Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Free days out in London

Recently, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of a long summer holiday which we plan to spend mainly in London. Looking back, I realise that there are so many London based activities so I plan, partly for my own benefit, to post about activities in London. The first post is about free days out  and I hope to follow this by posts about cheap activities in London, other London activities and ways of reducing the cost and last, a post about reducing ancillary expenses such as travel and food.

These are activities that we have done but please comment with other recommendations.
  • Parks-London has so many parks and they are free. Some are more child friendly than others. I know the South London parks better than those in the North but feel free to make other recommendations. Particular favourites are Coram Gardens (central), Princess Diana Memorial Park (central),  St James' Park (central-the playground is quite small and can get very busy), Dulwich (South), Battersea (South-parking is very expensive best to go on public transport), Danson (South-boating lake),Ladywell Fields (has a zip wire). 
  • Adventure playgrounds. There are a few around including Peckham Rye. Adventure playgrounds tend to have odd opening hours so do check first: we have been caught out!
  • Museums-some of the largest museums are free. In some ways, though, they can be a bit uncomfortably full in school holidays. We have found that this particularly applies to the Science Museum. Other free museums include the Victoria and Albert, the British Museum (look out for their children's Gallery Backpacks. These are only available in school holidays and at weekends.), The Natural History Museum, the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the Imperial War Museum
    and the much smaller Horniman Museum in South London.
  • Art Galleries. Some of the major galleries are free: The National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate and the Tate Modern.
  • Other Green spaces. Wild London manages many spaces including the enormous Walthamstow Wetlands
    and the tiny Centre for Wildlife Gardening.
  • Swimming. Southwark and Tower Hamlets have free swimming on certain days of the week for residents. It is necessary to register. Hackney under 18s can swim free.
  • The Thames path-a great place to spend a day and free.
  • Central London-it is easy to put together a day touring the sights. This could include climbing on the lions in Trafalgar Square, changing of the guard, seeing Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. Alternatively,if your children are older, then going round the famous shops is an amazing experience-just make sure that the children know that you won't be buying everything you see! Fortnum and Mason and Liberty are particular favourites. 
Please comment with any free activities for children that you recommend in London.

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Friday, 25 May 2018

May Inspiration

Between home education, wedding planning and caring, life seems to be getting busier and busier. I'm trying not to let the important get wiped out by the urgent but it isn't always easy! 


Anyway, here are a few links.

Pam Barnhill has a podcast about morning time which is amongst my regular listening. This blog post has 100 things to do in morning time. Please note that Pam is a Roman Catholic and this is reflected in some of her choices. However, the "Religion and Virtue" section does include Little Pilgrim's Progress, How God used a Thunderstorm and The Children's Story Bible by Catherine Vos which I would happily recommend. There are so many other suggestions, in different categories: some of which we have used; some I plan to use and some unknown to me.

My Little Poppies has a post with many art appreciation resources. We are hoping to use Vincent's Starry Night and other stories, which is mentioned here, as part of our Morning Time next year.

A very practical post from The Frugal Girl about Reasons your grocery bill is too high.

Like many home educators, we don't have a specific room for home education. We use our living room, the kitchen and the garden. However, I was struck by this post with thought out areas in a homeschool classroom. The Jumping Station particularly appealed.

This list of Morning Time Games has ideas for games which might also work well over the summer. It doesn't include Monarchy perhaps because it is a US list but I would certainly add this  game! Do you have any games that you would add to this list?


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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Not without tears: the Life of Favell Lee Mortimer

Last Saturday, I was at a curriculum fair where I was delighted to meet Christina Eastwood. Chris is a seasoned home educator with three, now grown up, children. She produced The Mother's Companion-a set of home education resources which we have used over the years. Chris has just written a new book: Not without tears: the life of Favell Lee Mortimer. 

Favell Lee Mortimer is almost unknown but was a best selling author in her day. Her books for children explaining the Gospel in simple terms may well have sold more than Alice in Wonderland.

Favell's life was completely unknown to me before reading this book but is fascinating. Descended from a slave and with uncles in the Prince Regent's circle, she was brought up in a wealthy household where her mother was converted through the witness of a governess.

