25th Nov, 2018 – animals!

This week was all about animals – sea creatures, pets, land animals, climates and habitats. Here is how W’s learning progressed throughout the week:

Science / Nature: W went over what she had learned last week about bats. It was good to hear that she had absorbed all the information.

We have been working on the days of the week and the names of the months and have made good progress, often reciting the words when we are on a train or in the car.

We watched 2 episodes of Blue Planet, which W was absolutely amazed by. We have the poster that goes with the series already and she loves learning the names of all the different sea creatures. She also learned about the food chain in the oceans, storms affecting the seas, false killer whales and how they communicate with (and remember) individual dolphins.

At the petrol station, I explained where the tanks of fuel are and showed W where they are filled.

W’s stepbrother, J (10) chatted to her about the equator and deserts.

We spent some time looking up where the major organs of the body are. W was interested in the fact that the stomach is behind the ribcage and not in her ‘tummy’.

She asked if frogs have teeth and how they bite things…. then later asked about flamingos: how they eat and how they dance.

On Wednesday, we had to go to the vets to get the kittens neutered. We talked a lot about why neutering is important, then W asked what happens to the cats testicles after they have been removed (!).

We saw lots of dogs in the veterinary surgery, and we chatted to the owners about the types of breed and their ages etc. We ended up spending a long time in there (drop off, collection and waiting for medication took 2.5 hours in total) and W was very patient indeed. She played with another child (4) and chatted to her about the cats.

When we were eventually called into the room with the vet, W learned about the process of having an operation and what happens in what order. She chatted to them confidently. Afterwards, we learned about how to care for the cats for the first week after their operation.

We then watched Jo Brand’s cats and kittens programme, which was educational again.

At the train station, we saw a police dog checking people’s bags. W asked how they are trained to do that and we talked about how they have a favourite toy and they are given that toy when they do the right thing. The police officer came over with the dog and introduced him to her. He was called Bobby and had a business card too. It was lovely that the officer did that as there was clearly a big police operation going on with armed officers too, but he took time out to speak to W about the dog.

We looked at the ‘magic mirror’ that was set up at the station. W loved the fact that she could see herself in it, but that there were other things that she could see in the mirror that were not there in real life. She saw a pride of lions moving near her and absolutely loved it.

Geography: We talked about tectonic plates, mountains and glaciers again, which she loves explaining to me.

South Africa came up in conversation randomly, so we talked about the climate and habitats that are there.

Play: We got the Xmas decorations out and the children loved looking through them all. Afterwards, instead of playing a board game, we played a memory game where we put 5 decorations on to a tray, covered it, removed one, and then the children had to work out which one I had removed. We all really enjoyed the game.

We played the ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ board game quite a few times and, although it’s a little young for all the children now, they enjoyed it and played well.

History: In the car, W asked about World War II, so her stepsiblings, J (10) and D (8) explained a bit about it to her. We also talked about refugees in an age-appropriate way.

Spatial Skills: We did a jigsaw instead of a board game on Thursday, which was lovely. W used to do so many jigsaws when she was 3 and became quite good at doing them, so it was good to see her enjoying them again.

W wanted to check her Lego builds that are on display in her bedroom, so that she could see if there were any pieces missing. We did two full sets and made a list of missing parts, then found the pieces that we needed from her ‘spares’ box.

She later put together her new Playmobil set by herself, following the instructions with no problem.

PSHE: We talked about burials and what happens after a funeral.

Maths / Numeracy: At bedtime, W randomly told me: “3+3 is 6. 4+4 is 8. etc etc”. She enjoys adding numbers for fun and I hope that continues!

On the train on Wednesday, W did some work in her new Shopkins activity book. There were colouring- in activities, writing, spot the difference, mazes and numbers.

On Thursday, she asked to go to her drop-in Maths and Drama classes. In Maths, she was given a worksheet with addition tests and she just sat and worked on it by herself. She asked for help from the teacher when she had run out of fingers to add up on, so the teacher helped her to find a new way of adding when she does bigger numbers.

