Thursday, 18 April 2013

Art At The Hatton

Today's Hatton art session was about making a poster for your favourite film.

We had been asked to bring along images from our favourite films but my children have never really watched any films, just a lot of CBeebies. So, instead of film images, we bought a couple of CBeebies magazines to take along.

Sebastian did some cutting and sticking, nothing to do with the brief but hey!

Elizabeth did some lettering with a stencil for "Everything's Rosie" and I helped her to colour in the letters as per the programme logo.

Francesca did an Octonauts poster.

Afterwards we went to Caffe Nero for a quick top-up since lunch had been a hasty sandwich on the Metro between the airport (to meet their long-awaited cousins off the plane) and town (for the art class).

Habitats Fieldwork At Gibside

Had a really great day out at Gibside on Tuesday, with some other Home Ed families, doing a workshop on Habitats. The children found minibeasts in the woodland and did some pond dipping. We even had time for a play in the playarea. It was a lovely sunny day and not too cold, though windy. We stayed far too long because we really didn't want to stop having fun and go home!

Here are all the participants heading off to the pond:

Sebastian having a lunchtime siesta with a friend:

Elizabeth trying on some enormous wellies:

Sebastian hanging out with a big boy(!)

Sebastian playing house:

Monday, 15 April 2013

History Timeline Treasure Hunt

Yey! Back into it.

We've had a couple of slack weeks for Easter - of course we've still done plenty, including planting seeds, trips out and lots of art but still, it's nice to feel we've done a more 'on task' day today and it's been a full one.

The main attraction has been History. Following on from the timeline we made using photos from Francesca's lifetime, showing key events, my mum and dad have created a similar one for my first five years. It was presented to the children first thing this morning in the form of a treasure hunt, in which they had to find 15 pictures and captions, hidden in envelopes round the house.

Each child was looking for a particular type of envelope and each had a list of places to look.

At length, we had all the photos and captions, we just had to work out which ones went together. Then, there were fuller stories to read, to go with each event.

The children were very entertained by it all (well, the girls were, but Sebastian not so much).


We started off with some instructions about whose envelopes were whose and what to do with the envelopes as you find them:

Then they were off! Francesca could read all the clues by herself and made enthusiastically swift progress. Elizabeth asked for help reading the locations and then raced to find her envelopes.

Here's Francesca searching under the settee cushion:

Meanwhile  Sebastian had decided that he had to have his hoody top on and would fasten the zip himself.

Clues were read:

"What the...?!"

Sebastian discovered that you could pick the stamps off the envelopes

The girls busily emptied envelopes and organised the photos

Sebastian wanted to throw the pieces of paper around, so we distracted him with "Maffs" on the iPhone.

At last, all the pictures had captions and accompanying stories.

Francesca set to work colouring in the lettering on her front cover for this project.

Elizabeth busied herself with a glue stick, fixing the pictures onto the stories so we could peg them onto our timeline (where they fitted perfectly, thanks mum!)

I had to finish the gluing because Elizabeth thought Sebastian's Maths game sounded fun

Here's the hive of activity:

Francesca coloured most of the lettering in purple because it's my favourite colour and this bit of History is about me.

After that, I needed a break from History - I wanted to gather my thoughts before we launched into the next tasks so I called a halt to it for now. The children went off to watch tv for a few minutes while I sorted some things I had to do. Then I called them back through to do playdough.

Francesca chose, instead, to do marzipan modelling, making some little marzipan shapes for us to eat later.

Sebastian enjoyed blending more playdough colours

Elizabeth made blueberry muffins.

Here are the marzipan creations being, er, created.

After that, I was getting peckish so I started to prepare for lunch. The playdough went away and Sebastian watched some more tv. Francesca did two pages of her Maths book, with Lego to help. She's learning how adding and subtracting are related and she seems to be getting the hang of it pretty quickly. The Lego helps.

Elizabeth rustled us up a batch of scones for lunch.

This afternoon, we went to the High Street to get some packed lunch things for tomorrow (more on that tomorrow, perhaps!) and then did some playing out, since it was so mild.

Francesca did her violin practise too, and made a birthday card for a friend. I feel as though we've been really busy, which is excellent.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Why We Home School

Deciding to home educate feels like the best decision we ever made. That said, it's a lifestyle choice and not one that I would recommend for everyone. If you feel like doing it - you can! It's great fun! You'll love it!

If you don't love the idea, it's probably not for you. No sweat. In my experience, state primary schools are good - sending your child to school may not be better or worse: just different.

So, why do we home educate?

I did send Francesca to school at first. She did her Reception year in our local state school and seemed to enjoy it. She certainly made excellent progress and I thought it was a good school. But it was still school and, for many reasons, it didn't seem right for us.

One thing I've noticed about my fellow home-educators is that we're all in it for different reasons. My reasons are many and varied. I'll go into them here, in no particular order, to help you understand why we've taken the home-ed route.

1. I missed Francesca

Having my three children quite close together meant that I spent most of Francesca's life pregnant, tired, hormonal, overwrought, grumpy, changing nappies, breastfeeding and generally fobbing her off with "Not now! In a minute..." And then she was gone.

