Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The giant tent

At last I've managed to upload the photos from our camping weekend at the sailing club last week and a few photos from this week too. Looking back at this blog it would look like we've been living at the club over the past month, which I guess we have. While the weather has been good it's been great to get away from our oven-like house and go have a dip in the lake.
Our giant tent.
One person - cheeky begger - asked us if we'd just erected the new club house! I guess we asked for that, having such a huge tent. At HESFES the size didn't seem so obvious as other families had big tents too. But here, next to all the little 3-man dome tents it did look like we were about to host the local circus! Despite the jokes, there were some genuine admirers. We must be getting better at putting the tent up as it took us hardly any time at all. And, even more surprisingly, packing up was fairly quick too.
This time we didn't put up the inner tents inside, and just had the huge space open, which was great for the hot weather.
Ds1 and dd1 in the tent
Sailing in a paddling pool. Not the most stable of boat designs!

Ds1 set up a business selling spectacles made of grass stalks (and rabbit ears), as modelled in this photo.
He seems to find an opportunity to sell something, anything, wherever we go!

Dh and dd1 enjoying the party, and the stunning sunset.

Ds2 'completes' the sailing boat in the playground (using a fishing net and a dog blanket)

Ds1 doing his Harry Potter impression (with home-made glasses, wand and broom(stick))

Ok, so you guys aren't wet enough, here you are!

Spot the difference...

...two 'doggies' doing doggy paddle

Dd1 absolutely loves swimming. Even though her lips were turning blue and her teeth were chattering uncontrollably, she still wanted to go in again and again.

Somewhere under the blanket is a very cold, shivering dd1, having been swimming in the lake yet again.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

"No Gender Differences In Math Performance"

Think boys are naturally better at maths than girls? Think again.
So how deep-rooted our gender stereotypes are within the education system? Are us parents as guilty as teachers of perpetuating them?

for the full article)

No Gender Differences In Math Performance
Science Daily (July 27, 2008)

'— We've all heard it. Many of us in fact believe it. Girls just aren't as good at math as boys.

But is it true? After sifting through mountains of data - including SAT results and math scores from 7 million students who were tested in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act - a team of scientists says the answer is no. Whether they looked at average performance, the scores of the most gifted children or students' ability to solve complex math problems, girls measured up to boys.
"There just aren't gender differences anymore in math performance," says University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde, the study's leader. "So parents and teachers need to revise their thoughts about this."
The UW-Madison and University of California, Berkeley, researchers report their findings in the July 25 issue of Science.
Though girls take just as many advanced high school math courses today as boys, and women earn 48 percent of all mathematics bachelor's degrees, the stereotype persists that girls struggle with math, says Hyde. Not only do many parents and teachers believe this, but scholars also use it to explain the dearth of female mathematicians, engineers and physicists at the highest levels.
Cultural beliefs like this are "incredibly influential," she says, making it critical to question them. "Because if your mom or your teacher thinks you can't do math, that can have a big impact on your math self concept." '
and, what I believe is the same story, as described in rather more detail in The Guardian:
Boys not better than girls at maths, study finds
Education Guardian
Friday May 30 2008

