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EOS Three Easy Steps to Using Drama to Explore Prejudice Living The Dream Our Home Ed Family Road Trip

My Personal Journey to Home Education

An Extract from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’

Around The World In Eighty Days

by Ross Mountney

A different approach to geography

Work and HE


Thinking About Self-employment?

Activities, Project Ideas and more!

Two novels from a home educating author

Rainbow Making is a new novel by Emily Starkey, parent and home-educator of six children. A story of love, bereavement, romance, hope, reconciliation and the power of the human spirit to seek a better future. Cordie Meredith is struggling to cope after the death of her husband. Money is in short supply; her three young sons do not seem to be like 'normal' children and on top of this, she is granted the dubious honour of dealing with her estranged mother's unexpected death. But out of this seemingly doom-filled scenario arise encounters with various members of her family – past and present. Layers of family secrets are peeled away, assisted by the aptly named and rather wonderful undertaker, Leo Toombes. And opportunities are revealed that could help Cordie to alter her future and that of her precious boys. Will she allow herself to believe that happy endings are

Tash Bond is lonely. Frustrated by her marriage to Chris and his frightfully military family, she is unsure about her own readiness for parenthood. But at Jean Mctavish's ante-natal class she meets rich lawyer Harry, 'bling queen' Katriona, yurt-dwelling Melody, beige Kathleen, and young Alice who has been ostracised by her family. Friendships, surprises and secrets all become part of their lives as this colourful collection of characters journey 'Beyond the Bumps'. BUY ON AMAZON

possible after all? BUY ON AMAZON

Emily Starkey is a mum to six children (aged 5-19) all of whom have been, or still are being home educated. She writes (usually into the night) the kind of stories that she likes to read: you will find warmth, humour, a perceptive look at 'family life' and engaging characters. Discover more information on the Amazon Kindle Store.


Why EOS? As well as being the acronym of our title ‘Education Outside School’, Eos was also the name of the Greek goddess of the dawn. We think this is very apt, since often the discovery of home education feels like a new dawn for many families!

EDITORIAL POLICY Please supply articles as a Microsoft Word document and photos as jpegs with a minimum resolution of 300dpi. If the photos were not taken by you please ensure that you have permission to use them. If the photos feature people, especially children, please ensure that you have express permission for them to be used. The editors have the final say in deciding if contributions are printed and in which issue. There will sometimes be a need for editing contributions, for reasons of space, clarity, brevity, tone or otherwise. COPYRIGHT All attempts have been made to find copyright owners and are acknowledged if found; if you think yours has been breached please email us. PLEASE NOTE...... Education Outside School is an independent publication, not allied with any home education group or organisation. Any opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the editors. All contributions (including advertisements) have been accepted in good faith and have not been in any way endorsed by EOS, which cannot be held responsible for the consequences of responding to any of them. As with anything, please make your own checks first.

Education Outside School Magazine EOS aims to provide an informative, sometimes controversial, but above all helpful and fun-to-read resource for current and potential HE families, in a positive, encouraging and upbeat fashion. Also to 'normalise' the whole concept of home education within mainstream society - to work, bit by bit, to demystify what home ed is about, how it works, and to have it accepted as the perfectly valid form of education that it is. As such, EOS is relevant to anyone with an interest in education. Whilst it may sometimes include articles that challenge preconceptions or systems, or encourage the reader to consider alternative points of view, the magazine does not seek to attack or criticise anyone for their choice of education for their child, whether they are in mainstream state education, the private sector, or home educating. EOS operates as a Social Enterprise. The social aims, as well as those above, are to provide a means of employment, freelance or otherwise, for home educating parents, in the form of writers, photographers, interviewers, journalists, salespeople; to provide a means for home educated young people to showcase their achievements and gain work experience by contributing to the magazine; to use any surplus profit for the benefit of the home educating community.


Lorena Hodgson and Jane Levicki

If you’d like to submit an article, please email: If you’d like to advertise, please email: To contact the Editors, please email:


A Note about Photos

Internet Links in this Magazine Throughout the online version of this magazine all web addresses and email addresses should be hyperlinked - that is, if you hover the mouse over them the pointer will turn into a hand and you will be able to click to go straight through the the website. Similarly with books on the Reviews pages and in the References at the bottom of articles - you should be able to click them to be taken through to the appropriate page on Please remember that we cannot be responsible for the content on external sites. Any external sites linked to are for information or suggestion purposes only. If any of the links don’t work, please do let us know so we can put it right. Please consider purchasing from Amazon through one of the links here. This will mean that EOS will earn a small commission. This is just one of the ways that we can build up funds to take the magazine into print!


Pictures are important to us - we know you don’t want a magazine full of just text! We try to use as many genuine home ed photos in the magazine as we possibly can. By that we mean photos of home educated children (or adults!) engaging in activities alone or in groups either groups that consist solely of home educators or that feature home educated children being part of other groups. Sometimes, though, we don’t have an appropriate home ed photo we can use in which case we’ll use a photo available on a Creative Commons licence which allows us free use and we’ll credit the photographer. The Front Cover of Issue 1 showed co-editor Jane’s daughter Anya fascinated by a chick they hatched

If you have any photos that you think we could use we’d be very grateful to receive them. They’ll need to be at least 300dpi and, of course, you’ll need to guarantee that anyone featured in the photo has given their permission (or their parent/guardian has). Contact us at

We have specific criteria for front cover photos - they need to be portrait, very high resolution, and the composition needs to be such that we can overlay text without interfering with the picture. So far we are delighted that every front cover has been a genuine home ed photo! This month’s cover photo is thanks to one of our lovely writers Paula Cleary. You can catch her on her blog here


Meet the Editors Jane has four children currently aged 19, 16, 14 and 11. They been home educating for eleven years. All four children are very different so Jane finds that she has to constantly adjust her approach to home education according to what each one needs. She also finds that they have a habit of changing the goalposts without any notice! Outside of EOS you can find her on her blog at

Lorena has been home educating for 4 years as her eldest is now 9. Though her interest in HE has been for all of those 9 years. He is currently interested in building model aeroplanes, will be helping his Dad build a bed and reads constantly, interspersed with a little PS2 time. Lorena's daughter is now 3, and she is a busy child, rarely stopping except to eat something, though that is also often done on the go!

Meet our Writers! The writers in this issue are: Merry Raymond

Merry set up the very popular UK home ed website back in about 2001, which led to the equally popular EarlyYearsHE list on Yahoo. These days Merry is a highly regarded blogger at and she gives us a flavour of that here in EOS.

Jai Daniels-Freestone

Jai was home educated herself and now home educates her own children. She also runs the Facebook group The Freedom Journey, which is for “Home Educators, Parents, Teachers and Others who in general are interested in the Care and Freedom of children and alternative ways of Parenting and Educating.”

Paula Cleary

Paula lives in Cambridgeshire where she home educates her four sons! She happily admits she is making it up as she goes along, and is deeply committed to freedom in education. Paula has also written for magazine and keeps her own blog at

Ross Mountney

Ross home educated her two daughters and is now a writer and blogger. You can find her on her very popular blog,

Emily Starkey

Emily is a mum to six children (aged 5-19) all of whom have been, or still are being home educated. She is also a writer - find her books on the Amazon Kindle Store.

Yvonne Frost

Yvonne lives in the Lake District with her husband and three children. She has given up her job as a lawyer and is living the ‘good life’ writing freelance whilst autonomously home educating Jamie who has Aspergers syndrome. You can find her blog at

Michelle Barber

Michelle has been home educating her son Will who is nearly 15 for eight years. Will and Michelle, who has an Honours degree in Literature and an MA (Creative Writing), run Loony Literature together which encourages others to write and act. Their websites are and

If you would like to write for us please get in touch! We are happy to receive articles and features on all topics related to home education and learning, including personal accounts. Go to our website, to see our Writer’s Guidelines and have a look at previous copies of the magazine to get an idea of the kinds of things we publish. If you have any other queries do contact us at


WELCOME! A very warm welcome to this issue of Education Outside School Magazine! This issue has been particularly exciting to produce. We are pleased to welcome back our writers Merry, Ross, Paula and Yvonne. Merry updates us about life among the Patch of Puddles. Ross treats us to an excerpt from her new book, ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, a wonderful story of how their family came to home educate their daughters and how it became a natural part of their family life. Paula and her family are on a road trip around Europe and she sends a fascinating account of their adventures so far - they’re still travelling and we look forward to Part 2! In ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, Yvonne describes her inventive and stimulating approach to Geography - we’re trying out her suggestions already! We are also delighted to welcome new writers (well, new to EOS!), Jai and Michelle. Jai was home educated as a child; she tells us about her own personal journey to making the decision to home educate her own children. Michelle and her son Will run, a “collective of written and visual work which uses our literary and historical heritage as a springboard to inspire young people to read and write more.” In this issue she describes how you can use drama at home to explore prejudice. Alongside those wonderful articles we look at Lapbooks and discuss some of the things you’ll need to consider if you’re thinking of becoming self-employed. Together with the Children’s Pages and other regular items that fills a whopping 40 pages! Oh, and do remember that you can print the publication as a whole, or download it and print individual pages so you can have a paper copy of recipes, activities and puzzles. You’ll notice some adverts in this issue. We are pleased to say that every one of them is publicising a business run by a home educator! Finally, look out for our two competitions. On page 33 you can win a copy of “Will Blyton and the Stinking Shadow” by Michelle Barber and on page 37 you can win a copy of Ross Mountney’s first book “Learning Without School”. But only if you enter, so get those emails in!!!

