Category Archives: Linky Love

100 Ways to Home Educate – Doing it our way

Over the last week the 100 ways to home educate blog hop has celebrated home education and has already shown how no two families are the same. We’ve seen autonomous, unschooling and structured home education and read about how these styles work for each family, and yesterday Katie from At Home with the Grays talked us through her semi-structured approach. Today is my turn…

Our style of home education is, well autonomous I guess. But our days will be nothing like the previous family’s. And that is what I love. Our days are ours to do with as we please. If we are feeling really keen we might sit down and do some work at the table. Most of the time screen based learning works best though and so we use Reading Eggs and Khan Academy on the computer and occasionally Apps too. We usually have a semi-project type thing on the go, but the learning around this can be anything from project folders of colouring, writing, craft, worksheets etc, to solely verbal discussion based learning. We have two large display boards in our living area and I always have one based on our current topic/project. At the moment this is Africa as we have friends who spent Christmas in South Africa with family and the kids spent a lot of time looking on a map to see where they were and asking questions about it. This is how I/we usually choose what the next topic will be .. someone will show an interest in something and we go from there! Some of the things we’ve done in the past include the Stone Age, the human body, life cycles, energy, WWII and the Great Fire of London.

We have several group/planned activities throughout the week. Some of these are paid for termly activities that I am slightly more insistent that we attend such as swimming and Forest School, some are paid for but I am more relaxed about (Brownies/Cubs/Beavers) and some are pay-as-you-go ones such as our HE group and HE ice skating. While we do usually go to all of these every week, if something else comes up we will amend our week to fit. We normally also have a couple of social get togethers/playdates with friends throughout the week too, both indoor and outdoor, but these are very much ad-hoc and are arranged on a weekly (sometimes on the day!) basis.

One thing both Gordon and I are quite keen on is limited screen time and more outdoor time. While the kids do have access to computers, TV, adapted iPhones (no SIM so more like an iPod) and we do own a PS4 and Nintendo DS we limit the time the kids can spend on any device and don’t really let them play many screen-based games. And, to the great annoyance of all 3 kids, we have a blanket ban on Minecraft because it seriously affects their behaviour. Jasmine’s personality in particular means that she struggles to switch off from the game, she gets very cross when she can’t do whatever she wants with a game, and she frequently ends up crying because of a game. This is no fun for anyone, including her (although she doesn’t always see it like that!). TV is limited less than “devices” but I know how lucky I am that the kids all love watching documentaries (especially Planet Earth/wildlife type ones), Horrible Histories, wildlife based kids programmes (Deadly 60, Naomi’s Nightmares of Nature) as well as the usual stuff like Pokemon and CBBC. We also all play Pokemon Go every day and the kids have an account between them. I am fully aware that the reason I let them do this is because I want to play and that makes me a hypocrite of huge proportions! I justify it to myself by saying that we are at least outdoors, and we do have rules around it such as if they look down at the screen when there in nothing going on and they are just fiddling with the game, then the phone gets taken away for a while.

And then while we probably have more screen time in the winter, when the weather warms up we can usually be found in the garden, in a local park or woodland, or exploring the beautiful countryside we are so lucky to live close to. And we can go days in the summer with no screen time at all, including no TV (the kids that is… I admit that Gordon and I do struggle when we can’t at least check our emails and Facebook!)

So, autonomous for us means no “typical” day as such. We can spend a few weeks at a time doing similar activities but then the season will change, our mood will change or an interest will change, and with it our “typical” day will change.

You can see what this week has looked like so far here, here and here. Thursday included french homework, a quick Pokemon Go walk, HE group (including a french lesson for Jasmine and Thomas, a Trivial Pursuit team quiz that J&Ts team won, and a group Happy Birthday to Ben!), Beavers for Ben and Cubs for Thomas, Harry Potter aloud and quiet reading before bed for Jasmine and Thomas. Today is more relaxed and so far we’ve had super quick breakfast eating and getting dressed so all the kids can get on and finish building Ben’s birthday Lego model. Now their friend has arrived and they’ve finished the model they are all upstairs playing Lego Nexo Knights and I imagine that’s where they’ll stay until it is time to go ice skating this afternoon! (EDIT: I was wrong, they’ve had an argument and now come down to watch TV!)

