Monday, 15 October 2018

Project 55: Putting on a show - Adventures of the Egyptian King

As Solomon was going to the home education workshop at Norwich Puppet Theatre, and we were looking for a project in the humanities this week, we decided to get the children to put on a puppet show.

Both Monica and Solomon have always enjoyed making and playing with puppets. One of Solomon's early home ed projects was on puppets and the theatre (Project 10: Puppets and the Theatre) and he has previously made both an Egyptian king (Project 23: Ancient Egypt) and a big fish (Project 27: Under the Sea) (both of which reappear this week!).

After starting the week looking at the different ways people tell stories on stage and screen, we got them to write and perform their own story with the puppets they have. The result: Adventures of an Egyptian King. 





We finished the week with the other classic film about putting on a show: Muppets Take Manhattan.

Next week's project: Treasure Island

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Project 54: More Chemistry!

Solomon picked chemistry for this week's project, making use of the Thames & Kosmos C500 Chemistry set we bought in the Maplin closing down sale.

Chemistry C500
The project revisited many of the ideas discussed in Project 19: Science and chemistry and Project 37: Metals, and we rewatched some of the videos and played Top Trump Elements.

The C500 chemistry set is a nice introductory set with 28 simple experiments, although it does suffer from requiring a lot of additional 'household' items. If you are not the sort of person who likes to spend their evenings with a bottle of meths and some tea lights you'll need to make sure you are well prepared beforehand.

Creating gases and testing for acids
Solomon showed a lot of interest in the elements this week, and spent a lot of time looking through A Beginner's Guide to the Periodic Table and The Element: A visual exploration of every known atom in the universe. It therefore seemed an appropriate time to extend our science library, and bought both the Usborne Junior Illustrated Science Dictionary and the Usborne Illustrated Science Dictionary.

Science Dictionaries
The junior dictionary offers an introduction to many scientific ideas, but is one that is quickly exhausted. For example, while is mentions materials and changing states, 'elements' doesn't make it into the index. In comparison, the illustrated dictionary is suitable up to GCSE level showing the breakdown of atoms, bonding, and different element groupings.

Next week's project: Putting on a show!

Monday, 1 October 2018

Project 53: Myths and Legends

It was Monica's turn to pick a project this week, and she picked Myths and Legends.

The week started with a discussion of what myths and legends are, and the children were tasked with finding books which fitted the definitions from their bookshelves. Although there were a few false starts, with Beast Quests, modern fairy stories, and The Hobbit selected, eventually we settled on a selection of myths and legends for the week's project. 
A Selection of Myths and Legends
The Usborne young reading series are a great way to introduce classic tales to the children, accessible with colourful pictures, and ideal for them to read on their own. We didn't cover it this week, but Beowulf has long been a favourite of Solomon's from the series.  Great Stories from British History brings together about 100 tales from British history, with some more rooted in fact (e.g., the Higgs boson) than others (e.g., Gogmagog and the exiles of Troy), again colourful and accessible to the children. In particular we wanted to introduce Hereward the Wake, as it is a legend set in the local area. Finally, Norse Myths:Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki is an anthology for older children with fewer pictures, but one we bought to read with them to help them improve their reading. 

As their mother comes from Sunderland, they were also introduced to tales of the Lambton Worm, reading the book, listening to the song, and making their own worms.


Finally, the children were tasked with creating their own mythical creatures: 
Solomon's "Scillyhiggler" and Monica's "Rubbers"
Next week's project: More Chemistry! (Following on from Project 19: Science and Chemistry)

Monday, 24 September 2018

Project 52: Battles!

Solomon picked 'battles' as this week's project, and we combined historical battles alongside some modern games.

Five battles/wars were compared to see the changing nature of warfare: Boudica and the Roman invasion; the Battle of Hastings; Waterloo; the Battle of Rorke's Drift; and World War 1. It was the first time we'd given more than a cursory glance to the Napoleonic and Zulu wars, and both Solomon and Monica loved the History Buffs YouTube channel that looks at how historically accurate certain films are.