'Boys are not innately better at maths than girls, and any difference in test scores is due to nurture rather than nature, researchers suggested today.
According to new research published in the journal Science, the "gender gap" in maths, long perceived to exist between girls and boys, disappears in societies that treat both sexes equally. When girls have equal access to education and other opportunities they do just as well as boys in maths tests.
The research, led by Prof Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University in the US, investigated whether a global gender gap exists and whether it was the result of social engineering rather than intrinsic aptitude for the subject.
"The so-called gender gap in math skills seems to be at least partially correlated to environmental factors," Sapienza said. "The gap doesn't exist in countries in which men and women have access to similar resources and opportunities."
Researchers analysed data from more than 276,000 children in 40 countries who took the 2003 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) - the internationally standardised test of maths, reading, science and problem-solving ability.
Globally, boys tend to outperform girls in maths (on average girls score 10.5 points lower than boys) but in more "gender equal societies" such as Iceland, Sweden and Norway, girls scored as well as boys or better.
For example, the maths gender gap almost disappeared in Sweden, while in Turkey girls scored 23 points below boys in maths.
Average girls' scores improved as equality improved and the number of girls reaching the highest levels of performance also increased, the researchers found. In Britain, girls fared only slightly less well than male classmates, with female pupils scoring an average of 0.7% less.
The research also found a striking gender gap in reading skills. In every country girls perform better than boys in reading but in countries that treat both sexes equally, girls do even better.
On average, girls have reading scores that are 32.7 points higher than those of boys (6.6% higher than the mean average score for boys). In Turkey, this amounts to 25.1 points higher, and in Iceland, girls score 61.0 points higher.
Sapienza said: "Our research indicates that in more gender equal societies, girls will gain an absolute advantage relative to boys."
I have loads of photos of this past weekend camping at the sailing club to upload, but it's late now. I'll hopefully get a chance to write about it all tomorrow. In the meantime, lots of unpacking to do and a few grubby children to get to sleep.
p.s. apologies for the formatting on this entry; I know the paragraphs seem to be squished up. Blogspot has decided for some reason to take out the spaces and lines that I put in...can't get my head around it, so will have to leave it for now.

Friday, 25 July 2008

A whole new meaning to the phrase, 'Losing Your Marbles'!

It's amazing what kids can create, given some junk and a hands-off approach by adults.
Yesterday, at the home ed group, we brought some 'junk' along for the kids to make marble runs. The results (and the processes involved) were very impressive. Apart from a bit of help with the cutting and sticking, the kids came up with some wonderful designs, limited only by their imagination (and the stickiness of the tape). Ds2 even had an idea to create a crane mechanism which would lift the marble up in a flowerpot and then deposit it through a hole in a tube to continue on its way. Although not all of the plan was feasible in the time frame, but with a bit of help he made a start. The others ran marbles through tubes and boxes taped to the wall, periodically re-engineering them to improve results. The teamwork involved would have put most adults to shame!

Working as a team (with a bit of help from the dog)

So, where's it going to come out?

Hmm...think I might need a hand here...

Fixing the glitches in the marble run

"The marbles are MINE, ALL MINE!"
The home ed group was running an 'India Day' for charity, so the kids entered some colouring competitions (ds1 and dd1 were chuffed when they won something). The chocolate mints won in the raffle will also be much appreciated while we're camping this weekend.
After the home ed group we rushed back, unloaded some of the car and reloaded with bbq stuff and swim kit to go to the sailing club. It was a beautiful evening, still warm even at 9pm as we left. We took a couple of boats out, but mostly the kids were happy, fishing and paddling. This is going to be a great way to spend the Summer.
The children managed to catch one of the many small fish swimming in the shallows. Dh reckoned it was a Dacebut looking at the picture above and reading the info on I'm rather more convinced that it's a Gudgeon (see picture below), because of the spots. The British record for Gudgeon was 5oz which doesn't sound particularly large, enough for a fish finger or two I guess.

The fish the children caught (a gudgeon?)

Dd1, enjoying the sunshine

Fishing off the jetty

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Ahoy there!

As of today both the boys can now sail on their own!!!

We spent pretty much all day at the Sailing Club and the weather was perfect, beautifully calm and warm, and ideal for the kids to go out and have a try. So they did!! The boys' achievement today is fantastic, especially when I look back and realise that a few weeks ago they'd never even been in a boat!

Arriving around 11m, we met up with friends, and the kids spent some time pond-dipping (caught some quite big 'tiddlers') and paddling. They then moved indoors and we had to prise them away from the pool table and table football to get them to eat luch.

After lunch we got some Optimists out. One we left with no sail. It was tied to the jetty in the shallows for the littlies to sit in; they were chuffed to think they were being included in the 'sailing'. The others went out and we took turns. At first the kids were accompanied by adults, until they felt confident enough to go out on their own. Mostly the kids osailed as far as the first buoy: we figured that if they got into trouble it would be easier to rescue them there than if they went right across the lake! Ds1 even took dd1 out for a sail, which she loved. The water was so calm and he seemed quite competent, so I had no qualms about it. Perhaps not on a windier day, though .

