Saturday, 24 December 2011

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas Lanterns

We made some Christmas lanterns today. You can download the template from here .

Monday, 5 December 2011

Junk Modelling

Owen made a Roblox character from some of the junk we keep aside for Art and Craft.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Introducing Reading Eggspress!

Reading Eggs is an online reading programme aimed at 3 - 7 year olds. We found it unsuitable for Owen and Anya and the environment is too young for our kids. However, they have recently launched Reading Eggspress, which is a new website for 7 – 12 year olds! This brand new world, designed for older students, is full of motivating learning activities, rewards, great games and real time contests. With 650 e-books in the library and 200 comprehension lessons, Reading Eggspress is a complete English Skills program for middle and upper primary students. Anya has really enjoyed the new environment and found many books she has read on the site. She said she preferred reading on the screen as she didn't like the feel of paper. I wasn't even aware of this problem until now.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Chess - The Right Brain Game

Chess is a great right brain game.  The right brain is linked to the "inner" senses of perfect memory, computer-like math calculation, rapid language acquisition, perfect pitch (music abilities), and intuitive thought.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Friday, 21 October 2011

Boiling Water Experiment

Taking Things Apart

Anya and Owen love to learn how things work by taking them apart.  Anya and Owen have recently been consumed by taking apart a very old and broken laptop.  It is such a great way of discovering how things work.  It ticks all the boxes for Kinaesthetic learning. It's so fun and simple and most broken appliances serve as great learning tools.  The kids loveto guess what each park is and we talk about the function of each part.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Number Lines & Weighing

Last year, I posted about Anya’s Numerical SequencingProblems.  She learnt to count to 21 by labelling the stairs.  We also used number lines which I think fantastic method of teaching Maths.  We look at the number line and count forward and back using it.  Anya finds it really hard to remember which set of numbers follow which eg once she gets to 59 she can’t remember 60 comes next.  Counting in Tens has helped but she hasn’t quite made the connection between the Units that come in  between the Tens.

Scales are a little like a number line too and by weighing ingredients, Anya can see the value of the scales gradually increasing.  She then has to understand that if she goes over the required amount some of the ingredients need to be removed.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Chicken Feed Receipe to Produce Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I have been researching a diet that will help my chicken produce Columbus Eggs which are high in Omega 3 fatty Acids.

You can increase the level of omega-3 fatty acids in the eggs that your hens lay by including flaxseed in their feed. The flaxseed contains a type of omega-3 fatty acid called a -linolenic acid and the hen will deposit a significant amount of this dietary fatty acid into the egg yolk. The hen will also convert some of the a -linolenic acid into smaller amounts of other forms of omega-3 fatty acids and deposit them into the egg yolk.

Here is my current mix:

Wheat                                             4 Parts
Oats/Barley                                     2 Parts
Lentils/Split Peas/Quinoa                  2 Parts
Flaxseed/Sunflower/Sesame Seeds   2 parts

Free choice of Oyster Shells/Grit      

More information on Omega chicken diets can be found at         

Friday, 14 October 2011

BrainPOP - Our Favourite Educational Site

Last year we subscribed to Brain Pop Jnr. This year I have decided to invest another $99 into Brain Pop which is aimed at older kids. The science provided by Brain Pop Jnr is a little basic for Owen but the science videos aimed at secondary student on Brain Pop will suit him better.

Naruto, Bleach and Manga Subtitles

This time last year, I could never have imagined my son would be able to watch Manga subtitled films. Many of the Bleach and Naruto episode are only available as subtitles. Owen's passion for Naruto and Bleach has encouraged him to watch the new subtitled episodes. My job is simply to provide him with the time to watch them! New Manga can be loaded from

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Anya's Reading Takes Off!

Anya's reading has also started to take off now.  Guess How?  By being provided the time to pursue her interests and chat to her friends online.  Anya's main interest at the moment is a game called Roblox.
Last year I spent a whole year offering Owen and Anya one to one learning.  The sessions included reading books matching reading level and age level day reading, playing spelling games, playing reading base board games and working through reading programmes aimed at kids with autism.  We did make some slow progress but the real progress has been made by the kids teaching themselves.  They often ask me how to spell a word when they are chatting to their friends online.  I have learnt to simply spell the word and not irritate them by trying to make their question into a lesson!

Roblox does market itself as an educational game with a belief that kids learn best by making things — by engaging in the creative and complex process of imagining, designing, and constructing.  Roblox provides them with a safe place to build, gives them the requisite tools and lets them play.  They say they are inspired by the educational theory pioneered by Seymour Papert of the MIT Media Lab. This theory — labeled "Constructionism" — holds not only that kids learn best when they are in the active roles of designer and builder, but that their learning is optimized when they're assuming these roles in a public forum.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Autonomous Self Regulated Learning - How Does it Work?

