2nd December, 2018 – Christmas prep!

This week had a Christmas theme, with all of us getting out the Christmas decorations and preparing the advent calendars (my partner makes them for the children). It is such a lovely time of year and, although we are all atheists, we do still involve ourselves with Christmas events and pantomimes that are happening near us, just as we do with other religious festivals.

So here is what W learned this week, in subject order as usual…..

Science / Nature: W asked about the days being shorter now and why that happens and when the days will start to get longer again. We chatted about the seasons and the Earth’s tilt.

W later asked why the date of Easter moves, so we talked about the phases of the moon and how that affects Easter. Then she asked why the moon has phases, so I explained that to her too.

In the evening, W spent some time telling her stepsiblings, J and D about Blue Planet and what the different creatures do, which I suppose solidified her learning from last week.

Whilst we were going through the Blackwall tunnel, W asked why there were bars at a certain level in the tunnel. I explained that it is lower on one side and the bars are showing the height of the lowest part of the tunnel, so lorries can only go on one side and they can check whether they fit by looking at the bars.

Literacy / English: On one of our train journeys, we read a book together, which she really loved (and I wondered if the other passengers did too…..).

Wrote a song about Christmas and then also wrote some events on the calendar.

PE: On Monday afternoon, we went to W’s gymnastics class, which W did brilliantly at. She listened so well in a class of 12 children and followed the instructions and concentrated for the duration. The teacher gave her lots of praise and wrote down what she had learned in her book, so that she would know where she was up to next time.

She loved it at the class again and is very relaxed and calm there. She knows a few of the people and likes to play in the hallways with them.

Play: She showed great negotiation skills when it was time to put up the Christmas decorations with her siblings. After that, W had a great time playing with the Christmas toys. She adores the Playmobil Christmas scene and spent ages sorting out Santa’s workshop. In fact, she then played with it every day, sometimes letting all her other Playmobil toys join in!

Drama / Performing Arts: We went to the theatre to see a brilliant adaptation of Rapunzel. We talked about the actor who plays Rapunzel, who is black with purple dreadlocks. There was no prince rescuing Rapunzel – instead Goldilocks came to Rapunzel’s tower, where they worked together to defeat evil and free themselves.W loved the performance so much – She especially liked having her information sheet with her during the panto, so that she could work out which actor was playing which part and which actors played more than one part.

W’s stepsister, D (8) had a xmas show with her Saturday dance group, so we watched that. It was a Harry Potter story with singing and dancing. W watched kids in groups of 3-4 year olds, all the way up to teenagers doing different dances. We talked about why the very small children had more simple dances and the older kids had more difficult ones.

Numeracy / Maths: On 1st December, it was time to open the advent calendar. W is now obviously really good at reading the numbers and doesn’t need help at all this year.

We played the Orchard Toys Bus Stop game, adding and taking away people from a bus journey. W really enjoyed it and did well.

When brushing her teeth, W said she was going to work out maths sums in her head without using her fingers. It took quite a while, but she did it entirely by herself.

PSHE: We read an old Christmas story, which I had to pause in order to chat about the gender of the characters in books. Usually, I just change ‘he’ for ‘she’ in kids’ books to balance out the genders and to make the numbers of male and female characters equal. In this book, it wasn’t possible. J and D knew the story well and are used to me changing a couple of characters, but this time, there were 13 male characters and two female characters, who didn’t speak! We had a chat about how this used to be the norm in older books (and still is the case in a lot of modern books) and how it is important that stories reflect the actual population. We talked about which characters needed to be male for the purpose of the story (none of them) and which could be changed. Then we enjoyed the Christmas tale!!

We went to the Christmas fair at the end of our road, which was really good. W got to sit in a fire engine and try on a firefighter’s hat. The firefighter showed her the safety goggles inside the helmet and also the heat-reflecting goggles. They showed us their oxygen tanks and the dial which shows how much oxygen is left. W also learned that the firefighter in charge can see how much oxygen each firefighter has left on her own machine too.

W saw the heavy machine that can cut through metals, and the sledgehammers, axes and hoses too. She enjoyed seeing what they do with all the tools.

There was a ‘treasure hunt’ afterwards, where the children had to search for certain crocheted items on the stalls and get a stamp for each one. Once the sheet was full, they got a chocolate prize. W did very well and recognised most of the items herself. She was confident at talking to the stallholders too.

