9th September, 2018 – two birthdays!

This week brought two birthdays for our family – one for J, who turned 10, and one for my partner too. W also squeezed in a trip to Ireland with her other Mum (for our non-regular readers, W’s other Mum is my ex-partner. My new partner is W’s stepmum and we are a blended family of 3 children and two mums / stepmums). As you can imagine, it has been a very busy week for us all, so here is a condensed version of W’s learning, arranged by subject, as usual….

Geography: W learned where Ireland is in relation to England and also learned a little about the Irish language. When she was travelling there, she asked why we need passports, so learned about that too.

Art: W and her Mum went to a photo exhibition, where there were big portraits of local people. W asked why they were in black and white and then said which ones she liked and why.

When W was back home with me, she did a lot of colouring-in over several days. She has better pen-control now and colours very much inside the lines. However, she doesn’t have the patience to colour large areas without gaps yet, which is fine, of course.

She also spent some time drawing using lots of sheets of paper to try to get it just right.

Politics: When we were at Liverpool Street station, W saw a statue of evacuated children, so she asked about them. I explained that their parents thought it was a good idea to send them to the countryside when the war was on, to keep them safe. I then explained that there would not be a war here, and even if there was, she would never be sent away from her parents.

The next day, W asked who Jesus was, so I explained that he was someone who lived a long time ago and that some people believed he was God’s son, but some people believed he was not. We had quite a discussion and this led again to war and why people would argue about God.

Numeracy / Maths: On the way home, we had to buy a couple of small things for the birthdays coming up, and W did very well at her mental maths, working out how much change she would get when she paid for certain items.

W asked about university and qualifications, so my partner, F showed her a few of her diplomas so that she could see what they looked like. We then talked about what each one was for (F is a doctor, so has a few).

When we got home, W wanted to make new blankets for her toys in the doll’s house as she had more dolls than blankets. She found an old t-shirt and cut out some ‘blankets’ with a little help. She was very definite about how they should look and how big they each should be. She wanted 5 of them and said things like, “so we have 3, which means we need two more,” which was great.

Literacy: On the train to and from the picnic, I read some of her book on dog training to her, which she really liked.

We found a couple of items with our names on when we were tidying and W could identify all of our names on each item straight away, without sounding out the letters (the items were letters, exercise books, envelopes etc). I am certain she can read more than she says she can…..

On J’s 10th birthday, W helped to make the cake and biscuits. She is great at putting the ingredients together and weighing them. She can read all numbers easily. She looked at the packets and tried to figure out the words to identify the sealed pack of flour and sugar etc.

W wrote a lovely message in J’s birthday card, which she had chosen herself.

J had a great birthday and we all enjoyed seeing his joy on opening his presents and playing with his new toys, one of which was Articulate For Kids, among other things. When we played this game, we all had a lot of fun trying to describe words to each other, with W keeping up with the rest of us well.

W loves it when one of the others has a birthday. She gets so excited, but was able to keep J’s cake a secret this year, which was no easy task for her!

At bedtime, we sorted through her library books and realised we have read all of the chapter books that we have from there, so we will make a trip there on wednesday for more chapter books and hopefully an encyclopedia on animals.

Socialisation: W met her Irish cousins B (13), T (11) and K (15) for the first time this week, which she was very excited about. They had some lovely chats and she can’t wait to see them again soon, when she next goes to Ireland.

On Wednesday, we went to our first ‘Not Back To School Picnic’ in a lovely park. It was fun and we saw a few of our friends from our social groups there. W wasn’t too keen on dashing about and playing (I think she was still tired from her trip), but did chat to some of the other children and played a little with a few of them.

We dropped J (9) and D (7) off at school for their first day back and W loved seeing their new classrooms and where they were sitting. We talked a lot about school and what happens there and W is very aware of what J and D do in the day and still says that she doesn’t want to go to school.

The social group was very busy this week and we met lots of new people, along with our usual friends. W played mainly with B (5), who she knows well, and J (5), who she had just met. She also did a lot of charging about and rolling down the hill too, and also playing football.

Science: At the airport, W saw different type of planes: some with propellers, some with covered engines and even private jets.

On a visit to a lovely sandy beach near Cork, W paddled in the sea and climbed sand dunes. She also had the chance to look at commercial fishing boats up close, with their fishing nets and lobster pots. While she was there, she collected shells and stones and threw lots of stones in the water, listening to the different sounds that they made.

