Category Archives: Literacy

There’s No Place Like Space

We’ve spent the day having a fantastic time with friends at a soft play centre. Definitely got our money’s worth with over 4 hours racing up obstacles to zoom down slides.

Sadly this led to sleeping in the car on the way home, and children who are up far too late – how dare they?!!!

We are meant to be bringing our project on Oceans to our Home Ed group tomorrow. E has done hers, not sure it will make much sense when she tries to explain it to others, but she’s done lots of work thinking about it!

H has refused point blank to even think about it. We had a group trip to Weston Super Mare’s SeaQuarium on Monday in order to spark some inspiration. We learned loads about rays:


Mermaid’s Purses


Up close and personal with Mermaid’s Purse (Ray Egg)


Newly arrived (at SeaQuarium) baby rays – 1 yr old approx.


Adult Ray (thornback?) – approx 10yrs old

and saw lots of other creatures that sparked lots of questions, including a pile of sharks who were not waking up for anyone!


Pile of sharks


Fascinating close-up of sleeping shark’s teeth!

H decided last night that her project was going to be on rays, so we looked at google images of them. She was amazed at the different shapes, sizes and patterns of them.

Earlier in the day, we were at our weekly Home Ed social meet, playing with playdough, when H announced that she wanted to make all the planets out of playdough. She carried on thinking about what colour she would have to make to create Saturn, and then how she was going to make the rings.

Today, after our exertions, I was hoping for an easy night. No such luck! She chose a current favourite to read at bedtime: Dr Seuss’ ‘There’s no place like space!’. Every page provoked more questions, and I could see an easy bedtime slipping away! She decided that the planets needed to be renamed after their characteristics. The Earth is now ‘Spinny’, Mars is ‘Sneezy’ because of the dust etc. She understood that the ring on Saturn was made up of rocks and ice, and that you could stand on it, but not on Saturn itself (it’s made of gas, and light enough to float on water), but she wanted to know if you could pick up the ring and throw it. I explained briefly about centripetal forces (compared it to Roald Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile being spun round and round in a circle until it became a blur), and that it wasn’t a solid thing.

We then moved onto the sun being a star, and had to run to the window to see if we could see any stars. L grasping the fact that the tiny stars were big hot suns, just very far away. He thought this was quite funny!

We talked about the moon, and H was eager to know why people used to say it was made of cheese! I had no idea?!

We talked about rockets, and how we know so much about the moon because we are close to it and have been able to land there and learn more about it. Whereas Pluto, in the book, is described as being ‘thought to be covered in ice’. H wanted to know why we didn’t know for sure.

I then escaped, hoping her barrage of questions would lead to deep sleep. Nope. She followed me down, after I’d just had a lightbulb moment.

Maybe there was a way to link the Ocean’s project we need to contribute to tomorrow, and satiate this fascination with space and the solar system. The moon. Ocean tides. Google led us here and it did good:

She watched it. Fascinated. Then I had to explain what a pickled onion was! She then decided to use google to find out more about the sea. She looked at some images of odd sea creatures, until she got grossed out. Then found a video of fishermen at sea, being bashed about by the waves. She asked about floods, and the big floods. I asked if she meant Tsunamis. Turned out she did! She started telling me all about a CBBC programme where they set up a demo of what damage a Tsunami could do, involving a bag of water held by a crane over a shed. The water dropped, the shed was smashed to smithereens. H explained it much better! We talked about Earthquakes, plates rubbing and how these led to Tsunamis.

We then watched the lunar tide video again!

I need sleep, got to be up early to find a chocolate cookie, a smartie, a piece of blue string, an orange and a golf ball before 10am!


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Having a crisis!!

We’ve had a busy few weeks, with lots of social stuff, groups going on etc.  I decided we needed a project for the week.  I needed to see that we had achieved something…yes this was all me, no child-directed learning at all.  Bad idea!

I decided we could all learn to tell the time.  Something H had been doing from a digital clock, but we had never looked at analogue clocks before.  We had some friends coming over and I thought it would be ‘fun’ to cut out some cardboard circles to make into clocks, write the numbers on, attach hands etc.  H and her friend took one look at this and decided it did not look fun at all, and scarpered! E was interested, so our other friend sat down with her mum and we made the clocks and started to use them to look at some o’clock times.  It was about this time that E had enough and was about to launch the whole lot at me, so I asked her if she had a better idea for doing this.  She of course did!

E came back with a handful of marshmallows and some spaghetti.  She connected them together so there was a bit of marshmallow over every number on her clock, and hands made from spaghetti with marshmallows on the ends.  We had a go at making different o’clock and half-past times, using some Usbourne flashcards to give us some examples. That was as far as we got that day.

