Blog Archive

Friday, 13 February 2015

Family Christmas and a new member

** Delay in posting this that I wrote back in January as I have only just received the photos! **

For the first time in a year, we had all our children around us at the same time.  It was marvellous! Everyone seems to act younger when they get together and the house was filled with silly voices and random hair-ruffling!

We have also gained another member of the family but he is a feline - Izaak.  I had forgotten just how much a cat adds to the household and how charming they are.  He is only young (20 weeks) and I hope to train him up so that he can accompany us off on our travels in the motorhome.

We didn't do much home education though we normally do something every day.  The time together was precious and it seemed wrong to engage in battles over maths when a game of Rummikub was at hand.

The older generation arrives today as they couldn't make Christmas due to illness.  I can't wait to visit all those museums together and play card games with them for the next week.

However, the home-education starts today...

Friday, 14 November 2014

Anti-arts stance by new Education Minister and an open letter in response from Jon Payne from Royal School of Church Music

I can hardly believe the latest load of codswallop to come from the Department of Education.  As if Michael Gove wasn't bad enough, now we have Nicky Morgan.

I feel so angry  that I am just putting out a short post with some links for you to follow.

Read her scathing opinion on why arts subjects are a waste of time taken from "The Stage"

Now read the eloquent and scathing response to her by Jon Payne from the Royal School of Church Music.  I am with him all the way! (I hope the link works)

When I encounter such narrow-mindedness, I shudder.  Poor children, being discouraged from pursuing arts and humanities subjects in order to become more ants in the global economy.  How unfair!

Today I am REALLY happy to be home-educating!

That's all, folks!  Rant over.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Thoughts on home education from my 22 year old son

You may wonder what happens to children once they finish home education.  My two eldest went on to Sixth form college, university then employment.  I still have four children at home, aged 10-16 years old and we work towards IGCSEs.  At 16, we consider the options available according to each child's interests and needs.
I asked my 22 year old son if he would shoot from the hip and write a post on home education.  Whatever take he wanted would be fine - I would publish it unedited.  He has trained as an actor but he is currently working in a call centre in London and going for auditions in between times.
I hope I may be able to tease more posts out of him in the coming months but here is the first...

So I went to school until I was 10 years old.  When I was a kid, I certainly seemed to have a bit of an Alpha-Male complex!  For some reason, from the age of 4 until 9, I had it in my head that I was just amazing when I was with my classmates.  However,  my family moved house to a different town so I had to start fresh in a new school.  I went into that school with the same complex, and to be honest I kind of got what I deserved.  I wasn’t popular at all in the new school and I definitely became quite unhappy.  My big sister, for other reasons, wasn’t fitting in at her new school either. 
I think after several weeks of me coming home complaining about school eventually pushed my Mum to start looking at alternatives for me.  We looked at other schools in the area, slightly smaller ones where I may fit in a little more and be a bit happier.  However, nothing seemed to really fit. 
Then my mum and step-dad started looking into home-ed.  I had no idea what it meant, other than the fact I would never have to go to school again!  Seriously, ask any 10 year old boy if he never wants to go to school again, and probably 8 times out of 10, they will shout “hell yeah!”  
My home-ed experience certainly made me who I am today.  I was very lucky to have essentially four parents, my step-parents included, who are all very intelligent, in different fields!  My Dad is an accountant, so he is fantastic with numbers, my Mum’s versatility and ability to turn her hand to anything is invaluable, my step-dad has a huge creative flair and a brilliant ability with drama and creative writing (as well as having a biology degree), and my step-mum has a fantastic business mind.  So in this respect, I was incredibly lucky, even though now I am 22 I can still just about retain a little of all the stuff we covered in those years!  
Something else that benefitted me hugely in the 6 years I was home-taught, is the fact that we used to go travelling all around Europe in a motorhome.  I must admit, after the first couple of tours around France and Spain, the novelty did begin to wear off.  When I hit the age of 14, I began yearning to be able to have the opportunity to socialise with people my own age.  Because of all the travelling, it limited my chances to become more involved in the social clubs that I wanted to be a part of more, the football teams and the drama clubs.  Both of these were huge passions of mine, and I became ever more frustrated with our frequent excursions out of the country.  

However, looking back at that period of my life, I don’t regret any of it.  At the time I was going through a tough age and I guess my natural instinct to was rebel against my parents.  Truth is, travelling in a motorhome, meeting so many different people along the way really did broaden my mind.  Forgive me if this does sound a little pretentious, but I now have the ability to see a wider picture and I put that down hugely to being so close to my family whilst experiencing so many adventures on our travels.  Yes, because I barely saw people my own age when growing up, it did perhaps hinder my social skills (especially with women!) when I began college, however I think I have finally learnt now…although I am still a little useless with women ha.

