16th Sept, 2018 – Project Based Learning

Last week, I was reading a brilliant book called Project Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert. In it, she talks about making all learning and creative materials accessible to your child at all times. I thought that I had done this, but when I looked around, I realised that there were a few things that W had to ask me for as she couldn’t reach them. The books says that, although this is a tiny barrier to fully child-led learning, it is still a barrier nonetheless.

So W and I set about rearranging W’s learning area so that she can reach everything she wanted or needed straight away. W was great doing this. She loves categorising and really enjoyed tidying her pens and workbooks etc. She even helped to throw some things away that we didn’t need. The difference was remarkable. She was so excited that she could use whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, that she ended up doing all sorts of things with paints, pens, glue etc. It has been fabulous to see her enthusiasm for creativity this week, after such a small change to a corner of our kitchen.

The rearranging of the learning area coincided well with a visit that we had later in the week, from the EHE (Elective Home Education) Officer from the Local Authority (more about why I accepted a visit here). The visit went very well; W showed the officer her encyclopedias on bats and dinosaurs and chatted confidently about what she does day-to-day.

I then showed our visitor W’s file of work (all worksheets and also colouring sheets are kept and placed in a folder in a vague chronological order) and certificates that I have been keeping for a year, since the date that W would have started Reception class. The officer was very happy with what she saw and went on her way, promising to return in a year’s time.

The aforementioned book says that it is important to show a child that you keep their work and that it is valued, however, I realised that I have been squirrelling W’s work away without telling her, so I will now make sure that I show her her folders more often. She was delighted to see the folder of work that I showed to the EHE officer, so I now see how valuable it was for W to see that all her work is important.

Maths: At the Post Office later in the week, W wanted to spend her pocket money on a toy, and did well at calculating what she could buy with what she had.

She also used a lot of maths when we played Monopoly Junior. She was excellent at adding and subtracting to work out what she needed to buy or sell to pay rent etc.

W later spent some time doing a bit of my work with me, categorising some items for my shop by type and colour so that they could be sold (more on categorising here and here). She enjoyed doing it and loved getting paid for her efforts!

She then started categorising her clothes in her bedroom. She wanted to sort everything by outfits instead of by type of clothes, so we are going to do more on that.

W got a board game about shopping from a charity shop and played it with her Nanna and Granddad, using toy coins to buy items.

Religious Education: W asked me one day why some women wear headscarves (hijabs) and some wear burkhas. She knows that the headscarf signifies someone being religious, but wanted to know more. I told her that the burkha was a different type of headscarf, but for the same religion – Islam. I said that religious people wear them and I told her about the women I knew who wear burkhas.

Geography: After school, W’s older sister, D (7) did a jigsaw of a map of the world and we all talked about the geography of Ireland, Asia and Australia, and also tigers!

W asked about the seasons of the year and what season follows which, so we chatted a bit about that. Later, she asked why clouds are different shapes and also where rain comes from.

Literacy / English: We went to the library and W chose some more chapter books, in the series that she likes, and she also chose a couple of books on big cats and a couple of books on caring for pet cats, which she had really wanted to look for.

On Thursday, W did lots of colouring on the train, which I always class as pen practise…

Play: W and D played with their animal figures and Shoppie dolls. As they often do, they took them all on a journey: got them all ready, got on a bus, got on a plane, got home and put them all to bed individually!

The next day, they played with the dolls house, setting up home for their toys.

Socialisation: F (2 years old) came round to play (with her two Mums). W was very good at sharing her toys: even giving away things that she’d just picked up so that F could play with them. She is showing a real understanding of how a 2 year old can’t yet be expected to be patient.

Science / Nature: W and I watched two episodes of her favourite vet show, which we both enjoyed and learned from. They sometimes show images from court and people being fined for animal neglect, which W asks about, so we have talked a lot about what fines are and how they are designed to help people to learn to do the right thing.

On the train, she asked about flying vehicles; what flies higher: planes or helicopters? What is the tallest vehicle on the land? How do planes and helicopters land?

