2nd December, 2018 – Christmas prep!

This week had a Christmas theme, with all of us getting out the Christmas decorations and preparing the advent calendars (my partner makes them for the children). It is such a lovely time of year and, although we are all atheists, we do still involve ourselves with Christmas events and pantomimes that are happening near us, just as we do with other religious festivals.

So here is what W learned this week, in subject order as usual…..

Science / Nature: W asked about the days being shorter now and why that happens and when the days will start to get longer again. We chatted about the seasons and the Earth’s tilt.

W later asked why the date of Easter moves, so we talked about the phases of the moon and how that affects Easter. Then she asked why the moon has phases, so I explained that to her too.

In the evening, W spent some time telling her stepsiblings, J and D about Blue Planet and what the different creatures do, which I suppose solidified her learning from last week.

Whilst we were going through the Blackwall tunnel, W asked why there were bars at a certain level in the tunnel. I explained that it is lower on one side and the bars are showing the height of the lowest part of the tunnel, so lorries can only go on one side and they can check whether they fit by looking at the bars.

Literacy / English: On one of our train journeys, we read a book together, which she really loved (and I wondered if the other passengers did too…..).

Wrote a song about Christmas and then also wrote some events on the calendar.

PE: On Monday afternoon, we went to W’s gymnastics class, which W did brilliantly at. She listened so well in a class of 12 children and followed the instructions and concentrated for the duration. The teacher gave her lots of praise and wrote down what she had learned in her book, so that she would know where she was up to next time.

She loved it at the class again and is very relaxed and calm there. She knows a few of the people and likes to play in the hallways with them.

Play: She showed great negotiation skills when it was time to put up the Christmas decorations with her siblings. After that, W had a great time playing with the Christmas toys. She adores the Playmobil Christmas scene and spent ages sorting out Santa’s workshop. In fact, she then played with it every day, sometimes letting all her other Playmobil toys join in!

Drama / Performing Arts: We went to the theatre to see a brilliant adaptation of Rapunzel. We talked about the actor who plays Rapunzel, who is black with purple dreadlocks. There was no prince rescuing Rapunzel – instead Goldilocks came to Rapunzel’s tower, where they worked together to defeat evil and free themselves.W loved the performance so much – She especially liked having her information sheet with her during the panto, so that she could work out which actor was playing which part and which actors played more than one part.

W’s stepsister, D (8) had a xmas show with her Saturday dance group, so we watched that. It was a Harry Potter story with singing and dancing. W watched kids in groups of 3-4 year olds, all the way up to teenagers doing different dances. We talked about why the very small children had more simple dances and the older kids had more difficult ones.

Numeracy / Maths: On 1st December, it was time to open the advent calendar. W is now obviously really good at reading the numbers and doesn’t need help at all this year.

We played the Orchard Toys Bus Stop game, adding and taking away people from a bus journey. W really enjoyed it and did well.

When brushing her teeth, W said she was going to work out maths sums in her head without using her fingers. It took quite a while, but she did it entirely by herself.

PSHE: We read an old Christmas story, which I had to pause in order to chat about the gender of the characters in books. Usually, I just change ‘he’ for ‘she’ in kids’ books to balance out the genders and to make the numbers of male and female characters equal. In this book, it wasn’t possible. J and D knew the story well and are used to me changing a couple of characters, but this time, there were 13 male characters and two female characters, who didn’t speak! We had a chat about how this used to be the norm in older books (and still is the case in a lot of modern books) and how it is important that stories reflect the actual population. We talked about which characters needed to be male for the purpose of the story (none of them) and which could be changed. Then we enjoyed the Christmas tale!!

We went to the Christmas fair at the end of our road, which was really good. W got to sit in a fire engine and try on a firefighter’s hat. The firefighter showed her the safety goggles inside the helmet and also the heat-reflecting goggles. They showed us their oxygen tanks and the dial which shows how much oxygen is left. W also learned that the firefighter in charge can see how much oxygen each firefighter has left on her own machine too.

W saw the heavy machine that can cut through metals, and the sledgehammers, axes and hoses too. She enjoyed seeing what they do with all the tools.

There was a ‘treasure hunt’ afterwards, where the children had to search for certain crocheted items on the stalls and get a stamp for each one. Once the sheet was full, they got a chocolate prize. W did very well and recognised most of the items herself. She was confident at talking to the stallholders too.

Socialisation: After the Christmas fair, we went to E (10) and F’s (7) house for a bit. They worked on their Christmas tree, which this year they are making out of Lego. W made an activity course for her soft toy dog to play with, with D and F. Then W asked their mum for a pen and paper and sat down for ages drawing pictures. She drew one of her with her toy dog, which was really good, then drew another of lions in the snow!

