Saturday, 15 December 2018

Project 64: Buildings and architecture.

Buildings and architecture was picked for this week's project to try to get the children to notice the buildings and history around them a bit more.

We introduced the concept of architecture and an architect with a short video from BBC Teach, before going on to look at the idea of listed buildings and some of those in the local area using information from Historic England.


We took the children on a walk around Peterborough to look at a range of houses from different historic periods, some of the features, and the different terminology (using Rice's Language of Buildings).
Some notable buildings in Peterborough
Both of the children were then tasked with designing their own buildings, both drawing the outside and plans of the inside. A 'plan' is quite an abstract concept for a 4 and 6 year old, so we worked through a plan of a floor in our own house first so they could get a feel for the idea.
Solomon's house and plans
Monica's house and plans

Next weeks' project: Christmas and New Year

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Project 63: Fairy tales and folklore

This week's project was a closer look at some fairy tales and folklore, exploring some of the elements of the fairy tale genre and how the stories have been told and re-told over the years. As such this week involved many more films than we'd usually watch (albeit usually accompanied by a version of the book).

As well as watching the films Shrek, Cinderella, and the Snow Queen, we also watched CBeebies presents The Snow Queen, and Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel:


Although we had expected to just introduce the Hansel and Gretel opera, thinking they'd quickly get bored of it, they actually loved it and happily watched the full two hours.

We got them to do more creative activities around the story of Little Red Riding Hood. They created their own collage of Little Red Riding Hood in the woods:
Little Red Riding Hood Collage
And after comparing three versions of Little Red Riding Hood, they had to write their own version.

Different versions of Little Red Riding Hood
The Alison Jay version is a horrible over-sanitised version of the story - with no one eaten and the wolf sent for re-education at the end - unsurprisingly Solomon and Monica went for the more traditional gobbling-up approach. In fact Solomon's had more than usual!
Solly’s Little Red Riding Hood
Once upon a time there lived a girl called Little Red Riding Hood who ran off into the woods to visit her grandmother. As she was walking along she saw something hiding in the trees, so she went to see what it was. But as she was walking towards it, it turned out to be a wolf that jumped out at her and gobbled her up. Then a woodcutter came and chopped the wolf up and out jumped Little Red Riding Hood, who continued walking to her grandmother’s house. 
When she got there Grandmother turned out to be a wolf who gobbled Little Red Riding Hood up, but then her father came and pulled the wolf’s head off. Out jumped Little Red Riding Hood who walked home with her father. 
On the way home another wolf jumped out and ate them both up.
The end. 
Monica’s Little Red Riding Hood
Once upon a time there lived a little girl who was called Little Red Riding Hood, and she went into the forest to visit her grandmother. She picked some flowers for her grandmother, and then a wolf jumped out and gobbled her up. But a woodcutter came and chopped up the wolf, and Little Red Riding Hood realised that it was her father and she hugged him. And then she carried on walking to her grandmother’s and she was overjoyed to see her grandmother. Then she went home and hugged her mother as well.
The end. 
Next week's project: Buildings and architecture.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Project 62: Money!

'Money' has been a long-standing item on the project to-do list, and as there was the opportunity for a couple of trips to London this week it seemed like a good time to do it.

We started the week by exploring coins, their attributes, and how they are made, making use of the good classroom resources from the Royal Mint museum. 

We had two museum trips this week: the Bank of England Museum, and the British Museum Money Gallery

The Bank of England museum was surprisingly engaging for young children when you consider the subject matter.
'At the helm' at the Bank of England Museum 
They particularly liked 'At the helm', a game where you sail a boat and try and keep inflation steady at 2%. Despite spending about 3 hrs in the museum they would have happily stayed longer! The Bank of England also has an app for exploring the security features of a banknote we used when we got home. 

The British Museum Money Gallery gives you more of an overview of the history of coins, from some of the earliest coins to modern credit cards and phones.
Money at the British Museum
They enjoyed looking at the money boxes, and the opportunity to explore some of the objects and ask questions at the 'hands on' desk.

