Tag Archives: Grade 6

Homeschooling Grade 6 – What We’re Learning This year

Homeschooling Grade 6

This post is about what my quirky, energetic, 11-year-old son is learning this homeschool year.

Jasper loves maths, science, audiobooks, Lego and video games. He prefers learning at home, ideally while cuddling our pets, and he keeps us all entertained with his off-the-wall humour.

Jasper’s goals

If Jasper were in public school here in the UK, he’d be in his first year of senior school. This has focused his mind on his goal of going to university one day, maybe to study maths. To help him with this goal, Jasper recently decided to reduce his video gaming, to make more time for other forms of learning.


Like his sister, Jasper’s enjoying working through the Art of Problem Solving Prealgebra with me. He’s set himself a goal of covering half the book by April, and so does extra problems on his own in the afternoons. He also has an unofficial goal of overtaking Cordie in the book, which is going to happen soon.  😉

We’ve also been using Creative Constructions as a fun way to learn how to use a compass and play with angles, and Jasper’s asked me to get the AoPS Geometry book, so we’ll probably mix in some of that soon.

From time to time we also dip into the Life of Fred prealgebra books.


Jasper still struggles with handwriting, so learning to touch-type has been a priority for him. He loves Nessy Fingers, and after several years using it he’s now a fast and accurate typist.

Recently we’ve added in Nessy Writing Beach (US version here) which is a fun, dyslexia-friendly way to learn grammar, spelling, punctuation and other writing skills.

Jasper also occasionally works through the English courses on Study Ladder.

Even though he’ll be allowed to use a keyboard for his exams, Jasper knows he needs a basic level of handwriting in life, so he keeps up his habit of doing handwritten copywork from a favourite book several days a week.


Last term Jasper and I slowly made our way through Theodore Gray’s The Elements together, which we loved.

I’m often conscious of how slowly we make our way through books compared with other homeschooling families. This is partly because Jasper learns best in bite-sized chunks, and partly because we go off on so many tangents. In fact the better the book, the longer we take to read it, because it inspires so many lively conversations.

After The Elements, we moved onto Molecules by the same author. Jasper finds some of the explanations in Molecules  more detailed than he needs right now, so we’re sticking to the main body text for now while I read the small print for fun on my own.

homeschooling grade 6
Theodore Gray’s ‘Molecules’

This term Jasper’s also asked to study ‘the kind of science people in school learn’. I’m terrible at following curricula, but fortunately we have a friend who’s a whizz at bringing ‘school science’ to life.

One of my goals is for Jasper to interact with more people to improve his social confidence, so I suggested he have a weekly Skype session with Kate. He loves running up to me in the middle of a session with Kate and saying things like, ‘We’re doing an experiment! I need a glass of cordial, salty water, vegetable oil and deodorant!’ 🙂

Meanwhile, of course, we’re still doing fun experiments together. One resource we’re really looking forward to diving into is MEL Chemistry. I’ve been looking for something like MEL for years – a proper, professional chemistry kit for young scientists instead of the over-priced, over-packaged toys shops sell as ‘chemistry sets’.

So far with MEL we’ve explored redox reactions by using electrolysis to grow cool tin dendrites. I’m looking forward to sharing more about this brilliant resource.

homeschooling grade 6: making tin dendrites
Using electrolysis to make tin dendrites with a MEL Chemistry kit

Economics, politics and history

Jasper got quite interested in politics last year with the US election and Brexit, so we’ve been reading a few of the Uncle Eric politics and economics books, starting with Whatever Happened To Penny Candy. I’m not sure how I feel about some of the author’s political opinions, but I appreciate very much that he’s created living books aimed at young people. The books are a great starting place for conversations.

Meanwhile, both children and I are still enjoying The Story of the World as our jumping-off place for history. We’ve been reading this series regularly for about five years now and we’re only a quarter through the final (fourth) volume!

Yesterday I had to ask the kids if I could at least please get to the end of a sentence before replying to a question or comment. While I read aloud, the children played catch with our inflatable globe as they discussed whether or not Bolivia ought to have some of Chile or Peru’s coastline. I wonder if this happens in other families?

Jasper loves history and still listens regularly to Tony Robinson’s and John O’Farrell’s books.


