Bullet journaling and home education

Last week we didn’t get much done. I had so many ideas swimming around in my head that I overwhelmed myself with them and I decided that if our home education journey was to be a success then we needed a plan going forward. So I decided to return to bullet journaling. It’s a hobby I previously had and enjoyed and I hope that I will use it going forward now I have a real purpose for it. Bullet journaling is basically a DIY journal with no limits whatsoever. You can have anything in it that helps you, just unleash your creative side! Some popular pages in a bullet journal are weekly/monthly spreads, to do lists, mood trackers, exercise trackers and so much more.

I bought the Leuchtturm 1917 Slim which is an A4 journal and perfect for what I need it for. I previously had the same but in A5 instead.

November 2019

My journal is obviously a work in progress but will be used to show our home education plan to officials, it will be used to organise ourselves and every aspect of our busy lives. It is a source of self-motivation.

I chose a double page monthly layout for my main plans, as you can see we don’t have a particularly busy November planned so far although it’s not complete. This style offers me plenty of room to add in plans for our family of 6. The little dragon in the bottom was added at the insistence of my daughter who was desperate for me to try draw one! I feel he ruins the page in one respect but then when I see him I think of her so he actually makes me smile :).

This is my plan for this week, in no particular order. The beauty of home education is there is no set timetable, if he wants to look at energy today that’s fine, if he doesn’t that’s also ok, as long as he does it this week. Monday we did some work on algebra, and the history of Christmas with History.com. His life revolves around coding so it’s a bit of a given that he’ll do that daily.

I found a great Christmas stocking pattern and tutorial at Bags of Love which we have printed off. The material is on order and we’ll make a start soon. The objectives for this will be to see that he can read and follow the pattern, use a number of different stitches (perhaps not on the sticking but certainly some practise pieces first), safely use a sewing machine, complete the stocking, and finally write up about the project.

We have lots of sources and resources for the other subjects, books, websites and materials. Home education doesn’t have to cost much, in fact many of ours were free or very cheap second hand!

Our First Week Of Officially Home Educating

Well what a week it has been! It has been a bumpy start and not the best first week, I had an interview to prepare for, dad was on days all week, the boys broke my brand new laptop screen and I’ve had horrendous pain from what I think is a pinched nerve in my shoulder, but nevertheless we have started.

I was sort of expecting a phone call from High School this week to see if they could work with us to encourage the boy to stay in school rather than take him out, and help with suggestions to help him want to be there. I got absolutely nothing. Not even an email. No acknowledgement at all. This to me shows how much they care about him attending their school. I feel like it was a relief to them that we took him out. I’ve never really complained about support before from them but this has made me wonder if we should probably have done this sooner!? Could this attitude have been picked up by him earlier and he just hasn’t realised? Is this why he would not go? I’ll never know but I will forever wonder, and when the time comes for him to (hopefully) return to mainstream education I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable sending him back there!

How we’ve started!

We have started slowly, investigating helpful websites that we can use, resources available, and I’ve been reading up on the curriculum which should be getting delivered to a child of his age. We’ve also rejoined the library.

He’s 12 and would be in Year 8, exceptionally clever with an amazing ability to learn and retain information when a subject is delivered to him in a way which grabs his attention, or even just if it’s something that interests him. He’s pretty closed minded unfortunately when it comes to learning, he doesn’t understand why he should have to learn geography and history for example, his interests lie purely in computing. I want him to realise that everything about our lives relates back to history and the world around us. I want to teach him to experience a taster of everything so he can see that it’s all a part of our bigger picture, and I don’t want him to be bored of it. I also think it’s important that he has some input into what he learns about! I don’t have any complaints whatsoever with his primary school but I do feel that he hasn’t learnt to love learning and that is a tragedy! This is most important to me.

So with all that in mind we have registered on Khan Academy, he’s currently working his way, slowly, through Algebra and coding. It’s a brilliant website, a non-profit organisation with the aims of delivering world class education for free to anyone, anywhere! I mean how amazing is that! We haven’t done much of it but what we have looked at is brilliant! We’ve got a number of workbooks and a bonus for me is I also work in a school so I also have access to Twinkl for supplies.

