Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Winter sunshine

We had one of our 'so pleased to be home educating' days today. Although it is still February, we spent a great few hours outdoors on the beach at Whitley Bay and at a nearby skate park with friends in the warm (ish) sunshine. It was a beautiful bright day and the coastline looked fantastic. I think the flexibility to do this is a huge plus point of home educating, especially in a country with often inclement weather. We had spent a good hour and a half on some new activities at home before we went out (based on the book Zog, by Julia Donaldson - I will post about this when we have finished as there is more to be done!) so I felt that we had earned the sea air!

Harry was keen on the skate park, even though he told me before we went out that he would only be watching and not trying it today. Peter was too keen and would have been down the huge ramps if I had let him, crazy 2 year old!

The boys enjoyed some digging and looking at stones and went home with very wet trousers!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Back at the Washington Wetland Centre

We had our first trip of the year to the Washington Wetland Centre today. It was quite cold still but signs of spring are definitely emerging! We saw bulbs shooting up, nesting swans and baby flamingos in the nursery (not yet pink)! We watched the otters being fed and had a good play in the playground. Looking forward to our visits here this year, it is a great place to see nature through the seasons and to look at habitat and a variety of animals and life cycles. Of course it will be much more enjoyable when we can enjoy a picnic outdoors and an ice cream (although I am sure Harry and Peter would not turn down an ice cream in February!) but some chilly visits will do for now.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Some home education thoughts

I was with some friends at the weekend and we chatted very briefly about some home education issues that I have since been thinking about.

Firstly I was asked how I keep my enthusiasm spending so much time with the children. Yes, this is sometimes hard! We don't have any close family locally who can help with the children on a day-to-day basis so it is very intense, as anyone with young children knows. I am not perfect and neither are the boys. Of course we lose our patience but we all get along as well as any humans spending almost all their time together could and we are very close. Most days and weeks are, on balance, good. If my enthusiasm wanes due to tiredness/illness/other issues to deal with, usually I have enough activities pre-prepared or in mind to occupy us and if not, I believe very strongly that finding activities to occupy themselves is an important skill for children to learn.

We also talked about the separation of work and life. My work is at home, looking after and educating the children and I do not separate this in any way from the rest of our life. We do not have school hours or school terms as education is part of normal life for us. We will learn things on holiday just as well as at the kitchen table and I save some things for the weekend when Harry can have one-to-one attention. Harry practises reading at bedtime with a book or in the supermarket reading a sign. I do have a very loose plan of things I would like to cover, but if we become interested in a different topic, we will move on. This approach is really working for us at the moment. Things are flowing along well and Harry is making great progress and, most importantly, is happy!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Endangered animals

This is currently one of Harry's favourite story books, in which Harry visits a safari park and makes cards to sell to raise money for endangered animals.

It has got us thinking about endangered animals. I found a couple of articles in the Kids National Geographic magazine about wetlands under threat and shark conservation zones, and this book at the library which we have been reading. 

We have talked about humans killing the animals because they are scared of them or because they think that parts of the animal can be used in medicine. We have been playing role play games pretending to be rangers and hunters.

We have also talked about habitat and how destruction of habitat can result in animals becoming endangered.

We have been painting our own animals too. These are Harry's sea turtles, tiger, rhino and jaguar - hopefully you can tell which one is which :-)

Bird box making

We went to the Hancock museum on Friday to take part in one of their half-term school holiday activities - bird box making - with some of our friends. Harry really enjoyed it and had a good attempt at using the screwdriver. He was very pleased to be allowed to use the electric screwdriver for the first time at home as well to tighten up all the screws. We have a tree in the front garden that already has a bird box and birds do nest there so we will be adding this new one when the snow has gone and some garden jobs feel a bit more inviting!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Spring planning in the snow

Well, I hadn't expected to wake up to this deep covering of snow this morning! I am little concerned by it as we have a birthday party to get to this afternoon.

It's a bit difficult to envisage when it looks like this outside but have been thinking about spring at the moment and planning lots of exciting activities for us. As Easter is quite early I want to be ready! We will be decorating eggs and decorating our home with a variety of crafted flowers - hopefully some more sewing for Harry as he really enjoyed it at Christmas. 

Can't wait to be heading out without coats and seeing colour and nature all around! 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Maxi Hama beads

It has been a bit of bead frenzy in the house recently! Harry has had the maxi Hama beads since he was around 3 and still likes doing them (although he is very good with the midi beads now too) as he can finish the board in one sitting easily so he gets a lot of satisfaction from it. Peter joined in when we had them out this week and loved the feel of them all in the tub. He managed to put them on the pegs and I think we will be using these quite a lot this year to help with motor skills and colour recognition. It is really nice to be doing activities like this together in the playroom instead of trying to stop Peter tipping them everywhere!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Group map activities

As we had been looking at maps during our Five in a Row work for Katy and The Big Snow, I thought we would have a group session looking at maps in more detail at home too with some friends.

