Science Club – Senses

I’ve gotten out of the habit of uploading the Science Club materials here. Which is a shame, I think it’s nice to put them up and make them available for others. It takes a lot of work to put the sessions together, and it’s nice to think that someone else might get some use out of it too!

So, here is a session that I ran a few months ago about our senses.

This is the booklet that I made for this session:

Senses

How many senses do we have?

Scientists don’t agree on how many senses we have.

There are five basic senses that everyone knows: Taste, Smell, Touch, Hearing and Sight.

But we can also sense temperature, pain, movement, balance, and where our body is.

Can you think of anything else that you can sense? ____________________________

The children had lots of ideas like how tired we are, how much time has passed, whether or not we need the toilet.

We looked at a simple picture of a person and talked about which parts of the body sensed different things.

Touch

I made a simple feely box with two holes, one I left open, the other I had a closed sock inside. So when children put their hands in the holes, on one side they felt the hidden object through a sock, and on the other they felt the object directly.

Feely Box

Each of the children tried to identify the hidden objects (a teddy bear and a plastic spatula) by feeling through the sock and then by feeling without the barrier of the sock. We talked about how much easier it was to feel without the sock in the way.

Taste

We then did two taste experiments. One with crisps:

There are four bowls of crisps.

Hold your nose and taste one crisp from each bowl.

Write down the flavour that you think each crisp is.

Then, taste another crisp, this time without holding your nose. Write down the flavour that you think the crisp is now.

The other taste experiment was with jelly beans:

Close your eyes and hold out your hand.

Someone will put a jelly bean into your hand.

Bite the jelly bean in half and eat one half of it.

Guess the flavour of the jelly bean, and tell your partner your guess.

Now open your eyes and look at the colour of the half a jelly bean.

Eat the second half of the jelly bean.

Guess the flavour now. Does it taste different now that you know what colour it is?

Temperature

We’re going to test whether age makes people better or worse at guessing temperatures.

Who do you think will be most accurate at guessing the temperatures, (circle your prediction).

Children Teenagers Adults – we’re fortunate that our group has a good spread of ages.

Put your hand in the two bowls of water and guess what temperature they are.

Then we will use a thermometer to measure the real temperature.

I calculated the average error for each of the three groups so that we could compare how accurate they were.

As I had expected, the adults were very accurate in their estimations, the children were quite a long way out, the teenagers were somewhere in between. We talked a bit about reference temperatures and how we used them to help us in our estimations.

Smell

We’re going to test whether heat makes smells disperse faster. I set up two cups with water in: one hot, one cold; and put a few drops of essential oil in each one.

Cups with warm and cold water

Which smell do you think will spread quicker, the one in hot water or the one in cold water? (circle your prediction)

Cold Hot

Which of the smells did you smell first?

Cold Hot

Which one did most people smell first?

Cold Hot

Can you think of any way we could improve on this experiment? ________________________

This was a very interesting one. I used two different essential oils: lemon for hot and peppermint for cold. The children were able to identify that the different scents might have effected how quickly people noticed them. We talked about the difficulty of repeating this experiment, since the room was now rather lemon-scented.

Touch

Finally, I showed the children a braille slate and stylus (they’re pretty easy to get online).

They had a go at reading some messages that I had written earlier.

Then – using a ‘writing braille’ alphabet so they didn’t have to reverse the letters in their heads – they all had a go at writing their own messages.

Using a braille tablet

Love Bombing

I wrote about this a while ago. But, it’s a technique that I still use, so it seems worth updating the blog about it. ‘Love Bombing’ is a book by Oliver James. It suggests a strategic use of limited time where you give your child control. James talks about ‘resetting your child’s emotional thermostat’ – which sounds ambitious.

It’s about giving children a – time-limited – experience of being in charge, and having power to decide things.

Love Bombing gives your child a very intense, condensed experience of feeling completely loved and completely in control.

Oliver James, Love Bombing page 2.

I don’t want to plagiarise, so I’m not going to describe everything from the book. I strongly recommend it. I really think it’s a brilliant book. Don’t forget that authors get paid when you borrow from libraries, so you don’t have to spend money to support them.

