Fractions Unwrapped – The Basics

Teaching Issy fractions has been one of my success stories. At the age of 8, she’d learnt pretty much all she will need to know to take her up to GCSE. She went from not understanding what a fraction was to multiplying and dividing them in less than a month.

When looking at what to teach I took my lead with what to teach from the English National Curriculum. 

What does the National Curriculum say you need to know?

The key areas are:

  • What is a fraction?
  • What type of fractions are there?
  • Key fractions e.g. halves, quarters, thirds etc
  • Equivalent fractions and simplifying fractions
  • Ordering and comparing fractions
  • Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions
So what do you actually need to know?

Well, there are many that would say none of it! 

However, having a knowledge of fractions is useful in catering, statistics and playing card games or board games such as scrabble and rumikub

A basic knowledge of fractions has helped Issy learn to tell the time, analyse statistics and understand probability and percentages.

So how did we tackle fractions?

We made it fun!

I started at the beginning and we used lots of hand-on  props. This post is limited to the basics but part 2 will look at operations and converting fractions to percentages and decimals.

Issy’s tools of choice were dominoes, UNO cards and counters. There wasn’t a pizza, chocolate bar or a cake in sight. Food was a no go; a hangry Issy is not a learning Issy.

I made it relevant to her. Having hit a bit of stumbling block over the no cake or pizza, I asked her what she wanted use and she said chapters in a book (the numerator being the chapters she’d read and the denominator being the number of chapters in the whole book). That one switch made such a difference, it was literally like a light turned on.

So let’s begin with a starter for 10…

What is a fraction?

A fraction is a way of expressing how may equal parts of a whole we have. It can either be

  • A number less than one e.g. ¾
  • In a mixed number that part of a number that is less than 1 e.g. 3 ¾
  • The number of items in a group with certain attribute or characteristic e.g. 17 out of 43 smarties are green
How do we write fractions?

A fraction is made up of 2 parts

NUMERATOR – The top part of the fraction which tells us what part of the whole we are referring to or the number of items in a set with a particular characteristic

DENOMINATOR – The bottom part of the fraction which tells us how many parts make up a whole or the total number of items in a set

Top tip – We get DOWN with the DENOMINATOR so it goes as the bottom

How do we say fractions?

The general rule is that we say the numerator followed by the denominator in it’s ordinal form e.g 3/8 is three eighths. 

There are a few exceptions so 1/2 is a half and 1/4 is a quarter. 

The table below shows the main fractions you are expected to know.



Fraction in words



One half



One third



One quarter



One fifth



One eighth



One tenth



One twenty-fifth



One hundredth

Click on the link below for Activity 1 – Write the fraction

Fractions – Activity 1


What are the different types of fraction?
Proper Fractions

If I asked you to write down a fraction most people would write down a proper fraction. They are less than one 

Top Tip – Numerator is SMALLER than the denominator

Improper Fractions

These are numbers bigger than one that are expressed in  fraction format

Top Tip – Numerator is BIGGER than the denominator

Mixed Numbers

An alternative way of expressing fractions bigger that one which include both a whole number and fraction e.g. 3 3/4

A quick word about whole numbers

All whole numbers have a denominator of 1 e.g. 4/1 


they can also be written as a the number of parts making a whole e.g. 3/3

Top Tip – Numerator EQUALS the denominator

Clink on the link below for Activity 2: Identifying types of fractions

Fraction – Activity 2

Converting Improper Fractions to Mixed Numbers and back again

To be able to do this well, you need to understand how  improper fraction and mixed numbers are made up.

We went back to partitioning fractions in to their whole numbers and their part numbers. If you look at the example below you can see that 11/4 is the same as 2 3/4 


Whole Number

Part Number


4/4 + 4/4


2 3/4

4/4 + 4/4


Once you become more confident you will be able to use your times table to convert between the two 

Express 15/4 as a mixed number

15/4 = 3 remainder 3 

So we know that the mixed number will be 3 3/4

Express 3 and 4/25 as an improper fraction

Denominator =25 (we know this from the 4/25 part of the number)

Numerator = (whole number x denominator) + part number

Numerator = (3 x 25) + 4

Numerator = 79

Improper Fraction = 79/25

Click on the link below Activity 3: Converting mixed numbers to improper fractions

Fractions – Activity 3

Click on the link below for Activity 4: Converting improper fractions to mixed numbers

Fractions – Activity 4

Equivalent fractions and simplifying fractions
Equivalent Fractions

These are fractions with different numerators and denominators which represent the same value or proportion of the whole.

We use our multiplication and division knowledge to find equivalent fractions.

The key with this is whatever you do to the numerator you MUST also do to the denominator. 

Find an equivalent fraction to 3/5

We can’t make this fraction any smaller.

This tells us we need to multiply the numbers to get an equivalent fraction

So if we decide to multiply the numerator by 5, we MUST also multiply the denominator by 5

Numerator = 3 x 5 =  15

Denominator = 25

Fraction becomes 15/25

Simplifying fractions

To simplify a fraction you find the smallest equivalent fraction. 

