Spontaneous schooling and shaking off old habits.

Spontaneous schooling and shaking off old habits.

Three weeks ago we decided to have a break from formal schooling. The reason, we haven’t had one since we started home educating over a year ago! We have had odd days and some time over Christmas, half days and outings but not time to switch our brains off. More importantly not enough time for me to be just mum for a while!

The first week was a holiday spent with my mum where we had days out to Alton towers, Warwick castle and saw family. Though during this time Luke also got some work experience too!

Last week we did some sorting and finally took down the wall between the boys tiny room and the big cupboard next door. So now we are slowly sorting the stuff from the cupboard that has spilled it’s from across the landing and into our bedroom!

But we have continued to do our reading together when ever possible. Today we began the next book in the chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. We only read one chapter but from that sprung a spontaneous Literacy lesson and some art.

In the first chapter Eustace is teasing Lucy and Edmund saying

10306486_10153415383224525_8646371780790394193_n“Some kids who played games about Narnia. Got gradually balmier and balmier.”

In response Lucy says Narnia and Balmier don’t rhyme. But Eustace replies that it is an assonance. So together we found out what an assonance was and made some of our own. (Please excuse my untidy scrawl, I was writing quickly at a funny angle with a wriggly toddler by my side!)

Then we thought about what type of painting we would like to be pulled into like the children find happening with the picture of the Narnian boat in Lucy’s room. They then went off and drew their pictures. If you know the boys you’ll know that all their pictures contained cars!

I’m beginning to think that autonomous learning or at least spontaneous schooling suits us best. Today we have had a good productive but unplanned, unstructured day. Annie Rose and I made cakes, we all did a few chores like putting away washing clearing the draining board and washing up. Then we read our book, did our assonance writing and drew pictures. I even got time to do a little (little!) painting craft work. We saw grandparents and they told us about their holiday. The boys did their bible studies, sorted out a box of bits left from sorting out their room and are now playing darts in the newly hung darts board (great for practising subtraction or addition too!).

The difficulty is I am trained in childcare. I have worked for years in nurseries, reception, year 1 and year 4. I can’t get schoolish thinking out my head and routine!

So this term we are changing our approach slightly we will continue to do maths and literacy on an online program we have subscribed to but the rest of the time is going to be sharing literature, maybe with some spontaneous lessons like today, and practical life skills like gardening, cooking and home maintenance. I have to plan for September’s learning but will be trying to shake old habits that didn’t work for the boys whilst in school yet i find it so hard to drop!


Pyjamma Day … at last!

Pyjamma Day … at last!

19488_10153093119884525_6706094615295604162_nA year ago I posted our first blog. We had just given in our de-registration letter, had our half-term and were embarking on our new adventure together (well the twins joined us about a week later).

But I believe today is the first pyjama day we’ve had since then!

There goes the ideas all home educators sit around in pyjamas all day everyday!


We’ve had a really busy year trying out lots of different activities, workbooks, websites, games and curriculums. Some we have loved some we’ve used but adapted, some were not right for us at all. It’s actually amazing how much we have done looking back on this last year.


But today is a day off (our half term) …

Luke has been immersed in his art work again. Isaac has also been drawing.11021239_10153093119559525_4296955750893119439_n

Annie Rose has been playing with her new toy sink, pumping water to make the tap work.

Jacob has been using the lego mindstorm set my lovely cousin gave them for Christmas.

Oh, and we all snuggled together with our flat whites, americanos or mochas and watched The comic relief bake off (couldn’t stop laughing about the onion being peeled with a vegetable peeler!).1505557_10153093120119525_7529415256387515793_n

I made Annie Rose a fun and flowery lunch.


Annie Rose also stuck the regal ice hearts she’d cut out onto the cakes she had made the day before.

I can’t believe how much learning has taken place today with out any structure, timetable or even getting dressed. I don’t think it would work everyday, some of us like structure, but it’s a great relaxed way to learn. Perhaps we will have regular chilled out learning sessions like this … in our PJs of course 🙂

Toddler taming …. more like tongue taming!

