Monday, 30 April 2012


Wow, I was a bit confused by the bright light streaming through the gap in our curtains when I woke (was woken) up this morning - and that yellow round thing in the sky: I think I remember seeing it before, long ago...
What a difference some sunshine makes!  We were all motivated to get up and get on - the boys were raring to go before they were dressed!  DS1 wrote and illustrated a lovely story called "Gary's Hiccups" (he has a lovely Write Your Own Story book from Usborne); DS2 created some fab models of flowers etc for Mummy, and he persuaded DS3 to unload the dishwasher with him so they could both get stars for helping me; DS3 also did some lovely colouring in his ABC book - and then it was time for breakfast!
Next we checked in with the NTU falcons we've been following, & received some sad news.  Yesterday we'd noticed that one of the chicks was getting rained on despite the parents' best efforts, and it looked like he had died.  Another of the chicks had its wing pathetically stretched over the little one's body, which must have just made that one too cold and wet too - he really wasn't looking good either.  In fact, when the mum came back to the nest after a brief spell away, only one of the four original chicks could be seen calling for food :(  The webcams went down shortly after & stayed off all night.  When we checked in this morning, we were informed that two chicks had indeed perished, and a third one wasn't looking well :(  Ho hum, it may turn out to be a much shorter Science project that at first planned... but still it is a valuable (albeit very sad) lesson.  Our children are bound to encounter death at some point in our lives, and I think observing it in a fairly detached way, with relatively mild upset caused, is actually healthy for them - even if it's not what I'd have chosen :(
Well after that, we were even more keen to get out!  The car is still out of action (but is booked in at the garage on Weds - hooray!), so as it was such a lovely day, we decided to make an expedition into town on the bus.  As we rarely use the buses, it was highly exciting for all three boys (I don't think the other passengers minded the squeals of delight when we went over speed bumps).  Once in town, I only had a couple of shops to visit, so we had a lovely relaxed time, eating icecreams in the town square, and watching the pigeons & starlings.  The only slightly stressful moment was when DS3 decided he needed a wee after we had already been waiting at the bus-stop for 10 minutes.  We weren't on a particular schedule though, so I figured we'd just catch a later bus, & off we went to find the toilets.  DS2 then left his sunglasses in the toilet cubicle so we had to go back for them - but somehow we still made it back to the bus-stop in time for our bus, yay!
Home again, and after lunch DS3 was desperate to go to the park, so as the weather report is looking pretty soggy for the rest of the week, we grabbed their bikes and headed straight back out again... to make up for the last fortnight's worth of 'Physical Education'... and they do need that vitamin D! ;)
Finally, while I made tea, DS2 picked up his book on the body again, and followed me around the kitchen, reading bits out to me, and DS1 finished assembling his Weather Station.

(measures wind direction & speed, rainfall and air pressure...
we also have a thermometer but that was bought, not made!)

He is really enjoying recording his results and telling us how much better or worse each day has been, so that's been a great success!  After he's recorded a week's worth of data, we'll hopefully be looking at ways of presenting his data, such as pie charts, bar graphs etc (at least, that's my plan ;) )
Oh, and if that wasn't enough for today, DS2 had a wobbly tooth fall out: only his second one, so that was exciting for him - and timely, given his current project ;)  
That was one busy and sunshine-y day! :)

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Learning Styles

Today was quite a mellow start - at least for Mummy :)  Hubby came downstairs with the boys and let me have a lie-in :)  Once we were all up and dressed, we went to join in our church group (our church usually meets in small groups in people's homes), and had a lovely time with the boys playing with their friends (and their friends' toys) while hubby and I chatted with our friends. After we got home, we were mostly confined indoors again (no prizes for guessing the weather).   During a brief pause in the rain, DS1 checked his weather station (2cm of rain since the same time yesterday - we were surprised it wasn't more), and we put more food out for the birds.  I really recommend this, by the way... not only does it support the wildlife in your neighbourhood, but it is effortless education.  Without my consciously trying to teach them, my boys can name the 20+ varieties of bird that come to feed here (and the 2 varieties of deer that we occasionally see behind the house), and we are constantly entertained by the squirrels' behaviour :)  DS1 then quickly got absorbed into the Frozen Planet book that his Grampie loaned him, while DS3 had lots fun with his ELC cassette player (no longer produced - though they do make CD players now) - he played with it for ages, experimenting with sounds etc :)  DS2 decided he wanted to do a project on our bodies.  We found a book for him to read (Usborne Beginners 'Your Body'), but he was far more excited by the build your own skeleton that I found online, and quickly got stuck in :)
DS2 is the one whose learning style I am most intrigued about: all I know is, it isn't the style used predominantly at school (whereas DS1 & 3 were doing OK there, so it doesn't seem quite so critical to figure them out at the moment).   It's come up in conversation a bit lately, and I did one of those "what's your child's learning style" quizzes online, where they ask you ten fairly broad questions and come up with a 'diagnosis'.  I don't think they're supposed to be taken as gospel, but they can provide an interesting start to thinking about it.  There were 3 main broad learning styles in the particular test I used: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (depending on the test, there can be more learning styles - I just used the first one I stumbled across, just because it was there)  Anyway, DS1 came out as mostly visual and auditory - he loves reading and is good at listening, and educational TV programmes work really well with him, so no real surprises there :)  DS3 came out as mostly kinesthetic, but I think that may be largely because he is a very energetic three-year old - it's probably a bit early to try to pin that one down.  DS2 came out as very strongly visual, which I found interesting.  Now I just need to find out what that means to him.  As illustrated above, where he preferred putting the skeleton kit together over reading the body book, it does not necessarily mean he enjoys reading (although he is very good at it, he just doesn't often read for pleasure).  He does love picture-books - looking at the story going on in the illustrations, as well as what the words are saying, and out of the three boys, he is the most likely to draw us a picture or make me an 'I love you' card.  So, I have a good starting point, which has whetted my appetite to find out more.  And it's not that I want to compare the boys to each other in a negative way - but I do want to appreciate their differences so that I don't try to fit them all into one style of learning.  Another of the many benefits of Home Ed is that I can get to know my boys so much better - to discover each of them as an individual - and to work with their strengths to help each of them get as far as they can (or at least, as far as they want to).
All in all, then, a happy Sunday (but I can't wait to get out and about again next week!)

