Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Autumn Planning

Well, we are getting nearer and nearer to the end of our home ed journey. With only 3 more academic years left, I feel like the pressure is on to get Boykin through exams and make sure he has everything he needs to move forward to the next stage of his life. I know that this is really the last year that we will have much time for fun projects and the odd lazy day when we need a break. I know that he is getting older and has hit that time of his life when practically everything is suddenly 'boring'. He is my youngest child and I have already missed so many windows of opportunity with all three of them but I would like to try to not miss any more.

To try to keep my self-inflicted pressure cooker under control, I bought a planner. Something of The Girl's natural inclination to organise has finally rubbed off on me :) I have seen how she has flourished and grown in independence. I was impressed by how well she managed her time during her exam years because she made such good use of her planner. And, of course, I was overjoyed to celebrate her successes with her. She wasted no time in worrying, procrastinating or forgetting what needed doing. After years of resisting timetables and the like, I began to think that she might have point - planners are the way forward. Home ed is a truly family experience and we can learn, not only alongside our kids, but also from our kids 😎😊

With planner in hand, I sat down with Boykin and together we discussed what he wanted to learn, and how he wanted to learn it. We are continuing to use some resources that we have been using for years now - MEP maths and Galore Park books in particular. He also insisted that his music practise was put on the plan, opportunities for exercise and space for personal projects. I also added in some of the reading material from Ambleside Online for Year 8. (American grade system is a number lower than British school years.) On The Girls' advice, we have colour coded it 😊

Now, just because we have a plan doesn't mean that we can't go off on our own little jaunts into learning off-piste, as it were. It doesn't mean that we have to follow The Plan to the letter EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. We have not failed if we choose not to follow The Plan that day. We are not ruled by The Plan. The Plan gives us an anchor, a framework to follow to keep us grounded and on course for Boykin's goals. It is a tool to help us both see what we have done and what we need to do.

How do I use my planner? Well, at the front I have constructed a master copy of The Plan - The Master Plan πŸ˜‚ Every week, I fill in the respective page with a pencil, blocking out sections for home ed groups, family days out, necessary shopping trips, my work time and expected lazy days following a busy period. As we go through the week, I use the colour coding to mark off what we have completed and make any changes that come up due to unexpected events. At the end of the week, we sit down and admire our lovely colourful page and see how we have spent our time. We can also see what subjects have been neglected a little and tweak the following week accordingly. It helps Boykin to keep track of how much music practise he has done, and how much exercise he has had. It helps me to keep my working hours constrained rather than letting them spill out and interrupt everything else.

It's still early days yet. I wonder if we will still be using it at the end of the academic year? I wonder what we will learn from the experience? I am hoping that I will learn to compartmentalise my day properly so that work stays in its rightful place and that I learn to balance my time and energy better. Boykin is hoping that it will give him the skills needed to move into more formal study and prepare for college. To him, three years seems like a long time, but for me it will pass in the blink of an eye!

Do you use a planner to organise your home ed lives? Do you use it just for planning learning time, or does it include all aspects of your family life? Has it helped or hindered you over the years? I would really love to know other people's experiences and planner recommendations 😊

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Last Flat Traveller

Have you read the book Flat Stanley about the adventures of a boy who gets flattened by a notice board falling on him? Luckily, he's unharmed apart from being flattened like a pancake. This opens the way for new adventures, including being put in an envelope and posted to a friend's house for a holiday.
Well, flat travelling is inspired by this book. There's even an international Flat Stanley Project where children all over the world can exchange flat characters with each other. There are even groups specifically for home educators - Homeschool Flat Traveller Exchange and Herron's Nest Flat Traveller Exchange.
The idea is that you make a flat character to send as a guest to another family. They, in turn, send you their flat traveller for you to host. Flat travellers are pictures of people, animals, cartoon characters that are laminated with your name and address on the back in case you lose it. We've had a few flat travellers over the years, some hand-drawn (Lucy the robin), some were magazine cut-outs (Dr Who) and the last one was a printout of a photo found online, Mr Quack the Duck.
Mr Quack the Duck
Our flat travellers have been to various US states, Canada, Zimbabwe, Australia and England. We've received exciting packages containing small gifts, photo albums, books, sweets, receipts, travel tickets, photo CDs and the all-important journal. Sometimes this has been as short as a side of A4, sometimes as long as an exercise book. They have all been eagerly anticipated and gratefully received. We have learnt so much about different countries and have been privileged with small insights into other people's lives and home ed journeys.
Mementoes from our flat's travels
Much as we have loved receiving our parcels, we have equally loved sending them. We've loved taking photos with our visiting flat travellers and choosing small gifts and souvenirs to send home with them. It has been fun collecting postcards and putting together journals to try and give another family a small insight into where we live and what we do.
Boykin has good memories of our flat travelling adventures, it's been about 5 years since our last one and he decided he wanted to do one more. He write to his penfriend and asked him to swap. Luckily, his penfriend had also done flat travellers before too, so they both knew what was involved 😊
Making Pengy McPengface feel at home
I'm so glad that we had the opportunity to do a flat traveller just one more time.  We took Pengy McPengface to different places, took photos, bought souvenirs, wrote (briefly) in the journal and sent him home again. It was fun to flat travel again, and exchanging with his penfriend was a special visit for our last flat traveller 😊