This occurs when

  • The numerator is 1; or
  • There is no common multiple between numerator and the denominator

Simplify 72/81 

We know that both 72 and 81 are in the 9 times table so we can divide each number by 9

Numerator = 72/9 = 8

Denominator = 81/9 = 9 

Simplest Fraction = 8/9

Fraction Bars

Fractions bars are a really good and visual way of showing equivalent fractions and explaining how to simplify fractions

Click on the link below for Activity 5: Equivalent and Simplifying fractions

Fractions – Activity 5

Comparing and Ordering Fractions

There are few basic rules to remember when ordering and comparing fractions

  • If the DENOMINATOR is the SAME, then the BIGGER the NUMERATOR the bigger the fraction
  • If the NUMERATOR is the SAME, then the BIGGER the DENOMINATOR the smaller the fraction
  • If the numerator AND the denominator are DIFFERENT, you need to ensure all the fractions have the SAME DENOMINATOR
Ensuring all the fractions have the same denominator

The simplest way is to see if you can find equivalent fractions which gives you the same denominator.

But what do you do if you can’t? Well that’s where the butterfly method comes in. 

The Butterfly Method

Used when you need to find the same denominator but you can’t find an equivalent fractions

Compare 1/6  and 3/4

Step 1: Multiply 6 x 4 to give you the new denominator

Step 2: Work out the numerator of Fraction A

                Numerator A  x Denominator B 

               1 x 4 = 4

               Fraction A= 4/24

Step 3: Work out the numerator of Fraction B

                Numerator B x Denominator A

                3 x 6 = 18

                Fraction B = 18/24

Step 4: 18/24 is greater than 4/56

Click on the link below for Activity 6: Comparing fractions

Fractions – Activity 6

That’s all for now but keep an eye out for Fractions Unwrapped Part 2

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Operation Pawprint…Homeschooling with Pawprint Badges

I can’t remember where I read about these but they have been a total game changer for us.

The brainchild of Charlotte and Jamie these activity badge challenges work in the same way as the Scout and Guide badge system and in part support the Pawprint Trust to give young people hardship funds for Guiding and Scouting Opportunities. Having spent over 25 years as a member of these organisations it’s a cause close to my heart.

Why do I love them?

There are so many ideas and I didn’t have to think of a single one. As a home ed mum what is not to love! In fact I don’t think even if I had time, I would come up with half the ideas contained in the challenge packs. Issy and I both love doing the activities and I can link them to things we’re studying.

Another bonus is that we usually have the resources and equipment we need to complete the activities so they aren’t expensive to do. The Challenge Packs are free and technically you don’t have to buy the badges. Although that’s never going to wash with Issy! 

Why does Issy love them?

When I asked her, this is what she said and I quote “there are ridiculously fun activities, it keeps me off my tablet, and did I say fun. I like the silly activities I get to do like the pollen collecting game and then there’s the badge…I get a badge!”

I’ll be honest the badge is a big motivator for Issy. As we are on the road for large parts of the year joining Scouts or Guides isn’t possible but if she did she’d be one of those kids who work their way through the badge scheme alphabetically.

How do they work?

Each badge comes with a free challenge pack. This sets out the activities you need to do to complete the badge. The number of activities you need to complete are staggered according to age. Issy has to complete five activities in total; one from each category (food, craft, games and other) plus one additional activity.

I keep a tracker of the activities that she’s done. For those of you who home school full-time, I am considering appending this to any educational report I have to submit as examples of her learning. 

How do we use them?

We use them to provide independent learning opportunities, sneak in activities that she doesn’t really like doing (mostly writing) and get her to try new activities. I’m encouraging her to collate her ideas in a Pawprint Learning Journal. It’s more akin to a scrapbook of activities which includes writing out recipes, drawings, research etc.

When I’m doing my planning sometimes I’ll link the badge to a particular date or other times it will be a topic that we’re studying e.g. we did our spy badge as part of our Early 20th Century topic which covered WW1 and WW2). There are challenge packs for everything from Saints Days (St George’s day), important holidays (Chinese New Year, Easter), Charity Days (Den Day), other events (World Book Day, VE 75 anniversary) and themed badges (Art, Monkey). I  often get the ideas from Pawprint and any additional resources from Twinkl (I have a paid subscription).

Currently the world is on lockdown so our monthly project for April is Operation Pawprint.  This involves trying to do a few pawprint activities a day. Helpfully, Pawprint Family themselves are running a#ABadgeADay challenge where you complete 3 pawprint activities a day. These three were ours yesterday

How to Start Your Pawprint Journey

It’s as easy as visiting the Pawprint Family website at and downloading your first challenge pack.

Other Resources
Facebook Groups to Join

Home Educating with Pawprint Badges

Resources & Support for Pawprint Badges 

Pawprint Family

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Times Tables; Fun ways to teach them

Contrary to popular thinking, I think times tables are one of the cornerstones of basic maths.

I’ll say at this point, it’s taken Issy 18 months to 2 years but she now knows her times tables inside out, upside down and back to front.

What are times tables?

Times tables are just a shorthand way of writing the repeated addition of a particular number. 

So how did we go about teaching them?

Issy is a visual and kinaesthetic learner; she needs to see it and feel it to understand it.

The key is little and often. We practise every day for no more than 5 or 10 minutes. It’s fun, practical, usually involves physical activity and is reinforced with real life scenarios. Issy uses her times tables when converting currencies, working out whether it’s better to accept a 3 for 2 deal or buy items individually or scaling up a recipe according to the number of portions she needs.

