8th July, 2018 – long journeys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Rainbows, W played with her friends as usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24th June, 2018 – a trip along the river

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

So, our week looked a little like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3rd June, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20th May – a holiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13th May 2018 – illness strikes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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