Socialisation: After the Christmas fair, we went to E (10) and F’s (7) house for a bit. They worked on their Christmas tree, which this year they are making out of Lego. W made an activity course for her soft toy dog to play with, with D and F. Then W asked their mum for a pen and paper and sat down for ages drawing pictures. She drew one of her with her toy dog, which was really good, then drew another of lions in the snow!

Later, more children arrived (T [6], J [9], B [7], N [10] and T [8]), all of whom W has met before. She played well with all of them.

On Monday morning, W’s friend, N popped over for a short time. They had a lovely time playing and W really enjoyed it.

On the train, W met a dog who W stroked and played with for the whole journey. She chatted confidently to her owners.

Art: Later, she made a Christmas decoration from pipe-cleaners and beads.

W played on her online advent calendar game. She did well with the jigsaws, then played an art game, filling in detailed colours, in which she had to use the drop and drag function and very fine control of the cursor.

W decorated her dolls’ house for Christmas. She was really inventive with the materials she had and showed good spatial awareness with measuring spaces and putting appropriate decorations into them.

Next week, we have yet more Christmas-themed activities!

7th Oct, 2018 – a relaxed week

This week was one of those weeks where we did a little learning as we went along, but not massive amounts of concentrated learning. It is funny how all the learning that we do evens out over time. Some weeks are very busy with W trying to soak up as much information as she can, and others are more relaxed and play-based. I suppose W’s motivation to learn goes along with any developmental leaps that she makes. This is yet another affirmation for me that a child-led approach to education must be beneficial when a child is allowed to learn when they are most receptive to it.

So here is our condensed relaxed week, by subject, as usual:

PE: At the swimming pool, W practiced her swimming a bit more and also played on the inflatables for a bit.

Play: One of W’s favourite games lately is a game of owning her own restaurant and having other people as guests in her restaurant. I must say I like being waited on for a while as I’m putting my feet up….

On Thursday, she also played a long game of hotels with her Nanna and Granddad, which they also enjoyed!

We played “Unicorn Vets”, in which we fixed her pretend unicorns’ poorly horns and hooves and cleaned up after them too.

Literacy / English: W was feeling in a helpful mood and assisted with alphabetising the CDs. She did very well with reading the letters and with knowing the starting letters of names. She also thought about how to lay out the CDs on the shelves so that she could reach them.

On Tuesday, we read one of her cat encyclopedias, which compared big cats to domestic cats. There was a quiz at the end and W got nearly all the questions right, so she was really pleased.

Art: W did some great drawing this week. She started with cats (drawing a hook in their tail so they were glad to see us) and when she was asked what she would need to care for her cats, she drew loads of things: food, water, brushes, cat box etc.

Again, W did lots of colouring, as usual. This time it was in a symmetrical pattern book.

Numeracy / Maths: W helped to sort some Lego – she is still loving categorising and sorting it.

We worked a little bit on telling the time, mainly on half past and o’clock.

Socialisation: On Monday, a friend came over they played all sorts of games and generally messed about.

Monday was also our regular social group day. W did a bit of charging about with the other children and then helped to practise writing with a few other kids to write. Towards the end of the session, she played with her friends and performed a show with them.

On Wednesday, W saw her friend J (4 years old) for a few hours. They had a great time playing.

Geography: When we were on the train, we discussed the difference between a borough of London and a regular town. We talked about how big London is and how many people live there.

Science / Nature: W looked at my hands and commented on how old they are (!) and then said that she could feel my bones and that hers are all soft, so we talked about the differences between adult and toddler bones and skin.

We saw a vet show in which a dog was living in the crawl space under a wooden house. W asked why the house didn’t have foundations, so we looked at different types of buildings and the types of foundations they needed.

We did some gardening and looked at the flies in a bag of garden waste that was breaking down. We also moved some worms, weeded and swept up.

We saw a freight train at a local station, which had stopped at the platform, so we looked into the cab and noticed that there were many more controls in there than in a regular train. The driver very kindly moved out of the way so that we could see in. We counted 19 carriages on the train and talked about why a freight train needs a bigger engine and is more noisy than passenger trains.

Business: For some reason we were talking about a job that I had in a pet shop when I was a teenager. W asked why that shop is not there any more and this led to a discussion about why a shop might close down. She was really interested in that and also interested in how businesses make money.