General Strategies

When we first set out about learning our times tables, I used a lot of the twinkl resources and in particular the times table booklets. She tackled a booklet every 7-14 days and we would reinforce it with the other strategies listed below.

Step Counting...literally

This is the starting point for most people and it involves reciting the multiples in a particular times tables eg. 2, 4, 6…22, 24.

More recently we’ve been combining this with walking or running up the stairs (obviously this is a bit difficult in the motorhome!)

Drawing the multiples in a big number

Draw a big number and write all the multiples in it and stick it up somewhere.


There are various song and dance based apps and resources available.  I know a lot of people use Times Table Rockstars. We didn’t, mainly because I found it quite expensive as a private individual.

When it comes to free resources, You Tube is your friend and we did use the Laugh Along and Learn channel which uses popular songs to learn times tables eg. the 6 times table is Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off  and 8 times table is Adele’s Rolling in the Deep (

Issy also liked the song that she used at school

CHS good as gold, this is how our fingers roll, the *[threes] 3,6,9…30, we’re no finished yet 33, 36, this is how roll our *[threes].

*substitute any times table

Physical Activity

Issy enjoyed the BBC Sport Supermovers videos and these are particular good for the football mad amongst you as they are supported by football club mascots.

We often practise whilst out walking, on a swing at the park or throwing a ball (apparently this develops the same neural pathways as learning maths).

Learn and Recite them in groups

We’d already learnt our times tables by the time I learnt this hack but we now recite our times tables in groups of 2/4/8, 3/6/12, 5/10/11 and 7/9.

This helps to solidify the relationship between the multiples and provides a strategy to work out any that you are unsure of using information you already know.

Strategies for Specific Times Tables
Counting Coins

We collected 2p,5p, 10p, 20p and 50p coins and counted the number of pennies in each pile.

As we advanced we’d roll two dice to decide how many would be in the pile and Issy would give me the answer.

Using your 2 times table knowledge to work out your 4 times table (double, double)

The 4 times table is double the 2 times table. If you know what 2 times a number is, you just need to double it to get 4 times a number.

Using a clock to learn the 5 times table

A clock is a ready-made tool for learning the 5 times table. Point to a number and ask how many minutes past the hour it is.

Using your 3 times table knowledge to work out your 6 times table (double threes)

The 6 times table is double the 3 times table. If you know what 3 times a number is, you just need to double it to get 6 times a number.

Using your 4 times table knowledge to work out your 8 times table (double fours)

The 8 times table is double the 4 times table. If you know what 4 times a number is, you just need to double it to get 8 times a number.

The Finger Method for 9 times table

This is a great one for all you visual learners out there.

Number patterns for 9 times table

As the tens digit goes up, the units digit goes down

Number patterns for 10 times table

You add a zero to the number you are multiplying ten by

Using your 6 times table knowledge to work out your 12 times table (double sixes)

The 12 times table is double the 6 times table. If you know what 6 times a number is, you just need to double it to get 12 times a number.

I know what?

Even though I’m confident Issy knows them, we still practise every day and once a month she has a times tables test. She’s seeing the benefit now she’s tackling long division and more complicated multiplication.

In all seriousness, I do credit my times table knowledge to my maths teacher Mr Moore who gave us a times table test every Tuesday morning when I was in Year 7! It really is a case of practise makes perfect.

Homeschooling 101: Activities if your child’s school closes

Whilst the UK Government are maintaining that schools will remain open, it is looking more and more unlikely that this will be sustainable. 

I’ve already seen a number of recommended timetables going round Facebook and Instagram and laughed. I was once that naive too. They come under the category of  “whilst men make plans the Gods laugh”. 

Be realistic and kind to yourself. You’re more than likely already juggling the balls of work, school, childcare and shopping without COVID-19 putting its oar in. I’ll be honest when we were both working and Issy was in school this would have sent me into a complete meltdown.

Remember, home schooling doesn’t have to take place between 9am and 3pm. Fit it into your schedule. If you are juggling work and home schooling, save those activities where the children can be unsupervised for times when you have important meetings and deadlines. Don’t feel guilty about getting some snacks and putting on a movie for a couple of hours. If you want to add an educational element get them to write a movie review or re-tell the story.

I’m hoping schools will be providing some guidance as to what they want you do but if not here’s our favourites.


Reading is a gift but so many kids are put off reading by school reading schemes. This is a golden opportunity to allow kids to read their own material. It doesn’t have to be for long; 10-15 minutes makes a huge difference. It doesn’t matter whether it’s books, magazines, comics, newspapers, fiction, non-fiction just let them read something that they enjoy without having to analyse it or identify a fronted adverbial.

We use Amazon Kindle and our local library had BorrowBox. 


It’s safe to say that Issy hates writing and I’ve had to learn patience and little and often. It’s coming together now and I was utterly amazed when she sat down the other day and copied out 3 pages worth of lyrics from Aladdin completely unprompted.

I try and incorporate writing into everyday life by getting Issy to write shopping lists, a daily journal, book reviews, movie reviews, letters, stories and copy writing. She’s even written a few stories about the adventures of our motorhome, Rosie. One lovely idea I read about recently was to get your children to write letters to the residents of the local nursing home so they get something whilst they are quarantined. 