Ice skating will take up the majority of the afternoon.. it includes a 20 minute lesson and probably one and a half hours play and skate with a group of their friends. After that, well I don’t know.. probably more Lego, maybe some TV, definitely more Harry Potter, chores, maybe a walk out for Pokemon gyms or Chansey catching if it stops raining!

And that’s us. That’s our way of doing it and at the moment it works. Next Monday, head on over to Paper and String to find out about how she facilitates learning with her two girls.


Chessington Zoo – Ben’s birthday day out

For the last couple of years, rather than have the whole big crazy party thing we have taken the kids out somewhere special for their birthday. This year Ben decided he wanted to go back to Chessington Zoo – the same place we went this time last year. It is the same place as the theme park but only the zoo part is open at this time of year .. perfect for us because it doesn’t get too busy and it is a lot cheaper for a zoo day than when the full park is open!

This year was made even more special because lots of family members and some friends came with us too, so Ben had lots of people to spoil him throughout the day 🙂

Because we’ve been to the zoo before the kids knew exactly what they wanted to see first .. the SeaLife Centre of course!


You could tell we’d not been to an aquarium/sealife centre for a while as the kids couldn’t get enough of the animals! They really do love fish, sharks, rays .. really everything to do with sea life. By the time we’d walked round and found our way to the shop it was lunch time.

After lunch we started on the larger animals. Following the “Trail of the Kings” we saw the Fossa, Lynx, Binturong, Tiger and Gorilla. This is one of my favourite parts of the zoo because I love the big cats and gorillas. The kids did like looking at them but because they don’t tend to do much when they aren’t eating, they don’t want to stand and look at them for as long as I could!


We also compared ourselves to a gorilla …. Gorilla’s have much longer arms than us it seems!


Next we decided to go to see the animals in Amazu. We almost missed this part last year because we left it so late to go, so I was keen to make sure we fitted it in this year! We all love the monkey walk-through so that was the obvious place to start. We had quite a wait to get in, and then when it was our turn there weren’t many monkeys out as they didn’t like the wind! But we got to see some Golden-Headed Lion Tamarins and a couple of Geoffrey Marmosets.


We also saw the Capybara, the Spider Monkeys, the Giant Wood Rail and (Jasmine’s favourite) the Ecuadorian Red Lored Amazon.

And then it was over to Sealion Bay with minutes to spare for the start of the Sealion show.. possible our most favourite part of the whole zoo! The Sealions really do put on a great display and had everyone laughing and clapping at their antics and tricks.

5Opposite Sealion Bay are the Creepy Caves.. Well, anything creepy has my kids jumping for joy so that was where we headed next. They weren’t disappointed as we saw lizards, snakes, spiders, frogs and beetles. Ben loves the lizards, Thomas was happy to see a tarantula and Jasmine was excited by, um, all of it actually!

6The final animal of the day for us was the penguins. The penguins are new at the zoo and weren’t there this time last year so we were all excited to see them. We’d walked past them a couple of times already had watched them briefly but were keen to see the feeding and the “show”. It was well done and was fun to see the animals both in and out of the water, catching the fish that the keepers were giving them. Penguins are always fun to watch!

7Finally, just before it was time to leave we managed to squeeze in a trip through Hocus Pocus Hall. We couldn’t persuade any of the kids to go in last year (it is a haunted house attraction) but their friends wanted to go in this year so the boys decided they’d try it out. Jasmine was adamant she wouldn’t like it (and to be honest she probably wouldn’t have done), but the boys did well and faced their fears! It was actually me who freaked out the most as they had the “revolving wall” thing and I HATE that! I closed my eyes and held on to Gordon until we were through! The boys quite enjoyed most of it, although I think some of the optical illusion stuff confused Ben. Thomas only decided he wanted out when something jumped out at him! But then I found a farting chair, which they both loved 😉 And the very end was a mirror maze, which Thomas does enjoy so they both came out quite happy 🙂

We really enjoyed our day at the zoo and I have a feeling it will be requested again for Ben’s birthday next year!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Life Unexpected

Design a plate (Draw with Me – June 2014)

This months Draw with Me over at This Mummy Loves is a bit different. Whereas in previous months we have been set a theme, this month the kids have to design a plate with the chance of winning their drawing on a plate from Studio Kids Design! How fabulous does that sound!