Despite having a month of language classes in Spain two years ago, Jasper’s never shown much interest in foreign languages and I’ve never pushed him. But recently we were chatting about what five GCSEs he might like to do to ease his path to university (maths, English, physics, chemistry + ?) and he asked if I could teach him some Spanish.

We’re using Compañeros, which I chose because the student book comes with a CD. (You can only get the audio companions for most languages books with the expensive teachers’ edition.)

There are masses of free resources available online to supplement our book work, although we have to be careful to select those that teach European Spanish. We especially like the lessons and games at Spanish Games.

If Jasper’s interest in Spanish continues, I’ll probably also invest in Mira!, the textbook English schoolchildren Jasper’s age use.


Everyone in our family is doing a Udemy course at the moment.

Jasper’s is Learn to Code by Making Games – The Complete Unity Developer, which is teaching him the programming language C# using the Unity game development engine. He’s hoping that by the end of the course he’ll be able to design 2D and 3D games for web and mobile. (Confession: I don’t understand much of what I just wrote.)

Jasper’s main task in the course so far has been to copy lengthy chunks of code which (I know from the WordPress coding course I’m doing) is hard. A single misplaced curly bracket or missed comma causes the whole programme to fail, and trying to discover where you went wrong is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

But the intense focus and attention to detail the course  requires is great for Jasper’s development. I’m also really impressed by the fact that he works hard to find his own errors before he asks his techy dad for help.


Finding outlets for Jasper’s intense energy has been an ongoing challenge during the years we’ve been home-educating. His sensory issues have prevented him taking part in activities like scouts that his sister enjoys. Team sports don’t work for the same reason.

Because it takes a huge amount of focus and emotional energy for Jasper to join in any group activity, I’m incredibly proud of him for what he does achieve. For instance, he’s been doing group homeschool figure skating lessons for over two years now and recently completed the final level (eight) of the Basic Skills Programme. He’s now working towards his Bronze award.

Jasper’s also been going to a gymnastics class for 18 months, and recently started a martial arts tricking class (a fun cross between parkour, gymnastics and martial arts), which both he and Cordie love.

I’m also very proud of Jasper for sticking with piano lessons for over a year. He even started practising a bit between lessons recently!

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I think this is the most comprehensive post I’ve ever written about Jasper’s learning. There’s always so much to say about my busy, extroverted daughter who loves to chat about her passions and dreams. Jasper, meanwhile, is my child who quietly taught himself to read, write and spell by playing video games, who astounds us all with what he learns from YouTube videos, and who recently set about reducing his screen time with a sense of commitment and self-discipline that left me with no concerns about his ability to achieve whatever he sets his mind to.

I don’t know what Jasper’s future has in store, but I’m looking forward to watching it unfold. In the meantime I’ll keep doing what I’ve done for the last six years: chatting with him about what he enjoys and where he wants to go, and offering resources and activities I think he’ll enjoy.

What are you and your learning this year?

I’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like to follow along with the second half of our unschooling journey, don’t forget to leave your email address in the box below. You can also like Navigating By Joy on Facebook.

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I’m appreciatively linking up with Kris at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

The 5 Best Homeschooling Decisions We’ve Made

homeschooling stops being fun

This week I’m delighted to be guest-posting over at My Little Poppies.

I first met My Little Poppies blogger and podcaster Cait through the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. Her children are a bit younger than mine, but we have very similar homeschooling styles and her blog is wonderfully relatable and inspiring.

I’ve also used Cait’s comprehensive book and game review lists many  times when buying gifts for young friends and relations.

My post at MLP is a look back on what’s worked best over the six years we’ve been homeschooling. I hope you’ll head over there to read The Best 5 Homeschooling Decisions We’ve Made!

When homeschooling stops being fun

I’ve also written about homeschooling recently on my other blog, Laugh, Love, Learn. The title of that post is: 3 Reasons Why Homeschooling Kids With Overexcitabilities Can Stop Being Fun – And How To Fix It.

Spoiler: the reasons are anxiety, boredom, and a clash in learning styles – all of which can strike any homeschooling family, even those who don’t have intensity and sensitivity. Again, I’d love you to head over and read my tips. 🙂

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Finally, my post about what my grade 6 son is learning this year is very nearly done – watch this space!

Snaps From Our Unschooling Week

Throughout this post you’ll see snaps of our unschooling week that I recorded using the app Snapchat.

