23rd Sep, 2018 – socialising

Last week, I was worried that we had not done enough socialising and that we had spent too much time at home…. However, this week more than made up for last weeks lack of playdates with friends, so I’ll start this diary entry with:

Socialisation: On Monday, a friend came to play with W and they had a lovely time with the dolls house etc.

We later went to our favourite social group, which was busy again. We met yet another family with two Mums, which brings the total to 4 families at this group. It is lovely for W to be able to see so many children with families like hers.

On Wednesday, a neighbour, T (6 years old), came over for a playdate (who W met when searching for our cat’s collar). The children all had fun playing with her.

On Thursday, it was time for another play date: this time with B (6) and T (2) who we know from our Monday group. W was keen to show T how to be careful and gentle with the kittens.

At Rainbows, W played really well with the other children and also included the new children in the games.

And to round off a week of socialisation, on Friday at the park, W played with her friend, J (4 years old). They enjoyed climbing the big climbing frame and generally running around.

Literacy / English: As usual, on our train journeys, W practiced reading signs at the stations.

W is loving having her things accessible at the desk now (more about this here), and is sitting down to do colouring-in sheets at least once a day, deciding for herself when to just sit down and work on it.

Science / Nature: On Tuesday, we watched W’s favourite vet show on TV, which she loved. She particularly liked the bit about hoof care in horses and how quickly newborn horses can walk.

We saw a fox outside Rainbows and discussed why it was out in the evening and what it was going to eat.

W spent time in the garden, collecting acorns for squirrels and talking about oak trees. W made a mini garden in a planter, with shells, planted acorns and a section for an acorn display

Numeracy / Maths: At Rainbows, W did some dot-to-dot puzzles and then got to colour them in, which she really enjoyed. She did really well and recognised her numbers up to 48 with only a little help.

Next week, she is doing her ‘promise’, which she is really excited about as she becomes a proper Rainbows member then.

Earlier in the day, W had asked to do some paid work with me, so she set about categorising some items for my shop.

Play: W built one of her Playmobile sets. She was determined to do it herself and was proud that she had managed it without adult help.

This rounds off a busy week of socialising, to contrast with last week’s home learning. I am learning now that we can’t do everything in every week, but that all subjects and learning opportunities balance out over the months (and years).

16th Sept, 2018 – Project Based Learning

Last week, I was reading a brilliant book called Project Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert. In it, she talks about making all learning and creative materials accessible to your child at all times. I thought that I had done this, but when I looked around, I realised that there were a few things that W had to ask me for as she couldn’t reach them. The books says that, although this is a tiny barrier to fully child-led learning, it is still a barrier nonetheless.

So W and I set about rearranging W’s learning area so that she can reach everything she wanted or needed straight away. W was great doing this. She loves categorising and really enjoyed tidying her pens and workbooks etc. She even helped to throw some things away that we didn’t need. The difference was remarkable. She was so excited that she could use whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, that she ended up doing all sorts of things with paints, pens, glue etc. It has been fabulous to see her enthusiasm for creativity this week, after such a small change to a corner of our kitchen.

The rearranging of the learning area coincided well with a visit that we had later in the week, from the EHE (Elective Home Education) Officer from the Local Authority (more about why I accepted a visit here). The visit went very well; W showed the officer her encyclopedias on bats and dinosaurs and chatted confidently about what she does day-to-day.

I then showed our visitor W’s file of work (all worksheets and also colouring sheets are kept and placed in a folder in a vague chronological order) and certificates that I have been keeping for a year, since the date that W would have started Reception class. The officer was very happy with what she saw and went on her way, promising to return in a year’s time.

The aforementioned book says that it is important to show a child that you keep their work and that it is valued, however, I realised that I have been squirrelling W’s work away without telling her, so I will now make sure that I show her her folders more often. She was delighted to see the folder of work that I showed to the EHE officer, so I now see how valuable it was for W to see that all her work is important.

Maths: At the Post Office later in the week, W wanted to spend her pocket money on a toy, and did well at calculating what she could buy with what she had.

She also used a lot of maths when we played Monopoly Junior. She was excellent at adding and subtracting to work out what she needed to buy or sell to pay rent etc.

W later spent some time doing a bit of my work with me, categorising some items for my shop by type and colour so that they could be sold (more on categorising here and here). She enjoyed doing it and loved getting paid for her efforts!

