Category: Education

Not Back to School

Not Back to School

Wow! Just like that it’s September again and summer has gone in a flash. At least it feels like that in this house, after weeks of dancing and football holiday clubs. The home education community is awash with Not Back to School posts and hashtags from everyone from the unschoolers to the structured families. It’s quite a celebration of an eclectic kind. If now is the time that you’re seeking out your own home education community or interested in how it all works, this is where activity starts to pick up again after the summer hibernation.

As a family that thrives with structure and routine we are back with our heads in the books. This year would see B in Year 3 if he was in school, and with the plan to return to school for Year 7 it’s time to knuckle down a little. Looking back it seems Year 1 was a period of recovery after events that happened at school. Year 2 was all about dabbling in different methods and finding what worked, and Year 3? Well that’s about putting our successes into practice and running with it. Of course the most fantastic thing with such a tailored education is that we can tweak and modify along the way. Its an evolutionary journey, not one set in stone.

Our home education sees us follow the national curriculum fairly rigidly. It’s often quite a surprise that home educators are under no obligation to do this, and if we were looking at home education up until 18 then we may take a different stance. I was filled with a fair amount of dread piecing together our English work for this year due to the emphasis on the grammar involved but B has dived in with aplomb. As a fan of rules generally in life, what’s not to like about rules in your written work? We’ve also planned a lot of fun around The Iron Man and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which we will be studying this year. For me this year has involved a huge amount of planning. We want to fit in as many of the fun activities available this year, but also have goals set in getting through the work that needs completing with contingency planning in case of disaster!

Having a year and half under our belts now, I also feel a lot more confident in where to look for resources, how much time to spend on a subject, and how there are such a variety of people home educating, it doesn’t matter if your journey looks different from everyone else’s. As long as it is working for your family, then that’s good enough.

Clever Tykes Storybooks

Clever Tykes Storybooks

Clever Tykes Story Books

Enterprise and Education Storybooks and Teaching Resources – Supported by Lloyds Banking Group

The Clever Tykes series of storybooks follow the stories of three children on a journey of discovery and innovation. From taking each child’s passion in the story and subtly showing an entrepreneurial message, these books open up a different world for many children. With each book starring very different characters, there is a broad base to attract every child. Would you be like Walk-it Willow, Change-it Cho or Code it Cody?

Code-it Cody, a young boy with a talent for working with computers begins a quest of creating his own computer game prototype. Cody the main character in the story has hearing aids which are spoken of regularly. I particularly liked this aspect of the book as it seems to have taken years to establish disabled characters into mainstream stories. With Minecraft and Roblox so popular, this story will resonate with many young readers.

Walk-it Willow was the final book B got round to reading. Willow is a big fan of dogs and soon realises that she can make money from her hobby. For anyone who has read any Ken Robinson, they’ll know that choosing your career around something you love is the key to success! As with any business Willow comes up against adversity but in true entrepreneurial style she learns from her mistakes.

If your school has yet to discover The Clever Tykes Resources you can soon change that! If you are a teacher you can access The Clever Tykes books and resources for your school for free. Create an account at to get started.


The Science Museum – Our Guide to a Great Day Out

The Science Museum – Our Guide to a Great Day Out

The Science Museum in London is one of my very favourite places to be. Ever since my first visit as a child, to the almost monthly visits we make at the moment, it never fails to inspire and amaze me. Sometimes I take for granted just how lucky we are to be able to hop on a train and have this on our doorstep, as it truly is a great day out.

We do on occasion pop in if we are tying a visit in with another, but to truly do it justice the museum really deserves a whole day to itself. I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve been, but I still find something new to admire on each visit.

With South Kensington Tube being the nearest London Underground station, we tend to always travel by tube. With the underground walkway taking you safely from the station to the museums, I find bouncy excitable children are safer under here than the roads above. This is also handy to deal with the British weather too, lets face it rain is rather part of our infrastructure!

With free entry but a donation welcome, it’s a marvel that all of this history is available to everyone. It’s a good idea to take a look at what’s on before you arrive, so that you can plan your day to please all the family. Some of the simulators for example do have an age and height restriction, so it’s best to forewarn little visitors in advance that they may not be able to ride. Or you can plan your day, avoiding this part of the museum. Which ever works best for you. A map is available to download from the website, a great help if your children like to be involved in planning your trips, or need to know what’s likely to happen on a day out.

On entering the museum be prepared to be wowed by the Energy Hall. Personally I love the history in this part of the museum. It amazes me just how visionary the engineers of the past were. We tend to go through to the Exploring Space hall, where you can find a wealth of space objects. Make sure you look up, some of the most amazing rockets are above your head.

Making the Modern World is another “wow” gallery. We love looking at Stephenson’s Rocket and the cars stacked upon each other. For younger visitors starting to get a little restless, the Pattern Pod in the next part of the museum, gives them the chance to do some hands on investigation.

