Milestones

When W reached CSA (Compulsory School Age), I found myself thinking that we had hit a major milestone – that now it is official and W really isn’t going to school. We are ‘officially’ home educating now, although you could say that we have been home educating for years, since nothing has changed in terms of her child-led learning. We have been doing it all along.

Of course, we have had other milestones along the way. I remember when W was 3 and I received letters telling me that she could have a place at nursery, which I ignored at the time. This felt like a minor milestone. Then the deadline for applying for a school place (in reception year) neared and I had fleeting worry that I should apply, just in case. However, I didn’t. I strongly believed that home education was right for W at the time, and when the deadline did actually pass, I felt a sense of relief that the decision had been made and that now we could just get on with it.

But then her peers started school in the September when she was 4. I saw all of the Facebook posts, chatted to my friends about their excitement at their baby starting school, how cute they look in their new uniforms and how their friends from nursery will be in the same class as them etc etc. I couldn’t help feeling that W was missing out and that that was all because of me. What if she actually would have liked school? What if she needed more than I could offer her?

At this point, W was still nervous of loud noise. She didn’t like big groups of people and was a sensitive soul. Should I have pushed her to overcome her fears or would that make her withdrawn? Should I go with my gut and keep her out of the institution that is school, until she is actually ready and more able to cope with the challenges of the classroom? Is any child really ready at only 4 years old?

All these questions would pop into my head at night and I found that I was asking myself over and over if I was doing the right thing. If so many people were doing the same thing as each other and sending their 4-year-olds to school before they were even CSA, surely they were right and I was missing something?

However, I had read the studies and reports on the fact that the UK starts formal schooling when children are too young. The evidence is clear (More information can be found in this New Scientist report and this report by the Foundation for Economic Education, both taking evidence from, and linked to, various respected studies on the subject) that early school enrollment is having a negative effect on our children’s health, wellbeing and also educational attainment.

So what could I do to feel better about my decision? How could I find my ‘tribe’ who would support me and my daughter through our brave and unusual choices

I joined all the home education email, Facebook and real-life groups that I could find and talked to as many people as I could about home education. I asked them about their journeys. Some home educated from the start, some took their children out of school when they found that they could not cope with the school environment. Some were radical unschoolers, some were structured home-schoolers, and some were somewhere in-between, but all had an absolute belief that what they were doing was right for their children. That they were their child’s advocate when others wouldn’t listen. When parents of schooled children questioned my new-found friends on home education, they responded that they were certain this was right for them. Not for everyone – but for them.

I started to feel more assured of my decision. I felt that maybe I could educate W myself and maybe it would turn out ok, as my new friends were telling me.

Later that September, when W and her peers were still 4 years old, my friends with school children started to tell me of the difficulties their children had settling in to their schools. They told me of the tears at drop-off time and the stress and tantrums when they came home, exhausted from the day. Of course this wasn’t the case for all of them – a few of my friend’s children settled-in straight away and loved school from the beginning. However, the majority didn’t and that is when I knew absolutely that I had done the right thing for W.

I am not anti-school – far from it, in fact. But I do dislike the all-or-nothing approach that our government and Local Education Authorities have towards school. Children either attend school for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, or they are home educated. There is no in-between (flexi-schooling is vanishingly rare and in almost all cases a temporary measure leading to full-time schooling).

If only we could make our own decisions about our own children’s education in the way that we want to.

If only our government actually informed every parent that their child does not legally have to go to school (or be home educated) until the term after they turn 5 years old, instead of sending letters to parents giving them the false information that they need to enroll their child in school for their reception year. What would be the effect on the nation’s young children if all parents were told when their child is legally supposed to start education, I wonder?

Anyway, one year after W would have started her reception year, W has reached CSA, I have never felt more certain that I am doing the right thing for her. We have had so much fun so far, and I have loved to see W’s development in a way that I just wouldn’t be able to see if she were in school. I look at her and I see how happy she is, and I know I have done the right thing for her as an individual.