Unschooling on Snapchat - 3D drawing

Unschooling on Snapchat - learning lines

My daughter’s scout troop leaders are a whizz on social media. When the scouts are off on camps we enjoy vicarious adventures thanks to a stream of messages and photos they send on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

When Cordie joined Scouts I didn’t know how to use any of those apps. Scouts gave me a reason to learn. (Though I confess I still don’t really understand what Tumblr’s all about.)

On their last summer camp the scout leaders branched into Snapchat stories. Their tongue-in-cheek blog warned us:

“The scouts are absolutely appalled that their parents have set up Snapchat accounts in order to see our stories there. The last thing they need is you on their social media of choice. They’re demanding that we tell you not to friend them on there. Just view our stories from the camp and then delete your account, delete the app, and throw away your phone.”

(I tweeted back, “Tell Cordie she’s safe. Every time I open Snapchat I’m convinced I’m going to send the world a picture of my nostrils.”)

Unschooling on Snapchat - Spanish pairs

Unschooling on Snapchat - playing Monopoly Empire

Snapchat lets you annotate, filter and share photos and video clips (snaps) over a 24-hour rolling period.

If you’ve ever looked over a teen’s shoulder and wondered in bafflement why she looks like a dog in all her smartphone photos, you’ve seen Snapchat in action.

Unschooling on Snapchat - trigonometry

Unschooling on Snapchat - blowing into red cabbage water
“What happens when I blow carbon dioxide into red cabbage indicator water?”

Photos and videos are deleted from your Snapchat story after 24 hours, so your story’s always up to date. You can choose to save your snaps to memories, though.

Unschooling on Snapchat - Creative Constructions with Geometry

Unschooling on Snapchat - balancing equations with polymods

These days I can safely navigate my around Snapchat (there were a few nostril shots on the way). And – with a bit of tween help – I’ve even made some Snapchat stories of my own.

Unschooling on Snapchat - Reading Harry Potter

Cordie and Jasper were left to their own devices for much of this week while I recovered from a headache. Thanks to Snapchat I was able to record some of what was going on around me. Looking back over my snaps, I was reminded that unschooled kids can not only cope with a little benign neglect now and then – they can thrive on it.

Unschooling on Snapchat - Hama Bead maths
Jasper explaining the maths of his Hama bead design

I know most of you don’t use Snapchat, so I thought I’d share a few of our Snaps here.

Unschooling on Snapchat - vegan pancakes and The Elements book
No eggs? Make vegan pancakes!

Instagram recently released an alternative to Snapchat – Instagram Stories. I think a few more homeschooling parents are probably on Instagram so I’m going to have a play with that next.

Unschooling on Snapchat - reading the Angles of Gum Tree Road
An exciting new book arrived this week 🙂

Do you unschool on Snapchat or Instagram?

Do you share your homeschooling life using Snapchat or Instagram stories? If you do, leave a comment with your username – I’d love to follow you. Find me on Snapchat and Instagram as lucindaleo.

I’ll leave you with a 10 second video snap of Cordie singing and playing a song she taught herself. You can see the full version over on YouTube.

Have a great weekend!


I’m appreciatively linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers’ Weekly Wrap Up.

Enzyme Science Fun – Inflate a Balloon With Liver & Hydrogen Peroxide

liver and hydrogen peroxide enzyme experiment

Last week Cordie thought up a fun  liver and hydrogen peroxide enzyme experiment. The idea is an interesting extension of elephant toothpaste. And it extends the chemistry learning into biology (useful for homeschool records).

When we make elephant toothpaste we use yeast as a catalyst in the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen gas. By adding soap and food dye, we get oodles of colourful foam that make for a fun and memorable science lesson.

Cordie recently discovered that liver also contains a catalyst which breaks down hydrogen peroxide. She decided to try to inflate a balloon with the gas produced and to test it for oxygen.  (Is it just my kids that love experiments where they get to play with fire?)

You can watch Cordie demonstrating her experiment in the video [4:39] below (with crumpet cameo from Jasper).

