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So…back to school?!!

I came back from camping this week to find my facebook stream filled with photos of H’s friends in their school uniforms, all off to school for the first time.  It really hadn’t dawned on me properly that she is now ‘officially’ home educated. With E, it was a huge decision, that we discussed at length, had to write scary, grown-up letters to  the school and LEA about.  We had her last day at school.  With H, although we had discussed whether she should go to school or not, ages ago now, when the registration letters first starting coming through last year, there was never a defined line where home education began. It was/is just all part of our day-to-day lives. She is, and always has been, home educated.

So the term has started.  Better get to work!

To celebrate the fact that we didn’t have to go back to school this week, we booked a camping trip with some friends, and had a fantastic few days away: swimming, playing and chilling out.

While we were away, BBC Radio Gloucestershire broadcast an interview they recorded the week before with me at our house.  A lovely lady called Rhiannon Fitz-Gerald arrived on our doorstep with a funky looking microphone, and herded me into the kitchen away from the noise, and asked me lots of questions about Home Education. She came from a lovely, balanced viewpoint, basing questions both on what she knew listeners would be interested in knowing i.e. is it legal? Do you worry about socialisation? You know the kinda thing! But she also asked more informed questions prompted by an email conversation I had had with her, when she first approached me about doing the interview.

Hi Amanda,

Thanks for getting back to me! Let me properly introduce myself and explain now that there’s no limit on how much I can type! I work to the Mid Morning programme on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. I came across your blog recently and found it really interesting reading about how you took your daughter out of school in favour of home education and then the fact you’ve been blogging about it over the past couple of years! I thought our listeners would be really intrigued by this and interested to hear about why you chose to do this and what it’s been like homes educating your daughter as well as hearing about it from her perspective.

If you’re interested in doing an interview with us, I thought it might be interesting to come and record a piece at your home and sort of record a bit of you with your daughter etc and get some nice atmosphere of you teaching her at home etc. How would that sound? It’s the perfect time in many ways because it’s the school holidays but I wonder if it’s the same for those being home educated?!?!

Let me know your thoughts,

Many thanks,
Rhiannon

The bit about recording the nice atmosphere of me teaching my daughter at home, set my alarm bells ringing! So I thought about it all for a while then replied:

Hi Rhiannon,

Sorry it’s taken me a little while to get back to you.  I think what you are suggesting sounds great, unfortunately I think you’ll be a little disappointed!  I don’t actually ‘teach’ my daughter, you will rarely find us seated at a table surrounded by workbooks.  We learn through playing, experiencing life, trying out ideas we’ve read about or seen in a book or tv.  If we have a question about something and don’t know the answer we look it up either in a book at home, going to the library or through Google.  I have 3 children at home all day, so my attention is split between my 2 daughters aged 7 and 4, and also my 2 yr old son.  Sometimes they play nicely together, but more often than not, they are all trying to 3 different things!  Our house is generally a very messy chaos, so I try and spend a lot of time out of it!
Most days we squeeze in some maths, literacy, science and history, but we don’t call them as such, and we don’t always do all of them.  We mainly aim to have fun, and learning just seems to happen on the way.  We follow a mostly autonomous educational philosophy, which means we support our children’s learning in any we can, but we don’t force them to learn anything, as we find they learn everything we want them to when they are ready.  I have a 7 yr old who has only just started learning to read because she is finally interested in doing so, and is ready.  I also have a 4 yr old (would technically be ready to start school in september, but isn’t), who in the last couple of weeks has gone from not ever holding a pencil, to figuring out how to and can now write the names of everyone in her family, and is well on the way to knowing every letter in the alphabet, and is really good at maths and numbers.
Today for example, my eldest daughter has set up and filled up a paddling pool in the garden, found everyone’s swimming costumes and got herself and 2 little ones changed and splashing 😉 She has built a bubble blowing robot with her dad, that she got for her birthday, then helped him rearrange all the furniture in the kitchen!  She has made a costume for her teddy from material I had in the cupboard and designed a ‘little red riding hood’ outfit for it too. She’s been to feed our neighbour’s cats, and posted a letter in the post box for me on her own. She took her dad and brother to the park, and helped me tidy the kitchen so she could do some painting. My 4 yr old daughter has done some painting, made a cake to surprise everyone while they were at the park, iced and decorated it. She’s played in the paddling pool and on the trampoline, and has played with her lego, and lined all the lego men up in a line, and has watch Tangled on DVD.  She has made me a card with her name and mine on, and she has drawn lots of pictures. The toddler has done drawing, followed his sisters, made a mess and made lots of noise!  So yes, while many other children are on holiday, our children don’t get a holiday as such, we make the most of all the opportunities for learning as they arise, whether that is term time or not, weekday or weekend.
I’ll have a chat to the kids about being interviewed.  My eldest tends to tell everyone that the reason she is home educated is because she didn’t like school dinners!  And when asked what she’s done today, mainly says ‘umm…nothing’!  She’s not very talkative unless she feels very relaxed and unthreatened.
I, on the other hand, as I’ve just demonstrated, am happy to talk about HE an awful lot.  I find the whole subject fascinating, particularly as no 2 families home educate the same way.  Every child is different, and so is every family.  Some do ‘school’ at home, some do a small amount of structured learning during their average week, but not every day.
Anyway, don’t know if any of that made any sense, but hopefully gives an overview of our home ed life,
Amanda

