Edible Maths

M has been working hard at eating her 8mg of iron a day – just shows how far she’ll go to avoid taking medicine!  An off-shoot of this has been adding up the iron mgs each day and asking me to calculate how much she’s eaten.  Yesterday she got frustrated because she didn’t understand what I was saying when I said she’d eaten ‘1.4mg’.  In essence, she didn’t understand decimal fractions.  So I sat down and tried to explain it to her (all the while realising how rusty my mathematical thought processes are) – there were a lot of tears and anger but M determinedly persevered (and I kept my cool).  Well done us.🙂

I tried many different ways to explain it (while wishing I had invested in an expensive fractions maths set I was eyeing up a few years ago) but what worked in the end was drawing out the ‘ones’ divided up into grids of 10, which she can then colour in as and when she eats.  She hasn’t grasped it totally but she’s comfortable with the concept and is happy to use the grids to track her progress from now on.

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We had a similar situation a few months ago when M decided she was going to use Khan Academy to learn maths – all was going well until it suddenly switched from simple additions and shape recognition to subtraction complete with carrying over (or regrouping as it now seems to be known).  I spent about an hour explaining the process and she got there in the end after a lot of angry tears but unfortunately it put her off Khan Academy for good.

I got through maths at school by parroting back everything I was taught, I had no real understanding of it and the whole thing seemed totally useless to me, though I can now appreciate how certain aspects of maths have everyday applications.   I love how M desperately wants to understand the roots of mathematical concepts and I can see how she’s gradually getting a grounding for maths that will mean she’ll eventually have a true understanding of it all.

Thankfully she can learn at her own pace, and work on concepts as and when her brain is ready to assimilate them.  What a privilege.🙂

Dreaming of Colder Weather

This week has been all about coping with the extreme heat we have here in London.  We’ve been wistfully thinking about cool autumnal days and snuggling under blankets ;).

We even got our Christmas tree down from the loft this week (I can imagine your horrified faces).  We had good reason though: M is hand-felting a fairy for the top of the tree and we need to measure the top branch.  The fairy is coming on – she’s spending about an hour a day on it and has so far finished the head and is halfway through the torso.  As with most of M’s projects, she cries every time she does it but continues to plough on anyway…  She’s one determined girl!

We’ve been playing Minecraft together a lot: I have yet again made the huge wooden house from the Minecraft Construction book for D – this must be the 5th time I’ve made it now!  D keeps calling me in to her new house for ‘meetings’.  They’re very formal and don’t have a lot of point.  M has started a new world in survival mode (the much loved ‘Babbaville’ has got a bit boring now) and we’ve all been helping out in it.  I think she loves it mainly because she found a snow biome in it which reminds her of Christmas.🙂

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We had our friends over for 2 days this week.  Apart from a bit of playing in the pool, there was much more indoor play this time due to the heat.  They had a great time playing Terraria together.🙂

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We’ve watched Maleficent a few times this week and it’s now M’s favourite film.  D was unsure at first and watched with half an eye while listening to Stampy, but she watched it properly yesterday and seemed to enjoy it.  There were lots of questions from both regarding the motivations and feelings of the characters.  I love how they learn this way.

I’ve been wondering lately whether M is eating enough iron as she complains of being exhausted so often.  She did try eating more iron-rich food but we both kept forgetting.  Then a friend recommended a natural iron supplement so I suggested it to M and she said she’d rather change her diet.  So I’ve put a list on a kitchen cupboard of all the food she loves with the iron content alongside and she chooses what to eat to reach the 8mg she needs each day.  It’s working very well!

Friends, Films and Minecraft

We’ve had a lovely week, full of friends and activities.

The heat was incredible – we had friends over on Tuesday and we all had so much fun that they came over the following day too, bringing their paddling pool with them!  It was a two day marathon of trampolining, swimming, pretend play and ice cream with lots of chatting and G&Ts for me and my friend as we caught up on each other’s news.  At one point, J took the lot of them to the park, giving us time to soak up some rays uninterrupted for half an hour.🙂

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On Thursday we had a meet up planned with other friends where the girls played on Terraria, Minecraft, bounced on their gorgeous trampoline and in their lovely pool.

I felt utterly zonked by Friday so we had a quiet day at home, watching YouTube videos and films.  We have really enjoyed the new Netflix film ‘The Little Prince’ and have watched it several times this week.  M adores it, D is not so keen – unsurprisingly since it deals with loss, an emotion (is it an emotion?  Or is the emotion ‘grief’?) that she finds hard to cope with.

