Tabitha made a birthday card for her cousin Henry. I love the way she now draws all of her people with bellybuttons!
Apparently this is a birthday cake with candles, possibly her first recognisable non-person drawing.
I created some simple matching/patterning cards to use with our magnetic mosaic cubes as a pre-reading activity for Tabitha.
Aaron was able to extend his patterns beyond the cards.
My Granny was visiting last week and we enjoyed some lovely days out with her. Aaron took this photo of her at Rosemoor.
Aaron has been very interested in the differences between wasps and other insects such as hoverflies and bees, so together we collected photos of the ones we spotted.
We also went to the North Devon Show, where we saw lots of different animals and watched some fun events in the ring, including Freestyle Motorcross and Pony Club Games. Aaron drove us to distraction by moaning and whinging the entire day!
A light panel has been on my wishlist for a couple of years and I finally bought one secondhand from another childminder. It has been very popular so far and I’m looking forward to trying out lots of ideas from Pinterest!
Tabitha struggles with spatial awareness, such as knowing which way round puzzle pieces go. These pattern blocks challenge her but not so much that she finds it frustrating. Aaron likes to build his design off the pattern board as an additional challenge!
More creativity with blocks. Aaron recently built a brilliant conveyer-belt system, but unfortunately I didn’t get a photo.
A cheeky monkey showing me her drawing!
Today Aaron worked with our base ten set as an alternative to the “100 chain” and “1000 chain”. He used arrows to label by units up to 10, by tens up to 100 and by hundreds up to 1000. He often proudly announces to new acquaintances that he can count up to 300, so I thought we would go up to 1000 today. This kind of work familiarises children with the sequence of numbers and shows them the big picture. We also practised counting forwards and backwards by tens and hundreds.
Tabitha often wants to join in with Aaron’s maths work and gets upset that she can’t, so I set up a little activity for her instead. I’ve noticed that she consistently recognises the numerals “2” and “3”. She can count objects up to about ten but her finger and mouth don’t always work in sync, so we’re concentrating on objects up to five at the moment!
It feels like we are not doing anything remotely academic at the moment, which isn’t quite true as Tabitha has been enjoying tracing letters in a wipe-clean workbook and Aaron has been doing Mathseeds nearly every day. But we are spending a lot of time with family or outdoors, because summer will be gone all too soon. Today we went to Marwood Gardens, armed with binoculars, magnifying glass and an I-spy countryside book. We talked about bees, damselflies and ripples. We saw a baby moorhen, lots of ducklings and a buzzard. We felt different textures of tree bark. We spotted flowers for every colour of the rainbow. Aaron and Tabitha pretended to be a king and a princess in a tree stump “castle” and ran around defeating “baddies”. They are experiencing life and the world around them, and right now I think that’s more valuable than any academic subject they could be studying.
On Saturday we spent the day with my mum at the Devon Country Fayre, held in the beautiful grounds of the Castle Hill estate. An old lady who lived with us for a while when I was a child grew up on the estate in the early 1900s. Her father worked for the Fortescue family, so it was interesting to imagine (with a little bit of inspiration from Downton Abbey) what her life must have been like.
As well as stalls, arena events and a funny but very interesting Sheep Show, we also had the opportunity to watch the English National Sheep Dog Trials. Colin’s dad used to be a sheep dog trainer and the children have long been fans of Mist: Sheepdog Tales, produced by a local farmer, so they enjoyed seeing the dogs in action.
Aaron and Tabitha queued very patiently in a stuffy marquee to have their faces painted.
The highlight of the day was watching the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony display team perform their wild west routine. Tabitha seems to have inherited the pony bug from her mother and grandmother, as she begged me afterwards to “go to Tesco and buy me a horse”! She has been talking about horses ever since and I’ve got my old pony books out of the loft for her to look at.
On Monday I spotted a slide being sold cheaply nearby, so the children and I drove round to collect it. We then spent the rest of the morning at my parents’ house and the local tyre garage sorting out a puncture on the car, before taking the slide up to its new home at the allotment. It’s only small, but it will be perfect for my little mindees and the children soon put it to good use!
We spotted quite a few ladybirds around, hopefully helping to keep the aphids and blackfly on the runner beans under control.
Dad and I filled up his old lorry tyre with earth and compost to turn it into a herb bed. While we were working, I suddenly spotted a huge frog just a foot or so away from us cooling down in a bucket of rainwater. After watching him hop off behind the shed, we decided to sink the bucket down into the earth and create a little nature area. This evening Dad sent me a text message to say that he has seen froggy back in the bucket, so he obviously approves.