Major Love Bombing

The big Love Bombing sessions have been the most helpful for us.

Mr Frogotter takes a child away for a night or two. They have a great time, basically doing whatever the child wants.

I hold the fort here and try to have fun with the remaining children – but I don’t let them control the house, that would be chaos! If you had two children and two parents, you could Love Bomb both at the same time.

A few key things that definitely help it run smoothly here:

  • Naming the special time really helps make it clear that this is not normal life! When the special time is over, we won’t continue to do everything the child wants.
  • A simple phrase: ‘this is your special time, we can do anything you like; if there’s anything you can’t do, we’ll let you know,’ helps contain expectations and sets us up for setting boundaries if we need to.
  • It’s not the excitement of the activity that matters, so much as the shift in power. The boys really appreciate having a short time when they get to make the decisions. So, they have to plan, and they have to be allowed to change plans.
  • Getting a souvenir really helps the child remember, as does a photo printed off and framed, or an inside joke that can be repeated. Recalling the special time later helps extend its impact.
A ‘Mummy’ Duck that we got Baby Girl as a souvenir.

In fact, we love souviners so much that we include them in lots of fun activities, not just Love Bombing. I even created a virtual gift shop so the children could all get a souvenir from our virtual zoo trip during lockdown!

Something We Can’t Do

Obviously there are cost restrictions. But, we’ve found the boys are quite reasonable about that.

It’s not about making the world different, so we don’t become millionaires or develop super powers! It’s about letting the children be in control.

Power struggles have been a feature of our family life for a long time. I did wonder whether giving the children a taste of power would make that worse. In our experience, it’s done the opposite. Having this special – clearly defined – time when they get to be in charge, helps the boys to tolerate not being in charge the rest of the time.

Mini Love Bombing

Having short sessions of half an hour at home hasn’t really worked for us at all. The boys can’t cope with one another getting extra attention at home. Whatever I try and set them up doing will not distract them from their sibling getting extra attention.

We can only love bomb one child at a time by literally taking them out of the house.

We have had success with a trip to the cinema, or swimming, a meal at Macdonald’s, even a trip to IKEA to buy a sofa. But, the key for us seems to be that one adult must take one child away from everyone else.

Love Bombing Teens

A lot of techniques that we used with the boys when they were younger don’t help us now. Love Bombing is still great!

It can feel difficult to get started. Sometimes, the last thing Mr Frogotter or I want to do is take a moody teen out for a fun treat. But, that’s usually the time we need it most!

Though it doesn’t always seem possible in advance, I have always actually enjoyed the Love Bombing when I’ve done it. More and more these days I’m finding that it resets my mood as much as theirs.

Reversible and Irreversible Changes

I put together a Science Club on Reversible and Irreversible Changes. Feel free to use any part of it you find helpful.

You can download the booklet here:

Here are the answers to the quiz (I hide them around as a treasure hunt for the children to find, to add a bit of active time):

First we talked about what Reversible and Irreversible Changes are and I asked the children to classify some simple changes: Burning a Candle, Mixing Salt and Flour, Dissolving Sugar in Water, Rusting Metal, Freezing Ice Cubes, and Frying an Egg.

There was some discussion about mixing salt and flour, so I got some out of the kitchen to have a go.

One of the children seperated the salt with a fine seive. Then one of the parents separated the powders by shaking – which was pretty impressive to watch.

Everyone had a go at thinking of a reversible change – melting chocolate was a popular suggestion!

Then we began to make Stollen Dough. We stopped at each step to talk about whether it was reversible or not.

While the dough rose, we melted some chocolate and the children mixed in nuts or marshmallows, then set their chocolates in different-shaped moulds.

Then I got out some Cobalt Chloride (if you don’t have any, you can watch this experiment online). We looked at the colour – a bright pink. The children predicted what colour it might be after I dried it out. I dried it in the oven, and we observed the blue. Then I asked the children to suggest how to turn it pink again. We added water with a pippette and watched the blue powder return to pink.

We mixed some marzipan – again talking about which of the steps was reversible. Then we put our marzipan into our Stollen and left it for a second rising.

