My Favourite Home Ed Resources

One of the reasons that I read home ed blogs is to find ideas of resources for my family. So, I thought it might be of interest to someone, if I made a list of all the resources that I recommend.

I’ve bought a lot of stuff over the years. Some has been brilliant and gets used over and over again. Some has been a bit of a disappointment and gets very little use. It can be hard to tell in advance which will be which, however!

If I had to start all over again, with no equipment, these are the first ten things I would get. These are the things that have lasted well and that I am regularly grateful to have in the house.

In no particular order, these are my current favourite resources:

Scales 

I am convinced that proper scales help children understand weight and measures in a way that digital scales simply cannot. So, I encourage the boys to use these when they cook. We’ve also used them for play and for various experiments.

When children move on to equations, that image of the balanced scale is really handy.

Big Maps

Obviously, you can see the layout of the world in an atlas or on a globe. But, big maps that can be laid on the floor, climbed over and had all sorts of toys laid out on them are brilliant for hands-on learning. We’ve marked tectonic plates with masking tape, laid toy animals in their native countries, plotted routes of famous journies and our own holidays. When it comes to map work, bigger is always better!

Chronology

My favourite history-themed game! The aim is to arrange events in chronological order. A brilliant way of getting a sense of how history fits together.

The boys’ history books can be a bit disconnected. This game really helps to get a sense of where everything happens in relation to everything else.

It’s an old game, so there are lots of versions around. We bought ours from a charity shop.

Pot of coins

For playing shops, laying out times tables, demonstrating square numbers, practising basic arithmetic . . . We keep a pot of coins in the kitchen, always on-hand to explain maths.

Coins are small enough that quite large numbers can be easily moved around by little hands. Piles of pennies stack easily, so you can demonstrate tens and units. And children like handling money. Coins are fun to hold and clink in a very satisfying manner.

Ray-Box, lenses and prisms

Not a massively expensive piece of kit, but invaluable for explaining reflection and refraction. Even little ones love experimenting with light.

Air-drying Clay

Easy to use, but capable of producing impressive pieces with a bit of effort, clay is a fantastic resource. It’s handy for art, history and science projects. We even use it to make presents for people. I always like to have clay on hand, ready for any excuse to use it.

Balloons

These are great for all sorts of experiments. A few of which I have described here. And they’re also great for art projects, either to be coated with paper mache, or decorated as they are. The make great targets if your children are desperate to destroy something. They can be turned into water balloons on a hot day, or filled with paint and burst to make exciting pictures.

Fabric pens

Another craft item that gets used over and over. You can draw organs on a t-shirt, or a face on a sock puppet. A set of fabric pens is an easy way to create a costume at short notice. And, when you just need to keep the kids busy, decorating clothing is much more fun than just drawing on paper!

Anatomy model

We had these at school when I was growing up and I really liked it. All the boys enjoy taking ours apart and putting it back together. It’s a great way of helping them see how our bodies work. 

Two-colour Abacus

I read a brilliant book about Teaching Maths Visually and Actively and this was one of the products it recommended. The two colours allow children to develop their concept of number by making it easy to ‘see’ numbers of beads without having to count them. It also encourages counting in gives and tens, which are fundamental skills in our decimal system.


What are your favourite resources? I’m sure that I’ve missed out some brilliant stuff!



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Week of Home Ed – Secondary Two

So, continuing my tour of the boys’ home ed experiences (last week I wrote about Middly in Secondary One), this is what Eldest gets up to in a – relatively – typical week.

Last year Eldest was already Secondary age, and this is the sort of thing that he was doing in a typical week.

Eldest has always found it tricky to motivate himself. We’ve had a lot of up and downs with his school work over the last year. Sometimes I think that I’m not quite as encouraging as he needs me to be. Some days I panic that we’re running out of time to get the work done and he doesn’t seem to be taking it very seriously.

He is coping really well with groups these days, which is fantastic to see. I know that being around other children can be a bit stressful for Eldest, so I’m really proud of how well he copes with the many groups he attends.

Monday

An early start for Eldest. He got up at eight, made his own porridge, and got on with his work straight away. Aside from a few spelling mistakes, his Maths and English went very smoothly indeed, and I suggested he have a go at writing neatly while he did his Biology.

After finishing all his work, Eldest read a Terry Pratchett book for a while. When he lost interest in reading, Eldest got into a fight with Youngest, so I sent him out to check on his rabbit.

Eldest made chocolate milkshakes for himself and his brothers. Then we sat down to do History.

Eldest has been joining in with Youngest’s history lesson, it’s been really lovely doing this together. A part of me has regretted not trying the Charlotte Mason style of Home Ed earlier, but I think we needed time to get to a point where Eldest could cope with listening to me. I don’t think we would manage more than one lesson a week styled like this. Practising retelling stories in his own word is really good for Eldest.

I read a chapter of ‘Story of the World’, and all the boys had a go at retelling the story in four sentences. Then Eldest did a wordsearch puzzle. All the boys decorated an old shirt to make a technicolour coat. 

Eldest helped tidy away the art supplies and unstacked the dishwasher. He checked on his rabbit and played with him for  a few minutes. Thenplayed ‘Viva Pinata’ on the X-box until lunchtime.

After lunch, Eldest was at a bit of a loose end, so I suggested he thought of a project to occupy himself. He wasn’t keen, and started bickering with Youngest. I said that, if he couldn’t think of a project for himself, then I would choose one for him. He decided to build a rocket out of Lego.

Eldest played FIFA on the Xbox with Middly, for half an hour. Then I said there’d been enough computer games for one day. 

Eldest and Middly struggled to find anything to do. They wandered around the garden, clubhouse and living room without really settling on any activity. Eldest finds it very hard to occupy himself. I got fed up with them asking for more computer time and sent them to weed the vegetable bed at the end of the garden.

Tuesday

Eldest rolled downstairs at half nine this morning, had breakfast and made a start on his work. He finished his Chemistry before we left.