Today we went to Home Grown Kids for possibly the first time this year, as I can’t remember if we attended any of the January meets or not. I’ve been working pretty much every Wednesday ever since but am now off for a few weeks. The group breaks up this week for the summer holidays, but it was great to go today and see some old friends, as well as lots of new people! There was a magic show with a Punch and Judy show, which had Aaron roaring with laughter. Tabitha mostly stayed close by my side, although it was lovely to hear her chatting with a little friend who is the same age. They have known each other through home-ed group since they were about 10 months old and I was struck by how “grown up” their conversations sound now!
The rain has finally arrived here this evening, so I am hoping for a cooler day tomorrow. The children get tired and crabby in the heat and I have fallen a long way behind with the housework!
We have been enjoying some sunny evenings up at the allotment once it starts to cool down a bit. Tabitha harvested her first beetroot yesterday. Aaron and I have been snacking on mangetout straight from the plant. Blackcurrants and loganberries quickly disappear from the bushes, leaving purple stains on hot grubby faces as evidence. But there is nothing quite as magical for the children as harvesting potatoes. Each time the fork turns over the earth, they squeal with delight and scrabble to collect the pale tubers.
This morning we went to Rosemoor Gardens again with the Christian home-ed group and did a workshop on minibeasts at their fantastic education centre. The children loved pond dipping and hunting for invertebrates in the woods. After a picnic lunch, we spent most of the afternoon enjoying the shade of the Brash and the Copse. I’m not really sure what Aaron was doing as I hardly saw him, but Tabitha enjoyed a game of hide and seek amongst the trees with two other little ones.
I’m thankful that we can be outside enjoying nature any day of the year, term-time or not. This real-life, experiential learning is so much richer than being stuck indoors, completing worksheets about the life cycles of potatoes and dragonflies!
I’ve been unwell with gallstones/suspected gallbladder infection for most of this week. By this afternoon, I was beginning to feel the need for some physical exercise after five days of barely leaving the house. One thing that has been difficult to do on foot or by public transport is visit woodlands, so I did a quick search online and discovered some woods that I have never been to, despite living here for most of my life. I loaded the children into the car and managed to find the way there by myself without any problems, navigating some very narrow country lanes. I felt quite proud of myself when we arrived!
Once we got through the gate, Aaron said he was scared. As far as I can remember, we haven’t been to any proper woods since last summer, so it has been quite a while!
He said he didn’t like the noise of the wind in the trees, and I don’t think he liked the enclosed feeling as he kept asking how we were going to get out. With a bit of persuasion, I managed to keep him going by pointing out things to look at until he began to enjoy himself.
Tabitha was in her element with sticks and mud! We had a lovely circular walk, spotting various interesting things and acting out parts of “We’re going on a bear hunt”.
Now that we’ve discovered some accessible woodlands within easy driving distance, we’ll have to go back regularly. Unfortunately Aaron began throwing up just as we arrived home, so it looks like yet another sickness bug has hit. The children seem to have had loads this year after never having them previously!
This post could otherwise be entitled “why I love having a car”. We don’t often go out in the evenings, because by the time Colin gets home from work we are all feeling too tired to go far. But today we jumped into the car and drove across to the allotment.
Here is the view down the allotment from the shed. My dad has put in a lot of hard work to get it looking so good.
And this is the view back up the allotment towards the shed, which is painted forget-me-not blue and will eventually have a rainbow mural painted on the back!
Once all the watering and hoeing was done, we headed off to our favourite fish and chip shop for some well-earned dinner. We very rarely go there, because it is the other side of town and previously the food would have been stone cold before we walked home. But today we drove down to the quay and ate by the waterside, watching cormorants catching fish and a family of swans. Afterwards the children spent ages throwing stones into the water. It was a beautiful evening and a real treat to spend time out together as a family during the week.
We’ve had a lovely week with Colin off work. Money is tight at the moment so we didn’t go anywhere very exiting, but we’ve visited nearby towns and beaches. I’ve clocked up over a hundred miles in the car and Colin has been very helpful, giving me advice, directions and reassurance. He would make a fantastic driving instructor if only he could drive! I think I’ll be confident enough now to go out on my own with the children (driving to Sunday School and back doesn’t really count!).
On a very sad note, all our tadpoles died. 🙁 We changed their water as normal and I decided to try and clean some of the algae off the sides of the tank. I stupidly used a brand new sponge which I did rinse, but obviously not well enough. There must have been some chemical residue on the sponge (to stop it drying out in the packaging) and the next morning all the tadpoles and even the two snails were dead. I was devastated when I found them and woke Colin up crying! The children are disappointed and I feel so guilty.