CONTENTS Letters and News


A Patch of Puddles Merry Raymond talks about home ed life


My Personal Journey to Home Education, Part 1 by Jai Daniels-Freestone


Around The World In Eighty Days A different approach to geography from Yvonne Starkey


Living The Dream - Our Home Ed Family Road Trip By Paula Cleary


Three Easy Steps to Using Drama to Explore Prejudice By Michelle Barber


Lapbooks An activity idea from EOS


An Extract from ‘A Funny Kind of Education by Ross Mountney


HE and Working Looking at Self-Employment?


Children’s Pages Christmas crafts, puzzles


Reviews & Recommendations



Home Education Guidance The legal stuff!


And This Is Where It All Began Emily Starkey explains how she came to choose home education

Websites and Groups



Letters and News Home Education in Wales

In September 2012 the Welsh Assembly Government announced proposals for substantial changes to local authority procedures for dealing with home educated children. Some of the proposed changes would require the Welsh Assembly to bring in new laws, whilst other changes could be introduced using existing powers in law, without the need to go through the full legislative process. The changes they propose include: Ÿ A compulsory registration scheme for electively home educated children Ÿ On applying to register the parent and the child would be required to meet with the LA at the main location where the education is being provided within six weeks of receipt of the application Ÿ The LA would be able to refuse the registration request if certain criteria were deemed not to have been met Ÿ Annual monitoring would be required. The Welsh Government has recently held a public consultation inviting feedback on the proposals. The consultation ended on 23rd November 2012, but you can access the details and the proposed changes here: You can read more about this issue on various home education websites, such as: Education Otherwise

Ed Yourself

Home Education UK

What do you think? We’d love your views. Please send them to 6

Llhanthony Priory ~ Black Mountains Wales ©

Here at EOS we are always on the alert for items of news that we think you might want to hear. Whether it’s some new development in the education world, or a big success by a home educated young person, we aim to share it with you. Contact us at

A Patch of Puddles Our regular column from Merry Raymond, illustrating life in a home educating family. Merry owns the website, from which came the very popular Yahoo group EarlyYearsHE. She also blogs at and has been a finalist in the MAD Blog Awards ( On top of all this Merry runs her own business at and its sister site


he annual dreaded Local Authority letter popped through the door again this week. Last year we had quite a fight on our hands with them as the new broom in the cupboard wanted us to all comply with home visits, work inspections and plans for the future, assuring me that the law had changed and I now had to have my home, provision and children inspected and passed fit for another year. With 10 years experience behind me it was relatively easy to put this to bed; I sent a report and a sternly worded letter and heard no more, not even an acknowledgement, for a year. It was a few days out of the time I had for my children though, worry and effort I neither needed or was helpful to any of us. And now it is back to bother us again. It's been an interesting year; our previously entirely home educated eldest went off to join a huge school in Year 9 last September. From the very beginning she flourished there and has achieved so much. She attributes much of it to her background and is the first to say that there is nothing to learn in school she couldn't learn at home. What I see is the benefits a home educated lifestyle has given her. She is self motivated and interested, organises herself well and, by virtue of knowing she has a choice about being there, chooses to make the most of every opportunity. Academically she has done well; any places that she was short on in the first few weeks she soon caught up on and has assimilated exams techniques and written work styles in very short order. This has given me huge confidence in our laid back style of home educating; while she might not have hit the ground running at school, she was enabled with the learning skills that she needed to do well very quickly. At home we choose a child led approach mixed with a dash of formal. Each child has some work they do first thing, choosing from a range of resources accumulated through the years and then the afternoons are just spent busy... craft, reading, out and about, playing music or whatever is currently interesting them. A TV programme watched as a family might spark an interest in a history topic on the wars, or the Victorians, or have us recalling and revisiting the periodic table, the volcano from Nim's Island or a nature programme that inspired us. Little Josie (8) wanted to learn more about penguins

and her way was to print out pictures from the internet and create sentences about them. Only later did I see that, having got down a huge biology book, she had drawn detailed pictures of the bone structure of a penguin's wing and foot. Many of our best pieces of learning happen at dinner, the time when we come together without fail and just talk. A random conversation about times tables leads to discovering a trick and an equation to work out 13x15, a subsequent play with multiplying brackets means the 8 year old earwigs on a conversation about negative numbers and algebra, while doing some maths papers for fun (yes, they begged!) leads us to discover that Amelie does better if you give her harder maths to do and Josie has learned her tables without even knowing. None of that will be a revelation to the average home educating family, in fact it may well sound like ordinary family life to a schooling one too. But it's hard to put it on paper and make it seem like an education because it doesn't equate to school in any way shape or form. No establishment can be comfortable with education that happens to an adequate or even superior level without putting the hours in and yet this week Josie was able to complete a full KS 1 SATs paper (for fun) and get 100% even though I have probably not done more than 20 hours of formal maths with her in her 8 years. Compared to the number of numeracy hours a school has, that's quite a result. Non linear maths, learned when a topic crops up or sounds interesting, language learned and absorbed without worksheets, history read from books and remembered through craft, facts tied together with references to stories, people, dances and art. How to put that on paper and make it sound coherent in a world that defines education by goals and plans and standards and tests? I can't because it isn't coherent, not at all. It's a hotch potch of styles and methods and timelines and ideas, morals discussed in the car, maths at breakfast, punctuation learned by reading more, not writing more. And yet it works. Beautifully. And no one, even when the proof is in the pudding of a set of school grades of a once home educated child, would ever believe me........


My Personal Journey to Home Education By Jai Daniels-Freestone

© Karen Rodgers

Jai Daniels-Freestone was home educated herself and now home educates her own children. She also runs the Facebook group The Freedom Journey, which is for “Home Educators, Parents, Teachers and Others who in general are interested in the Care and Freedom of children and alternative ways of Parenting and Educating.”

Part 1


have a unique viewpoint on Home Education. The total amount of time that I spent in ‘school’ apart from College and University, is a span of roughly eight months spread over three years. My first school was small infant school on Portland in Dorset. I was four and a half years old when I first attended and admittedly don’t remember a lot, but I do remember when my teacher tried to teach us to read. I remember being very frustrated because no one had explained to me why I was being asked to write the letter ‘e’. The piece of paper with this offending letter on went up in the air, was stamped on and even had a chair put on it, so frustrated was I. I remember after this incident asking my mother to teach me to read and help me to understand this ‘e’, so she did. Without any knowledge then of her rights to do so, Mum took me out of school and taught me at home. It was only later that an LEA Officer told us about the existence of Education Otherwise and we then joined. I realise now how strong my mother was to take this step, one that is daunting for many. Although I was to briefly re-attend school sometime later, the next few years were spent at home with my mother. I requested formal lessons to which she agreed. I set the structure and the pace of what we did. My Home Education started here. I was brought up in an almost totally child-led environment. There was no grand plan to my Home Education, my mother just followed my interests and made suggestions if I needed help advancing my knowledge of a subject. Because of this start to my life, for me, Home Education is a way of life rather than merely being an education. I never had a curriculum; I found my own interests and pursued them, not only academically but in every area. I believe that children who are stimulated, loved and cared for from birth never stop learning. For me there was never a great difference between my life 0-3 years and the rest of my 8

years spent at home. I was always allowed the freedom to play and explore through play and imagination, my mother never putting adult expectation into my learning. When asked by parents new to Home Education how to prepare, what to do, I usually advise taking the time to ‘do nothing’. By this I mean to sit back, watch their children, follow their interests surround them with books and stimulate them and then allow their children’s imaginations to do the rest. My personal experience as a child tells me that as a child grows, so do their ideas and their curiosity about the world around them, naturally expanding their knowledge base. It is a very natural and organic process. For children who have not yet been to school, Home Education is simply a continuation of everything that has surrounded them since birth and for those who have been to school, it is a return to being in touch with the natural curiosity for advancement that enabled them to learn to walk and talk. Home Education is not something, for me, which begins when a child is of school age, but a way of living and learning that beings from birth and continues on, in my case, for the rest of your life. n

“[School] hindered me from discovering how lovely and delightful and kind the world can be, and how much of it is intelligible.� E.M.Forster


Lapbooks Lapbooks (or projectbooks) are a great idea, if you like project-based learning. I think it works well for autonomous and structured families. We did one a few years ago, and have now started again with about 6 projects in mind, and four projectbooks on the go at the moment.

ity v i t a e r C

We use the basic paper folder you can get at stationers, pictured on the right. They’re sometimes called document wallets. Cut open the sides of the lower piece, so when you turn the folder to be portrait rather than landscape, you have two flaps, left and right, covering a central piece. You can then put whatever you like in there, fold it back (and tie it with treasury tags, or ribbons or whatever takes your fancy!) It is then stored away for future reference and is a really useful way to "revise" topics.

lls i k S y c a r e Lit We tend to put in a few photos, some poetry (either found or written fresh!), a printout, or copied by hand, of a piece of relevant information from an internet site (wikipedia of course very useful). Then a drawing, a few notes, and in some cases something collected that goes with the project. Here's an example: "Peterborough Green Spaces" was chosen as a project. We go to a place called the Green Backyard, so I suggested writing that as a drawing (I'm encouraging my left-hander to write in different ways, as he doesn't find writing easy). We've got some photos, so I'll put them into a montage and print that out. A poem about eco living is going to be added at a later date. Alongside that, we're also doing "Spices". The plan is to have a map with strings attached to the countries where particular spices are found - I tore out two pages from an old free Waitrose magazine that explained Christmas spices. A piece from a herbal tea box was copied out by hand - it's from China. So China and its history of tea was discussed; the piece was from "before 221BC" so that prompted an interesting discussion, too. We've found it looks good to fold things differently, so when you open up the two flaps, you've got a choice of colours, designs, patterns to choose from. Which one will you open first? It makes the project book look enticing, and is a challenge to do something different for each piece of work you put in.