Of course the reality of warfare is a far cry from the glorious battles depicted in films and computer games, and nothing emphasises that more than the trench warfare of World War 1. We looked at World War 1 with the BBC's WW1 A-Z.

We played three battle games this week: Risk, Stratego, and Fortnite. Risk is one of Solomon's favourite board games, although as it takes hours to play we don't play it as often as he would like. The children had never played Stratego before, but the Lord of the Ring's version we had in the cupboard has quickly become one of Solomon's favourites. Both the games are still a bit too long for Monica, and she wanders during the game.
Lord of the Rings Stratego
Fortnite is Solomon's favourite game on the Switch at the moment, so we had a 'Family Fortnite' competition run over the week, trying to do as much damage as possible to other players. We also got the children to create their own Fortnite islands, combining places from the game with suggestions of their own.
Solomon and Monica's Fortnite maps
Solomon and Monica also created their own Fortnite stories and strategies.

One of Solomon's Fortnite stories:
Lots of people were jumping off the Battle Bus at Greasy Grove, Desert City, Wailing Woods, Tall Towers, Loot Lake, Dusty Divit, and Snobby Shores, but, there were two people still on the Battle Bus. One of them jumped of at Death Hut, the other jumped off at Haunted Hills. The person who went to Haunted Hills found an uncommon tactical shotgun, and a green bolt-action sniper rifle, and an epic rocket launcher. The person at Death Hut went inside the hut and there was a trap on the ceiling and lots of holes. He fell down a hole and built some steps up. He then opened a chest and in the chest was a blue bolt-action sniper rifle and a rare assault rifle. Meanwhile, the circle included Snobby Shores, Loot Lake, Dusty Divit, Wailing Woods, Tall Towers and Desert City. So the person at Death Hut ran to the edge of the island and built a bridge to Junk Junction. Then he went to Dusty Divit, and the person at Haunted Hills went to Fatal Fields, and found a chest. In the chest was three small shield potions and a shield potion, and a legendary assault rifle. He picked up the legendary assault rifle and the small shield potions. He put two of them on, and swapped the last one for the shield potion. Then he went to part of Lucky Landing because only part of it was in the circle. Then he went to Snobby Shores because the storm had now taken over all of Lucky Landing. Part of Loot Lake was in the storm too. By the time he got to Snobby Shores, the circle had moved. The circle now included Tall Towers, Desert City and Wailing Woods. He went to part of Wailing Woods because only part of it was in the circle. But by then, the circle included Tall Towers and Desert City. When he was going to Tall Towers he was being shot at, so he built a fortress three floors high around himself, with a door and window.  But, he accidentally built his fortress four floors high and the other person broke the bottom of the fortress so he died because he took a lot of damage when he fell down the big hole at Death Hut earlier. Now there were two people left, including the one that had killed the person. He went to a clump of trees in Desert City and waited for the last person to enter into Desert City. When he saw the last person came through the storm wall he built a big fortress six floors high. But, the bottom of the fortress was destroyed. He had five health left, and so ran away.  The other person in the clump of trees chased him, and took shots at him. He built a metal box around himself and put a chug gug on. He broke the metal box while the other person started building a fortress three floors high but he accidentally built it six floors high. The person who didn’t build the fortress had a rocket launcher, and broke the bottom of the fortress. And the person on top of the fortress had one health left. He ran away and jumped a lot. But he was shot because he was running around a hill. The person who was chasing him, ran round the other side of the hill, and shot him, and killed him. He won the battle because he was clever.
Monica's Fortnite story:
One girl jumped off the Battle Bus at Flush Factory, she collected lots of guns, then she went to Wobbly House to make sure she was inside the circle and out of the storm. At Wobbly House she went up the stairs, and collected a shield potion. She stayed inside Wobbly House until the storm moved again. Then she decided to go to Lucky Landing and got lots of wood from the pink tree. Then she went to Poo House, and used up all her bullets shooting someone in the bedroom in Poo House. She went to look for more bullets outside the disco which was nearby. She didn’t manage to find any. But then she found some on the dancefloor inside the disco. The music was playing so she had a little dance too. Then she was shot by a boy whilst she was dancing and not paying attention. The person who shot her took her guns, then they left and made their way to Lucky Landing. At Lucky Landing, the boy got lots of wood from the pink tree. Then he went to Tall Towers to try to get more guns, and he managed to find an assault rifle, and a sub-machine gun. He also got a shield potion. He heard someone coming, so he hid behind a tree, and then shot them as they walked past. He picked up their guns, and then saw a Llama PiƱata in the distance. He went across to it and opened it, and got lots of goodies from it. One of the goodies he got was a Boogie Bomb, which he threw, and it made everyone dance for 5 seconds. The storm was closing in so then he had to head to Flush Factory where there was only one other person left. He was then shot by a girl, so he didn’t win.
Next week's project: Myths and Legends.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Project 51: Pond Life!