Favell, herself, came to know the Lord after a family crisis but also after her mother had decided to send her daughters into high society, despite her previous convictions that this would not be right. After her conversion, Favell made the most of opportunities to teach children and became an expert teacher. She later used these skills in her books of which Line upon Line and Peep of Day are probably most famous.

Favell had some interesting friends. She was in love with the future Cardinal Manning, although was herself a convinced evangelical, and was entertained in the home of William Carus Wilson who was the infamous clergyman in Jane Eyre.

This book benefits from the discussion of characters and motivations. Sadly, Christina Eastwood didn't have access to the original letters which, apparently, still exist so she was reliant on secondary sources. Hopefully, the letters will be released at some point as they may well make fascinating reading.

This book is a quick read. It is worth learning about this gracious lady: Whose faith follow.
Highly recommended.

Chris Eastwood is due to speak about Favell Lee Mortimer at the Learn Free Conference, in Coventry, on Saturday, 19th May.

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Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use. The opinions are mine. I chose to write a review because I enjoyed reading this book and wanted others to know about it.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Second World War Learning Resources

Last term, we had a project about the First World War and this term, we switch to the Second World War. This is a plethora of resources which can be used for teaching children about the Second World War. These are books that either we have used or we hope to use soon.

Spine book
We are using the Usborne Introduction to the Second World War.
We read a double page spread each morning.
We have found that the linked videos for these books are often worth watching. I haven't seen all of them though!


Read alouds
There are so many Second World War read alouds. This is a small selection which we have enjoyed.


  • The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
    is the true story of a Jewish family deported from Vilna, then in Poland (now Vilnius in Lithuania) to Siberia after the Russians invaded Poland in 1941. 
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom is another true story about a Dutch Christian family who hid Jews. This book is quite sad in places. I recently read it with my eleven year old who thought it was one of the best books she has read, however, do avoid this with very sensitive children and I would suggest reading this together for children who are not yet teenagers. Christian Focus have a children's biography of Corrie ten Boom called The Watchmaker's daughter by Jean Watson. We read this before The Hiding Place. This book provoked discussion and led to the read of The Hiding Place.
  • Number the Stars  by Lois Lowry is a fictional story about the escape of Jews from Denmark to Sweden. This book was read in my home education book club by children aged 9-13 and was well received. It uses historical facts to weave the story. 
  • Chinese Cinderella is a rather different book which is set in China at the time of the Second World War and afterwards. This isn't directly about the war but brings to light how it affected China.
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is the account of how author Judith Kerr's family escaped Nazi Germany in the preWar years and their life in exile. This book is suitable for older children. I haven't read the sequels but my understanding is that they are not so child friendly.
  • The Silver Sword is about refugees at the end of the War. I loved this book as a child although rereading as an adult, it seemed that the ending was unrealistically optimistic but it certainly gives ground for hope.
  • Hero on a Bicycle, by Shirley Hughes, is a story about the Italian Resistance.
Picture Books
  • Grandfather's Journey tells how an American-Japanese family was affected by the War.
  • All those Secrets of the War is about an American father going away to the War.
  • A new coat for Anna shows the devastation in post War Europe as the mother works to get her daughter a new coat.
  • Boxes for Katje tells the story of how a friendship was forged helping the people of post War Netherlands.
Other Resources
  • Family history/members. We have a Second World War diary written by the children's Grandfather and oral history about grandparents/greatgrandparents/greatgreatgrandparents. For us, this covers the Blitz, the Battle of Britain, rationing, the War in Italy and Africa, the Observer Corps and MI5 so plenty to talk about. I imagine that many families have a similar amount of World War Two history covered.
  • Bombsight is a website which maps places where bombs fell in the UK during the War.

 Places to Visit
  • Imperial War Museum has a permanent exhibition about a London family during the War. This is child friendly. We have been to this exhibition several times. There is also a Holocaust exhibition which is not recommended for children under the age of 14. I haven't seen this as I haven't been to the Museum without a child under 14 for many years. 
  • The Jewish Museum do have a small Holocaust section which is suitable for younger children. 
  • Cabinet War Rooms-I haven't been to these although one of the children went on a home education trip.
  • Dover Castle-Secret Wartime Tunnels and Hospital.
  • Chartwell-the home of Winston Churchill.

