Scattered Learning

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted – we’ve been to stay at my parents’ in Nottingham for a week and pootled about doing all sorts since then.  We don’t seem to have anything ‘long-term’ on the go at the moment, which I kind of miss.  But the girls seem happy to be dipping their toes in and out of all sorts…

D has been doing lots of dot to dots in an ancient Usborne book of ours.  She’s really getting to grips with reading larger numbers and she looks for them everywhere – on buses, computer games… everywhere!  The other week in the car she asked what a googol looked like so as we had a spare minute before art class I looked it up and we all learnt that it has 100 zeros!  Who knew?!

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She’s also been busy on Teach Your Monster to Read and is now confidently reading sentences out with a look of pride on her face. :)

We’ve been doing a bit of science too!  The girls loved doing this density tower, and were running around trying to find different objects to throw in and guess how far down they would sink!  It looks a bit of a murky mess, but it still worked. :)

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We read How the World Works and the girls showed an interest in the little book inside that shows the continental drift.  As luck would have it, The Kid Should See This had a video on the man who discovered and named the pangea: Alfred Wegener, and we watched it together.  This led to watching a video on snow circles, an acorn and the far side of the moon!  I LOVE that website.

We were all excited to see THREE planets in the sky at once the other night: we saw Jupiter, Uranus and Mars.  We couldn’t quite make out Venus as it was overlapping Mars and we then forgot to go out again later after they had moved apart but it was great all the same.

The girls’ love of Peter Pan has resurfaced!  I downloaded a free Kindle copy of Peter and Wendy which I’ve been reading to the girls while they busy themselves with colouring or Minecraft. I’ve never read the original before and it’s actually quite an easy read and as the girls know the story inside out they are keeping up very well, with just the odd question about a big word or an old-fashioned phrase here and there.

This had led to watching the films (I think we have all of the Peter Pan related ones) and various Tinker Bell films too.  There may be a project on the horizon as both girls have expressed an interest in making a fairy house like Lizzie’s in The Great Fairy Rescue.

M has continued to do her coding on the wonderful Khan Academy.  She is still playing around with shapes: it’s SO mathematical and she’s managing and learning really well.  In a few weeks I may gently nudge her forwards a bit but first I need to learn it myself!

This week, M and D have spent a lot of time in their Rapunzel princess dresses, which led to them both wanting to make crowns, a sceptre and an orb.  We’ve done the sceptres (painted wrapping paper tubes) but haven’t got around to making orbs yet – hence the balloons in the picture!  This led to us watching Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation which was pronounced ‘too slow’ by M.  We then did our own coronation, and M was in fits of giggles as I pretended to be an old codger shuffling forwards with the crowns…

D was telling J about it all the next morning and reassured him that it was ok as her coronation was just pretend and the Queen is still alive.

Morris was intrigued by the rustley dresses and kept photo-bombing the coronation pictures.

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And lastly, some paintings by M!

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Music, Cleaning and J

It’s been an odd week, due to Dusty dying, but one of the good things about having kids (or sometimes difficult, depending on which way you look at it) is that you are forced to carry on regardless of what mood you’re in.

So life has been continuing pretty much as normal with the odd bit of sadness surfacing here and there.  Last night, I was too sad to read D’s bedtime story so M kindly took over and read it to her instead, while holding my hand.  They have been very sweet towards me in the past few days.  M hasn’t expressed a lot of emotion over Dusty’s death but she did say last night that she is sadder about me being sad than Dusty dying!

So, in ‘normal’ life, here’s what we’ve been up to:

Their Aunt Sh has taken them to our local children’s theatre to see Peter Pan.

D has learnt how to draw 3D shapes, which she is delighted about!

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The music phase continues, with the girls getting into Beethoven’s 5th Symphony following our viewing of CBBC’s Ten Pieces DVD (they seemed pretty uninterested at the time but have remembered some aspects of it); D did another concert at the piano for us on Friday night; M has been learning the words to Frozen’s Let it Go and playing it over and over; we’ve had a few kitchen and bedroom discos; and the girls have rediscovered our bag of instruments in the toy cupboard.

They’ve both been more involved in the cleaning this week: previously I haven’t been too keen on them doing it because of the amount of chemicals involved, but recently I’ve gone all frugal/eco and use water and E-cloths to clean most of the house.  The girls love my homemade lavender/water spray which I use on the floors and could be heard having an argument over who would be spraying and who would be mopping!  Today I asked who would like to help me clean the car this week and they both shouted ‘ME!’.  What is that about.

