Friday, 28 June 2013

Purposeful play time

I fit in purposeful play with Peter at random times when Harry is engaged with something, such as listening to story CDs or doing his sports classes and Peter is not already busy with something of his own. I try really hard to make sure this time happens because I enjoy it and don't get to spend much time one-to-one with Peter. Also, the early years of Harry's life were mainly spent in this way and he has a great understanding of maths and science concepts from this basis. 

I have started talking to Peter about shapes as well as colour and number during our purposeful play recently. We have had fun with the stacking cups this week. Peter LOVES the game where we hide a marble under the cups and turn them over to find it. We said the colour each time we turned one over this time. He was really cute closing his eyes while I hid the marble!

We also looked at the shapes underneath the cups. I helped Peter to run his finger along the edges of the shapes while saying they were straight sides. I asked him if he knew any of the shapes and he identified the star and the triangle.

Peter managed to build the tower in the correct order when I told him which colour to use next. He often gets confused between pink and purple and is really bemused trying to understand it! He built this a few times, knocking it over each time.

Peter has taken a liking to this book at the moment so we cleared the playroom floor and read/sung it with all the actions (several times - resulting in me having the song in my head for hours!). 

Harry joined in and they had a great time! Here is Peter flapping his arms like a bird, stomping like an elephant (quickly!) and slithering like a snake.

Peter played in the sink washing a few things after some painting and he talked lots about whether things were floating or sinking. I gave him a couple of extra objects made of metal, which sank, but then he put them in his 'boat' and they floated. I think water play is so valuable for learning. My boys have both been fascinated by how things behave in the water and how water behaves when poured, splashed, swished etc.

Peter loved doing activities in the Octonauts magazine. He usually enjoys using the stickers but he did more this time, including matching the colour to the creature and following straight and curved lines with a pen. I think I am going to have to start buying a magazine each soon!

Peter has been playing his first educational app on the iPad - Agnitus. He has been matching shapes, counting, and finding matching pairs. I find the animation and voice quite annoying but I think the content is good. I sit with him while he does it and talk to him about what he is doing. 

We practised some throwing and catching, here is Peter all ready for a catch! Peter has really good hand-eye co-ordination compared to Harry at the same age and he loves ball play. This is great for his motor skills and understanding of concepts like roll, throw, kick, catch, high and fast/slow.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

A trip out - Centre for Life

We had a very impromptu trip to the Centre for Life yesterday afternoon. After baking at home in the morning, I asked Harry if he wanted to go to our local playground or the allotment for the afternoon and he begged for the Centre for Life, so off we went! It was great. I used to go out a lot in the afternoon when Harry was aged 2-3 but we have generally been going out in the morning recently. 

It was very quiet (only 6 other people there) so they could wander around freely. Harry had a big tin can recycling game going on for around half an hour. Here he is telling me about it animatedly! 

They enjoyed the sand tables and dinosaur bones, although Peter was a bit distressed by the dinosaur roars drifting around from the dinosaur exhibit!

We spent quite a while making plasticine dinosaurs, which was good fun. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A morning of baking

We have been making the most of nice weather with lots of trips recently so we haven't baked at home for a while. As we were tired out after our fire making workshop yesterday, I planned baking activities for this morning. 

We made these pinwheel swirl biscuits by making a chocolate dough and a vanilla dough and rolling them together. The boys were a bit enthusiastic with the flour which made the dough too dry so we had to squash half of it together to make marbled biscuits instead. They all tasted nice though!

We also made chocolate buns decorated with sugar balls and sprinkles. Harry and Peter are always enthusiastic about baking and I love how independently they can both work now. I shall be expecting birthday cakes to be made for me in the future!! 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Fire making workshop

We have had a lovely day at Gibside taking part in a fire making workshop with a group of home ed friends. We learned about the different types of fuel (tinder, kindling and firewood) and the children collected some of each type from the woods. They used a hand drill and a bow drill to create heat from the friction between the wood and we made sparks with a metal fire striker which we used to ignite small pieces of cotton wool. There was a fire area in the middle where the leader built a small fire using the fuel collected and then the children toasted marshmallows on sticks over it. 

We headed to the playground for a picnic too. Lovely woodland day and we all smell of fire to remind us of it! We may be trying some of this out at home. 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Camping weekend

Harry and I went camping last night! We went with some friends from the NCT group I was part of when pregnant with Harry so we have all been friends for over 5 years now and most have had second children too, so it is quite a big group (there were 6 families on this trip with 10 children in total). We decided it would be best if Peter stayed at home with Stuart as he doesn't sleep well at the best of times and we enjoy having one-to-one time with each boy.

I managed to put the tent up on my own for the first time so I was quite proud of myself! Harry was helpful and enjoyed learning what to do.

Harry had a great time all afternoon and evening playing with his friends. They had frisbees, trucks, bubbles, a kite and pens and paper. There was also a very good playground that they visited a couple of times.

The weather forecast for the weekend had been dreadful but we were lucky. The dark clouds and rain came over just as the children were going to bed and then cleared. It started again as we were coming home this morning. We did see this beautiful double rainbow though last night and Harry made several drawings of it.