Ferry Meadows, the local country park, had a pond dipping session for home educated children this week, so we decided to make pond life the week's project. Unfortunately it turned out to be a project that went wrong from start to finish!

Firstly, the Ferry Meadows pond dipping event was cancelled due to the algae levels being too high, so the children did a living things trail and plant cycle hunt instead. 
Not pond dipping at Ferry Meadows
Luckily there are a number of other nature reserves in the local area, so we decided to try pond dipping at one of those on our own. Bob's Pond was the closest, but unfortunately it wasn't particularly accessible for the children as the water levels were a bit low.
Not pond dipping at Bob's Pond
We had ordered a number of pond dipping books from the library, but seemingly even intra-library loans were beyond the capacity of our local underfunded library this week as they didn't arrive twice due to 'staff shortages'. So we bought a secondhand book online: My First Book of Pond Life. 
It's a good book for small children, nothing too excessive: clear illustrations and descriptions, and a checklist in the back. Unfortunately, although it was listed as 'Used-Very-Good', the checklist was filled with the previous owner's pen ticks. Nonetheless it did appear just in  time for our last wildlife walk of the week. 

Although we've visited Thorpe Meadows many times, we'd never visited the nearby Boardwalks nature reserve, in fact we'd never even heard of the hidden network of ponds and woodland walks before doing a search for local ponds. It even promised a pond dipping platform! Unfortunately despite a long walk round with three increasingly exhausted children, we never spotted the platform or found a pond suitable for dipping. We did, however, allow the children to get their nets wet in the nearby river inlet in Thorpe Meadows. 
Boardwalks and Thorpe Meadows
Of course there was only one way the week's pond dipping was going to finish: Solomon managed to fall in the river, although he is adamant that he was pushed by his two year old brother. Luckily it was very shallow and we had spare clothes. 

We did do a couple of craft activities this week as well, making life-cycle of the frog pictures and origami jumping frogs.
Origami and life-cycle of frogs
Despite the total pond dipping failure, we did enjoy the local parks on our doorstep, and we will try pond dipping again in the spring...the books might be in the library by then as well!

Next week's project: Battles!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Project 50: Bread!

Our second child officially started being home educated this week, and so the title of the blog has been changed appropriately from Educating Solomon to Educating Solomon and Monica, and we gave Monica the first choice of project. She chose Bread.

Bread is a topic that we have been planning to do since our visit to Lincoln Castle almost a year ago (Project 3: Medieval Castles). The nearby Ellis Mill in Lincoln is one of the few working mills that is easily accessible to us by train, but while we have waited and waited for it to open up again, it has been resolutely closed for maintenance. Therefore the week has mostly been focused on watching videos about the bread making process, making our own bread, and seeing what the local supermarket had to offer.

The bread machine was turned off for the week, and the children were introduced to the idea of kneading the bread by hand. First for a regular white loaf:
Handmade white
And then for some wholemeal rolls, although unfortunately the rolls didn't turn out very well, as the grease proof paper stuck to the bottom!
Wholemeal rolls with added paper
We learnt our lesson for the final bake of the week, and returned to the Bacofoil non-stick dimpled paper as we attempted to make some stottie cake (a type of bread from the North East - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stottie_cake).
Stottie cakes
We also bought a selection of breads from the local supermarket, so the children could try a few they don't usually eat.
A selection of supermarket breads
Unsurprisingly they were keener on the hot cross buns that the German rye bread.