We used to read lots when he was little, his reading books after school and we would read a story before bed, every single night. It’s precious time and very very important. As he’s got older and been introduced to technology however his love for reading has ebbed away. Rather than jump straight into an English course we are trying to encourage a love of books again. It’s taken two visits to the library before one caught his eye and he’s still to start it, but he will I’m sure. He has a very strong vocabulary, often choosing words that you might expect to hear from someone very highly educated. He always uses them in the correct context and it amazes me that someone who has fallen out of love with learning can pick up and use language like that!

He’s always been interested in science, we’ve seen a number of websites offering science experiment kits containing everything you need to do them at home. This was an area I worried about as I thought, and school also reinforced previously, that he would never have the same hands-on science experience that he could get at school. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I’ve seen a number of places that offer scientific workshops to children who are home educated too. Whilst I probably won’t be able to make these with him his dad almost definitely will due to his 4 on 4 off working shift pattern.

I am currently looking into the sports opportunities for him. He hated PE and his high school agreed it was best not to push it in Y7, and dropped it from his timetable. However they insisted he do something in Y8 and he often got in trouble for not having his kit or for not joining in. They kindly offered for him to go to the gym instead which he was keen on, but unfortunately as we couldn’t get him to school that never materialised. As he’s not very active at all it’s going to be a priority of ours. He loves swimming and he also loves ice skating, although he doesn’t have a natural ability for it, so these are two potential areas we’ll look to utilise. Once he turns 14 we can register him at our local gym but that’s a way off yet.

We were told he wouldn’t get the same social opportunities if we took him out of school. I agree, he won’t be forced to sit in classes full of people he doesn’t really know or like, and he won’t walk around on his own anymore amongst hundreds of other children. Instead he’ll take advantage of the social opportunities that come from everyday life. Speaking to people he doesn’t know. He’ll join groups of other home educated children and make new friendships. We’re still in contact with friends he’s had for years who do go to his school but who he didn’t share lessons with, and they are wonderful families who won’t stop inviting us to events just because we’ve chosen a different path. I have no doubts that this will help his social skills in the long term.

We still have a million other things to think about but I believe whilst we haven’t done much in our first week, we’ve made a bloody good start! So far his sister (Y7) hasn’t played the “it’s not fair” card. It would simply be too much to get my head around home edding two, but I can honestly say that in the future if I still feel as positive as I do now it wouldn’t be out of the question to consider taking her out as an option too!

Our next big job is to begin to write our education philosophy for the education welfare dept as they’ll be writing to ask for it soon. I’ll be using this blog to catalogue the work we do – the exciting and the boring.

The Start Of A New Journey

We did it! We sent in the deregistration letter for our school refusing 12 year old this afternoon. After months/years of deliberations we’ve finally bitten the bullet and took him out of school.

Do I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders? No! Do I feel like I have definitely made the right choice? Yes and No! Are we going to give it a bloody good go? Yes!

School Refusal

As you may have read on my previous post we have gone through years of school refusal, it’s not just behavioural which is how I always imagined these children, he has Asperger’s syndrome and just isn’t coping with the school environment. Our hope is that in the future we can get him back to school to complete his education but for now we need to get him to a place where this is a possibility.

So Much To Consider

I currently have around a gazillion questions and thoughts floating around my head. Will the education authority agree to give us funding from his EHCP towards the costs of tutoring and materials? Will we even be able to get him to learn at home? What if it doesn’t work out and he has to return to school but has fallen behind? I’m reassured that these are normal feelings and that they’ll soon fade away. I hope so!

Family & Friends

I’m lucky that all our family and friends have been supportive of our decision so far. It would’ve been so much harder without their approval, which seems ridiculous as I’m a grown woman with 4 children, but I think everyone wants others to get it! And they just do.

What Next

I’ve yet to hear from school regarding our decision, I was a little sneaky in that I sent the de-registration in at the end of the day, the last day of this half term. I doubt I’ll hear anything now until they return. This suits me nicely as I’m not ready for the conversation with them just yet. I don’t know how we’ll begin our journey but for sure we’ll find our feet and I intend to make this a journey to remember.

