Slightly Different Saturday

Usually our Saturdays are a bit of a tag-team set-up where I get a few hours to myself while J takes the girls to Judo and then onto his parents or the park or swimming.  Today though, J woke up with an enormous hangover so Judo was out of the question. :)

He is also under a lot of pressure to get an event up and running in a month’s time so he’s been working over the weekends a lot more lately.  He has also decided to invite his brother and girlfriend over for lunch tomorrow so he needed a good few hours to create his signature biryani dish!

So with all that, I left him to it and took the girls up to London to the Institute of Imagination’s Mini Maker Faire.  We had a lovely time there, despite the pouring rain.  The girls put together a ‘Draw-Bot’ and a Zoetrope before deciding it was too cold and wet to continue.  It’s a shame it wasn’t indoors as there were many other things there to make and do!

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Yesterday I spent a bit of time with D doing sciencey stuff while M played with Morris and Gloria.  I’ve started writing up a weekly plan and sticking it up on our lounge fireplace, the girls also come up with ideas of what they’d like to do and if they want to do something which I’m too busy for we can then scribble it down to remember for later.  I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come up with this simple idea, I think technology got in the way!

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Anyhoo, D had requested we make the density tower that we made before so that’s what we did!

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Because I followed the instructions properly this time, it was a little less murky than our last one and we only had 5 layers rather than 9 but the girls still found it intriguing.  I have still delayed doing a full-on density discussion: partly because my science knowledge is so abysmal I would need to read up about it first; partly because M’s mind works in such a way that I KNOW the discussion would then lead onto the internal workings of a molecule and if I can’t explain all this in a way that she understands the whole thing will end up in a huff; but mainly because they are just having FUN exploring what happens without knowing the whys and wherefores.

D wanted to do another experiment after this so I quickly set up a Wizard’s Brew which I’d been admiring here.  There were lots of squeals of enjoyment for this one.

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D wanted to do another experiment after this but I couldn’t think of one off the top of my head so the girls did some painting instead: they found some old-unfinished stuff from Yellow Moon and got on with that.

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Then it was back to the Rubik’s Cube and the Picture Atlas of the World Sticker Book!  M has now completed the cube and can do all the sequences from memory!!!!

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I was feeling pretty tired by this point!  I don’t know if it’s a problem with my energy levels or I’m being unrealistic thinking I should be able to keep up with the sausages.  Either way, I was feeling too exhausted to go to our Curious Minds group so we gave it a miss this week.  The girls are always up for a quiet time at home so we did a bit of film watching (101 Dalmations and Bambi), playing cards (Snap and Beggar my Neighbour) and building the marble run.

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D also began a frieze which she wants to spread across the top of our large kitchen window – it’s going to be a painted sky!

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And finally, here’s a picture of Gloria soaking up a few rays this morning.  She’s finally allowing us to stroke her!

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The Library, Housework and Eyebombing

So we did make it out to the library yesterday… but it was closed.  Gah!  So annoying.  Ah well, the girls had a little play on the ‘climbing frame’ and then we came home again.

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We spent the afternoon writing letters to the girls’ cousins – I had hoped to get out to the post office but M took so long drawing a picture that I decided to leave it for another day.  D wrote this letter to her cousin, J.  I made her include the second two lines so that it didn’t sound so sudden and final (we are going to France next week).

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The girls watched a few films and we played Connect 4.  Then I quickly made a make-shift pass the parcel for Gloria’s birthday.  I included a couple of Frozen games that I had found on sale in The Entertainer and put some peanuts in the middle for Gloria.  She thoroughly enjoyed them and the girls liked their presents too.

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Yesterday felt like a bit of a non-event: once my plans go awry, I find it hard to readjust myself to the rest of the day.  So today (after some art and baking) I resolved to get the girls out to Wimbledon to properly stretch their legs and enjoy the sunshine.

They walked all the way in, eyebombing along the way:

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We did a bit of shopping and then spent over an hour in the library.  We picked up three more Narnia books, some rabbit and space books and a Rubik’s Quest book, which I’m looking forward to strewing for M.  She has barely looked up from her Rubik’s Cube all day!  She’s now able to do all but two sequences to finish it.  There have been tears at every stage but she has quickly recovered, picked it up again and persevered.  I am very proud!