However, after repeatedly watching Stampy and Squid play on a Hobbit adventure map, I suggested to her that she might like to watch a Hobbit film since The Battle of the Five Armies has just been released onto Netflix.  She was really keen and loved it even though we were all having difficulty following the plot having never seen a Hobbit film before.  I thought she might find it frightening given how horrible some of the fighting scenes are but no!

This week, D’s seemingly endless thirst for Minecraft YouTube videos has not only led her to feeling brave enough to watch a new film but she has also made me a Minecraft adventure map for me to play on (I was terrible as I really can’t do parkour!) and arranged for M and I to do Hunger Games on her world (I lost, what a surprise!).

M is also back on Minecraft after a week or so’s break.  She’s trying to get to grips with redstone and has so far managed to successfully copy a trampoline she saw Stampy make and use a daylight sensor to turn her lights on and off.  To me, it’s as confusingly overwhelming as electronics so I haven’t been a lot of help apart from finding how-to videos for her on YouTube.

Inbetween all the busyness this week, M has been determinedly working on a drawing for a Sylvanian Families competition.  She had to draw what she would do if she was in the Sylvanian Village on a summer’s day so she chose to be Freya, berry picking with her brother.  I am always astounded and so proud of how she pushes herself to get over hurdles: there were so many tears involved in the making of this but she carried on anyway!

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The girls’ aunt took them swimming this afternoon, on their return we all enjoyed the first episode of Season 2’s Wonder Quest.  This one was quite mathematical rather than scientific but the girls really enjoyed it and we’re looking forward to next week’s episode!

Felting, Jigsaws and Mind Maps

We’ve had a lovely summer so far, lots of lovely sunny seaside days in Whitby and afterwards 10 days spent in Nottingham with my parents.  The girls were in heaven – lots of grandparent-time, cousin-time and of course, Minecraft.😉

M has been busy with her new interest – hand-felting!  M and I were lucky enough to be able to go to an HE felting workshop while we were in Nottingham and we both love it.  It’s so easy and rewarding as it doesn’t take long to build up your competence and it’s peaceful too.  It involves stabbing at wool with a sharp needle so you do need to concentrate though😉.  D has had a go at it but after one too many stabs at her fingers she’s decided to have a break from it for now.  This is what M made after a few hours work:

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There have been a lot of ‘I’m bored’ comments from M over the last few weeks – sometimes it’s because she’s confused and she’s actually hungry (!) but mostly I think it’s a reflection of her needing more stimulus.  Both my Mum and I approached her to ask whether she felt she needed more stimulation, to which she replied ‘no’.  But after further probing it turned out she didn’t know what stimulation meant…  We were struggling to think of things she wanted to do so I came up with the idea of brainstorming all of her interests and I drew out a mind map for her which she loves:

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I don’t think she realised how many interests she has!  I’m hoping it will help clarify our thoughts when the ‘I’m bored’ comments come around again.

We also have the Boredom Jar which I have been working on recently.  I still have many more slips of paper to add but M loves using it.

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I don’t think I ever hear ‘I’m bored’ from D – whereas M dips her toes into many many things, D finds one and fully immerses herself in it for months.  As you may have guessed recently, her latest is Minecraft.  She plays it in creative mode (she’s scared of mobs on survival mode) and for her it’s an outlet for playing, telling stories, making costumes/skins  for her character (her latest was an outfit made to look like a slice of bacon) and creating structures, buildings, anything really.  She also watches a lot of YouTube – she still loves Stampy but as she has now watched every video he’s ever made (!) she has moved on to Sqaishey, Amy Lee 33, Stacey Plays and DanTDM.

It will be interesting to see how balancing the girls’ needs plays out over the coming months.  Saying that, home life has recently become easier: YouTube can be quite invasive (D doesn’t want to wear her headphones all day) and M struggled with it being on all the time, but now she seems to feel more comfortable being in other rooms – currently we have an ongoing game of Monopoly in the front room and she’s working on a drawing competition on the kitchen table.  I just have to make sure I divide up my presence around the house so neither girl feels ignored!  Doing more activities outside the house will be interesting – hopefully if I plan the right things and prepare D enough then she’ll be able to cope with it…

I booked the TV in yesterday so I could watch one of my all-time favourite films – The Prisoner of Zenda!  As usual I had to narrate pretty much the entire film so that the girls understood the plot; D was fretting about how bad the baddies would be and whether the goodies would win; and M was bordering on anger as she tried to understand every intricate plot detail. But bearing in mind neither of them had to watch it, they both watched the entire thing and enjoyed it so hurrah for that!