Back at home, some plants arrived through the post and W learned that some plants like the shade and some prefer the sun. We talked about plants flowering at different times of the year and W told me what she had learned about cactus plants previously. Then, whilst I was cooking dinner, I found a potato with roots growing out of it, so we spent some time talking about potatoes and where they grow and how.

On Saturday, we went to Kidzania for J’s birthday. The children really enjoyed it there and knew what they wanted to do there as they have been a few times now.

W and D went into the PDSA room to work as vets and performed an ‘operation’ on a toy dog who had swallowed a toy. They absolutely loved doing that one and loved learning about animal care.

They then went into the Baby care unit as a nurse and cared for the babies, which were realistic dolls. After that, D, J and W all performed a liver transplant as a doctor in the hospital (W didn’t drop the liver on the floor this time)!

In the hotel section, the Kidzania employee said that the children were the tidiest children she had had there and that they could work there again. I told her that we do tidying time every day at home, and the member of staff said that W had told her about that!

In the evening, we decorated cupcakes for my partner, F’s birthday, wrapped a present and the children wrote in cards that they had chosen.

On Sunday, F opened her presents from the children and I and then we spent a long time in the garden planting the plants that she had received as gifts. W was great at digging holes, putting the plants in gently and watering them too. She was reluctant to get her hands dirty at first, but then really enjoyed making the garden look good. She also spent time sweeping the yard and generally tidying the garden.

After we had finished, W asked me to help her to make a list of things that she wanted to do in the garden, which we then put up at the desk so that we can work through it.

In the evening, we watched a movie called ‘we bought a zoo,’ which we all really enjoyed… and W had the chance again to learn about animal care.

Play / Spatial Skills: W built her Lego Horse Trailer set by herself and then played with it for ages. She really does love her Lego these days

She later helped to build some Lego desk tidys and enjoyed putting different colours together to make them look stylish.

W again spent lots of time with her Lego and helped to build lots of little cars, which her minifigures drove and then got stuck in a traffic jam. She also played with her doll’s house. She seems to know exactly what she is doing when she starts a game and has it all planned out in her head first.

When she was in Ireland, W played frisbee and catch, managing to catch the ball with ease, then also played quite a bit by herself with the Sylvanian families and My Little Ponies that were at the house there.

After all that happened this week, we were ready for a rest…. but next week we have an appointment with the Elective Home Education Officer from the Local Authority, who is coming to the house to check that I am providing a suitable education for W. I’m nervous as it is my first visit from them. Watch this space to find out how it goes…..

 

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.

 

1st July, 2018 – the Maritime Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11th Mar 2018 – dinosaurs again

So, after all this talk of dinosaurs, we needed a trip to the Natural History Museum!

I asked W what she wanted to find out there and she said she wanted to see some dinosaur bones and to find out how the dinosaurs died. She asked lots of questions while we were there (far too many to detail here) and learned three different theories of how they died out. She also learned how people find fossils, how they are dug up and how they are made. There was a little bit of learning about evolution in there too and a tiny bit of learning Latin words. She was interested in finding out about Mary Anning too. W was able to name a few of the dinosaurs and explain how their bones ended up in the ground as we had discussed that before.

She was fascinated by the different types of crystals there and how they ended up being different colours. She looked at petrified wood and looked at the growth of crystals and coral. She spent a while learning how rocks can glow in the dark and we got to see the refraction of light through calcite, which makes things appear double. W had the opportunity to handle some different rocks with different surfaces and to categorise them too – one of her favourite activities right now.

We briefly walked through the mammals section of the museum, which W would like to return to another day. We had a fabulous time there and W learned so much. It is so good to be able to see actual examples of dinosaur bones and to be able to touch crystals etc. You just can’t replicate that experience with books or websites. The experience of going to see real examples is so immersive and much more memorable.

After leaving the museum, she played with lots of other children, who were chasing bubbles, which she loved.

The next day, W wanted to do some writing and number practice. She wanted to know how certain words are spelt, such as ‘Special’. She then wrote them down and looked at them to see how the letters make the sounds. W is now in a phase of wanting to learn to read and write. I find it comes and goes. Sometimes she doesn’t want to put a pen to paper for weeks, but then something will spur her on to want to learn again and she will be enthusiastic about it for a time. I think having older siblings who can read and write helps in terms of her motivation. She wants to be able to read the same things that they can, so has a drive at the moment to learn.