What you need

Liver (we used about 200g)

Hydrogen peroxide (we used about 75ml / 1/3 cup of 9% / 30 vol)


Small plastic water bottle


Peg or clip


If you want to test for oxygen you’ll also need:

Splint (thin piece of wood)


What you do

1. Chop the liver and put it into the bottle

2. Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the balloon via the funnel

3. Carefully put the neck of the balloon over the bottle so that the hydrogen peroxide pours onto the liver

4. Hold the balloon in place as it inflates with gas, then clip it closed

5. If you want to test the gas, light the splint then extinguish the flame. Immediately insert the still-glowing splint into the bottle


What happens

As soon as the hydrogen peroxide touches the liver, foam appears and the bottle gets warm. After a few seconds the balloon begins to inflate.

When you lower the glowing splint into the bottle, the flame rekindles. (My kids’ favourite bit!) There should be enough oxygen to do this over and over again.

What’s happening?

Just as with elephant toothpaste, the hydrogen peroxide is broken down into water and oxygen in the presence of a catalyst. (A catalyst speeds up chemical reactions without being changed itself.) The reaction is exothermic – it produces heat.

2H2O2 —-> 2H2O + O2


Liver contains a biological catalyst, the enzyme catalase.

Just as the liver in our experiment breaks down a poisonous chemical into harmless substances, an animal’s liver breaks down toxins and renders them harmless.

Take it further

Heat and cold affect how enzymes work.  In Cordie’s science class she timed her experiments using boiled and frozen liver alongside liver at room temperature.

Further resources

BBC Bitesize – Webpage and video about liver, hydrogen peroxide and enzymes

How to make elephant toothpaste

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Do let me know if you try this. I love hearing from you. 🙂

If you liked this experiment I’d love you to share it on Facebook or Pinterest. For more about how we homeschool, subscribe to my YouTube channel or like Navigating By Joy on Facebook.


I’m appreciatively linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

An Unschooling Science Video

Unschooling Science Video

Science is one of the easiest and most enjoyable subjects to learn without a curriculum. Science experiments are also surprisingly easy to strew.

What kid – big or small – can resist the temptation to find out what will happen when we add this liquid to that powder, or when we connect a battery to this strange contraption?

What’s in my unschooling science video?

In my video this week I talk about – and show you – a fun afternoon we spent experimenting. As you’ll see, my children each took the initial idea to make red cabbage indicator in a completely different direction.

And you’ll hear about the shocking discovery I made when I recently browsed a science curriculum for KS3 children (aged 11-14).

My son would (approvingly) call the previous sentence ‘click bait’. Sorry about that. I first wrote ‘surprising discovery’ but  I went back and changed it because my jaw really did drop at what I saw!

I plan to compile two more mini videos from the footage of our afternoon’s science:

(1) Our demonstration of how to make red cabbage indicator, and

(2) Cordie’s liver and hydrogen peroxide experiment that I talk about in this video.

Unschooling science – Show notes

Fun With Catalysts – How to Make Elephant Toothpaste

Fun With Acids and Bases – How to Use Red Cabbage as an Indicator (my original post)

You might also like to look at my science page for other fun experiments we’ve done.

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Thank you so much for all your lovely comments about my first video, and for your inspiring ideas for future videos. I did record another last week in which I talked about how we decide what to learn, but I’m not sure about it. (Perfectionism? Or fear of not being seen as a ‘proper’ unschooler? Maybe I’ll quietly put it up on YouTube anyway.)

If you enjoy watching the video I’d love you to share it on Facebook. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel and like my Navigating By Joy Facebook page.

Have you done any fun science experiments recently? I’d love to hear from you. 🙂



I’m appreciatively linking up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers Weekly Wrap-Up.

How to Make Your Kids Love Maths

How to Make Your Kids Love Maths

I once wrote a post called How to help your child fall in love with maths (even if they hate it) in which I talked about how my children learn maths without a curriculum.

That was three years ago now. I’m pleased to say our approach is still going strong and that Cordie (12) and Jasper (11) love maths more than ever.

Today I thought I’d reflect on what aspects of our maths approach have been most successful, then in my next post I’ll share in more detail what each of my kids are doing for maths right now and what our maths plans are for their senior school years.

1. Let them ask questions

When I learned maths at school my goal was only ever to get the right answers. I would watch the teacher do an example, memorise the procedure and obediently do my sums. It never once occurred to me to ask why a particular maths method worked. (Or perhaps I just learned to suppress that curiosity very early on.)