Another trouble this week has been Aaron’s behaviour, which is really challenging at the moment. Some days I struggle to catch even a glimpse of the sweet little boy I know. I’m glad that Colin has been home to help deal with it but I’m secretly dreading next week! Hopefully some more structure and challenging new activities will help.
I’ve been working hard to completely reorganise our Montessori learning space upstairs. It’s gradually getting there, but there is still some
big piles of junk junk scattered all over the floor that needs to be sorted. The children’s shelves have been moved from the narrow corridor into the main part of the room, which should make it much more usable.
This evening I decided to remake our sound cylinders. I had ten empty film canisters and colour-coded them with red or blue stickers.
I experimented to see what dry foods would make the most different sounds and ended up using salt, hundreds and thousands, rice, split peas and cannellini beans. The stickers on the bottom are a control of error to show which cylinders match.
Here they are on the shelf. I just couldn’t resist these cute little wooden trays when I found them this afternoon!
Tabitha wanted to try the new sound cylinders out straight away.
Checking her own work to make sure she’s got it right!
I’ve got an 8 month old boy starting on Monday, which means I’ll be working about 20 hours a week for the rest of the term (not counting paperwork of course!). I’ve also got Ofsted coming soon and need to get my work-based learning placement done for college. I passed all my first year assignments with flying colours, so that was a relief. Making more time for friends is something that I am feeling the need to make a priority, as the days and weeks just seem to fly past!
Hope you have all had a wonderful half term.
We successfully released another little froglet back into the wild.
A wasp flew into the house, much to Aaron’s fascination. We got out some of our books about insects for him to find out more. He asked lots of questions about how the wasps find their way around and how the sting comes out of the abdomen. This kind of learning is part of our daily life and often slips by unnoticed.
On Wednesday we did lots of pretend cooking play. I got the children’s cooking equipment out of their kitchen cupboard and added it to the stuff in the play kitchen. We used loose parts such as conkers, pinecones, pebbles and shells as food. We do have a small set of wooden cutting veg but I’ve noticed that the children play much more imaginatively with the open-ended loose parts.
Tabitha used tongs to transfer the pinecones into cupcases and baked her “apple pies” in the oven. Little F did lots of stirring, whisking and transferring items between different containers. She figured out how to squeeze the tongs but they spring open too wide for her little hands to use properly, so I need to get another pair.
Eventually the play developed into a cafe. Aaron wrote out this menu with prices.
He practised giving his customers the correct change.
Then the children helped me do some real cooking by grating courgettes and picking herbs from our balcony baskets to make fritters for lunch.
Playing with the sand has also been popular this week.
On Thursday we had a wonderful time in the park with friends. It was freezing cold but the company was the best. Running around pretending to be a shark, octopus, colossal squid or various other creatures kept us warm!
We had to wait in on Friday for a delivery. Tabitha is keen on puzzles at the moment so we spent ages making the same puzzles over and over again. I set up an invitation to play, with some baskets of blocks and wooden people and our large acrylic mirror. Tabitha built a slide for the people and Aaron created “the grand old duke of York and his ten thousand men”.
Today we’ve all been working hard cleaning our new-to-us car! It’s been given to us by my lovely in-laws. I haven’t driven for about 4 years and only occasionally in the 7 years since I passed my test, so my parents took me out for some practice yesterday evening before flying off to France. I’m feeling a lot more confident already. This morning we took the car over to their driveway and spent several hours hoovering, scrubbing and washing it.
Tabitha was sick several times today, hence why she is wearing the seat belt instead of her impact shield. I don’t think it was my driving as she threw up all over the supermarket floor too!
Colin has next week booked off work so we are looking forward to some lovely family days out. We’ve managed fine without a car until now but this will open up so many new and exciting opportunities!
We spent the morning litter-picking and bird watching. I don’t usually buy plastic toys, but we found these £2 grabbers in
the evil empire of Tesco and thought they would be perfect for the job. Before we set off, we talked about how we could keep ourselves safe and decided that we wouldn’t touch the rubbish with our hands and would wash our hands when we got home.
While we were walking we had an interesting discussion about the reasons why people might drop litter and Aaron came to the conclusion that there aren’t enough bins.
Using the grabber was excellent hand-eye coordination practice for Tabitha!
It was a great feeling to put our bag of collected rubbish in the bin. We’ll have to try and do this more often!
Aaron is getting really good at identifying birds, but unfortunately there weren’t many birds out in the rain. We did watch some cormorants and mallards for a while.
What have you been doing to celebrate Earth Day?
A few weeks ago we spent a freezing cold Saturday putting up my dad’s new shed on the allotment. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s starting to feel very homely inside! We’ve got lots of plans for it and Dad even wants to paint a mural on the back in the autumn.