She seemed happy with this, and we did an interview with just me, and she had my email in hardcopy, covered in highlighter pen and scribbles!  Then we went through to the room full of children and she recorded E doing some impromptu reading from one of our ORT books (I think we only own 2), and she was far too good at it, so definitely needs to go up a reading band or two.  B had created a pot to make volcanoes with, and E had decorated it to look like a giant flower, then Rhiannon recorded us putting all the ingredients in: bicarb of soda, vinegar, and washing up liquid, and E’s fab commentary of what happened next.  L then demanded I drew Harry Potter all over our whiteboard, and H hid in the kitchen, refusing to come out. I knew that around 20 minutes of interview and play/noise had been recorded, but was to be whittled down to around 5 minutes, so I wasn’t sure what would actually come out of it.

I listened to the broadcast interview while sitting on a bench in the playpark at our campsite, where we managed to get a wifi signal, but it was had to hear properly. I’ve now, nearly a week later, managed to sit down and listen to it, and the phone interview with another home educator we know well straight afterwards, and I hope it helps someone who was listening, whether to inform those who’ve never really heard of home ed, or to help someone who had been looking for an alternative to the school system, for whatever reason that may have been.

So all that took us to Thursday. Then tired, and in camping-recovery, we set off on Friday to Over Farm and an ‘educational visit’.  The term always fills me with dread, as we’ve been to so many at different venues, some fab, some we’ve vowed to avoid in future! This trip however was fantastic. It started with us all perched on hay bales, and given an introduction, then we set off to have a look at some farm machinery, and their giant piles of onions! We weaved our way round to look at all their crops: runner beans, beetroot, carrots, pumpkins, courgettes, and got to pick an example of each to put in our bag to take home.  We had a trek through their crop of asparagus that had been left to go to seed, and got to run our hands through their lovely featheriness! Then got lost in the runner bean jungle. We we were let loose in their chicken enclosure, and got to touch the newly laid eggs in the nest boxes. We met their ostriches, and said collective ‘ahhhhs’ at the one ostrich chick being dutifully guarded by its dad, while the mum continued the vigil on her nest. We had lunch while perched on sawn-off tree trunks, then had a question and answer session with the farmer. Then the best bit, we all piled into the trailer, and were pulled by a tractor down to the animals, and were given a bag of food each, and were let loose on the goats, sheep, pot-bellied pigs, donkey, pony and cows. E and H absolutely loved it, learned loads, got to share the day with lots of their friends and will have some great memories of the day 🙂

Today, we went to the wedding of two friends of B, which was a good trial run for my brother’s wedding in a couple of weeks.  The kids were pretty good considering there were several tedious bits, but H sat down next to me at lunch, and decided to doodle on the place name-things.  She practised writing her surname, then the name of her guinea pig ‘Little Whistle’.  Turned out she could write ‘little’ without any help, and could write ‘whistle’ just by me saying the name of each letter. She does scare me sometimes!!

