With the Olympics starting tomorrow, it’s one of the very few times I miss having live TV. I spent this morning putting together a Powerpoint presentation for the children, giving a basic overview of the Olympic Games. We’ll go through it tomorrow and use it as a starting point for further investigation. I thought I may as well share it here for anyone else who might find it useful. If I’ve done it correctly, you should be able to click the Pop-out button in the top right corner and then download it. Enjoy!
Tabitha learned to knit a few months ago and has been doing really well with it. Her first piece had quite a lot of mistakes but her second had only a few. Then she wanted to learn how to change colours so she chose some yarn from the shop and has started knitting stripes.
We were recently invited to join a couple of other home educating families for a little art workshop. The children learned about Matisse and had a go at making their own collages. Aaron was originally planning to do a knight but changed to an underwater seascape, and Tabitha created a mermaid. At home, her Artventure lessons are very useful when I need her to do something independently.
We’ve been playing some new board games. I particularly love this music one which teaches note recognition, rhythm, facts about composers, orchestral instruments and so much more!
I enrolled Aaron in a Homeschooling With Minecraft class based on one of the Magic Tree House books to learn about the Middle Ages. I read him the first book in the series a while ago and neither of us liked it as the language is boring and repetitive. However, the books are great for independent reading as the print is large, the chapters are short and the words are simple. Aaron has read other chapter books with me, a page at a time, but this is the first he has read all by himself and he is whizzing through it! I ask him to narrate a summary of each chapter and then he can log onto the Moodle to read the week’s lessons and watch the associated videos. He also has weekly building challenges to complete in-game. He has very much enjoyed playing on the server with other children, which requires lots of spelling and typing!
At this time of year I often find myself wishing we had a garden, so instead I’ve been collecting some outdoor toys that encourage the children to be more active. I have this idea of taking our school books down to the park with a picnic rug and spending the day there, learning and playing. Hopefully the sunshine will come back soon so that we can actually do it!
Last weekend we went to the summer fayre at my grandma’s care home. The children had a great time having their faces painted, playing mini golf and throwing wet sponges at one of the carers in the stocks!
Colin is currently working as a manager in a charity shop and has been bringing lots of stuff home, either cheap bargains or things that the shop isn’t allowed to sell. One evening he walked in the front door carefully carrying a box which had lots of holes punched in it. We all rushed over to see what it was and discovered a very realistic-looking guinea pig! Tabitha was a little disappointed that it wasn’t the real thing as she has saved up enough birthday and Christmas money for a hutch/cage, but unfortunately we don’t really have enough room.
Aaron was very pleased to take his cast off, he was beginning to find it rather itchy and uncomfortable. He was also upset that he couldn’t go swimming or to the beach! His wrist is still a little painful if he puts his weight on it.
Aaron had his second karate grading this week. He got an “A” pass which he was thrilled about. At the beginning of the year he kept saying he wanted to give up karate, but I encouraged him to keep going and recently he has been really enjoying it. His sensei sometimes tells him that he has great natural ability but needs to work on his concentration!
Tabitha was given a butterfly kit for her birthday and the caterpillars arrived about a week ago. She spends ages each day watching them, measuring them to see how much they’ve grown and observing when they have moulted their exoskeletons. Yesterday they climbed to the top of the pot, hung in a “J” shape from the lid and began to spin themselves into chrysalides. It was fascinating to watch!
Esther is growing and developing so quickly. She likes to stare at these black and white patterns above her changing mat. She also seems to be trying to bat things with her hands and managed to grab hold of a plastic link toy. She smiles much more now, especially for her big brother.
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve finally had some summer weather and have enjoyed several days out at the beach. We are very fortunate to have so many different beaches on our doorstep but we don’t always visit them as much as we could.
We had lots of fun working our way through the menu at this seafood shack and trying some things we’d never had before. My mum recently lent me the book “French Kids Eat Everything”, which is a very interesting and thought-provoking read. In the spirit of trying more new foods, the children and I have agreed to try and buy a fresh food item that we’ve never had before every time we do the shopping.
Tabitha enjoyed sewing this felt elephant from a kit she was given.
We went on a Farm To Fork visit at Tesco with some other home educators. We had a tour around the bakery, chiller, freezer and warehouse, but Tabitha’s favourite was the fish counter where they got to handle some of the fish. At the end there was a tasting session and Aaron bravely tried some blue cheese.
We’ve been picking an incredible amount of strawberries from the allotment. I think the most so far was nine punnets in a day! We often have two or three punnets in the fridge and they need eating up within a day or two as they don’t seem to keep for long. The gooseberries mysteriously disappeared before they could be harvested and there are lots of currants ripening. We haven’t done much digging lately because it’s been too hot a lot of the time!
We had our first go at making strawberry jam. We used Certo (liquid pectin), which seems to make a very runny jam that is more like a sauce, but it’s very tasty!
On one of the hottest days so far we drove to the park in a nearby town and alternated between the paddling pool and the playground, with ice creams afterwards.
