Tag Archives: homeschool

Archimedes lessons

P1000147Having done some of the basic experiments as part of the lesson pack following Archimedes and the door of science (book here) the children have also made the water clock, which is pretty simple to do. You need to make sure the pin holes in the paper cups are big enough for the water to drip though or time will stand still!

From there they have been learning about Archimedes experiments with number patterns. So we have been making triangle and square numbers and then cube and pyramid numbers. It was a good excuse to get out the bead material and the thousand cube box. P1000165

It’s a lovely way to see and present some mathematical concepts.

The children seem to get more out of the lessons when they can stop writing for a bit and make something.

Heleyna tends to join in with those bits as well, so she’s getting a bit of an introduction via the work her older siblings are doing.

Much fun was had.


Home education; is there another method that genuinely works?

I know this isn’t true across the board in home ed circles. I am quite sure there are the cliques of home ed parents competing over Primula’s grade or some such thing. Thankfully, I haven’t been at the receiving end of that.

When I have a worry about how one of my children is learning or even a new discovery that works well, I can ask and share it with other mums who home educate and we’ll throw out ideas or straight forward reassurance.

So home ed mums are saints then? Sadly not, we’re all just human like everyone else. What I think helps us as a group is our education system is so different from the school system, and that’s because, as a group, we don’t have a system. There is no box we have to fit into or fail. There are no tests, no competitions or standards written and ticked. We have our children and they are all so very different, learn differently, have different needs and skills, that there isn’t a box to push them into.

There’s also a very high proportion of children with  “special needs” ranging from simply developing a little slower than average through dyslexia to autism and physical illnesses of various types. And there’s also the gifted children who usually have an area of learning where they outstrip others, but might be less gifted in other areas.

The nature of home education tends to mean that a lot of parents (not all) have an inherent respect for children, where they don’t need reminding of Charlotte Mason’s maxim that children are persons. We spend a lot of time together as families and we learn to adapt around babies, tantrums, learning approaches and mums needing a cuppa and a chat.

We work as a community with all it’s diversity and colour. Some of us have been doing it for years and others are just starting out.

I haven’t been told how brave I am for quite a while but new families often face this sort of back handed compliment. But I don’t think those of us who home educate are brave. I do see parents taking the first steps with trepidation and some fear, and I suppose it does take some courage, but when I see schooled children I think it’s their parents who are brave.

Since “official” kinds of education were invented by the ancient Greeks, Spartans and Rome children didn’t go to school until they were at least 7 to 8 years old and often went even later. It was understood that the foundational part of a child’s education was in a rounded upbringing with social skills and practical skills before the academic side was handled.

Within family and community children learned and grew before attending a more institutionalised system.

This was the system from ancient times until the end of the nineteenth century and it worked well.  Figures show that literacy levels in both Britain and America were as high as 95% before the Education Acts brought about mass schooling. Now they are nearer 60%.

I was told recently by someone who knows that many parents who find their 4 or 5 year old can’t get a school placement refuse to do any work with their own child because they have decided it’s the job of the state! That’s a shocking sign of how upturned our culture’s thinking is!

I think we actually need more families to avoid schools. The standards of education are having serious knock on effects among adults and our culture as a whole as we see not only the rise in illiteracy, ignorance and lack of ethical thought, but the sinking of science and medicine. There are studies and even pieces of research that are being published in what once were respected journals that surely would never have seen the light of day 100 years ago, simply because they are so badly designed and written.

Ken Robinson, John Holt, John Taylor Gatto and others including Dr Temple Grandin had spoken over and over about the state of education and they are being ignored. It’s up to us, as parents, to listen and be willing to bypass the shoddy standards and search for the best education we can offer our children. The more I look, the more I am convinced that home education is becoming the only answer, or one answer among very few others indeed.

While the mainstream media like ITV are asking whether home education can make the grade – surely they should be asking why school education is failing so very many children.

Reasons to home educate

P1010037A friend posted a link to THIS ARTICLE which notes the massive rise in homeschooling families across the states of America. The article suggest the 75% rise is due, largely, to dissatisfaction with the school system there.

I don’t know what the figures are like this side of the pond (I think we learned in the Badman Balls days that statistics were completely arbitrary and meaningless, because they weren’t accurate) but I do remember that reports went out a few months after the election when Badman and Balls were no longer able to come after us, saying, registered home ed families in Oxford and someplace else had risen by 50%. It was almost as if the negative publicity the media had tried to give us had backfired and simply made more people aware that home education was a good choice for their children. The 50% had to be children taken from school and therefore registered with the LA and didn’t include those families who had never sent their children to school.

If you want to home educate in England and Wales you do not need to be registered with the Local Authority. However, if you have removed your child from school you will need to write to the head and s/he will pass this information onto the LA who will automatically register your child. So, as we pulled two children from school we are registered, whereas many of our friends are not. On an even weirder note, in some families one child could be registered and LA loose the paperwork so that other children aren’t. It happens.

A family can choose to register with the LA if they want to, but as there is little to no support from the LA there doesn’t seem much point, and therefore very few families bother.  Nevertheless, despite all the information and legal niceties, far too many HE families report threatening behaviour from the LA person- usually a welfare officer. We have been very lucky in that the LA people with whom I have dealt have been respectful and made the effort to get to understand what HE is. For friends who come under a different authority that has not been the case. There’s been some rumblings that the Local Authority people want to “build bridges” with home educators and in some areas those bridges could be built. Sadly, when yet another family is door-stepped by a Welfare Officer and where “safeguarding” gets bandied about for no reason, those bridges soon tumble. (Part of this, it seems to me, is rooted in the ignorance of the EWOs involved who must think the propaganda about “isolation” is true and come a cropper when some new and apparently green home educator gets help because she knows other more experienced families).

