National Pet Show: A Fantastic Day Out For Pet/ Animal Lovers!

This past weekend saw the return of the National Pet Show to Excel, London. For those who have never heard of it, this event hosts tonnes of pet-related stands with information, advice and products, as well as lots of talks, activities, shows and demonstrations. Of course, there are lots of animals too! 

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We went to this event once previously, when Squiggle was much younger, back when it was held at Earls Court. (Blog post here). We had a lovely time and Squiggle remembered it well so we were excited to return!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

We have only been to Excel once with Squiggle before, to watch the Paralympics in 2012, and I don’t think she recognised it. I personally really like this venue because it is spacious and has good facilities. Events can be very crowded and overstimulating for a child with autism, so it is good that the venue is big enough that it is possible to find a space in a quiet corner if needed. Plus, as it is located by the docklands, there is also somewhere calm outdoors to go for some fresh air if it does get too much. 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

The pet show itself has a huge range of animals to see. I didn’t get a photo because s/he was attracting quite a crowd but Squiggle adored seeing the hairless cat, as well as many other rare breeds. I loved this funky dreadlock looking dog, a bergamasco, which is certainly not a breed I had come across before. So gorgeous though!

Perhaps a slightly unusual highlight but, for me personally, one of my favourite parts was getting inspiration for our new bunny housing. We have already got the actual enclosure itself, but we spotted some great ideas of what else we could include for enrichment!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Squiggle also loved the opportunity to meet some more exotic pets in the reptile section, such as Terry the tegu, a python (I think?!) and a very giant tortoise. It was lovely to experience these magnificent creatures close up and hands on! 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Over at the More Than stand, there was a little display going on by this cute little poodle pair. I gather there were other appearances spotted here too! I also liked the park theme with children’s games, such as Connect 4 and Jenga. A nice little chilled out spot in the midst of the hustle and bustle!

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As I already mentioned, there were lots of demonstrations and shows. For example, we saw this golden retriever display and got to meet them afterwards too.

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

There were lots of stalls with useful information too, such as various animal charities. We enjoyed meeting the therapy pets, including this beauty. I think a therapy dog would be amazing. But I also feel that any pets are great for autism, anxiety etc… They are so therapeutic! 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

There were loads of children’s activities too. Stories, colouring, meeting animals, talks, games and even an exciting future vet activity with Noel Fitzpatrick. There was also a weaving activity; Squiggle was most excited about the huge rabbit that had been created!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Tickets cost from £13.91 for a child ticket. However, Littlebird often have deals available, so it is well worth checking if there are any discounted tickets. Also, carers get free entry to assist those with disabilities so if this applies to you then do get in touch with them.

As well as the London dates, the show is also held at NEC in Birmingham each November too (next dates are 4th and 5th November 2017). It is open all day from 9.30am to 5pm, with a schedule of different shows, talks, demonstrations and appearances throughout the weekend.

It is a really fun day out. A fantastic event for those with their own furbabies, wannabe pet owners or general animal enthusiasts! 

*Thank you to More Than for the complimentary pair of tickets we received. All thoughts are opinions are my own.

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 56 (Amanda)

Introduction

Hi, I’m Amanda (36) I have a passion for photography, nature, nutrition and history. I’m currently doing an online course in Nutrition and Health. I’m married to David (37) who is a self-employed painter and decorator, fantastic at DIY and woodwork and an avid gamer ! We have 4 boys aged 12, 11, 10 and 6.

#100daysofhomeed, 100 days of home ed, #LoveHomeEd, freedom to learn, home education, interview, Q and A

How long have you home educated for and why did you decide to do it?

Our boys have never been to school. I started looking into Home education when our eldest son was about 2 years old. I loved everything I read about home educating and thought it would really suit our family and way of life. Initially I was only planning to home educate our children until the age of 7 but we all loved it so much that we have just continued.

Briefly describe your home ed style. Do you have a ‘typical’ week and what does it include if so?

I like to be quite organised and plan things so we have always had a semi-structured but flexible timetable. We mostly learn by doing projects together, I say ‘we’ as I have learnt so much myself alongside my boys.