It may end up not working out and I am okay with that, but it may be the answer to our prayers too, and we would never know till we try!

I have everything crossed now for our future and I will be sharing our journey on my blog!

Our Story Of School Refusal

If you’d asked me ten years ago about my opinions on school-refusal I’d have been quite frank and said it was something done by feral kids as a result of poor parenting. Nowadays however I find myself in this very position, I am the parent of a school refuser. I’m not the sort of parent I pictured 10 years ago, I gave up work to stay home and raise my children, we were fortunate enough to be able to give them what they needed and wanted, they had holidays and technology but most importantly they had my time.  School refusal wouldn’t have happened to parents like us in my mind 10 years ago. I guess I was narrow-minded, I had no experience of raising children who were old enough to really refuse school, I thought of school refusal as a bad homes issue. It isn’t, not by any means, and I’ve seen lots of parents in a similar position who are blamed and persecuted for their kids not being okay at school.

Looking back our son never loved school. We would often drag him in upset and leave him crying because we’re almost conditioned to believe that school is the only way for kids to succeed in life so we push them to go, and for most kids they do love it, and that’s great.   Once at school it’s the teacher’s job to keep them there and try settle them down for a day of learning and socialising. They don’t do this out of malice, but I do believe it sets in motion a chain of negative experiences – upset, feeling out of control and restraint for example that eventually causes the child to become disengaged from the education system.

Our son was diagnosed with Aspergers in school, it was clear from nursery that he was very different from his peers, choosing to sit with his back to people than join in, watching the class circles from the other side of the classroom, and generally having a really hard time. I knew nothing at all about the Autism spectrum when it was first suggested to us by his school, we were already struggling to cope with the problems he had at home and every healthcare professional he saw must have been able to see he was Autistic but chose to do nothing about it, it really was scarily obvious when I look back. School we felt was our respite from him. It gave us 6 hours to recharge our batteries and be able to leave the house without constant meltdowns. We could go shopping and not have to leave because the sight of the stores toilet doors caused him to lose the plot completely.

He would come home every day and his emotions would be everywhere, he would stim, he would play with water and flood our house, he would be angry and he didn’t sleep. I guess looking back they were all warning signs that he wasn’t coping with the demands of school life. We needed the break whilst he was at school though to help deal with the emotions when he got back. It was a vicious cycle and at that point home-education was most definitely not an option for us.

We got a lot of support from primary, by year 2 they had applied for a statement of special educational needs. He was granted 30.75 hours just in time for him going into year 3 and from then until the end of his time there he had 1:1 all day every day with the same person. They put in place social skills groups, friendship groups and other interventions to help him succeed. He was always encouraged to try things outside his comfort zone such as swimming lessons and even a 2 night school trip. He really blossomed and had many friends, but he still hated going to school. His refusal looked behavioural, he would kick, punch and bite as I tried to drag him up the drive, it got worse with the arrival of his baby brother in 2015.  

The time came for him to go to high school. This was a very difficult time for us as we weren’t convinced this was the right school for him, but we live on the coast and there isn’t another high school for 11 miles. He wanted to go with his friends and we felt he deserved to give it a try. We tried to iron out any issues before he started, make sure everything would be perfect and in place by the time he started. They were aware of his refusal issues with school but we were reassured that  they understood and could help. Quickly he began to refuse, he missed his second week completely and he was put on a reduced time-table. This was great and only meant to be supportive, but he takes things very literally, so when school said “Monday you only need to come in and do the one lesson, more if you want” in his head that meant “Monday do one lesson then leave”. That was fine and we worked with it and soon got him back to going, now and again. They put things in place so if he felt he couldn’t be in class he could go elsewhere. I felt positive that they really wanted to help.

