Saturday, 31 August 2013

Messy outdoor painting

We bought a roll of lining wallpaper yesterday in anticipation of doing some outdoor painting and Harry just couldn't wait to get on with it this morning! The paper is thick enough to roll out on the grass and be treated quite roughly without ripping so it's great for this.

They used sponges, brushes, cars and toy animals plus their own feet and hands and had a great time!

I love the rainbow footprints

They also enjoyed painting themselves but wanted to get inside quite soon after this as it started to get chilly, so I brought out some buckets of water. Harry said he was the artwork and I had to hang him on the wall, but get him down to feed him!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A trip out - Gibside

We met some home ed friends at Gibside, one of our favourite National Trust properties, today. Peter watched an excavator in the car park for a while with his friend.

We spent a couple of hours in the large adventure playground before Harry got bored, so we had ice cream and headed off in search of more adventure.

We spent a good while looking up at the trees with this sheet from Nature Detectives. We noticed recently that lots of trees now have seeds, so we tried to identify some. Gibside is a great place for this kind of activity as there is so much woodland and we actually saw most of them.

Harry had a good scramble around the low ropes course.

We found sticks and stones to throw into the river

And Harry actually spent over an hour pottering in the river - the water is crystal clear and shallow so it's a lovely place to let him have some freedom. This is one of his absolute favourite things to be doing and he didn't complain once about his soggy feet and shorts all the way back! He dragged sticks around and borrowed a bucket from a friend to use in the water. 

We walked very close to some cows with calves in the field on the way back to the car and saw a calf drinking milk from it's mother. Harry noticed that the mother cow was eating grass at the same time and said that 'she is doing that to make more milk for the next day'. Maybe he did learn something from all the hours I spent sitting around (and possibly eating at the same time!) feeding Peter as a baby.

Both boys were asleep very quickly tonight after a full day in the fresh air.

Catching up and learning odd/even

I am now just about back into the swing of things after a busy Bank Holiday weekend. My sister goes away to America to get married shortly so we were celebrating their send off! 

We went to Harrogate for a family BBQ last weekend which was nice for Harry and Peter as they got to see my sister and parents. Stuart brought the boys home and I stayed on my own for the rest of the long weekend. I visited my grandma and joined ten other ladies for my sister's hen day - a spa with afternoon tea at the wonderful Rockliffe Hall. It was superb. Time away is much appreciated as I very rarely get it.

Stuart, Harry and Peter enjoyed the time together and visited two parks on Sunday followed by a day out at Wallington on Monday, lots of lovely outdoor time. I arrived home to find the paddling pool at the bottom of the slide where they had been whizzing down into it! 

We had a good day getting back to normal on Tuesday, starting our new Literature Study in the morning followed by a visit to a friend's house. Our friend had prepared some great activities for the children on the topic of odd and even numbers, with a good range of difficulty for the age range 2-8. Harry really enjoyed it and watched a short video before printing odd and even number groups with paint. He also made a monster with odd and even numbers of legs, eyes etc which he then counted and decided if they were odd or even, before writing them on a sheet on the front. He also played a game of Dinosaur Race with his friend.

Yesterday we went on the Newcastle open-top bus tour with some of Harry's school friends. They all really enjoyed it! We are going to be making a collage of our city based on this using photos and drawings and also looking at the history of some of the landmarks we saw.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Late summer allotment update

The allotment is flourishing. I have no idea how much time we have spent there - I guess around 3-4 hours per week on average, which probably isn't enough, but we are all really enjoying the experience and we will be more knowledgeable and productive next year. It is also a real mood lifter for all of us. I have taken the boys when Harry has been grumpy and challenging at home and he has been a changed child upon arriving there. I have gone myself some evenings feeling like I would rather sit on the sofa and eat chocolate but have ended up staying for over an hour and being much more energised on my return.

The broad beans and peas are finished and the beds have been cleared. We have also brought home one bed of our potatoes so I pulled up a few leeks to go with them and have just made leek and potato soup for the freezer. As I write this post I am waiting for a batch of courgette bread to finish cooking made with our allotment courgettes and mint. It has been a bit of a struggle to use everything this week!

I am starting to think of a plan for the allotment and have drawn it on paper so we can decide where to plant the crops next year. We didn't use two of the beds this year but will need to or we will get into trouble. We already have a bed of rhubarb but I think we may plant some more permanent fruit bushes so that they fill the empty spaces with little annual maintenance. I think the boys are going to be very excited at planting time next Spring. They have been great at the allotment this year and Harry is actually a real help and does a lot of work. 

We have hundreds of tomatoes in the greenhouses, many still green but lots of red too. I used lots of these earlier in a roasted vegetable pasta/pizza sauce. 