I kept some of the flashcards in my bag, and brought them out a couple of times during the week when we had a bored moment, and E got them with a bit of prompting.

Today, a week later, I thought we could all have a go with our clocks, and used E’s idea of marshmallows.  E couldn’t even do any o’clock times. I thought it would be good to bring H up to speed, and explained o’clock times, no problem, then half-pasts, again no problem, then went on to quarter-past’s and quarter-to’s, again no problem.  H could then do a mix of times from each of these 4.

E is now beside herself as H, who is 4, can read a clock, and she, who is 7, can’t.  I don’t know why this is.  It’s just the way they are.  H just absorbs everything like a sponge, she already knew all the terms, but she just hadn’t seen them on a clock.  E can’t absorb anything she hasn’t decided she’s ready to learn. It is very frustrating.  All her learning is self-directed.  This is great in some respects, we’ve learned some amazing things just by following the path of her interests.  Unfortunately she has never shown any interest in reading or doing much maths at all.  If I ever mention anything about reading, E just picks up her Peter and Jane book 1a, and reads it beautifully, then with a satisfied nod feels that the reading box is ticked!

The problem is getting worse, now H is getting older, and their differences in learning strategies are becoming more obvious.  Reading is not going to be a problem for H, she is already doing amazing things all by herself. She is always either looking at books, or asking me to read books for her.

I need a new strategy.

I also need a stiff drink and a cake or three.

All ideas welcomed!

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Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Home Education, Literacy, Maths, tantrums


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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,

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,

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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When did this all happen?

Amazing stuff has been happening here over the last few weeks.  E continues to read more and more. She’s using Ladybird’s Peter and Jane books, ORT Biff and Kipper books, and anything else she can get her hands on…I found her deep in concentration sitting on the front door mat yesterday, trying to read a leaflet that had come through the door!

The biggest change is with H. Back in April I remember my Mum visiting, and expressing concern that H couldn’t hold a pencil and wasn’t interested in writing or drawing at all. Since then she has suddenly started drawing, starting with colourful scribbles, but these have now changed into complex drawings of people, creatures, family, friends. You name it, she draws it! She has worked out how to hold a pen properly, changing from her fist-grip she did have, and perfected the writing of her own name a few weeks ago. I noticed baby L’s name drawn on the wall shortly after, and realised it wasn’t E’s writing.  I suppose I should have been cross…but realising that H had worked out how to write her brother’s name without any direction from me, was such a fantastic moment! We now have paper and writing implements in every room, to try and protect our walls from more harm, and H continues to write.  She can now write the name of everyone in our family, and is now moving onto her friend’s names! I now don’t have to spell out any of these words, or show her how to form the letters if she asks, it’s all her own work. She is fab!  We are currently all wearing name badges she has written!


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Posted by on August 13, 2011 in Literacy


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Dog days

Today has been a bit of a special day, as we were adopting a dog for a day.  Radley is the Dad of the puppy we are hopefully bringing home to be part of our family towards the end of this year 🙂 B and I got up stupidly early (i.e. before 9am!) to tidy up the downstairs bits, not having had a dog before, we weren’t sure what Radley’d make of the array of buttons, barbies, fridge magnets etc. that are normally scattered all over our floor, and certainly were this morning!

Only E was awake so she made a sign to go on the front door saying: ‘Don’t ring the bell, knock on the door’, so the little ones didn’t wake up when Radley got here!  By the time Radley arrived at 8.45am we were ready!  E then got to spend some time playing with him on her own: following him round the garden, round the kitchen, round the dining rm, up and down the stairs (we swore we weren’t going to let him upstairs…!).  We got a running commentary of his every move!

When H woke up finally, she got a lovely surprise, and had fun joining in the Radley-adoration-club! L was a bit more shocked by Radley’s appearance, but once he’d woken up properly he loved him being here too.

We made some communal rounds of toast for breakfast, and then we all went out for a walk with Radley at about 10am. This led to a session at our local playground, then an introduction to the downside of having a dog…cleaning up after it (bleurrggghhh!), not my favourite bit!  This a big pet hate of mine – people not clearing up after their dogs – so kids were well up on what was needed, we had nappy bags with us, and E found us a red dog bin too.

Back home and friends came over to admire Radley and see if they could still visit us with a dog in situ!! Radley was beautifully behaved, and loved the increased attention! The small girls disappeared off to play, and E dug out a find from a nearly new sale we’d been to at the weekend, a Crayola Illumination Station and we figured out how to get it to work, and replaced the batteries!  E then set to work on her creations! That was her set till lunchtime, which is a pretty impressive concentration span for her 🙂

After lunch we set the kids up with playdough, and B and E took Radley out for another walk.  When they came back, L took Radley out into the garden to show him his sandpit, and generally mess around in the dirt with him!

