Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The last few days

I haven't posted a general update for a while - we have been too busy doing everything so this is a quick run-down of the past few days! 

Harry is reading great swathes of Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator at the moment, which is fantastic and he is listening to an audiobook of Matilda. We have ordered two new Superhero reading books from the I Can Read series too and he is looking forward to starting those. Peter has been doing Reading Eggs and playing Alphablocks games on the iPad. 

We have been visiting the allotment to water our seedlings in the greenhouse. We have courgettes, sweetcorn, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers doing well. Today we planted some coriander and basil and Harry planted more cress, which he really likes eating.

Harry won the trophy at his enjoy-a-ball class last week for the best trying and listening, so he has been polishing it to take back on Friday. Peter had his enjoy-a-ball class on Monday too. 

We have baked ginger biscuits and made new playdough.

The Hama beads have been in use. Harry designed a black and yellow butterfly, to be called butterbat due to the Batman colours! 

We are visiting a local Roman site on Friday so we have been reading our Roman books and watching some BBC class clips in preparation.

I have learned to play London Bridge is Falling Down with melody and chords on the piano and am very proud of myself! I am learning more songs now. Harry has been playing lovely sounds on his cello too. 

We have played more board games and Peter had been doing jigsaws. They have both loved playing with some robo-fish Easter presents, which swim in water. These are 'tanks' they created for them from plastic pots!

We have also been building meccano models today.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Kitchen chemistry - molecules, changes of state and solubility

We have been performing some experiments this week from a free online course by Futurelearn called kitchen chemistry which we have been following. I haven't gone into too much detail here as I am rushing (and failed to take any photos at all!), but it is still possible to register for the course and use the resources. Harry loves science and is always really engaged so he has enjoyed this week!

Yesterday we went to a friend's house and did some work about the behaviour of molecules in solids, liquids and gases and changes of state, including talking about density, watching a BBC class clip and performing several experiments. 

- We heated the inside of a plastic bag using a toaster. The plastic bag fills with warm air, which takes up more room, so it flies into the air like a hot air balloon.

- We used an unfolded tea bag (the kind with a staple and string, emptied of it's contents) which forms a tall, hollow cylinder. This was lit with a match at the top and, as it burnt down it created a column of hot air. The very last scrap of the teabag cylinder flew into the air up this hot column. This experiment was greeted with shrieks of delight from us all and we did it several times! This is the image from the course pages.

- We squashed butter from the fridge (inside food bags) in our hands to warm it and make it spread out and turn into a liquid state.

- We observed ice melting inside a small bowl to form a liquid, and how the liquid takes the shape of the bottom of the container it is in.

- We dripped melted candle wax into very cold water to observe it turning back into a solid.

We took an experiment from the course to the church hall for our group session this morning too, based on separating materials. We mixed a soluble material (salt) with a non-soluble material (coffee grounds) then talked about how we would separate them. We added water then filtered the water using a tea strainer. This filtered out the coffee grounds and left a salt solution. To recover the salt, the water needs to be evaporated off. There is a BBC class clip on this topic too, which we found and watched at home.

One of our friends brought a solubility experiment too. All the children were given a material - cocoa powder, baking powder, flour, jelly crystals, bicarbonate of soda, salt or sugar. They added a spoonful to a cup of cold water and we recorded the results, looking for whether it had dissolved. They then added a spoonful to a cup of hot water to observe any differences. We concluded that the hot water speeds up dissolving for some materials (jelly) and for others (cocoa powder) helped it to dissolve where it hadn't before.

Matisse inspired art

We all enjoyed a recent Blue Peter episode which looked at the new Matisse exhibition at the Tate Modern. We took some craft materials to our group session this morning to create some Matisse inspired art. We looked at Matisse's work by watching some of this programme on iPlayer first. This showed The Snail, The Bees, Blue Nude and The Sheaf, amongst others.

All the creations looked really nice and bright and the children seemed to really enjoy this activity.

This is Harry's own creation and Blue Peter ship, using the template from Blue Peter.

This is Peter's tall Blue Peter ship

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Learning letters and salt tray

Peter did some alphabet activities this morning using this nice printed alphabet from Activity Village, whilst Harry completed some Conquer Maths lessons. I also prepared a salt tray for him to practise forming letters. This was just tin foil in a roasting tray covered with a thin layer of salt. The tin foil shows up when he draws in the salt so it looks nice. He loved 'writing' the letters himself and was really excited to see it looked like the real thing! I gave him the letter cards to guide him and showed him the formation of the letter in the salt first.

