19th August, 2018 – animals

This week, we went to stay with my partner’s brother, S and his family in the countryside. We had a fabulous time there, either relaxing or going on exciting trips out. We looked after S’s children while we were there, so we had 5 children in our care for most of the week. The children got on so well with each other (bar the inevitable odd disagreement) that lovely time was had by all. The theme this week for W’s learning was most definitely nature. She loves all animal-related things and so had a great time in the green East Anglian countryside…. Here is what we did, in order of subject, starting of course with….

Science / Nature: On the way to S’s house, we took the Woolwich ferry across the Thames. The children were fascinated by the way the ferry worked and how it didn’t sink even though it had lorries on it. W was nervous at the start, but then loved the experience.

When we collected the hire car (we needed a bigger car for all the children), we learned the difference between Automatic and Manual cars. The children also asked what all the many different buttons and switches did. They loved having an automatic door and even a sunroof!

We then had a (random) discussion on identical twins and how they occur, compared to non-identical, in which we covered genetics and biology.

On Tuesday, we took a trip to Bewilderwood, which all the children adored. The park is based on the books and there are tiny treehouses for the ‘Twiggles’ and houses lower down for the ‘Boggles’ too. The children then went on to an outdoor stage and took part in the storytelling, went on a boat trip for more stories, went into the maze and found their way through it, and then climbed lots of climbing frames and slides.

Bewilderwood really is an amazing place to visit and I recommend it for any age (do let me know in the comments below if you have been and what you think of it too).

We also visited the Dinosaur Park later in the week, where the children filled in their ‘Dinohunt’ activity sheets to claim their medals at the end. In the gift shop, W really wanted to buy a triceratops toy and so we did a little bit of maths to work out if she had enough money for it or not. She was pleased to find that she did indeed have enough for it and the Triceratops came with us everywhere for the rest of the week.

The children drove little electric quad bikes (bumper cars) around a circuit indoors and then had a go on go-karts too. W worked the pedals and the steering wheel by herself and was proud of herself for doing it on her own.

We read the names of the giant model dinosaurs and discussed whether they were meat- or plant-eaters.

There was also a petting zoo there, which W particularly loved. She stroked the animals and fed them too. She talked a lot about their care and what each animal needs in order to stay healthy, as we went around the different sections of the farm.

The next day, we watched a combine harvester in the field very close to the house. We could see all the workings and W was really interested in how the straw was separated from the seeds and what happens to it afterwards. We learned about what the space around the edge of the field is for and also where the straw will go once it is baled. This tied in really well with her learning pack on wheat flour and how it is milled.

We talked about sunset and sunrise and rainbows, which led to a discussion about the spectrum of light from the sun again.

We visited Great Yarmouth and, of course, went to the beach. W spent ages collecting bucketfuls of seawater from the sea and carrying it across the beach in order for the others to build a big sandcastle (the sand was too dry otherwise). They paddled in the sea a lot too and were then wrapped in layers and layers of warm clothes afterwards!

We met some donkeys there, which W stroked and chatted to. She learned about how to walk around the back of the horse or donkey so that it doesn’t kick.

W later made some ice cream using cream, sugar, vanilla, strawberries, caramel and a bag of salted ice to shake it next to. She enjoyed eating it and liked the process of making it. She asked why larger ice cubes feel colder than smaller ones, so we talked about that for a bit.

We visited a cafe made from an old bus and had lunch there, during which, we learned about magnets and what types of metals stick to them (remembering ‘CONIFER’, COpper, NIckel and FERrous metals) as J had brought his toy magnets along. We tested the ‘conifer’ mnemonic with a magnet and different coins and then W stuck the magnets to different parts of the bus to see what it was made of.

We put up the tent in the garden and W was very good with putting in the tent pegs and putting the tent poles together as well. We slept in it for two nights and W also helped to take it down and dry it out. While we were staying in the tent, we heard crickets every day and once a deer appeared in the garden to see what we were up to.

On Friday, we took a late trip to the park and the children loved the fact that they were out after bedtime. On the way home, we passed some bullocks in the field and W learned about how to approach them without scaring them (on the other side of a fence) and how to spot that they are bulls and not cows!

On the journey home, W spotted some collared doves building a nest. They were quite low down on a ledge at the station and we were delayed, so we spent a long time watching them weaving the twigs together in the wind to try to make the nest stable. It was fascinating to watch.

Play: Every day, the children played on the trampoline and W was able to learn different tricks from her cousins (B, 13 and C, 9), which was obviously a lot of fun. They also played games such as hide and seek, swings, slides, climbing, imaginative and small-world play, chasing games, and storytelling.

At the play park, the children climbed many climbing frames, ropes and slides.

Literacy: W did some more of her sticker book, some drawing and also some spelling practice too. She asked me how quite a few words were spelled and she wrote them down (I asked her to help me to spell them). Most of the words were related to sick or poo, but at least she was writing……..

At Bewilderwood, the children filled in an activity sheet and received a badge at the end for their completed ones.

