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.

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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…

1st July, 2018 – the Maritime Museum

This week was an exhausting one – it was filled with the usual (and unusual) learning and a fabulous trip to Greenwich to the Maritime Museum, but was also marred by the illness of our lovely kitten, Flash. I feel like I need a week’s rest to get over this one….

Here is what we did – arranged by subject, as usual…..

Maths: W surprised me by counting in twos and said she had learned it from D last week. This is another example of the children teaching each other, without my input, I suppose. I love that this happens on a regular basis and I love that the children gain so much just from being together and talking.

Another way that the children learn together is from our daily board game session. We play board games every evening after we have tidied the away the mess of the day together. This week, we played Monopoly Junior a lot. In this game, W will happily add up the rent on her properties when she has more than one. I haven’t ‘taught’ her how to do this – she has just learned that she needs to ask for money from one of us and needs to work out how much to ask for. It takes her a few moments, but allowing her to do this for herself means that she is included in the game as much as any other player and gives her a sense of achievement too.

At one point this week, W asked to buy some accessories for one of her toys with her pocket money. We bought it together online, so she read out the numbers from a bank card for me. Her understanding is growing about money, especially that if you spend it on one thing, it can’t still be there to buy something else.

Sport: At Rainbows, W learned about the Olympics and what the colours of the flags represent. She coloured in her own flag and wrote her name on it and then she drew a picture of her favourite sport (swimming).

Social: Also at Rainbows, W learned some new songs and a game called ‘On the deck’, which she really enjoyed. She mixes very well with the children there and plays happily with them before the session starts too.

Another opportunity for socialisation came at our regular meet-ups, where she saw her friends and had the chance to just play for a few hours.

On the train, W played with two children, aged 8 and 9. They showed each other gymnastics moves, played noughts and crosses (which she had just learned to play) and played with toys together. After that, W chatted to their grandparents as well.

It makes me so proud to see W developing her social skills like this. She is very happy to talk to children that she has just met and comes across as confident and self-assured. A reminder that our teachers in school were right – we were not at school to socialise – we socialise through life whenever we want to!

History / Geography: We visited the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where W really enjoyed learning about boats, battles, kings and queens and everything in-between.

There was a giant map on the floor and we spent quite a bit of time walking to different countries of the world and talking about how far from each other they are. We also discussed notable things about the countries – such as Tokyo being the most populous city, which she has learned before, but now she could see a giant example of where it was in the world.

I do love this Museum – there is so much to do and so much to see. In the daytime, it is not crowded at all and the staff are so helpful too.

We also visited Queen’s House in Greenwich, which W loved. She asked me to read every information section about each room. She learned about the house and what it was used for over time. She learned about the art in the rooms and also the design aspects. All of this information was gained from the little plaques on the walls and from the knowledgeable staff there.

We talked about the steps in the house being worn down in the middle and had a mini-lesson ourselves on erosion.

We talked about the different roles and responsibilities that monarchs had had in the past and how that had changed and then W also asked about their staff and what they did.

She is very interested in the Royal family and asked again how succession to the throne works. She still doesn’t seem impressed at the fact that one is born into the role and does not ‘earn’ it.

Science: We looked at a huge propeller from a boat and learned how it made the boat move. We then related that back to the cruise ship that we had seen on the Thames last week.

W was lucky enough to go inside a traditional windmill – not working, but all the equipment was there. We talked about how it was used to make flour.

Also saw a beached anchor – related it to how it is used on boats (specifically Capt Turbot’s in Paw Patrol)

W asked in conversation why brothers and sisters can’t marry and that lead to a discussion on genetics and mutations, in simple terms!

Later in the week, W asked to learn about types of cloud, so we looked them up on the internet and she was interested in the different types and their names.  She learned a tiny bit about how they are formed, which we can build on when she is older.

Later, we went to the vets again with our cat, Flash, as he had been very poorly indeed. W learned about dehydration, infections and antibiotics. At the vet’s we saw posters on the wall about kidney disease in cats and saw a picture of the kidneys, learned about their function and also saw an ultrasound of kidneys.