16th Sept, 2018 – Project Based Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2nd September, 2018 -a bike ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

5th Aug 2018 – a playful week

This week, the focus was mainly on play. W has spent a lot of time playing with her toys. Some nights, she even struggled to get to sleep because she had so many ideas floating round in her mind of what to do with her toys the next day. Having read the research on the importance of play (an example here), I knew I needed to let it happen as much as possible as W clearly had a strong need for it this week.

So here is the breakdown of our week of mainly play-based learning:

Socialisation / Play:

W played with B (6), who came over for a visit.

Later, E (9) and F (6)  arrived for a sleepover. They all played hide-and-seek together and later played with Lego.

The next day, W, her sibling D and her friend F played ‘library’, which involved setting up a library in the living room. They used all of their books, which were brought down from upstairs in many stages! Tidying time was fun on that day……

W has played ‘small world’ at different times this week, with various toys – first with her Shopkins in the doll’s house, then with her Playmobil farm and later with Lego.

On Sunday, my parents came for a visit and the children loved reading with them, playing with a frisbee in the park, going to the library for more books and then making cookies and pizzas at home.

At our Monday social group, W played with B (7) for most of the time. They put on a show on the stage, before which, W wrote some tickets and gave them out to everyone.

W played with her minifigures and Lego animals for a long time, in which she got the horses ready for riding, the minifigures rode them and then brought them back to a stable to care for them.

As usual, we played board games in the evenings. This week, W requested the “Guess How Much I Love You” board game when it was her turn to choose (the children take it in turns to choose a board game each evening). It is a very simple game, but lots of fun and the children love it.

We went to our local pool, which the children really enjoyed. We spent some time jumping over the waves in the shallow area and generally messing about – exhausting but fun!

Science / Nature:

W learned about bones this week, as our accident-prone kitten Flash had broken his leg! We have no idea how he had managed to do it – he is still an indoor cat until he is ready to venture outside. We got up one morning to discover he couldn’t walk on one of his legs, the poor thing. We took him straight to the vet’s, where W learned about the care of a broken bone, how it heals and why it is important for Flash to rest. She also learned about pain medicine and anaesthesia too.

We have a grapevine in the garden and W looked at it one day and asked how grapes are harvested. We ended up watching a Youtube video of the big machines that do the harvesting. She watched the video twice and asked questions about how the machine was cleaned and where the grapes are taken after harvest.

W rediscovered her dinosaur encyclopedia and asked me to read it to her. We read the whole thing entirely. In it, she learned about the history of life on Earth and we went through the timeline of what creatures were alive at what times in history. We also covered prehistoric sea creatures, dinosaurs, reptiles and early humans.

W particularly liked the parts about evolution and also the birth of the Earth and how it came to exist. At the end, she was fascinated by how the dinosaurs and parts of the environment turned into coal and oil.

Later, W wanted to watch a vet program on the TV, so we did. We had previously been talking about operations and how a person feels no pain at all when operated on, and how the body then heals itself. This tied in well with the program as they showed a small clip of an operation on a dog who had swallowed some stones. I asked W if she definitely wanted to watch the clip and she did. She was totally fascinated and enjoyed it.

We saw a little bit of the next program on the TV and that one was about elephants. She learned a little about droughts, conservation and safaris.

W helped to bake cheese scones and a chocolate cake with her siblings and my partner, which I count as science, but was mainly fun, I think!

In the bath, W wanted to play with her Lego minifigures again and she noticed how some minifigures stand on the bottom of the bath because their hair is less dense than the rest of the figure. W really enjoyed experimenting with them, and it followed on well from Last week, when W was doing the same thing with her Playmobil toys in their little swimming pool.

We went to the pet shop to buy our cat Watson a brush. While we were there, W wanted to look at all the animals and she mentioned how you care for each one and what they need to keep them happy.

When we got home, the first thing W wanted to do was to brush the cats and I showed her how to get the cats used to the brush gently, instead of holding them still. W did very well at letting them sniff the brush first and was very gentle with them, meaning that the cats were happy to have her brush them whilst they lay down.

On the train, W said that it would be funny if there was no gravity on the train and we were floating. That reminded me of a video I saw of what happens when you wring out a wet cloth in space, so we watched that and then ended up watching ‘9 facts about foxes’ too.

Literacy / English:

Unusually, W asked to have lots of books read to her this week. She took in all the stories and then requested more.