Our fortnightly home ed roller skating meet up was this morning. Eldest saw some friends immediately and went off to skate with them. He and a friend helped Youngest skate for a bit. He bought some sweets at the café and joined in with several skating games. After the session finished, we went on to a nearby park. Eldest ate his lunch and played with his friends. Back home, he got on with his school work.

He was a bit cross with his maths and became very angry when I tried to help. Middly managed to explain the exercise, though, and Eldest calmed down. I was pleased he got through it, but a bit sad that he’d rather have Middly’s help than mine.

We took a snack break. Then Eldest got his work finished. He read for a while in his room.

Eldest has a tennis coaching session on Tuesday evenings. It’s a bit too far to drop him off, so I sat in the car park and watched. He played well and made a lot of effort all the way through.

When we got home, Eldest helped Youngest to put away the Lego. Then he watched ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ until tea time.

Wednesday

Eldest came downstairs a little after nine and made himself breakfast. He needed a bit of help with Chemistry and Maths, but it went smoothly. English went well. He checked on his rabbit and moved the branches around the run to stop Blizzard getting bored. Then Eldest read in his room for a while.

He came downstairs when I made him a snack of peanut butter toast and chocolate milkshake.

After snack time, Eldest spent some time building with his K’NEX set.

We all play tennis with fellow home ed families on alternate Wednesdays. Eldest and Middly play with the other older children. We arrived a bit early, so Eldest organised a warm up game while they waited for the coach. I didn’t see much of him during the session, because I was distracted by helping Youngest. But, he seemed to enjoy himself. After the session, we all had cakes and sang happy birthday, because it was one of Eldest’s friends’ birthday today. Eldest chatted to his friends for a bit, then we all came home.

Back home, Eldest emptied the dishwasher and put away the dishes, then he and Middly played on their phones together for a little while.

Then Eldest took a book out to read in the clubhouse. 

He came back for another snack. Then took Middly out with him to play table tennis. 

After that, he watched the rest of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’.

Thursday

After breakfast, Eldest made a start on his school work. Then we had to get going for our Home Ed Gym, Soft play and Swimming meet up. This happens once a month. Eldest played badminton and football with Middly and some friends. Then they all swam, dived for seal toys, and jumped in the pool. 

My husband came to the meet up with us this week, which made it a special occasion. So we stopped off at Giraffe for a late lunch on the way home. We played eye-spy while we waited for our food. Eldest had a burger, chips and lemonade.

When we got home, he carried on with his book work. It went smoothly today.

When he was finished, he played on his phone for a little while. Then Eldest went out with my husband to pick up a new pane of glass to fix a window.

He played on his bike until tea time.

Eldest goes to Scouts on Thursday evenings. He’s switched very smoothly from one troop to another since the house move. I’m really pleased with how well he’s coped and how friendly and supportive both troops have been. They met up a little earlier than usual this week as they were going on a night hike. He went out straight after tea.

He fell asleep reading a book, which was rather sweet. I turned off his light when I came up to bed.

Friday

We use Fridays to catch up on any school work that didn’t get done during the rest of the week. This week, Eldest is on top of his school work.

He played on his bike this morning, then ate a banana before we went out.

We go to a weekly home ed sports club on Friday mornings. This week the boys played Pacman and Tag-Rugby. Eldest played with a lot of energy.  Afterwards, he played with friends at the park and ate crisps.

We got back home for a late lunch. Then Eldest cleaned the downstairs bathroom. Since the boys are at home all week, I think it’s really important that they join in with the regular cleaning jobs. Eldest is not at all keen, but he did it anyway.

He played on his phone for a while. Then had some biscuits. After that, I set up Continents Twister for all the boys. First they played with all the names visible, then I covered the names of the continents up for a few more rounds. Obviously, Eldest knows all the Continents, but it was good for him to play with his brothers.

The boys played in the garden for a bit, and I set up a physics experiment in the kitchen. We didn’t fit in a science practical yesterday, so we experimented with the extension of springs under different amounts of force today. My husband wandered in towards the end and helped the boys display their results on a graph.

Eldest harvested some spinach from his vegetable bed for tea.

Then he watched ‘Johnny English Reborn’ while it cooked.

Reflections

Eldest is not a keen scholar. I think he dislikes the vulnerability of being taught. I try to keep a hands-off approach as much as possible, but sometimes he needs help and we have to try to get through those moments together.

These are Eldest’s current text books:

He has moved on since last year in all his subjects, and has pretty much caught up with his school year. That’s pretty fantastic. I am worried about how he’ll cope with the greater concentration required for GCSE level work. I think we may prune his studies further, dropping History and Geography to give him more time for Maths, English and Science. At the moment, his plans are still to sit GCSEs and A-levels, so I will do what I can to equip him for that level of study.

This is what I have seen him reading this week:

A Week of Home Ed – Secondary One

I have two children of Secondary School age now! I’ve decided to bog a week in the lives of each of my boys, last week I blogged about Youngest and this week it’s Middly’s turn.

This is what he was up to last year.

Since last year, Middly’s made steady progress. He’s a hard worker, though he does need to go over things a few times before they’re fixed in his mind. We’re all very proud of how well he’s doing with his school work. He’s become much better at occupying himself over the last year, and is starting to develop a few independant hobbies, which is fantastic to see!

Where we live now, a lot of our home ed groups are fortnightly. So we have a busy week followed by a quiet week. This week happens to be a quiet week. Quiet weeks aren’t always easy for Middly who loves to be around other children, but he has a couple of evening clubs a week, which helps to top up his social life!

Monday

Middly wakes early. This morning, he came to find us about six, we sent him back to bed, and he read for a while.

When I got up, he was already dressed, and came downstairs with me to have breakfast.

He made a start on his Chemistry, which was following on from some work on ionic compounds that he began last week. Unfortunately, Middly had completely forgotten everything he learnt last week. I offered to go over it with him, but he was really upset about struggling to understand his work, so in the end, I suggested he took a break instead. He went back upstairs and read for a while.