She then started categorising her clothes in her bedroom. She wanted to sort everything by outfits instead of by type of clothes, so we are going to do more on that.

W got a board game about shopping from a charity shop and played it with her Nanna and Granddad, using toy coins to buy items.

Religious Education: W asked me one day why some women wear headscarves (hijabs) and some wear burkhas. She knows that the headscarf signifies someone being religious, but wanted to know more. I told her that the burkha was a different type of headscarf, but for the same religion – Islam. I said that religious people wear them and I told her about the women I knew who wear burkhas.

Geography: After school, W’s older sister, D (7) did a jigsaw of a map of the world and we all talked about the geography of Ireland, Asia and Australia, and also tigers!

W asked about the seasons of the year and what season follows which, so we chatted a bit about that. Later, she asked why clouds are different shapes and also where rain comes from.

Literacy / English: We went to the library and W chose some more chapter books, in the series that she likes, and she also chose a couple of books on big cats and a couple of books on caring for pet cats, which she had really wanted to look for.

On Thursday, W did lots of colouring on the train, which I always class as pen practise…

Play: W and D played with their animal figures and Shoppie dolls. As they often do, they took them all on a journey: got them all ready, got on a bus, got on a plane, got home and put them all to bed individually!

The next day, they played with the dolls house, setting up home for their toys.

Socialisation: F (2 years old) came round to play (with her two Mums). W was very good at sharing her toys: even giving away things that she’d just picked up so that F could play with them. She is showing a real understanding of how a 2 year old can’t yet be expected to be patient.

Science / Nature: W and I watched two episodes of her favourite vet show, which we both enjoyed and learned from. They sometimes show images from court and people being fined for animal neglect, which W asks about, so we have talked a lot about what fines are and how they are designed to help people to learn to do the right thing.

On the train, she asked about flying vehicles; what flies higher: planes or helicopters? What is the tallest vehicle on the land? How do planes and helicopters land?

W specifically requested that we make triple chocolate muffins this week, so after shopping for the relevant ingredients, W then helped with all the stages of baking (and eating).

Arts: When watching some of the X Factor on TV, we talked about what it means to be singing ‘in tune’. W is now starting to hear which people are singing in tune, and which aren’t.

PE: Went swimming to burn off the huge amount of energy that W has lately…

The next day, we went to a soft play place. She can go around the course with ease now, so was inventing new challenges for herself – like how fast she could do it or how many things she could climb in a certain amount of time.

I was so glad that our visit at the beginning of the week went well, although I admit to being nervous about it beforehand. It was all so positive, though, so once she had gone, I breathed a sigh of relief, happy to hear that we can carry on as we are for another year..

9th September, 2018 – two birthdays!

This week brought two birthdays for our family – one for J, who turned 10, and one for my partner too. W also squeezed in a trip to Ireland with her other Mum (for our non-regular readers, W’s other Mum is my ex-partner. My new partner is W’s stepmum and we are a blended family of 3 children and two mums / stepmums). As you can imagine, it has been a very busy week for us all, so here is a condensed version of W’s learning, arranged by subject, as usual….

Geography: W learned where Ireland is in relation to England and also learned a little about the Irish language. When she was travelling there, she asked why we need passports, so learned about that too.

Art: W and her Mum went to a photo exhibition, where there were big portraits of local people. W asked why they were in black and white and then said which ones she liked and why.

When W was back home with me, she did a lot of colouring-in over several days. She has better pen-control now and colours very much inside the lines. However, she doesn’t have the patience to colour large areas without gaps yet, which is fine, of course.

She also spent some time drawing using lots of sheets of paper to try to get it just right.

Politics: When we were at Liverpool Street station, W saw a statue of evacuated children, so she asked about them. I explained that their parents thought it was a good idea to send them to the countryside when the war was on, to keep them safe. I then explained that there would not be a war here, and even if there was, she would never be sent away from her parents.

The next day, W asked who Jesus was, so I explained that he was someone who lived a long time ago and that some people believed he was God’s son, but some people believed he was not. We had quite a discussion and this led again to war and why people would argue about God.

Numeracy / Maths: On the way home, we had to buy a couple of small things for the birthdays coming up, and W did very well at her mental maths, working out how much change she would get when she paid for certain items.

