Wednesday, 27 January 2016

When a Bad Attitude is a Cry for Help

I wasn't going to blog today - not enough time blah-de-blah - but I wanted to write down what happened so I can remind myself in future.

The boys went out with Daddy first thing for breakfast at the local farm shop, and when they got back they did their usual Mathswhizz which seemed to take Middle in particular a very long time (he was in a different room to me - a room with a plentiful supply of distractions, I might add).  Eldest has been struggling with Mathswhizz lately.  Not so much the exercises, though they are stretching him - more that his PC and Mathswhizz have not been communicating well, so the program keeps crashing or playing up.  It was the same today, so he was already quite frustrated by the time he came downstairs.  I was also frustrated - a painful infection was testing my patience before I even interacted with my lovely boys, and trying to juggle all of their needs was not a smooth experience today.

However, we persisted with our adapted plan.  We were due to do something arty, and as we have finally got around to looking at Tudor times I thought it would be fun to do self-portraits, Tudor-style.  I found some wiki instructions on how to draw a human face, getting the proportions right, and then we looked at Tudor portraits via Google, particularly noticing the accessories (hats) and rich oil colours.  We don't have oil paints so thought we could use oil pastels instead.  Anyway, we started on the faces, and Eldest quickly muttered that he was rubbish at self-portraits.  Sadly this kind of thinking still appears in the boys from time to time even though we have been out of the competetive school environment for almost 4 years, so I just encouraged him with the usual: we haven't tried for ages; it's more about having fun than comparing what we do with others; none of us are professional artists - nobody's expecting perfection.  He carried on following the instructions, as did the rest of us. Youngest needed a lot of help today, particularly to slow down and take in the instructions).  The more we continued, the worse Eldest's sulky attitude seemed to get, to the point where he gave up and didn't want to do any more, so he disappeared to his room.  I said the issue was not whether he joined in, but I was disappointed in the stroppy attitude.   The younger two carried on and finished their portrait (as did I: it was easier to demonstrate the instructions by doing it myself - but don't expect fine art, as you will see at the end).  As soon as they were done I went to make sure Eldest was OK and asked him to show me his portrait from where he left it - as soon as I saw it I immediately understood that I had basically been a muppet.

His "bad attitude" was not (as I had impatiently assumed) a teenage strop; it was frustration that he hadn't been able to get it looking the way he wanted it to.  The proportions were all out just enough for it to look really quite odd and he couldn't figure out how to put it right.  As he said then, it was bad enough that it looked silly, but it was even worse because it was supposed to be himself.  We sat down together and went over each part - showing him how to make the eyes a little bigger, the ears a little thinner, the mouth a little wider and the hat a little lower.  All small tweaks but they made such a difference.  I reminded him that we are not professional portrait artists & are not striving for a precise replication of how we look - and once he had made the tweaks necessary he was happy once again to continue to the oil pastel stage, needing no further help and resulting in a lovely piece of work.

The Tudor-style self-portraits were just a bit of fun, but the lesson learned was mine, and two-fold: just because we are doing something "simple" it does not mean that Eldest doesn't need my input; ALSO (which I know already but failed to connect with today) a child - or teen - who is demonstrating challenging behaviour is probably doing so because they are struggling with something.  I'm not beating myself up because happily it didn't turn into a massive deal, although I am disappointed in myself that I didn't cotton on sooner.  Yes he could have asked for help rather than getting frustrated (and I did suggest this afterwards for if/ when it happens again), but if I had just had a look when he was expressing frustration rather than assuming he was simply displaying a negative attitude, we could have sorted it so much more quickly.

Sigh.  Anyway, there you go.  Warts-and-all blogging complete, I have four Tudor-style self portraits to leave you with,  and then I am off to the Doc to get this infection sorted.


