Tuesday, 31 December 2013

End of year quiz and Seven Stories

We started yesterday with a quiz based on the topics we have covered this year. I partly wanted to look back at what we have done for my own benefit as it is always more than I expect and partly as a fun activity. There were questions for Harry and Stuart on similar topics. This year we have covered a diverse range of topics from the Stone Age, Romans and Ancient Egyptians to volcanoes, habitats, Grace Darling, space, London, skeletons and art.

Harry enjoyed doing this and, mainly because he had more questions than Stuart, he was declared the winner! I think we will make this an annual event as it is a good way to review the year.

Harry also wrote some of his Christmas thank you notes and did some reading.

We had a few rounds of Shut The Box after lunch. We all like this game, it's very quick to play and it is good for developing mental arithmetic. I was very unlucky and the score ended up Stuart 4, Harry 2 and me 0! I read a book to Peter in between my turns.

We made a visit to Seven Stories yesterday afternoon. We have been members there since Harry was 10 months old so we have seen several exhibitions now and they always have lots of hands on activities for the children. My favourite is still the Pooh Bear/Wind in the Willows exhibition that was running when we first joined, with a Toad's car to sit in. The boys fed The Tiger Who Came to Tea and read a story in Mog's basket in the Judith Kerr exhibition and showed Stuart The Enchanted Wood, as he has not seen the newest Enid Blyton exhibition. We went to the craft area too and made some wanted posters. Harry also made a medal for the person catching his thief and some coins for the £10 reward, while Peter read some books with me.

Harry and Peter had been given a book voucher each for Christmas so they chose a book at Seven Stories. We have listened to three Mr Gum stories on CD and all found them funny but this is the first we will read ourselves.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Place value maths games, audio books and an outdoor afternoon

It's been lovely and productive today. I finally feel like I know what day it is again after a busy seven days over Christmas. We will be getting back into our routine this week which is quite easy as we don't have formal lesson times and I try to incorporate the learning activities I want to cover into our everyday life and around the activities Harry wants to do. The maths games below were played at 7.30am this morning, in pyjamas, as the boys were keen to do them and they will never be more awake and alert! 

We played a new place value/addition maths game from the great Games for Learning book. I set up some score sheets with a three digit addition sum. We took turns to draw a card from a deck of playing cards (tens, picture cards and jokers removed) and recorded the number in our boxes. When we had each drawn six cards we added together our three digit numbers to get our score. We added the units, tens and hundreds separately. My total was greater than 1,000 so this was a good introduction to place value of thousands and it also required carrying 10 from the units to the tens column. Harry seemed to understand this concept fine. This game can be used for larger numbers, adding more than two numbers together and other maths functions so we will be playing it a lot.

We also played target, another game from the book. We each threw 9 small bells (you can also use paper clips or coins) onto a target and recorded the number of hundreds, tens and units scored to get a total. Harry is definitely better at hitting the target than me - he won this 3 times!

We then played Peter's new game, Insy Winsy Spider and he can now recognise 1-3 on the die without counting the dots.

Harry was given some vouchers for iTunes for Christmas, which was a great present for him as he loves audio books. He spent most of yesterday afternoon and time this morning listening to two new ones. He chose a Jeremy James adventure by David Henry Wilson and Grk and the Pelotti Gang by Joshua Doder.

I went to see The Hobbit at the cinema last night with friends and Harry was very interested in the plot so we discussed that this morning (along with the fellowship of the ring from Lord of The Rings) and I showed him some google images of the film and characters. He is too young to see the films but we may read or listen to the story next year. He set up some Lego men and other toys in the scene of battling giant spiders. Peter was also listening and pretended to be Smaug hiding in the gold under his duvet! 

We had a trip out to Wallington, a favourite National Trust property for the afternoon. It was very cold but we were all wrapped up and the boys had a great time with sticks and in the various adventure play sites. Harry spotted a few holes in the ground where he said animals might be hibernating and we saw a family of geese on the lake.