I have tried to shield the children from how serious Flash’s illness was. He became so seriously ill that he could not even lift his head. I had been giving him tiny amounts of water in a syringe every hour day and night as he was not able to drink either. I had washed him as, of course, he wasn’t able to use the litter tray. The poor thing had just been in his bed, not moving apart from constant involuntary shaking.

It turned out to be a serious infection and thankfully he recovered over time and started to eat after around 5 days. The children were worried about him, but none of them knew that he could have died. To see him so poorly and to think that we could have lost him was very hard indeed.

I think the best thing that I have seen this week is Flash playfully batting his brother on the nose, proving that he is starting to get his strength back!

At dinner, W learned from my partner about blood pressure and why low blood pressure makes you dizzy and can give you a headache.

Play: In the Maritime Museum, W played with me in the mini fish market, making up prices for the products and selling them to me.

W and D played many games as we traveled in the car this week. They came up with games such as car spotting, pretend computers and vets (using soft toys as patients).

Literacy: At one of our regular meet-ups, W asked me to help her make a menu for her pretend café. I wrote the menu for her, but asked her what the letters in some of the words should be. She then went around the people and asked them what items they would like from the menu.

Later that day, W wrote a card to her Grandfather for his birthday, all by herself.

On the train later in the week, we made up a story together, which she loves to do. I usually make up the first part, then she says what happens next and we continue taking it in turns to create the story. It is usually very funny, though I’m not sure how much the commuters enjoy our raucous laughter….. but that doesn’t matter, because the point of all this is to have fun. Isn’t that even the point of life? We are here for such a short time, we should enjoy it at least!

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.

 

17 June 2018 – new kittens and a trip to the vets!

We had been thinking about getting another cat for a while now and have decided that now is a good time to do it. All the children are great with our current cat, who is also very easy-going and has lived with other cats that are not related to her, so we thought she would welcome a new friend for her into the household. Therefore, a few weeks ago, the hunt for a new addition to our family began, opening up more opportunities for learning along the way….

Science / Nature: W has now been learning about how to settle a cat in, what it needs to stay happy and healthy (with the help of these brilliant resources from the Cat’s Protection League and some books from the library too). She also learned about what kittens need to eat and why, and how to meet all of their needs.

We went to visit a kitten to see if we might like to have him, but he was nervous and used his claws to get away from us. W learned about why it is really important to choose a cat with the right temperament and why it would not be right for the cat to live with us if he was scared of us (children especially).

The next day, we visited a couple more kittens and found that one of them was a perfect fit for our family. He was very calm and friendly and loved being handled. His brother was quiet, but not nervous, and clearly very attached to his litter-mate…. So we brought both kittens home later that day, after all our family had met them.

Later in the week, W learned a little more about vaccinations and general care for cats afterwards from the vet. When the vet heard that W was home educated, he explained what he was doing when he was examining the kittens and then he brought a model of a dog skeleton into the room and showed a scan of the ligaments of a dog’s knee, which he had on the computer. I love how some professionals are happy to give some of their time to help to educate W. When she asks someone a question, who happens to be a specialist in that area, I find that they are most often happy to answer the question in detail. It is one of the many lovely things about learning as we go through life….

At Rainbows, W was very excited to tell her friends all about the new kittens. She also saw a real bird’s nest (no longer used and taken with permission) and was fascinated with it. She had a lovely sociable time with the other children, whilst they played games such as the sack race, catching balloons and dribbling a ball around obstacles.

Continuing with the science theme for the week, we covered orbits over dinner. W learned how the Earth orbits the sun, how long it takes and why it looks like the sun is rising and setting to us.
Literacy: W helped to make tiny signs to welcome toy visitors to her Playmobil Farm“>Playmobil Farm.
Board Games / Play: Later, we played Monopoly Junior. W really enjoys this one and fully understands the whole game now.
Art: We made posters for the front, porch and back doors, to remind the children to not let the kittens out yet. W coloured the posters in and stuck pictures of cats on them.
Home Economics: W helped me to make dinner, which is unusual for her. She is often happy to bake sweet things, but doesn’t often want to make dinner. This time she wanted to be involved, which was lovely as we got to have a lovely chat, instead of her finding ways to entertain herself while I cook. A win for us both!

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.

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….

27th May – nature

This week, the focus of W’s learning has very much been on nature, because that is what she wanted to do. I do love being able to be out in the sunshine in the daytime, just learning and observing.