Versatile Lapbooks are excellent for tailoring towards the child’s particular learning style. If you have a child who likes to write then they can include lots of written material - descriptive paragraphs, factual accounts, poems and so on. But if you have a child who does not like to write then you can find plenty of other ways for them to fill their book - drawing, printing pictures from the internet and sticking them in, taking photographs to include.

ing t i r w d n Ha 10

Get creative with what you want to include - use materials other than paper; make your lapbooks 3-Dimensional by including pop-up sections; or add interest by including envelopes with small items inside - further pictures for example.

They can be a great way to encourage a child who does not like to write to start to practise this skill, as they can often write short bullet points or even just individual words. And of course, they can choose the topic themselves so they’re likely to be much more amenable. Plus you can do them in short bursts, picking them up again the next day or next week, when the mood takes them. Each child can do a lapbook each, or they can work on one together. Great for teamwork skills and for introducing the concept of using each person’s skills - who would be best to do the writing? How about the pictures?

Children can write as much, or as little, as they like. There are other ways of presenting information

These two photos ©;

Planning Choosing the topic and directing the project themselves can be crucial to its success

Older Children Don’t discount the concept of lapbooks for older children too, possibly right into the teenage years. As they get older they can take much more of a lead in choosing the topic, doing the research, laying out their design. You may need to invest in some nicer card and some finer craft materials but they can be very creative and beautiful. It’s not dissimilar from scrap-booking. If your teens are studying more formally, say for exams, it can be a way to bring some variety into their work and aid deeper processing.

Research Skills Further information Many lapbook resources out there are American, so you may have to ‘translate’ some of the language used!

As children get older the topics, and the creativity, can become quite complex!

lls i k S r u te p m o C

Lapbooking 101 is a blog with huge amounts of information about lapbooking, ideas for designing the insides, suggestions for topics and tons of resources too. Looks is if it may be New Zealand based. Youtube - Just search for ‘lapbook’ on the site and you’ll find loads! Hands of a Child - this is an American based website that sells complete lapbook projects to download. Might be useful if you’re a little unsure about how to start and would appreciate some structure. Average price seems to be about $10-$12, but they always have a $5 ‘Book of the Week’ and a Freebie available. From the home page hover over the ‘Curriculum’ link on the left to see the topics available. Click the ‘Freebies and Specials’ link towards the right to see those. Flickr - the website facility for sharing photos. Type ‘lapbook’ in the search bar to see some lovely examples!


My IGCSE English Language course is guaranteed! So if you don’t achieve at least a C grade pass, I will help you until you do!

An extract from A FUNNY KIND OF EDUCATION By Ross Mountney However, I persevered. I listed what maths we did, what English we did, what science activities and concepts we’d covered, our creative and physical activities, our social events. It looked to be a huge amount. It looked exhausting it was so huge.


as there a ledge in the house without glitter on it? Was there a surface in the place without drying decorations or cards standing up in proud display ready to be sent out? Was there a pair of scissors to be found that hadn’t been lost under a pile of coloured paper or sequins or card? And was there any food colouring left after our attempts to make Christmas shortbread which the girls decided would be more appealing if it was multi coloured? No, not one spare space, no food colouring, and no normal creamy shortbread either. Just a heap of odd rainbow coloured shapes. Charles even found a shiny speck of it on his plate at dinner. “My dinner’s sparkling.” “Not everyone’s food glitters like ours,” I said wiping it off.

But what it didn’t show was all the other stuff that we’d done that had taught the kids far more than anything on the record. I may have listed ‘worked with money concepts’. But what wasn’t listed was the hours of valuable activity they had playing shop. This involved paying and giving change, adding and subtraction, concepts of weight and measurement, reading and writing, talking about percentages, looking at sources and countries of origin on a map, an afternoon making things to sell in the shop and talking about budget, savings and banking. We even talked about health and safety thanks to the input from their dad who is a health and safety officer at work. And finally we made up a story about our shop. It made all my record keeping look a bit pale and pathetic unless I was going to write all that down as well. Like the teachers, I could spend more time on admin than helping the kids. I was going to have to rethink in the new year. *

“Look at this daddy.” Charley held up her latest glittery creation and a cascade of it fell into her dinner. She blew it off and it sprinkled all over Chelsea’s dinner. We all thought it was funny but Chelsea wasn’t impressed. “Here, have mine instead,” I said halting the tears, and swapped with her. I crunched nobly through the rest of it wondering if I’d have glittery poo. Even the cat glittered. It looked fantastic on his black fur. I fancied a bit in my hair for the party. When I kissed Charles the speck of it on his cheek was transferred to mine and made the girls laugh.

The girls were so excited in the back of the car on the way to their first Home Ed Christmas party the books were abandoned. “Are we there yet?” “Not far now.” I was quite excited too. We were meeting at a garden centre where there was a Santa’s Grotto, a place for them to have lunch together and a feast of decorations.


The children all sat together round one table and the parents sat at another one. The children behaved impeccably raising many smiles from the groups of old folks also on their Christmas outings. The parents got dirty looks and disdainful glares because of all the giggling they were doing.

The end of the year approached and I felt the need to record on a daily basis what the kids had been doing, ever mindful of the need for some proof of our educational activities to the LA when the time comes. But it was such a boring time consuming chore it took away the magic that is Home Education.

I think I enjoyed the walk through the magical wonderland they’d created even more than the kids because I could more readily accept that the reindeer were stuffed and the kids were a bit superior about it. But at least the older children kept the Santa secret alive for the younger ones, unlike at school where

“You’re too old to wear glitter make up mum,” said Chelsea. Thanks a lot. Nice to have such valuable advice.



Chelsea had her dreams shattered very quickly. Then at the very end there were real reindeer all soft and sad eyed and reeking of animals, a smell that always brings nostalgia having kept a horse for years. The best bit was the camaraderie and friendship that circled the group in a mutual feeling of care and support. We’d found our community. We swapped the still sticky, glitter shedding cards with our other home schooled friends and left with a trail of crafty bits dropping in our wake. The girls sat contentedly all the way home clutching their present and a little Christmas tree sapling ready to plant. The minute we got home we had to go out in the dark and find pots and soil and get them planted. I sniff them occasionally as they take me back to childhood and the smell of pine. Our plastic tree just doesn’t smell the same. I was thinking that the party would mark the end of our first Home Educating ‘term’. Time to relax, stop pushing education at the kids every day, and just coast till Christmas. Actually, I doubt life will be different as education is just so much part of it now.

I so rarely got a moment to myself that when I did I revelled in it. Whilst the girls were out for an afternoon walk with Charles in the remaining frost and I sat down to write about not education but the essence of Christmas. It curled round the cottage as evocative as the smell of wood smoke and cinnamon. The real fire burned with orange flicks and exuded a comforting warmth far exceeding anything a radiator can do. The tinsel on the Christmas trees, (one big plastic one, two tiny real ones), moved occasionally in the inevitable draughts in this old cottage and sparkled magically. The presents underneath were stacked ready. The oven thermostat ticked as the stew cooked ready for their return. The cupboard was stocked with homemade cake (grandma’s) and mince pies (me and the children) and multi coloured shortbread with finger prints in (just the children). The cat sprawled in relaxed warmth on the vacant hearth rug usually taken by restless children. The fire murmured gently, all was peace... “Is it ready yet?” My reverie was interrupted by the door bursting open with a flurry of cold air and giggles and rosy cheeks and sniffing. “Not yet,” I said closing my notebook.



“Boots off, girls,” said Charles keeping his on. They put their soaking gloves on the hearth, kicked wellies into the kitchen corner as a gesture of putting away, dropped coats on chairs, outmanoeuvred the cat for the best spot in front of the fire. Peace shattered, but actually it was their happy childish voices which completed the Christmas atmosphere. * On Christmas eve we put on our layers, filled a bag with goodies and went and sang a carol outside mum’s cottage door.

for prime position in front of it while mum got her coat on ready to come to ours. Christmas day was a jumble of torn wrapping, turkey smell and too much chocolate. The pristine piles of presents were rent and became real objects to be ooohed and aaaahed over. The fire burned brighter than the telly and mum’s cheeks even though she was burnished by the sherry. We watched films, figured out how various constructions fitted together and sat on settees nursing groaning tummies. Treasured presents were clasped tired to bed. Boxing day brought a sprinkle of snow. There’s times when you think it couldn’t be more perfect.

