Construction and Science

We’ve had a great couple of days of construction!  I wrote in my last post that the obsession with our new computers was fading and the girls were ready to try new things but first of all, I want to show you how HEALTHY their work on Minecraft has been over the last two days. Not for them the zombied look of a child who’s been staring at a screen too long and is unable to communicate with the outside world.  The picture below shows a house that M began building in one of her worlds, which she copied from the Minecraft Construction book.  M did the basic work of laying down the walls and windows and then I joined in to help her with some of the details she was struggling on and then D finished the final wall and the roof!  I was very impressed with how they worked together (and with me), how they compared their building with the book’s pictures, how they continued patterns, and particularly how they problem solved when they came across a problem.  It took two days to build and is now finished!

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A lot of us unschoolers believe that technology and TV can live alongside crafts/arts/reading/the outdoors and whatever other interests you might have.  So rather than limiting screen time you can just allow it to be another aspect of your child’s world.  This does mean that you might have to allow your child to play endlessly on Minecraft and Sonic Dash (ahem) but once they’ve satiated their need/reached the level they were aiming for etc and are secure in the knowledge that the screen won’t be taken away from them and limited again then they feel comfortable enough to wander off and do other things.

As well as Minecraft construction, M has been busy making a marble run and she dug out a lollipop stick house which was never completed and we stuck the walls together.  Just the roof, door and windows to go!  She’s also been spending time with her older cousin who has endless energy for football, frisbee and obstacle courses.

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D has been busy baking some Nutella cookies, drawing a treasure map for J, writing and doing more sums.  She was also inspired to make a picture using lollipop sticks after seeing M playing with them.

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I haven’t got around to doing my Emilia Reggia inspired strewing yet.  I keep walking into our dining room, looking at the mess and walking straight back out again :).  However, I did manage to put together a science box (we already have a craft box, a paint box and a junk modelling box) after being inspired by a Facebook thread about it.  This had the added bonus that I could clear a lot of the crap science supplies out of the kitchen cupboards.  So I’m hoping the sausages will be inspired to have a rummage through and mess about with a few ingredients etc.  Here’s what I put in my box – some things are from old experiments and some are yet to try:

  • Vials
  • Magnifying glasses
  • A prism
  • Magnets
  • Spaghetti
  • Marshmallows
  • Sugar cubes
  • Home made bubble blowers
  • Glycerin
  • A thaumatrope
  • Effervescent tablets
  • Baking soda
  • Food colouring
  • White vinegar
  • Cornflour
  • Mentos
  • Starch
  • Balloons
  • Pipettes
  • Glass jars
  • A thermometer
  • A tape measure
  • A measuring jug
  • A chid-safe guillotine
  • Labels
  • Stirrers
  • And an enormous bag of electrical stuff from earlier experiments which includes: LEDs, copper wire, plastic coated wire, crimps, electrical tape, battery connectors and batteries.

I want this box to have non-harmful supplies so the sausages can dig in whenever they please.  If anyone has any further suggestions I’d love to hear them!

Nits and Stuff

This week we’ve been watching a lot of films.  One of the reasons for this is because of our new Netflix account, but the main reason is because of NITS!  M has nits! She started itching on Monday and we’ve been using the Nitty Gritty comb daily since then.  She’s never had nits before and it’s pretty gross but nobody else has caught them yet thank goodness.

According to the NHS website, other members of the family don’t have to be treated ‘just in case’ and neither do children have to be quarantined so apart from watching lots of telly while I’m combing the nits out, life has been carrying on as usual.

On Monday, despite the pouring rain, we went out to Kidsfest at Merton Abbey Mills.  We were hoping to have a go at arts, crafts, pottery, cake making and archaeological digging.  Unfortunately none of the events advertised were running (apart from a table of clay outside the pottery shop) which was very disappointing.  We did however, discover a rock shop where the girls had lots of fun choosing rocks to buy, making bracelets and discovering what their birth stones are.

