10th June 2018 – Questions

This week, W seemed to be full of questions. It was a week of learning outside the home, with little sit-down work.

Here is what we did:

Numeracy: When we walked along the street, W read every house number along the way (they were 3-digit numbers).

Later, she also enjoyed reading the numbers on her old Lego trading cards (numbered 1 to 140) whilst she put them in order.

Music: We visited the library to take out and return some books. When we were there, there was a Rhyme Time session on and W listened and sang along to the songs.

Science / Nature: We spent some time feeding the squirrels in the park again and W enjoyed watching them bury their nuts. She is really good at being calm and quiet around the squirrels, so that they will come to her to get the food. This is another benefit of home education: it really does give us these lovely quiet opportunities when there are very few other people around and we can take our time to look at animals or flowers uninterrupted by others.

We visited the Science museum and W really enjoyed it there. She was a little nervous of the dim light in the ‘Space’ area, but loved the orb in the centre of the room, which had the different planets and moons projected on to it whilst audio was playing with information about each one. She was particularly interested in our moon.

We looked at space suits and how they keep astronauts cool, found out how astronauts go to the toilet (poo and wee are hilarious at the moment….), looked at models of space rockets and the space station, saw a real spacecraft, saw a real skeleton from 100BC and found out how they worked out how old those bones were.

Together, we learned so many things, including facial reconstruction of skulls, how skeletons are excavated, how vaccinations work, how anaesthetic used to be administered, what gravity is and more!

On the way home, we looked at, and talked more about how train points work, as we did last week.

Then she wanted to know how cranes are delivered and how they can turn into lorries. Luckily, I have seen many cranes at work due to a previous employment, so was happy to bore W with details about them….

And to top off a day of questions, W asked how steam engines work, why they can’t go into space, and why there were no spacecraft a long time ago, so we covered that too.

A few days later, W was thinking about our visit to the science museum visit and asked how a person’s skin and flesh decay to become just a skeleton (I tried to explain this in as nice a way as possible – saying that it basically becomes the earth around it with the help of insects and bugs).

Politics: On by-election day, we had a discussion over breakfast about the main political parties and touched on their policies too. W came to watch me vote and we discussed how the voting system works in this country. We went through the political parties again and talked about their policies a little and then she wanted to know how a person can become an MP.

Play: After our visit to the Science Museum, W played with her siblings and other children, chasing bubbles in the ‘garden’ of the Museum.

At home, there were many opportunities for play and the children chose board games, Lego and dolls to play with.

History: One evening, W asked to see the Royal family’s family tree with pictures, which I showed to her and explained what it meant and who the people are.

She then asked to see a family tree from a different country, so we looked at the French kings and queens back to 1300!

Religion: We visited a church on the way to Bank station (at her request) and learned what the pulpit and font are for and we looked at the ten commandments on the wall. She asked what the bible was and we talked about that. She wanted to read a gravestone inside the church, so we did, and then after that, we lit a candle and made a donation.

Time: At Euston station, W saw a digital clock and asked why it is different from an analogue clock. This led to a discussion on the 24-hour clock.

Literacy:  This week, W wasn’t feeling like doing any writing, so only did a couple of pages of an activity book until she moved on to something else.

As always, I didn’t push W to do any more writing than she was comfortable with. She is still so little at 5 years old and has many years ahead in which to perfect her skills in that area. An interesting recent study has shown that children taught to read and write early perform no better (often worse) academically at 11 years old than those who experienced play-based learning in the early years. This really shows that, if children are allowed to learn subjects when they are ready to, they will remain keen to learn the subject and are also capable of learning it more quickly.

For now, W writes when she wants to and loves to do so.

27th May – nature

This week, the focus of W’s learning has very much been on nature, because that is what she wanted to do. I do love being able to be out in the sunshine in the daytime, just learning and observing.

This is what we did:

Science / Nature: We looked at how buds turn into flowers while at our lovely local park. We fed the squirrels there and watched them bury their nuts and then saw some baby squirrels. We saw that one of the squirrels still had part of it’s winter coat and so we discussed how some animals’ coats change according to the seasons. W also asked lots of questions about bees: why they sting people, their anatomy, what different types there are etc.