Also in Maths, she played a numbers game where they drew different parts of a robot according to which numbers came up on a dice. The next game was one where she stood back-to-back with a friend (T), 6, and they each wrote down a number. They had to guess what number the other had from being told what the total of the two numbers was.

Drama / Performing Arts: In Drama, she played games pretending to be animals and also telling stories and guessing which fairy tales they are. She really enjoyed this class too.

Socialisation: At the classes, she saw her friends, B (7), A (5) and T (6) from our regular Monday social group, who were pleased to see her!

English / Literacy: At home, D had put a new poster on her wall and W did a good job of trying to read the words on it.

W wrote wedding and birthday cards for friends and family. She insisted on doing it without help, and did a good job.

Home Economics: We baked a lemon drizzle cake, and decorated it with many hundreds and thousands.

Art: I had a giant box arrive with some stock for my shop and W asked if she could draw on it. She spent ages drawing cats and rainbows on it, inside and out. She asked for a light inside and took her night lights in there too so that she could see her masterpieces properly.

In the café on Friday, W entertained herself by drawing in my notebook, making more pictures of cats.

All her free time at home on that day was spent decorating the giant cardboard box again. She has now branched out into drawing butterflies too.

This rounds off our animal-themed week nicely. At the moment, W is interested in all living things, whether they are sea creatures or land animals. She has such enthusiasm for learning when it is a subject that she enjoys, and I hope that continues into her future.

 

18th Nov, 2018 – a quiet week

This week was mainly about taking some time off learning while we have some family time. However, as learning happens all the time anyway, here is the incidental learning that happened, without much effort at all…..

Literacy / English: There were quite a few birthdays this week, so W made cards for friends birthdays. Her writing was very good and she concentrated on the task well.

Later in the week, W wrote a letter to Santa. She did extremely well with her letters, copying some out and writing some by herself.

On Thursday, W asked if she could try to see some bats, so after looking up some information, we found that we may see some that night, since it was a warmer night. We did manage to see a couple and then W made up a poem about our walk, which she later turned into a song.

Our last piece of work on literacy this week was when W decided to make a sign for the house. She did well trying to spell the words.

Home Economics: W helped to make cake and flapjacks for a family gathering, which obviously she loved as she got to lick the spoon!

W then asked if jelly has gelatine in, so we talked about what it is, where it comes from and how it works.

Maths / Numeracy: We played ‘Pop to the Shops’ by Orchard Toys, during which, W was reading the two-digit numbers for the first time (“forty pence”, rather than “four-oh”, for example).

W played Minecraft with her stepbrother, J (10) and later her stepsister, D (8) too. J built buildings for her on her tablet and W furnished them with J’s help. I love the way that they work together on their Minecraft buildings. J seems to really enjoy helping W with her learning these days.

Science / Nature: There was salt on the platforms at the train station. W knew it was there to stop people slipping, so we talked about water freezing and why salt made a difference. We talked about how else you could melt ice.

On the way home, we talked about why the sun sets and the fact that the Earth spins.

W asked about condensation on a water bottle, so I explained to her where it comes from ad why it happens.

Music: W wanted to learn a song that we used to sing from when she was a baby, so we did, then later W played the piano at the train station. We talked about the notes and chords.

Engineering: We were delayed at a London station, so we watched the engineers building part of a large building using a cherry picker. Then we saw a freight train and counted the carriages together.

We talked about earthquakes and how builders can ensure that buildings don’t fall down, by making them able to sway (W has a slight fascination with earthquakes lately).

Socialisation: On Monday, we went to our regular social group, where W played with her friend J (5) for most of the time.

AS always, W had a great time at her Rainbows group, playing with her friends and doing craft activities.

Play: W played with her toys (mainly My Little Ponies) a lot, taking care to categorise them as she did so.

When we played Uno on the train and W is getting very good at the strategy side of the game now. 

On Friday, W made a stable for her toy horse using boxes and chairs, then played with them for a long time.

Art / Design: W decided to design some wedding dresses, taking care to include the tiny features that she wanted on them.

