5th Aug 2018 – a playful week

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

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

Socialisation / Play:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science / Nature:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Literacy / English:

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

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

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

Numeracy / Maths:

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

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

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

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

History:

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

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

Art / Design:

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

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

 

29th July 2018 – Planning our Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22nd July 2018 – Lego at Hall Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

15th July 2018 – 100 years of the RAF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8th July, 2018 – long journeys

W and I have to travel long distance regularly and since travelling with little ones can be difficult, we’ve had to figure out a way to make it easier for us both. I think, for me, I have found that involving W in the ‘admin’ of the journey, has really helped her to enjoy the travelling.

I book my tickets online well in advance in order to get the cheapest tickets (LNER have no booking fees and sell tickets for all routes), then W likes to collect the tickets from the ticket machine, using the booking reference. I let her type all the letters herself and press the buttons (we’re careful to never do this when there is a queue as I don’t want to upset the grumpy commuters further).

She then loves to find the right train on the departure boards for me. It takes a while, but she is so chuffed when she finds out what platform we need, all by herself (I leave plenty of time at the station to do all these things slowly – being in a hurry at a train station is the worst….). Then it is time for W to find the right carriage and the correct seat for us. All of these things are great practise for her literacy and numeracy, without her realising, which is important at the moment as W is a reluctant reader currently. I’m not going to push the issue as she is so young yet and there is plenty of time for her to pick up on reading again when she is motivated to do so (I hope….).

Once on the train, we have snacks, then it is time to play with whatever little toys she has brought for the journey. Another thing we always do is to a good deed for someone or a random act of kindness. This usually involves carrying someone’s bag up the stairs, lifting a buggy, holding a baby (my favourite), or giving some food to a homeless person at the station. I feel it is important for W to help people without the expectation that people will do things for her, just for the sake of it.

Anyway, as is usual for this blog….. below is the learning that happened this week, on and off the trains:

Science: On one of our journeys, a freight train had broken down in front of us, so we learned about all the different ways in which it could be moved (in the end another engine had to travel many miles from Doncaster to it to pull it along the tracks to a depot).

There were two rows of train tracks; one for northbound and one for southbound. The engineers opened up the southbound side to northbound trains, so that trains could get around the blockage, via the points. W learned about how trains can move, points on the track, and how train safety works in order for engineers to be able to open an otherwise one-way track to both directions.

There were another two trips to the vet for Flash (who has now thankfully made a full recovery), so more opportunities to watch an examination of an animal. W saw an x-ray of a rabbit’s head and teeth there and was interested in how the teeth fit into the skull.

At Rainbows, the children made two different types of paper aeroplanes to see which one flew better and which had better aerodynamics. W needed help with following the instructions for folding, but so did everyone. The planes were good – and W and I later had a discussion about why one plane flew better than the other.

We learned about how underground trains get power to run and why there are sparks on the live rail when it does. W also asked about what would happen if you touched the live rail, so we had a conversation about that too.

W attended First Aid Training, given by Daisy First Aid, which she really loved and was really engaged with. She put her hand up and asked questions and then had a go at CPR on a dummy, put me in the recovery position and later put bandages on me. Also within the lesson, she learned about when it is appropriate to call an ambulance and when it is not. She learned about the heart and what it does and how to tell if someone is not breathing.

W wasn’t worried by any of the emergency training at all, but was very interested. She also liked the fact that her friends were there to learn too.

Spatial Skills: This weekend, W has played a lot with her doll’s house and also with her Lego. With the Lego, she built a set that was quite difficult with minimal help. She also helped to build the giant Lego Disney Castle again and did very well. This set is for age 16+, so very tricky, but W took it in her stride!

Socialisation: At our regular group, W met a new friend and played with her and another friend for most of the session. It was mainly imaginative play and the three of them got along very well. W also made a card for a friend who has not been able to come to the group for a while due to her illness.

At Rainbows, W played with her friends as usual.