Toddler taming …. more like tongue taming!

Isn’t it great how a child’s vocabulary grows so much from the first word to full sentences by 3 years old (or there abouts). I love hearing Annie Rose come out with something new be it a single word, phrase or even part of a song.

so what are my toddlers favourite phrases ….

My do it (classic one!)

mine (another classic)

time got watch (big brothers current phrase)

look Mummy

see it

watch Upsy Daisy (or George)

my found it

you coming (always wants someone to do and do things with her)

BUT then she also says…

stop it! or just stop it!

Just hold it!

Leave lone!

You’ll note the exclamation marks on these last few and maybe you can imagine the force the are said with. So do I need to tame my toddler? Sadly it’s not my toddler that needs taming … it’s  my tongue! You see these phrases are just parroting, these are the things she hears me squawk at her brothers as my patience runs low …or out… and I lose my tongue.

I’m ashamed to hear those words come out of her mouth knowing it’s my speech she is copying. So I need to correct myself before I start doing any toddler taming!

It reminded me of these verses in James 1: 19-20

 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

and James 1:26

 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

and James 3:9

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

I’m being honest and holding my hands up to this one. I too often run out of patience, become angry and speak in a way that is not gracious and does not show my children my love for them. Thankfully I can seek forgiveness and let them see that my reactions are not OK. We as home educators plan away at what and how we will teach our children. Let us not forget what we may be teaching them by our very nature. When our actions betray the way we’d like to be we can use them to show our children we can seek forgiveness, be forgiven and be gracious.

Maybe repenting and forgiving show more love and selflessness too?

I hope you appreciate my openness and honesty. Maybe like me you find it refreshing to find a realistic post about how we sometimes fail to be who we want to be rather than all the polished “look what we did” posts.

The best part of an activity when you are two? … the washing up!

The best part of an activity when you are two? … the washing up!

So today we got our pretend snow out again today, (see http://www.athomewithjames.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/let-it-snow-in-the-kitchen/ for our first cloud dough activity). But this time we used some new tools.10953955_10153035377489525_6496105933473103121_n Firstly we made a snow teddy with a sand mould we unearthed in the loft yesterday. we even hid the mini compare bears in the big teddy mould then had fun excavating to find them again. There was again much talk about how soft and silky the “snow” felt. We even spent some time throwing it up in the air which left Annie Rose with a generous sprinkling all over her hair!

10629778_10153035377904525_4735475434382492462_nI went to a local shop full of learning toys last week and couldn’t resist this pack of fine motor skills tools. There is cute little tweezers shaped like a crocodile; a pipette just the right size for a toddlers little chubby hands; a scoop which uses a tweezer action to open and close and a scoop which uses a scissor action.

We explored our play snow with the scoops. Annie-Rose wasn’t able to use them all that well but she really enjoyed trying. Especially using the scissor scoop with both hands.

But the best part of the activity was when we cleared away the snow and put a bowl of very bubbly washing up water on the floor for her to clean the scoops, moulds and compare bears. 10647172_10153035377669525_2785873006621031808_nI used her bubble bath in shallow warm water and whisked it up with my hand whisk to make extra suds that are kind to her skin. Definitely her favourite part of the morning and gave two sensory/fine motor skill activities rolled into one!

Can you feel it? Art

Can you feel it? Art


This week I went out for a well earned treat of coffee (and cream tea) with a dear friend. Just us girlies for a change. But I wanted to leave the boys some work to do, but something a bit different to the usual reading and maths practice they do.

I had picked up a book from the library about art so I looked through it for inspiration. The book is The Usbourne book of Famous paintings. It has 35 famous paintings with a page full of information and ideas about the painting and the artist. I’d recommend it as an introduction to a range of artists and their work.