PSHE: W still has lots of questions about death and funeral services, because of our recent loss (more about this here). I am glad that she is talking about it and asking lots of questions. I really do believe that when children hold in their grief, it can build to a much worse level than when they are encouraged to talk about it whenever they need to…. I am trying to remember this for myself too….

This blog post is much shorter than usual because we have actually done far less in terms of education than we usually would. However, I know that this is normal after an event such as a death in the family and I also know that it is important for us to take the time that we need in order for us to heal as a family.

11th Nov, 2018 – when I grow up….

W has asked questions about the future this week and has given consideration to what career she would like when she is older. More about this below, in the usual format of subject order:

Play: The theme for W’s play this week has mainly been ‘My Little Ponies’. W has played with these delightfully plastic toys with both me and her stepsister, D (8) at various points during the week.

She has also spent a lot of time playing loudly with her stepbrother, J (10). Their play usually involves bringing all the covers and pillows from all the beds and making some sort of den in the living room. Then we often all have a pillow fight.

Art: At the dinner table, W decided to get her pens out and do some drawings while she was waiting for food to arrive.

W later found some beads that were an unopened gift in her bedroom. She opened them and made a flower out of them, which looked fabulous!

Board Games: We played Chinese Chequers a few times this week (for those that don’t know, we have a nightly routine of tidying, then playing a board game all together). W was proud of herself for winning against all 5 of us. Usually D wins this game, but I think W was determined to win a game this time!

Monday’s ‘board game’ was ‘Pass the Pigs’ where you throw two tiny pigs to see which way up they land and get points accordingly. W loved making a score chart for us and wrote it all out carefully. She was so proud of herself to see that she could write all those numbers herself (I added up the scores and she wrote them down).

Literacy / Language: On Saturday, I had to send a parcel to Russia for my business. The address was written in the Cyrillic alphabet, so I showed it to W and explained that there are different alphabets, used in different countries.

In the morning, W made a list of the things that we needed to do that day. She made it with help and then we used the list to determine what we did.

We also learned some French words while we were playing, just for fun.

W has a toy that she has had since she was a baby – it is a phone which talks and sings in Greek (it was passed down to us from a friend of mine, who is Greek). She has been playing with it this week, trying to learn the Greek alphabet as she goes.

Science / Nature:  We watched a CBeebies ‘Operation Ouch’ video on Youtube, showing what happens to the bladder (via ultrasound) when you have a wee. She was really interested and watched it twice.

W asked what political parties there are in America and we talked about the Democrats and Republicans and how the colours for the parties are the opposite to what they are here. 

When we were at a firework display, looking at all the beautiful colours in the sky, W asked if the sky ever ends. This led to a discussion about the Earth’s atmosphere and space.

W then asked lots of questions about how fireworks explode and what makes the noise etc.

On Tuesday, we had a chat about haemoglobin and iron as I have to take supplements.

We got a new poster from the Open University that we put up in the dining room. It is from the Blue Planet and shows the layers and depths of the oceans and what lives in each. W wanted to write the names of some of the depths of ocean, so she wrote “Epipelagic” and “Mesopelagic” on paper. Big words for a small person…

At dinner, we talked about the fact that people live in the International Space Station for 6 months at a time, then W asked her stepbrother, J, to read her the poster on oceans to identify the creatures on it.

On Thursday, we took the cats to the vet and W told the staff there that she wants to be a vet. She was also chatting to them about why each dog was barking / putting it’s tail between its legs etc. She could tell which dogs were friendly and which were nervous, which was brilliant. 

When we were at Kings Cross, W asked how the building was built, so we looked that up on my phone as we were waiting for a train.

Politics / History: W asked about November 5th and why we celebrate it, so we touched on the story of Guy Fawkes and what happened, in simple terms.

D (W’s stepsister, 8) taught W a song about the ancient Egyptians, which D had learned at school. It included references to Osiris, Isis, mummification, Pharaohs and pyramids. They sang it over and over.

