11th Nov, 2018 – when I grow up….

W has asked questions about the future this week and has given consideration to what career she would like when she is older. More about this below, in the usual format of subject order:

Play: The theme for W’s play this week has mainly been ‘My Little Ponies’. W has played with these delightfully plastic toys with both me and her stepsister, D (8) at various points during the week.

She has also spent a lot of time playing loudly with her stepbrother, J (10). Their play usually involves bringing all the covers and pillows from all the beds and making some sort of den in the living room. Then we often all have a pillow fight.

Art: At the dinner table, W decided to get her pens out and do some drawings while she was waiting for food to arrive.

W later found some beads that were an unopened gift in her bedroom. She opened them and made a flower out of them, which looked fabulous!

Board Games: We played Chinese Chequers a few times this week (for those that don’t know, we have a nightly routine of tidying, then playing a board game all together). W was proud of herself for winning against all 5 of us. Usually D wins this game, but I think W was determined to win a game this time!

Monday’s ‘board game’ was ‘Pass the Pigs’ where you throw two tiny pigs to see which way up they land and get points accordingly. W loved making a score chart for us and wrote it all out carefully. She was so proud of herself to see that she could write all those numbers herself (I added up the scores and she wrote them down).

Literacy / Language: On Saturday, I had to send a parcel to Russia for my business. The address was written in the Cyrillic alphabet, so I showed it to W and explained that there are different alphabets, used in different countries.

In the morning, W made a list of the things that we needed to do that day. She made it with help and then we used the list to determine what we did.

We also learned some French words while we were playing, just for fun.

W has a toy that she has had since she was a baby – it is a phone which talks and sings in Greek (it was passed down to us from a friend of mine, who is Greek). She has been playing with it this week, trying to learn the Greek alphabet as she goes.

Science / Nature:  We watched a CBeebies ‘Operation Ouch’ video on Youtube, showing what happens to the bladder (via ultrasound) when you have a wee. She was really interested and watched it twice.

W asked what political parties there are in America and we talked about the Democrats and Republicans and how the colours for the parties are the opposite to what they are here. 

When we were at a firework display, looking at all the beautiful colours in the sky, W asked if the sky ever ends. This led to a discussion about the Earth’s atmosphere and space.

W then asked lots of questions about how fireworks explode and what makes the noise etc.

On Tuesday, we had a chat about haemoglobin and iron as I have to take supplements.

We got a new poster from the Open University that we put up in the dining room. It is from the Blue Planet and shows the layers and depths of the oceans and what lives in each. W wanted to write the names of some of the depths of ocean, so she wrote “Epipelagic” and “Mesopelagic” on paper. Big words for a small person…

At dinner, we talked about the fact that people live in the International Space Station for 6 months at a time, then W asked her stepbrother, J, to read her the poster on oceans to identify the creatures on it.

On Thursday, we took the cats to the vet and W told the staff there that she wants to be a vet. She was also chatting to them about why each dog was barking / putting it’s tail between its legs etc. She could tell which dogs were friendly and which were nervous, which was brilliant. 

When we were at Kings Cross, W asked how the building was built, so we looked that up on my phone as we were waiting for a train.

Politics / History: W asked about November 5th and why we celebrate it, so we touched on the story of Guy Fawkes and what happened, in simple terms.

D (W’s stepsister, 8) taught W a song about the ancient Egyptians, which D had learned at school. It included references to Osiris, Isis, mummification, Pharaohs and pyramids. They sang it over and over.

Home Economics: W helped to make some biscuits to take with us to the local firework display, mentioned earlier.

PSHE: On the way home from the display, W asked lots of questions about Aunty T (more about her here): what her favourite things were, what she liked to do, what her favourite flowers were etc. I must say it was good to hear W talk about Aunty T again and, although it was difficult for me to talk about her without getting upset, I know that it is right for us to remember .

At night, we talked about feelings and how big feelings are less scary if we talk about them. We chatted about how you can share your feelings and how that makes it feel so much better because then someone else knows about it too.

Economics: At the post office, we saw a delivery of lots and lots of coins, so asked why they need such a big delivery. Then we saw the money van go to Sainsbury’s to take their notes away. She was fascinated by it.

So as well as wanting to be a vet, W has said that she would like to drive the money van when she is grown, as long as there are no robbers in the future, though I’m not sure that could be guaranteed…..

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…