Sports Day and a Trip to London

Squeezing in a last post before we leave for Nottingham tomorrow – we’ve had a packed few days so here’s a round-up of what we’ve been up to:

On Wednesday afternoon we went to an HE sports day event at Carshalton Park, organised by Jo from 3 Kids and a Gluestick.  It was BOILING hot but luckily we were shaded by trees for the most part.  The races were great fun although the little ones (D included) found it difficult to understand that there were no ‘winners’ and that everyone got a sweet for taking part.  D refused to join in any races (in-line with her current fear of failure) and I didn’t push it and hoped she would enjoy watching the fun anyway.  Turns out she also finds watching M losing quite upsetting too and she got quite distraught about it :(.  I’m hoping that it’s just a 5-year old phrase!  Jo created some amazing bubbles which the kids loved, and I think M might be inspired to make her own, I’ve seen instructions how to do it here.  D was desperate to go into the nearby playground at the end of the get together and the girls were in there for another 2 hours – they looked like a couple of tomatoes at the end of the day!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

She whizzed through her books for the summer reading challenge at the library so we went to borrow more books on Thursday morning.  Last year they had a rule where you could only read two books for the challenge per library visit but this year they now allow you to borrow as many at a time as you want so we took out the remaining 4 books to read while we’re away.  M was pleased as punch to be chatting to the librarian about the books she had read!

On Thursday afternoon we went to M’s best friend’s house (B) for a few hours. The adoration between those two is still evident, they’ve known each other for years now and they get so excited when they get to see each other.  They played in the paddling pool, talked about Minecraft and Lego and made loom bands.  D stayed and chatted to the grown-ups :).  They are both very taken with B’s rabbit, George.  He is so laid back, M was able to stroke him for half an hour.  The inevitable ‘when can we have a rabbit’ question arose and I reminded M that she was supposed to be doing the research into what kind of pet would suit our family best.  I’m thinking that the level of interest into doing the research equates to the level of interest in actually looking after the pet and so far it’s not very impressive…

20140724_160944 20140724_161124

On Friday, J took the day off work and we went into London with the aim of seeing the beach at the South Bank and the street performers in Trafalgar Square.  As it happened, neither were interested in the beach but there were some fantastic fountains nearby and if we ever go again we will bring swimming costumes and towels – J and the girls got totally drenched!  There was a ‘love’ theme to the South Bank – I’m not sure I got the point entirely but there was a lovely atmosphere.

We treated ourselves to coffee and cake at Le Pain Quotidien before heading over the bridge to Trafalgar Square.  There were lots of screams of excitement as the girls saw landmarks they recognised: London Eye, The Shard, Big Ben and telephone boxes.  After wandering around Trafalgar Square, we spied Big Ben in the distance so we walked down to it, getting a quick look at the Queens Calvary on the way.  All in all, we had a really lovely day out and the girls coped admirably with the walking and intense heat.  And we just made it home before the storm broke!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The weekend has been chilled out – we visited J’s parent’s; watched bit of Judo on the Commonwealth Games; watched films; made biscuits; played Minecraft; visited the park; the girls helped me do some cleaning and now I’m off to panic about how little packing I have done for tomorrow…

One last note, it’s becoming apparent that D is beginning to ‘unschool’ her own bedtimes – she is becoming increasingly aware of when she is tired and when she is ready for bed, adamantly telling me when she is definitely not ready!  I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this as it also seems that she is ready for a later bedtime.  The knock-on effect of this is that M will miss out on her special time with me once D has gone to bed.  This is something I will re-visit after our holiday as I’m sure that all the sea air and the excitement of being with her family 24/7 will knock her out earlier than usual anyway!  These later bedtimes has also led to very cute ‘naughtiness’ where the girls chatter together, sometimes until as late as 10.30pm, giving each other sums to do…

DT, Art, Reading and Botany!

I’ve slowed down on my blog posts, as you might have noticed.  Partly because I feel less ‘feverish’ about our HE life in general as we relax into it and partly because I’m trying to get a life!!  I actually bought a book this week.  A book!  I haven’t read a novel for well over a year and with our holiday in Northumberland coming up I thought now would be a good time to start.

So here’s a round up of what we’ve been up to recently:

With M’s request to do more DT, I did a bit of research on the kind of things she might like to make.  I’m finding at the moment that the sausages spend hours on Minecraft and then emerge at 6pm demanding something to do, which always takes me by surprise!  I figured I needed to be a bit more prepared so I put a list of DT ideas on the wall for M, which she has been referring to quite a bit!