“Oh, it’s you! I thought it was the cats fighting,” she said winking at the girls. She glowed with happiness at seeing us and as brightly as her roaring fire. We jostled

Some of the Christmas Activities we did in ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’ appear in the Children’s Pages following!

The children were just not thriving in school. They were unhappy, unwell and switched off. But what on earth could their parents do about it? They couldn’t possibly home educate......... or could they? This is the story of the excitement, panic and hilarity of life with kids when you home school. A story to move hearts and minds and get you giggling. And change your view of education forever.

Available now from Amazon in paperback and on Kindle



Here are some of the activities that Ross (author of the previous article and two books) and her children often did at Christmas - perhaps you’d like to

100g plain flour 50g cornflour 100g butter or margarine or similar spread 50g caster sugar Grated rind of one orange (or lemon) Food colouring (if you fancy it). And you can also buy lovely decorations from cake shops, including edible glitter to die for, but these tend to be very pricey. I think a bag of Jelly Tots look just as good. But equally the shortbreads look just as luscious without!


The recipe we used:

Oven on at 170 degrees centigrade. Cream the butter/spread and sugar together – it helps if the butter is already softened – and beat until pale and creamy. Mix in the rind. (Now is the time to add colouring if you are going to). Mix together the flours then work them into the butter and sugar mixture a tablespoonful at a time. Once you have a soft dough press it out onto a board and cut it into Christmas shapes. You don’t need expensive cookie cutters for this – be artistic and try it freehand. Or cut a template from a clean piece of card for the children to cut round. Place on a baking tray and bake moderately for 20-30 minutes depending on your type of oven. It needs to be pale golden brown. Add decorations, if you’re going to, whilst slightly warm.

We made cards with copious amounts of loose glitter or glitter glue, paint, collages of pretty papers collected over the years, by doing potato or other vegetable/fruit prints, and made various pop up cards too. We nearly always started from scrap using whatever we had to hand or collected over the months rather than buying costly kits that can sometimes inhibit your creative ideas! We also used recycling centres for materials, failing that ‘The Works’ shop has some very affordable crafty bits like sequins and bright buttons which are cheaper than at a haberdasher or stationers. We had favourite books to use for inspiration for cards but that was pre-internet. There are some fabulous blogs and websites now to check out for ideas. Here are a few to get you going;


For decoration only (tastes disgusting anyway – yes, they tried it!). We made decorations out of salt dough, baked them and painted and glittered them to hang on the tree or around the house. Here’s the recipe: 1 cup of salt 2 cups of all purpose (plain) flour. 1 cup of luke-warm water. (If you want to add colouring then it’s best to add it to the water first). In a large bowl mix together the salt and flour. Then gradually stir in the water until you get a nice doughy consistency. Remove from the bowl and knead well for several minutes. The more you knead it the smoother your dough will be. You can then use cutters or templates or make decorative shapes by hand. If you want to hang them make a little hole (you can use a pencil) in the top of the decoration - you can put thread through this once it’s finished. These can then be air dried or for a quicker result gently baked in a very low over for 45-60 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the decorations. Once firm and cool they can be painted and decorated as you wish.

Can you find your way from the top of the tree to the bottom?


ann/ hotos/beckm Photos © ww

Winter is a great time for some astronomy, with all those frosty clear skies and dark nights falling early. Below are the names of some of the constellations that can be seen from the UK during the winter. Can you find them in the word search?

AQUARIUS AURIGA CANIS MAJOR CANIS MINOR CASSIOPEIA CYGNUS GEMINI ORION PEGASUS PLEIADES TAURUS If you’d like to find out how to spot them in the night sky, or read some of the legends behind the names, go to and download the worksheets on Circumpolar Constellations and Winter Constellations.

If we don’t get the snow we’d like this winter, we might have to make our own! Youtube is a great resource for anything like this. Search for ‘origami snowflake’ or ‘paper snowflake’. We found that this brought up examples that were too complicated for us so we searched for ‘simple origami snowflake’ instead! One of the results was a video entitled ‘How To Do Origami Snowflakes’. Although it wasn’t so much origami, more like paper cutting, it is really very easy. If you made lots, using different colours and sizes of paper, they could look very effective.


There are at ten differences between these pictures - can you find them?

We bet it won’t take long for you to work out what this is!


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And this is where it all began... By Emily Starkey


once had to explain to a health visitor, well meaning though I'm sure she was, that the reason I wasn't worried that my son's head was far larger than average, was because she was the one obsessing about the line on her chart. Some children have large heads, some have small. That didn't necessarily mean something was wrong. And together, that allowed an average to be calculated. And so began a childhood where 'average' didn't really mean very much. There was nothing wrong with my son; he had a big head. That was all. And then he walked at eight months; and then he read before he was two years. He devoured 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' at the tender age of three and it sort of continued from there.


People came round to see what the 'weird toddler' was doing that week. I don't think they were being friendly – they simply wanted to report back. And no doubt, they thought I was a pushy mother – hot-housing her child to put all others to shame. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I was young when I had my first son and I had been raised to do what the establishment required. I really didn't think I had any choice. And so I gave birth in a hospital and tried to obey. It was the most horrific experience of my life. And then I woke up and I grew up and I started to do my research. Suffice to say, I went on to have five more

babies at home and I'm not sure I've obeyed any rule since without having questioned it first! I look back to those early years with my first son (he's 19 now) and I don't think rose-tinted specs had been invented then. It was hard – really, really hard. As a baby he screamed and didn't sleep; and even as a two year old when he'd cracked sleeping through the night, it was only a night from 10pm until 5am. And he was on the go continually. We called him a 'sponge' – if there was stuff out there he didn't know about then he wouldn't rest until he did. Exhausting? Definitely. Guaranteed to win you lots of friends? Not likely! But was it exciting? Oh yes! This was my first child; I had no preconceptions of how it was supposed to be, and so little stood in our way. If we wanted to spend hours in the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge) admiring the mummies and the Greek vases, then we did. We borrowed a trailer-load of library books every couple of days and we took turns reading them. My boy learned to read before I had even grasped that it might be a good idea to teach him: letters before he was a year old, words shortly afterwards and then fluently from the age of two years. I'm still not really sure how it happened – it just did. Later on he gained a label. I'm not a huge fan of labels but Asperger's Syndrome seemed to explain the obsessive attention to detail and his 'chosen specialised subjects'. If your two year old knows when every tax disc in the street is due to expire then I can appreciate that 'weird' bells might be ringing, but on the flip side, I would never have known the flags and capital cities of every country if it hadn't been for my firstborn. I am a quiz team's trump card! I never had any intention of home educating children; I doubt I would even have taken the time to research it had I not been blessed with a child who was not ideally suited to fitting within the current education system. If I am being honest, by the time he was legal school age, he was far more capable than the majority of children who leave school at eleven. Intellectually, I mean. Emotionally and psychologically he was a little child. And as parents, we had the task of meeting all of those needs.

He sat the exams as an external candidate (we had to ask around to find appropriate schools) and started taking exams from the age of thirteen. He spread them out - a few over a few years so that there really wasn't much pressure and by the age of fifteen he set off to start his A-levels at the local comprehensive. And then, at seventeen, with four A and A*grades he fulfilled the offer he had from Oxford University to study Biochemistry.

Now in his third year out of a four year course, I think he's getting ready for what happens next. I don't think he knows what that is and I don't think I do either. But what I do know is that with the self-confidence he gained from fifteen years of home education, the time he had to find out who he was and what he really liked, I do feel confident that he will work it out. And if he gets it wrong, then he'll reassess and have another go. He won't see that as a failure and neither will we. As a family, we have much to thank our eldest son for because without him and his particular needs, we would never have investigated home education. It taught me that home ed works for children whatever their needs and 'specialised subjects'. My six children all learn in different ways and have a variety of gifts and talents – all special and rather wonderful. I doubt any of them will follow their brother to Oxford (well, there is one who's a bit of a maths-fiend but that's another story!) but that doesn't mean to say that they are not all valued for what they bring to the world. Everything matters – they all matter. And as for my eldest son? Well, on getting to know the other students at Oxford University, he assessed himself as rather 'average'. Probably for the first time in his life! And I think he rather liked it!

And when I look back, those early years when he was my only child were the halcyon days, but life is never that simple and I know that my oldest son has learned far more about life from his five younger brothers and sisters than he would care to admit. Being part of a family, part of a team, pulling together and not always getting what you want are valuable, if troublesome lessons. Because family life was so hectic, he learned to find things out for himself and if I say that he pretty much single-handedly got himself a substantial handful of rather impressive GCSE results, then I cannot be accused of blowing my own trumpet.