Autonomous education was one of the first words I was introduced to when we began our home education. My friend, who has been home educating her children for 6 years (now aged 8 and 12) explained that her children do not attend lesson, all their learning is self directed. Her children seemed bright, had great communication skills and seem very knowledgeable in a broad range of subjects. She said her children have learnt to read by being read to. She noticed that they both started to follow where she was on the page. They were not taught to read using phoenix but I suppose more by word recognition. I was skeptical about how a child could possibly learn anything without lesson styled learning.

At the time, I was sitting down with Owen and Anya for a few hours each day to cover English and Math. The lessons were informal and the kids didn’t seem to mind but didn’t seem to engage in the lessons with any passion. Both of them were barely reading and writing when they left school. They both refuse to read books even though I have tried hard to find books with an interest level at their age but a lower reading age. They both hate books which I suspect is a result of the atrociously boring books they were made to read at school. We used a specialist software application called Wordshark which is designed to help dyslexic children learn to spell. Both Owen and Anya tolerated 30 mins a day using this software but it didn’t seem to create any real interest or pride in reading or spelling. I noticed Owen had started watching Japanese Manga films with subtitles and seemed to be following the plot. Owen started to ask me how to spell words having shown no previous interest in spelling correctly. He was very interested in an online game called Roblox and was chatting with his online friends. I sat down with him to watch him play. He was typing at a tremendous speed with amazingly accurate spelling. So I decided to abandon the Wordshark and allow him to watch Manga subtitles for 30 minutes instead. His reading now seems pretty good (not brilliant but okay) and his spelling is very good. He still isn’t interested in reading books but is able to read whatever he needs to on his computer. He uses the internet to research and look up all sorts of information.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Moving House & Autism

Moving house is stressful for most people, but for someone with autism, for whom routine is important, change can be very difficult and lead to a lot of stress and anxiety.

I have found that preparing Owen for big events is the most effective way of reducing his stress.  I have spent the last few months preparing Owen for the move and including:
  • Explaining why we are moving
  • Showing him photos of the new house
  • Explaining what is involved in the move
  • Showing Owen the calender and reminding him of the move date
  • Packing a bag of essential toys, clothes and food/snacks for the first few days.

Social stories may also help autistic kids understand what is going on. 

On the day of the move we ensure the kids stuff was off loaded first and their beds and essential toys unpacked first.  Anya was brilliant and got on with unpacking her stuff.  Owen needed more support and help but managed well. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Oxytocin Improves Emotion Recognition

I have been reading some interesting research about oxytocin.  In a new study in Biological Psychiatry, published by Elsevier, Australian autism experts recruited adolescents with ASDs. Using a rigorous study design, they administered a single dose each of oxytocin and placebo via a nasal spray, received one week apart. Both times, the subjects were asked to complete a facial expression task that measures emotion recognition. Compared to administration of the placebo spray, the subjects' performance on the task was improved when they received the oxytocin spray. These findings provide the first evidence that "a brief and simple intervention can improve emotion understanding in autism, or in fact any clinical disorder associated with social dysfunction. It is also the first to show the benefits of oxytocin nasal spray in young people, suggesting potential for earlier intervention where there may be greater opportunity to improve development," explained author Dr. Adam Guastella. "This study, therefore, makes an important advance with the longer-term hope that oxytocin could be used to improve social function in everyday settings for clinical disorders associated with social dysfunction."

Oxytocin is not available as a drug to treat autism.  Even if it was I have never liked the idea of using drugs to treat autism.  

I have been looking into how the body produces oxytocin naturally and apart from the obvious (sex) I have found these:
  • Ingestion of food triggers oxytocin release by activation of vagal afferent nerves. Most likely, it can also be released by stimulation of other senses such as olfaction, as well as by certain types of sound and light. 
  • Purely psychological mechanisms can trigger the release of oxytocin. This means that positive interaction involving touch and psychological support may be health-promoting.
  • Oxytocin can be released by various types of sensory stimulation, for example by touch and warmth. Bloodstream levels of oxytocin have been shown to rise during massage.
 But I remember using a TENS machine during both my births.  Does a TENs machine produce oxytocin?  More research I think!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Reading Eggs

I thought it would be worth mentioning Reading Eggs as some other home educators have recommended this reading program.  Owen and Anya’s reading has improved so much by simply been provided the time to pursue their interests that it is now below their level.  Anya had a look at Reading Eggs but found it too easy although she seemed to enjoyed playing the games for a while.  Personally, I found the program irritating and wouldn't recommend it for older children that are struggling with reading.  It is clearly aimed at younger kids with interest levels and age levels matched at school expectation.  This is rarely the case with dyslexia, ADD, ADHD and autistic kids.  My focus has always been to try and match older interest levels with younger reading levels.

Chemistry Set !

