging by a thread and it’s still affecting her mood.

M has been busy on Minecraft – we both learnt how to build a minecart station using redstone this week – we haven’t really done a lot with redstone yet and it’s pretty amazing stuff!

M has also begun creating a few cards so that she has a ready made ‘stock’ for peoples’ birthdays:

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And she made this pot in clay:

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This week is half term so I planned a few other activities instead.  On Monday, I had hoped to head into London but neither of the girls were wowed by my chosen destination and as it was freezing and dreary we stayed in.

Today I had planned to go and see some snowdrops at Gatton Park but D had an accident in the lounge and has been hobbling around ever since so I cancelled that too.  What was supposed to be a busy week is turning out to be the opposite!

However it has meant that I’ve had time to follow a few of my own interests:  I watched another episode of Shipwrecks (and M watched with half an eye too), I’ve done quite a bit of baking, and I finally finished my cross-stitch design!  I’m determined to get it finished by the end of the year…

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