Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Prestwich Home-Education Group - Playing in the Shade of the Trees

It was a scorcher of a day today and the park where our home-education group meets looked very different. The school children are on their summer break so the park was heaving with families enjoying the beautiful weather. The playground was too full for us to even consider using it but it didn't bother us as we had other plans. 

In the classroom we made drums and plastic straw pan-pipes. It was nice to be in the cool of the room as it really was hot outside. The children enjoyed making the musical instruments - there will be a tutorial on how to make these later this week. 

I gave the children a sandwich bag and a piece of chalk and asked them to collect natural items to add to the collage. We went off to the patch of forest where the children had a great time.

They used the chalk to draw wonderful pictures on the forest logs. The youngest members of the group really enjoyed this activity and the logs certainly looked much jollier as a result of their creativity. They collected leaves, sticks, ferns and other items in their bags as well as just having fun in the quiet of the forest.

Back in the classroom the children stuck their objects on the collage. There is a lot to do to the picture before it is complete but it's going to look fabulous when it is. 

We spent much longer in the classroom than normal - it was very relaxed which was perfect on such a hot day. My children had a wonderful day playing in the shade of the trees with their friends which makes me very happy. 

The next meet up will be in two weeks and as is always the case, please drop me an email if you would like details of times and dates. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Confessions of the Home-School Hoarder

I have a confession to make. Our book shelves have gone beyond the groaning stage, they practically scream 'take it off!' if I try to balance yet another book on their over-filled shelves. Tonight as I resorted to piling books on the corner of the workroom desk I looked around and had the dawning realisation that I am something of a home-school hoarder. That is my confession - I am guilty of amassing books, tools, paper, pens, craft material, lids, paint, brushes, tape, scissors, cardboard, fluff, feathers, toilet-roll tubes, shells, bones, leaves, beakers, magnifying glasses, scientific equipment and a plethora of assorted learning tools all geared up to provide my children with methods for finding the answer to thier burning questions.  

I read a comment on Facebook about someone's cleaner quitting and it made me think. It made me wonder what would happen if a lovely unsuspecting cleaning lady ventured into our home. As I ponder this scenario I can't help but think that she would probably be a) overwhelmed by the rather intense work room b) gasp in shock, have palpitations and flop onto a chair and c) be found several hours later pawing over a map of Ancient Greece and asking if she could borrow a book having decided that the 'if you can't beat them, join them' approach was her only option. 

I don't want to give you the impression that our house is unclean in someway, it certainly is not but it is 'busy'. One of the boys friends completely stopped moving in the workroom, he just stood agog as his eyes struggled to take in everything the room had to show him. After a few minutes I heard my eldest ask if he was okay which snapped the hypnotised child out of his trance, he looked at Theo, pointed at a cardboard construction and said 'what's that?' 

I have moments when I wonder if a minamilist workroom would suit us more but then I look around our eclectic, colourful, poster lined room with a caterpillar in a bottle and a worm farm on the desk and think 'no way'. The room celebrates everything that my children have achieved and presents them with endless possibilities for learning. It's busy, it's in your face but it smells of books and paint and whilst my book shelves might shriek under the weight of countless books the room itself screams 'we love learning'. 

So I may have accumulated an extensive home-school hoard but I know without doubt that my children will never, ever be bored. 

Do you suffer from home-school hoarder syndrome? I'd love to know I'm not the only one!  

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Homeschool Tutorial - How to Make a Caterpillar Habitat.

My children found a little green caterpillar a few days ago and decided that they wanted to make a caterpillar habitat

There are a number of ready-made versions available but they come at quite a cost and I like to teach the boys that we don't have to buy things all the time - resourcefulness is an important skill. We built our own caterpillar habitat and I thought it was worth sharing. 

The first thing to mention is that you should not handle a caterpillar with your bare hands because the little spikes on their backs can sometimes be an irritant. There are some species which should be avoided altogether (see the links at the end of this post for further information). If in doubt, leave it alone and look elsewhere. 

To make a simple, practically cost free caterpillar habitat you will need:
1 large (2L) empty plastic bottle.
The bottle lid.
Enough soil ( potting soil or similar) to cover the bottom of the bottle to about 3cm deep.
A couple of twigs.
A snipping from the plant where you found the caterpillar*.
A piece of fine mesh ( fine net or even muslin).
An elastic band.
A piece of cotton wool.

1. Cut the top of the bottle off. I used insulation tape to cover the edges as they can be sharp before I gave it to the children.

2. Spoon enough soil into the bottom of the clean, empty bottle to cover it. It needs to be about 3cm deep and slightly damp. 

3. Fill the bottle cap with water and then place a piece of cotton wool into it. Caterpillars can't swim so the cotton wool is there to prevent it from drowning. Put this on the soil. This is to provide water for your plant cutting not for the caterpillar as it will get all the water it requires from munching on the leaf. 

4. Add your plant cutting. *If you don't know what species you have a good rule of thumb is to use a leaf from the plant where the caterpillar was found. They are very fussy eaters so watch closely to make sure your little guy is eating. If not try a couple of different plants but if you don't have any success then you should release the caterpillar. 

