Categories
Home Education

What Resources do you need for Primary Education?

I saw a new blog post from Jarfullofmoonbeams considering what resources you need for primary education. I read about her top ten buys for primary education and it got me thinking about my own top ten.

A few years ago, I wrote a post about my favourite resources for primary education. It included: Scales, Maps, Chronology Sheet, Anatomy Model, Ray Box, Coins, Fabric Pens, Balloons, Two Colour Abacus, and Air-Drying Clay.

Obviously, what you need for a primary education was a key question when we were putting the Frogotter Box together. I wanted to gather the absolute minimum required to provide a complete primary education.

Scales, Maps, Chronology Sheet

Some items, like the scales, and a big map, are so brilliant, that they made it into the box pretty much unchanged. These are key resources for maths, science, and geography. I can’t imagine trying to educate without them!

The Chronology Sheet, took a bit more thought. There are loads available, and I spent some time considering all their benefits (I spotted that Jarfullofmoonbeams uses one from What On Earth Wall Books). In the end, though, I designed my own: the Time Snail. It’s simple enough for children to learn, and I am very pleased with the spiral effect, which I think really helps with the way that we compress the most distant past.

Tea towel with a picture of a time snail on it
Big Time Snail Sheet

Coins, and Consumable Resources

Coins aren’t included in the Frogotter Box – though I still think that they are an important resource. It’s a really good idea to practise maths with coins, because it helps children learn the denominations. But, the box does include counters, which can be used for lots of counting and sorting games. The big 100 numbergrid is a brilliant addition to coins and really helps with seeing the patterns of numbers. My children have actually found it easier to use than the two colour abacus, so that’s been pushed off my list.

Fabric pens, air-drying clay and balloons are all consumable resources. I always have plenty of them in my house! They are so helpful for making learning hands-on. You can buy them pretty much anywhere, and I don’t have a favourite type. I stand buy these as vital supplies for science, art, history, geography and just having fun!

Big Anatomy Sheet (with alphabet in lower and upper case)

Anatomy Model, Ray Box

I would have loved to include an anatomy model in the Frogotter Box; they really are a wonderful resource for primary education. But, they’re just too expensive, and I think they would have nearly doubled the cost of the box! We’ve tried some small ones with the children, but young children find them too fiddly, and older children don’t find them detailed enough. So, I comprimised and drew my own simple anatomy sheet. It covers the skeletal system, the digestive system and the respiratory system. It comes without labels so that it can be used to remember the names of the main organs. Also, parents can choose how much detail to use at different ages.

The only thing left on my original list is the ray box. We do still use that quite a bit, and I still think it’s an excellent resource. It didn’t make it into the Frogotter Box, because it isn’t required for the National Curriculum at Primary level. So the Frogotter Box includes a mini electronics set instead. I bought my ray box from Better Equipped, who are great value for science lab supplies. Though you do also need a 12v power supply to connect it to.

Additional Resources

Some resources that I would add to my original list now would be a globe, and a set of geometric solids. Though maps are easier to examine, a globe is really important for helping children to picture a more realistic shape of the world. And geometric solids that can be picked up and moved around are vital for helping children with counting sides and corners!

My opinion of which resources are vital for primary education hasn’t changed much over the last few years. Which is a relief, as it means that my younger chlidren are getting a similar standard of education to my older ones!

I haven’t included any books, because there are too many, so I thought it deserved a seperate post. I’ll put that one up next week!

Categories
Home Education

How to Home Educate and Spend Zero Time on Prep.

Obviously, one of my main points is going to be that the Frogotter Box allows you to home educate and spend zero time on prep 😉 It really does, and I think that’s a great thing!

But, full disclosure, there are other ways to achieve this! I ran a poll on my twitter account to guage how much time people were spending on preparing for home educating or remote schooling their children. Here are the results:

It was more evenly spread than I expected. An impressive 36% of parents were doing less than 15 mins. Most people, however, are putting some time into prep work.

What’s the Problem with Prep?

We’re all busy. Educating the children has to be fitted in along with work, running the house, cooking, keeping fit, playing with the children, and spending time on ourselves.