I've just made a huge investment in a Chemistry set.  Owen and Anya love to do experiments so I thought this set would really allow them to develop this interest.  Not cheap though at £168 from Amazon!

The Thames & Kosmos CHEM C3000 includes a wide range of supplies, including professional grade test tubes, an alcohol burner and chemicals that are needed for the experiments. The guide is the most important part of the chemistry set. It covers each experiment in detail, ensuring young learner are able to perform the experiments properly to get results. There are also color photos of the experiments, which is a great way to see if your results are the same as the photo. The set also includes safety gear which is an absolute necessity when working with chemicals.

Documentary Resource

Top Documentary Films you can find 1700+ (more to come) stunning, eyeopening and interesting documentaries.

Monday, 1 August 2011


HESFES is a home education festival held in South East England.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Autism - Time Doesn't Heal Wounds

I have noticed that Owen has an amazingly detailed memory of things that happened a long time ago.  In many ways this is a strength but it also makes it hard for him to recover from more unpleasant experiences  and painful episodes from some time ago bring up the rawest of emotions.

Autistic children and people can have a superior memory to neuro-typical people.  This may be an advantage in some ways as time will not steal experiences.  However, it is much harder for Owen to open himself  to new relationships if he can't heal from past ones. How can he face his fears, knowing that the memory of what scares him will never fade?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Mark Gives Hula Hoop Lessons!

Mark teaches us to Hula Hoop!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Legoland July 2011

Lots of skills developed including planning, map reading, problem solving, construction and fine and gross motor skill developement!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Lambeth Country Show 2011

We sell our children’s clothes at lots of markets and fairs. Owen and Anya both enjoy helping to make the signs and then serve the customers on our stall. It is a great chance for them to develop their confidence serving customer and practice their mental arithmetic’s. In addition, the Country Show is a fabulous mix of culture, food, entertainment and fun.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Fisher Farm

Fishers Farm Park is the top, award-winning family visitor attraction located in Wisborough Green on the edge of the South Downs National Park, in the heart of the West Sussex countryside. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Power of Autonomous Learning

We have been moving more towards an autonomous unschooled approach to our education.  The change in direction has been influenced by studying the many and varied books and articles written by a variety of authors including John Holt, Roland Meighan, Jan Fortune-Wood, John Taylor Gatto, Linda Dobson, Ken Robinson.  However, the main reason for our move towards autonomous education is the astounding improvement in Owen's reading as a result of his interest in Roblox and subsequent online chatting.  Both his reading and spelling have improved so significantly that he has even started to watch subtitles Manga cartoons.  His improvement in reading and spelling as a result of online chatting out ways any of my attempts to improve his spelling with Wordshark or the books aimed to match interest and reading levels.   His improvement in reading and spelling is down to his obsessive interest in Roblox and endless game designing and online conversation.  I simply allow him the time in indulge in this interest.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Green Paper

In March the Government published the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) green paper.   The Green Paper says how the Government plans to change the way that children and young people with autism get support with their education and from health and social care services.   The Green Paper is a consultation, and the decisions about exactly what changes will go ahead have not been taken yet.  

Some of the main proposals in the green paper are:
-       to have single assessment process covering health, social care and education support.  Instead of a statement of SEN, this will lead to a overall plan, called an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).  The education part of EHCPs will be legally enforceable as with a statement.
-       These plans will cover young people from birth to 25
-       Pupils who have an EHCP may receive personal budgets so they know how much money is being spent on their support.
-       School Action and School Action plus (school based support) to be replaced by new single school based SEN category
-       Increased training for new and existing teachers, covering SEN
-       Outstanding special schools able to apply to become teaching (training) schools: allowing good specialist teachers to share their expertise
-       A ‘local offer’ which will say what services are available for children with SEND in a local authority area, and will also have more detailed information about the provision that schools make for this group
-       Mediation to be first port of call to resolve disputes before a case can go to tribunal.

Although, these plans look marginally better than the current provision, I remain extremely sceptical that the new proposals would make any difference to my children's experiences at school.

Brown Nail Experiment & Shinny Coins


· kitchen cleaner

· 10 dirty copper coins

· 50ml vinegar

· a glass

· a pinch of salt

· 3cm nail

· teaspoon

1. Put the coins into the empty glass then cover them with vinegar. Stir in the salt and leave for five minutes.

2. Meanwhile, clean the nail with kitchen cleaner and dry it carefully. It should now be very clean and bright.

3. Remove the coins from the vinegar, leaving the vinegar in the glass. What happened to the coins?

4. Drop the nail into the vinegar and leave it there for half an hour.

5. What has happened to the nail?

The science

· The vinegar contains acid which dissolved the brown copper-based chemicals from the coins, leaving them shiny.

· These copper-based chemicals then mixed with the vinegar to make a new chemical.

· This chemical settled on the nail and turned it brown.