I had some Shrinking Paper. The children drew designs and we baked them in the oven:

Finally, I had some hydrochromic adhesive sheets (you can get them from here). I showed the children how it worked – many of them had played with toys that have a similar effect. Then they each made their own picture. Here’s one:

Multi-Age Study of Jekyll and Hyde

I wanted to do a literature study with my older children, including relaxed chats about the book with tea and snacks. But, I thought that it might be a bit tricky to leave my younger boy out of the fun. So, I wrote a mini workbook for him, so that he could join in.

We studied ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. First, the older boys read the text alone, and I got my younger son the graphic novel version, so that he could read it too. I love the Campfire Graphic Novel series. They use the complete text, but put it into a graphic novel format, which really appeals to my boys. The only downside is that they haven’t done all the novels and plays that I would like to see, yet!

First we read through the book together. It’s a pretty short book, so we took it in turns to read a couple of paragraphs each, and read through it one chapter at a time. We talked generally about the story as we read through it. I made sure that the children understood what they were reading. Listening to them read aloud, made it pretty easy to work out when they were confused about the meaning of the text! Going through the book slowly gave them all plenty of time to ask for help with words or ideas that were unfamiliar to them.

When we’d read through the whole book, we started working through the workbooks. The older boys used workbooks from CGP. But, it’s aimed at GCSE students, so I wanted something a bit easier for my seven year old. So I made him his own workbook. You can download it here, if you fancy. The chapters tie up with the CGP workbook, so that we could all work together. Each week, we discussed the topics together. Then all the boys filled in their own workbook.

We had a surprising amount of fun studying Jekyll and Hyde together, and it really helped all the boys to improve their comprehension skills.

Science Club – Acids

We had a fun Science Club exploring Acids and Bases. You can download the activity book here:

Changing Materials Story
We read the pancake story from Science Through Stories, but you could use any story that included changing materials. Then I asked the children to recall as many instances of materials being changed in the story as possible. We talked a bit about different ways of changing things, e.g. heating, cooling, chemical reactions. Then the children had a go at retelling the story in pictures in their activity books.

All the children rated how much they enjoyed the story – on a scale of 1-10 – then we calculated the mean of our ratings. This story scored 6.5, slightly higher than the last story at 6.

Atom Picture
Everything is made out of atoms. Atoms look a bit like tiny solar systems with a nucleus in the middle and very tiny electrons orbiting around it.
Different types of atoms have different numbers of protons inside their nucleus. Atoms of the same element always have exactly the same number of protons inside their nucleus.
A Hydrogen atom has one proton in the nucleus and one electron orbiting. This is what a Hydrogen atom looks like:

A Nitrogen atom has seven protons and seven neutrons in its nucleus and seven electrons orbiting the nucleus:

An Oxygen atom has eight protons and eight neutrons in the nucleus, and eight electrons orbiting outside. Can you draw an Oxygen atom?
(NB – There are two circles of electrons. The inner circle can only hold two electrons, the other six must go in the outer circle).

A Water Molecule
Atoms join together to form molecules. When two Hydrogen atoms join together with one Oxygen atom they make a single molecule of water. Every water molecule has two Hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen atom.
We’re going to make water molecule models out of playdough.
Make two small balls of red playdough.
Make one larger ball of white playdough.
Stick two cocktail sticks in the ball of white playdough, sticking out a bit like antennae.
Put the red balls on the other end of the cocktail sticks.

Universal Indicator Paper Colouring

Colour in the picture, using the colours from the pH scale.

I gave the children books of universal indicator paper, which have the pH scale printed inside. You can get these pretty cheaply online.

Testing the pH of substances
One of the ways we describe different substances is their pH – are they acidic, neutral, or alkali? First, predict what you think the pH will be. Then dip in universal indicator paper to find out the actual pH. Finally, mix your substance with some red cabbage water to find out what colour it goes.
We filled in tables in the activity book to record our predictions and results.