One of the major reasons home educators get cross with poor behaviour from the LA is because so many of us saw our children failed miserably in school – which is under the remit of the LA.

I know many home educators who have chosen this route for very positive reasons. They love the way they can tailor the work to the child and the choices of method, philosophy and resources that are available to home edders that aren’t available in schools. We see our children grow and explore and have time to just be. We see them learn to be with their siblings, setting up close relationships for life. We see their enthusiasm for learning and we can prioritise things properly, adjusting them as necessary.

We are also home educating at a time where resources are abundantly available online or via the post and many of those resources are free. I think many of us who have been doing this for some time have made free resources available and have benefited from other families’ freebies.

Unfortunately there are many negative reasons for home education. Children who are bullied, ignored, too sick, and/or where the school won’t or can’t handle basic medication, or with shamefully unmet learning needs, are removed by parents and successfully home educated. The question that some of us are asked “Do you think you can do it better than school?” has to be answered with a resounding “Yes!” In my case it was more “I couldn’t make it worse…” but now I just know I am offering the children something positive that isn’t available in school. When you look around nearly all of us have at least one child with a “special educational need” (SEN) and yet studies show that home educated children generally out perform schooled children in educational and social testing.

I do love seeing my children enjoy learning and not being ashamed of wanting to learn. I also love that they can have difficulties in certain areas and not have to be ashamed about that either. I love the different things we can go off and study as we aren’t tied into a curriculum. If they struggle with something we have the time and the genuine love to work with it until they are over the obstacles.  

I can tell when one of them is too tired or has simply lost that concentration and can send them to do something else, take a break or just make a cuppa while they recharge and then they can come back to it fresh. Sometimes we decide today isn’t going to work so we can put the lesson off until another time.

I love the way the children at Home Ed Group work together. Ages and special needs of all kinds are unimportant – everyone chips in. If problems occur the mums can deal with it straight away, nipping things in the bud and helping the children remember how to behave properly. We aren’t saints, and neither are our children – all the more reason to be there to deal with bad behaviour straight away.

One of the other major advantages in home education – at least for us – has been helping the children to learn independently.  It’s something I remember someone from the Open University saying about home educated youngsters who took on OU causes under the age of 18. They could already work independently and so could get on with things without the tutor having to say when to open the book and how many pages to read.

Home Education isn’t for everyone. It’s not a panacea against all educational and family problems; but the fact is, it is good for many families and I suspect would be better for a lot of children who are currently being failed in school.

Studies that have been done make interesting reading in that they show children from poorer backgrounds who are home educated do as well as children from so-called “middle class” families.  Schools can’t make this claim sadly.

Home educating is hard work, and there are times when I wish I wasn’t doing it; but overall I think it’s working well for us and most importantly, it’s working very well for the children.

Further reading

The Pagans Are Happy to Socialize Your Children

home education; quick phases of the moon lesson with oreos and other buscuits.

As a bit of a treat from having just completed some Greek grammar we decided to make


the phases of the moon with Oreos.

The earth was made from an upturned gluten free jammy wheel on which Ronan drew the continents and coloured in the sea. We have some great food colouring felt pens for just such an occasion.

The sun was made from a gluten free custard cream. Then the Oreos were taken apart and the cream cut to size and the phases marked and laid down in the right place in relation to the earth and sun.

Avila got to eat the world and the sun but I didn’t let Ronan and Heleyna eat 2/3rds of a packet of Oreos. I’m not that bad a mother…yet.

Next plan to make DNA sequence out of mini marshmallows and red liquorice straws.

P1020557Meanwhile I discovered that the water I was cooking purple sprouting broccoli in for dinner that night, went purple. So I saved some in test tubes to see if it makes good universal indicator.

Yes, I know, that’s so horribly home ed of me.

There’s some free science lessons here. I haven’t had a chance to look them over properly yet so can’t vouch for them but you could see what you think.

I do want to have a go at THIS LESSON where the children can build DNA with liquorice straws and marshmallows.

You might also like the free Kaplan Anatomy Colouring Book.

Lapbook of Clouds

From ETC MONTESSORI I downloaded the  clouds nomenclature cards. A search around the net (google images) produced some extra pics about where the clouds are in the sky. Heleyna is using Behold and See Book 1 for science and as we have hit the chapter on weather, a Cloud lapbook seems like a good accompaniment to the chapter.

The free Montessori printables are just right for this sort of thing.

You need a folder


to start with

Open it out like this.


After that, how you stick things in and where you put them is pretty much up to you and the children making them.

We are adding some extra’s to the lapbook about the seasons and weather in the northern and southern hemisphere’s. She will look at the weather here for a week and make a weather calender from her science book.


easy origami basket and dying eggs.

We had a lovely time yesterday at the Home Ed group get together. The children played some games Roni organised – his ideas coming from Cubs. Then they made really simply baskets and went on an easter egg hunt. Finally they dyed some hard boiled eggs in very strong solution of Kool Aid.

So here’s the way to do it. For the basket you will need a piece of construction or sugar paer. Star by folding i


n one corner to make a triangle with a straight line on the top edge.

You will have a piece left over at the side. Fold this against the edge of the triangle and either carefully tear or cut it off. Keep it for the handle.

Take one corner and fold it across so the point touches the opposite edge in the middle.

















Then fold the opposite corner across. You will have a triangle at the top of your basket now.



Turn the basket over and fold down the first triangle.


Turn the basket over and open the slot at the front. Fold the triangle down and


tuck it into that slot.








Open the basket and push up it’s bottom which will keep the basket open.





Fold the spare strip in three to make a handle and then staple or stick it to the sides of the basket.