Harry was very snug in his sleeping bag with his doll!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Self-directed learning at home

Today has been a fairly typical day at home and the boys have been very busy! I love this kind of day. It usually ends with quite a messy house and a tired me, but it also involves great amounts of self-directed natural learning. This kind of play is so valuable and I love seeing how much they absorb from it while having fun. There was an article recently (here) about the benefits of children starting school later than the current age and I am definitely a supporter of this. Today there has not been a workbook or a desk in sight, nor have I been trying to teach anything but we have covered several curriculum topics through play, discussion and Harry's own initiative, we have been out engaging with the real world and how it works and Harry has done sport with friends.

Peter has been a little addicted to TV recently now he has worked out how to turn it on himself, so today I turned it off at the plug and told him it was broken. He accepted that and didn't try again. I don't find TV overload is conducive to learning in our house, although around an hour a day seems not to cause any problems.

We built part of the Lego mine, a Duplo zoo and some mine trucks to play robbery games using the Lego police station. Harry used the space shuttle as a special police spy plane with a thermal camera to find hiding robbers. Peter played too and joined in really well. He usually does try but needs my input to help him understand what he needs to do and to try not to break anything!

Harry made a rainbow with the scarves before he and Peter pretended to be storm clouds blowing the sun and the rainbow away.

We printed off some new colouring sheets and these great wheel sheets from Activity Village, which Harry used to design his own cars and trucks. We also had a go at drawing the Angel of The North after our visit on Tuesday.

Harry collected some spare craft objects and made this 3D picture using rectangle shapes.

Harry and Peter dressed up in lots of warm outdoor clothes and went on an 'Arctic expedition' to do scientific research (not sure how long Peter's bare legs and feet would cope in the Arctic!). They collected sticks and stones from the garden and took to the 'research lab' (also known as the playhouse) to look closely at them!

Harry did a reading eggs lesson while Peter had a nap then played some games on the reading eggs website. This afternoon we went on the bus to town to post a birthday present and we popped into the library to return some books and ended up reading several while we were there. Harry asked for what we needed at the post office and paid. We then got a bus to Harry's enjoy-a-ball class as we haven't had the car today. Finally, we got home for tea and the TV seemed to be fixed :-).

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Relentless allotment

The allotment is testing us at the moment! The weeds are coming through at an unbelievable pace and I have a growing list of urgent jobs - canes for the tomatoes, cucumbers and peas, plant more peas and beetroot, earth up the potatoes and recover the rhubarb from the weeds. I am sure there is more to add to that. I have even been going on my own a couple of evenings a week but it still doesn't seem enough. I am sure later years will be easier as Harry and Peter become more useful and I can be more productive when we visit together. I just hope we do actually get to harvest some produce this year to make it worthwhile! 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

A trip out - Angel of the North

We visited the Angel of the North for the first time today with home ed friends. We have been meaning to go for a couple of years (shameful, I know) as we have now lived in Newcastle for 9 years and never been! We often drive past it on the way to and from Durham and Harrogate and it always makes me feel that we are nearly home when we see it on the way back. 

I remember the Angel being erected 15 years ago very well and I wasn't keen on it then but I love it now. For me it really is an icon of The North East, the area we now call home and Harry says it watches over the people of the North. It is a landmark on our Orchard Toys UK map jigsaw and Barefoot Books atlas iPad app too.

Harry wondered if it could be made of chocolate as it looks very brown from afar but once he had had a feel he decided definitely metal because his feet went 'tippety tap' when he stood on it. I love children's logic!

Some of the older children measured 20m (the height of the Angel) down the hill and we all joined hands to see if we could make that distance. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Progress all areas

Harry seems to be making good progress at the moment and things are going well so I had better get it all on here before this phase moves on! 

He is reading voluntarily this week and seems keen to earn his star stickers, which I suspect is due to the financial reward which he is saving towards Lego! He gets a star each time he reads to me, whether this is his choice or my request and when he has 20 he gets £5 for his money box. He even took over reading most of a Mr Men book I had started the other day.

He is also doing lots of writing as part of games and has been writing much more willingly (and quickly and neatly) in recent birthday cards when I have asked him. I think it helps that I now just about trust Peter enough to leave pens and pencils out around the house so Harry can just pick them up as part of what he is doing. Previously we only used them in the kitchen as Peter was keen on wall graffiti! 

Harry's swimming lessons are going well - he is really happy and smiling through most of it. He put his face in the water this week, which would have been unthinkable a few months ago!

Harry is going to continue music in September by learning either violin or cello at The Sage. He is really looking forward to progressing to an instrument so it will be interesting to see if he takes to it and wants to put in the practice. We are also going to join him into the children's choir to see if he enjoys it. We will be at The Sage all Saturday morning for his class in any case and the choir will take place afterwards.

Birthday craft

We have a few family birthdays this month so Harry has been busy making pictures and presents. 

We turned some of the butterfly and flower shapes the boys had painted last week into birthday cards and added felt flowers. 

Harry decorated a wooden windchime as a present.

He decorated these birthday cake pictures using oil pastels, paint and pens, with added sticky bits! He loves making pictures for specific people and puts a lot of effort into getting them neat.