Tudor-Eldest

Tudor-Middle
(he also called it "The King Who Wasn't Sure" due to the quizzical eyebrows and mouth)

Tudor-Youngest

Tudor-Mummy


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Out-of-season Field Trip

One of the many, MANY reasons that I love Home Ed is because we get to visit places off-peak, and enjoy exploring without being surrounded by hordes of people.  OK I may sound a little anti-social, but really: who wouldn't prefer to visit places without having to queue for ages or push through noisy crowds to get to where we want to be?  Just me, huh...? *ahem*

So yesterday we went to Warwick Castle as what school might refer to as our "Wars of the Roses Field Trip".  We just call it a fun day out with family.  It had taken me completely by surprise that we were looking at the end of the Plantagenet era for so long, but that's another of the beauties of HE: if a child (or, as on this happy occasion, all of us) becomes absorbed in a subject, we can stay with it for as long as the interest lasts without having to move on until ready.  The boys (and I) were fascinated, and as mentioned in the last post, I thought it would be fun to visit Warwick Castle as it is nearby and provided the backdrop for some of the accounts of history that we had been reading.

It was great!  We arrived in time for a 45 minute tour of the castle.  The tour guide said that the day before (a Sunday) he had a group of a hundred people, whereas we shared him between our family of five and two other couples - just nine of us!  It felt very exclusive.  The tour was all outside which I wasn't expecting, but it didn't rain and wasn't too cold - and it was fascinating.  He covered the role of Richard Neville who we had been enjoying learning about, plus an overview of the rest of the 1,000-year-plus castle history.  After that we grabbed a quick lunch, then explored the castle apartments (it was warmer inside), the Kingmaker's exhibition and the Time Tower multimedia experience, before watching a bird of prey demonstration and stopping off in the castle gift shops on the way home.  We told the boys that they could have £5 each to spend in the shops, or £10 each if they could persuade us that their purchase would help them in their learning.  This was more to help them develop their pitching skills than anything else.  Youngest got it straight away, choosing a toy bow and arrow set and saying it would help him learn about archery and improve his aim! Eldest wanted a sword but faltered at the persuasive part, until Middle prompted him to say about the history of fencing etc.  A bit more tenuous, but we let him have it.  Middle chose a selection of dragon figures and simply said he wanted to learn about dragons.  It was fascinating to watch the boys' varying levels of confidence in their ability to persuade, and lovely to see them help each other when they got stuck.


Warwick Castle


In The Kingmaker's exhibiton: Richard Neville, preparing for battle...


even his horse was equipped to fight, with a nasty looking spike on his battle-mask


we discovered that boys as young as seven (Youngest's age) were employed in battle, to collect used arrows from the battlefield - even if that meant removing them from dead bodies!


a "murder hole" in the roof between two portcullises, through which the castle inhabitants would pour boiling wee/ poo on the invaders below (it was cheaper than oil!)


gorgeous owl from America (I was distracted during introduction so missed its breed)


beautiful barn owl - one of our very favourite breeds

We learned that Warwick Castle was owned not only by Richard Neville, but also by Prince George (Edward IV's brother) after Neville's death, and then handed to George's son Edward on his father's execution.  Once Henry VII was on the throne and Edward imprisoned then executed, Warwick Castle was seized as Tudor crown property.  This was a great segue into looking at the Tudors (who we were originally going to be studying since the start of term), so today we read a few accounts of Henry VII, and noticed particularly how savvy he was in gathering wealth and how little blood-shed there was, compared to the reigns of his predecessors.  We really liked the story in the excellent Kings and Things book (if your children like the Horrible Histories style as mine do, I really recommend this book) - and read all through the tale of John Cabot discovering Newfoundland for Henry as well.  Eldest decided to draw a picture of Cabot's little Tudor ship, The Matthew, while Middle drew a portrait of Henry VII.  Youngest decided first to draw Cabot discovering land, then he wanted to draw the pretenders to the throne (Simnel and Warbeck), then he ran out of steam and just drew Henry VII on the throne.  Actually, the fact that he did anything at all was impressive, as he was feeling a bit under the weather.  His picture has gone AWOL at present - will add it later when it reappears, but for now I can only post his brothers' ones...