We got the children to design their own commemorative 50p coins and nominate a scientist for the new £50 note (with help from the Usborne Junior Illustrated Science Dictionary). They decided to nominate Robert Hooke. 
Cinderella and Fortnite commemorative coins. 
Next week: Fairy tales and folklore

Monday, 26 November 2018

Project 61: Scientific Enquiry

During Project 43: Museums we bought Monica Learn with Peppa First Science from the Science Museum, and decided to use it's simple experiments as the basis for this week's project.
Learn with Peppa: First Science
We've done a number of science projects previously (Project 19: Science and chemistry, Project 30: Electricity, Project 37: Metals, Project 54: More Chemistry!), and we took the project as an opportunity to revisit the process of scientific enquiry. We started by reading about scientific enquiry in the Junior Illustrated Science Dictionary, which actually provoked surprisingly interesting questions about the differences between primary and secondary resources and the sharing of data online.

Most of the time was spent on the 11 experiments in the book, of which we completed 8. Each experiment introduces a key concept, such as weight, states of matter, sound waves, light, gravity, and buoyancy. As well as doing the experiments, where appropriate we also explored the concepts further. For example, looking at the whole of the electromagnetic wave spectrum and seeing how visible light is just a small part. Whereas the children had experience of infrared from the sensor in the Nintendo Switch controller, we created our blacklight to highlight ultraviolet light.
Highlighter pen under a homemade blacklight
Finally we got them to design their own experiment, and explore an aspect of their local community. They decided to explore the frequency of different coloured cars going along a local busy road. They particularly liked that they could make it into a competition, with each of them picking the colour they thought would be most frequent. Solomon won. 

Tally of car colours on the Oundle Road

Next week: Money!

Monday, 19 November 2018

Project 60: Transport

Transport was selected for this week's project, and we started the week by watching a wide variety of videos on the history of transport and some future innovations. 

They were particularly interested in cargo ships and the impact of containerization:

All three children (including the 2 yr old) really enjoyed an afternoon at the London Transport Museum, happily spending four hours looking at the various exhibits and objects. Monica particularly liked the buses, Solomon the new Future Engineers exhibit, and Sam the 'choo-choos'. 
London Transport Museum
As a more practical activity we got the children to do the WeDo 2.0 Speed guided lesson. Like most children, Solomon and Monica love Lego and the WeDo sets are a great introduction to more scientific builds, programming, and experimentation. In this case, you explore the impact of different wheel sizes on the speed of the car.
WeDo 2.0 Speed

Next week: Scientific enquiry

Monday, 12 November 2018

Project 59: Designing a computer game

It was Solomon's birthday this week and (unsurprisingly!) he wanted to pick something to do with computer games. We have previously done quite a few computer and computer game projects:


So this week we tried to get them to think more about the design of computer games, potential input devices and designing their own pixelated characters.

We started the week by watching some more videos on the history of computer games, and the film Pixels, where the world is invaded by 1980s video games (currently available on Netflix). The TED-Ed video was particularly good, but unfortunately it's only part 1, and five years later we're still waiting for part 2 to appear!

We went to Namco Funscape on the South Bank in London for our trip out. It's the closest you can get to an old fashioned arcade these days, albeit with a greater emphasis on the variety of input devices (e.g., guns, dance mats, and snowboards) and winning tickets. Solomon has already declared that he wants to go again for his next birthday as he loves it, and wants to win lots more of the Pac-Man merchandise!
Namco Funscape
At home we explored the different sorts of input devices that you could create with a Makey-Makey, and built the Nintendo Labo fishing rod. The Makey-Makey is a circuit board that you can plug into your PC and create new input devices by making simple circuits. Nintendo Labo allows you to build new input devices for the Nintendo Switch by combining the controllers with cardboard.
Playing Tetris with the Makey-Makey

Playing with the Nintendo Labo fishing rod
Finally the kids designed their own computer characters: Croc-a-roo and Sissy the Robot.
Croc-a-roo and Sissy the Robot
Solomon's Croc-a-roo is designed with traditional gameplay in mind "it snaps and jumps at baddies in a moving platform game". Monica's character is more genre-busting: "Sissy the Robot walks about waving her arms at people and then goes to live with Peach*".

*from the Mario franchise - intellectual property rights mean nothing to children!

