Every time we come back from The Netherlands we say we’ll cycle more. This time we seem to be doing reasonably well at it. Yesterday I had a glorious cycle to Newport to buy some new crochet hooks. On the way there I heard a saxophonist playing in the woods which was an unexpected pleasure.

I’m glad we live at the Cowes end though as I get all the annoying obstacles out of the way early ( the hilly bit with no right of way and no visibilty at Medina Vally Centre, the stupidly close poles on the bridge that we definitely wouldn’t have managed to fit our kiddy trailer through, and the kicked out junction with no right of way at Stage Lane) and can just enjoy the rest of the ride home, the angle of the views are slightly better on the way back to cowes too!

Cycling home I realised that being on my bike on a car-free path – particularly in my favourite gear ratio (2:6 if you are interested) – makes me feel almost as contented as swimming does. If we had Dutch style infrastructure and attitudes to cyclists I would feel happy very often :-)

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My favourite day at this site was definitely when we went to visit the Maastricht caves . We even had to cycle (or in my case push) up a proper hill to get there and we arrived a little early for the English language tour so there was time for yet another beer!

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The tour guide was brilliant, we had a long hot walk to the caves as the usual entrance was closed during which he established that we were a group that were a mix of English and German speaking so he switched flawlessly between both languages throughout the cave tour.

The extra walk was well worth it as we got to see into the vault which is usually too far for the tour. This was where many Dutch pictures were hidden through the 2nd world war, as well as a hidden radio and a fair few people!

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The caves are really man-made tunnels and there are the most amazing charcoal drawings throughout the caves.

Some dinosaurs,

the tour guide was rather critical of the fact that there were a couple of dinosaurs that were incorrectly included as they couldn’t have been from this area.

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An illustration of 5 people who helped the Spanish in the 17th century and then had their heads chopped off and displayed at De Vijf Koppen (The Five Heads Bastion).

We were quite excited to see this as we had visited this bastion on our walking tour the day before!

 

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A map of the underground caves and tunnels, it really is incredible just how extensive they are.

 

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My favourite part was hearing about the Jewish man who used the tunnels to escape to safety during the second world war and had carved his name in a wall in the 1940s and then seeing underneath the same name with a date just a few years ago when he had revisited the caves.

As well as the charcoal drawings there were many sculptures in the soft rock.

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The tour guide gave us a choice of the more adventurous experience or the standard one – we opted for the adventurous one and got to experience a little of the more creepy nature of the caves as the tour guide went ahead of us with the lanterns leaving us in complete darkness to follow him using our fingers on the walls as our guide. It was slow, scary and very disorientating even though i knew we were safe my heart was pounding at the complete helplessness I felt, if the tour guide left us we would have had no way out. He told us about some monks who had become lost in the mines and when they were later found their fingertips had been completely worn away as they had tried to trace their way out by running their hands along the rough walls. Many people have lost their lives in the caves and even with the torch light I was unable to identify which caverns we had been in before.

Jonathan was the only child on the tour so got to have a go at cutting a bit of the stone, it was soft but the idea of doing it for hours on end in the cold humidity was very unpleasant. People stopped working in the mines at the age of about 35 as the damp conditions led to horrendous arthritis.

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The temperature is about 12 degrees all the time in the mines which on the hottest day of the holiday was was a welcome relief!

Back outside we had lovely dappled sunshine

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and after a trek back up the hill we needed another cool beer and then enjoyed the unusual experience of free-wheeling down a Dutch hill to head back to the van.

Maastricht was an easy 30 minute cycle from out camp site, so we headed there for a couple of days.

The first day after the obligatory visit to the, rather impressive, tourist information centre (VVV)

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we set out on a walking tour of the city.

First stop was the magnificent bookshop converted from an ancient Dominican church – Boekhandel Dominicanen

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We opted for the fortifications tour so we saw lots of, well, fortifications.

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We learned that “molen” means mill and saw some watermills.

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Jonathan wanted to take some photos of the deer in the town park.

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We ended up back at the very empty town square and had an ice cream, toasted sandwich and a beer before cycling back to the camp site.

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We love going on holiday to The Netherlands – this year we decided to go somewhere other than the Katjekelder park in Nord Brabant so we headed for a camp site just outside Maastricht, Camping De Oosterdriessen.

This was a great choice: It had a large areas to camp in separated by light hedges,

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A lake to swim in,

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And some good weather to sit outside and eat the tarts

 

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and drink the wine we bought in France.

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In my pre-GCSE group we have been doing some algebra and today we were dealing with substitution and simplifying. I love card sort activities and today we managed two of them one for each topic.

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Spot the error in the organised work below:

 

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And look who photo bombed:

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It’s been a while since I did a day in the life type post (or indeed any post) so for anyone who may be interested here is what one day in our life looks like now we just have one teenager being autonomously educated at home.

A fairly typical start to the day as I need to drag Jonathan out of bed (he’d had a late night with a friend over the night before out at local church clubs followed by chippy chips and playing on the computer) because we had an activity to get to. If we hadn’t been heading out I’d have just let him sleep – for me one of the many advantages of home education (and no it doesn’t mean they’ll never be able to get up for a job – I had the same approach with the older two and amazingly they get up for work when they need to).

It’s the day after the general election so in the car Jonathan and I discuss the result – purposive conversation – it’s been the mainstay of our home education for as long as I can remember.

We arrive at Yaverland Beach for a fossil hunt and one of the home-ed mums shows us some fossils and talks about the local geology.

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One of the things I love about home education is the mixed age activities we can do, we had children here from 1 to 16 and a mix of mums and dads too.

