Tudors and Stuarts: Explorers – Preparing for the journey


DSC_0183explorers We spent this weeks session learning about preparing for a long and arduous journey of exploration.  We read from the Great Atlas of Exploration and the information from Homeschool in the Woods about the life of an explorer.  We learnt about provisions and made some of our own.

Provisions for the journey

We wrote a report on scurvy and became ‘Limeys’ to ensure that we didn’t suffer from vitamin C depletion.  Limeys are made by squeezing out the juice of limes and giving it to any unsuspecting sister who happened to be within reach:


A6 was not impressed

A6 was not impressed

C12 even less so!

C12 even less so!

We dried some fruit and veg (apples and peas).  Drying fruit prevented the fruit from going bad whilst maintaining the vitamin content:

Cutting apple rings

Cutting apple rings

Fromfresh to dry in about 24 hours on lowest oven heat

From fresh to dry in about 24 hours on lowest oven heat

Tasting dried peas - not impressed (although I did tell them they would have been softened in some sort of stew or gravy

Tasting dried peas – not impressed (although I did tell them they would have been softened in some sort of stew or gravy

They didn't even like the dried apples.  I'm thinking my guys wouldn't have lasted very long on a ship!

They didn’t even like the dried apples. I’m thinking my guys wouldn’t have lasted very long on a ship!

We made some hardtack biscuits.  These tasted as they sounded-hard!  But drying them out to such an extent helped prevent them going bad and ensure the explorers had at least some sort of food to last their journey:

C12 and A6 made the hard tack biscuits together

C12 and A6 made the hard tack biscuits together

They were really, really hard, but everyone liked the taste.

They were really, really hard, but everyone liked the taste.

After contemplating making beef jerky, I couldn’t bring myself to dry beef myself and was very relieved when I saw some at the supermarket.  They would just need repackaging in a more time appropriate wrapping and the children could try them out in preparation for their exploratory journey:

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I know I must be a bit of a wimp but I couldn’t even bring myself to taste it.  The children did, though….

C12 liked it okay but the other two almost gagged on it.  Glad I didn't try any, then.

C12 liked it okay but the other two almost gagged on it. Glad I didn’t try any, then.

Having made the food, we packed them up for the journey and took some photos:

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We added them to the back of our explorer’s journal where we are keeping all the recipes we try:

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Sailor Knots

Knots are an important skill if you are circumnavigating around the world.  I photocopied a few ‘How-To-Knot’ information sheets.  Sailors used knots on-board all the time but also used them to make hammocks for sleeping in.  We practiced making various knots:

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And looked back over T’s hammock making a couple of summers ago:

Using the overhand knot

We made a note of the knots in our journal, making some mini knots to stick in:

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We are near ready to actually begin exploring….

Help, Please Mummy…and More Books



Friday morning I was in my room listening to my two littlest girls in the bedroom next door.  B4 was crying over something.  This is not unusual.  Things bother B4 a great deal.  I smiled that morning because over the steady moan of frustration coming from B4 was A6’s calming voice.  A6 is a placid, naturally helpful and generally eager to please little girl.  Little bothers her and she is the perfect opposite to B4’s more fiery temperament.

It seemed B4 was unable to find the buttons of her duvet cover to strip her bed (a chore which needs to be done each Friday) and it was frustrating her, hence the tears.  A6, oblivious to the fact I was listening in, was saying to her, ‘Do you need help, B?  What do you need to do if you need help?’ She paused waiting for B to answer.  She didn’t.  A then continued…’Help please A?  If you need help you just need to ask.’  I could just imagine at this moment her popping her arm soothingly around B’s shoulders.  B had stopped crying.

‘I can’t find buttons.  Help please A.’  A6 told her what a good girl she was and helped her to find the buttons and strip her bed.  All was well in her world once more, thanks to the patient teaching of her older sister.


It made me realise how much young children take in just by listening to those around them.  I have always directed my children from a very young age to say ‘Help please, Mummy?’ anytime they needed help.  This prevented many melt downs, because whilst a young child may not be able to express clearly how she needs help, just asking for some help means they know eventually Mummy (or who ever) will figure out what is wrong and help them.  No need for tears or tantrums.