5. Add a couple of twigs. The caterpillar will need a place to pupate & form a chrysalis. Some caterpillars pupate under ground hence the soil. 

6. Add the caterpillar. Do not touch it with your hand. Use another leaf to very gently nudge the rear of the caterpillar which should encourage it to move forwards on to the nice fresh leaf you have added to the house.

7. Cover the top with a piece of mesh and secure it with an elastic band. This will keep your caterpillar safe from predators such as spiders. 

It is very simple to set up which means that children can get very involved. 

Caring for the caterpillar is also relatively easy. Make sure that you replace the food supply each day because they are always hungry and require fresh food - they won't eat old leaves. They produce an astonishing amount of waste called 'flass'. Remove this each day with a soft paintbrush, tap it on to a piece of paper and then dispose of it. If you do this the caterpillar should flourish and your children will be able to watch the fascinating metamorphosis. 

If you end up with a chrysalis make sure that it has formed in a place where the butterfly can dry its wings. If there isn't enough space you may need to gently move it to a better position. The butterfly will need to be set free as the container will be too small for it and it will damage its wings. I plan on doing some fun butterfly activities with my youngest when we get to this point to distract him because I know that he will want to keep the butterfly. I will share the butterfly activities we plan on doing soon. 

I hope that you enjoy making your caterpillar habitat and I'd love to know if this has been useful.  

I will leave you with a couple of useful links to help you learn more about caterpillas & butterflies. 

Butterfly & Caterpillar Identification
Insects That Bite or Sting
The Butterfly Life Cycle
BBC Kids Garden Activities

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The #Homeedlinkup Week 7

Welcome to this weeks #homeedlinkup

I've been busy sorting out more interesting giveaway items to appear on the linky over the next few weeks. There will be a few books and interesting resources up for grabs just in time for the start of the next academic year (if you follow school holiday patterns). So watch this space.

The Accidental Home Educator wrote a great post last week all about pirates, rock pools and sea-side adventures. I do hope that she considers dressing up for International Talk Like a Pirate Day which is just bags of yo-ho-ho themed fun. This takes place on September 19th each year. We really got into the spirit of things last year as you can see on last years pirate post. 

Last week OFamilyBlog wrote about using painted hand prints to count in fives - simple but very effective. It is on my list for next week because I know Tristan will love making handprint pictures and he won't even realise that he is learning the 5 times table - brilliant. 

I have a soft spot for cardboard inspired creativity so I simply must give a mention to Dancinginthemud for the fabulous and fantastic cardboard box fox which they made. It is a thing of beauty and I'm utterly convinced that Mr Dahl himself would have gladly popped it in his shed had he seen it. They also shared a few other activity ideas based on the lovely 'Fantastic Mr Fox'.

Thank you to everyone who linked up last week and to all the people who commented and messaged me.

Before I explain the rules for the linky, I'd like to just let you know that my blog will be moving over to a swanky new site very soon. It will be hugely easier to navigate and much easier on the eye. It is very exciting and I look forward to seeing what you all think when it happens. 

Until then please keep reading, linking, commenting and sharing the #homeedlinkup

Here are the guidelines for the linky. 

The link-up is for any home-education based post. It could just be a photograph from the week, your favourite post or a note about a particular success. 

If you don't blog but want to get involved then simply post a comment at the bottom of this post so that we can 'meet' you. Nobody wants to click on a link and zoom off to find themselves on an advertising post so please don't link-up with ads. The only other rule is just the good manners one - keep it clean and polite please.

I am really, really looking forward to reading more fabulous posts this week and meeting other home-educators. Please help spread the word about the linky in in doing so the positive message about home-education.  

Don't forget to spread a little happiness by reading and commenting on other posts on this link-up.

Have a sun-soaked, hopefully not rain-soaked week! 

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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Homeschool Adventures - Busy Kids

My kids have been really busy over the last few days. They've been to numerous parks, visited the beach, played with friends, read books, started the Summer Reading Challenge and obsessively worked on their project about Ancient Greece. On top of all of these activities they have also managed to squeeze in their maths & English work each morning, learn about the ocean and play Minecraft - they have been sleeping very well indeed. 

We had an early morning adventure which took us to another local park where the boys challenged themselves to go ever higher on the play ground climbing frame. Tristan is a very brave and physical child and happilly has a go at just about anything. I can often be found having palpitations on the side lines as he attempts another limit testing manoeuvre. Theo was a much more cautious boy at the same age which is why Tristan's bold approach often shocks and to some extent, scares me. The climbing frame in this park is a particular favourite because it is quite high off the ground and has some difficult climbs which require concentration, determination and coordination. 

We also enjoyed a lovely stroll around the park where we examined the insect hotel and wandered around the 'Incredible Edible' community growing garden which is currently well stocked with berries and fruits. 