Saturday, 28 April 2012

my favourite articles

Not being an experienced blogger, I didn't know how else to do this: I just wanted to put these links to some of my favourite articles somewhere that I (and anyone else) could find them again, so here they are...

Benefits of Home Learning (Guardian article)

Deschooling Gently (Just Enough and Nothing More)

How do I Home Educate? (An Ordinary Life)

If a child can't learn in the way we teach... (An Ordinary Life)

Imagine (Ross Mountney's Notebook)

Joyful Nutshells (Joyfully Rejoycing)

Learning to play and playing to learn (Ross Mountney's Notebook)

Lies about home education you might believe (My Barefoot Farm)

Schools Kill Creativity (Ken Robinson @ TED)

Seven Lessons I Teach (The Huffington Post)

Solutions to midnight panic attacks (Parent at the Helm)

What I've Learned about Learning (Zen Habits)

I plan to add more as I go along, and you never know, I might find a way to bookmark them so I can find them even more easily ;)

weekend education

I am determined not to mention the weather today... am not going to say - or type - the r-word.  But yes, we are all indoors - still.
My heroic hubby has been outside for most of the day, fixing the brakes on my car, so I took the boys to visit family this morning (in hubby's car), and when their noses weren't firmly buried in their ds consoles, they had a nice chat about what they've been learning at home :) 
Once home, and this time it was DS1's turn to make some ladybird cakes, which he did with hardly any help from me...

There were more than this but we ate most of the evidence before Mummy remembered to take a photo - oops :/
Also we had a family film, more story-time, dancing, a bit of MathsWhizz, and taking data from DS1's weather station, which has just one missing component left to add - once that is completed, a photo will follow... I have so enjoyed him being able to focus on and continue a project in his own time :)  We've also checked in with the family of Peregrines that we've been following on webcam, as mentioned in "Variety is the spice of education - I think"... it's a bit windswept on their rooftop ledge, so they spend most of their time huddled together - but the chicks are already too big to fit fully under daddy's tummy (we've nicknamed the daddy 'Spike' as you can tell the male peregrine by his longer beak spike).
All in all, it's been another pretty relaxed day that felt much like the rest of the week, really... chilling out, learning as we go along... :)  I remember the days (during term-time) when we had to cram all our family time (not to mention the build-up of housework & homework) into two short days after five days of not seeing each other a lot.  It's SO nice not having to do that any more :)  There seem to be two sorts of parent: those who look forward to their children going back to school after the holidays, and those who dreaded the return to school as they would miss their children... I definitely fell into the latter group.  I can easily be accused of gloating nowadays, as I just love their company!  It's true, there are moments when I need space to breathe on my own - but over all, I get to hang out with my favourite little people all the time - so many people bemoan how quickly children grow up and move on, but I feel like Home Edding has slowed time down for us and I now get to really join them in their childhoods... how blessed I am :)

Friday, 27 April 2012

Spotting the Learning Opportunities

Well, we did it this morning... WE GOT OUT! AND IT WASN'T RAINING!!!

I had started to feel like I would go stir crazy if we didn't get out in the sunhine soon (our trip out the other day was lovely but still a bit stressful (not to mention very wet), not least because my car was out of action... fortunately I had arranged to have hubby's car for the day, but driving any distance in an unfamiliar car, in the pouring rain with serious spray on the busy roads, with the boys squashed up against each other in the back... well, let's just say it wasn't the most peaceful travelling ever ;) 
So now I'm car-less for the time being, and the boys can't even play in the garden when it stops raining as it's one big mud-puddle & I'm doing my best to preserve some kind of lawn for our landlord.  Hence my desperation for a chance to get out... and this morning we got it! :) 
We had some birthday cards to post, so as soon as we saw some blue sky & sunshine, it was 'wellies on & umbrellas in hand', and off we went (the forecast was wet, but we weren't hanging around to wait for it)  The walk to the shop (under 1/2 mile) was lovely - mostly footpaths but with a few roads to cross, so lots of opportunity to practice our Green Cross Code (that's life-saving education right there!). On the field, DS1 & 2 ran about playing some kind of star wars role-play.  DS3 also ran for ages, then walked with me and counted the 'darlings' aka starlings - there were 27;)   At the local shop, we bought a couple of bits of groceries (practical Maths - DS2 telling us how much the items were, and DS1 adding them up in his head), and the essential stamps.  The boys all stuck their stamps on and posted their own card in the post box - then we set off back home.  More chance to run about - bliss... and it didn't rain until we turned into our own street - yay!  Once home, it was a perfect opportunity for a mug of hot chocolate each and a bit of TV - I have an old BBC DVD of Come Outside (link is to actual episode on Youtube) where Aunty Mabel & Pippin follow a letter from posting it in the postbox to getting delivered at the other end.  It wasn't planned that way - we just happened to need to get out, buy stamps, post cards etc - and have a little rest when we got in - and on the way home I remembered the DVD & realised it was a great learning opportunity:)  The DVD is a bit dated now, but still helpful.  I did think it might be a bit young for DS1 but it was too perfect timing to pass on, and as it happened, he asked "why is it called Royal Mail?" (great question) so Mummy had to look up the full answer - I knew it was something vaguely to do with the queen etc but wasn't fully sure myself... (apparently it came about through royal arrangement in 1516 when Henry VIII established a 'master of the posts' and was made available to the public by Charles I in 1635 - so now we know!)  Incidentally, doesn't the internet make Home Education just SO EASY?!
So anyway, that was our morning: all feeling happier for getting out in the fresh air again :). And this afternoon?   We've been doing a Reading Eggs trial for DS3&2 (great for DS3 as he's just starting out - we may well stick with it, but not for DS2 - I thought the assessment was rubbish, first placing him on a level far too easy, then too hard). We've also been following on from yesterday's weather project, having cosy reading times together, dancing... oh, and tackling the chaos and mess brought about by being cooped up indoors for the best part of 2 weeks ;)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Thinking outside the Box (or chart)

We've had a much needed lazy day at home today - we had tea late yesterday after our day out, and  Mummy ended up having to go out before they went to bed, to have a go at Zumba (for those who read my entry the other day on "support systems" - it was my chance to have some Mummy-only-time), so of course, the boys were all excited to have Daddy putting them to bed, and what with one thing and another, they ended up going to bed very late. (DS2 was the only one asleep when I got back from Zumba at 9pm)  So - lazy day needed today!
Yesterday we had a new book arrive while we were out that caused much excitement: Backyard Science (to build on the enthusiasm generated by the TV Programme of the same name, as mentioned in "Playing, creating and relaxing")  DS1 was very keen to get stuck in to creating a weather station that he could report back from, and got straight to work on the computer, first creating a Weather Report chart (to fill in once we have the equipment up and running)...