And of course what trip is complete without a bit of Climbing On Daddy! 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Our Christmas

We are home from visiting Stuart's family in Lancaster for Christmas and we had a brilliant time. We had a lovely 12-person Christmas lunch and made visits to Harry and Peter's great grandparents. 

Peter didn't sleep well on Christmas Eve so he had a nap in the car while Stuart and Harry went for a walk on the rocks around Morecambe Bay. The Bay is famous for quicksand so they didn't go far onto the beach but did find an area of quicksand which amazed Harry after seeing the Morecambe Bay rescue team on TV recently. 

Peter was much happier after a nap and took his new bubble gun outside to make hundreds of bubbles!

The boys have really enjoyed playing with their bigger cousins, who are 8 and 10. Stuart and I had a fun (and long!) game of trivial pursuit on Christmas Day evening with his parents when the boys were asleep.

We also went to our first pantomime - Cinderella at the Preston Guild Hall theatre. It was enjoyed by all and we started looking at the Newcastle theatres for 2014 pantomimes on the way home. We got home very late on Boxing Day with sleeping children so we had a day of playing with presents, tidying up and stocking the food cupboards yesterday.

We had a really fun swimming trip this morning. Harry has been having swimming lessons but he has not been enjoying them or improving so we decided to stop for a while and just go swimming as a family. They both loved it - we went to a pool in Whitley Bay with slides, a play pirate ship and waves. We will try to go again while Stuart is off work as I can't take them on my own until Peter is 4 due to the supervision rules. I find this very annoying as the water in most of the pool areas we use is no deeper than the bath at home and swimming is such a great active thing to do in winter. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Early Christmas celebrations

We have had a super weekend starting our Christmas celebrations early.

My family came to visit on Saturday and Sunday and Harry performed three times in the Christmas display at his gymnastics club, City of Newcastle Gymnastics Academy. He really enjoyed it and we were very proud of him as the children perform in small groups in front of over 200 people, which I would find daunting! This was part of his kung fu themed routine.

We had a lovely family lunch yesterday with a gingerbread house made by my sister, Christmas jumpers and hats. The boys were delighted to receive early presents. Harry spent both afternoons building Lego kits and Peter has enjoyed playing his new game, Insey Winsey Spider, reading books and playing Octonauts. 

We were busy making food gifts of peanut brittle, spiced nuts and biscotti on Friday and we also visited the Crisis Centre in Newcastle to drop off a donation of food and toiletry items. It is a large homeless centre and they have an annual Christmas appeal and wish list. We donated last year too and it seems a good way to get the children thinking of others in need at Christmas time.

Stuart finished work on Friday so we had a nice day together today. We went to a friend's house for lunch and tidied up after the weekend ready for Christmas. 

We have been reading James and The Giant Peach this weekend to Harry. I am pleased he is enjoying another Roald Dahl as I have very good memories of reading his books. We have previously read George's Marvellous Medicine and listened to Danny the Champion of The World on CD.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Current affairs and funny books and poems

Harry wrote some Christmas cards for his friends at French this morning, before we went out for a dentist appointment for me. We looked through the newspaper in the waiting room and the boys spotted some interesting pictures so we read a couple of short articles. I encourage Harry to take in interest in current affairs by keeping an eye out for news stories I think he would enjoy and he is usually keen to hear them. This often sparks ideas for more reading and research. I am planning to get a First News subscription sometime in the next year when he is more able to read it himself. 

At home this morning, we also read about today's Gaia star observatory launch. Harry is really interested in space and I read him the news article on the BBC website before looking at the European Space Agency website where we read an article for kids and watched some interviews with the scientists.

Peter fell asleep on the way home from French - both boys have looked exhausted all week - I think the lack of sunlight really affects them so we had an early tea with a long reading time before bed.