There has been lots of large-scale collaborative drawing going on lately.
We’ve also had less screen time and it’s been nice to see Aaron engaging in more creative and imaginative play.
Colin’s cousin has gone trekking in the Himalayas for four weeks. While he is gone, we will be tracking his location online and doing a project about India. The children helped me put together this giant poster which we will add to over the next month.
We’ve been reading some Indian stories and finding out about the lives of children who live in India from the book “Children Just Like Me”. Aaron was amazed to find out that Meena’s family use cow dung for the walls of the house and also as fuel for their cooking fires.
Today we had a lovely time at Bideford Heritage Day with historical reenactors. The fletcher told us how boys in medieval times would have to learn to shoot with a long bow and the various career paths that were open to them depending on their skill and their family’s wealth, from clodhoppers to squires.
Some of the ladies told us about the food and herbal remedies they were preparing.
We saw wool which had been spun from sheep and goats and then dyed with natural dyes from plants, berries and tree bark, and we watched a lady making baskets.
There was a demonstration of different weapons including broad swords, axes, polearms and daggers, and we learned some fighting tactics.
We watched a musket being fired, which was very loud! We also saw lead being melted down to make bullets.
We learned about pikemen.
The local bat rescue lady told us that she currently has seventeen baby bats which require feeding every couple of hours throughout the day and night.
Aaron had the opportunity to try on a set of armour to feel how heavy it was.
He also had a go at pulling a crossbow string back and told the man all about his own little crossbow at home.
Colin thinks we should have something like this to cook on when we go camping!
The last event of the day was the tournament and the children cheered enthusiastically for their favourite participants!
I really love these local reenactment events, it’s such a fantastic hands-on way for the children to learn about history. It’s something we’d like to get involved in one day (maybe when we are old retired grandparents!) but for now it is rather too costly a hobby.
I seem to have lost my blogging mojo at the moment. No particular reason why, the last few weeks have been a strange mixture of busy and quiet. I had a tooth abscess which was very painful until the antibiotics eventually kicked in, and then had the tooth extracted a couple of weeks later. Colin has had a rather stressful time at work recently but he had last week off and is looking forward to another week off in December to use up his remaining holiday. He was relieved to finally get a diagnosis from the consultant for his liver issues. It does mean he’ll have to stick to a wheat-free diet, but he’s been doing that for a few months already.
Structured learning went out of the window for a while, but we’ve had some wonderful child-led learning instead. Aaron recently realised that multiplication is “just like adding but you can have as much of that number as you want”. He often climbs into bed with me in the morning to ask me questions like “twenty times thirty” and we figure it out together. He has also been doing lots of writing for the first time in ages, writing messages to people and rolling them up like scrolls. He told me he wants to learn about poisonous and medicinal plants, so that could be interesting!
Tabitha recently became a one-girl loom band factory, before moving on to Hama beads. She went to her first ever ballet lesson yesterday. She has always enjoyed dancing to music, so I showed her some Youtube videos of pre-primary ballet classes and she loved the idea. She wants to go “every day that dancing school is on”.
We refilled our window bird feeder ready for the colder months and have enjoyed seeing some visiting house sparrows up close.
My parents recently went on holiday to Paris for their 30th wedding anniversary. Aaron loved building this 3D puzzle of the Eiffel Tower.
We had an interesting philosophical discussion during lunch one day. The children said that if they had lots of money, they would share it with everyone else in their town. Tabitha thought that everyone should get exactly the same amount to make it fair. However, Aaron thought that wouldn’t be fair because everyone would have different amounts of money to start off with. We used our Montessori stamp game pieces to demonstrate that if everyone started off with different amounts, then they would all need to be given different amounts in order to end up with the same amount! (I have no idea why there’s an extra 100 in the second group, it wasn’t there originally!)
Aaron asked me to play train tracks with him and I was amazed to discover that he has a good understanding of aerodynamics and wind resistance. He told me that trains with a sloping front would go faster than trains with a flat front because the wind would flow better over the top of the train instead of pushing the train back. I asked him where he’d learnt that from and he said he thought of it all by himself.
We haven’t been to the allotment much recently as it is getting rather muddy and my wellies are falling apart, but we did pop up there briefly this week.
The birds and insects have been enjoying the few apples left on the trees.
Our strawberry plants are still flowering! The weather has been quite mild really, we haven’t turned our heating on yet and I’ve even had the doors and windows wide open some days!
There are lots of seed heads and pods around. The children want to collect and save some seeds to plant next year, so we need to do that soon.
The runner beans are starting to look a bit bedraggled, but it’s amazing to think that we’re still eating home-grown beans in November! I don’t think there will be many more though.
I didn’t pay much attention to some clods of mud on our breeze block step, until I realised they were actually tiny snails. Tabitha watched them with a magnifying glass.
We haven’t had the air-drying clay out for ages. I put out a basket of some autumn treasures that we have collected but Tabitha decided to make a pinch pot and decorate it with some shiny sequins and gems instead.