We had to leave quite early because we were meeting a group of other home educators at Dinosaur Adventure. Middly sat in the front and operated the CD player on the way there.

What Middly did at the dinosaur park:

  • Lots of climbing on the adventure playground. Middly climbed to the top of everything and waved down.

  • Dinosaur trail. Middly was pleased to find a set of bongos to play on.

  • ‘Fossil digging’ in a big sand tray. Middly spent ages carefully uncovering a model pterosaur skeleton and talking to some younger children about it.

  • Soft play. He was thrilled with the fast drop slide.

  • Another Dino trail.

  • Enjoyed looking around the farm park, especially the rats.

  • Held a hissing cockroach and a millipede. Chatted to the animal handler.

  • Showed Youngest how to use a digger toy.

  • Played tag in soft play with Eldest.

  • Showed Youngest and other little ones how to balance on the rotating beam in soft play.
  • Bought a cuddly dinosaur using his pocket money.

After all that running and climbing, Middly slept on the journey home.

When we got back, Middly ate a big bowl of popcorn and asked me to help him with his Chemistry. We read through the work together and did one of the questions together. Then he was able to complete the rest of his work.

He had no trouble with his grammar exercise, but needed a few pointers on his maths.

When he’d finished his book work, Middly went outside to play on his bike.

After a while, he came back inside and read some of his library books. He played a bit on his phone before tea.

Tuesday

Another early start for Middly! He got his English done without trouble, planning a piece of writing, which he’ll finish next week.

He found his Biology a bit tricky, though. He took a break, had breakfast in his room and read for a bit to calm down.

Middly has been joining in with Youngest’s history lesson which I wrote a bit about last week. Usually, we do History on Mondays, but we had our big trip this Monday, so we did History on Tuesday instead. I thought this might be a good way to get him back downstairs.

So we read a chapter from the Story of the World together, looked at some maps, then Middly did a wordsearch and had a go at making a seal out of clay.

Middly was feeling much better after History. He finished his maths, and was able to let me help him get his Biology done.

Then he tried to join Youngest’s game with toy dinosaurs. He was a bit over excited, and the game went wrong. So, I suggested he went outside to jump on the trampoline.

After a while, he came back, calmer, and helped me make toast and vegetable sticks for lunch.

After lunch, Middly played with his rats. He’d made them a ball of ice, by freezing water in a balloon. The rats showed very little interest, so we added a pile of paper for them to explore as well.

After we put the rats away, Middly used salt and food colouring to make ice globes, like Youngest did last week.

We met some family for a walk and play. Middly had ice cream, played Pokemon Go, did a lot of climbing, and showed off his photos of his rats.

Middly has started attending a local youth group on Tuesday evenings. I was so proud of him on the first week, when he strode in confidently, even though he didn’t know a single child there. Middly is incredibly good at making friends. I really admire that about him. This is his fourth week and he has made a few friends now. We were a bit late this week, because of the family trip, but he was eager to go anyway. He had a good time, apparently they had milkshakes and pizza this week.

Wednesday

Middly played with toy cars in his room until the rest of us were ready to get up. Then he read a library book for a while, until I suggested he made a start on his school work.

It went well this morning. He asked me a few questions, but coped well with needing help and finished it all by half ten. I don’t know why this morning went so smoothly, while other days this week have been trickier. If I knew why Middly sometimes finds asking for help hard, I’d be able to do something about it.

After he’d finished, Middly played on his phone for a bit. He had a snack and began to fight with Youngest, so I sent him out to play in the garden.

After a while, he fell off his bike and grazed his knee. Then he read library books for a while.

When Eldest finished his work, he and Middly ran down to their clubhouse at the end of the garden to play table tennis until lunchtime.

After lunch, Middly read library books for a bit. I played ‘Da Vinci Code, The Game‘ with him (which a logic game about working out numbered tiles, nothing to do with the Dan Brown books). Then we went to the library to choose new books. I recommended that he try ‘The Queen and I’ by Sue Townsend, hopefully he’ll find it funny!

When we got back, Middly made Horlicks for himself and his brothers. After snack time, he emptied the dishwasher and put everything away.

Then Middly and Eldest played with the rats and fed them grapes.

After we put the rats away, Middly went back into the garden to play on the trampoline.

I wasn’t feeling very well, so Middly tucked me up on the sofa with a blanket and helped my husband to make Red Dragon Pie (it’s a family recipe: bean chili with mashed potato on top) for tea.

We watched Lego Masters together. I try to keep TV watching to a couple of evenings a week, but it’s a very easy way to spend some fun time together as a family.

Thursday

Middly got up, ate breakfast and began his school work bright and early. He got rather frustrated when my husband tried to help with his Geography, and went upstairs to cool off.

He read in his room for a few minutes, then came back to have another go.

We had a bit of a chat about his History. He was looking at ‘Summer is a cummin in’, so I played him some Medieval style musicians singing the song. Then he finished his work.

Last night I found The Mighty Skink for Middly. He was looking at the opening passages of it in his English work yesterday, so he enjoyed reading it today. 

When I bought the Aiming for Progress in Reading set of text books, I went through them and got copies of the books that they use so that the boys could read them alongside their work. It’s been a fun addition to their English and introduced us to books that we wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

To help with his science studies, I am trying to do a practical experiment with Middly once a week. Some of the experiments require specialist equipment or chemicals. So I’m doing the practicals when I get what we need, which means that the practicals are out of step with the book work. This week’s Chemistry practical is actually from a lesson Middly did a couple of weeks ago. It’s a bit of a recap for him.

We did an experiment to test how well washing-up liquid and egg yolk fair as emulsifiers for oil and vinegar.

Then Middly made guacamole to go with our salad for lunch.

After lunch, Middly played on his bike for a while. When he came back into the house, I set up the table to try out using the seals that the boys made earlier in the week. We attempted to stamp them in paint, clay and wax. None of the impressions were as clear as we’d hoped, but Middly enjoyed using the wax anyway.