W specifically requested that we make triple chocolate muffins this week, so after shopping for the relevant ingredients, W then helped with all the stages of baking (and eating).

Arts: When watching some of the X Factor on TV, we talked about what it means to be singing ‘in tune’. W is now starting to hear which people are singing in tune, and which aren’t.

PE: Went swimming to burn off the huge amount of energy that W has lately…

The next day, we went to a soft play place. She can go around the course with ease now, so was inventing new challenges for herself – like how fast she could do it or how many things she could climb in a certain amount of time.

I was so glad that our visit at the beginning of the week went well, although I admit to being nervous about it beforehand. It was all so positive, though, so once she had gone, I breathed a sigh of relief, happy to hear that we can carry on as we are for another year..

2nd September, 2018 -a bike ride

Socialisation: When we were on our street, we spotted a children’s bike with a sign on it saying that it was free to a good home, so we took it for D (7) as it was just the right size for her. We then bought some chocolates for the family that gave the bike away. When we got back to their house, they would not accept the chocolates and told us to keep them for the children, so all the children learned about doing good deeds for others and how they can benefit everyone.

W was excited about D’s new bike as she has wanted to go on a bike ride for a while, so we made plans to go together soon.

The next day, we went to visit Grandma and Grampy and had a lovely time at their house, playing board games and going to the park.

On Wednesday, D’s friend, B (7) came over for a playdate. They all played well together and also helped to cut down the grapevine at the back of our house. The children took it in turns to pull on very long branches while I cut it. They found it hilarious that the branches were so long and often stumbled backwards as they were pulling on them. It was like a scene from “The Giant Turnip”.

One of the kittens then arrived home without his collar, so my partner knocked on a few neighbours doors to see if it was in their garden. In the process, W and D ended up making a new friend that lives a couple of doors down (T, 6 years old).

Literacy / English: At the grandparents’ house, we played a board game called Sorry, in which is a little like Frustration, but with cards. W had a go at reading some of her cards and played well.

Science / Nature: We visited the local lake for a walk. W was very good on the walk and enjoyed all of it. There was a nature trail and loads of wooden animals to spot, which we identified. We also saw dragonflies, learned the difference between butterflies and moths, and then stroked every single dog on the way round (asking the owners first, of course).

On the way home, W asked about twins again and how they are created, so we built on the learning about this from last week.

The next day, W was looking at D’s (age 7) dinosaurs, which were ‘hatched’ from an egg that you put into water. They are exactly the same toy, but one is bigger because it was in the water for five days and the other only for two days. This led to a discussion on osmosis and how the toy dinosaurs absorbed the water over time.

We watched two vet programs over the next couple of days, with more learning about animal care.

Numeracy / Maths: W showed me again how she can count in twos and then counted backwards, which I didn’t know she could do. She now knows her numbers up to 100 very well.

When we played Monopoly Junior, W was adding and subtracting amazingly well. She has come up with her own method of how to do it on her fingers and was correct every time.

Politics: At the dinner table, we have had more discussion about politics and Donald Trump. W asked why people voted for him, so we had a discussion about the American voting system and why it was that Trump became president, even though more people (2.87 million more) voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump.

Geography: We talked about countries – J (9 years old) asked if Jersey is in the British Isles and whether states are countries. W was listening as we chatted about what a country is and what a state is etc. She has said that she wants a globe for her bedroom, so I might get her a little one or a poster.

Play: W played again with her Lego – she is really into her vehicles at the moment. She then got all of her Sylvanian Families, My Little Ponies and Peppa Pig figures and took them on trips in her buses and cars around the house. They all had a specific purpose and a particular thing that they were doing and I sometimes wonder how she keeps track of it all….

All the children also played hide and seek many times this week, with W now able to hide without giggling!

At tidying time, W was really, really pleased that her room has been categorised in the way that she wants, because that means that it now takes only 10 minutes to tidy away and she knows where everything should go.