We visited another fabulous play area at a different park a few days later with their Grandparents. The sun was shining and they spent a couple of hours frantically running from one thing to another. This trip ended with a trip to the ice cream van which, in Theo's words, made the day 'perfect'.

As I mentioned the project about Ancient Greece is gaining momentum. Theo is desperately interested in finding out ever more about this fantastic ancient civilisation. Our original intention was that the project would be completed quickly as the focus was on mythology however Theo has shown such curiosity that it has evolved into much more. We have looked at Greek scientists, philosophers, mathematicians and artists. We have looked at life in Ancient Greece, the political systems, the wars and the religious beliefs of the Greeks. Today Theo has decided to learn about Alexander the Great in more detail and I look forward to being told all about him tomorrow. 

Theo learnt about Pythagoras' Theorem. We used small wooden blocks to explain squared numbers and this visual tool helped Theo grasp the concept quickly. Tristan worked on drawing and recognising triangles whilst listening to our discussion about Pythagoras.

They made a beautiful picture of Olympus together. Theo gave Tristan specific responsibilities such as making a cloud which worked very well - they worked brilliantly as a team. 

This photo was taken a few days ago - there is even more information in his project folder now. 

Theo designed a Greek war strategy game. The final game is very entertaining. 

We had a lovely trip to the beach on Monday. Tristan was actually shaking with excitement when he found out where we were all going and the trembling didn't stop until his toes sank into the sand. They both adored their beach day which again culminated in ice cream eating. They collected shells, stones and crab shells which they washed back at home. This led to questions from Tristan about the sea so I read the ' Magic School Bus- Oceans' book to both children. Tristan has started his own project on sea creatures and Theo has a Horrible Geography book to read about the oceans this week.

'The sink-sand's got me!' 

Washing shells.

They met up with friends today and had a splendid time. We all met in the local library where the children picked up their summer reading challenge goodie bags. Theo and Tristan are really pleased with this years theme - Mythical Mazes. It fits in perfectly with the project about Ancient Greece. They both have enough books to complete the actual challenge immediately but it doesn't really matter as they can both continue to add their books to the Reading Challenge website and earn rewards. 
The children played for a number of hours in the sunshine whilst my friends and I chatted. 

The Mythical Maze poster and activity book being enjoyed by Tristan back at home after a busy day out. 

Theo and his very good friend were sad to be parted at the end of the day so they 'skyped' each other as soon as they both got home and then played Minecraft together. 

Like I said at the beginning - it has been a busy week. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Homeschool Adventures - Losing our Marbles

That's what we did today - lost our marbles in the park. Not just one or two but twelve shiny little glass spheres fell victim to the long grass after being propelled at quite some speed down the slide. The elation of letting go of each marble and watching it zoom along the gleaming metal of the slide was replaced quickly by dispair when the marbles vanished into the grass. Like the swings in the park my four year olds emotions move from joy to sorrow swiftly. One minute the world is staggeringly amazing and the next nothing is the way it should be because his lollipop is the wrong shade of pink. How I love this delicate age, the age when my youngest truly displays his desire to be independent but runs back to me, face adorably screwed up, in floods of gasping sobs because his independence is still so scary. This stage of my child's development will be gone soon so for now I am content to let him lose his marbles in the grass if (rather selfishly) it means that I am the one who gets to wipe his tears away with a kiss. 

Theo made the situation worse by stating the obvious -  'you really shouldn't have rolled them down the slide'. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The #Homeedlinkup week 6

Welcome to the #Homeedlinkup week 6!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to link-up and also comment last week. It is fantastic to see so many wonderful home-ed families linking up with their posts. 

I found Frogotter's post about resources for teaching French extremely useful. We use Skoldo books but I now have many other ideas for which I am very grateful. 

Peas in a Pod posted about their week - it's a great example of the varied learning experiences home-ed kids experience. 

Pyjama School shared some advice on how to deal with the dreaded home-ed wobble - the moment of doubt that occasionally creeps in as you wonder if you are doing a good job of teaching your children. I am sure that we all feel this way from time to time so this very supportive post is worth book-marking for future wobbles. 

Once again thank you to everyone who linked up last week - this wouldn't work without you.

Here are the guidelines for the linky. 

The link-up is for any home-education based post. It could just be a photograph from the week, your favourite post or a note about a particular success. 

If you don't blog but want to get involved then simply post a comment at the bottom of this post so that we can 'meet' you. Nobody wants to click on a link and zoom off to find themselves on an advertising post so please don't link-up with ads. The only other rule is just the good manners one - keep it clean and polite please.

I am really, really looking forward to reading more fabulous posts this week and meeting other home-educators. Please help spread the word about the linky in in doing so the positive message about home-education.  

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and link-up. I will read, share and comment on all the posts and it would be ever so nice if you could comment on at least three other posts on the list. And remember to spread the blogroll love by adding a few of the blogs listed here to your own site. If you click on the 'blogroll' tab in my menu bar at the top of the page then you should find your URL listed there on my updated list - if not please let me know and if anyone wants to return the favour...

Have a summery week! 

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