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.

 

28th Oct, 2018 – A Birthday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

21st Oct, 2018 – Random Questions

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

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

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

We also played Go Fish and Jenga many times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14th Oct, 2018 – the Royal Albert Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9th September, 2018 – two birthdays!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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…..