Home Economics: W helped to make some biscuits to take with us to the local firework display, mentioned earlier.

PSHE: On the way home from the display, W asked lots of questions about Aunty T (more about her here): what her favourite things were, what she liked to do, what her favourite flowers were etc. I must say it was good to hear W talk about Aunty T again and, although it was difficult for me to talk about her without getting upset, I know that it is right for us to remember .

At night, we talked about feelings and how big feelings are less scary if we talk about them. We chatted about how you can share your feelings and how that makes it feel so much better because then someone else knows about it too.

Economics: At the post office, we saw a delivery of lots and lots of coins, so asked why they need such a big delivery. Then we saw the money van go to Sainsbury’s to take their notes away. She was fascinated by it.

So as well as wanting to be a vet, W has said that she would like to drive the money van when she is grown, as long as there are no robbers in the future, though I’m not sure that could be guaranteed…..

4th Nov, 2018 – Hallowe’en

This week, we were not feeling up to much (more about this here). We went out a little, but mainly stayed at home in the warm, relaxing and doing whatever we wanted.

Socialisation: At a Halloween kids disco, W joined in with the games and the dancing and coped very well with the noise and general chaos. Later, it was trick-or-treat time. W was determined to go out, despite not feeling great this week, so we did and we met up with friends to go together. She absolutely loved it, although last year, someone opened their door and properly scared the children, so this time, W hung out at the back of the crowd of children, then asked her stepbrother J, 10, to take her to the front when he thought it was safe. J obliged every time, bless him.

We met up with friends in a cafe, but didn’t stay long.

Science / Nature: We had a good look at the moon and the stars as we were out after it was dark. We said we’d go and find some bats next time.

I lit a fire in the garden to burn the dry grapevine and W learned again that fire needs 3 things in order to burn. She later asked where the grapevine disappeared to when it had burned and I explained about ash and smoke. While the fire was burning, we cleared the leaves from the back garden, founding acorns and snails as we did so. 

On Tuesday, we watched a vet program on the TV while W rested on the sofa. She watched them reduce a dog’s temperature, fix a dog’s legs (they didn’t show the gory bits) and she also learned about venomous snakes. 

I had a hospital appointment and W came with me. She told the nurses that she has a toy blood pressure machine and a thermometer.  She was a little subdued, but she was interested in what was going on around her. When I went for a blood test, she watched the numbers on the screen change until it was my turn to go in.

We looked at a poster of the stomach and intestines and W was interested in how they worked. She then rearranged a children’s toy to categorise the animals within it.

I had an ECG and the nurse explained to W what it was for and what the electrodes did.

Caught a spider in a glass and W had a look at it (she would usually be too scared to approach) 

Arts: W did quite a bit of colouring-in and drawing this week. 

On Monday, I didn’t feel up to going to our usual social meet, so W suggested we stay at home and make a cat house for our cat, Flash. I asked her to design it on paper first and then make it from cardboard etc. 

Her drawings were great and so we set about making it together. Instead of telling her what I thought would work and what would not work, I allowed her to do things and then change her mind if something didn’t fit. We both really enjoyed figuring it out together and she did very well at working it out. She drew windows and doors on a cardboard box. She told me how she wanted them to be cut out. We stuck cellofane on the backs of the windows, then W wanted curtains. She decided by herself that we should stick string up behind the windows and then she cut curtains out of wrapping paper and attached them in her own way to the string.

Later, we carved pumpkins for Halloween. W drew her cat design on paper and then drew it onto the pumpkin so that I could carve it.

We watched the Disney Robin Hood cartoon film together. She was curious about whether the story was real, so we talked about legends. It was actually a rather boring movie, but we sat through it anyway as she didn’t have the energy for anything else. 

Play: W made beds for her toy dogs out of shoe boxes, using all the face cloths, napkins and towels in the house for bedding.

She also played with her magnetic pop-up toys a lot, then later played independently with her dolls and cars, getting them set up for a journey and working out a complicated hierarchy regarding who sat where. This lasted over a few days.