W has also been counting a lot over the last week; train seats, train carriages, stairs, people etc all get counted as she passes! When we get the bus, she has been trying to read numbers over 100 on the front of them and on signs etc.

At home, W counted her Shopkins and has been interested in trying to read the names of the Shopkins on her lists.

One morning, W started the day with a geography lesson. She had bought a toy online from Hong Kong and wanted to know where that was. We got out the big atlas and looked at the size of the British Isles in comparison to other countries, the distance to China, and the travelling time to get there. Then we looked at the location of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, New York, Cork in Ireland, Shetland, Jersey and France, at W’s request. We then looked at the geography of London and the river Thames.

Later, W and D (7) did some problem solving together whilst they were playing. They really wanted to play together, but were disagreeing about what to play. With a little help, they managed to negotiate together to find something that they both wanted to do. Once they had got over that hurdle, they played two board games together and were great with playing by the rules and allowing each other to add up etc without the other interrupting. I know that sibling disagreements are normal and a way of learning social skills, but when things become a little tricky, I often revisit this book: Siblings Without Rivalry. It’s a practical book with great examples. Maybe a little simplified in places, but the message is good.

What is your go-to strategy for sibling disagreements? Is there a book or blog that you have found helpful? Let’s share some ideas and strategies for helping our children sort out their conflicts below in the comments…

To let off steam, we later popped out for a visit to the library, getting out some interesting books and chapter books for bedtime, then W, D and J all played in the park, climbing a lot and generally running about and having fun together.

4th Mar 2018 – trains

This week, we had a transport theme. W wanted to know all about trains; how are trains made, where are they made, how are tracks put together, what do freight trains do, what does freight mean….. the questions went on and on. Of course, as is usual with these things, W asked all these questions while we were out and not near resources. That was all well and good, since I am a slight train nerd, so I covered most of it with her. I do find, though, that when W is asking so many questions on a crowded train, I feel like I am being watched and like I am under more pressure to get the answers absolutely right… I’m sure people are just chuckling because of the relentlessness of a 4-year-old’s quest for knowledge and not because I am floundering right in front of them….

On a different journey on a different day, W decided we would do maths in the car. She asked me to give her simple numbers to add or subtract from each other and worked out the answers on her fingers. The night before, we had played a board game involving addition, so I think she was just expanding on what she learned.

Then more questions: what are factories for? She wanted lots and lots of examples of things that are made in factories, which was fairly easy as there are so many things to choose from. W was surprised that things that are so different from each other can be made in similar factories. She then asked exactly how things are made, and once we had talked about that for some time, she decided she wants to own a factory when she is an adult…

On the next journey, maths was no longer the favourite – W wanted to practise phonic sounds instead. She likes to do this because I put on silly voices with each sound. It has helped her to learn, though does make my vocal chords sore after a while…

The conversation then turned to prehistoric amber, of all things. W asked if I knew how insects from the time of the dinosaurs were so well preserved. I said I didn’t and she explained how insects got trapped in tree sap a long time ago and how it turned to amber. I have no idea where she got that from.

When we got home, W  wanted to count her money in her money box to see how much she had. She needs help with this as she is not yet confident with adding multiples of tens and hundreds together, but she did do well at sorting the coins into piles of similar sizes and shapes and telling me the numbers on each coin.

On our final journey of the week, we travelled cross-country on a fast train. We played a game where you had to roll a colour dice to collect cards with train carriages on, to make a complete train out of them. W knew how many she needed to collect in total, so I asked her at various points in the game how many more she needed, so that she could practise her new maths skills. After that, it was a game of good ol’ Snap (with cards with pictures of trains on, to carry on with the theme), which she did really well at.

How do you keep your kids entertained on long journeys? Do you have any go-to toys or books that you keep especially for travelling (aside from tablets and magazines)? Do let me know. We travel a lot and some fresh ideas for entertainment in a small space would be welcome!

On top of all of the above, W also made cupcakes and managed to do most of the process herself and in the right order. She had help with the oven etc, but managed almost all of it herself.

She also got to do a lot of her favourite small-world play. We have been building furniture, including shelves and bookcases (yes, still completing the house move) and W decided, along with D, that they would turn our shelving units into giant doll’s houses. In the time that the furniture was just built and waiting for our books and ornaments to go onto them, the children had filled the units up with furniture from the doll’s house and were playing a very complicated game of houses together. It was great to watch and we actually left the shelves like that for a few days as they enjoyed playing with them so much!