23rd Sep, 2018 – socialising

Last week, I was worried that we had not done enough socialising and that we had spent too much time at home…. However, this week more than made up for last weeks lack of playdates with friends, so I’ll start this diary entry with:

Socialisation: On Monday, a friend came to play with W and they had a lovely time with the dolls house etc.

We later went to our favourite social group, which was busy again. We met yet another family with two Mums, which brings the total to 4 families at this group. It is lovely for W to be able to see so many children with families like hers.

On Wednesday, a neighbour, T (6 years old), came over for a playdate (who W met when searching for our cat’s collar). The children all had fun playing with her.

On Thursday, it was time for another play date: this time with B (6) and T (2) who we know from our Monday group. W was keen to show T how to be careful and gentle with the kittens.

At Rainbows, W played really well with the other children and also included the new children in the games.

And to round off a week of socialisation, on Friday at the park, W played with her friend, J (4 years old). They enjoyed climbing the big climbing frame and generally running around.

Literacy / English: As usual, on our train journeys, W practiced reading signs at the stations.

W is loving having her things accessible at the desk now (more about this here), and is sitting down to do colouring-in sheets at least once a day, deciding for herself when to just sit down and work on it.

Science / Nature: On Tuesday, we watched W’s favourite vet show on TV, which she loved. She particularly liked the bit about hoof care in horses and how quickly newborn horses can walk.

We saw a fox outside Rainbows and discussed why it was out in the evening and what it was going to eat.

W spent time in the garden, collecting acorns for squirrels and talking about oak trees. W made a mini garden in a planter, with shells, planted acorns and a section for an acorn display

Numeracy / Maths: At Rainbows, W did some dot-to-dot puzzles and then got to colour them in, which she really enjoyed. She did really well and recognised her numbers up to 48 with only a little help.

Next week, she is doing her ‘promise’, which she is really excited about as she becomes a proper Rainbows member then.

Earlier in the day, W had asked to do some paid work with me, so she set about categorising some items for my shop.

Play: W built one of her Playmobile sets. She was determined to do it herself and was proud that she had managed it without adult help.

This rounds off a busy week of socialising, to contrast with last week’s home learning. I am learning now that we can’t do everything in every week, but that all subjects and learning opportunities balance out over the months (and years).

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..

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…..

 

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.

26th August 2018 – more categorising

Literacy / English:  W asked what the holes in skin are, and found it funny that pores, pause and paws all sound the same. She then tried to come up with other words that sound alike.

Socialisation: W got to hold a 6-day old baby (a friend’s son) and then played with his big sister (her friend K, 4) for a while. They fed ducks together by the river during a walk through the countryside. When they saw some cows, W identified which ones were Jerseys. A bit further along the walk, W helped to find a dockleaf for K, who had been stung by nettles.

W and K had a chat about who was tallest or oldest, then they talked about people they knew who also had two mums, like them.

Art: W did lots of colouring-in this week. She was careful to stay inside the lines and was pleased with the end result.

Later, she drew pictures of our cats. She drew Flash and Jerry in the correct patterns and colours, and then even attempted Watson, which she found difficult as she is so many different colours in different places… Then she made another picture of a pink cat and a purple cat, which was very good.

Board games: We played “Crazy Chefs” and also Charades, which is one of the children’s favourites. W is becoming very good at demonstrating things in a way that other people can understand now.

Literacy / English: W was in charge of writing down who had had a turn at Charades, so that all 5 of us had an equal amount of goes. She hasn’t done this before and she was good at it, making a table of names and a tally of turns.

Play: W set up an elaborate game involving Shopkins, Lego, some palaces, the doll’s house and her Paw Patrol set and then continued the game over the next two days, between trips out of the house.

Maths / Numeracy: W spent a long time categorising her Shopkins into a ‘house’ that she had set up. She put her Shopkins all around the room into little rooms that she had made out of Tupperware tubs. She loved ‘tidying’ all the Shopkins away into their correct places.

We later spent a few hours categorising W’s whole bedroom as she has wanted to do this for some time. She was really pleased with the result because she said she can now find everything she needs. She did really well in continuing to concentrate on the task and was great at deciding what items should be put with what and which things go together.

