Our home education year – Looking back

We don’t follow the school terms here and now that we’re back from our month in Trinidad and Tobago and don’t have family staying with us, getting back to our usual routine makes sense. We’ve agreed that from next week we’ll be returning to the homeschooling rhythm that gently structures our lives. So I thought I’d do little catch up on the highlights of the last “homeschool year” before jumping into the new. Had Talitha been in school this would have been her Year 2 and it would have been Ophelia’s preschool year.

Talitha starting violin lessons last September was the biggest change to our homeschool routine. Unless we’re rushing out the door, we try to start the day with violin practice so that she’s fresh and we’re both motivated. This tends to flow straight into a pile of books or a planned activity so violin has become the main thing that structures our day. I hadn’t thought that she’d start an instrument at six but she asked and was super keen. A year later, she still loves it and is excited about working towards her grade one exam.

We also began a structured study of history with Story of the World this past year. This has been quite a hit. I loosely pull ideas from The Well Trained Mind, amongst other things, and this is one of the associated resources. However, we’re taking things very much at our own pace and spending lots of time on specific areas of interest. So we stayed for a long time with the ancient Egyptians and are still on the Romans with quite a long way to go before moving on to the next book.

I was surprised to find how into it Ophelia got. She was typically running in and out, playing with the toy kitchen or dressing up and generally seeming not to be at all paying attention to what we were doing but every now and then she’ll pull out something about the Greek gods or I’ll find a drawing of the Parthenon and I’ll wonder when she picked up on that.

Talitha’s also been doing history workshops once a month with the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro and Ophelia will be joining her for the last couple this coming term.

I’ve just put together all the drawings, photographs of crafts and written bits from Talitha’s history study into a folder, which she’s loved looking through. This year we’ve decided to do books instead of loose pages in folders for different “subjects”, just putting everything in one book until it’s done. It feels simpler and less artificial to do it that way.

Read alouds continue to feature as the main way we learn together and while I’m still reading lots of picture books, mostly to the younger two, Ophelia began to enjoy longer form stories in the middle of the year. So I began reading them separate chapter books. I’m not sure how sustainable this is going to be long term, though. We may have to up our audiobook consumption. Certainly, I’m thinking we might get next book of Story of the World on CD.

In terms of reading to herself, Talitha started the year with me still checking whether a book might suit her reading ability and finished it reading Harry Potter. A lot of our “school day” involves her disappearing with somewhere with the book.

This is also the year, she took up cursive handwriting. I hadn’t thought of introducing it yet but she insisted she wanted to write like me and asked me to write all the letters out in a book, which she then used as a reference for writing letters, signs, invitations to imaginary parties, menus and so on. She asked me to show her how to join them as she went along. Basically, she just kept going until she could write them comfortably. I can honestly say her cursive is completely self taught.

We loved following Exploring Nature with Children a bit more this year, though I definitely wasn’t as dedicated to it as I could have been. Mainly, it got us into the habit of nature journalling – so much so that the girls often ask me to take photos of things to sketch later on. Our animal encyclopaedia and various British wildlife reference books have been well used this year. We are so, so lucky to have all of Cornwall to explore in.

We’ve done a lot of projects inspired by magazines, especially OKIDO, Wildlife Watch and Whizz Pop Bang. This is the first year we’ve done so much of that sort of thing, probably because both of the older two have been pretty into it. It’s still been a huge balance with a toddler and I’m not sure that’s getting any easier now that Delilah’s two, with naps growing less reliable.

Talitha and Ophelia also work through the lessons on Mystery Science together, which they can do pretty much independently – a great help when my attention is elsewhere.

The girls asked to learn French so we were using Muzzy off and on and had an occasional French class with a native speaker but it just wasn’t really working. We switched to Spanish as a more regular class opened up (and with A-level Spanish I hoped I could support them more) but the timing was difficult and I realised we needed something that I was involved in. So we’ve got a few at home resources and we’re just going to DIY it for now. They’re still really keen on French so I’m trying to wrap my head around how to keep bringing that in as well.