Numeracy/ Maths: Almost every day while we were at her uncle’s house, W watched Number Blocks on the TV in the morning. She loved the adding and subtracting that they show and understood it. She also watched an episode of a vet show. She absolutely loves that show and loves seeing how the animals are cared for and treated.

W found some packets of curtain pole ends, which were in pairs, so we had a little lesson on the two-times table with them.

At the arcades at Great Yarmouth, W played with the 2p machines for a while. We had a discussion about probability and how unlikely it is that people win anything (and when they do win, it adds up to less than their outlay) on these machines, so the emphasis when we play on them is the fun aspect and not the winning.

Politics / History: We discussed politics and Donald Trump (again) over dinner, when W came up with a few suggestions on how he could be advised to be less mean to people…….. She said that the issues with Donald Trump and other world leaders could be resolved by just sitting down and talking and understanding each other. We later discussed racism in relation to the history of America…. I have to mention at this point that I feel it is important to openly discuss race with the children, rather than giving the vague and woolly message that ‘everyone is equal’. To go into specifics is really important in terms of getting our children to fully understand the impact of racism on society and the individual. There is more about this subject in the book ‘Nurture Shock‘, in the chapter entitled “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race”; and there is more in-depth information in this study on the effect of parental discussion around race on children aged 5-7 years.

Music: On a lighter note, W played the piano with her aunt while we were still in East Anglia. She learned a little bit about the piano keys and notes, and enjoyed trying to make tunes. I later played a little bit and W danced while I did, rounding off a lovely week spent with family – just being ourselves and having fun.

 

 

 

12th August, 2018 – Family Time

The school holidays are a special time for us as the family finally gets to spend a solid amount of time all together, as the older two (J, 9 and D, 7) go to school, so this week, we focused on family time, with less emphasis on learning and more emphasis on spending time together, as a family unit, but also with the grandparents too.

Having said that, we did go to the London Museums for a little incidental learning, making our first subject this week science…..

Science / Nature: On our visit to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, we met Grandma and spent the whole day with her looking at items, using the interactive objects and generally having fun. W’s favourite was the Blue Whale skeleton and we also went through the dinosaur section again, building on the knowledge we gained the last time we visited and the time before that.

At the Science museum, W spent quite a while at the little screens, in the ‘ Who Am I?’ Section and learned about DNA and genetics, amongst many other things.

We did some more learning about operations as I had to go to the hospital for an appointment in anticipation of an operation that I will need to have in the future.

As usual, on the journey home, W told me when our train was coming, by looking at the display and she tried to read signs also.

Later, W looked at her venus fly trap and asked questions about how the plant digests the insects it captures.

Mechanics: A neighbour gave me an old bike that was not roadworthy, so W helped me to fix it and make it work again. She also helped to clean it and got very grubby in the process!

Numeracy / Maths: W counted her money from her money-box and was pleased with the amount that she had saved, as usually she likes to spend her £3 a week straight away (more on pocket money here).

On the train, W did some of her workbook, which was dot-to-dots. She is becoming good at recognising numbers over 20 now. She then coloured in the pictures that she had made.

On Monday, we went to our regular social group, where they sometimes let the children run a little stall, to sell things that they had made. As we were able to bring the older two children this time, D could sell some of her Hama bead designs that she had worked on this week. W helped D to run her ‘shop’, asking people for the money and helping D to count it.

Art: Also at our Monday group, W made a ‘laptop’ and book for her soft toys, out of paper. These were good – the book had a picture on the front and writing inside. The laptop had a keyboard design when you open it up.

Afterwards, the children sat in a circle and drew the person opposite.

Play: As we have been all together this week, there has been a lot of playing happening. W is playing longer and longer ‘small world’ games with her toys now, showing that she can move through lots of steps within a game and then change the direction of the game as it progresses.

Another chance for some good playing was outside the museums, where the regular ‘Bubble Man’ was. D, J and W spent some time chasing bubbles together, having lots of fun.

Music: On the walk to the Museums, we saw many buskers. W’s favourite was the harpist, who offered to let her have a go on the harp, but she politely declined. We did spend some time watching her play, which the children were fascinated by.

PE: On a visit to Nanna and Grandad’s, W played football in the garden with her aunt, who is football mad… W learned some new skills and has got much better at dribbling the ball now.

And that concludes this week – a great week of mainly play with some learning along the way!

5th Aug 2018 – a playful week

This week, the focus was mainly on play. W has spent a lot of time playing with her toys. Some nights, she even struggled to get to sleep because she had so many ideas floating round in her mind of what to do with her toys the next day. Having read the research on the importance of play (an example here), I knew I needed to let it happen as much as possible as W clearly had a strong need for it this week.

So here is the breakdown of our week of mainly play-based learning:

Socialisation / Play:

W played with B (6), who came over for a visit.

Later, E (9) and F (6)  arrived for a sleepover. They all played hide-and-seek together and later played with Lego.

The next day, W, her sibling D and her friend F played ‘library’, which involved setting up a library in the living room. They used all of their books, which were brought down from upstairs in many stages! Tidying time was fun on that day……

W has played ‘small world’ at different times this week, with various toys – first with her Shopkins in the doll’s house, then with her Playmobil farm and later with Lego.

