Tag Archives: Reading

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…

 

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The love of Minecraft continues… It’s been reignited by our being able to play multiplayer across our iPads which has made such a difference in how the girls (and me) play.

We’ve been working on projects together in each other’s worlds: the girls particularly love the wooden house in their Minecraft Construction book – I must have helped them to make it at least 10 times over the past couple of years but this is the first time we’ve been able to actually build it together.  D asked me to help her make it in creative mode, which meant I could lay the foundations and start building upwards, and she could then continue once she understood the pattern.  We finished it in under an hour – it would have taken at least 3 hours previously.  M then wanted me to help her make it in her world in survival mode – this was obviously much harder because it involved a lot of tree chopping but it was great to be able to do it together.

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Typically, our bedtimes are spent playing Minecraft or Terraria together too.  Last night M and I dared to increase the difficulty rating slightly to fight some mobs (and get bones so we could then tame a wolf and get a pet dog) – D found it too frightening and left the room. 😦  She was placated with watching Stampy while M and me continued playing.

D has gone nuts for Stampy, we all have to some extent but D has watched him for hours and hours whereas M and I have our limits!  His early videos contained a bit of swearing which the girls were intrigued about so we chatted about the words he was using, what they meant and why he was using them.  They took it in their stride. 🙂

Stampy has even inspired D to make her own gaming videos.  We don’t have whatever software you need for this so she asked me to film her playing a few of her games.

Coming off the back of Minecraft there has been lots of ‘how do you spell this?’ and ‘what does this say?’.  For D in particular I can see that she could begin picking up words from it – more so than if I was sitting and reading to her actually.  She has quite a strong fear of failure so it would be nice if it just ‘happened’ like that, rather than her sitting down and trying to learn to read.  To be honest, I think she knows more words than she lets on – she was reading whole sentences 2 years ago but now says she can’t read… hmm.

We’ve stopped going to the library at the moment – D doesn’t like going any more because ‘they’re too quiet’.  Even to the point where she stands outside the door while M and I are taking books back, ha ha!  Ah well, our library has a really good selection of books online (much better than in the actual library) so we don’t have a need to go there at the moment.  You can also download read-alongs so I got a couple of D’s favourites for her to look at on her iPad.

We’ve all been quite poorly with heavy colds since getting back from Spain so there’s been a lot of sitting around and tiredness.  Yesterday however, we made it out to Wimbledon Common.  It was glorious as usual and we had a good hour’s walk before the girls’ legs got tired.

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We would usually have attending M’s art class on Tuesday morning, but she appears to have gone off it?!  It once was her favourite class of all but it seems nothing is wrong with the class per se, just that she’s ready for something different.

We tried a ‘schooly’ type class in Kingston recently.  M responds well to a structured environment (whereas D definitely does not!) so I thought it would be a good thing for her to try.  Unfortunately it really didn’t go down well at all with M – with her information processing issues she really needed more attention and instruction than the teacher (an HE mum) could have given her.  Plus, she was learning about something totally new which meant she was struggling to understand a lot.  I’m so glad D and I stayed in the room because M got very tearful at one point and although she stuck it out to the end, she gave it a 4/10 so we decided not to go back!

It gave me renewed respect and gratitude for her art class and brownie leaders who do so well in making sure she understands and is happy.

Maths and English in our House

I stopped waving workbooks under the sausages noses about two years ago.  For me, the whole point of home education was to reinstate a love of learning (I say reinstate because M’s was wiped out by 2 years of school) and workbooks just weren’t cutting it.

Of course, there are other ways to teach Maths and English: there are countless ‘FUN!’ ideas out there.  But for me, setting up a game with the purpose of learning a concept feels too contrived.  The sausages would also be suspicious about it – they have a sixth sense for things like that.

In this house, home education has become about learning for the real world.  I can see where certain maths concepts come in handy just in day to day life but English as a subject?  Nope.  The only reason I can see someone needing to study English for 12 years is to pass an exam at the end of it.  You can appreciate plays and books without having to learn all the gubbins the government would like you to know.

Here’s a few examples of how we do English: D puts on plays using her toys as the characters; M recites and re-enacts entire film scripts; they make up rhymes; we watch films; we read books; they constantly (and I mean, constantly) critique plots and look for the reasons behind a character’s behaviour; they learn new words; they have even started critiquing sentence structure (!); they write cards, messages and sometimes emails to each other and family members.  Even Shakespeare made an appearance the other day: M asked me if anyone has ever died on their birthday and I remembered Shakespeare (possibly a myth though), which led on to me telling them how he died 400 years ago on D’s birthday and that he was such a good writer that people still love his stories today.  Both sausages were agog.  This is the sort of lead in that usually happens in our house – there may now be a request to hear one of his stories soon.  These are all the examples I can think of from the top of my head but there are probably more.