So, our next sailing session is planned for early next week I think. I have grand plans for lots of projects and outdoor stuff to take place around the lake, not just sailing. Perhaps lots of reading, some science stuff, my head is already running away with the possibilities though at some point I'll face the reality that the kids might not be so keen! Ah well, even if all my plans don't come to fruition, it's exciting to think of all the things we might do there over Summer.


After thinking of doing science at the lake I was reminded of the Krampf experiments I sign up to via email (see . Robert Krampf is a geologist/scientist who gives talks and demonstrations. He is so keen to enthuse others about science, particularly kids, that he records free science videos for viewing on his website, and sends out emails with experiments to 180,00 households in more than 95 countries (apparently). The experiments are generally short, fun and fairly simple. Instructions given with a simple, but not patronising, explanation of the science behind the experiment. This one below particularly caught my eye because I remember being taught at school that this was an experiment to show how oxygen was being used up. Three A levels and a Science Degree later, I find out that the explanation I was given as a child - and have seen many times subsequently in children's science books - is totally WRONG!! See, with this home education thing, even the parents are learning all the time...

"Measuring Oxygen?
Every year, I reread Michael Faraday's Chemical History of a Candle. It is a transcript of some of his annual Christmas science lectures, and it is a wonderful example of science education at its best. It is also filled with marvelous experiments, including a version of this one.
Warning! This experiment uses fire. Be very careful and be sure an adult is around to help.
For this experiment, you will need:
- a pie pan or shallow bowl
- a candle
- a glass jar large enough to hold the lit candle
- water
Light the candle and let a few drops of melted wax fall on the middle of the pan. Place the bottom of the candle into this wax to secure it in place. Carefully add about an inch of water to the pan. Relight the candle if it has gone out, and place the jar over it. Watch carefully. After a minute or so, the candle will go out, and the water will rise up into the jar.

This shows that the candle has burned up the oxygen, and the water has risen into the jar to take its place, right? WRONG!!!!! If you watch carefully, you will see why is it wrong. When you first place the jar over the candle, air bubbles OUT of the jar. If you are slow about placing the jar over the candle, you might not notice this, but if you cover the candle in one quick motion, you will see the air bubbling out. Once the candle goes out, the water begins to rise in jar.
Now, lets think about that. If the water was rising because the oxygen was burned up, it would rise while the candle was burning and stop as soon as the flame went out. Is that what you saw? No. Then what really did happen?
As the candle burns, it is heating the air in the jar, causing it to expand. This causes the bubbles that leave the jar. The candle is burning oxygen, but the oxygen does not vanish. It combines with carbon from the burning wax to form carbon dioxide, another gas that also takes up space.
When the candle goes out, the air begins to cool, which causes it to contract. As the air gets smaller, the water rises into the jar.
It amazes me how many books of experiments get this one wrong. I guess they should read more Faraday. "


Tuesday, 22 July 2008

ARe you My MUMMY?

I think perhaps my children have been watching too much tv.

When my 4 year old is cheerfully reenacting some of the scariest scenes from the latest Dr Who series, I should probably be taking a good look at my parenting, or lack of it :) I think it's been a gradual progression, a slow slipping into permissiveness that has come with warmer weather. Yes, that's it, blame it on Summer...

Only a few months ago I was unhappy with the boys watching Dr Who, feeling it to be a bit too creepy for them to watch before bedtime. Dh however had, on the sly, been letting them watch Dr Who while I was out at work. Now it seems that dd1 has been watching it too. Hence the reenactment seen in the video below. For those of you not familiar with this episode of Dr Who, it's the one with the creepy people in gas masks that have grown onto their faces, who wander around saying 'Are you my mummy?'

Are you my mummy?

Reenacting an episode of Dr Who. Well, at least it shows their creativity and imagination! (And yes, that is a Listerine box)

Up in the apple tree (trying to get away from creepy dd1!)

Ok, ok, I'm your Mummy. Now go away, you're scaring me!