So, when we spend time on educating our children, we want it to be quality time. That means time devoted to education, should be spent with the children, not on admin.

You can home educate you can spend zero time on prep. If you’re one of the 25% of people who are spending more than an hour a week just preparing education for your children, then switching to a zero prep plan is going to make a big difference!

How Can You Cut Prep? Get Someone Else To Do It!

Respondents to my poll who had achieved Zero Prep, all had one thing in common: they used pre-prepped work.

Some people are using online resources like Reading Eggs or BBC Bitesize. Some are using resources prepared by school. There are also various letterbox plans, like Kiwi Co, who will post you activities. All of these are ready to use and require no prep from you.

You can also use workbooks. My family have used CGP, Schofield and Simms and Colins workbooks at various times. Both CGP and Schofield and Simms have extensive ‘see inside’ pages on their websites, so you can have a look – even encourage your child to look with you – and choose the ones that will suit your family best.

Finally, if you’re looking for something hands-on, that’s what the Frogotter Box is designed for.

Can Prep Be Good?

One of the discussions that came out of my poll was about different kinds of prep.

In some families, children help prepare topics and schedule activities. This can be a fantastic learning opportunity in itself. Get your child involved in planning how to spend their time and they’ll be more invested in the time table. They will learn how to plan, and planning time will be together time. It’s a win win win!

Another parent shared that part of her prep is reading the same books as her daughter, ready to discuss them. Any prep that involves learning for us as parents serves dual purposes. It’s great for us to model learning, and who doesn’t like an excuse to read a good book? That kind of prep can’t be bad.

Get The Kids To Spend Time On Prep

Could you involve your child more in preparing their education as well as enjoying it?

Children can get involved in project-based learning by: choosing a topic, suggesting activities, searching for activities online or in relevant books, ordering the activities.

They can get involved in online or text-based learning by: trialing various sites or browsing books and recording their preferences, setting a timetable for the week.

Whatever style of learning you’re using, it’s great to plan the days and weeks together. It’s really valuable for your child to discover what time of day they focus best, and whether they do better with long or short bursts. Those moments I spend with my children, relaxed, chatting and planning together, are some of the best moments of my week.

Contents of Box
Categories
Home Education

How Long is a Home Education Lesson?

In schools, this is generally a pretty easy question to answer. Lessons are as long as the time slot provided for them. The UK’s experiment with Literacy Hour and Numeracy Hour weren’t overly successful. Schools prefer to set their own lesson times, and these range from 30 minutes to two hours. However, schools are doing something very different to what you will be doing at home!

Save Time on Admin

School lessons include a lot of administration. It takes a great deal longer for thirty children to get out a book and a pencil, than it does for one child to open up their Learning Box. If you keep all your supplies to hand, getting started shouldn’t take very long. In our house we keep workbooks in a filing cabinet and all stationary in a big box (if you use the Frogotter Box, of course, everything is right there inside the box ready to go).

One to One Learning is Intense

Two hours might be fine for a lesson at school, especially if that lesson is comprised of a variety of activities. It will probably be too long for a one to one lesson. Learning one to one is intense. Your child can’t let their mind wander while worksheets are being handed out, or relax while the teacher explains to children who need extra support. When they’re learning one to one, your child has your full attention all the time.

One rule of thumb is that children’s attention span is about two-five minutes multiplied by their age.

AgeAttention Span in Minutes
48-20
510-25
612-30
714-35
816-40
918-45
1020-50
1122-55

However, most people believe that adults can only focus for about twenty minutes at a time before they need a break. It seems unlikely that there are many eleven year olds capable of focussing on one task for the best part of an hour.

Twenty Minutes is Enough

A lot depends on what the task is, how interested your child is, and how challenging they find the task. I can read a novel for several hours without needing a break. But if I’m trying to learn a new programming language then my mind will start to wander and I’ll need to shift from reading about it to trying it out, and back again. To keep the love of learning alive, we should aim to stop before the child is bored or fed up. I wouldn’t reccomend trying to study for more than twenty minutes without some kind of shift.