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There seems to be a slight movement away from computers over the last few days: D is continuing to love her sums and asked to get an old workbook out and her maths exercise book too.

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She also helped me to peel the vegetables to make her favourite bolognese.

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M has also been busy after discovering lots of forgotten things in the craft box.  These were all her own idea and now she wants to hang them from the kitchen window.

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On Wednesday we went to the Carshalton group’s meet up in Devonshire Avenue Nature Area.  Unfortunately, M’s new friend couldn’t make it but both girls had a fantastic time – D found a chalk stone and set to work colouring in the wooden blocks.  Later, she asked me to write sums out for her to answer!  Meanwhile, M spent 2 hours foraging for haw berries!  I’d never even heard of them before but one of the HE ladies handed out a recipe for haw sauce which I want to have a go at.

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Now that the sausages are getting a little less obsessed with our new computers, I need to get going on strewing some things to inspire them to start a new project.  I recently read this post about setting up a Reggio activity (I’d never even heard of Emilia Reggio so now I have more reading to do!), so I’m going to have a go at that next.  Now I’m being badgered to help M set up a marble run so I’m off!

Our Life is a Summer Holiday

It really is, no really!  We’re in a permanent holiday state, so although we returned from holiday last week, we’re really still oh holiday anyway.  That’s not to say we’re skipping in meadows all week: we have our busy days, our still days, our ups and our downs.  But life is pretty good and we know we’re privileged to live such a life.

It’s been a lovely week.  LOTS of Minecraft learning together with M – we have finally braved adventuring out of the shelter/mine, made a map, discovered a village, tamed a horse and so much more.  We tried and failed to connect to M’s cousin in Minecraft online but we’ll try again soon.  J has yet to be convinced of how much learning can be done through Minecraft but he’s getting there.  Today he had a little play on it so hopefully he’ll come to accept it’s value over time.  He also had a go on M’s Lego Technic Car Racing app and afterwards M was much more ready to join him in a game he suggested (Frisbee) rather than asking to continue on the computer.

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D is also enjoying playing Minecraft in creative mode.  She builds LOADS of structures and it seems to have replaced Lego as a favourite game… for now.  Her love of mental maths continues and she regularly asks me for sums as early as 6am – I have to try very hard to appear enthusiastic.

While all this computer work is going on, I sit and learn alongside them both for a while but I’m also using the time to get rid of piles of accumulated ‘crap’ around the house, catch up on admin and read my novel.  The house is very peaceful at the moment and when we’re all busy in the lounge I’ve been putting Swan Lake on in the background.  This version is narrated by Angela Rippon and both girls have expressed an interested in it so are obviously soaking it up while they play.

J has also been encouraging his nephew to come over and play before he heads off to university in a few weeks.  The girls have loved having him over and he’s been teaching them football skills and playing endless games of hide and seek, pirates and chase.

On Wednesday we met up with our friends from 3 Kids and a Gluestick at Devonshire Avenue Nature Area.  Jo had spent 5 hours the night before putting a nature trail together – I was very impressed!  M was determined to complete all the cards which included a feather, a hawthorn leaf, a spider and many more.  

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D lost interest after a while and found a little den under some trees from where she could be heard singing her heart out like Maria von Trapp.  M was over the moon because she made friends with another girl and she can’t wait to meet up again next week.  D struggled to play with the group and once she’d finished singing she spent quite a bit of time on my knee, asking to go home.  I’m assuming this problem will pass as she gets older: she does seem to get too overwhelmed with other children.  I had thought this was a group issue but after a friend came over to play on Thursday I’m not so sure.  D had been longing for this girl to come and play for nearly a year but after an hour in her company she was soon retreating into imaginary play with her bunnies, and her friend wasn’t very keen to join in.  M also had a friend over to play too and they had a great time making a ‘ship’ on the climbing frame and then showing each other what they had learnt on Minecraft.