As for maths, again it’s all through day to day living.  A few examples: D was doing a count down for a race through her imaginary D-Land – she got to one and realised we weren’t going to make it in time so started dividing the one into fractions; M was making chocolate cornflake cakes and needed 100g of chocolate – 1 square was 5g so she started to work out how many squares she’d need; M made up a car game a few years ago – if you pass a car on the motorway you get 1 point (or 2 if it’s a lorry), when you get overtaken you take a point away (she recently modified the game to go into minus figures for when I’m driving slowly), the aim is to get to 100;  working out how many  seconds/minutes/days/weeks they have to wait for something (at the moment we’re on a very long countdown to D’s birthday – she just told me it’s 576 hours away); both girls do a lot of mental maths for fun and D’s calculator is one of her favourite toys; not to mention all the maths that goes on when playing Minecraft, board games, measuring for craft etc etc.

Putting my school goggles on, it seems miraculous to me that everything the sausages need to learn, they can learn through play.  Taking my school goggles off, of course it isn’t miraculous – it’s totally natural.

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Books, Art, Maths and Awesomeness

I feel like I’ve had a very ‘lazy’ weekend, what with it being Mother’s Day, and I really couldn’t be bothered to do a lot.  Thus, the house is a shambles.  So last night I announced to M that today would be ‘Get Off Your Butt Day’, which made her giggle.  Every night she asks ‘what day is it tomorrow?’, or ‘what are we doing tomorrow?’ and last night she commented that she would really like a calendar in her bedroom because the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up is what she’s going to do that day.  So we discussed whether we should go out and buy one or make one like the one I do for our lounge.  But, VERY spookily, a large envelope was delivered today… addressed to M… with a Sylvanian Family calendar inside??!!!  There wasn’t any name so we don’t know who it was from but whoever it was obviously has some sort of telepathic sense!!  Thank you, whoever you are!

So today the girls have been playing all over the house – they helped me with some cleaning and tidying, then they got to work on turning M’s lower bunk bed into a den; then they have spent some time spying on me through their binoculars while I pretended not to notice…

We all went out as a family on Saturday morning for an English Breakfast in Wimbledon – it was delicious!  Then I had some shopping to do and M wanted to join me so we stayed in town and J took D to his Mum’s.  We went to the library and M chose a new book called Emily Feather and the Enchanted Door – it’s just right for her: a slightly complex storyline (anything simple gets critiqued and picked apart) and a mystery to unravel with a nice girl as the central character.  D is very into our book of Edward Lear’s Owl and the Pussycat and asks for it most nights – both girls can sing/recite it from heart, and it’s very cute to listen to them. 🙂

In the afternoon, we all watched quite a few videos on YouTube – Storybots, this heart transplant machine one and lots and lots of How to Cake It videos.  D finished her maths app with me and M cheering her on – as soon as she’d finished she wanted to start from the beginning again. 😀

D is still very much into numbers, sums and playing on her calculator.  She can now read numbers in their tens of millions and frequently asks me to tell her a number that she can work out.  Her sense of numbers is improving too – she can re-jig sums around in her head to make them easier, figure out multiplications, and she’s getting her head around sums involving negative numbers too.  When she’s not working out numbers she’s doing make-believe games or watching ‘Kung Fu Panda – Legends of Awesomeness’ on Amazon.

On Sunday, M and I went to the National Gallery for their free Studio Sunday class.  It was as awesome as the Drawing Sunday class we went to a fortnight ago!  First of all we looked at Luca Giordiano’s ‘Perseus turning Phineas and his followers to stone‘; then the children all had a go at making Medusa’s head out of Plasticine before going back to the studio to make Perseus out of wire and modroc.  It was the first time M has sculpted like this and she really enjoyed it – unfortunately they ran out of modroc so we didn’t get to finish it but I plan to get some to use at home.

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I think I can honestly say though that by far the most inspiring part of our trip was the model of Trafalgar Square, which M was admiring for about half an hour before the class!  She said that she would love to make something like this and I can well imagine that one day she will.

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Indoor Fun

I don’t know if it’s because the wobbly teeth are finally out or because we finally struck gold with a class that D likes or what, but things are definitely on the up!

On Wednesday evening we went to a new (for us, apparently it’s 90-odd years old but I’ve never heard of it!) class called Woodcraft Folk.  The premise is letting children be children and being close to nature so they do a lot of camping and stuff but in the main they do a weekly class in a church hall near us where they play games, sing songs and generally run around having fun.

