Category Archives: Science

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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Wow a vacant laptop, I can update my blog!

I had a flash of inspiration earlier, so thought I would use the moment to nudge me into updating my blog for once!

Today we have made a second trip to a new Home Ed group in our area.  This was yet another opportunity to have a picnic (we’ve been having them daily for the last week or so) and enjoy the fantastic sunshine we have at the moment.  As well as running round with sticks (L), drawing beautiful pictures of rainbows and snails (E), and making up complex role play games with friends (H), we had a fun time playing with some ‘squishy circuits’, which if you haven’t heard of, then you need to have a go! The main details and ingredients can be found here, there is also a pdf ‘classroom guide’ under the ‘publications’ section which is well worth printing out as an easy to follow guide. You essentially make 2 types of playdough, one with lots of salt, and one made with sugar and distilled water. One is a conductor, one an insulator. You then alternate your playdoughs to create your circuit structure, add a battery, some LEDs or a motor, and off you go. Very simple, cheap and easy.:And if you’re H, you can just play with the playdough…

I then had to rush home, and walk the puppy with L.  Well, I meant to rush the walk to as we were meant to be meeting B at Ikea, but L will not be rushed.  He came armed with a bowl of snails (his sisters had been racing them earlier), which HAD to come on our walk with us. After they had fallen out of the bowl at least 3 times, I managed to rehome them into a happy looking hedge to save them from any further trauma. L was mortified when he realised what I’d done, but I distracted him by looking for tadpoles in the ponds. We recently hatched and raised a batch of frogspawn, which we returned to our local pond as froglets a couple of weeks ago, so we go and check on them regularly. Armed with his bowl, L scooped up some water and was delighted to catch several tadpoles (obviously a bit behind developmentally from the ones we released), and prodded them, examined some water snails, and puzzled over little whizzing insects he also scooped. The bowl was emptied and refilled several times, examined and oooh-ed over, before I made him hurry along. L then spent the rest of the walk gathering stones and other exciting finds in his bowl all the way home.  That bowl turned out to be a brilliant thing to bring on our walk…though the snails probably didn’t think so.

Girls racing their snails yesterday

We then bundled ourselves into the car and dashed to Ikea. We’ve decided to buy a double bed for H and L to share. We’ve tried bunk beds and midi-sleepers, and no bed arrangement has so far worked for these two. E has her own room and bed. L still co-sleeps with us, but we are all for encouraging him out of our bed 😉 H sleeps in her bed sometimes, sometimes wanders into ours in the middle of the night. She claims she needs company. They both sleep beautifully in our bed together, but I would like to sleep in our bed too! So we’ve invested in a double bed in the hope we can get them to sleep together in their own bed, in their own room. Its always good to have goals and aspirations right?!

It’s not often that L gets to spend time with us all on his own, so he was quite spoiled this evening. We bribed him round Ikea, letting him choose a toy from the children’s area as we passed through. We then went to pizza hut, which he thought was the best thing ever: “Me love pee-ba” says L. I have a fab photo of L eating ice cream covered in sweeties, with a huge grin on his face! Will have to add it in later.  Ah, found it:

L (Buzz) enjoying his ice cream without sibling interference!

H is at a friend’s house for a sleepover, E has a friend here for a sleepover, so while they’ve sorted themselves out watching Springwatch and having a bath, I’ve painted H’s room ready for her new bed to be installed. I’d forgotten how quick it was to paint a wall without small children wanting to ‘help’ me!!

Typical Home Ed day huh?!


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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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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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Cheltenham Science Festival

E and I set off for this yesterday morning, and ended up not getting home till mid-afternoon!  There was so much to see! We took advantage of the opening of the Discover Zone for small ones only…not that E is that small!  We tried out loads of gadgets, and experiments, zigzagging round the room to whatever caught E’s eye.  I have a science/engineering background, so I loved loved loved it all.  It took me back to when I used to eagerly volunteer to man stands at this kind of thing for the company I used to work for! I collected loads of resources, and lots of people I spoke to said they had tons of stuff on their websites for Home Educators. I’m going to attempt to collate everything and put on my other blog.The Science Fest website is definitely worth a look.

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Posted by on June 12, 2010 in Home Education, Science