25th Feb 2018 – dinosaurs and earthquakes

At the park, W had a random thought about earthquakes and asked why they happen. She has seen a section on earthquakes in an encyclopedia recently, but wanted to know more about them. I gave her an explanation of how and why they happen, without props (W often asks questions of this nature while we are out and don’t have immediate access to resources). She also wanted to know why they don’t happen in the UK (on a big scale) and how earthquakes cause buildings to fall down and why some stay up. We had a long chat about it and later found a lot of info in books and online at home. She asked me to go over it a few times, so that she could fully understand the concept of tectonic plates etc.

I think a visit to the Natural History Museum is needed soon so that we can research dinosaurs and tectonic plates there….

On another day, we continued the theme of natural disasters, with W asking about floods: why they happen and how they happen. She wanted to know specifically why places in Yorkshire flooded so badly a couple of years ago and London did not. We talked about flood defenses, rivers, hills and weather factors also. There were a couple of Youtube Kids videos available on the subject, so we spent some time looking at those too.

So, after we had pretty much exhausted that subject, W asked, “But where does rain come from?” She used to love talking about rain and the water cycle when she was two and three years old. I remember her telling me that water goes up into the air from the sea and goes into clouds and then comes over the land and falls as rain when she was very little. So now, she needs a little more in-depth knowledge about it, so we set about finding out.

We went to our local library to find books. The library is in a beautiful old manor house. We spent some time looking at the ornate ceilings and reading the information about the building and the family that owned it many years ago.

Again, much of this week was taken up by the house move and the admin involved in that too. There has been a lot of imaginative and free play for W, and also, plenty of running about squealing in the very-slightly-bigger-than-the-last-place house!

 

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18th Feb 2018 – chores

I’m interested to know people’s opinions on chores for children. Do your children do chores around the house? Do they have to, or do they just do it if they want to?

Every day, our whole family takes part in ‘tidying time’, about an hour before bedtime. We tidy everything together and then have play a board game afterwards. It is something I’ve always done with W, even when she was just a year old. It was a game then and she loved doing it. She loved finding the right places for things and putting them all away and then she used to cheer and clap at the end. I must admit that I have always liked tidying up at the end of every day. The children have all said that they really like it when the house is tidy again at the end of the day and when they get up in the morning they like being able to start (making a mess) afresh. I really like the fact that we are all involved in it and so no-one needs to get resentful or cross about having to tidy everyone’s mess by themselves.

It has made me wonder, though, whether I am too strict in doing this, if the children will end up resenting me for making me do it every day without fail (long days when we arrive home late excepted), or if I maybe don’t ask them to do enough. Tidying is really their only big chore. The only other things they have to do is to take their plates from the dinner table to the kitchen after dinner and put their dirty clothes in the wash. That’s it. I must say, they don’t complain about it generally. Obviously, we have had times when one of the children really doesn’t feel like tidying that day, but I get those days too, and I think that is normal for all of us. I think the important thing is that we all pull together to do it and make sure that we help each other so that it only takes a few minutes with 5 of us working on it!

I also find that having the incentive of playing a board game in a nice tidy room is a great motivator. There’s not many things I like more than playing a game with the whole family together at the end of a long day.

So, tell me your thoughts: how much or how little do your children do around the house and how often?

11th Feb 2018 – moving day

We had the mammoth task this week of moving house, so W was mainly occupied with packing and unpacking boxes (or overseeing the packing and unpacking instead….). It is certainly tricky to entertain small children when there is a huge task to be done. With educating at home, there is no option to do the big jobs when your children are at school for a few hours. One thing I have learned with having W with me most of the time is balance. Trying to meet her needs while also meeting mine as much as is possible. It is a difficult thing to do and I find that it is not really something that can be planned for properly because, on the day that we are super busy, our children could also need us more (especially if they are coping with a big change such as a house move) and so the usual activites that they would be happy to do on their own are no longer wanted. Instead they are wanting extra reassurance, or even just wanting to ‘help’ with whatever it is we are doing. I find that the only way through it is to set aside more time. I have found that being in a hurry just adds to my stress and the children’s stress and so less gets done and so we have less time to do it…. and the vicious cycle begins. I personally hate being up against a deadline and much prefer to do things early to get ‘ahead’ just in case of disaster later on. However, sometimes this backfires and I start too early and have to do things later all over again…

What are your best coping strategies for moving house and big changes that require lots of time? What are your go-to activities for the children to do to entertain themselves? Any ideas are welcome in the comments below.

