All posts by Boots

Life long learner, home educator, education innovator

Genetics and Evolution

We had an amazing session at our home ed group this week. A friend of one of the parents came in and gave us a talk about genetics and evolution, and mapping the human genome.

It was the best explanation of Evolution I’ve had and cleared up some of the things that I wasn’t sure about too. So much recent science… a relatively new field.. of mapping the human genome, and now other animals too and the comparison of those and how important technology has been in this, needing fast computing speeds to help analyse so much data, but how even that is still not fast enough for the amount of data and how long it takes to plough through looking for patterns and changes in the chains of DNA. (My biology knowledge is appalling, so excuse me if I haven’t used a correct term!!)

Having said how bad my biology knowledge is though, I was inspired by his passion and found it very interesting. I’m much more a chemistry and physics fan, but I could see the fascination of his subject.

He works at Southampton University and is researching motor neurones disease, so as well as a run down of evolution and genetics, he also explained what they know about motor neurones disease and what they don’t know. It was all fascinating and what was going to be a 45min talk turned into 1.5 hrs of discussion and questions because everyone was so engaged. Apparently he was very nervous and doesn’t have much to do with children… you wouldn’t have known it!!

I’ve not even  mentioned R. I was hooked and engrossed, at the end it looked like she was too. Usually the lure of the woods outside calls to her, but she was there asking lots of questions at the end too.

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What is the vision in your head?

I’m sure I can’t be alone in having an ideal vision of what home education could look like. Sometimes I almost feel like we are reaching towards that vision. Many other times I do not.

My vision is not my daughter’s vision. Which is totally fair enough but also at times incredibly frustrating.

My vision is sharing a love of learning, and being excited about learning new things together. Sometimes it does feel like R’s vision is to be as contrary as possible and to do as little as possible.

We have been arguing today. We don’t very often… but today… hmmmm. I really wanted R to do some writing, there hasn’t been any writing for quite a while, reading yes, maths yes, but no writing… and no sign of writing being something she wants to do any time soon. This does frustrate me and we have long talks about why it is or isn’t a good idea!!!

We are pretty relaxed and child-led and unschooling to quite an extent, but I still want my daughter to enjoy learning and engaging with me… I would say (and I think she would too) that I do listen and I do try oh so hard to work with R to facilitate and help her with what she wants to do…. but I do also know that R wants her reading to improve and sometimes with a little encouragement she is really pleased when we have story time (with me reading to her mostly and a page from her occasionally), she does ask for stories too, usually once I’ve encouraged a bit and we’re hooked on something.

I do see it as my job to expose R to things she might otherwise not know about, so although she does always have choice in what we do, sometimes I ask that it be one of the options on offer (sometimes Minecraft is not one of the options)

I have been impressed in what she does on Minecraft, there is a lot of creativity and it has helped her spelling and reading too. R has her own YouTube Channel… Mini-games on Minecraft Pink Rose Kitty where she has now made 50 Super survival tutorials … the early ones are very good for people new to Minecraft. More recently she has made some new mini-games videos. Do have a look, she loves new likes and subscribers, and will respond to comments. 🙂

R is also working on designing her own Mod with S. So, it certainly isn’t time wasted, there is a lot going on, it is just such a tempting option and I don’t want her to miss out on so many other things she may enjoy too.

Home education has sparked even further my love of learning and I am excited to share that. I do show an interest in Minecraft, though I can’t truly get into it I must admit. I have had lessons from R though and also watch her tutorials.

Mostly home ed is great, and I do know that it works, I’ve seen how much my kids know…. sometimes I just worry I’m not doing enough… the expectation from the outside world creeps in that I should be ‘teaching’, but I have and do see that it isn’t how things work outside school but I’m sure everyone has their wobbles!!!

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How the first ever day at school went for my 10 year old!

I went to pick R up from school after her one-off trial day (so lucky to have such a lovely headteacher at a local primary, willing to let R just go in and see for a day.)

R came out with such a grin on her face and actually bouncing, the teacher came out with her and said she had really fitted in well and been confident and made friends easily. The work hadn’t phased her (which was the primary concern.. dyslexia-wise) they had done maths and geography, and the only writing she’d had to do was copying words, which she did brilliantly… I was really impressed. They’d had reading time  in class and she’d asked to draw instead (which I guess as a child actually properly at the school wouldn’t be such an easy option)

She had a couple of girls look after her, and it sounded like they had a real giggle. She said the teacher was lovely and asked them nicely to get on with work once they’d had a bit of a joke, which they did.