Middle's portrait of Henry VII


"The Matthew" by Eldest



Thursday, 21 January 2016

The (un)importance of Testing

It's been a funny week this week.  We had friends to stay at the weekend, which resulted in three sleepover nights in a row for the boys.  Sleepovers should really be called wake-overs, as very little sleep is ever achieved, hence they were all extremely tired on Monday, and any planned activities were quickly shelved.  Eldest did his Maths because he is close to the end of the whole curriculum and we are trying to see if he can get it finished before I have to pay for another year's renewal - but no other work was even attempted.  We just watched TV and read books, played board games and generally had a lazy day.

Tuesday was Middle's birthday, which automatically makes for a day off too, so we had lots of present-opening, game-playing and fun with family and friends.

So it wasn't really until Wednesday that we tried any kind of parent-led work.  MathsWhizz all round, followed by Brainpop exercises.  Eldest and Middle chose to study Genetic Mutations and Bullying respectively, and did very well in the simple tests that followed.  Youngest doesn't get to choose as he is restricted to Brainpop Jr's free weekly video (Brainpop Jr being ridiculously more expensive than Brainpop UK which the older two subscribe to) - so Youngest watched about Martin Luther King jr, and got no questions right in the test.  To be honest, I don't care about the test results: maybe Youngest was still tired; maybe he didn't understand the questions; maybe he was rushing - it doesn't matter.  He was really interested in the story and asked me some great questions about segregation, which to me matters more.  Testing is a very shallow, one-dimensional way of trying to measure growth/learning, and the only reason the boys do the Brainpop test at all is that it can be part of life (esecially if they go on to more formal learning such as college etc at any point) so these simple quizzes are a very low-key way of becoming familiar and relaxed with the idea, particularly as I deliberately treat them as not a big deal.

This morning we had Henry VIII on the planner, but changed the plan.  Since we talked about the Wars of the Roses last week I remembered that I had the DVD box set of the TV series "The White Queen" and have been watching an episode or two every evening since.  It may not necessarily be an accurate retelling of history, but it helps to get the main points fixed in your head, and put faces to names, which always helps me to remember facts (I am quite a visual learner, like Middle).  Anyway, while chatting online yesterday somebody mentioned Warwick Castle and I remembered that we are closer geographically now & thought it would be great to visit - so today, rather than go on to learn about Henry VIII we stayed with the Wars of the Roses and looked a bit more at the role Richard Neville (the Earl of Warwick) played, with a view to visiting his castle asap.  It's previously been a confusing period for me, but especially with the TV series fresh in my head, I was able to go through it with the boys.  They acted out the main parts, starting with Henry VI being defeated at Towton, and going through to Henry VIII's victory at Bosworth.  When I say 'acted out', it was very much in Horrible-Histories style, with certain bit-parts being played by stuffed toys (Prince George played by a cuddly orang-utan, and the princes in the tower  played by Eldest's plush Yoshi slippers).  They do enjoy play-acting though, and whole-body (Kineasthetic) experiences are a great way to learn. Youngest particularly enjoyed playing Warwick, getting cross with all the kings who were letting him down, plotting and then going into battle repeatedly...

One of my favourite things about Home Ed is how it repeatedly gives me opportunity to learn alongside the boys - especially in subjects that I "failed" at school but actually really enjoy, such as Art or History.  I don't want my boys ever being told that they are not good enough to study something they are really interested in, as I was at school.  It put me off for years and I kind of wrote myself off in those areas, but since starting our Home Ed journey I have rediscovered a love of those subjects that is now not influenced by how "good" my performance is judged to be.  I suppose that reinforces what I was saying previously about the boys being aware of testing in subjects but not influenced by it, as it is actually such a very shallow part of learning generally but seems to have become the be-all and end-all of school education.