At home later, W had to use her negotiation skills when choosing a board game for all the children to play and also when playing with D. They were quite competitive with each other when playing this time, so had to try to keep things fair between themselves. They worked it all out in the end though…

Literacy: As usual, we have been reading signs and notices when we are out and about, and we have also been practising phonic sounds from an Alphablocks set, which W has got the hang of now.

Numeracy: We have started playing the more complicated rules of Monopoly Junior, and W is doing really well at it. She is now understanding the concept of selling a property back to the bank in order to get money for a purpose. Her subtraction skills are now really, really good and she has figured out a way to do it by herself, without me teaching her a ‘method’.

I do have to tell myself to step back sometimes and let W try to work something out herself, before I jump in to ‘help’. I know from a lot of the reading I have done that it is easier for her to learn that way, but as a parent, I do find it hard sometimes to facilitate her learning, rather than to ‘teach’ her directly… it’s a work in progress…..

PE: It was J’s school sports day on Monday and W really enjoyed watching all the different sports being played and how the children competed with each other. She didn’t have an interest in playing sport herself, but very much enjoyed watching.

Languages / Music: At the park, we saw a singer and guitarist who sang in English, French and Polish and was brilliant! They really engaged the children in learning words in other languages and W really loved watching and listening to them.

And finally…. Our last bit of travel this week, was an unusually long and disrupted journey back from Rainbows, where we eventually discovered to W’s dismay that she had left her favourite toy behind on a bench at a previous station….  She was so, so upset

We had done some learning about CCTV in the past, but got to experience the magic of it this time when we found a security guard at our destination station (there were no station staff at that time of night) and told him the problem. He got the guards at our changeover station to check their CCTV. thankfully, they saw the precious toy on camera and promised to look after it until the distraught W could get back to the station to get it.

So we travelled all the way back, amidst cancellations and delays and were happily reunited. W didn’t even mind the very late night that she had that night.

I did use this as a learning experience of how there are always people around to help when you need something…… I guess it was time for a good turn to be repaid to us this time on a journey…

24th June, 2018 – a trip along the river

Following on from my blog post last week in which we got two new kittens, W has been very interested in finding out as much as she can about their care. This is great for us as we can include many different subjects to learn into this particular topic, and W has been very motivated to learn as much as she can in order to give the kittens the best care possible.

So, our week looked a little like this:

Science / Nature: We put up our posters that we received last week from The Cat’s Protection League and read through what cats and kittens need to keep them happy and safe.

We did an experiment with Skittles sweets and made a rainbow pattern on a plate, while talking about how the pattern is made and how sugar dissolves in water.

We learned about the summer solstice and why daylight hours are longer in June than in December.

W has a tablet, which she spends little time on (more on screen time in a later blog). However, today she wanted to play on her Playmobil Hospital App, where she learned about medicine, broken bones, nurses’ roles, doctors’ roles etc. It is a brilliant app for her as she loves hospitals and going to the GP….

Science / Engineering: We saw a cruise ship on the Thames, which W had never seen before, so we talked about the lifeboats, cabins, satellite receivers etc and what they were for. She also asked how such a big ship can stay afloat.

We ended up passing a different cruise ship whilst walking back alongside the Thames and looked at the differences and similarities between this ship and the first one.

We also passed the HMS Belfast, which W loves and is able to explain what it was for and when it was in use, then we finished off the sea theme with a walk past the Cutty Sark.

On the way home, we rode on the DLR , which W loves to do, especially because there is no driver, so we can sit at the front and pretend to drive the train. Sometimes, there is someone at the controls at the front of the train, but that’s even better because then W often gets to do the announcements herself, when they ask her to!

This time, W loved spotting where the points and signals were on the railway. She was especially pleased when she saw some points coming up and then the train changed tracks when she said it would.

A few weeks ago, W asked how the Shard was built, so today we looked at timelapse videos of the construction. She wanted to know if there was actually a crane that tall. The answer was yes and no…

History: W asked about the great fire of London and how it started, so we went through the events that happened then. We then moved on to fire hydrants and what they do and where modern firefighters get water from when they are fighting fires.