Meanwhile, DS2 & 3 were playing happily in their rooms, building some lovely creations with their Kid Knex  (they even thought about how to display it so Mummy could take a photo)...

All of this I was really happy with, not least because none of it had been instigated by me - their own interests are already coming to the fore - yay!  However, it kind of rendered useless the star chart created last week: I had no spaces allowed for Science, IT, D&T etc - all of which are valuable and important subjects.  They do generally enjoy the chart, and it's proved so far to be a good way to get them thinking of anything other than TV, Wii or nintendo dsi which seem to be their default desired activities after breakfast.  But what do I do with it now?  Maybe I could just have 5 generic 'learning' boxes (I still want 5 for household stuff in case they have a 'non-academic' kind of day - I want them to know that practical jobs such as those around the house are also really valuable).  And for the 'learning' boxes, they could maybe have a longer list of things to choose from...?  The problem is, I'm now struggling with segregating subjects in that way - I was initially hoping that they would get a bit of Maths & English done most days, hence having them on the star chart - but the truth is, you can't separate the subjects like that - eg DS1 got some Maths & English in while doing his Science project (drawing up a chart, spelling & comprehending the new words, he'll be learning to use a protractor for making the wind machine, etc etc).   And as for the whole idea of presenting it all as 'work' to be crossed off a list anyway - is that really what I want to communicate?  I've made no decision yet - these are just questions going round my mind while we explore Home Education as it best works for us...
Anyway today, contrary to expectations, turned out to be a non star chart day - for DS1 at least: he was concerned that we was running out of time to get his other stars, so I reassured him that as he was doing a big project, he didn't have to do the star chart.  DS 2 & 3 got bored of KidKnex after a while, and carried on getting their stars - so perhaps for now we'll keep it in reserve for days when any of their inspiration is low.  After all, it has been very helpful so far, but watching DS1 find something he's interested in and then equipping him to explore that interest as far as he can take it (to the point where he just forgets about games consoles) - well, to me, that's everything I hoped Home Ed would be :)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Butterfly World

Yay for a busy day out!
We went on a group trip to Butterfly World today (our chance to meet friends and get out and about) The boys all loved the talks we were given on butterflies and leaf-cutter ants, and especially the chance to get up close with some of the other insects (DS1 even held a large stick insect... albeit gingerly)
Admittedly it was probably the wettest day we've had so far, but it was still a day out, and the boys got to jump in some HUGE puddles, so we're all feeling better for having had some fresh air :)

owl butterfly

leafcutter ants

I was looking forward to meeting some other Home Edders (old friends and new), although it was unsurprisingly quite difficult to have any kind of conversation in an environment where I had to keep an eye on my guys (particularly DS3 who would far rather explore how to open windows/ escape unseen out of the door, than look at whatever we have gone to see :/).  I even had Grandma for company (back-up), which was lovely for all of us - I think it would have been a bit much otherwise :s.  Anyway, it's whetted my appetite for meeting up with others, so I'm looking forward to the next opportunity, at an indoor soft play area where the kids can just herd and mums can sit & chat (well - that's the plan anyway).  It's so encouraging to chat to people who are on the same kind of journey... we're all exploring in different ways as all of our children and family's needs are different, but we all understand that, so there is no need for competition.  I think it's important to support each other, as we all have moments when we question what we're doing, especially as it can be quite isolating to 'go against the flow' of mainstream education.  To have friends around who understand the highs and lows is a total blessing!
Downpours notwithstanding, that was a lovely day :)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Playing, creating, & relaxing

What a sociable week we're having so far!  DS1 had another friend over to play this morning, so we had no particular plans in place.  After the inevitable hour playing Mario Party 9 on the Wii (which, by the way, is excellent for encouraging strategic thinking), we all had some screen-free time.  DS1 and friend played Star Wars for a while, and then a monopoly game - more strategy and maths skills.  DS2 & 3 had a lovely game of Orchard Toys' excellent Shopping List game, followed by their Bus Stop game.  We love Orchard Toys!  They have a brilliant range of sturdy educational games which the boys love.  After playing for a while the boys made up their own rules, which at one point involved the 'passenger cards' from the Bus Stop game going sledging down a cardboard ramp.  I think it's really important to encourage creativity within games, to let them explore other possibilities - and they certainly had fun!  But guess who'll be searching under the sofa for missing pieces later... ;)
Then - oh happy day - the sun came out, so it was everyone out into the garden to get some fresh air & exercise, hooray :)  (This has to be the wettest drought I've ever known!)
Anyway, once back inside, DS2 had been promised to do some baking, and he chose to make the chocolate party cake from Usborne's Children's Book of Baking Cakes, so we had some fun & messy time together while DS1 built a wooden train track with DS3... (and then we all got to eat the gorgeous cake later - yum!)

We found an excellent TV programme today that had all 3 boys engrossed... Backyard Science, currently showing on Pop, at 5pm & 6.30pm every day.  Apparently the series is based on the Dorling Kindersley books, so I'm going to see if I can hunt some of those down too...
TV has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to keeping children occupied, but depending on the programme, I think it can be an invaluable resource as a starter to pique a child's interest!  If my children beg me to put on the TV to watch something that is going to stimulate their learning, such as Backyard Science, I'm really happy to go along with that - it's just a matter of time before they start wanting to do the experiments for themselves :)

Today I feel like we're getting into our groove a bit more.  I was talking to hubby about how our days are going, and as I said to him, as long as I don't try to fit into a certain methodology, or feel I have to live up to anyone's expectations, we are doing really well :)  My main aim is to enjoy the time spent with my children, and to discover how best to encourage them in what they want to learn about (with a bit of direction while they find their feet).    One interesting little development has occurred since we stopped school: most mornings Daddy is the first one up, and then one at a time as the boys wake they come and climb into bed with me for a snuggle before we get up.  DS3 is usually there anyway, having made his way in at some point after hubby & I have gone to bed - and now DS1 & 2 have started joining us once Daddy's up as well.  That hardly ever happened before - even in school holidays or weekends - so I think it's a sign of how relaxed the boys (and I) are becoming - and I really enjoy it :)  Apart from some minor jostling over who gets to snuggle next to Mummy (they can usually be persuaded to take it in turns), there are very few arguments - it's just a lovely family time!  I'm hoping it continues at weekends for Daddy to benefit as well - although I don't know if it would work the same as all three boys tend to see Daddy's supine position as an invitation to 'cannonball' onto his tummy - so it would inevitably lose the peaceful aspect & become a bundling session (not so good if Daddy needs a lie-in)... maybe not then :/

And finally, my inspirational quote of the day, from Plato...
"Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore, do not use compulsion, but let early education be rather a sort of amusement, this will better enable you to find out the natural bent of the child."

