Hama Bead kit review from CraftMerrily

A very good friend of mine over at Patch Of Puddles runs CraftMerrily and she kindly sent us a hama bead kit to review.

We’ve liked Hama beads for ages, but to be honest the appeal of them comes and goes. Alex likes them the most, but Marcus doesn’t mind having a little play around too now and then.

With that in mind I looked round the site for a kit that would appeal to them both and decided to go with the Red Midi Hama Beads Activity Box.

There was great excitement when it arrived (which was good as the parcel also contained some gifts for A’s birthday from Merry’s other site PlayMerrily) and they both set about exploring it. The kit comes with a dragon board and 2400 midi beads. There was also some press pegboards that we han’t used before, having always just done bog standard hama beading! The 2 boards could be made into key fobs, but once the beads are in them, as far as I know don’t come back out.

Marcus isn’t quite into beading as much as Alex is but he got stuck in too and made a key fob. Alex made 2 dragons and a key fob and still has plenty of beads to make many more. Perhaps we’ll have a look round the hama pages of Merry’s blog to see if we can get some inspiration.

We really enjoyed this kit and would certainly recommend it to others. It’s a really good price, just right for presents for family members or just as something for rainy days and is a perfect starter kit for someone new to hama beads.

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Pear tree study


We’ve not managed many of the outdoor hour challenges this month, mainly due to being on holiday. My father in law has a pear tree in his garden so when I saw that it was one of the subjects I didn’t feel I could pass that one by!

It’s been the most gorgeous day today, really hot, and not September like at all. We gathered up a picnic blanket, our reading books and our nature journals and walked over to my FIL’s house and spent the afternoon there.

I encouraged M & A to look at the tree and choose something to draw about in their journals, they both chose the pears while I chose the leaves. I noticed that the leaves are quite curled when they are larger but I picked a smaller one I could lay flat and draw around. I sketched a leaf a pear and wrote some bits in my journal.


(I need to be braver with the colours don’t I?!!!)

Alex picked 2 pears and drew those. Marcus picked a single pear and drew that.

We saw quite a few insects buzzing around, enjoying the bonus warm weather – a huge bright green shield bug and something else we couldn’t identify.

A lovely afternoon.

(flickr is not letting me upload tonight – so I will try to add pics tomorrow)

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Time to separate?

Brain dump alert ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve been looking forward to getting back to some formal, sit down work with my two. Marcus is happy to do anything, but if we leave his education to himself to choose he doesn’t seem to get anywhere and he bumbles around with no real purpose. He much prefers for me to tell him what I expect him to do and he gets on with it. He does get on with it as well, with mostly no whinging (for now!) I always thought Alex was my easy going one, the one that I could rely on to be cheerful no matter what I ask of her, but it’s turning out to not be that way. She really resents sitting down and doing work that I have decided. Actually the work is fine and she’ll do it, but she likes to be the one to be in charge of when she does it.

We’ve always worked at the same level for them both, mostly because there didn’t seem to be much in the way of difference in ability between the 2. There are two school years between them, but only 15 months. Life is easy when you only have to plan once huh? Hmmm. I realised today that it might be easier to plan for them this way, but no matter what, if we decide to do it all this way one of them will suffer. If we go too loose then Marcus will bumble about too much, if we go too formal then Alex will resist.

I’m thinking that perhaps we should have a go at educating seperately. I’m not sure if it will work at all, although they both agree that we should give it a try. Maybe we’ll come across a middle ground that suits us all, or maybe it’s just time we started following different paths for them both. The next few weeks are hopefully going to be enlightening!

One day I’d like to feel like I’ve got it all sorted and I know exactly what I’m doing. Please?

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Rosemarkie with friends and added dolphins

(This post needs more pics, but I’m in danger of never posting it! Might add more pics later :))

Some friends of ours spent some time up at the Moray Firth in Scotland last year and were successful at seeing dolphins and having a jolly good time while they were at it. I probably failed to hide my jealousy of their holiday ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, when one of those friends said they were planning to be there again this year for their son’s birthday I decided to invite ourselves up and join in the fun!

It sounded such a good idea at the time. Camping in scotland is not for the faint hearted anyway, but as the time was coming near I was starting to wonder if camping in Scotland in September was a little bit too much! Weather forecasts of the remains of Hurricane Katia hitting scotland didn’t help! As it was, we had a good week weather wise with a mixture of rain, wind and sunshine but nothing much in any great quantity.