I used Bicarbonate of Soda, Citric Acid, Water, Laundry Detergent, Borax, Hydrochloric Acid and Lemon Juice; but anything you have available would be fine. It’s a good idea to include at least one base, one neutral, and one acid, though!

The children also filled in these sentences by way of a conclusion:

What colour is red cabbage when mixed with a strong base?______________
What colour is red cabbage when mixed with a strong acid?______________

What is an Acid?
An acid is any substance that increases the amount of H+ ions in water. The higher the percentage of H+ ions, the stronger the acid (and the lower the pH, because low pH’s are acidic).
These loose H+ ions break the bonds between most organic molecules – which is why strong acid destroys things.

What is an Alkali?
An alkali is a liquid which increases the number of OH- ions in water. The higher the percentage of OH- ions, the stronger the alkali (and the higher the pH, because high pH’s are alkaline). These OH- ions react with most organic molecules – which is why strong alkalis destroy things.

What is Electrolysis?
Electrolysis is using electricity to split up molecules. When we do this to water, we get OH- at the anode and H+ at the cathode. So the liquid by the anode is alkaline and that by the cathode is acidic.

We completed the Electrolysis experiment from this kit. It’s a brilliant kit that uses powdered sweet potato (a natural indicator like red cabbage) to show the pH change around the cathode during electrolysis.

Make Your Own Sherbet Sweets

We had a go at making our own version of flying saucer sweets. Here’s my recipe!

Wash your hands.
Mix one tablespoon of icing sugar with half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and half a teaspoon of citric acid.
If you want you can taste your mixture to check it is good.
Lay your sherbet onto a rectangle of rice paper.
Fold your paper over the sherbet to make an envelope. Seal the edges with water – not too much or your paper will disintegrate.
Draw a design on top using the edible pens.
Finally, a good product needs a good brand! Think of a name for your sherbet sweets and design a logo.

This was a lot of fun – though a little bit fiddly!

We finished the session with a quiz. I put the questions in the booklet. The answers were printed off and hidden all around the garden. You can download them here:

If you enjoy using the free resources I post, please consider having a look at my new business venture: the Frogotter Box – a complete primary school education kit in a box – all equipment provided and ready to use!

Science Club – Teeth

We had a lot of fun investigating teeth at science club. I put together separate workbooks to help everyone follow along, despite social distancing. You can download one here:

First we read a story about teeth. I read ‘The Three Princes’, from ‘Science Through Stories’; but any tooth-related story would work.

We drew comic strips of the story.

Then we made felt pictures out of the parts of teeth.

Types of Teeth

I handed out lazer-cut teeth models for the children to examine. But, I also put pictures of the teeth in the workbooks, so you don’t need to do that!

Look at these different animals’ teeth. What do you think the different shapes are good at?

Then I gave the children each some crisps, some cheese, some bread and an apple; to try and break up into smaller pieces.

I gave them meat mallets, pestle and mortar, cheese grater, butter knife, skewers; to use as tools.

I asked the children to: Try breaking down different types of food with various tools. Which tools are best at breaking down each food? They recorded their results in the booklets.

Investigating Toothpaste

I handed out children’s and adults’ toothpastes. Along with small bowls, pippettes and water, and universal indicator paper. The children conducted their investigations, completing the booklet as they went:

How does the toothpaste feel if you rub some between your fingers? ___________________

What does it smell like? __________________

Mix some toothpaste with a little water, can you get it to make bubbles? ___________________

What is the pH of your toothpaste? __________

Why do you think toothpaste manufacturers give toothpaste these features?

Making Your Own Tooth Powder

We talked a bit about the history of tooth cleaning. Then, we made our own tooth powders.

A tablespoon of salt will make your Tooth Powder abrasive.

You need to choose a scent for your Tooth Powder. Peppermint is popular for freshening breath. Myrrh is antibacterial. Clove is good for your gums. Smell them all and pick your favourite. Which do you prefer? _____________

A teaspoon of Bicarbonate of soda will make your toothpaste alkaline.

If you add a few grains of Citric acid, your toothpaste will froth too! Are you going to add some? ______________________

Finally, a good product needs a good brand! Think of a name for your Tooth Powder and design a logo.