Later, more children arrived (T [6], J [9], B [7], N [10] and T [8]), all of whom W has met before. She played well with all of them.

On Monday morning, W’s friend, N popped over for a short time. They had a lovely time playing and W really enjoyed it.

On the train, W met a dog who W stroked and played with for the whole journey. She chatted confidently to her owners.

Art: Later, she made a Christmas decoration from pipe-cleaners and beads.

W played on her online advent calendar game. She did well with the jigsaws, then played an art game, filling in detailed colours, in which she had to use the drop and drag function and very fine control of the cursor.

W decorated her dolls’ house for Christmas. She was really inventive with the materials she had and showed good spatial awareness with measuring spaces and putting appropriate decorations into them.

Next week, we have yet more Christmas-themed activities!

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……

 

 

 

 

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…. 

7th Oct, 2018 – a relaxed week

This week was one of those weeks where we did a little learning as we went along, but not massive amounts of concentrated learning. It is funny how all the learning that we do evens out over time. Some weeks are very busy with W trying to soak up as much information as she can, and others are more relaxed and play-based. I suppose W’s motivation to learn goes along with any developmental leaps that she makes. This is yet another affirmation for me that a child-led approach to education must be beneficial when a child is allowed to learn when they are most receptive to it.

So here is our condensed relaxed week, by subject, as usual:

PE: At the swimming pool, W practiced her swimming a bit more and also played on the inflatables for a bit.

Play: One of W’s favourite games lately is a game of owning her own restaurant and having other people as guests in her restaurant. I must say I like being waited on for a while as I’m putting my feet up….

On Thursday, she also played a long game of hotels with her Nanna and Granddad, which they also enjoyed!

We played “Unicorn Vets”, in which we fixed her pretend unicorns’ poorly horns and hooves and cleaned up after them too.

Literacy / English: W was feeling in a helpful mood and assisted with alphabetising the CDs. She did very well with reading the letters and with knowing the starting letters of names. She also thought about how to lay out the CDs on the shelves so that she could reach them.

On Tuesday, we read one of her cat encyclopedias, which compared big cats to domestic cats. There was a quiz at the end and W got nearly all the questions right, so she was really pleased.

Art: W did some great drawing this week. She started with cats (drawing a hook in their tail so they were glad to see us) and when she was asked what she would need to care for her cats, she drew loads of things: food, water, brushes, cat box etc.

Again, W did lots of colouring, as usual. This time it was in a symmetrical pattern book.

Numeracy / Maths: W helped to sort some Lego – she is still loving categorising and sorting it.

We worked a little bit on telling the time, mainly on half past and o’clock.

Socialisation: On Monday, a friend came over they played all sorts of games and generally messed about.

Monday was also our regular social group day. W did a bit of charging about with the other children and then helped to practise writing with a few other kids to write. Towards the end of the session, she played with her friends and performed a show with them.

On Wednesday, W saw her friend J (4 years old) for a few hours. They had a great time playing.

Geography: When we were on the train, we discussed the difference between a borough of London and a regular town. We talked about how big London is and how many people live there.

Science / Nature: W looked at my hands and commented on how old they are (!) and then said that she could feel my bones and that hers are all soft, so we talked about the differences between adult and toddler bones and skin.

We saw a vet show in which a dog was living in the crawl space under a wooden house. W asked why the house didn’t have foundations, so we looked at different types of buildings and the types of foundations they needed.

We did some gardening and looked at the flies in a bag of garden waste that was breaking down. We also moved some worms, weeded and swept up.

We saw a freight train at a local station, which had stopped at the platform, so we looked into the cab and noticed that there were many more controls in there than in a regular train. The driver very kindly moved out of the way so that we could see in. We counted 19 carriages on the train and talked about why a freight train needs a bigger engine and is more noisy than passenger trains.

Business: For some reason we were talking about a job that I had in a pet shop when I was a teenager. W asked why that shop is not there any more and this led to a discussion about why a shop might close down. She was really interested in that and also interested in how businesses make money.

30th Sept, 2018 -The Rainbows Promise

Science / Nature: While we were passing through King’s Cross station this week, we saw the Harris Hawk, who works there to scare the pigeons away. We spoke to her handler and asked questions about her diet and temperament. She was later outside and was flying onto the low buildings. W asked why she wasn’t in a cage and why she followed her owner so well, so we talked about imprinting too. W was so pleased to have met her!

On Saturday, we took W’s stepsister, D (7) to a dance class at a school, where W explored the ‘nature’ part of the school playground, in which there were woods! She loved the fact that there was a school with woods….. but when we saw a shed called the ‘behaviour shed’ which children are put in for time out, W didn’t seem to like the school any more…. and neither did I….