We used a free set of resources from the Woodland Trust which had worksheets on tree spotting. We identified the different types of tree in the park on the worksheet and brought an example of each leaf home to identify again at a later date. We then stuck them onto coloured paper to help us to remember them. We found lots of different types, just in the one park.

Whilst tree spotting, we also identified minibeasts such as aphids, insect eggs, bees and flies.

While we were out, it started to rain and W learned about why rain starts and stops.

Later in the week, there was a nature trail during the Teddy Bears’ Picnic in a different local park, where W enjoyed spotting various plants, vegetables, insects and flowers within the community garden there.

Whilst we were going home, we had  brief ‘lesson’ on genetics, since W asked why certain people have certain coloured hair.

Play / Social: While we were at the community gardens, W played with three friends and, of course, D and J too. They went through a ‘maze’ of plants, played hide and seek with their teddies and also played in the playground.

This week, W has also played a lot with her Sylvanian families. She has been putting them all to bed and deciding where each character fits into the family. They have been going on outings in her toy bus and also changing clothes and meeting up for meals.

On Thursday, she wanted me to take a video of her playing with them, so we did that. She really wanted me to put the video on Youtube, but I didn’t, for reasons I will explain in a later blog…

We went to our favourite social meet again and W had a great time. She played with two of her friends mainly, but also chatted to lots of other children.

On the train on the way there, we did our usual making up stories and W took turns with me to decide what should happen in the story next. We also played with her Magiclip dolls and role-played with them trying on dresses and having a sleepover.

In the evening, W and D performed a talent show for us in the living room, which was (intentionally) very funny.

On Tuesday, W went to Rainbows and really enjoyed it. She made salt dough with her friend. She really enjoyed the singing at the beginning and end of the session. The easiest way to get there was to go on W’s bike, so we spent time learning more about how to ride it for a while on the way there. On the way home, something had ‘clicked’ for her and she rode it by herself!

Spatial Skills: W played with her Lego and she built the fabulous Lego Gingerbread House with very little help. She also built her favourite Lego Hot Air Balloon as it had fallen apart from last time. She played with the minifigures too and there was a lot of imaginative play where the toys were all put in different scenarios.

Games / Board Games: This week, W has played many games of Uno and understands the rules well.

English / Literacy: On a train journey, W enjoyed reading the station signs and finding the correct platforms, as usual. She also read some of the signs on the train itself. She likes to find the correct carriage and seat for us also.

On Thursday, we went to a couple of structured lessons. W loved the relaxed learning environment and the fact that there was a café on site. She went to the English class first and practised her pen skills by  colouring in a difficult pattern. She also wrote her name and a few words to show to the teacher. There were 8 children in the class and the teacher was setting them different types of work to do according to their age and ability, along the same theme. After that, they had a card game where they collected a card for words that they had remembered from a poem he read to them.

Maths / Numeracy: After English and a break in the café, W went to the Maths lesson, which was facilitated by a great teacher who got the children to do bar graphs of how many times they had managed to get a water bottle to flip and then stand up, with different amounts of water inside the bottles. The younger children enjoyed the active part and counting the number of tries, while the older kids took part in the question and answer session about the graph.

We discovered that W’s friend from the social meet was in the lesson too, so W teamed up with her and was very pleased to see her.

During playtime with D, W learned about how to split numbers in half. This was because W and D wanted to make sure they had the same amount of toys to play with in a particular game, so they split each group of toys in half to make it fair!

Music: On Saturday, we went to a local mini-festival and W watched a steel band, which she loved.

Geography: Whilst at the little festival, W looked at some old maps of our area and we looked at where our house was on the post-war map and on the older 100-year-old map. We also looked at other places, such as the schools and parks, which were all there on the older map too.

Next week, we have some family visits planned and also a birthday party to go to, which we are really looking forward to!