Your basket is ready for decoration and to be stuffed with tissue and eggs or other little gifts.




Now to dye your eggs. You will need eggs. You can either hard boil them or blow them. To blow an egg you must take a needle and pierce a hole in the top and a slightly larger hole in the bottom of your egg. A good free range egg is best. Those poor battery farmed hens lay fragile eggs that can break rather than let you put a good hole in them. So use eggs where the poor hens have been treated with the respect due to God’s creation.


Rinse the eggs through thoroughly.

To decorate your eggs, you can first draw a pattern on it using a wax crayon.

If you are using Kool Aid mix the powders in small bowls with a small amount of water. Place the eggs in the mixture and let them soak for a while.


I am sure that food colouring would work too.






Home Education; making them learn?

A few things have come up recently that leave me wondering about the narrow road we have to walk as home educators when it comes to the discipline in our home and the learning that goes on.

Both Charlotte Mason and Dr. Montessori had a gentle, but firm and consistent approach to discipline, that respected the child but recognised that human nature is fallen.  If education is going to lead a child out – it must offer  system for them to be able to “be out” and among other people. Respecting a child does not mean expecting them to have the same emotional and social maturity of an adult (of a properly formed adult). Part of the process of growing up and being educated is learning the virtues. Then in adulthood the skills in self discipline and self motivation should have been learned so that it won’t take someone else to push them all the time.

But there are fall off cliffs on either side of parenting. On the one side discipline can become bullying and aggressive and on the other side loving the child can become permissiveness and allowing them to do what they like and have what they want, which of course isn’t love.

I’ve spoken with more than one parent who believes that making a child do anything is bad for them. They should decide what they learn and when they learn it, they insist.

I just don’t see how that would work. It certainly wouldn’t work here. As things are now the children each have a learning box with most of their work books and stuff in there. Each learning day I set out the work first thing in the morning. Then the children come to do their work. They can do it in any order they like and take the time they need, but it must be all done. There is plenty of free time in and around the work, but no “privileges” until the day’s work is complete.

There are a number of aspects of the children’s learning that I am “in charge” of. Although we decide together, the children and I, what kind of learning we need to use, I choose and buy the stuff.

The children are part of a family. They can’t just do what they want when they want or have what they want when they want. Life isn’t like that. So, they learn to work and live within the confines of life. That’s not a bad thing really. Sometimes they have to do work they are not that interested in. Sometimes they find the work a bit of a struggle. But they do the work; they learn to ask for help when they need it and to be willing to stretch themselves a little to get to grips with something. (And stretch me a great deal at times!)

We learn together and there are times when they are well ahead of me in some areas.

I’ve decided, in light of how things are, and could be, that I need to plan ahead a bit with their work. This means I set out a minimum requirement for each learning day and try to plan it ahead. This should cover all, or most, eventualities. It does need to be flexible to cover stuff I haven’t thought of. But it also needs to be clear so that they can get on with whatever they need to do, regardless of what’s happening with me.

The knock-on effect is less spontaneity. But I think there’s still some space for that.  It’s a case of making things work for the children, no matter what life throws at us.

Home education – And what about science? Huh?

After the “Are you a teacher?” and “Is it legal?” questions and when the great “S” question has been asked the next recourse of those who do not understand your decision tends to be “How will you teach science?” or more often “You wont be able to teach science.”

Interestingly as we have been doing this Home Ed lark, and as Iona did quite a bit of science aimed at homeschoolers one of the comments she received from her schooled peers was how jealous they were at the amount of actual experiments she got to do, compared to them.


The Classic Science of Mr Q Lots of freebies and the pay for booklets are convenient Pdf downloads.

TOPS Science

Maths/Science Nucleus k-12 free curriculum. This looks pretty good to me. However, handle with care. I have already come across some aspects that I will edit out. There’s a piece about feelings that has that horrible ’60s view that feelings can’t be helped and we need to learn to express them. I am sure most of you have more sense and are teaching feelings and how to control them in the light of virtue training. I am not sure if there are other dubious bits of science there, but there is certainly plenty of good stuff.

NIH curriculum supplementation mostly aimed at middle to high school. Looks like there are some fascinating subjects there.

Apologia Science books are based on a “living literature” approach. We have used their Astronomy and Botany books. The background is Young Earth Creationist, but written in a fair way about mainstream science and secular science. It is written in a way that respects the children.  There are some free chapters to give you a sense of the books.

Seton’s Science The stuff you can buy from Seton Homeschool supplies. Some of the Mr. Wizard videos are to be found on Youtube.

Cosmos4Kids also has other sciences for children aged 8ish and above. They even have a maths page now. (scroll to the bottom of their page to see the choices).

There are a few things to learn at the Children’s University of Manchester

Hubble site find out what to look for in the night sky and go out and look for it on a clear night.

CHC uses the Behold and See series

Draw Write Now no 6 is recommended for nature study.

There are lots of different science kits around for all kinds of experiments.

Ian Maxwell’s Catholic Science Podcasts are excellent, covering not only science but the history of science. He regularly covers a Catholic scientist, their life work and achievements. He also straightens out some of the misinformation spread about the Catholic Church’s approach to science.

You will also need a good supply of the following:

mentos, and/or alcha-seltzer and Bicarb of soda


red cabbage

aluminium foil

various other stuff of a kitchen nature.

Now, there is a debate about the best time to get children involved in what I suppose would be called “formal” science. It is thought better to allow younger children to spend more time exploring and studying nature. This is a very good way of helping children to make their own discoveries through exploration. In nature study the children are first allowed to be filled with wonder and appreciation of the sheer beauty of creation. Charlotte Mason encourages us to allow our children plenty of nature exploration time.In this way children build the foundations for enquiry.