What was your highlight of home ed last week?

Last week went away to Cornwall. We did a lot of exploring and visiting hidden gems ! We went to the beautiful Golitha falls, walked through the most enchanting woodland to Lansallos beach and visted Bodmin jail.

What is your favourite thing about home edding your children?

I have so many favourite things about home educating ! I get to spend so much time with my children. We can spend as much time as we like learning about a particular topic, sometimes we spend hours just discussing things, which I feel is the most important part of truly learning and taking in information. I myself have learnt so much and discovered what I am really interested in. We are free to do what we want when we want in our own time and as a bonus places are always so much quieter in term time!

What do you find most difficult and why?

The thing I find most difficult about home educating is making sure that I give each of my boys enough time and attention. I worry sometimes if I am doing the right thing by them but I guess this is something that just comes with parenting!

What advice would you give to other home educators?

My advice to new Home educators would be this: Enjoy the freedom you have and time you get to spend with your children. Don’t rush to book up every activity or workshop going, and don’t worry about your child learning to read and write by a certain age; it will happen when they are ready!

100 Days of Home Ed – Day 55 (As I Think I Say)

The following is an excerpt written by As I think I Say for the 100 days of home ed challenge. The rest of the post can be found on their blog here, along with more of their home ed adventures.

“A week for us involves work books on maths, English, science, French and for our eldest biology and food technology.  Our youngest goes to forest school, board games group and multi sports. Both are learning an instrument through weekly guitar and keyboard lessons . They attend a weekly workshop where they are working towards Art Award Explore run by Trinity College. Our eldest has skiing lessons and is starting an online photography diploma course. Our youngest does ballet. STEM Science course, book club and  study group just about fill us to capacity. And somehow on top of that our youngest is begging for horse riding lessons as well.”

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 54 (Lynne)

I’m Lynne and I home educate B, my only child, who is 7. We love to get out and about and cram as much as we can into our lives. We’re big nature fans, and spend a lot of time outside walking our crazy beagle Stripe. When we’re not roaming the fields, you’ll probably find us in London in the museums.

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We’ve been home educating for a little over a year. It was on my radar before B started school as a potential option should we not get the school we wanted. Bullying, and some issues with supporting B with potential dyspraxia, led to us removing him from our chosen school in the end anyway.

I’ve dipped in and out of styles. We tried unschooling and its not for us. We both end up a little stressed and B asked me to provide more structure for him. He find out it really tricky to direct himself, although he has always been very confident in making his own decisions. I think because he knows he’d like to go to secondary school, he worries he may not be doing enough. We’ve looked a little at Charlotte Mason, but have settled into our own semi structured routine. We have goals of work we’d like to achieve over a few week period, and we factor in plenty of days out and hands on learning. Should a fabulous opportunity pop up we wouldn’t turn it down in favour of our routine, but without the structure we both end up feeling a little lost.

B has a lot of hobbies so our week is roughly scheduled around swimming, ballet, modern dance, drama, ice skating, performing group and tap. We normally meet up with other families once or twice a week, either for something planned like an educational trip, or for some informal fun. I usually look at where we can fit in some formal maths, English, and science during the week to make sure we stay abreast of where we want to be. B absolutely loves sitting down with his books, learning from an educational app or working with me so its never a chore.

A recent highlight of our home ed life would be a trip to the Celtic Harmony Camp in Hertford. It was arranged with a group of home edders we’d not met before, and we had the best time. New friends for both of us, and an opportunity to do something we wouldn’t have previously considered.

Personally I love the freedom that home education gives us. We can follow so many of B’s interests, and he can learn at a pace that suits him. He works a few years ahead in maths, and I love that he can explore as much and as far as he likes at home. Being solely in charge of your child’s education can be daunting, as the onus is on you to get it right, but its worth the challenge.

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 53 (The World Is Their Classroom)

I’m Nicola from Yorkshire and home ed my 5 children ages 13, 10, 8, 5 & 2. 

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They have never been to school. I met another home educator before I had my first child and decided it was something I would love to do. My inspiration comes from my parents who brought me and my brothers up with lots of fun crafts and activities. I love watching them learn new things and bond as siblings.