20th May – a holiday

This week, W was lucky enough to go on a holiday. Obviously, there was no structured learning while on a break, but of course learning happens organically every day, without effort on our part. I just love that, even if we have no plans for specific educational activities in a particular week, learning will happen anyway, whether we want it to or not…

So, in order of subjects, this is the breakdown of W’s education for the last seven days:

Maths / Numeracy: W worked on her new pull-the-tab Counting Book. She went through the flashcards, which had questions like: are there more bees or more flowers in the picture? She was really engaged and loved counting everything. She also went through the other flashcards and read the numbers up to twenty. On other flashcards, she was asked which number was missing in a sequence and got all of them right.

On the addition pages, she had a good go at adding numbers under 10 together and loved it when she pulled the tab and had got the answer right.

I must say at this point that I try to not focus on whether W gets the answer right or not. I feel it is important to praise (or at least encourage gently) the effort that is put in, rather than the result. There was a very interesting study on this subject by Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University. In it, she found that students who had been praised for intelligence performed worse than those praised for effort. The psychological reasons behind the findings are detailed here.

 Literacy / English: W read the book The Big Carrot from the Oxford Reading Tree.

Science / Nature: We planted some wildflower seeds in the garden, so learned about germination and what a plant needs to grow. We also pulled up some old daffodils to store for next year, providing an opportunity to learn about the difference between bulbs and seeds.

W then spent time investigating what happens to chalk marks when you pour water on them. She realised that chalk could be washed off the bricks or ground, so she then tried wetting the chalks themselves and saw that the chalk marks were much brighter when the chalk was wet.

Then W decided to get a bucket of water and a paintbrush to paint the brickwork of the garden wall. She saw that is was darker when wet and lighter when dry. Her and D had a lot of fun spraying water and washing pebbles etc, noting what happens to different kinds of rocks when wet.

Play: W spent time indoors playing with D, which included lots of role play with her Lego minifigures and her dolls.

When we were travelling on the train, W and I played some more with her dolls, which I’m sure the other travellers enjoyed listening to…..

Geography:  In the car W had a go at interpreting road signs, and also learned what the lines on the road mean.

W also read the map of the holiday site, finding our lodge by herself and also spent time reading signs and finding numbers everywhere.

PE / Play: There were little log barriers all over the site, and W enjoyed balancing on these wherever she went.

She also played for hours in the playgrounds and parks with other children, having lots of fun!

There was a pool on site and W spent many happy hours playing generally, but also learning to swim as she did so.

…And then it was time to come home. However, there was no feeling of dread for going to school on Monday morning. We will simply go back to our usual learning through play, through our regular fun activities and basically being led by W in terms of her education. On days like these, at the end of a holiday, I am especially grateful for the path that I have chosen for W.

13th May 2018 – illness strikes

A lot of this week was taken up by watching TV and sleeping as W was ill with a bug for a few days.

I have noticed that W gets ill a lot less than her peers who go to school. I wonder, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Does being ill a lot and catching all the bugs in an institution such as a school make her immune system stronger, or is she better off not being ill all the time because that is simply a healthier way of being? Does she ‘need’ all these bugs to strengthen her immune system, or was it ‘good enough’ for her to be breastfed for 3 and a half years and to receive antibodies that way, instead of from illness? I suppose I’ll never know, but I do know that it is awful seeing her ill and life is much better when my children are well and happy.

So, this is W’s somewhat limited learning for the week, categorised by subject:

History / Politics: We watched a children’s documentary at W’s request, on King Charles I, parliament, the tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and the House of Lords. Then another on lots of subjects, such as the suffragettes, how Big Ben was made and transported to the top of the Elizabeth tower, how the clock is maintained, and where all acts of parliament are stored (on parchment).

Play: When W was feeling a little better, she had lots of imaginative play with her Shopkins, Magiclip Dolls, Playmobil Farm and with her Lego too. At one point when she was feeling very under the weather, she said she thought that her toys must be missing her and that she couldn’t wait to play with them, so it was lovely to see her giving them some attention again!

Literacy: W watched a fair bit of CBeebies and learned about Homer’s ‘the Odyssey’. She also watched Number Blocks, which she loves and even managed to shout the answers to problems at the TV.

Before the sickness bug struck, we played Monopoly Junior, during which W read some of the words on the ‘chance’ cards, added simple numbers together to pay rent on properties and generally did very well at the game.

We also visited the library this week and W chose some chapter books for bedtime stories.