Another big hit with Issy is nonsense stories. These work best if there are 3 -5 of you and are a great activity if you have more than one child. Each person takes it in turns to write a sentence and you just keep going until everyone loses interest. We wrote one with family friends, Fizzy and John. Whilst the story was never going to win a booker prize it was written with love, laughter and lots of literary licence. It’s an experience that we will always look back on with fondness.

I try and give Issy a purpose to her writing. She has written letters to Blue Peter, poems for her Pawprint badges, science reports as part of her Crest Award, and recipes as part of her project work.

Blue Peter Badges

Crest Awards


Maths is like marmite; you either love it or you hate it. In our house we love it! A lot of our maths looks nothing like the maths you would see in a classroom. It’s fun, hands on and relevant. Issy struggled with decimals but as soon as I said think of you use hundredths every day when dealing with money she got it instantly. With fractions referring to parts of a cake or pizza just made her hungry so we looked at them in terms of chapters in a book.

Most of our maths is done through play and practical experience. For all those doubting whether you will use maths in everyday life. You absolutely will! Issy comes shopping with us, weighs fruit and vegetables, looks at the price of items, works out best value, estimates the cost of a shopping basket, works out the cost of a meal, works out her change, plays banker in monopoly or scorer in uno, darts or mini-golf and converts currencies.

When learning new concepts Issy needs to visualise things and we frequently use lego, cards, dominoes, dice and art in our maths. Issy’s fitness watch has been one of our go-to maths tools see Fitbit maths: How Issy’s fitness watch became my go to maths tool?

Corbett Maths

Khan Academy

Physical Activity

If your children are anything like Issy they will go stir crazy within an hour or two so physical activity is really important. On an average day she gets between 10,000 and 12,000 steps so sitting still is not her forte. Our normal home schooling day comprises of a 20-30 minute lessons followed by 10-15 minutes of physical activity.

If you are on total self-isolation then this may be a challenge. If not get out into the parks and go for a walk, walk the dog, do some geocaching or even follow a treasure trail. Follow the rules of social distancing and good hygiene. The boost to your immune system and sanity of getting some fresh air and sunlight will be immense.

If you are on total self-isolation then here are some of the ways that we manage to get some physical activity in small spaces.  Kidzbop (a song and dance based you-tube channel), BBC Sport Supermovers (song and dance based learning covering key stage 1 and 2) and sensory circuits have literally saved me on more than one occasion when it’s been pouring with rain and we’ve been confined to the motorhome.

Other ideas are Joe Wicks schools workout (, Scavenger Hunts (find 10 items beginning with “S”, find an item that starts with each letter of the alphabet) and games like Simon says.


Treasure Trails



Whilst the idea of self-isolating is to prevent socialisation this just means that you are going to have to get more imaginative with the ways in which you socialise.

Whilst Issy doesn’t have unsupervised access to WhatsApp she does have it and an e-mail. We’ve already had a request for Issy to prepare a video diary each week and swap it and I think it’s a great idea. This is the one time when I will be encouraging Issy to check in on friends, family and neighbours via WhatsApp, Skype or Messenger.

We’ve seen examples of neighbours getting together and singing songs, playing musical instruments and eating together on balconies. Maybe have a think about how you can incoporate these ideas into your daily life. 

Arts and Crafts

I’m not particularly artistic but Issy loves it and we always have a small set of paints, paper, pens and pencils with us. If you have kids that don’t like writing drawing and painting is a good substitute to develop the motorskills required for writing.

If you are stuck for ideas Pinterest really is your friend and each pawprint badge has an art and craft section. This year we’ve done origami rats as part of our Chinese New Year activities, designed a book cover as well as lots of painting and drawing.

I’ve just discovered mini-books which are really easy to make and I’ve been using them to make little  literacy reference guides. The idea being that Issy will fill them in as we learn and they will be specific to her. 

Pawprint Badges

Dressing up and fashion shows

Before she went to school, Issy didn’t wear normal clothes; her everyday attire was a princess dresses and wellington boots. Then almost overnight that wasn’t cool anymore.

Left alone with a box full of Issy sized clothes and look what she can do and it’s a very useful skill when you only have limited space in your backpack!


Who doesn’t love a bit of Lego? Issy has buckets of it all over the world and I use a lot in our maths, science and literacy teaching. She loves watching Lego Masters and seeing all the new ideas.

If your children love playing with Lego maybe look at one of the 30 day Lego building challenges


We travel everywhere with a puzzle book and I also use crosswords and word searches as part of Issy’s everyday learning whether it’s spellings or topic based puzzles. She also likes things like cracking codes and su doko. 

Most of our puzzle books come from pound shops, The Works or free from restaurants. Where I’m looking for specific topics Twinkl or are good web-sites.

Board and Card Games

We’ve always played lots of board and card games. In fact I don’t think you can call yourself a member of Burrows family if you haven’t sat round the table at Nana and Grandad’s playing UNO, Rumikub or Triominoes. The battles are fierce and if you win, you’ve worked hard for it! All joking aside these are great family activities and can be played with children of all ages.

Some of our favourites are UNO, Rumikub, Triominoes, Dominoes, Bananagrams, Where on Earth? Connect 4, Shut the Box, Card Games (Go Fish, 21s, Solitaire), Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders and Chess.

life skills

Both Doug and I grew up in houses where learning life skills were an important part of our upbringing however this doesn’t seem to be the case now.