Art: W decided to do lots of colouring-in. She tried to stay inside the lines and was careful to choose the colours so that they were the correct colours for each Shopkins character in the book.

Later, W asked to paint her doll’s house, so we got out all the paints to check that we had the right ones. I asked W what colour she wanted each part to be. We had to go out and buy some white paint and then W got to learn about what happens to paints when you mix them with white. We spent some time mixing the black and white paint to make the correct colour grey that Violet wanted for the roof. She and D spent ages painting the roof, chimneys and floors, which they loved.

Board Games: We played cards: Go Fish and Chase the Ace, during which, W wanted to mark down how many turns each person had had, so she got her own pen and paper and wrote each person’s initial and a tally of their goes.

Music: W wrote some musical notes and tried to compose a song.

PE: As W had asked to go on a bike ride at the beginning of the week, we went round the block on our bikes together very slowly. She was initially very reluctant to make her bike move and we spent a very long time indeed getting to the corner of our street. After a bit of a chat, W explained that she didn’t want to make the bike move by herself because she was scared of going too fast. I explained that I would be right next to her all the time and I can slow her down any time, and also it would be more fun for her if she rode her bike herself (I knew she could do it as she has previously ridden it herself). After that, she was much more happy to ride her bike herself and only needed help when she had got stuck in a dip on the pavement.

I’m glad she managed to do it in the end as she had so wanted to go out on her bike. Hopefully we can soon go for a ride all together.

19th August, 2018 – animals

This week, we went to stay with my partner’s brother, S and his family in the countryside. We had a fabulous time there, either relaxing or going on exciting trips out. We looked after S’s children while we were there, so we had 5 children in our care for most of the week. The children got on so well with each other (bar the inevitable odd disagreement) that lovely time was had by all. The theme this week for W’s learning was most definitely nature. She loves all animal-related things and so had a great time in the green East Anglian countryside…. Here is what we did, in order of subject, starting of course with….

Science / Nature: On the way to S’s house, we took the Woolwich ferry across the Thames. The children were fascinated by the way the ferry worked and how it didn’t sink even though it had lorries on it. W was nervous at the start, but then loved the experience.

When we collected the hire car (we needed a bigger car for all the children), we learned the difference between Automatic and Manual cars. The children also asked what all the many different buttons and switches did. They loved having an automatic door and even a sunroof!

We then had a (random) discussion on identical twins and how they occur, compared to non-identical, in which we covered genetics and biology.

On Tuesday, we took a trip to Bewilderwood, which all the children adored. The park is based on the books and there are tiny treehouses for the ‘Twiggles’ and houses lower down for the ‘Boggles’ too. The children then went on to an outdoor stage and took part in the storytelling, went on a boat trip for more stories, went into the maze and found their way through it, and then climbed lots of climbing frames and slides.

Bewilderwood really is an amazing place to visit and I recommend it for any age (do let me know in the comments below if you have been and what you think of it too).

We also visited the Dinosaur Park later in the week, where the children filled in their ‘Dinohunt’ activity sheets to claim their medals at the end. In the gift shop, W really wanted to buy a triceratops toy and so we did a little bit of maths to work out if she had enough money for it or not. She was pleased to find that she did indeed have enough for it and the Triceratops came with us everywhere for the rest of the week.

The children drove little electric quad bikes (bumper cars) around a circuit indoors and then had a go on go-karts too. W worked the pedals and the steering wheel by herself and was proud of herself for doing it on her own.

We read the names of the giant model dinosaurs and discussed whether they were meat- or plant-eaters.

There was also a petting zoo there, which W particularly loved. She stroked the animals and fed them too. She talked a lot about their care and what each animal needs in order to stay healthy, as we went around the different sections of the farm.

The next day, we watched a combine harvester in the field very close to the house. We could see all the workings and W was really interested in how the straw was separated from the seeds and what happens to it afterwards. We learned about what the space around the edge of the field is for and also where the straw will go once it is baled. This tied in really well with her learning pack on wheat flour and how it is milled.

