Category Archives: August

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!