For the rest of the day we read books, watched films (Bambi and Anastasia), tidied and cleaned, fixed the pulley and played with Morris and Gloria.  The girls are very into housework at the moment – they are constantly ‘surprising’ me with sneaky tidying up!  But here’s a picture of D doing some sweeping and Morris taking a keen interest.  M is giggling because I’d just suggested putting Morris into the pulley and hauling him upstairs. :)

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Baking, Films and a Cold

We’ve had a quiet few days, partly because of the rain and storms but mainly because of M’s cold.  J took the girls to meet M’s best friend B on Saturday and they were out for hours, allowing me to get on and do ‘stuff’.  But on Sunday morning, M came down looking decidedly ill so we decided to take it easy.

Apart from taking D out to see his parents, J worked all day so I looked after the girls.  We made crumble and chocolate chip cookies:

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M also wanted to learn a few French words in readiness for our holiday so she added a page in her homemade Spanish dictionary:

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While D finished her rainforest picture.  We looked up the patterns for a Blue Morpho and Monarch butterfly, and I helped her a bit with the wing shapes!

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By the afternoon, M was feeling a bit perkier and their Aunt Sh took the girls to the park.

On Monday I had planned for us to visit Raynes Park library (because the girls love climbing on the barrier outside!) but it rained all day so we stayed in and watched endless films!  Over the last few days we have watched: Cat in the Hat, Black Beauty (is that the saddest film ever made?), Secret Garden, Annie, Matilda, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Mulan and A Series of Unfortunate Events.  The girls are also getting into an Amazon series called Annedroids too.  As usual, there were countless questions arising from these films!

On Tuesday, M woke up in a very odd mood: kind of tearful but also angry and out of sorts.  By the time we arrived in Ashtead for her art class she was saying she had a tummy ache.  She still wanted to go in because she was worried she wouldn’t finish her Van Gogh picture in time.  I assured her that even if she doesn’t finish it before the summer term ends she can still carry on next term, so she decided not to go in.  Then we drove all the way home again!

The afternoon was spent watching MORE films but they also found time to do a Sticker Picture Atlas of the World and finish a card for Aunty S.  We have a lot of birthdays in July in this family so M (following my suggestion) has started making cards well in advance so she avoids the stress of not having the time to perfect them.

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I also made a pin board for M to do her times tables on, having been inspired by this blog. She really enjoyed it and grasped the concept quickly.  She has been desperate to learn the times tables recently so this tied in nicely.

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M was feeling ready for Brownies by the evening and we drove her there (storm still going strong).  They were doing an activity about pets so she took in a picture of Morris to talk about.  I have no idea how it went as M struggles to understand what’s going on or how to communicate it back to me (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – how on earth she managed day after day at school is beyond me).

On the way home a rainbow came out!  Me and D got very excited and it inspired D to make this!

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We really need to get ourselves to the library today.  M has finished The Magician’s Nephew (she really enjoyed it!) and we’ve tried returning to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and A Series of Unfortunate Events but neither felt right.  What we need now is Prince Caspian and the Return to Narnia!

5 Years Ago

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Today I’m joining in a blog hop today over at Four Pesky Hobbits.  The remit is to talk about what has happened at your home school over the last 5 years.  I wasn’t sure I was going to link up to this because we’ve only been home educating for 2 years.  But having mulled it over I’d like to talk about how different our lives were then.

5 years ago, M was 3 years and 3 months old, while D had just turned one.  How cute are they?!  Please excuse M’s chocolate-chops, we’ve obviously just enjoyed a trip to the coffee shop.

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At that point, M was coming up to the end of her first year at pre-school.  She was quite happy there, the ethos of the place was very caring and what I particularly loved about it was that they catered to every child’s need.  At that point, she attended for 3 afternoons a week, though this would change to 5 mornings a week in the following term.  It seems strange to me now to think of a 3 year old doing all that but at the time it felt normal!

We were already thinking about what school she would go to (and had perhaps applied already?).  Both J and I wanted somewhere highly academic and high performing.  After all, M was a very academic girl – it’s hard to imagine a 3 year old being academic but she really was!

Our end goal was for her to go to a grammar school at 11.  We used to joke that to get into a grammar around here (South West London) you have to start training them at 2.  There is an element of truth in that though.  Her pre-school was devised so that on going into a Reception class the children would hit the ground running, having learnt their alphabet,  phonic sounds, numbers and just starting on the (wordless) Biff, Chip and Kipper books.  At the school we chose I know that they had begun streaming them by Year One (although we weren’t officially told that) and their performance was already being tracked.  Preparation for the 11+ and entrance exams would then begin in Year 4 and so it goes on.  It’s like an endless treadmill.  I was happy to be on it 5 years ago, it felt exciting to me that we were giving M (and D) every opportunity to have a fantastic school life.