20140722_120241

We had Aunty S here for a day last weekend and M decided she wanted to make a moving picture, and she came up with this idea all by herself!

20140721_085853

D liked it so much she made one too…

20140721_115614

We also made a rubber band cannon using instructions I found here

20140721_133640

And a dog made out of marshmallows and spaghetti (picture taken by M!)

20140722_155510

And the girls have gone crazy for pop-up cards since I found some templates here

20140722_162711

We’ve done quite a lot of art recently – We heated up large pebbles and melted crayons against them as per instructions I found here.

20140717_164214

We’ve borrowed some K’Nex from Aunty Sh who has some from when her boys were young.  The girls adore it and have made all sorts of fabulous constructions from it.

20140718_180242

D has gone art mad lately.  Recently she said she missed queuing up for the art room like she did at nursery so I have been setting up an art project in the kitchen and then leading her in when it’s all set up and ready – she’s pleased as punch with this idea.  Yesterday we watched a terrible school programme (terrible because I find the teacher so irritating) on CBeebies which showed the children drawing self portraits.  So afterwards I set up an art project with paints, a mirror and D’s art book so that she could do her own self portrait.  She loved this idea and it added a new dimension to her drawings: she tends to draw objects rather than people.

20140722_191914

She has also drawn a great ‘trilogy’ of the trampoline…

20140722_174447 20140722_174457 20140722_174506

And a gorgeous robin (that looks rather like a surprised duck)

20140719_084632

We’ve also been out on the bikes – M hasn’t ridden hers for months and she now looks far too big for hers.

20140722_141321

And D (inspired by J) has been creating her own obstacle courses in the garden…

20140722_182836(0) 20140722_182831

Knowing that we’re going away next week, I’ve been trying really hard to clear the piles of clutter that are taking over each room in the house.  I hate coming back to mess and clutter.  I’ve so far managed to do the kitchen and lounge but have yet to tackle the worst room in the house – the home ed/dining room!  Luckily, the girls love vacuuming and mopping so I’ve been getting quite a bit of help.  This is D doing our ‘once in a decade’ vacuum under the bed!

20140721_175426

M has also started the library’s summer reading challenge.  D decided she didn’t want to do it (I’m beginning to realise she has quite a fear of failure).  I could have offered to read the books to her but I felt that would then put M off reading hers so we will wait and see if she is ready to try next year.  M whizzed through her two books with a minimum of effort and it was lovely to se her reading in bed at night and I was able to join her to read on the sofa in the day.  I love this new reading phase as it’s also encouraging me to read too!

20140722_153549

I am beginning to realise I really need to write posts more frequently to avoid them reading like a list!  So my last and final news is that I finally got out my Ebay bargain microscope (£3!) last night and the girls were super excited.  Unfortunately the microscope itself is a pile of crap and is only fit for the bin but it came with lots of specimen pots, labels, a magnifying glass and a child-safe guillotine.  The girls (M in particular) had great fun searching the garden for ‘specimens’ to put in the pots, researching the name of the plant and writing a label on the pot.  M had the fantastic idea of writing the label so small you had to use the magnifying glass to read it :)

20140722_202040

I overheard M chatting to our neighbour over the fence and she offered M a dead viola flower with seeds for one of her pots – M was thrilled to bits!  She’s also very excited to plant the seeds.  She’s very proud that the only thing we’ve managed to grow from seed this year are her three sunflowers.  And here she is, tying the shoots to canes.

20140722_184609

And I thought we hadn’t been doing a lot lately…  It is lovely to see M enthused about quite a few things now – she’s even made herself a timetable of the different things she wants to do each day.  This morning she came downstairs with a big beam on her face :)

Car gets sick and then M gets sick

We have had a very odd 10 days.  Last Monday, the car went into the garage for an MOT and didn’t come out again until Saturday morning, with a very hefty bill too.

We got to pottery ok in the afternoon, although we had quite a miserable wet walk from the tube station and back again, but we didn’t make it to ballet on Tuesday or swimming on Wednesday.  We’re really car-reliant and the thought of dragging the sausages along on long walks, do an hour of exercise and then a long walk home again was just a bit much for me to contemplate.

The main thing about last week was that each day the car was promised to us the following day, so I didn’t make alternative plans because I was thinking we’d have the car back – so we spent the entire week at home!  Actually, that turned out to be a good thing as by about Wednesday the girls started getting quite tired and their appetites dropped, and mine did too.  I did wonder if it was because we were all a bit mopey but it turned out we were all building up to a tummy bug.