I also had a quiz in the back garden. The questions were in the booklet, but the children had to run around to find the answers. You can download those here:

Books to read to the whole family

Reading together is wonderful. I don’t think that we should ever stop reading to our children, however old they are. But, it’s certainly trickier to find books to read to teens.

I love reading with the younger ones.

We don’t read together all the time. Every few months, I choose a book to share and we make time in the evenings to read together until the book is finished.

We like books with beautiful pictures and words that flow easily. We prefer chapter books to books we can read at one sitting – it’s good to talk about the book we’re reading between chapters, that’s a big part of sharing the journey together. The chapters have to be reasonably short, so my listeners don’t have time to lose interest.

Great stories that inspire interesting conversations are perfect for reading with the whole family. I am definitely drawn to stories with big ideas behind them. We prefer a young reading age, though, I don’t want the smaller ones to be confused.

Here are some of the books that we have really loved reading together as a family:

The Iliad by Gillian Cross – the stylised drawings are lovely to look at. The story is retold in simple language. Most of the scenes are there, though I was a bit sorry that Cross missed out the fantastic designs on Achilles’ shield. Cross’ adaptation of The Odyssey, again with Neil Packer’s striking illustrations.

Jotham’s Journeythis is one of a series of books, written to be enjoyed over the course of Advent, telling the story of the Nativity from the perspective of children. It’s become a much loved annual tradition. We’ve read several now. Ishtar’s Oddessy stood out for its inclusion of foods to eat while we read, adding a whole new dimension. There’s a follow up to the series set at Easter, which we also enjoyed. I imagine these books might appeal less to non-Christian families, though the stories are very exciting for any child, regardless of beliefs. Though the stories obviously mention the Bible stories on which they’re based, there’s a lot of extra excitement in there.

Life of the Buddha – this is part of a series too. We’ve also enjoyed Muhammad – Life of the Prophet from this series. The books are small, so less easy to share the pictures than the others I’ve mentioned. But, those pictures are lovingly made colour sketches. It’s written to be read aloud. We had very limited knowledge of Buddhism or Islam before reading these books, so we learnt a lot! Recounting stories of people was the ideal way to engage them in learning more about other faiths.

Our favourite games for multiple ages

I have four children, ranging from 16 to 1, it’s not always easy to find games that we can all play together. These are our current favourites.

Often, when we play games altogether, we ignore the scoring system altogether. These games are all fun without keeping score.

Rule following is inversely proportional to age – at least, that’s how it goes in our house. So, toddlers can break all the rules, small children are permitted to break quite a few rules, only adults really follow the rules! Playing together doesn’t have to mean that everyone is taking a turn in the game. Sometimes it means that the older ones play a game while the little ones enjoy fiddling with some of the pieces. We aim for a fun, shared experience, and all these games help to create that.

Beasts of Balance – the game is played with an app. That immediately appeals to many of my children. It also includes wonderfully tactile animal blocks. Everyone loves to hold, stack and move the blocks. Baby Girl enjoys making noises for the animals. There are several games, the app guides the player through them. But, it’s all about stacking the blocks on the base plate in a particular order. The app makes noises and shows cartoons – we are particularly delighted with the cartoons of animals combining to make exciting hybrids. Only one person can place a block at a time, so it’s not the best game for children who struggle with turn taking.

Dixit is another unusual game. Players are dealt cards with pictures on. During their round, each player comes up with a story or phrase to describe one of their cards. All the other players choose a card from their own hands which fits the story. Then the first player reveals all the cards at once and the other players try to guess which was the original card. The cards are beautiful. The pictures are unusual and interesting, inspiring many different flights of fancy. The game also includes wooden rabbit counters on a flower board. Anyone who can talk can play, and even pre-talkers enjoy looking at the cards and playing with the wooden rabbits. Any number of people can play (though there are only six sets of voting counters, so you would need to team up, or create extra counters for bigger numbers of players). Everyone plays in every round, so this is the perfect game for people who hate waiting for their turn!