The wedding couple had put together a kids box full of craft things: stickers, glue, plasticine, holographic card, scissors, lots of fun! So we hardly saw E!

I think that’s enough for this week, Sunday is definitely cancelled, I’m just too exhausted!

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The highs of HE

This week has been fabulous in so many ways.

It started with our holiday in Devon over the weekend.  It was lovely to get away as a family and have some fun.  It was on the cheap so we stuck to mainly free things, which are usually more fun anyway!  E was desperate to visit a beach, so on the first day B took the girls just for a quick visit while I stayed in the car with a sleeping baby L (it was freezing outside!!).  They came back with loads of shells and really excited by the experience of being by the sea.

The holiday park was useless for open space, so we sought out somewhere to go to exercise the whirlwind toddler, and found CockingtonVillage and country park.  We spent a lovely time there, running around, trying out their fantastic park, and also exploring their craft centre.  We watched glass being blown and the amazing people at Our Glass making a lily-shaped vase and also a fish.  E was entranced!  L and I also watched a blacksmith at work.

Another day we decided to do something a bit different and went to explore some local caves.  As well as seeing caves underground first-hand, learning about stalagmites and stalactites, we learned about mining, fossils, cave painting and archaeology.

We also did several further beach visits to satisfy E’s rockpooling needs!

She found crabs, starfish, mussels, and loads of shells, including a huge scallop shell – a fab find!  Then we all went paddling!

The rest of the week had been a whirlwind of busy!  We’ve had tickets booked for ages for the Cheltenham Literature Festival this week.  We were due to see an illustrator called James Mayhew, but he cancelled at the last minute with tonsilitis, and was replaced by Shoo Rayner.  He is author and illustrator of children’s books, his latest being the Axel Storm series.  He also does a series ‘how to draw…’ youtube videos which are worth a look for some tips.  He was very talked animatedly about all the work that goes into book illustrations, and how many sketches (pages and pages) of faces he goes through before deciding on a style for a character.  He also gave a few tips on how to draw faces, where to put features, and how to draw the same face from different angles.  We came home and filled many sheets of paper with our attempts. E has now decided at the grand age of 6 that is going to be an illustrator!  We went afterwards to meet him and get him to sign some Axel Storm books.

We came out of there, and on our wander back to the car walked past the ‘SkyArtsHD’ tent, where they were pulling people into a free still-life workshop using charcoals.  E’s eye had been caught by the room filled with easels, so invited herself in.  We were a little early, so they let us pass the few minutes by testing out their 3D TV.  Woah it’s cool!  E and I were in love!  We then stayed for about 15 mins of the class, as I hadn’t put enough time on the car park ticket!  E had a great time messing about with the charcoals and proudly brought her work home.

We were back at the festival today for a session with Nick Sharratt, famed for Shark in the Park book, and illustrating many Jacqueline Wilson books, particularly Tracy Beaker.  The session was really good, involving drawing techniques and ideas, especially ways to make drawing fun: a seascape included jellyfish (strawberry jelly fish), angelfish (complete with wings and halo)…you get the picture!  Also a masterclass in rhyming poetry, coming up with alliterative lines, then finding a rhyming word to help form the next line:

Big, bouncy Blue fish,

swimming in the goo fish.

Wriggly, rosy Red fish,

wants to go to bed fish

Anyway, will see if we can come up with something for a few more colours!

We came out of that session, and again wandered past the Sky tent, and E asked to go in again.  The guy recognised us and welcomed us in.  It was a different person leading the workshop and he came over to E gushing about home schooling saying how many home edders he’d seen this week and how wonderful it was 🙂  When we tried to sneak out halfway through, E was treated like royalty and her picture was taken and sprayed with setting stuff, and carefully rolled up.  Mine was just shoved in a bag!  E is now demanding an easel and charcoals!

Apart from inspiring our creative side, the festival also put us in close quarters with large numbers of school children.  E was really uncomfortable with the noise levels as we waited for each session to start, she made a few comments about it always being like this at school!  Teachers always give me the shivers, there’s something about them 😉  I really enjoyed being the home ed family amongst all that uniformity!

