Friday, 24 August 2012


My third son (6) has been interested in the Ancient Egyptians for some time. He was having nightmares about 'mummies' sparked by a children's TV show which, despite his elder brother's best efforts to explain exactly what mummies are, continued to recur. So I was surprised when , recently, he got out an Usborne book about this ancient culture and expressed an interest in learning more about it.

When visiting the art gallery and museum in our nearest city, we noticed an exhibition on the Pharaohs which sons no 1 and no 3 wanted to look at. We had a good look round and they completed a museum trail. The best exhibits were huge stone tablets with clear hieroglyphic writing preserved upon them. Son no 3 enjoyed writing his name in hieroglyphics and, when we got home, he made a small tablet out of clay into which we carved his code name. He was also inspired to make a small clay Pharaoh figure.

I often look for Barefoot books on different cultures and countries, and pulled out a lovely one we have on Egypt, "We're Sailing Down the Nile." These books often have information at the back of the book about the country or culture they are exploring.

We discussed a visit we made to Egypt when son no 1 was small, including a trip sailing down the Nile on a felucca, also recent political developments in Egypt and the revolution which overthrew President Mubarak.

We then decided to make a big map of Egypt, which is a great way to learn something of the geography of a region. Son no 3 will label it, draw features and stick on relevant pictures to do with the country's history, geography, culture, animals, produce and religion. He is also making a plaster bandage mask of Tutankhamun's death mask such as his brothers made when they looked at the Ancient Egyptians a while ago.

In a home educating coincidence, this summer's holiday club at our church, which the boys have enjoyed attending this week, was themed 'Pyramid Rock' and looked at the story of Joseph with lots of Egyptian themed activities, which fit in really well with our topic work!

Heads Demand Urgent Inquiry into GCSE Results

Heads demand urgent inquiry into GCSE results

The Rise of Flexi-Schooling

There seems to be increasing interest in the concept of flexi-schooling, an arrangement between parents and school whereby a child's educational provision is shared. A flexi-schooler would spend some days at school, some days learning at home - or off the school site under parental responsibility.

When I first heard about flexi-schooling, I thought, "Great! Best of both worlds." But as I thought more about it, I realised it would be difficult for all parties involved - the school, parent and child - because of the lack of continuity and, from the family's perspective, not belonging fully in either camp with the flexibility of the home schoolers, or the community provided by a school. It must be difficult for schools and teachers to embrace this and to make it work without real vision and dedication, when I know they are so pressed to hit targets and to manage the large numbers of pupils in their classes.

However, there is something refreshing about the idea of a school becoming a learning centre, with an open door to parents and members of the community with valuable skills and interests to share with our children. I like that idea. And that is why I am excited to have discovered that small, rural schools seem to be catching this vision in a bid to survive. In such small schools, where low student numbers mean they are fighting for their very existence, some bold headteachers have realised that throwing their doors open as resource centres for home educators could be a way forward. The schools benefit from extra children on their books - and the funding that entails. For home educating families and their children, the benefits could be huge. I am wondering whether one such school in our locality might provide opportunity for shared project work, for art workshops, for sports opportunities, for access to the school library, to music lessons, to extra-curricular clubs and activities. I intend to meet and talk to the Head of this school and to see where the discussion leads.