Day 043 – painting at home…

Home education with the boys at home today, started out with some colouring, painting and workbooks. I love the wet poster-paint effects and the streaks of colour which appear in the partially mixed paint pots – I just wish the glistening and vibrant nature of it would stay – part of the reason why i’m now experimenting with acrylic paint : )

Inside paint pot 24.06.13 Paint splatter 24.06.13 Colour wheel 24.06.13


6 toddlers too many…?

This draft post (now a real ‘post’) has been just sitting in the Dashboard for ages and until now never really made it up the priority life list : )

It’s a really important issue and since the debate in the UK started over a proposed increase to nursery supervision (the number of children that each adult can supervise), there has been a huge backlash from just about every associated group – hardly surprising really.

Here’s the very good article by Zoe Williams from the Guardian which highlights the issues very well. 

So, going from 4 children to 6 is a 50% rise – will this have positive outcomes? What will the level of care or support be which someone can give to 6 toddlers?

How on earth can you take 6 toddlers out at once? This would not be possible, unless it’s just to a very secure area connected to the actual nursery. It would be madness and unsafe, particularly travelling along roads.

It’s worth saying that I have two boys (6 and 4) and when they were 4 and 2 they were a lot more of a handful than they are now. Looking after 6 toddlers which aren’t your own children must be very difficult, but it is certainly not impossible. I would imagine most countries have standards where more than 6 toddlers routinely are placed with a single carer. It can be done, but that is only a very small part of the issue. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done, or that it is the best interests of the toddlers.

The amount of attention each toddler would receive would be minimal – and that at the most important part of their development as a human, in terms of character, empathy and intelligence. This is when they learn the most basic emotional skills.

One of my main issues with the standard school (or child-care) system is the numbers involved. 30 children to one teacher (and a teaching assistant) at primary school. Maybe 6 toddlers to a ‘carer’ at nursery? This is not going in the right direction. How are we expecting children (young and older) to learn moral, spiritual and intellectual lessons when contact with adults is going down? The level of positive influences would also seem to go down. Attention, love and guidance from caring adults is essential in child development. Obviously interacting with other kids is also vital to child development and each need to be balanced.


Day 035 – graphite pen rubbing…

A great rubbing of the side slice of a cheese grater, by my son. He used a graphite pen and all the various slicing surfaces produced different textures and effects.

Graphite crayon rubbing 15.06.13 - 09


Around and about Bristol Harbourside…

A great trip to Bristol’s Harbourside, to visit the boys Grandma. We walked around the docks areas and had lunch at the very well-situated Arnolfini art gallery, then over to the M-Shed, where there was an exhibition of Bristol’s connections to chocolate, with associations for industry and the slave trade.

Bristol with Grandma 20.04.13 - 30 Bristol with Grandma 20.04.13 - 50 Bristol with Grandma 20.04.13 - 21 Bristol with Grandma 20.04.13 - 10 Bristol with Grandma 20.04.13 - 07 Bristol with Grandma 20.04.13 - 56

Over to Millennium Square for some running around and paddling in the water-feature pools, then back to Grandma’s flat. A gppd day of education for the boys (and adults).


The solar system…

Graphic of the day… A great representation of the relative sizes of each of the planets and their distances away from each other.



Inspiring a love of learning, for life…

One of the more short-sighted polices i’ve stumbled across in a long time.

The environment around us (including the people who wander through it) has a deep and profound effect on us. It shapes who we become, how inspired we are, whether or not we feel safe, our views of society, our aspirations and dreams, and our ability to learn.

Here are two scenarios to ponder. The first will be very familiar to many people and which is something I remember very well from my days in school…

la times image cabe image

The second scenario follows. Something I have only ever experienced as an adult after looking through the Architects Journal…

1327082529sitting.islands 278171_AJ12_Place_1_Pinewood_Infant_School

Inspiring young people for a love of learning for life can be difficult, but it should be the main focus for the school system, not just to pass a set of exams. Inspiring a love of learning must be a very difficult task if you are placed in the context of the first scenario.

This equally applies to the teachers who are handed this awesome responsibility of caring for and teaching are children. Their experience of their environment equally boosts or detracts from their ability to teach. Yes, focus on the quality of the teaching, but there is much more to it than training or saving money by cutting back on the environments in which the children learn.