THIS is when I am so happy that we HE because when the sausages have those in-between days where they’re not exactly ill but they’re not right either, you don’t feel you have to drag them into school.

By Friday we were all feeling a bit ropey.  We had already cancelled M’s archery class in Reading due to the lack of car but I had wondered about attending an HE sports day event in Crystal Palace.  However, because of our tummy bugs and the downpour outside we cancelled that too!. Then Saturday came and M had a full blown stomach upset but D and I recovered.  Poor M is only just managing to eat and stand up today (Tuesday).  And worst of all is that I booked a week-long course for her at All4Kids with her best friend and she’s missed half of it :(.  Poor M.

D has really missed her playmate and tonight sang a really heartfelt lullaby to M, which she had made up on the spot.  It was rather tear-inducing!

We have managed a few bits and bobs (though not very much, understandably) before the girls got too ill:

They had their last Judo class before summer and both girls have gone up a grade!

140705a

M had another of her best friends (B) over for a little play after J spontaneously asked his Dad and him out for lunch.  M is showing B her Minecraft creations… speaking of which I need to do a separate post on what the girls have created in Minecraft as it really is incredible.

140705c

They had a little DIY lesson from J:

140706a

Recently I asked both girls if there is anything they miss about school or nursery and M said she missed DT, sports day and the Christmas fair.  D said she missed making pig masks and queuing up…

Luckily, all of these things are do-able in HE too.  We missed sports day but we can go to any school Christmas fair (I don’t think I can ever return to M’s old school, given how rude her head-teacher was to me, the same goes for D’s nursery, unfortunately).  I offered to help D make a pig mask but I think the moment had passed and she wasn’t interested anymore.  So the only thing left was DT.

I set M a challenge to wrap an egg in such a way that it wouldn’t crack when thrown out of an upstairs window.  She got really excited about it!  Goes to show how much she likes DT :).  The first attempt cracked but the second worked a treat.

140708a

Then we made M’s ‘Cookie Cakes’ again.  She made the recipe up all by herself and they are really delicious!

140708b

Then the girls did some cleaning.  They still argue over who gets to do the mopping, but it was M’s turn this time and D did the vacuuming.

140708d

We’re off on a big family holiday to Northumberland in a couple of weeks and D has become fascinated by maps of the UK: spotting us in London, Grandma & Granddad in Nottingham and then trying to remember where Northumberland is.  I dug out an Usborne map of the UK sticker book which I bought ages ago and she has been happily doing that and asking questions about all the different landmarks.  She also adores this 150 piece jigsaw -

140709a

Something else that has really sparked her interest is a sketch pad that I bought for them both a while ago with the intention of taking them with us when we go out to encourage them to draw more (I bought one for me too!).  We haven’t taken them out yet but D has been drawing and drawing and painting and painting since getting hers!  She absolutely loves it.

20140710_120317 20140715_113353

One final word and then I’m gone.  Today D asked me to ask her some sums so I did and I discovered that she has worked out how to add tens by herself!  I was asking M a sum (who was weakly trying to join in) 20+30 and M answered 50.  Then D said “yes, that’s because 2 and 3 make 5 so 20 and 30 make 50″!!  I was astounded!  I thought I would test her theory out to check she really understood what she was saying and she really did – with very proud beams all over her face :).

Digital Fun at The Barbican

You know when you go to places and you just wish that everyone else would go too?  Digital Revolution at The Barbican is one of those places.  We don’t generally do museums unless they are hands on (M can’t bear ‘looking in glass cases’ types of places, and I’m not too keen either) and this exhibition is as hands on as it gets!

There were old fashioned games to play (Donkey Kong!  Pong!  Speak & Spell! Pacman!), lots of coding info, and then lots of sound/motion/visual tech integrations that were really and truly fabulous…

An old fashioned telephone that you could dial and listen to various robot birds in the tree above…

20140703_111846 20140703_115708

Music videos…

20140703_114106

Minecraft…

20140703_120026

This incredible camera which transformed everything it could see into a sort of moving painting… (there were a lot of adults dancing about in front of this one)

20140703_121258 20140703_121425

A very odd piece about death which caused anyone standing in front of the camera to have smoke curling out of their eyes…

20140703_122241

An amazing piece with various screens about birds – this is the final screen which M did – the wings appeared whenever M raised her arms.

20140703_123140

This was the girls’ favourite – you could speak a wish into a microphone and the wish would be written out in front of you, a chrysalis would then appear and then a butterfly, which would land briefly in your hand before flying up to join the rest…

20140703_123850

There was so much more and it would be lovely to go back again to soak up more of it.