On Sunday, my parents came for a visit and the children loved reading with them, playing with a frisbee in the park, going to the library for more books and then making cookies and pizzas at home.

At our Monday social group, W played with B (7) for most of the time. They put on a show on the stage, before which, W wrote some tickets and gave them out to everyone.

W played with her minifigures and Lego animals for a long time, in which she got the horses ready for riding, the minifigures rode them and then brought them back to a stable to care for them.

As usual, we played board games in the evenings. This week, W requested the “Guess How Much I Love You” board game when it was her turn to choose (the children take it in turns to choose a board game each evening). It is a very simple game, but lots of fun and the children love it.

We went to our local pool, which the children really enjoyed. We spent some time jumping over the waves in the shallow area and generally messing about – exhausting but fun!

Science / Nature:

W learned about bones this week, as our accident-prone kitten Flash had broken his leg! We have no idea how he had managed to do it – he is still an indoor cat until he is ready to venture outside. We got up one morning to discover he couldn’t walk on one of his legs, the poor thing. We took him straight to the vet’s, where W learned about the care of a broken bone, how it heals and why it is important for Flash to rest. She also learned about pain medicine and anaesthesia too.

We have a grapevine in the garden and W looked at it one day and asked how grapes are harvested. We ended up watching a Youtube video of the big machines that do the harvesting. She watched the video twice and asked questions about how the machine was cleaned and where the grapes are taken after harvest.

W rediscovered her dinosaur encyclopedia and asked me to read it to her. We read the whole thing entirely. In it, she learned about the history of life on Earth and we went through the timeline of what creatures were alive at what times in history. We also covered prehistoric sea creatures, dinosaurs, reptiles and early humans.

W particularly liked the parts about evolution and also the birth of the Earth and how it came to exist. At the end, she was fascinated by how the dinosaurs and parts of the environment turned into coal and oil.

Later, W wanted to watch a vet program on the TV, so we did. We had previously been talking about operations and how a person feels no pain at all when operated on, and how the body then heals itself. This tied in well with the program as they showed a small clip of an operation on a dog who had swallowed some stones. I asked W if she definitely wanted to watch the clip and she did. She was totally fascinated and enjoyed it.

We saw a little bit of the next program on the TV and that one was about elephants. She learned a little about droughts, conservation and safaris.

W helped to bake cheese scones and a chocolate cake with her siblings and my partner, which I count as science, but was mainly fun, I think!

In the bath, W wanted to play with her Lego minifigures again and she noticed how some minifigures stand on the bottom of the bath because their hair is less dense than the rest of the figure. W really enjoyed experimenting with them, and it followed on well from Last week, when W was doing the same thing with her Playmobil toys in their little swimming pool.

We went to the pet shop to buy our cat Watson a brush. While we were there, W wanted to look at all the animals and she mentioned how you care for each one and what they need to keep them happy.

When we got home, the first thing W wanted to do was to brush the cats and I showed her how to get the cats used to the brush gently, instead of holding them still. W did very well at letting them sniff the brush first and was very gentle with them, meaning that the cats were happy to have her brush them whilst they lay down.

On the train, W said that it would be funny if there was no gravity on the train and we were floating. That reminded me of a video I saw of what happens when you wring out a wet cloth in space, so we watched that and then ended up watching ‘9 facts about foxes’ too.

Literacy / English:

Unusually, W asked to have lots of books read to her this week. She took in all the stories and then requested more.

When we had to take the train, W helped me at the ticket machine to type in the code to retrieve my tickets. She loves doing this and she is becoming quite quick at it. Then, when we were on the train, she found our carriage and seat all by herself, by reading the ticket.

At dinner later in the day, W helped to set up a ‘restaurant’ where she helped to make menus, tell me the prices of the food and serve me my dinner. It was a great game to play and was very funny!

Numeracy / Maths:

W spent time categorising toys in her bedroom by type and by colour, just as she did three weeks ago.

She did some addition whilst we were at our Monday social group as a couple of children had made things to sell, so W tried to add up how much money she would need to buy these things.

We have been working some more on telling the time as W seems very ready now. She is not too keen on waiting for things, so being able to tell the time is really helping. When W would ask when something is going to happen, I used to respond with ‘after lunch’ or ‘two Mr Bloom episodes’, but now she needs more information than that. Every time she asks, we go to look at the clock and I will show her where the hands need to be before the thing happens and this is really helping with her understanding the concept of time.

Later, we popped to the shop that W likes as she wanted to buy a toy with her pocket money and she did well adding and subtracting amounts to work out which toys she could buy together.

History:

At breakfast, we discussed when the Queen was born, when the Queen mother was born and whether or not they were alive during the second world war. We then did the same for her grandparents’ birth dates.

W said that she had visited the Great Wall of China, which is odd since she has never left Europe. On further questioning, it turned out that W meant she had been to Chinatown in Manchester! This later led to a discussion on Hong Kong and its history.