Grandpa gave Tabitha this insect house for her birthday and today we hung it up on low branch so that she will be able to peep inside.
We also hung up her nesting materials for the birds.
We worked hard digging one plot while Dad rotivated the other. It won’t be long before we can start planting. I think Tabitha needs a smaller fork though! (Which reminds me, if anyone has any Sainsbury’s Active Kids vouchers that they don’t need, we would be really grateful for them. I’m registered to use them as a childminder and hopefully we will be able to collect enough for a set of children’s gardening tools, as well as other resources.)
It was lovely to sit on the decking in the sunshine and enjoy a picnic lunch. I’m looking forward to lots of long summer days spent at the allotment!
A lady from another allotment brought a visitor across to see the children.
It seemed huge compared to our tiny froglets!
If this blog is rather neglected at the moment, it is because I am stressed out about my five uni assignments that are due in over the next six weeks! Essay writing will have to take priority over blog writing for a while.
Yesterday we went to Friday afternoon club with my Grandma to see (and touch) some visiting animals from Exmoor Zoo.
This is my mum bravely carrying around a hissing cockroach for everyone to see!
Aaron’s favourite animal was the beautiful barn owl.
There was a rather mischievous meerkat, and a skunk which I didn’t manage to photograph.
We were able to hold an elephant’s tusk, which was much heavier and colder than I expected. Apparently the recession has caused a surge in the ivory trade.
It was a lovely opportunity for the children to chat to the old people. They are not in the slightest bit shy of adults and will often bombard complete strangers with conversation!
The change from tadpole with hind legs to froglet has taken less than a week. It’s been really exciting because the children have been able to see a difference every day. Our first froglet now likes to perch on the pebbles or climb the sides of the tank. We’ve rearranged the tank today to give him some more dry ground. His body is only 1 cm long, so he is still pretty tiny.
Our second froglet’s tail is shrinking every day but he hasn’t left the water yet. They don’t eat while their tails are being absorbed, but once their tail is completely gone and they leave the water they will need to feed on live insects.
There was great excitement today when Aaron noticed that one of our tadpoles has grown its front legs. He observed “his head is bumpy now instead of round, and his neck is moving like a real frog”. The markings have also become more distinct and it now jumps around in the water instead of swimming like a tadpole.
Another tadpole is almost at the same stage, so we have moved them both to a tank of shallower water with a pile of pebbles at one end to give them access to land. These are actually tadpoles from last year that didn’t develop and overwintered in a bath tub at the allotment. This year’s tadpoles are still a long way off growing legs.
He wasn’t very keen on having his photo taken, but eventually he obliged by resting on a dark pebble.
We looked in our lifecycle book and decided that our tadpole is at the second stage shown here.
Today we created a small world pond scene for our tadpole and frog figures. We live in a first and second floor maisonette and water dripping through the ceiling doesn’t exactly promote a good relationship with your neighbours, so I put down two plastic painting mats and two towels on top to keep the carpet dry. The frog pond started off in a washing up bowl inside a large seed tray to catch the inevitable splashes.
This was very much a spur of the moment idea and created in about 5 minutes flat while the children were eating their snack. I used some leftover aquarium gravel, some pebbles from our loose parts, and some lilypad shapes cut out of craft foam. I also provided a couple of fish nets, a mini tin bucket and some measuring spoons.
Aaron soon decided that it would be much better in the bigger container and poured all the water into the large tray.
They scooped and poured, fished and splashed. They made up little storylines about the tadpoles and frogs. It was oh so much fun!
The children want to play with it again, so next time I will add some blue and green glass pebbles (I completely forgot to use them today). Bigger lilypads and some plastic plants would be a great addition!
Our spring topic is life cycles, and the first one we are studying is the frog.
We managed to get three large tadpoles from the allotment yesterday, and we are hopefully getting some more from a friend in the next few days. There is some basic information about raising tadpoles on the Froglife website. This is a much more detailed guide, with some suggestions of ways that children can study the tadpoles.
Tabitha is poorly and has spent most of the day in bed, so this afternoon we did some quiet activities from our frog shelf.
Aaron arranged these frog life cycle cards in order.
Tabitha matched the cards to some life cycle figures.
Aaron drew a frog following these instructions.
We sneaked in some colour grading!
I made a labelled control card for our frog puzzle by tracing around the pieces and Tabitha built the puzzle on top of it.
Aaron had a go at some 3 part nomenclature cards.
We’ve been reading The Teeny Weeny Tadpole whilst waiting for some frog reference books to arrive in the post (we were very surprised that none of our local bookshops had any). If Aaron learns as much about frogs as he has done about dinosaurs recently, he will soon be a walking encylopedia!