A Week Home Educating Primary School

Last week I posted here about what Baby Girl has been doing, this week it’s Youngling’s turn.

Youngling would be in the final year of primary school now. Last time I posted about him this is what he was up to.


He began the week with a bit of reading: ‘Gruesome Great Houses’ – a Horrible Histories book he picked up from the library on Saturday. He really likes the Horrible Histories books and we have quite a few at home. He was pleased to see a new one in the library.

We go to a home ed group on Mondays. This week we had a visitor, who brought us some owls to see. He took pictures of the owls, and answered some questions, remembering that yellow-eyed owls are diurnal, and trying to guess the heaviest part of an owl (he guessed torso, but the answer was feathers). After the talk, Youngling held one of the barn owls.

A Black Barn Owl, held by Youngling.

He had a great time, chatting with friends, climbing trees in the grounds, eating snacks, and helped tidy away the chairs and the playdoh at the end of the session.

Back home, he used Duolingo to practise French and had a run in the garden and a jump on the trampoline. Youngling likes to get outside and move a lot!

When he came back inside, he did a couple of pages of his maths workbook. He has a Minecraft book, which he’s really enjoying. None of the maths is new to him, but it’s a fun way to practice his skills.

Youngling settled down to relax and play on his phone for a bit. He looked up some more information about the black barn owl he held today.


Another home ed group this morning: roller skating. I love the very cool way Youngling skates with his hands behind his back.

Youngling on the rink.

After lunch, he did his Duolingo practice. He’s really enjoying using this app to practice his French. He particularly likes being able to choose whether to use his phone or the PC.

In the afternoon, he carried on with his creative writing project. He spent quite a bit of time on this: reading through a short description and highlighting good points, mistakes and parts that could be improved; then using the skills he’d learned to improve a piece of descriptive writing he did last week.

He made himself and his sister a snack. Then he had a run in the garden.

When he came inside we did a maths project. We’ve been working through Maths Games Lab together and today we made Sierpinsky Triangle collages. Great practice of accurate measuring and cutting.

Youngling’s triangle art.

He played on the trampoline for a bit, taking advantage of the last sunshine of the day. Then he came back inside to play Minecraft.


We go swimming on Wednesday mornings. Youngling particularly enjoys using his fins to swim very fast.

Not being much of an early riser, he ate his breakfast in the car on the way back from swimming. At home, he did some calculator practice, working through a series of puzzles where you do a sum then turn the calculator upside down and read the word. It’s slightly tricky as some numbers are used to represent multiple letters. He also spotted a mistake, and we chatted about exactly what we needed to change to get the right answer.

We dropped off a hoover for his oldest brother, and visited his pet snake. The snake shed its skin recently, so Eldest kept the skin to give his younger siblings. We took Eldest out for lunch and Youngling chatted to him about work and our planned trip to Stratford.

The snake skin.

Once Eldest left us, Youngling and Baby Girl helped me with the shopping. Youngling’s very handy at running back to aisles to grab things I forget!

Home again, he helped unload the car, ate an apple, then did some programming on Scratch. He’s currently making a game about defeating an evil wizard.


Duolingo first thing this morning. Then he carried on with his calculator maths games, until the rest of us were ready to go out.

He was eager to get to the library and swap over his books. He spent some time browsing and choosing. Then we went to MacDonalds for lunch. Youngling lost a tooth. He drew while we waited for our food, and helped tidy up when we were done.

We popped home and he began reading some library books, snuggled up with the cat.

Since Mr Frogotter isn’t around today (also the reason for our lunch out), Youngling didn’t fancy staying home while Baby Girl had Gymnastics, so he came with us and sat in the car. While he waited for us, he read a retelling of Chaucer’s Takes. On the drive home we chatted about the difference between this retelling and the one by Marcia Williams (here) that he’s read before. He still has the same favourite (The Nun’s Tale), but he thinks that The Parson’s Tale is ‘even more inappropriate for children’ in this version! We’re considering having a Chaucer project, but Youngling thinks it might be inappropriate for Baby Girl. We talked about different ideas of childhood throughout history and how what’s suitable for children has changed as people have come to expect more privacy.

Back home, he had a quick run in the garden – it was spitting with rain – then came inside to carry on reading his library books.