If you pour the creative talents of quality architects and designers from a diverse range of backgrounds into the learning experiences of the children, what will be the result?

Creativity, joy and a love of learning for life.


Oliver Twist, bumps into A Tale of Two Cities…

I’ve just been through a Dickenisation, after reading two of Charles Dickens classic tales – Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities. Both very good novels, very good stories, sometimes clouded with long and rambling descriptive prose but I would have to say both these stories are must reads.

Oliver Twist (1838) has been retold hundreds of times since its publication in, in many ways, from radio plays to films. I had never read, seen or heard the story before, so reading the original story first was probably the best introduction. I had seen the classic clip of one of the black and white films where Oliver asks for more but hadn’t appreciated the depth to the story, or the range involved.

This is a roaming adventure, set over many years. The long descriptions can at times be slightly hard work, but the scenes which Dickens sets are vivid and interesting, always with the undertone of dark events just around the corner. The atmosphere of Victorian squalor is amazing and the sheer drudgery of life then for 99% of people must have been incredible.

I’m really drawn to the classics as a way to find out about 18th and 19th century history and particularly what the living conditions were like. The Sherlock Holmes stories were great and this was another layer.

A Tale of Two Cities (1859) was a more complex tale, set over a wider area, including more characters and a lot more historic complexities. There is an incredible attention to detail, character development and a central female character which represents purity and light, against which many of the other characters are set against. This contrast brings the story to life, alongside the events of the French Revolution, which provides a very real and dangerous setting.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” (First line)

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (Final line of novel)

An incredible book and one which I really wouldn’t have appreciated or enjoyed had I been much younger and not had a sense of history or an interest in it. Certainly one of the classics and another ‘free’ books on the Kindle.

Roll on Les Miserables!


Peg entertainment…

I’m never sure about the code of conduct for using images from websites but hey – it’s a very cool image and a great idea! Go to to check out more like this!


Melted crayons…

A very cool activity, setup for the kids but which quickly turned into my own entertainment.

The key thing with this is to use a glue gun to first stick the crayons to the surface, as other glues will just melt when the heat from the hairdryer is applied to the crayons. Leave the glue to dry then apply an even heat from the hairdryer very close to the crayons.


Cornwall camping: day 5…

As starts to the day go, this wasn’t the best!

Packing up all our stuff into a very compact car while it was raining and getting stuck in the mud on the way out of the field – how does that sound? Being pulled out of the mud by a cool tractor was good and the boys loved that bit.

The idea for the last day in Cornwall was to pack up early and drive straight to St. Austell and the Eden Project, for as long as we could get there. After the first shower, it was clear skies and some sunshine which was fine for Eden, which has exhibits and landscaping & attractions both inside biospheres and outside in the surrounding landscape.

Since Claire and I went about 7 years ago during its first year open, it has changed a lot – grown up in many ways, with more facilities, bigger exhibits and lots more parking! It’s essentially an ecological and horticultural theme park, with the huge tropical biomes being the main attraction.

The boys loved it there and we saw all their favourite fruits – apples, bananas, mangoes and lots of cool play areas both inside and out, including an amazing bamboo and metal house on stilts in the main tropical biome. We made it to the top of the biome even though it was very very hot and humid inside.

Highly recommend it and was managed to get back home safely, through some more torrential rain on the motorways!


Less teaching = more education…?

Another study which suggests that starting school later leads to the same or better understanding of language and reading skills by the end of primary education.

Starting school at seven ‘can boost pupils’ reading skills’ – Telegraph

It’s another indicator for us that starting our boys in school aged 5, or even 4 for Reception classes, is the wrong move. Language development is important but this does not have to done in a formal way and the thought of my nearly 6 year old going through testing to determine their level of attainment just goes against my instincts. Age 7 would be the absolute earliest we would consider a start in school for them.

Maybe one day our teaching establishment will realise that earlier schooling and over testing does not lead to a better eduction and that this is actually why the UK is falling further and further behind other developed countries.


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Paint and ink patterns…

As Jac was painting, he was mixing up the different colours in the trays and he created some cool effects. I also tried some ink art, using straws to blow the ink around the page.