Not back to school

IMG_0158So today would have been Joe’s first day at school… if he was going. I hadn’t really thought much about it – it’s ages since we decided not to send him – but then Harry mentioned it and we got a bit sentimental and had to stop and squeeze Joe.

Harry said, “When I was still at school, I was really looking forward to this day!”

We talked for a bit about what it would have been like, the two of them at school together. I said it would have been nice for them to play together at break, but I imagine it would have been hard for them to say goodbye and go to separate classes afterwards.

Harry said, “Oh, I just imagined someone coming to take me to his class to calm him down cos he was crying so much!”

He would have looked really cute in his uniform though…

Today also marks the second official year of home educating, i.e. Harry didn’t go back last September, and I can honestly say we’ve never regretted the decision for a second.

(If you’re interested in our home ed adventure, you can read all about it on my other blog Happy Home Ed.)

Questions (or How do children learn if they don’t go to school?)


Earlier this week, I read this about how mothers are asked 300 questions a day by their children and so I thought I’d keep a note of some of the questions the boys ask me. Sort of a companion to the wordles I did a while ago (Joe’s and Harry’s).

These were all from a couple of hours on Tuesday morning and are only the ones I managed to record, I missed plenty more.

Do the guineas need pet insurance?
What’s head lice?
Was that man French?
Was Marks and Spencer real people?
Why do scratches instantly pop up?
Can a teddy put up a fight?
Why does the smoke smell like coffee?
What’s that baby called? Does she like ducks?
Why is there a break in TV shows?
How do you remember everything that you got teached?
How do you remember everything you know now?
Who is the voice for Daddy Pig? And Peppa? And George?
Why is it called the pound shop?
Why has that tree got one dead leaf?
There’s a bit of blood on my hand… why’s it gone hard?
Why’s aliens always have those heads on?
Could NASA do research of if there’s aliens?
You know knights kill aliens? (Harry: Maybe that’s what happened to the aliens!)
Why’s it called tap dancing?
Do boobies trump?
Why are bees going to go extinct?
What does reject mean?
Do cars need electricity?
Is this where polices go when they need their coffee break and breakfast?
Does movies have people jumping off skeletons?

Happy Home Ed: Juggling


Someone – I think it was Siân (sorry if not) – asked me this aaaaaages ago:

Have you written anything about the practicalities, about how you manage your working life/writing/you-time alongside homeschooling? I think for many, or possibly just me, the prospect feels overwhelming, simply because of the organisation and juggling. How do you do it? Are you super-organised/structured or do you go with the flow or a bit of both? 

We’ve been home educating for a full school year now so I should have this sorted, shouldn’t I? I think I have… maybe… although generally when I think I’ve got things sorted, they fall apart.

It’s probably not as difficult as people may think because we’re unschooling, so we don’t do any formal, structured learning – the boys can just get on with what they want to do. For example, right now I’m in the front room on the computer, Harry’s sitting  halfway up the stairs on his DS and Joe’s in the lounge doing a painting on the side of a Shreddies box.

I have a daily To Do list on Wunderlist (which I’ve written about before), but I’ve spent the past year paring it down. I’m blogging a lot less than I used to (here as well as on Happy Home Ed, Mum’s Suitcase), posting less on UKYA and I’ve stopped chasing the writers on Bea. None of it is really time sensitive, but I used to feel a responsibility to post everywhere all the time and I’d fret a bit if I hadn’t had a chance, but I let that go and feel much better for it.

Writing fiction, however, is a different matter. I’ve never been one for writing every day and this year, because I’m out of contract, I’ve been writing different things and then waiting to hear back from people, so a routine hasn’t really been needed. Fingers crossed, that’s going to change soon and then I will need to write every day. What I’ve found works for me is getting the writing out of the way first thing so it’s not hanging over me and if, say, it’s a lovely day or something interesting comes up we can just go and do it. So Harry’s been getting me up when he gets up which is anywhere from 5am. Getting out of bed is not so easy, but once I’m downstairs with a cup of tea, it’s amazing how much I can get done before Joe appears (at about 7.30, usually).

Mostly though, the past year has been good for teaching me to relax more. There have been more than a few times when the boys have been asking to go to the park or even just out in the garden and I’ve been at my desk saying, “Just a minute… let me just… I just need to…” and then realising I can do whatever it is later. I’m very lucky in that David is often home by 5 and so if there’s something I really need to do but haven’t, I can skip off to the office, slam the door behind me and get back on Twitter to work.

