Friday, 23 May 2014

The Wright Stuff talk about Home Education

The surprisingly positive piece on home education from today's The Wright Stuff can be found 57 minutes in. Why not join the debate?

Christopher Lloyd - the parent who presents such an enthusiastic case for Home Education - has a website, featuring links to his "What on Earth" wall books and workshops HERE.

Monday, 12 May 2014

A visit to the Synagogue

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I trained as an R.E. teacher. During my training, I was privileged to visit many faith communities in their places of worship, and it was always wonderful and awe-inspiring to enter into these amazing buildings and to learn more about the lives of members of faith communities in situ. What better way to learn! It was therefore my great pleasure to organise a visit recently to a local synagogue, following our family's reading of Jewish Tales, a new release from Barefoot Books.

I love to watch the expressions on children's faces as they enter into such holy spaces, and lift their eyes up. We enjoyed looking for the Jewish symbols around the place, and learning more about the life and worship of the local Hebrew community. The children had the opportunity to try on special items of clothing and handle artefacts, to open the Ark and look at the beautiful Torah scrolls and to listen to our guide talking about her life and faith as part of this vibrant community.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Why Learning Should be Messy

"Letting kids learn by doing — the essence of the philosophy of educator John Dewey. He wrote: “The school must represent present life — life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground.” Let kids travel to places, work with mentors, and inquire about the world around them ... As the old adage goes, “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” Harvard Professor Howard Gardner said to me that schools should incorporate the best of two models of learning: a hands-on children’s museum, which encourages open-ended exploration, and an apprenticeship, which provides a more structured environment for practicing meaningful skills in an authentic, real-life context. The bottom line is that you don’t have to learn the boring stuff before you start applying it. Start rolling around in the dirt from the get go."

Excerpt from Why Learning Should be Messy by Nikhil Goyal.

Hope for our unruly home then, yet! ;)

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Photographing Nature

Our second son has an ongoing interest in the natural world, which we encourage with a junior membership of the RSPB's Wildlife Explorers. This includes receipt of their magazine "Bird Life" every two months, which contains inspiring features, photographs and competitions. On a recent visit with friends to our local Wildlife Trust, it was lovely to observe his interest in the birds there. He spent a lot of time near the bird tables, observing and quietly photographing some of the tiny winged visitors there, with some great results!

To our surprise, we have a lot more bird life in our new garden than our former one - including a pair of comical pigeons, and a blackbird couple - so we are looking forward to setting up some bird tables here so we can observe the birds at home too.

Christian Easter Hunt

How do you celebrate Easter with your children? Ever since my boys were small, I have prepared a trail for them to follow on Easter morning. It involves finding clues which lead to chocolate treats but, as Christians, our Easter celebrations focus on the resurrection of Jesus, so I have always included activities along the way, which tell the boys the Christian story. When they were younger, I would draw sketches of pieces of furniture around our home and hide them with chocolate eggs to make a treasure hunt. On the way, they would find clues leading to myself, my husband or a grandparent who would read them the story or help them to make or draw something in response. The boys have pretended to be disciples and 'interviewed' each other about the events they have witnessed. We have made a news report, made Easter gardens, written prayers. We have looked at how the different gospels present slightly different viewpoints, and discussed why this is so. As the tasks are completed, they find the next clue. One of the things we do is to watch some, or all, of The Miracle Maker, which I love.

As they have grown older, I have looked around for more challenging activities and, with less time on my hands, scanned the Internet for pre-prepared clues to make laying the trail easier. This year, I came across this site and used the "Cryptic Clues" but I wanted to add a Christian element to the hunt, and I wanted to give the boys a bit of a challenge. I adapted the ideas I found on this website to make the task a little more difficult, and to make the hunt last a bit longer!

I hid the trail clues around the house and garden with some small chocolate treats. With some I also hid the symbols:

1. a small bottle of perfume
2. some small silver coins
3. a piece of bread
4. a piece of string with knots in it
5. a piece of red cloth
6. a small piece of branch with thorns
7. a cross made with match sticks or tooth picks
8. two dice
9. some small rocks
10. a piece of white cloth
11. a stone
12. an empty egg

The empty egg was only hidden with the next clue, no chocolate with it, nothing. When the boys were ready to start their hunt, in addition to their chocolate collecting bags, I gave them a small box and told them that, as they did the trail, they would find some special symbols which they needed to collect. I always ask them to work together as a team, and to take turns reading the clues to make sure each brother is included. The hunt took a while and the symbols, and chocolate, were duly collected.

Then they gathered round the table. My husband took the youngest boy and read our Easter story picture book to him. The older three were given the following portions of the Bible story on slips of paper:

Matthew 26:7-12
Matthew 26:14-16
Matthew 26:26
Matthew 27:1-2
Matthew 27:27-28
Matthew 27:29-30
Matthew 27:31-32
Matthew 27:35
Matthew 27:51-54
Matthew 27:57-59
Matthew 27:60-61
Matthew 28:5-7

I asked them to read the scripture verses in the Bible together, and then choose the symbol they thought best matched that part of the story.

When they had paired each symbol with a scripture verse, I came back to the table, and they recounted the story to me using the symbols. Then we handed out a larger chocolate Easter treat each - to celebrate the sweetness of new life in Jesus. (And we watched the Miracle Maker with Grandpa in the afternoon!)

Thursday, 1 May 2014


My life has descended into a temporary chaos following our recent house move. We are still living out of boxes while we have some work done on the house. So I apologise that I haven't contributed much to this blog in recent weeks, and thank you for your patience. Getting our living and learning space up and functional has become my first priority. Whilst I am so busy, stressed and distracted with all that needs to be done, the boys have displayed some fascinating examples of truly autonomous learning, which I will get round to writing about as soon as I can. Sometimes, perhaps the best thing for children's learning is for us adults - with our own agendas and preconceived ideas about what form that learning should take - to just get out of the way!