Monday, 23 April 2012

Variety is the spice of education... I think

We had a slow start to today (still recovering from Saturday) - which is FINE because we CAN! Yay!  Imagine if they were still in school & I'd had to revert to Sergeant Major to get them up, ready, and out to school... *shudder* (excuse me for the 'HE Mummy' gloating moment).
Anyway, once they got going, they really went for it, as we'd arranged for friends to come round in the afternoon and they wanted to be able to play on the Wii with them.  I know incentives & rewards aren't everybody's cup of tea, but the boys have really locked onto the star chart, so we're running with that for as long as it works and they see it as a positive thing :)  The only problem is, DS2 seems to get discouraged if his brothers get stars quicker than him, so he does need encouraging to stay with it, but if it gets too negative for him we'll try something different - nothing's set in stone :)
I'm still exploring ways to inspire them & have definitely found that if we do the same thing every day they get VERY quickly bored (not only the same subject, but even the same resource within the subject).  Just because they enjoyed something one day, I am quickly discovering it really doesn't mean they'll want to do it again the next day.  Whereas one day they might love their workbooks, the next day they might want to do something computer based or more hands-on creative.  Ah well, it keeps me on my toes I guess.  And I know it's ideally more about following their lead, but they're not used to thinking that way yet, so I just keep offering suggestions, & seeing what they go for.  I'm sure they'll be suggesting their own ideas very soon! 
DS1 enjoyed using his dsi to take photos of us, then manipulate the photos into weird and wonderful pieces of art :)  He also got stuck in to one of his library books: Eyewitness Guide to the Ocean (his favourite ever subject).
DS2 wanted to do some drawing, so we got out our much-loved and often-used How To Draw series of books, by Dan Green - absolutely the most accessible drawing books we've found when it comes to the boys being able to easily follow instructions and produce something that looks like the given picture.  It may not be high art, but it really builds their confidence :)  DS2 also enjoyed doing some of his Animal Mazes, as it feels like playing, but is really good for fine motor control, and as such, boosts his handwriting - and he really enjoyed reading a book to me too (it's usually me who reads to him at bedtime; he loved the novelty of it being the other way around)
DS3 - again - started a workbook and just kept going until he had finished, he loved it so much :)  This time it was a 'getting ready to read'-type workbook that we've had since DS1 was little, so it's now out of print & I can't post a link - but anyway, DS3 loved it :)
The Maths Whizz accounts don't go live until next week, but the boys enjoyed the sample lessons so much, I asked them if they'd like to do a bit more today which they were all excited about.  DS1 did 3 lessons at his level (Key Stage 4, for those who are interested), one of which DS2 really liked the look of, so he also did that when it was his turn (despite his being technically KS1) - and got them all right :) DS3 was determined to have a go too, so I sat with him and we went through the Reception games (aimed at age 5).  He's three but hungry to learn & good with numbers - once I showed him what to do he loved it :)
So, five stars each on their chart, but the learning didn't stop there... we've also stumbled on a lovely nature project... Nottingham Trent University have some Peregrine Falcons nesting on their roof, and in partnership with the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, have got a live webcam showing the parents and hatchlings, which is on all day.  We are already loving the Peregrine nest, and I can foresee plenty of learning opportunities as we watch :)   Also following the nature theme (we are definitely wildlife fans), we have been enjoying "Our Planet" (thankyou CBeebies!), with DS2 particularly fascinated by the dung beetles.  Yay for nature projects - Mummy's favourite :)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

support systems

Today we're having a very quiet day.  DS1 had a friend to stay over night, so they all got less sleep than normal, hence the need for some down-time.  We were going to go with Daddy to a local National Trust estate with working farm this afternoon, but the brakes on my car need looking at so Daddy has gone to Halfords instead - but I think it's probably just as well; sometimes they need an unstructured day, especially when they're tired (and I need to have a car to drive for later this week when we go out to make some new friends at a home ed group trip!)
Anyway, I've been tired too - I am absolutely LOVING having the boys at home, but haven't had much of a break - and it's got me thinking about the need for a support system.  Hubby and I were totally in agreement about home educating the boys, and it had been mentioned that I'd probably need some kind of 'time-off arrangement', although we haven't yet pinned down what that would look like in practice.  We're only really a week in, and already I'm seeing how valuable it could be, especially as two of mine are quite young and need considerable input from me - so I'm just wondering: if there are any other home ed mums out there reading this, how do you cope with being 'on-call' 24-7?  Do you have support systems in place that allow you space to recharge? 
Watch this space...