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D still watches lots of Dora The Explorer and her love of Spanish continues.

M has been spending every spare moment playing Animal Crossing New Leaf on her new Nintendo DS2.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that we don’t limit screen time in this house: so D can spend as much time as she likes soaking up Spanish with Dora, and M can spend as much time as she wants on her new game.  J struggles with this a bit because he doesn’t like computers very much.  However, he does let her get on with it, while sometimes muttering about ‘bloody computers’ under his breath…

While I’m on the subject of J (who is largely forgotten about on this blog!), here’s a list of all the activities he’s done with the girls JUST THIS WEEK, just to big him up a bit: He’s made a few dens (which tends to involve turning all the lounge furniture upside down); he had a ‘sleep-over’ with the girls in the lounge on Saturday night; he took them to our local soft play for 3 hours; he taught D to ride her bike without stabilizers last week (sorry, I forgot to mention it!) and has been getting her to practice at it; he can’t enter a room without getting them to leap off the sofa and into his arms (where there is J there is shrieking); he has played countless games of hide and seek; taken them to the park; to their Judo class and had a film night.  Phew.

I was recently asked how I get ‘me’ time while home educating – if it wasn’t for J I would get very little!

Lastly, here are some pictures that the girls made with oil pastels to say ‘thank you’ to their Nanny and Granddad for their Christmas presents (better late than never!).

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Little Dusty Dies

We’ve done quite a bit this week but it’s all been overshadowed by the death of one of our rabbits, Dusty.

Both rabbits went to the vet to be neutered on Friday and while Morris made a quick recovery, Dusty wouldn’t eat and had to be force fed.  The vets didn’t want to release her until she began eating so both rabbits were kept in but then on Sunday morning the vet called to say that Dusty had died. :(

The poor little thing.  There is a very high chance that an un-spayed rabbit can develop some sort of uterus-cancer so it was important that she had the op, it was just a shame that she wasn’t strong enough to cope with it.

After breaking the news to the girls, I drove to the vets to bring them both home.  While I was gone, the girls drew pictures for Dusty.

When I got back, I unwrapped Dusty from her towel and we had a little stroke and a goodbye.  Even Morris had a little look.

Then we dug a deep hole outside and had a little funeral.

It’s interesting to see how the girls cope with their first death: on being told Dusty had died, D’s first reaction was ‘We can get a new one!”.  She has since had a few tears and asked questions about death, God and also got upset about the possibility of J or me dying; M is evidently feeling sad about Dusty’s death but is having difficulty expressing and releasing her emotions.  As for me, I miss Dusty so much and keep crying so I’m getting lots of sympathy and cuddles from the J and the girls.

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Deschooling’s Over!

I’m pleased to report that 18 months after finishing school, M has deschooled!

Various things have happened this week that have made me realise that school could finally be out of her system: most importantly, her love of learning is most definitely back and it’s plentiful; also she has asked me several specific questions to learn about something without smacking into her ‘fear of learning’ wall; and she is soaking up knowledge everywhere and then joyfully telling me, D or J about it.  On the whole, life for M is much more positive.

The other night I got the highest praise a Mum could ever hear when M told me that she loved her life!  However, this was in response to D saying that her life was rubbish compared to Dora’s (she has also crooned out some tear-inducing songs on this subject).  Of course, all explanations from me about how Dora’s life is unrealistic; you only get to see one part of it; her best friend is a talking monkey; yadda yadda yadda… all fall on deaf ears.  So instead we’ve switched it around so that D gets to BE Dora the Explorer for the day. :)

Dora’s first trip was to see St Paul’s Cathedral last week.  This week, Dora visited The Museum of London!  It’s certainly an excellent way of getting D out, as otherwise she would live her life permanently in the lounge.

The museum was fantastic: the girls were fascinated by how London had changed and the terrible things it had been through.  There was almost too much information in there for one trip so we will definitely be going again.

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M is just starting to dip her toes into history.  I tried to set up a history time line a while ago and they did enjoy it but ultimately there was very little understanding as neither of them had a concept of time.  We have just started discussing the number of years this week and then there were lots of time periods to look at in the museum so she’s had a good start at it.

We’ve also been a bit ‘sciencey’ this week:

The other morning I could hear the sausages chatting in bed so I went up to say good morning.  When I walked in, M said ‘we have just been discussing why some planets take longer to go around the sun that others’!!!  What a way to start the day.