Our home ed is structured Mon- Thurs with lots of practical activities as well as following our workbooks. Fri- Sun they have lots of free time as well as their sports activities and visiting family.

My advice to other home edders would be that everyone’s home ed journey is different. Follow their interests and take it from there.

You can read more about their fab home ed adventures on Nicola’s blog: The World is Their Classroom

You can also follow them on instagram to see their lovely photos, including their own 100 days of home ed challenge:

The World is Their Classroom

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 52 (The Penny Three)

My name is Francesca and I’m Mom to nearly 5 year old Xanthe, and 3 in a fortnight Hugo. We live in the West Midlands. We have a blog that records our home ed journey called The Penny Three.

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Xanthe and Hugo

Xanthe was diagnosed with Autism, development delay, learning difficulties and severe anxiety around a year ago. To begin with she was in a mainstream nursery. Rated outstanding by ofsted and with myself as a parent governor, they tried really hard to make it work. She had one to one support and small group work, they put emphasis on her making friends and becoming integrated but Xanthe’s anxiety just continued to grow.
When it came to choosing a school for her Reception year and onwards, I began to worry about how she would cope. I did some research and discovered that due to her birthday I could possibly get a “Summer Born Deferral.” I approached the local authority and armed with evidence from the senco at the nursery and Xanthe’s consultants – they agreed.

#LoveHomeEd,100 days of home ed,freedom to learn,guest post,Home Education
Picking daisies

I thought that was the answer to all our problems. Sadly that wasn’t the case, when Xanthe went back to the nursery after summer, they had changed things such as the room her group met in, the children had changed too and they left her pretty much to her own devices whilst they settled in the new children. Her anxiety became so extreme that she began to regress, and could no longer count to 10 for example. Getting her to Nursery became a huge battle. I spoke to her consultant at CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) and they agreed that the nursery was causing more harm than good.

#LoveHomeEd,100 days of home ed,freedom to learn,guest post,Home Education
Finding ducks to feed

So in November 2016 I removed her from the Nursery. I was really anxious about my decision, and questioned whether it was the right choice – I soon discovered that I really didn’t need to worry.

To begin with we thought about purchasing a Waldorf Steiner home ed curriculum, as certain aspects of the philosophy I really like. The emphasis on child led play, and using natural resources, reducing screen time and being outdoors… but I soon learnt that sitting down with a set routine of work, was not the best way to reach Xanthe. So we firmly headed into Unschooling territory. Unschooling means that I very much follow her lead and interests and I’m pleased to report that her ability to count to 10 came back, and further breakthroughs have been made. She now is attempting to write, and will listen to stories.

#LoveHomeEd,100 days of home ed,freedom to learn,guest post,Home Education
Reading in a cafe

We spend a lot of time outdoors, as that is where both Xanthe and Hugo feel at home. We have a number of home ed groups that we join in with as and when we can – Forest School, Trampolining, Science events. We also have other clubs that we want to get involved with – swimming, horse riding, ice skating and craft club. There are many more to choose from!
Our highlight of home ed last week, was getting out into the garden now the weather is improving and Xanthe being able to identify a number of different flowers. We also headed to Norfolk for a few days and stayed on the Broads. In a couple of weeks we head to North Devon for a week and having just bought a tent, we have lots of trips planned for the summer. We have a couple of festivals booked and some uk based trips,  and then next year we are planning on a longer European trip with the tent. We are currently thinking France/Italy/Switzerland. We can’t wait!

I love that Xanthe and Hugo get to learn at their own pace and explore their own interests. The hardest thing is making sure that as their education falls solely to me, that they get a well rounded view of the world and grow up with love and tolerance at the forefront of their personalities. My role is not to “teach” them, but give them the tools to explore, learn and discover.

My advice to other parents considering home ed would be… do it! It seems like a big leap, but you soon fall into your own rhythm and routine, and no decision has to be forever – you can always go back to school if that ends up being the right choice for your child. Throw yourself into the home ed community – we have so much going on, that we can’t possibly join in everything! Give yourself a few weeks to settle into your new life and then watch your children blossom -the really will. It was the best decision that I’ve ever made, and for Hugo he will go straight into home education.