We stopped off on the way up at a travelodge in Perth and as we were in the area we timed it to be able to see the Red Kites at Argaty which we all really enjoyed. I was really surprised at the amount of food that was put out for the kites though, I was expecting loads as I had seen at a welsh farm but there was probably half a bucket of meat put out. Hardly anything really, but as I understand it, the point of the feeding is to just help the population there and not to impact too much on it. The ranger at the hide was a very friendly photographer who helped everyone who wanted to take pictures of the birds. We’d just bought a second hand, fairly ancient dslr and so were very grateful for the tips! I can’t say that we got any particularly fantastic pics, but we all enjoyed the challenge anyway.

We were still worried about the impending hurricane so set off fairly promptly for the 3 hour second leg of our journey. We arrived in fairly rubbish weather, but only rain and not a jot of wind. The tent went up easily and the pegging wasn’t too bad either. James normally leaves me to do most of the pegs as he then gets on with air bed sorting, but the rain meant that we worked together and it was much better. The kids spent the whole time on the beach just playing and having fun with their friends.

On the second day the blokes decided to do a whisky tour day so we were left with the kids. We spotted dolphins making their way from Chanonry point and so we decided to walk along to see if we could see them close up. The dolphins had pretty much gone, but we saw lots of seals and bird life. We returned again in the evening once James was back from whisky tasting and we were treated to a really close up view of at least 4 dolphins that were about 20 feet from the shore. I was so pleased to have seen them, I knew it was possible to see them, but didn’t want to assume they’d be there! Actually, as the week went on there were fewer and fewer dolphins so we were extremely lucky to have seen what we did. The seals continued to be around though, but I did think they should have done more exciting stuff than just bob around ๐Ÿ˜‰

The days on holiday tended to revolve around visiting the point for dolphin spotting and then going to the local deli for yummy treats. The kids all got on so well while we were there and had such an amazing time fishing, building fires on the beach and star gazing. We brought outside toys and also ds/psp’s for rainy days but not one thing was brought out, the kids sorted their own entertainment!

We had such an amazing time. Highlights were the dolphins, the view ;), our walk to the Fairy Glen to see the waterfalls, our haggis, tatties and neeps shared meal and just feeling happy amongst friends ๐Ÿ™‚

We were due to go on to Mallaig on our own after our week with friends but James got an offer of a new job and so we came home early so he could attend some training for that. We’ll have to visit that area another time ๐Ÿ™‚

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A year of nature study

The Charlotte Mason method of education places a huge amount of emphasis on nature study and of being outdoors, especially in the early years. CM has been the method we’ve adopted most really, but the nature study was always hard to implement. Last year we made a big push to try and do as much as we could. We love being outside, but sometimes just getting there is hard.

So what have we done in the past year? Well…

* mammal trapping
* bird watching – at coasts, lakes, rivers and general countryside
* moth trapping
* bat walks – lots of these!
* feeding and watching the birds
* wildflower walks
* mini beast hunts
* pond dipping
* owl pellet dissection
* waterfall watching
* outdoor photography
* orienteering
* fungi walks
* fun in the snow!
* astronomy evenings
* close studies of stuff
* Alex made a pond
* hedgehog spotting in the garden
* lots of arts and crafts
* butterfly surveys
* our monthly home ed groups
* we started going to a new monthly wildlife walk, not aimed at kids but we’ve been welcomed there.

Wow – quite a lot really! I think I can safely say that we brought nature study to the forefront of our home ed this past year (when to be quite honest, we’ve been fairly relaxed on every other front).

I do think we could improve more on the frequency of being out, and trying to spend longer outdoors. Maybe this year we can try and eat outdoors more and spend more time in the garden. But other than that, I think another year like this one would be pretty good!

There are some things that we have outgrown. We went to the local nature reserve the other week to do a mini beast hunt, but it was pitched at way below M & A and actually their knowledge wasn’t that far off the rangers that day! We now go to a ‘wildlife wander’ once a month that isn’t aimed at kids (as it’s on a school day) but we’re welcome there and it has a very knowledgeable ecologist (retired I think) who runs the walk. So even though we’ve outgrown some stuff, seems like there might be more if we keep our eyes peeled.

Our local home ed nature reserve day is going to be changing too, we won’t be getting the ranger anymore for free, but possibly we’ll all still go along and try to do some nature inspired stuff if we can work it out. Such a shame though and definitely the end of an era – I was looking at our very old blog and saw this post from 2005 when we had been before. I hope we can continue in some way.