At this point we usually pop down to the basement to explore the Secret Life of the Home. Be prepared to feel old as items from your childhood are now on show at a museum. For any fans of the Despicable Me films, see if you can find the tiny toilet in the display cabinets. With great interactive displays you can work out how the toilet flush works, and see if you can get the fridge temperature to change.

We’d usually stop for lunch about now. If you’ve brought a picnic you can eat in the Terrace Picnic Area. Personally knowing the Energy Café on level 0 has vegan options, means we usually treat ourselves to lunch in there.

Feeling energised after refuelling we head up to Level 1 to look at the materials displays. I find that materials are a subject that you can start to engage children with at a very young age and continually develop their understanding. Even young babies are enthralled by the touch of different items and can get involved. As they grow, materials can help children broaden their vocabulary with such a huge range of descriptive words associated with them, and introduce them to a variety of educational areas. From the natural world to the periodic table, its a brilliant base to start from.

Up to Level 2 which houses some of my favourite galleries. I love the Clockmakers Museum and Journeys Through Medicine. However at this point, B is usually itching to get to up to Level 3 to visit The Wonderlab which is our absolute favourite part of the museum.

There is an additional charge to enter this part of the museum, but it is worth every penny. If you are frequent visitors, its well worth investing in an annual pass as its likely to become a firm favourite with visitors young and old. With so many hands on experiments and a talented team of Explainers to direct your questions to, its a place of absolute wonder as the name suggests. With 50 “marvels of science” to enjoy, there is something for everyone. With live shows, hands on experiments, and demonstrations for all, you’ll not be disappointed. So many theories I’d learnt at school suddenly made sense after seeing the practical demonstrations from the talented Explainers. Our favourites are the Sip or Spray, the Friction Slides, and the Maths puzzles.

With our brains brimming with new ideas, but our feet feeling the impact of a lot of adventure, its time to get home, safe in the knowledge we’ll be back soon for another visit!

Postcrossing – Postcards From Around the World

Postcrossing – Postcards From Around the World

If you’re anything like me the main thing that comes through your letterbox is junk mail and bills. Which isn’t a great deal of fun for anyone! If you’d like to brighten up your post, and put a smile on someone else’s face too, then you really should try Post Crossing. So what exactly is Post Crossing and how can you get involved? Its a free project and anyone can join in the fun. You send postcards across the world and people send them to you. We’ve received postcards from Russia, Portugal Germany and the USA and have sent out our own across the world.

You never know just when or where the next one is going to arrive from, and it’s great fun when they pop through the door.

The website will track how far your total cards have come and gone too with a handy map feature.

From an educational perspective we’ve discussed what people might like to know about where we live and what we can tell them, through to the wealth of questions B asks when a new postcard lands through our door.

With so much bad news in the world right now, it feels good to do something positive and remember the world is made of people, just like you and me, everywhere in the world.

Celtic Harmony Camp Hertford

Celtic Harmony Camp Hertford

On a fresh but chilly Tuesday morning we were up and out early to get to a day full of activities at the Celtic Harmony Camp near Hertford. With many jumpers and layers (what is it with this years weather?) and a rucksack full of lunch and snacks we headed off round the M25 to our destination. Only an hours drive from Chelmsford, but thousands of years back in time, we were ready for action.

This was our first trip out with a group of home educators from a different area, so I was a little apprehensive about not knowing anyone, but B takes these situations with gusto so I knew we’d be fine. Luckily for us they all turned out to be lovely and we both made new friends – win!

Once we’d parked and headed up the track to the camp it really felt like we were leaving the modern day behind. Greeted by the enthusiastic team of Owain, Angus and Manachar,  we were soon within the settlement walls and ready for action. With an excellent range of activities for different aged children, B was in the Farmer Group aimed for KS2. Our guide Owain led us to the roundhouse for an introduction and we were off! With a blue squiggle of face paint to ensure we looked the part, it was time to get stuck in.

The Farmers itinerary included:

  • Grinding corn on quern stones – the children soon discovered how much effort used to be involved in baking your daily bread.
  • Learning about the herb garden – the children were greatly amused to discover that one herb was mixed with urine to make blue dye!
  • Making jewellery and using dye – with our newfound knowledge on Celtic dyes, we made a bracelet and dyed it purple.
  • Carding and spinning wool – Owain explained the history of spinning a yarn on more way than one! It was fascinating to learn how commonplace terms we use everyday had a root in our history.
  • Weaving cloth on a loom – with the children in teams, they all had great fun using the looms, and weaving cloth.

We finished off with a great story told by Owain in the roundhouse. He had us all enthralled, this man has a great talent for storytelling! It was time to make our way home. This was a truly great day out, and if you ever get the opportunity to visit as a family, home educating group or with a school, I can’t recommend it enough.

