Tag Archives: home education

Ecology Centre visit

On Wednesday afternoon we went to the local Ecology Centre with our Home Ed group.  Owl was in London with Granny and Grandpa, so I only had the younger three children with me.  However many children you have, it always feels a little easier with one less person to organise to get out of the house, although there were moments when I could have done with my biggest helper.  Anyway, we gathered an assortment of fishing nets, buckets, pond life and butterfly identification books, raincoats… and suncream as an afterthought.  We also took our butterflies as we had decided to show them to the group before releasing them in the grounds of the Ecology Centre, which is a perfect butterfly habitat.

We took about 25 minutes to walk there and we met up with the others at the pond.  All the children were very keen to start fishing, and were generally good about sharing nets and were being quite sensible.  To begin with Tiddler was in his buggy, but of course that didn’t last as he was determined to get out and join in.  So I let him, and the consequence was that within 5 minutes, he had fallen in the pond!  Luckily I was holding on to the handle on the back of his Little Life backpack (highly recommended) so I was able to haul him out straight away.  No harm done, but even though he had been in the water for barely a second he was of course thoroughly soaked from head to toe (vest, nappy, trousers, socks and boots completely unusable for the rest of the afternoon) and covered in pond weed.  He was a little bewildered but not too upset.  Now, if this had happened to my first baby, I would of course have had an enormous change bag full of alternative outfits, but he is my fourth.  So he was carrying his own spare nappies in the aforementioned backpack, and that was it.  Luckily the nappies hadn’t got wet, and the sun came out so we made do with a quick clean up, an application of suncream which I hadn’t expected to need and a clean dry nappy.  He ran around very happily in the sunshine for the rest of the afternoon, although his feet did get a bit scratched.

The children had a lovely time fishing, exploring and bug hunting.  We had some amazing close encounters with pond skaters, sticklebacks, pond snails, a leech, newts, frogs, toads, a slow worm, a moorhen and chick, dragonflies and damselflies… and we released our butterflies, who were not at all in a hurry to leave us, so we got a really close look at them. My highlight of the afternoon was watching one of the butterflies sipping nectar from clover, seeing the proboscis uncurled so close up was amazing. I have to admit that the sight of Tiddler covered in pond weed came a close second (bad mummy!)

Friday round up – 6th July 2012

One of the reasons I wanted to write this blog was so that I would have a record of the children’s learning but I am aware that it has been very patchy, so I am going to try doing a round up of the week, maybe every Friday if I remember, though I probably won’t.  I know this won’t be of interest to everyone so feel free not to read it!


  • Owl, Monkey and Rabbit made pictograms and bar charts based on the Smartie tally charts we did last week.  Rabbit particularly liked this, and concentrated on it for a very long time.
  • All four had great fun playing with our new Lego Duplo Educational set – number tiles, operation symbols and blank tiles on which we stuck dot stickers to match with numbers.
  • Owl has done fractions (equivalent fractions, lowest terms, fractions of a number) and some work on reading scales (which he enjoyed – he likes things which have to be very accurate!)
  • Monkey has done more work on bar charts; addition including number bonds to ten; simple measurement (comparing length and thickness of objects); telling the time;  Mathletics (working on left and right, and more pictograms.)
  • Rabbit has been asking lots of questions about addition, “Does one and one make two?” and similar – so far she has been right every time.
  • Tiddler has done lots of counting to ten, mainly because he loves playing hide and seek.  It doesn’t even have to be a real game – he is quite happy just covering his face, counting to ten, taking his hands away from his face and shouting “Found you!”  He can’t quite get all the way to ten without help, but he’s getting there.  (His completely independent counting today was something like 3, 2, 3, 2, 3, 9, 10!)


  • All four  read/ listened to instructions about how to make a treasure map and made their own maps
  • Owl has done reading comprehension, spelling, and writing about treasure he would like to find in his garden (he really enjoyed the writing!)
  • Monkey has done handwriting practice; read aloud and then drawn pictures while listening to a story; written his own instructions for making a treasure map; written and performed some very funny poems (all his own idea, he has just been making them up all the time at the moment) and has done Reading Eggs
  • Rabbit has been working on rhyming words (she is getting very good at this) and has done Reading Eggs
  • All four have done lots of reading/ listening to stories


  • All four have done bug hunting, and they have been observing/ drawing our butterflies
  • Monkey, Rabbit and Tiddler have been pond dipping, found lots of interesting minibeasts and released our butterflies at the Ecology centre (blog post to follow)
  • Owl has been reading about invertebrates; similarities and differences between insects and spiders; honey bees and bumble bees
  • Owl, Monkey and Rabbit  have looked at pictures and read about insects and spiders, then drawn them; they have also played Top Trumps Bugs!
  • Owl and Monkey have investigated our new Lego Educational gears set
  • Rabbit made scones with Granny


  • Owl has been reading about the Bronze Age and has drawn a map of Mesopotamia; we have also played Brainbox British History
  • All four have read and listened to books about castles (brought back from a conference by daddy) – this is another topic that is in the queue of things we all want to learn about.