Please add your recommendations for teaching children about the Second World War in the comments.
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Thursday, 5 April 2018

April Inspiration

The sun has come out! The last few days of grey and rain have seemed so long but today is spring.  I took the children out to Walthamstow Wetlands which is new to us. By the way, I seem to be running out of ideas for places to go or things to do in London for my 9 and 11 year old and the Summer holiday isn't far away. Any suggestions? 

This is an amazing list of maths resources for children who struggle with maths but don't let the title put you off; this list would be useful for most children. It does include Sum Swamp which is a brilliant game for young children learning number bonds. We used to play Sum Swamp daily! 

Again, about maths, Jo Boaler talks on this podcast about fear of mathematics, worth a listen.

Frugal Girl published an encouraging post about how to make your house lovely for $0.

I have been reading Sarah Mackenzie's new book, The Read-Aloud Family: making meaningful and lasting connections with your kids. This is a book that I will probably return to again and again. The book lists and questions to use to discuss books with children are particularly worthwhile as well as the chapter around having a book club atmosphere at home. I think that Sarah goes too far about the moral benefits of books but otherwise the book is worth a read and a place on the bookshelf.

The current read is about sleep: Matthew Walker's Why we Sleep. Reading this has taken a little while and I haven't finished yet, partly, because it keeps reminding me about the importance of sleep and that takes away from reading time! This book runs through what is known about sleep and its importance as well as scary stuff about sleep deprivation. Most of the latter isn't new to me but having it in one place does pull a punch. 

More book recommendations are always welcome! 


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Thursday, 15 March 2018

March Inspiration

I'm afraid I haven't written much recently. Life has been busy. My eldest daughter has got engaged and we are looking forward to a summer wedding. Just alongside this, my husband's Mum has been less well and of course, family life and home education  have carried on. Sadly, the blog has suffered!

We've had snow, in London, in March! The temperatures were well below freezing but now there is no trace of snow.


Seterra is one of our favourite sites with its free geography games. It now also has some anatomy quizzes.

This is report on improving maths at Key Stage 2 and 3. Much of this is applicable to home educators and is worth a read.

Recently, we spent time with some friends painting using a tutorial from Mr Otter Art Studio. I was really impressed with a quality of the instructions and hope we can work on more of these.

This is an interesting list of handwriting resources. We actually use something different: Morrell which uses a more UK style. 

Read aloud Revival has just published a list of books that boys like. There are many that I haven't read but The Mysterious Benedict Society and My side of the Mountain have been real favourites here recently. 


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Friday, 9 March 2018

Beginning of the Year Update

We are well into our second half term of 2018.

Our major project this term is around the First World War. I've written about some of the resources that we are using. The Usborne Introduction to the First World War has proved invaluable as a spine. We read a double page spread each day and frequently use the videos linked through the Usborne site.

The other main part of our project has been working on family history. We have made a large family tree and added a sentence of two about family members who were involved in the War. One of my husband's great aunts was a nursing sister in the War and left a diary about her time on a hospital ship going between the Greek Islands and England as well as her time nursing under canvas, at Camiers. We have looked at the diary and one of the children made a poster about her and also included an incident when she was on hunger strike with Mrs Pankhurst.
Hand drawn cartoon found in a commonplace book from a family friend who was killed in the First World War.

We spent an afternoon at the Imperial War Museum looking at their First World War gallery.

This term, we have changed spelling curriculum to Apples and Pears. Our previous spelling programmes whilst highly recommended, just wasn't working for us. So far, so good with Apples and Pears although I have discovered that often spelling/reading resources seem to work well initially, while the work is mainly revision but then breaks down when there is new material to be learned. I'm hoping that this won't happen this time!

We have also started a different science curriculum: Mystery Science. This is very easy for me- videos to watch and easy activities, generally, using household items.  So far, we have used, and finished a chemistry unit. Next up, I plan to use a human biology unit. This curriculum is working very well with my nine year old. My eleven year old finds it a bit young at times.

Our home education group also has a science theme this year although we had to postpone our last meeting due to the snow. The snow meant sledging with friends-three days running! Snow is so rare in London that we have to make the most of it.


Our read alouds this term are
  • Twice Freed by Patricia St John. We have almost finished this fictional retelling of the story of Onesimus. 
  • War in the Wasteland which is a First World War story by Douglas Bond.  
I have another couple of First World War books planned but suspect that we will run out of time. There are so many more things that we could do but sometimes less is more!

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