This is the time to teach cooking and baking, general housework, using basic appliances (oven, microwaves, washing machine, iron), shopping, budgeting, gardening, emergency procedures, basic DIY, car/bicylce maintenance and first aid.


Here’s a few more general web-sites

BBC Bitesize

Covers all education levels from nursery school to GCSE. We use it in all our subjects.

BBC Sport Supermovers

Aimed at Key Stage 1 and 2, this is learning through movement. You don’t need a lot of room (we’ve been know to do it in the motorhome on a rainy day!) They have videos on everything from Times Tables to French and Spanish. This is a real hit with Issy.

BBC Teach

This is an umbrella site which will provide links across all of the BBC Teach sites including Bitesize and Supermovers and well as subject matter.

Open University Open Learn

Designed for older children and adult learning, both myself and Issy have completed course on Open Learn. These are free short courses available to all and are a perfect opportunity to learn a new skill, spark a new interest or revise old skills. I’ve completed courses on everything from Basic French to Music Theory.


This is used by most schools. They are offering one month free access to parents in the event of school closures. Please use the code UKTWINKLHELPS at

Crash Course (

A web-site linking to a You Tube Channel showing videos covering pretty much every subject from Anatomy to World History. These are a whistle stop tour of each subject but they are good way of giving Issy a basic understanding of the subjects covered.

Duckster: Education Site

An American site with lots of information and games mainly aimed at Primary school children.


All these are available on Android but I’m not sure what the deal is with Apple. 

Duolingo – Modern languages – Issy and I learn French, Spanish and Mandarin between us.

Wordscapes – Word puzzles

Little Professor – Mental maths program

Skyview – Astronomy app showing what stars, planets and satellites are in the sky above you.

BBC I-Player

For those of you worrying about home educating your children hopefully some of the ideas in here will help you out. 

One last thought this is going to be a stressful enough time as it is so one of the most important things we can do is have fun. Some of the most stressful times in my life have also lead to the most precious family memories and in time we will all laugh about the time the world shut down because of COVID-19.

Home educating on the road: how do you start and other practicalities

Parents in the UK have the legal obligation to ensure that children of compulsory school age (between their 5th birthday and June after their 16th birthday) receive an efficient, full-time and suitable education for their age, ability and any special needs (s7 Education Act 1996). The majority of parents delegate this duty to a school but for a growing number home education is their preferred option.

Home educators broadly fall into two categories. Those whose children have never been to school (philosophical home educators) and increasingly those who have de-registered their children from school. We fall into the latter category. A small number, like us, chose to home educate whilst travelling.

How do you start?

If your child has never been to school, happy days you are free to head off. 

If your child is at school, then the first thing to do is de-register from school. In a mainstream school in England (regardless of whether the child has an Educational, Care and Health Plan) this should be as easy as writing a letter. There are several precedent letters available on the internet. 

The rules in other parts of the UK and for children at Special Educational Needs schools are slightly different. and there are others who are far more qualified so my strong suggestion is that you speak to local home educators as they will be better placed to advise on how to go about de-registering.

I gave both Issy’s school and the Local Authority the heads up before de-registering but this is not necessary. It is the school’s obligation to notify the Local Authority and other than my initial phone call, I have had no contact with the Local Authority. Given the way some of them behave, it is my intention keep them at arm’s length for as long as possible.

Your obligations

This is a bit of a difficult one as worldschoolers fall into a bit of a black hole.

Many worldschoolers just get on with the business of travelling and adopt a laissez-faire approach to the administrative side to home educating. I found it easy to adopt this approach on the road. However, we arrived back to the UK in the middle of a home educating storm with the Government consulting on a compulsory register and the publication of the most recent Elective Home Education Guidelines (“EHEG”). In reality, it is difficult to see how the EHEG can apply to worldschoolers as from an administrative point of view identifying which Local Authority is responsible for a child when you have no fixed abode is difficult to say the least. It remains to be seen whether a register of all home educated children will come into force and how this will affect worldschoolers.

The main thing is that you record what you are doing so that if someone asks then you can tell them. We record our travels on a Facebook page, Instagram and this blog. I also keep a day diary of Issy’s educational activities. As we are UK based for a little while, I have taken the precautionary step of preparing a full educational philosophy and report to cover what we have done since de-registering. This was more about quelling my anxiety caused by the new EHEG than satisfying any Local Authority and I’m the first to admit it is overkill!

Do you need to follow a specific curriculum?

The simple answer is no. You can pretty much teach what you like, when you like and how you like. We know people who unschool and others who follow on-line curriculums. The only right way is one that works for you and your kids.

When thinking about how you want to shape your curriculum it’s worth considering that the EHEG state that the education “should enable a child to participate fully in life in the UK…” however there is no requirement to follow the National Curriculum, have a set timetable or comply with the school calendar. It’s also worth noting that the current buzz words are progression, maths, literacy, physical activity and socialisation so make sure these are covered.

The thing I love about home educating is the freedom it affords. We have adopted a semi-structured approach meaning we broadly follow the national curriculum in terms of content for maths and literacy and the rest is experience or project-based learning. One of our favourite things to do is free walking tours; we’ve done them all round the world and they are a great way to learn about a city on a historical, geographical, religious and cultural level. Issy retains the information as it’s interactive and the tour guides are passionate. We are free to  fit the more formal learning around the informal learning and in particular if Issy is running round the campsite with her friends till late I don’t have to get her up the next day. We just start a bit later.