Not even 6 months in we were informed that the ‘Parent Support Advisor’ in school had took it upon herself to refer us to the educational welfare department. Now I could understand if I wasn’t in school every week trying to find a solution, if I wasn’t dragging him in only for them to mark him as not there because none of us could get him to go past the reception area. The woman had never so much as spoken to us. We were now on the path for prosecution if things didn’t improve. I honestly felt betrayed. We sat in numerous meetings with overpaid EWO’s (Education Welfare Officers) who were being paid a decent amount of money to sit and tell us what we already knew. Their favourite phrase was “you could be prosecuted”. As if their constant reminder was somehow going to be the answer to our years of problems. We listened to them quoting false laws to us, telling us how we should punish our sons refusal by giving him nothing until he decided school was for him (we tried, it doesn’t work). They admitted there was nothing they could offer to help, but yet we were expected to be “working with them” to resolve his attendance issues. I can see why some parents struggle with their own mental health issues when forced into a corner like this. Some parents have to leave their jobs over it. I work in school myself (his old primary) and the fear of prosecution weighed heavily on me. I know only too well how capable he is and I want only the best for him. Unfortunately as of now, part way through year 8, his attendance is currently sat at 67%. I’m waiting for the inevitable letter reminding us of our responsibilities as his parents and demanding we go and explain ourselves at more pointless meetings. I am looking into the chances of having EOTAS named on his EHC Plan rather than his current school because it just isn’t working, but realistically we’re going to end up de-registering and taking responsibility for educating him ourselves, I just know it. I actually like the idea of home-educating him, but I don’t want to feel pushed into it.

I am thankful we have an education system, free to all, and I have one child who has gone all the way through, one in her first year of high school and one in reception year. Its become clear though that it is not the right system for everyone. This high school just cannot meet our needs for our son, but the only alternative is special school which he is not severe enough to go to. There are no options for children in the middle.  The system needs reworking to become a fairer system for all, we need schools for everyone because mainstream simply does not suit every child. We’re lucky to be in a position to provide him with education at home, not everybody forced to take the same route is as lucky as us. It would not be the easy option for us to take, but I honestly don’t know where else we can go.

11 Reasons You Need A Husky In Your Life

We have 2 huskies, well maybe 1.5, our first was sold to us as a husky but her face shape slightly differs to our KC registered husky. She obviously has some husky in her but I doubt anywhere near full.

Star was 10 weeks when we saw an advertisement – £150 because we haven’t the time for her. We snapped her up. Spirit joined us just over a year later at 5 months old. He had been bought 3 months earlier by someone who completely underestimated what it would mean raising a husky. She gave him to us free of charge. They would’ve made beautiful pups but we felt that the only reasons we could come up with for breeding were selfish ones so we had them fixed. They bring so much joy, and also some not so much joy into our lives. Here are some reasons you should have a husky in your life.

1. Husky puppies are the cutest

We don’t have any photographs of Spirit before we got him and that makes me a bit sad, but my goodness did Star make up for it. I fell in love with both of them the day I met them.

2. They love kids and vice versa

Our kids absolutely adore our two, and they adore the kids in return. I would never trust a dog 100% but our girly come as close as you could probably get I reckon. Huskies are very sociable and love people in general, anytime we have guests – adults or children, they are first at the door to greet them. Spirit is a little bit more temperamental, his first 5 months he started to rule the house he was living in. He was food aggressive when he came, and wasn’t very pleasant at all but with a bit of tough love he’s an amazing dog now with a bit of an attitude. Our 4 year old bosses him around all the time and there’s not so much as a growl.

3. They take you on the best adventures.

Huskies can go for miles, we like to take ours to new places to go exploring and they never get tired of it. All you have to do is mention the ‘W word’ and they’re howling and running around excited. Whilst we have a 4 year old who cannot keep up, our exploring walks are backed up with longer walks with just my partner as they need a lot of exercise. We also have a large garden for them to run around in. We’ve visited some pretty amazing places in Yorkshire with our pair which I’ll write about another time.

4. smile and the world smiles with you

Huskies like to smile, and it never gets boring walking into a room and seeing them beaming at you. Spirit is often found grinning away and it has my heart every. single. time!

5. they can sleep in any position

One thing I see regularly is huskies sleeping in the funniest positions and ours are no different. I have a whole bunch of pictures of mine asleep because it never fails to make me chuckle. Their characters are just amazing. Here’s a few of mine…

6. they stop the kids getting lazy

When walking with a husky it has become apparent that they will tire the kids out faster than you can tire a husky out. If your kids are as energetic as mine you will know this is a good thing. So get your kids involved in walking the dogs!!