Maths is interwoven into everything else we do, from music theory to cooking to Sudoku to working out what time something is happening. However, we have also been using Life of Fred, Spielgaben and Mathseeds. And Talitha loves asking me to write down things for her to work out too.

This year, I’m not sure what we’re going to carry on with. I have to really watch costs so we may give Fred a rest and I’m thinking that we won’t renew Mathseeds and Reading Eggs. Talitha has finished the main Reading Eggs game but uses all the other language arts resources in there and Ophelia has been using it as well. It’s a bit pricey for two kids, even with discounts and I don’t really want to get it just for one of them. So, I don’t know. I also find that the Spielgaben learning resources require more parent input than I can give right now. At the same time, Talitha is hungry for more in this area so I’m thinking to suggest she try Khan Academy again and see how she likes it.

Our approach to “preschool” has been to let Ophelia play and dip in what we’re doing as she likes, attempting an experiment or craft if she asks to and showing her how to write something if she asks. She’s picked up loads of writing this way and she’s started recognising sounds but her reading is emerging in a very different way than it did for Talitha. She constantly surprises us with addition or subtraction that she’s simply worked out in her head. None of this has been taught. In many ways, I think she benefits from me being more hands off because I’m busier and more laid back than I was when Talitha was four.

My big takeaways from this year have been to make time for my own learning and creating, schedule lots of time at home where we’re not doing anything in particular and make the most of what we already have. And as I look forward into the coming year, my big words are simplicity, patience and trust.

What about you? Have you taken a break over the summer holidays or have continued as they usually do?

Our homeschool term: Spring

We’ve been following Story of the World since September. It’s our first year consistently checking out history. I very loosely look to The Well Trained Mind for ideas of what to offer when so we’ve been hanging out in the ancient world.

Six-year-old Talitha has been drinking it all in and was especially enthralled with ancient Egypt. I suggested we pick up the pace quite a bit more this past term because I imagined she would love arriving in ancient Greece (we have and she is) but we found lots to capture the imagination along the way, especially in ancient China and Persia.

Last term, I read them adaptations of The Trojan Horse, The Odyssey and Shanhameh: The Persian Book of Kings (still going on this one and she’s read it to herself a couple of times too).

In all this, I’m amazed at how interested Ophelia is. She often wanders in and out doing her own thing, not appearing to be listening at all and then will ask a poignant question or later muse about something we’d been reading or talking about. I don’t think she’s even aware that we’re reading these things primarily for Talitha’s benefit. To her there’s no demarcation. She may only have just turned four but she regards herself as home educated. All the things we do are, to her, just another part of how we live together.

And so she expects to participate. She’s been asking me to write words for her, which she copies, and she now knows most of the letter sounds and can sound out very simple words. She recognises a lot of numbers and works out simple sums without realising that’s what she’s doing.

I’m so laid back with her, partly because in the end Talitha became a fluent reader on her own. Apart from occasionally offering her Reading Eggs or, more recently, Teach your monster to read so she can play alongside Talitha, I just let Ophelia be. As she fills pages with random numbers and letters, three-letter words and her own name, as she sits and recites books to herself and her baby sister telling me she’s reading, it’s such a pleasure seeing her develop in her own way, a constant surprise.

This last term saw her suddenly shift to longer books so although we have a steady stream of picture books, she devoured James Herriot and was suddenly all about Beatrix Potter – we need to get some more of the latter. She also listened to her first chapter book, My Father’s Dragon, which is also the first chapter book I read to Talitha when she was four.

Talitha has read it a few times since so I read her The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We’d been putting it off for ages because I tried reading it to her about a year ago and she was too worried about what would happen when they got to the witch so we shelved it. With a lot of discussion and the promise that we’d stop if it became too much, we approached it again. This time, the book was a delight from start to finish. This was absolutely the right time for her to encounter it. I’m glad I didn’t try to push through with it when she was five.

At the moment we’re halfway through Charlotte’s Web. Talitha’s already read it but she’s finding that listening to it is quite a different experience. We found the same with Little House on the Prairie. She flew through it on her own, enjoyed it and clearly understood it because she kept accidentally giving us spoilers when I read it aloud but she was still super keen for me to read it.