In summary, home education is not just about what grades you want your child to get.  Grades come with natural intelligence I believe.  If you are thinking about teaching your children at home, just to get them better grades and GCSEs, then I firmly believe you are doing it for the wrong reasons.  However if you want to do it to broaden your child’s horizons as a person, and you feel like you can offer them the outlets and those experiences that they wouldn’t get if they were at school, you should certainly, certainly consider it.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Summer is for playing out

I have realised that I do not seem to be writing much content at the moment.  There is a very good is summer time and I am spending lots of time time outside.

When the sun is shining (and even when it isn't) there is sooooo much to do that takes me away from the infernal computer:

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Gardening
  • Reading in the sun
  • Dozing in the sun (rare occurrence!)
  • Painting hutches
  • Travelling in the motorhome to do more...walking, cycling...

Next job of the day?  Vacuuming out the car after its latest run to the local tip with a load of garden waste!

See you after the IGCSE results on Thursday 221st August!

Thanks to GeniusQuotes for the pics and words

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Home education and a career in drama

The blog has been a bit quiet as we have been off travelling in the trusty motorhome.  It has been a while since we made a trip and it was great to bring the family closer together again.

One leg of the trip was to see Leo (now 22 years old) perform in an adaptation of "Great Expectations" in Bath.  He has been studying Performing Arts - Acting for three years and this was his final performance piece. It was a brilliant production and I felt all those lovely maternal feelings of pride and amazement of how the little boy has become the young man.

Consequently, I thought it may be helpful to others to chart Leo's education/home education path and a few of the issues we have dealt with along the way.  In HE, you just want your children to be happy and to do what makes them happy.  If they can find a career in those fields when they are older, you feel that is where they are more likely to find contentment in life.

Leo went to school until he was 10 years old and we made the decision to jump ship.  We were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with schools' striving for league table positions skewing the whole notion of an education.  Leo had always been an extrovert and a showman.  He had always exuded a strong presence in any situation.  When he started attending a drama outreach group run by a local theatre, he came into his own.

Our then extensive travels meant that he could rarely be part of any production but he always loved drama club.  After attaining seven IGCSEs and at age 16, we tried to direct him away from drama toward something "sensible that he could always fall back on" and to leave the drama as a hobby.  He went to Sixth Form College and did his AS year studying Maths, Further Maths, Psychology and Performance studies.  He also joined the college's own theatre company.  It became very apparent where his interests lay and this showed in his AS results.

At this point, we agreed that he could switch course to the BTEC Diploma in Performing Arts - Acting.  It was a two year course that was the equivalent of three A levels and was purely assessment based - written and performed.  He thrived on it although it also presented challenges by way of the fact that he was always with the same people in class.

The next stage was to apply to drama colleges.  These are notoriously difficult to get in to if you want to study acting.  He had three interviews and two call-backs but unfortunately did not make the cut.  However, he applied to universities where the courses more or less matched the content of the drama colleges and accepted a place at Bath Spa University.  Uni life has occasionally been pretty tough on him and has presented financial challenges he did not foresee. But it has also been fun and he has made good friends.

In 2011 he auditioned for the National Youth Theatre and succeeded in gaining a place on one of their summer schools.  He has subsequently auditioned for other NYT productions and projects and was part of the show to welcome athletes to the Olympic Village in London 2012.  He has been to Saudi Arabia on a special project and is going to be assisting in running one of the summer schools like the one he originally attended.  He also has a call-back for a production.

In addition to innumerable productions on his course, he worked with the RSC production of "Dunsinane" where he played Lady Macbeth's son.
He came close to getting a role in a film being shot in Jordan recently but had to decline it as he had not yet finished his uni course.  His aim for the next year is to build up some funds through casual/retail jobs and then to put his energies into finding roles in London and further afield.

Though I will always be concerned that a job in the arts does not bring in a regular and secure income (very familiar with that one personally!) I feel that he should follow his heart and use the skills he has been blessed with.  Who knows where the journey will take him.

I may well ask him to write a guest post...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

HE Parents:Education for yourself...perhaps family history?