When they are older they can begin more formal science. However, I have to admit we have already done some “formal” stuff, but gently and in some ways just for the interest.

I avoid the National Curriculum in all its banality, but I especially don’t like it’s science approach. Everything is done for the children. If and when they ever get to do their own experiment it is all set out for them with a preset result. Frankly, it’s boring. The problem with a science curriculum that gets very young children to write and plot and learn to box things up, is that they never learn how to see the nature, the world around them.

It seems to me there are three types of science curriculum out there. There is what I suppose would be called “secular” science that looks at the world as a purely material place. A lot of science is based on material observation so this is fine so long as the books remain within that remit. The other books I have tended to use are Christian based science books. These openly acknowledge the root of existence in God and how the order and law we can discover in the universe is set there by God. These books are explicit not only in acknowledging the First Cause – the Unmoved Mover but in stating who He is. I have no problem with these books. Some of the Christian based science books are Young Earth Creationist in view such as those provided by Apologia. Again, these books are so well written and so honest in putting forward both sides of the debate that I don’t have a problem with them.

For older children some of the “science” books lean towards a more secular political viewpoint, rather than empirical evidence. I would tend to lean even further towards Christian based books then, so long as there isn’t a political agenda in them. I think the reason many Catholic American homeschool curriculums recommend Apologia and some other protestant based science books is that they do have a more honest approach to science than many “secular” books.

Finally however I would say it is very important for the older children to get to grips with the history of science and the persons who made the discoveries. For Catholics this is particularly interesting as so much science has been done and dusted by great Catholic thinkers as the Church has been the core of scientific support from medieval times. Sadly, yet again, Catholic families must tread carefully even with fellow Christian written stuff because there is a nasty tendacny among secular and some protestant writers to repeat dishonest accounts of the Church’s approach to science.

Home Education Out and About.

We set off for the Home Ed group at the library. Met up with a lot of parents and children, drank tea, chatted and the children read books to each other and made pictures with the craft stuff one of the mums had bvrought.

The group attracts a lot of families just starting out, and many of them have removed children from school.  There’s something a little disturbing about the stories mums and dads recount about why they had to remove their child from school; and that is, they are the same story – different child, differnt age, different school, different learning – the story of nastiness and stonewalling  and refusal to guarentee children are safe is the same story. It is surely the banality of evil.

These stories mingled with talk about “The Meeting” that most of us can’t or have very good reason not to attend.  How can the LA talk about monitoring us, and checking up om the standard of education and safety of our children, when they are so patently incapable of providing that to the children that have been handed over to them? It’s a mystery.

Off to the Museum and Art Gallery afterwards. Got permission to eat our packed lunch at the school tables; although apparently they are only for schools and must be booked in advance. Still, they let us when I asked.

 Lots of beautiful things to explore, touch and look at.  I liked the fact that some of the pottery was in plastic boxes the children could put their hands through and feel.

On the way home Heleyna said she had enjoyed her day. Her favourite part of it all?…eating lunch!

Home Education: The joys and memories of childhood.

 Squirrel   It was a bright October morning on Thursday when my friend arrived to pick up Ronan and Avila and take them on a day trip to the Safari Park.  Avila, who is 5 went armed with my camera and took some pretty good photos while she was there. The children all had a wonderful time and were still talking about it when they got together for history and art today.

K’s children have had a rough couple of weeks with the grandmother dying and the funeral being on Wednesday. Please keep Margaret and her family in your prayers. Yesterday and today were good days to try and get back on track.

The trip to the Safari park was free. Not something you would expect, but they went about three weeks ago and were offered a free re-admission ticket so long as they took up the offer before the end of the month.

My older, wiser (more cynical) daughter concluded that these tickets get handed out because it makes the park look good, but in reality few people will have the time to take the opportunity to return so soon.

The joy of Home education is that you can always (nearly) find the time.

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I am actually quite impressed with the photos Avila managed to take.

While most of the Charlotte Mason Nature Study stuff is about pine comes and birds and squirrels, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional elephant and camel is there?

(And just in case you’re thinking, ‘Call that Charlotte Mason Education!’ my crip-scooter basket is packed with pine cones.That’s better isn’t it?)

The Education of Last Resort.

The council sent a letter addressed to my 3 yr old, whose name they spelled incorrectly. The letter wasn’t to her anyway, it was to her dad and me.

It used legalistic jargon to tell me that by the time my 3 yr old is 5 I am legally obliged to ensure she is receiving a suitable education…and here are the forms for primary schools I should complete.

The whole thing went into the bin.

There is no hint in this officaldom nonsense that home education even exists, much less being a very good suitable choice for the education of our children.

My friend received her letter for her 3yr old daughter too. She has written all over the form that she and her husband are choosing to home educate and they are pretty unimpressed that the council doesn’t even mention this as a viable option, as choosing any school.

Back when I sent my older children to school I had never heard of home education. Later I discovered homeschooling in America, but it was some time after that I heard of home education in the UK.

These days when I mention to people I meet that we home educate, nearly everyone has heard of it. Many have even considered it as an option, but most still react by telling me how “brave” I am to do it. Frankly I think it’s “brave” to take the risk of sending children to school these days.

More and more studies, stats and research show that more and more children are not receiving a suitable education in school. I see parents having to buy resources and pay for tutors to make up for the lack of school education. So the children come home after 6-7 hrs of school to face the homework, the “extras” and even tutors.  This happens so much that Letts, Dorling Kindesley and other publishers have whole networks of books aimed at this extra-at-home market.  I am not just talking about extra tuition for exams at gcse either – I mean primary school and early secondary.

I do think as HE is more widely known of, the more parents will keep their children away from the failed school system. This isn’t brave, it’s just performing our legal (and moral) duty to ensure our children receive a suitable education.