Not that my kids get creeped out by anything on tv/DVD it seems. Most of the things that would have made me pee my pants as a kid get calmly absorbed by them without any apparent consequences! Is this a symptom of modern society or am I just a bit of a woose? Probably the latter. I can't even watch a black-and-white 'B' movie without getting edgy and I'm always wary of seeing new films at the cinema; best to get a review from a friend first before I scare myself to death. Perhaps I should just stick to PG films!!

As I'm typing this blog entry the kids are watching 'Dr Who Confidential' that I recorded last night for them. Dr Who Confidential shows how a particular episode, usually the one shown immediately before, is made. I think the kids are interested in how the programme - and programmes in general - are made. Perhaps that's why these things aren't so frightening for them: they have a good realisation of what's fictional and what's not, how these things are created in a studio and how this translates to the screen.

Ds1 in particular is quite interested in film making and animation. He's signed up for another animation workshop in a week or so's time - using clay/plasticine to make models. It's part of an annual film and animation week that we have locally.

Took the kids to the library this afternoon. Picked up one of their 'let's persuade kids to read over Summer' schemes. Obviously it's not called that, it's called something more catchy like 'Team Read' and comes with a sporty/footbally poster to put your stickers on. Of course, it's pretty obvious to me that it's biased towards boys - the assumption being that boys don't read so much and need more encouragement. So, what is it about these do-goody government people that they assume that all boys are interested in sport/football? I'm sure if they actually did some research they'd find that their target group - i.e. the kids, predominantly boys, who aren't deemed to be reading enough or early enough - like a whole range of different things, not just blooming football!!!.

Anyway, the gist of the scheme is that the kids are encouraged to get stickers for each 2 books (of their choice) that they read. My kids have never been that interested in previous years - they're not really star chart /sticker reward sort of kids - and I haven't made them do it, cos I think it's a bit lame. They're bright enough to realise it's just a trick - a very transparent one - to get kids to read books. Still, I think ds2 might be interested this time and this might motivate ds1 to do the same, so I got packs for all of them just in case they are overtaken with a sudden urge to read books for stickers. I'm sure there'll be a few parents with school kids who'll be virtually ramming the books down their kids' throats just to get them to read over the holidays and get their stickers. I suppose I would have done the same 4 or 5 years ago too. Ah the wisdom of experience, especially home education experience...

Sunday, 20 July 2008

It's a jungle out there

While dh took dd1 and ds2 for another day at 'Art in Action', ds1, the dog and I trudged down to the allotment. Oh god! The weeds! Managed to find some of my Welsh Bunching Onions in amongst the jungle and cleared enough ground for ds1 to plant some more carrots. I'm assuming most of the other rows of carrots didn't come up, but perhaps I'll find them again when I get rid of some weeds!

Sweetcorn is doing well; squash and courgettes are just starting to get going and the green stuff (cabbagey things) are getting there (somewhere under the weeds). Fought through the 3ft high thistles and thugs to dig up about 8 potato plants. Managed to get enough pots for tonight's dinner, which is a pretty poor show. I think we may have dug up a few more potatoes than we actually planted - just! Perhaps I'll just have to leave them in a bit longer, let them bear the brunt of this year's blight and see what we have in a month or so's time. Picked a few mangetout and dwarf beans, but still, everything very late for the time of year (my runner beans are hardly part-way up the poles).

Ds1 was happy tieing up the tomatoes and helping me sow seeds but he eagerly avoided doing any weeding. I guess he'd had enough from the last time I made him do it.

All-in-all, the theme today was weeds. And more weeds. And more weeds. No pictures today. Too busy weeding.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

We are sailing...we are sailing...we are capsizing [sung in a Rod Stewart voice of course]

Today we went sailing!

After our wonderful day at a local sailing club a month ago, we made the big step of joining for the year. I'm not what you would call a 'water' person and although dh used to sail a boat on the river when he was a kid, that's quite some time ago!