Board Games: My stepdaughter, D (8) had a new board game – Chinese Chequers. We all played it and W picked up the rules quickly and followed them well. She even figured out skilful moves.

Politics: General conversations with W this week have covered: the law around sending children to school, children’s rights in relation to this, Donald Trump and his wall, who pays for the Queen’s palaces, gay rights, racism in America, gun control in America, and women’s rights. All of these conversations were instigated by W, who appears at this stage to have a keen interest in politics and how the world works.

Hopefully, we will do more next week and will get out more in order to develop W’s new-found interest….

28th Oct, 2018 – A Birthday!

There was much excitement this week as it will be D’s 8th birthday. D requested a party for her friends at the house, so that is what we did. W was great at helping with the preparations (wrapping the presents, filling party bags etc) and a good time was had by us all.

Here is what happened in terms of W’s learning this week, in order of subject:

Play: This week, W has played with her stepsister, D (7) before and after her party, a lot, which is lovely to see.

On Tuesday, W played with me at home as my partner and the children went to see the a movie, which W didn’t want to see (she struggles with any mild peril in films). We first played Mouse Trap, then she asked if I could build some water slides from Lego for the toys from the Mouse Trap game. She enjoyed playing with them in their new water park for a while, then when she tired of that, we played ‘Duck’ (W’s own invented game).

Literacy / English: The board game in the evening was Articulate and W got the highest scores out of everyone for her descriptions of words.

W played I-Spy with us in the car, which is great for W’s literacy learning.

Science / Nature: Our carbon monoxide alarm had gone off in the night (it was faulty. We have 3 alarms, so I tested the other two and it was all fine), so I explained what had happened. This then led to a discussion on what carbon monoxide is, how a fire needs 3 things in order to burn, and then we moved on to learning how the sun burns!

At dinner, W asked what is at the Earth’s core (!), so we talked about magma, volcanoes and rocks.

Then she asked what temperature water sharks prefer (!) so we had to look that one up (20-30 degrees, apparently). We learned where they live and then talked about the difference between fish and mammals.

W used the antique scales to weigh a polystyrene ball (I’m not sure why) and was really pleased when she got it to balance. I asked why the scales balanced and she said that it was because each side was the same weight.

Before bed, W talked about what the role of drone bees are and what the queen does. She also talked about sandstorms and why they change the colour of the sky. 

Home Economics: W did some baking as we needed to make the cake for D’s 8th birthday.

Politics: Somehow we got to talking about the fact that smacking children is legal (none of my children have ever been hit, obviously). W said she thought it was wrong that it is illegal to smack a grown-up, but not a child. Then, somehow, this led to a discussion on laws and democracy again. We touched on dictators (gently) and then talked about how the Conservative party came to be in power if most people didn’t vote for them. In very simple terms, I did a drawing of how many people voted red, how many blue and how many didn’t vote at all (a fact that she was shocked by).

Music: She listened to some songs on her tablet and learned the lyrics to them.

Socialisation: When it was time for the partygoers to arrive for D’s party (E [9], J [7], E [7], and B [7] and all their respective adults), W played with everyone really well. At times, it was too noisy for W, so she would go off and play quietly for a while and then join in again when she was ready.

There were many party games, including building a Lego car and racing it, guessing how many Lego bricks were in a jar, hide and seek, Mouse Trap and all sorts of other games too. All the children (especially D) had a lovely time and D said that it was exactly what she wanted in a party.

In the evening, W was brilliant at negotiation. The house was messy after the party, but at tidying time, W said she was too tired to tidy. I said that that was fine as it was late and she was tired. I asked if she would find it hard to sleep if the rooms were messy and she said that she would (she has always found it hard to sleep in a messy room). After some thought, she then said that she would prefer to tidy before bed. The others said that they did not want to tidy, so she talked to them and explained why she felt more comfortable if everything was put away (important toys getting lost etc) and they then agreed with her and helped to tidy too!