J and I watched a glass of water trick on QI the other night and J showed it to the girls on Sunday morning.  There was A LOT of water on the kitchen floor but it was funny. :)

I put up a new poster in the kitchen which was linked to the Wild Weather BBC series on telly recently.  It has sooo much information on it, it makes me realise how little I know about my own planet.  D asked me to read it to her, and we talked about storm couds, tornadoes, the temperature of the Earth and hailstones.  Funnily enough, we had a hailstorm later that day and J went out in it to entertain the girls: D was shouting at him to get back inside as she had read that people can be killed by them!

We also attempted to make periscopes but they didn’t work very well so we need to have another go at it.  While we were searching for the periscope mirrors through the science box, I came across some packs of PH strips that I bought a while back.  I showed the girls how they worked and they feverishly dipped them into anything they could get their hands on!

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Spanish continues as the sausages continue to teach themselves.  They have been counting Smarties in Spanish and then saying all their colours in Spanish too!  They can both roll their ‘r’s impressively too.  They learnt ‘Te Amo’ from Dora this week and D made a treasure hunt for M: the treasure was a piece of paper with ‘Te Amo’ written on it. :)

We also went to a home ed social group last Friday and the girls absolutely loved it.  We met some old friends and made new ones too and we will definitely be returning soon.

That night, D wanted to put on a concert and so sang 3 of her own compositions to me and M.  I was reminded a little of Victoria Wood. :)

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And lastly, D finished her painting at the girls’ art class today.  I am absolutely in awe of how good this is!  It was an exercise in parallel drawing so she was instructed how to copy the shapes in the picture bit by bit and then chose what colours to paint it herself.  If you want to see the original, click here.

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M’s 8th Birthday and a Trip to St. Paul’s

The big news of this week is that M turned 8!  She seems so different from when she was 7, and she looks much older too – the difference seems greater than from 5 to 6 to 7 somehow.  She was utterly indifferent about any birthday preparations so I decided to treat it as a Love Bombing day (Grandma’s idea!) and she chose to stay in all day, playing for hours on her new Nintendo DS2; she had a New York cheesecake for her cake and we played lots of party games in the afternoon: blind man’s bluff; twister; musical chairs, bumps & statues; and pass the parcel.  Considering how indifferent she was to begin with, she really enjoyed herself in the end.

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M and I took the rabbits to the vets last week, which is always educational!  We went to a new vet this time since our old vet wouldn’t castrate Morris until he is 6 months old, by which time we would most certainly have rabbit babies!  This vet did a really thorough examination (much to the bunnies’ dislike) and found a suspected heart murmur in one rabbit and a rhythmic problem in another.  We’ve now been referred to an ‘exotic’ vet in West Sussex – they will have a team of FOUR vets on hand to help if needed during the operation – crikey.

All sorts of topics were covered during the vet visit – anaesthesia, hearts, teeth, diets and the vet even let her listen the Dusty’s tummy through his stethoscope!

This is one expensive rabbit.

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M’s also moved onto learning about variables in coding on Khan Academy.  It took a bit of a push since she immediately stated she didn’t understand and it didn’t seem like she was going to budge.  I went on with the project anyway and once the task had actually been completed she seemed to have more of a grasp of what I was talking about.  I don’t know if this is perhaps the way forward with everything she doesn’t understand…?

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D has been playing on Lego Creator Islands on the iPad, which is excellent for visual skills and working out how many blocks you need to make the requested building.  While playing this she started telling me which numbers were more or less than others.  She’s also reading numbers in their hundreds on games, buses, everywhere!

D is also nearing the end of Teach Your Monster to Read, which she really enjoys playing.  It is a little easy for her but it has cemented what she already knows and it gives her confidence that she can actually read – she’s always saying she can’t!

The other game we’ve all been playing is Inventioneers on the iPad.  This is excellent for physics and problem solving.  As we all like playing it together, it’s been really good for a bit of team work and learning to respect other people’s ideas.

This week we also finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and have immediately started on the Order of the Phoenix.   The content gets more and more adult as we go further along the series and I’m not sure how much of the vocabulary M understands but I like the fact that she’s letting the words wash over her, which is also a valid way of picking up new words: I know because this is the way I learnt. :)

D is reading all sorts – she particularly likes Ant and Bee books at the moment and we’ve been reading this one, which she got in her Christmas stocking.  She is now picking out words she recognises in both her books and the Harry Potter books, which is lovely to see.  One of her favourite books is from the Wonderwise series called What’s Up?  This is about two children who are exploring how high they can go: by going upstairs, up a tree, a sky scraper etc etc until they’re in space.  D recently asked to go to a cathedral because she saw one in this book!