Afterwards the boys drew pictures again of the bits they liked, and I was particularly impressed with Eldest's cartoon-strip version of the Wars of the Roses.  Yes I am biased, but I do love seeing them become engrossed in a subject! And it doesn't matter whether they can remember all of the details next week, month, year etc - if they are inspired and interested by what we have looked at today, then I'm happy.  They are much more likely to remember it than if I just read the facts out at them, and they can come back to it again if they forget bits and want to remember anyway.  As long as I have helped to fan the flames of their interest, I count that a success!

PS Eldest's cartoon was so much fun we turned it into a slide show here - hope the link works!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Biomes, Books, and the Battle of Bosworth

I wasn't planning on blogging today but we've had such a lovely day I decided I would after all.  I think... dare I say it... we may be getting back into some semblance of HE routine now (and yes, Mummy's plan is finished now, hoorah!).  The boys were all up and doing MathsWhizz by 9am today (or not long after).  Once Youngest and Middle and finished, Eldest was still working, so I came up with a (not on the plan) challenge activity to do while they waited for him to join us...

Some of you may remember that last year Eldest, Middle and I learned the Horrible Histories song naming the Kings and Queens of England in order from William the Conqueror to our current queen. Eldest can still remember most of it, but it has really become Middle's party piece, so this morning I gave him our pack of Usborne Kings and Queens cards and asked him if he and Youngest could work together to set them out on the floor in order. It took a while, not least because James V has gone missing, plus the boys didn't know all of the roman numerals on the cards, but they got there in the end, and had fun doing it!  Challenges aren't usually Middle's thing, but he really enjoyed this one - I think his confidence came from being the one who knows the song best, so he believed he could do it - lovely to see!


Once Eldest joined us it was time for our planned history "lesson" - ie reading them a story about the Wars of the Roses.  We haven't done any history stories together for a while, so it was nice to have the timeline laid out in cards so they could see where it fitted.  I did a quick overview of the background, very basically explaining who the common ancestor was, what colour each house's rose was, and then read the stories of Richard III and Henry VII from the Hutchinson book of Kings and Queens.  The Eldest remembered the Horrible Histories Bob Hale report on the Battle of Bosworth, so we found that and watched it too, before the boys drew pictures of their favourite bits of the story.  Their drawing of pictures is probably my biggest concession towards school-style learning, but I figure it's nice to have something to put in their folders in case the LA ever find out about us and come to visit.  Plus, I just like their pictures  Middle's in particular made me laugh today...


Henry Tudor (in armour) finding the King's crown (and Richard III dead in a pool of blood while his horse runs away) - by Youngest

Middle's account of the end of Richard III


The Wars of the Roses, by Eldest

At this point we had a Book People delivery.  Of course, once the box was open the boys delved into the contents and I lost them to some new books (Eldest's choice: Deep Sea Danger from the Geography Quest collection; Middle's choice: Journey into the Earth from the same collection as his big brother and Eyebenders; Youngest decided he was more interested in the box than the books it contained, and took it into the kitchen to turn into a diorama of a night-time forest biome before stopping for lunch (accompanied by a TV recording of The Hunt).


Youngest's Nightime Forest Biome Diorama

Eventually the older two boys finished their pictures and decided to make a diorama each too. Eldest chose to make one of a marine biome, and Middle an arctic tundra one.  I thought them all trying to do one each might be taking on a bit much, but Youngest stayed focused to the end and was thrilled with the result, and Eldest and Middle only ran out of steam once they realised that their little brother was gaming without them, so they have left theirs to finish tomorrow.  I'd rather that than try to force them to finish today, or they could be rushed, ruined and resented - and where's the fun in that?

Hoping to post pics of the finished article tomorrow... we'll see!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

So Much For Planning...