I also gave him three cards and asked him to find a letter from the choice of three.

I set all the cards out in the hall and asked him to collect the ones he knows. He enjoyed this too and I have found that any activities that get the boys moving are usually popular. He knew more than I expected - 16 - so I will start to focus some activities on the letters he doesn't know yet.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Viscosity activities

We enjoyed some science activities today based on viscosity. These ideas came from An Ordinary Life which is a great blog sharing lots of science and other activities. I saw the idea a few weeks ago and made a mental note to do it soon!

We made some viscosity bottles by adding four different liquids to plastic bottles - treacle, syrup, hand wash and oil. We then taped another bottle to the top, so the bottle could be turned to allow the contents to drip through. By doing this, we could observe how long the liquid took and compare viscosity levels. Harry and Peter both really enjoyed this. Harry correctly predicted the order of viscosity from most to least and we timed the bottles and discussed how we could show the results on a bar chart. I left these on the table for the afternoon and they were turned several times. The treacle never fully made it into the other bottle! 

We also carried out another viscosity experiment. Harry put a tablespoon of hand wash and a tablespoon of syrup onto separate paper plates. We timed 30 seconds then he drew a circle to show where the liquid had spread to. This showed that the syrup was more viscose than the hand wash as it spread slower.

We used these two activities to talk about variables in a scientific experiment and how we could make it a fair test. Peter contributed to this discussion by banging some of the viscosity bottles on the table to make the liquids drip through faster, thus demonstrating one unfair variable!

Board games and superhero football

I am pleased that the boys have rediscovered a love of board games this week. They go through phases of activities and we haven't been playing games recently. Today we have played Crazy Chefs and Insey Winsey Spider by Orchard Toys. Peter won both and gave a very impressive bow - I think he has learned from Harry's music bows. I like these games as we can play them together and we all have an equal chance of winning so it is enjoyable for all ages. Harry and I played Trilemma, a maths based board game, while Peter was in the bath and again when he had gone to bed.

Harry has been doing maths on the iPad this week using the Mr Thorne Maths Universe app and some Conquer Maths lessons on shape and parallel lines. He has also been playing cello every day as lessons start again on Saturday after the Easter break.

It was really sunny today so we went to the park for an hour. Harry and Peter wore their superhero costumes and we played football, which was really fun. 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Visiting family, jobs and a trip to Gibside

It's been a lovely Easter weekend here. We haven't been doing any school work, although Harry has been reading himself, playing Shut the Box and writing notes with his cousins. I think he has enjoyed the break and has been very busy with other things. I am going to start planning for starting back properly next week.

We spent two nights with Stuart's family near Lancaster on Thursday and Friday. The boys had a great time playing with their bigger cousins on the beach and at the park and flying kites. The weather was lovely and we had a barbecue and visited all four great-grandparents.

We spent yesterday very busy with a variety of jobs. Harry and Peter love helping and I think it's very important that they get involved to learn life skills and understand what is needed to run a home. We spent a couple of hours at the allotment, where we planted peas, watered and weeded. I also hid some chocolate eggs around the site for them, which they loved! We cut the grass at home and planted some summer flower seeds in the garden. We also washed the car, inside and out - Peter couldn't resist getting in the bucket, and hung up several loads of washing.

Harry had a friend over today from our NCT group and we all went to Gibside to do the National Trust Easter egg trail, with a chocolate egg treat at the end. We were there for almost 6 hours and my feet are aching tonight! The boys all had a great time and it was so sunny - I really need to buy sun cream next time I am shopping! We took paper bags to collect nature treasures in, which was really popular. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Easter crafts and park

We met our friends for our usual Tuesday morning group session today and did Easter crafts. The children decorated ceramic hanging eggs with tissue paper, made Easter cards and pictures of blossom trees, using wool for the branches and tissue paper for the blossom.

They also made chocolate nests for snack time.

It has been a glorious sunny day so we went to the local park for two hours afterwards with our friends, which was very busy! Harry had his first ice cream there this year and we took bubble blowing wands.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Sports camp

Harry has spent most of today at an Easter sports camp called Gamesweek. It is run in one of the private schools in Newcastle which has good sports facilities and he really enjoyed it, apart from swimming, which is not his favourite activity! He has done gymnastics, crafts, climbing and team games as well. This is the longest Harry has spent independently somewhere, including being responsible for his belongings, lunch box and swimming kit and I am really pleased he has the confidence to go and that he enjoyed it. The school holidays are a great time to access this kind of large group activity, which children are not exposed to daily in a home education environment. He is also going on Wednesday.

