Thursday, 31 July 2014

Speech therapy and climbing wall

Harry had his first speech therapy assessment yesterday. He has always been good at expressing his ideas clearly and has a great vocabulary range but there are a few sounds he has never mastered (ones needing a circular mouth shape, like 'ch', 'sh' and 'j'). It is something I always thought he would grow out of, so I have never made an issue of it, but Harry has started to notice that other children sometimes can't understand him and he was keen to go to the speech therapist when we discussed it. It was a very child-friendly assessment - the therapist asked Harry to describe some pictures while I talked to her assistant and Peter played with the toys on the floor. They agreed with the speech issues I had raised when I referred him and we are now waiting for a place in a play-based group where they use games and activities to improve pronunciation. I actually think Harry has improved over the past few months so it may be that not much more is needed.

Harry and Peter went to a kids coached session at a local climbing wall today. The sessions always run at the weekend and Harry has been before but there are extra summer holiday weekday ones on too at the moment. Peter was good at the actual climbing but found it very tiring and gave up before the end. It was an hour, which a long session for him at the moment - I think it might suit him better in six months or so when he is 4.

The older children warmed up in the children's area before moving onto the adult wall and trying some of the easier routes. Harry worked hard and was really worn out! I have booked him another session in a couple of weeks.

At home, we are all really enjoying The Hobbit and have read over one third now. We made another visit to the library this morning too, while we waited for Stuart to have a dental appointment. I found some great poetry and geography books I will be looking through for activity ideas.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Summer Reading Challenge library event

It's been a lovely day filled with lots of reading today. I am trialling a new start to our day, for days when we don't have to be out for something. I am closing the playroom door first thing and we are going straight upstairs after breakfast, where Harry and I will both read and the boys will get dressed. This morning he started his second Summer Reading Challenge book from the library and I read a chapter of The Hobbit, as well as a couple of books Peter chose. This was really nice and we all enjoyed it. I am sure they won't always want to do this but I think it is a good way for us to start the majority of our mornings at the moment. I will be reading more actively with Peter now he knows the alphabet, by pointing out letters and words and Harry will become quicker and more fluent if he reads in the morning and evening.

We also went to the City Library today to take part in some Summer Reading Challenge crafts. We went on the bus as the boys love it and it actually stops opposite the library so it's easier than driving and parking.

We read several books before the session and borrowed a few to bring home, although I can't carry as many on the bus as in the car. I may need a granny-trolley in years to come! 

Harry and Peter coloured some of the themed mythical characters and decorated a board game which they played together and we brought home. They both enjoyed this session and Peter lasted 45 minutes of the hour, which is good for him. He said his dragon colouring was Smaug from The Hobbit!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Will he ever go to school?

I have been asked the question 'will he ever go to school?' several times recently so I have been thinking about it. Actually once the question was 'will he go to a normal school?' - is there such a thing!? Maybe all parents of four year olds should be asked 'will you send them to school?' as I doubt many have actually given much thought as to whether it is the right thing to do, or perhaps they don't know about an alternative. 

I slightly resent the implication in the question that school is a 'better' path - I don't disagree that it may be better for some children but our original reasons (arrived at after many, many hours of reading and talking) for deciding to home educate still hold strong and I can only see positives in them for my children and family:

- By following his own interests, Harry can learn about anything. He doesn't have to wait until KS2 science is covered at school (we have done most of this already as he loves science) or learn in detail about dinosaurs (which he has no interest in at all). 

- We can get lots of outdoor time, fresh air and exercise, which my children really need. If they are tired or under the weather they can spend their time doing restful but still productive activities like listening to audio books.

- We can fit family into our life. We don't live near any of our family so it's very important that we can visit and this can't always happen at the weekend. It also means we, as a family of four, spend most of our time together and share our experiences, which I think at age 6 and 3 is a positive thing.