Middly helped clear up our project. Then he and Eldest went outside to play on the trampoline. When they got hungry, they came back inside for a snack. Middly played with his rats.

After putting the rats away, Middly played with Lego alongside both of his brothers.

He helped me to make sausage and mash for tea, and played on his phone while it cooked. After tea, he went out to his church youth group. Middly goes to this club every Thursday. There’s a short time of worship, a craft, and a bit of general hanging out time. Middly made friends there the first week and has been enjoying it.

Friday

Usually, Middly doesn’t have any book work to do, since we use this day for catching up unfinished work, and he is normally on top of all his work. So this morning he read library books for a while, then went outside to play on the trampoline.

We have a weekly home ed sports group. Middly loves it. There are quite a few children his age, and they get on really well. The teacher strikes a nice balance between trying hard and giving everyone a touch of the ball, and the group has a lovely atmosphere. This week Middly played Pacman, then Diamond cricket. Afterwards we went to the park and Middly had a snack and helped organise a game of Capture the Flag.
We came home for a late lunch, then Middly unstacked the dishwasher and put the dishes away. Then he read this week’s First News.

We try to get a bit of housework done on Fridays. This week we worked on the living room, Middly helped put away all the stuff that got under the sofas and ran the hoover around.

Middly joined in with Youngest’s Geography lesson. I read Clothes around the World and the boys put together a simple puzzle and added velcro pictures of children. 

Then Middly tried his hand at designing a hat for people living in Canada.

Middly played on his phone for a while. Then he helped prepare vegetables for tea.

Reflections

We don’t expect a vast amount of book work from the boys, about three pages a day. I am very aware that Middly would be doing a lot more written work if he were at school. He is on track with his learning, however, so I am not worried about the amount of work he produces. We spread the work over a lot more days, since we take shorter holidays than schools do.

These are the books that Middly is currently using. His Science and Maths are slightly ahead of his English skills at the moment.

I am a bit more concerned about Middly’s handwriting. He can write neatly if he really focuses on it, but he doesn’t usually bother. I think that the more he writes messily, the more fixed the habit will become. We’re trying to encourage him to practice his handwriting at the moment, but, if it doesn’t start to improve, I’m thinking of trying Speed Up.

A lot of the text books are the same as they were last year. These longer text books can take a while to finish.

Middly is usually very willing to help out around the house, and does a couple of chores most days. 

All the boys read a lot. These are the books that I’ve seen Middly reading this week:

Library books:

I allow a relatively free choice of library books, only stopping the boys from reading adult novels with a lot of violence or sex. Middly’s pretty happy to take my word for it that some books are too unpleasant for him. He seems to think that I reject books because of lots of fighting. The fact that he can’t imagine the graphic scenes I might want to protect him from, assures me that he still benefits from that protection.

Home books:

A week of Home Ed – Primary

Last year, I blogged about a week of home ed for each of my boys. I thought that it would be fun to do the same this year, to see how things have changed. I’m going to start with my Youngest. This is what he was doing last year: Home Ed Reception

A year is a long time for little ones. Youngest has come a long way since last year! He’s  reading much more fluently, writing pretty well, and he’s discovered a new love of drawing. He still enjoys Lego a lot.

We have also moved house since last year, so all our home ed groups have changed! Youngest has found the house move unsettling, and is taking a little while to relax with our new groups.

Monday

This is a quiet day for us, we don’t have any groups, so it makes a relaxing start to the week.

Youngest began the day by continuing his duplo game from yesterday. We left his duplo out overnight.

Youngest was very engaged with this game (he’s built our family as superheroes) and needed quite a few reminders to eat his breakfast and get dressed.

Just before ten, Youngest took a break from duplo to read to me. He’s been enjoying the Project X Alien Adventures series by Oxford Reading Tree. We’re on the short chapter books now, so he generally takes a week to read each book, at one chapter a day. This week it’s ‘Operation Holotanium’.

After reading, Youngest returned to duplo, and played until I asked him to come and do his workbooks.

Youngest does a couple of pages of workbooks four days a week. Today he did a bit of handwriting from his Wild About workbook:

Youngest enjoys these books because they have animal facts on each page. We read about polar bears sneaking up on seals and acted it out in the kitchen.

Then Youngest did his maths. This is a CGP workbook. 

I joined Youngest for a bit of duplo play before snack time. He had an orange for his snack.

Youngest played duplo again until lunch time. He had ‘cold cheese on warm toast’.

Then we had our History lesson. We’ve been using Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer for a few weeks now. I bought this because I thought that it would be good for Youngest to start doing some history. But, in the event, the older two have been joining in as well. It’s an interesting book, with an American emphasis that makes a very nice contrast to the more British-centric books that the older two use.

I read the chapter and Eldest and Youngest took turns answering some questions.

I use the Story of the World Activity Book as well, which has photocopiable colouring sheets and maps in the back, and a nice selection of three of four hands-on activities to do after reading each chapter.

We looked at the map and I showed Youngest where the Great Pyramid is. He made an attempt to draw it, but them drew ‘Ancient Egyptian gods fighting’ over the top.

For our history activity this week I choose to make scented oils. 

I picked a short activity this week because we have follow-up from our last activity. Last week we made clay tablets and paper scrolls and began an experiment to see how they stood up to the weather. My tablet and scroll have been sat on our patio for the last week (the scroll was weighted down with a rock, to prevent it blowing away).
This week we looked at the tablet, which survived well, and the scroll, which looked as though it had been nibbled by sonething! 

We put them both in water,to simulate a flood.

Then we baked them in the oven on a low heat, to simulate the heat of a desert. 

Admittedly, it would have been an even more effective experiment if I hadn’t used permanent marker for the scroll. 