This worked exceptionally well with my older three and as soon as A was able to talk it was also brilliant for her.  B has taken a bit longer to teach.  The power of her emotions over everything often clouds her clarity of thought meaning she doesn’t often think to ask for help before crying.

But I know it’s going to be okay.  Her sweet big sister is on the case…..

Angelicscalliwags Book Bonanza


These are the next five books I am giving away.  Donna emailed me to say that the books page (which should be the very last tab at the top of my header) doesn’t show up on her computer although it is there on her daughters.  I’m a bit computer illiterate so I’m not sure why that might be. You can get to my books page by clicking here.  It is where you will find all the information pertaining to the give away.

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Just email me if you would like me to send you one, any or all!

IGCSE Biology: Genetics



Our biological science is based on the specification of Edexcel for their Biology IGCSE.  My goal is to very gradually work through the specification with the hope of digging a little deeper than is required and letting the children follow areas of interest.  I aim to make this study as hands on as possible and as relevant to the children’s own lives as possible.

This post will eventually contain all my Genetics related posts, which I will add as I post them.

Genetics: DNA

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Extracting your own DNA

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Scientist Study: Watson and Crick

The three different DNA models together

My science and maths posts can now all be found on my Science and Maths Page

Thank you all for being patient whilst I slowly reorganise my blog.

Seasons of Joy: Creating a cleaning cupboard


Ribbet collageSeasons of Joy

Finding the joy in the small things is becoming more natural for me as the days go on.  Even seemingly innocuous things like the rhythms of life nurture us all as we go about our days.

Rhythms of Life 

Each morning, sleepy with the blessing of yet another night’s sleep (sleep will never grow old for me, ever), I create a culinary masterpiece in the form of a coffee.  Just the process of grinding the beans, familiar smells wafting up, cause a small satisfied smile to begin to form on my lips.  I breathe in a deep sigh, inhaling all the coffee goodness of the aromatic grains.  Then I stand back and let the coffee machine work its magic.  Gary bought me my very own coffee-making machine when I gave up coffee a few years ago.  He knew how much I missed it and yet we could not afford to keep buying coffees from the local coffee shop (!).  It is a gift I have grown to appreciate more with each passing month.  It is such a small thing which gives such a huge amount of pleasure twice a day (I drink two coffees a day).  This Christmas I received an insulated cup to sip my morning coffee from.  Fifteen minutes of pure hedonistic time alone sets me up for the day.  The children leave me be, knowing they won’t get anything intelligible from me until post coffee.  Sheer bliss:


Each Saturday I go to a little coffee shop with my mum as we catch up on each others news over the past week.  Then we shop.  One thing I always buy is a flat white baguette (we almost never eat white bread at any other time) and bacon.  Once home I make everyone a bacon and egg baguette with a pot of tea using eggs from our chickens.  It is such a small thing and yet the look of appreciation I see in Gary’s eyes speaks to me of his own joy at being cared for:


And buying new roses.  I just love them.  My children comment how beautiful they are.  I pay £1.65 for them and yet they bring such joy….

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…and last indefinitely beautifying my staircase as I dry them each week:

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So much beauty.  Gary’s single roses for the twins are still going strong, but next week I will suggest to the girls the possibility of carefully drying them and keeping the petals.  These petals can be added to each year their Daddy buys them their rose and they can be scattered at their wedding.  A lovely, poignant way of expressing the handing over of a precious daughter to the man they love and the man who will from that day forth be the one who buys their Valentine rose.

The Healthiest Ice Cream Ever

I have been searching for an alternative to ice cream.  Ice cream has lots of unpronounceable ingredients in it and the alternatives are very expensive for the amount you get.  My children love smoothies, so after reading about making your own ice cream from frozen fruit and yogurt, I gave it a go.  I pureed a whole bag of frozen strawberries and bananas with some yogurt and honey:

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It was a huge hit and full of 100% natural ingredients.  I may try to refreeze it for half an hour or so and see if it hardens sufficiently to scoop it out.  I am excited about the possibilities as it is very low in calories and extremely healthy for my growing teens.