What do I teach? Getting ideas

We’re not big users of workbooks; they don’t suit our way of learning and space is limited. That said, I quite often take photos of specific pages and then use them as part of any formal teaching e.g. Go Figure series of maths books (Maths on the go: What’s in my bag of tricks?)

I cannot sing the praises of our local library enough (and not just for the books). As well the summer reading challenge Issy is also doing the Arts Award Discovery Level and it also has a chess club, coding club and Lego club as well as a plethora of activities for younger children.

I-player, Netflix and You Tube provide sources of documentaries. Issy can often be found curled up watching Operation Ouch, Blue Planet or Horrible Histories. Other electronic resources we use are Reading Eggs and Corbett Maths.

I use Facebook groups, Pinterest, Twinkl and personal recommendations to get specific ideas. One of my best finds was roll-a-dice projects. Our first roll-a-dice project (World War 1, World War 2, The Suffragettes and The Titanic) is proving a big hit as Issy has some control as to how she learns. We’ve done ANZAC biscuits (craft it), Coventry Transport Museum (visit it) and Horrible Histories episode (watch it).

Finally speak to other home educators and swap ideas. I have found this invaluable if only for reassurance that I am doing all the right things.

And my final words of advice

I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is relax and remember that home educating (on the road or otherwise) is not about replicating school it’s about facilitating learning opportunities and watching the magic unfold.

Home educating on the road is a big adjustment, particularly if you’ve only just de-registered. It took us about 3-6 months to find our rhythm and which mostly involved me learning that less is more! Learning opportunities have a habit of coming out of nowhere; whether it be a fisherman on the beach or another child in a playground.

Fitbit maths: How Issy’s fitness watch became my go to maths tool?

Most people look at me as if I’m mad when I say that thing that has helped Issy the most with her maths is her fitness watch. Despite the title Issy doesn’t actually have a Fitbit, she has a cheaper alternative but it does the job displaying the date and time, steps taken and distance covered. It also does a whole lot of other things but  don’t really use these functions in maths.

Most of the activities listed below, I do on a very ad hoc basis usually as we are walking down the street or catching public transport. For the most part Issy doesn’t even realise she’s “doing maths” but it all reinforces the sit-down learning that she does. So what have we covered?

Telling the time

Well obviously!

For some reason, schools insist on teaching the time, whilst at the same time stopping children from wearing a watch. Two things happened when Issy started wearing her watch; firstly, she became interested in learning how to tell the time and secondly we were able to ask her what the time was throughout the day starting with a digital 12-hour clock and then advancing to a 24-hour clock and finally an analogue clock.

Once she was confident in telling the time, I started asking her to tell me the time (using any clock we saw) and then advanced to things like how many minutes is it until the next hour? how long is it until the parking runs out at […]?

Once she was confident in telling the time, I started asking her to tell me the time (using any clock we saw) and then advanced to things like how many minutes is it until the next hour? how long is it until the parking runs out at […]?

Using the Step Counter function

We’ve used the step counter in almost of our learning this year covering topics including place value, identifying odd numbers, even numbers and prime numbers, rounding and estimating, addition and subtraction, percentages and data handling (comparing and ordering numbers, averages, collecting and displaying data).

Some of the ad hoc questions we ask are

  • How many steps have you done?
  • What does the ‘2’ in the number 3542 represent?
  • How many more have you got to get to reach 10,000?
  • If she’s done more than 10,000, how many extra steps have you done?
  • Is the number odd or even? How do you know?

Some of the more formal quesions include

  • Write the number in words
  • Write the number in expanded form
  • How many steps have you done in a week?
  • Put the numbers in order from smallest to largest
  • Put the numbers in order from largest to smallest
  • Compare two numbers using the > < and =
  • Are any of the numbers prime numbers? How do you know?
  • What day did you do the most steps?
  • What day did you do the least steps?
  • Find the average number of steps over a week (mean and median)
  • Compare weeks across a month
  • Looking at data over a week (or sometimes a month), what are the different ways you can represent the data (bar charts, line graphs, tables)
  • What percentage of your weekly steps have you done on […] day?
Using the distance function

All of the questions above apply equally to the data captured by the distance covered. 

The distance covered data came into it’s own when learning about decimals (adding, subtracting, comparing and ordering decimals), averages (mean, median and mode) and converting distances between kilometres and metres.

There are probably a million other uses that we have yet to discover, so if any of you have any other great ideas please let us know. We’re always looking for ways to make maths more fun to learn.

Maths on the go: What’s in my bag of tricks?

The key to teaching maths is making it fun, practical and hands-on wherever possible. Whilst content wise we follow the national curriculum, once we’ve grasped the basic concepts, a lot of Issy’s maths is done through play and life experience whilst we are walking, talking, shopping and baking.  Most of the time she doesn’t realise she’s learning but it’s vital for making mathematical concepts seem relevant to her.