School should be a last resort for parents and children who need that option. If it was a last resort class sizes would be smaller and maybe if parents had their power back, they could demand a better system.

Lovely day in a secret garden

It is just beginning to feel like Summer might be on the way. We packed a picnic, collected another family and set off to meet another family at Winterborne House and Gardens. It’s a bit of a secret garden as no one seems to know of it. There was a great deal of garden for the children to explore including a little bridge over a stream filled with lily pads in a rather Monet-esque manner.

There was a cactus house and an orchid house as well as chickens and bees.

The house had toys and lots of information about the families who had lived there. This included the information that one of the mother’s of the household had become President of the Parents National Education Union in 1912. The PNEU was established by Charlotte Mason so I was really interested in that.

We got in free on the proviso that we go back on Tuesday afternoon for a photo shoot with the children playing.

This is the second time the children will be in promotional material for a visitors guide thing. I think we should start calling them ‘models’ :)

On the way out after a day of running around, playing, talking and exploring a couple of us wondered what the learning objectives for such a visit should be. This was our first time there so really it was just an exploration of the gardens to see what the children could get out of it. But I do believe that even if there are no set lesson outcomes for these trips that there is plenty of on the spot learning going on. Apart from the shared knowledge of trees, birds and plants we could offer them there is the very important aspect of the children learning to be together, share ideas and time and share each other. Running around and exploring safely by themselves was probably better for them in many ways than the “this is called…” bits of the day.

Reading and Listening Week: Tues and Wed

More books and stories we have read and listened to:

Horton Hatches the Egg

Grandfather’s Journey

The Squire and the Scroll

From Our Island Story the Coming of Arthur (Ch 12)

From Famous Men of the Middle Ages we listened to Alaric the Visogoth

And a couple of Poems from A Moral Alphabet by Hillaire Belloc. We loved D for Dreadful.

Aesop’s Fables (with CD)

A Scary Adventure

The Clown of God de Paola

And just in case you are thinking Iona doesn’t join in with reading week-she is reading

The House on the Strand and has requested Notes From the Underground which came up in her Open Uni course. So I’ll get that for her.

We made the reading tree as you can see :)

Tomorrow we’re out all day and Friday is the usual kind of Friday with the HE families, so I don’t think there’s many more stories t0 add to the tree now.

National Science and Engineering Week

As it is National Science and Engineering week  I am getting the children to do some stuff with these sites:

Harcourt Health and some of the free bits from HSP Science along with the Hubble site. We’ll probably be doing some experiments and continuing with the astronomy book. We also have a trip to Think Tank planned for Thursday.

Home Education Curriculum; books and websites

Okay, so having talked about all the computer and curriculum choices out there and how we use computers here’s what we have been up to. It will be half term on Friday so we are half way through this academic year.

My children are half way though UK rec (pre-K) ; yr 2 (grade 1) and yr 11 (gr 10)

Here it all is so far:

Continue reading

Who is really disadvantaged in education?

Bareness Deech felt quite comfortable writing this load of twaddle on her blog.  She is following this equally ignorant piece by Lord Soloy. Both of these people have the power to vote for or against the Bill when it reaches the house of Lords and yet both show no knowledge or understanding or either home education, the law as it stands or what the Bill means. I am sure they are not the only Lords who are willing to spout as “fact” that is which nothing of the sort.

Meanwhile I wonder just who is truly disadvantaged by their parents choice of education?

As I mentioned in an earlier post we had a load of young people here on Saturday night. One of the reasons to meet up was to try and organise a weekend on a canal boat as a Scout event. Most boat hire companies set short breaks from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. It would mean picking the boat up about half two to three o’clock on the Friday and then being back by Sunday night. This would mean those who are school educated (all of them but Iona) would need to leave school an hour or so early on the Firday. One of the girls was panicking and horrified at the idea of loosing an hour or so of school. She insisted it would never be allowed. Others also thought there would be ructions.

The education thought box is locked tight. No education can take place outside of the institution. A group of youngsters working together, cooking, managing the budget, taking care of the boat, seeing the wildlife and history of the canals; non of it counts as education because it wouldn’t be in school!!!

I’ve lost count of the times my kids schooled friends have missed out on activities and trips because they have to sit home and do homework.

I wonder who was missing from the trip to the Birmingham Wheel last night because of homework? Or because they were just too tired after long journeys to and from school and all day wondering aroud the institution.

Just who is missing out here?

Sickness, burnout and Home Education.

One of the recurring themes for many home education sites is how to avoid or get over burnout. The day to day of home education and parenting can be exhausting and I think it is fair to say that many mothers get so tired they put their children into school because they think it must be easier.

exhaustedThere are a number of ways to avoid burnout or to at least mitigate against it’s effects. The best way-but it seems the hardest to get organised, is to have ‘mum time’.  This can take a number of forms; get a bit of time to read or just do nothing with a cup of tea. Get a few minutes while the children are otherwise occupied to blog a bit. (The incredible luxury of time to think up and write a whole post in one go may be a dream too far, but a few sentences at a time can be achieved).

Sickness is a tough one. I have realised that I need to be able to be flexible with the children’s learning when I am not well. The last week or so has been very hard going thanks to some kind of relapse in my disability that going by another home ed mum’s experience may be some kind of virus. In order to keep the education going I have needed to get the children to do some work more independently. There are some really good websites that will guide children in their learning and allow them to explore even if the parent helping is a witless blob for the day or even a few days. It doesn’t hurt that we spent a bit longer on the sofa while the children drew and read and looked through books on the human body.