On Monday, we went to our regular social group. We had a lovely time and W was excited that she could bring her siblings, J (10) and D (8) along too this week. She then played with P (5), who had been to our house for a play date last week. She also chatted to her other friends: P (8) and B (7). Unfortunately, it was raining, so the children were not allowed outside this time, which made the hall exceptionally noisy. After 1.5 hours, W had had enough of the noise, so she spent some time with me in a side room in the quiet for a while and that seemed to help. However, every time she came into the main hall, she couldn’t cope with the noise. I will purchase some ear defenders soon and see how she copes at the group with them.

PSHE: At bedtime, W asked about adoption again and talked about the boy she met on the train, so we talked about the fact that adoption is rare and that it would never happen to her. I explained that it is a really good thing for the children who are adopted because their families were either too poorly or too young to care for them, so the children got to live with a new family who could give them everything that they needed.

She asked if she knew anyone who is adopted and I said that she knows many adopted children, but that we don’t ask children about it unless they talk about it first, just in case they aren’t comfortable talking about it yet.

Maths / Numeracy: At our Monday social group, W helped D to sell some things that she had made out of Hama beads. W served D’s customers and helped D to count the change.

W randomly decided to count backwards this week, which is the first time she has done that.

Geography: In the night, W got up when I was still working (I mainly work at night when she is asleep), so she watched me work for a bit and saw that I was looking at Google maps. She asked questions about the British Isles and asked where Ireland was etc, so we looked at satellite pictures of various places.

Art: Then she got out her colouring pens independently and wrote her name lots of times and drew some fabulous detailed pictures of cats…. all at 11:30pm……!

After W finally went to bed, I got back to work at my kitchen table, making it a very long night for me indeed. I hoped to catch up on sleep over the next few nights, but that wasn’t to be as we had some sad news in the middle of the night……

 

 

 

 

21st Oct, 2018 – Random Questions

This week, like last week, has seen the focus remain on play-based learning, with random in-depth questions thrown in when I least expect them.

We have seen friends and had lots of fun playing with toys (and sneaking in the odd educational game too). Here is our week in the usual format:

Board Games: We played the Orchard Toys Shopping List game a few times this week, but noticed that one of the tiles was missing, so we took advantage of the brilliant scheme that Orchard Toys have for missing pieces and sent off for a replacement. W was really, really pleased when it arrived in the post.

We also played Go Fish and Jenga many times.

Literacy / English: W played a lot with her stepsister D (7) this week. They played mainly with their princess toys, with the toys getting married and moving in together. For some reason, each family of princesses needed a door number and a letter, so W and D wrote these for them.

In a shop, we found ourselves looking for clothes, following a recent growth spurt. W read the labels on the clothes to look for the sizes and told me the prices too.

On the way home, W helped to read the train tickets, displays and train signs. 

We later played Articulate as a family, where W was great at both guessing and explaining the words.

Our bedtime reading has been the original Mary Poppins books, which W is really, really enjoying.

Science / Nature: On Tuesday, we watched a weather report on the TV, which W was really interested in. She liked watching the arrows for the wind direction and loved looking at the map of the British Isles, asking lots of questions about where things are on the map. W asked how storms start and why they happen. She then asked how they go away. She was very interested in this and later asked where in the world they happen the most.

At breakfast, W asked me why the outside of her glass of water was wet, so we talked about condensation and water vapour. J followed it up and talked about humidity.

For dinner one night, W put together her own pizza. She asked why the cheese would shrink when cooked, so we had a chat about how and why that happens.

At a neighbour’s house, their dog, Clancy was very wiggly and over excited, but W handled him really well and managed to stay calm amidst all his wriggling…. We later discussed breeds of dog and what happens when two breeds mix.

Maths / Numeracy: At dinner, W’s siblings, J (9) and D explained odd and even numbers to W, so I’ll remember to follow that up when we are looking at door numbers on the street.

We requested to go shopping for a particular toy that she wanted to spend her earnings from last week o, so we popped into town to buy it. When we brought it home, W was so proud that she had earned her own money and bought a toy for herself.

