Category Archives: Out an’ about

Autonomous learning, what it means for us

Home ed is different for every family. We have friends who follow a set curriculum all morning, every day during the week throughout term time and do nothing else deliberately educational at all. Others insist on an hour or so of set learning, then do other things with the rest of their time. It’s quite common, too, for families to do most of their ‘home education’ out and about with various groups, engaged in planned and themed activities together. Here in West Yorkshire, for example, there’s at least one such event planned for every day of the week by various people and groups of people – some regular, some not. Usually all home educators are welcome.

Royal Armouries

We’ve done some of that, but tend to be more home and family-centred these days. I’ve found, over the years, that my children learn best when I let them take the lead. So we went to The Royal Armouries yesterday, for example. One of the girls had asked to go, so we went. Once there, we split into two groups: an adult for each child. (This is where adult offspring really come in handy!) And we followed the children around the museum, not the other way around. I was with the four year old and amazingly she didn’t just run through the place and out the other side: she actually wanted to know the answers to questions like where things were from, and what was happening here:

He's shooting the tiger.

Going at her pace took some doing – the temptation is for me to see things that I think might interest her and hold her back to point them out, but she stops asking questions if I do that, and I know that questions are vital to her learning. So:

'Wow, swords. What are they for?'

– has me scrabbling to read the plate to her, before she’s off again. She only wants a word or two: she’s only four. We’ll come back again frequently when she’s older, if she wants to. Maybe when she can read the plates for herself.

At home the method/way of life is similar. There’s lots to do here: we’ve amassed quite a collection of stuff over the years and it’s quite well organised and stored in a visible, accessible kind of way. I’ve always liked the Montessori idea of preparing the environment (although ours is not so rigidly structured) and also, I suppose, what unschoolers call strewing (although ours is not so parent-led – I’m just the one who pays for it, transports it home, finds a box and a shelf for it and then usually tidies it away again when it’s finished with! Our children are quite capable of doing their own strewing.)

Last night, for example, the old comic box had an airing:

It surprised me when she wanted to do the thing on this page properly.

And sometimes they want to just bake a cake:

The icing on the cake, groan

Or make pictures:

Houses are the thing ATM

Or look something up on Wikipedia:

..whilst eating a pizza

Or do workbooks:

... whilst kneeling on the dining table.

Or any amount of other things: see friends, phone friends, build things, make things, read things, take things apart and see how they work, ask endless questions, play in the field:

New swing, for the - ahem! - *children*.

The list of possibilities is endless. The point is, I never ask: “What do you want to do now?” because I don’t need to. They work it out themselves, getting ideas from books, friends, family, TV, the Internet, games, or just the environment and the thoughts in their heads. I don’t ban or limit anything: they could play computer games all day if they wanted to, but they never want to. I try not to suggest things, because when I do, they stop being creative and owning their learning.

But I don’t do nothing. I facilitate everything they want to do, never saying ‘no’ to anything if I can help it. I keep the place relatively clean and tidy so that they can be safe and have the clear space they need. I organise my time and money so that they can get what they want, go where they want, do what they want when they want to get, go and do it. I answer every question asked, or help them to find the answer (and the questions never stop, thank goodness!) I read to them a lot. I help them to learn. I will even teach them if they ask me to, though sparingly.


Filed under Aptitude, Co-operating, Curiosity - a delicate flower, History, ICT, Innate, Letters, Natural learning - how it works, Out an' about, Planning - or not, Reading, Strewing, Writing

“Doing Egypt.”

It all started with this book

– which attracted Lyddie’s attention in a shop.

This led to:

Gods on our walls..

Pharoah hat (sorry, *headdress*) on our table...

A trip to the (very good) 'Egypt' section of a local museum...

Finding Egypt on the globe..

Small timelines...

Getting out the old, *big* timeline again (we really must make one of our own)...

More books...


More 'Egypt' stuff...

And watching old 'Egypt' films.

Finally I’m told: “We’ve done enough Egypt for now.”

So it’s all gone in a box until it’s needed again:

Next up? China, apparently. I’d better get another box, then.

(Most of the pics above should be clickable. Some lead to other sites which explain our sources.)

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Filed under Aptitude, Curiosity - a delicate flower, Egypt, Equipment, History, Out an' about, Planning - or not, Writing

Since my last post here, we’ve been..

(amongst other things)

Tracing snowflakes

Making puppet shows



Writing fridge poetry

Welcoming new family members

Practising our handwriting

Ogling the fireplaces in a local stately home

Cycling with skeletons

Doing activity books. 'Pre-school workbooks', they call them. 'Pre-home ed fun books', *I* call them.

And gratefully receiving gifts of books. A whole boxful! Bliss.

We’ve also, this week, been creating maps of our local area – first from memory, then from walking around with a clipboard, then from sloooow driving, and stopping, and reversing, and driving again, then from Google Maps and Street View. Next, we’re comparing the current ones to some we have from 60 years ago, before the M62 was built, to see what’s changed and how. We’re also thinking we’ll do some treasure hunts. An easter egg hunt, with treasure maps!

This all came about because I thought Lyddie’s mind would suit cartography, so I suggested she try to draw a map. She’s always been interested in where she was, and where things were in relation to one another – ever since she could sit up and look around and talk. She has a practical mind which likes to organise things into their proper place and structure.