So, feeling rather daunted, the kids and I had a brief go at the club last week. Today, however, we had a full day on (and off) the lake with a bunch of other beginners and new members, mostly home educating families. First we learnt how to rig a 'topper' (see photo below for what a topper looks like) and then we went out and sailed. It was pretty gusty, so I chickened out of taking a topper out, especially having seen several others capsize. Even the supposedly un-capsizable 'Optimist' boats went over several times (dh and ds2 had a rather wet experience!)

I don't have any photos of today as I was too busy, but these photos show roughly what the boats look like.
A topper

An Optimist.

And no, I didn't look that cool when I was sailing it, I was rather more wet and flustered!

The kids had a good time, but didn't get out quite as much as they would have liked as there was a race going on for most of the morning. At one point I was sailing with ds2 and we reached an area of the lake where the wind just suddenly died. We found that we couldn't tack to return back to shore because the boat had totally lost momentum. Eventually a gust of wind gave us some speed and we could then tack. I did feel a bit of a plonker just floating in the middle of all the race boats, trying to keep clear of them and at the same time not going anywhere! I'm sure with a bit more experience we'll get the hang of it, but to me it's like learning to drive all over again, lol.

Dd1 loved paddling and was just happy pottering in the sandpit and wading in the shallows. She wanted to swim, but decided that the water was just a bit too cold. I guess she'll be pestering me for a trip to the swimming pool now, she's such a water baby.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Art in Action

Yesterday we attended Art in Action, a local annual 4 day 'festival' of the arts, where artists of all fields display their work and perform demonstrations of their art. The boys were rather bored to start with as we wandered through the marquees of paintings on display, but after a while we found a demonstration of glass blowing which caught their interest. Other 'hits' with the children were the copper plate etching/printing, the artist demonstration of neon sculpture, woodworking demonstrations and soap carving.

This is one of the guys who was demonstrating glass blowing. You might not be able to tell from the film, but he was making wine glasses. The demonstrator explained how he sometimes had trouble with people ordering wine glasses as wedding presents as they had to understand that not everyone wanted a set of 6 glasses where no two glasses were the same! 'If you want identical glasses, go to Waterford!' he said. This is on a much smaller scale than the other demonstration below, where they were creating this fantastic vases with pictures on it. Apparently this technique is called painted Graal.

Vic Bamforth demonstrating the Painted Graal technique

According to "The Painted Graal Technique presents a new and exciting process that fuses painted images and blown glass together.The word graal (pronounced grawl, and meaning cup or vessel) dates back to the time of the Holy Grail."

[The demonstrator's web page, , gives some idea of the sort of items produced. ]

Copper Plate Etching (actually the lady was using zinc, not copper)

I was trying to deal with barking dog, large granny trolley and small child determined to trash some very expensive work of art, so I couldn't hear everything the deomonstrator was saying. I think the gist of it was that acid is used to etch on the metal plate, which is then inked up, sandwiched between a sheet of paper and some soft looking cloth and then put through this squishy press which looked rather like an adapted clothes mangle.

The Resulting Print

Here's a slightly better explanation from

"The technique of etching appeared at the beginning of the 16th century. This "indirect" process consists in obtaining engraving on metal either by scraping directly with the help of a tool and then plunging the plate into an acid bath to get a selective bite, or a metal plate is covered with a varnish intended to protect it from the acid, in which the artist makes his design with a point or needle. The acid will attack the parts of the metal that are exposed when the plate is 'etched' in the acid bath. The duration of immersion determines the depth of the grooves and hence the intensity of the features on the paper. The engraver then rinses the plate of metal with clear water, cleans off the varnish, and carries out the inking and printing in the usual way. The first etched piece was the work of Urs Graf of Switzerland in 1513. "

As I knew the boys would find a whole day of trudging round marquees all day a bit of a bore, I signed them up to two practical workshops - 'clay handbuilding' and 'copper enamelling' - both of which they thoroughly enjoyed. Ds1 made an owl and ds2 a crocodile in the handbuilding. They both made pendants for necklaces in the copper enamelling workshop.

Clay handbuilding

Putting the pendant in the little furnace during copper enamelling

The Korean lady, Meek Young Shin, who was demonstrating soap carving, apparently recreates ceramic works of art in soap. She makes soap-copies of Ming and Qing Chinese vases and life-size sculptures resembling white marble Greek figures. She had a big bucket of boxed bars of soap. I'm still curious as to how she joins each bar to another one to make the big sculptures.

