Tag Archives: Science

Growing Up

M’s will to learn is going from strength to strength – she is actively, positively, wanting to learn new things and to get a grasp on things she doesn’t understand.  It is so refreshing!

This week I bought a new STEAM book – sometimes it’s lovely to go through a book for ideas – I tend to feel overwhelmed when I look on the internet.  M saw me with it so we read through it together and she picked out 6 or 7 projects she’d like to try.  We were looking at an electrical project and M started asking questions about how electricity works – I seemingly wasn’t grasping exactly what she was asking and she was getting frustrated but we got there in the end: she managed to find her words and ask

“Why do things behave the way they do?”

Wow.  What a question!  I obviously didn’t have an answer on hand for that but we had a chat about scientists questioning everything and some of them even turning to religion for an answer.

She does seem so much older now she’s nearing 10 – she makes her own breakfast now: she toasts a waffle and sorts out her own drink.  She’s even been sleeping for 11/12 hours a night this week so I’m sure she must doing a lot of growing.

I’ve also noticed recently how amazing the girls’ vocabulary has become: we were doing some research on Terraria and noticed pictures of bunnies wearing party hats – the explanation read that they only wear party hats when there is a party on.  M asked “what qualifies as a party?”.  What the hell?!  Where did that word come from?! Meanwhile, D is wandering around on Minecraft saying “I’m looking for some flat terrain“.  It is all hilarious and super-impressive at the same time. 😀

This week the girls have been playing Terraria and Minecraft, trampolining, playing chase with J and playing with their cousin M, who has come to stay for a few days.

And finally, here is a picture of M dressed up as a dragon – J got out the long-forgotten dressing up outfits when I was out last weekend, 🙂

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Colour and Vision

On Monday we took a trip to the Natural History Museum for their Colour and Vision exhibition.  I love colour and anything to do with it so I really wanted to see this, and especially the light installation that had been created especially for the exhibition.  I figured/hoped the girls would be a little interested but took their iPads along just in case.

I find NHM to be quite ‘dry’ on the whole: it could do with more interactive pieces, which would really engage the sausages.  The exhibition could have done with some injection of life too.  Considering it was about evolution and vision, it was very ‘dead’: there were far too many glass cases of dead things, many of which made M and me baulk.

The art installation was beautiful and we all admired the changing spectrum of colours from different angles.

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D managed 5 minutes of the exhibition before collapsing into tears because it was so boring! 😀  So she played on Minecraft for the rest of the time.  Fair enough, it just wasn’t attention grabbing enough and the exhibits were too high for her to see.  M on the other hand, absorbed most of it – she asked soooo many questions and we chatted about evolution, the tree of life and the development of eyes.  Her favourite part was the only interactive bit – a computer game which tested how quickly you could spot a camouflaged crab.

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The past two London outings have shown me how ready and eager she is to absorb information now – the questions she asks are incredible and tend to get me thinking along lines I’ve never considered before!

On the tube, M wanted me to give her sums to work out – it was a good distraction from the heat and motion sickness she was suffering from.  She managed quite a few before her eyes became glazed and she just couldn’t even hold the sum in her head.  We had a chat about Aspergers and how she has a smaller working memory than a neuro-typical person.  Her diagnosis has been so useful to me in helping me to understand her more and to help her understand that other people have the same struggles too.

When we got back I put on my favourite ever documentary, ‘Colour: The Spectrum of Science’.  The girls dipped in and out of it while playing Minecraft.

Overall, it was a good day!  I think it’s a shame that NHM is so old fashioned – I think they need to up their game a bit.  It’s so exciting just stepping through the doors but I find it quite boring inside. :/ Though I was impressed to read that you can now tour the NHM on Google Street View so perhaps there is hope. 🙂

Glorious Google

This week, D asked me why Gloria (a hippo in Madagascar 3) was wearing a scuba diving mask when surely she could breathe under water?  This lead on to Googling (D says “can you ‘Google Up’ something, Mum?” like this is some sort of new verb she’s invented) how long hippos can stay under water while holding their breath.  Which led on to how long people can hold their breath under water for… which led onto learning about techniques for doing this… Which led onto a carbon dioxide explanation (M pipes up with ‘trees use carbon dioxide!) and the meaning of ‘acidifying blood’.  Glorious Google.