Monday, 15 January 2018

Chewy Moon

I was sent a box of ChewyMoon snacks to review. We received a box of 10 different snacks which were added to the packed lunches of both my kids and myself.

I have to say, I was quite impressed with the assortment of sweet and savoury. My children preferred the sweet snacks - they're favourites were Strawberry Munch and Tutti Frutti.
The packaging is really sweet - each box has it's own cartoon character with a little back story, a joke and a poem. There's a sticker in there too.

Inside the postage box, we found a sticker book, two collectable cards, a mini comic, an information book for parents and a biology card all about the bones of the hand. I have to say, as a home educator, I liked that bit bestπŸ˜€

Boxes start at £2.99 for 5 snacks and go up to £9.50 for a sibling box of 20 snacks. And you get your first box free, and if you use code AEP4LUV, you'll get the 3rd and 5th box free too πŸ˜€

And best of all, they've teamed up with Mary's Meals so that for every box sold, hungry children get fed.
How is ChewyMoon different?
  • Delicious all-natural snacks, created by nutritionists and approved by kids
  • Perfect for lunchboxes and snacks on the go
  • Comes with an exciting activity pack for the kids and nutrition guides for parents
  • Every box sold also feeds a hungry child
  • £4.99 for 10 snacks (delivered fortnightly, free postage)

Disclaimer: I was sent a box of 10 snacks to review. I received no other compensation for this post. These are my photos and my honest opinions.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Weekly news

It's been a busy week. We've managed to get some work done on Picture Book Explorers ~ Dogs Don't Do Ballet in acknowledgement of World Ballet Day last Thursday and we've been to two home ed groups too. One of them was a short social meet-up at Lazerquest and the other was our monthly themed session where we looked at Mythical creatures, a topic that Boykin has been working on at home already :)
I took an activity based on minotaurs and mazes. We made toilet roll tube minotaurs and did mazes from a really hard maze book. I also took our big box of building blocks (such a useful HE tool, even at this stage) for building mazes.

Other activities included, making  a fire breathing dragon, making fairy/leprechaun traps and identifying strange looking animals - are they real or mythical?
There are some really strange looking creatures out there! The aye-aye was Boykin's favourite. We both though it looked like something from Harry Potter :)
I'm collecting ideas on my Mythical Creatures Pinterest board.

It's quite nice re-exploring the Dog's Don't Do Ballet book, Boykin has had chance to relax a little after the Earthquakes lapbook we completed last week. We've practised ballet moves, revised apostrophes, explored rotational movement (more dancing) and done some art work. There's a little more to come - more ballet moves for maths and a marshmallow-based recipe :) We've not managed everything this week, I wanted to go to the woods for a walk to gather leaves, but we've not had time yet....

The Girl is loving college and I think we're beginning to get used to her not being with us every day. It makes me appreciate the days when she is there, working on her music while Boykin works on his project. We still feel like a fully HE family, even if we're not, technically. I wonder if that will ever change?

Friday, 29 September 2017

Quick Update

 Life has changed. Boykin is the only home educated child in this house now.The Girl passed her exams and is now at college studying music.  I am still adjusting to not being the main organiser of everything educational and getting used to early mornings whether we like it or not. I'm not quite doing the school run, but I have had to drive The Girl into town (in my pyjamas!) if her train has missed or been delayed too much. It all feels a little odd, but we're getting there :)

This week home ed-wise, me & Boykin have been to a park meet up, done some maths, failed to open a Latin book but  succeeded in completing a two week earthquake project :) We had loads of fun with all the hands-on projects and learned loads along the way. After last year's heavy focus on exams, it feels like proper home education again. Yay!