We had a lovely lunch outside on the terrace…

20140703_131217

And I pointed out the large, ugly, black building in the background, which is where I used to work long ago. The girls were duly impressed.

20140703_131254

Connections and Positiveness

I (or, we) have had a very positive couple of days.  Not a lot happened.  Just a few nudges here and there as M made a few signs to show she was open to more learning.

As you might expect, my heart leaps (though I retain my nonchalant composure) whenever M takes an interest in anything.  ANYTHING.  Anything at all will do.  This time the spark of interest was due to our weekly email of The Kid Should See This.  I cannot rate their email subscription highly enough – the variety of interesting videos is brilliant.  In last week’s email they had a clip of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.  The bit where he gets trapped in a lion’s cage.  I have to admit to never seeing a Chaplin film before and we both really enjoyed it.  M is still giggling about it now!  D loved looking at the air traffic visualisations and watched them over and over again – they’re stunning to look at.  We also watched a gorgeous film about polar bears on a quest for sea ice.

What else was positive?  Well, Lego was linked into a couple of games today.  First of all, M was playing on her Lego City app and she got quite excited when she realised that she had the same Lego as in the game she was playing.  She then got out her Lego City collection and began building it.  She generously shared some of it with D who loved playing with the bank robbers.

Also making a connection with Lego was D, who has recently changed from making her Lego tree-house over and over again to constructing a tree-house in Minecraft!  It’s getting very detailed and interesting.  Leading on from this, M began making a tree house out of junk modelling just before bed this evening!  I like the connections that are being made between the games and it goes to show that playing a game on a computer can be just as valid as playing with Lego!

I am also very pleased that I read Lori Pickert’s Mentoring Self Directed Learners as this was at the forefront of my mind when I sat down with M this evening while she made her tree house: I observed, helped her when she needed it, I didn’t jump in with solutions and I offered to make a note of a few things which she didn’t have time to do, which really eased her transition into bed!

20140702_202040

Other connections: At the weekend J took the girls to a local fair where they bought a number of books.  M has particularly enjoyed doing an Usborne Sticker Dressing Long Ago book.  Today she brought it with us to do in the David Lloyd café before swimming and she was completing a page on the Palace of Versailles.  We looked at the richness of their clothes, how the King was dressed compared to the other nobles and how they all had clothes similar to Captain Hook in Peter Pan (who had modelled himself on King James II).  Another example of how telly watching can also be a valid use of time :).

Next positive happening: M announced that she would like to write a story so I suggested she get out her little book and she could start writing.  She got as far as the title before stomping out of the room because she didn’t know how to start the story.  I left it for a bit, we did other things, and then a few hours later I asked her if she’d like me to do it with her.  And I got a ‘Yes!’.  So she dictated the story to me and I scribbled like mad for 10 minutes.  We haven’t finished yet but I’m so pleased that she wanted to continue.

One last connection that I just remembered: D was doing ‘spin art’ on our Snap Circuits and then decided she wanted to draw a colour wheel so we had a think about what the primary and tertiary colours are and she coloured in the various segments, put it back on the circuit and watched the colours merge into brown!  A great example of connecting art and science!

While we’re on the subject of connections, thanks to a tweet from Katie Pybus at The Gallivanters, I read this post by Sandra Dodd on connections and how learning works, it makes for a very interesting read if you have a spare 10 minutes.

Our First Monkey Platter

OK, so if you don’t know what a monkey platter is, imagine a buffet of various foods, all on one plate – that’s what it is.  It was named and devised by Sandra Dodd after she saw monkeys being fed in a similar way while she was at the zoo with her family.

I hadn’t really paid much attention to monkey platters until someone mentioned it on Facebook the other day and it got me thinking of how it might encourage the sausages to eat/try a wider variety of foods.  Since beginning our unschooling of food 6 weeks ago, their appetite for Nutella has most definitely waned and they now seem at ease with the chocolate supplies (they can eat it whenever they want, and however much they want) so there is less gorging.  Now we’re at a strange phase where they might be hungry but quite often they haven’t got a clue what they want to eat!

I was mulling over how if I combined the sausages into one, they would have the most perfect, balanced diet you could wish for – D eats a whole range of dishes but is very suspicious of new things, whereas M is very limited in what she eats but will try anything new put in front of her!  As always… chalk and cheese :).  So I thought a shared monkey platter might encourage them to look each other’s food choices and perhaps eat something different.