When it came to exams, I crammed a bunch of procedures into my head, passed with A grades, then promptly forgot everything.  For the next 20 years I had nightmares about going into a maths exam unprepared and not being able to answer a single question.

In contrast, my kids have always been allowed – encouraged – to ask questions. To be honest, by this point there’s no stopping them. In maths, as in life, they don’t accept anything unless they know why. Yes, sometimes regret this. 😉

Over the years I’ve learned to anticipate their questions by encouraging them to work things out for themselves in the first place.

A few examples

So when Cordie wanted to know how the long division algorithm worked, we went in search of answers (thank you, Denise’s Cookie Factory Guide to Long Division).

In geometry, most textbooks just present formulae for the area of shapes. But I knew that my children would want to know why these worked, so we figured them out for ourselves (see below for more details).

How to make your kids love maths

And when we recently came upon trigonometry, Cordie not only wanted to know what this branch of maths was used for but also what all those strange words actually meant. Which was possibly the first time it had occurred to me that sin, cos and tan were anything other than magic buttons on a calculator that when pressed while reciting the appropriate incantation – ‘SohCahToa!’ – spewed out the correct answer.

Of course when your kids ask questions, you need to . . .

2.  Be willing to go off on tangents

The best thing about not following a curriculum is that you’re never tempted steamroll over your child’s curiosity in an effort to finish a bunch of material by the end of term.

So there’s always time for games…

How to make your kids love maths - Playing yahtzee
… like yahtzee to play with probability

And you have time to investigate questions, like ‘What’s the area of a non right-angled triangle?’ Which leads to several weeks of playing with shapes as you figure out the relationships between rectangles, parallelograms, triangles, trapeziums and even circles. Which means your kids never panic about forgetting a formula, because they know everything follows from cutting up a rectangle.

Having time to follow rabbit trails means you have time to explore questions like, ‘What’s trigonometry used for?’ Which leads you to research the history of trigonometry, from right back when ancient astronomers used it to calculate the positions of the stars, to how triangulation is used today in everything from MRI scanners to animation software.

And when your daughter who’s passionate about linguistics asks where the words sine, cosine and tangent come from, you can spend a pleasant half hour discovering how ‘sine’, like the word used to describe our facial cavities (sinuses) comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘bowstring’.

How to make your child love mathsOf course, your child may not be as interested as mine in the etymology of maths terms, but by following whatever it is they are interested in, you’ll deepen their understanding of what they’re learning and make it more memorable.

3. Do buddy maths

Since the early days of homeschooling right up until now when they’re 11 and 12, I’ve done maths alongside my children.

In this way I’ve been able to share my passion for maths, clear up any confusion as soon as it occurs, and head off boredom by moving on as soon as I can see a concept’s been mastered. (Plus of course I’m there to help navigate rabbit trails and answer ‘why’ questions.)

How to make your kids love maths Pythagoras
Pythagoras Lego proof – click image for details

4. Don’t drill them on maths facts (unless they ask you to)

This is a controversial one, and I won’t pretend I’ve never casually suggested to my kids how useful it might be for them to rote-learn their multiplication tables, but they were having none of it.

Jasper couldn’t see the point of memorising something he can quickly work out every time, and (like a lot of bright people) Cordie gets stressed by time pressure.

So I decided I may as well trust mathematicians like Jo Boaler who says that not drilling kids on maths facts is a sure way to increase both their maths confidence and their number sense.

“Drilling without understanding is harmful … I’m not saying that math facts aren’t important. I’m saying that math facts are best learned when we understand them and use them in different situations.”

Jo Boaler

Guess what? It worked! After years of having fun with numbers, neither of my children has a problem with doing rapid mental calculations – for numbers both below and above 12.

5. Do maths anywhere that works for your child

In an ideal world I’d teach my kids sitting down nicely at the table as they write neatly using pencil and paper. I’m easily distracted and repetitive movement in my peripheral vision drives me crazy.

However… as the adult I’ve had to adapt myself to accommodate how my kids learn best – on any given day.

So if my son wakes up with the wiggles and wants to do maths while he leaps  around on a giant ball, I take deep breaths, read problems aloud, and hold up a whiteboard for him.