Next week's project: Transport

Monday, 5 November 2018

Project 58: Exercise

We let Monica suggest an idea for this week’s project, and she suggested exercise, so we started the week by looking at the importance of exercise and the three main different types of exercise (aerobic, strength, and flexibility).  During the course of the week we had an exercise session focusing on each of the three different types of exercise.

For aerobic exercise we took the kids for a run around the estate where we live (going on a route which was approximately 1 mile long). Solomon took 11 mins 40 seconds to complete the route and complained every step of the way, Monica took 12 mins 34 seconds but happily ran the whole way.

For flexibility we introduced the children to yoga, and the Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube channel which combines yoga with a story. The kids did the ‘Going on a bear hunt’ and ‘Popcorn and the pirates’ workouts and really enjoyed them.

For strength, we went to a nearby park and did some pull-ups on the monkey bars, some squat jumps, step-ups, and calf lifts.

There were a wide range of other resources we also made use of: we did a ‘Fit in 5’ workout each day (which is available on Sky TV); we watched a BBC Terrific Scientific programme about the effects of exercise on our brain; and the Children’s University of Manchester had a nice section on their website about exercise, different types of muscles, and how the heart works.
We finished the week with some measurements: we took everyone’s weight and height, and worked out our Body Mass Indexes using the NHS healthy weight calculator; and the kids measured their pulse rate before and after doing some burpees to illustrate how exercise gets our hearts pumping faster.

Finally they finished by drawing a picture of the type of exercise that they enjoy doing:

Next week: Designing a computer game!

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Project 57: Living things and their habitats.

The kids were signed up to a home education workshop on living things and their habitats at Ferry Meadows, so we decided to make that the subject of this week's project.

Solomon taking the ground temperature in a quadrant at Ferry Meadows
The workshop involved looking at micro-habitats, meadow leaves, and bug hunting, and the children got to see a wide variety of insects.

We also went on our own bug and leaf hunt later in the week. We used the Autumn Leaf ID sheet from the Woodland Trust, and did some leaf rubbings/paintings.

Slug

Leaf Rubbings
Solomon and Monica were also asked to pick their own animal to explore in more detail. Solomon picked bats, and we explored some of the resources on the Bat Conservation Trust web site, including making a bat finger puppet.
Bat Finger Puppets
Monica picked rabbits, and watched a number of videos about how they lived underground:
This week's project also coincided with the BBC's Autumnwatch being available on the iPlayer, and that kept Solomon enthralled and Monica mildly interested.

Next week: Exercise

Monday, 22 October 2018

Project 56: Treasure Island

As the children were off for a family visit to the North East this week, we took it as an opportunity to explore a book in a bit more detail, more specifically: Treasure Island.

Unfortunately the full version was a bit beyond the kids this week, Monica in particular struggled with some of the colloquial language and the transcribed vernacular speech, so we read the Usborne version along with part of the full version.
The full and the abridged version of Treasure Island
BBC School Radio also have a series of accompanying videos, scripts, and activities to accompany the story.

We also got Solomon and Monica to create their own treasure maps, staining the paper with coffee and drying it in the oven.
Solomon's and Monica's treasure maps
As this is now the third map they've done as part of a project (see also Project 52: Battles and Project 2: Maps) there is now a moratorium on map making until one of them declares they want to be a cartographer!

Finally we finished the week by watching an alternative version of the story: Muppet Treasure Island.

Next week's project: Living things and their habitats.

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.

Project 49: Learning how to learn

This was the last week of our first year of home education, so we spent the week looking back over the previous projects as well as exploring how we can help Solomon learn better in the future.

Looking Back
This was the 49th of our projects, so there was plenty to look back on; re-watching videos and repeating some of the activities he liked.

Solomon's favourite five projects (in chronological order) were:
The only one he's looked back on and said he didn't like was:
Obviously you can't celebrate a year of home education without a cake, so we baked a cake and had a celebratory tea with blancmange and chocolate nests. Blancmange because it was mentioned in Roald Dahl's Matilda and Solomon wanted to know what it was, and chocolate nests because we had previously made them for Project 29: Easter and Spring (nb. we did have savoury food too, and it is extremely difficult to find chocolate mini-eggs in August!). 

Cake, blancmange and chocolate nests.