Art / Design:

W did a craft activity at Rainbows, which was to make a rabbit out of card, and then on the way home, W was singing a song that she made up about loving animals so much!

Since W has been playing long games with the Lego minifigures and horses, she asked me if we could make stables for the horses to rest in. I asked her exactly how she wanted it to look and we made a diagram together so that we both knew how to make it. She was very clear on how many stables she wanted, what the roof should look like and where the paddock should be. She helped to choose the pieces from my Lego spares and we then built it together. W was really pleased with the result and spent hours playing with it over the week (and I got to build some Lego, so it was a win-win for us)!

 

29th July 2018 – Planning our Summer

As we have two children in school and one who is home educated, the summer holidays are an important and special time for us. One of the things we like to do at the beginning of the break is to write down all the things that each of us want to do during the holidays. We write them on to a triangle of brightly-coloured card and make a type of bunting out of them. This is then hung on the side of our staircase so that we can see it every day. I spend time looking at the calendar and planning when we can do each of the things, making sure that we have plenty of rest days in between. Once this is done, we are ready to start our 6 weeks of family time together!

So I suppose it is best to start with Literacy in this diary entry as this was W’s opportunity for writing this week…

W’s writing on her bunting cards was sometimes going left to right and sometimes going backwards. One of her cards had writing that started the correct way round and then went round in a semicircle and then headed backwards! Apparently this mirror writing is common in children of her age (she is now 5) and will settle down with time. I’m trying my best to not correct this as I am happy that she is writing anything at all at the moment, so I don’t want to put her off when she has only just started. As a reluctant writer, W is doing really well to write at all.

PE: In the swimming pool, W wanted to try swimming under water for the first time. Previously, she hasn’t liked getting her face wet, but she was very brave and took her armbands off – a big step for her.

I remember when W was a toddler, she wouldn’t even go into the water, other than to sit on the side and dangle her feet in. It has taken many swimming trips to get to this point – and we haven’t forced her to go in the water at all – so it is lovely to see her confidence growing now that she is ready.

Numeracy / Maths: W looked at her “Telling the Time” book and did well with guessing the o’clock times.

At dinner, J and D helped W to do some mental arithmetic, just for fun. I love it when the children help each other to learn – it means I can do a little less!

W also did a Tangram puzzle. She started a few months ago with trying the more simple puzzles, but has now moved on to the harder ones and likes spending quite a bit of time on them. I can’t recommend these puzzles enough!

Socialisation: W went to a friend’s birthday party in a church hall. She had  a look at the church and asked questions about where the priest/vicar stands, who owned the church etc. She was also very keen to look at the graveyard and to have the inscriptions on the gravestones read to her. She likes to find out the names and the dates that they were alive.

On the way home, she saw two of her other friends T, (8) and M (5) with their mums, so they came back to the house for a little while to play.

At our Monday social group, W played with different children than usual – U (8), H (8) and N (5). They all played ‘Paw Patrol’ and she seemed to have a lovely time charging about with them with a toy plane, instead of playing with the quieter ones and her soft toys. This is interesting because I have seen how W adapts her playing style according to who she is playing with. One of her siblings likes to play quietly with small toys in a more structured way. The other likes to charge around the house and make noise while playing, and W is happy to play with each of her siblings, either charging about with the eldest or playing quietly with the middle one.

Later, W’s friend B (8) arrived, who W loves, but hasn’t seen for ages because she has been in hospital. W was so pleased to see her and they stuck together and chatted a lot for the last part of the session.

As usual we played a board game in the evening at home. The current favourite is Charades for Kids, and W is getting quite good at demonstrating things to us. However, her demonstration of ‘getting on a bus’ involves W being the actual bus and crawling on the floor, which can be hilarious…..

At a friend’s house, W played with T (8), B (5) and T (4) who had cerebral palsy and was in a wheelchair. W asked me lots of questions about T before and after we were with him and I answered as many questions as I could. We also talked in general about disability. At W’s age (and any age), I believe it is so important to be around a diverse range of people, and also to talk about the difference between us all in order to learn about and normalise difference. As a family, we socialise with all ethnicities, sexualities, nationalities, religions and abilities.

Science / Nature: W asked what leaves are made of, so we had a discussion about cellulose and chlorophyll. Big brother J then asked about atoms, while W listened in on the discussion about atoms and free space.

W went to the dentist, where she got to see an x-ray of teeth on the computer screen. She identified the fillings (bright white) and talked about why a crown looks different too.

I had cut my finger earlier in the day and W asked how the skin is repaired by my body, so we had a quick chat about scabs and fibrin.

At dinner midweek, the family ended up having a discussion about Pluto and whether or not it is a planet. We looked at the diameter of Pluto and the diameter of the Earth on a poster that we have on the wall in the dining room, and compared the two. After that, we did a demonstration of the volume of a sphere, split into other spheres, with Play Doh and scales…. Apparently the Earth can fit 151 Plutos into its volume!

After all of this, we had a board game (Wild World Lotto) and then a chapter of her book.

At a friend’s house, there was a pond (covered with netting) and a fish tank, and W told me some facts that she knew about fish, algae and lily pads that she has learned previously.