Breaks v. Shifts

A break is when you stop learning altogether. A shift is when you switch to a different activity. Both can help to lengthen the time for which you are able to focus.

Most of the activities in the Frogotter Activity Book include space for exploring the idea and playing with the materials. Playing in this way is a shift of attention, and can enable you to keep a lesson going for longer than twenty minutes. Playing doesn’t tire us in the same way as focussing does. Your child may well be happy to play with one of the activities for longer than twenty minutes. When you’re learning through play, there is plenty of space to relax, and many children are happy to play the same game for a prolonged time.

Shifting mental focus can reset our attention span. Sometimes, a child may be able to do a Literacy activity for twenty minutes followed by a Numeracy activity for another twenty minutes. As the saying goes: a change is as good as a rest. If you need to fit learning into a small part of the day, swapping from one subject to another, or even from one activity to another, can be a good way of preventing exhaustion.

Taking a break to get outside and play, or to have a drink and a snack, can replenish our stock of attention too. This is a particularly good idea after an activity that your child finds difficult.

Move at Your Child’s Pace

If you were teaching a whole class then you might need to stop to settle a child who was disrupting the others, you might have to stop to look after a child who was unwell, you might have to repeat instructions for one child, explain in a different way for another child, and sharpen another child’s pencil. At home, you will only have to do this for one child. Of course, there may be days that your child needs all of this support, and those will probably be the days when your lesson takes a bit longer than usual! But, you won’t be waiting for any other children. So, in general, you can expect your lessons to be a lot shorter than they would be at school.

If your child is quick to grasp a new concept, then you may find a lesson is very short indeed. Conversely, if your child is struggling, you might decide to cut the lesson short to avoid overwhelming them.

However, if your child is enjoying the new material, engaged and interested, then you might decide to take a bit longer, and really explore the activity. It is wonderful to have the freedom to devote time to something that you and your child are really enjoying, and it’s a fantastic way to nuture a love of learning. Many activities will interest your child for longer than twenty minutes. You may even have educational board games that take longer than twenty minutes to play!

Stop if you need to

A school lesson would stop for a fire drill, or lunchtime. So, you can stop if it’s time to go out or make a meal. Home Education is an important part of family life, but it isn’t the only part. Yes, it’s great to give your child the time they need, but, it’s absolutely fine to put the maths game to one side, if you need to attend to another child, or get to work!

If you have a lot of time commitments, you might need to schedule your learning time to fit in with other things. In that case, your lesson length will be dicatated by the other things you have to do.

Legal Requirements

In the UK, there is currently only a very broad definition of what parents are required to do to home educate their children. Home educators are not required to teach to a set timetable, or to provide a set number of hours. However, in the guidance for parents, it states that education should occupy “a significant proportion of a child’s life”. This does suggest that home educated students are expected to devote a reasonable quantity of time to learning. Though, that learning will include reading, music, cooking, playing sports, art, craft, field trips, and engaging in educational projects – it doesn’t mean that most of the day must be devoted to studying from a text book. It does suggest, however, that a good working relationship with your Local Authority would be supported by keeping a rough tally of how your child is spending their time. (If you are using the Frogotter Box, you can download extra record sheets here, to easily keep track.)

In the same guidance, the writers estimate that school attending children receive 5 hours a day of educational input, for 190 days a year; which comes to 950 hours a year, though they clearly state that Home Educators are not expected to meet these figures. In the guidance for Local Authorities, however, the writers mention that independant schools are required to operate for 18 hours a week. This fact doesn’t seem relavent to home educators (who are not trying to register as independant schools) unless it is intended to imply that 18 hours a week (which equates to 684 hours a year) might be considered a reasonable amount of time for education.

How Much Time does Home Education Take?

I did an experiment with my own home educated children, recording to the nearest twenty minutes how they spent their time for two weeks. The teenagers spent more time on book work, the primary aged child more time building his own creations from lego and junk modeling; all spent a few hours a week at sports clubs and we had one big field trip day to a museum. In total, we did reach about 18 hours a week, so I think it’s an achievable level.