Well I started on the three-way plan but didn't get very far with it.  An online friend contacted me to say that Facebook had reminded her of the time we did the Toys Who Travel - a child-centered community geography project - almost 2 years ago and asked if I was likely to run it again.  In actual fact the boys had found the box of travelling toys shortly after we moved and they've been playing with them quite a lot, so I agreed it was probably time to kickstart the project again.  It took about four days' work to put the question out there to see who would be interested, and then gather all the replies into one place, collate the relevant addresses & details, draw up the itineraries, print off the journal covers, maps etc - and send the toys off.  By the weekend all five toys had healthy looking itineraries, so we took them out on a family walk and had a little celebration to see them off on their travels.  I was disappointed that there were so few places open where we could take them, but we had a lovely walk anyway. They were posted first class yesterday morning, and two of the first hosts have already been in touch to say that they have been received this morning, so that project is well under way.  The toys keep travel blogs (helped by their hosts) which the boys enjoy reading to see where the toys are and what they get up to - it's such an easy way of learning about the UK and its geography!

 The Toys Who Travel left to right: 
Hudson Tiger; Ranulph P Bear; Saxton Rabbit; Mungo Gorilla; Kendal Sloth

enjoying their 'Bon Voyage' tea party

Hudson Tiger's journal (courtesy of Eldest)

So, Toys Who Travel are now on the curriculum for this half term, which I wasn't originally planning but am glad we are doing after all.  And after all that organising, today I've been back working on the half-term plan!  I have plenty of ideas to keep us going, based on the boys' lists from last week - and now I'm just trying to fit them into  a timetable in a way that makes sense.  I abandoned the three-way plan thing as the majority of the boys' work will actually be either learning about the same thing/ doing the same project together, or doing the same subject at different levels and in different spaces but all at the same time.  There are only a few times during the week when they are off doing their own separate things, and that's not enough to warrant three timetables.  So we're back to using my lovely multicoloured plan that has worked for us thus far.  Again I must stress for those who worry that it is too structured:  This is mostly for my benefit, to help me make sure we cover as many of the boys' ideas as possible.  If at any point the plans cease to be interesting or fun, we drop it.  Our diary of things done at the end of half term bears little resemblance to what was planned, it's just a starting point that we use as a spring board to launch us into a very flexible interpretation of the plans :)


So today the boys worked on Literacy Planet, which they all enjoy.  Then they found the pile of books in the den that was made when I started planning for this term by pulling books off the shelves relating to the subjects they had asked to cover.  The planning didn';t get any further than that, and the pile remained just that.  Not even attractively strewn, just heaped together (I know: how dare I call myself a book lover?!).


Still, it hasn't put the boys off - they keep picking random books off the pile and getting stuck in. Today Eldest's choice was "The Shocking Story of Electricity", Middle's was "You Wouldn't Want to be Ill in Tudor Times", and Youngest's was "How Things Work".

Then they finished the whale paintings that they started at the weekend.  The instructions were for Humpback Whales or Blue Whales, but Eldest wanted to do a Killer Whale so he did his own design, which looks great!

"Blue Whale" by Youngest

"Humpback Whale" by Middle

"Killer Whale" by Eldest

And we revisited one of our favourite HE traditions, the TV picnic lunch - today's menu being sandwiches & cake with "Science of Stupid" (which Eldest refers to as 'educational You've been Framed'), "World's Weirdest Weather", and "Mythbusters"  recorded from Nat Geo, Channel 4 and Discovery respectively.

The morning finished, they went their separate ways to do their own thing and give me space to blog.  I really like the balance of having mornings a bit more supervised and then afternoons to do whatever they like... even if my afternoons revolve largely around planning at the moment.  That's OK though, it's what keeps the rest of our time flowing mostly harmoniously, and I'm hoping the planning bit will be done very soon now, not least because this half-term is already well under way, and playing catch-up is not my favourite thing.  So I'm off now - to cook tea and then finish the plan... maybe I'll achieve it this time!