IMG 2862w
We all learn best when we’re comfortable

I used to worry that Jasper would never be able to be still enough to write out his answers, but I’ve noticed that when his mind is sufficiently engaged he’s quick to grab a whiteboard to draw a diagram or scribble some notes to help him figure out a problem. As maths gets more complex (and interesting) I anticipate him naturally doing this more and more.

How to make your child love maths

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How do you do maths in your house?

What approach to maths works best for your children?

I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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PS   Bonus maths story – For a behind-the-scenes story about what maths is really like in our house, hop over to my blog about life in a family that embraces its quirkiness, Laugh, Love, Learn.

PPS   Remember my maths nightmares? I haven’t had a single one since I started learning maths this way alongside my children!



Let’s Play Math  Denise Gaskins. A wonderful book all homeschoolers should read. See my review here.

What’s Math Got to Do with It?  (UK title The Elephant in the Classroom) Jo Boaler

Living maths activities we’ve done04

How to make a multiplication tower

How to make your child love maths - Multiplication towers

Fun with tessellations

Pythagoras for kids

How to make your child love maths - Pythagoras for kids


5 Days of maths playtime

How to make your kids love maths

How to teach maths without a curriculum

Let’s Play Math – My review of the book that has acted as our guidebook through our years of learning maths without a curriculum

When every day is maths playtime – Our living maths approach when my children were 8 and 9 years old

Living maths curriculum 2013-14

How to help your child fall in love with maths (even if they hate it)

How my autodidactic 9 year old is learning maths without a curriculum

How we do maths without a curriculum

How to make your child love maths - Maths without curriculum

Why we love Edward Zaccaro more than Khan Academy – About my 9 and 10 year olds’ favourite maths books

Maths – Why Faster Isn’t Smarter

Teaching trigonometry

Teaching trigonometry Resourceaholic. When you introduce your child to trig, I highly recommend printing off a set of logarithmic ratios in table form before you reach for the calculator, and that you start out with the kind of  approach outlined in this article.

Applications of trigonometry Dave’s short trig course

Origin of the terms Sine, Cosine, Tangent The Math Forum

How to use trigonometry to measure the height of a tree The Math Dude


Animated explanations for area of basic shapes I can’t find the one we used, but this is very similar. We cut the various shapes out of coloured card.

Times tables

Fluency Without Fear Jo Boaler, Fluency Without Fear



What’s it like Homeschooling an 11 and 12 Year Old?


What's it like Homeschooling an 11 and 12 Year Old?

Have you ever wondered why there are so few blogs about homeschooling older children? I used to. Then my kids became tweens.

We’re still unschoolers, but the hands-on activities that used to make up our day are gradually being replaced by independent projects, reading and outside classes. And photos of tweens reading, watching YouTube or even quietly crafting aren’t quite the same as cute pics of little ones doing colourful science experiments and messy art projects.

Our homeschooling is just as much fun, but these days the enjoyment lies more in the conversations we have, the puzzles we ponder and the jokes we share.

Looking back over the first six years of homeschooling

Back in the anxious, early days when we started homeschooling I used to wonder how I’d cope with the pressure when my kids reached senior-school age (11, here in the UK). But now with one child near the end of her first senior-school year and the other just turned 11, I feel calmer and more confident than ever.

One of the reasons I feel so relaxed is that having spent the last six years alongside my children, I know them pretty well. I know how they learn, what interests them, what their quirks are and what inspires them. Of course Cordie and Jasper are still changing – now more than ever, perhaps – but thanks to our time together I have a much better understanding of who they are and how I can support them.

Time’s also given me perspective.  Over each year that I’ve watched these two young people blossom, my faith in unschooling and in their ability to learn what they need grows stronger.

As homeschoolers we’ve always forged our own path. Whenever I’ve had a wobble and tried to steer us in a more schooly direction, my kids have made it clear they were having none of it. Like when they refused to follow any maths curriculum – which led us down the living maths route, something I’m truly appreciative of (at least in hindsight!).

What's it like Homeschooling an 11 and 12 Year Old?P1100738as
Homeschooling in the early days

Looking ahead to the teen years

Now we’re looking ahead to the teen years and exams, I’m so thankful for how we’ve done things.

All those ‘random’ science experiments really did both spark an interest in science and give my kids a solid grounding in chemistry and physics.

Living maths prepared them better than I could even have imagined for taking on trigonometry, algebra and geometry.

