The summer holidays have been and gone, we experienced mixed emotions at the collection of As IGCSE Science results in August, it has been eye opening. We managed several meet ups and days out with friends and as usual I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the photos of my friends children dressed smart in their new uniforms off on new adventures. Of course with that came the usual upsetting conversations about young children crying, children so young not long out of nappies having to part from their parents and ask permission to go to the toilet. I saw several parents complaining at how their children are not ready and how sad it is, I have read of parents saying how much they would love to home educate but they “are not smart enough” or “they (the children) wouldnt listen to me” or “they need that social interaction” ….. So sad that so much myth STILL surrounds home ed making so many parents feel like it isnt an option for them!
And so we entered September, the childrens last month of kayaking lessons before the winter, a new term and for the first time no formal regular weekly lessons in place. It was lovely to see and catch up with friends at our adventure playground social meet after the long summer and to once again enjoy the parks and playgrounds for ourselves.
Our holiday approached, we had all been looking forward to our cruise. After the children had spent time learning about Rome, Pompii and volcanoes we were looking forward to being able to take them to visit these locations. There was a couple of 45 minute long lectures about various destinations such as Pompii, Rome, Naples and Pisa which we were able to go along to for some advance information and it was good for them to see how different parts of Italy varied.
We visited Sorrento and had a guided tour of part of Pompii. It was an interesting site, very disturbing and surreal walking around under Mount Vesuvius, knowing that it is considered the most dangerous volcano in Europe I struggled to understand how so many millions of families and businesses built their lives to live in that shadow every day. We did learn about the fertility of the soil though and how successfully food produce is grown in this area due to the soil. We spotted lizards and Oriental Hornets. A photograph taken of the hornets led to J doing further research on hornet species and identification when we returned home. We then found that these particular hornets were very interesting because they are most active during the time when the sun is at its hottest which is unusual in insects, especially those who live and nest in burrows underground like this hornet species does. Scientists have found that they are solar powered, and that they can convert energy from the sun in to energy for digging underground.
Our second port took us to the city of Rome. We were able to explore the popular landmarks without a guided tour. This included map reading and navigating our way around the busy streets. We were able to see the Roman Forum and ruins, the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and St Peters Basillica and navigated our way on the Metro. We enjoyed what was claimed to be the best ice cream in the world in Piazza Navona, it certainly was amongst the best ice cream I had ever enjoyed and the way all three children stopped jumping, walking and talking to enjoy theirs with minimal mess spoke volumes about their opinion of it as well.
The third port we took it relatively easy and did a half day excursion to Pisa. There wasnt much to see there apart from the square with the tower and the churches, we had a small tourist train ride around pisa to see more of the city than solely the square, but there wasnt much that jumped out at any of us. I think the children were glad to get back to the ship to enjoy the pools and water slides for the remainder of the evening.
Our fourth port was unfortunately cancelled. It was a last minute decision on the morning itself, we were on deck and seeing the port of Villafranche where we were supposed to be getting tenders and a tour of Monte Carlo and Monnaco highlights. J had been really looking forward to this day as it involved a trip to the aquarium and a ride on the grand prix track. Unfortunately in the morning an announcement was made that we would be spending the day at sea due to sea swells being too big to ensure passenger safety on the tenders. This made me extremely apprehensive. Having a son with ASD who generally needs to know what is happening, what to expect and who doesnt cope too well with surprises or “I dont knows” can make things emotionally exhausting and outright upsetting at times when things dont go to plan. But I was very proud at how he took it in his stride, he wanted to know what we would be doing instead, he was clearly disappointed and asked if we could return to Monte Carlo on another holiday, but mostly was happy to wait on the promise that as soon as I knew the plan he would know. He enjoyed the day chilling out by the pool and took a trip to the cinema just him and Ryan to see Captain America Civil War.
The alternative arrangements for the following day were made and I was able to book us in for a panoramic coach tour of Marseile which included a couple of hours at the beach where we were able to do some swimming. J was also able to climb on the rocks searching for rock pools so this made up for the cancelled plans of the previous day.
Our final day saw us taking a couch tour of Barcelona ending at the airport. We were able to spend some time admiring the beautiful Sagrada Familia with a guided tour and do a final bit of souvenir shopping.
As well as all the sight seeing there was also a couple of live theatre shows that we were able to catch in the disney theatre which were amazing and we were able to meet the characters and learn a bit about animation, including seeing our own drawn characters come to life dancing on screen.
On our return we hit the ground running with a visit to the Living Rainforest near Reading. This was a lovely setting, absolutely beautiful. With plants and animals and worksheets provided with pencils and clipboards it looked set to be a great day. Unfortunately when we entered we found the place totally packed with school visits. This in itself wouldnt have posed too big a problem, except they were being guided by tour guides of the rainforest who were incredibly rude to the children, and to us. It was very disheartening, we had several run ins with them resulting in us complaining to the manager and our experience of the place being very tainted. We were able to go back in after the crowds had left and that last hour was somewhat more enjoyable but I remain utterly disgusted at the behaviour of the members of staff towards members of the public, home educators and even to the children who they were showing round. I would recommend this location for a visit, perhaps after 2:30pm.
It is nice to be able to have a rest day, a peaceful day at home. The children have been doing some worksheets. Maths and graph plotting followed by Rainforest work for J and Informative writing for A. Small has been doing his drawing and colouring and has helped with the washing up.
We have a new nature club to look forward to over the coming weeks and months. This group aims to have different age ranges to work towards the Wildlife action awards amongst other activities so I am hopefully that this will cater to each of their needs and be a bit of fun. Watch this space.