There are undoubtedly things that children miss out on by not going to school (I am not claiming we inhabit some kind of home education utopia), just as there are things that schooled children miss out on while at school. The school play and sports day are two that spring to mind but on balance I believe that home education can offer broader, better experiences (again for my children). We can visit the beach on what might be the only sunny day in a fortnight, or read a long book in a few days because they love it so much. And the chance to take part in activities similar to school is there, by way of extra-curricular activities, if they are attractive to the children. Harry has performed in front of many people at his gymnastics club and at music concerts and made memories for life at Beavers already by flying fire balloons. 

My ultimate answer is that I don't know if either of my children will go to school. I would certainly look into it with them if they asked to go but I can't see that happening at the moment. School is not an issue for them; it has never been part of their lives so it is not the main point of reference for them as it is for schooled children (and the parents asking the question!). Of course Harry knows that other children do go to school and we have spent time with schooled friends these summer holidays and been camping together too. It is perfectly normal in his world that they go to school and he doesn't, as it should be in my opinion; home education is a normal educational choice. 

In any case, I will not be doing much more thinking about this question right now as I am sure that Harry and Peter will do their best and achieve their potential whether they choose to go to school one day, or not.

Playing with Lego ice marbles

I saw this idea here, as dinosaur ice eggs, but of course my Lego obsessed boys wanted to make Minifigure ice marbles instead!

This was really fun but also included science as we talked about changes of state and even Peter knew that you had to freeze water to turn it to a solid. We talked about melting the solid back to a liquid and evaporation when the ice has melted and the water is on the ground in the sun. 

I stretched the balloon neck as far as I could and Harry and Peter inserted their choice of man. We then filled the balloon with water and froze them overnight. Here is the Minifigure ice-tomb in my freezer! 

When they were frozen, it was quite easy to peel off the balloon, leaving ice marbles behind.

Peter wanted to liberate his men straight away so he enjoyed throwing the ice on the ground smashing it into smaller pieces. It was very hot and he was amazed when we came out shortly afterwards to see that nearly all the ice had melted and left small, cold puddles. I asked him which piece of ice would take longest to melt and he picked up the biggest one.

Harry liked rolling his around and crashing them into each other to see which would break first.

He also rolled them around in the paddling pool and put the bigger fragments in there to pretend they were Chi orbs from Lego Chima. They played an imaginative game together for a while using these until they melted.

Courgette bread, salt letters and enjoy a ball

It's that time of year again when our allotment courgettes are producing abundantly. I found this super recipe last year and made our first batch of courgette and mint bread today.

Harry has been at enjoy a ball holiday club today from 9am-1pm with a friend. He has done lots of sports and ball games and some crafts. Peter and I played in the garden, played ker-plunk several times and he practised 'writing' some letters in a salt tray with his finger.

We all went to the allotment when we picked Harry up. I put the pepper plants into larger pots, we removed the first pea plants which are now finished and we harvested the rest of the onions. It was very hot and the boys were flagging a bit, so they played with water and ice in the garden when we got home.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Family visit, beach and new book

We had a super visit to Harrogate on Thursday and Friday last week to see my family. The boys loved the paddling pool in the park, which was there when I was a child! We also visited my gran and the boys took their scrapbooks to show her, with tickets and certificates from the past year. Harry got to ride in my mums car with no roof; a highlight for him! 

On Saturday we stayed around home and had a good tidy up in the front and back gardens. Harry and Peter occupied themselves with all the toys out of the garage while Stuart and I sorted it out.

Harry has been busy building Lego creations and more loom bands. He had made special ones to give my mum and sister on our visit.

Stuart took the boys to the beach yesterday while I went into Newcastle. A very large list has been building up for a while and I was starting to feel a bit stressed about it so I crossed some things off today. It is very hard to get jobs done in town with Harry and Peter so I sometimes need a few hours on my own.

They arrived at the end of a sandcastle competition and loved seeing some great creations! 