The main problem most of us have when we are ill is there is simply no time to recover so it takes so much longer.  It doesn’t matter how chilled the educational side gets, toddlers in particular still need care and the fact is, even with a bit of a curriculum melt down, most of us don’t want to let the educational side of things go completely no matter how bad things get.

A friend of mine kept going through chemo! And I’ve had the children bring work to hospital to show me. We’re a weird bunch.

Most of us will look out for one another in a crisis but I do believe most of us mums need some time that is just for us, or burnout will become inevitable. Sadly I just can’t find out HOW to do this on a regular basis. Usually I have reached complete exhaustion before I get a break.

Most homeschool advice columns will point to dads and grandparents as a good way of ensuring children are out of the house for a day or two so mum gets a break. Sometimes this is possible, but for many of us dads work long hours and grandparents are not always an option.

So what do I suggest?

Be realistic- nobody is Supermum and there will be times when you need to let it ride and leave everything alone for a day. DO that. Worksheets, websites and just playing can be fine for a short time.

Ask for help: I have always found this one difficult to do. The hostility towards home education that I faced at the beginning has left me feeling that a lot of people would think “you’ve made your bed…” However I have found that there are people who recognise the massive commitment of home education and will be there if you ask them. DADs too can be asked to help. Some of the best help you can get of course is fellow home educators-who are already wearing the t-shirt.

Don’t CARE so much about what others think: The important thing is your children are happy, learning and doing fine.  You are doing this for them not other people. Constantly hoping for approval and support from those who will never give either is self defeating-leading to stress, doubt and burnout. Let it go.

Alongside this I think we need to beware of looking for solutions on places where they don’t exist. Don’t forget to pray-after all He really does have the solution and will give graces for each day.

MUM time. I really think this would prevent a lot of tired, fed up and irritable mothers. I am working on this one and I will let you know when I find a solution. I keep saying I am going to do this-but haven’t worked out how. If anyone has good ideas I really am interested.

Home Education-new daily plan

  Books I have set about a kind of day-plan for the home ed this term. I have not exactly time tabled as this is too rigid and when I tried it before it was awful.

This time I have taken what I think Ronan needs to get through each day and simply written it as a set of lessons for the day with some thought as to what it will be easy for Avila to join in with. I want the set up to be as flexible as possible because interruptions and other plans have a tendency to interfere.

here’s how Tues and Wed went:track

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Staffordshire County Council

Sometimes words fail me! YOU JUST HAVE TO READ WHAT STAFFs  COUNTY COUNCIL ACTUALLY WROTE!**%^! Matt Hupfield will soon be a legend in his own lifetime as he so doggedly refuses to let Staffordshire County Council pull him down. I think I may have posted a link previously HIS FIGHT-but if not, here it is again.

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Home Education Monday

It was the first day back (officially) today. No TV this morning for the smalls who were quite happy about that and went off to play until prayer time.

Avila had her hospital appointment this morning so off we went to the Children’s to see her pediatrician. I was able to say she is doing really well and when they weighed and measured her she is now 2stone and 101cms so she is well into ‘normal’ now. The doc was so impressed HE HAS DISCHARGED HER! Jump For JoyShe got a couple of stickers and off we went!

We spent the rest of the morning planting out the seedlings. It’s hard work and ye gods it HURTS. Still, we got the purple broccoli, carrots, onions and more curly Kale planted out. Hopefully we will have enough of a crop to share. I also want to be able to give some to the lady from church who gave us the money so we could do this. This is part of Ronan’s Spring study and a photo will go in his little book of seasons.

Spent half the afternoon washing up stuff as the dishwasher is bust. I had forgotten the amount of washing up we can make here.

Iona showed me the photos she took on the 3 day Scout boat trip last week.

It rained for a day and a half but they had wonderful sunshine for the other day and a half.

Iona took this, which I think is lovely.










She took this one too.

Each of them had a job and cleaning out the weed trap had to be done.

This boat is owned by the Council so that children can have a go at this kind of thing. I’m grateful they had this time and they really enjoyed themselves.

Scouts is great for the children. Although here I am again having forgotten to take Ronan to Beavers! *Sigh*.

I need a BIG sign somewhere  I can’t miss it.

On being a bad parent (and the Review)

I am sure that most parents spend time wondering if they are doing the right thing. Trying to bring children up in this culture is frankly quite difficult at times. The cult of expert has hardly helped us as parents as now we are left second guessing everything we do in case it doesn’t get ‘expert’ approval.

Making parents bow to the experts has hardly given us a country full of well rounded happy children (according to that recent report from the Children’s Society).Yet here we are with the Review on Home Education and the panal is stuffed with people who are ‘experts’-not in parenting, or Elective Home Education of course, but experts and that’s the important thing. Check out Carlotta’s Dare to Know on this.

I don’t know what experts would say about the choice we have made as a family that no more of our children will be put through a school education. I wonder what the experts on this panel actually THINK about Elective Home Education. Only two people have bothered to speak to EHE families-what about the rest? Do they buy into the ignorant judgements that we are bad parents because we are ‘over protective’ or our children are not ‘socialised’ or they are not given access to ‘science labs’? Do they believe the average parent isn’t capable of offering their children opportunities for a well rounded education and upbringing? Do they want to curb those of us who have Christianity as the foundation of our family life, or those who have Islam as the foundation of their family life? (I haven’t seen other religions targeted as yet).

For us home education is not primarily about our children achieving academically (or even achieving economic wellbeing!) it is about learning to grow as a person; to know right from wrong; to be comfortable with responsibility and even with sacrifice. 

I cannot envisage forcing on my children a curriculum based on everything being relative until an adult decides what is absolute in that situation. Some things simply ARE and I want my children to learn that.

I don’t want them put through sex ed in the way this horrible Govt wants it taught as nothing more than grooming. Why do they insist that smoking is horrible, bad and must not happen, but children having sex is ‘safe’ so long as they have a condom? (Okay I know why. Follow the money).