Another blogger, Monkey Mum, has done her own estimate of how much focused learning time is actually available for primary school teachers, here. She estimates that time to be about 100 minutes per school day, equating to only 316 hours and 40 minutes a year.

A lot depends on how you count education. I don’t think that young children should have focussed lessons that exceed twenty minutes. But, I do think that children can engage in educational play for far longer. I also think that extended play – especially creative play – can count towards your weekly total of educational time.

Categories
Home Education

Lockdown Schooling

As the UK returns to Lockdown, I know many parents are frustrated and concerned about returning to Lockdown Schooling. And, many teachers and schools are frustrated and concerned at having to provide distance learning with no time to prepare.

Online learning had its place, but I think we all agree that it’s not a good idea to sit children in front of a computer all day long!

Hands on learning allows children to explore ideas and to learn through play. Gameschooling makes learning fun and reduces the stress caused in many households when parents are forced to adopt the role of Teacher.

The Frogotter Box is an all inclusive curriculum linked set of resources, ready to use with no preparation at all.

No Preparation Required

Because it requires no preparation, parents and carers don’t need to spend any time searching the internet for ideas, gathering materials, or printing worksheets. You can just open the box and begin. It’s the most efficient use of what little time you can make available to teach – especially handy if you’re combining Home Schooling with Working From Home!

National Curriculum Linked

Because it’s curriculum linked, you can rest assured that it will build on what your children have learnt at school – increasing their confidence. And it will prepare them for returning to school when all this is over. This may be particularly helpful for parents of Year Six children who are concerned about their children being ready to start Secondary School in September.

Gameschooling

Because it’s hands-on and game-based, it will follow naturally from your usual relationship of chatting and playing together. You don’t need to be a teacher to play educational games together. There is a lot of turn taking and collaboration in the Frogotter Activities. This will reduce conflict and pressure and help to make this time positive.

Fun Resources

All the equipment has been chosen to maximize fun and engagement. The wooden animals, magnetic letters and counters are all extremely appealing to children, encouraging them to join in and enjoy learning.

Short Activities

None of the individual activities take very long to complete. Obviously, if children are enjoying themselves they may play for an extended period. But, the activities are designed to allow you to use any ten minutes to make progress. This is really ideal for busy families and for children with short attention spans. You can get a preview of the activities by visiting our Youtube Channel.

Great Value

We’re very sympathetic to parents who need to get things sorted right now. The kit can be reused for siblings, which makes it fantastic value for money. All the equipment can be used time and again. Once your children do return to school, the kit will be brilliant to help with homework, and with reinforcing any concepts that your child needs a bit of extra practice with. We’re offering a special lockdown sale price of £99.60 including postage within the UK. We’ll keep this price until children can return to school.

Personal Support

We’re a home educating family, with four children of our own. We’ve been educating our children for years. We’re available on twitter, instagram and by email to help you with any queries, so you don’t need to feel like you’re on your own!

Categories
Home Education

Sensory Play Throughout Primary School

Sensory Play is popular in Early Years settings, and amongst parents of toddlers. But fewer teachers or parents think of using it with older children. I think that’s a shame.

Engaging the senses helps us to encode memories. So, the more senses we use in learning, the easier it is to recall material.

The Frogotter Box is designed to encourage you and your child to use your senses as you learn. The hands-on materials engage touch as well as sight. There are games to engage senses of proprioception and of sound. The Extension Activities even include recipes to engage the senses of smell and taste.

Sensory Play is appealing. Laying out a selection of resources invites children to explore and learn. Everything about the Frogotter Box – from the treasure chest style of the box itself to the lovely tactile wooden animals and the soft time snail sheet – is designed to invite children to investigate.

Sensory Play is open-ended. Repeat is s key element of the Frogotter method, not because it’s about drilling information into children, but because returning to toys and games gives time and space for children to develop their ideas. The first time you try an activity, you may just follow the steps and your child might have few ideas to contribute. The second time, however, they will be ready to go further. If you repeat an activity a few times, your child will begin to play with the ideas themselves, and in play they will take their learning in new directions and to greater depths.