Harry gave me some of his money to buy a Lego Joker he had seen and I bought a copy of The Hobbit, as we agreed this would be the next book for me to read aloud. They both love it; I am so pleased as I really wanted to read it and I must admit that a bit of persuasion on my part went on! I read it with Harry and Peter in bed last night as I thought Peter might fall asleep but he was wide awake, joining in with the dwarves song and wanting to know about the dragon when we finished reading. I shall have to start earlier tonight as it was a rather late bedtime and the ironing was still calling me!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Holiday sports camp and loom bands

Harry has been at a summer holiday sports camp for the past two days. He has really enjoyed it (even the swimming, which he hated at Easter) and has played tennis, football and hockey and done gymnastics and crafts. His friend from our NCT group came to sleep at our house last night too as he was also attending both days at Gamesweek. They both looked very hot and well-exercised when I picked them up today! 

In between sports he has also been busy building loom band bracelets. He had heard people talking about them and seen lots at Beavers so when we were in a shop last week he spent some of his money on a kit. He has mastered the basic weave and fishtail and has done honeycomb and raindrop bracelets this week. He has been watching YouTube videos and following the instructions himself for the new styles. 

Whilst Harry was at Gamesweek yesterday, Peter and I went to Tynemouth to meet some home ed friends . There is a range of bouncy castles with slides which he really enjoyed.

Today has been a bit too hot for him (and me actually; I've had a headache for most of the day) so we have mainly stayed indoors. We have done some big jigsaws together and read lots of books. We made a quick visit to the allotment to water everything and Peter ate one of the cucumbers as usual! 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Half-year home ed quiz and review

I have been reviewing what we have covered in the past six months recently in order to put together a half-year quiz for Harry. We did this at Christmas too and he loved it. His recall isn't great so this is a good, fun way to practise and it allows me to take stock of what has been done. Often, this is more than anticipated, which I expect is the case for a lot of home educators where learning can become a natural process and you are not always trying to meet targets and tick boxes.

We cover subjects in different ways. I noticed that most of the geography topics were part of projects looking at major events - the World Cup, Winter Olympics and Chinese New Year, whereas English has mainly been workbook based. We do lots of hands-on science both alone and with friends and group history workshops led by third parties with other home educating families. This variety suits us and means that if a particular approach isn't working, we can fall back on other activities.

I went through my blog and chose some major areas to cover, which we did using quick-fire factual questions. This is how it was broken down:

English and art

Nouns, verbs and adjectives
Question marks and question words 

The art of Matisse and Van Gogh 


Harry spelled forty words from the dolch lists by writing half and telling me half verbally. This area has improved a lot this year. We only started doing spelling in January and he couldn't spell simple words like 'with' but he hardly struggled with these words. I chose middle-difficulty words for him such as 'they' and 'every' and we will continue to work on this so he can feel confident when writing himself.


Units of measurement - ml, cm, degrees, grams
Right angles
Fractions - quarter, half and third
Horizontal, vertical and parallel lines
3D shapes
Identifying the biggest number using numbers in tens of thousands
Days in a week and months in a year
Bar charts
We also practised the 2-6 times tables by rolling a ball to each other and saying them in turn


Ancient Egypt
Famous volcanic eruptions
Great Fire of London
World War I


Forces - gravity, friction, air resistance
Electricity - conductor vs insulator
States of matter
Space - planet facts, constellations
Adaptation and food chains
Human body - organs, skeleton


Landmarks - Taj Mahal, Sistine Chapel

I don't think we will be starting anything new in August which will give me chance to get some advance preparation done for Autumn. We will continue to read and play games at home of course. We have a very busy period coming up: Harry is taking part in several summer holiday sports camps and swimming lessons which will tire him out, we have a family wedding, cousins visiting and a camping weekend and we would like to make the most of the summer weather and special summer holiday events too.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Games, reading and bike practise

We have stayed around home today as I have felt a bit weary the last couple of days and we didn't have the car anyway. We completed most of our beach follow up activities and did a couple of sections of half-year quiz. Last year we did a quiz at the end of the year based on the topics we had covered but I felt that a year was too long to review all at once. Harry really enjoyed the quiz and asked for another one so I reviewed my blog and we have covered maths, science and spelling today. We will be doing history, geography, English and art too this week. 