Talking About Politics With Children

Talking About Politics With Children

We’re a fairly (read massively) opinionated lot in our house, and what is going on the world is usually discussed at length at any opportunity we get. As you can imagine with the sudden decision to hold a snap election in the UK there is a lot of opportunity for debate right now.

But how do you explain all of this to a child? Personally I think its vitally important that they understand that politics affects everyone, but where do you start? With a general election usually only held every 5 years, sometimes its hard to put things into context, ,so now is a great time to introduce ideas as so much is in the news.

Something that does concern me is how much my views will cloud my child’s judgement. My house wasn’t a place for political discussion when I was growing up. With the old adage of never talk about politics or religion I found myself a little adrift when thrust into debates when I was 16. I will always remember my first day of 6th form when someone asked me who I would vote for and why. I had no idea and decided to start getting a little more informed. I started to ensure I read a “proper” newspaper at the weekend to understand more of what was going on and to be able to back up my opinions (which was one thing, I had been taught to do!)

Fast forward a few years and the wealth of information available is vast so where do you start? Here’s what we’re looking at right now:

  • Why is it important to vote? We’ve been looking at who is entitled to vote and whether its always been that way. It seems quite alien to children to find out just how unfair the UK was a short while ago, and how equality for all still has a long way to go.
  • What can voting affect? You can talk about money for schools, hospitals and doctors, and public services like the library. All accessible and relevant to a child.
  • The environment. This is one that usually strikes a chord with children. You can explain how investment can be made into different methods of power and why this affects how people may want to vote. Who is going to look after the planet and all the life within it.
  • Explain the history of the different parties. This can tie in with the point above, for example years ago there wasn’t a Green Party, the need has arisen due to societal and environmental changes.

A lot of this can be explained whilst out and about in your local environment. Can they notice changes that have happened in their lifetime? Personally we’ve had our local surgery privatised and homelessness in our city rise massively. All quite visual changes.

If you’ve a child aged 8-14 you might like to try The Week Junior. With succinct writing in manageable sized articles, it’s a great starting place for children to learn independently of their parents political ideals.

We’ve also been looking at resources from Twinkl. Always quick to provide new resources when needed, there are some excellent ideas on how to ensure your children are educated on what an election entails.

Finally, I do think its important to explain the need for sensitivity when talking about politics. B did have a habit of asking people which “colour” they voted for when he was younger and proceeded to tell them which way he thought they should vote. No idea where he got that from….honest!

Adventures on the Caledonian Sleeper

Adventures on the Caledonian Sleeper

If you ever get a chance to travel on the Caledonian Sleeper Train my advice would be to grab it and leap with joy. It is one of the most amazing things we’ve done as a family and such a fun way to travel. For train enthusiasts like B this was one ticked off his bucket list, and for the rest of the family, it opened our eyes to a new way to travel. No more “are we there yet” and should your children continue to ask that dreaded question, there is WINE! For you, not them obviously.

The train leaves from London Euston in the evening with the Highland route journeying to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen, and the Lowland route to Glasgow Central or Edinburgh Waverley. We were off to Fort William and having driven the long route a few years back, I was looking forward to being able to relax on the long journey up.

The train is ready to board shortly before departure, so you have time to get yourself acquainted with your surroundings before you’re on the move. For B that meant unpacking all of his hand luggage as if he was moving in! The train cabins are cosy, but there is room enough. With each berth sleeping two people, the rooms have an adjoining door to unlock and make it into a family style abode.

Once everyone was organised, the kids decamped to the top bunks to play games we’d packed for the journey. Top Trumps, colouring in, and the IPad had come along for the ride. Travelling as a group of 7 with great friends made this into the ultimate adventure for all of us. B had company with his 2 oldest and dearest buddies, and the adults had each other too. This was our first foray as a family travelling with friends, and made for the perfect adventure as we usually travel just the three of us.

With all under control in the berths (thanks Dads), it was only right that we should check out the bar area (all in the name of research). Unlike your heads down, reading the newspaper, commuter train, this was the most social train carriage I’ve ever been on. Maybe it was the gin? Either way, it was surreal to sit and drink whilst finding out everyone’s plans for after departure.

Back to the berth and B was tucked up ready for bed. He couldn’t wait to get to sleep (another reason to love this train), to say he’d slept on a bed on the train. I was on top bunk which we all know is the most fun, and I was amazed at how secure I felt up there.

So far, so good. Waking up though is the best. To open your blind in the morning and see the dramatic Scottish landscape whizzing by is amazing. Snow capped mountains, waterfalls and valleys abound. Coffee and juice had been delivered to our room, and we’d packed a picnic breakfast of cereal bars and goodies to tide us over until we departed the train.