There are lots of online resources, and they certainly have their place. But, I think that learning a new concept is far easier when you can get your hands on it and move it around.

Categories
Home Education

How to Teach Your Child to Read

If you want to teach your child to read, you may be wondering where to start, or puzzled by the huge range of potential resources available. If so, you may want a quick and easy guide!

I can’t promise that teaching your child to read will be entirely quick, or completely easy, but this guide is.

Teach Your Child to Read

Step One – Listen to Books

Reading to your child is a vital step in teaching them to read. It’s also really helpful for building a whole load of other skills. Plus, it’s really fun!

If you want your child to read, they need to know what books are for. So, read to them. Read as many types of books as you can: stories, recipes, poems, guide books, encyclopedias, how-to books; all books are great for this step. As soon as possible, let your child choose books. We go to the library every week (except in Lockdown, of course) and let the children choose their own books. It’s one of their first tastes of independance. Even a baby can indicate which of two options they are more interested in. Encourage your children to choose.

Rather brilliantly, one of the best predictors of children who love to read is having parents who love to read. So a great way of beginning to teach your child to read is to let them see you reading for pleasure. It is actually good for your kids if you pick up a book while they’re watching TV! Hurrah!

Step Two – Teach Your Child to Read Pictures

Before you start with words, look at pictures together. Talking about pictures, spotting details, working out what’s going on – what movement is being represented by a static image – are all great ways of building literacy skills. There’s lots of information about why looking at pictures helps children learn to read, but this is a quick guide. Playing ‘spot the picture’ games is part of teaching children to read. In the Frogotter Box, we use the Time Snail for this step.

Big Time Snail Sheet

Step Three – Identifying Letters

You don’t have to stop talking about pictures to start Step Two, ideally you will keep doing that as well; it will build comprehension skills. But, it’s really easy to add ‘spot the letter’ to your game. In the Frogotter Box, we use the Anatomy Sheet for this game.

Big Anatomy Sheet (with alphabet in lower and upper case)

Once your child has found all the boats on a page, point to a letter ‘b’ and ask if they can spot another ‘b’ just like that one. You can spot letters everywhere, on signs, on packets, on TV, and – of course – in books.

Step Four – Make the Sounds for the Letters

When introducing the letters to your child, say their sounds and not their names. So ‘a’ is pronounced ‘a’ as in the beginning of ‘apple’, not ‘ay’ as in the end of ‘say’. You can find plenty of guides online; here’s ours.

It can take a bit of practice to get the hang of this, but it’s really worth it, as it makes it much easier to get reading. If you put ‘see’ ‘ay’ ‘tea’ together, it sounds nothing like cat; but if you put ‘c’ ‘a’ ‘t’ together, it does!

Step Five – Put the Letters Together

I am a big fan of phonics. It does very well in studies, and really does seem to be a great way to teach your child to read. Plus, it’s not hard to do. Start with a few letters at a time (if you start with s, a, t, p, i; you can get a good handful of words that your child can read, very quickly).

Letters that you can pick up and move around are really handy for this stage. The Frogotter Box has a huge selection of 154 letters (plus three pieces of punctuation) – two capitals and five lowercase of each letter – which have magnetic backs so you can stick them to the whiteboard. We have a lot of fun making words with the letters in our box, you can watch us on youtube.

157 Foam Magnetic Letters

As soon as you can, it’s great to get your child reading books. There are lots of reading schemes out there, hopefully you can get hold of some from your local library. But, if you’re available and ready to read any words that they can’t manage, your child can practise their reading with absolutely any book. Don’t be afraid of letting them choose books that are ‘too hard’ for them; it’s far better to read a ‘too hard’ book that interests your child than a ‘just the right level’ book that doesn’t. Just be on side to help when they get stuck.

Step Six – Blending

Sometimes children struggle to get from sounding out single letters to reading whole words. If you want to teach your child to read whole words, and not just letters, you need to teach them blending. The best way I found is slightly counter-intuitive: start by teaching the child how to split words up into individual sounds. You can see us doing this in ‘Talk like a Tortoise’.

Step Seven – Repeat!