He began the day snuggled under a blanket, reading library books. Once the weather cleared a bit, he ran in the garden and played on the trampoline.

On request, he came in to unload the dishwasher. After a bit more reading, he did some French with his sister and me. We’re working through a book of French phonics songs, aimed at helping improve our pronunciation. We practiced the previous two songs, and learnt a new one today. Then Youngling completed the accompanying worksheet.

He carried on with his calculator maths – he’s progressed to making whole sentences.

After lunch, we set up a crystal growing experiment. Youngling took photos of each step. He’ll print them out to put in his science book when we finish the experiment. He got a little thermal printer for Christmas and he uses it to add pictures to all his experiment write ups.

Pipe cleaners waiting for crystals to seed.

Youngling and Baby Girl went to play outside and take it in turns to jump on the trampoline.

This week has been the conclusion of our ladybird project. Our ladybirds emerged from their pupas and we released them into the garden. Youngling has been taking pictures of their progress, and he printed off a sequence to stick in his science book.

I got out a ladybird craft to do. Youngling is very good at sharing with Baby Girl and they worked together to produce a beautiful picture.

Youngling did most of the sewing, and let Baby Girl put on most of the stickers. There was a discussion about the nose, Youngling said it wasn’t accurate as ladybirds use their antennae and feet to smell, but Baby Girl liked it, so he let her put it on.

Middly came home from work and set up an Easter egg hunt for the younger two. Youngling had a lot of fun hunting for eggs, and was happy to share his haul.

He played on the PC for a while, and did some more work on his wizard game in Scratch.


This year we’ve been working on social skills with Youngling, and it’s lovely to see him developing a group of friends. He’s more confident in social situations and finding groups much less challenging.

He loves English, and is very keen on Shakespeare. We have a trip to Stratford planned this summer to see ‘As You Like It’ – his current favourite play. I’m also planning on bringing more poetry into his studies.

Reading through his week, I saw quite how active Youngling is. He is a very calm child and, when he’s doing something, is perfectly happy to sit still for a long time. So, I hadn’t really noticed quite how much time he spends running around. It’s a lot!

Maths isn’t his favourite subject, and it can be tricky to maintain his interest. Variety helps, I think. As well as arithmetic, he practices geometric drawing skills and using a calculator.

A week of home educating my pre-schooler.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these ‘week of home ed’ posts. So, I thought it might be fun to do another one.

Strictly speaking, Baby Girl isn’t home educated yet. But, a lot of families begin their home educating journey before their children are official school age, so I thought it might still be of interest.


Baby Girl got up and did a bit of painting first thing. She loves to draw and paint, and – Montessori style – we keep art supplies where she can reach them, so it’s easy for her to just get on.

Baby Girl used paint sticks to paint these.

After breakfast, we went out to Monday Club – a casual home ed group. We go every week and are making some great friends there. I take some snacks to share and a simple craft kit every week. There’s also a variety of toys laid out by other families. Baby Girl played with her friends; ate quite a lot of snacks; made playdoh shapes with cutters and molds; and made some lama puppets.

She was very proud of her playdoh fish.

As a special treat this week, we took Eldest out for lunch. He moved into a flat with a friend a little over a week ago, and I’m using food treats to encourage him to keep in touch! We went to Subway, and Baby Girl ordered a terriaki-chicken, tuna mayonnaise and tomato sub. More surprisingly, she ate the whole thing! We chatted with Eldest about work and Baby Girl talked with him about his pet snake.

Then we all went to a soft play place. Baby Girl had a great time playing. She made some new friends and ran around playing ninjas with them.

We dropped Eldest back home, and Baby Girl had another snack in the car – clearly today was a very hungry day!

Back home, she read a page of her current reading book to me: Barn Owls.

In return, I read her ‘Caterpillar to Butterfly’.

She’s very interested in life cycles at the moment. Partly because we have a pot of ladybird larvae from Insect Lore that we’re watching develop. We checked on them and she drew the next picture on her chart. She’s been enthusiastic about observing the changes as our ladybirds grow. Today we noticed that they are getting several tiny spots on their backs!

Our family rule is that TV doesn’t go on until 5pm. Middly came downstairs to play with video games, and Baby Girl deduced that it must be past five (it was indeed half past), so she asked for TV. Her current favourite show is Eureka on Disney plus.