I’m finding that she’s begun to prefer to read fiction to herself than to be read to. Recently I’ve been wondering how to navigate this and I found the transcript of The Read Aloud Revival’s recent podcast on reading aloud to 8-12 year olds helpful on this point. Sarah McKenzie explains why we stop reading to children when they become proficient readers and value of continuing to read to them. For one thing, their listening comprehension is generally a lot higher than their reading comprehension so it exposes them to richer language and prompts discussion. Reading aloud also keeps a relationship around books open, which I’m keen to sustain. Anyway, do check that out if it’s something you’re interested in. It’s given me lots to consider.

We started using Mystery Science this last term which both of the girls are loving. The lessons are videos with open and go activities, set by grade. If there’s any writing required, Ophelia just draws instead. Again, there’s no expectation that she’ll join in but she expects to join in! We spent the term mostly on the human body, driven mostly by Ophelia’s many questions. So we looked for “mysteries” on body systems, dug out a Whizz Pop Bang magazine on bones and an OKIDO magazine on lungs and read the human body books we have here at home.

We once again moved a lot of our home ed stuff to the dining room. We have a playroom but I think I need to stop insisting that all this stuff has to live there when the kitchen/dining room is the natural hub of our home. This included putting rehoming the Spielgaben (a collection of open ended wooden toys we managed to get second hand a few years ago) in our diningroom shelf which has been brilliant for encouraging me to use it.

They’re always creating with it but it was a bit out of sight out of mind for me in the playroom so moving it here got me looking at the resources that came with it and I asked Talitha whether she’d like to try out the maths games. So that’s been fun to do alongside Life of Fred and Mathseeds and I’ve had a new appreciation for the precision the collection is made with in terms of how the sets all fit together. I’ve also started offering Delilah sets to play with. She loves hiding the knitted balls, posting pieces or threading beads on a stick.

The older two are also heavily into boardgames now that Ophelia can (with support) hold her own. That’s even led to them inventing games of their own. Talitha’s also started using Scratch, which is one of her favourite things right now, a fun free programme which teaches kids to code by allowing them to create games and animations.

As always it was a term of special days with Candlemas Day, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, Chinese New Year and, of course, Easter. And Talitha and Laurence went to see a touring First Experiences version of Julius Caesar by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Newquay. I’m still gutted I was too ill too go but it was a good experience for them to share. AND it snowed and settled! TWICE! Thrice?! I actually can’t remember. In Cornwall where it NEVER snows! I know that’s more a life thing than a home ed thing but actually, it all flows into each other, doesn’t it?

Talitha’s continuing with the violin and Beavers and both she and Ophelia took up capoeira last term and have just started with a Spanish class. We’ve also continued with our community art group. I’m conscious that we’re probably too busy (and it all adds up!) and Talitha has been asking about swimming lessons so we’ll have to make some changes this term.

The takeaway for me, as always, is that a lot happens without me noticing or needing to cause it happen. We don’t have any plans for the term ahead but I’m going to try to chat about what we’re up to a bit more regularly here on the blog. I tend to share a lot on my Instagram stories if that’s more your jam. We’re likely going to continue using the resources I mentioned here but the changes I expect we’ll slow down a lot, spend more time up at the allotment and once the boat gets in the water, that’ll become a focus too.

Our homeschooling month – October

November is well underway but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to look back on what we got up to in October. Reflecting helps me to make sense of what our lives look like right now. Yet I’m also cautious because I would hate for someone to misconstrue this as any kind of “how to”. The shape of our home education mirrors the shape of our family in whatever season we happen to be in. For this reason, comparison is unhelpful. That said, I like seeing what other people get up to and perhaps the same is true for you.

Talitha got seriously into cursive handwriting this month. She asked me to write out an alphabet of lowercase and uppercase letters in cursive and religiously traced and copied them. She kept it for reference and checked with me if she wasn’t sure how letters joined together. Now almost everything she writes is in cursive as she wants to practise. I hadn’t intended to suggest cursive to her anytime soon so it’s one of those things that’s been led entirely by her, which is probably also why she’s got the hang of it quickly and finds it fun.

