Tag: Home Education

New Scientist Live 2017

New Scientist Live 2017

When I saw the adverts for New Scientist Live in the newspaper, I wasn’t sure whether it would be a little too grown up for children. After trawling the website I decided to take a risk and book tickets. After all, anywhere that tells you you’ll get to be a human remote control for Mario has to have something to entertain the whole family. It turns out we were right to take a risk and the place is AMAZING for kids and adults alike.

Held at the ExCeL centre in London, it was easy to access and we were waiting at the doors at 10:00 raring to go. With a detailed timetable online,  we had already planned what were must sees for the both of us and couldn’t wait to go in. I’d chosen to get us the VIP upgrade on our tickets as we really wanted to attend the talk with Tim Peake, Helen Sharman and Al Worden which was truly inspiring.

The first stand we encountered was from The University of Manchester, who were demonstrating DNA. B made a bracelet (I think representing strands of DNA), and we were shown how to split DNA from strawberries.

Next up we found the Middlesex University stands and B truly found his tribe. With everything from controlling a game of Mario with your own body, to a virtual reality rollercoaster, this stand had it all. Due to age restrictions on wearing the headset, B had a modified “ride” on the rollercoaster, fuelling his desire to design them even more.

Next up was the much anticipated legendary space talk. I wasn’t sure whether B would manage an hour listening to the speakers, but he did so with aplomb. Sometimes our children do surprise us with their capabilities. Hearing the stories from these people was astonishing. Debating about potential visits to Mars, whether to revisit the moon, and just how will they create the spaceship capable of all this, was fascinating. The resounding points for me though, were on how the whole world collaborates on space projects. It doesn’t matter what the political situation is, the space program overrides differences and works together. Something we could all learn from.

We took a quick break for lunch (I even managed to find a gluten free vegan option) and back to the stands. Our first port of call was to The Mary Rose Trust. We held (and sniffed) a piece of original rope from the infamous ship and chatted all things Henry VIII. This has inspired us to plan a trip down to Portsmouth to visit the historic dockyard.

Our next discovery was the Bloodhound supersonic car, something B knows far more than me about, I expect thanks to Whizz Pop Bang magazine. How better to learn about engineering than boxes full of K’Nex, an air pump, tubes and a smooth surface. We had great fun building a car, testing it out and then making modifications to improve it.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon hurling jellybabies at castles, looking at bone density with the use of ultrasounds, discovering the amazing app courtesy of Education Harbour and programming a robot to play with Hot Wheels.

The event is on until Sunday so there is still time to visit. We can’t wait until next year!

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.

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!

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!

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!

The Epic Reading List

The Epic Reading List

When I was at school (quite a long time ago admittedly), the humble reading list would provoke one of two reactions in me. In primary school it was sheer joy. A chance to tick off a wealth of books I may have already read, and new ones to dive into. I would read them at speed, desperate to be able to return to school as a champion of books. As a hapless sports player, books were my thing. My chance to win at something.

Cue secondary school and my reactions changed somewhat. The books on these lists seemed dull and didn’t engage me. A rebel like me couldn’t be told what to think and read,  so I would scoff at the sheer improbability of getting me to read the books suggested on them and revert back to drawing CND signs on my bag, and reapplying my Rimmel “Black Cherry” lipstick.

And now we’ve gone full circle and reading lists are back in our house with a vengeance. We’ve excel spreadsheets, apps and good old fashioned exercise books listing what we’ve read and what we plan to read next. After poring through 1,001 books to read before you die and realising unless I a) live to 150 or b) give up all plans for the next 40 years this was something I’d never get done which made me a little sad. Books used to be a massive part of my life and I’ve found that now it seems an indulgence to read. If I’m watching TV I can multitask with a craft, catch up on emails, and social media, or just generally “busy” myself. But this pursuit of being busy is something I’m quite intent on moving away from, and so the books make a natural alliance to this. If im trying to convince the boy to increase his reading repertoire it seems unfair that I sit around playing games on the iPad. So I’m trying to lead my example. The boy’s got a list to last him for the next 3 years, and I’m desperately trying to get through the piles of books that have lain untouched for the past few years on my shelves.

