Saturday, 14 January 2017


At our local group session this month, we looked at Explorers.
It was a lovely relaxed session with lots of playing out, despite the high winds.

Unfortunately, I only got one photo :/

Some of the activities were -
making a timeline of famous explorers;
designing a figurehead for a Viking longboat;
learning about different landforms and making them out of plasticine;
draw an explorer - what would they wear and what would they take with them;
learn about navigating by the stars and make star charts;
compass group games - indoors and out;
make your own compass :)

To make your own compass you need:
a real cork
a sewing needle
a bar magnet
a bowl of water
a pair of large scissors (much easier to use than a knife)
double sided tape

1. Cut a 5 - 10mm thick slice off the cork with the scissors.
2. Rub the sewing needle with one pole of the bar magnet, making sure that the strokes go in one direction and not backwards and forwards. The more strokes, the stronger the magnetism.
3. Put a small piece of double sided tape onto the cork.
4. Stick the needle on to the cork, keeping it as central as possible.
5. Place the cork into the shallow bowl of water.
6. Watch your needle point to the north :)

The needle in our picture was stroked from eye to point with the north pole of the bar magnet. This makes the eye point to magnetic north. You could try using the South pole of the magnet and see what happens :)

Magnetism Flashcards
Why a compass needle points north

Books about Explorers:

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Boykin & Science Pt 1

OK. So I don't really have any other parts planned, but you never know. I think this could well be an ongoing theme for the next few years.

Here we are branching out into new territory. Boykin likes text books. Boykin likes Galore Park text books. We are currently using them for Latin on a daily basis and English on a bit of an ad hoc basis. (Most English work is done as part of a wider topic or unit study.)

I picked up the Galore Park So You Really Want To Learn Science (henceforth known as SYRWTL) Book 1 and found that we had pretty much covered it all with the different literature-based unit studies that we have used. We had already done the experiments, so we simply read the chapters and verbally answered the questions at the end of each one. It took us about 3 months all told.

Now we are set to tackle Book 2! *
This one book is written to cover the whole of KS3 and is geared towards the Common Entrance Exam. None of this is particularly relevant to us - there will be no testing or exams at the end of this book. I'm hoping that by studying the book together, Boykin will be better prepared to tackle the GCSEs. (He has already expressed an interest in taking physics.) And I will be better prepared to support him through that. (I did O Level physics back in the Dark Ages.) I'm also hoping that if any problems or challenges arise, I will be able to spot them early enough to know whether or not to get a tutor or sign him up to a science class.

As it is, I'm hoping to make his experience of Book 2 much more interesting, engaging and challenging than his experience of Book 1 (which was mostly covered whilst waiting for his sister to have her music theory lesson). I will be finding YouTube videos, making minibooks, suggesting online activities, setting up hands-on stuff and conducting experiments.
I'll upload my links and ideas as we go along and share them via the topics page. It will be slow, we're only in the first year and we have a couple more years to go before it's time to look at GCSE syllabi. I'd love to hear from you in the comments below if you wish to join us and can make use of the resources :)

So, for starters, to go along with the introductory section about scientific investigation, I have signed him up for his first Futurelearn course :)

*Galore Park have recently updated their books. Biology, Chemistry and Physics are now covered in three separate volumes. Additional material has been added to stay in line with the current exams.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Cathy Come Home

One of the perks of being a home educator is the annual Into Film Festival. We usually go to see a whole host of films, but this year we have picked only four. This isn't because there aren't the usual number of great films to see, but rather because this is the last year that The Girl will be HE (most likely) and so the focus is on other things - like college courses, IGCSE work and music lessons.

Anyway, today The Girl and I went to the Showroom in Sheffield to see Cathy Come Home, the 1966 play directed by Ken Loach. It was followed by a Q & A with representatives from the South Yorkshire Housing Association and Roundabout, a charity working with homeless youth.

It's amazing to think that this play, released 50 years ago this week, influenced attitudes to homelessness and the housing crisis so much that it caused laws to be changed. I remember seeing it as a child and the impact it had on me then. It was interesting to see what impact it made on The Girl today.

I really want to  take her to see I, Daniel Blake now. I think there will be more interesting conversations to come.

Cathy Come Home is available to watch on YouTube or Amazon.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

A different group every day

This week has been BUSY with home ed groups.

On Monday morning, Boykin went to his Bronze Arts Award group at the library. Progress was made on the Lego stop motion animation that he is making with three of his friends there. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it when it is finished.
He then went back to his friend's house afterwards where they spent the afternoon trying to complete a Lego bridge building challenge. I love how home education can be shared with other families :) I'm very grateful for it.