When we started home educating we were reliant various on on-line programs and then workbooks but as my confidence has grown we’ve realised that for us winging it has much better outcomes. Don’t get me wrong, having Carol Vorderman’s Maths is Easy, the odd workbook and friends who are teachers are great but Issy is a kinaesthetic learner; she needs to learn by doing stuff. With this in mind, we have whittled down our box of tricks to

  1. Fitness watch (see Fitbit Maths post)
  2. Dice
  3. Uno cards/Pack of cards (operations)
  4. Travel Rumikub
  5. Basic Geometry set (ruler, set squares, protractor and compass)
  6. Tape measure (we got ours from Decathlon)
  7. Squared Paper
  8. Little Professor App
  9. Corbett Maths 5-a-day questions (worksheets)
  10. Small amount of Lego (an alternative to Numicon)

The only workbook/worksheets that we use now are the Corbett maths 5-a-day sheets. They have the added advantages that they are free and can be done anywhere from an airport lounge to the laundrette.

Another great maths resource is the Go Figure series of books. Whilst they won’t come with us, we have both fallen in love with these books as they pose maths problems in a colourful and engaging way via different settings from Extreme Sports to the Animal Kingdom.

This is what works for us but we are always on the lookout for new ideas so  please let us know what works for you.

Homeschooling: Our favourite activities

New to homeschooling, stuck for ideas or just wanting to see what other families do? Here’s our favourite homeschool activities.

Museum Visits

We are lucky in that we have visited some of the world’s best museums from the Natural History Museum in London to Te Papa in Wellington. Issy’s favourite is the Milton Keynes Museum. She loves the Victorian school exhibition.

One of my favourite museum experiences was our Dinosnores stay at the Natural History Museum. It was roarsome!


We have always supported our local library. Issy was devastated that in  her lifetime they may no longer exist.

As well as being great places to borrow books we find they are also great, cheap spaces to spend time away from home. We recently spent almost two days in the Davenport library. 

Free Walking Tours

Whilst not technically free, they are tip-based tours of cities and are my favourite way of getting an overview of a city. We’ve done them across the world and they are a brilliant way to get the local’s perspective on a place or area. 

They are a great educational tool for all ages. I’ve learnt so much even in places I thought I knew.  Issy loves them because it’s someone else doing the teaching, you are exercising as you go, and the tour guides tend to be engaging. They like having her because she asks different questions like “how many arches does the Colloseum have?” It’s amazing how much she’s retained. 6 months and several countries later she still remembers the story of the Bruges dragon.


Sports activities

Issy is a naturally active and adventurous child (some may say hyperactive). Before, we set off travelling she did ballet, tap and jazz, and swimming.

Whilst we’ve been travelling she’s learnt new games such as badminton and table tennis, ventured up various climbing walls, swum in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean Sea, skied the Southern Alps and kayaked round the Abel Tasman. 

However, it doesn’t need to be so adventurous she loves throwing and catching a ball, climbing trees or skipping.

Parks and Playgrounds

We were exceptionally lucky in Milton Keynes because we had an abundance of green space and playgrounds for us to explore with Issy. Once Issy learnt to ride her bike one of our favourite activities was to pack up a picnic and go on park adventures to find new parks.

Whilst travelling we’ve found ourselves in some awesome parks. In Braga, Issy had a climbing wall to adventure round and within minutes she’d been invited to join the local climbing club. In Riga, we found a great little park with something for everyone; parkour tracks and an interactive football goal for the older ones, separate playgrounds for the younger ones and toddler, a running track and free Wi-Fi for the parents. However, I think my favourite to date has been Parque de los Familias in Almeria. This has zones based on the local area including a cinematography area where Issy spent hours playing the floor is lava.

The best thing about parks and playgrounds is they are free. 

Since being on the road the Playground Buddy app has become my friend as it gives you the location of parks nearby.



Issy loves going to the beach. Whether it be body-surfing or swimming in the lagoon in South Africa or jumping over cliffs with Thatcher in Portugal Issy is at her calmest when she is on the beach.

Baking and Cooking

There’s no getting away from it most kids love cooking and baking because it involves mess. What they haven’t realised is that whilst they are having great fun they’ve also covered maths, science, literacy and learnt some life skills along the way.

Issy frequently helps with the dinner, chopping carrots, or making salads and at Christmas we continued our tradition of baking for the neighbours and took spiced biscuits round the campsite. 


I love Lego. Issy will spend hours playing with it. She is incredibly creative building houses and lives around her Lego friend characters.

At the same time, I use it to help with her maths and literacy.

Cards and Board Games

Uno, Triominoes and Rumikub are the Burrows favourites.  Whilst we are at Nana and Grandad’s in Wellington, we get three generations of the family round the table and it’s famously competitive but huge fun.

Like the lego, I also use the games we have for teaching maths. 


Homeschooling: Hints and Tips

If you are considering homeschooling, worldschooling or roadschooling (alternative names for homeschooling whilst travelling) you’ve probably read countless number of books and blogs on the subject. For what it’s worth here is my take one what’s important and what’s not, if you’ve just de-registered your child from school:

De-schooling is really important

Let me run this past you; work and school have stopped, we’re missing friends and family, we’re never in the same spot for more than a few days and on top of all that you want to do school? It’s no wonder the answer that came back was “you are kidding, right?” (and far worse).

Step 1 of schooling to homeschooling is to de-school (forgetting everything you learned about being at school). It’s not well publicised or at least not in the books or blogs I read and yet for me it’s probably the most important.  