Around the World in Eighty Days By Yvonne Frost ’ve just finished reading an email from my pen pal in Japan. She wrote about the effect of the 2011 Tsunami on her country, the tensions between Japan and China over islands, her day working in a paddy field, and the Japanese transport system.


on top of it. It is because of her letters that I now know that the vineyards in Southern Australia are surrounded by rose bushes to distract the pests and about the famous cycle race which passes through her home town of Wallunga in Southern Australia.

At the beginning of the academic year I had no idea that we would be learning about Japan, it all came about from a chance comment from my twelve year old son that he would like to learn Japanese!

Finding a pen pal in Japan was much easier than I expected. I decided to seek out a pen pal who was a similar age and with similar interests to me because one of the difficulties my son experiences is to compose and write at the same time. This way I could ensure that the correspondence was maintained and could relay what I learned to my son who learns mostly through our discussions. Having googled “pen pals” I came up with I then chose my ideal age group and country and was able to read through the profiles of the people available and send them a message. I was lucky! The very first person I was introduced to was an English teacher who had lived in England just up the road from me and had been married to an English man. We had so much in common and hit it off immediately!

Whilst the obvious response would have been to look around for a suitable language course I don’t consider myself to live in a normal family. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and is easily bored if the subject is irrelevant to him and, as I had no wish to waste money on a subject he might not pursue, I had to look for ways to facilitate his interest and which I could expand if his interest developed. I first realised the educational potential of pen-pals after being introduced last year to a distant relative in Australia. Since she became aware that we are a home educating family she has been corresponding with me whilst on a grand tour of Australia. It was only when I received a postcard from her that I learned that Australia would cover the whole area of Europe if placed

Our correspondence prompted me to see whether I could discover more about current affairs in Japan so I found the BBC world news website. Coincidentally, at the time there was an article concerning the aftermath

Comparing the relative size of Australia and Europe


of the devastating 2011 tsunami. Apparently debris was being found washed up on the American coast! There is no right or wrong way to learn geography when you are home educating. Some people choose to travel the world. As a family we have discussed spending six months in France to learn the language but at the moment that’s not a feasible option. We have however spent weekends away in Premier Inns throughout Britain in order to explore different areas our own country. But if you can’t travel yourself why not let your friends do the travelling for you? One of my friends has brought back newspapers from Kuala Lumpur and Australia for us to study. Since we started out on our home educating journey we have used the national news for many different subjects . In geographical terms it has been a resource for discussing climate change and the different weather conditions affecting the planet such as the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and, closer to home, a small domestic earthquake in Coniston which shook us in our beds! They have all offered the opportunity to learn about the movement of tectonic plates and the Richter Scale.

clicking together in the children’s brains in the course of our every day life and because they weren’t having to learn the information by rote it stuck!

Even just standing at the end of the drive and watching as the public footpath which runs past our garden was eroded by the recent heavy floods taking rocks and boulders down the hill, or driving through the flooded country roads, have all shown the children how the land becomes saturated and is unable to hold any more water. We are lucky to live close enough to the sea to witness high tides as they breach the flood defences in our village and have learned how the pull of gravity from the moon as it passes the closest point of earth affects the daily tides.

Orienteering can be used as a novel way for older children to learn map symbols and coordinates and although we haven’t yet tried it we fully intend to have a go at geocaching when the opportunity arises.

Documentaries play a valuable part in teaching geography and are great for visual learners like my son. He has learned about different habitats like tundra, rain forests and deserts from his interest in natural history programmes like Planet Earth and Human Planet. Similarly the National Geographic Channel has introduced us to the Atlas programmes which have taught us about particular countries like Japan and France. When the children were younger we used the Usborne Sticker Book of Great Britain and Northern Ireland1 to record the places we visited. As it slowly filled up it helped me to realise just how far we had travelled and it enabled the children to visualise where places were in relation to one another. Our travels also enabled us to show the children examples of limestone pavements, glaciated valleys and erratic boulders in Scotland and the Lake District, the Giants Causeway in Ireland, stalactites and stalagmites in Mallorca, and fossils on our local beach. I began to realise that, like a jigsaw, the relevant pieces of information were gradually

We also used jigsaws as a tool for learning. There are many educational jigsaws featuring maps of Britain and the world. Our local specialist jigsaw shop,, has jigsaws on all subjects. You can even buy a Landranger Ordnance Survey jigsaw to cover your town or village from!

Making your own weather stations, recycling to reduce the impact of climate change, campaigning for sustainable fuel are all issues which can make geography interesting and relevant whilst you home educate and it’s more likely that your children will absorb the information they take in. We found a Blue Peter Earth Watch book in a charity shop which covered issues like pollution, expanding populations, and deforestation . There are some great free websites too. is a great one for kids learning about the weather. In fact on checking my emails I have just received a weather warning from weatherwiz that hurricane Sandy is coming towards the coast of California and Maine and to pack up my bags and possessions and move out if I’m in it’s path (thankfully I’m not!). How real is that! As the saying goes ‘The world is your oyster!’ so get exploring and see how much YOU can learn! n


Living The Dream – Our Home Ed Family Road Trip (Part I) By Paula Cleary


hen I was a kid, my dad worked all over Europe. For a few summers, my mum, my sis and I got to tag along – we toured Croatia and Hungary on top of our usual trip to my grandparent’s forest small-holding in Poland. Bought up bilingually and with a foot in the two cultures, I guess it’s not surprising that our family has taken the plunge and gone on what will hopefully be the first of many European road trips. Travelling with four children and a dog, we decided that the most economical and flexible way to do our trip was to buy a motorhome. We looked at a whole bunch , but kept coming back to the American RV’s. If you want a funky looking bus, you have to go old style – and with that comes the problem of it breaking down more often. So we opted for a mid 90’s number….with fairly old-people’s home décor inside…. but most importantly, the seats are properly comfy, the sofa is comfy, and somehow American naff won out over English naff. Besides being our home for this two month adventure, we hoped we’d be going on several trips in her, so she needed to be comfortable. Finally we got really lucky! A couple were selling their 30ft 6 berth Winnebago for a song, so we snapped her up straight away. Five days later she was on our drive! Now we could drive wherever we wanted and stay as little or as long as we liked! We spent every evening looking at maps and planning our route. We wrote lots, bought supplies for the van and for us. We collected travel books like DK France (brilliant brilliant book), All the Aires-Europe, Frommers Mediterranean Spain. We plotted and planned and counted down the days. We were really doing it, our dream! The thing we’d said we would always do so our children could learn first-hand about different cultures. We wanted them to learn with their eyes, hands, and ears. To smell, taste and feel life on the road, in different places. My husband’s final day of work came and the next day we set off on our adventures, really excited to be living our dream instead of just talking about it. Our trip started off with a couple of days of saying goodbyes to friends in the UK before we headed off through the Eurotunnel to our first stop – a lovely eco woodland campsite near Versailles, called Huttopia. We had planned to visit the palace but instead spent our time there going into Paris on the train, which was very easy to do from there and only 20 minutes from the Eiffel Tower. We took the children to the obvious tourist sites – Eiffel Tower, Tour Montparnasse (Wow! Panoramic views of Paris from 57th floor of a skyscraper), Paris Aquarium and The Musee D’Orsay, 26

where we saw paintings by Van Gogh – the kids were so breathless and excited to see his paintings since getting turned onto Van Gogh by a Doctor Who episode amongst other things. We could have stayed for longer here and will return to that campsite again – a little gem of a nature spot tucked behind the busy streets of Versailles. I would go back just for the Patisserie at the foot of the hill down from the campsite – If there’s one thing the French do best it’s cake!!! By the way we picked up a DVD set called Minuscule whilst in Paris – animated comedy shorts about the life of insects – look it up – we’ve been watching them in the evenings – and laughing our heads off! (No French required, it’s all very visual and there’s no language) Anyway…Driving on from Paris, we took a few days driving up and down the breath-taking mountainous Auvergne, stopping to go for mountain-top forest walks, and calling in at the brilliant Vulcania (a wonderful science museum / geological paradise – set in a real dormant volcano! ). This place is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area – truly awe-inspiring! We stopped for a cakey patisserie lunch (Do you see a theme developing here?!) at the pretty town of St Flour,

and sadly missed out on seeing Florac, which we had planned to see - the rains were a bit heavy and we needed to push on to our next stops for some Romanthemed sightseeing at Nimes and Arles. They did not disappoint – Wow! At Nimes we saw the jaw-dropping world famous Roman aqueduct, The Pont-Du-Gard, where there was also an interesting interactive Geology/Romans themed museum, which was fab, but to be honest the bridge on its own would have been enough. It’s just soooo old! Think of all the things it has survived – world wars included – pretty awesome. We totally loved it. Not far from Nimes, Arles was another lovely town with a wealth of Roman remnants, including an Amphitheatre, which the boys ran around and were really inspired by. The boys know quite a bit about Roman history from books - They’re really into the Asterix books and films (the one with Cleopatra is totally hilarious by the way – recommend), and have watched the BBC series Roman Mysteries several times over…… but standing on these monuments that have survived the ages and touching these stones and being there was really magic. Arles was home to Van Gogh for a while so there was lots of Van Gogh paraphernalia everywhere, (lots of it total tat) but we bought some fab postcards, including a 3d postcard of the bedroom at Arles, which we had seen at the Musee D’Orsay, and one of the church from the Doctor Who episode. Hurray for Doctor Who! After Arles we saw white horses and wild flamingos in the Carmargue, which was absolutely magic, and moving on again to Carcasonne – wow! That is one place you will never forget. What a place! We felt like we’d wandered onto a film set for Robin Hood or some other medieval action-flick. It is quite simply wonderful. The boys ran around role-playing all day soaking up the atmosphere of this mediaeval bustling yet dreamy citadel. Apparently the Germans disobeyed orders to bomb it during World War Two – I can understand why – it would have been the crime of the century. We were a bit sad to leave France – no more delicious pastries, no more delicious food! But the weather for the last couple of weeks in France had been pretty hard work – our van was battered with wind and rain for days at a time, so we were feeling like heading south and getting some winter sun! So we headed to Barcelona and camped up at a seaside campsite at El Masnou, about 10 miles north of the city, and got the train into town quite easily from there.