  • Owl has been reading about animal habitats and learning about Arctic animals (started with the Usborne Animal Sticker Atlas and led to an interesting discussion with Grandpa!)


  • Owl visited the National Gallery with Granny, drew and wrote about his favourite picture, discussed pontillism and Seurat, and did some drawing with pastels (he is planning to blog this)
  • Owl, Monkey and Rabbit looked at the National Gallery website with Granny and discussed the pictures which Owl had seen on his visit
  • Monkey has been doing lots of drawing (as usual!)
  • Tiddler has been drawing a lot too, naming what he is drawing (though it is mainly not yet recognisable) and working very hard on drawing circles (which are recognisable)


  • Owl sang in his Choir concert
  • Owl and Monkey had piano lessons


  • Owl has learnt some more vocabulary with Grandpa, and drew a funny picture to help him remember the meaning of lex, legis (the law has legs!); he has written some more flashcards and tested himself, me and Granny


  • Monkey read some of the eeBoo flashcards (names of animals)
  • All four have listened to a CD of songs and rhymes in English and French

Fresh air and exercise (that’s what it’s called in my “curriculum”)

  • Monkey, Rabbit and Tiddler did lots of walking, running, playing, fishing and hunting minibeasts on our visit to Ecology Centre (and Tiddler took a dip in the pond, but that’s another story…)
  • All four have done lots of playing in our garden and Granny’s – writing and drawing with chalk, making a pretend camp fire, playing with mud and water, bows and arrows; and also playing on the village green – walking, running, hide and seek, swings and roundabout, splashing in puddles

Other learning (too hard to categorise!)

  • Owl wants to know about gold prices, and other expensive metals and their relative prices – we have done some research, but more is needed to satisfy him I think.
  • All four have done lots of complex building with Lego (little Lego and Duplo)
  • The big three have been watching some of the tennis with Granny, and discussing the relative merits of Wimbledon and Euro 2012 and which is harder to win; there has also been a lot of discussion about the Olympics prompted by the exciting arrival of the Lego Minifigure Olympic series.
  • Rabbit has been enjoying her summer sticker book (though it feels as if we are still waiting for summer!)

I think that’s enough, and it’s getting a bit random so I’ll stop there, though I’m sure I could think of plenty more things.  I always find it hard to know exactly what to record, as I don’t think there is a clear distinction between “educational things” and the rest of life.  If you are still reading this, thank you, but are you sure you haven’t got something more important to do?

Light at the end of the tunnel

Another couple of weeks have flown by, and I haven’t had a moment to stop and reflect on anything.  We have been having a lot of fun but life has been very complicated, and I can only sustain this pace for a while before the cracks begin to show.  June has been an incredibly busy month, even more so than usual.  I’m glad to have arrived at the beginning of July which means the end is in sight, though for the next week or two there’s still quite a bit going on.

On the Saturday before last, we had our church summer fair which was great fun, and as usual we came away with a lot of “bargains”, in particular some very good children’s books.  The best finds were Katie and the Dinosaurs (about the Natural History Museum) and a really interesting book about chess which Owl is very into at the moment.  It must be time for another clear out of our enormous book collection though, or there soon won’t be room to move in this house.

On the Sunday I went on a Beavers trip with Owl and Monkey to a fun day at a Scout activity centre.  There were so many activities to choose from, including archery, zip wire, climbing “spider mountain”, go-karts, simulators, Meccano building and circus skills.  It was a long day and quite hard work but a lot of fun and all the children had a great time.

On Tuesday I took all four children (by myself!!) to the Natural History Museum.  They enjoyed going on the train and the bus, and they loved the Museum.  In the morning we spent quite a long time in the Creepy Crawlies gallery, and then looked at the Fossils as well.  We had lunch with two other home educating families, which was good fun. I always enjoy meeting people, and the children had a great time playing with their new friends.  We then spent quite a long time in the Wildlife Garden, before the inevitable visit to the shop (more new books!) and then we set off home.  I felt quite a sense of accomplishment at managing the trip on my own and I feel like a world of possibilities has opened up.