M and I have also been enjoying a jigsaw app called Magic Puzzles – I’ve just started on Renoir’s ‘Dance at Le Moulin de la Galettet’ and we had quite a long conversation about it last night: admiring details, colours and the scene itself.

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And I have also put up a Europe and UK map in the bedroom, which has sparked a few conversations on the British Empire, distances and past holidays.

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I love how the girls learn through these snippets of conversations🙂

Butser Farm and Minecraft

It’s been an odd week, it always is when we have no classes to anchor us.  Days drift and merge but time flies by so that every day I’m surprised when bedtime comes around.🙂

This week has of course featured Stampy, a lot.  And Babbaville – the latest developments are that M put the finishing touches to her boat, adding signs so the Captain, First Mate and crew know where to sleep; she reorganised her department store so that items are categorised better; and we turned the difficulty level up to ‘high’ because M wanted to overcome her fear of mobs (it worked and we got some nice enchanted armour out of it).

A couple of really noticeable skills from all this Minecraft playing: we’re now really good at working as a team – helping each other, dividing up jobs, and playing to each other’s strengths; and maths – the other day M was working out whether it is better value to smelt with 9 pieces of coal or a block of coal (which is made with 9 pieces) – turns out the answer is a block.

Also, the learning threads that come from Minecraft – M wanting to know what the correct terms for the second in command on a ship, the crew and where they sleep; and D wanting to make her own iBallisticSquid soft toy, which led to a trip to Tooting Market to buy fabric (always an experience with all the produce and smells).  D helped me to draw a cube net for the toy pattern and then I spent almost a whole day (!) making Squid.  It is very much loved which is a relief as there were heart-achingly silent tears when she realised the Squid toys that iBallisticSquid was promoting (on a two year old video) were no longer available. Phew.

Minecraft’s creative side is obviously huge:  M made a replica of a road this week and D spotted a natural island that was the shape of a dolphin – we just added fins and covered it in blue wool.

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Onto real-world news – J has taken the girls to the park quite a few times, and also to the hospital to visit his brother (who is now recovering from a quadruple heart by-pass!).

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We have been on a trip to Butser Farm for a workshop organised by another HE mum.  We had booked it last year but M was too ill to go but we made it this time!  When we got there I was wondering ‘what was I thinking?!’ because there was FAR too much talking from the leader which didn’t engage either of my two (blank stare from M who couldn’t take in a word of it and D on the verge of tears from the boringness-missing-stampyness of it all).  BUT it all came together later on.  The girls did cordage, spinning, pottery (using real just dug up clay), copper jewellery making and clunching.

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It was an amazing trip but the following day D needed some serious Stampy watching to recover.  We had a birthday party to go to that day though but luckily our friend was thoroughly understanding of D’s need to escape into Stampy’s Lovely World – D was full of excitement about the party but in the end just couldn’t seem to cope with it.  She did enjoy swimming in their pool at the end though.

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M has been doing lots of paper craft – making tiny Washi Tape bags for her Sylvanians; doing her first paper cutting with my knife for J’s birthday card, and quilling.  I showed her how to use Instagram and Pinterest on her iPad and they’ve really inspired her.

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We also watched Star Wars for the first time to see what all the fuss was about (neither of us was that enthralled to be honest) and M asked to watch Doctor Who so we’ve started on the Christopher Eccleston series, which she really likes.  Unfortunately it’s far too frightening for D and even with headphones on she still ends up seeing images that upset her.  She won’t leave the room but I have to watch with M to explain what’s happening throughout so I think I will have to turn the sofa around next time we watch.:/

This marks the first time that M has requested to watch a film/programme she’s heard about, rather than the suggestion coming from me.  She’s noticing much more around her than she ever did before – I once commented that she wouldn’t ever be influenced by peers as she was so much in her own bubble, but this is no longer true: she picks up on every over-heard conversation and questions it, she asks about images she sees on the news, culture, behaviours and jokes.  She picks apart and examines everything!