The poetry teatimes, read-alouds and audiobooks nurtured a deep love of literature.

And I recently realised that the reason it’s taken us five years to read three volumes of The Story of the World is because these days I can barely read a sentence without stimulating an intense debate about how such-and-such leader is repeating the mistakes of so-and-so who came before him, or how the Napoleonic Empire relates to the UK’s forthcoming referendum on whether to stay in Europe!


Finding community

Last year was a huge turning point for me. I discovered that my son is twice-exceptional and that both my kids and I have the innate personality traits known as overexcitabilities, which explains why we’ve always found ourselves at the fringes of homeschooling communities. After years of feeling isolated I found my tribe and launched a new blog to help others find theirs, too.

Now, equipped with even better information about who my children are and how I can support their learning, I’m looking forward to the next stage of our us-schooling adventure.

What’s next on Navigating By Joy

Launching Laugh, Love, Learn has taken most of my blogging energy so far this year, but now it’s up and running I’d like to check back in here more regularly.

I’m so appreciative of the bloggers who continue to write about their teens’ learning. I may not be as creative and organised as my friends Sue and Claire but if I can even inspire one person to trust their instincts and keep on home-educating their kids in the way that feels right to them, it will be worth it!

Here are a few ideas for what I could write about:

  • How living maths has worked out for us
  • How Jasper (11) has taught himself to read, write and spell
  • Cordie’s (12) passion for linguistics
  • How Jasper’s learning chemistry
  • How we’ve been learning foreign languages
  • Our unschooling routine
  • What each of my children is learning about
  • My kids’ goals and dreams
What would you be interesting in reading about? I’d love to hear from you. 🙂
I’m appreciatively linking up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers’ Weekly Wrap-Up and The Squishable Baby’s Homeschool LinkUp.

Easy Halloween Craft – Cute Rock Monsters

Easy Halloween Craft - Cute Rock Monsters

Halloween’s snuck up on us this year. C(11) and I spent last week in Spain where it still felt like summer, so we only pulled out our Halloween decorations yesterday.

I’m definitely not an uber-organised mum who has a different craft planned for every holiday. Many years I forget we even have Halloween stuff.

But this summer, thanks to Banish Clutter Forever (How the Toothbrush Principle Will Change Your Life) I got round to organising our loft. I even had the foresight to store our Halloween basket next to the Christmas decorations. (Seasonal items – clever, eh? Apparently that’s how naturally-organised people do it.)

Easy Halloween Craft - Cute Rock Monsters
8-year-old C making Halloween rock monsters

Among the dozens of preschooler costumes – which I took to the charity shop this morning – we found these cute rock monsters in the Halloween basket.

I shared these when we first made them, but I couldn’t resist snapping a few new photos yesterday. In case you missed it, here’s how you make them.

What You Need

Flat pebbles

Acrylic paints

Stick-on eyes


White-out fluid (optional)

What You Do

Mix up some fun acrylic colours and paint your pebbles. Once they’re dry, stick on eyes and draw mouths. Paint the teeth with white-out fluid or paint.

When we first made these we had lots of fun inventing personalities and back-stories for our monsters.

This year C(11) and J(10) were too busy making a Halloween pumpkin-carving video to play with them much, but I’m pleased to say the little guys at least got non-speaking parts in the movie.

Easy Halloween Craft - Cute Rock Monsters
C(11) and J(10) making a pumpkin-carving YouTube video

Easy Halloween Craft - Cute Rock Monsters

I originally saw these rock monsters at Coastal Inspired Creations. Do head over to her site for more detailed instructions and lots of other pebble craft ideas.

Easy Halloween Craft - Cute Rock Monsters


I’m appreciatively linking up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers’ Weekly Wrap-Up.

How to make quick crystals

How to make quick Crystals

Every summer when I declutter my science supplies cupboard I come across a few hidden treasures. (The reality: “Oops, we never did get around to making shadow leaf prints / home made light bulbs / popsicle stick trebuchets,” accompanied by a pang of guilt. Is that just me?)

The Epsom salts were bought to make bath fizzies with C(11) last Christmas. The fizzies never happened, but on the bright side, we had an unopened pack of Epsom salts when CSIRO’s cool crystals email landed in my inbox.