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Unschooling experiment

OK, It can't really be called a valid experiment, as exponents of proper unschooling would say that you have to unschool over a more extended period of time before you see anything that could be called 'results'.  However, I was curious to see how the boys would react to unschooling, and as they had all woken up yesterday morning with a request for a 'pyjama day', by the time I had written yesterday's blog entry (while they were all happily playing), I thought to myself, 'why not?'
So yesterday we did our version of unschooling (apologies to those who understand this concept far better than I & who can see my rookie mistakes all too easily)
Basically, I gave them no direction all day, just to see what they would do (although I did ask them to turn the Wii off when I could see they'd had enough)
Admittedly, there was a fair bit of watching the TV (as expected), but I was pleased to see that at one point they got bored of it and wandered off to play their own games - DS1 then spending a considerable amount of time building an impressive lego construction, and DS2 & 3 having a whale of a time with dressing up & role play etc.  (I still maintain that one of the best sounds in the world to a mother's ears is the sound of her children laughing and playing sweetly together).  After lunch they asked to play Wii, and DS1 said 'oh no, we need to get our stars first' (referring to yesterday's star chart reward)  DS2 was immediately discouraged by this, so we talked about it and said we didn't have to do the star chart every day, and even if we did, the goal didn't have to be the same every day (parental quandary: am I confusing them by shifting the goalposts, or - as is my hope - keeping it fun and interesting by adding variety?)
Anyway, we talked about it together, and agreed that playing on the Wii was fine, but today (as some of them wanted to earn stars) we would have an easier goal: 3 stars and they could have chocolate for pudding (they have a huge stash of left-over easter eggs still)
DS1 immediately worked as fast as possible and chose the easiest goals, to get his stars - interestingly he decided he wanted to get them all before he played on the Wii;  DS3 carried on with what he was doing, and just happened to get his stars as part of his normal day (he wanted to do some more dot-to-dot, he wanted to help Mummy put the washing on etc, without registering that in doing so he was earning stars);  DS2 turned his attitude completely around and actually got more stars than the rest of them - once he started earning them he got a bit addicted to the achievement of putting stars on his chart:)
So I'm not sure whether that was an unschooling day or not, as they wanted to follow the star chart, and set some 'goals'... it might count, as it was all of their own volition, with minimum intervention from me (I actually got some housework done - I like unschooling! ;) ), but then again it might not count as they coud be said to be still acting out of the old mindset of working for incentives & rewards.  Guess what?  "I don't know!" ;)  I do know that we had a lovely day though, so I'm happy with that - maybe I'll stop thinking about it so much, and just stick to the plan of relaxing & having fun while we learn :)  Not that thinking about it is a bad thing - I find it fascinating; I just don't want to constrict myself by following any one method. We're still novices - I'm enjoying experimenting & learning about how my children learn - isn't that the whole point? :)

Friday, 20 April 2012

To deschool - or not?

This is something I have been mulling over since we first decided to home educate, although I am still not convinced in either direction.
I did a fair amount of research on it until I felt I had my head around it.  As far as I understand, deschooling is the process that a child goes through when they are first removed from the formal school environment - a period of adjustment to learning in a more flexible style, without grades, reports, formal structure etc.  For children who have been taken out of school because of emotional issues (bullying seems to be not uncommon), it is also a time of healing for a broken spirit, regaining their confidence and enjoyment of life.
(Incidentally, this is not the same as 'unschooling' which means slightly different things to different people, but generally seems to refer to the style of home education where the child is autonomous, having very little direction from the parent, learning from play etc.  It is the opposite of schooling)
It is suggested that a child may need a month of 'deschooling' for every year that they have been in school. In our case that would mean 6 months for DS1 and 3 months for DS2 (possibly even 1 month for DS3 who started Preschool in September). 
I have to say, the school that the boys were at (and I taught at) was a lovely school.  If we thought it was right to go back into school-based learning (I can NOT imagine that happening btw), we would go back there.  I just don't believe that any school, however good, can offer the best, tailor-made education that children need and deserve.  Some people have no choice, and in that case, it is important to know that their child is going to a good school.  I am so grateful that we have a choice - that we can choose the very best for our boys, in home education.
Anyway, regarding deschooling our boys... DS1 wasn't having major problems in school.  It's true, I felt he wasn't achieving his potential, and his identity had become fixed as a bit of an 'average Joe'.  The school used many incentives to encourage excellent behaviour and learning, and once he failed to 'be the best' (as he saw it) two or three times in a row, he gave up trying... but he wasn't naughty, he was happy, he was doing enough to get by, he had friends etc - and I never wanted to be a pushy parent.  So, basically, he doesn't seem to have been badly affected by school.  As long as he is in a more flexible environment that suits his creativity and doesn't have seemingly unattainable targets, I think he will flourish, and will deschool gradually as we go along.
DS2 on the other hand was the one who was really struggling.  It was a small school, which on the whole is far nicer than a large, impersonal school.  Sadly for DS2 this happened to mean that there was a gap around his age bracket, and (with the exception of one lovely little girl) personality clashes with the children closest in age to him - which often left him with no-one to play with.  Academically he was totally unstimulated by the work: what he could easily have done in 30 minutes, he often took all morning to fail to do, resulting in him having to bring it home.  His identity very quickly became fixed as the 'troublesome one', and although he had a lovely teacher, he totally lost confidence in himself.  He became really unhappy, insecure around other people and was increasingly showing destructive tendencies.  I think the decision to home educate was largely (but not solely) about rescuing him.  It's only been three weeks, but already I am starting to see glimpses of the old, sweet him - very loving and friendly to all.  So, do I need to deschool him?  I expect I probably will - there is certainly some emotional recovery under way.  However, he is the one who has been most keen to do some 'work' - maybe he needs the mental stimulation, maybe he's still trying to earn approval?
DS3 was loving Preschool.  It was quite heavily structured for a preschool, but that absolutely suited his personality.  He loves routine, loves organising people, and has a voracious appetite for learning.  He was only there for the mornings and had (in my opinion) the best preschool teacher in the world, so we actually considered leaving him there while we home educated the older two.  However, we decided that that would create more pressure on us as a family, and we felt it was the right thing for us to withdraw them all.  So no, I don't think he needs deschooling - if anything, I'm going to have to work hard keeping up with his needs - but I am totally up for the challenge.  Plus I get to be involved with his education during my favourite stage of learning - emergent reading and writing - yay!
All of which brings me back to my original question: to deschool or not?  I have no idea. (The more I write in this blog, the more I think it should be called the "I don't know" blog!)  Chances are, by the time 6 months is up, I'll know whether deschooling would have been a good idea.  But I'm not going to commit to 'unschooling' them for a finite period of time - if for no other reason than they sometimes do want to do some 'work', so who am I to stop them?  I will do my best to make it as fun as possible, and to put no pressure on them to perform (if they want my help they can have it, but I'm not going to 'grade' their work) - but deschooling?  As with everything else we're just going to run with what works for us, with the ultimate goal being to encourage their inbuilt love of learning :)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Our Star Chart

The forecast today was for rain, rain and more rain - so we did hustle a little this morning at breakfast (though happily Sergeant Major was barely in evidence). The rain was forecast to arrive at around 9ish, so we had a breakfast race to see if we could all beat the rain. We won (finished at 8.30am) and headed to the little park up the road for a run around in the fresh air, as it might be our only chance today ;) An hour later, and DS1 & 3 wanted to come home (DS2 was still enjoying playing tag with Mummy, but was happy to concede) We got back just in time & the boys drank some hot chocolate & watched a little TV while I drew up the new star chart...