We had some friends come round bright and early this morning. They played with Lego together, having a go with Youngling’s Super Mario Lego.

I took all the children roller skating. There’s a weekly home ed meet up at our local rink. It’s very popular with all ages, and the children had a lot of fun skating together. Baby Girl skated for a while, and, when she was tired she played on a friend’s tablet for a bit. She doesn’t have her own tablet, but is quite happy to have a go when someone else has one set up.

Skating finished just in time for lunch, and, since we had visitors we headed over to the community café in our village. Baby Girl ate eggs sandwiches and played in the park with her friends. She particularly enjoyed taking it in turns to go on the zip wire. At one point she fell in a puddle and got soaked. After trying to dry herself off under the hand-dryer, she decided to take off her wet trousers and put on a pair of long socks to keep warm. That kept her snug enough to keep playing.

A sudden shower of sleet sent us rushing home. It was too windy and cold to really enjoy the park anymore. Baby Girl and her friends all did some painting with paint sticks together. She talked to her friends about what they were painting and whether or not they think some colours are just for girls.

All the children were rather tired, so I put on some cartoons until my friend came to collect her children.

I read a story to Baby Girl (A Nest is Noisy) and she did a bit of reading of her reading book to me. Then she did today’s drawing of the ladybirds.

She asked to do some ‘water painting’, and after a couple of questions I realised she meant water colours. So I helped her find a set and she did a painting. She asked me how to make purple, but I asked back how she thought she could do it, and she decided to try mixing pink and blue, which worked to her satisfaction. She enjoyed mixing lots of colours until they soaked through the paper and made a hole. Then, she had another go, and made a similar colour painting with less water, so the paper held together.

Tidying up was a less popular activity! But, she agreed to do it, and after we’d got the table and brushes clean, she settled down to watch some more Eureka.


Took a rather sleepy Baby Girl swimming, we put her in the car in her pyjamas with a bowl of cereal. By the time we got to the pool, she was ready to swim.

Recently, we got her some fins, and she had a lot of fun swimming superfast in the shallow end. She also spent a while throwing plastic balls at her big brother, who was very happy to swim and dodge.

After we got home, she played with her dino fingerling toys, while I got some stuff set up. She played with her doll, Molly, as well; taking off an outfit and putting another one on.

She helped me put on dough for hot cross buns. She is very proud of her newly developed skill at grating nutmeg, but a little frustrated that she hasn’t mastered zesting lemons yet. We weighed the ingredients in digital scales and practiced number recognition and comparison.

Once the ingredients were in the bread machine, we did a quick cleanup. She noticed that her big brother was working in his maths book, so she wanted to use hers as well. She’s currently working through a CGP maths book, so she did a couple of pages before lunch.

After lunch, we had a French lesson. We began a new book last week, which I’m hoping will help with our pronunciation. We sang last week’s song again, then translated this week’s song, and sang along with the video. Baby Girl enjoyed the singing and actions a lot.

There are worksheets to go with each song. She did some tracing and copying, then drew a giraffe and we found out how to say giraffe in French and talked a bit about noun genders.

Youngling continued to draw at the end of French, so I gave Baby Girl some paper and she drew alongside her brother. She drew some tents with a biro – probably because Youngling was using biro too.

She was feeling a bit tired, so we snuggled on the sofa and I read some stories. She fell asleep and had a good nap.

Some of our hot cross buns.

With impeccable timing, she woke as the hot cross buns came out of the oven (Youngling and I finished making them, while she slept), and ate two. She played with her dino toys again, making up songs for them to sing.

When she brought over some books, I read her some more stories, and she read me a bit more of ‘Barn Owls’. Today, I have read her: ‘100 Facts: Dinosaurs’, ‘Dinosaur Roar and Friends’, ‘Paw Patrol: Dinosaur Rescue’, ‘Bunnies on the Bus’ and ‘Listen to the Language of the Trees’. She has a large selection of her own books to choose from.


An exciting start to the day – the first of our ladybirds has attached itself to the side of the pot and begun to pupate!

After observing the ladybirds and talking about metamorphosis, Baby Girl played with her doll – singing songs and giving her a pet cuddly bird. Then she played with Duplo for a while, building a lighthouse and a boat to sail around it.