W asked about university and qualifications, so my partner, F showed her a few of her diplomas so that she could see what they looked like. We then talked about what each one was for (F is a doctor, so has a few).

When we got home, W wanted to make new blankets for her toys in the doll’s house as she had more dolls than blankets. She found an old t-shirt and cut out some ‘blankets’ with a little help. She was very definite about how they should look and how big they each should be. She wanted 5 of them and said things like, “so we have 3, which means we need two more,” which was great.

Literacy: On the train to and from the picnic, I read some of her book on dog training to her, which she really liked.

We found a couple of items with our names on when we were tidying and W could identify all of our names on each item straight away, without sounding out the letters (the items were letters, exercise books, envelopes etc). I am certain she can read more than she says she can…..

On J’s 10th birthday, W helped to make the cake and biscuits. She is great at putting the ingredients together and weighing them. She can read all numbers easily. She looked at the packets and tried to figure out the words to identify the sealed pack of flour and sugar etc.

W wrote a lovely message in J’s birthday card, which she had chosen herself.

J had a great birthday and we all enjoyed seeing his joy on opening his presents and playing with his new toys, one of which was Articulate For Kids, among other things. When we played this game, we all had a lot of fun trying to describe words to each other, with W keeping up with the rest of us well.

W loves it when one of the others has a birthday. She gets so excited, but was able to keep J’s cake a secret this year, which was no easy task for her!

At bedtime, we sorted through her library books and realised we have read all of the chapter books that we have from there, so we will make a trip there on wednesday for more chapter books and hopefully an encyclopedia on animals.

Socialisation: W met her Irish cousins B (13), T (11) and K (15) for the first time this week, which she was very excited about. They had some lovely chats and she can’t wait to see them again soon, when she next goes to Ireland.

On Wednesday, we went to our first ‘Not Back To School Picnic’ in a lovely park. It was fun and we saw a few of our friends from our social groups there. W wasn’t too keen on dashing about and playing (I think she was still tired from her trip), but did chat to some of the other children and played a little with a few of them.

We dropped J (9) and D (7) off at school for their first day back and W loved seeing their new classrooms and where they were sitting. We talked a lot about school and what happens there and W is very aware of what J and D do in the day and still says that she doesn’t want to go to school.

The social group was very busy this week and we met lots of new people, along with our usual friends. W played mainly with B (5), who she knows well, and J (5), who she had just met. She also did a lot of charging about and rolling down the hill too, and also playing football.

Science: At the airport, W saw different type of planes: some with propellers, some with covered engines and even private jets.

On a visit to a lovely sandy beach near Cork, W paddled in the sea and climbed sand dunes. She also had the chance to look at commercial fishing boats up close, with their fishing nets and lobster pots. While she was there, she collected shells and stones and threw lots of stones in the water, listening to the different sounds that they made.

Back at home, some plants arrived through the post and W learned that some plants like the shade and some prefer the sun. We talked about plants flowering at different times of the year and W told me what she had learned about cactus plants previously. Then, whilst I was cooking dinner, I found a potato with roots growing out of it, so we spent some time talking about potatoes and where they grow and how.

On Saturday, we went to Kidzania for J’s birthday. The children really enjoyed it there and knew what they wanted to do there as they have been a few times now.

W and D went into the PDSA room to work as vets and performed an ‘operation’ on a toy dog who had swallowed a toy. They absolutely loved doing that one and loved learning about animal care.

They then went into the Baby care unit as a nurse and cared for the babies, which were realistic dolls. After that, D, J and W all performed a liver transplant as a doctor in the hospital (W didn’t drop the liver on the floor this time)!

In the hotel section, the Kidzania employee said that the children were the tidiest children she had had there and that they could work there again. I told her that we do tidying time every day at home, and the member of staff said that W had told her about that!

In the evening, we decorated cupcakes for my partner, F’s birthday, wrapped a present and the children wrote in cards that they had chosen.

On Sunday, F opened her presents from the children and I and then we spent a long time in the garden planting the plants that she had received as gifts. W was great at digging holes, putting the plants in gently and watering them too. She was reluctant to get her hands dirty at first, but then really enjoyed making the garden look good. She also spent time sweeping the yard and generally tidying the garden.

After we had finished, W asked me to help her to make a list of things that she wanted to do in the garden, which we then put up at the desk so that we can work through it.