Yes, those are really made of soap!

If you fancy having a go on a much smaller scale, this is one for the kids:

And this site will provide some more ambitious examples for you to copy (ha ha). They also have a link to fruit and vegetable carving (see my previous blog entry on the vegetable carving we saw at the Eden Project)

Sarah Blood ( ) was demonstrating sculpting with glass tube which would later be filled with neon or argon gases. She was fascinating to speak to and happy to explain things to ds2 who had seen someone making neon signs on tv. He asked about using powders to make different coloured lights and how she put the gases into the tubes. In the video above she is blowing air down the glass tube to maintain the pressure inside the tube while it is being heated. If she doesn't blow, the tube risks collapsing and will then be too weak and fragile for filling with gas. If she blows too hard, then it forms a bulbous area in the tube. The kids were interested, but I did pull them back a bit away from the sculptures on the table when I overheard Sarah telling an art dealer that her sculptures normally go for around £1400 - gulp!

The textiles marquee had some interesting displays. Seeing people with stalls selling handknitted jumpers - very nice ones - for £50 plus, pleasantly surprised me. Perhaps on those dark winter evenings I could be working on a future fortune with my knitting needles?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

More HESFEs and some grockle* photos from Cornwall

Just had to add a few more photos/vids from HESFES. Although it was over 2 weeks ago, it's still fresh in all our minds.

Burning marshmallows on the campfire

Look! I've got a bandana too!

Ds2 at a Lego Robot workshop.

(What? You mean we come all this way to play with Lego - you could be doing that at home in your bedroom?!)

Is it some weird alien object or Dd1 at HESFES?

After HESFES we had just over a day at home to look at the weeds on the allotment and despair at the washing that needed doing before we headed to Cornwall. I hadn't been to Cornwall since I was a kid and for several years I've been keen to go and see The Eden Project, so that was our main intention.

The weather wasn't as kind as it had been to us at HESFES and was wet for the first 4 days of the holiday but we made the best of it. Using our EO membership card at Eden Project gave us an amazing discount - around £17 off. Definite advantages to being home educators! The Eden Project was fantastic. I know some people have been disappointed with it, but there was lots to see, even when the weather wasn't great, and the kids managed a full 2 days there without complaint, a miracle in itself!

The biggest biome took us most of the day to get around and was hot and sticky.

Blown away by the waterfall inside the tropical Biome

Fortunately, despite the heat, there were plenty of distractions, including one of the staff members (the 'pollinators' as they are called) who was demonstrating carving vegetables. Not just carving vegetables, but creating frogs, crocodiles, pirate galleons and other sculptures. Apparently there are lots of demonstrations online if you google it (haven't had a chance yet).

On our second day we visited the Mediterranean biome which was a much more comfortable heat. Everything had been so well thought through and staff were keen to help, give information and generally 'pollinate' the visitors (i.e. spread information and ideas and inspiration - according to one of the 'pollinators').

Ds2 and dd1 at Eden Project

I'm being a bug!

Pollinating plants

Just looking cool

One day the kids went with dh to a shipwreck museum while I went to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Again, it was a lovely day, with lots to see and very interesting (though I think the kids would have been pretty bored with yet more plants if they'd come with me). I'm pretty sure this is the garden they used to film 'The Victorian Kitchen Garden ', as I recognised some of the garden features. There was an area where they grew pineapples using just the heat of manure, though I'm sure it was rather more complicated than that. Then there were glasshouses with gravevines, peppers and cucumbers. There were other areas which were just plain indulgent - a ravine which was labelled as the jungle area and which really did look like jungle, thick with huge palms, bamboos and tall, a walk through a rockery an Italian garden and, well, far too many other things to mention. I dread to think how many gardeners it took to maintain the garden during the Victorian period or even now - it's huge!