J(10) asked if Epsom salt was like the stuff we put on our fries, which was a good opportunity to remind ourselves what we learned about salts when we concocted our own fizzy drinks a few months back: A salt is created when an acid and a base neutralise each other.

Epsom salt is another name for magnesium sulfate. We looked up magnesium and sulfur in our book, The Elements, and noticed how very different the salt is from its constituent elements.

Easy Crystals - equipment
All you need to make quick crystals

What you need

Epsom salt (1/2 cup)

Hot water (1/2 cup)

Food colouring (optional)

Glass, spoon

What you do

Put the salt and water in the glass together with a few drops of food colouring. Stir for about five minutes, then put the glass in the fridge for at least three hours.

How to make quick Crystals
Dissolving the Epsom salts

What happens

After just a few hours in the fridge, you get beautiful crystals like these.

How to make quick Crystals
Epsom salt crystals

We carefully drained the water to get a better look at our crystals.

How to make quick Crystals
Taking a closer look at the crystals

How do crystals form? The scientific explanation

Epsom salt is an ionic compound. It’s made up of magnesium and sulfur ions joined together by ionic bonds. When we dissolve the salt in hot water, these bonds break and the two elements become separated .

Later, when we cool the salt solution in the fridge, the magnesium sulfate ions no longer have enough energy to move about freely. The ions begin to re-bond, first as single molecules and then – as the molecules themselves begin to join together – as crystals.

Science Kids at Home has some cool diagrams showing what’s happening at a molecular level.

How to make quick Crystals
Epsom salt crystals

More crystal science

Different types of molecule always the same shape of crystal, every time they form.

In the past we’ve also made crystals from table salt (sodium chloride), borax and sugar. The process for each of those is slightly more fiddly, but comparing the different shaped crystals is interesting. Borax crystals make pretty decorations, and sugar crystals are yummy!

Sugar crystals
Sugar crystals
Salt crystals
Salt crystals
Borax crystals
Borax crystals

And now the Epsom salt packet has been opened, we’re one step closer to making those bath bombs. 🙂


I’m appreciatively linking up with Weird Unsocialised Homeschoolers’ Weekly Wrap-Up and All Things Beautiful’s Science Sunday.

How to make quick Crystals

How to make quick crystals

Not feeling nervous about not starting senior school

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A few weeks ago I was chatting with a young friend who was about to start senior school. “I’m excited, and a bit nervous too,” admitted Lily.

“And how are you feeling about not starting senior school, Cordie?” Lily’s mother asked C(11).

C(11) considered for a moment, then replied with a smile, “I’m feeling very not nervous.”

People have often asked how long we plan to continue home-educating. Many assumed we’d stop at the end of junior school (age 11), or before GCSE’s (age 14).  While I’m hoping to support my children learning at home until they’re at least 16, I would never stop them from going to school if they wanted to.

Daniel, one of C(11)’s old school friends has chosen to go away to boarding school. His mother was telling me how excited he was about the prospect of spending so much time with his friends doing fun activities. “I bet Cordie would love it, too,” she added.

My husband’s parents generously contribute to all their grandchildren’s education, so boarding school wouldn’t be out of the question if either of our children ever wanted to go. I mentioned Daniel’s excitement to my extroverted, energetic daughter.

“Do you think you would like to go to a school like that?”

“It sounds amazing,” replied C(11). Then she sighed contentedly and added, “But I could never give up all this.”

Yes, C(11) would love to spend more time with her friends and do even more sport than she already does, but she also appreciates all the quiet time she has at home to draw, read, watch videos or just relax and listen to music.  (I once wrote a post about how C(11) left school because she wanted to do so much, and school seemed the most sensible activity to drop.)

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I used to think that as a home-educating parent I’d feel the pressure rise when my children reached senior school age. Towards the end of the last summer holidays I kept expecting to suddenly wake up one morning thinking “Holy cow! Cordie’s going to be in big school! We’d better get serious!”

But that didn’t happen.  Instead, I found myself thinking about how much C(11) had learned by herself all summer long. I reflected on the thought-provoking conversations I have with her and J(10), during which I find myself wondering where they got their huge vocabularies and ability to express themselves. I marvel at their enormous zest for life, their self-confidence, the self-set goals they eagerly work towards.  And I feel so thankful we’ve found our unschooling groove.


I’m appreciatively linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschooler’s Weekly Wrap-Up.

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