We’re on a lovely HE high at the moment, I’ve really enjoyed this week!

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2010 in art and craft, camping, Literacy, Nature

 

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Home Ed Camp

Last week was spent in the company of lots of other home-ed families who live locally to us.  The kids had an absolutely amazing time: E was up and out from first thing in the morning until last thing at night.  H had fun exploring and playing. L loved the freedom of the open space and people to smile at! I had an exhausting time, trying to keep up with them all, and finally caught a break on day 4, when L decided to have a full-on sleep for over 2 hours.  It was bliss.  I even managed to read a whole 2 pages of my book!

Everyone had brought an activity or an idea for an activity, so there was always something to do, but most things evolved from ideas from the children themselves.  They put on a fantastic play on one of the days, complete with costumes made from a box of random material and bits from the scrapstore.  They came up with their own characters and (vague) storyline!  It involved a queen, 2 greedy princesses, a footballer, a donkey who pooed gold (!!), peter pan, and I’m sure others I’ve forgotten.  One of the parents acted as narrator to bring it all together.  It was fab.  And the next day they put on Act 2!

We had music sessions using amazing instruments brought along by another family. I constructed a den from bamboo and willow, which we then weaved material around.  Very therapeutic!  There were walks organised.  Geocaching trips.  Children’s yoga.  Ball games.  Slackrope walking.  Tug ‘o war.

One of the best bits were the communal meals in the evening, all cooked on the campfire.  I’m a rubbish cook, so it was amazing to watch it all coming together.  It’s a skill I need to learn!  And the kids ate their body weight in marshmallows.

Oh and someone booked the weather too!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2010 in camping

 

Another countdown to camping

Next week we’re going on a home-ed camp with other local HE families.  I think I’m looking forward to it…!  Last year it rained…lots.  I’m hoping this year is not the same!

This week has been up and down as usual.  The weekend was pretty atrocious, but we went to the Gloucester Carnival, and experienced the Colourscape which was pretty cool.  The girls loved it, and enjoyed looking at each other to see what colours they turned in each pod, and what colour their tongues where when they poked them out!  E also spied several cheerleading teams doing their stuff in the carnival parade and her eyes lit up.  We sought out a couple of kids the same age as E in the uniform and asked their opinion of it all, they thought it was fab.  E’s eyes were out on stalks as she watched them do cart wheels and handstands.  She’s volunteered herself to go on one of their ‘cheer camps’ to try it out for a day to see what she thinks!

Sunday we went to a Big Lunch organised by B and his team where we live.  It was great, though think it could have done with a bit more community sharing, food-wise.  There were all sorts of stalls to look at, fire engine, police car and ambulance too.

Monday I decided we needed to get out and about and took the kids to At Bristol as we always have a fab time there, and on monday afternoons they do a Toddler Time deal, where adults get in half price, and under 5’s get in free, which makes it a really good deal compared to normal prices!  We decided to break from the norm and start with the top floor first, which worked really well, as we have done the bottom floor exhibits to death I think!  All of us had great fun finding stuff we’ve seen before and wanted to see again, and finding new stuff.  They were testing this great exhibit, where there was a metal bar sticking out of an iPod.  You slid a straw over the metal bar, bit down on it, and put your fingers in your ears and you could hear the music!!  I bet they had a hidden camera beside it, as it was hilarious!!!

When we came home, we had a short burst with E’s new toy, a Leapfrog Tag reader.  I was having a play with it to see what you could do.  E took over one of the games, where it was telling her to point at certain words, and she was pointing to them before it had finished each instruction…methinks she can read far more than she is letting on 😉  We moved onto a ‘letter blends’ game.  I had no idea there was such a thing, but they were fr, pr, br, tr etc.  Find the blend that starts princess, tray, frog etc.  She got them all straightaway.  She’s definitely getting somewhere with this reading malarkey.

Yesterday we stupidly decided to have a quiet day at home – big mistake!  We ended up all driving eachother crazy!  We escaped for E’s swimming lesson in the nick of time!  She had a great time as usual.  She said that there was a girl there who cried throughout the lesson as she had been ill that week and her mum had still made her go!  She asked if I would make her go if she was ill.  I said that there would be no point as she wouldn’t enjoy it, and we only go because she enjoys it!  This led her to tell me later that she was actually glad she was home educated, not going to school like our neighbour.  She commented that schools seem to have a lot of holidays, but they still have to go every day, and she might have something more fun to do.