The sweetcorn is still growing well. I peeped inside one of the ears but it was not yet yellow.

I pulled up the first parsnips this week and we had them for our dinner tonight, with our own roast tomatoes. I also brought 4 cucumbers! A couple of the other allotment holders bring us cucumbers too as they know Peter loves them (and like to see him start eating it whole, immediately) but this means we don't need all of ours so I am planning to make some cucumber pickle.

Maths dice

We have been enjoying playing with these Maths Dice for the past week. These seem to be a great way to practice addition, subtraction and strategy with the competitive element that Harry enjoys. He also likes the physical aspect of rolling the dice rather than just seeing and writing sums on paper.

You roll the 12 sided white die and then the 5 coloured dice. The object of the game is to try to make the number on the 12 sided die using a combination of the numbers on the coloured dice. You then move your counter according to how many dice you used - so if you used 3 dice to get to the target number, you move 3 spaces (therefore it is better to use as many dice as possible to make your sum as you get to move more spaces). The other player then gets a chance to make the target number using the remaining dice.

You can also use multiplication and division with children who can do this, or play together, trying to make as many combinations as possible to get to the target number, so I think these will be useful for some time.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

A walk along Newcastle Quayside

We went to The Sage Gateshead to pay for Harry's music class today and had a lovely walk around the Quayside. Stuart and I used to live there before having children so we know it well. We walked over the Millenium Bridge and Harry noticed the writing on the Tyne Bridge. It is to mark the upcoming Bupa Great North Run. The last time we saw the Tyne Bridge decorated it was with the Olympic Rings.

We visited The Sage and then walked back round over the Swing Bridge (in the background).

The boys played for over an hour on the 'beach' (complete with complimentary deckchairs and buckets and spades) that is on the Quayside during summer. I always seem to carry lots of small toys around with me that have made their way into my handbag at various times and today they found a use - a small truck was driven through the sand and three little pigs were fed sand pig food! 

Harry spotted the bridges on the map and I was pleased he remembered the name of the River Tyne. I think it is important to know about your own environment and this is his! 

How we home educate - planning and organising

I have been spending lots of time this month organising and planning. I realised that I was amassing a huge amount of completed activities, work and art which were mainly from Harry so I have filed those allowing us to start the new school year afresh. 

I have ordered the workbooks we will be using and have a couple of literature based studies planned (Lost and Found - Oliver Jeffers and The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle). I have organised some of our other activities into seasons and have a file for each season with activity sheets and craft ideas.

I have bought myself a large A4 notebook split into sections which I am going to use as a kind of permanent file, recording ideas of activities, games, products, things needed as we go along etc. I have always been a great list-maker and usually have a couple of notebooks on the go but I felt from last year that a book purely for home ed would be useful.

I have bought both boys an A3 art file to store artwork as we go along. I don't keep everything as they produce a lot but I keep things that are good examples of what they are doing at particular ages or special/themed items.

With respect to other work, I file as we go into a box file as this is quickest and sometimes we are doing related activities over more than one day. When that is full I spend around an hour and file into ring binders, stapling related items together (these have been covering about 4-5 months worth of work). I don't try to split these into subjects as we do a lot of cross-curricular work. Anything Peter produces at the moment will also go into this file and later I will probably split up their work.

My methods don't always work perfectly (the occasional chaos of everyday life with small children sees to that) but they seem to allow me to stay ahead enough in terms of planning to be able to produce activities when needed and to capture the work we do.

Pyramid reading game

This is the latest game we played this morning from my Games for Learning book. The premise is the same as using flash cards and asking the child to read the word but it is made more interesting by turning it into a game.

We each had a pyramid shape drawn on paper. I wrote the words on other pieces of paper, one word per sheet (or you could use flash cards/magnetic words). I asked Harry to read the words one by one and if he did, with two chances, he got to colour in a section of his pyramid (although Harry chose to fill his in with Lego bricks!). If he couldn't read it, the word passed to me and I read it and coloured a section of my pyramid. The first one with a complete pyramid is the winner. 

As the child gets first go at the words, they are likely to win unless the words are all too difficult. I started with easy ones so Harry wants to play again - he could read them all by sight, and I will include some more difficult ones next time that he may need to sound out. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Our summer reading challenge update

We visited the library yesterday to get Harry's last two reading books for the summer reading challenge. The boys coloured a picture while we there too. 

We are very lucky to have child-friendly libraries in Newcastle. We visit two libraries, one local and the main library in the city, both of which have large children's areas. I find the library a great resource for home educating. I often find non-fiction books to support topics we are looking at and sometimes inspiration for activities comes from interesting library books I have spotted. The fiction library books we borrow are often the most popular at bedtime as they have novelty value.

Harry's fourth book, That Noise, was not popular at all! It was well within his ability but he said it was 'just too boring!'.