(we've had ours for a while, but if you're interested, you can get them from Amazon)
I'm not sure how I feel about having goals, incentives etc for doing work - it feels a little too 'schoolish' - but neither do I want them to just expect to play Wii/ DS/ watch DVDs all day - so we'll give this a go and see if it works.  As with all home educating, I'm just trying things out to see what works for us :)
The star chart fits all 3 of them, runs for a whole week, and has space for 10 daily goals. I set the target really small: 5 stars and they got to play Mario Party (the current Wii favourite), which was easily achieveable for today.  I was hoping that as they all had the same reward, they would encourage each other to get all their stars so that they could play together.  In practice they all finished near each other anyway, but DS1, who has his own room, did help his younger brothers who share a room to finish tidying theirs :)
As we progress I may set the goal higher - say a weekly goal of 30 stars.  I have deliberately set the goals so half of them are 'academic' subjects, and half are more practical, household-based - I expect them to learn to help around the home too (I want my future daughters-in-law to bless me ;) ).  This way if the boys want to do school-type work they can (they choose what they do & how much of it for each subject), and if they don't feel like doing "schoolwork", they can avoid it by helping me... win-win ;)  In practice I was surprised that DS2 chose mostly academic work (which included painting art, that we all joined in with).  DS1 chose whatever was quickest - some academic & some practical.  DS3 was happy to be advised by DS1 ;)

our paintings

I don't expect to run this system every day - it would get boring, & I want plenty of opportunities for either trips out or for them to just spend all day on one subject if they choose to, without feeling penalised ny not getting lots of stars.  I have more questions than answers, but it worked well today, so we'll keep it as a resource thats available to us, and see how it progresses...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Even less friendly weather today (though rain has to be good considering the drought warnings we've been given lately), so it was another mostly indoors day.  Having learned from yesterday, we did our trip out early before they got too boisterous, and went to the local library, which is great.  They particularly enjoyed scanning their own cards and books (boys and machines!) DS1 as usual went for reference books - on ocean creatures, minibeasts, mountain habitats, and one on fast cars; DS2 had to be encouraged to get books suitable for his age (still tends towards the early reading scheme books, apparently forgetting that he is now a very competent reader), and DS3 got some lovely picturebooks, his favourite being "DAVE" by Sue Hendra - good for a giggle :) 
Later on, I said they could spend a little time doing some workbooks, and then lunch, followed by a DVD with popcorn (well, what else are rainy days for?).  They each have drawers with their own workbooks in, and I said they could choose whichever book they liked to have a go at (but didn't specify a number of pages).
DS1 chose a Brain Academy English Challenges book, which turned out to be pretty hard, though he really enjoyed it, and when I congratulated him for persevering, he commented that the hard work would help his brain to get strong :)
DS2 chose a Handwriting Practice book, and was thrilled to discover that after the first few pages of reviewing printing, he will be learning cursive :)
DS3 chose one of his First Dot to Dot books (good for reinforcing number sequence and fine motor skills), and completed the whole book! 
(nb The observant among you will notice that I am a fan of The Book People - I think their bargains are unbeatable & should be on every home edder's resource list!)
All of the boys were allowed to stop when they wanted (I really don't want to put them off) and I was impressed by how much they all chose to do.  DS2 could possibly have done more, but his brother's had finished (he started later than them) so he quickly wanted to play with them, which was fine - I'd much rather they stop while it's still a positive experience!
Oh, and the movie?  Toy Story 2 - it's a classic :)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Getting musical

Not great weather today (though the boys did get outside to play in the garden briefly just before tea, and got very muddy, but hey, that's what washing machines are for...) so we had the whole morning and a good part of the afternoon spent indoors.  We went out in the afternoon for a much needed but disliked (by Mummy) trip to the barbers, and to post some cards.  (Disliked because queues in barbers + queues in Post Office + lively boys who have been cooped up all day = stressed Mummy :(  Anyway, once back home and safely away from the disapproving stares of trendily shorn young men and ancient & unsympathetic Post Office ladies, and we had a good time, sparked at teatime...
Now, my boys are not what you call speedy eaters, by any stretch of the imagination: they are aware of the food and the need to get it in their mouths, but they take a very l-e-i-s-u-r-e-l-y approach to actually doing it.  I guess it's nice to have that social time of chatting & laughing, and none of them seem to have inherited my dislike of eating once-hot-food-now-gone-cold, which is just as well, it just means Mummy spends lots of time looking at my empty plate and their still-mostly-full ones.  Anyway, during these unhurried meals we had Classic FM playing on the kitchen radio - and DS1 started seeing if he could spot the instruments playing at any one time.  DS2 quickly joined in (I was impressed at how accurate his listening was) and DS3 - not to be outdone - joined in, calling out random instruments regardless of whether they were playing or not.  That progressed to DS2 doing a beautiful impression of a "commander" (conductor), followed by some impressive air violin (and then air-guitar rock-star style, courtesy of DS3 who more than makes up in enthusiasm whatever he lacks in understanding)  It was so much fun :)  Tea went cold (again) but was eventually eaten, and Mummy's equilibrium was restored.  Music is known to have restorative powers, but so does the sight of my children having good old innocent fun!
In fact, it's prompted me to look out some CDs and a book I have called The Story of the Orchestra, so the boys can have a look tomorrow, and see what it inspires :)

Monday, 16 April 2012

What's your Home Ed style?

