Tag Archives: Grade 7

8 Things I Wish I’d Known When We Started Homeschooling

8 things I Wish I'd Known When We Started Homeschooling - Navigating By Joy

When we started homeschooling seven years ago, the only other homeschoolers I knew lived five thousand miles away.

My instinct told me that public school was the wrong environment for my son, who at four years old was already known as ‘the naughtiest boy in the class’. And my intense daughter (six), clearly needed more downtime than her busy schedule could provide.

I knew nothing of my son’s twice-exceptionality or my bright daughter’s intensity. Even after  we met other local homeschoolers, I felt out of my depth and wondered what I was doing wrong.

To add to my stress, my kids’ grandparents were vehemently anti-homeschooling. Even my husband thought I was crazy. I was anxious and second-guessed myself at every turn.

Here are 8 things I wish I’d known when we started homeschooling …

I’d love you to head over to my other blog, Laugh, Love, Learn, to continue reading. 🙂

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!

homeschooling year 7

What We’re Learning This Homeschool Year (Grade 7)

homeschool year grade 7 - girl listening to kitten's heart

How’s your 2017 going?  Despite my best intentions, my other blog has been taking up all my energy for the last few months. But the new year seemed like a good opportunity to share what we’re up to, starting with my busy 13-year-old.

My 13-year-old’s goals

Cordie wants to go to university when she’s 18. Here in England the most straightforward route to uni is to sit GCSEs, which are the exams schoolchildren take at 16.

Although schoolchildren commonly sit eight or nine GCSEs,  most homeschoolers only take about five, spread over several years. At the moment Cordie plans to take maths, English (both compulsory), French, physics, Spanish and/or chemistry.


At the start of this academic year we started working through a GCSE textbook, but after years of hands-on maths we found that approach far too dull. So we switched to the Art of Problem Solving, which we’re  loving.

I’m happy to say that what I wrote here on this blog four years ago has more than come true:

Let’s Play Maths [the wonderful book that inspired our maths play] suggests different approaches for the teen years depending on whether a child has had a good taste of the “Aha!” factor during the elementary years.  Once a teen is ready for textbooks:

“Don’t be fooled by your own experience of dry or tedious math classes: textbook mathematics is still math the mathematician’s way, as mental play.  But it is no longer the play of a child dabbling in the shallows… No, this is the play of the athlete, who works hard at training and enjoys seeing his muscles grow firm, who can’t wait to test himself against a new and challenging opponent.”

Denise Gaskins’

We’re using the Art of Problem Solving PreAlgebra (plus the free accompanying videos). AoPS Prealgebra covers topics Cordie learned a while ago, but to a depth neither of us has ever explored.

Although AoPSPreAlgebra doesn’t cover  the entire GCSE syllabus,  we’re confident that after Cordie’s worked through it she’ll have such a thorough understanding of mathematical concepts that she won’t have any trouble picking up the extra topics she’ll need for GCSE.


English language GCSE is required for university entrance. Cordie’s preparing for it by taking this correspondence course.

She’s had top marks for all her assignments so far, although the tutor has warned that she writes far too much for every question so it looks like her main challenge is going to be containing herself!


As with maths, our years of hands-on science combined with Cordie’s voracious appetite for watching science videos on YouTube has prepared her well for the challenge of covering the rather dry GCSE syllabus.

Fortunately we have a homeschooling teacher friend who’s a genius at bringing the syllabus to life.  Cordie’s twice-weekly Skype sessions with Kate are the highlight of her week. Last term they explored science generally. They’ve decided to focus on physics this year so that Cordie can sit her GCSE in January 2018.

Cordie’s also learning environmental science at her weekly homeschool group. The teacher is another experienced and inspiring former homeschooler who brings the topic to life with hands-on activities, project work and presentation opportunities. She’s covering the environmental science GCSE syllabus so Cordie may sit the exam at some point, although she’s not relying on it as a core subject for uni entrance.


Cordie loves languages. She’s listened to her hero John McWhorter’s  books on language  dozens of times and she talks about studying linguistics at uni one day, although of course there’s plenty of time for another passion to prevail.

She’s learning French and Spanish in very different but complementary ways.

She learns French with three other homeschooled girls in a weekly class taught by a former schoolteacher. Rachel is super-organised and well-versed in GCSE requirements, so Cordie’s getting lots of practice writing the endless postcards about her holidays that GCSE seems to consist of.

In contrast Cordie learns Spanish via a combination of intensive courses in Spain (we go about twice a year), weekly Skype conversation classes with a native speaker friend, and grammar with me.

This contrast in the ways she’s learning is really opening Cordie’s eyes to the different ways we can learn languages, which is helping fuel her interest in linguistics.


Music is Cordie’s current passion. After going to five rock concerts last year she’s switched from classical guitar, which she’d been learning for six years, to acoustic and electric.

She’s having lessons with a teacher who used to front his own band, although mostly she teaches herself via free websites and apps.  She’s also doing this course in songwriting and music production on Udemy. (NB Udemy has regular sales, when even their £200 courses cost £10.)

As often as she can, Cordie gets together to jam and compose with her guitar and bass-playing BFF, and when they can’t meet in person they’re making music over Facetime. Hearing the house filled with music and seeing the way it lights Cordie up is such a joy.

Sport and social

Exercise and physical fitness are really important to Cordie. She’s continuing gymnastics and ice-skating and is training towards getting her black belt at karate in the spring.

This term she’s also starting a martial arts tricking class which will bring together her karate and gymastics skills. (Her dad and I are looking forward to seeing some Matrix-style moves, although hopefully not off the top of any tall buildings.)

Cordie’s recently become a Scout patrol leader and she’s looking forward to another full year of expeditions and activities with her busy troop, including several days hiking along the Jurassic Coast later this month, and a week in Austria in March.

This will be her last term at Stagecoach, where for the last ten years she’s learned singing, acting and dance. She wants to continue singing lessons and she’s considering joining another drama group, but I’m in no hurry to fill up the space in her diary!

Are we still unschooling?

Just writing about Cordie’s busy week leaves me feeling rather exhausted, but my whirlwind of a teenager thrives on it.

If she was my only child, I might worry that I’d somehow pressured her into taking on all these activities.  But as I’ve often said here, the opposite is actually true – my role is usually to gently reason with Cordie about whether she really has time to take on yet more commitments!

For me, unschooling means supporting my children in whatever ways they want to learn. As you’ll see when I write next time about what Jasper (11) is up to, unschooling can look very different even within the same family. I take that as a sign that I’m doing it right. 🙂

How’s your homeschooling year going? I’d love to hear from you!

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I’m appreciatively linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

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.

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