Harry and Peter are really enjoying these books at the moment. Peter brings me the Michael Rosen poems every morning and we are all laughing out loud at The Puddleman, which features a small boy taking his grandpa, 'collar', out for a walk on a lead to look for puddles. I found UG by Raymond Briggs at the library too yesterday. They are both written as cartoon strips, which makes an interesting change to a usual picture book.

went to a talk by Michael Rosen last year (I made notes here) about the role of poetry in education and he encouraged everyone to make it accessible by being part of everyday reading instead of a special event. Harry and Peter definitely enjoy poetry, especially Michael Rosen's. We have another of his books with a CD for the car too. We have been making up our own rhymes today in the car, following up on our enjoyment of the book.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Lego with friends and writing

We had some home educating friends who we see at music class over this morning and they stayed for lunch, which was very nice for all of us. I had planned some crafts but the 5 boys were having such a great time playing with Lego that we didn't interrupt. 

Harry started writing some thank you letters this morning before our friends arrived as he has received some early Christmas presents. We also did some maths. Harry completed 2 Conquer Maths lessons on tessellating patterns and ordering large numbers up to 1,000. Peter rolled a die and then I asked him to find the correct number of objects, according to the number rolled.

When our friends left we had a rest by listening to audio books. Harry took the iPad to lie on his bed and listen to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Peter and I listened to Julia Donaldson stories downstairs. Peter rarely needs a nap now but does get tired so I encourage all of us to do restful activities in the middle of the day if we are home and audio books are popular all round.

They have both continued playing with Lego this afternoon and are now watching the Octonauts Christmas special before tea together. It's been such a lovely and relaxed day. I am visiting the library tonight as we have some books due back. I do usually go with Harry and Peter but sometimes on my own as I like having a long, child free browse!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Carol performance day

We had our last group session before Christmas today with our friends. We have been doing this all term and Harry has really enjoyed it - he likes the science and craft activities and seeing his friends in a regular slot. There have been 11 children in total. I am going to plan some more activities specific to Peter over Christmas as he doesn't really enjoy it and needs some more attention and structure. There is another 3 year old at the group who can join him for younger activities.

Today we performed the carols we have been practising for an audience of dads and grandparents. We sang Calypso Carol. A Starry Night and Away in a Manger. Harry and Peter both joined in with the singing and we have all enjoyed learning the carols at home.

Each family also made a short presentation on their own. Harry enjoys the crafts we do at the group session so he chose to show some of his creations. He did speak to describe each one and said he enjoyed it, although confident speaking is one of our non-academic points to work on next year as it is not one of Harry's strengths. 

We had some fun after the carols and presentations - party food, pass the parcel and a balloon race game, before heading to the park for a couple of hours. 

It has been a lovely day. Harry also had the final practice this afternoon for his Christmas gymnastics show at the weekend, which we are all looking forward to.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Stained glass window biscuits, our tree and learning to knit

It has been a festive, busy few days. We spent several hours at the park with friends on Friday morning and Stuart and I went to his work Christmas party on Friday night leaving a lovely friend babysitting. 

Harry painted the rest of his dough decorations yesterday morning and went with Stuart to buy the Christmas tree. Peter and I stayed at home and got all the decorations ready. It is a very colourful tree with lots of home made decorations. We made more mince pies yesterday afternoon and gave the Christmas cakes their last feed of brandy.

My dad has been visiting today with his wife and the boys were very happy to receive some early Christmas presents. Harry built his new Lego with Granddad and Peter played with his new playdough.

Harry also made stained glass window biscuits, all on his own. These are made by cutting out the dough (I use this Delia Smith dough for these biscuits) then cutting another hole in the middle. A coloured sweet in placed in the hole for baking and melts into a colourful 'window'. 

We have been learning to knit this afternoon! I bought Harry a Christmas kit from Baker Ross as he has been asking to learn for a few months. The picture instructions were not very clear so we watched this YouTube tutorial to learn to cast on. Harry mastered it pretty quickly and did it all himself! I was very proud of him. He then wanted to go out in the dark to see some Christmas lights so we will carry on with the next row of stitches tomorrow. I will be getting us both some proper needles too as I would like to knit a few basic things too.