During the move, W kept herself occupied for a short time with one of my notebooks. She wrote lots of random letters, pretending to write words and sentences. It was good writing practise for her and a good quiet activity.

W asked many questions as we were walking to get supplies, such as how dinosaur bones ended up so deep underground, how to tell whether squirrels are male or female, why dogs and cats have more nipples than us and why too much bird food is bad for the fish if it gets into a pond. We also watched some bricklayers and learned how walls are put together and why the bricks need to be wet first. All of this was while walking for about 20 minutes!

Whilst I was busy with packing and unpacking, W played a great deal with her toys. She also did a little reading practice with a short book and then did some activities and colouring in her activity books (this time she chose her Paw Patrol activity books). The removals people had a little friendly dog, so I let D and W walk him with me. They asked how dogs are trained and why, so we talked about dog behaviour for a little bit. They were very calm and gentle with the dog and the dog was very tolerant of them.

The next time we were on another errand, we saw a bus being repaired. W got to look at the engine and asked me how it works and why it makes a noise, so we had a chat about that in simple terms.

Back at home, while we were packing, W completed another lot of activity pages including ten dot-to-dot pages, two colouring pages and one page of matching letters to objects in her ‘First Learning’ books. She read some of ‘Jen the Hen’ again and then identified the letters in her alphabet book.

Midweek, we went to the home-ed social group in our town and played Hedbanz, where she had to ask questions to work out what was on her card. She found it fun and then had more fun playing with the other children. There were all ages there, but W gravitated towards the ones she knows, who were aged between 2 and 6 years old.

On the way home from there, W asked about how fossils are formed, so we watched 3 videos about that on YouTube Kids when we got home. She then asked how the dinosaurs died, so we also watched two videos about that too. There seems to be a theme lately with W’s questions and she is really interested in dinosaurs. I asked if she would like to start a project on dinosaurs and she was very enthusiastic, so that is what our first project will be. Watch this space….

4th Feb 2018 – categorising

A few weeks ago, W sent off a competition entry (written herself with a little help) from a magazine… and won. She was really pleased to receive this Floor Jigsaw Puzzle in the post. It was a great surprise and has also spurred her on to write competition entries again. I was careful to explain to her that she won’t win all the time, but she was happy with that. It was a two-sided jigsaw – one side was a picture and the other was the same picture in outline, so that it can be coloured in. W spent a happy half an hour colouring the picture after she had put it together.

Wednesday was a day for categorizing Shopkins again. This time, W wanted to categorise them by type, such as Bakery, gardening, fruit and veg etc. She is really enjoying putting things in order and arranging them in certain ways at the moment. It was no surprise then that she chose this Orchard Toys Where’s my Cupcake? Game before bedtime that day, which is great for working on her matching and categorising skills.

The next day was a day to get out the Hama Beads. These are really good for helping with W’s fine motor skills. She used to like making her own patterns, but right now is really keen on following a template and is very particular at putting the right colours in the right places. Her current favourites are cars and unicorns.

W later found a colouring-in sheet in one of her magazines that had an example picture next to it of where the colours should go. She followed it very carefully and coloured inside the lines better than she has done before. She was really proud of the result and we put it on display as she had put so much effort in and spent a long time on perfecting it.

I’m keen for your thoughts on this one – having a picture to follow when colouring-in is great for learning to follow patterns and instructions…. but there is much less creativity involved this way. Do your children prefer a blank piece of paper to draw freely or do they prefer to follow a design made by others?

W later read a short book very well, with just a bit of help with a couple of capital letters. She knows all the lower-case letters of the alphabet and is just starting to put them together to make words.

We have also been working on numeracy too as we played lots of board games that included counting and adding numbers together. When we have a board game that needs two dice, W likes to add the two numbers together herself.

More maths was required when she helped to bake a cake. She read the numbers on the scales and measured quantities of ingredients…. and of course, got to lick the spoon.

For the rest of the week, W was very helpful indeed at tidying the garden, cleaning and packing boxes reading for our imminent house move (detailed next week).