On a journey through London, W helped to find the right platforms on the display boards, as she likes to do…. and then as we were on the train, W said she would like to find out more about how very tall buildings are made, so we sill look at that shortly.

Play /Social: When W was feeling up to it, there was a lot of imaginative play for W and D together, and also with a friend who came to play.

We went to visit the grandparents for a day and, as always, W had a great time playing silly games with them.

We also had some time at the park for some energetic play.

Science / Nature: At the park, we identified flowers and trees together.

W’s Grandfather was fixing a computer when we visited him, so he taught her about computer circuit boards. She was allowed to play with a computer fan and learned the difference between a large desktop computer motherboard, a small one and one that is designed for a laptop. She learned that the lines in the board were tiny wires and that the small PCBs had four layers in so that they could fit more wires into the space.

She learned why fans are needed for the computer processor and also learned a little bit about how computers are repaired and put together, and what tools are needed to do so.

I got a free printable resource which shows how a seed develops into a tree, so we looked at that together for a while.

When W wasn’t feeling well, she watched her favourite pet- and vet-themed programs on TV and learned about animal care and treatment.

Geography: W asked many questions about London, including its size and population. She then wanted to know which city in the world had the most people living in it. It turns out that it is Tokyo with almost 38m people. Delhi and Shanghai were next. She was fascinated by this and asked about where in the world these cities were. We looked at our giant atlas to find out and then learned some facts about Japan online. W liked the fact that Japan is similar to the UK in terms of size and population overall.

Numeracy: W has discovered dot-to-dot puzzles, which are great for enabling her to learn large numbers, and also great for pen control.

Art: W drew a picture of me and also a picture of herself at the beach. Both were great and were put up on display.

In fact, almost all drawings that W does are put up on display for a while – a tip that I got from the fabulous book by Lori McWilliam Pickert: Project-Based Home Schooling. I really recommend this book if you are new to home education, or if you want to know more about project-based learning. It has some brilliant ideas and strategies for us to be able to facilitate our children’s learning without getting in the way of it by being too prescriptive ourselves.

6th May

W’s education this week seemed to take the form of her explaining things to me that she has learned over the last few weeks. This really helps to ‘solidify’ her learning and I can add in any bits that I think she has missed. She loves to explain things to me (probably because she is tired of me constantly telling her things……) instead of just listening to my voice all the time.

So here is what we did this week, in order of subject:

Nature / Biology: W explained to me how bees use their 5 eyes to see and then went on to explain the differences between insects and spiders. This is something she picked up on a TV program ages ago, but had remembered those facts from it.

W later told me how some baby fish hide from predators in their mothers’ mouth. She wanted to know how baby fish are made – we discussed this and looked for clips on Youtube. She also described the blue whale and then explained how big it is.

We played at vets with her toys and within the game she told me all about blood tests and what they are for. She knows a little about blood cells and this was all incorporated into our game.

W has also been learning the names of different plants and flowers, when we are out and about. She can recognise quite a few now, which is impressive since I know very little about flowers…

We learned about how wheat is milled with an educational resource that I had from a while ago. It has packets of wheat from various different points of the milling process and it explains what happens to is and what each different part is used for.

Literacy / English: We got W’s activity books and magazines out and she did quite a few pages of colouring-in, spot the difference, copying pictures, stickering and writing practise.

Also, we again categorised some of her Shopkins toys (this time into ‘seasons’) and she wrote labels for each section.

Maths: On the train to a park, we did some mental arithmetic (she was giving me sums to do, then working out the answer herself), which W worked out in her own way. For some questions, she counted on her fingers, but for others, she seemed to just know the answer.

On another day, W bought a couple of new toys with her pocket money (more about pocket money here) and added up how much money she had for them, to work out if she had enough.

We later watched a few episodes of the number show from Alphablocks, on CBeebies together.

PE: At swimming, W swam on her back this time and generally played a lot in the pool.

Politics: I took W with me to vote in the local election, where we talked about the political parties, government, what they do and how they are funded. This is something W is really interested. In the past, she has asked lots of questions on democracy and why people vote differently from each other. I’m sure we will expand on this a lot as she grows up.