So by putting this into the public domain, I guess I’m making a pact with myself. The books are going to get read. It is going to happen.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

100 Ways to Home Educate : B Man and L Girl Style

100 Ways to Home Educate : B Man and L Girl Style

100 Ways to Home Educate? What’s that all about then? Don’t worry, I’m not about to give you my definition of 100 ways, it’s a wonderful collection of just how diverse and different the paths of each home educating family can be. Yesterday was the turn of Elin Sion giving us an insight into “Doing it Her Way” and today it’s all about us so here goes…

When I think about how we started on our home education journey, it’s like we didn’t find home education, it found us. B had started at a sought after local primary school and couldn’t wait to get started. He lasted a year and a half before we made the decision to deregister him and home educate instead. Home education was loosely on my radar as I’d considered it when looking at primary schools and never being convinced I’d found the right one. After bullying and potential SEN issues raised their heads the boys mental health took precedence and here we are. The funny thing is when we started I thought we’d maybe home educate for KS1 and then look at schools again. Now we talk of the possibility of going all the way to A level via home education, it truly opens your eyes once you embrace it.

We’ve tried a few methods before we’ve settled into our groove of what you’d call a semi structured approach. We de-schooled, timetabled, unschooled and then decided on a combination of the two. Despite my desperate attempts at pretending I’m a laid back go with the flow type, I’m lost without a plan and B has always needed structure and routine or he panics. So we have devised a weekly plan and here’s how it looks at the moment.


Monday is usually spent at home. We tend to knuckle down at the kitchen table and work through a variety of subjects. We follow the curriculum for maths using a range of resources from online sites like Conquer Maths and Khan academy through to work books from Schofield and Sims. We also use Twinkl which we’ve found to be invaluable for a range of material. We’re more interest based for other subjects and can cover buildings, Native American headdresses, hedgehog habitats, human skeletons, English counties and French days of the week in a morning. Some topics may lead onto something bigger, others a general query. We swim with friends on a Monday and B has Beavers too so we tick that “oh so often asked” socialisation target too. Win.


Similar to Monday’s in that it’s a day for getting some structured learning done. We’ll try and include some piano if we can. After a year of formal lessons B lost his interest and now just wants to play tunes from Frozen. I’m in a quandary with this as I’d love for him to pursue the instrument more, but pushing him leads nowhere. At the moment I’ve found if I play, I soon get a buddy playing alongside. We’ve a new allotment so some planning and work there will be taking place on Tuesday’s I think. B has ballet and modern dance classes for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I get housework and shopping…


Usually a day for getting out and about either at organised home education events or by ourselves. After a year I’ve found that there is SO much to do, I have to be careful not to say yes to everything. This week we are off to see Romeo and Juliet at the National Theatre which will be B’s first foray into Shakespeare so fingers crossed. We’ll no doubt have to have a ride on the London Eye while we’re nearby and have a discussion on engineering and structures. Trips to London provide us with a lot of life learning, from journey planning to observational moments. As they say, if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life. Or something like that.


Thursday is our usual trip to London for B’s drama class at Sylvia Young Theatre School. It’s a bit of trek each week, but he is buzzing when he finishes his class and we usually fit in a museum beforehand. This month we discovered the Design Museum, and need to plan a return trip. I find the joy of not having to cram an entire museum into a day in the school holidays, makes the whole process more relaxed and enjoyable. This week we’ve a visit to Anglian Water to learn about the water process first. Wish me luck!


This is a day that can go one of two ways. B can be pretty tired from the day before so it’s usually spent locally. Ideally at a drop in kind of event rather than an organised one in case his brain is fried. If we’re at home they’ll no doubt be Minecraft and YouTube involved. B loves a documentary on anything from canal building to the new cross rail train line so he’ll happily watch anything along those lines.

So that’s a snapshot of a week in our home ed lives. Sometimes I have to pinch myself at how lucky we are to live like this. It’s everything I dreamed it would be and so much more. I’d say to anyone considering it to go for it, and to my fellow home educators who paved the way. I salute you.

You can continue the 100 Ways to Home Educate over at REO Life tomorrow for day 13.