Today my lovely friend volunteered (in return for cheesecake!) to look after the girls while I took L to the scrapstore to find stuff for an activity at next week’s camp.  It was a successful trip, and came back laden with loads of stuff I didn’t intend to!!  We had a crafty-type afternoon, but E was a grumpy soul for most of it, as she had gone to bed too late the night before. Sigh.  Oh well, all in bed early this evening so hopefully tomorrow will be brighter!

Oh, and today I had my first outdoor walk with a toddler for about 2 and a half years.  I’d forgotten what it was like.  3 steps forward, and 10 steps back, having to touch his shadow, the newly laid tarmac, every bollard, funny looking stone, peer in every ditch, carry on, then turn back and peer in again, walk up everyone’s garden path in turn…a 2 minute walk took about 15.  Baby L you are exhausting!!

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2010 in art and craft, camping, Literacy, Science

 

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Post 101

We’ve had a busy old week.  We’ve managed to fit in a family birthday celebration, a short camping holiday, a mini-olympics for E, a home-ed meet, a gym session for H, and birthday party planning for E.  In between all this, there has been lots of learning going on!

We picked up our box of books on the Tudors from the Library Education Service this week.  It has a fab range of books, and also a DVD on Tudor Life produced by Channel 4.  E had this in the machine within seconds, and has watched it several times.  Her friend came over to play, and she excitedly told him that they could go and watch her new dvd on the tudors…he looked horrified!  Obviously not his idea of fun 😉

E has done her new reading trick again, and read a page or 2 of one of her favourite books to me, while double checking the words to match the word she was saying to the one on the page.  Definite progress!

She also had a writing moment, and wrote the name of the moment Lily Rose (H has decided she wants to change her name to this??), but spelt it: Lili Ruos.  And also her constant companion Crabbie was written as: Crabe, which I couldn’t really fault!

H is learning letters by the second, and has got her numbers pretty much taped.  I tested her on some numbered parking spaces while we were on holiday, and she can recognise all the digits 0-9 now.  She’s fab!

This week I’ve finally put up a clock in the kitchen that I bought ages ago which has o’clock, five past, ten past etc printed round the outside.  I’m going to have a go at getting the girls to learn how to tell the time…we’ll see how I get on!

Today E discovered an origami giftset that I bought for £1 (!!!) at a car boot sale a few weeks ago.  Luckily the instruction booklet is actually easy to follow, unlike many I’ve come across before, so she and I have spent many happy minutes constructing cat faces, dog faces, jumping frogs, beating hearts, flowers etc.  I love car boots!!

Tomorrow is E’s 6th Birthday :-O  Scary stuff, how did she get that old?!  She is VERY excited!!

We’ve had a couple of ‘moments’ today, where E and I were definitely not seeing eye to eye.  I went shopping this evening and came back to find that she had asked B if it was ok to use the hoover, and had cleaned the sitting room, including moving all the sofas out to clean round them.  Apparently she thought it might make me happy!  See she’s a softie really, underneath her argumentative, combatative exterior!!

 

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There’s nowt like a plan

I seem to be hoarding ideas and plans at the moment.  We are planning our summer of camping trips – which is fun!  I’m really looking forward to it all.  We’re planning a trip to the Lakes later in the summer, and we came across this yurt site during our search…we are very tempted!

Meanwhile, after a ‘quick’ stop at Tesco, I came out with a trolley-full of craft stuff as they had loads of kits on clearance.  The girls thought Christmas had come early! That should keep craft needs at bay for a short while.  I then had a longer stop at Sainsburys, and kept to my shopping list this time, apart from 5 packs of value soap, 4 in a pack for 14p or something – not bad, and helps that I’d been planning to try out soap carving for ages since seeing it on the Tate Modern for Kids site.  Then, I someone on Netmums was giving away a box of mini mosaic bathroom tiles, so I went to collect them last night, as making mosaics is another thing that’s been on my to do list.  E discovered them in the car today and was fascinated, as she’d taken part in a mosaic workshop at the Wychwood Festival so knows what its all about!  Just got to get B to fish some half used grout from the back of the garage, and some mdf, and we’re away!