So when we got back from pottery class today, I didn’t even ask them if they were hungry, or what they wanted to eat, I just rustled up a few things with each girl in mind, put it all onto one plate and announced it with a ‘ooh, who wants to come and see what I’ve made?’.  That was it.  Gobbling for the next 10 minutes.  The first thing D did was put a vegetarian frankfurter into her mouth and say ‘actually they’re quite nice’ (she’s been refusing to eat them forever) and M ate most of the chicken which I’d actually put out with D in mind and ate all of the peanut butter on toast!  Wowsers.  Next time I do one I will double the quantities I think.

Before… (corn on the cob, vegetarian frankfurters, breaded chicken, tuna mayonnaise and peanut butter on toast)

20140630_170417

After…

20140630_172832

A great success, non?!

In other news… the sausages took great pleasure in beating me at Ludo this evening…

20140630_184148

And apart from going to pottery today which they still LOVE, they were busy making birthday cards for their favourite Aunty S!  M did an absolutely stunning collage with some fabric scraps that I bought her from Ebay but unfortunately I forgot to take a picture before sending it off.  Ahh well, enjoy it Aunty S!

20140630_074122 20140630_104715

Life Got In The Way

Sorry for the lack of posts recently but life got in the way!  We’ve only been doing the usual activities but my evenings have been spent doing other activities (reading Kids, Carrots and Candy, for one) and I have been decorating our hallway and landing every weekend for the past six or so weeks (nearly finished, but starting on kitchen next).

Our days have been spent in our usual routines.  I do wonder how I ever did semi-structured home-ed as again, life seems to get in the way!

Lots of cards to various friends and family members are frequently being written and drawn (as I write they are both beavering away preparing cards for our builder who is here today).

20140623_122507

The girls continue to enjoy their weekly pottery class in Clapham.  D brought home her first creations last week and here’s a photo of them.  The bottom piece is a comet!  The teacher was praising them both last week, particularly commenting that D is wonderful at story telling as she works.  I have a feeling that for D it is all about the process whereas for M it is all about the end result (chalk and cheese as usual :)).

20140623_164135

With our unschooling approach to the girls’ education, they are given a free reign to play as long as they like on computers and watch as much telly as they like too.  M’s particular favourite game at the moment is Minecraft which she is probably spending 1-2 hours a day on.  D is also quite interested in it and M is very generous with her time: advising her sister how best to build things and ideas on what to do next.  They both prefer the ‘creative’ rather than ‘survival’ game as it’s a bit less stressful!

20140623_200418

Our unschooling approach has already spilled over into food, which is why I’m reading ‘Kids, Carrots and Candy’.  I’m learning to ask if they are ‘hungry’ rather than ‘what would you like for dinner?';  We don’t have meal times anymore – they eat only when they are hungry; and they can eat ANYTHING (within reason, I’m not going to start making Bolognese at 6am) at ANY time of day.  They are learning to recognise when they are hungry and what their body is asking for.  I am also learning to listen to my body too!  For the past two days my body has asked for a fresh fruit smoothie rather than dinner and it has been extremely satisfying to give it what it’s asking for!

So far I have resisted letting the unschooling approach spill over into bedtimes (i.e., letting them decide when to go to bed) because I value my alone time in the evening so much.  I only get half an hour to an hour in the evening anyway but it is very precious to me!  However, you’ll see in the previous picture that it is rather dark and the two sausages are refusing to go to bed because they are doing something ‘extremely important’.  When they are playing so nicely together it seems a shame to spoil their fun!

We went to Garson’s Farm a few days ago and met our friends there from  3 Kids and a Gluestick.  The girls especially loved picking raspberries and strawberries but the heat got too much for them eventually and we had to leave earlier than planned.

20140624_103534

M has decided to continue doing ballet classes with her school friend, T, and they’re currently rehearsing for a show in October of Alice in Wonderland. D decided she didn’t want to do ballet after all so she sits with me and does an activity book while the class is on.

We’ve been to D’s swimming class (M didn’t even want to get in the water this week so it was a short visit) and D swam her first length unaided!!  M and I were whooping and punching the air on the side :).

One of the many perks of HE is that you can get discounted entry rates to most attractions.  So yesterday, J took the day off work and we all went to Legoland!  We had such a lovely day and the weather was perfect.

20140626_122950

There have been lots going on inbetween all this of course, including chess; draughts; making a clock; drawing; learning about the world; learning about mucus in ‘The Sound of Mucus'; reading book 2 of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events'; listening to The Enormous Crocodile and Matilda audio books in the car; watching various films including The Artist, Tinkerbell & The Pirate Fairy, Peter Pan and Coraline; and playing outside in the garden!

20140625_065656 20140627_122806