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…..

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18th Mar 2018 – transport

With all this talk of the underground and trains last month, I took W to the London Transport Museum. There, we saw lots of old buses and learned the difference between a trolley bus and a tram. Back in February, W asked how the London Underground tunnels were built initially and how they are built now, so we went to look at the exhibit that explains it all. W also learned about the new Elizabeth line and the design of the new stations and why they look like they do.

I mentioned in my post on pocket money that W was learning about saving and also about delayed gratification. For the first time, with no encouragement, W said she would like to save her pocket money and not spend it in the gift shop.

After our visit, we walked across Waterloo Bridge in the rain. W asked why the river was grey when it was raining, so we talked about how rivers and the sea reflect the sky. Then W asked why the Thames is so big and why it is called the Thames (I promised to look this up later..) She was very good at naming the buildings along the way as she loves looking at the skyline and learning them when she sees them from the train.

The next day, we decided to visit a local Home Ed group. It was a fantastic group with educational toys and games dotted around, an outdoor area and a hall for playing in. There were lots of children there, which gave W a chance to make new friends and play new games, which she did, enthusiastically. She also stood on the stage and sang to everyone (!). This group was great for me as well as it gave me a chance to pick up some tips and resources for project learning from the other parents. We shall definitely go back. It is a weekly group, so a good opportunity for W to make links and to see the same friends regularly.

On the train home, we did some phonics learning and W attempted to read the station signs as we passed them. She also enjoyed showing me the way home by following signs. As if all that hadn’t been enough, W later worked on her activity books by herself while I cooked.

The next day, we had a bit of down time. W has been building a house on Minecraft (a brilliant educational game) and wanted to work on that in the morning, then later played ‘vets’ with her Playmobil Farm.

In the afternoon, we went to the GP for a follow-up appointment and played with two children at the bus stop on the way there (they were racing each other). She chatted to the GP confidently about her toys and then learned about blood tests and what they are for.

I bought W an Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs to start our project with. W really enjoyed looking at the timeline from the big bang to the evolution of humans. She then loved learning the names of various dinosaurs and learning why they were the size and shapes that they were.

A trip to the park later had us feeding the ducks and swans. this was a good opportunity to learn what the best food for them is, so we bought some duck food and talked about bread and human food, and explained what ducks can and can’t eat.

To round off the day, we all went to a concert that J and D’s school was involved in. J was performing and W and D loved watching the performance and took it all in. They commented on which dancers she thought were good and which were not so good. W was totally focussed on the performances and loved the different routines and songs.

The next day was a day for a long journey and W had a go at reading the signs to show us the way to the correct train, platform and seat. She did very well, with a few little pointers. When on the train, she did a few maths worksheets with simple addition on them. She was fairly confident with this as she has been adding numbers regularly over the past coupe of months, especially during board games. Next, we played snap and did a jigsaw together.

Next week, we shall visit the Bank of England Museum to follow up on our learning about money from last month. I’m looking forward to it!