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Caught Out by Enthusiasm

Doh!  I always catch myself out by forgetting how children's enthusiasm is such an immediate thing! As planned, I had one-on-one chats with the boys at bedtime last night, asking what sort of things they were interested to find out or explore this term.  Youngest took a few prompts for ideas, but once he got doing it was like opening floodgates!  That boy has a lot of things that he wants to know - especially along the lines of how things work, so no surprises there.  Also unsurprisingly, Middle had plenty of creative ideas up his sleeve - for art, design and making things.  His turned out to be the longest and most eclectic list of ideas.  Eldest struggled a bit more - I guess as he gets older his interests will naturally become more focused and specialised.  Animals were, as always, first on the list - if he could spend his life watching wildlife documentaries he'd be quite happy.

Anyway, after chatting to them all I came downstairs to type up their lists of ideas before bed, planning to raid the den today for appropriate resources, and look online for more ideas.  However it took me a while to get going with that plan this morning, as Youngest came downstairs wanting to make a start on his ideas straight away!  I managed to hold him off until he had eaten breakfast and got dressed, but then he was absolutely raring to go.  Persistence really could be his middle name - he just kept asking until I could think of no good reason to say 'after so-and-so'.  Well really, stalling his enthusiasm and progress just so I could feel on top of the organisation is a daft way to go about empowering a learner anyway.  I might actually remember this one day rather than being caught on the hop at the start of every term.  Youngest is always ready before me, and I don't see that changing. I might as well just learn to go with it.  At least I remembered sooner this time, and it wasn't too painful letting him loose on all of his plans.  Middle was also keen to get going on some of his ideas, and even Eldest was up before me for once!  All because they had specific things that they wanted to get on with (things that didn't revolve solely around computer games!)

So these were their lists of ideas:

Youngest
how do you make soil/ foam/ plastic/ string/ china?
electricity and batteries
science experiments
the Tudors - jigsaw, Horrible Histories etc
How inventions work
the first king of Scotland and all about Scotland
digging up fossils
painting (like the old masters)
How matches work
how sandpaper works
handwriting
pottery
smelting and furnaces
leatherwork
wildlife - how it feels to be nocturnal

Middle
design and build a model rocket
bake different-shaped breads
butterfly painting using symmetry
painting faces to show different feelings
poems
bugs
victorians
making knots with Daddy
True or false quizzes (he likes the ones in their Whizz Pop Bang magazine)
food challenge - trying new things
taste experiments
design and create a marble slide
outer space and gravity
3D writing
3D pictures (using perspective)
make a light maze
how instruments work and how do we whistle
king arthur
dreams
biomes - taiga
desert animals
underwater life
inside our body and how it works; five senses
trip to library
leaf art

Eldest
animals
oceanography
rivers and flooding
chemistry
cooking - cakes and puddings
north and south poles
electricity
handwriting (his idea - he is self-conscious about his writing)
computer programming & coding
chocolate (good excuse for a trip to Cadbury World now we live closer)
history of space travel and NASA
sculpting - ice/ rock/ wood

I have to say, some of these are going to be a challenge (anyone know of any good kids' resources on dreams?!), and a few are quite unlikely to be covered in my next phase of planning for this term, though I'll do my best.  Let's face it, whatever I don't plan for they will find out for themselves if they are interested enough - such is the beauty of child-led learning.  However I was pleased that some of their expressed interests overlapped (such as space and electricity), and some of their ideas were really inspiring (I'm looking forward to Middle's light maze).  For now though, I just need to get on with the plan so I can keep an eye on where we're going, even if said plan does turns out to be another piece of well-intentioned fiction.  After a crazy few hours of the boys bouncing from idea to idea this morning, they are now back in gaming-world (no problem with that - Youngest would have no idea about smelting if it weren't for minecraft) so I have a couple of hours peace to blog and schedule.  Let me just show you some of this morning's activities, then I'm off to draw up my pretty if possibly ineffectual plan...

our "Terrible Tudors" jigsaw - the reason why Youngest was so impatient to get going this morning, but he wanted me to do it with him, so my plans were put on hold while we worked together

Middle was also impatient to get going on some knots before Daddy could come and help

Meanwhile Eldest found some instructions for drawing a fabulous sea lion

and then Youngest decided to follow suit with the dinosaur drawing book

Youngest also enjoyed playing with our electronics set...