Spatial Skills: At Rainbows, it was my turn as a volunteer to create an activity, so I had all the children build a Lego car of their own design. We then had a race to see which car won. Each child had a set of wheels, a steering wheel and a seat. The whole of the car had to be their own design. They all did amazingly well – even those who hadn’t built Lego before.

Socialisation: W had a play date with P (6) and J (3), who she had met at the scout camp (now a monthly meet up) and really enjoyed it. She loved having her friends round for a visit.

On Monday, we had a day at home, playing and getting a few jobs done around the house that needed doing. A friend was due to come to play, but cancelled at the very last minute, giving us a free day for once!

The next day, it was time for another playdate with her friend J (4). They played together with Playmobil and then played ‘Duck’, which is a game that W made up and one that I am not completely sure of the rules involved….

W’s Aunt came to stay, so W had a lovely time playing and chatting with her.

Geography: W randomly asked me the following, which I had to look up on my phone:

What is the world’s most populous city (Tokyo); which city has the most buildings (Hong Kong); and which is the largest city by area (Shanghai).

Politics: W asked about the laws around school and didn’t understand why, if you were enrolled in a school, you had to go full time and not just sometimes. She thought that that was a silly rule….. I’m inclined to agree. I dislike the all-or-nothing aspect of school, as detailed in my blog post here.

We had another political discussion on a train journey later in the week when W asked what the difference is between a dictatorships and democracy.

…So that was our week of child-led learning…. As a parent, I do feel I have to be prepared for any question at any time. I often have questions sprung on me like the ones above, with no indication that it is coming (and no opportunity to think about my answer properly)! I think as W gets older and the questions become more difficult, I may have to tell her that we will look it up together later, so that I get time to think about my answer first…..

14th Oct, 2018 – the Royal Albert Hall

This week, W’s learning was mainly play-based. However, we also had some brilliant social education (called PSHE in schools), learning about the situations and lives of people that we met while travelling.

We saw an older, blind man teaching a much younger man, who was also blind to use a white stick. W was fascinated by how the younger man was going to learn to get around. We have seen (and also helped) people who are blind get around, but I think W was really struck by the fact that people have to spend a lot of time learning these skills. It led to some brilliant conversations about disability, with W asking many questions.

Another opportunity for social learning this week came from a random meeting with a family on a long train journey. We got talking to them and it somehow came up in conversation that their child was adopted. He talked about his birth mum to his parents and also to us. W listened with interest and later asked me many questions about him. We have talked about adoption many times before as some of her friends and family members were adopted, but W seemed interested in this particular boy’s life. We talked in vague, age-appropriate, terms about the reasons why a child would be adopted and also about the many positive aspects of adoption.

I feel it is so important to talk about other families, whose situations may be different to ours, in the hope that our children will grow up being trailblazers in accepting and embracing difference without a second thought.

…So, now that we have covered PSHE very well this week, here is what the rest of the week looked like, in subject order, as usual:

Science / Nature: We watched some builders and crane operators for a while as they were building a new tall building in central London. W asked lots of questions about how a building is built and why it doesn’t fall over.

W later asked to go to the park to feed the squirrels, so we looked online to find out what the best food for them is, which turned out to be apples and sweetcorn. At the park, we found that most of the squirrels wanted the apple, but two did not (and the ducks ate all the sweetcorn).

On the way home, we saw a ginger cat with one eye, so we talked about how she was either born with one eye or had an operation on it because it was sore and that it wasn’t sore any more. 

W had her daily vitamin, which led to a conversation about the vitamins D, A and B12; why we need them and where they come from.

W asked why her hair is the colour that it is, so we discussed (with the help of a diagram) the genetics of hair colour. We talked about my hair colour, W’s donor’s hair colour and what colour hair she could have had from those different genes. 

On Friday, we posted some ink cartridges to recycle and W learned why it is important to recycle as much as possible. W wanted to know why it mattered if the landfill sites got really big.

The batteries in one of W’s toys had run out and W wanted to replace it herself. She used the screwdriver very well, and again this gave us an opportunity to talk about recycling.

