Saturday, 28 September 2013

Relax bottle - nice idea (when I have the time)

Mmmm...two posts in one day. I must be feeling guilty about my blog absence.

Anyhow, this is simply a link to something on my 'to-do' list.

(It's a long list.)

Wolf Conservancy Trust: Wolves, owls and huskies...

Belated posting of dd's trip to the Wolf Conservancy Trust.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Ellen McHenry "The Elements" Lesson plan/scheme of work

Our 'lesson plan' for Ellen McHenry's The Elements. I've included a selection of the activities, but feel free to add in more or alter to suit your needs. We found it best to pre-prepare all the games before we started the course as the prep can be quite time-consuming. Most of all, follow your kids' lead :) Mine liked to play the chemistry games, so we slotted in extra sessions just for game playing. Ellen McHenry can be found here :

You should be able to download and print the document using the download button at the bottom of the document.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Ellen McHenry The Elements (2013)

We've done The Elements before with ds1 and ds2. It was a fun hands-on approach to chemistry and a fabulous stepping stone to GCSE level science. Ds1 did no other chemistry than Ellen before starting IGCSE  chemistry and recently passed (at age 14), so Ellen McHenry was obviously a great start..

This time dd is joining in with ds2. The games and nick-nacks that go with the course are already prepared from our last run-through, so that's saving us some time. 

I've written up a plan for the sessions (will post that up later for anyone who wants to use it). After doing the fly-by-the-seat-of-pants approach to home ed for many years it dawned on me that what I need is planning. Out goes chaotic use of resources, where we open the book only to find out we haven't got what we need. and in comes an organised session plan that makes those resources 'open-and-go'. Well, that's the theory. 

Electrolysis of water

Bubbles of hydrogen and Oxygen forming at the electrodes

Fishing for Elements

The Periodic Table game

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Something has been eating our dragonflies

Even with my mediocre camera, the pictures of the transformation at our little concrete garden pond are quite amazing :)

Someone - or rather something - has been eating our dragonflies. Below is dd's collection of wings picked up from the garden path. She says she saw a bird catching the dragonflies at the pond.

Camping, bikes and all-terrain boards

Dd on her "new" bike bought at the car boot sale where we had a weekend camp.

And some more photos from our camping trip several weeks ago.

And here, ds2 gives the all-terrain board an airing in the park.

Must be summer.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Siege weapons from pegs, elastic bands and lolly sticks

I've been getting the kids to test out some models of catapult that I'm hoping to use at a workshop in September. We're using this as a basic model and modifying it to suit our resources.

This is our version (more modifications to be made):

Retrieving ammunition from the garden:

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Boat-building adventures at the weekend

 The boys got hold of some huge thick sheets of foam from the scrapstore and set about boat building. At the weekend they got a chance to test them out on the lake.

I can walk in them, honest.

Ds2 in his kayak, dd on ds1's boat and ds1 realising that dd has forgotten to take the paddle (the green bit of plastic nailed to a bit of wood!)

 A slight mishap in the reeds.

Dd shortly before losing both her crocs in the mud. Half an hour of mud-poking later and they rose to the surface!

Steering is always a problem :)

Archive footage of Joy Baker - 1960s interview on home education

This came up on a home ed list (thanks to whoever posted it!) and I thought others might enjoy. The cameraman is obviously trying to make a critical comment with all the shots of Joy's washing lol.

"A European home-edder has found fascinating Anglia TV archive footage of Joy Baker being interviewed about her court cases."

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Home educating the child who 'wont engage'

Do you have a child who goes along with whatever you do, home-ed-wise, but who never fully engages?

A child who can't wait to be somewhere else - anywhere else?

A child whose most common phrases are 'Are we finished?' and  'Can I go now?'

Would your child choose to socialise all day, every day? Or perhaps would sit playing computer games endlessly?

Do they appear to retain little, if any, of what you do together, and make no apparent connections between all the different things they see or read or experience?

Do they ask you 'What are we doing tomorrow?'
     and then five minutes later say 'So what was it we were doing tomorrow?'
                  and then ten minutes later 'So what day is tomorrow?'
                         and then 'Are we doing anything tomorrow?'
                                and then 'Can I have a sleepover (if we're not doing anything tomorrow).'

Do you spend 5 weeks on "shapes" only to find they don't even remember how many sides a triangle has, and don't actually care?

Do they tell friends that you are taking them on a boat holiday on the Nile, because somehow they've confused one of the longest rivers in the world with a local canal?