When we had to take the train, W helped me at the ticket machine to type in the code to retrieve my tickets. She loves doing this and she is becoming quite quick at it. Then, when we were on the train, she found our carriage and seat all by herself, by reading the ticket.

At dinner later in the day, W helped to set up a ‘restaurant’ where she helped to make menus, tell me the prices of the food and serve me my dinner. It was a great game to play and was very funny!

Numeracy / Maths:

W spent time categorising toys in her bedroom by type and by colour, just as she did three weeks ago.

She did some addition whilst we were at our Monday social group as a couple of children had made things to sell, so W tried to add up how much money she would need to buy these things.

We have been working some more on telling the time as W seems very ready now. She is not too keen on waiting for things, so being able to tell the time is really helping. When W would ask when something is going to happen, I used to respond with ‘after lunch’ or ‘two Mr Bloom episodes’, but now she needs more information than that. Every time she asks, we go to look at the clock and I will show her where the hands need to be before the thing happens and this is really helping with her understanding the concept of time.

Later, we popped to the shop that W likes as she wanted to buy a toy with her pocket money and she did well adding and subtracting amounts to work out which toys she could buy together.

History:

At breakfast, we discussed when the Queen was born, when the Queen mother was born and whether or not they were alive during the second world war. We then did the same for her grandparents’ birth dates.

W said that she had visited the Great Wall of China, which is odd since she has never left Europe. On further questioning, it turned out that W meant she had been to Chinatown in Manchester! This later led to a discussion on Hong Kong and its history.

Art / Design:

W did a craft activity at Rainbows, which was to make a rabbit out of card, and then on the way home, W was singing a song that she made up about loving animals so much!

Since W has been playing long games with the Lego minifigures and horses, she asked me if we could make stables for the horses to rest in. I asked her exactly how she wanted it to look and we made a diagram together so that we both knew how to make it. She was very clear on how many stables she wanted, what the roof should look like and where the paddock should be. She helped to choose the pieces from my Lego spares and we then built it together. W was really pleased with the result and spent hours playing with it over the week (and I got to build some Lego, so it was a win-win for us)!

 

29th July 2018 – Planning our Summer

As we have two children in school and one who is home educated, the summer holidays are an important and special time for us. One of the things we like to do at the beginning of the break is to write down all the things that each of us want to do during the holidays. We write them on to a triangle of brightly-coloured card and make a type of bunting out of them. This is then hung on the side of our staircase so that we can see it every day. I spend time looking at the calendar and planning when we can do each of the things, making sure that we have plenty of rest days in between. Once this is done, we are ready to start our 6 weeks of family time together!

So I suppose it is best to start with Literacy in this diary entry as this was W’s opportunity for writing this week…

W’s writing on her bunting cards was sometimes going left to right and sometimes going backwards. One of her cards had writing that started the correct way round and then went round in a semicircle and then headed backwards! Apparently this mirror writing is common in children of her age (she is now 5) and will settle down with time. I’m trying my best to not correct this as I am happy that she is writing anything at all at the moment, so I don’t want to put her off when she has only just started. As a reluctant writer, W is doing really well to write at all.

PE: In the swimming pool, W wanted to try swimming under water for the first time. Previously, she hasn’t liked getting her face wet, but she was very brave and took her armbands off – a big step for her.

I remember when W was a toddler, she wouldn’t even go into the water, other than to sit on the side and dangle her feet in. It has taken many swimming trips to get to this point – and we haven’t forced her to go in the water at all – so it is lovely to see her confidence growing now that she is ready.

Numeracy / Maths: W looked at her “Telling the Time” book and did well with guessing the o’clock times.

At dinner, J and D helped W to do some mental arithmetic, just for fun. I love it when the children help each other to learn – it means I can do a little less!

W also did a Tangram puzzle. She started a few months ago with trying the more simple puzzles, but has now moved on to the harder ones and likes spending quite a bit of time on them. I can’t recommend these puzzles enough!

Socialisation: W went to a friend’s birthday party in a church hall. She had  a look at the church and asked questions about where the priest/vicar stands, who owned the church etc. She was also very keen to look at the graveyard and to have the inscriptions on the gravestones read to her. She likes to find out the names and the dates that they were alive.

On the way home, she saw two of her other friends T, (8) and M (5) with their mums, so they came back to the house for a little while to play.