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Camping weekend

We decided to try camping on a bank holiday weekend last week. I much prefer when sites are quiet so I was unsure about my decision really! We didn’t go far away, but we just wanted another weekend away to test the tent again before our big holiday.

We arrived on the Saturday after I’d been to work to a fairly quiet campsite. I couldn’t believe it – loads of room to run around, fairly flat pitches. Excellent. We pitched up and then we headed back towards Sheffield as we were invited to a family 21st bbq. We had a lovely evening there, Alex and Marcus are the oldest kids of the bunch there with the others being very little. Weird to see them look so old! Alex spent ages taking photos and Marcus enjoyed playing football with the littlies.

We got back at the campsite before dark and settled in for the night. We found a moth in the tent and captured it to have a good look.

Unfortunately the quietness of the site changed as once dark we had neighbours who were very noisy until early in the morning ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

We had no plans really for the Saturday so the morning was spent poi spinning, taking photos and just chilling. When James had realised we were really close to where a friend of his was buried he said he’s like to go and visit him so we did that after lunch. Felt nice to have done that for him and on the way back to the car we met his friends parents and had a good chat with them too. Also found a rather fab shield bug, seems the more we get into nature the more we spot out and about! I do love shield bugs ๐Ÿ™‚

We ended up just down the road from Fairburn Ings so we went there and did some pond dipping.

Back at the site there was more angst from the neighbours as they decided stunt kites being flown over the top of tents were a good idea (grrrrr!). It was fairly windy, but the tent stood up really well despite the fact we pitched it the wrong way into the wind (wasn’t windy when we pitched)

Sunday was a slow pack up. The weekend was nice, but tainted by the groups at the site. Just so noisy. I know when we go away as a group we may be chatty until quite late, but I do think we are fairly respectful of other campers and try not to be loud after certain times. Oh well!

We headed back home via Blacktoft Sands which is my favourite RSPB reserve. I don’tknow why it’s my favourite, it just is. I love it there. We got a fab view of a tawny owl that was sleeping in a tree near the footpath. Apparantly there was a long eared owl just further down as well but someone scared it off just before we got there ๐Ÿ˜ฆ We also got he most amazing view of a marsh harrier just in front of a hide (just as James had decided to go back to the car and have a nap). Lots of these butterflies around too. I’m not sure if this is just a large/small white or somethign different. Shall have to investigate!

But for now, work calls….

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The next chapter

I was just adding links to my old blogs in the ‘about us’ page and realised that when I started my last blog in 2005 it was the beginning of official home ed for Marcus. This year has seen him reach the age of 11 and he has made it through his entire primary life without being to school. So I guess it seems fitting that this new blog coincides with him being of ‘High School’ age.

We’ve spent the last 8 months being fairly hands off educationally. I haven’t done any maths with them, not had any reading requirements, not really had any agenda at all except just enjoying life, getting outside lots and seeing if Marcus or Alex have any burning love of learning itching to get out that I hadn’t noticed. To be honest, being hands off hasn’t been the best for Marcus, I think he does do much better with some structure as he is inclined to spend loads of time on internet games and gets fairly obsessed by them. It is then all he talks about for days and days afterwards and nothing else gets a look in. For Alex it’s been much better, she is a potterer and goes from activity to activity quite happily. But, 8 months in and there is no great strive to learn things. I mean, they still enjoy learning, but there is no itch to find things out themselves and I think I have to admit that that isn’t their way of learning and being. How often do I come to this conclusion though? I’m sure we’ve had periods of no formal work and I’ve always thought the same. Why don’t I listen to myself? Mostly, autonomy doesn’t work well for me as I don’t think I facilitate it very well and tend towards benign neglect!! I’m much better if I have some sort of plan in my head about things to do.

I’ve known for a while that we’d not continue this way of HE, but with summer holidays coming up and the start of M being officially at high school age I figured a bit of relaxing wouldn’t hurt for a bit.

So what’s next? Well I think we’ll get back to doing some Charlotte Mason style home ed as it always works well for us and I feel happy doing it. We’re going to do maths more regularly, lots of stories, art. Nature studies will feature pretty strongly too I hope. Alex wanted a tick sheet again so we’ll probably work on getting that for her again. We’ve not done any formal English work and so might start with Galore Park’s So You Really Want to Learn English as I already have it. We’re also going to give the Biology from here a go. That should keep us going for a bit!

GCSE’s are starting to loom with many friends looking towards doing some. I don’t think we’re at that stage yet but it’s certainly in my mind to think about what we might do and begin to work towards skills that we might need if we want to do them. It’ll be an interesting couple of years in that sense I think.

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