... and completing some of the puzzles in his new Stampy Cat book

Eldest and Middle also watched a recorded TV programme on the Great Barrier Reef and then all three boys sorted out their toy animals into groups of marine, polar, desert and nocturnal animals ready for further play in the week.

Right, I'm off - going to try to see how many of these ideas we can fit into the next half term as a family, and which need to be explored individually.  I may be back tomorrow with the finished sort-of-plan, but no promises, OK?!


Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Happy New Year/ Term/ Phase!

OK I admit it: I am a shockingly neglectful blogger.  If I have any faithful readers left after my wandering off and ignoring you for so long, thank you for sticking around!

The house move at the end of October, with all the upheaval and settling in that that entails was followed by a big family get-together at our house over Christmas - both of which seem to have taken most of my attention and energy over the last few months.  But now Christmas is over (well, the boxes are lined up waiting to go into the attic and family have returned to their homes), and I have started to read people's posts about their new terms - and I am inspired to be a bit more attentive to what the boys are learning his term.  There's no massive upheaval foreseen for our next few months, so I'm looking forward to getting our teeth into some "proper" Home Ed now we're more settled in our new home.

I usually draw up a simple plan of thoughts on an ultra flexible timetable, just to help us have an idea of where we're going.  Some months we stick pretty well to it, other months we end up having completely different experiences - I love it either way. This term I am tweaking it to add a further dimension: it's going to be a three-way plan (with a separate section for each child).  Eldest has clearly got different needs to his brothers now, and I want to make a defined space for that in my planning.  Identifying each of their learning journeys as separate on paper feels like an important step for me to take, even if we do still all share some learning experiences together as I hope.  Now that I have drawn the outline plan up, the aim is to talk with each of the boys individually this evening (bedtimes are great for cosy chats) and see if we can come up with a loose idea of what they are interested in investigating this term.  Then I'd like to think I can put the finishing touches to the general plan-type thing tomorrow.

It sounds involved and I guess, especially to any radical unschoolers reading this, it may be more complicated than necessary. We've just done this for long enough to know what works for us - and the single thing that makes the biggest difference to keeping Mummy (and therefore everyone) happy in our Home Ed is having a plan - however vague or flexible - at the start of a term.  Then our priority naturally becomes adapting it to our needs as the weeks go by.  If at any point it ceases to be fun or interesting, we change tack. Simple as that.  But having no plan at all usually ends up with all of us feeling listless and dissatisfied, so especially as we've had a very random, bitty term, we are sticking with what we know.

I am hoping to be able to keep blogging, not least because many of you were kind enough to ask me to do so when we moved (apologies for not doing very well at that bit).  However, one of the many happy by-products of our Home Education has been the inspiration I gained from seeing my boys find a love of creative writing, which in turn has led to me writing my first novel.  It is not quite finished: I need to get it ready to send off to publishers etc (eeeek!), and that is going to take work. So my spare time which I used to use for blogging is going to be shared with other writing, and I have no idea how much time that is going to take (I suspect it will be a lot!)  I enjoy blogging though, so am hoping to keep writing here when I have something to say and time to say it.  As always, we will have to see.

Meanwhile I'll leave you with a few photos from our adventures in north Worcs so far - there may have been little by way of structured learning at the end of 2015, but we have been enjoying finding out what our new locality has to offer.  Just because we haven't stuck to a learning plan, it doesn't mean we haven't been learning.  Simply listening to the boys talk shows me how much they are growing and learning all the time, and all those new experiences and places to explore are playing an invaluable part in that!

The Wyre Forest - we have particularly enjoyed the "Stick Man" trail so far


The river Severn in flood at Bewdley


another day, another trip - to a different part of the Wyre Forest


 Santa Safari at West Midland Safari Park