She didn’t get to know any of the year 6 children, which had been the aim really, because their teacher was away, they were all split between the other classes and sat at the back doing homework, so there wasn’t much interaction with R, who was busy getting on with all the year 5 lot. The year 5 teacher said she’s welcome in his class any time 🙂 Shame it doesn’t really work like that!!! I think if that was an option R might consider asking to go in for longer. However, she has said she would like to try and go into class 6 for a couple of days when their teacher is back, if the school are ok with that, so I’ve e-mailed to ask if that is possible.

R is still saying she wouldn’t want to go to Secondary, though she did admit that Primary was much nicer than she expected. Funny really because L has raved about how lovely the Primary was when she tried it for a couple of days and she now also raves about how great Secondary is, and we’ve always been careful to say that there are good things about school as well as the not so good…. so it is funny how anti-school R is.

I wasn’t sure if R would actually fill me on on how it had gone right through the day, but she did, she was so excited, it was lovely. I think she was relieved that the work was ok, I don’t think she realises quite how well her reading and writing are beginning to come on, it takes more than just me telling her! Hopefully that has been a bit of a confidence boost for her.

It will be very interesting to see how she gets on with the year 6 class if she gets opportunity to go!

Watch this space!!

She the first post about this here

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First Day of School with a Difference!

Around 9 years ago I took my shy 3 year old to pre-school, she clung to me and didn’t want me to leave. She didn’t make a big fuss, but she was upset. I came home and cried. L did a term at pre-school, she wasn’t herself, she withdrew, she didn’t cause trouble, so the staff kept saying she was fine, but I knew that the quiet child they saw, wasn’t the child I knew and the best thing ever was taking her out and not sending her back.

Today I took my other daughter R who is 10 and who has never been to pre-school or school before, to primary school for a taster day. I was pleased how excited she was this morning. She was ready when I got up and bouncing around. It has taken her a while to decide whether to try a taster day, I think her dyslexia is the main concern for both me and her. It will be very interesting to see how it has gone. We held hands on the way to school, and her grip certainly tightened as we entered the playground, but the office staff were lovely, as was the class teacher, so I expect she’s been fine.

I think it will be a bit of an odd taster as the class has had to be spilt up with the teacher absent, so she’s gone into year 5 with a few of year 6. This may be a good thing as it may take the pressure of the work a bit. We may ask for the chance of another taster day if R wants to, so she can really get to know more of the year 6 kids, who she would be with if she went to Secondary school next September. I think there will be a lot of talking about that!!!

It was as close as I have been to that feeling of leaving L at pre-school though, as R had rather a worried face as I left her…. but dealing with that for both her and me was much easier than when a child is 3 or 4, I know she is more than capable of coping in many different situations, she has been out on day courses without me, so it isn’t the first time away from me or anything, just the first time in an actual school class!!

It has been strange coming home without her and a taste of what it might be like if we end up with both children at school!!!! Sort of an empty nest taster for me! I’m having days where I’m beginning to understand why people (women especially) have such a hard time with empty nest syndrome! Time is going by so fast, and although my children feel more grown up at 12 and 10, and indeed look grown up too, I think as a parent it still seems so recent that they needed you to do so much more for them, and you can still see the young child you knew. I can see how rapidly teenage years are coming and all the excitement that lies beyond!!

The day is going very quickly though, as I knew it would. Time to get a few jobs done, but not much more, then it will be time to go and pick R up from school!!!

See how the day went here!

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Getting lost in a book for the first time!!

R got lost in a book this week. We have been reading Wolf Princess together and we take turns to read, usually with me reading a lot and R reading as little as possible, so I’d handed over to her to read a paragraph and she carried on right down the page and over onto the next page and down part of that…. she emerged smiling and said she’d been so involved with the story that she’d forgotten to stop reading!!! YAY!!! Big moment for a dyslexic child!! Her reading is coming on in leaps and bounds which is great. Finally at aged 10. Writing will be the next thing.

Found a great site if you want to get a small taste of being dyslexic…..

Through Your Child’s Eyes

We’ve tried the reading and writing ones… a useful tool!!!