So this week I booked tickets to go to St Paul’s Cathedral (I’m ashamed to say I never went inside in all the time I worked down the road from it!) and it was an out and out success with both sausages.  D’s latest ‘thing’ is that her life isn’t as good as Dora the Explorer’s so to add to the day, she became ‘Dora':  I made her a map and she had a backpack with two toy rabbits who were Boots and Benny the Bull.

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To start with, they had fun finding the things on a worksheet I had printed from the website earlier.  They learnt a little about Lord Admiral Nelson who features highly in this cathedral.  They also kept getting confused between him and Nelson Mandela.  Luckily I had thought to bring along our sketchbooks (I’m trying to get into sketching too) and the girls were so pleased to sit and sketch what they could see – M in particular.  D got a little bored and began drawing from her own imagination instead but M could have sat for hours.

There were no photographs allowed inside the cathedral so here’s an ‘artist’s’ impression of how cute they looked:

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We then had a break from sketching to go down to the crypt and then up to the Whisperer’s Gallery.  It’s basically at the bottom of the dome and you can whisper into the wall and the sound is carried around the dome – it’s amazing!  The girls were very taken with it.  After a sneaky biscuit, we gathered up our strength to walk up to the Stone Gallery.  This is outside and gives you a good view of London.  However, we now all wanted to complete the journey to the top of the dome so we climbed the final steps up to the Golden Gallery – it was fantastic!  First of all we got to look through a tiny window right down to the centre of the nave below (D had a good stamp on the glass, which alarmed the staff, haha) and then we climbed up a spiral staircase to get out onto the roof – wowsers!  The girls were very pleased to spot a few landmarks they knew such as The Shard.  There were 527 steps to get to the top but it was well worth the effort.

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M wanted to sit and sketch at every level but I was envisioning pencils rolling over the edge so persuaded her to wait until we got to the bottom.

We got down to the nave and we all oohed and ahhed at the dome from inside.  M sat right in the middle of it and proceeded to draw each gallery from memory (see how she remembered the style of each railing, below!), and then tried to draw parts of the dome too.  By this time we’d been there for 4 hours and we were really hungry so I had to persuade her to leave, which she was quite sad about.  They both said they wanted to live there!

Here are a few of M’s unfinished sketches:

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And her sketches of the galleries:

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And I’ll finish by showing off a fabulous collage that D got to take home from art class this week:

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Striking Gold

Huzzah!  Not real gold of course, or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this – I’d be on holiday in the Bahamas or something – no, I’ve struck gold of the home educating kind: this week I sat down with M and showed her the Hour of Code on Khan Academy and it was a hit!

Last night I told her it was time for bed and no, she couldn’t carry on coding: her eyes filled with tears!  Of course, I relented and let her carry on until I could hardly keep my eyes open and she was forced to turn the light off.  I had to practically wrench the laptop out of her hands to write this post.

She definitely has a knack for it and grasped the basics straight away: she’s learnt what pixels are, what the x and y parameters mean, how to draw a line, a rectangle, a circle, how to fill in a shape with colour, how to change the colour of a line and how to construct a function.  Pretty impressive for one day!

For her final project on the Hour of Code she had to make an animal out of all the shapes and functions she’d learnt.  She chose to copy her toy, Pink Teddy.  The picture’s a bit small but you can see how many functions she had to write (and figure out) to make a seemingly simple picture:

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M’s behaviour has really really improved over the last few weeks, so I’m thinking that she must have been under quite a lot of (self-imposed) stress in the run-up to Christmas.  Lately she’s been sunny, charming, helpful, kind, funny and calm – back to her old self!  Any rising difficulties have been nipped in the bud by me – I can now recognise when her blood sugar is running low and I’m trying to educate her to recognise it too so that she can stop herself spiraling into unnecessary doom and gloom.  It’s not easy to do when you’re unschooling food.  Neither sausage eats three meals a day  – they tend to graze throughout the day instead – and without those 3 meals to mark the day it’s very easy for me to lose track of when they last ate.  Their diets are very slooooowly becoming more balanced, which I’m pleased about.  In this picture they both decided (at 9.30pm) that they wanted chicken, yorkshire puddings and gravy… luckily I had some to hand :)

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This week we had a busy weekend with a big family get-together to celebrate the Sausages’ Granddad’s 88th birthday, and we had friends over for lunch who brought their 3 little girls with them too.