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 51 (Sam)  

Introduction

Hi, my name is Sam . I’ve got six children, spread over a quarter of a century. Currently, three older ones are married and left home. Three are home educated. They are 14, 10 and 4.

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education

How long have you been home educating and why did you decide to?

We began by flexi schooling in 2005. We started home educating in 2008 ,and we had removed all our school aged children in 2009. Initially we started in 2005 flexi, as a temporary measure, because of bullying. We then started removing children from school to home educate full time because our children’s needs were not being met with school. The younger two have never been to school because we now believe that home education is the best education, for our children.

Briefly describe your home ed style. Do you have a ‘typical’ week and what does it include if so?

I think our style varies as much as our week. Each week is very different. I am somewhere between structured and child led. Depending on the child’s age and learning style.


Each week we tend to have a couple of meet ups arranged. My children have aspergers, so they like to know what they are doing each day. I usually write up the days tasks on the whiteboard because they like that.

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, interview, Q and A

What was your highlight of home ed last week?
Hmm we have a few highlights.

My non artistic son took a clay sculpture class and couldn’t wait to show us his work.

We finished reading a Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Parks. That book created a lot of good conversations.

This week, my four year old wrote my name.

We went to An Owl and Reptile sanctuary and that was fun.

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, interview, Q and A

What is your favourite thing about home edding your children?
Being flexible to meet their needs. Getting to be with them and them getting to be with their siblings.

What do you find most difficult and why?

Having to be flexible, being with them all the time (see, it’s a plus and a minus!)

What advice would you give to other home educators?

Relax and enjoy your children.

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 50 (A Welsh Unschooling Journey) 

My name is Emma my son is Jordan but every one knows him as Jay. 

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post
Jay is 17

I’ve home educated since May 2011. My son was failed educationally at school and was 6 yrs behind in Maths and 2 years behind in everything else. He was also very badly bullied and the teachers refused to deal with any of it and in fact on occasion they themselves made fun of Jay. I pulled him out when he was suicidal at age 11. Had I not I firmly believe he would not be alive today.

We are radical unschoolers. We never have a typical day or week, everything is 100% child led, no structure, no timetables, no arbitary rules, no screen limits, no set meal times or bedtimes. He has chosen to sit GCSE exams but they are totally his choice as are any subjects…..he started out looking at 3 for June but dropped it to one exam. He has decided to do another next year.

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post

There’s so many highlights it is very hard to pick just one. Jay is disabled plus has a chronic illness and uses a wheelchair. So what may seem insignificant to others would be a major thing to us. Despite being disabled Jay does a lot…..he is a Level 1 golf coach. He volunteers at Hensol Golf Academy at various times through the year and volunteers with Golf Development Wales. 

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post

He was an ambassador and mentor for Swansea Inclusive Futures when it ran, and he is a member of the Golf Development Wales National Youth Panel. He has been a Rhondda Cynon Taf Future Champion for 3 years, he is a Gold Young Ambassador, and he is on the Disability Sport Wales National Youth Board. He has played for the disabled Welsh team 3 years running. He has won awards for all he does for and in disabled golf off The PGA, ISPSHanda, The Golf Foundation Presidents award and more. He was a finalist in the BBC Sport Wales Young Coach of the Year category in their awards in 2015. He has played in ProAms with famous golfers. 

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post
Giving an award at the Golf Union of Wales annual awards at Celtic Manor

He is a total cat whisperer and can tame even a feral cat. He is straight edge by choice so no drink, no fags, no drugs etc… He is totally open to anyone and is anti racism, anti homophobia, anti cruelty of any kind to anyone, etc… He is a huge gamer and has his own You Tube account. He has taught himself to play the electric guitar and taught himself to draw/art. None of this was forced on him, he chose to do whatever he wanted to do, no timetabes, only time we work to a time is for hospital appointments. He has had 5 offers of jobs including at big places where it’s hard to get a job.

100 Days of Home Ed, freedom to learn, #LoveHomeEd, home education, radical unschooling, guest post

The best thing about home education is the total freedom and its 100% what fits you and your family not a cookie cutter class room where they are just another kid going through the system. Theres nothing I find difficult about home ed and I never have found anything difficult. 

