Thursday, 4 December 2014

A busy Christmassy day of Home Ed

Today has been a loooong day. For some reason both the kids woke early, I'm not sure whether it was linked to Eden remembering we were decorating the Christmas tree today or if it was just coincidence. 

Last week we were given a very large cardboard box from a friend. Yesterday I had the idea of turning it into a santa's workshop role play area. I had to be very self controlled in waiting for the kids to go to bed before starting it as I was so excited about the idea, haha! It looked really great all set up and the kids thought it was brilliant when they came downstairs this morning - so much so they didn't even notice at first that the tree was up too and ready to be decorated! 

After breakfast Eden and I took Viking for a training session at Merry Hill shopping centre. His behaviour is quite challenging at home at the moment, fortunately he's still very well behaved when we go out. Eden had been a little reluctant coming along with me with the excitement at home, but being able to choose something to spend her pocket money on (now she's 5) was a big incentive. I was very proud of her choosing something herself, taking it to the till and speaking to the cashier, getting her money out of her purse and handing it over, receiving her change and remembering to say thank you. 

Back home, we all decorated the tree before lunch. I love that we have a few new decorations each year to add to the tree - they make for lovely memories looking back. 

This afternoon we'd booked to go ice skating at Webbs of Wychbold. Asher was very eager to get on the ice!! He'd been pretend 'ice skating' around merry hill earlier this week and was keen to try out the real thing. He was unphased when he tried running in his special double blade skates and fell flat on his face. That was before he even got on the ice! On the ice he was so keen to be like everyone else skating along. A little beyond his capabilities! He was doing so well until he fell very slowly, not landing heavily, but managed to get an ice burn on his face. That ended his ice skating session as he'd had enough! Eden's confidence grew through the session - by the end she was guiding herself around the outside along the wall, and enjoying going at a bit of a speed, for her and managing to stay upright. I love ice skating! I don't remember ever 'learning' or goin regularly growing up, but I must've just picked it up on a couple of occasions. And Luke... Let's just stay ice skating isn't his favourite thing. 

Once back home, we sat down to watch the BFG (childhood fave I wanted to introduce the children to)  with hot chocolates and cups of tea. 

Oh I nearly forgot to mention one more Christmassy thing today... I made a Christmas pudding in my slow cooker! It was in there for 9 hours. It looks great, wish I could taste it but that will have to wait until Christmas week! 

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Little Match Girl theatre production

Today we went to see The Little Match Girl at Birmingham hippodrome. It was a dance adaptation to the classic Hans Christian Anderson story. I loved the music, which was done entirely, and very cleverly, by just one musician. I wasn't sure how we'd get on with having Asher with us, he's only 2.5 and sitting still for any length of time is rarely on his agenda, plus all week we've been telling him to stop shouting, he's suddenly got very noisy! Not the ideal scenario for a theatre show. We thought feeding him might keep him quiet, so I'd brought along snacks that would take a while for him to munch through. But on sitting down we discovered we weren't allowed food in the theatre. It was a pleasant surprise that he sat through the whole thing, and was really quiet, putting his finger to his mouth and going 'shhh'. He was definitely quieter than the school children around us ;) It probably helped that he hadn't napped and was feeling tired. But mostly, he was really interested in the show, taking it all in. Right from the start the big moon lit up in the background caught his attention. I think the fact that the story was told through dance and music, not words, meant that he could 'keep up' and kept his interest, rather than him losing the plotline and becoming disinterested. I was very proud of him. Eden enjoyed it too, she was as good as gold as usual :) We didn't get around to it today, but tomorrow we'll read the original story together. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Outdoors time

Much of our outdoors time over the last month has involved taking our 7 month old puppy on walks over the fields by our house. He has a lot of energy at the moment that needs burning off! The kids enjoy these walks too. I am missing some variety though.

Often I don't 'plan' our outdoors time specifically into our day, instead it just kind of happens. Today, we took the scooters to the park for an impromptu trip following dropping the car off at the garage. Then at lunch time Asher *really* wanted to go out in the garden, we ended up spending most of the afternoon out there. 

The weather may be changing, but I'm hoping that won't dampen mine or the kids' desire to get outside over the winter. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Birthday fun in Birmingham

Yesterday was my birthday and we broke from our normal weekday routine being home in the morning, to catch the train into Birmingham. We love going to the city centre so I thought it would be a fun way to spend my birthday. 

Usually when we head into Birmingham we stop by Daddy's office to say hi, today we just waved at him at his window, which is on Victoria Square. The German Market opened last week, so on our way to the museum we walked through it looking at the decorations and enjoyed the festive spirit that has started there. 