We talked about sunset and sunrise and rainbows, which led to a discussion about the spectrum of light from the sun again.

We visited Great Yarmouth and, of course, went to the beach. W spent ages collecting bucketfuls of seawater from the sea and carrying it across the beach in order for the others to build a big sandcastle (the sand was too dry otherwise). They paddled in the sea a lot too and were then wrapped in layers and layers of warm clothes afterwards!

We met some donkeys there, which W stroked and chatted to. She learned about how to walk around the back of the horse or donkey so that it doesn’t kick.

W later made some ice cream using cream, sugar, vanilla, strawberries, caramel and a bag of salted ice to shake it next to. She enjoyed eating it and liked the process of making it. She asked why larger ice cubes feel colder than smaller ones, so we talked about that for a bit.

We visited a cafe made from an old bus and had lunch there, during which, we learned about magnets and what types of metals stick to them (remembering ‘CONIFER’, COpper, NIckel and FERrous metals) as J had brought his toy magnets along. We tested the ‘conifer’ mnemonic with a magnet and different coins and then W stuck the magnets to different parts of the bus to see what it was made of.

We put up the tent in the garden and W was very good with putting in the tent pegs and putting the tent poles together as well. We slept in it for two nights and W also helped to take it down and dry it out. While we were staying in the tent, we heard crickets every day and once a deer appeared in the garden to see what we were up to.

On Friday, we took a late trip to the park and the children loved the fact that they were out after bedtime. On the way home, we passed some bullocks in the field and W learned about how to approach them without scaring them (on the other side of a fence) and how to spot that they are bulls and not cows!

On the journey home, W spotted some collared doves building a nest. They were quite low down on a ledge at the station and we were delayed, so we spent a long time watching them weaving the twigs together in the wind to try to make the nest stable. It was fascinating to watch.

Play: Every day, the children played on the trampoline and W was able to learn different tricks from her cousins (B, 13 and C, 9), which was obviously a lot of fun. They also played games such as hide and seek, swings, slides, climbing, imaginative and small-world play, chasing games, and storytelling.

At the play park, the children climbed many climbing frames, ropes and slides.

Literacy: W did some more of her sticker book, some drawing and also some spelling practice too. She asked me how quite a few words were spelled and she wrote them down (I asked her to help me to spell them). Most of the words were related to sick or poo, but at least she was writing……..

At Bewilderwood, the children filled in an activity sheet and received a badge at the end for their completed ones.

Numeracy/ Maths: Almost every day while we were at her uncle’s house, W watched Number Blocks on the TV in the morning. She loved the adding and subtracting that they show and understood it. She also watched an episode of a vet show. She absolutely loves that show and loves seeing how the animals are cared for and treated.

W found some packets of curtain pole ends, which were in pairs, so we had a little lesson on the two-times table with them.

At the arcades at Great Yarmouth, W played with the 2p machines for a while. We had a discussion about probability and how unlikely it is that people win anything (and when they do win, it adds up to less than their outlay) on these machines, so the emphasis when we play on them is the fun aspect and not the winning.

Politics / History: We discussed politics and Donald Trump (again) over dinner, when W came up with a few suggestions on how he could be advised to be less mean to people…….. She said that the issues with Donald Trump and other world leaders could be resolved by just sitting down and talking and understanding each other. We later discussed racism in relation to the history of America…. I have to mention at this point that I feel it is important to openly discuss race with the children, rather than giving the vague and woolly message that ‘everyone is equal’. To go into specifics is really important in terms of getting our children to fully understand the impact of racism on society and the individual. There is more about this subject in the book ‘Nurture Shock‘, in the chapter entitled “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race”; and there is more in-depth information in this study on the effect of parental discussion around race on children aged 5-7 years.

Music: On a lighter note, W played the piano with her aunt while we were still in East Anglia. She learned a little bit about the piano keys and notes, and enjoyed trying to make tunes. I later played a little bit and W danced while I did, rounding off a lovely week spent with family – just being ourselves and having fun.