Also, there were two cats there (Molly and Cashew), one of whom was a bit nervous, so W spent some time with that cat and learned how to be calm and quiet enough for him to relax enough to be stroked. She really persisted with him, without causing him stress, so it was really good to see her patience pay off when she got to play with Cashew in the end.

When in town, W looked at the fruit and veg at the market and spent some time identifying them all. She tried Swedish cinnamon buns too!

W experimented with what floated in her Playmobil Swimming Pool, and also what slid down the slide quickly or slowly.

Play: Again, W has done lots of small world play and her games are still very elaborate and quite sophisticated now. She is happy to make up games to play with her toys and they go through many stages of situations and changes while the game moves along.

W spent nearly all day on Thursday building all of her Playmobil sets (with help) and setting them out in the way that they were pictured on the boxes, so that she could create a Playmobil ‘world’. She showed excellent concentration throughout. Her attention span is definitely increasing now

Art: At a friend’s pottery studio, W spent some time examining the pots that people had made and she picked out the different features and said why she liked them. Said she wants to be a pottery examiner when she grows up, and to give out prizes for the best…

Economics: We visited the Bank of England Museum, which is the childrens’ favourite London Museum, for their “Gold Rush” activity. We got there as soon as the museum opened so that we could get a first-come-first-served ticket for a presentation on the gold vaults….. which we managed to get! The children all got activity sheets and had to search for clues around the museum to try to work out who broke in to the vaults in the 1800s. W did well at searching for the clues and letters around the museum (it was aimed at older children, so she needed a bit of help).

When they had completed the activity, they all got a prize, which was a little gold bar brooch, which they were very happy with!

After that came the presentation on gold, in which the children learned how much gold is in the vaults, who it belongs to, what the Gold Standard is, where gold comes from, how purity is checked, what the numbers on a gold bar are for, how it is recycled and many, many other things.

I must say that the presentation was excellent. The staff at the BoE museum are always great with the children and the museum itself is often calm and quiet – a bonus for my children, who are not keen on noise or crowds at all.

Then we realised we had done all of this learning on the official Unschoolers “Learn Nothing Day” (July 24th every year)…. so we failed that completely! There is always next year, I suppose…..

22nd July 2018 – Lego at Hall Place

We are a household of Lego fans here and when we heard that there was a Lego exhibition at Hall Place, we knew we had to go! An artist had built scale models of famous landmarks from all over the world out of Lego and they were really very good.

We looked at each exhibit (there were a lot) and the children asked where in the world each of them were from, so this was a great learning experience. There was the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, Las Vegas, St Pancras Station, the Olympic stadium, Hall Place itself, etc etc. There was even Lego there for children to play with.

It was a great time to visit the exhibition as W’s love for Lego seems to be at its peak right now…. I’ll start of the learning log this week with Spatial Skills since Lego was the theme for most of the week:

Spatial Skills: W enjoyed building even more Lego sets than last week and has played with them a lot with D. She also helped me to count all the pieces in one of her sets before building it, to check that all the pieces were there.

Later in the week, W spent a lot of time playing with her Lego minifigures and also D’s Lego Tour Bus. She also later helped to build a Lego playground (not a set – just created with the family) and loved playing with it.

Home Economics: W, J and D baked cookies together.

Play: These past two days, W has taken part in a lot of role play and small-world play, including putting each and every one of her soft toys to bed, using all her Lego sets to make a ‘world’ and playing with all the minifigures within it.

W has also played with the kittens a lot this week and has learned very well how to handle them and play with them. She is very confident with them and they are very calm as a result.

W’s imaginative games are becoming more elaborate now. Today, she got together as many Lego vehicles (including a Lego Hot Air Balloon) and all of her minifigures and played a game in which they travelled from one end of the house to the new Lego playground at the other end of the house. Once they had packed and got everything ready (along with all their pets), they talked to each other about where they were going and who they would travel with. Then, when all the minifigures had reached the playground, they all queued at the entrance and the game went on from there for quite some time. W really enjoyed doing that and even took the game into the garden to play.

Literacy: At dinner, we discussed compound words and what they are (Football, forecast etc) and W came up with her own compound words too.

Art: W did lots of painting in the afternoon and decided to put two colours together at a time to see what the result would be and really enjoyed finding out what they would become. She made a couple of pictures and then did some very neat handprints afterwards.

Science / Nature: We visited the Lambeth Country Show, which is a huge event in Brockwell Park. The children experienced so many things: learning different breeds of sheep, watching a sheep being shorn, seeing a ‘best breed’ competition, watching untrained Collies herding ducks and also watching a talk on dog behaviour and training. They also saw some owls too.

The highlight of W’s day was watching the Met police horses jumping through rings of fire, charging towards each other without fear, and seeing a fantastic routine where the mounted police removed their jackets whilst riding. They then removed their stirrups and later their saddles – all whilst riding. W was absolutely blown away by the show. What helped was meeting a police horse beforehand (I took her around the back of the arena, pretending not to know my way…) and chatting to the mounted police officer. W was allowed to stroke his horse (his name was Quest) and she listened to the officer explain what Quest does for a job. She learned that he was 8 years old and had been a police horse since he was 4. He was 18 hands and a cross with a thoroughbred and a Shire – a massive beast. W absolutely loved him and cheered just that horse all the way through the show!