Sitting in your PJ’s with a hot coffee watching the world go by…it doesn’t get much better than that.

School Allocation Day

School Allocation Day

Today my social media has been awash with good news and bad news. Parents who have got the schools that they desperately wanted and those who have not. I remember staying up to the early hours waiting earnestly to see if B had got his place a couple of years ago, and dramatically declaring I would simply build a free school if we weren’t successful! Fast forward to now and I had no idea that we would end up on the journey we have. But like they say, life is what happens when you are busy making plans.

So where am I going with this? I mean after all today’s tales don’t really affect me, but I really wanted to put something positive out into the arena. Even though B got the school of our choice, it still didn’t instil me with positivity. I was uneasy about sending him and had started to research other options, but home education just didn’t seem like a viable option. I didn’t know a single other person who’d either been home educated or was currently home educating their children. I thought that we’d be a pair of loners at the kitchen table day in, day out, wondering what the hell we were doing. Fast forward to now, and as you can see that’s rarely the case. To anyone feeling unsure of their child’s future after todays results I would just say the following:

  • School will always be there. If home education turns out to be a disaster for your family you can always reapply.
  • Just think of what you’ve always done. You’ve taught your child to talk, walk, ride a bike, swim, read and question the world. You’ll just be building on these skills.
  • You can learn alongside your child. I’ve learnt a wealth of information on trains and space in the past year. Sometimes you’d be amazed by how much your child knows.
  • There are hundreds of resources to help you. From online curriculums to web based learning programs, there will be something to help you.
  • It is not a lonely place. Join your local Facebook groups and you’ll be amazed by how much is going on. Usually I have to limit our activity as the home education network is so busy. There is always something going on.
  • You will find your tribe and your people. It may take a few visits to different activities, but you will find the mums and kids that you click with.

I truly hope you’ve found your school place and are happy, but if the alternative is looking like home education for you, it really is a massively rewarding journey. Hard work, but like most things in life, the things that are tough are the ones that are worth it.

UK Visit Wish List

UK Visit Wish List

Every year the boy makes a list of places he wants to visit before he reaches his next birthday. There is normally some epic stuff on there, such as rides on the bullet train in Japan and finding a train that goes through a mountain. Sadly I don’t think we’ll get to Japan this year, but I do intend to tick off everything on our UK list this year!

  1. With the largest marble run in the UK, the House of Marbles in Devon sounds like a lot of fun. Its been a couple of years since we’ve been to visit that area of the UK, so I’m itching for a visit.
  2. Just a quick train ride away for us is the Florence Nightingale Museum. I’d only discovered this one recently when I stumbled across a chat about it on Facebook. I think we’ll tie it in with one of the regular trips we make to the London Eye.
  3. We’ve just been recommended to visit the home of Charles Darwin. One of the many wondrous buildings available to visit from English Heritage. There are some great events coming up over the summer, so I think we’ll choose to visit as soon as the warmer days are upon us.
  4. With a budding engineer in the family, I think that the Brunel Museum should be a hit. The underground chamber looks amazing, and the Boat Trips and London Walks sound intriguing.
  5. Also on our list for London is the Canal Museum. I love a narrow boat, so can’t wait to visit this place with the boy.
  6. A bit further afield for us, but high on the list is a trip to The Space Centre in Leicester. Who doesn’t love learning about space after all?

So if you’re looking for something different to do this Easter, why not beat us to it and check off some of our list.

Books Books Everywhere!

Books Books Everywhere!

We have a strange habit in this house and its one I’m trying to stop. I’m not sure when it crept up on me, but it’s also a habit that the boy has inherited and it drives me mad. What is it? What is it that’s so bad?

Starting book after book and never finishing them.

I have quite possibly 10 books that I’m somewhere in the process of reading. I justify this to myself by all manner of reasons. Some books are too bulky for the train, so I need to grab a smaller one. I prefer to read on the iPad at night in bed, so the other half isn’t disturbed. There is always a reason/excuse as to why I’ve picked up a new one and not finished the current one. It’s not even as if I don’t enjoy them, I just seem to be really poor at finishing them, and I never use to do it.

I wonder if its partly to do with embracing the joy of new technology. We’ve got so many ways to read or be read to now, and in this house we use them all. We’ve story CD’s, Amazon Audible, Borrowbox, Kindles and iPads all delivering us instant reading pleasure.

Then I wonder if it’s the quantity that are available. If the library ticket says I can have 12 books, you bet I’m going to find 12 to take home.

In fact maybe I’m just greedy for books? The wonder of what lies within, and a thirst for knowledge? Or maybe I just like shiny new books? Either way, I’m hoping that facing up to it will be part of overcoming it.

So I’m going to try really hard to finish my current ten or so, and pick up one at a time from now on.

I can but try!

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