However.

All did not go to plan.

One of the things I pride myself on with being a mother is how much I have adapted my thoughts, ideas and opinions since having children.  My children have totally changed me.  If someone had mentioned home education to me 5 years ago I would have looked at them like they were bonkers.  But it took a suggestion from M to make me see that HE was a viable and AMAZING option.  She was utterly miserable at school and one night she asked ‘but why can’t you teach me?’.  It was a light-bulb moment.

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Collage, Tidying and Schools

Trying to keep up with my regular blogging…

D watched Go Diego Go after waking this morning because she wanted to see the Monarch butterfly episode.  After that she wanted to create a rainforest collage (still in progress so no pic yet) and then wanted to paint the inside of her goody bag (but she made sure to put it on her head first).

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M had joined us by this point and put another coat on the outside of her goody bag too.  We then had breakfast.  As part of M’s Brownie cook badge, she has to prepare a meal (she made sandwiches and biscuits at Brownies), wash up, and understand how to handle kitchen utensils including knives.  So she washed up her breakfast things but looked utterly disgusted while doing it – I guess washing up isn’t good on a sensory level.

However, that seemed to put her in the mood for some housework so she started tidying up, dusting and sweeping the lounge.  D helped by doing a bit of dusting too.  I haven’t had chance to do it this week (or last!) so it really needed it.  Last night she sneakily tidied the bedroom too – I like this phase. :)

They had a quick run around in the garden with J before he went to work and then we watched some Babble Dabble Do videos to get some ideas for a new art project.  I love that website.  I think we might try the salad spinner one next, just need to find a cheap salad spinner somewhere!

After that we got dressed (after all, it was midday), I threw a load of food into a bag and we went off to our social/activities group, Curious Minds.  We haven’t been for ages so it was lovely to be back.  The girls began by doing some collages but then they made friends with two other girls and spent the rest of the time playing with them.  I chatted to a few Mums I hadn’t met before too so that was nice for me!

We got back a few hours later and the girls watched Cat in the Hat.  M did her Rubik’s Cube while she watched – she is now able to solve two-thirds of it without instructions!

I painted D’s nails and she watched Sarah and Duck while M did her new favourite balancing act on the sofa.

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You would think it was time to start winding down now, but no – D disappeared off to find some long-lost soft toys and came back announcing that she wanted to play schools!  By this time, M was FaceTiming her cousin A in Nottingham.  So A acted teacher for a while, asking the bunnies some maths questions.

The bunnies figuring out division.
The bunnies figuring out division.

 

 

A and M then decided to visit each other in Animal Crossing.  M has been really missing her cousin lately so it’s lovely that they are able to connect like this when they’re apart.

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Meanwhile, D wanted me to ask her some spellings.  Her reward for correct answers was an ‘ass-shake’ (her bum, not mine) which had her in fits of giggles and asking for more.

I was then called on to help A in Animal Crossing so D asked to watch a Numberjacks DVD.

And then it was time for bed!  Phew!

They’re still bursting with energy – J has just come home and I can hear lots of thuds, shrieks and giggles coming from upstairs.  I’m knackered!

Butterflies at the Natural History Museum

I’m really trying to blog more often!  I recently trawled through the past year’s posts in order to pull out information for our LEA man and I noticed how much easier it is to get a feel for what we do if I blog every few days.  The devil is in the detail as they say.

We’ve had a full on day today and I’m exhausted!  I was up at 5am and managed to write a blog post before D came down at 7.30am.  We immediately launched into looking at tectonic plates and the Pangaea in our How the World Works book.  This led to watching various YouTube videos about the formation of the moon and black holes.

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M came down around 8.30am and immediately got to work on her Rubik’s Cube again.  We decided to take a spontaneous trip to the National History Museum, partly to see the building that they know and love from watching Paddington, and partly to see the butterfly exhibition.

We were in London by 11am, pretty impressive for us!  We all really enjoyed the butterflies. D dredged up some incredible Blue Morpho facts from her Go Diego Go watching days and was so pleased to find them there.

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M adored the butterflies but was disappointed she couldn’t touch them.  She was desperate for one to land on her!  D got one on her sleeve and was non too impressed so I passed it over to M on a card and she carried it around with her. :)

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We then went on to the main NHM building – thank goodness we could use our butterfly tickets to jump to the head of the MASSIVE queue.  I think the world and his wife had decided to go to the NHM today.

