Sunday, 24 November 2013


This TEDx talk is by a 13 year old who describes how he is hacking his education. It's only 11 minutes long, and worth a watch!


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Which book will get your child reading?

I have heard it said that for each child there will be a book which ignites the joy of reading. Can you remember which book it was for you as a child, the first book you couldn't put down, that you just wanted to keep on reading? I loved Enid Blyton stories, and I am currently enjoying the stories of The Faraway Tree with my seven-year-old.

I waited with baited breath for a long time to see my eldest son read with delight. It was Cressida Cowell's 'How to Train Your Dragon' series which finally got him going .... but not til he was 10 or 11. He has just turned 12 and is now reading his Warhammer Codex with real pleasure!

It has been a real challenge to find books which appeal to my second son. To date he has enjoyed Tin Tin most of all. The graphic novel seemed to appeal, and I managed to find The Hobbit in this format, which he enjoyed. However, whilst we were away recently, we watched the movie, "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and, to my surprise, he was gripped. When we visited the library recently, he ran to look for the first book in the series and read it in a couple of days. Joy! That is the book which has sparked the flame for him. He is now eagerly awaiting the second book and has asked for the whole series for Christmas. He has also been playing out the story, looking for signs of mystical creatures around our home and creating a special box for his 'fieldwork'. So engaged has he been by this new interest, we looked online and found a Spiderwick field notebook, with spaces to draw and write about your own fantastical creatures. I ordered it immediately, and he received it with great delight and is waiting for a special italic pen to be able to fill it in beautifully. For a boy who has to date shown little interest in reading or writing, this is another great example of child-led learning in process!

Here's How We Fix Education

In the words of Victor Hugo, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”

For some time, I have been thinking about 'learning hubs' - centres for community learning. Here Dr Peter Gray shares a similar vision for the future of education in our society and a path for getting there ...

Schools Don't Have to Fail: Here's How we Fix Education

Lego Electro City

This week, the boys attended a Lego Electro City workshop. The session had been organised for home educated children, so there were perhaps 25 kids there. There were five tables with boxes of Lego on, red bricks, white bricks, doors and windows. The children chose bases which were rigged with lightbulbs, and were then encouraged to create houses or buildings of their own design. They could make anything really that you would find in a city - cafes, hospitals, police stations ... etc.

Aftern that, there were road bases which the children arranged on their table. They placed their buildings around their road network, and then made cars, planes, boats and any other vehicles they wanted. They added lots of trees and flowers. There were minifigures to put in place as well.

Then they were given large battery packs and wires, and they had to connect their buildings up using simple circuits so that the lights worked. It was really fun to see all the Lego buildings light up, and so creative to see all the different buildings which the group had made!

Autumn Leaf Craft

With thanks to Lori at Fun Art 4 Kids for the idea, we created autumn leaf bowls inspired by the beautiful colours of the season. The boys chose some large autumn leaves, and then rolled out air-drying clay like pastry. They pressed the leaves into the clay so that the pattern of the veins was imprinted in the clay, then they carefully cut around the leaves.

They then lifted the clay leaves carefully, and placed them into rounded bowls. We left the clay to dry in the bowls for several days, creating a rounded effect.

Once the bowls were dry, the boys painted them in autumn shades. I love the way that, given the same task, each child's effort turns out so unique and different.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Paradise

This episode of The Paradise is brilliant for anyone wishing to better understand or communicate how home education works, particularly the scene around the 22nd minute where Mr Dudley and Lady Catherine discuss Flora's education, and the scene around the 26th minute where Flora is learning through conversation with Dudley around The Paradise. "I have learned so many things today, I don't know how they all fit inside my head!" she declares. Recommended!

The Paradise Episode 3

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Play Deficit

"The Play Deficit" by Peter Gray

"You can’t teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom, and it blossoms in play."

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Challenges to my thinking

I like to read, and I learn a lot by reading. My boys are not keen readers, though they enjoy being read to and my third son is beginning to read more for pleasure than his brothers have done. However, my thinking is challenged by just how much can be learned without reading. My husband is not a keen reader either. Everyone is different. Why should one way of learning be considered better than another?

My eldest son conducted a piece of research into Buddhism recently. An RE lesson at school sparked his interest, but it was his idea to go and interview some local Buddhist monks and to ask them some ultimate questions. Having gone to the effort of organising and conducting the interview and recording it, he put it into a slideshow and took it into school to show his class. It happened that the teacher didn't realise the presentation contained video (she needed to click on the image), so rather skipped over a valuable piece of learning, an opportunity to bring a real Buddhist voice into her classroom. Now I know that she will have been pushed for time, and my son didn't want to insist on trying to get the video to work, but I was frustrated that all his efforts were not seen and recognised. I kind of harangued him about it. Why did he not tell the teacher to click and play the video? Why didn't he go back the next day and show her again so that she could see what he had done? He just shrugged nonchalantly ... He wasn't bothered. "Mum," he said, "I wanted to do the interview and I did it. It's fine." He had undertaken the project for his own sake - because he wanted to learn. He wasn't bothered about the teacher's recognition or the merit he might attain. It was a piece of learning for learning's sake. Extrinsically rewarded, school-educated, gold star, A-grade seeking me! I was chastised!

My boy had some homework which was a half term's English project. As I have said, this is not his favourite subject, and he was supposed to have read some autobiography and undertaken some creative responses to his reading. As English tasks go, I thought it was rather nice, as a number of options were given including a drawn response. Well, my son's effort was mediocre to say the least. The problem is, I know what he is capable of, so I asked him if he felt this work was his best effort. "Well, no," he admitted, "but I'm not really interested in this, Mum, so why spend more time on it?" Well, why? Because you have to? Because the teacher has told you to do it? Because you might get a merit, or not get a detention? Even as these answers go through my mind, I realise how empty they are. "Because you want to do credit to yourself, to put your best effort into everything, to be the best that you can be"? The problem is that school almost thrives on mediocrity, almost encourages it. By providing a broad and balanced curriculum, we do not allow our young people to really dig in where they are interested or to apply themselves to those problems and challenges that really inspire and motivate them. Said son really wants to be an engineer. He has always been that way inclined. Although part of me still thinks, "But children should be given wide and varied opportunities and encouraged to try new things," are we really creating brilliant engineers by pressing them to read autobiography? The truth is, probably not.

A paper aeroplane

It is 10.00 p.m. and a paper aeroplane has just come flying down the stairs to me. It contains a message from my eldest son ...