Do you give them instructions to do - or fetch - something, only to find them fishing tadpoles out the garden pond or decorating a cardboard box with marker pen. Even with several reminders, do they never quite get to the target (unless you actually follow them and prod them)?

Do they appear to have few noticeable observational skills, an absence of self-motivational urges to explore new things, no interest in anything you've organised, even if it involves a subject that you thought they were interested in.

Does self-directed learning not work because although they have the ability to poke holes in soil for an hour or generally noodle around for no apparent educational purpose, on the days when you have something urgent you need to get on with they hang limply to your ankles and declare that they are going to simply die of boredom.

Do you occasionally sneak a side-glance at them and wonder 'Are the lights on? Is there anyone at home?'

Does it frustrate the heck out of you...?

Ellen McHenry science: eyes are bigger than stomach

I'm hoping to catch up with biology with the kids over summer. To kick off we've dug out the free Ellen McHenry invertebrate lift-the-flap classification chart from here.

It's a shame she never made a vertebrate version, but I rediscovered the classification cards that I'd lovingly laminated long ago when I was in a laminating mood and these are now velcroed to a felt board. I am starting to feel like a proper home educator ;)

Ellen McHenry's The Elements has made a reappearance. We've used it before so most of the printing and prep for games has already been done. I'm also planning to start Environmental biology IGCSE with ds1. Well, we are going to tentatively dip our toes in that direction (let's not get ahead of ourselves).

As you might have guessed, it's a case of eyes bigger than stomach. My enthusiasm to cover lots of subjects is larger than the time or energy we have to do it all.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

"Actually, my kids are amazing."

Imagine the scene.

You bump into someone you haven't met for a while.

You engage in polite chit-chat. 

They ask how everything is going . 

"Fine," you say. 

They ask how the kids are.


You move on.


I've made a promise to myself. Next time anyone asks how the kids are, I'm not going to say "fine". No. Next time, I might say "Actually, my kids are amazing."

Because no matter how much we mumble and moan about our kids and focus on the 'issues' and 'problems', the day-to-day grind, AND ALL THAT STUFF, if we take the time to stop and look, our kids really are AMAZING.

Ds2's contribution for the group's Arts Award display, inspired by sessions with artist, Bethany Milam. He also completed a behind-the-scenes video of a children's performance and researched Michele Paver for his portfolio.

Dd wins bronze medal for her age group at the fencing England Youth Championships, having only been fencing in full kit since September. (Note the lovely apres-fencing-pink-crocs-with-socks look ;) ) 

The other competitors were a little taller :)

But perhaps even more of an achievement, dd, having only learned to read this year, writes her first list (unprompted) of essential things to take to the fencing competition. As you can see, ham sandwiches are far more important than fencing kit.

And on a family camping weekend ds1 (14) surprises us all by having a great time with a friend's teenage girls (14 and 18). It seems the gender divide isn't irreparable, even at his age.

Free gorgeous animals of the world colouring pages


For the reluctant colour-in-er :)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Thursday: The Odyssey and Van Gogh's sunflowers

Stepping back into the Harmony Fine Arts course after several months' absence, it's good to see dd and ds2 getting creative again.

In prep for our ventures into the classics we borrowed a dramatisation of The Odyssey on audio cd from the library. Ds2 said it was a bit like ancient Steven Spielberg, how the characters were always going and doing the things they'd been warned not to.

We talked for a while about plot and suspense. I have to agree with him. Tbh after two CDs of monster after monster, storm after storm, and men doing dumb things, usually through character flaws such as greed, I'm starting to wish they'd just hurry up and drown!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Home days and birthdays

On Monday ds2 celebrated his twelfth birthday. Family members all clubbed together and he got exactly what he wanted - a tablet - lucky boy!

Today, we've been mostly pottering (interspersed with bouts of chemistry revision). We need to recharge and re-group and with half-term on this week there are fewer demands on time.

I finally got around to helping dd finish making  her beany dragon. This dragon has been ongoing for several months. Until now I've not really had the time or attention to give to projects. Sewing with a child requires as much patience as cooking,with a child. I have to be in a relaxed and generous frame of mind. It doesn't happen very often :)

Watching episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee has inspired me to get back to the crafts I once enjoyed (and often cursed over). But this sewing thing is a love-hate relationship.

Ds1 has been tinkering with his art homework this afternoon. This involves copying a piece of abstract art and writing about it. Not easy for a child who isn't actually interested in art and doesn't particularly enjoy writing.

Ds1 has spent much of the afternoon on his tablet, "researching" a writer for his Arts Award. Apparently Michel Paver has "unlimited ammo" ... ;)