 

 

 

10th June 2018 – Questions

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

Here is what we did:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Work and Home Educate?

I hear this question a lot from people who are considering home ed. There is a belief that home education is expensive (more about that in a later blog post) and that you won’t be able to work while doing it either. Neither of these are true. Home education is as expensive as you want it to be and you can definitely work while doing it – you just have to be creative.

However, I’m not going to say it is easy – it isn’t – but raising children can be difficult anyway and we’ve managed to do that so far, right?

You will need to make sacrifices. Instead of arranging childcare around your work, you will need to arrange work around your children. Self-employment or freelance work is probably the best type of work for home educators, simply because of flexibility, but it can be done if you work away from the home, too.

In my case, I am self-employed. I work for an hour or two in the daytime, whenever W is otherwise engaged in play or an organised activity, and then I work from the time she goes to sleep until I am falling asleep at my computer, usually at around midnight. I am lucky in that I can be very flexible in the daytime as I don’t have appointments or (many) deadlines in my line of work, but I find that simply fitting the hours in can be a struggle. For example, tidying, cleaning and cooking has to be done in the daytime when W is awake. I don’t get the chance to clean up after bedtime as that is the time that I am working. I very rarely watch TV in the evening, but this is the sacrifice that I made to home educate W. I do realise that it isn’t for everyone. It is difficult – very difficult – sometimes, but I do strongly believe that the benefits of home education far outweigh the costs to my free time (and the loss of the money I could earn by doing something else if W were at school). I get to spend hours a day at the park, in museums or seeing our good friends (see my post on socialisation here), so this ‘sacrifice’ is definitely worth it for us, by a long way.

In a two-parent family, you could tag-team, in that when one of you comes home from work, the other can work from that time. It takes a lot of organisation and again involves unsociable hours, but it can be done. I know of a few families that work in this way, with one partner working two or three nights a week and the other partner working in the day. Again, it involves sacrifice. You will see a bit less of your partner, so the time that you do have together becomes all the more precious. If you find that this is the best working pattern for you, do make sure that you can fit in just a little bit of together time now and then. Savour the moments that you do have.

I have spoken to many home educators on the subject of work. I know editors, people who teach languages online at home, transcribers, bloggers, eBay sellers and many, many other freelancers. I know people who have had high-powered jobs, but have given that up when making the decision to home educate their children. I know single parents who home educate, some working and some not. I also know many people who are fortunate enough to survive on one person’s wage, within a two-parent family. Every family’s situation is different and it is important to make the decisions that are right for you, as a family. It is about looking at where you are now and what you want your future to be.

Questions to consider:

Do you have extended (or nuclear) family support to cover for the hours that you will work?

If your children have grandparents, aunts, uncles or other trusted extended family that would love to have regular time with them, take them up on their offers. Your children will love the time and attention from them and you will have space to work for a little while, when the opportunity comes up.

If not, are there other hours that you can do when your children are asleep or occupied at workshops, groups or lessons?

If your child is old enough, and ready, there are many and varied lessons or workshops that your child can do without you needing to be present (subject to all of the relevant DBS and qualification checks, of course). You would then have an hour or two to do some work while these happen.

Are there working from home opportunities that fit your skill base?

Try searching for local or national jobs that can be done from home. These are very often lower -paid jobs, but can be much more flexible in terms of hours. Be careful to never pay anything up-front and to check that any company is a reputable one before you commit to anything.

Is it possible to work fewer hours at your current place of work, or to ask for more flexibility with the hours that you do have?

Often people think that they cannot change their hours or request to work from home, for fear of upsetting their employers, but it might be worth an ask, at least. Explain your situation and your reasons for doing this. If you have an approachable boss, you might just be lucky.

I do realise that this is not an option for many people, simply because the job that you do needs you to be present at work for all of your hours, or because your boss is not approachable at all….