We have played several of our Orchard Toys games today: Pirate Ludo, Crazy Chefs and our newest one, Les Courses a Faire. This is a French language version of Shopping List and I really like it! Harry was trying to read the words on his list and Peter made great efforts at saying his words. 

Peter has also been out practising on Harry's old first bike! He is really fast on his balance bike but I want him to learn to pedal so he can use a proper bike next year when he is too big for the balance bike. He was really proud of himself as he made it half way down the street and back.

I have been reading The Borrowers aloud today and also most of this library book, which both boys love. They really enjoy traditional stories, which is why, I guess, such stories endure for generations! 

Harry read his first Summer Reading Challenge book, which had a serious message that the habitats of animals are being destroyed and people must care and act together to save them. He read quickly and fluently and was really pleased that he didn't need any help with the first page.

Beach activities

We enjoyed following up our recent beach science and visit with some more activities.

We investigated the sea water we brought back from our beach trip. We measured 100ml of sea water and fresh water and weighed them. I asked Harry how we could make it a fair test and he said to use the same amount. Harry was amazed that the sea water weighed more and suggested it was because of the salt.

We coloured some fresh water and poured it into salt water. The fresh water floated to the top of the salt water layer due to being lighter (

We also looked at another difference between salt and fresh water using this experiment ( When you sprinkle salt on the ice cubes, the difference in freezing temperature between salt and fresh water makes the string sink down into the ice and freeze into place, allowing you to 'fish' out an ice cube. 

This didn't work the first time we tried, in this container. 

We re-visited it a few days later (like 'proper scientists' Harry said) and changed a few things. We used a lot more salt and did it in a glass so the ice cubes were very close together. I put the string in place too the second time as I don't think Harry had the necessary patience to leave it for long enough. It worked!! Harry loved this.

We examined the sand we brought back from the beach ( Peter picked out the larger pieces of stone and we talked about erosion. Harry was delighted to find some magnetic material in his sample. We also watched a short episode of Coast on iPlayer about dredging sand from the ocean floor.

Harry and Peter used the sand and rocks, along with some play sand in the garden to create their own 'beach'. Harry did some coastguard rescues with little boats.

Peter filled every container he could find and established a 'water shop'. He charged £100 for the biggest bucket! 

Whilst in the garden, we talked about the beach and the boys gave me the lines for an acrostic poem, which Harry wrote out.

We also listened to a BBC podcast, featuring people who help us at sea and the story of Grace Darling ( I think this gave Harry the inspiration for the 'Coastguards watching' line of his poem.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Allotment, Lego and summer reading challenge

We have done a little bit of follow-up beach science today but Peter had a very grumpy morning and had to go back to bed for a nap so most of the morning did not go as planned! We will continue tomorrow. Harry kept himself busy while I negotiated with Peter with the two Lego activities below. He is self-motivated generally in his free time and doesn't struggle to find activities he wants to do.

He enjoyed making some stop-motion animation Lego videos this morning using a Lego video app. He hasn't done this before and needs a bit of practise getting clear shots but he is getting better. 

He has also spent a lot of time today building a high-security prison with attached office and barbecue area! 

We went to the library after lunch and Harry signed up for the summer reading challenge. He chose his first two books today and needs to read six over the school summer holidays. We would probably do this anyway but the challenge element gives him something extra to work towards. 

We also visited the allotment to water our plants in the greenhouse. We have some good looking green tomatoes. 

We harvested Beetroot, which looks great and we are having for dinner tonight. 

And also courgettes and the first onions, which Harry laid out to dry.

We brought home a pot full of peas too which Peter snacked on later whilst Harry podded broad beans; this has always been one of his favourite kitchen jobs. These are from our veg box, not the allotment. Ours are just starting to grow pods.