5 reasons The Works made Home Educating easier.

Back in the olden days when budget was less of a problem and my house hadn’t actually exploded with stuff, we would often occupy ourselves with a trip into town, which was within walking distance back then and peruse the lovely retail opportunities it offered. We normally had a reason to go to town in the first place (often SHOES!) but the way home tended to be sweetened with a little bit of retail therapy and there were few better places to end up than The Works, which was conveniently positioned on the way home.

This had a number of benefits:-

  • Nothing about my coercion in the behaviour stakes looked like I was going to renege on it, so whinging and pleading was reduced during the trip with the promised land still on the horizon.
  • Sometimes they fell asleep in the pushchair on the way home and then I had a bona fide excuse for not being separated from my cash.
  • If I accidentally indulged in heavy things, the amount of time spent lugging them was much reduced.
  • There was ALWAYS something inexpensive to bribe them with that could be bought, enjoyed and then got rid of quite quickly afterwards.

When we started home educating though, The Works took on a whole new meaning.

  1. Stationery. It’s the perfect place to buy cheap and cheerful pads, pens and colouring pencils in the quantities that young children who have a wild need to ‘mark make’ require. I would stock up and then leave them to wolf their way through paper in their own time and without constraint. Drawings, scribbles, games of hangman, join the dots… holidays with a crate packed full of value paper pads and pencils that would only last the holiday. Perfect.
  2. Books. Books for all sorts of reasons. Books to read fiction, often in handy boxed sets or so cheap we tried something new, books about random topics we didn’t know were interesting. Books were full of fabulous pictures to inspire us or intrigue us or flick through for a few weeks until it got too dog-eared to keep. Baby books to pop in a bag for a long car trip, knowing they’d possibly be lost, trampled or chewed by the baby before we got home again but at £1 a time, not too disastrous to lose. If you can buy at half price, it feels a risk worth taking and the range was always different and changing.
  3. Posters. We had a lot of time in rented houses where walls had to be kept pristine (ha!) and tastes changed frequently. Home ed is always better with a poster or something about the current information obsession up on the wall so their laminated posters would often be on the backs of door or hung on sliders from hooks.
  4. Arts & Crafts. Back in the days before I had a business selling this sort of stuff, we’d often stock up on ‘bits and bobs’ to stick and glue and collage with. With a well stocked art department, I could buy a bundle of brushes, paint and canvases, books with ideas in, paint by numbers kits, playdough without spending anything like a fortune and grab and afternoon of peace while they ‘did art’. Christmas was often well served by the ‘upstairs’ of our store too – while Max thanked the stars I couldn’t go up there with a pushchair ;)
  5. Books again – art books. When I was going through my most Montessori/Charlotte Mason phase I tried very hard to expose the girls to lots of art. I had loved books of postcards of famous art as a teen but they seemed to have fallen out of production. We made a few sets of famous painting cards by buying cheap art history books and cutting them up to have a pack of easy to view paintings. Both those educational methods advocate having the full information, so we stuck the pictures on to plain card and wrote date, artist name, painting name and style on the back.

works art

This post is in association with The Works.

Real Home Ed

The real home ed, of course, continues to happen between times and probably the best times of all are the car ed moments. They always have been.

Fran has been reading the Diary of Anne Frank; I think I read this at 14 but she is at a great age to read it, as she is almost exactly the age Anne was. She’s been incredibly moved by it and really stuck at it too, also looking up various bits of information and asking questions along the way.

In the car the other day, she suddenly choked up. “How could they do that to people? it just isn’t human.” How indeed? We talked for a long time about the death camps, the way people were treated, the nature of gas chambers and death marches, the concept of genocide as opposed to just racism, why the camps have been left as memorials. We discussed Schindler’s List, the feelings of the Germans as opposed to the Nazi’s, the difference in residual feelings in this country about that war now, as opposed to how it was when I was growing up, when it still didn’t seem that long ago.

This is big stuff when you are 12; it is even bigger stuff if you are 8 or 6 and listening in.

We talked lots about whether it is ‘racist’ to prefer to send you child to a predominantly English speaking school, for example and how complex the lines are when you start to draw them around wanting safety, protection or good opportunities against wanting to not be with people purely due to colour, race or religion. We discussed how people might begin with one mindset but fall into another, positively or negatively and how we have to guard against beginning to hate people for simply what they are, not who.