Creating a Cleaning Cupboard

My last little project of this week has been to create a cleaning cupboard for me to keep regularly used cleaning supplies and the vacuum cleaner.  I had already earmarked and cleared this cupboard under the stairs:


I found a lovely storage basket upstairs which was perfect for holding cleaning materials.  I went through my cleaning supplies.  We clean using Ecover most of the time and once a week I use stronger chemicals to keep the mold and the lime scale under control.  This basket would be for the once a week cleaning supplies.  I also grabbed a small box to collect things for an up and coming project (the upstairs hallway and bathroom).  The new cleaning cupboard would be the perfect place to store my collection of bits and pieces:

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These all fitted perfectly into the under the stairs space:

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Happy sigh….its the little things in life.

Spurred on by my success downstairs, I put together a basket for the upstairs loo.  This would be used for daily cleaning and would be full of the fairly child-friendly Ecover.  I included a loo cleaner, multipurpose spray, rubber gloves and a pink for the sink sponge and a blue for the loo sponge:


We popped the basket on a high shelf out-of-the-way of the littles yet within easy reach of the older ones (who are the primary users and therefore cleaners of the upstairs loo):


I have had such a lovely week this week.  February has come to an end and the blooos have blown away.  I am loving my word (Nurture) for the year more and more.  Nurture is so full of goodness.  How are you nurturing yourself this year?  And are you having as much fun as I am doing it?

Next week is our unschooling week, which gives me a bit more time to spend on my nurturing projects.  I am turning my attentions to our long thin hallway which has every single solitary centimeter of space put to good use, including a huge book-case and my larder.  I’ve got all sorts of ideas flying about and as usual am way more excited than I maybe ought to be about getting my hands on it!

I hope you all have a wonderful week, nurturing yourselves…

Precious Moments: A Superduper Week!


We are a family who likes to be busy and when we are busy all is well in our camp.  And this week has been super busy which has lead to a super week!  This was a schooling week (as opposed to an unschooling week) and we finished everything I had planned.

The older children continued with Conquer Maths for an hour each day with very few problems cropping up.  They also completed their first unit in Cover Story and wrote their first formal piece, a review article for their magazine.  They all did a great job except I could see C12 had got herself into a tangle and lost her flow of thought.  She is by far my strongest writer but doesn’t really enjoy non fiction stuff.  She chose to write a review of Taylor Swift’s song Style.  Having never heard it I was at a bit of a loss to help her immediately, so we left it for a day to give me a chance to listen to it.  I am so not musical, at all.  I therefore googled other reviews of the same song, photocopied them with a copy of the lyrics.  She read them, which gave her a clearer idea of how to write a review.  I also scrawled one of the most useful things I learnt at university on the inside of her book.  KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetiepie just to remind her not to complicate things unnecessarily.  She has a very busy mind which goes off at a tangent very easily!


In our morning meetings we finished off chapter two of Who is God? and the older ones filled in their journals; after which we read a couple of chapters from a teen girls’ and boys’ devotional guide to the teenage years.

I have also begun the Mystery of History Book three.  I haven’t really liked the Homeschool in the Woods curriculum we were using for the renaissance (I love their explorers one, however) because there seemed to be no logic to it.  I decided I would begin reading Mystery of History, one lesson a day.  This week we have completed five lessons.  We won’t be doing all the activities which go with as we quite enjoy doing our own thing with whatever takes our fancy.

The older ones have spent their quiet time reading the Tudor books I bought for them and yesterday both twins had finished the list.  So the book reviews I was requiring after each book did absolutely nothing to slow them down.  Amazon, here I come…

The afternoons have been spent finishing off tasting all the foods we had dried from the last school week as well as learning heaps of things about DNA.  It has been an exceptionally busy but productive week.

But that is just the school wrap up.  Life still occurs in between the books with cuddling, playing, dressing up and all sorts of other activities filling everyone’s time.

A6 became queen for the day, for no particular reason:

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And my littlest showed off her new birthday present from Auntie Nik, a gorgeous princess dress:

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In fact she has spent most of the week in this….