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School ups and downs

School is over all going extremely well for L, she is enjoying it, has some lovely friends and some very nice teachers. There are of course the not so good bits… mostly the system itself. L still has target levels set at average (which seem lower than what you might think is average going by the people around her and the people in the lower groups she was in.) The school have e-mailed again to say that although they’d said they’d sort her target levels to something higher than she is working at rather than lower than her present working level… apparently the computer system cannot cope with changing a target level!!! WHAT???!!!

She has been moved up sets now which is much better and she hasn’t had any problems and has a nice friend she sits with for most things.

L also got kept in after class with a few others for a couple of minutes to write in an answer she’d got wrong in a test… which seemed rather unfair. She’d had 5 days to learn 25 words and their definitions and then was tested on a random 10 and got 6.5 … they kept people in if they got under 7. That was Geography, they also have a list of words for Spanish at the same time and I think the other one is English or maybe History, also a list to learn. Mostly L is very good at learning lists like that, but since they started it she’d said how hard some children must find that every week!!! So to keep kids in after school for not getting a high enough score seemed rather unreasonable!

L’s friend whose sister died in the summer has now moved school as her parents weren’t happy with how it had all been handled at school. So sad for the whole family. I hope the move of school works ok for her. I know L is worried about her.

We had L’s report and Information and Guidance day last week. All very good and her tutor was happy with it all too. So we’ll plod on with school, or in L’s case bounce on happily with school!!! I am so pleased it is working so well for her.


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To Wonderland and back again

Half term was a blur, the girls did a two day drama workshop with a performance at the end which was great. We caught up with friends, went to a birthday day in the forest, which was a good mix of old home ed friends, some who now have kids at school, others who are still home ed, and us with one of each!

Went to an Alice in Wonderland event which was fab,

The Red Queen and Alice
The Red Queen and Alice

Caught up with more friends, went out for a walk at Holly Hill.

Out trick or treating with my sister and her boys, what a treasure trove!!

The last day was spent in pj’s having a lazy day which we all needed I think!!

This week we started on Monday with an art session at the library, we made stain glass window pictures, which came out very well indeed. Using gold card and cutting out holes and sticky coloured see-through coloured sheets on the back.


We’ve done some reading. Having had a break R’s reading has yet again improved a lot. She has also had a go at some typing and her spelling is getting better… the attempts at words are much closer now.

More algebra, we both enjoy that using MathsWatchVLE videos. Today we covered Factorisation of some fairly tricky equations.

A local author has asked R to critique some of her new poems, which with the promise of a small recompense R is very excited about doing!! We had a look through, and commented on the first five poems today.

R also had a go at some 11+ Non verbal reasoning quizzes on Education Quizzes which is a great site with lots of different subjects and levels. Worth e-mailing them as they offer free access for teachers and also Home educators. You have to sign up for each subject separately, but well worth it.

I’ve been busy as ever with the local library … which looks like it may well end up closed by the end of March 2016, along with others in the city. We have now written to the Secretary of State asking for an inquiry, especially as all 5 libraries and the mobile library come out in the most deprived quartile of the poverty index. R challenged one of the Cllrs at the Alice in Wonderland event we went to at our local library. He actually blushed when she asked why certain options hadn’t been properly looked at!!

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The Reading Discussion

A lazy start, with R having a lovely long bath… a lovely thing to do when it is dark and pouring with rain outside on a Monday morning!

Today we watched some excellent Mathswatchvle videos on probability. There are some sample videos on YouTube. Otherwise you have to subscribe.

I find MathsWatchvle is a really excellent way of learning maths, and R seems to find that too. The clips aren’t too long and you can pause and have a go at questions as you go along, with full explanations after you’ve tried it.

We then had a Mario Kart game or two and lunch,  before a really good reading session.

We are now reading Wolf Princess, which so far seems pretty good. I read a chapter then R reads a page. Her reading is coming on so well, she still only wants to do a small amount and has an amazing way of arguing out of doing too much… I think we have covered human rights and the right to our own decisions rather too well sometimes!!

We usually reach some sort of compromise, else my throat really does give up if I read for so long! She has a total handle on the idea that she might be dyslexic though and I do genuinely think she tires very quickly if reading too much.

Instead of her reading some more of a chapter… which is not an easy book…. (though she does cope very well with it when she does read it) she agreed that she would look at the common word flash cards we haven’t used for ages. A year ago she would have got a fair number right but certainly not all. She breezed through them, which I think pleasantly surprised her…. I don’t think she always believes me when I say how well she is doing, and occasionally it is good to have it actually physically confirmed for her.