Play: W, D and J played a long imaginative game, where all of their soft toys went camping.  They packed lots of items for the toys and brought them downstairs in suitcases, then put up the tent and played at camping with them. It was great to see them playing together so well and collaborating well on what should happen next in the game.

Although this seems like a lot of learning now that I have written it down, this was definitely one of our ‘quiet’ weeks. However, it goes to show that, whether I am actively ‘teaching’ Willow or not, she is learning all the time of her own accord. I see that my role here is to facilitate her learning and to be guided by her. She will learn what she is ready to learn, when she needs to learn it. I am so struck by the fact that she is so eager to absorb information and facts, without me instigating it. When I first found out about home education (when I was pregnant with W), I thought it would involve much more guidance from me. I must say that I did think W would want to do nothing all day if I let her. As she grew, she showed me that she was always learning and that what I needed to do was to simply observe and to provide opportunities for learning. The rest is down to her. And she is doing brilliantly.

29th April, 2018 – Mail

W had a busy week in terms of learning this week. As I follow her interests and we learn as we go, I find that some weeks are far ‘busier’ in terms of learning than others. Some weeks, she is a sponge and wants to take everything in, and others, she is happy to relax and observe the world instead.

So, here is what we did, arranged by subject:

Logistics: W asked how parcels are sorted by Royal Mail and how the postal service knows where to send the parcels. We talked about how this is done (I have a had a few postie friends in the past and know a bit about it). We then watched a video of a cargo plane being loaded.

W also learned about TV aerials and satellite dishes because she noticed ours while we were out in the garden. She asked how a TV signal is brought into the house and to the TV, so I showed her where the cables go and what they do.
Science: While enjoying her ‘Gelli Bath’, she learned about density and we spent quite a while working out what different materials would float or sink in the jelly. We also then spent some time trying to get the jelly to drain through her old stacking cups with small holes in the bottom. W was trying to work out how big the holes needed to be before the jelly would start to drain through.
We then sprinkled the dissolving salts into the bath afterwards to dissipate the jelly. W watched this, fascinated, while I explained the process to her.

We found an old chicken bone out in the garden and W asked why it was so light and hollow after being outside for a long time, so we talked a little bit about decomposition.

When we went into our town centre, W watched a skip being unloaded and loaded again. She absolutely loves watching them, so we had an opportunity to see hydraulics at work.

Later, W asked how our waste water is recycled into drinking water, so we watched 4 little videos on how that happens.

Two days later, we watched a large area of crazy paving being laid and levelled near our house. She also saw a digger / ‘grabber’ move the rubble from the ground to a lorry, which built on her understanding of hydraulics again.
Play / Socialisation: W played a lot with D and J over the weekend. They played Charades, hide and seek, and role-played with Lego. In the Lego game, they collected together all their Lego vehicles and minifigures and took them on a long journey to the Lego house and to the new Lego playground, which they had made.

We went to our local social meet-up and W played with a few of the children. She also chatted confidently with some of the adult visitors, who had come to find out more about home education.

On another day, a friend came to visit, so W had an opportunity for lots of playing, including role play, charades, hide and seek, and small-world play.
Materials: J, D and W (mainly D and W) spent a long time preparing and painting the railings and gate outside our house. They learned why surfaces need to be prepared first and how the paint sticks to surfaces. They were absolutely brilliant at following instruction and putting only a thin layer of paint at a time onto the metal. They are very skilled at painting, since they have done quite a lot of it in the past.

Our neighbour was breaking up their tarmac path in order to lay tiles, while we were painting our railings. We watched him physically break the tarmac into pieces, saw what was underneath and then W later watched how the path was leveled with concrete as a foundation.

W randomly wanted to watch a Youtube video of someone putting some doll furniture together, to see how it was made and she enjoyed seeing how it was done.
Biology / Nature: At the dinner table, we discussed how snakes eat, including how they kill prey and how they can swallow such big animals, by dislocating their jaws.

D and W did some gardening and gave some snails some water since it was a very hot day. They put them into a shady spot in the back garden where they would be more comfortable!

Over dinner the next day, we talked about what Praying Mantes eat and how they mate. We then moved on to spiders and snails too.