My biggest advice to other home educators is please don’t just do a school at home with heads in books and strict timetables. Let your kids be kids, let your teens be teens, let them follow passions and interests. Trust them and they will amaze you.

My blog though woefully needs updating is A Welsh Unschooling Journey

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 49

​Introduction

I have 3 children: my 15 year old transferred from reception in Sheffield to years 1 and 2 in a small school in a Hertfordshire village. I then home educated him from ages 7 – 12. He then went to a small secondary school in Ireland before moving to a local secondary for year 10 in Hertfordshire again.

My 7 year old and 5 year old went to my aunt’s preschool for a couple of years and then into home education.

100 days of home ed, #LoveHomeEd, home education, freedom to learn, creative, Living Life Our Way
Painting feathers

How long have you home educated for and why did you decide to do it?

I’ve been home educating for 8 years. My younger siblings all experienced various amounts of time in home education and I was always a little bit jealous of that! For me, it was the fact that my son had already moved schools twice and was likely to move schools at least twice more in primary alone. I wanted him to have more stability. Also school left him grumpy and irritable by the end of the school day which was affecting our relationship. Home education sorted all that.

My older daughter was very introverted and cautious and I knew she wasn’t ready for reception. I never even considered school for my youngest.

Briefly describe your home ed style. Do you have a ‘typical’ week and what does it include if so?

My older daughter does a core of violin practice, reading a page of her book, a little maths and a little spelling workbook. Altogether it takes about an hour and a half. If she wants to, we do work in other areas like comprehension, music theory etc. My younger daughter is a very self directed learner. She chooses activities from maths, jigsaws, writing and pretty much directs it herself. I have a few Montessori materials which she uses. I was expecting her to play or colour or draw so this desire to formally learn these more academic subjects has taken me by surprise. I also try and do some sort of art thing with them regularly. Recently they did printing with feathers and egg decorating.

We’ve recently combined with a couple of other families to set up a French and history group that I host on Mondays. My older daughter does ballet and a violin lesson on Tuesday and swimming lesson on Thursday and stem science on Friday. My younger daughter has a Bollywood class on Wednesday. I’m trying to persuade the teacher to set up a home ed Bollywood class but I think she’s hampered by personal circumstances at the moment.

What was your highlight of home ed last week?

I always love the Monday french and history group but my daughter’s enjoyment of the science class surprised me. My younger one has decided to write numbers in order. She is now up to 60 which I find entertaining.

What do you find most difficult and why?

The pressure from well meaning family members who loved school and believe their children loved school and even if they didn’t, you’ve got to go to school to “have your corners knocked off” and learn how to “integrate into society”. Very frustrating.

What is your favourite thing about home edding your children?

I always love seeing them learning new things. I love that if my children feel a bit under the weather, they can have a day off. I love the freedom they have to enjoy the weather and outdoors whenever they want for as long as they need. I love not having to structure my life around terms and for my children to learn at their own pace.

Learning Success System: Review and Giveaway

The Learning Success System uses various approaches to overcoming learning difficulties, using new findings in neuroscience, as well as tried and tested techniques developed by experts in the field. New exercises are delivered daily via email, and there is also a support forum too.

The first principle of the Learning Success System is small steps. In Japanese culture, it’s called Kaizen. It comes from the idea that crash learning doesn’t work, at least not long-term; continuous improvement over time is more effective. Therefore the tasks are only brief but to work well, the programme should be carried out regularly, although the exact amount in terms of length of time and frequency are flexible. Tasks can be approached in the way that works best for your child/ family.

There is a huge wealth of information over on The Learning Success Blog but as a very brief summary, the programme works on the following strategies for better learning: 

Build up micro-skills

Trigger neuroplasticity

Build confidence

Brain integration

Build grit

The exercises focus on developing different skills such as working memory, auditory discrimination, cross- lateral coordination and other skills that help across many areas of learning. The exercises are quick and simple, but also fun and engaging. They are all very much active learning techniques, not passive teaching. (This is a good thing!)

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