So without further ado, here are the kids drawings…

By Jasmine:

Draw with me June JasmineBy Thomas (the solar system):

Draw with me June Thomasand even Ben joined in this month (it is me apparently!):

Draw with me June Ben


Good luck to everyone taking part!


This Mummy Loves...

Stepping Stones Walk at Box Hill

Box Hill, part of the Surrey Hills, is one of our favourite National Trust places to visit. Forming part of the North Downs, it has stunning views across the countryside and plenty of things to see and do throughout the year.

Usually when we visit Box Hill we walk along the Natural Play Trail, a two mile walk through the woods with logs to climb, dens to discover and much more. Today though we decided to try the Stepping Stones walk instead. I have wanted to try this walk for a while and today the kids were keen too, so we went for it. This walk is also two miles, but rather than being a gentle stroll along fairly flat ground it takes you from the top of the hill right down to the River Mole at the bottom, and then back up again! I was under no illusuion that it would be easy, but I hadn’t anticipated just how hard it would be!

We started at the Viewpoint, where the view really does take your breath away.


From there we started our descent. 275 steps down to the River Mole, stopping along the way to investigate fallen trees, look at tree roots, pick up lumps of chalk and look at a coppiced Hazel tree.

boxhill2Just as my legs were starting to curse the steps we reached the river! Notice I said MY legs there.. the kids were still running round as if we’d just started!

The River Mole flooded back in December and, even though water levels have dropped it looked like it was still quite fast flowing today. We stopped off for a rest before crossing and the kids played by the water edge. Jasmine was the most keen to cross so she went first with Gordon, who then came back for the boys. Thomas was quite nervous but he got more confident as he went, but Ben’s legs were a bit too short so Gordon carried him across! I was also quite nervous about crossing but I did it and was quite proud of myself!boxhill3I would love to come back to the stepping stones when the river is not so fast flowing. I know people paddle in the warmer months and Thomas and Jasmine would love that! Today wasn’t the day for it though so once we were all over we continued our walk.

We walked parallel to the river and through Burford Meadow. As the meadow opened up on one side, the other side was the wooded chalk cliff, known as the Whites. In this meadow we found a rope swing hanging from a tree, which Thomas tried out. We also saw a couple of interesting features of the river, including a fallen tree that had almost made a dam and waterfall effect. This was possibly the easiest part of the whole walk and the level path took us all the way to the road and over the bridge, where we began our ascent.boxhill4The uphill walk was horrible! I am the first to admit I am unfit, but I did really, really struggle with this. The first part of the path is so steep we actually thought we were in the wrong place! Unfortunately though, we weren’t. I take some comfort in the fact that Gordon got a little out of breath too, which shows it was tough! But we both have much respect for the kids as they all managed it with not one complaint! They are seriously fit little people!

I struggled so much with the climb that I didn’t manage to take any photos until we reached the top. All my energy was being used just to put one foot in front of the other! Once at the top though, I recovered enough to get the camera out and just in time to see the kids rolling down the hill by the Old Fort. We completed our walk (and recovery!) with hot chocolate from the cafe. Gordon and I sat down and rested and the kids played on the logs. Two miles completed and all three still had energy left to run and jump about! See, what did I say? … they are seriously fit little people!boxhill5The kids really enjoyed the walk today and to be honest, even with the horrible climb near the end, so did I. The views are beautiful and the valley and river are great places to enjoy fresh air and nature. We will attempt this walk again one day, but next time we go to the stepping stones I think we’ll use the car park at the bottom of the hill rather than walk from the top!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Draw with me – March 2014 (Spring)

I recently discovered a new linky that I thought would be perfect for us to join in with..  “Draw with me” set up by This Mummy Loves. Every month she sets a theme and I get the kids to draw a picture based on that theme. Now, we all know how much my three love drawing so they didn’t need any extra encouragement to create their works of art!

This month the theme is “Spring”

Jasmine drew a field of flowers (with roots under the ground), a rainbow, blue sky, a happy sun and birds flying.

Jasmine pictureThomas drew an apple tree and flowers, and if you look closely enough you can see he also drew the roots under the tree!

Thomas pictureBen didn’t join in this time but hopefully we will join this linky every month now so he’ll get his chance to create a masterpiece!

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