11th Feb 2018 – moving day

We had the mammoth task this week of moving house, so W was mainly occupied with packing and unpacking boxes (or overseeing the packing and unpacking instead….). It is certainly tricky to entertain small children when there is a huge task to be done. With educating at home, there is no option to do the big jobs when your children are at school for a few hours. One thing I have learned with having W with me most of the time is balance. Trying to meet her needs while also meeting mine as much as is possible. It is a difficult thing to do and I find that it is not really something that can be planned for properly because, on the day that we are super busy, our children could also need us more (especially if they are coping with a big change such as a house move) and so the usual activites that they would be happy to do on their own are no longer wanted. Instead they are wanting extra reassurance, or even just wanting to ‘help’ with whatever it is we are doing. I find that the only way through it is to set aside more time. I have found that being in a hurry just adds to my stress and the children’s stress and so less gets done and so we have less time to do it…. and the vicious cycle begins. I personally hate being up against a deadline and much prefer to do things early to get ‘ahead’ just in case of disaster later on. However, sometimes this backfires and I start too early and have to do things later all over again…

What are your best coping strategies for moving house and big changes that require lots of time? What are your go-to activities for the children to do to entertain themselves? Any ideas are welcome in the comments below.

During the move, W kept herself occupied for a short time with one of my notebooks. She wrote lots of random letters, pretending to write words and sentences. It was good writing practise for her and a good quiet activity.

W asked many questions as we were walking to get supplies, such as how dinosaur bones ended up so deep underground, how to tell whether squirrels are male or female, why dogs and cats have more nipples than us and why too much bird food is bad for the fish if it gets into a pond. We also watched some bricklayers and learned how walls are put together and why the bricks need to be wet first. All of this was while walking for about 20 minutes!

Whilst I was busy with packing and unpacking, W played a great deal with her toys. She also did a little reading practice with a short book and then did some activities and colouring in her activity books (this time she chose her Paw Patrol activity books). The removals people had a little friendly dog, so I let D and W walk him with me. They asked how dogs are trained and why, so we talked about dog behaviour for a little bit. They were very calm and gentle with the dog and the dog was very tolerant of them.

The next time we were on another errand, we saw a bus being repaired. W got to look at the engine and asked me how it works and why it makes a noise, so we had a chat about that in simple terms.

Back at home, while we were packing, W completed another lot of activity pages including ten dot-to-dot pages, two colouring pages and one page of matching letters to objects in her ‘First Learning’ books. She read some of ‘Jen the Hen’ again and then identified the letters in her alphabet book.

Midweek, we went to the home-ed social group in our town and played Hedbanz, where she had to ask questions to work out what was on her card. She found it fun and then had more fun playing with the other children. There were all ages there, but W gravitated towards the ones she knows, who were aged between 2 and 6 years old.

On the way home from there, W asked about how fossils are formed, so we watched 3 videos about that on YouTube Kids when we got home. She then asked how the dinosaurs died, so we also watched two videos about that too. There seems to be a theme lately with W’s questions and she is really interested in dinosaurs. I asked if she would like to start a project on dinosaurs and she was very enthusiastic, so that is what our first project will be. Watch this space….

14th Jan 2018 – Our learning diary begins

We begin at the start of the new year.

And we start with a morning bath. W wanted to play with the Foam Bath letters. She named them as she played and then we put them in alphabetical and numerical order. W is used to lower-case letters so far, but these foam letters are upper-case, so she asked me what some of them were and learned a few of these that she didn’t know before.

When we popped out to see friends, W asked if I had a pen and paper. I gave her an old leaflet to write on and she was happy to entertain herself with that for a while. When it was time to go, I realised that she had been copying the words on the leaflet. It was great writing practise for her, and although she doesn’t know what the words say yet, it was good for her to practise forming those letters and numbers.

I love the fact that learning happens so organically when you let it. I do not push W to sit down and learn, but I do try to take every opportunity that I can to assist her with her own learning. My hope is that she will continue to ask questions and be eager to learn, as long as I don’t force the issue. I may be naive in this and it may be that W stops wanting to seek information in this way. If that happens, I will have to re-think my plans, but for now, this is how we roll.

Every day, we play a board game before bed. One of them is this Snakes and Ladders game. Our board games teach various skills and this time, W was able to recognise the number on the dice without counting the dots. She also learned what some numbers up to 100 look like as these are displayed on the game board and we I pointed them out when she landed on them.

At bedtime, D (7) wanted to read her one of her fabulous Lift-the-Flap Science and General Knowledge books to W. These are great books with short sections introducing scientific concepts and interesting facts. The great thing about them is that they are lift-the-flap books, but for older kids. They are a real hit at the moment and W particularly enjoyed the parts on atoms and DNA.

We had to travel to west London later in the week and the conversation was definitely flowing during the journey! W asked about the seasons and which order they occur; how underground tunnels are built and maintained; what the safety features are on the underground; why tall buildings are built; how water pipes are repaired and how builders work. We covered all of this as we were looking at the things around us. I find that when we touch on subjects during conversation, we build on them later in more depth.

W has a collection of Shopkins at the moment, which she really likes. I wasn’t sure about them at first because I couldn’t see any educational value to them or a purpose other than simply collecting them. However, I have seen that W likes to categorise them and arrange them in different ways. This week, she wanted to sort them into colour groups. When she had done that, she decided that each colour group was a class at a school. She then ‘taught’ the Shopkins the alphabet – it was very sweet to watch and I see that most toys can have an educational value when children are just left to play in their own way.

As we had a family birthday coming up this week, I asked W if she would like to write in a card herself, or if she would like me to do it for her (she is having a phase of wanting to do things by herself, so I knew there was a chance she would try to do it herself). I wrote the words that she wanted to write on a separate piece of paper and she copied them into the card. We don’t work on traditional letter formation yet – I am just letting her form letters herself in the way that she wants to. I figured that, if her letters end up looking as they should in the end, then that is great, but if they are not legible in the future, we can work on the details then. I guess, at this stage, I am worried that I might discourage her from writing in the future if we focus too much on ‘perfection’ now.

W really loves her Lego sets and later wanted to set up a ‘world’ with some sets so that her minifigures could have an adventure with the vehicles and castles. I cannot express enough the benefit that W has had from her Lego sets. She has learned so much from simply building them (learning to rotate an object in space and to think logically in order to follow step-by-step instructions). There is also the huge benefit that is gained from the imaginative play with the figures, animals and small-world objects. Her favourite sets at the moment are Belle’s Enchanted Castle and Cinderella’s Carriage.

Another thing that W really wanted to do this week was to make some soap. After a bit of thought, I decided that we could get some inexpensive Soap Base to melt and pour into some silicone ice cube moulds that we already have. To make them interesting, we put a Shopkin into each one, so that as the soap gets used, a little toy appears!

We melted the soap in the microwave (it melts at a fairly low temperature) and talked about solids turning into liquids as they are heated. W picked her favourite Shopkins to go into the moulds and helped to pour the liquid soap in. This is a great activity for small children as the soap sets quite quickly and you can see the results in no time!

At the end of the week, I was quite surprised to see how much learning had happened as we went about our daily life. We are not doing anything formal at the moment (especially as W is not at compulsory school age yet), but learning is still taking place whether we plan for it or not, and before I wrote this down, I didn’t appreciate quite how much there was.

Any home educators reading this who also keep a diary: was there less or more learning happening than you expected? I’d love to hear your examples.