I am a big fan of returning to ideas and activities to help consolidate learning. ‘Repeat’, is one of the key themese of the Frogotter Approach. But, it’s even more important when you’re trying to teach your child to read.

There are loads of sounds in English, and it takes a long time to become familiar with all of them. Keep reading together – even if your children can read to themselves; there’s something very cosy about sharing stories. Keep looking at pictures together, and talk about them. Keep looking at letters and how they build words, once your child has met the first sounds, introduce more, and look at how the same letters can make different sounds – like ‘ow’ in ‘snow’ and ‘ow’ in ‘cow’ – and how different letters can make the same sounds – like ‘oo’ in ‘cool’ and ‘ue’ in ‘blue’. Keep taking those letters apart and putting them back together – it’ll help with spelling, just as much as reading.

Enjoy!

I’ve taught three of my children to read so far. Baby Girl is still on step one, as I write. It has honestly been one of my favourite parts of parenting. Sharing something so brilliant with my children has been a huge pleasure. I hope that you will enjoy sharing reading with your child too.

Categories
Home Education

Starting Home Education

However old your child, and however experienced you are as a parent, starting home education can be daunting. Being responsible for your child’s education is certainly an important task, but it can still be a lot of fun.

The first thing to do is relax.

Reasons to Relax:

There are fewer time limits than you might think. Even GCSEs and A-levels can be taken at a range of ages, and there’s no real deadline to anything your child learns in primary school. You don’t have to follow school terms, or school days. In short, you have all the time you need.

School isn’t going anywhere. If you want to, in a term, a year, or a few years; you can re-enroll your child in school. This may seem like a strange thing to say to someone starting home education. But, it can be very freeing to know that you haven’t made an irrevocable decision. If you change your mind, or if circumstances change, you can use school again.

You’re not alone. There are lots of home education groups (Facebook can be a great way to find local groups, and Education Otherwise keeps a list of local groups), and all the ones we’ve come across are always ready to welcome new home educators. You and your child will find a community to join.

Nor are you under-resourced. There are loads of trips, online games, workbooks, board games, libraries and sports centres out there waiting for you to find them. Once you get started, you’ll soon find that the hardest bit is whittling down what you really want to do. There’s loads of choice!

Paper dolls on a table

Relating To One Another:

Sometimes parents take children out of school because their child was unhappy. It can take time, and gentleness, to heal a child who had a tough time at school.

Often – especially if a child has attended school or nursery – parents are unused to taking on the role of teacher as well as parent. When starting home education, it can feel a bit strange to be closely involved in your child’s education if you’re both accustomed to having another adult there. You’ll both need to ease into your roles as home educating parent and child. It’s not quite the same as being teacher and pupil. It is, however, a flexible role that you can mould to fit your family.

As you explore learning together, you’ll get to know each other better. You’ll get to know what time of day you have most energy and enthusiasm. You’ll get to know what excites you and what baffles you. Home Education could be called Family Education, it involves the whole family, and everyone will need to work out their role and how to really enjoy this period in your life. Don’t expect it to be all about your child. The best Family Education set up is the one that’s comfortable for everyone.

When deciding on timetables, groups, even what to study; consider everyone’s needs. In the early days of our home educating, my husband worked Monday-Friday, then did some home ed with the children on Saturdays, so that I could pursue my own projects. Sunday was a family day, then Monday I did fun activities or trips with the children, to ease us all back into the week. My main home education days were Tuesday-Friday. These days, I work Mondays and Tuesdays, so my husband does home education in those days, then he works Wednesday-Fridays. I do home education with the children on Wednesday and Thursday, then use Friday as a Catch-up day to sort out all the things we didn’t get around to during the week. Which leaves Saturday and Sunday for family time. Find a pattern that suits your family, and to adjust it when required.

Repeating Patterns:

Most children thrive with reliable routines. I like to think of our routine as the plain canvas that allows everyone to express themselves in bright colours. We keep the pattern of the week predictable and the children can fill it in with their own ideas and projects.