On Wednesday, W decided to weigh some of her toys to see the difference in weight between them. 

Maths / Numeracy: We played Monopoly Junior and W did well again at adding and subtracting money. We talked about currencies – she knew that dollars are American and pounds are English. 

W helped with my work (because she wanted to) and looked for items with certain 4-figure numbers on. She did really well holding 4 numbers in her head and getting them in the right order.

Home Economics: I made Yorkshire puddings and W helped with every stage. She really liked mixing it all together and sieving the flour. She was great with weighing out the ingredients.

She later helped me to cook dinner. She separated the leaves from the stalks of parsley, cut the stock cube up, zested the orange, opened packets, added ingredients to pans, measured out the honey (and then licked all the honey off the spoon).

Socialisation: At the weekend, Grandma and Grampy came to visit and the children loved spending time with them, chatting and playing.

At our regular Monday social group, W played with a few of her friends and their dolls.

The next day, we tried a new Home Ed group, which will hopefully be running monthly. It was at a Scout camp and was fabulous! There was a campfire where we toasted marshmallows, a wooden climbing frame, lots of space, a hut, a craft activity, and lots of other things to do. W saw a friend who she has met before and played with her for the whole time that she was there. Her name was P (6) and we have already arranged a playdate for next week. They got on very well. There were other children there that she knew well: T (7), A (4), E (6), and a few others too. We will go again!

Play: W and her stepsister, D, played princess families for ages.

At the park, W took a doll onto the climbing frame and the swings to play. We also played frisbee and W is getting better at trying to catch it instead of ducking!

Whenever we have been at home this week, W and I have played with her dolls. At the moment, she is enjoying teaching her dolls how to walk, eat food, making beds for them, comforting them when they cried etc.

W also wanted to play at hiding things in the garden. She was very good at actually hiding things, but found it hard to resist pointing them out… She now understands the concept of ‘getting hotter’ as you get nearer.

The bedtime ‘board’ game this week was actually ‘GO Fish’, which W always enjoys.

Spatial Skills: One evening, W built a 3D wooden butterfly that Grandma had given her. She did very well with it, even though she hadn’t built that type of thing before. She put things together the wrong way around (I let her) and then realised when other bits didn’t fit, so she tried again. She was very calm and patient with it, and was so proud when she finished it.

She later put together a Lego toy with no help at all.

English / Literacy: On Sunday, W asked to do some homework, as her stepsiblings were doing theirs, so I got some activities out for her to do (writing practice) and she did those.

Later in the week, she did two more pages of her workbook, then played I-spy with D, learning a little more about spelling.

We filled in a couple of days on the calendar with things that she had wanted to do and she was good at understanding the length of time that would pass before we would be able to do each.

On a long train journey, we learned a little phonics from train station signs, as usual.

At Rainbows, W made a Thank You card. She decided to write a card to Grandma to thank her for coming to see her.

W also made a card for her friend’s first birthday. She made flower shapes with stickers, drew a rocket ship and Mars, and made up some song lyrics for it.

Music: The next day, we went to the Royal Albert Hall for the Primary Proms, which was brilliant, as it is every year! We learned that the Hall was built for Prince Albert. W didn’t remember being there last year, so it was like a new experience all over again for her. She absolutely loved all the music and said that her favourite bit was a band who sang a song about bullying and a song about love.

The host taught the children about Morse code, music in 4, 3 and 5 time, the differences between the planets, counting in time and asymmetrical ostinatos! It was very educational and also very fun!

RE: On the way home, we talked about Ganesha as the taxi driver had an ornament on his dashboard.

…So, there is all the incidental and planned learning that has happened this week. I must remember how important it is to show W her work folder from time-to-time, so that she can see how much she has done and how far she has come with her writing especially. I was reminded of this again when the grandparents came to visit and W proudly showed her giant learning folder for Reception year to them. I think it was good for me to hear again how much W is learning as I still have those days when I fear I am not doing ‘enough’, whatever that is…. 

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).

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.