Usually when we visit Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery we head straight to the top floor for the hands-on 'Birmingham History' exhibition, the kids love the interactive areas within it. Today I thought it would be a nice change to explore some of the galleries, we walked through a couple of rooms picking our favourite painting in each room. 

The kids were excited about seeing some 'real treasure' that had been found, so we visited the new Staffordshire Hoard exhibition, which was a little busy for us, filled with noisy school kids. Next time we'll time the visit for the afternoon. 

A conversation about mummification while walking through ancient Egypt, and a quick wander through the birmingham history exhibition at the kids' request, and it was time for us to make a move. 

Nest stop was the library - I wanted to go up to the secret garden to view the ice rink and big wheel that have been set up below. Unfortunately the secret garden was closed, but we did manage to still view it from the outdoor terrace on level 3 instead. 

Lunch beckoned and as a special treat we went for lunch at Jimmy Spices, a round-the-world all you can eat buffet. I was a little worried about taking the kids on my own, but we were seated near the serving area so they were in my sight while I was getting plates of food, and were well behaved, so I needn't have worried. We had a lovely chat to the lady on the table next to us about home education and she commented on how well behaved and happy the kids were (and what good eaters they were!) 

Back home, we had a quiet afternoon watching a movie together. It was a lovely birthday filled with fun with the kids. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

All Things Wild Nature Centre, Honeybourne

We had a great time today on our second visit to All Things Wild in Worcestershire. The centre has so much to do and see, and since our last visit in spring, they have added even more, with the addition of a new 2 level dinosaur barn, and a lovely indoor beach area for seaside play.

We started the day on the stamp trail, a short walk around the farm looking for the stamp boxes along the way. Eden was so excited about this as she'd remembered it from our last visit. We then headed over to the dinosaur field stopping by the go karts on the way.. 
Luke and I had a turn too and they were zippy, good fun! 

Before the dinosaur field we discovered another new addition - a helicopter to explore. Both kids took a turn pretending to be pilot! 
When we visited last in the spring I think Asher was a little too young to fully appreciate the dinosaurs here - this time he wouldn't stop talking about them all the way around the field, they really captured his attention. I'm looking forward to following up this new interest with some dinosaur books and activities at home over the next few days. Viking enjoyed the dinosaur field too! 
On our way around this field we completed another sheet we'd been given on arrival identifying and naming dinosaurs. One of them was particularly tricky to identify, and not wanting to admit defeat, Luke went back 3 times to try to find it (and was correct!) 

Perhaps the wrong time of year, but the kids were keen to do pond dipping, as they'd really enjoyed this on our last visit in the spring. 
We visited the new dinosaur barn, got close to the animals in animal encounters, played in the play area. Indoors, there's a craft room, a tractor ride on area, and 2 soft play areas, as well as more animals to see. 

All Things Wild is such a great value day out. The variety of activities on offer, from beaches to the ice age, dinosaurs to degus, cute fluffy rabbits to armadillos and bugs, active play to craft and puzzles, there is something to appeal to everyone. 

Week 11 of home education

Week 11 of home education and our days have flown by. We've naturally fallen into a loose routine that seems to work for us, of being home in the morning, then out and about in the afternoons. This works well for us, as since stopping nursery school runs Asher is far more settled in a pattern of a 2 hour nap at home in the morning - the timing of which is a little odd as he's 2.5 and sleeps through 11 hours at night, but he still asks to go back to bed at 10am after Mr Tumble has finished! During this time Eden does 20 minutes each of reading and maths. The rest of our morning time is spent playing, doing craft or baking, looking after the animals, writing, as Eden loves to write, or time spent outside in the garden. 

After lunch we'll go out somewhere. Sometimes if we're having a 'home' day we'll go for a walk over the fields by our house, taking our guide dog puppy Viking with us. The kids love these walks, seeing Viking leaping around freely as puppies do, and I love to watch them running along together, happy and free as children should be and enjoying nature around them. 
Other times in the afternoon we'll go to a home education group, or see friends or grandparents, go to a soft play centre, or visit the library, or take the bikes to the park. This year we have national trust and English heritage membership, so far we've been too busy to fit in using our pass as much as I would've liked to, but hopefully it will get more use over the winter. 

There are also special one-off events that we've been to over the past 11 weeks - we've been to the seaside for a short break, gone bowling, taken part in the National Harvest Service, been to the cinema as part of film fest and gone along to various organised home ed events, such as not back to school picnics and home ed days at local places of interest. There's so much to do, every day is varied and different. 