The girls both set up the train track yesterday and had a really lovely play together (which is happening slightly less now L especially is getting so grown up), R carried on with the game by herself today too. She talked about how her and L play less than they used to which she misses, but then it is harder now with L at school, and with them both changing as they get that much older. I am happy that they still do manage imagination play together at 12 and 10. I think it is getting less common in kids that age…. which is such a shame.

Poor L came in soaked after school, so a nice warm shower for her… ended up with two girls sat on the sofa watching ‘Friends’ and having their hair brushed through. Love family sofa time.



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The Education Dilemma with a Dyslexic Child

We’ve recently had the letter from the Schools Admissions team for R for next September. I knew it was coming, but it still threw me. It seemed a gradual progression with L when we went through this two years ago, just taking each step as it came and deciding as each option came along.

R has decided that she would like to go into a local primary, just for a 2  day visit, not a permanent place, just to see what it is like. She has been adamant for a long time that she won’t go to secondary school…. but this is where things are now slightly wobbly…. she now is still mostly saying she doesn’t want to, with occasional glimmers of maybe she might try it.

So, now we hit the… do we apply for a place in case?

With L I could see that as the decision came closer that she was ready and happy and wanted the independence of making the decision and has been happy with her decision.

R, I think is beginning to want the independence side of things, and to perhaps widen her social circle further… but in terms of school I am very worried that all the confidence building we have done around her dyslexia could be undone within a week, even if she does just go and try school. Her reading is coming on, and we read teenage level fiction / young adult, she often struggles on small words and is amazing on larger more complicated words! I don’t think she’d have chance to read higher level books at school, it’d be dumbed down…. we’ve seen it with L, where they have to read a certain colour and can’t move up until they’ve passed tests on the lower coloured books.

R’s maths is great, but I generally read out the questions, as she struggles reading, thinking and writing all together.

We are covering some really lovely stuff at the moment… we have had several theatre visits recently, including today when we went to see ‘Lord of the Flies’ at the Mayflower theatre, with questions and answers with the actors afterwards. Although surrounded by school parties of 13/14 and 15 yr olds she asked two very good questions, and we have had such in depth chats about it all before and after.

We’ll go with a couple of days at a local primary and see where we go from there.

Watch this space!

Anyone been through the same with a dyslexic child?

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Getting back in the Swing

We don’t specifically have terms as such in home ed, but things do change a bit with clubs and groups stopping for school holidays, and we also catch up with school friends more then too. Now L is at school it makes the difference between term time and school holidays even more obvious…. Although L has been back at school now for almost 2 weeks, we have been slow getting our brains in gear at home. Partly because we went camping last weekend which extended the summer further for us, a chilled out weekend with friends.

We also had a trip to the magnificent Highclere Castle the weekend before.

Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle

This week has been more library stuff, with the decision going back to Cabinet again, basically to be rubber stamped through …. 5 libraries facing closure unless the community steps in and runs them. Also the mobile library has been axed.

Rant alert

Very disappointing as we had genuinely researched alternative ways of keeping our library open (and others) and we have faced a council set on one way of dealing with things, even though in our area there simply aren’t a plethora of available volunteers to take on running (and funding / paying bills / rent / training volunteers etc) the library. We have been totally ignored and it has been extremely frustrating. The council now wants to talk with us about options…. ie.. us taking it on… we aren’t able to!!! Half our group are 70’s / 80’s and the rest of us already do as much as we can. R is keen to come to the meeting with Councillors to have her say. She is disgusted. We will lose where our home ed group meets regularly too.

Amazing tour of our local theatre today. We are seeing Horrible Histories Groovy Greeks soon and have had some educational workshops with that at the theatre, today’s was a tour, including the fly floor…. where they lower scenery and set from above the stage!! That was great. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures.

We also saw Jason Donovan rehearsing on stage as we walked through, for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Very exciting.

Still chasing L’s school where they said she would be moving up sets in everything this year… she still hasn’t been, apparently she was overlooked (the no SATS results problem again… bizarrely as she now has exam results!!) but they seem unable to rectify the situation and will apparently re-jig in a few weeks… have phoned again, awaiting a phone call back!

R has been keen to have some ‘work’ to do each morning when she gets up, so I’ve been leaving maths and art and writing out each day, which she does early morning. It is working well at the moment.


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