I’m reading The Hare with the Amber Eyes, which happens to be discussing who Jews were seen in Paris at the end of the 19th century so that was an interesting part of the discussion. We talked more about whether it is right or wrong to make money from Anne Frank’s house as a museum, or use pictures of piles of bodies, even anonymously, to remind people of that horror. We have to remember, but it is also true those are people, someone’s son or daughter. It’s a complex issue.

For the girls, the hardest thing was understanding that this happened again only recently in Europe, still happens. History is a great distancing agent for kids; they believe we get better and horrors from the past are because people were less aware then but of course, the truth is that bad people are just bad people.

The girls have been loving Dad’s Army recently – it was interesting to set Anne Frank clearly against that and see how they felt about the funny side of the home front (or that side made funny) alongside the brutality and the fact that we knew it was happening and did so little to stop it until we were threatened ourselves.

However hard, it was a fascinating conversation. Must hurry up and do that side of the war with them.

Other stuff going on – Fran blogged our day out at Wood Green Animal Shelter. (She’s her mother’s daughter when it comes to proof reading!)

Today we went to the Stockwood Discovery Centre, fairly briefly, but will definitely go back as it looked excellent.

We’ve done lots of gardening but that’s another blog.

We had another trip into Oundle and this time the girls and I browsed the bookshop there while Max shopped; it is lovely and we’ll be using it much more I think. Loved how much the girls enjoyed just settling into the arms of a bookshop and enjoying it. Fran wants to know about Huckleberry Finn. All I can remember is I fancied the boy who played him in the series :lol:


As is customary in the Puddle household, last week we took ourselves off to Centerparcs. It’s always a good way for us to have a low maintenance wind down holiday after the busy Xmas period and one of those holidays which, being a large-ish family, has not too much effort attached. In fact, it’s easy, get up, lounge, swim, lounge, eat, lounge, play badminton, swim, eat, lounge. This year was even easier as the kidlets are largely self-sufficient, can go shopping, pack their swimming stuff reliably*, go swimming ahead of us, help to tidy, pack, organise, entertain themselves etc.

I was worried I’d have horrible flashbacky ‘last year we were pregnant moments but actually most of the last few years of CPing have had baby sadness in them and I was immune; we went to a different one last year anyway and I pro-actively booked a different style lodge to try and minimise the feeling. But we’ve been so often that last year was not really my most coherent memory anyway. So in point of fact, to get it out of the way and pat myself firmly on the back, I had a really good week, the closest thing to a break from grief that I’ve had yet. I made myself do it and succeeded, which is an achievement I think. Max fretted a bit but I wanted them to have a good week, so I made sure I did and apart from a slightly*shriek* moment when I gave myself a birthpool flashback and the inevitable pain of a little cerebral palsy boy who was so beautiful and happy, I did really well.

Another milestone.

(New style villa; very different, but we liked it. Might even redo our floor downstairs having lived with boards for a week.)
The kids had a lot of fun; Fran did get her nose out of Inkheart occasionally, but was mostly immersed and we played a great game of Ticket to Ride Europe one night, but mostly we just swam endlessly and flumped in between times.

Knitting & Reading
I discovered that Kindle (love it, love it!) means I can knit and read!

Babmington ;)
Maddy was the unexpected badminton demon and wants us to find a club to play at.

The blackboard on the wall in the villa was a big hit, particularly as we’d decreed a no ds holiday thanks to last years crime outbreak at that particular resort. That meant a lot of reading, drawing, card playing etc went on, which was great. This is Maddy’s version of a Gogo, something which is inexplicably popular in this house :roll:

We also had friends there; we didn’t see much of them as we felt a bit of a need to hunker (as we often do :/ ) but meeting up at swimming was great. At least this year I could go on the slides anyway. I will find positives.

On the last day I got to go to the spa, which was great. I thought, made some plans, didn’t cry and got to stick my hand in a tank of the fish that eat your feet. They felt very, very weird, but I might have a go another time.

Good holiday. It felt like I might never have another one, but I did. We all did.

*apart from Amelie who arrived without a costume on one occasion.