The kids have so much to learn from the world around them and the people they meet in the process. They are simply 'doing life' and we are all having an absolute blast in the process. 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

My role is to facilitate, not to teach

Day 4 of home education:  yesterday I wrote how well our loose 'timetable' of activities before lunch was working for us and how much we're managing to cover 1:1. Some might call this approach a semi-structured method of learning at home. Today I would say the opposite has been true where learning is concerned. We still covered maths and reading, but on reflection it's very obvious to me that the MOST learning today hasn't been our maths and English, it happened unplanned and unexpectedly, very much in an unschooling way. 

For example, first thing this morning the kids decided to get their new Lego building kits out (a present from daddy). Both of them watched me and helped where they could, in following the instructions to put it together. Using concentration, fine motor skills, team work, seeing the big picture to name a few skills in the process. Perhaps more importantly for my under 5s, they spent a lovely time playing together with their newly built vehicles, Eden helping Asher fix his, Asher being patient with Eden and asking to take turns. I was very proud of them both. Nurturing the sibling bond is so important and a huge advantage to home education. 

Another example of unplanned learning today was a trip to the park. I had our guide dog puppy with me, so spent much of the time on the playing field right next to the enclosed play park while the kids played. With me not around, I observed the kids playing so well together, helping each other out, laughing and having fun together, enjoying each other's company, forgiving each other, thinking of each other's needs (turn taking) without my being present. If I had been there, both would've wanted my attention and wouldn't have played so nicely, or would've turned to me to intervene rather than work out their differences between them in the amicable way that they did - they're only 4 and 2 and yet they managed it perfectly well on their own! 

But my biggest pride today in their learning comes from our geomag play this afternoon. We have learning shelves where I store all the special learning toys, things I only bring out every so often, as I know they have high play value and don't want them to become part of the furniture and taken for granted. The kids have free access to these shelves, so if they do ever want to get anything out we always do, but the rest of the time they're stored away. 

Today was one of those days where Asher went to the shelves and picked our geomag set to play with. Now he is only 2.5, and we haven't had our geomag set out in ages, in fact I don't think he's ever had a long, proper play with them as they're full of small parts and a swallowing risk for babies and toddlers putting things in their mouth (he doesn't do this anymore and is more reliable). Today however, Asher absolutely loved playing with them! If you don't know what geomag are, they're a magnetic construction set consisting of magnetic balls and bars. Both kids stayed so focused on these this afternoon for so long, building away and making some awesome creations all on their own. I'm super proud of their creativity! Asher made an amazing flower, and Eden some beautiful jewellery. Their interest was a strong motivator for how much they learnt through this activity. With parent-led activities (or teacher led lessons at school) yes the children will learn, but to me it's clear how much more depth there is in their learning, when children are given the freedom to choose what and how to learn, when their motivation comes from within. This freedom and flexibility for each individual child's learning is why I love home education. 

I don't think I'm at the stage yet where I could completely put myself in the unschooling camp of home education I don't think I'm brave enough despite seeing all the advantages. I'm not sure I'll ever be brave enough! But in the years to come I can see us as a family using a mix of unschooling and Charlotte Mason methods in our home education. One thing's for sure, as the parent, I'm not trying to be a teacher, my role is facilitator for the kids' education, it is them that need to lead the way. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Day 3 of home education

Another awesome day of learning! It's early days but we seem to be falling into a rhythm of home ed that's working well for us so far. It was 12 months ago that we first started considering home education - how far we've come in that time! We're drawn to Charlotte Mason principles, and I've done a fair amount of reading up. We like the outdoor aspect, and learning from living books. It makes a lot of sense to us that her motto 'education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life' rings true. 

Having said that, Eden, our oldest who is nearly 5, has always enjoyed, and thrived, on structure in her day. So, while Charlotte Mason would not advocate formal learning until at least 6, we've started a very flexible timetable, which includes hands-on maths and reading continuing what Eden can do already through play, and in addition, building in Charlotte Mason's 'extras' - composer study, picture study, French, nature study. We also do daily bible time and handwriting, Eden loves to write! 

Over the last 3 days following our loose 'timetable' I've realised just how much we've covered and achieved in just a few hours. Educating 1:1 appears to be very efficient! It gets to lunchtime and it feels like it should be much later in the day with everything we've done. It's not like the topics we cover have needed a lot of planning either - a lot of it happens naturally, organically, with one activity flowing into the next being led by Eden's interests. For example, we followed our maths lesson curriculum today on my iPad (saves the trees). When we got to the colouring page of two girls, which I obviously hadn't printed out and was just going to chat through instead, Eden asked to have a copy so that she could colour it in, cut it out and make paper dolls. So this led to an activity in itself. I love her creativity! 