The girls admired the diplodocus in the entrance hall and remembered lots of parts of the building from Paddington.  We then wandered through the earth section where there was tons of information on tectonic plates, volcanoes and earthquakes.  Great connections for what we’ve been learning about recently.  We even got to experience what an earthquake might feel like.

We then had a very long wait to see the T-Rex robot.  It’s quite impressive but I’m not sure it’s worth the huge queue.

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We’d had enough at that point – unfortunately it was far to crowded to enjoy it properly.  We’ll definitely go back again though.  It’s nice to be able to visit a museum and not feel like you have to see the whole thing – we can go as often as we like as it’s under an hour away.

We got home and the girls immediately launched into activities while I lay prone on the sofa with a cup of tea.

Papier Mache, Rubik’s Cube and Google

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time making papier-mache goody bags (inspired by an episode of Creative Galaxy).  D is beginning to realise that these TV programmes aren’t very realistic in showing you how much time these art projects take to complete.  So instead of taking 1 minute it took us 3 days to make our goody bags!  And even then, D’s collapsed because we hadn’t put enough newspapers layers on.  However, she wasn’t to be defeated and was keen to start all over again.  This time we made it with 4 layers of newspaper, just to be sure.  After it had been painted and a ribbon handle was stapled on, she immediately filled it with goodies and gave it to M!  Aah.

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The girls are really getting into films now.  They probably watch at least one film a day and their current favourites are Cat in the Hat and Paddington.  They’re both brilliant films, even for adults, and I’m usually asked a few questions during the film, which goes to show they’re not just flopped zombie like in from of the telly: instead they’re engaged and learning.  I’m quite thankful for the break it gives me too: they’re both really busy with different activities at the moment but they still require a lot of hand-holding and help through things – not complaining, just sayin. :)

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In keeping with my promise to get outdoors more, the girls have been out on their bikes, scooters or roller skates every day lately, a great achievement for me!  M adores her bike so will willing go anywhere on it, and D is getting more and more confident on hers thanks to J’s persistence that she practices.

D has been keen to play long-ignored board games (Tell the Time, Junior Scrabble and Pop to the Shops) and also completing her favourite map jigsaws which she’s getting faster and faster at.  J has also begun teaching her how to play chess.

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D even made up her own game by drawing the Sun and each planet in the solar system (Pluto is always included because she feels sorry for it).  We then had to choose a planet and orbit the sun like the planet would.  There was a discussion with M about whether the planets traveled at differing speeds or whether some planets take longer to complete an orbit because of their distance from the Sun!

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M is becoming more and more engaged in learning as time passes by: she now asks me some incredible questions and I can tell by the surprise and pleasure I feel when she does it that I had become accustomed to her never asking me anything (or asking and then feigning disinterest when I begin to Google it).  On a visit to the Museum of London last week, she was full of questions about the Roman invasion (including some rather interesting ones like ‘weren’t the English angry?’).  This week she has also asked me ‘what’s the point of ants?’ and ‘why do people in different countries speak different languages?’.

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Last week, M decided she wanted to make the bunnies a toy out of loo rolls.  She had the idea of making them a castle but she had an added challenge that she couldn’t use any glue or tape to fix it together in case the bunnies ingested it.  She came up with an ingenious way of connecting the rolls using a slot on one and a flap on the other.  Her brain never ceases to amaze me!

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M has also dug out a long-forgotten Rubik’s Cube and has been spending hours and hours working through the instructions.  She’s now got to the point (after working on it solidly for a day) where she’s gaining an understanding of its movements and can figure out problems more easily.  She’s set herself the challenge of being able to complete it without any instructions at all!

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And here she is in her new Brownie uniform!  She is thoroughly enjoying it, though small problems are arising to do with her being unable to take in long streams of information from her leader.  I was unsure whether to make the Brown Owl aware that we’re seeking an Aspergers diagnosis but in the end I decided I would so that she might understand M’s behaviour more.  She seems like a very understanding woman and had already noticed a few of M’s difficulties.  After each session I can sense a faint shadow of M’s old school self – the anger at me, the needing to wind down, and the faintly glassy-eyed look which tells me she’s over-stimulated.  But on the whole, it is a positive experience for M and she really looks forward to it every week.

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And finally, a picture of a sausage sandwich for you to enjoy.

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