One of the joys of home education: having the time and the freedom to really get to know one’s own children, work out what they’ll like and – after a bit of trial and error – hit on the right thing and watch them run with it.


Filed under Aptitude, Curiosity - a delicate flower, Driving, History, Innate, Natural learning - how it works, Out an' about, Planning - or not, Pre-home ed, Writing


Now that Lyddie is seven, we’ve decided to get out and about a bit more, to facilitate her learning. So we visited Magna – the ‘science adventure centre’ last week, pricey though it was. I’d taken the older children there quite a few years ago and remembered that it seemed good for them, so – with Lyddie’s interest in science, thought it might be the best place to start with her.


Housed in an old steel foundry, Magna uses mostly interactive displays to demonstrate principles relating to the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. There’s a separate section for each, reached from a series of dramatically dark, clanging steel gantries. Signature pieces include the fire tornado:

fire tornado

and the outdoor ‘scientific’ play area:

play area

So, was it worth the money, time and effort (an hour’s drive on the M62 and down the M1, for us adding up to something like a five-hour long outing)? I’m not sure. We took Tom, to be on hand if Lyddie had any questions of a scientific nature – but she didn’t. He kept trying to explain some things to her, but she plainly wasn’t curious about how or why anything worked there. She just wanted to see everything, play with things like the remote control full-size JCB diggers and giant scrap steel magnets (the water play was good too – especially the miniature canal locks and boat) and then get outside to have fun in the playground. Which, I have to say, for all its ‘Sci-tek’ proclamations, didn’t seem to raise or answer any scientific questions for her either. It was just a lot of fun.

I think this further teaches me that when you present information and all wealth of ‘educational stimulus’ to a child on a plate, the child’s curiosity – and therefore its interest in learning – is switched off. Lyddie learns best when her innate curiosity comes from nowhere and is answered there and then, at home, with whatever is to hand.

Magna was fun, but I think we’re not going to be spending too much time and money on those kinds of outings.


Filed under Curiosity - a delicate flower, Out an' about, Science

I’ve got to say..

.. I just love Grit’s blog. I’m a bit rubbish at keeping up with blog reading sometimes (Ahem! Most of the time…! 😳 ) but when I do lift my head up and take a look around, Grit’s is one of the first places I go. I often don’t comment, because it would be just to say “ROFL!” (which is closer to the truth than usual, let me tell you) or just “WOW,” which sounds patronising, but absolutely isn’t meant to. Take this, for example:

And when this history hobble is all staggered out and we have found out about the thirteenth century church, medieval fish pond, Elizabethan manor house, haunting of the 17th century soldiers in the local pub and the red telephone box, saved for the nation, the guide turns to the youngest people on this tour, the only children in fact we have seen all morning – Shark, Squirrel and Tiger – and she says Well now, I’m sure for you young ladies the most interesting thing you saw today was the frog at the pond!

And Shark, Tiger and Squirrel all look at her, wide eyed with shock. Shark, with that pursed lip look of offence and outraged indignation you only ever see on the face of your granny, turns to me and whispers, It wasn’t actually. It was the fourteenth century window design of the church tower.

It’s a “wow” moment for me, just reading that. See what I mean? Gotta love Grit.

Aneeway… where are we? Oh, yes, my new home ed blog, since the last one‘s got all political and big-for-its-boots. I can’t spit and splutter indignantly about the review on the same page as I’m telling you about our seed planting (In which Gracie learned what “No, in the middle please!” means, and the even more deperate: “Do you think we could put them this way up…?” in manner of Joyce Grenfell [opens YouTube] and well worth a listen if you’ve never heard her before) or Easter bunny decorating with friends (“Let’s put the yellow sprinkles on the bunnies..? Not in our mouths..?”)

I don’t know, are these things even worth blogging about? Probably not. They’re not as exciting as visits to thirteenth century churches, medieval fish ponds, Elizabethan manor houses, or hauntings of the 17th century soldiers in the local pub (thanks, Grit! 🙄 ) (Only joking 😉 Really, I am!) But with a six-year old and a two year old, such visits would be a waste of time, effort and money just now. So we’re at home, doing the gluing and the sticking and the planting etc., that’s not really worth blogging about.

I think we might be about to get a bit more outward-bound in the near future, though. Some of our close friends (another family of home educators, just a mile down the street – bliss!) are soon to be mobile, and we’ve now (thanks to a generous parent – more bliss) got a car that actually works for more than two miles without needing a breakdown truck, so we’ve been idly, dreamily planning some outings to some of the places I took Tom, Ali and Zara to when they were younger: Magna, Skipton Castle, the National Railway Museum and the Manchester Science Museum.

And how are we going to pay for it all? That’s an education in itself. (Which perhaps belongs over here.) But I’ve learned, in the last 7 weeks since my income for Tom stopped coming from dear on his 20th birthday, that we can live without either starving or inviting the bailiffs round on £70 less than before each week!. And now he’s paying his board, (sometimes, whenever he can) of £70 a week – we feel rich! Rich, I tell you!

I was going to buy a new fridge for the first time in 20 years, but a day out at Skipton Castle might just have a higher priority. And the miracle of our old fridge still [sort of] working is educational, right?


Filed under Lovin' Grit, Out an' about