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The Design Museum

The Design Museum

Always on the lookout for somewhere different to explore, we made our first visit to The Design Museum yesterday and wow what an amazing place. Situated in Kensington (you’ll be wanting High St Kensington not South Kensington if you’re going by tube), the building itself is a beauty. Personally I love this part of London. From marvelling at how the other half live, to taking in the amazing buildings. The pace always feels a little more child friendly this side of town, if you’re used to the hustle and bustle of the city.

We decided to look around the main part of the museum and not opt for any extra exhibitions on our visit this time, but these are available if you’ve more time. We managed to see all that we wanted to in a few hours and left feeling like we’d had a good explore. Sometimes a single visit just won’t do a large museum justice, or can be a little overwhelming for some visitors.

With plenty of eye catching exhibits and lots of hands on activities be prepared to immerse yourself. You will need to keep an eye on little ones as the exhibits change from hands on to ‘Do Not Touch’ quite frequently though. We looked at products you might use to design a babies toy, through to which products would be best for a reusable cup. The exhibits spring forth a lot of questions from enquiring minds. It certainly makes you think about the story behind all that we have in our lives and homes. Be prepared to feel ancient as you relive your youth looking at Sony Walkmans and technology from the not too distant past.

With workshops available for children KS2 and above, this looks like a museum that will easily earn its place in our top ten!

Educational Apps and Websites

Educational Apps and Websites

Educational apps and websites can be a bit of a minefield to navigate. What works for one family might not strike a chord with another, and you can end up making some costly mistakes if you fork out for one that ends up unused. Fortunately, with the serious dedication and hard work of some experienced home educators there are some excellent discounts available to home educators on some of these websites and apps which may help you on a day to day basis.

When we embarked on our home education journey I already had a huge supply of exercise books from Bond, Collins, Letts, and Schofield and Sims. B liked to do them for fun so we started off with these. We thought that he would be going back into school at some point so we did hover around the curriculum quite a bit. It gave our early days some structure and continuity from school, reinforced what B already knew, and gave him confidence that he would learn just as well at home as he would in school.

At this point, aside from free apps on the phone and tablet I was clueless as to what was available. I knew I didn’t want us to work from exercise books all the time as we’d used these to complement not to educate in their entirety. Our first discovery was Twinkl and we’ve used it consistently from our early days. B had often come home with worksheets from school from the website so it was an easy progression. I love the breadth of what is available on the website. Covering so many subjects at so many levels its been invaluable. We use it a lot for maths, from exercises to print outs plastered all over our kitchen, its not only helped B but its been incredibly useful for aiding me with long division, fraction terminology and all the things buried in the depths of my brain. With a dedicated home education area, there is an absolute wealth of material here.

As we’ve progressed I’d read a lot about the dedicated apps available and knew I wanted to add some into our armoury so to speak. If in doubt of what might be a good fit for your family there are tonnes of discussions on these in the home education groups on social media. Our children are surrounded by technology in a way that has been unprecedented for previous generations. Computer games when I was small really were limited to shoot em ups and in depth fantasy wizarding type scenarios. One such app that combines games and learning is Literacy Planet. Its appeal for us is how much fun it makes each exercise. I’ve been blown away by how much B’s spelling has improved since we’ve started using it, and he is always so keen to get on the app and work. With the facility to add in your own spellings for your child to practice, we’ve been using alongside Schonell’s spelling list to link in with our other literacy work. I’ve also found that B is beginning to identify where his strengths and weaknesses are within his literacy work, and going to exercises which he finds tougher to improve in these areas.

Maths wise we are hooked on Conquer Maths. With the comprehensive videos to help with explanations and the user friendly interface, its a big hit in this house. Like other educational programs available, its worth looking out for a discount in the home education groups. We do follow the curriculum for maths as I find it works well for us. Building maths knowledge in manageable blocks has helped B with his confidence and knowledge. We tend to use tangible aids to reinforce ideas using fraction blocks and cubes where needed. Being able to set specific tasks is really useful within the website and the printable certificates are great if your child enjoys the recognition.

I’m sure over time we’ll add more to our must have list, but for now these are our recommendations. If you’ve any you’d like to share, we’d love to know!

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