If you have a partner, can you work opposite hours to them?

Draw up a plan of how that could look for your family. How would you feel about it and how would your children feel about it? Could you trial it for a while and see how it works for you?

Have you researched local groups or lessons locally that your child will benefit from, while you can also work?

Check local Facebook groups and email lists for all the current activities, clubs, lessons and groups that your child could do. At this point, I have to say that it is important to not book in too much, especially if your child has only just been deregistered from a school environment. Make sure you have plenty of down-time and free-play opportunities in between organised activities.

In the end, the decision to home educate and to make a change to your working hours or overall employment lies with your family only. Only you know what is best for you and your family and no-one can tell you what to do for the best. Have a think about what life would be like if things stayed the same. Would things be better or worse with a change? You can’t predict that, of course, but sometimes it is better to make a change, than to keep things the same, for fear of making the wrong decision. Maybe this could be the change that you all needed. Maybe this could be the best thing for you all and you would be a happier and more relaxed family because of it. You will never know until you make that leap….

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!

4th Mar 2018 – trains

This week, we had a transport theme. W wanted to know all about trains; how are trains made, where are they made, how are tracks put together, what do freight trains do, what does freight mean….. the questions went on and on. Of course, as is usual with these things, W asked all these questions while we were out and not near resources. That was all well and good, since I am a slight train nerd, so I covered most of it with her. I do find, though, that when W is asking so many questions on a crowded train, I feel like I am being watched and like I am under more pressure to get the answers absolutely right… I’m sure people are just chuckling because of the relentlessness of a 4-year-old’s quest for knowledge and not because I am floundering right in front of them….

On a different journey on a different day, W decided we would do maths in the car. She asked me to give her simple numbers to add or subtract from each other and worked out the answers on her fingers. The night before, we had played a board game involving addition, so I think she was just expanding on what she learned.

Then more questions: what are factories for? She wanted lots and lots of examples of things that are made in factories, which was fairly easy as there are so many things to choose from. W was surprised that things that are so different from each other can be made in similar factories. She then asked exactly how things are made, and once we had talked about that for some time, she decided she wants to own a factory when she is an adult…

On the next journey, maths was no longer the favourite – W wanted to practise phonic sounds instead. She likes to do this because I put on silly voices with each sound. It has helped her to learn, though does make my vocal chords sore after a while…

The conversation then turned to prehistoric amber, of all things. W asked if I knew how insects from the time of the dinosaurs were so well preserved. I said I didn’t and she explained how insects got trapped in tree sap a long time ago and how it turned to amber. I have no idea where she got that from.

When we got home, W  wanted to count her money in her money box to see how much she had. She needs help with this as she is not yet confident with adding multiples of tens and hundreds together, but she did do well at sorting the coins into piles of similar sizes and shapes and telling me the numbers on each coin.

On our final journey of the week, we travelled cross-country on a fast train. We played a game where you had to roll a colour dice to collect cards with train carriages on, to make a complete train out of them. W knew how many she needed to collect in total, so I asked her at various points in the game how many more she needed, so that she could practise her new maths skills. After that, it was a game of good ol’ Snap (with cards with pictures of trains on, to carry on with the theme), which she did really well at.

How do you keep your kids entertained on long journeys? Do you have any go-to toys or books that you keep especially for travelling (aside from tablets and magazines)? Do let me know. We travel a lot and some fresh ideas for entertainment in a small space would be welcome!

On top of all of the above, W also made cupcakes and managed to do most of the process herself and in the right order. She had help with the oven etc, but managed almost all of it herself.

She also got to do a lot of her favourite small-world play. We have been building furniture, including shelves and bookcases (yes, still completing the house move) and W decided, along with D, that they would turn our shelving units into giant doll’s houses. In the time that the furniture was just built and waiting for our books and ornaments to go onto them, the children had filled the units up with furniture from the doll’s house and were playing a very complicated game of houses together. It was great to watch and we actually left the shelves like that for a few days as they enjoyed playing with them so much!