7. they make good neighbourhood watch dogs

If ours could talk they could tell you everything that goes on outside the house. They love to sit in the window and watch the world go by, shouting at any other canine that dares to pass our home. We often get people stopping to admire them through the window which definitely helps the dogs feel even more special and important.

8. free fur forever

Huskies moult twice a year. Hahahaha! I said it with a straight face. I am fairly certain mine moult for around 2 – 3 months each, one after the other after the other after the other after the other. We seem to be in permanent moult mode. Which is fine if you make pram hoods, or want a husky fur duvet (I’m on to something there aren’t I?). As a rule we don’t allow our huskies upstairs, only because that’s where the 4 year old sleeps and we can’t close his bedroom door, but their fur gets EVERYWHERE regardless.

10 minutes of brushing later and we had ourselves a new dog!

9. they never answer back

Okay so that’s a lie, whilst our girl basically does whatever she’s asked our boy likes to push the boundaries. He likes to think he’s in charge and when asked to do something will argue back with you like a teenage boy! He does do as he’s told eventually when he remembers who’s boss in the house though and we just class it as a funny part of his character.

10. you can win any fancy dress competition with a husky

This really needs no explanation!

11. your neighbours will love you

Huskies like to howl, and if you have two of them they like to howl together. Once one starts the other soon follows and it is the most beautiful song in the world. Of course we don’t do this much because we do have neighbours, but you can be sure if there’s a problem in the middle of the night we will all know about it! Luckily we don’t get any complaints (at least to our faces) about ours!

Have I convinced you a husky is for you? Do you have huskies and find any part of my post relatable? I can’t imagine never having ours in our life now.

The accidental holiday!

At the beginning of April I was boredom holiday shopping for the upcoming half term less than a fortnight later. Boredom shopping is never a good thing where I’m concerned. I was browsing the Eurocamp website when I came across a holiday for 5 days including the ferry for all 6 of us for £170. £95 for the accommodation (caravan) and the rest was ferry/cleaning deposit.

Goodbye England, hello France

I mean come on, how could I pass that up. I booked it there and then and excitedly planned for our trip. I wasn’t optimistic, I imagined all sorts of horrors would greet us on our arrival. Luckily I couldn’t have been more wrong, and after the 10 hour drive from Calais to Carnac (I’m a terrible navigator) we were relieved to see a wonderful little site.

Des Menhirs campsite

We stayed at the Des Menhirs campsite in Carnac, it was that time of year where realistically you could get hoodie/coat weather, or if you were lucky you could have sunburn weather, we were lucky and most days were low 20s. The pool was cool but didn’t stop people going in and then there was the water slides. Wow! The kids were up and down those all day long.

Carnac itself has a beautiful beach, some typically touristy shops, and lots of very friendly English speakers.

Carnac

This was turning out better than our half board holiday to Spain 6 months earlier.

We visited Quiberon peninsula which is a short drive from Carnac where we enjoyed climbing over a rocky base, exploring crystal clear rock pools and beautiful views over the Bay of Biscay.

Crystal clear rock pools in Quiberon

My only complaint would be the accommodation, we had an ant infestation which was annoying but not the end of the world, and the vans were so close together you could hear children running around next door. It was my only complaint but for the price how could I really complain?
We would 100% go again, but I wouldn’t sail to Calais again. I’d spend a little more to sail to St Malo or Caen to cut down on driving time and fuel costs ( We spent over £400 in fuel alone!!). I would also pay a little extra for bigger accommodation so we wouldn’t be quite so cramped. If you don’t mind a caravanning holiday check this place out!! Your kids will definitely thank you for it.

Our first holiday abroad as a family.

Our first holiday abroad was one we’ll always remember. We booked a half board holiday to La Pineda, Spain. It looked perfect. Relatively cheap, two water parks nearby, a theme park too. It was on the beach, and was a beautiful modern hotel. In summer it would’ve been exactly what we were after. However we went in the October half term, 2018. The water parks shut down a week before we arrived. It was also cold for most of the holiday, not freezing but cold enough to need a big hoodie most days, and a coat some days. We had a day, maybe two of nice sunny weather, we were just unlucky.