This is what we did:

Science / Nature: We looked at how buds turn into flowers while at our lovely local park. We fed the squirrels there and watched them bury their nuts and then saw some baby squirrels. We saw that one of the squirrels still had part of it’s winter coat and so we discussed how some animals’ coats change according to the seasons. W also asked lots of questions about bees: why they sting people, their anatomy, what different types there are etc.

We used a free set of resources from the Woodland Trust which had worksheets on tree spotting. We identified the different types of tree in the park on the worksheet and brought an example of each leaf home to identify again at a later date. We then stuck them onto coloured paper to help us to remember them. We found lots of different types, just in the one park.

Whilst tree spotting, we also identified minibeasts such as aphids, insect eggs, bees and flies.

While we were out, it started to rain and W learned about why rain starts and stops.

Later in the week, there was a nature trail during the Teddy Bears’ Picnic in a different local park, where W enjoyed spotting various plants, vegetables, insects and flowers within the community garden there.

Whilst we were going home, we had  brief ‘lesson’ on genetics, since W asked why certain people have certain coloured hair.

Play / Social: While we were at the community gardens, W played with three friends and, of course, D and J too. They went through a ‘maze’ of plants, played hide and seek with their teddies and also played in the playground.

This week, W has also played a lot with her Sylvanian families. She has been putting them all to bed and deciding where each character fits into the family. They have been going on outings in her toy bus and also changing clothes and meeting up for meals.

On Thursday, she wanted me to take a video of her playing with them, so we did that. She really wanted me to put the video on Youtube, but I didn’t, for reasons I will explain in a later blog…

We went to our favourite social meet again and W had a great time. She played with two of her friends mainly, but also chatted to lots of other children.

On the train on the way there, we did our usual making up stories and W took turns with me to decide what should happen in the story next. We also played with her Magiclip dolls and role-played with them trying on dresses and having a sleepover.

In the evening, W and D performed a talent show for us in the living room, which was (intentionally) very funny.

On Tuesday, W went to Rainbows and really enjoyed it. She made salt dough with her friend. She really enjoyed the singing at the beginning and end of the session. The easiest way to get there was to go on W’s bike, so we spent time learning more about how to ride it for a while on the way there. On the way home, something had ‘clicked’ for her and she rode it by herself!

Spatial Skills: W played with her Lego and she built the fabulous Lego Gingerbread House with very little help. She also built her favourite Lego Hot Air Balloon as it had fallen apart from last time. She played with the minifigures too and there was a lot of imaginative play where the toys were all put in different scenarios.

Games / Board Games: This week, W has played many games of Uno and understands the rules well.

English / Literacy: On a train journey, W enjoyed reading the station signs and finding the correct platforms, as usual. She also read some of the signs on the train itself. She likes to find the correct carriage and seat for us also.

On Thursday, we went to a couple of structured lessons. W loved the relaxed learning environment and the fact that there was a café on site. She went to the English class first and practised her pen skills by  colouring in a difficult pattern. She also wrote her name and a few words to show to the teacher. There were 8 children in the class and the teacher was setting them different types of work to do according to their age and ability, along the same theme. After that, they had a card game where they collected a card for words that they had remembered from a poem he read to them.

Maths / Numeracy: After English and a break in the café, W went to the Maths lesson, which was facilitated by a great teacher who got the children to do bar graphs of how many times they had managed to get a water bottle to flip and then stand up, with different amounts of water inside the bottles. The younger children enjoyed the active part and counting the number of tries, while the older kids took part in the question and answer session about the graph.

We discovered that W’s friend from the social meet was in the lesson too, so W teamed up with her and was very pleased to see her.

During playtime with D, W learned about how to split numbers in half. This was because W and D wanted to make sure they had the same amount of toys to play with in a particular game, so they split each group of toys in half to make it fair!

Music: On Saturday, we went to a local mini-festival and W watched a steel band, which she loved.

Geography: Whilst at the little festival, W looked at some old maps of our area and we looked at where our house was on the post-war map and on the older 100-year-old map. We also looked at other places, such as the schools and parks, which were all there on the older map too.

Next week, we have some family visits planned and also a birthday party to go to, which we are really looking forward to!

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.