I am quite well organised for Christmas as I have presents bought (although not wrapped) and food ordered but have a few events this week which I need to prepare for so I am going to have some busy evenings!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Numbers to 5, reading game and a wolf-proof house

We had a lovely full morning at home today before going to French class this afternoon. We stopped at Hobbycraft on the way to buy some last Christmas craft bits.

Harry and I finished his Christmas jigsaw.

We set up some paper plates for Peter with the numbers 1-5 written on. I then gave him slips of paper with the same numbers written on to match up and pennies to count the correct number onto each plate.

Harry and I played a reading pyramid game. We each start with a blank pyramid, then Harry takes a word and tries to read it. If he does, he gets to colour a brick of his pyramid. If he can't read it, I read it and colour a brick of my pyramid. The first to colour the whole pyramid is the winner.

After this, the plan was for Harry to read to me but he sustained an impressive bump near his eye from Peter's fire hat so, after the application of some ice, I read to him instead. He chose another of our new Wonderwise books, Let's Build a House, which looks at lots of different types of house and building materials. One of the activities in the back of the book was to think about the story of The Three Little Pigs and design a wolf-proof house. Harry loved doing this and thought of lots of good features for his house.

Peter also wanted a house so we drew the house of straw together and acted out the story with our Three Little Pig puppets, together with the Big, Bad Wolf. This was really fun, as the wolf kept falling foul of Harry's house deterrents.

Harry drew and cut out some arrows too, to form a remote controlled arrow launching system, operated by the pigs from inside the house!

After French, the boys watched Day of the Diesels together, a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD they had borrowed from the library and I took the opportunity to clean the bathroom and tidy the playroom. They then set up a very complex Lego fire rescue situation which I have been instructed not to touch!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Catching up, sand play and crafts

I am not sure why I am a few days behind with blogging - just unusually tired and series 2 of Homeland has taken over our lives somewhat! Stuart and I aren't usually evening TV watchers but we do like watching films and sometimes box sets together. I also had a lovely night out with several other home ed mums (and a couple of dads).

We have been pretty busy over the last few days. We have had sand play in some mild weather with shells, animals and vehicles.

We visited my family in Harrogate and the boys had their nails painted by my sister, who is a beauty therapist and Christmas stickers added. Harry has been showing everyone! We also visited my elderly gran, who loves seeing photos of what we have been doing.

We did the Conquer Maths lesson on line symmetry and made symmetrical Christmas trees. 

We have painted - Harry decorated his dried dough decorations, which look really great now and Peter made a good effort at a Christmas tree colouring picture. They both enjoyed using glitter on these too and some of their own creative pictures. I was really pleased that Harry was inspired to paint the sky he could see - it was 8.15am when we started painting and the clouds were beautiful and pink in the sunrise.  He often comments on the sky at sunrise and sunset and loves seeing the moon and stars too.

We have made paper plate holly wreaths for the inside doors, using holly leaf templates printed from here.

Harry has started a Christmas tree Hama bead design I printed from here. He has also been working through his handwriting book, he even did some at bedtime tonight when Peter was already asleep, although this was a ploy to stay up later I think! His writing has come on well in 2 aspects this year - he is much faster and he almost always forms the letters correctly now.

I read these books with Peter this week from our Oxford Reading Tree read at home collection. He is 3 in January so I am starting to look at numbers and letters in a very relaxed way with him now as he is interested.

We went to the City library on the bus today, which was fun. They both like the bus and we got lots of good books, including some Christmas themed ones. We read several of them when we got home and at bedtime. Peter liked Slinky Malinki's Christmas Crackers and I started reading Harry The Battle for Christmas, which we will continue tomorrow.

I have promised Harry an end of year quiz as I have been wanting to review everything we have done this year anyway so I will be preparing that soon. He wants Stuart to have a set of harder questions on the same subject areas too, I think Stuart is definitely more concerned than Harry about this upcoming quiz!