On the way home, we saw a Magpie and W learned about how they collect shiny things and why. She then asked how nests are made and also how they stay on branches and don’t fall off in the wind.

A cricket landed on my foot whilst we were waiting for a train and W wanted to know how they have babies, whether the cricket was male or female, how big they grow and where they live, so we looked all that up at the train station on my phone.

At dinner, W noticed that I had changed the posters in the dining room and asked about the new ‘Space’ poster. She wanted to know the names of the planets, how many moons they each had, which planets people could travel to, which supported life, whether we had sent any robots to any planets, whether we could live on any other planets, what colour the light is that comes from the sun, how rainbows are made and why the sky is blue. She was really interested in all of this and, although it was exhausting answering all of those questions, it was really lovely to see W so interested in a subject.

There was a lightning storm overnight that W missed as she was asleep. When I told her about it in the morning, she wanted to see what it looked like, so we watched a video of a lightning storm over Brighton Beach from Youtube.

Socialisation: Monday was our favourite social group day. W chatted to lots of people there and also did a difficult geometric shape puzzle.

Tuesday was Rainbows day, where W played with her friends and also learned a little about seahorses while she was there.

Numeracy / Maths: As usual, W read the bus numbers on the front of the buses when we were out, and whilst we waited for a bus, we counted the seconds until the bus arrived and she did very well counting all the way up to 100 (finishing the exact second that the bus arrived)! W has also learned how to read the digital display on the train platform and can now tell me how many minutes it is until our train will arrive.

We played the Frustration game and W recognises the number patterns on the dice without counting them now.

We also continued the theme of categorisation from last week when W categorised all of her Lego animals into type and then rearranged them by colour. After that, she added minifigures and fit them into the animal categories according to colour too.

The next day, she got all of the toys in her bedroom that are cat-related and categorised them. She wants to do the dogs next. She even categorised her bread crusts at lunchtime into shape order!

I’m now wondering what will be categorised by W next week? Will it be yet more Lego, or will she start on something else? I’m wondering if I will walk into a room to find the entire room rearranged according to colour…. in fact, maybe I could get her to start on my wardrobe for me….

 

15th July 2018 – 100 years of the RAF

On Tuesday this week, we went to see the RAF flyover, marking 100 years of the RAF. It was a much bigger deal than I expected. We met up with friends and watched a big parade. W loved it and we all had a great vantage point at the front of the barriers on the Mall.

We then moved to nearer to the palace to watch the flypast. The flag on Buckingham Palace was up and there were security staff on the roof, looking down….. then the Queen, Prince Harry, Meghan, Prince William, Kate, and the other folks came onto the balcony. W was absolutely blown away (as was I – we weren’t expecting that at all)!

Then the planes came and W was even more blown away. We ended up standing next to a pilot who used to fly with the RAF, who told us what each of the planes were that flew over. W loved the big planes, little planes, the planes in formation….. and then the Red Arrows!!

It was such a great learning experience for W (and all of us actually) and we learned a lot of the history of the RAF just by being there. It was such a good experience to be there for a once-in-a-lifetime event like that.

So I suppose  that was our history lesson for the week. Below are the other subjects we journeyed through this week:

PE: W played games all day on Saturday with her friends: N (7), A (5), M (3) and K (2), including frisbee and racing. She was very patient with the smaller ones.

Later in the week, she watched the tennis with her Granddad and learned some of the rules.

Science / Nature: At a theme park, W saw different animals and was talking a lot with her friend N about their different features.

At a playground, there was lots of water and sand play; building dams, sending water down different chutes with barriers etc.

After that, we went to the pet shop to buy a cat box for our trip to the vet’s tomorrow. On the way, we saw a dead bird and W asked why there were flies on it, so we had a conversation about how flies help to break down dead animals and how this happened with the dinosaurs too (she asks lots of questions about why only the dinosaurs’ bones remain).

At the pet shop, W looked around the fish section and looked at the various types of fish and plants in there.  In the reptile section, she learned about the care of cold-blooded animals. She learned about their diets and also looked at their names and type. Seeing a real dragon really helped with her fear of mythical dragons as real ones are small and quite cute….

W collected seeds from our poppy heads all by herself – she was proud of herself for being able to do it.

The next day, we took all three cats to the vets for their vaccinations and check-ups. W learned about microchips in cats and the vet showed W the needle for putting the chips into the kittens. She watched him do so and then the vet scanned the kittens to show her how the chip worked (he knows that W is home educated and is happy to assist in her learning!).  W then watched all three cats being examined and weighed and we discussed how Flash had previously dropped in weight because he was so unwell and now he has put on lots more weight and is finally growing how he should. Such a relief, I must say….

Our cat Watson was up next – W watched the vet examine her teeth and saw that some of them are red and we discussed how we would treat her sore gums.