At this time when there is a large elephant in the room all the time with a certain tattoo...
Original image by Leah Saulnier

I find that I am thinking about the example I may be setting to my children.  I LOVE learning - I can't stop myself from getting enthusiastic and excited about subjects that interest me.  I hope that they also pick up on the fact that I try to engage with subjects that don't interest me as much.  For example, some aspects of Maths are wonderful (geometry, algebra) and others just leave me cold (nth term).

So, leaving the last week of IGCSE Geography and Paper 1 of IGCSE Physics behind, I have hurled myself into a project of my own.  Dave and the children can certainly see I am dedicating a whole heap of time to it and that I am using many resources.

So, what can this project be?  A family history project!

Yes - I have discovered the allure of  It is free at local libraries and they have the full version. Last night I succumbed to a 14 day free trial of the home premium version but I don't think I will continue with it as the library is always there.

It was the mention of a couple of family mysteries on the Mason side that led me to start.  So much is known about my side (my parents having spent a lot of time on it) and personally I think it is very important to know about your forebears.

The big dark secret on the Mason side is the true identity of Dave's grandfather on his mother's side.  The tale goes (and it could well be a tale based on some truth) that grandfather Frank Maidment was actually born in India to an English army officer and a local Indian woman.  He was brought back to the UK and educated in an orphanage, sponsored by an officer called Maidment.

There appears to be some truth in it but many unanswered questions (why are exam papers creeping back into my head...BE GONE!)

So far, I have discovered the name listed on his birth certificate for his mother is Annie Maidment, domestic servant (I ordered a copy of the original).  No father is listed.  The birth date and registration date are months apart and the area he was registered is far from where she grew up (in Tisbury Union Workhouse in 1871) and from where she had been living in 1881(Islington as a domestic servant). They then both disappear from all records until 1901 when George Francis Bailey Maidment (Frank) turns up in the census of an orphanage/children's home in Shefford, Bedfordshire.

When the home burns down in 1908 he joins the army.  Fascinating physical description of him that matches the photo we have of him at about that age.  He was only 5'4" with black hair and "sallow".  He is then deployed to South Africa and Hong Kong by way of Bodmin (Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry).
Frank in 1908, possibly
Dave and Rory bear a strong resemblance

Is that Frank extreme left in the back row?
Picture is of his regiment in Hong Kong 1913

1915 - buys his way out of the army and seems to have gone to Hong Kong where he became a police officer.  He returned to the UK in 1917 and then I lose him again until he marries in Peterborough in 1924 to a girl from Shefford.  He moved to Norwich at some point and used to drive the local children around in his car (presumably in the 1930s) - he was always known as "The Indian".

There is more but that would be boring.  Suffice it to say that it has taken me days and days to find out all the pieces of the jigsaw that is the Mason-Maidment side of the family.

No sign of any Indian connections on the face of it - the facts are as they appear but then the fun bit is what the imagination does with them!  Was he brought back and Annie paid handsomely by a high ranking officer to register as his mother?  Who is the mysterious lodger Henry Quinn, commission agent, who lives in Islington at the house where she works?  What happened to Annie that meant Frank went to an orphanage?  Is that him in the second picture?  Your opinions, please!

I feel a novel coming on....!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Importance of Art in Home Education

Just a quick post about the importance of art in our home education journey.  It was the forerunner to reading and writing for all of our children, teaching them to handle pencils and paper and to actively express what they wanted to.  As time has passed, it is still part of each of their lives but has become more personal to each, manifesting itself either in production or appreciation of works of drawing, sewing, sculpture, drama and photography.

Each child has their strengths and it is one of the luxuries of home education that you can indulge them in what they love doing.  Though I sometimes wish my youngest daughter's enthusiasm for sitting down and doing maths was as great as her love of arts and crafts, I just have to keep telling myself that this is home education and you play to your children's strengths for them to develop their individual personality and self confidence.  Her maths is fine but her art is wonderful - and that should be good enough for me.

Yesterday she (aged 10), who has always seemed to be the most inclined to draw/paint/mould/sculpt/sew, produced a simple but striking piece of work.  She uses several different styles depending on the subject matter but this was her very first using acrylics on canvas.  I have to add that it was because I stumbled across a super cheap source of prepared canvases in our local B&M Bargain store so if you live in the north west of England - make a beeline for it and buy some!  Four small squares for £2.99.

There is something about the style of this piece that just really appeals to me.  I love the character and pose of the lion - he has a lovely face.  Her choice of colours (she had to mix from primary colour tubes) is bright and cheerful.  She mixed and layered the paint as she learned how it behaved on the canvas.

Anyway, I just felt I had to share this on my blog.