Pete and I had been before so we took the boys to places we knew they’d love –Antonio Gaudi’s fab creation - Parc Guell – a weird and wonderful park with crazy tiled curvy walls and sculptures. We bought a CD of some fab buskers there – The Mananas, which has been on constant play on our stereo since! We also went to Gaudi’s fabulously curvy house Casa Battlo built early last century and really radical and way ahead of its time. Art Nouveau personified in a building. What a house! Wibbly wobbly walls and beautiful curves everywhere. On another day into town, I took the boys to the Picasso museum, which was really fun – Finn liked it because he had gotten turned on to Picasso after he met Anthony Penrose in our home town of Wisbech, at an evening to talk about his childhood experiences of Picasso, a family friend, and his book, The Boy Who Bit Picasso, which he signed for Finn. (It’s a great book by the way). It felt really exciting to be joining up the dots again, learning in this random cross-curricular, cross-medium, international way. The highlight of the Barcelona trip for Pete and Indie though had to be seeing Barca football team play at Camp Nou – what a fab way to soak up some Catalan pride and passion, eh? Indie got a cheapie rip-off t-shirt from outside the stadium – otherwise they were selling for 35 euros! He doesn’t know the difference, or care anyway, so that’s good. After Barcelona we got itchy feet for better weather again, and saw it was warmer just north a bit, so we headed off to Figueres - home of the totally bonkers Salvador “Je suis le Surrealisme” Dali, where we visited the bonkers Museu Teatro Salvador Dali – his surrealism spills out of the building and into the town itself – the scale and vision and drama totally unique and playful. Gigantic eggs on the roof! A car with a man inside being rained on! A huge bent fork in the street! Bizarre things wherever you looked. The kids enjoyed the weird sculptures and artistic arrangements too. I like to think that these art galleries are a door into new ways of seeing, of interpreting, of dreaming and visioning. They are a way into learning about the country and landscape that inspired those painters, as well as learning about themes of love and hope and loss and beauty and death and war. The big stuff of life explored in different ways. On from Figueres, we drove on back to Barca for one night then on to Valencia, the home of paella (which I detest, but hey). If you like paella, this is the place to get the real deal! We’d been told not to bother with Valencia – but as we discovered, advice should sometimes be ignored, because Valencia was amazing. The super modernist mega-structure that snakes its way along the city was quite breath-taking. It was built a few years ago and incorporates an aquarium, a science


drove them! (think we brought them all the way from home, and they’d start buzzing round in the bus every time you started the engine). And red ants. We picked them up in our campsite in Barcelona. Went to get a jar of honey from the cupboard yesterday and the ants were all over it!!!

museum, a palace of arts, landscaped parks and botanical areas, an aviary – you have to see it for yourself. It really is pretty cool! We experienced this place over a few day trips out from our campsite a few miles north east of the city – in a nature reserve. A nice contrast between city edgy designer cool and lots of birdlife and wild beaches! If this trip sounds idyllic, it is! BUT of course since this is still real life, let me also share some of the things that are not so great! Our bus, although great, has taken a hammering. Every day some new little thing gets broken or needs fixing. Since we ran out of gas very early on our road trip, and didn’t bring an adapter for European LPG pumps, we’ve done all our cooking on a €30 electric stove from Carrefour! There is very little room on the bus, and it gets messy very quickly. With a dog thrown in, it all gets muddy, and dog hair gets all over the carpets. No matter how much I vacuum, or use eco-fabric freshness, it doesn’t stay sweetsmelling for long. You get used to it, but it’s grim nonetheless! If you don’t wash up after every single meal, it’s a tip. Six people’s laundry soon piles up too. And after one laundrette trip that costs €50 we’re doing it a little less often! Washing clothes on the road is a little hit and miss.

This is not a trip for the faint-hearted – but then who wants to live a safe and cosy existence all the time, eh? Whenever we’ve felt a bit glum about this or that, or we feel homesick, it’s been good to remind ourselves of the resilience of humans by listening to audiobooks like Michael Morpugo’s ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom’ and ‘Alone on a wide, wide, sea’, and reading the book ‘Wonder’ by RJ Palacio aloud at bedtimes – a really heart-warming and story of a boy who is exceedingly brave and faces and overcomes many challenges. We’re only half way through our two month trip and there’s still so much ahead of us. Living, albeit briefly, in all these places makes everything the children have learnt in books and films and online tangible - and hearing them talk snippets of French and Spanish and negotiating between themselves how to spend their pocket-money in Euros makes me so glad they have this learning opportunity. It would be nice if they had some more friends on the road to share it with, but moving on all the time makes that difficult. Oh well. Maybe we are swapping maths workbooks for Sudoku puzzles and Junior Monopoly and trips to Carrefour, maybe we are swapping geography lessons with films like White Mane and The Red Balloon, and just being in those places we might have learnt about in books. And maybe the kids did get turned onto Van Gogh by Doctor Who instead of some school art-teacher….. but we are joining up the dots and living a dream…… and that’s what life is all about, surely?

The weather has been “The worst I’ve ever seen in all the years I’ve been coming to Spain”, according to some seasoned travellers we have met. They’re not kidding! It’s not all been sunny days – in fact most days it’s rainy, and there have been at least ten nights on our trip where strong winds and rain have lashed down and shaken the van around – day and night! We have also been eaten alive by mosquitos. The kids look like they’ve been in a fight – their poor faces are covered in bites! Not so great. And we have had some squatters in our bus - bees in the air-con, till we got to France, when we out 28


Three Easy Steps Using Drama to Explore Prejudice By Michelle Barber. Prejudice is something which unfortunately lives in our society; therefore it is important that our children have an understanding of it. Here are three easy steps which use drama in a fun way and help our children question prejudice for themselves.

Show the children the three photographs and labels below and ask them which label goes with which photograph.

I have used characters and an extract from the play “Frankenstein’s Revenge” as the running theme in the play is prejudice.

Mary = b Albert Trumpworthy = a The Monster = c.


When the children have made their choices, ask them why they have chosen each label for each character and then talk about how it is good to judge people by the way in which they behave as opposed to the way they look.

Step One Sometimes we judge people by the way that they look.

onster The M

Alb ert

Tru mpw o




This one chases people and handcuffs them , is also very silly and not nice to get on with.

This one writes books.



This one des perately w ants to be friend s with peop le.


At this point, as Mary Shelley and Albert Trumpworthy are the two characters in the extract which we are going to act out, it is a good idea if we can get the children to think about the characters a little bit more before we start acting. Show the children the photos on the right. Ask them to guess what time period they came from? For younger children give them a choice of: a) present day, b) the future, c) the Georgian period.

Can they guess their jobs? They are both holding something does that give us a clue to what they do for a living? (

One is a real character from history, the other is made up – can you guess which is which? (if they need a tip, suggest they type in “Mary Shelley” into a web browser)

Mary with Fr ankenstein

andcuffs h h t i w y orth Trumpw et rat and his p

Do you think they will like each other when they meet– why?

Step Two Over the page is an extract from the play “Frankenstein’s Revenge” which was written specifically to introduce children between the ages of 8-12 to the classic novel, “Frankenstein” in a fun way. This is what is happening in the play

Get the children to take turns in playing Mary and Trumpworthy. Younger children can still pretend to be Trumpworthy by imagining how he swaggers, how he rattles his handcuffs and saying his catch phrase: “Trumpworthy by name, Trumpworthy by nature. Aaaarrhh!”


bo o k

Scene Three Mary – It’s all very well Percy skulking around in the coffee house but who knows what could happen whilst I wait outside. There could be all sorts off strange characters hanging about – highwaymen, robbers, murderers… I thought I heard something.

Trumpworthy – I aren’t going all the way back. Although, I got a sniff that the famed highwayman, Scraggy Skunkhound be two miles north of here. Mary – I wondered what that smell was. Trumpworthy – What a day if I could capture Scraggy and Shelley at the same time. I’ll just have a cup of coffee to get my cunning brain on full alert.