In the evening, we watched a movie called ‘we bought a zoo,’ which we all really enjoyed… and W had the chance again to learn about animal care.

Play / Spatial Skills: W built her Lego Horse Trailer set by herself and then played with it for ages. She really does love her Lego these days

She later helped to build some Lego desk tidys and enjoyed putting different colours together to make them look stylish.

W again spent lots of time with her Lego and helped to build lots of little cars, which her minifigures drove and then got stuck in a traffic jam. She also played with her doll’s house. She seems to know exactly what she is doing when she starts a game and has it all planned out in her head first.

When she was in Ireland, W played frisbee and catch, managing to catch the ball with ease, then also played quite a bit by herself with the Sylvanian families and My Little Ponies that were at the house there.

After all that happened this week, we were ready for a rest…. but next week we have an appointment with the Elective Home Education Officer from the Local Authority, who is coming to the house to check that I am providing a suitable education for W. I’m nervous as it is my first visit from them. Watch this space to find out how it goes…..

 

2nd September, 2018 -a bike ride

Socialisation: When we were on our street, we spotted a children’s bike with a sign on it saying that it was free to a good home, so we took it for D (7) as it was just the right size for her. We then bought some chocolates for the family that gave the bike away. When we got back to their house, they would not accept the chocolates and told us to keep them for the children, so all the children learned about doing good deeds for others and how they can benefit everyone.

W was excited about D’s new bike as she has wanted to go on a bike ride for a while, so we made plans to go together soon.

The next day, we went to visit Grandma and Grampy and had a lovely time at their house, playing board games and going to the park.

On Wednesday, D’s friend, B (7) came over for a playdate. They all played well together and also helped to cut down the grapevine at the back of our house. The children took it in turns to pull on very long branches while I cut it. They found it hilarious that the branches were so long and often stumbled backwards as they were pulling on them. It was like a scene from “The Giant Turnip”.

One of the kittens then arrived home without his collar, so my partner knocked on a few neighbours doors to see if it was in their garden. In the process, W and D ended up making a new friend that lives a couple of doors down (T, 6 years old).

Literacy / English: At the grandparents’ house, we played a board game called Sorry, in which is a little like Frustration, but with cards. W had a go at reading some of her cards and played well.

Science / Nature: We visited the local lake for a walk. W was very good on the walk and enjoyed all of it. There was a nature trail and loads of wooden animals to spot, which we identified. We also saw dragonflies, learned the difference between butterflies and moths, and then stroked every single dog on the way round (asking the owners first, of course).

On the way home, W asked about twins again and how they are created, so we built on the learning about this from last week.

The next day, W was looking at D’s (age 7) dinosaurs, which were ‘hatched’ from an egg that you put into water. They are exactly the same toy, but one is bigger because it was in the water for five days and the other only for two days. This led to a discussion on osmosis and how the toy dinosaurs absorbed the water over time.

We watched two vet programs over the next couple of days, with more learning about animal care.

Numeracy / Maths: W showed me again how she can count in twos and then counted backwards, which I didn’t know she could do. She now knows her numbers up to 100 very well.

When we played Monopoly Junior, W was adding and subtracting amazingly well. She has come up with her own method of how to do it on her fingers and was correct every time.

Politics: At the dinner table, we have had more discussion about politics and Donald Trump. W asked why people voted for him, so we had a discussion about the American voting system and why it was that Trump became president, even though more people (2.87 million more) voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump.

Geography: We talked about countries – J (9 years old) asked if Jersey is in the British Isles and whether states are countries. W was listening as we chatted about what a country is and what a state is etc. She has said that she wants a globe for her bedroom, so I might get her a little one or a poster.

Play: W played again with her Lego – she is really into her vehicles at the moment. She then got all of her Sylvanian Families, My Little Ponies and Peppa Pig figures and took them on trips in her buses and cars around the house. They all had a specific purpose and a particular thing that they were doing and I sometimes wonder how she keeps track of it all….

All the children also played hide and seek many times this week, with W now able to hide without giggling!

At tidying time, W was really, really pleased that her room has been categorised in the way that she wants, because that means that it now takes only 10 minutes to tidy away and she knows where everything should go.

Art: W decided to do lots of colouring-in. She tried to stay inside the lines and was careful to choose the colours so that they were the correct colours for each Shopkins character in the book.