On the bus, we talked again about the Royal Family, building on discussions we have had over the last few weeks. We also covered how a monarch abdicates and who is next in line to the throne.

Biology: My partner gave blood this week, which gave W an opportunity to learn what the blood is used for and how it helps people.

Geography: W revisited the worksheets we did a few weeks ago on wheat and how it is turned into flour.

Later, we went on a boat trip on the Thames and saw lots and lots of famous landmarks. We went under Tower Bridge and we talked about the engines that lift the bridge again, following up on our previous visit there.

Economics: W wanted to buy a toy online, so we counted her pocket money together and she learned about the different coin denominations.

Music: As we were passing the Cutty Sark earlier, we stopped to watch the filming of a music video and then the children were asked to appear in it as audience members. It was very exciting for them to watch the filming and to have the cameras on them too.

Board Games: We played many games of Monopoly Junior, which seems to be a favourite for all the children at the moment.

Socialisation / Play: W and D played with the little dolls in the dolls’ house a lot. W also played with it by herself, setting up a home for all the dolls and deciding which one should have which room and furniture.

Whenever we were waiting for a bus, we played catch with W’s teddy (she always carries a soft toy with her on our travels) to occupy ourselves and to practice our throwing and catching skills.

We went to Greenwich park, which is a fabulous space for play, where all the children played with their Grandpa.

Later in the week, we went to our favourite social group, where W played with her friends and also chatted to the adults a lot about her new kittens!

At Rainbows, there were more opportunities to be sociable, with W playing a lot with all her friends there.

On the train to visit relatives, W and I played ‘fashion shows’ with some Lego minifigures, which was funny for us, but possibly not for the other travelers….

Literacy / Maths: We visited Waterstone’s, where we bought a new book. Storytimes are very enjoyable these days. We read a chapter of her book per night and she loves the cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, which leave her wanting to read more each time.

W decided later that day that the kittens needed a ‘Welcome Home’ card, so she bought one and painted in it for them. I think they liked it, but it was hard to tell.

For part of our literacy learning this week, W has been reading the letters and mail that arrives at the house to see who each item is for (we get a lot of post for my business). She was delighted to see that she had received a parcel herself, so that was a lovely natural reward for her reading by herself.

The next day, W decided that she wanted to more reading and writing, so worked on some of her activity book that she had received from Rainbows. She then moved on to another activity book with word puzzles and number exercises too.

When we were talking about the Great Fire of London, we ended up discussing the definitions of ‘Great’ and we talked about examples such as the Great wall of China, the Great War and the Great fire of London. W was concerned that the fire was described as “Great”, but it didn’t seem to fit with her definition of great…

Spatial Skills: W completed a geometric shape puzzle by herself when we were at our social group earlier in the week.

Art: To round off a very busy week, at Rainbows, W enjoyed the craft section – she painted some salt dough that she had made in a previous week and was pleased with the results.

It is interesting looking through this blog and seeing that some weeks seem light on learning and some weeks seem quite full. Last week has around half the word-count of this week, for example…. and that is the beauty of home education. Letting W discover and learn at her own pace means that she is incredibly motivated to learn when she is ready to.

 

3rd June, 2018

Another busy week in terms of learning this week, which involved a birthday party and two family visits:

Play / Social: We visited our favourite social group as usual and W played with four friends in the sunshine.

The grandparents also visited for a while, so the children enjoyed lots of imaginative play with Grandma.

And then, more family: the children’s cousins, who are 13 and 9, came to visit later in the week.  W loved playing with them and the children all get on very well together. We went to the park, fed the ducks and squirrels together and also played silly games there.

The next day, it was time for a birthday party for both D and J’s friends. The children had a great time there and W played with four children that she knows well, on the bouncy castle.

Spatial Skills: At the social meet, W enjoyed completing a puzzle where she needed to fit geometric shapes into a pattern.

When the grandparents visited, W got the chance to watch me and her grandfather build a wooden step for the garden. She was very interested in how it was put together, and even helped us for a while.