Five Second Rule is only playable for people who can talk. It does include a fantastic timer with mini ball-bearings inside, which appeals to toddlers. We have a few handicaps to make the game playable by all ages – younger children get twice as much time (we just turn the timer over again) and sometimes have their cards made easier – ‘names beginning with A’, might become ‘words starting with A’. Any number of people can play, though more people does mean a longer wait until your turn. The turns are very short, though, so it’s never a very long wait!

Finally, Q-bitz. I love this one douch, we bought Q-bitz Extreme as well. It’s a fun game, you choose a card and try to replicate the pattern using a collection of cubes. It’s easy to give younger players a headstart, I usually count to thirty before starting, so little ones get an extra half minute to begin forming their pattern. Toddlers love to arrange the cubes too – not necessarily in the same pattern as everyone else – so we can all join in. There are only four sets of cubes, however, so a maximum of four people can play, and it isn’t a game that lends itself to teams – you tend to get in one another’s way.

Do you have any games that work well for your whole family?

The New Three R’s: Relate, Relax, Repeat

I spend a lot of time thinking about, reading about, and practising education. At the moment, I have focused my approach into three words: Relate, Relax, Repeat. No matter what or who I’m teaching, this is the core of how I try to teach it. It’s the same approach for academic skills as social skills.

Relate

Before you can teach, you need to build a relationship. Humans need connection. They need to feel understood before they can start to understand new material.

In essence, most learning is transformative. It changes who you are. It’s not only learning to control your temper or express your opinions that changes your character. Learning to read, learning to play a piano: these things change your nature. Not always in a huge way. But, every new skill mastered or fact learnt changes the way you think.

So learning makes us vulnerable. We can’t risk it unless we are safely in a relationship with our teacher.

Teaching at a distance, ignoring the students in front of us, insisting that teachers are specialists in their subject but not in their pupils – that attitude denies the importance of relationship in education.

I need to know if my children are having a bad day, or if they’re eager to get school work out if the way because they’ve got a fun afternoon planned. I need to be aware of which topics excite them and which ones are a bit tougher to get into.

My children know when I’m having a bad day. They know that I prefer simultaneous equations to vectors. They know some of my favourite books and historical figures. I think this adds another layer of interest to their learning. My biases affect the way I talk about our learning. I’m not a blank slate any more than the children are. Our relationship is at the heart of everything, for better or for worse. As the parent, it’s my job to try and make sure it’s for the better!

Relax

People on high alert are not learning. Anyone who feels hungry, tired, ill, or afraid, isn’t learning.

Most of us know this instinctively. It’s common sense not to have a serious conversation with an adult who’s upset. Yet, often we forget it with children – expecting them to focus on some instruction in the midst of stress.

Telling children to focus on maths when they need the toilet is not only unkind, it’s also a complete waste of time. Stressed minds are not open to being changed. They cannot learn.

Learning happens in a low stress environment, once all the basic needs have been met.

Sometimes learning itself causes stress. When that happens, a good teacher – one with a relationship with the student – will notice the stress and prioritise relaxation before attempting to convey any new information.

Sensory breaks, movement breaks, calm classrooms, can all play a part in relaxing students. But, relaxation is built on a foundation of relationship. What relaxes me, may not do the same for you! I love reading Anthony Trollope novels, for example. A few minutes immersed in Barcestshire has my heart rate down and my breathing steady. But, I know plenty of people who would find the same books infuriating – I certainly wouldn’t hand one to any of my children when they’re stressed. There will never be a one stop relaxation kit. Relaxation kits have to be tailored to people. First relate, then relax.

Repeat

Learning is not programming. We don’t slot new data into a person, expecting them to store it permanently.

Learning is transformation and it happens in a spiral shape, not a line. We cover the same ground over and over, adding more detail and more certainty each time.

If you want to learn to drive, you practice driving over and over, until your body is transformed. Your muscles have new movement sequences. Your brain has new defaults. Only practice can transform a non-driver into a driver. There is no reason to assume that learning to read is all that different. We practice until it is a part of us.

This means that sometimes learning looks dull from the outside. If you’re an accomplished driver then practising gear changes probably looks rather dull. But, it’s not dull for the learner who is still training themselves to perform those gear changes. Nor is it dull for children to practice skills until they have grasped them.