More lovely weather today - and a trip to the park with my lovely sister & lovely niece - lovely! ;)  We were chatting about Home Ed (what else?) and apart from saying that I bet I'm going to look back on these blog entries in a couple of years and groan with embarrassment at my naivety, we were talking about the different styles of home education that there are.Some people seem to like the structure of 'home school', which seems to me to be generally about having a timetable, specific lessons, workbooks etc - with a start and end to 'learning hours'  I can see the appeal - especially for someone who is concerned that they wouldn't know where to start when it comes to making sure their child gets a good "education", but as I have already mentioned earlier in the blog, one of the things I really enjoy about children is their natural enthusiasm for exploring and learning new things.  I find it quite stifling to try to contain that within certain hours and certain books.  Of course, it also depends on each child's learning style - eg DS2 really struggled with this sort of structure at school (I can foresee a bit of experimenting while we work out his preferred method of learning).
At the other end of the spectrum is the highly autonomous style which is harder to pin down as by nature it is driven by the individual child.  These are parents who do no "teaching" at all - who let their children play & follow their own interests, which may or may not bring them to anything that would be considered 'academic'.  This is more common among experienced home educators who have learned to relax and trust their child's inherent love of learning.  Obviously this is appealing from the point of view of the child: no pressure, no targets or expectations - and it would appear to be less stressful to the parent also (unless - and here's the rub - you're the sort of parent who needs to see their child making measurable progress compared to traditional schooling)  There is also a risk that your child may turn into a complete couch potato.  From all the home educators I have chatted to so far, this amazingly never seems to happen, but it does seem a very risky strategy to someone who is just setting out...
And me? I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.   I am usually the sort of person who likes to have things ordered, organised, neat & tidy (not that you'd know it, looking at my house most of the time).  I like plans and lists.  So for me, I am feeling remarkably relaxed about the whole process.  Every now and then when someone asks me what home education involves or when we're going to 'start', it triggers an almost Pavlovian response to produce some sort of timetable - but the rest of the time, I am happy to 'go with the flow'.  However, I don't have the confidence to have no say at all in what the boys learn, so I have two basic measures in place...
1/  I believe that like it or not, we use Maths every day, and that I would be putting my children at a disadvantage if I didn't help them to aquire a broad base of Maths skills - hence Maths Whizz mentioned in my first post.  Of course, I have done my best to make it appeaing and fun - and although I hope the boys will continue to love it as much as they currently do, I have to accept that there may be days when they don't want to do it.  Well, we will 'suck it and see'.  We have a year's subscription, so I will expect them to 'play' on it often (I guess every other day, but that's open to review), but if it doesn't go well, I'll be more experienced next year when we're considering subsriptions (or not) :)
2/  I also believe that English is an important foundation that opens up the world of education: if you can read, you can educate yourself.  English is my subject, so I am passionate about it, and I am pleased to note that all of my boys love books - reading, and being read to :)  I absolutely believe that if you force a child to do something, you risk them possibly resenting/ hating it for life - so I'm going to go at their speed and again, take my cue from them - but for example, DS1 likes making books - writing and illustrating - so I guess we'll do a fair bit of that.  DS2 loves wordplay - alliteration & rhymes, which at the moment is more spoken than written - which is cool, and I am more than happy to join him there.  He also really wants to learn to write in cursive like his big brother, so we've got some lovely workbooks lined up for that purpose.  DS3 is just learning his letters - is chomping at the bit to read, so there will be lots of times with Mummy reading books, playing games with fridge magnets & other 'early literacy' games
And for everything else...? I still have no real plans other than to see what the boys are interested in - and take it from there.  I see it as my job to introduce them to new things - and then see what sparks their interest.  I can't wait to see where this journey takes us :)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Just playing

Well, another lovely day today - chance to catch up with some friends from church this morning, and this afternoon: lunch and playtime with some family members, who came bearing gifts including a birthday present of a Wii game (Mario Party 9) for DS1 (cue much excitement from all)
Of course, the subject of Home Education came up in conversation... incidentally, we are really blessed with our family - we've had not one negative comment from anyone!  The odd "wow, you're brave" maybe, and quite a few questions, but all supportive & interested.
Anyway, after lunch the boys were looking forward to trying out the new Wii game, and our relatives were keen to see them enjoying it, so on it went, and the fun started.  Seeing all three boys (not to mention Daddy) joining in enthusiastically, the light-hearted teasing began: "so what lesson will this be then?"  It got me thinking.  I'm not one of those who despise all computer games; I think there is something to be said for the accompanying skills: hand-eye co-ordination; problem-solving; rapid-response training; team-building (not to be sniffed at in a family of more than one child).  However, I don't want to become flippant (even though I may have been heard to say things like "chocolate is made of beans so must be one of my five-a-day").  It is tempting to invent 'learning possibilities' to justify play-time (and some of my earlier posts may have sounded that way), but the fact is, I don't need to.  It's OK just to play - and I am happy for the boys to play on the Wii simply because they like it.  Yes, they do acquire certain skills - the main one being that they get really good at whatever game it is and usually thrash Mummy at it... but there are drawbacks too.  Mainly, if they spend too long they can become REALLY anti-social (ask them to switch off and they can turn into whining, angry, out-of-control monsters).  I've no idea why - I'm sure cleverer people than I will have done studies into it (and maybe I would do well to read some such studies) - all I know is that in our house, screen time is limited (whether that be TV or Wii, nintendo dsi, or PC games), and we try to ensure that playtime includes more physical stuff too - preferably outdoors, as long as the weather's not too bad.
So basically my thought for today is that playtime can just be playtime.  There will be benefits, and challenges, and learning opportunities, but I don't have to do a teacher's assessment every time they play, in order to find out the learning outcomes.  It is OK just to play - and the more varieties of playtime, the better :)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Playing and discovering

What a lovely start to the weekend that was! :) It was glorious weather and Daddy was home, so we arranged to meet some friends for a picnic & an explore  (quote from Mummy: "if we don't know exactly where we're going, it's called exploring")  Of course, while we played, we discovered new things... am loving these non-lessons!

I discovered that I'm not too old to play tag...
DS1 discovered that his new (birthday) camera has a limited battery life so it's worth being selective over the shots you take...
DS2 discovered that if you run too fast down a hill, you might get hurt (fortunuately not badly)...
DS3 discovered that some people have things like chairs attached to kind-of parachutes, that they can fly in the sky with (paragliders)...