W also asked what a tiger’s roar sounds like, so we watched a video on that and also listened to recordings of other big cats such as the ocelot, lion and sand cat. We then looked at what other sounds the cats make, including the sound that lions make to locate other lions and the tiger’s ‘chuff’.
Spatial skills / sorting: W played with her Lego minifigures, putting them together according to the instructions from their respective sets, so that they would be ‘correct’.
Arts: W watched a CBeebies Shakespeare Play again, which she loved.
Geography: W watched the London Marathon on TV. She learned why people do it, how long it is, why there are different races for different people, and what the route is. When she watched it, she pointed out various landmarks too.

W asked about time zones around the world and which places are the furthest away in terms of geography and in terms of time difference.
Maths: W also learned about money and we have discussed how money is a finite resource and she is starting to understand that, if she buys items for a certain value, she has less money for other items.

Literacy: W decided to read one and a half books by herself, practising the sounds ‘th’ and ‘ou’.

W also did a few exercises from her workbooks and magazines, including: cutting-out shapes, colouring in, putting stickers in the correct places and answering questions about a story.

Her final bit of literacy learning this week was finding my notebook, writing her name in it and then writing ‘poo’ lots of times on various pages. I discovered this the next time I started work…. It made me smile during a very mundane work morning!

22 April 2018 – co-operation

One of the things that W loves to do is to collect the post in the morning and separate the letters into piles according to who they are for. With 5 members of our household, it is a great opportunity for literacy learning. I love the way that learning just happens as we move through life and skills are gathered and improved upon with little effort on my part, really.

Another example of this is when we passed a brick wall and W commented to me that she wondered how many bricks there were in the wall, and set about trying to work it out. We stayed a while by that wall, talking about multiplication and trying to add it up in our heads. To her, it was a bit of fun; to me, a great opportunity.

When we finally reached the train station, W had a go at reading the screens and finding the correct platform and seat etc.

Of course, we could only do this as we weren’t in a hurry that day. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to stop for a while, but I try to do it whenever we can.

Our destination was a meet up for home educated children at a park. W played with the other children and adults there and then also played with some equipment where she had to pour sand onto different levels of it. W was trying to figure out how heavy the sand had to be before it tipped onto a lower level.

On a different day this week, W wanted to help me with my work, cutting out labels for customers and opening my parcels. For her, this is great fun. She likes to see what stock has come in. I suppose it is like opening presents in a way. She is becoming much more dextrous with the scissors and also with tiny items.

Another thing that W and I like to do together is to watch the Shakespeare on CBeebies plays. Their plays usually pop up around Christmas time, but are also available at other times of the year. We watched A Midsummer Night’s Dream this week, which W absolutely loved. W doesn’t cope well with any mild threat on TV or in films at all, and these plays are brilliant as they are a gentle introduction to Shakespeare’s plays without being too fast-paced or scary.

On Tuesday, W wanted to spend her birthday money. When she bought the items, we spent some time working out how much of her money had been spent and how much was left. She paid for the items herself at the till.

On the way home, she was asking what my favourite animals are and then asked a lot of questions about tigers and how (and why) some types became extinct. She learned what the biggest and smallest types of tiger are and where they live.

J and W later played hide and seek, which W loves to do. She now hides completely for the others to find her, but does giggle when she is there!

All the children then played Charades together and W is learning how to demonstrate something in a way that others understand. She is working on it… for example, a plane is demonstrated by her jumping up and down and a vacuum cleaner is shown by V waving her hands above her head….. It is a work in progress!
But the point is that they had lots of fun trying to figure out what she was demonstrating…

The next day brought yet more playing – W and D have had a very calm and lovely time playing with their toys together many times this week and are learning now to cooperate during their play and to make things fair in terms of following one person’s rules of the game and then making sure that the other child can have a chance at playing by their rules too. Again, it is a work in progress, and because we are a blended family, the children are getting to know each others ways and preferences. It takes time, but I know we’ll get there and they are doing really, really well.

Topics covered: Maths (bricks in the wall), English (Shakespeare and reading names on parcels), Biology / geography (Tigers)