Join’s home education Twitter chat tomorrow (I’ll be there)

Secondary-Logo_Large-WhiteBg-300x224I’ve been aware of for a while, but haven’t really had the time to have a good look around the site, so when I was invited to take part in a home education Twitter chat, I jumped at the chance. is a membership site focussed on children and technology. Members can ask questions – or answer questions posed by other members – on subjects such as Safety & Privacy, Toys & Gadgets, Child Development and more. Of course, has an education section that covers home education more than any other site I’ve seen, which is great for us since we’re relatively new to home ed. In fact, we’re coming up to the end of our first “school year” of home educating – Harry would have gone in to Year 4 last September, but we decided to keep him home instead.

The main thing I want to say about our decision to home educate is that it was much more a positive than a negative one. When people ask me about home ed, they seem to assume there was a problem with the school – it wasn’t that at all. Yes, we started out questioning school because the curriculum seemed so stuffed that Harry was feeling rushed and asking to learn more about certain subjects, but once we started learning about home ed, it became more about us being together as a family and the boys (Harry is almost 9, Joe is 4) learning through living.

One of the people who inspired me when I was considering home education was American blogger Penelope Trunk. This quote of hers sums up home I feel about home education:

“I love seeing how excited I can make them with the world around them… I want their whole lives to be like that… I want to teach them how to make that for themselves. In the meantime, they give that to me. At least once a day. And I think that is really why I’m keeping them out of school. So we can all have more joy, each day, together.”

On Thursday 20 June (tomorrow!) at 11am BST, is hosting a Twitter chat to explore home education. They are hoping to demystify and bust some myths for those curious (and maybe even sceptical) about homeschooling, celebrate the successes of homeschooling families and discuss all the tools and techniques that can make homeschooling, flexischooling and unschooling a positive experience for many families.

One of the things I love about home ed is that all home educating families are different and work in different ways, so I’m looking forward to getting to know the other bloggers involved and answering everyone’s questions.

To get involved, follow @quibly and use the hashtag #QuiblyQs

Disclosure: this post has been sponsored by and is cross-posted on my other blog, Happy Home Ed.

Happy Home Ed: “I’m bored.”


There are few things the boys say that wind me up more than “I’m bored.” (And there are few things that make me feel more like a parent than how wound up I get about them saying it.) I’ve never really known how to respond before. Sometimes I go with listing the many and varied things they could be doing. Sometimes I choose the old “You don’t know how lucky you are” chestnut. Occasionally I even growl “Only boring people are bored…”

But I’ve just been reading a novel – Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – that features the perfect response:

Bernadette and I were driving Bee and a friend, both preschoolers, to a birthday party. There was traffic. Grace said, “I’m bored.”

“Yeah,” Bee mimicked, “I’m bored.”

Bernadette pulled the car over, took off her seat belt, and turned around. “That’s right,” she told the girls. “You’re bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”

I love that so much. It applies to life in general, of course, and it’s great for home ed. Because we don’t do any formal education, because the boys are learning through living, sometimes they will be bored. But because they’re at home, if they choose to, they can do something about it in a way I don’t think they could if they were at school (god knows, I remember watching the classroom clock and wondering how 45 minutes could ever last sooooooo looooooong). I like that instead of learning how to tolerate being bored, they’ll be learning that it’s on them to do something about it. To make life interesting. For themselves.

Happy Home Ed: Questions and quiet

The only time they're usually quiet (even when they're pretending)
The only time they’re usually quiet (even when they’re pretending)

I saw the following on Twitter: @ckingwriter Apparently, mums are asked an average of 23 questions an hour by their kids, says @bbcr2zoeball on @BBCRadio2 Sounds about right.

My first thought was “and yet of course they can’t learn without school…” but I’ve gone on about that enough, I think. What it did make me think about is just how much they talk. I wouldn’t say it’s a downside of home ed – because I love to listen to them, I love chatting with them, I love their questions – more that it’s a tiring side of home ed.

Last week we ended up in McDonalds (it’s a long story – so long that I started writing it here, bored myself and deleted it) and, as the boys started to eat, they fell silent. Both of them. At the same time. I looked from one to the other and thought about how weird it was that they were quiet.

And because they were quiet, I was quiet too. I wasn’t answering any questions. I wasn’t saying “Just a minute…” or “Hang on…” I wasn’t shushing one while answering the other and then shushing the second while dealing with the first (walking to town the other day I felt like I was in a conversational tennis match – two entirely separate conversations, one on each side, me in the middle trying to keep up with both).

In McDonald’s they were probably quiet for two minutes before they noticed me grinning at them and said, “What?” I told them that’s the longest I can remember them being quiet perhaps ever and they both burst out laughing. They then both tried to stay quiet, with me timing them on my phone. Joe managed 13 seconds. Harry – who likes a challenge – lasted 12 minutes.

I missed the chatter, of course I did, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the peace. (In McDonald’s!)