On Tuesday, The Girl finished her volunteering at the local library which she was doing as part of her D of E. They gave her a glowing report and a card and box of chocolates as a thank you :) We love our libraries!
In the afternoon, both children enjoyed playing Laserquest with a group of other home ed families. They had a great time and I got chance to chat to other parents and have a cup of tea :)
In the evening, we went to the theatre as part of a home ed trip to see Attached, a circus show. It was funny and clever. Boykin wants a Velcro suit now.

Yesterday, The Girl was at college. me and Boykin spent the day at our local themed session. This month it was Disney & Animation. Activities included a Disney timeline game; a Peppa Pig game; a pin-the-tail-on-Eeyore game; icing mickey mouse on digestives; stop-motion plasticine animation; creating animated figures using plastic cups; Disney animal related parachute games and decorating Gingerbread Men on biscuits made by one of the older girls :)

This morning, The Girl and one of her friends went to their music theory lesson whilst Boykin went to the ninjitsu group. We raced to town this afternoon to go to a tour of a small museum in the local university where we are hoping to attend some workshops over the coming year.
It was a lovely session. They got to see behind the scenes, handle artefacts and play with a gigantic computer screen-thingie.
Afterwards, The Girl went shopping with her Nana and Boykin came home to spend some time on his latest computer project.

I think we will all be glad of a quiet day at home tomorrow :)

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Still adjusting.... all the changes that go with The Girl doing one day of college a week. I didn't think it would have as much impact as it has done. Boykin is also out of the house for almost a full day a week too, but on a different day. He's taking part in a Bronze Arts Award group and then goes to his friends for a few hours afterwards. I'm juggling tutoring on one of those days and on the other there are two lots of music lessons to fit in as well.

I'm trying to ensure that The Girl still gets some positive HE group experiences in this last year at home so have organised a few theatre trips and a museum takeover day in the next couple of months on top of the usual groups that we do. I'm finding that she doesn't want to go to all the groups anymore because she has so much studying to do for upcoming IGCSEs and music exams. This can be a bit tricky when Boykin does want to go, depending on where it is and how long we will be out for, of course. Tuesdays were our at home pyjama day for a while but so far, it doesn't seem to be happening that often anymore :( I think our pyjama days will now be tied in with school holidays and I think we're really going to appreciate those holidays this year.

Despite all the nearly-daily activities that they do, we still had time to take a day out to Lyme Park in Cheshire as part of The Girl's studying of Pride and Prejudice. It's the stately home used as the exteriors of Pemberley in the BBC series that starred Colin Firth. It's well worth the visit. We'll be going back again because we didn't get time to see much of the park and when we were still only halfway round the house there was a fire drill.

Boykin was given a trail sheet to take round the house which he enjoyed and which encouraged him to look at things in more detail. There's a wonky fireplace; a secret panel so that the family could spy on their guests; a library where you can sit and read books; a writing desk where you can write letters that they will post for you; a butler's pantry where you can have a go at cleaning the floor; a nursery where you can play with the toys and rearrange the dolls house and a school room where you can play a piano and leave a message on the blackboard. As usual, we took our time and made the most of everything :)

We enjoyed the gardens and then went to the playground. It was pretty late in the day so we had it all to ourselves which was fun for me because I get to climb up the towers and stuff too ;)

Saturday, 3 September 2016

SWAK toothbrush

I love to learn about businesses run by other home educators. and was delighted to be offered the chance to review a SWAK toothbrush and support another Home Ed family :)

Well, to be honest, I didn't really know what one was when I agreed to try it. I suffer from sensitive teeth and have to use Sensodyne toothpaste regularly or else my poor old teeth start to hurt. I wasn't convinced that this toothpaste-less toothbrush would be any good for me.

Anyway, the SWAK toothbrush arrived, looking longer and thinner than I'd expected with this funny little round head. I began to use it as per the instructions with a small dollop of sceptism. I have to say, I was really surprised how easy it was to use although it took a bit of getting used to; not having to apply any pressure was a bit weird at first. After I'd given it a good go, I can confirm that my teeth felt smooth and clean afterwards, although I missed the minty taste that I associate with newly cleaned teeth.

I love the convenience of being able to clean my teeth anywhere and not being tied to the bathroom sink. Both Boykin & The Girl have requested one and, as they are both over 7*, I have agreed to buy them. One of the things that we all like about them is that the little wooden heads are replaceable but you keep using the same plastic handle for ever, potentially. The Girl has recently been impressed by the Zero Waste Movement and this totally fits in with the philosophy of reducing our plastic waste.

You can buy your own toothbrush here. There are a selection to choose from and they also sell tooth oil and tooth salt too.

* Under 7s need full parental supervision with SWAK toothbrushes.