Initially D wanted to sit on my knee at the back of the room and just watch but after 10 minutes she actually asked to join in!!  D?  Joining in a competitive game with a load of strangers?!  Whaaat??  She had a minor upset midway through and we had a quiet few minutes in an adjacent room and then she felt ready to join the group again.  M really loved the class too.  We found it a little hard to understand all the new games (particularly as the noise level was so high) but she didn’t panic and gamely joined in too.

It was all good!

The sausages have been watching My Little Pony Season 5 for the first time over the last few days.  I have to say there is less passion about it than before but D did several spin-off activities: like arranging all her ponies on a shelf I cleared for her in the lounge; making each pony their own ‘element’ to wear; and getting me to make a big Tirek puppet so that she could put on a MLP ‘season 6’ show about the ponies beating him. 😀

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M has been busy doing various crafts like decoupage and making Minions out of the Kinder Egg plastic containers.  Today they both spent hours remaking M’s Frozen Lego castle upstairs, meaning I could have a sit down and do some cross stitch and watch some telly!!  They have also both made bracelets using some old beads of theirs.  D did one with the name of her alter-ego, Dordy.  Dordy is hilarious but a bit naughty.

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D also spent a long time arranging her bunnies and making more Lego thrones today.  There is a whole line of royal rabbits living in D-Land now.

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M has spent a fair amount of time on Minecraft, finishing off her ‘cruck’ peasant house for her Castles and Cannons course.  Together we learnt how to make a fireplace (that didn’t set the whole house alight) and added other peasant ‘essentials’ like a table, herbs, straw bed and woolen blanket.

M has also done work with me towards her Interior Designer Brownie badge – she desperately needs shelving in her bedroom so we looked at what we could fit where and how big each shelf would need to be.  It involved quite a bit of measuring and quite a few tears on M’s part.  She still gets very tearful and angry if she doesn’t understand something immediately but luckily it doesn’t last too long and she can be pulled out of it with a bit of humour on my part.

Strangely, the sausages haven’t wanted to go out the last couple of days, even though the weather has been beautiful.  We’ve been so busy indoors though, which is obviously what they both needed.

 

 

Recovery

M spent the weekend recovering after that horrendous bug she caught last week – she looked awful: all skinny with large sunken black eyes.  D was also ill on Friday night, having had a relapse.  Needless to say, neither of them could go to Judo.

However, on Sunday we had our annual meal with J’s family to celebrate his parents’ anniversary.  It was at a Chinese restaurant – the first time the girls have been to one.  M certainly chose that meal to tank up – she tried everything in front of her – prawn crackers, sesame prawn toast, ribs, crispy seaweed, the lot!  She particularly liked making up the shredded duck pancakes with cucumber and spring onion.  This is a far cry from the girl who would only eat about 4 different foods a few years ago!  D was more true to form and ate some brioche I’d brought with me but she did try a prawn cracker which was pretty brave of her.

I can’t remember how much I’ve written about D’s state of mind at the moment but she’s worrying about anything and everything: Judo, art class, me leaving (to go to Australia or Russia?!); being forced to go to Brownies/school etc etc.  There have been a lot of tears this week over seemingly trivial things.  One major change though is that she can’t bear being left at night, which has meant me having no ‘me time’ at all in the evenings.  Even me being in the room isn’t enough – she wants to lie on top of me.  So I’ve ditched my me-time for now as the fear and sadness I see in her face when she’s begging me to stay just isn’t worth it.

On the plus-side, I am loving our bedroom time at the moment.  We either have a ‘lesson’ from D, or we get to read her new space book from the library (I went on my own at the weekend and picked up loads of great books).  I think I might be a tad more excited about this book than she is, as her interest in space isn’t as passionate as it used to be.  I have finished reading Heidi to M and I got her a few classics to choose from – she’s chosen Jane Eyre – one of my favourite books!  It’s rewritten for a modern-day audience but it’s been done really well, and isn’t abridged.  I found it in the 9-14 year old section but even D is keeping up with the story.

Today we’re back to our usual routine, which feels a bit odd after 2 weeks off due to illness.  We went to the girls art class this morning and then Brownies this afternoon.  Our free time has been spent on SequinArt, singing, piano playing, baking, sewing and board games.  In fact, neither girl has the remotest interest in doing anything ‘screeny’ – not even Minecraft!

On a final note, I was thinking today that home education doesn’t leave a lot of room for a private life – both girls are fully versed in periods these days although I did have to go through all the details again with D today.  She now thinks she’s luckier than boys because she’s got three holes instead of two.  We’ll leave it there.

