Monthly Archives: May 2016

What Home Ed looks like in our house

If you know me or read my blog regularly you will know that I am quite structured in our approach to HE.  That’s not to say that we sit down at a table every day, but I do plan and guide the learning, aiming to teach the core skills every day, or at least 4 times a week.  Wanting the boys to recognise that everything we do is part of learning, we’ve taken to calling this our academic learning, emphasising that it is important to value everything we do, so the arts, the sports, forest school etc is all of equal importance in their all round development.  I haven’t found time to blog very much lately meaning that there’s a lot that I’ve wanted to share that is now out of date.  So I’m putting some ‘schooly stuff’ together here.  I suppose this is really a snapshot of kind of learning we do actually do at home.  It’s a bit longer than usual, so you might need a few minutes!

Here’s what we’ve been up to in our reading and writing

Linked to our Iron Age work, I ordered a copy of the classic The Iron Man for our bedtime story.  Both boys were hooked from the start as you can imagine and C did some reflective text editing from it, to think about how the story opens and grabs our attention.  As you can see from the photo, we went through picking out things he liked and then C attempted to replicate this style in his own short story.


He has fantastic ideas but struggles to keep to a storyline meaning that the story gets complicated and long, and he loses interest. This is quite a natural stage to go through but it is very frustrating when he starts with amazing ideas, uses a rich vocabulary, creates brilliant imagery and then he gets bored of his own story!  It will all come together I’m sure, and the main thing is not to stifle any creativity by letting the stories drag on and insisting he finish when he doesn’t want to.  My current thinking it’s better to have an abrupt ending to a great piece of writing than to have pages of story that bore the reader!  What’s great about him having me 1:1 is that we can try different approaches.  Sometimes he plans, sometimes he doesn’t.  When he plans it can be visual, as a story mountain perhaps, a mind map, or a storyboard.  We have tried planning characters in detail , descriptive settings and have made movies of stories to develop ideas.  In time he will decide what suits him as a writer, if he chooses to write more that is.

blurry copy of the letter with excited scarecrow whose permission Ive forgotten to get hence no face!)
blurry copy of the letter with excited scarecrow whose permission I’ve forgotten to get hence no face!)

C now has an email address so he can write regularly to his overseas Uncle and various friends, and he still loves a fan letter, more valid reasons to write.  He recently took part in a local production of The Wizard of OZ (scroll down their page and check out some of the promo videos;  they’re hilarious.  He particularly loved the Scarecrow, and so has written to him to tell him as much and to ask him a few questions about his preparation for the role.  Warmly welcomed into the group right from the audition day, he had a great time and a brilliant show week.  His image of a flying monkey for the Chair of the society, drawn on the audition day, was a sweet sign that he felt he ‘belonged’ from the outset.  Being part of the show has been amazing for not only his confidence, but all round literacy.  He has watched the film and so compared media; he regularly re-enacts scenes, trying out accents and expression and so creating his own oral re-telling:  This usually entails roping us in to play different parts and L now does a pretty good Tin Man impersonation!  Here’s his role model attempting a cup of tea, he loved watching this!

his interpretation of a flying monkey!
his interpretation of a flying monkey!

L isn’t keen on writing independently.  If I write his ideas for him, he sees no point in copy writing, because “then it’s written twice, and that won’t make sense”.  Fair enough!  We do a lot of small world or role play which helps develop ideas and ‘storylines’ and he will happily write lists, menus, cards, take an order or more recently, be a judge or Police Officer and take down notes, so the foundations are all there.  He understands that his writing carries meaning, which is an important first step.

I picked up this cute old writing desk in a junk shop, L loves it!
I picked up this cute old writing desk in a junk shop, L loves it!

We recently read ‘The Owl Who was Afraid of the Dark‘ and he’s produced some lovely sequencing based on this.  Next step will be to generate more words to rhyme with dark, and so reinforce the ‘ar’ sound.  It’s a lovely story and really good for remembering a sequence or adding more of your own chapters.

I loosely follow the letters and sounds guidance and Jolly Phonics for the order of teaching sounds.  This way I know I’m not missing anything and the structure is based upon research that understands that s-a-t-p-i-n are strong sounds for a child to hear and once learned can be manipulated to make lots of words, a great motivator!  What is important though, is not to follow any one approach slavishly.  I do teach him the letter names alongside, and we don’t use all the actions, only those which are useful for him.  We play lots of games with letters and sounds hidden around the place and he races to find them which he loves.  I also only use a reading scheme type book, to help him practise these new sounds, about once a week.   L is now theoretically on set 4, but we’ve gone over some of set 5 as they’ve come up naturally in reading.

A lovely resource that I don’t use enough is our set of story telling dice.  We made up some varied and magical stories with some friends using these.  They are great for building confidence speaking and obviously developing imaginative ideas.  They can be quite easily made and I’ve seen lots of story pebbles on various Pinterest type posts thatI’ve been meaning to try too. Pre writing skills don’t have to be written down!


And here’s a rather creative train track story set up.  I forget why there was knife and fork bridge, but it was appropriately named the cutlery bridge!

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Some other reading / writing activities that have worked well for him have been to create little story sacks.  It’s really quick and easy to gather a collection of items linked to a story and then use this to generate some writing.

I put together the props from ‘The Smartest Giant in Town‘ along with some word cards and L recreated sentences from the story that he then wrote out.











There are lots of books that lend themselves to this.  Even the very simple teaching books.


The lego words are high frequency words which we keep stuck to the wall as words to know by sight.

And recent maths…

We have introduced the idea of missing number equations.  They both enjoyed this and could work together but at their own level.  For L it was to reinforce his number bonds, while C learnt about balanced equations.


They then went onto successfully solve some similar problems on paper, with Q Pootle’s spaceship hiding the numbers.