We’ve been playing with K’nex… M constructed this ferris wheel from a picture I found on Pinterest:

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I helped D to put together our clock.  I read the instructions while she put it together: I was really impressed by how well she followed the instructions and listened.

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We’ve been to our art class where D worked on a canvas for the first time and M began a copy of Van Gogh’s ‘Irises’ (eek – I am beginning to feel a little inferior!).  M went to her usual ballet class, despite having an ENORMOUS (2cm) splinter in her foot.  I was hoping that it would slide out on it’s own (wishful thinking) but ended up taking her to A&E this morning to have it removed.

Meanwhile, D has become interested in puzzles which is great as M and me are big puzzlers too.  She now loves doing word searches and secret codes and both are excellent ways of learning new words.  Her spelling and reading are really improving!

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We’re learning the times tables, as per M’s request.  It’s a bit of a bore and I’m not at all sure there’s a lot of point (I’ve managed very well without them and I’ve heard recently that some schools have stopped teaching them) but she wants to do it!  More importantly, she has shown that she now has an understanding of the numbers, which is much more important than learning by rote.  The other day she had worked out that she had 12 Mini Eggs left to eat because she knew there were 4 different colours of each egg and she had 3 in every colour!  D hasn’t grasped multiplication yet and was insisting on counting the eggs out one by one. :)  We’re listening to Times Tables Challenge whenever we’re in the car and M is also insisting on me testing her every now and again.

Our free DVD of the BBC’s Ten Pieces arrived this week.  I thought it was really well done and nice to watch and listen to.  The girls enjoyed it for a little while: there was a vague interest in the instruments and D recognised Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ from Johnny English (!) but I can’t say it ignited any sparks…

…Unlike the films we watched on The Kid Should See This!  First we looked at a film of this guy making British birds out of Lego (M was very inspired by this and has had several attempts at making a Robin but had to give up as we don’t have enough Lego pieces); then we watched one about what makes Blue Morpho butterflies blue, which then led onto watching a film of them hatching.  The girls were very interested in this as the Blue Morpho features in a Go Diego Go episode so they were able to fill me in on all sorts of facts that I didn’t know they knew. :)

Another packed week.  Just one more thing to show you, a picture of our gorgeous bunnies, Morris and Dusty.  In this pic they are being naughty and refusing to go back into their cage – they decided to settle down for a nap/read the paper in the hall instead…  too cute to be cross with though.

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Grandma Inspires Sausages

Howdy all.  We’re slowly gathering pace though last week was a necessarily slow one as M had a high temperature.  As it happened, Grandma was visiting for 5 days so that she could look after the sausages while I painted the kitchen.  Even through illness, Grandma managed managed to inspire D to make up a song about the sunshine and she then helped M to write it out as music!

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She also inspired both girls to sketch and this has continued even after Grandma left.  M did an incredible picture of J and Granddad (who came down for the last 2 days).  She even picked up her art book at 7am one morning!

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However, M did do a fair bit of sleeping while she was battling her fever so D got lots of one to one time with Grandma.  They made this picture together after D made a rocket out of shapes which Grandma then helped to make into a picture.  Before Christmas I won a space book on D’s behalf and, if it’s possible, it has made D even more excited about space!

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Unfortunately the Grandparents did have to leave eventually but the sadness was tempered somewhat by us having to leave the house shortly afterwards to go to D’s new art class, which she was really looking forward to.

I’ve often thought that I didn’t have need of an art class because it’s one of the few things I CAN do but it sounded like such a lovely group I couldn’t resist when D asked to go.  M & me sat in the art room busying ourselves with our cross-stitching while D got to grips with parallel drawing.  I knew D had talent but I was really impressed by how well she drew this dog: it’s a very good likeness of the original!  M was looking longingly at all the children enjoying themselves and the teacher has since said that they will squeeze her in for the rest of term (her space wasn’t to become available until Easter).

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Later that day M returned to her ballet class, which she was very pleased about.

On Wednesday we met some friends at our nearby soft play centre.  We were there for over 3 hours, which is a new record for us: the girls had a lovely time playing with the kids and I had a lovely time with the mums!

Since then, there’s been lots of Minecraft playing (we’ve just learnt about biomes and various tree types); film watching (101 Dalmations is a current favourite); learning more constellations; junk modelling; FarmVille; drawing and reading.  Phew!