Eldest and Youngest ran off to play in the garden. Recently they’ve been playing a game where they pretend to solve mysteries with the aid of Eldest’s rabbit. From what I can tell, it involves a lot of running up and down interspersed with whispering coded messages to one another. They needed a bit of help listening to each other and agreeing on how to play today, but, after I calmed them down and asked a few questions, they managed to resume playing.

When Eldest decided to read, Youngest returned to his epic duplo game. He was briefly upset when his plant monster collapsed twice, but a hug cheered him up and we talked about how bigger feet might make the next monster more stable.

Youngest played duplo for quite a while. Middly joined him for a bit, and the game became very noisy indeed!

Youngest asked me for some string, to build a model hammer. I reminded him that he needed to put away one game before starting another, and we tidied up the duplo together. I gave Youngest string and elastic bands. Then we had a snack (he had chocolate milk, crackers and cherry tomatoes) while he decided how to make his hammer.

Here’s what he came up with:

He ran outside to join his brothers and show them his ‘hammer’. They played in the garden for a while. When they returned to the house, Youngest was a bit tired and emotional, so I put on ‘Hulk’. All the boys settled to watch that before tea.

After tea, my husband put Youngest to bed. They read ‘Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland‘ together. Youngest asked me to buy this after seeing it advertised in the back of one of his other books. It arrived at the weekend.

Tuesday

First thing, Youngest gathered pillows from our beds, made himself a nest and read to himself. He read his Lego movie book and some old ladybird books.  He stopped to eat breakfast.

Then he read the next chapter of ‘Operation Holotanium’ to me. When he finished that, he asked me to get the duplo out again. This morning he’s built Pokémon out of duplo.

There was a short duplo pause, when Youngest asked me to help him go online and order a Guardians of the Galaxy mask with his pocket money. We placed the order, then he picked up his duplo game again.

We’ve been going to a fortnightly roller-skating meet-up with local home ed families. Youngest was a bit unsure the first few times, but he’s warming to the idea. This was his fourth go. He skates for about half an hour, then spent the rest of the time drawing pictures of super hero costume designs. Youngest had a cake and squash for his snack and spent some time playing with another little boy.

After the skating session we joined some friends at a nearby park for a picnic lunch. Youngest played with the other children and his brothers, they ran around a lot.

Back home, he returned to his duplo game. After a while, he had a snack, and did a couple of workbook pages. The writing book is from CGP; the maths book is from Schofield and Sims.

Then we had to take Middly to a club. Youngest and I popped into the shop and he chose a baking kit to do. Back home, Eldest helped him bake cupcakes using the kit.

I began reading ‘The Twits’ to Youngest as a bedtime story.

Wednesday

Youngest read Mr Men books when he woke up. Then the rabbit escaped from his run, so Youngest scampered around the garden in his pyjamas helping me catch the rabbit.

After he’d eaten breakfast and got dressed, Youngest read the rest of ‘The Twits’ to himself.

He read the next two chapters of ‘Operation Holotanium’ to me, then sat down to read Robert Winston’s Home Lab to himself. He asked if we could do one of the experiments from the book, it involves freezing water in balloons, so I found a couple of balloons and helped Youngest fill them with water, I had to tie the necks for him. Then he put them in the freezer.

We’ve started playing tennis with other home ed families, we meet at a local court once a fortnight. Eldest is a keen player, so Youngest has been dragged along, really. This is only our second time attending, and on the first go, Youngest didn’t play any tennis at all. This time he joined in for about three quarters of an hour (the session’s one hour long), which was great. He played various ball games with about a dozen children of primary age. He was very pleased to see some friends from skating were there too.

On the way home, he read in the car. When we got back, Youngest did a couple of pages of workbooks. He was delighted to write ‘poo’ and ‘poop’ when the book asked for two words with ‘oo’ in them! Both of these are CGP books.

Then he played with duplo again. 

Youngest had another look at the Home Lab book and asked to make slime. 

He needed a bit of help with measuring. He read the explanation from the book and we talked about viscosity. Then he played with the slime, and made gloop men.

We put the slime away for another day, then I helped Youngest clean himself up. Usually, I like the boys to help clean up after themselves, but I thought that might be more trouble than it was worth today. There was sticky gloop everywhere!

So I let Youngest get back to reading the Home Lab book.

Youngest played tennis in the garden with Middly until tea. My husband read ‘The Twits’ for his bedtime story.

Thursday

A slightly later start to the day today. Youngest put some stickers in the Usbourne Ancient Egypt sticker book. Them he read another couple of chapters of ‘Operation Holotanium’ to me.

He performed some magic tricks for me and Eldest, making a shiny medal ‘appear’ inside books. Then he dressed up in a spiderman costume and a cape to perform more magic tricks with ribbons, cards and a toy snake.

After a snack, Youngest did a bit of his science workbook and made a ‘clapping cat’ from his Kumon craft book. Youngest’s folding isn’t always very precise, so he made more of a ‘face-hitting cat’, which he found hilarious!

The older boys found a frog at the end of the garden and fetched Youngest to go and see it.

Then he remembered the balloons we froze yesterday, so we finished that experiment together. 

His brothers came over to have a look, which gave Youngest a great opportunity to explain about salt melting ice.

Eldest and Youngest played with Lego until lunch time. Then, after lunch, we went to the library to change our books. We met another home ed family there, and Youngest showed them some books he’d enjoyed.

Back home, Youngest had a milkshake, then continued to play with Lego for a while. 

Then his Starlord mask arrived, so he ran out into the garden with it to play with Middly.

He came back to watch me refill the dishwasher with salt. Then played with Lego until tea time.

Middly has been going to a weekly after-school club at a nearby church. This is his third visit. Youngest went with him the first week, but wasn’t sure he liked it. He didn’t go last week or this week. It’s a bit later in the evening than the club he used to attend at our old house, so I think he might just be too tired. We’ll have another go when he’s a bit older.

Friday

Youngest read library books first thing, and continued after breakfast.