Then she made some snails, inspired by the ones we had seen at the allotment earlier in the week, and added tiny googly eyes.
Thanks to this post I finally figured out how Tabitha could use the apple slicer to prepare a snack to share with friends, although to be honest she still found it quite difficult.
The rest of the year is going to be busy. Colin’s middle sister is getting married in three weeks and Tabitha is excited about being a bridesmaid. I finish one of my uni modules at the beginning of January so I am trying to get the assignment done and out of the way before Christmas. Plus various other things going on.
I can’t believe it’s November already, this post has been in my drafts folder since August! I always enjoy reading about what resources other home educators are using, so I thought I would share some of our curriculum for this year.
We begin our morning by reading a lesson from Leading Little Ones to God. Each lesson includes a Bible story, questions to talk about, memory verse, suggested Bible reading, hymn and prayer. We are also using the free character lessons from Kids of Integrity.
We are still working through Scholastic Literacy Skills: Handwriting Reception-Year 2. Tabitha loves writing her name and other words, so my focus for her will be learning the correct letter formations, whilst Aaron is showing an interest in joined up writing and needs to focus on neatness. Other handwriting resources include sandpaper letters, wipe-clean workbooks, pegboards and tablet apps.
Aaron reads aloud to me either from Biff, Chip and Kipper books or from his Minecraft handbooks. He also uses an app to practise high frequency words. Tabitha knows most of her letter names and sounds, as I discovered a while ago at a visit to the optician. She is also starting to decode some CVC words, so we are using the level one Biff, Chip and Kipper books and Montessori pink series materials alongside other resources. I may resubscribe to Reading Eggs at some point, although I wish they did monthly subscriptions as the children tend to lose interest after a while.
As usual, a lot of our maths learning is what I like to call “conversational maths”. We discuss mathematical concepts and problems as we come across them in everyday, real life situations. We also use the materials from our maths shelves for various activities, challenges and games. Aaron uses Komodo on the computer or tablet to practise mental arithmetic. Tabitha hasn’t done much formal maths yet but has a good grasp of numbers, so I have introduced some of the Montessori maths activities to her. She also enjoys doing maths workbooks. We will continue using Miquon Math with our Cuisenaire rods, although we haven’t done any for a while as our printer is playing up and I can’t print out the lab sheets. Aaron has lost interest in the orange book lab sheets, so I have decided to leave it and skip straight onto the red book which will hopefully be more challenging for him.
Until now, we haven’t done much formal science. Plenty of time outside in nature and lots of inquisitive questions have allowed us to cover the basics informally. However, last week I decided to try out AIG’s God’s Design for Science curriculum, starting with The World of Plants, The World of Animals and The Human Body. We will be able to combine many of the lessons with nature study and additional hands-on activities.
Colin usually has Fridays off, so we do a four day week and keep Fridays and Saturdays free for days out. Bible, handwriting, reading, maths and science doesn’t take much more than an hour or so each day, as many of our activities are only 5-10 minutes long. That leaves the rest of the day free for play, outings or other subjects such as art, music, French, geography and history. I have no formal plan for other subjects and we tend to cover them in blocks depending on what else is going on. For example, at the moment we are learning about Paris because my parents are on holiday there and the First World War because Remembrance Day is coming up.
At the allotment yesterday, my mum commented “this is just what children should be doing, it’s a shame that so many don’t have the chance.” Allotment gardening offers wonderful opportunities for free play, movement, discovery, tinkering, dealing with risk and experiencing the world through all of our senses. Any kind of outdoor play is great for kids, but gardening seems to be particularly rich with potential learning experiences.
Later, I mentioned that I was looking forward to the summer and joked “forget about school work, we’ll just spend all our time up here”. (I should probably mention that at this point we do very little formal learning anyway.) But it got me thinking about whether allotment gardening could be used to teach more traditional academic subjects.
We know that children learn best when they are engaged in hands-on learning with real-life relevance. Opportunities that develop children’s natural talents for enquiry and investigation often result in deeper learning. With that in mind, I began to mindmap some of the educational links and possibilities, concentrating on English, Maths, Science and Geography. Of course, allotment gardening could also be used to cover many other subjects and skills.
I’m not planning to change our mostly child-led, unstructured approach, but I found it quite a useful exercise to better appreciate the learning potential of the time we spend at the allotment. I may well refer back to this mindmap as inspiration to suggest challenges, investigations and activities for the children to do.
Please feel free to click on the image and zoom in to see it better. Below I’ve also listed some useful resources for learning through gardening.
The School Vegetable Patch website has a section about embedding gardening into the wider primary school curriculum.
The GreenHearted Curriculum Map suggests age-related themes and activities for a holistic education based around environmental and sustainability issues.
Torstens matteblogg is written in Swedish but contains lots of interesting ideas for teaching maths and science outside using gardening.
The RHS shop sells some lovely books about gardening with children. We have the Kid’s First Gardening Book which is packed full of fun projects. We also have an old copy of How Nature Works, which contains lots of detailed information and experiments to do.