Ophelia is also writing lots of letters (mostly not in any particular order) and can now identify a lot of their sounds. She’s also suddenly started picking out the beginning sounds of words and points to words in books to ask what they are. She’s enjoying longer stories now, often asking questions or making surprising observations as we read to her.

The month’s big read aloud was Heidi. Talitha requested it, having read an adaptation. We’ve really enjoyed it though it’s a lot heavier than I remember! We’re still going, actually! Laurence has also started reading her Tarka the Otter.

We’ve continued to follow Story of the World, which I’ve mentioned before. We’ve spent the month on Ancient Egypt. The curriculum moves on to other things soon but we may stay here for a while as it’s really captured both girls’ imaginations. Talitha particularly enjoyed making a cuneiform tablet and a hieroglyphic scroll and listening to me read Jacqueline Morley’s Egyptian Myths.

We missed the monthly French lesson as it fell in half term when we were in the Isle of Wight with friends but they’ve been learning French on an online programme called Muzzy. I got a huge discount on it earlier this year but was a bit confused by it. Now that the baby fog has lifted a bit, I took another look and it’s actually pretty impressive. Talitha needs some support to do the written games but she’s getting a lot out of it and Ophelia enjoys the videos.

Violin practice has naturally added a little structure to our day. We hit a wall with it this month with Talitha not wanting to practice and I reminded her that she didn’t have to do it. This freed us to talk about what she was finding difficult and what we could change to make practice more enjoyable. I needed to recognise that it is a tiring instrument to learn. I think she’s benefited from knowing that she’s in charge of the process, and that it is a process – it sometimes takes time to learn things.

We’ve vaguely continued using Lynn Seddon’s Exploring Nature with Children, if only for ideas of what to look out for on our walks and read aloud suggestions. The harvest moon so captured both of their imaginations. We tried looking at it from the woods opposite our house but the kids weren’t keen so we viewed it from our top floor instead. I wish we’d taken them to the beach to see it rise as friends had done. Next year. We also made leaf crowns, did a spot of pond dipping and had fun sketching pumpkins in our nature journal as well as learning about their seeds.

This month also threw up a fun opportunity to learn about Diwali, India and Trinidad & Tobago – where I’m from and where the Hindu festival is a big deal. We made diya inspired lamps from air drying clay and had a go with henna.

They’ve been gardening with Laurence as he gets into micro greens and continues his challenge to keep our salad going through the winter. They also planted some bulbs in the front garden bed. We may be getting an allotment so they may be getting into that too. I’d like to say I would too but I’ve got out of practice with gardening and I think I may have lost interest! Is that bad?

The girls asked if we could do a “theme” and they suggested sea creatures. They used to have themed days at their childminder’s in Bristol. To be honest, I was really daunted by the idea. Anything I have to prepare is still really tricky when Delilah is often in arms in the evenings.

As it turned out, they were happy to come up with their own crafts and asked to do activities and experiments from the aquatic issue of Whizz Pop Bang. We still have a few more to do and they’re not ready to move on yet so we’ll be continuing with this theme too.

We’ve read pages they’ve chosen from our animal encyclopedia, looked at books from our collection and the library and checked out videos online. I’m trying to weigh up whether Blue Planet 2 would be a bit scary. Talitha has been sketching various animals and writing down her favourite facts about them.

Serendipitously, this all tied in with a field trip to Plymouth Aquarium with a home education group for a workshop day. I’d love to take the girls back for a day where they could just wander and spend more time on whatever they find most fascinating, though.

The trip made me realise that we really don’t need to be travelling long distances and doing lots of activities. While that stuff is fun, it’s tiring and maybe not the best way to spend our resources. So I’m trying to focus instead on slowing down, keeping it local and making the most of what’s free. Education is not a sprint. We don’t have to do it all now. We hopefully have lots of time to explore different things at the ages when they’re the most meaningful.

Ten Charlie and the Chocolate Factory activities for younger children

This post was originally published in November 2015. It reappears here in collaboration with million eyez.