Later, W asked to paint her doll’s house, so we got out all the paints to check that we had the right ones. I asked W what colour she wanted each part to be. We had to go out and buy some white paint and then W got to learn about what happens to paints when you mix them with white. We spent some time mixing the black and white paint to make the correct colour grey that Violet wanted for the roof. She and D spent ages painting the roof, chimneys and floors, which they loved.

Board Games: We played cards: Go Fish and Chase the Ace, during which, W wanted to mark down how many turns each person had had, so she got her own pen and paper and wrote each person’s initial and a tally of their goes.

Music: W wrote some musical notes and tried to compose a song.

PE: As W had asked to go on a bike ride at the beginning of the week, we went round the block on our bikes together very slowly. She was initially very reluctant to make her bike move and we spent a very long time indeed getting to the corner of our street. After a bit of a chat, W explained that she didn’t want to make the bike move by herself because she was scared of going too fast. I explained that I would be right next to her all the time and I can slow her down any time, and also it would be more fun for her if she rode her bike herself (I knew she could do it as she has previously ridden it herself). After that, she was much more happy to ride her bike herself and only needed help when she had got stuck in a dip on the pavement.

I’m glad she managed to do it in the end as she had so wanted to go out on her bike. Hopefully we can soon go for a ride all together.

26th August 2018 – more categorising

Literacy / English:  W asked what the holes in skin are, and found it funny that pores, pause and paws all sound the same. She then tried to come up with other words that sound alike.

Socialisation: W got to hold a 6-day old baby (a friend’s son) and then played with his big sister (her friend K, 4) for a while. They fed ducks together by the river during a walk through the countryside. When they saw some cows, W identified which ones were Jerseys. A bit further along the walk, W helped to find a dockleaf for K, who had been stung by nettles.

W and K had a chat about who was tallest or oldest, then they talked about people they knew who also had two mums, like them.

Art: W did lots of colouring-in this week. She was careful to stay inside the lines and was pleased with the end result.

Later, she drew pictures of our cats. She drew Flash and Jerry in the correct patterns and colours, and then even attempted Watson, which she found difficult as she is so many different colours in different places… Then she made another picture of a pink cat and a purple cat, which was very good.

Board games: We played “Crazy Chefs” and also Charades, which is one of the children’s favourites. W is becoming very good at demonstrating things in a way that other people can understand now.

Literacy / English: W was in charge of writing down who had had a turn at Charades, so that all 5 of us had an equal amount of goes. She hasn’t done this before and she was good at it, making a table of names and a tally of turns.

Play: W set up an elaborate game involving Shopkins, Lego, some palaces, the doll’s house and her Paw Patrol set and then continued the game over the next two days, between trips out of the house.

Maths / Numeracy: W spent a long time categorising her Shopkins into a ‘house’ that she had set up. She put her Shopkins all around the room into little rooms that she had made out of Tupperware tubs. She loved ‘tidying’ all the Shopkins away into their correct places.

We later spent a few hours categorising W’s whole bedroom as she has wanted to do this for some time. She was really pleased with the result because she said she can now find everything she needs. She did really well in continuing to concentrate on the task and was great at deciding what items should be put with what and which things go together.

Her room was previously arranged by colour to make it easier for her to find things, but now she prefers items to be tidied by type, decided by her.

W also helped to categorise some items for sale in my shop. She spent a very long time doing so (and was paid for it too). I wrote about this a few months ago when W had a categorising obsession last time…. It seems that it is back again, so it was good to put it to good use in my shop!

PE: At the park, W played frisbee, then climbed the biggest climbing frame.

Science / Nature: On the train to Leeds, we sat opposite a woman with a budgie in a carrier. He was a lovely friendly little thing and his owner let W stroke him. She explained to W about how budgies learn to talk and also how budgies are cared for. We then watched a ‘pet rescue’ programme, in which they talked about hoof care for horses and how to repair a broken leg. W loves these shows.

W discussed what career she would like when she grew up. She decided on animal rescuer, a vet (without operations) and a dog walker. She also detailed how she would live on a farm and have lots and lots of animals.

So, will W still be categorising next week? It is interesting to look back over these blog posts and to see how W has changed over the past months. Of course, it is impossible to predict the future, but I am genuinely excited to see what happens next and to see how W’s education and interests evolve over time.

 

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….