On Wednesday we had a meeting of our Home Ed group, at the home of a family who live on a smallholding.  The children had fun digging in the mud, and they also made leaf prints in clay.  Afterwards I helped out at the Beavers sports day, and Owl and Monkey had a great time and tired themselves out completely.  On Thursday I spent a very enjoyable morning at Rabbit’s Preschool.  It was really good to spend some time with her, and she loved it.  She has decided not to do the extra year at Preschool (which would be her Reception year) so she will be finishing next week.  It feels a bit strange to be leaving as it has been part of the routine for so long, but I’m sure it’s the right decision for Rabbit.  She is very excited about joining in with the boys and being home educated.  I asked her what she wanted to learn, and she said “Arts and Crafts and making caterpillars with pompoms.”  I think I can manage that!

This Saturday we had yet another celebration of Owl’s birthday.  We decided we couldn’t take all of his friends bowling at once at the beginning of the month, so we went again with a second lot.  His birthday has therefore lasted a whole month, and he had three birthday cakes – I hope we haven’t set a precedent.  After bowling, we went to a “Jubilympics” event at another local church which was good fun, and quite relaxed which enabled the children to wind down after the excitement of the morning.

Yesterday Owl sang in his choir concert which took place in a garden.  The afternoon started with the audience under umbrellas, but the sun came out just in time and it all went without a hitch.  Owl sang beautifully and came away with a big smile on his face.  Those are the highlights of the last couple of weeks, and there have been all the usual work and other activities going on as well.  As a result I am exhausted, but also happy and proud of my lovely children!  I do have one or two other things to report (regarding caterpillars turning into butterflies, and doing Maths with Smarties!) but I think they each deserve a separate blog post.  I’m going to stop now before I think of anything else – I think this post is long enough.

Monkey’s milkshake recipe

This is Monkey’s version of the milkshake recipe which I posted about a few days ago.  He has written several copies, which I keep finding around the house.  I think he has probably copied it from the book, but he at least he is getting lots of writing practice.  I wondered whether to suggest making some different milkshakes and writing recipes for each one, but maybe I shouldn’t interfere as the whole thing was his idea in the first place.  It has led to lots of reading, writing and interesting discussions so far, so I might wait and see what he comes up with next.

Latin and French

Owl has been learning Latin for a while now using the excellent Minimus series, and Grandpa has also been giving him extra lessons which I think have been very thorough as we have long lists of vocabulary to learn.  Owl has been making flashcards of some of the words (the picture shows just a few of them) and has been doing quite well at remembering them.  It’s been good for me too – my Latin needs a little revision!

While Owl was making his cards, I gave Monkey the eeBoo French flashcards (which I posted about a couple of days ago) to look at.  He was really inspired by them and asked if he could make some of his own.  I cut up some card for him and then left him to it.  He worked very hard on them and I love them!  I think this will be an ongoing project.

Home Ed on the move

One of the things I love most about the Home Ed lifestyle is that you can take your classroom anywhere.  This is especially useful for us when Suburban Dad is away overnight for work.  The children really miss him and daily life is just that little bit harder for me, so our favourite thing to do when Daddy is away is to go and stay with Granny.  Having lots of extra attention from Granny makes the absence of Daddy more tolerable for the kids;  I also enjoy the company and the change of scene (it helps that my mum lives in a very beautiful rural location!)

Another benefit is that without the regular activities we fill up our week with at home, the big ones certainly get a lot more concentrated learning done, while the little ones are having a wonderful time playing with Granny.  I am not saying it doesn’t work at home – it just works differently. For me it is a good balance to have a fairly busy schedule most of the time, with lots of opportunities for socialising and shared learning, but to get away from it all occasionally and enjoy having more time to develop the boys’ learning and also relax and have fun together.

I really like being able to cover more subjects in one day without having to rush from one to the next.  In two days, we have done Maths, Reading, Spelling, Story Writing, Science, Geography, History, Latin, French and violin practice.  The children have also had plenty of free time for drawing and making things, playing with lego and trains, board games and puzzles, listening to stories, playing in the garden (Grandmother’s footsteps, stuck in the mud, blowing bubbles…) and probably loads of other things I’ve forgotten.