We’ve just finished a happy romp through the wonderfully bizarre world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Having realised from page one that this chapter book was going to be a hit, I gathered a few ideas for activities we could try alongside it. For my four-year-old, it was delightful to dig deeper into the experience of the story. For my 21-month-old, it meant she didn’t keep trying to pull the book out of my hand or take me some place else.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-3

Make a family tree
The book opens by orderly naming the people in Charlie Bucket’s family. I’d been wanting to do a family tree for a while so we took the opportunity to print out photos, cut and stick them and draw lines to show relationships. I helped Talitha with ours but she went on later on to draw Charlie Bucket’s family tree on her own.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-5

Sweetie Swoop game
We’ve been having fun with the whole sweetie theme by playing a board game called Sweetie Swoop which Talitha got for her birthday this year. It nicely accompanies chapter 11 where he goes into the sweet shop. It’s such fun. In general board games and card games are a brilliantly easy way to develop maths skills while doing something together that we both enjoy.

Drink hot chocolate
When you finally make it inside the chocolate factory, meeting the chocolate river calls for a drink. Preferably one offered in a cup by Mr Willy Wonka and not risking falling in!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-2

Make playdough sweets
Most of the time we read, we got out the playdough. Talitha made playdough sweets and both girls generally had fun squishing and making while listening to the story.


The Inventing Room
This was an idea I came across on The Imagination Tree when looking for birthday party ideas. I put together an “inventing room” the night before which was the source of much excitement and creativity. I wish I’d taken more pictures because she got the stapler out and put together some 3D sweets later in the day.

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Make real sweets
Of course, who can read about all these amazing sweets and not want to munch something sweet. Better yet, make some! We tied this in with learning about Diwali by making coconut barfi. They were too sweet for the girls, though, so I wonder if we should have gone for biscuits in sweetie shapes instead.

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Play with fizz
All the experimentation you observe in the Mr Willy Wonka’s factory certainly tickles the imagination. The science fiction elements of this book are the bits that shine brightest. Talitha was quite taken with the fizzy lifting drinks that make you float upwards unless you burp to come down again. Inspired by this fizzy fun experiment, we got the muffin tin out and had a messy go (should have put a tray underneath as suggested in that post, mind!).

Here are few more ideas I came across but we didn’t get around to:

Make lickable wallpaper
Pipe cleaner lollipop craft
Chocolate play dough recipe

Do follow my Learning to Love Words board on Pinterest:

Follow Adele’s board Learning to Love Words on Pinterest.

I’d love if we could share our ideas on how to help kids get into books and this million eyez Photobox offers the perfect medium. With million eyez you can start a photo box in a topic to receive authentic photos you can’t find, just as I’m hoping to do here, curating, communicating and organising to cleverly crowd source what you need. Just upload your photo of your literary kids activity, whether it’s a dress up, craft, baking, creative writing prompt or invitation to play. Let’s inspire each other!

via million eyez

If you’re a blogger, you can also enter million eyez’s amazing giveaway to win your own Olypus PEN camera here!

This homeschooling life – Our October

OK, so with more than half the month gone, this post is way overdue. Suffice to say, I’m finding life a bit overwhelming right now and whenever I sit down in front of a computer I just think about all the tough bits, stress out, then go watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix instead. Healthy. But Jess, Polly and I committed to this linkup a year ago and, darn it, I will keep going.


Actually, as I sat down to write about what we got up to in October, my first thought was, “Asbolutely nothing! It was a chaotic month and there’s nothing to show for it.” But then I looked through my phone. We actually had a lot of fun together, even if it was mostly stopping to look at little ways the world changes at this time of year.

We had a lot of fun with leaves, printing, painting, sketching. We also read some poems about leaves changing colour in Autumn. It always amazes me when poetry is a hit, the words washing over the children even if they don’t totally understand what’s happening in the poems. I suppose that’s my experience of them too.


Also, since October is basically pumpkin month, we used pumpkins as a canvas for painting and carved them on Halloween. I regret not letting the girls have a go for themselves. Certainly Talitha could have managed it but I was impatient to get it over with and risk averse, which meant they got less out of the experience than they could have done. Ah well.


We spent a couple of weeks in Cornwall, housesitting for friends on their farm. The plan was to get to know Cornwall a bit more before we move but we wound up having to house hunt some more because we had to pull out of the house we were going to buy. We’re still looking, as it turns out.