We had a gap between the fossil hunt and horse riding so as a treat Jonathan got to choose lunch. He opted for paninis at Blaze in Ryde – My sister and my mum had taken us there and we’d loved it and I’d promised him we’d get lunch there one day so this was the day. The car Journey is filled with election talk on the Jeremy Vine show and we end up discussing the Single Transferable Vote system – which we realised he has learned about from one of the guys from the Hello Internet Podcasts after Ruth asked what it was and he explained very clearly. I haven’t watched that one but the one on Scandinavia which Jonathan sent to me was fascinating.

Anyway the paninis were lovely and we both managed to get a bit of reading done while we were waiting for them, Jonathan wasn’t so impressed with the chips!

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Time to head back over to the other side of the island and go horse riding with some other members of our home ed group. Jonathan is pleased with his ride today as he got to canter which is his favourite bit!

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A not so quick trip to Aldi on the way home – Jonathan must be bored waiting in the car as I discovered these arty shots on my camera when I look at the memory card.

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Then he wanted to edit a video for youtube and do a bit of maths (homework for his GCSE group) and computer studies (slowly working through the IGCSE book).

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Then he managed to draw something, scan it to the computer and do something to it in Paint – Ruth helped him a bit to suggest how he could do it but they both sounded like they were talking gobbledegook to me!

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And that was pretty much it except for the obligatory time spent on Dota.

This is not a typical day – we don’t really have those – our weeks tend to follow a bit of a pattern based on when external activities occur but these are often subject to change.

Monday: Usually D and D day plus a bit of maths homework and some video making and computing but this week a visit to Seaview Wildlife Encounter as we had my mum and sister visiting. Jonathan mostly wanted to keep a wallaby – in fact as soon as we got home he was looking up how much space they needed and measuring up the garden!

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Tuesday was spent doing volunteer falconry and then Karate – with a hasty dash home to pick up gear and grab a bite to eat between the two (the pics are from a previous week).

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Wednesday was spent with a lazy morning – probably watching TV or youtube, then maths GCSE group, then off to the park with a couple of fellow GCSErs back home to spend some time writing song parodies or playing on the Wii with his friends followed by more recording, editing and gaming.

Thursday starts off slowly and gets progressively busier as the day goes on – some maths and computing in the morning, listening to podcasts, drawing for uploading to something on the computer and some time spent on his DS during the afternoon. heading off with a friend to a couple of after-school groups at the local church followed by friend coming home with him and playing on the computer.

Not a typical week but it gives a flavour of our life now there is just one of them at home – things are certainly different from when I wrote this blog post at the same time of year in 2011 and they were all home still.

 

One of the things I do is run a few Pre GCSE maths groups, this is a relatively new venture for me and I am loving it. Compared to the GCSE groups we are more relaxed, have more time to explore and discover, more time to play games and more time to cover the topics.

One of the things I really love is a good card sort activity – matching, dominoes etc. You can do the work on the subject you want to cover without worrying about writing things down and you can work collaboratively too.

So today we’ve been working on using protractors accurately, measuring and calculating angles. I really enjoyed this card sort activity from the brilliant Mr Barton’s maths website.

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One of my best friends bought me this lovely book for Christmas, not a diet book but a wheat and dairy free book.

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So I had a go at the rye soda bread recipe and it was great!

 

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Between Christmas and new tear we met up with both the Gibson and Anderson sides of the family.

Boxing day saw the traditional Boxing day visit of the Gibson family.

We had the usual walks, games, food and fun.

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Telestrations – the new game Iain gave us for Christmas was so funny I could hardly play as all the hilarity was making me cough!

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We had a gap in the family celebration while Martin went and played on the Saturday night with his Boy Band at The Hideaway in Shanklin

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Then Sunday saw a departure from our usual Christmas traditions with a meet up with the Anderson side of the family at a restaurant in the New Forest. The ferry was packed but we squeezed in around a table and while 3 of us played our usual ferry card game of Yaniv 2 of us were swottily attached to textbooks!

 

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This was my first experience of eating at a Michelin starred restaurant and it was a really interesting and delicious experience for me. It was so yummy I forgot to take photos of the food until we got to the pudding – which was definitely the best bit!

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We managed to meet up with some friends and found the teenagers thrashed us at Demons – did you know the Archbishop of Canterbury also plays.

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And then we saw out the old year and in the new at my favourite place on the island with some of my favourite people, eating curry and chocolate, drinking some sloe vodka, playing games and generally being silly – a great way to end and begin a year!

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Christmas eve sees the start of our Christmas traditions watching The Muppet’s Christmas Carol together.

We start Christmas morning in our big bed to do stockings together with various levels of enthusiasm!

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An easy but yummy breakfast follows, croissants and yoghurt and fruit – in this case our rather lovely home-grown raspberries soaked in vodka.

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A trip to church – where for the first year since we have been having a Christmas service I wasn’t able to lead the singing which was very disappointing to me – but the rest of the family did a great job. Church-On-The-Roundabout were in full joyful and rather raucous mood which was just what was wanted for Christmas celebrations.

Back home and Ruth and Martin went for a quick driving lesson!

Then our standard bucks fizz and starter of dips and veggie sticks and Pringles.

A bit of present opening – including the gorgeous old Fortnum and Mason hamper from our lovely friends – the girls already have picnic plans for the hamper in the summer.

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Main course follows and we opt for easy to cook and wash up as well as tasty, so no traditional roast for us but instead garlic chicken, chips, cauliflower cheese and peas – yummy but easy.

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We were too stuffed to want the chocolate cheese cake Ruth had made.

Then we wait to watch Doctor Who on the iplayer and that is pretty much our day done.