….learning how to wink:

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…and playing with Daddy and her big sister:

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We have had pond times and park times:

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And great fun tree climbing:

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The girls have taken up jogging along side T as he cycles:

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He has also found time, though, to take his littlest sister for a walk in the rain so she can use her new to her umbrella:

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Speaking of which, the little girls have been enjoying their new charity shop acquisitions outside the house and in(!):

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I’ve snapped a few photos of the children in the kitchen doing their chores this week.  Who says chores can’t be fun?

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I’ve watched my two littlest bond terrifically since they have had their own room and they play for hours – with pipe cleaners making all manner of accessories:

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as well as the new bane of my life – straws.  These get everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.  And no sooner are they picked up, out they come again for round two, or three, or sixty-three.  Here is A6 holding up her spider web, complete with a spider that the two of them had just made:

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Loving my life right now.  So blessed with my little family and home schooling.  I hope you have all had an equally fandabbydosy week and I wish you a fun-filled weekend ahead!

 photo 50ee37ee-4f60-43f2-83eb-bb7deb75fd49_zpsbacda61d.png  Homegrown Learners  

Biology: Genetics – DNA


DSC_1006genetics DNA

We have just finished Microbe studies and together we have chosen to look at Inheritance and Genetics next.  Again, I will be using the Edexcel IGCSE specification as guidance.  Our studies will hopefully be in-depth and very hands on before we settle down to answering past exam papers to test how much the children understand.

Genetics and Inheritance

To introduce this incredibly exciting topic, I used the following video.  I really recommend it as a starting point.  It is very powerful.

This lesson was based on 3.13 to 3.15 of the specification which focuses on DNA.  I really wanted to play around a lot with this, as an understanding of the building blocks of the chromosomal material is essential to grasping meiosis, mitosis, mutations and the like.

Revision of the cell and its nucleus

We had completed a unit on the cell a couple of years ago when we made a jelly cell and a play dough cell:

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They each had a quick read of the post to refresh their memories and then I asked where inside the cell were the chromosomes located, to which they correctly answered the nucleus:

I love having a blog, but can I just say how cool it is to be able to bring up prior work on a large screen and have the children do a quick revise before digging deeper?

I love having a blog for many reasons, but revising past work has never been one of them.  Can I just say how cool it is to be able to bring up prior work on a large screen and have the children do a quick revise before digging deeper?

The Chromosome

I showed them some pictures of chromosomes, and we made up a quick cell using a hoola hoop and pipe cleaners for the nucleus and the chromosomes.  I did this so they could physically make some chromosomes themselves and place them inside the nuclear membrane:

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Together we labelled them:

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I had to laugh when after the morning meeting, whilst reading about Watson and Crick and the history of Genetics L12 brought me her latest loom band creation.  A chromosome!

DSC_0106lils chromosome

I had photocopied this chart which shows the unraveling of the chromosome into first the genes and then further into the DNA strands:



I mentioned, but didn’t go into too much depth, that each gene coded for a specific protein, that is each gene contained the recipe for a specific protein.  These proteins are essential for our body to function as it is meant to.  The proteins are involved in every aspect including, but not limited to, digestion, motion, circulation and immunity.  We would be learning more about this coding in a future lesson.

Using the chart above allowed the children to be able to visualise exactly how a chromosome is made up.  I also found a YouTube video which explains it all brilliantly:

This video may need to be previewed as it hints at evolution which some may not want their children exposed to.  However it is not explicit and is brushed over very quickly.  After watching the above video we were ready to move on to learning about DNA in greater depth.

The Double Helix DNA Strand

This video explains brilliantly what DNA is and what it does:

And this one is a great animation of the same  but with a little more information:

Crick and Watson Scientist study

We had already carried out a study of Crick and Watson during which we had built three DNA molecules from different kits we own:

The three different DNA models together

The three different DNA models together

This was fantastic but the children could easily have just followed the instructions given in the kits without really understanding what they were building.

I have found one of the most important ways the children internalise the information they are learning is to design and build a model themselves to demonstrate their learning.  When they are able to build and consequently explain their own model to me in-depth, I know they have learnt and understood that which they need to.