People learn in spirals, returning to ideas over and over, adding a bit more detail and depth each time. So, it’s good to repeat activities, trips, books, and games with your children. As they repeat, they will have a better chance of mastering activities, which will boost their confidence.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the options available when starting home education. Try out a few at a time. You don’t need a new activity every day, or a new game every week. You can go to the same forest over and over – that’s how you’ll see the seasons change. Never be afraid of boring your child. When you’re predictable, they will have space and security to be imaginative. Practice leads to excellence. Let your child practice skills over and over. Encourage revisiting, it’s how we learn our way around.

A hand-drawn map
Categories
Home Education

My Biggest Home Education Mistakes

We’ve been home educating for a while now, but we still seem to be learning all the time. Here are the biggest mistakes we’ve made – so far!

Too Much Flash

When we first started home educating our oldest two children, we really wanted to ensure they enjoyed home education. So every lesson was an adventure! We entered competitions; we cooked feasts; we embarked on big craft projects; we played games. We didn’t want any lesson to be boring.

And, the boys hated it! They became very resistant to all these games and new activities. They struggled to remember anything we were trying to teach them. One day, when struggling to get the boys to take an interest in a lego-themed storytelling activity, frustration reached its peak. We were putting hours of work into planning these elaborate activities and the children just didn’t care!

So, we bought a couple of basic workbooks, we got a big jar of counters to help with maths, and we started cooking the same cake recipe every week. The change was remarkable. We were happier because prep was so much easier. The boys were happier because – without all the flashy distractions – they could actually follow lessons much more clearly and learn much more effectively. They even learnt how to bake that one cake recipe!

Far from boring them, routine and repetition made my children feel secure and made their world easier to understand.

Lesson learnt: sometimes simple is best.

Putting Home Educated Children into Year Groups

With four children of different ages, we know that not all of them are at the same level.

However, age is not the best guide to choosing an activity. We have bought loads of workbooks with ages printed on the front. Sometimes (particularly with English – which is a struggle for two of our children) books aimed at the correct age are far too hard.

The obvious solution was to buy the next age down. It was probably better suited to our children’s ability level. However, they hated the idea of being asked to do work ‘for younger children’ and we’re upset.

The best answer has been to find books with vague – or, even better, no – age rating! Naturally, there is no age-rating on the Frogotter Box!

Lesson learnt: children can be sensitive about the ‘right age’ for their school work.

Doing Everything Apart

One of the great joys of home education is tailoring the education to the individual child. So, obviously, we assumed that each child should have a separate plan: their own box of work, their own desk, their own timetable, individual time with a parent to talk about their lessons.

The children became absolutely fascinated with each others’ work! Every time we tried to help one child, they others would appear, looking over shoulders, offering comments, even (in the case of the toddler) snatching the books and running away with them!

We need a balance. Some activities have to be done alone – the toddler really can’t understand the teen’s algebra! But, it’s really fun to do some things together. And, when we can, it’s great to encourage the children to show off their work to one another. We’ve had a lot of fun doing experiments together, reading books together, watching plays together and playing games together.

Lesson learnt: Learning alongside someone else can be lots more fun than studying solo.

Over Scheduling

This is a mistake we’ve made more than once! There are so many fun groups to join and so many wonderful trips to go on. It’s all too easy to keep saying ‘yes’.

Parkour? Yes! Swimming? Yes! Climbing? Yes! Co-op? Yes, please! Nature Walk? Yes! Natural History Museum? Yes!

The problem is, that we end up with grouchy, tired children, and a house that manages to be an absolute tip even though we never seem to be in it!

When trips are too frequent, they stop feeling like a treat. Having dragged frazzled, moody children around a soft play park and lunch out, I felt frustrated that I’d wasted money and nobody had enjoyed themselves. It turns out that treats are only special if they’re rare! It’s not a treat if it happens all the time.

Now we make sure that – however brilliant the offers are – we have one ‘catch-up day’ a week. A day at home to finish projects and get a bit of housework done. We enjoy our trips far more now that we have enthusiasm for them. We simply can’t go everywhere or see everything. But, realising that helps us to value the things that we do even more.

Lesson learnt: There’s a no end of fun things to do, but there is an end to our supply of energy.