Peter and I had a day to ourselves, which is rare! We went to the park after dropping Harry off, where he fed the ducks and had a very long and high push in the basket swings.

We came home to hang washing outside and make pancakes.

We also read lots of Richard Scarry books (Peter's current favourite) and went to the allotment to water all our seed beds and seedlings. It has been very relaxing just having one boy at home today!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A day out at Cragside

We had a super trip to Cragside today. We don't go very often as it's quite far but we always enjoy it. Harry knows a lot about William Armstrong, who built the house and who was a famous North-East engineer so he likes it too. 

The rocky areas around the lake provided some good scrambling.

We spent a long time in the labyrinth. Father and son jostled for prime position in the forest throne!

There are lots of winding paths and wooden sculptures to explore.

Stuart and Peter had a good chat to the wizard (voiced by Harry!).

Harry took some photos too - this is a selection of his - I always find it interesting looking at his photos to see what has drawn his attention. I love the one of Bert, his toy dog!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Theatre trip - Dogs Don't do Ballet

We went to a local theatre, Northern Stage, today with friends. This theatre does some great performances for children and the one we saw was called Dogs Don't Do Ballet.

Harry and Peter really enjoyed it and it was very sunny so they had a run around the grassy areas afterwards. 

Jack and the Beanstalk activities

We have been working to a theme of the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk these last two weeks. I don't normally split our activities into subject areas but I have done so this time as there is a lot to include! It has been a very popular theme.

Literacy activities 

We have two versions of Jack and the Beanstalk at home and we have read them both several times. The longer version has a lot more detail in and Harry and Peter did well describing the extra objects and events compared to the shorter version.

They retold the story using our beanstalk and printed set (see craft activities below). I asked Peter questions as we went along and asked Harry to think of some new events for his version of the story. He added that Jack sold the cow for the beans and an axe, to explain how he had an axe. He also added that the beanstalk grew bags of money hanging from its branches so Jack didn't need to climb to the top of the beanstalk! This would make for a very different version of events for Jack.

Peter matched up letters from some of the story words using this sheet I made. He cut out each letter then glued it to the correct place.

Harry thought of a simile and adjectives to describe the giant and I asked him to make ten new words from the letters of the word 'beanstalk'. I made letter tiles for him to use to do this.

Sensory and craft activities 

The boys have had great fun with a sensory tub of dry beans. I painted some gold and green as the magic beans and they both wanted to paint their own selection too. Harry started sorting the beans immediately into type. Peter used them to feed the toy cow we added to the story characters, make pretend cups of tea and scoop and pour. They played with these beans for a whole afternoon when I first got them out!

We made a beanstalk to add to the bean tub that looked great and was really quick. The idea was from here. I set out the materials and didn't need to help much. They both really enjoyed threading the leaves onto pipecleaners.

We made a land of clouds for the top of the beanstalk using a paper plate and cotton wool and Harry added the items from the lovely printable set from here for the characters and objects from the story.

The boys also wanted to use the dry beans to make glued pictures. Peter added as many as he could and said it was a pebble beach! Harry coloured some with metallic pens and made a treasure chest for them to go in. He also made a space rocket.

Peter did some of the activities from this printable pack - cotton bud paint dots to fill in letters and cutting and matching characters to their shadows.

Science and maths activities 

We soaked some of each type of dry bean in water then compared them. We also took them apart to see the seed coat, root and leaves inside. The difference in size after one night soaking was amazing and they came apart really easily.

I had some lap book activities already prepared for Spring based on plant life so we tied this into the beanstalk theme and looking at the beans. Harry completed the mini books as a display poster, answering questions about the parts of a plant and the purpose of each part.

We also did some maths activities using the dry beans several times. I thought I should get value out of them seeing as they have littered my living room floor for a whole two weeks! Peter matched the correct number of beans to numbers on paper plates. Harry filled pots with the correct number of beans to answer sums I wrote for him. We also did some fractions. I gave him a group of beans and asked him to place the correct amount on plates for half, third and quarter fractions. Harry likes using manipulatives for maths and the beans worked well for this.


We cooked using beans too (although not the ones that had been played with all week!). We used a recipe from Jamie's Italy cookbook for fagioli all'italiana. 

Harry did all the preparation himself, including collecting herbs from the allotment to use. The herb smell as they cooked was great! We used the beans in a casserole for tea.

We have had great value and enjoyment from the Jack and the Beanstalk theme and I am sure we may use this one again!