W was allowed to look at models of animal kidneys, following on from reading a poster about kidney disease last time. She then watched the vet listen to Watson’s chest.

When it was time for Watson’s injections, W learned again about vaccinations and how important they are and then we discussed neutering too. The vet then told W that he was astonished at all 3 cats’ behaviour in the treatment room. We did not need to hold any of the animals for any injections and they all sat patiently while being examined and injected (even with the chip) and the vet said he had never had an experience where 3 cats would just sit there instead of fighting or trying to escape or meowing.  W said that it is because you have to keep animals relaxed and then they won’t be ‘bitey’!

When we went out to the reception desk, we saw a fish tank with algae in it and the vet explained to W what the fish eat and how the algae grows. W then learned about why dogs shouldn’t eat bones from a poster.

On the way home, W saw a fox for the first time. She asked why the fox was out in the daytime and we wondered if it had cubs somewhere that needed feeding.

At the bus stop, an engineer from Thames Water was looking at the large underground water pipes, so we popped over to have a look at those to see what they looked like. W asked where the water comes from and goes, so we talked about fresh water and sewage and where it goes.

The next day, W made a card from flowers she had pressed. She named lots of flowers from the garden and on a walk as well. She also looked at how blackberries were forming from the flowers and talked about how bees pollinate the flowers.

Numeracy: We played Junior Monopoly again, including adding and subtracting, which W continues to do really well at.

W spent some time categorising things on Monday. She chose to categorise her hairbands and hair clips into colours and also into shapes and styles. She then moved on to matching up her Lego card doubles and categorising those also according to pattern and colour.

On the train, W did some of her new mermaid sticker book, which is all about categorising and matching mermaids and shapes, so she loved it. She did lots of pages. As usual, she had found the correct platform for our train (platform 0, which she found hilarious), the correct carriage and seat numbers (more about learning on our travels here).

Later, W played  ‘Go Fish’ with her grandparents  – paying attention and understanding that she needs to listen to what others are asking for in order to get the cards she needs. Demonstrated very good logical reasoning.

Drama: We went to watch J’s assembly at the school as his drama group were doing their play. It was about a girl having her first day at a new school and how she made friends and avoided the people who were mean to her. W enjoyed it and laughed in the right places.

Socialisation: W’s friend came to play for a few hours on Monday and they had great fun playing with lots of different toys. Then the next day she got plenty of time to play with her friends at Rainbows too.

On Wednesday, we noticed a cat running through our garden that had been reported missing days ago, so I sent the owner a message and we popped outside with treats and a cat box to try to entice him back. We managed to capture him with difficulty as he was scared, but when we finally had him, the owner cried and hugged us and was very, very grateful. She then came back to our house with chocolate, flowers and two brand new books for W to read about kittens! W was so happy about the whole process and she and I had a good chat about helping people and why it is important to do so when you can as you would hope that someone would help you when you needed it.

Spatial Skills: In the afternoon, we built almost all of W’s Lego sets as she said she wants to have them all on display instead of all in their individual bags. We cleared a shelf in her bedroom for the display and started to build. Her skills at putting these things together now are amazing. She first got a large ‘Belle’s Castle‘ set at Christmas and it took her hours and hours to build. Now she has even better fine-motor skills and can build the sets so quickly.

W was lucky enough to go on a short camping trip with her other mum this week.  She was very involved in everything, from putting up the tent to washing up and tidying everything away. She is becoming much more independent now and was very bold in exploring the environment and doing more things by herself without help.

Literacy: We read one of the books that W got as a present for finding the lost cat (Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter) and she loved it.

W also did some writing practise – a lot of it was writing ‘poo’ on pieces of paper and thinking it was hilarious……

Geography: On her camping trip, W walked a lot and followed a map of the park.

Art: At Rainbows, W decorated cupcakes for her friend’s promise ceremony, watched do her promise and get her badge.

Languages: Took a friend’s dog for a walk; she is deaf so W learned some sign language to communicate with her.

…and at the end of a long blog post here, I have noticed that I have included a section for ‘socialisation’, which is quite small. However, we see people and socialise all the time without it being a separate subject, or task to perform, if you see what I mean. The camping trip, the walking a friend’s dog, seeing grandparents and the wonderful trip to the flypast with our buddies all count towards W’s socialisation too. I suppose I have a holistic approach to W’s education and it is becoming clear to me through this writing that the subjects that we work through are not separate at all, but that there is so much crossover between them all. And that, I suppose, is part of the beauty of home ed itself.

1st July, 2018 – the Maritime Museum

This week was an exhausting one – it was filled with the usual (and unusual) learning and a fabulous trip to Greenwich to the Maritime Museum, but was also marred by the illness of our lovely kitten, Flash. I feel like I need a week’s rest to get over this one….

Here is what we did – arranged by subject, as usual…..

Maths: W surprised me by counting in twos and said she had learned it from D last week. This is another example of the children teaching each other, without my input, I suppose. I love that this happens on a regular basis and I love that the children gain so much just from being together and talking.