Enjoying the beach

On the last night there was a festival in Mevagissy, which, fortunately for us, had been rescheduled from the previous week due to bad weather. There was a parade through the narrow streets of music, dancing, costumes and fantastic creations including a giant fish and a mermaid. At the end of the evening many chinese lantern balloons were released across the harbour area followed by a fireworks display.

Ds2 finds a Harley Davidson in Mevagissy and gets its lucky owner to let him sit on it.

Fireworks display at Mevagissy

*(For the origins of the word Grockle, see . I know it as a slang term for tourist in Cornwall/Devon.)

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Back from HESFES!

Wow! What a week!

Just back from a fantastic week at HESFES (Home Educators Seaside Festival) and a week of workshops, discussions, rather too much wine, plenty of fresh air, heaps of music, making new friends and general recharging of home education batteries. So much happened over the week it's hard to remember it all. I thought I'd post some of the pictures and movie clips to give an essence of what we experienced.

And the weather was hot hot hot! Now that HAS to be a first! I think in the past 10 years of camping with the kids we've only once had consistently hot weather while on a camping trip. And there was me, having packed mostly jumpers and just one skirt! Ah well...

For those of you who don't know about HESFES it's one of the largest gatherings of home educators and takes place annually on a campsite in Essex. This year there were workshops on weaving, karate, spinning, drama, willow work, circus skills, creative writing, woodwork, and a whole heap more. As always, there was a home ed conference which discussed various issues in the home ed world - sometimes 'big' issues, and sometimes more practical day-to-day issues. It was a wonderful opportunity to speak to other home educators, people who have come to the same decision from often very different backgrounds.

Listening to the music in the marquee

Speaking to other home educators is perhaps my favourite partn of HESFES. When you are surrounded by hundreds of other home ed families all doing the same thing - albeit in different ways - there is a huge sense of being part of a community. Despite knowing many other home educators, home education can sometimes feel like a lonely business, something you have to constantly explain and defend to people around you. One of the fantastic things about HESFES is that for once you don't have to explain anything to anyone!

Bouncing around HESFES

Do you like my new bandana?

My other favourite part of HESFES is seeing the confidence and talent of children as they get up on stage and do 'their thing'. For many it is music, for others it's poetry or dance or comedy, but you can tell that whatever they get up on stage and do, the whole experience is so empowering. Last year the children's cabaret, as it is called, lasted nearly 5 and a half hours! Thankfully this time it was split into two events, but it was still several hours each night. So many children and so much talent and individualism! And the audience is always very generous in its support!

Adults too take part on the last evening in the End of the Week Show, showing their talents and things that they have learnt during the week - or during their lifetime. My children haven't wanted to go on stage yet, but perhaps one year.

Some of the children's acts are below. I wouldn't normally upload photos of people who haven't given permission to be on here, but this time I don't have much choice. Hopefully they'll forgive me and just enjoy the extra publicity!

The 'Drum Off'

Another HESFES children's cabaret performance

Adult performance at the End of the Week Show

One of the hesfes kids decided that they wanted to hold a dog show, so between them and their friends they managed to sort out some classes, drum up support, fence off a show arena, make prize rosettes and find some willing 'judges'. Sadly Jack didn't win anything (probably something to do with having another 20 or so dogs to distract him), but I definitely think he should have got the prize for the waggiest tail! In his defence, I think by the time of the dog show he was hot, tired and having barked almost continuously for the first part of the week probably had a rather sore throat!

The dog show. As you can see, Jack was just a teensy bit distracted...

This is my doggy

So what else did we get up to? Well I managed (with the help of the kids) to make toffee popcorn and peanut brittle on the camping stove. I was really proud of our cooking achievement, though my neighbouring friend somehow managed to make hot cross buns on her camp stove. I can't even make them at home and she managed to make them without an oven! Ok ok, so I was a bit envious...

Making peanut brittle (and yes, that IS a saucepan full of sugar!)

Chocolate spread - an essential ingredient for camping!

Cuddling up by the campfire

Well this is just a very hurriedly put together piece on HESFES which really doesn't do it justice. But it's late, and I'd better finish now as we've got a busy day tomorrow. Hopefully I'll post more in a week or so's time and then I'll get back to more regular blogging.