Today we have come home, and it’s good to be back.  We had a great afternoon at our small local Home Ed group, with lots of outdoor play and some brilliant Science activities (making sherbet which was very successful, and using lemons as batteries which is a work in progress!)  The big boys then went to Beavers before returning home tired but happy.

So thanks to mum for a lovely relaxing couple of days, to our good friends who hosted the group this afternoon and to the Beavers leaders who work hard every week, without much thanks I suspect.  Hmm, perhaps I need to go and thank all these people, in case they are not reading this.  It’s good to write all this down – it makes me realise how lucky we are.

A good day

Today was busy but successful.  In the morning I took Tiddler to his Musicbox class while a lovely friend looked after 6 children in my house (3 of mine and her 3).  The music class is a relatively new thing for us, and I really enjoy doing something with and for my littlest one, as most of our activities revolve around the older ones.  I’ve wanted to do it for a very long time, but it seemed impossible.  I’m so glad I’ve finally made it happen (and very grateful to the kindness of my friend, and in other weeks my mother-in-law, in looking after the big three children.)

When I arrived back home, the two of us gathered up our collection of children, coats, packed lunches, etc and got ready to set off for the city farm.  A friend joined us with her two little ones, and when we got there we met up with several families from another local home ed group which has recently been set up (there are a lot of us about!)  It was fun to meet some new people and we were fortunate to be able to join in the farm tour which they had arranged.

The children enjoyed feeding the animals (sheep, goats, alpacas… I’m not sure if any of them were brave enough to feed the cows, they were a bit too slobbery…), looking at the tiny newborn piglets and their enormous mother and watching the ducks for a very long time…Tiddler in particular kept coming back to them.   They also had fun stroking a rabbit, visiting “chicken village” (love the name) and feeling a newly laid egg which was warm.

Next we headed into the classroom to eat our packed lunch.  The peace was spoiled by a classic Tiddler tantrum, when he spotted a chocolate bar and therefore refused to eat his sandwiches.  I would like to apologise to the other families (if they happen to be reading) for the terrible noise, but would also like to claim experienced parent brownie points because I WON and he ate his sandwich and apple in the end.  Of course he got the chocolate bar afterwards so he was happy!

The final activity at the farm was clay modelling which was a great hit with the older three children.  They were asked to make models of animals, and were absorbed in the task for a long time, before heading out into the fresh air and sunshine.  It was a lovely outing, and we returned home in time for the children to enjoy some downtime and a Friday afternoon free choice of activities.  Monkey continued to work on and perfect his clay model, and he and Owl did some drawing while Rabbit played with her favourite doll (Holly – who probably deserves a post of her own sometime) and Tiddler had a very long sleep.

I managed to fit in a session tutoring a lovely nearly 10 year old girl (while her mum looked after my children) and the day ended with some fun playing in the garden, enjoying the evening sunshine, until Rabbit demonstrated clearly that it was bedtime by biting her big brother’s arm.  Oh dear – but at least she was tired enough to settle down quickly, as was Tiddler despite the afternoon sleep.  The big boys stayed up a little later to enjoy 20 minutes computer time which they had earned earlier in the day, before going to bed quite cheerfully.  So all in all it’s been a good day!

Monkey’s Cat in a basket

Owl’s Ducks in a duck pond

Rabbit’s Very Big Pig and Very Small Piglet

Home Ed Camp

Yesterday we set off on a short journey to a big adventure – our first overnight camp with a local home education group.  After a quick packed lunch and a chance to explore, the older children had a go at archery while the little ones had a session with slightly less dangerous bows and arrows.  For the rest of the day, they all enjoyed playing in the big open space and wooded areas, getting muddy and collecting wood, and after the evening meal we gathered round a camp fire and toasted marshmallows.  When we eventually tried to put them to bed, the excitement of the day was too much, combined with the excitement of bunk beds, and it was almost midnight by the time our children finally slept.  We did manage a game of knockout whist and some grown-up conversation though, before heading off to bed and discovering our daughter asleep on the floor of the corridor – she was the last one to give in to sleep, and not without a fight.

This morning, we were a bit slow to get going, but after a quick run in the drizzle (me) and a hot chocolate (the children), we joined the other families for breakfast.  Soon after that the older children had a go on the climbing wall, while the younger ones played frisbee, ran around and jumped in muddy puddles.  After that there was just time for a quick lunch before packing up to leave.  We had a great time, but it’s good to be home.  We may have mountains of muddy clothes to wash, but we also have happy children who are thoroughly worn out and now sleeping soundly.  We are very grateful to those who worked so hard to organise the camp, and already looking forward to the next one!