We started by looking at different maps I had collected and talked about what each one shows us.

We looked in this library book which showed us topographic maps and how scientists use ultrasound to even map the bottom of the sea.

We then discussed what maps have in common - scale, key, grid/co-ordinates and cardinal directions (compass points).

I read from this Ordnance Survey page about how to measure distance using string and then we did this activity to practice. The children each did one question measuring a distance with their string and then we measured the string on a ruler and compared it to the scale. This worksheet looked great too but we didn't get round to it.

I gave each child a page number and grid reference for them to find something in either the Newcastle A-Z or the UK road atlas. These were things they would know such as the Tyne Bridge, Buckingham palace and Newcastle train station.

We talked about some of the key symbols we could see in the maps and how some of them are easy to interpret, such as the caravan site and how some are more difficult and you need to read the key, such as the bus station.

We then answered some of these challenge questions which encompassed all of the elements we had already worked on as well as cardinal directions. This was a great resource and, although they needed a bit of help, they enjoyed doing this part and it was a good challenge.

This was a good session and all the ages 4-7 found different parts challenging. It introduced some important concepts and they all understood and hopefully saw the practical use for the activities we did by using 'real' maps we would actually need in day-to-day life.

Katy and The Big Snow
Katy, a brave and untiring tractor, who pushes a bulldozer in the summer and a snowplow in the winter, makes it possible for the townspeople to do their jobs. In this enduring winter favorite from the Caldecott Medal winner Burton, Katy the snowplow finally gets her chance to shine when a blizzard blankets the city and everyone is relying on Katy to help dig out. Children love sharing Katy’s shining moment of glory and will inevitably admire her “chug, chug, chug” endurance.

We did a lot of map related activities for this row over a couple of days. We looked closely at the map page in the story and at the key to see what each number represents. 

We read this great and very accessible book from the library and looked especially at the street map section. We talked about how you would find where you wanted to go using the key and then plan your route along the roads. Harry has seen me using our street A-Z map several times in the car when I am lost so he was aware of street maps already.

We needed to go to the local post office collection point to collect a parcel so I drew a simple map showing the way from our house. I marked some landmarks on the way for Harry to look out for such as bus stops, the dentist and roundabouts.

We also looked at Harry's compass and pointed out North, South, East and West. He marked these on a worksheet from homeschoolshare and was fascinated by holding a magnet close to the compass and making the needle move.

Harry also did some map activities on this website, following the instructions to find various places on a map using the key.

The story describes how the snowdrifts reached 'one foot... two feet... three feet... five feet' so we measured out these distances on a piece of string and marked them with masking tape. We went around the house trying to find things measuring one foot, two feet, three feet or five feet. The letterbox was three feet and Harry's big rubbish truck was two feet. We then stuck the string up at the glass door and imagined what it would be like to see a five foot snowdrift there!

There was some snow on the day we did this activity. Not a big snow, but a very cold and blustery one and the boys played out in it for half an hour. I was feeling the effects of a bad cold so I stayed inside!

Harry did some writing practise using the words 'winter' and 'snow' and I found some snow themed colouring sheets for them to do.

We used our reading comprehension dice and Harry rolled and answered the following questions:

Who is the author?

I showed Harry that you often find the author's name on the front of the book, the spine and the inside cover. The author of this book is Virginia Lee Burton.

Choose a problem in the story. How could this problem have been avoided?

Harry found this one really difficult. Eventually we decided that the problem of the shops not being able to open was that people might get hungry and if they made sure their cupboards were never empty that wouldn't be a problem.

How might you end the story differently?

Harry said that Katy would not go home when she had finished but she would carry on to all the towns that had been covered in snow and plough them all.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Hama bead UFO glow in the dark mobile

Harry was given this Hama bead glow in the dark mobile set for Christmas (thank you Grandad and Grandma) and we built it recently. He spent around 3 hours in several sittings making all the models to hang on the mobile frame and it was nice to see him working towards a goal. It was a step up from the other midi Hama beads he has done as he has never tried to follow a pattern and was really good at checking how many beads to put in a row - it took him a lot of concentration. We had some glowing beads left so he also designed his own stripy star using one of our boards to include on the mobile.

We haven't had the glow in the dark beads before and I am really impressed! The mobile is hanging near his bed tonight and it glows so brightly with the door closed. I think we will be using glowing beads again.