We had to get the groceries today. She rode in the trolley and helped spot things on our list, as well as choosing a few treats.

It was lunch time when we got home. Then Baby Girl and I made rice crispy cakes. She experimented with different sized scoops to try and find the right sized one to share out the mixture without spilling.

Putting cake mix into cupcake cases.

Leaving our cakes in the fridge to set, we went to Gymnastics. She brought a pen and paper in the car and had a go at writing ‘Mum’ and her own name.

She doesn’t attend a structured class, but goes to a ‘Stay and Play’ where the children are encouraged to have a go at balancing, bouncing and hanging in a relaxed atmosphere. She had a great time, and particularly enjoyed hanging from the bars this week.

I read her some books when we got home (‘Each, Peach, Pear Plum’ and ‘Caterpillar to Butterfly’ – again). Then she read the rest of ‘Barn Owls’ and talked to her brother about the book.


First thing, she played with some cuddly toys. Then we wrapped a present and wrote a card for her friend’s birthday. Baby Girl likes me to draw dots for her to trace.

Youngling was doing a maths activity – drawing Sierpinsky Triangles. I’d printed out a few equilateral triangles for him to speed up the activity, and I made enough for her to join in, if she wanted. First, I demonstrated ruler use to her with the Lines activity on this page. Then she made a pretty good Sierpinsky Triangle of her own. She cut it out and pinned it on our wall. Then she coloured in and cut out another triangle as well.

She got herself a pot of water and a paintbrush and did some water painting on her aquadoodle mat.

Mark making with Aquadoodle.

I read some books: ‘H is for Happysaurus’, ‘Master Money the Millionaire’, and ‘A Nest is Noisy’. Then she began reading her new reading book to me: ‘At the Market’, it’s another non-fiction book, so she read the Contents page and we tried to guess what will be in the book.

She was invited to a birthday party this afternoon. She had a lovely time, there was a bouncy castle, lots of food, party games, and lots of friends to play with.

Her friend gave her a lovely party bag, so she played with new toys when we got home. The haul included a ruler, so she spent some time drawing more straight line pictures. She was very proud of drawing her own triangle.

Drawing with a ruler.

She also enjoyed playing with a bouncy ball, and laid a coloured parachute on the floor so she could challenge herself to bounce the ball on particular colours.

Next she hooked the parachute up on three chairs and the exercise bike to make a tent.

Some toys going on a ‘camp out’.

She watched Middly play Gorilla Tag on the VR headset, cheering him on.

Later, she helped Mr Frogotter make tea.


As always, it’s really interesting to spend a week focussing on one child and recording what they do. There are a lot of games and activities that I miss in ordinary weeks. It’s very rewarding to pay a bit of extra attention.

At this age, so many experiences are new, and Baby Girl learns from almost everything we do. I try to introduce a variety of things and ideas for her to investigate; then create enough space and time for her to do that. I think that small children thrive on a bit of stimulation combined with a lot of free play time.

It’s very exciting watching her master reading. I absolutely love teaching children to read! I’ve blogged about teaching reading in detail before.

She’s incredibly sociable, and seems to make new friends all the time. Spending time with friends is definitely important to her, so I arrange lots of that. She enjoys playing with her older brothers too, and their activities often inspire her play.

Over the next year, it will be interesting to see if she continues to love art. She is beginning to experiment with different materials. I will try offering pastels and clay next, and see what she makes of them.

Looking back, I noticed that a lot of the books she requested were about animals. She’s fascinated by nature, and I have lots of plans to take her places to explore, as well as a variety of activities we can do in our own garden.

Why Don’t People Slosh?

This was a particularly fun Science Club Session. I put it together after one of the children asked me: if people are mainly water, why don’t we slosh?

I thought it was an interesting question, and worth spending a bit of time investigating. So, this is what I put together.

You can download the booklet that I made here:

Why Does Water Ever Slosh?

  1. Take three bottles.
  2. Fill one completely with water.
  3. Half fill the second bottle.
  4. Quarter fill the third bottle.
  5. Make sure that all the lids are tightly fastened.
  6. Shake the bottles. 

Which one makes the loudest sloshing sound?

This was a very easy experiment to do – though filling bottles is quite fun for younger children, and older children can try to be more precise in their measurements. It helped us to investigate what actually makes a sloshing sound.