Monica enjoyed her first week of home education, but she also managed to break the kitchen mixer tap whilst making the stottie cakes, so she may be going into mainstream education sooner than she thinks!

Next week's project: Pond life.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Reflections on 1 Year of Home Education

It's hard to believe our first year of home education is over. On the one hand, looking back over the blog, we can see how many different things we have done, on the other hand it feels as though time has rushed passed so quickly!

We have enjoyed home education, albeit in an increasingly hostile political environment, and look forward to home educating two children from tomorrow.

Solomon's progress
On the practical level of his reading, writing, and arithmetic, Solomon is undoubtedly progressing well. Although his handwriting isn't astronomically different between the beginning and the end of his first year, he now happily writes much more, more fluently, and without needing as much help with spelling. 

Home Education Diaries
He is now starting his key stage 2 maths workbooks, and loves to read a wide variety of books to himself (especially Beast Quest, Dirty Bertie, Horrid Henry, and 13 Storey Treehouse). The only problem with his reading is that because it's so good, we probably don't read with him as much as we should.

We've enjoyed the project based approach to home education. It gives the week structure, but without being too rigid. Every project inevitably spawns ideas for new projects, so there's always a growing list of projects and topics we want to explore. We'll continue with this approach for the next year. 

Negative views of home education
Whilst we are happy with our home education decisions, it seems as though society increasingly isn't. I'm not sure if it's because we are now home educating that we are more aware of the criticisms of it (i.e., frequency illusion), or if there is a rise in criticisms in response to the rise of home education. Either way it feels as though there are increased calls to clamp down on the current freedom to home educate. 

Hostility to home education is evidenced by the Home Education Bill of the Labour peer Lord Soley and the home education policy of the Liberal Democrats. Lord Soley's bill, currently making its way through the houses of parliament, calls for local authorities to monitor children receiving elective home education, and the Liberal Democrats, a supposedly liberal party, have an increasingly illiberal home education policy:
"9.1.3 We would therefore require that children who are being educated outside a registered school be visited biannually by a representative of the LA to ensure that appropriate education was being given and that such children are being educated in line with the national curriculum entitlement set out above, with a focus on those who have minimal contact with agencies and are at risk of falling through the system."
It is depressing how quickly politicians are willing to intrude into family life, and dictate what and how parents teach their children. Millions of children are currently being failed by underfunded schools which are unfit for the purpose of educating children in a changing world, and yet the state continues to try and impose its failing model on parents who are trying to do the best for their children. 

Education is more than the creation of conformist consumerist cogs, and it is concerning how quickly our freedoms are being thrown away and we move towards a situation where our children belong to the state rather than their family. As an economic socialist what I find particularly depressing is the fact that I will have to rely on the Tories to defend our human rights.

Nonetheless, for now, we will continue to embrace the freedoms we have and argue against those attempts to take them away. 

Our growing class
It's not only the end of our first year of home education, but also the end of home educating just one child. From Monday the blog will become 'Educating Solomon and Monica' as our four year old is now officially of school age.

As a summer child, the idea of putting Monica into a school is even more farcical than it would have been for Solomon. She is a child who seems more likely to be bothered by peer-pressure, and if there is one thing that we've picked up from parents who do have their kids in school, is how quickly the children descend into cliques and some become ostracised. Whilst 'socialization' is increasingly promoted as an important part of school (because the education arguments so often fail), school socialization seems to have more in common with Lord of the Flies than the ideal promoted in the press. 

Monica can already read and write, and is looking forward to starting her official home education. For us there will be the challenge of balancing Solomon's and Monica's interests, and as Monica has already mentioned she wants to do projects on Frozen and 'talking horses' we know we will have to be very selective with her choices!

So , all in all, despite the politicians' best efforts, we've had a good year, and look forward to the next year ahead.