It doesn't always work to plan though - this morning was our first French 'lesson' - I thought we could learn an easy French song using YouTube. I found a lovely farm animals one with a simple tune. Unfortunately it went straight over Eden's head - too fast-paced and it felt like it was a complete waste of time, but then on the other hand she has been exposed to listening to French this way. Next time though we'll try something different. 

With the planned stuff over, we headed outside for the afternoon (Charlotte Mason style). The farmer was harvesting his wheat in the fields across the road so we went to watch, and then had some garden time. After mixed weather for a few weeks it's back to warm sunshine again - always seems to be this way in September. 

A quick, but necessary, visit to the library after tea finished our day. Eden collected her summer reading challenge certificate, which ended today (hence the necessity of the visit). I love that both the kids look forward to visiting the library each week. Even active Asher loves going to pick his books, as soon as he knows it's library visit day he'll ask in his own way a dozen times if it's time to go yet! When we arrive they both grab a book and find somewhere to sit to read it. It's very sweet to watch! 

Two tired kids in bed by 7. While I wouldn't say our daily routine has especially changed all that much (I've always encouraged the kids to be 'busy' and limited screen time) I think the slightly more pro-active learning approach over the last 3 days has challenged them enough to be appreciating their sleep at night! 

I'm still super-excited to have started our home ed journey. It's such a privilege to be present in the many moments of learning, seeing something click, observing the progress in Eden's reading, watching her creativity, answering really thoughtful questions! And for Asher, who is going through the disagreeable toddler stage (at home at least, he's an angel for everyone else!) celebrating the small victories; like today there have been moments of obedience and other moments of him *nearly!* saying yes. It may not seem much, but it's taken a lot of parenting input to get to that point and seeing a little self control shining through in my nearly 2.5 year old. Looking forward to another fun-filled day of learning tomorrow! 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Happy non-first day at school to us!

Today we officially became a home educating family! We celebrated Eden's non-first day at school. She had a great day, full of learning and surprises. These are just a few moments from the day. While I had some activities planned, many more developed naturally as a result of the children's creativity and curiosity. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Spontaneous Castles and Knights Day (visiting Ludlow Castle)

Why is it that spontaneous days out are sometimes the best? We woke this morning to another rainy bank holiday Monday. With no particular plans for the day (other than a potential visit to our allotment plot which wasn't all that appealing in the rain) we were chilling out in our living room after breakfast. The kids were flicking through our library books, one of which has really caught their eye. A board book, lift the flap style, about knights. After reading it through a few times with them Eden said it was her favourite book, and the idea came to us to visit a castle today. A quick google search brought up Ludlow Castle, and Eden excitedly rushed upstairs, and reappeared wearing her knight dress up outfit. Half an hour later we were on our way. 

We'd read that Ludlow Castle is really dog friendly, so our guide dog puppy, Viking, now 20 weeks, came with us too. He was so well-behaved, even with the rain! 
He enjoyed exploring the grounds and attempted the steps up to one of the towers, getting half way up before changing his mind! 
Eden fitted right in wearing her knight outfit! She wasn't put off by the rain, refused to wear her coat and skipped along exploring the castle ruins.
Asher loved wandering through the castle rooms, finding hidden tunnels and climbing up and down the many steps. He also loved the muddy puddles! 
One of the highlights of the day was watching the Heritage Cup British Full Contact Medieval Combat Championships. Very entertaining! 
Despite the rain we have lots of great memories from today. Looking forward to a return visit to Ludlow Castle, perhaps with a picnic next time and better weather! 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

This year we're Frogs at Just So Festival! (Our Frog Craft day)

Only 3 more sleeps until the return of Just So Festival in Cheshire. Last year we had such an amazing time; taking in the carnival atmosphere, joining in with the vast array of activities on offer and dancing the nights away with the kids while listening to brilliant bands. There is such creativity on offer everywhere you look. 

This year for the tribal tournament we have decided to join the Frogs. Today we've been busy making accessories for our outfits. Eden couldn't wait to get started and ate her breakfast so quickly! 

It was Eden's idea to use a paper plate as part the craft session. So we started with painting and while that was drying made some legs (involved me thinking back to my childhood days of how to do this). 

Next up was badge making - these turned out a little bigger than we'd originally imagined, but at least they'll be clearly visible! 

Finally we brought the laminator out and have made some bunting to proudly put up on our tent.

Once everything was dry we assembled our frog paper plates - the tongue idea I found on Pinterest and Eden genuinely shrieked with delight when I demonstrated it to her - she thought it was hilarious! 

I'm finishing off our frog craft day by doing some frog-themed crochet as part of my dress up outfit for the weekend...