Going there allowed us to visit National Trust properties. We met up with home ed friends Jess and her kids at Killerton on our way to Cornwall and went to Lanhydrock once we were down there. The older kids had fun doing a scavenger hunt around the house at Killerton and I wound up having an awkward conversation with someone there when he realised my eldest was school-aged but not in school. We’re bound to have more and more of these the older she gets so I’m trying to model courtesy and positivity but it was a reminder that sometimes the conversation is better off kept short.

Talitha went to a couple of home ed workshops without me this month. One was a fossil workshop at Bristol museum. She’s still mad on dinosaurs so it was a nice fit. The other was a mathematics day at At Bristol science centre. She had a brilliant time at both and I’m sure she learned lots but do you think she’d tell me much about what she did? Typical.

We also did lots of activities around Diwali in October, which was a fun opportunity to learn bits about India and about my home country, Trinidad and Tobago, too. We made air drying clay diyas, played with henna, coloured rangoli patterns, watched videos and photographs online and had a Diwali day at two different home ed groups, one in Bristol and one in Cornwall.

Our read aloud this month was My Naughty Little Sister. My mother bought the collection for the girls from a charity shop in the summer and I could not have predicted how much both of them would enjoy it. They found it hilarious, loved the pictures and Talitha asked lots about the era the book was set in because so many things were different. I think they strongly identified with the little sister too.


Yet all these things are just details. I don’t feel that at their ages it really matters what they learn so long as they’re exposed to a reasonable range of things. Talitha is asking hundreds of questions a day. Learning is happening, whether I’m ready or not. I’m just trying to support that. And not go crazy when I feel like I can’t possibly take listening to another question. She’s reading everything or trying to, and she’s working out sums and subtractions in the things she sees – there is no stopping that. Even if she weren’t doing those things now, she’d do it eventually and what difference would that make in the long run?

This was a hard month, though. She and I clashed lots. I questioned a lot of my choices and felt like I had too much happening and not enough space to process it. Toddlers are hard work. Babies are hard work. I flitted back and forth on my educational philosophy. I wish I could be hardcore, radical and set on what I believe about family life or just about anything, really. But I’m not. I’m open to a lot of ideas and I probably think too much.

I look back on the month and I don’t know if I did it right. I just know I tried my best and we got through it and we will get through this month. When we do, I’ll hopefully remember how good it was more than how hard it was.


Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess and Polly. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up

This homeschooling life – What May looked like

Writing these monthly summaries always feels a little odd because I could never include everything that’s happening. Home education really is a whole life pursuit. I find it helpful to look back on some of the highlights, though, and I really enjoy getting glimpses at what other home educating families get up to. Here’s what the month of May looked like for us.

This homeschooling life - May-9

Deeper interests
Dinosaurs have continued to be a strong theme here. It started with watching Dinosaur Train on Netflix and has gone far beyond that into books and museum trips, looking for answers on the Internet, weighing up conflicting information and lots and lots and lots of drawing.

I got Talitha a dinosaur activity pack from Usborne and she’s been enjoying making her way through them, absorbing all the dinosaur facts and insisting we do the crafts, including dinosaur cards as invitations for her birthday party.

I suggested we start writing her questions down in a book so we remember to look for the answers. We covered a little exercise book with paper and she’s drawn dinosaurs on both sides. Sometimes she writes in it, other times she dictates to me and I write in it.

She’s also asking lots of questions about how the human body works so we’ve been looking at books and spending time in the body section of At Bristol Science Centre at her request. I’m struck that these themes are not so much about actual details of what she’s learning but that she’s learning how to learn. That makes having more facts than I can absorb quoted at me before I’ve had my morning coffee more than worth it.

This homeschooling life - May-2

New routines and rhythms
Laurence was away working in London for a lot of May, which always drives me to keep a lot more to a routine than I normally would. This time, it’s made life so enjoyable we’ve kept it up – mostly anyway.

It’s all stuff we were doing anyway but actually giving things a time of day has just helped everything run more smoothly, whether it’s gardening, cooking or reading.