Looking ahead to September we have lots of new things starting: D will be attending swimming lessons at Dolphin Swim School (we’ve cancelled our David Lloyd membership); we’ll be trying out an HE club in Leatherhead where they’re learning about Africa this term (much to D’s delight!) and there’s a possibility of joining in a Christmas show; M is continuing her ballet class and will be part of an Alice in Wonderland production in November; M is also starting a climbing wall class and of course Judo and pottery will be continuing.  I’m also hoping to fit in a visit to London at some point, D is desperate to go back, she loves the city!

Comparing our states of minds to last summer, I would say we’ve all calmed down a lot – I’m feeling less need to occupy them with ‘educational’ activities all day.  M still has her moments of fear driven anger when she doesn’t understand something but I think she is gradually getting the idea that it’s ok to learn.  She asked me about pollination yesterday and after she got angry at my poor attempt to explain it to her, she then allowed me to show her a YouTube clip with a much better explanation – this is definitely a step forward.  Phew!

Back From our Hols

We’re back in our house after 3 weeks away!  D is very pleased and her first comment on waking was “it’s good to be back in our own bed”.  M is less pleased and is missing her Nottingham family terribly.  We had 5 days in Nottingham with my Mum and Dad (and a sleep over at my sister’s house) and then a week in Seahouses, Northumberland, followed by another week in Nottingham.  We had a really wonderful relaxing time, surrounded by family.

I haven’t blogged at all while away so here’s a few snapshots of what we’ve been up to:

Back to life in London this morning!  Both girls opted for a day indoors – I was quite up for a ramble on Wimbledon Common but as I’m fasting today I’m pleased to have a quite day indoors instead.

While we were in Nottingham I bought a new laptop and iPad.  My Samsung laptop and tablet are both dying a slow death and the girls are very pleased to have a new laptop that they can play the full version of Minecraft on and an iPad that has better games than the old tablet!  A lot of time has been spent on both machines for the last week.

Big themes have also been: D zooming ahead in mental maths – the game is this, you ask her bunny an addition or subtraction question and the bunny answers!  This clever bunny has now made the link between the number bonds to 10 and the number bonds (in 100s) to 1000!!; D learning how to win at noughts and crosses (with a lot of cheating along the way); M learning french knitting; M still enjoying collecting ‘specimens’ to put into labelled vials and was over the moon to find a live mussel and crab shell at the beach (though thankfully these weren’t put into labelled vials); M is also zooming ahead in independence, I swear she would now go on a sleep over every night of the week if she could!

This morning has been a healthy mixture of playing games on the iPad, watching Powerpuff girls on our new Netflix account and a couple of requested activities: this morning D decided she wanted to finish Reading Eggs (this always pleases me as I bought a whole year’s subscription and she then told me she’d ‘gone off it’. Grr).  She deflated a bit when I told her she’d have to go back a few levels and keep doing it a few times a week so she doesn’t forget it all over again.  She was still insisting she could do the test on level 9 and suggested I read it all for her!  Nothing like a bit of delegation to get you on in life…  In the end I persuaded her to try level 6 and she did really well working independently and also with a little help from me.

Afterwards she played Minecraft for a while and then announced she wanted to draw our car!  So I set her up on a little chair outside our house and she got sketching.  She then decided to draw our house too and it wasn’t long before M appeared and wanted to join in.  I bought myself a sketchbook a while ago so that I could join in too and even I was moved to attempt to draw our Flanders poppies which have flowered while we were away…

This week we’ll just be slowly cranking up the gears again as we settle back into our routines.  We have a long awaited play date planned with a little girl from D’s old nursery and I’m hoping to get M sorted out with a few play dates too!

 

 

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!

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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…

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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!

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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!

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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!

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D liked it so much she made one too…

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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!

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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 :)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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They had a little DIY lesson from J:

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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.

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

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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.

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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 -

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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.

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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 :).