Tomorrow we are planning to rearrange the garden, if we can take the heat, as the rabbit is driving us crazy as she’s just realised she’s a rabbit and is suddenly digging for freedom, so we need to work out some under fence protection schemes as next door’s dog is expecting her in their garden at any moment :-S

Today was spent planning a bbq at Cannop Ponds (see list of our favourite places on the right)…but realised when we got there that we hadn’t packed the bbq…ah well, the best laid plans etc etc!  There was plenty of paddling and exploring the woods.  E managed to lose her crocs twice – B fished them out of deep mud she had jumped in, then had to retrieve them again when she managed to kick one into the pond – gah!  We’ve decided we need to try out the Cannop Cycle Centre as we saw tons of families pedalling along together on all sorts of bikes, gatorbikes, trailers etc – it looked loads of fun!

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in art and craft, camping, Nature

 

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I love pillows!

We’ve just got back from a week camping, and I had a wonderful nights sleep last night in my own bed, with a sprung mattress, a duvet and pillows!!!  We forgot the pillows…definitely need to remember them next time.

We spent the first 2 nights at The Wychwood Festival, then we relocated the tent to the south coast of Cornwall.

The festival was fantastic, we all had a great time, and the weather was glorious.  Plenty to do for the whole family, and I even experienced my first silent disco.  This was so surreal – a huge crowd of people, all wearing headphones, all singing at the tops of the voices to music you couldn’t hear!  There were 2 DJs to choose from, so everyone was singing and dancing to different music.  You’ve got to try it!  And we got within inches of the wonderful Justin Fletcher and his spotty, yellow satchel.  B tried to cajol E into pinching his bum, and she was having none of it, she was too busy pushing herself to the front of the gathered crowd.  She was wearing a brightly coloured top, so I now I need to keep an eye out for her in the October series of ‘Something Special’!

The lovely Justin

Setting up our tent in the crowd was an experience, and E decided immediately that she needed to make friends, so took H by the hand and stood themselves in a main thoroughfare and waited for friends!  In true E style, she befriended every child in the surrounding tents, and kept meeting them all round the festival grounds – you go girl!  I don’t know…these home ed kids, they really struggle with socialisation…!!

The move to Cornwall was a shock, as the weather was less than glorious and we had to put our tent up in a howling gale. Campsite was on the top of a cliff with absolutely no shelter, the gale was followed by torrential rain, so the first 2 nights we sat in our tent feeling very sorry for ourselves, grumbling that we hated camping!  After that the weather picked up and we escaped to Falmouth thinking that we could find indoor solace at the Maritime Museum, but after driving through the rain we arrived in the sunshine, and spent a happy couple of hours on the beach, before wandering round the harbour and the beautiful boutiquey shops.

L in his element!

The next day we went to the Eden Project, as we had really loved our last visit 2 yrs ago.  We had picked up a 2-for-1 voucher the day before so this softened the blow of the cost!!  But other than that, another fab day.  We spent most of the time exploring the ‘outdoor biome’, learning from the last visit to give the ‘rainforest biome’ a wide berth!  L had fun practising his walking round the ‘mediterranean biome’.  They girls loved all the colours, smells and textures of all the plants and the thoughtful little paths for kids to explore and discover.  It is a gorgeous place.

E and the giant Bee

On our last day, we packed up the tent and B was all for heading straight home as it was a bit blowy, but I persuaded him to let us hit the beach one last time.  We had driven past a beautiful looking bay a couple of days before, secluded, with its own cafe and parking on the beach front. We ended up being there for hours!  It had a fantastic array of rockpools which E loved exploring.  We found sea anemones, crabs, mussels, fish…lots to keep us urban dwellers happy!  She’s returned home with a huge beach collection of multi-coloured sea weed, crab legs (!), shiny rocks, and cockle, limpet, mussel, razor fish shells.

Happy times 🙂

E and her pink seaweed

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2010 in camping, Home Education, Nature

 

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