We don’t have any scheduled work books on a Friday, it’s used to catch up on any work that didn’t get completed the rest of the week. I’m really pleased with this recent change to our system. Having a weekly catch-up day takes away a lot of the stress of unfinished work, and results in more work getting completed. This week, Youngest has completed all the planned workbooks.

He helped me put on a load of laundry, then played with Lego.

We have a weekly home ed sports group. This is our third time going. The first time, Youngest didn’t join in at all. The second time, he joined in, but I had to stay by his side for the whole session. This time, he joined in, with some encouragement, for almost the whole session without me. Hurrah!

After the sports session, we played in a playground with some friends and Youngest had a snack.

Back home, Youngest played with Lego again. We had a late lunch.

Youngest has been really enjoying our history sessions and asked if we could have another one today. Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared to do history today, so I suggested we do some Geography instead. I got out a puzzle, a model and the Treasure Hunt Map Game.  When the older boys saw, they decided to join in. We talked about the oceans and the continents and the boys took it in turns to identify a continent or ocean from my clues. First, they put a puzzle piece in for every continent they identified. Once the puzzle was finished, they put flags on the big map when they identified a continent or ocean.

Youngest helped tidy up the geography toys. Then he played with Lego again.

I offered to read to Youngest, he chose A Place for Zero, and Middly decided to listen too. So we snuggled up on the sofa and read together. Then Youngest read me the last chapters of ‘Operation Holotanium’. 

After another quick snack, all the boys decanted the scented oils they made on Monday. Then Youngest returned to his Lego, he built a robo-goat and a terrifying fairground ride for Lego men.

Youngest helped make tea tonight. He got some herbs from the garden to season our chips.

Reflections

I’m not always certain what Youngest reads now that he can reach books (and even put them away) for himself. But, these are the books that I’ve noticed him reading this week:

We have plenty of books at home, most of which I’ve selected. I want the boys to choose books for themselves as well, so I think our weekly library trips are an important opportunity to choose from a different range. At the moment, Youngest likes to take Lego books out.

Looking back over the week, it strikes me that Youngest probably considers school work and trips as an interruption of his important games. He has always played independently for a lot of the day by necessity. I’m so busy with the older ones, that Youngest occupying himself has been vital. I think he gets a lot out of his free-play time, which is lovely to see.

Making this record of exactly what he’s up to has definitely made me pay a bit more attention to Youngest than usual. I’m definitely going to do it again.

Science club – Urinary system

Week Three – Urinary System

Arrival craft: Paper urinary system from Scholastic model book.

Introduction: Last week we looked at the digestive system. Closely connected to that is the urinary system. Does anyone know what it does?

Our urinary system gets rid of extra water and various wastes that our bodies don’t need.

Our kidneys play a very important role in the urinary system. They filter waste out of our blood.

Do you know how filtration works?

Filtration is a way of separating mixtures.

Show the mixtures we made earlier (lego and sand, sand and rice, rice and pasta, sand and water), ask the children how they would separate them and get a volunteer to try: there are colanders, sieves and filter paper to use.

When we look at real kidneys, do you think they will have big holes like the colander in them?

Why not?

The substances – like salts – which kidneys filter out of blood are much smaller than pasta, rice, or even sand. So the holes need to be small too.

Individual task: Make paper kidneys.

Break for drink and snack.

Gather Together: Does anyone know whereabouts on the body our kidneys are?

If nobody knows, encourage the children to look at the paper anatomy models we’re building.

I have an anatomy model that we can look at, can we name the digestive organs, and find the kidneys.

Ask volunteers to come up, name the digestive organs and remove them from the model, until we find the kidneys.

Before you cut into your kidney, try to find the tubes coming out of it. There should be three, what do you think they are for?

The renal artery (thicker than vein) carries blood to the kidneys; the renal vein carries blood back to the heart;  the ureter carries urine to the bladder.

Kidneys are a distinctive shape, they look like kidney beans.

They have a very distinctive shape inside too, the middle is made of triangle shaped tissues – these are called ‘renal pyramids’.

After you cut your kidney in half.

Demonstrate with one of the kidneys.

You can try to find the renal pyramids.

How many pyramids does your kidney have? Can you see the stripes on your pyramids? Are they vertical – going towards the centre of the kidney – or horizontal? You could add these features to your paper kidneys,

Individual task: Dissect Kidneys. kidneydissection

 

Reflections on Teaching my boys to Read

All three of my boys are independent readers now, so I thought it might be interesting to reflect on my experience of teaching them to read (before I forget it all completely!).
When – and how – we began.

Our Eldest son came to us at five, Middly at three, and Youngest (our birth child) at zero. So, we began teaching our children to read at very different ages.

We began with the older two by reading to them. We did this a lot. We read at bedtime and at several points during the day, every day.

Middly had a couple of favourite books; he loved We’re going on a Bear Hunt, and The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom, so much that I can still receit them by heart. However, I have never been keen on re-reading the same books endlessly. So, as well as buying lots of books, we visited the library each week and took piles of books home.

When Eldest began to read with us, it was clear that he was unfamiliar with not common fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Many modern children’s books take a sideways angle on these common themes, which can be bemusing to a child who has never heard the originals. We made an effort to read fairy tales to all our boys, but Eldest still forgets the stories, and occasionally misses references to them. When his class spent a term looking at fairy tales, he really struggled to keep up.

When Eldest began to read for himself, the lack of nursery rhymes became more frustrating. He didn’t know what would come after “Twinkle twinkle little”, so he couldn’t enjoy easily reading books of nursery rhymes. Many workbooks for young children presume a knowledge of nursery rhymes, which made extra work for Eldest.

More importantly, his lack of exposure to rhymes meant that he had to learn which words rhymed. Being able to recognise rhyming words really helps with learning to read. Eldest couldn’t read ‘cat’ and then see that ‘mat’ would end the same. Again, he had more work to do.

Middly was younger and when he began to read, we noticed that he understood rhyming easily. If we sounded out “sun”, for example, he could easily work out that “fun” and “run” would end the same.