All too soon, she was swept off into the school system and spending the best/most part of her day with someone else. Someone who hardly communicated with me and barely included me in her education (how could a school include the parents more? It's not practical!)

"What did you do today?"
"Can't remember."

I had little idea what my child did all day.

Meanwhile, I was out and about having fun with Elizabeth and Sebastian - outings, socialising, park trips, cafes, National Trust properties, museums, fun adventures... Here was I, spending all day with the little ones and loving it. I wanted Francesca to be with us too.

When it was time for Francesca to go into year 1, I wasn't even given the opportunity to meet her new teacher! School was increasingly keeping the parents at arms length: no longer inviting us into the classroom, for example and I felt like saying, "Wait a minute! You have my most precious thing! I need more contact and involvement! Don't shut me out!"

Now, I can spend lots of happy, quality time with my daughter.

2. Tired fighting

I had Francesca for the worst parts of the day. The shouty morning, stressing about getting all three of them ready for the school run (often literally running so as to make it on time) and the exhausted evening.

I often collected an over-tired child from school, crying and having tantrums over apparently nothing.

And, in the daily struggle to re-establish dominance (or something) the girls would fight mercilessly after school and rarely have time to play together and enjoy their positive relationship.

Now, my children still fight but it's part of a bigger picture including lots of collaborative play and fun times together.

3. Time

School has a way of filling up your life. There's the relentless drop-off and pick-up schedule that eats into the day, then there's the homework (yes, even in Reception) that has to be fitted in. Francesca would have loved to do Gymbobs, dancing, violin lessons etc but it was impossible to fit it all into the week, when the school day was so intense and exhausting for her. Teatime and bedtime were very early.

Now, Francesca can fit in all the activities she enjoys without being too exhausted to cope.

4. One size doesn't fit all

I have been a teacher. I know that it is impossible to cater, individually, to all 30 children in your class. Sure, you could pay for smaller classes but, even so, you're not going to get a 1:3 teacher:pupil ratio, are you?

I have seen, first hand, how children are herded through school, following the scheduled curriculum, come what may, to fulfil school requirements to tick boxes and meet certain standards.

I thought, when I was teaching, that this was a rather unhealthy way to learn and I was impressed with the idea of home educating.

When it came to Francesca starting school, I had an 8 month old and a 2 year old. I was tired and breastfeeding. I felt I couldn't cope with educating Francesca so I sent her to school. In hindsight, I think I could have managed. She probably wouldn't have been so far on with her reading and writing (school really pushed her, academically) but does that matter, at this age? I think not.

Now, we are free to pursue whatever the children are interested in at the moment when they are interested in it. Last week it was tarantulas. The week before it was story writing, sometimes it's maths. We work on projects for as long as we like, never constrained by the bell for the next lesson and never worrying that you 'don't do this til Key Stage 2' or whatever.

5. A love of learning

In our house, learning happens all the time/whenever we feel like it. It's not something that ends at half past three, or becomes a chore with enforced homework. It's the exciting pursuit of knowledge. It's the freedom to explore.

I still impose some rigour. We don't always let the children direct their own day: after all, they don't know what they're missing until I direct them to it. A balance of self-directed learning and mummy-imposed tasks seems to work well for us.

Learning happens at odd times too - discussing homophones on the way to the shops, for example, or thinking about where all the autumn leaves go, as we're kicking through them.

6. Social setting

I think the classroom is a very unnatural setting. A hoard of same-age children, often competitive. We mix with many home educating families with children of different ages. I have lots of great older role-models for my children. The older children love to help the little ones and there are no social stigmas "Eew! He's in the year below!" or "Girls don't play with boys!!" These seem to develop in the school environment, despite the school's best efforts to teach inclusion and tolerance.

Out in the real world, my children interact daily with people of all ages (from babies to the elderly) and have a rich (as in 'varied', not as in 'affluent' obviously) selection of friends and role-models.

7. Quality time

I absolutely love my time with the children. They're growing up so fast and I want to make the most of every second. I love playparks, romps through the woods, reading stories, singing songs, baking together, hearing them in imaginative role-play together - all that stuff that makes childhood fun.

I did not find the school run fun. I hated the relentless time-watching, the stupid rules, the uniform, the homework.

We are all so much more relaxed and happy these days. My life is So Much Better since we gave up school.

8. Holidays

I hate school holidays. The shops are packed, the playparks are packed, the museums are packed. The price of a holiday cottage rockets. We stay at home!

While everyone else is at school, we have free-run of the museums and shops. Cafes are less busy. Parks are emptier. If we see a last-minute holiday deal, we could take it. When Seymour's between contracts, we can go away somewhere. I don't have to ask anyone else's permission to live my life anyway I want to, with my children.


I could probably go on. I might well do so and add to this post one day.

Suffice to say that I am enthusiastic about home education and thoroughly loving the opportunity to do this.

I hope we will continue to home educate right up to GCSEs and I can't honestly see my children wanting it any other way. That said, we only need to take it one year at a time and we can pop them back into school if that becomes right for us in future.

If you are considering home ed, get in touch with Education Otherwise, who can put you in contact with local home-ed families in your area. You'll find lots of help and support to help you discover if home ed is right for you.