Children don’t need ‘Sensational Starters’ or class parties to make learning exciting for them. In fact, the ‘fun’ extras intended to engage students often get in the way of them learning the required skills. Repetition is how we learn. And, if students are in relationship with their teacher and relaxed, they don’t need bells and whistles to help them engage with the material.

When I started home education, I wasted a lot of energy making things too exciting. The result being that the skills we were meant to be practicing kept getting drowned out by the surrounding fuss. Nobody learnt anything and we all found it frustrating.

When I began to simplify, the children had more space to practice. They repeated activities and they made far more progress. The excitement came from learning. It was the end result, not the opening salvo.

Relate, Relax, Repeat

None of this is new to many people, even if it took me a lot of trial and error to establish it. It sounds obvious because it is. It sounds well known because it is all knowledge that we have had for years. It is proven by research and by practice, however. Not new, not flashy, but true

My family have been happier since I stopped looking for flashy tricks that sound cutting edge and turned to tried and tested ideas. Relate, Relax, Repeat.

We have used these principles to create our own National Curriculum in a Box, have a look at frogotter.co.uk if you’d like to know more.

Snacks are a key part of keeping the Frogotter household relaxed!

Why I home educate using the National Curriculum

I’ve been home educating for more than seven years now, and have tried a lot of different materials and techniques. One thing that I have been consistent with, however, is referring to the National Curriculum. Though it is by no means the sum total of what we learn together, the National Curriculum is the foundation of what we study, and I like to ensure I cover it fully. I thought it might be interesting to talk about why.

Available Materials

Home education remains less common in the UK than education at school. So, most educational suppliers aim at schools or parents and tutors who are suplementing a school education. That means workbooks, websites, even trails at busy attractions, are often linked to the National Curriculum. By teaching the National Curriculum, I have access to the highest number of materials related to the subjects I’m teaching.

Of course, home education is popular worldwide, and international resources aren’t usually linked to the National Curriculum. Sometimes, I use international resources, particularly from the USA – which has a huge home education market and a massive choice of materials. I think that this gives my children a broader education.

Expert Consultation

I think that the National Curriculum can get a bad reputation in the UK. Every time it’s changed there are vociferous debates in the media about these changes and whether or not they will benefit the students.

It’s an incredible opportunity. There is no home education curriculum so closely scrutinized. No plans that I can up with on my own would be as fully assessed as the National Curriculum.

The National Curriculum is produced and adjusted by teams of people, many of whom have a wealth of experience in education. It is a phenomenal piece of work, covering everything from learning to read to Latin conjugations, from counting to calculus. Everything carefully laid out step by step to ensure that there are no gaps. And the whole thing is available free online.

Keep In Step With School

It’s always been possible that one or more of my children would return to in-school education. In fact, Eldest did last year. By covering the National Curriculum, we’ve ensured that he could walk into his classes confident that he knew all the same background as the rest of the class.

Even if none of my children ever returned to school, they may wish to take GCSEs and / or A-levels. The National Curriculum is designed to led up to these studies, giving a suitable foundation for them.

I Love Data

I am very keen on data. I like tables and numbers. The National Curriculum gives me a great big list of things to teach, which I can tick off.

I worry a lot about ensuring that I am giving all my children a suitable education. The National Curriculum provides lists of things that children should know at various ages. I can go through the lists and check exactly how my children are doing and what I could work on next. I find that immensely reassuring.

Beyond

I think it would be fair to say that I aim to educate my children beyond the National Curriculum. For example, we use an American history curriculum as well as the National Curriculum, because I think that the National Curriculum is far too Anglo-centric and I want my children to have a wider perspective on History. I also add in a lot of extra hands-on experiments, because I think the National Curriculum is a bit sparse in practical science skills. Where the National Curriculum seems a bit limited, I add more.

I am a huge fan of the National Curriculum, though. I think it’s a wonderful resource, which is why we’ve used it as the base for our new Educational product – the National Curriculum in a box. Have a look at frogotter.co.uk if you’d like to see it.