Trumpworthy – Albert Trumpworthy. Your servant ma’am. Trumpworthy by name, Trumpworthy by nature. Aaaarrrhh!

Mary. – You can’t go in that coffee house.

Mary – Sir?

Mary – Because they have… fleas. Big ones, the size of dogs.

Trumpworthy – I be looking for the poet, Percy Shelley. Mary –As you can see, I am quite alone. Trumpworthy – I’ve been hot on the scoundrel Shelley’s trail for days. I had a tip off from an unknown source that he be heading off to Italy with his missus. Mary – Oh. Trumpworthy –He be running away from all his debts but I expect you know that.

Trumpworthy – Why would that be, ma’am?

Trumpworthy – Aarrr. But why can’t I go in the coffee house, ma’am? Mary – Oh poo! Have I told you that I am a writer? Trumpworthy – I don’t hold with women reading and writing. It could befuddle your delicate brain, ma’am. Mary – Sir, you insult me. My book, Frankenstein, is highly original.

Mary – Yes. No! I mean…

Trumpworthy – With the greatest respect, ma’am – I think your brain must be pickled. I knows that women don’t write them there books.

Trumpworthy – Make up your mind ma’am. Why, I do believe that you’re missus Shelley.

Mary – What do you call this?

Mary – No! Yes! I’m early. Percy will be here in two hours. If you return then, you will catch him.

It’s a good idea at this point to discuss how Trumpworthy treats Mary, how he automatically assumes that because she is a woman she will not be very clever. Ask the children how they like to be treated. How do they feel when someone treats them nicely? Ask them how they feel when someone is nasty to them. Do they think that everyone feels like this?

for children who are not reading and writing yet as it is all about talking to each other. Divide into pairs. One of the pair is going on a coach trip to a theme park. He/she is so excited. They have been waiting forever to go on this trip and dreaming of going on all the rides. When she/ he gets to the gates there is a large sign which says:

Step Three At this point, the children will have acted out the way in which we can show prejudice in drama by using the extract. So the best way for us to see if they really understood what we have been doing with them is to let them work on it themselves. A great way to do this is improvisation. We give them a situation and characters and they decide what is going to be said. Once they have worked out what they are going to say to each other then they can act it out – maybe even put a little show on for friends or family. This is excellent


He/ she ignores it and tries to follow all the other people through the gate. The gate keeper stops him/her and points to the sign. He won’t let him/her in because they are a Victorian ghost.


She/ he did not know that they were a ghost, let alone a Victorian one.

About the author, Michelle Barber

Work out what is said between the ghost and the gate keeper. How does each character feel? What does each character say? It is a good idea to swap parts so that the children get to feel and act each part out. Once you have worked on it, you will hopefully have an audience so that you can act out your new play.

Recap Step One Looking at how we can assume what people are like just by the way they look. You can win a copy of Michelle’s book “Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow on page 16.

Step Two Acting out part of “Frankenstein’s Revenge” to see how characters can be prejudice against each other. Step Three Making up your own scene about prejudice.

Have fun!

What do you do when a stinking, 14th century, boy monk moves into your life and causes chaos? “Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow” explores the meaning of friendship and takes us on a journey of selfdiscovery in high comic fashion as Will learns how to stand up to bullies. To find out more about “Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow” and ways in which you can use the book as a fun resource, go to 32


Win a copy of “Will Blyton and the Stinking Shadow” We have copies of “Will Blyton and the Stinking Shadow”, kindly donated by the author herself, to give away! To be in with a chance to win a copy you just need to answer the following question:

What was William Shakespeare's son called? Hint - he is the boy in the stone in “Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow” When you’ve found the answer email it to us at: Closing date January 20th 2013

a light bulb? ge an ch or at uc ed e m ho a es do How ity. Back out a pile of books about electric es tak and , ary libr the to s goe First, Mum uits, plus kit and tests different electric circ s nic tro elec the out s get ne ryo home, eve ical es to find wiring diagrams of a typ rch sea et ern int out ry car s one the older kids ety issues of electricity. Next, the saf the ses cus dis ne ryo Eve se. modern hou skit phy of Thomas Edison and do a gra bio a d rea bs, bul t ligh of s del make mo thods, and studies the history of lighting me based on his life. Then, everyone goes to Following that the whole family s. dle can n ow ir the g pin dip by concludes , before pare types of light bulbs and prices the supermarket where they com and pay if they buy two bulbs for £1.99 get y'll the nge cha ch mu how g calculatin ory of a discussion develops over the hist e, hom y wa the On e. not 0 0.0 with a £1 , after ture is on the £10.00 note. Finally pic his as in, rw Da rles Cha also money and ed. of branches, the light bulb is install building a homemade ladder out

Job Done!!!!


HE and Working Looking at Self-Employment? Contrary to common belief, home educators are not all wealthy families with one parent (normally assumed to be the father) earning a healthy wage packet while the other (the mother!) has the luxury of a huge bank balance to spend on educational resources and trips! Here at EOS we know different. We know that there are a great many families out there who budget carefully to exist on one modest income, who downsize, or who both work to make ends meet. That’s covers us at EOS for a start! Working while home educating has its challenges, mostly practical, but it has its benefits too. This series looks at different aspects of fitting work and home education together. Note: this is just a general overview of some Many home educating parents find self-employment a good option. In of the issues you will need to consider. You will need to do your own research and/or this issue we look at the financial aspects you need to think about when consider talking to a business advisor to you’re considering being self-employed. ensure you are fully aware of the legalities

Self-employment can fit in really well when you’re home educating. Depending on what you do, it can offer a great deal of flexibility in a way that having a regular job usually can’t. You are your own boss! It can be daunting though. Even if you know what you want to do, finding your way through the laws and requirements can be a challenge. This is a general introduction to the things you will need to consider in terms of legalities, tax and benefits if you are setting up as a sole trader. There are differences if you choose to set up a company.

What is Self-Employment? That might sound like a silly question! But there is a set of guidelines to check to make sure you are selfemployed. HM Revenue and Customs states that determining if you are self-employed is ‘not a matter of choice’ - this means that you can’t just say you’re self-employed and therefore you are. You have to make sure your work meets certain criteria. These include things like: Ÿ You take the financial risk for your work Ÿ You are free to engage people to work for you Ÿ You provide the main items of equipment you need for your work Ÿ You can turn down work if it is offered to you Ÿ You regularly work for a number of different people For more detail look at the HMRC website here1.

What work can I do? Although we’re not going to look at specific work options this issue, let’s take a moment or two to think about it. Some options for self-employment include book-keeping, child minding, making and selling hand crafted items, secretarial services, dog-walking....... the list goes on! What do you enjoy doing? What are you 34

good at? Do you have a hobby from which you could make money? Of course there will be lots to think about specifically and you’ll have to do your research. For example, is there a gap in the market for your proposed business? If you are great at baking you may think that selling cakes would be a good idea, but you’ll need to see how many other cake-making businesses there are locally to you. If there are lots then that may not be a good option, unless you have something special to offer your USP or Unique Selling Point. So instead of being yet another cupcake business, perhaps you can create bespoke birthday cakes that far outshine the competition. If you are a whizz on the sewing machine, you could consider offering a service for alterations or dressmaking. But what are you going to offer that makes you unique? For example, many parents spend huge amounts of money on their daughter’s prom dress - if you can offer tailor made gowns that are priced competitively that may be a good USP.

So, how do I start? Once you have decided what you are going to do you will need to register with HMRC as self-employed. You need to do this within three months of starting and can do this via their website here2. This page also gives you information about arranging to pay National Insurance contributions and VAT, should you find yourself earning enough to do so!

Self-Employed with low earnings Most people, when they start a business, know that they are unlikely to earn much to begin with. If you have other means of financial support, such as a partner in work, this might not be a problem for you. But if you need to bring in a certain level of income this might be a worry. There are benefits you can claim while in self-employment, including Tax Credits.

Tax Credits

Changes to the Benefit System

There are two types of tax credit - Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

The government plans to introduce Universal Credit from October 2013 which will bring substantial changes to self-employed people. Details have not been finalised yet but for more information about this see - go to this page7.

As well as Child Tax Credits (which you can claim even if you are not working), you can also claim for Working Tax Credits as a self-employed person. You can claim as long as you do paid work for the required minimum number of hours per week. For a single person with children, this is 16 hours a week. If you are in a couple with children, your joint paid working hours need to be 24 a week, with one of you working at least 16 hours a week.

What do they mean by ‘paid work’? If you are self-employed, HMRC defines ‘paid work’ as ‘any work you do for payment (or would expect to be paid) or profit’. The HMRC gives guidance on how to work out your working hours as a self-employed person, saying that it includes ‘the number of hours you normally spend working in your business, either on work billed to the client or related activity, for example trips to wholesalers and retailers; visits to potential clients; time spent on advertising; book-keeping; research work’ So you can count all the hours you spend on your business activity in this way - for further details see the HMRC page here3.

