Wednesday, 14 May 2014

First days

Soon after I took Charlie out of school, we went away for a holiday by the seaside. Charlie was so stressed by school that there was no doubt in my mind that he needed a holiday and this gave us the perfect opportunity. When we returned, it was the Easter holidays and we spent our days pottering, reading, seeing friends and going on days out, as well as running our business. Charlie loved accompanying us to work and helping out. The tasks that were repetitive and humdrum to us, such as packing and stamping parcels, were novel and exciting to him.

We started school-type work as soon as the school term started. I had already decided to follow a semi-structured style, as I did with my older son. That meant that we did 'lessons' in the morning (quickly completing work that would have taken ages at school), then had the rest of the day left for Charlie to follow his own interests and for me to work or help Tom with his online lessons. (Sometimes, if Tom was working well at his lesson, I could use that time to catch up on my OU work.) Of course, there were also appointments to keep, meals to be made, people to see, shopping to be done, housework, laundry and all the other things involved in helping life with two children run smoothly. 

Handwriting, English and Maths are the subjects I focused on in the morning (I have plans to cover other subjects through topic work). Charlie practised his handwriting daily, using a Schofield & Sims handwriting workbook. We used a couple of Letts workbooks for Maths called Magical Maths SATS Revision, designed for KS2 - both purchased secondhand from Amazon and, I think, out of print now.

Learning about place values

It was quickly apparent that Charlie has a very low opinion of his abilities at Maths. He had clearly struggled in school lessons and been too scared to ask for further help, therefore falling further and further behind. At home, we have the advantage of being able to take our time, go over things as many times as necessary and take a break whenever we want. And I make sure he receives lots of praise.

During the first week, we read a chapter from The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross, then I helped Charlie work through a comprehension exercise on it. I chose this book because Charlie had loved it and read the entire series in a matter of days.

It was easy enough to download a lesson plan about one of the chapters from Teachit and work through it together. However, I had already ordered a Galore Park English guide and we started working from that as soon as it arrived.

In his free time, if at home, Charlie usually either read or played with Lego. He loves reading. One afternoon, recently, he read three complete novels and two 'Tintin' books.  At the moment, he loves the 'Wimpy Kid' books and the 'Tom Gates' books.
The seventh volume in the 'Tom Gates' series

Quirky, funny illustrations and fonts on every page

He loves making books of his own too and says he's going to write children's books when he grows up. (As well as being an architect. And a scientist.)

We visited the library and brought back bagfuls of books to read, covering a wide range of subjects, such as pollution, science and art. Charlie spent several hours looking through  Usborne's Introduction to Art and we decided that we'd go up to London to visit an art gallery one day. 

We live in a house full of books. As an English graduate who then worked in the book trade, book-lined walls at home are inevitable. Tom has a sizeable library of non-fiction from his years being home educated. He prefers to read online now, so the library is available for Charlie to raid at any time.

Charlie loved looking at these illustrated books on space that he found on Tom's bookshelves

Because our business involves selling books online, we can bring back secondhand books for Charlie to read. He was delighted with Usborne's book, What's Physics All About? which Michael brought back for him the other day.

Without understanding the laws of physics there would be no planes, telephones or internet

Sometimes, we did some cooking or gardening. Charlie enjoyed making homemade orangeade, based on his own recipe for homemade 7Up.

We planted vegetable seeds - red peppers and carrots - in a small box. 

Charlie enjoyed colouring in the pictures on the box first

Charlie used a ruler to measure how far down to plant the seeds
Charlie became very fond of the carrot seedlings (the peppers didn't grow) and carefully sprayed them with water daily to help them grow. He kept them on the window sill in his bedroom, so they received plenty of sunlight. He told me he talked to them and they said kind things to him. He called them the Kind Carrots.

One lunchtime, Michael brought home a present: 'Contraptions'. It was simply a box containing 50 small pine planks and two plastic balls, but it kept Charlie busy for the rest of the day.

This simple toy teaches proportion and balance, as well as the basic principles of physics and engineering.


It's a shame that people make the mistake of thinking that home education means staying at home all the time. It is usually quite the opposite. School children are the ones who stay indoors most of the time, whereas home educated children are often out and about. In our case, unfortunately, we are limited in how much we get out because I have to fit in work and I also have Tom at home. Because of his high anxiety levels, Tom cannot leave the house very often. I don't like to leave him alone for long, so I usually wait for Michael to be working at home before I take Charlie out. Nevertheless, so far, Charlie and I have managed to get out every day. Sometimes we just go for a walk to a nearby park, to the library or into the countryside. We have also been to a festival and on a trip to the Science Museum in London.

Watching Maypole dancing at the CHALKlife family festival in Sussex

An afternoon at Michelham Priory in Hailsham, East Sussex
During a walk through a nature reserve, Charlie found a giant puddle to throw stones into

And, of course, Charlie keeps in touch with his school friends, meeting up regularly after they finish school.

An afternoon visit from one of Charlie's best friends from school


  1. Wow, that Contraptions kit looks amazing!

    1. Yes, you wouldn't believe such a simple thing could prove so absorbing. There are some incredible designs on the website at

  2. Hello. I am delighted to 'meet' you and I have very much enjoyed reading this post. Charlie seems to be loving his home-education and you have been on some lovely adventures together.
    We have used many of the same resources although the 'contraptions' kit is new to us - one to look out for I think.
    Thank you so much for linking up to the #homeedlinkup and I hope to see you there again next week.

    By the way, I am very jealous of your opportunity to bring home second hand books!

  3. Thanks for reading. Yes, we are lucky to have access to the books!

  4. It's great to read about how other families home educate. Thank you for sharing!
    I am going to get one of those contraptions kits!