So, just a quick one today (we've been too busy having fun and learning), but it's giving more and more proof that playing and discovering go hand-in-hand, whether you're 4 or 40 :)

Friday, 13 April 2012

Sergeant Major resists eviction

OK, so I may have been a bit optimistic/ naive/ just plain daft to think that I could get rid of my bossy alter-ego so easily... it's been one of those days (sigh).
Acutally, on the whole it's been a lovely day - we went to visit some lovely friends in the morning & all had a thoroughly good time :)  The weather's been great, so the boys had some time playing in the garden this afternoon, even more happily for me because no intervention was needed from Mum-the-referee (another resented alter-ego... do ALL parents have split personalities?)
The main problem arose when I thought "ooh, they're playing quietly, I could get some housework done". I know, you're all shouting "rookie mistake!!!"  Well - maybe not shouting: that's just my stress-levels talking.  But anyway, that's what I did :/
So, the next hour consisted of Sergeant Major shouting "Get down!" (to DS3, balanced precariously on a bench); "Stop winding him up" (mentioning no names); "Have you finished yet?" (to DS1 who was actually doing a great (if slow) job, tidying his mess); "NO!" (to DS 3 who was swinging a broom dangerously close to the TV... 'I'm helping Mummy')  By the way, Good Parenting gurus say that one shouldn't use the word "no" to a child, they should offer a positive alternative, but if I took the time in the type of scenario mentioned above to say, "sweetie, please would you put the broom down and move away from the TV?", by the time I got as far as the second word, the broom handle would already be through the TV, glass on the floor and all...
So I guess Sergeant Major has her uses on occasion - and for all other scenarios, well if I was a perfect Mummy, no-one would want to read this blog (I know I wouldn't).  Let's just say the stress levels are still dropping, and the more relaxed version of me is having the upper hand at most times ;)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Nature Challenge

It has been a long-cherished belief of mine that boys are like puppies: as long as you give them a good walk/ exercise, they're generally happy for the rest of the day :)  Hence when our little blessings arrived, we turned from a fairly 'indoors' kind of couple, to a family who can frequently be found out and about in the fresh air... and LOVING it!  I remember I relished being outdoors as a child & can only wonder where I lost that.  I'm so grateful to my boys for giving it back to me :)
Thie first thing that prompted this train of thought today was reading an article (sorry to say I can't remember where now, but you'll have read the sort before) bemoaning the lack of time that children spend outdoors nowadays.
Secondly, the boys received their "Nature Detectives" spring pack from the Woodland Trust, absolutely packed with goodies such as a Nature Decoder, mystery code challenge, tree blossom hunt, wordsearch, spotters sticker & colouring sheet, flower & tree top trumps, newspaper project to complete  (all of this, and they also get weekly challeges sent by email) - and as it only cost us £20 for all three boys' membership for the year (bargain!) I'm sharing the link for anyone else who might be interested... Nature Detectives.
Even better, you don't have to be a member to get some fab ideas for enjoying the 'great outdoors' - follow this link for free downloads, also provided by the Woodland Trust.  There are way too many resources for me to go into here, but some of our favourites are the bingo sheets - with a selection of objects in nature to tick off as you go on your walk (we like to laminate ours so they don't get ruined within 5 minutes)
So, I'll admit that this blog entry has turned into a bit of a 'plug' for the Woodland Trust's five-star resource, but as more and more people are becoming aware of the essential challenge to get our children experiencing nature outdoors, I like to think that these links may help someone who stumbles across these pages :)

Goodbye sergeant major

One of the things that I absolutely loathed about school had absolutely nothing to do with school... it was "the (dreaded) mornings".  My boys usually wake about 7am and we had to be out of the house at 8am.   That gave us an hour to get dressed, eat breakfast, clean teeth, grab school bags, lunchbags, put shoes & coats on, do a wee before getting in the car etc.  It may not sound like much, but factor into that that my two youngest (and sometimes the eldest) had to be regularly reminded to get dressed otherwise they'd just drift about, happily distracted by toys etc; DS1 increasingly was needing to sleep in (and don't you just HATE having to wake a sweetly sleeping child?!); occasionally DS2 would have left over homework that he still hadn't finished by bedtime the night before, so we'd have to squeeze that in too; and not to mention that Mummy needed to grab a few seconds to hastily apply some make-up so I didn't scare my own class by looking utterly haggard at the start of the day.
All of which turned me into my much-detested & parental-guilt-inducing alter-ego: the sergeant major :(.  Mornings were about barking orders, chivvying, ticking off the list of stuff needing doing to be ready in time to leave, while desperately trying to cling onto patience and show them some love, in order to give them a good start to the day.
I can feel the stress levels dropping every time I realise we don't have to go through that again. I'm sure there will be day trips & visits out that we need to get up & out for, but not on a tortuous daily basis, and let's face it, day trips are good motivation to get up & dressed, aren't they?
It is almost two weeks since we finished school, and I can't tell you how much I am enjoying the thought that this 'holiday feeling' which I love, of getting up when we wake, getting breakfast at our own speed, hanging out in PJs until we want to get dressed (not for me - being in nightclothes during the day makes me feel as if I should be ill, but the boys love it!)... that feeling is here to stay!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


When we left school at the end of last term I 'decided' that we would have a couple of weeks holiday & then set about the business of "Home Education".  Of course as all the experienced home-edders out there must know, it doesn't work like that.
As is often commented, children are like sponges: they want to know things - they actually love to experience and learn (they may not love school but that is entirely a different matter).  You can't confine that to within certain hours. 
So today, "on holiday", while DS1 was out with a friend, we had a lovely time with DS2 & 3 getting crafty & making birthday cards for their big brother for tomorrow (my first baby hits double figures - where did that decade go?) - and then we had an impromptu nature moment (the teacher in me wants to call it a lesson, but there were no plans, no attainment targets or evaluation sheets - yay!).  Anyway we planted some seeds that we have been collecting from the lovely free gifts inside recent multipacks of Innocent Smoothies now we have 2 trays of soil on the kitchen windowsill which will hopefully turn into violets, cress, basil, tomatoes and carrots (we haven't had any of the sunflower ones yet)... and hopefully further nature non-lessons :)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Math Whizz

So, it's just over a week since the boys and I left school.  Up until then I was too busy to do much proper planning re: home educating them, but now I'm feeling a bit more rested & enthusiastic...
Today we signed up for a year’s subscription to Math Whizz for DS1 (age 10) and DS2 (age 6).  The website offered a trial which they both loved (had to prise them off to give each other a turn).  A lady from the local Home Ed network has organised a group of us so we can benefit from ‘school’ discount – yay!
I don’t want to be too prescriptive at this stage regarding what the boys are going to learn – not planning a strict timetable or anything – but I do feel it’s important for them to have a broad base of Maths skills (and English v. important too – more on that later).  We all liked Math Whizz the best of the sites we looked at because it’s just so friendly – nice little animations of animals & such like.  DS1 kept calling DS3 (age 3) over to look at the funny monkey who applauded every time he got a sum right in a certain set of questions.  And now the boys are actually looking forward to Maths – result! (long may it continue!)
Bizarrely I felt the need to share this ‘achievement’... hence the blog!  Now to keep it up... :s