We read a children’s Bible and pray together over breakfast most mornings, followed by a chapter book. Then Talitha observes her cherry tomato plant. This started as a little activity I took along to our home ed group for a food theme but she’s really got into it. She draws it, measures it, observes it and writes her observations down. I’m not sure how much longer we’ll keep it up, though, as her interest seems to be waning so we may plot a height graph soon and maybe just keep a height chart once we’ve re-potted it in the greenhouse, which will be this week.

This homeschooling life - May-4

Our caterpillars from Insectlore also arrived this week, so they’re keeping an eye on them with their magnifying glasses and we’re all getting a thrill out of watching them grow, sometimes seeming to double overnight! They’re getting ready to build their cocoons right now so both girls are extremely excited. They’ve even named them: Susie, Tiss-Tiss, Tree and I can’t remember the other two.

The biggest change has been re-organising their play room. I’ve been decluttering and working at making everything accessible, easier to find and easier to put away. It’s made a huge difference to the way they operate in that space now and the things they find to do on their own. I’ll write more about this when I put together a post on the playroom soon. I just want to re-paint and do a last bit of sorting first.

This homeschooling life - May-8

We’ve also really enjoyed taking life outside this month as it’s been so sunny. A parasol sent to us by Homebase from their garden furniture range has allowed us not only to comfortably eat lunch and read outside – making both feel like a treat too! – but drawing and more structured activities have taken to the garden table too as a result. It’s a brilliant blue and has given us yet another reason to welcome the sunny weather.

This Homeschooling Life - May

What we’re using

She’s pretty obsessed with her Alphablocks magazines so I’ve been keeping the one she’s working on in a folder with the tomato plant observation sheets so she always knows where it is and that’s usually what we do next, as long as we’re not rushing out to something in the morning. If we are, she comes back to it in the afternoon. Ophelia gets busy with stickers and pens or the toy kitchen, a puzzle or dressing up while I’m helping her with this.

Talitha also asked for more books that she could read on her own so I got her the first set of Oxford Reading Tree books. She’s flown through them and loves reading them to Ophelia so I’m about to order the next set.

Most afternoons we get the Spielgaben out, either to just build together and play, counting things and talking about what we notice or using the printed resources that come with it. Talitha has asked for something like Alphablocks but for numbers, though, so I printed a few lessons from MEP and we’re going to see how that goes. For Ophelia, I’ve been using some Montessori ideas from blogs with the Spielgaben, which she’s loving, often changing the rules entirely and finding creative ways to use objects that I would never have considered.

What we’re reading

This month we’ve read Firwood – The Magic Garden, a real treat for Talitha because she met the author in Waterstones and had the book signed. I felt like not much happened in it before it got overly exciting towards the end but Talitha loved it the whole way through and has requested other books in the series. We also read Gerald Durrell’s The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure which tied in perfectly with her dinosaur obsession. His books are gripping, beautifully written and take you through so many ideas. We both enjoyed it as much as the prequel, The Fantastic Flying Adventure.

This homeschooling life - May-5

What we’ve been making
While sorting the playroom, Talitha discovered some light catchers she was given by her godmother a couple of years ago. She’d done some but there were a few left to paint with acrylic paints. When she ran out of sun catchers, she didn’t seem done so I offered her some little canvases I’d found. Putting acrylic to canvas proved a real thrill. It was fascinating seeing her work out what she could do with a new medium. We looked at acrylic paintings around our house and talked about how the artists use space on the canvas. Ophelia had a go too.

This homeschooling life - May-7

Last reflections
This month I’ve been struck that I’m constantly learning to strike a balance with the way I get involved in the things they’re doing. On one hand, I do want to remind them about what they wanted to do and encourage them to complete and keep at stuff. On the other, I don’t want to exert too much control over what’s happening and stifle the process.

I’ve also been amazed at the huge developmental leaps Ophelia is taking. She’s obsessed with colours, counting everything, building, putting together puzzles and has started to connect sounds to letters. She’s particularly excited to point out “O”, never failing to tell you that that’s her letter.

Above all, I love seeing my girls together and am grateful for the extended uninterrupted time that home education has given us.


Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Laura who blogs at Side Street Style
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up

This Homeschooling Life – What April looked like

With pregnancy exhaustion getting the better of me most days, it’s easy to look back on a month and think it shapeless. I’ve started writing little notes about what happens during the day and photograph more intentionally so that I remember that a lot is happening even when it feels like nothing at all. The deepest learning doesn’t always look like I might expect. Recording it informally allows me to pause long enough to notice it.

This homeschooling life - April-3

We finally finished reading The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I suggested we could find a craft to go with it since Talitha was keen to make something. Looking together on Pinterest, she was hooked on the idea of replicating this cardboard model. I inwardly groaned, wishing she hadn’t spotted it. She promised she would do most of it, picking up on me finding the idea daunting. I used a scalpel to, badly, cut out the shape of the tree and fitted it together. She and Ophelia painted it and then Talitha made everything else herself, including Dame Washalot’s washing line complete with laundry and a finger knitted basket for the children to make their way up the tree. She says she wants to make the Land of Goodies for the top.

We’ve just finished reading The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell. I wasn’t familiar with him at all as an author but I’ve been amazed at how much he packs into an exciting story with ease. The chapters are rather long but Talitha has never not asked, “Just one more!” when we’ve got to the end. His characters meet and speak to lots of animals and travel all over the world so we’ve looked at the continents they visit on our world map as we’ve gone along and looked up videos and pictures of the animals online.

Next up, Talitha’s keen to start The Magic Garden by Lynne Armstrong-Hobbs. We’re especially excited about this book because we happened to meet the author at Waterstones over the weekend! I’m sure I’ll be sharing both our impressions come this time next month.

Do check out my Love Reading and Writing board on Pinterest. I collect ideas for literacy play and to go along with stuff we’re reading.

I’m always amazed by Talitha’s ability to absorb and hold on to facts she finds fascinating. The Dinosaur Train love is still going strong here but now she’s also moved on to Jim Henson’s Sid the Science Kid. We watch both on Netflix. She often comes away from Sid episodes with ideas of things she wants to try and regularly applies concepts or methodology discussed in the program to real life. From ancient Egyptians using incline planes to move heavy objects to different ideas for melting ice, there’s a lot going on in this show.

This homeschooling life - April-4

This homeschooling life - April-2

We’ve lots happening in the garden at the moment. The girls’ potato plants have sprouted and we’re imagining what’s happening inside their bags. They’ve also planted wildflowers from a Kew Gardens’ educational programme and hung up a couple of bee shelters which have utterly fallen apart. We’ve resolved to build sturdier ones soon. In the meantime, it’s exciting observing the seedlings coming up.

I realise I never mention sort of “extras” that Talitha does but they are a part of our set up so it’s worth bringing in here. Talitha’s been continuing to enjoy ballet. I’ve ummed and ahhed about trying to convince her to try something else but it’s local, reasonably easygoing, relatively cheap and she loves it so we’ve agreed to carry on. She also goes horse riding with other home educated children once a month, which is a real highlight to the month for her. A couple of weekends ago she also started going to Blackbird Early Years Music classes, which creatively offers children a playful introduction to music practice and theory.

This homeschooling life - April

She’s recently got back into Mathseeds. It’s an online maths programme which teaches through games. She lost interest for a few months but a few weeks ago asked to try it again. We haven’t been “working” on the things that she was finding hard so I expected taking it up again to be short lived but, to my surprise, she had no trouble picking up where she left off and moving on. Her brain seems to have bridged the gap on its own.

A last thing to mention is that she’s become obsessed with making pom poms recently. I’ve been making headway on crocheting a baby blanket for the new baby recently and Talitha would finger knit while I had my kit out but she came across my pom pom maker and asked to use it. I was pretty uncertain she’d manage it on her own but not only has she cracked it but it’s become one of her favourite things to do! Now to encourage her to keep dreaming up things to do with them. She’s made toys for the cats (her idea) but we’re amassing quite a collection! We’ve had some really sweet moments around the dining table, post-breakfast all busy at our crafts, me crocheting, Talitha making pom poms and Ophelia stringing beads or cutting yarn.

Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Laura who blogs at Side Street Style
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up