Later in the week, the Play-Doh came out, which was surprising as W has shown little interest in it lately. However, she was very keen to make cupcakes and various creations out of it this time. It was actually great to see how differently she plays with it now, compared to when she was tiny.

W spend a lot of time with me in the mornings (before the others got up) building the Lego Disney Castle, which is a Lego set for age 16+. It is a huge set and very difficult to put together, but W needed minimal help, possibly because she builds Lego so much already. I must say here that this was not our Lego set – it is far too expensive for us – we were putting it together for the purposes of a photograph later in the week…. A great educational opportunity!

Literacy / English: On our train journeys, W attempted to read the train signs, as usual. She also read all the tickets that we had collected from the station for our forthcoming journeys. She wanted to know the seat number and carriage for each one and I let her go through all the tickets (there were loads- I like to book in advance…) to check all of them.

The Local Authority sent us a form to fill in about W’s education (more about this in a later blog – coming soon), so W answered a couple of questions that were relevant to her and also drew a picture for the EHE officer.

While Grandma was here, W did a little writing and drew some pictures to show to her.

One of the cousins read stories to W and then also made up stories for her. W loves it when her cousin does this as she is very skilled at story telling. Although W was mainly listening to the stories and not telling them herself, it is a very important part of learning for her to be able to understand what makes a good story and why.

I read W’s new Great Women of the World book, which she really loved and seemed to remember details from the book a few days later.

History: At bedtime (I’m sure she was stalling…), W asked lots of questions about royalty and how Kings and Queens become so. She asked about our current Queen and about how many children she has and their titles and status. She also asked about previous Kings and Queens and royalty in other countries. We looked up a list of them online and she was very interested in the fact that the members of the royal family have historically married members of other royal families (or the same one….).

On a train journey, W wanted to know how trains can move onto different train tracks and go in different directions, so we looked at videos of train points on Youtube, which she enjoyed. She learned about how points were operated historically, compared to now.

Science / Nature: One evening, W enjoyed telling us all that she has learned about bees recently. She showed us how much she had remembered by describing how bees are kept and looked after, what different types of bees there are, how bees swarm and why etc etc.

We also observed a bumble bee when we were travelling to our social group. The bee was busy on a flower and calm, so we were able to have a good look at it, noting it’s different features.

W asked if there were any black flowers in the world, so we learned a bit about black tulips and how they get their colour. W is also learning a lot of flower names and types through her Nan, who is a keen gardener, and also from my partner, who is working on a ‘flower a day’ project at the moment.

W’s grandparents left a Nature workbook for her when they said goodbye, and W enjoyed completing a few pages of that on a later train journey.

At the birthday party, the children had the opportunity to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen, which W thought was amazing. The man helping the children to make the ice cream explained the properties of liquid nitrogen and described the process of the ingredients turning into ice cream too. It became a science lesson for them and it was also a really fun thing to do at a party, I must say.

Also at the party, W learned about generators and how they work, because the bouncy castle generator needed fixing while we were there. We watched people fixing it, filling it with petrol and starting it again.

Then there was a boat race. The children put together boats, which had been made on a 3D printer, and had the chance to make sails. We then put the boats in the water for a race.  During this, W asked why a boat would go slower if its sail got wet and also why it needs a sail at all.

W learned a lot about climate change one morning as D asked a question about it and so W started to ask questions about it too. We covered Solar Power, Elon Musk (!) and fossil fuels too. Obviously, we need to touch on this subject again many times in the future as it is such a big subject, but it is good to give the children a basic understanding to build on later.

Board games:  W played Monopoly Junior with D and one of the cousins, and had a great time doing so.

Politics: W asked why there were red posters on our street, so I took the opportunity to teach her about elections. She is very interested in how democracy works and why some people would vote for someone who doesn’t want everyone to have equal rights. It was a difficult thing to explain as I’m not really sure why someone would do such a thing myself….. As with climate change, this is another example of a subject that needs further exploration at a later date, as there are so many layers of different issues involved, that it is impossible to cover it all at once.

So, watch this space…. I’m sure you will read here about many more discussions on the big issues of the world over the years to come….