Learning How to Learn
We also started working our way through Learning How to Learn, the popular Coursera course repackaged as a book for 'kids and teens'. 
Learning How to Lean
The book is designed for older children, but seeing how the lessons from Project 6: Nutrition have stuck with him, we really hoped he'd take on board the lessons to help him become a more effective learner. Both his parents have previously done the online course, and liked the practical nature of the advice.

Solomon has undoubtedly enjoyed the subject, and likes the idea of becoming a better learner. Focused and diffused thinking are now part of his everyday vocabulary, he starts each chapter with a picture walk, recognises the potential of the Pomodoro technique for overcoming procrastination and the importance of sleep, exercise and a healthy diet for the growing brain. We highly recommend this for any parent, but especially home educators who will have more opportunity to apply the advice.
Solomon's new Pomodoro timer
Next week's project: Bread!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Project 48: Puzzles!

This week we looked at some of the wide variety of puzzles that are available for testing a person's mental agility: from Sudukos  and Crosswords, through to standalone puzzles, to the Rubik's family of puzzles.

A selection of puzzles

Solomon enjoyed most of the puzzles, although the difficulty is finding that 'Goldilocks' puzzle: one that's not too hard, not too easy, but just right. As Solomon commented on the Rubik's puzzles: "the Rubik's Junior is too easy and the others are too hard". Solomon has a lot of patience when it comes to puzzles however, and he has been regularly proposing solutions to a chess puzzle that has been set up throughout the week. Most impressively, he hasn't been tempted to look the solution up in the back of the book, in fact he was disappointed in his father's recourse to the internet for a solution to the Rubik's cube.

Solomon created his own wordsearch and crossword puzzle, incorporating those subjects that he is most interested in, i.e., computers games.
Minecraft Wordsearch & Mario Crossword

We also began to look forward to next week's project, and introduced the concepts of focused and diffused thinking when it comes to solving puzzles.

Next week's project: Learning how to learn - a year of Home Education!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Project 47: Astronauts and space flight

The Soyuz capsule that took Tim Peake into space is currently sitting in Peterborough Cathedral, so it would have been a bit churlish not to visit and make spaceflight the subject of this week's project. We previously did Project 8: Space and the Planets, but this week we looked a bit more closely  at spaceflight.

We watched What's Up In Space: The solar system for kids on Amazon Prime, and dipped into FindOut! Solar System to read about the history of the space race, manned spaceflight, and the International Space Station. We also watched the TED-Ed videos on Who Won the Space Race? and the Collaboration behind the International Space Station


We also looked at an overview of Tim Peake's mission, the rocket launch, and capsule landing, before finally seeing his capsule and spacesuit at the cathedral.

Soyuz Capsule
Tim Peake's Spacesuit
It was actually the second time we've seen the Soyuz capsule as it was at the National Railway Museum when we had a few days away in York in January, but despite our best efforts Solomon refuses to be inspired by the exploits of Tim Peake or SpaceCamp (which we also watched again).

Next week: Puzzles!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Project 46: Peter Pan

As we had a busy week of activities already planned for this week, we decided to have a book week: reading a classic of children's literature, and looking at how it had been interpreted in different films (similar to Project 24: World Book Day and the Wizard of Oz).

A few months ago the Carnegie medal winner Geraldine McCaughrean complained of the focus on children's book publishers being on creating 'accessible' books, saying instead children should be:
"...bombarded with words like gamma rays, steeped in words like pot plants stood in water, pelted with them like confetti, fed on them like Alphabetti spaghetti, given Hamlet’s last resort: ‘Words. Words. Words.’"
I think Peter Pan is the sort of book she had in mind (especially as she wrote a sequel!) - as it has plenty of new vocabulary and was a real push for us to get through in a busy week. It was a far cry from the Beast Quests that Solomon usually consumes if left to his own devices.

We watched two films: Peter Pan, and Pan. Solomon enjoyed them both, but particularly likes Pan, a far larger-than-life prequel.


Coincidentally, a trip to Knebworth House this week was also an opportunity to demonstrate how ingrained Peter Pan is in our culture, as there was a Neverland crocodile there.
Neverland Crocodile
No week is complete without at least a little craft activity, so this week we taught Solomon to make a paper hat!
A Peter Pan hat
Next week's project: Astronauts and space flight.