In order for a sound to be made, something has to move. When the bottle is completely full of water, the water cannot move enough to hit the sides, so there is no sloshing sound.

When Do People Slosh?

Usually, people don’t slosh about. 

But, sometimes the liquid in our stomachs makes a sloshing sound, or a gurgling sound.

That’s because our stomachs are quite loose bags, with space for air. If you combine liquid and air in your stomach, it might slosh as your stomach digests.

We made a stomach craft, I used this book:

The Body Book: Easy-to-make hands-on models that teach. https://g.co/kgs/UstV58

It’s a great book for simple human body crafts, and you can make a whole skeleton using it!

There are plenty of simple printable crafts available online, though. I’ve used quite a few from Origami Organelles in other sessions. https://origamiorganelles.com/

Stomach Booklet

  • Cut out the ‘Stomach Wall’ and cut along the dashed lines to make a flap.
  • Cut out the ‘Stomach Gland’ and stick the tabs on the back of the ‘Stomach Wall’.
  • Cut out the ‘Slanted Muscles’ and lay them on top of the ‘Stomach Wall’.
  • Cut out the ‘Circular Muscles’ and lay them on top of the ‘Slanted Muscles’.
  • Cut out the ‘Long Muscles’ and lay them on top of the ‘Circular Muscles’.
  • Cut out the ‘Outer Covering’ and lay it on top of the ‘Long Muscles’.
  • Staple the booklet together.

As you can see, the stomach has several layers of muscles around it. 

These muscles move the stomach, helping to break food down.

Sometimes this makes a gurgling or sloshing sound.

Urine doesn’t slosh around inside our bladders because it is under too much pressure. Our bladders grow when they fill up with urine (like balloons), but shrink back down again, after we empty them. There’s no space for sloshing.

Where is all the water in people?

Most of the water in people (about ⅔) is contained inside people’s cells.

Our bodies contain a variety of cells, but all animal cells follow the same basic pattern: 

Most of the cytoplasm is made up of water.

For comparison, do you remember the plant cell model that we made a little while ago? 

Why doesn’t the water in our cells slosh about?

  • There isn’t enough air in the cell.
  • The membrane contains the liquid.

Getting Water Out of Fruits

Oranges are about 45(80%) water. Do they slosh when we shake them? Why not?

  1. Weigh an orange.
  2. Squeeze out as much juice as you can.
  3. Weigh the amount of juice that you extracted.
  4. Weigh what’s left of your orange.
  5. Divide the weight of the juice by the weight of the whole orange, and multiply by 100 to work out the percentage of liquid extracted.

I do love a little bit of maths!

I had a couple of different juicers for the children to try out. But, you can have just as much fun using your hands or – if you’re not too worried about mess – a meat mallet!

How Much Water Is Extracted from Dried Fruit?

  1. Weigh ten fresh blueberries.
  2. Weigh ten dried blueberries.
  3. Take away the weight of the dried blueberries from the weight of the fresh blueberries to work out the difference.
  4. Divide the difference by the weight of the fresh blueberries, then multiply that by 100.

Did the drying process remove more or less water than our juicing process?

Extracellular Fluid

The fluid inside cells is called Intracellular Fluid. 

All the fluid outside of our cells is called Extracellular Fluid.

Most of the Extracellular fluid (roughly ¼) in our bodies is a fluid called Interstitial Fluid.

This is a fluid that contains salts and nutrients and signalling molecules that travel between cells.

Can you match these words and prefixes to their definitions?

Extra – A Place
Intra –Inside
CellularTo do with Cells

This was a very simple activity, but it really helps to look at how words are put together.

Why doesn’t the water around our cells slosh about?

The water is contained inside our tissues, and doesn’t have enough space to move.


A little under 1/10 of the water in our body is in our blood as plasma.

Plasma is a yellowish colour (because of various dissolved proteins and salts), but it is mainly water. It carries blood cells around the body.

  1. Suck some water up into a straw and use one finger to tightly block off the top. If you do it right, the water should stay in the straw.
  2. Keeping your finger tightly over the top hole, shake the straw.

Does the water slosh around?

The water in our blood is contained inside veins and arteries – just like the sides of a straw. It can’t slosh around.

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:


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.