I think many on this panel will think that young people can only avoid being NEET (oh the horror!) if they have sat the recommended exams. It seems to be the only measure they have of achievement. The idea that a child can put together his own portfolio and get work based on his behaviour rather than any GCSEs is probably something they can’t envisage.

Then Gill posts that Mr Badman said he felt traveller children were missing their potential by not going to University. Perhaps Mr Badman hasn’t noticed the shocking cost of going to University or the number of grads without work.

Josh is off to Uni in Sept. He has an open day next week where he can check out the course more fully and meet the staff.  Hopefully this degree will give him what he needs to set up his own drama business and get to do some study over at FUS in a few years. But despite the massive cost and the debt he faces-there are no guarantees, especially in the UK. I am glad he didn’t go straight from school, but has spent time working this out, working a job and he has really tried to achieve his dream of going to study in America and get the business links he wanted over there.

Alex wants to avoid Uni if at all possible-and I hope he can.

The Review team are all about child protection, curriculum, computers, more child protection, early years development and a couple of SEN experts.

Trying to be a good parent is difficult. We are constantly second guessed by ‘experts’. In our house we have one TV (that doesn’t work very well) and although we have a couple of working computers (and a semi-dead one Josh uses) the children are limited with use. Yes we use it for curriculum stuff but I think there are plenty of other ways to learn rather than sat in front of the computer all day. Also we CHOOSE which websites we use. I will not be bending to a one size curriculum.

Home education is part of normal family life. It isn’t “school” followed by “home”. So we all pitch in to take care of one another and the house. Is this domestic servitude? Is it wrong that older children learn a little responsibility around their younger siblings? My children are expected to dress modestly and behave politely, treating others with respect. Of course this must be bad because it curbs their natural self expression surely.

Then as a bad parent I censure what the children see on TV, read, listen to-you name it. As my older children study media and how to make it, it certainly don’t need them exposed to the nasty anti family, sleazy and even miserable nihilistic stuff that is so easily available. A friend of ours stopped her daughter watching CBBC when she started picking up the nasty attitude of a child in a programme (one of those very popular children’s authors things-again anti parents). A lot of this stuff is forced on children in school.

The censorship here does lend itself to some eclectic music though. Josh plugged his MP3 player into the car t’other day as we went to Stratford and we were treated to Due South music, Weird Al, Rossini, LOTR soundtrack, Corrine Bailey Ray, some jazz, Verdi…LOL!

I am not saying that all home educated children are better socialised and better behaved, more polite, gentle etc than schooled children. I know a lot of school teens who are lovely and sadly I know a few home ed kids who are aggressive, rude and destructive. It happens. Some parents don’t bother trying to correct bad behaviour and the rest of us get the brunt of it. But this is NOT about education is it? It’s about parenting.

So what is the review going to come up with? It says it will ensure recommendations are “based on evidence” (research based practice we assume); and the evidence is that Home Educated children do better academically, socially and psychologically than their schooled peers.

What about Christianity? This Govt loathes Christians (and especially Catholics) who actually ARE Christians. The word ‘extremist’ gets thrown around a lot to try and make us look terrible. They want our children to tolerate certain people and despise others-but us pesky Christians have this view that every person from the moment of conception is made in the image and likeness of God with an inherent dignity worthy of respect and love! They want to push sex on our children but Christians say it’s holy and for marriage. Oh the horror! They want the superstition of enviromentalism forced down our necks, but Christians believe in Stewardship of the earth, not carbon footprints or hug-a-tree-kill-a-baby. They have no problem with lies, cheating and a bit of theft here and there-but those nasty judgemental Christians have the Ten Commandments!…the list goes on.

I am not saying that how we parent or even educate our children is a purely private matter. It isn’t. How children are taught to behave, and how they view life is important to communities. Far too many of us have had to field the horrible behaviour of other people’s children where parents either don’t seem able or willing to curb this behaviour. Many parents seem to be dis-empowered (‘scuse the jargon but it fits here).

Reviews like this one don’t look set to help any parent grab back their place in the family do they?

Charlotte Mason and some sidebar updates

inmemoriamAntiona was asking about books to read on Charlotte Mason.

To be honest I haven’t read that many. I have bought Karen Andreola’s Charlotte Mason Companion which is a good dippy into book with lovely illustrations that although a bit twee and cutesy Edwardian I rather like.

I also invested in the six book Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason herself. These books are not easy reading but they are well worth the effort. Charlotte was Anglican but she had a great love of St Teresa of Avila and that really shines through in Vol 4 Ourselves. If you have ever read St Teresa’s The Interior Castle you’ll see the influence in Charlotte’s writing.

You can read the series free online via the AMBLESIDE website.

Ambleside Online is a huge treasure trove of Charlotte Mason goodies. There are articles from the original PNEU magazines and there is a well thought out curriculum. It is American and so follows their school years so watch out for a bit of confusion.

One of the joys of a Charlotte Mason approach is that no curriculum is rigid. I look at the Ambulside one for ideas but we don’t follow it completely. It’s a dip and take what is best for your child thing.

Simply Charlotte Mason is another good site for resources especially for those just staring out.

Charlotte may seem an odd sort of person to have as a model for home education. She was single, had no children of her own and was a teacher. But she truly loved children and understood families very well; it shines through in her writing.

There is  Charlotte Mason Education: a how to manual by Catherine Levison which I have to admit I have never read.

The foundation of Charlotte’s philosophy of education is that CHILDREN ARE PERSONs. This is something sadly lacking in todays educational philosophies.