Her room was previously arranged by colour to make it easier for her to find things, but now she prefers items to be tidied by type, decided by her.

W also helped to categorise some items for sale in my shop. She spent a very long time doing so (and was paid for it too). I wrote about this a few months ago when W had a categorising obsession last time…. It seems that it is back again, so it was good to put it to good use in my shop!

PE: At the park, W played frisbee, then climbed the biggest climbing frame.

Science / Nature: On the train to Leeds, we sat opposite a woman with a budgie in a carrier. He was a lovely friendly little thing and his owner let W stroke him. She explained to W about how budgies learn to talk and also how budgies are cared for. We then watched a ‘pet rescue’ programme, in which they talked about hoof care for horses and how to repair a broken leg. W loves these shows.

W discussed what career she would like when she grew up. She decided on animal rescuer, a vet (without operations) and a dog walker. She also detailed how she would live on a farm and have lots and lots of animals.

So, will W still be categorising next week? It is interesting to look back over these blog posts and to see how W has changed over the past months. Of course, it is impossible to predict the future, but I am genuinely excited to see what happens next and to see how W’s education and interests evolve over time.

 

12th August, 2018 – Family Time

The school holidays are a special time for us as the family finally gets to spend a solid amount of time all together, as the older two (J, 9 and D, 7) go to school, so this week, we focused on family time, with less emphasis on learning and more emphasis on spending time together, as a family unit, but also with the grandparents too.

Having said that, we did go to the London Museums for a little incidental learning, making our first subject this week science…..

Science / Nature: On our visit to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, we met Grandma and spent the whole day with her looking at items, using the interactive objects and generally having fun. W’s favourite was the Blue Whale skeleton and we also went through the dinosaur section again, building on the knowledge we gained the last time we visited and the time before that.

At the Science museum, W spent quite a while at the little screens, in the ‘ Who Am I?’ Section and learned about DNA and genetics, amongst many other things.

We did some more learning about operations as I had to go to the hospital for an appointment in anticipation of an operation that I will need to have in the future.

As usual, on the journey home, W told me when our train was coming, by looking at the display and she tried to read signs also.

Later, W looked at her venus fly trap and asked questions about how the plant digests the insects it captures.

Mechanics: A neighbour gave me an old bike that was not roadworthy, so W helped me to fix it and make it work again. She also helped to clean it and got very grubby in the process!

Numeracy / Maths: W counted her money from her money-box and was pleased with the amount that she had saved, as usually she likes to spend her £3 a week straight away (more on pocket money here).

On the train, W did some of her workbook, which was dot-to-dots. She is becoming good at recognising numbers over 20 now. She then coloured in the pictures that she had made.

On Monday, we went to our regular social group, where they sometimes let the children run a little stall, to sell things that they had made. As we were able to bring the older two children this time, D could sell some of her Hama bead designs that she had worked on this week. W helped D to run her ‘shop’, asking people for the money and helping D to count it.

Art: Also at our Monday group, W made a ‘laptop’ and book for her soft toys, out of paper. These were good – the book had a picture on the front and writing inside. The laptop had a keyboard design when you open it up.

Afterwards, the children sat in a circle and drew the person opposite.

Play: As we have been all together this week, there has been a lot of playing happening. W is playing longer and longer ‘small world’ games with her toys now, showing that she can move through lots of steps within a game and then change the direction of the game as it progresses.

Another chance for some good playing was outside the museums, where the regular ‘Bubble Man’ was. D, J and W spent some time chasing bubbles together, having lots of fun.

Music: On the walk to the Museums, we saw many buskers. W’s favourite was the harpist, who offered to let her have a go on the harp, but she politely declined. We did spend some time watching her play, which the children were fascinated by.

PE: On a visit to Nanna and Grandad’s, W played football in the garden with her aunt, who is football mad… W learned some new skills and has got much better at dribbling the ball now.

And that concludes this week – a great week of mainly play with some learning along the way!

22nd July 2018 – Lego at Hall Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

15th July 2018 – 100 years of the RAF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8th July, 2018 – long journeys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Rainbows, W played with her friends as usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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