Another way that the children learn together is from our daily board game session. We play board games every evening after we have tidied the away the mess of the day together. This week, we played Monopoly Junior a lot. In this game, W will happily add up the rent on her properties when she has more than one. I haven’t ‘taught’ her how to do this – she has just learned that she needs to ask for money from one of us and needs to work out how much to ask for. It takes her a few moments, but allowing her to do this for herself means that she is included in the game as much as any other player and gives her a sense of achievement too.

At one point this week, W asked to buy some accessories for one of her toys with her pocket money. We bought it together online, so she read out the numbers from a bank card for me. Her understanding is growing about money, especially that if you spend it on one thing, it can’t still be there to buy something else.

Sport: At Rainbows, W learned about the Olympics and what the colours of the flags represent. She coloured in her own flag and wrote her name on it and then she drew a picture of her favourite sport (swimming).

Social: Also at Rainbows, W learned some new songs and a game called ‘On the deck’, which she really enjoyed. She mixes very well with the children there and plays happily with them before the session starts too.

Another opportunity for socialisation came at our regular meet-ups, where she saw her friends and had the chance to just play for a few hours.

On the train, W played with two children, aged 8 and 9. They showed each other gymnastics moves, played noughts and crosses (which she had just learned to play) and played with toys together. After that, W chatted to their grandparents as well.

It makes me so proud to see W developing her social skills like this. She is very happy to talk to children that she has just met and comes across as confident and self-assured. A reminder that our teachers in school were right – we were not at school to socialise – we socialise through life whenever we want to!

History / Geography: We visited the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where W really enjoyed learning about boats, battles, kings and queens and everything in-between.

There was a giant map on the floor and we spent quite a bit of time walking to different countries of the world and talking about how far from each other they are. We also discussed notable things about the countries – such as Tokyo being the most populous city, which she has learned before, but now she could see a giant example of where it was in the world.

I do love this Museum – there is so much to do and so much to see. In the daytime, it is not crowded at all and the staff are so helpful too.

We also visited Queen’s House in Greenwich, which W loved. She asked me to read every information section about each room. She learned about the house and what it was used for over time. She learned about the art in the rooms and also the design aspects. All of this information was gained from the little plaques on the walls and from the knowledgeable staff there.

We talked about the steps in the house being worn down in the middle and had a mini-lesson ourselves on erosion.

We talked about the different roles and responsibilities that monarchs had had in the past and how that had changed and then W also asked about their staff and what they did.

She is very interested in the Royal family and asked again how succession to the throne works. She still doesn’t seem impressed at the fact that one is born into the role and does not ‘earn’ it.

Science: We looked at a huge propeller from a boat and learned how it made the boat move. We then related that back to the cruise ship that we had seen on the Thames last week.

W was lucky enough to go inside a traditional windmill – not working, but all the equipment was there. We talked about how it was used to make flour.

Also saw a beached anchor – related it to how it is used on boats (specifically Capt Turbot’s in Paw Patrol)

W asked in conversation why brothers and sisters can’t marry and that lead to a discussion on genetics and mutations, in simple terms!

Later in the week, W asked to learn about types of cloud, so we looked them up on the internet and she was interested in the different types and their names.  She learned a tiny bit about how they are formed, which we can build on when she is older.

Later, we went to the vets again with our cat, Flash, as he had been very poorly indeed. W learned about dehydration, infections and antibiotics. At the vet’s we saw posters on the wall about kidney disease in cats and saw a picture of the kidneys, learned about their function and also saw an ultrasound of kidneys.

I have tried to shield the children from how serious Flash’s illness was. He became so seriously ill that he could not even lift his head. I had been giving him tiny amounts of water in a syringe every hour day and night as he was not able to drink either. I had washed him as, of course, he wasn’t able to use the litter tray. The poor thing had just been in his bed, not moving apart from constant involuntary shaking.

It turned out to be a serious infection and thankfully he recovered over time and started to eat after around 5 days. The children were worried about him, but none of them knew that he could have died. To see him so poorly and to think that we could have lost him was very hard indeed.

I think the best thing that I have seen this week is Flash playfully batting his brother on the nose, proving that he is starting to get his strength back!

At dinner, W learned from my partner about blood pressure and why low blood pressure makes you dizzy and can give you a headache.

Play: In the Maritime Museum, W played with me in the mini fish market, making up prices for the products and selling them to me.

W and D played many games as we traveled in the car this week. They came up with games such as car spotting, pretend computers and vets (using soft toys as patients).

Literacy: At one of our regular meet-ups, W asked me to help her make a menu for her pretend café. I wrote the menu for her, but asked her what the letters in some of the words should be. She then went around the people and asked them what items they would like from the menu.

Later that day, W wrote a card to her Grandfather for his birthday, all by herself.

On the train later in the week, we made up a story together, which she loves to do. I usually make up the first part, then she says what happens next and we continue taking it in turns to create the story. It is usually very funny, though I’m not sure how much the commuters enjoy our raucous laughter….. but that doesn’t matter, because the point of all this is to have fun. Isn’t that even the point of life? We are here for such a short time, we should enjoy it at least!