These are just a very few of the activities we did. It's been such a good fun project :)

Friday, 24 February 2017

100 Ways of Home Ed

Following on from Happy Handley's post yesterday, it's my turn to take part in this blog relay 😊
The next post is written by a home educated young person at Midnakit's Art Blog.

A blog hop of 100 ways of home ed can only ever be a tiny slice of a view into the world of home education. There are as many ways to home ed as there are families doing it. This is our way  - currently πŸ˜€ (I'm killing two birds with one stone here, doing my blog hop post and my #100daysofhomeed roundup post too. Cheeky, I know πŸ˜† )

I find it hard to label our style of home education. We're not unschoolers, although after a chat with a local unschooler, I realise I do share many of the same principles. We're not school-at-home, although we do sit down to do work at a table, have maps on the walls and have always used a maths curriculum. We're not following a classical education although we do study Latin. We're not Charlotte Mason, although I have used living books and short lessons; still use narration; love picture study; think that music is vital and believe strongly in children spending time outdoors. We're not Steiner, although I love toys made from natural materials and believe in educating the whole child, not just the mind. We're not Montessori, although I've had trays and boxes of ready-to-go activities for them to choose themselves and I bought mats so they could have clear don't-interfere-with-my-work spaces. We're not autonomous anymore, although they choose a lot their own subjects to study and topics to explore. I guess we are eclectic - a little bit from here, a little bit from there.

#100daysofhomeed Day 8
That's what I love about home education. The flexibility, the opportunity to adapt and change when things stop working. The ability to be able to refresh, review and act quickly to improve the way we learn. I say 'we' deliberately because I'm learning all the time alongside my children. And I don't only mean "Ooh! Look what I learned in my daughter's GCSE book today". I mean ALL learning - learning about my kids, myself, the world around us, how things work, how to do new things and, most importantly, learning how to help them learn.  I LOVE LEARNING!!!!!

So, what are we learning at the moment? I'm learning that I much preferred our lives before exams took over :/ We had so much more freedom to learn what we wanted and to follow the rabbit trails from our unit studies without feeling constricted by time or other pressures. Boykin is learning that he wants to spread his exams out over three years instead of two after observing his sister. The Girl is learning about time management and how to spread the workload rather than leaving things to the last minute.

#100daysofhomeed Day 9
In our day to day, The Girl is studying for her English GCSE and an Art & Design BTEC award at a not-very local college. She attends one day a week. It has meant weekly sleepovers with a friend, early car journeys through rush hour, packed lunches and homework challenges. But it's been worth it. Her friendships have deepened, she has gained confidence and it has given her a stepping stone into college life in preparation for going full-time next year.

She's also studying IGCSE Geography at home, practising hard for Grade 6 music exams and preparing for her Grade 5 Music Theory exam. She's been offered conditional places at two colleges to study music :) If she doesn't meet the conditions, we have a fab Home Ed back-up plan that will still get her to university, if she decides to go there, or into work, if she doesn't.

#100daysofhomeed Day 10
As well as learning what she needs for exams, she's also learning about fitness, nutrition, cooking, fashion, make-up, pop music, meal planning, housework, hygge, books, inter-personal relationships, managing finances, computers, gaming - both board & video, music appreciation, the importance of family, the importance of community, politics, current affairs, practical maths, Japanese culture....... the list goes on. All this learning, both incidental and deliberate, is just as important as the exam prep that she's doing. More important in some ways - the exams will help her get to the next step in educational institutions, but the rest will set her up for life.

#100daysofhomeed Day 11
Boykin enjoys book learning. He likes to sit down and use text books in a way that neither of my other two did at that age. He has chosen to learn Latin and he's loving it. His young mind grasps and retains concepts so much more readily than mine. I've learnt that I'm going to need my own exercise books to be able to keep up with him. And that will be a good thing because my studying Latin alongside him in the way I know how, will help him to learn new study skills as we learn side-by-side.

He's also asked to study science and is following a basic experiment course on Futurelearn as part of the wider study using the Galore Park Science Book 2. And he studies maths and is practising handwriting - no choice there.

#100daysofhomeed Day 12
He's also learning how to play the ukulele; how to survive at scouts; ninjitsu; parkour; film making - editing footage and sound, scriptwriting, acting, camera work, how to use equipment, special fx etc.; map reading; housework; the importance of family and community; theology; gaming - both board & video; inter-personal relationship skills; cooking; manners; film studies; craft; art; Italian; comic making; the TV industry; theatre; history; history of music;climbing....again, the list goes on.