I came to The Scream by Edvard Munch. The writer spoke about how the painting portrays intense feelings. So i set the boys a challenge. To look at The Scream and it’s description then produce their own piece of artwork to portray a feeling.10943925_10153010661359525_8036422239502982511_n

I returned from my tea shop visit (Ditchling tearooms by the way, well worth a visit!) to 3 boys eager to show me their pictures. But each had misunderstood my challenge. They had all drawn pictures of something that would cause them to feel a certain way. A house on fire, or someone separated from a colourful football match, and a sweet cottage sandwiched between a busy city and a smoky factory. So the pictures didn’t quite portray a feeling but rather a situation that would cause you to feel sad, lonely or scared etc.

After Lunch we got out the pencils and felt pens and set about drawing. This time we explored together how we could use different colours, lines and shading techniques to help show different feelings. 10455120_10153010661309525_6154087324687620159_nWe split a page into 4 and wrote one feeling in each quarter then imagine we felt that way and filled in that quarter of the page in lines, colours and shading we felt portrayed that feeling. The emotions we chose were anger, confusion, fear and joy. Once we’d created these keys to our way of presenting the emotions we created an A4 piece of art to portray one of the emotions. Then we created a display with them all.

It made us think beyond the creation of a picture of1526094_10153010661394525_559278814388354883_n an object or place instead thinking about how the lines shading and colour effected the way they appeared and the feelings they represent through the picture.

Rollercoaster scrap books

Rollercoaster scrap books


So I told you all about our roller coaster project and all the amazing learning opportunities it is providing along with masses of fun!

Here’s the evidence of the learning part.10401498_10152994021729525_3862603285333448516_n
The boys were tasked with finding out as much as possible about roller coasters and theme parks.

This was to be displayed in a scrapbook (with imagination!).


They were also to include the things we’d learnt in “lessons” like the physics, leaflet design including what a leaflet needs and why, and rollercoaster poems.
I gave them pointers for their research like the names of a few roller coaster of differing types for them to look at and record facts about, the history of roller coasters including what and where was the first roller coaster, which is the highest, longest, most loops etc,and how does a roller coaster work is there different mechanisms?

And I’m proud to show some of the results here! 🙂

10915187_10152994021479525_2058498510871402970_n 1689401_10152994020959525_3248802072281639988_n10917092_10152994022239525_7886777421048599270_n 10922443_10152994020779525_6933499596636647601_n 10924782_10152994021244525_2935459187223612671_n

Roller coaster physics, maths but mostly fun!

Roller coaster physics, maths but mostly fun!

IMG_20140830_153449Thanks to someone stealing my Tesco  club card points last year (and Nanny buying one too!) we have managed to afford Merlin passes for the whole family! So how does that link in with our home education journey? Well, after a visit to Chessington World of Adventures. I got thinking about the way a rollercoaster works and the k-nex coaster set the boys had sitting in a drawer. IMG_20140830_133208So I got googling and planning!

So the boys built the k-nex rollercoaster and we looked at books from the library and the internet to find out the physics of how rollercoasters work. We learnt about friction, magnetics, gravity, potential energy and kinetic energy. Shortly we will be making our own (marble) coaster which I will blog about afterwards!

We found a great maths book that used rollercoasters as a basis for lots of different maths applications. Including comparing numbers, converting measurements, finding information in a table, ordering numbers, working out areas and more.

IMG_20140830_140506The boys have been researching lots more about rollercoasters and theme parks and are going to be compiling a scrapbook/lapbook each to show what they have learnt and the facts they’ve found. This is including the history of rollercoasters themselves and a chosen theme park. I’m looking forward to reading these and will do a short blog post for you to see too!

Art has been exciting too. Have you seen the lovely photos people take with a sunset behind a rollercoaster track? Well we’ve been sketching track ideas and using different mediums to create a sunset back ground. A couple of weeks ago we had an impromptu art lesson on the pavement!

IMG_20140925_145649-MIX IMG_20140925_145654-MIX IMG_20140925_145928-MIX


So much learning … but so much fun!!

Check out the pinterest board i made to help us -http://uk.pinterest.com/james0389/rollercoaster-topic/