In hindsight I would wait a minimum of 3 months before trying to introduce any formal schooling. Just to be clear this isn’t a period of no learning, it’s arguably the period of the most learning, it’s just not sit down every day and learn it from a book type stuff.

Great de-schooling activities are baking, visiting museums, art galleries and libraries, card and board games.

Don't forget your audience

I tried to teach a year 3 version of me (or the version I remember anyway which was always receptive to learning and could do everything first time standing on my head). For those of you who have know me know that this was definitely not the case!

Whilst Issy and I are very alike in a lot of ways, we learn in very different ways.  When I sat down and actually talked to her, she wasn’t against doing any learning, far from it, she was so eager to learn just not in the way I was delivering it.

The journal lasted 3 weeks; she hated it! If I’d asked her to stick pins in her eyes she’d have been more receptive. From reading other blogs this is a common theme particularly in boys.

Khan Academy got the boot after about 6 weeks. Whilst she was at school, it had been great but on its own it was too dry. I still use it as part of her maths education because it’s very good at explaining concepts but we just don’t rely on it too much.

If you miss a lesson or 50 it doesn't matter

If Issy doesn’t do reading eggs or spelling for a day, a week or even a month nobody is going to die. If she misses out on a walking Thatcher (a friend’s cocker spaniel) or a climbing opportunity because of a school lesson there is a real possibility of my early demise.

This was the hardest lesson for me to learn. We’ve been on the road for almost 300 days and Issy’s completed 82 reading eggs lessons and 24 assessments. A far cry from the lesson a day I had hoped for however her reading competency, grammar and vocabulary have improved beyond recognition. Far more importantly she is now excited about reading and does it for fun!

Relax...there are learning opportunities everywhere

Learning by experience is invaluable and the great news is that it doesn’t have to cost the earth or require loads of equipment.  Yes, we do paid activities but these are far outweighed by the mundane everyday learning opportunities; how much is the shopping? ; how much change should we get?; what time is it?; what time do we need to catch the bus?; how much flour do we need for the recipe?; how far have we walked?; how many steps have you done?; how long have you got left on that you tube clip?; can you identify where we are on the map?

One of our favourite activities is to give Issy the audio guide and get her to be our tour guide. She loves it, learns loads and we get an individualised tour.

Include physical activity

Issy needs physical activity and lots of it. 

We find that learning in short bursts (30-40 minutes) and then letting her run about for 10-15 minutes is the best formula for learning. It also gives us both down time to blow away any frustrations of the last lesson, prepare for the next lesson and mark any work that she’s done.

In addition, the latest research shows that activities like throwing a ball increase development of the neural pathways needed to do maths and stacking cups do the same for literacy.

Follow your child's interests

There is a whole branch of homeschooling called unschooling where letting your child chose what they learn is the sole determiner of the curriculum. 

I’m not that brave and I would like Issy, if she so choses to be able to go back into the school system so we follow a more structured curriculum. However, she is far more likely to tackle a reading comprehension or a writing task if it’s centred around space, the ocean or animals than if it’s about fairies.

There are days where it's far better to quite while you're ahead

This remains another hard one for me to implement. We’ve all been there, you know as soon as you see your child that today is not going to be a good day. These are the days when getting out the lego or going out are the better learning opportunities.

More often than not, if we take this approach, Issy will come back later and ask to do her schooling. Sometimes all it takes is a 10 minute play in the park and she’s ready to go.  

Again it sounds simple but I can guarantee in all likelihood you too will make this rookie mistake at some point (or if you’re like me repeatedly!)  

Homeschooling can be done anywhere

One of our favourite places to homeschool is the laundrette. There are no distractions and Issy knows she has 60-70 minutes to get her homework done and bam she’s never failed to finish yet.

Homeschooling: What do you really need?

This is a tough one because truthfully the answer is how long is a piece of string? It’s an evolving process that depends on your child, your preferred style of teaching, their preferred style of learning and most importantly how much space you have. We started with backpacks so my day pack doubled as a mobile school and space was extremely limited. Now we have Rosie (our mobile home) it’s a lot easier.

Whilst it’s not an exhaustive list here the items that Issy
and I use on a daily basis and for the most part can easily be replaced on the

  • Laptop and/or Tablet (preferably with Kindle
  • On-Line learning resources (Reading Eggs, Khan
    Academy, Twinkl, IXL, Pinterest)
  • Workbooks (Maths, French, Handwriting)
  • Pens, Pencils, Paints
  • Geometry Set
  • Calculator
  • Story Cubes
  • Dice
  • Pack of Cards
  • Uno cards
  • Lego
  • Magnetic letters
  • Colouring books
  • Suduko
  • Paperback books (Kindle is all well and good but
    Issy loves a paperback to read)
  • Sketch Pad
  • Writing Pad
  • Handwriting book
  • Post-it notes

Other items that aren’t essential but have proved invaluable
have been

  • Whiteboard/Pinboard
  • Printer/Scanner
  • Sports equipment (skipping rope, stopwatch,
    badminton racquets, ping pong paddles, football)
  • Travel games (connect 4, rumikub, triominoes,
    chess, draughts, snakes and ladders, ludo)
  • General knowledge quiz books
  • Craft activities (we make friendship bracelets
    to give away)