I also noticed that Middly would sometimes presume the ending of sentences (and do so correctly frequently enough to make the guesses worthwhile). At the close of speech marks, he expected to see ‘said’. This gave Middly much quicker successes, which made him very confident.

Youngest, however, found reading the easiest. We read to him from the very beginning. He sat in on his older brothers’ bedtime stories. As a result, Youngest was familiar with books long before he began to read. He could predict sentences, rhyme schemes, and even plots. If he saw a goat heading for a bridge, he would guess that it would meet a troll. He was often able to guess correctly, which made his reading fluent far earlier than the others.

I think hearing nursery rhymes, songs, and simple stories from day one definitely helped give Youngest the best foundation for learning to read.

Jolly Phonics

When we first started to teach our Eldest to read we expected to send him to primary school in year one. So, I checked the school’s website, intending to use the same scheme as them. I hoped that would make it as easy as possible for Eldest to slot into class.

The school used Jolly Phonics, so I had a look. I was pretty impressed. I bought their photocopiable resources, CD, and activity books. I followed their scheme of introducing a phoneme every day. It was pretty spectacular. Eldest picked up reading within a couple of months.

Middly followed along with Eldest – though I gave him only the photocopied sheets, with minimal writing, and kept the activity books exclusively for Eldest – and was pretty much on a level with him. We sang along to the songs in the car.

When Youngest turned three and a half, we picked up the Jolly Phonics set again. It was quite fun to listen to the songs  again. This time around, I was also home educating two bigger boys, and I spent far less time with Youngest. It took us about twice as long to get through the course! But, it was equally effective. I bought a new set of activity books, and they were much brighter than the ones Eldest used. I was really impressed and Youngest enjoyed them.

Other stuff we’ve enjoyed.

Bath letters are awesome! We bought a set for the big boys, and another set for Youngest. We used them to practice blending, reading and spelling. The boys love putting messages up for us during bath  time. For all three boys, cheeky words on the side of the bath have been some of their very first attempts at independent spelling. 

Bath letters are wonderful and definitely my favourite resource for teaching reading. They’re also very cheap and available from loads of places.

Lacing letters have proven less popular. The children can find it confusing to work out how to thread the letters, and accidentally spell words backwards. It’s also fiddly to change a letter in the middle of a word. 

We did buy Cookie Letters Toy for Youngest. He played with it a few times, but none of the games really engaged his interest much.

Making letters out of playdough and biscuit dough, drawing letters in sand and rice, were also briefly entertaining, but not big hits. There are lots of other things that the boys would rather make out of playdough.

When Middly was learning to read, I had a letter tracing app on my iPhone, which he played a few times. When Youngest was learning to read there were thousands of electronic games available! Many of Youngest’s friends are keen on Reading Eggs, but it didn’t appeal to Youngest at all.

Reading Schemes

We were very lucky with the big boys, as we lived near a fantastic library which had numerous entire sets of reading schemes. That made it easy to find lots of books at the right level.

I do think that having books at the right level available helps. If books are too easy, the boys are quickly bored. If the books are too hard, they lose confidence and baulk at reading at all.

We moved, however, and our new library was no use for Youngest. It had a very limited selection of books and didn’t keep them in order. So, I ended up having to buy reading schemes for him. I bought a few sets so that he had plenty to read at each reading level.

Our favorites have been Oxford Reading Tree. We loved the Songbirds set, and got a set of activity books and a card game to match. Youngest quite liked Biff, Chip and Kipper, and the Fairy tales set, and the poetry books were surprisingly good fun.

But, our absolute favourite has been Project X. Youngest loves these exciting stories and is eager to keep reading! There are some cliffhangers at the end of books, though. And there’s even a big cliff hanger at the end of the first set of books. I was very glad that I had the next set ready to go. Youngest was very worried about Seven!

We tried Big Cat Readers, which Youngest didn’t enjoy much. I also bought a Marvel reading set and a Paw Patrol reading set. Youngest loves superheroes and Paw Patrol. But, the books themselves weren’t very exciting. They spent a lot of time describing Youngest’s favourite characters, not giving him new information. It’s hard to convince anyone that it’s worth making the effort to read something you already know.
Tricky bits.

All of the boys went through a patch of not really wanting to read. I went with a little and often approach. Sometimes breaking a page down into little bits. But, I stuck to a basic rule of reading every day, regardless of how busy we were, or anything else. Sometimes we alternated pages (I read one, the child read one, and so on); sometimes we even alternated words. We always read. I find it easier to have clear rules; once I have made one exception, it’s much harder to refuse to make another.

Eldest also struggled with blending for a while. I read Handbook of Reading Interventions. They described a game called Talking like a Robot. Instead of trying to teach Eldest to push sounds together to make words, we played a game where he split words up into individual sounds. For example, I showed him the word boat and explained that a robot would say “b-oa-t”. I said lots of words in robot language, and Eldest had a go at saying words in robot language too. Once he was able to break words down into sounds, he was also able to push sounds together to make words.

Final thoughts

Teaching the boys to read has a lot of fun. I have lived watching them go from recognising a few letters​ to fluently reading books. It’s given them, and me, an enormous sense of achievement. I am a little sorry to be leaving this stage behind. But, I am sure that there are plenty more wonderful things for us to learn together!

100 days of home ed part 1

I am taking part in a challenge on twitter to post photos of home ed in our house for 100 days. We’re halfway through! So, here are the first 50 pictures.

We have quite a structured approach to home education. All my children are working through a set of workbooks and textbooks, but I didn’t think a lot of pictures of workbooks would be very exciting! So, I posted photos of the more interesting stuff we’ve been up to.

We also do a lot of active stuff. We swim a couple of times a week. Eldest has tennis a few times a week. We go for a weekly walk with friends and play in parks three or four times a week. None of that features in the photos, not because it doesn’t look great, but because I never put pictures of the boys online.

The photos give a limited window into our home ed lives. But, it’s been a fun project nonetheless.