How do I know if I will have enough money to live on? Of course, you’re not going to be able to predict this exactly. An element of risk is inherent in selfemployment. You’ll need to make some kind of business plan - this is a forecast of how you think your business will go, including an estimate of the profit you think you are likely to make. Once you have done this, you can use one of the online benefit calculators to estimate the amount of benefit you are likely to receive. Although they do not give a definitive answer, they can give you a good idea. You can use these to try out different scenarios for your business idea, such as what you will receive if you earn nothing to start with? Or, what difference will it make if you earn £50 a week? Or £200 a week? There are many sources of advice for writing up a business plan. All banks will have a free guide which you can ask for, or search on the internet for guide’s like this one4.

Tax Returns As a self-employed person you will need to complete an annual Tax Return to calculate your profit. This need not be onerous if you keep regular records of your income and your business spending. Your profit will be calculated as your income minus your business expenses. Take a look at the introduction to business income and expenses on the TaxAid website here8.

Summary 1. Decide what you want to do 2. Register with HMRC as self-employed 3. Keep good business records 4. Find out what benefits you can claim 5. Be honest!

More information Information about running a business in the UK A Guide to Tax for the Self Employed Keeping business records Completing your Tax Return Tax Credits



3 4


HMRC has its own benefit calculator here5. Others include or, or just search for ‘Benefits Calculator’ in your search engine. Read more about Tax Credits here6, where you will also find links to begin your claim. 6

7 nts.php#univcredselfemp 8


Reviews & Recommendations Enjoyed Something Recently? Here at EOS we are always interested in hearing about your favourite books, websites, computer games, DVDs, TV programmes, places to visit, shops and online stores........anything that you think other readers might want to hear about! Please do send them to Don’t forget to let us know if you have a website, blog etc that we can mention as a thank-you!

‘The Queen's Beasts’ by Sophie Bristow

I met a sculptor at the East of England Show, he had brought a number of garden sculptures, all wire framed with other "stuff" on. I couldn't tell from a distance, but as I got closer I saw that they were made of tin cans! All precisely cut and then used in various ways to create mythical animals. All were at least as tall as me, some taller. One had a fire extinguisher hidden in it! They were all amazing pieces of art, and were obviously part of a group; I assumed for one garden. I wandered about some more, my family joined me and then I noticed someone in the nearby gazebo and they came over. He was the artist. He explained to myself and my children that these were creations developed from seeing stone version in Kew Gardens. He thought that as it was Jubilee year, wouldn't it be amazing if they could come alive for the Queen? He then talked about a book that had been written and illustrated after he'd made them.


The story of their creation and his skill and imagination would be a good one to tell, but this story was developed as a child's story about the original stone statues, their names, and one day that they came alive.

The book is beautifully illustrated in a really interesting way - the little girl's skirt on the front of the book looks like a print of (I think!) the Horsehead Nebula! Elsewhere it looks like a print of a newspaper. I'd highly recommend the book in terms of the storytelling, the illustration and the history lesson. The notes in the back also talk about the statues I saw, and to see them yourself, go to


‘Learning Without School’ by Ross Mountney I have been considering home education for my children for over six months and doing some extensive research into the subject. I wish I had found this book first before reading all the others! It is accessible, down-to-earth and wonderfully informative about all aspects of home education and perfectly pitched for newbies like me. The fact that the author spent many years as a school teacher gives more weight to her arguments in support of HE and she shows great insight into the realities of both school and HE methods and lifestyles. This is particularly helpful to me, as my children are already in the school system and the concept of HE is relatively new to me. Her tone is also friendly without being patronising.


More specifically, I liked how the chapters/sections were divided, making it easy to read cover to cover and also to dip in and out of as questions about HE arise. I loved the emphasis on having confidence in your parental intuition and your unsurpassable knowledge of your own children. I can see how I will need this inner faith in myself and my decision as I progress down the path of HE and I felt instantly supported when reading this. In relation to that, the discussion of personal boundaries and looking after yourself as a HE parent was also helpful – as someone who puts a lot of pressure on herself, it made me very aware that I can’t do this properly if I am tired, stressed and run down, so I need to relax and trust in the children and in the process. I need to remember to chill out and ENJOY IT!!

The chapter on ‘socialisation’ allayed my fears about the children being isolated or ‘odd’, and reminded me that different children have different needs in this area and that the most important thing will be me carrying on doing what I already do socially and setting a good example of how to respect others and make friends from all areas of interest in life. This book contains the best information I’ve read so far on ‘how’ to do HE, specifically how to incorporate both structured and unstructured techniques and how to encourage a lifelong love of learning in children (learning for its own sake and not to jump through hoops, that is). This book is relevant for those, like me, at the beginning of their HE journey and also for those further down that path who might need some encouragement, ideas about specific activities or just a general reminder about why HE is such a wonderful thing. I will be buying a copy of this book to lend out to my parents and friends and anyone else who is interested in why I am choosing to home educate and how it all works. I can imagine friends with school-educated children reading this book and not feeling bad about their own choices (I am already realising how choosing to home educate can bring up defensiveness in others who send their children to school as it can be seen as a criticism of their own choices as parents). It explains perfectly why people home educate and how it can be done. Highly recommended!!

We have a copy of Ross Mountney’s popular book to give away. To be in with a chance, answer the following question: Which inspirational writer does Ross mention in the ‘Who Am I?’ section of her blog, Ross Mountney’s Notebook? Email your answer to Closing date January 20th 2013. Good Luck!!


Education is Compulsory, Schooling is Not The specific legalities of home educating in the UK differ somewhat between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as much as they do in countries throughout the rest of the world. The national organisations listed to the right go into this in detail and are a good place to go if you are unsure or have specific queries. However, some things are clear: YOU DO NOT need to be a qualified teacher to educate your child at home YOU ARE NOT obliged to follow the National Curriculum or take national tests YOU DO NOT need to observe school hours, days or terms YOU DO NOT need to have a fixed timetable, nor give formal lessons THERE IS NO FUNDING directly available from central government for parents who decide to educate their children THERE IS NO WRONG WAY to home educate. There are many different approaches, from the autonomous or child-led to the highly structured, through a myriad of hybrids in between. In fact it has been said that there are as many different approaches to home education as there are families doing it.

The above is a swift ‘FAQ’ style list; basically, if you’re thinking of HE, and your children aren’t registered at a school, just keep them home. Talk to them. Research what they could do, and discuss with them how they’d like to learn. Then just do it. Go out, enjoy. (Museums, playgrounds, everywhere, are much quieter in school time!) If they are at school, send a letter to the head teacher, use recorded delivery; say you will be home educating, and that’s it. Nothing else is required of you. You are the parent, you are responsible for your child’s education, as you are responsible for other aspects of their life. If you do your research, you will find yourself impressed and maybe amazed at what children can do outside of school. They really can learn very successfully! Don’t Panic. Research, and enjoy. Local Authority information and actions differ wildly, but the facts remain as above. If they wish to speak with you, check out the websites of HE organisations for suggestions on how to do this first. LAs are interested in making sure your children are receiving a good enough education, they are allowed to check if it seems they’re not.


Home Education Websites and Groups There are many home education groups, national and local, all over the UK. Most websites and lists are full of very valuable free information provided by other home educators. A few charge a subscription. EOS Magazine is not affiliated to and does not recommend any particular group over another and they have been listed in no particular order - please use your own discretion and follow your own home ed path! Any omissions are purely due to our own human fallibility! If you run a website or a group that you would like to see featured here, or if you know of one that you feel should be here, please contact us and tell us.

National Websites AHEd Action for Home Education PO Box 7324, Derby, DE1 0GT

South West

Regional Websites and Groups



North East

North Yorkshire


Education Otherwise PO Box 325, Kings Lynn, PE34 3XW Freedom In Education (Home Education Network North East Yorkshire). A monthly meeting in a local village hall and a monthly meeting out and about somewhere in the local area



North West

West Yorkshire HE-Special Home Education in the UK - Special Educational Needs HE-UK Home Education UK

East Midlands



HEdNI Home Education in Northern Ireland Home Education Advisory Service Home Education in the UK Home Educated Youth Council An independent voice for home educated young people MuddlePuddle A site aimed particularly at the 0-8 age range.

Facebook Groups

West Midlands

The Freedom Journey A closed group for Home Educators, Parents, Teachers and Others who in general are interested in the Care and Freedom of children and alternative ways of Parenting and Educating.




Request to join here:

UK Home Education A closed group for people home educating or considering home educating their children in the UK. For sharing stories and resources, asking for support, discussions on LA's and EHE's plus general home ed (sometimes not) related conversations.

South East

South East Home Educators (SEHE) Ayahoo group covering the South East, with regular meets in Tunbridge Wells and other events in Kent and Sussex. educators/

Request to join here:

Berkshire Schoolhouse For home education in Scotland PO Box 18044, Glenrothes, Fife KY7 9AD Tel: 01307 463120

THEN UK The Home Education Network PO Box 388, St Helens, WA10 9BS


Isle of Wight


If you run a group and would like us to feature it here please get in touch


© Viv Manning

© Karen Rodgers

Education Outside School Magazine ‘Home Education in Action’

EOS Mag 7 Winter 2012  

Education Outside School Magazine Issue 7, Winter 2012

EOS Mag 7 Winter 2012  

Education Outside School Magazine Issue 7, Winter 2012