And finally, we ended the week with a trip to the Common to meet friends we haven’t seen in AGES!  We had a lovely time and no-one fell in the lake which is always a bonus.

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Beaches, Floods and Minecraft

First up, lets start with what’s going on in Babbaville: as a team, we’ve been building a ship that M liked the look of in her Minecraft Construction book.  Wow, it was difficult!  It’s all built pretty much to the book’s vague specifications with a few added touches of M’s, like the crow’s nest and a captain’s cabin.

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D continues to put a lot of thought into her appearance on Minecraft: carefully crafting her ‘look’ in Skinseed (she’s currently a fox called Foxy) and then wearing whichever armour she thinks suits her character best.  She has built a tall ‘admiring station’ so M and I can gaze up at her and admire her outfit.  She is hilarious: particularly because M will be grafting on the ship, I’ll be sweating away in a mine and she’ll be swanning around saying ‘does anyone want to come and admire me?’.  Her last request was to be covered in gold armour but she didn’t have enough gold ore so M and I bravely volunteered to turn up the difficulty level and fight a few armoured zombies to get it for her.  We’ve since turned it back to peaceful mode as neither of us can take the stress of mobs at the moment.😀

D (and to some extent, M too) is still in the throes of watching lots of Minecraft YouTube videos. They have both started watching one of Stampy’s friends – Amy Lee, but Stampy is still ultimate favourite.  Just this morning, D has become up to date with Stampy’s Lovely World video releases, which means she has watched 424 (!!!!!) of his videos.  We’ve also started watching his Minecraft Story Mode videos and more Stampy and Squid Quests.  He has become such a big part of our lives that even the Sausages’ accents have changed – both slip in the word ‘like’ far more often than they used to (much to J’s consternation) and their voices go up at the end of a sentence as if they’re constantly asking a question…?  I guess they really are immersed in it.  D gets SO immersed she has to be reminded that Stampy has made up the story to entertain us.

This is D: slightly frightened but utterly captivated by Hit the Target’s latest attack on Stampy’s Lovely World – she is literally on the edge of her seat.🙂

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In other news, we have watched two new films this week: the Chipmunk’s latest – Road Chip, and Kung Fu Panda 3.  Both of which I waited to come out on Amazon Video because watching new films at the cinema doesn’t really work for us at the moment.  We’ve all really enjoyed watching both.  D asked to make a ‘Chippette’ puppet which involved colouring in a picture of Jeanette, cutting it out and putting on a show for us.  She then continued in the creative mode and made a book about some bunnies:

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Reading and writing is coming along in baby steps after it’s decline in the last year.  She learns very much as the unschoolers say: when she needs  to do it then she will.  She can now recognise certain words in Minecraft and type simple messages like ‘I love you’ on the chat function.  It is totally non-linear though as she revealed the other day she has forgotten the alphabet!  Had I not done a lot of reading around how children learn, her learning style would be utterly befuddling to me.🙂

We had a spontaneous visit to Brighton on Sunday – we haven’t been there for 2 years and the girls had forgotten the park we always visit – M seemed a little too old for it now.  They both loved the trip though, and we all marvelled at how lovely it would be to live there (apart from M, who said she would miss our house too much!).  We also marvelled at the new structure that’s been built since we last visited – the i360!  We can’t wait to try it out when it opens.

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We had a great time, skimming stones, collecting the prettiest ones, piling them on Daddy, checking maps to see where we were in the world and generally enjoying a rare family outing.

All this changed when friends and family contacted us, warning of the flood that was going on back at home.  Yes, a FLOOD!  A burst water main meant water was 2″ below our door step.  This is what we returned home to:

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We were so lucky that the water level subsided before it got into our house – our poor neighbours weren’t so fortunate.  However, we were left with no Virgin Media services for a day – which meant no wifi, TV or music.  Holy cow that was hard.  Babbaville and Stampy were very much missed but we got by, just.  There was a great cheer from the girls when wifi came back on.🙂

Lastly, we paid a visit to the girls Uncle G who is in hospital at the moment awaiting surgery for a heart bypass.  I don’t want to turn every experience into ‘an education’, particularly when someone we love is in hospital, but G was upbeat and the girls were reassured by the ‘normality’ of it all and got to hear the doctor telling G all about the surgery.  D was disappointed not to be able to actually see blood vessels being cut and moved about but our alternative education can only go so far…