To stop me repeating pictures, I thought it would be worth keeping a master list. So, here it is – the most photogenic moments of #100daysofhomeed!

Day 1: Modelling earthquakes.

Day 2: Making cupcakes.

Day 3 – Learning about blood – a few of the things we played with at Science Club.

Day 4 – Using sweets in bowls to help Eldest with algebra

Day 5 – Map jigsaw. The names of various cities come out, but their positions aren’t shown on the box, so we needed to use the atlas to complete the puzzle.

Day 6 – Spontaneous writing from Youngest. He’s the closest to bring unschooled, as he comes up with lots of his own projects and doesn’t seem to need so much encouragement to create things.

Day 7 – K’nex monsters, made by Youngest and Middly.

Day 8 – Fold mountains and goats. This was a demo that Eldest did at his Geography Course. All the children enjoyed making the goats.

Day 9 – Making a ‘CD racer’ – my mum picked up a kit with a variety of craft activities in it, and Middly tried this one.

 Day 10 – Making model neurons and drawing nervous systems onto little polystyrene people. This is a selection of the stuff we did at Science Club.

Day 11 – Youngest started a weather diary

Day 12 – We made Steady Hand games. We were trialling these for Science Club, I’d bought copper wire to use but it turned out to have a wax coating and required sanding to make the sides conductive, we tried solder which kept snapping, then I thought of using unfurled paper clips. The toys were small but effective and easy to make. I have ordered more iron wire for use at the club, though. Preparing for the Science Club sessions can be really interesting for the boys, as it’s often more challenging to put an activity together than it is to do it. But, I don’t actually get them to help very often, I don’t want to destroy their enthusiasm for the sessions themselves.

Day 13 – A game of Cranium. We had a busy day, out with friends for an adopters meet up, then to soft play, none of which produced photos I could share! But, we played a board game at home.

Day 14 – Making pipe cleaner animals. Middly’s done a few of these. I think he was inspired to pick them back up after the neuron craft we did last week. The children often regain interest in our resources after they’ve seen the enthusiastic responses from their friends at Science Club. That’s yet another benefit to us!

Day 15 – Eldest had a go at making a push switch in preparation for Science Club. I was pretty pleased with this one because he figured it out by himself.

Day 16 – Middly made a cardboard castle for his rats to play in. I found it very hard to get a picture, because those rats are fast! He has three, this was my best shot:

Day 17 – At Science Club, everyone coloured in this grid colouring sheet made by Eldest. It went down well.

Day 18 – Youngest was doing bees in his Science workbook, and I happened to have a bee cushion kit in my craft box, so he had a mini bee project.

Day 19 – Youngest wanted to make a board game. He drew a board, typed the instructions on the computer, and designed the pieces using Tinkercad. Then my husband helped him print his characters using our 3d printer. I liked this project so much, I put up two photos!

Day 20 – It was a real struggle to find a photo today. My in-laws visited and played lotsof games with the boys. We had lunch out and went swimming. It was a fun day, but I didn’t take any pictures without people in! So, I took this when we got home. Youngest does love his floats.

Day 21 – Youngest played with a new playdough toy at church. 

Day 22 – Middly and I messed around with LEDs and resistors, trying to decide on what to do at this week’s Science Club.

Day 23 – Another tricky day to photograph. We swam with friends and went out with family to a soft play place. The big boys found some of their work a bit tricky, so it took up more time than usual. But, we did find a leftover sticker sheet from a previous Science Club and make an apron together. So, I used that picture.

Day 24 – Drama group. We did a read through of a script I found online here. Then we talked about emphasis and how emphasising a single word can change the meaning of a sentence. The children enjoyed writing sentences on the white board and taking it in turns to read the sentences, emphasising different words and talking about how the meaning changed. Finally, we read through the play script again, choosing to emphasise different words. 

Day 25 – We made a giant model breadboard, using velcro to hold the giant components in place. I am hoping this will help children understand the circuits we’re building at Science Club.

 Day 26 – We had a tour of a mill with a group of Home Ed friends.

Day 27 – My husband took the boys out for the day. They had a long walk, visited a museum and a library. He didn’t take pictures of any if this, though. So I took a picture of the library books that the boys took out this week.

Day 28 – Mug cakes.

Day 29 – the boys made a cheesecake.

Day 30 – Middly began a project on tinkercad: making plastic parts to use when playing with playdough.

Day 31 – Middly finished his tinkercad project, printed the parts and made some playdough to use with them.

Day 32 – Youngest made masks.

Day 33 – Eldest used various jugs and cups to practice estimating and measuring.

Day 34 – Middly drew a face, making curves out of straight lines. Using his book The Stick Man with a Big Bum – Activity Book.

Day 35 – We made another cake!

Day 36 – Middly used fuse beads to make a coaster.

Day 37 – Youngest was doing a dinosaur sticker book, so Eldest fetched his big book of dinosaurs and showed it to Youngest. At moments like these, home education is awesome!

Day 38 – We investigated LDRs at Science Club.

Day 39 – After dropping Eldest at tennis, Youngest decided to make his own tennis racket.

Day 40 – We went on a worm hunt in our garden. We used a pack from Earthworm Watch, which was really well put together. I love taking part in these citizen science projects. I’m also very keen on Zooniverse and Opal to find big science projects that children can take part in.

Day 41 – The boys played chess. We play a lot of board games together.

Day 42 – We made a jigsaw together.

Day 43 – Youngest used lacing letters to make some words.

Day 44 – Middly helped me make some more model components for our giant model breadboard.

Day 45 – We made slide switches at Science Club.

Day 46 – Eldest played Rushhour Junior. Strictly speaking this is Youngest’s toy. But, I think all children can benefit from playing with​ toys for a variety of ages.

Day 47 – Middly built a walking turtle from a kit.

Day 48 – We went for a family walk by a river.

Day 49 – We made hot cross buns.

Day 50 – The boys made bean bag frogs.