Not one to miss a time saving opportunity, I decided that our usual home made wrapping paper would make a nice maths activity for L and we created some repeating patterns using potato prints.  They are meant to be spiders and butterflies.  Can you tell?


For me the trick to managing our time and still feeling like ‘mummy’ and not just a teacher, is taking our day to day experiences and either turning them into learning opportunities, or finding a way to reinforce or pre teach.  So C attending woodwork classes on a Monday evening has given him a practical and hands on experience, putting his measuring to good use, and I’ve been able to draw on this to begin work on area and perimeter.


He’s also getting rather handy with a power tool!


Lots of maths for C is about giving him practical experiences so that the abstract will make more sense.  If he were in Y3 at school he would be learning to add and subtract fractions.  Without a solid foundation this can be hard.  So we’ve been playing a lot with plasticine, finding equivalent fractions and then applying this to  some games on the iPad as well as picture representations on paper.  Too many times I’ve seen children completely confused by fractions because they haven’t spent long enough on the ‘playing’.

Maths for a 5yo is much easier to incorporate into life.  L joined in with the fractions by making his own plasticine snakes and ordering by length.  We cook about once once a week and share, add and take away wherever and whenever it is natural to do so.  He seems to be able to count in threes now too, thanks to the lovely Mr DeMaio’s times table song!  If you like Uptown Funk you must click on this link!


Iron Age and learning on holiday

Wow, time flies when you’re having fun Home Educating two boys!  I have actually started several blog posts over the last month but never quite found the time to finish them.  I’m always too tired!  I also took on a new tutoring student for the month too, to help with some pre SATs nerves.  What a star she has been; having changed schools she wanted to just make sure there were no gaps in her learning.  I don’t think anyone can have worked as hard as she has this last month!

But back to us – Star wars as a theme fizzled out naturally and together we decided to get back to our history timeline and move onto the Iron Age.  Bronze Age had been a light touch while reading and learning about Stone Age, so we recapped this a bit too, the book Life in The Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age was a good introduction.  I love how we can be completely child led with how the topics move on, without any pressure to feel that we’ve ‘covered’  everything but simply to have enough knowledge to decide when and how to move on.  A great balance of skills and knowledge based learning.

During our first week we visited the Iron Age museum, planning questions about what to learn next.  This guided our learning and helped us to plan outcomes.  For Stone Age it was the meal, the game and art work, for Iron Age it has been more about the visits and smaller outcomes along the way.  Outcomes are important for us, giving the learning purpose and direction.

C had planned some questions based on his reading, and set about finding answers during our visit. The museum in Andover is only small but really well thought through, with lots of hands on tasks to explore in each room (this may have something to do with our moving around in between a school carousel of activities, so I can’t be sure they are always there) which really engaged the boys.  Having walked through a cut-through of Danebury Hill fort we entered into a mock up round house, where lots of artefacts and information about excavation could be found.  From here, the boys attempted to sort food according to whether or not it was around during the Iron Age or not.  This immediately got us talking about trade and import – a really valuable discussion.  We moved on to a timeline of artefacts to sort, some skeletons to hunt and then a room to explore weaving.


We followed this up at home with more weaving, some poetry and a lovely visit to Danebury where we painted the landscape before heading off for an explore with a friend.


making good use of the empty Calgon box!
making good use of the empty Calgon box!


after an hour of painting we needed to get moving!

After an hour of painting we needed to get moving!

The only written outcome for this short topic was a very gory poem:  Beautifully describing the arrival home of a father, after battle, with two heads to display!  We did create some clay pots, following the method described in one of our research books.  Suffice to say it’s not a good method as they didn’t make it to being painted, the snaking round technique isn’t very strong!

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our Calgon box weaving was nearly as good!

We have been going to a wonderful art group and as luck would have it, shortly after we had a go at weaving at home, a professional was brought in to the class and the boys got to have a go on proper looms.  Really bringing the experience at the museum to life…






It was a very short topic as the countdown to our holiday began and with over excited boys it made more sense to start to research Morocco; building on some Geography skills in preparation.  Going away always makes me question why schools can’t be allowed to authorise one holiday on the basis that the child can reflect on the learning – share back at school maybe?  There is so much learning to explore by travelling.  We all know it and yet so many families aren’t able to go abroad because of the peak season costs.   We looked up where Morocco is, and drew maps.  L made aeroplane tickets,  googling images of the country to cut and paste onto these.  So not only was this purposeful writing in role, but he developed some great ICT skills finding his images and dropping them onto his tickets.  We played aeroplanes, so going over what to expect at the airport, talked about climate, food and cultural differences and planned some things we wanted to experience and see.  Our wonderful chef friend even made us Moroccon spicy sausages and couscous for tea one evening.  All this before we even left home!

To keep him entertained on the journey and at times during the holiday, I made L a scrap book to record aspects of the airport, the flight etc.  He was too busy to do much of it while we were there but it was a great follow up on our return.  Here are a few snaps from the week…

the obligatory camel ride (only needs to be experienced once in a lifetime!)


There was an artist in residence at the hotel.  The sessions were meant to be for 12 and up but it was quiet and he was persuaded when I assured him of C’s ability to concentrate.  Upon meeting, he agreed he would be fine, due to his calmness, hmmmm!  I’m so glad he took him in though.  He taught C how to paint a sunset, which he then did independently, next the teacher painted the first tree to demonstrate and C did the second.  Same for the shadows.  The silhouettes they did together.  Modelling and scaffolding at it’s best!  C couldn’t be prouder of the end result.

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Finally some beautiful pictures taken at the Souk.  Not all mine, but they are so beautiful I wanted to share!





And what better History topic could be next for us than Ancient Egypt.  We’ve already located Africa and it’s position in the world.  In my book that’s a start to the new learning already!