Parents begin not with the three Rs or anything that looks educational but rather with habits; the discipline of habits. A child isn’t going to learn much if he doesn’t know how to learn; how to listen, how to see and he needs the freedom to explore his world.

She firmly believed that children should be with their parents-mothers in particular until they were at least 7. She was horrified by the growing trend to put children into schools at an earlier and earlier age. She pointed out that even that Lu..what’s-his-name of the Spartans didn’t take children until they were 7.

It might be worth noting here that the Spartan system of taking children at the age of 7 and forcing them into education and training aimed at making them fit for purpose for the nation failed. Spartans may be remembered but they no longer exist.

 Flowers & Butterfly 

Some sidebar additions have been made:

Engineering Interact. It says it is aimed at KS2 9-11yr olds but Ronan and Avila like it and have not found it too difficult.

Signed Stories     I think I might have mentioned this site before. Do have a look at it. There are stories for children to listen to and read and learn a little BSL as they go.

Northumberland Resources is a great place to find things.

The Artists Toolkit looks good but we haven’t had a good look at it yet.

The Virtual Orchestra is marvellous. The children have had a good look at each instrument and get to listen to what it sounds like.

Tales of Europe looks good as does Myths and Legends which I found via Carlotta’s Dare to Know blog.


Spring home education


Ronan is starting to get to grips with my little camera. He wants to take photos for a Spring diary he is going to keep. In fact we have decided to keep a whole year diary and he is going to take photos throughout the year to see how trees and flowers change through the seasons.

This is his photo of snowdrops growing in a neighbours garden.

With the lovely bright weather we have been doing more outside stuff; planting and looing after the seedlings as well as things in the local park.

After a math u see session with Avila and M we set off with all the children to the park. Everyone was out spotting circles and triangles.  The children’s play area has a table and stools set as well as a lovely Once Upon A Time chair. After playing on the equipment Avila and M came to the table to complete their maths sheets and Avila read to me. Then it was off to the pond to feed the ducks and for Ronan to take more photos. There was a short opportunity for a couple of us mums to get some mother’s day cards done!

There were handfuls of slightly squished daisies for the mums before it was time to go home.

Charlotte Mason wrote:

There is no kind of knowledge to be had in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in….We are all meant to be naturalists, each to his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.

Charlotte having the huge beauty of Ambulside and the Lake District on her doorstep believed nature study was very important to children’s education. She saw that children automatically showed great interest in trees, flowers and animal life around them. She makes it clear that parents and teachers don’t have to force children to see, hear, smell, touch or even taste what is around them; they just do it. (sometimes a parent may have to discourage tasting!!)

But what about Iona you might ask? Surely a 15 year old spending time in the park with a bunch of babies, toddlers and children is missing out on her education??

Well she doesn’t think so. She is helping grow the veg; she is learning more about what grows around here and to appreciate its beauty.

Her time with the children is teaching her a great deal about child development and how children learn. She isn’t doing so much of this from books and online articles-although she uses that too; she is doing it through hands on experience.

Watching so much of this kind of learning going on with the children from Heleyna’s age to Iona’s reinforces in me the view that learning has very little to do with what happens in a classroom, or even what happens on a computer website. So much learning actually goes on in everyday life. There is so much that every day life teaches so that a person grows and matures, not just in what he or she knows, but in who they are.

Iona achieves economic wellbeing-fending for herself!!

dscf14331Iona enjoys cooking and does quite a bit of it making all sorts of things. One of our friends commissioned her to make two cakes last week. One was a Spiderman head cake and the other was a double chocolate layer cake (Iona’s speciality).

Here she is getting to grips with my air brush. I used to use it a lot for cake painting and it’s great to see it getting used again!


Here’s the finished cake. The young man celebrating his 5th birthday loved the cake so much he refused to cut it. It took a couple of days to persuade him.

Meanwhile Iona was also asked to babysit for a day and did a great job. She had plenty to write up in her Child Care notes afterwards.

She has earned some money for all her efforts and feels she has fended well for herself and achieved some economic well being for herself.

Although this is not what Iona wants to do for a living, I am pleased to see she can be flexible and use what talents she has.

Meanwhile she is working on a small media project (among other things) and J a home ed mum who knows about these things, is giving her advice. It’s going well.

Homeschool Wednesday

 Books The three little ones have had a mercifully mild bought of D&V. So yesterday was a non-day especially as Ronan was feeling pretty rough. We cancelled all the home ed families and the family coming today had already cancelled as their children are going through a really bad bought of D&V.

Whatever that virus is-it keeps going round!

As we are all a bit jaded I decided on a relaxed approach to home ed today. There was a Math U See sheet or two to do, followed by some time on STARFALL. They made the calendar and then Avila did the ‘ug’ exercise and read ‘Gus the Duck’. Ronan then read about a treehouse on the ‘I’m Reading’ section.

They then had some time making models out of playdoh (or the fake equivalent). I’m quite pleased with how Ronan is learning about 3D shape formation. He made a pretty good looking fat little dinosaur.

After lunch we went back to the book “Why is Night Dark?” to look at the pages on stars. The Hubble Site does a great little video for the March night sky.

We then watched a couple of Youtube videos on the life of a star and what a supernova looks like.

The children are helping to keep an eye on the seedlings as they start to grow. The Bright Light Chard is doing well already and we have seen some signs of Kale life as well as onion life. There is just the tiniest hint of carrot growth.

Did question 24 of the Catechism which the children enjoyed. They ask very sensible questions-sometimes quite hard ones! I was going to go on to Qu 25 but it’s on the Holy Trinity and my brain isn’t up to that today. Tomorrow maybe.

Another home ed mum popped over with bags of clothes and shoes. Heleyna is now in possession of  2 PAIRS of shoes; no more poverty for her at least LOL.