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Focus on D

I didn’t realise it was so long since my last post!  I just haven’t been in the mood to write lately, even though I’ve had lots of ideas swirling around my head.

Leading on from my last post, we got up at 3am to see the supermoon lunar eclipse – it was a beauty!  We managed to spot some constellations we’d never seen in real life before too – Taurus (D’s favourite), the Seven Sisters and the square of Pegasus!  We managed to stay in the garden for 20 minutes before we all decided to go back to bed.  I tried not to think too much about where we would all be the next time there’s a supermoon blood moon in 20 years – that sort of thing gives me the heebie-jeebies. 😀

As I mentioned last time, D is coming out of her telly phase, and is often looking for activities.  I’m at a bit of a loss with her to tell the truth, her interest in space is waning and we haven’t yet found an interest to fill the gap.  D is quite hard to strew for since she doesn’t readily try new things so there’s been quite a bit of boredom lately!  However, this morning she came up with an idea to make a large golden key (inspired by The Secret Garden and an atmospheric puzzle app we have called ‘The Room’).  She has plans to make a keyhole with a matching symbol next!

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Lately, D has also become interested in competitive games – they were always avoided before because of her fear of losing – I’m impressed by how well she can now play Connect 4, all learnt from observing me and M play I think.  She’s also learnt a lot of Super Mario skills from watching M play.  She loves to watch and learn: I think it feels nice and safe to her.

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I’ve focused on M a lot over the past 2 years of home edding: working through her anxieties and helping her to blossom.  I think I can safely say M is ‘there’ – or at least, she’s in a place where I feel satisfied she’s open to learning and new experiences, her anxieties are low  and she has excellent social skills.  Further down the line, I think (and the paediatrician thought) some cognitive behavioural therapy could help her with some strategies to deal with her anxieties, but she’s not ready for that yet.

So now I’m looking more closely at D (sorry, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to multi-task as I approach 40 – one issue at a time!!).  I recognise a few Asperger traits in there, but nothing as debilitating as M’s.  I don’t feel she needs a diagnosis, partly because I’m pretty sure she is borderline and partly because she is generally more robust and able to express herself better than M: meaning that it’s easier for me to iron out anxieties and issues rather than fumbling around in the dark as I do with M.  I won’t go into the ins and outs of D’s issues now, I’m sure I’ll cover it in future posts.  Suffice to say, I feel as if D has changed quite a bit over the last few months and my focus will now be on calming her anxieties and expanding her horizons.

Now a few snippets on what we’ve been up to:

D has been playing on Room (an iPad app) and we’ve just downloaded Room 2.  She has some totally out there ideas about how to solve the puzzles and I’m learning to shut-up and let her get on with it as she’s generally right.  She’s also been playing on her favourite maths appTeach Your Monster to Read and the Arithmasticks have been out again.  She also made a rocket, a Christmas bauble, baked cookies and played on Minecraft.  This weekend we had a lovebombing day, although I got the feeling we were just biding our time until M returned from Brownies!  We did lots of sewing together for her bunny’s outfit, as designed by D.

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M has been for a day out with the Brownies (she chose not to spend the weekend there), and loved all the activities.  I had to make a mermaid outfit for the mythical creatures theme – it tested all my abilities since I haven’t made anything for about 10 years!  I could have done a much better job had I had time and patience but M was very pleased with it.

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M has been trying to finish off old projects, like the Fimo set she got last year.  She also made her first Christmas decoration and has started learning to touch-type again.  She has mainly been occupied with Super Mario on her Nintendo DS – she has completed 6 of the 8 worlds now and has shown perseverance way beyond my level – I would have thrown the machine through a window by now!  It has also meant that she has begun looking up the ‘walkthroughs’ on YouTube on her own!  She’s never dared to do that before.

We’ve given up on Minecraft school.  Freedom to quit and all that.  The subject matter wasn’t enthralling M and the stuff we had to learn to pass a quiz was exceedingly dry.  As it happens, the course creators sent out an email to say they’d had complaints that the course was too hard so perhaps that was another reason why we weren’t feeling drawn to it.  One week, there was a cartoon about the space race which showed JFK sitting at a desk with a picture of Marilyn Monroe on it… cue half an hour lost while we looked up videos featuring her!  Anyway, M loved the idea of a Minecraft school so I’ll keep an eye out for future courses.

They’ve both been having fun with friends too.  We had a glorious afternoon at the common, we were there for over 4 hours in the end and only left because the sun was beginning to set!

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We also had a great time at our Curious Minds group.  This week, the kids played with boxes and made dens out of them.  In the end, D made a ‘kind monster’ out of hers and we brought it home – she has been decorating it every day since!

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