Our friends went home, and we set to work converting a punnet of strawberries we picked yesterday into Strawberry ice cream using this recipe! I’m leaving out the vanilla bit, and just sticking with the strawberry bit!  E cut up and measured all the strawberries, blitzed and sieved them.  I separated the yolks and creamed them with the sugar, but she poured the cream in and stirred on the hob.  She then stirred it all together, and sieved it into the tub we had ready for it. It’s now in the freezer and I’ve got to remember to stir it every half an hour!!

Radley is now fast asleep.  We’ve exhausted him!  We’ve just made some popcorn and covered it in icing sugar. It has now been mostly scoffed, and the kids all have icing sugar all over their faces! We’ve sat down to watch H’s Angelina Ballerina DVD, and having some down time. Phew!

Radley will be going home soon, and we’ve had an absolutely fantastic day with him.  We’re really pleased with how he’s fitted in with our family and really looking forward to meeting his puppy progeny in a few months time!


Libraries and books :-)

We love books, and visit the library about once a month, taking a huge stock back with us, then usually end up taking them back overdue – oops!

H, aged 4, reads her stash every night we have them before bed.  By the time they go back she knows at least one of her books by heart, and I inevitably end up buying a copy because its become part of the family!  Last month’s was Tiddler by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schaeffler.  Interestingly, not all of her stash become favourite’s, some are just always pushed to the bottom of the pile.  What makes a good book?

H’s current haul consists:

  • The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear – interestingly illustrated version with a new verse at the end
  • I want my Mum by Tony Ross – a little princess book
  • …I’m going to have to go and look at the rest of the pile to remember, so you can see which 2 have become favourites in the 3 weeks we’ve had them!
H has latched onto other Edward Lear books before, there’s one about a hat and a tree?  Just found it, ‘The Quangle Wangle’s Hat’.  Anyway, there is something about the dreamy words, and the rhyming that really appeals to her.  We have read this every single night for 3 weeks, and she’s got a bit funny when E has tried to borrow it, so its definitely in the ‘keeper’ category! She likes joining in with the repeated last line of the verse “and they danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon…they danced by the light of the moon”.
I’m not quite sure about the appeal of the little princess books, but H seems to like the repetition, and recognising the emotions of the princess and asking endless questions about it all!
Already this morning H has read 2 books to the monster baby L:  The little princess book and Tiddler.  Lovely stuff 🙂
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Literacy, Uncategorized


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Sunday with cakes and more reading!

Today was meant to be the lazy sunday I didn’t get last weekend!  It never seems to work out like that though!!

It started well, with being able to stay in bed and have a cuddle with B.  I only mention this because it happens so rarely!!  He’s either not there, leaves at 5.30am, or the kids force one or other of us out of bed! This morning, all the kids disappeared off downstairs together 🙂

Our cuddle was soon interrupted by E, asking if she could read some more of her book with me!  She re-read what she’d done yesterday with far less stumbles, and then she let me read a line at a time, then she read it on her own.  We managed 2 pages, and then it turned into me reading, and us talking about the story, and E finding particular words, like ‘faster’ on the page.  Amazing stuff!!!

Reading time over, I came downstairs and joined B, H and L for breakfast, then had to sort out a series of Freegle collections so we could start to clear a space in the room E has her beady on having all to herself.

H then commandeered the laptop so she could play computer games, while E disappeared with L, and both came back covered in make up, and with ‘interesting’ hair styles!


B then headed off to deliver his campaign leaflets, and we went to feed our friends’ cats while they are away.

We came back and H decided she wanted to crack some eggs, so we funnelled that energy (!) into making a banana cake, which L helped with too.


When that was in the oven, E decided to do some cooking too.  She decided she wanted to make a sponge cake with pretty icing. She did a fab job, and we used the opportunity to talk about double digit numbers again, and as she was adding ingredients she was reading the digital scales.  She got the amounts spot on, and we even got up to recognising 200 🙂


Meanwhile, H and L sat on the floor playing with Mr Potato Heads- ahhhhh!


E decided to decorate her cake with icing in concentric circles.  It sort of worked?!


And H did the Alpaca Wacka (I hate Nuzzle and Scratch!!).


B finally came home for lunch, and we had soup and banana cake 🙂

I seized the opportunity to escape to the docks for shopping break.  Had a lovely mooch round the Gloucester Arts and Crafts centre trying to find a belated (as always) present for a friend, then to The Works to price up canvasses and acrylic paint, as considering letting the kids produce some ‘experimental’ art!

Came home and we tucked into E’s beautiful cake.


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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in art and craft, cooking, Literacy, Uncategorized


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