On the way home, we saw lots of dogs being walked and we said hello to every single one (after asking permission from their owners first, of course). We learned about breeds and also about muzzles and why we shouldn’t stroke a nervous dog.

We saw a sunflower with a bee on it and this led to a conversation about how bees communicate with each other to find the best pollen.

The next day, we talked about how trees and humans help each other by converting oxygen and carbon dioxide.

On Monday, W helped to cook risotto. She doesn’t usually ask to cook dinner, so this was a great ‘home economics’ learning opportunity for her.

Tuesday was Rainbows day and it was W’s special ‘promise’ day, in which she had to recite her promise and become a fully-fledged Rainbows member with a badge and a certificate. We decided to bake cakes for all the children and leaders, so we spent some of the day doing that. W managed to almost do the whole bake by herself.

Then came her promise. She remembered it all and recited it well in front of everyone and the leader cried as she pinned her badge on her and welcomed her properly. W absolutely loves her Rainbows group and although we are not religious (Girlguiding has a religious Christian aspect), W gains so much from participating in the group and seeing her friends there.

On Wednesday, we were going to do some learning from W’s encyclopedias, but when we got up, we saw that Watson the cat wasn’t well (she had been off-colour for a couple of days, but definitely wasn’t herself today). I had to make some calls to see if we could get an appointment at the vets for her. We eventually got an appointment at the animal hospital and when we arrived, we saw that it was very, very busy, which was great as we got to see what animals had what problems and what medication they needed (it wasn’t very private at all). W chatted to the other customers a lot and then got to watch the vet examine Watson and diagnose a large abscess. The vet then took Watson into a different room to operate and brought her back to us, dazed and rather sore.

We had instructions from the vet to clean the wound twice a day with boiled salty water and to give Watson a tablet once a day, which W was happy to do. She asked the vet herself whether she needed to keep the other cats away from Watson – something that I hadn’t thought of myself.

We read a few of W’s encyclopedias from the library about cats and big bats.

Geography: On the train home, W asked about zones in London and we talked about zones 1-6 and where we live. She thought that we live in the furthest place from the centre and was surprised that there is even more of London past our house.

Politics: At dinner, we talked about the Royal family again and how their ‘wages’ are our taxes. She was interested in what our money pays for, such as bin collections and schools and learned that everything costs money.

Literacy / English: Our board game for a couple of days this week was Articulate, which W is great at. She guessed really well and described things really well also. It is unsurprising as she is such a chatterbox….

There was the book fair at the school when we went to collect W’s stepsiblings, so the children all got new books. D sat and read to W, which she loved.

Later, when we were all playing charades, W said that she wanted to write down everyone’s initial and make a tally of how many goes each person had had. She did this entirely by herself and it was really good.

Art: W again did lots of colouring this week.

Play: W played lots of imaginative games with her stepsister, D (7 years old) and their My Little Ponies.

On Sunday, I had a cold and we were meant to go to a museum, but I didn’t feel up to it. Instead, W and D had an amazing day together, just playing with their toys. They also went outside doing tricks on scooters and bikes, which was actually quite good. W has been quietly practicing riding her big bike (donated by a friend) and is getting quite good at it now (with stabilisers)

Also this week, W helped me with my work, packing parcels and sticking stamps on the letters, which was great as she doesn’t usually want to (and doesn’t have to). I made a big box for a parcel and W climbed in, so I let her play with it for a while and she turned it into a car, a lorry, a cat bed, a regular bed etc. She had fun in it.

Numeracy / Maths: When we played Monopoly Junior, W was again great with her mental maths.

At breakfast, W decided to randomly tell me the answer to some sums, such as ‘Mama, did you know that 3+2+1 is 6?’ And then she would show me how she worked it out. It was great to see her do that entirely by herself.

Later, we went into town to buy a toy with W’s earnings from her work earlier this week. She was really brilliant at knowing what she could and couldn’t buy. She had £12 and was saying “I can’t buy that because 25 is bigger than 12”. She settled on a toy from TK Maxx, which she was overjoyed with and played with over and over again.

At dinner, W was talking about numbers (I can’t remember why) and did some addition and subtraction on her fingers, completely of her own choosing.

Thursday brought more addition and subtraction during play. W wanted to tell me how many of a certain thing that she had and what the difference was between that and another group of toys.

Socialisation: Monday was our social group day and we were lucky enough to have D there with us. They played a lot with the other children and generally had fun outside and inside with W’s friends.

….So that rounds of another week of home education with us. Next week, we are playing a game of W’s choosing, which is apparently called ‘Unicorn Vets’…..

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..