He read the fifth book this morning and thankfully he enjoyed it. I chose it because I thought he would enjoy reading all the noise words for the different vehicles. Peter really likes this book too. He listened to Harry read it and then I read it to him twice.

I have been choosing the books for Harry to read for his summer reading challenge as I wanted to make sure they are within his reading ability. Confidence plays a huge part in Harry's reading - he has refused to read for at least a week on more than one occasion after finding something too challenging so I wanted to avoid this happening. Harry does choose his own books at the library too but these are the books I generally read to them.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Chorizo bread

I had promised Harry when we made courgette bread that we would make chorizo bread next from the same website, Freshly Baked.

We headed out on scooters to our local supermarket to source the required chorizo.

Peter and Harry are very enthusiastic about baking and they can do many of the jobs themselves. Luckily, we didn't need all the chorizo as several pieces were enthusiastically eaten during the process! This recipe, like the courgette bread, was very easy - I like the 'All Ingredients In The Bowl And Mix' method.

I was in a bit of a rush so didn't attempt the curl shape in the recipe. I also liked the fact that this didn't adversely affect the outcome, so it is easy to fit in as you don't need to worry about keeping to within minutes of the recipe schedule. After shaping, we had to go out to Harry's swimming lesson so I left the dough for around 2 hours instead of the stated 45 minutes. It was trying to escape from the tray when we got home to put it in the oven so I folded it over again and it baked fine and was very well received for tea with some roast chicken pieces.

The finished product. The boys really enjoyed it. I am not a huge chorizo fan but I would make it again with them. It kept very well for 2 days while we were away this weekend too (I meant to take it with me but forgot!).

Friday, 16 August 2013

Games for learning

I love this new book - Games for Learning. It has been on my Amazon wish list for months and has finally been purchased. All of the games require very little preparation and I have been using it this week as our first activity of the day. I think this will be a very well used resource for both boys.

We played a word link, taking it in turns saying the first word that came to mind based on the last one. The very first word is just the first that one person thinks of. I got this out again a couple of hours later and remarked how it is funny how we got from 'and' to 'thin'. Harry proceeded to read all the words in the circles, which is what is suggested in the book might happen. We might use this game as the basis for story writing too.

We also played matching numbers. I wrote the numbers 1-10 twice, randomly on a sheet of paper and asked Harry to draw lines between the matching numbers. The rule is that the lines must not cross, so this tests strategy and spatial skills. He was very enthusiastic and asked for another one, he found it pretty easy so I will use more numbers next time! 

Place value maths with beans

We played a good maths game from my Games for Learning book using dried beans this week. The game is designed to increase understanding of the value of tens and uses estimating skills. You start with a bowl of dry beans (or other small objects) and ten small pots. You choose a target number and take a handful of beans you estimate to be the target number. You then count the beans into the pots (ten per pot) and record how many more or less you needed to get to the target. The next person then has their turn and the lowest scorer (being the one who got closest to the target) wins.

Harry got much more accurate after his first turn! He really enjoyed this and spent time after we finished sorting the beans into different types in their own pots (practising another useful maths skill).

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Sport and Home Education

Harry has enjoyed some good summer holiday sports sessions and I am really looking forward to his classes re-starting in September. Harry loves sport and needs (probably like many 5 year old boys) a lot of physical challenges. It was important to us when we decided to home educate to find activities Harry would enjoy as these give him good energy outlets, provide group work opportunities and give him independence from me and instruction from someone else. I think it is important to say also that there are many opportunities for unstructured physical activity (alone or in groups) in the home education environment and we take advantage of these - we have had many trips to parks, National Trust properties and beaches during school term time. 

Harry is continuing with the classes he did last year - gymnastics, enjoy-a-ball and swimming. I think gymnastics and enjoy-a-ball both prepare children really well for any other sports they might want to do in the future and he wants to continue. I haven't looked into anything else as I wouldn't want to add any more to our schedule - we also have other time and financial commitments and I take Peter along to the classes too, so it wouldn't be fair on him to spend any more time sitting in foyers! 

Harry has been to the enjoy-a-ball summer holiday camp for 2 days which were 4 hour sessions and he has been having swimming lessons each day this week. He went into the male changing room on his own today and managed dressing afterwards without trouble so I was really proud of him. He also has a tennis class next week at a Durham sports centre with some home ed friends. It will, however, be nice to get back to normality soon!

Making birthday cards

Harry and Peter have been making 60th birthday cards this week for their Grandad. I cut out the numbers 6 and 0 from sponge and they used these to print onto cards. When this was dry they added jewels too. Harry wrote his own card and was very quick with his handwriting. I find cards and short notes for people are great ways to get Harry practising his writing.