At our Monday social group, W played with different children than usual – U (8), H (8) and N (5). They all played ‘Paw Patrol’ and she seemed to have a lovely time charging about with them with a toy plane, instead of playing with the quieter ones and her soft toys. This is interesting because I have seen how W adapts her playing style according to who she is playing with. One of her siblings likes to play quietly with small toys in a more structured way. The other likes to charge around the house and make noise while playing, and W is happy to play with each of her siblings, either charging about with the eldest or playing quietly with the middle one.

Later, W’s friend B (8) arrived, who W loves, but hasn’t seen for ages because she has been in hospital. W was so pleased to see her and they stuck together and chatted a lot for the last part of the session.

As usual we played a board game in the evening at home. The current favourite is Charades for Kids, and W is getting quite good at demonstrating things to us. However, her demonstration of ‘getting on a bus’ involves W being the actual bus and crawling on the floor, which can be hilarious…..

At a friend’s house, W played with T (8), B (5) and T (4) who had cerebral palsy and was in a wheelchair. W asked me lots of questions about T before and after we were with him and I answered as many questions as I could. We also talked in general about disability. At W’s age (and any age), I believe it is so important to be around a diverse range of people, and also to talk about the difference between us all in order to learn about and normalise difference. As a family, we socialise with all ethnicities, sexualities, nationalities, religions and abilities.

Science / Nature: W asked what leaves are made of, so we had a discussion about cellulose and chlorophyll. Big brother J then asked about atoms, while W listened in on the discussion about atoms and free space.

W went to the dentist, where she got to see an x-ray of teeth on the computer screen. She identified the fillings (bright white) and talked about why a crown looks different too.

I had cut my finger earlier in the day and W asked how the skin is repaired by my body, so we had a quick chat about scabs and fibrin.

At dinner midweek, the family ended up having a discussion about Pluto and whether or not it is a planet. We looked at the diameter of Pluto and the diameter of the Earth on a poster that we have on the wall in the dining room, and compared the two. After that, we did a demonstration of the volume of a sphere, split into other spheres, with Play Doh and scales…. Apparently the Earth can fit 151 Plutos into its volume!

After all of this, we had a board game (Wild World Lotto) and then a chapter of her book.

At a friend’s house, there was a pond (covered with netting) and a fish tank, and W told me some facts that she knew about fish, algae and lily pads that she has learned previously.

Also, there were two cats there (Molly and Cashew), one of whom was a bit nervous, so W spent some time with that cat and learned how to be calm and quiet enough for him to relax enough to be stroked. She really persisted with him, without causing him stress, so it was really good to see her patience pay off when she got to play with Cashew in the end.

When in town, W looked at the fruit and veg at the market and spent some time identifying them all. She tried Swedish cinnamon buns too!

W experimented with what floated in her Playmobil Swimming Pool, and also what slid down the slide quickly or slowly.

Play: Again, W has done lots of small world play and her games are still very elaborate and quite sophisticated now. She is happy to make up games to play with her toys and they go through many stages of situations and changes while the game moves along.

W spent nearly all day on Thursday building all of her Playmobil sets (with help) and setting them out in the way that they were pictured on the boxes, so that she could create a Playmobil ‘world’. She showed excellent concentration throughout. Her attention span is definitely increasing now

Art: At a friend’s pottery studio, W spent some time examining the pots that people had made and she picked out the different features and said why she liked them. Said she wants to be a pottery examiner when she grows up, and to give out prizes for the best…

Economics: We visited the Bank of England Museum, which is the childrens’ favourite London Museum, for their “Gold Rush” activity. We got there as soon as the museum opened so that we could get a first-come-first-served ticket for a presentation on the gold vaults….. which we managed to get! The children all got activity sheets and had to search for clues around the museum to try to work out who broke in to the vaults in the 1800s. W did well at searching for the clues and letters around the museum (it was aimed at older children, so she needed a bit of help).

When they had completed the activity, they all got a prize, which was a little gold bar brooch, which they were very happy with!

After that came the presentation on gold, in which the children learned how much gold is in the vaults, who it belongs to, what the Gold Standard is, where gold comes from, how purity is checked, what the numbers on a gold bar are for, how it is recycled and many, many other things.

I must say that the presentation was excellent. The staff at the BoE museum are always great with the children and the museum itself is often calm and quiet – a bonus for my children, who are not keen on noise or crowds at all.

Then we realised we had done all of this learning on the official Unschoolers “Learn Nothing Day” (July 24th every year)…. so we failed that completely! There is always next year, I suppose…..

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…