We have developed a routine over the years, which has served us well for a very long time. We start the day (after breakfast, of course) with maths. This is followed by a household task - all tasks are shared so we do it together. Then music practise comes next, followed by another household task. When they were younger, we would then work on our unit study - usually a literature based one, so this part of the morning would start with reading a book together accompanied by hot drinks and biscuits. This meant they were happy and enthusiastic to begin the activity - it could be more reading, some writing, discussion, a craft, some research, an experiment, some cooking, poetry, music, art, drama - even dancing. Then they would complete a lapbook piece and then it would be lunchtime, followed by free play time, or a walk, or a trip out, or a game, or a theme related film, or another read-aloud, or just doing jobs that keep a household running (me, usually). Evenings are often filled with groups and clubs - the ones that some people consider to be extra-curricular but, in our home at least, are definitely IN the curriculum ;)

#100daysofhomeed Day 13
As time has passed, maths for Boykin and music practise for both remain, as do the household tasks. The unit study has been replaced by textbooks and for The Girl at least, the free play time is now time for homework, although we do seem to go to a lot of HE groups in the afternoons these days. The Girl writes her own timetable too. Things will change again in September when I am back to one HE child - exam pressure will be removed and unit studies will kick in again, for a year or two at least πŸ˜†

#100daysofhomeed Day 14
The photos give a snapshot of our week so far - games, books, holidays with friends, walks, climbing classes and a birthday. Other stuff happened as well πŸ˜‰

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Round up time

The #100daysofhomeed has started up again. I was intending to start on Monday, but was delayed until Wednesday because we were just too busy.

On Monday, we had an early start to the day taking The Girl to college for the assessed part of her Art & Design course. We had to rush back to town in time for Boykin to take  part in the presentation to finalise his Bronze Arts Award.

He has worked so very hard for this and has been so inspired. We were lucky enough to have the sessions run by our local library service. The art medium was film. They did some group work making short animations and a short film. He did all the editing and made the credits - moviemaker is brill for this. He then found special FX software and learnt how to use it to create the special effects they wanted for teleportation. He also transcribed the script (my once reluctant writer) and borrowed sound equipment to re-record the sound track because the original was too quiet. He enjoyed making cardboard awards for everyone who took part - including the librarians and put the finished film on DVD for all the children too. I have never seen him so inspired by anything before and am extremely grateful to our local library staff for making this happen. We're so hoping that they will all be still there in a couple of years time when he is old enough to take the Silver Arts Award :)

On Tuesday we had book group. It was a very busy session with 15 children and their adults. As a group, we had been reading folk tales and fairy stories in preparation. As a family, we read Tales of the Peculiar. Some children brought reviews and artwork to share and some had accepted the challenge to write their own folk tale. We finished off with games using the Story Cubes.

Finally on Wednesday, I got round to taking the first #100daysofhomeed photo. We went to our local themed group where the topic was "Activities inspired by Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children". (Spot the connection?) There was a loop challenge, the opportunity to learn about Wales, WW2 propaganda posters to look at, DNA building, finger-printing, hollowgast making and trick photography :) They all had lots of fun and we had a splendid lunch, as usual :)
#100daysofhomeed Day 1
On Thursday, we were all feeling the worst for wear with bad coughs, colds and general snottiness. We stayed home. Watched lots of films and did a little book learning.
#100daysofhomeed Day 2
On Friday, we spent the day recovering a bit more. More films, more book learning and little visitors :)
#100daysofhomeed Day 3
On Saturday, everyone felt a bit better. There was drama class, shopping and a sleepover.
#100daysofhomeed Day 4
 On Sunday, The Girl went to try out the gym. Most of the afternoon was spent playing Lego Dimensions and keeping an eye on the snow. Sadly, there was only ever a smattering :(
#100daysofhomeed Day 6
On Monday, The Girl went to college and Boykin got in some book-learning. It felt so strange to have him at home instead of taking him to his Arts Award group :/ The afternoon was spent mainly at music lessons and making pancakes. Apparently, we all need to practise for the big day ;)
#100daysofhomeed Day 7
And that brings us to today. So what did we do today? Yoga first thing, music practise, science, Latin, geography, archery, Laserquest,  and primary research for a BTEC. All followed by a lovely cup of tea and toasted teacake with my mum :) Roll on bedtime. I'm exhausted!!

#100daysofhomeed Day 7