Designing and building their own models 

We read this book which gives some fabulous drawings of the double helix:

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The DNA molecule is two phosphate strands coiled to form a double helix and linked together by a series of paired bases: adenine (A), with thymine (T) and cytosine (C) with guanine (G) (from specification noted above).

I used the idea of a puzzle to show how the four bases fit together and why they had to be specifically paired to their corresponding half and could not be fit together with any of the others.  To illustrate this I used some paired phonics puzzles:

Ribbet collagedna6I turned over and coloured in four different colours and labeled them with the letters of the four bases – Guanine, Adenine, Cytosine and Thymine:

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I had the children play about with them and they quickly saw that the C and G fit together (the Car goes into the Garage) and the A and T fit together (the Apples are found in the Tree).  They tried other combinations and found that these were the only combinations which fit:

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A would only fit with T, whilst C would only fit with G.

With this in mind I gave them a selection of paper clips, straws and pipe cleaners with which to work.  There are many ways out there to do this activity using sweeties, or beads.  I used what we had on hand:


They all did really well and included a key as well to explain what each item they used would represent:


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L12.  L had some difficulty with hers which really highlighted a lack of understanding.  Having the children create what they learn really does highlight areas they are struggling to understand.  She did a beautiful job after a bit of explaining:

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Extracting DNA Samples

Before we had a go at extracting our own samples of DNA we took a look at this video which explains why and how it is done properly for identification and forensics.  The video is interactive and allows you to extract the DNA yourself, virtually.  After they had played about with the video for as long as they wanted, we did our own rather crude extraction.

Each child had a go at extracting DNA from either a banana, a tomato or themselves.  I wrote a post about how we extracted DNA samples yesterday:

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Viewing DNA under the microscope

I had bought some slides of organelles for the children to look at under the microscope.  I bought them from Amazon.  This time we looked only at the DNA:

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I also encourage the children to make their own slides using the DNA we had extracted previously.  Even if they were not successful it would still be great lab practice in preparing their own slides:


First they carefully pulled some DNA clumps out of the solution and placed them in the middle of the slide:

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Next they placed a cover over the DNA, pressing it gently to get rid of air bubbles.  The slide is now ready to look at under the microscope:

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During our next schooling week we will be looking at Chromosomes in greater detail as well as their replication and mutation.

Biology : Extracting Your Own DNA


DSC_1006extracting own DNA

Actually this post will describe how to extract DNA from a banana, a tomato and from yourself.  The method is similar for all three.

Extracting DNA samples

I gave the children the choice of extracting DNA from tomatoes, bananas or from themselves.  It is very easy to do requiring nothing more than water, salt, surgical spirit, clear washing up liquid, coffee filters, food dye and a tissue sample (salt water washed round in the mouth, smashed banana mixed with salt water, smashed tomato mixed with salt water).

Set Up your Work Stations

Set up three different work stations with all the need equipment to extract the DNA, including an instruction sheet:

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Create a Tissue Sample 

This will be a sample of salt water which has millions of cells suspended in it.  To do this, mix a teaspoon of salt with half a cup of bottled water:

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Smash the banana or tomato flesh in a zip lock bag.  Add salt water solution and mix carefully. For your own tissue sample use the salt water as a mouth water and gargle for one minute suspending cheek cells in the water and carefully spit into a clear beaker:

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Add a half a teaspoon of dish soap to the zip lock bags (or if doing your own DNA add a couple of drops to the gargled suspension in the beaker).  Mix gently trying not to create too much foam.  The soap acts to break down the cell membrane releasing the DNA into the suspension:

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Pour the contents of the zip lock bags through a coffee filter sitting over a funnel over a clear glass beaker.  Leave awhile whilst it collects a liquid suspension of water, soap and tomato or banana DNA:

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Extract the DNA

In a separate cup mix 100mls of surgical spirit and a few drops of food colouring:

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Gently pour the alcohol down the side of the beaker containing the suspended tissue sample (tip beaker):

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It should form a layer on top of the sample.  Leave for a few minutes:

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At this point you should notice a few strands or clumps of a white substance.  These are the DNA strands clumping together.  Using a stirrer you may be able to pick up some of the strands:

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You have extracted your DNA!

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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