The area we stayed was nice enough, the hotel was near a building site but that was okay, we had a 3 year old who loved cranes and diggers so that was a nice experience for him. The beach was long and beautiful and the town in general was obviously modernised with tourists in mind. We stayed in the Aparthotel Four Elements Suites and were immediately impressed with our accommodation. We were on the ground floor looking out at the pool which was stunning. Unfortunately it was far too cold to enjoy. Being Yorkshire folk our kids and my other half decided to try brave it anyway one day, even they couldn’t bare it for more than one width. The food was fantastic, I am a very fussy eater but there was no complaints here and there was a different selection each night.

We travelled by public bus to the nearby town of Tarragona, this was very much outside our comfort zone as most of the people did not speak English but we were able to buy tickets and get there and back without issue. Tarragona has an amazing ancient amphitheatre – Amfiteatre Roma – which is well worth a visit. I absolutely love history so this for me was probably the highlight of the trip.


We visited some typically Spanish shops in Tarragona and ate in a lovely little cafe. We had hoped to return to explore some more before the end of our holiday but unfortunately this wasn’t meant to be, but maybe some time in the future.

We flew with Ryanair. It was the kids first time flying, my first time flying since being a child, and after seeing lots of negative comments about Ryanair I was somewhat nervous. This was why we picked a short flight of 2.5 hours. Travelling with an autistic child too was a worry. However he coped brilliantly. We didn’t ask for any special treatment for him although I believe we could have. We also didn’t pay extra for priority boarding or for hand luggage. This actually worked out really well as when we arrived at Barcelona Reus airport we were straight off and ours was the only luggage on the carousel. We were through the airport in minutes. We didn’t fly in luxury, there were no TV’s in the head rests, but you could buy food and drinks and we were comfortable enough and had no complaints. It’s definitely left the kids with a lust for travelling again in the future.

My overall thoughts on our first foreign holiday were that we’d have had an incredible time if we’d gone a month earlier. We could’ve experienced the water parks and we would’ve been more inclined to go to the theme park. We couldn’t use all the facilities at the hotel due to the weather but that was the risk you take going at the end of October/beginning of November. If I was to rate it I would rate it as around 6/10, but would probably have been far closer to 10/10 in the summer months.

Life on the coast wasn’t what it was supposed to be.

It’s always been my dream to live by the sea – the sounds of the crashing waves, the amazing views, days on the beach – you name it I wanted it. We lived on the outskirts of Leeds with our 3 children, we were happy, fairly settled, we weren’t rich by any means but we were doing okay. We’d had our 2nd and 3rd children in quick succession – 14 months between them, and I had decided to quit my job to give them all my attention and raise them myself. I loved it. We had talked often about moving away but it always seemed unachievable, how does a family up sticks and move just like that? There’d be jobs to sort, houses to find and our belongings to move. 

Then in 2010 the opportunity arose. We were given notice on the house we rented (a long story which I may or may not write about in future), and we decided if we were ever going to do it, that was the time. We searched and searched the East Yorkshire coast for houses to rent, we narrowed down the list and eventually found the perfect home. We applied for it there and then and had the keys around a month later. My partner spent 4 days a week in Leeds until he was able to find himself a job nearby. It was almost perfect. We were a short walk from the beach. A short drive from my grandparents. It was everything we thought we wanted, but it was also very lonely. Adults have their friendship groups already, they don’t tend to seek out new friends. Our 3 year old was also going through a horrendous time. He hated everyone, everything, every sound. It was actually pretty awful for all of us and none of us had any idea why. It made for a very low dark time, especially for me, I was the one stuck at home with them constantly as I couldn’t take him anywhere on my own. In a strange turn of events he soon started the local school nursery who were quick to question whether he was Autistic or not. It turned out he was and as soon as we realised this was likely what was causing all the issues we were living, it was like a ray of light shone back into our life, I had answers and reasons and I could help him. Soon I started to get a little bit of myself back and live the life I wanted when we moved there. I haven’t looked back since .