Other recent conversations have been about iron (we’re trying to ensure M eats enough iron everyday): linking it to Minecraft (imagine if we could EAT iron ingots, Mum?!’; linking it to our cast-iron radiators which we’ve been disconnecting and flushing to get them working again; Googling the 5 stages of iron overdosing after M was concerned she might eat too much iron, and amazement that we EAT metal!

I love these rabbit holes and connections.

Another thing Google is useful for is for doing research on a previously jailed sexual offender that your daughter wants to watch on YouTube.  That was D, wanting to watch L for Lee play Minecraft.  I was in a cold sweat wondering what I should do so I stalled her for a while by getting her to watch new Stampy videos while I panicked thought about the best approach.  In the end, I figured he’s unlikely to be displaying dodgy behaviour in his videos but I would be upfront about it to D.  So I told D and M that L for Lee did something horrible to someone and went to jail for it.  D wanted to watch anyway, M didn’t.  Questions from D: ‘But he seems really nice in the videos?;  ‘Do you think he’s still friends with Stampy?’; ‘How can he be nice and horrible?’.  I felt deeply uncomfortable about the whole thing but I knew that if I didn’t let her watch him then she would find ways of doing it behind my back anyway.  In the end she watched 3 of his videos and then returned to watching Stampy – turns out he doesn’t make very good videos – thank goodness!!

And finally, a gorgeous Minecraft creation by D. 😀

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Yes, Minecraft

For those of you who are not particularly interested in Minecraft, these last few posts must seem really quite boring!  If you’re not into computers or gaming then I can certainly see that you wouldn’t get how incredibly amazing Minecraft really is.  Yes, it’s still featuring heavily in our lives right now.  The passion was just beginning to ease a little and then the latest Minecraft PE update came out and the level of excitement was through the roof! 😀

M has since been playing about with pistons (I have yet to learn how to work the engineering and redstone side of Minecraft so I watched on with awe) and we’ve all been taming horses using saddles that M had fished previously.

We did have a bit of a disaster in Babbaville though.  Since the update, a few of our worlds were causing the app to crash and Babbaville was one of them.  I looked into ways of backing the world up but it seems this isn’t possible without hacking the iPad which I’m not prepared to do.  M was absolutely gutted but cheered up a little when I remembered that we could use Babbaville’s seed to recreate the same world again.  We’ve since had loads more fun recreating Babbaville from memory onto a new world.  Phew.

We’ve all had a change of skin using our Skinseed app: D turned herself into iBallistic Squid, I am now Stampy and M is a blue bunny.  We figured out the patterns from looking at images online – we could have just bought the skins but that wouldn’t have been as much fun.  Here is D as Squid – she figured out the teeth and colours herself 🙂

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The measure of how much we’ve been playing Minecraft is when we have to question which world we’re talking about: i.e. are you hungry in the Minecraft world or the real one?

So onto real-world news, last weekend J and I went to our nephew’s wedding.  This was cause for much anxiety for D, and it’s been building up and up over the last few months.  We had planned to spend the night away at a hotel but I decided D’s anxiety was getting too high so we just went for the day.  Here is a rare photo of J and I together, taken by my Dad.  What a treat for your eyes. 😉

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My Mum and Dad came down to look after the girls while we were gone so they had a lovely day of play with my Mum and games of chess with my Dad.  D coped very well considering how worried she’d been.

The general mood here is one of cocooning: M has decided she’s not interested in going to Woodcraft Folk anymore and even Brownies fell by the wayside this week.  Next week, Brownies finishes for the summer so we have got a few months a head of us with no classes at all!  We’ve had a couple of play dates this week though – we grabbed a rare few hours of sunshine in Bushy Park with D’s best friend.  This girl has so much energy, the girls were utterly exhausted afterwards (in the best way)!  Bushy Park is stunning and we plan on exploring more of it.

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And here are the girls on another play date and having a last-minute bounce on our friends’ fantastic trampoline before returning to our pitiful one at home. 😉

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I made a couple of new discoveries in terms of resources: the first is thanks to my nephew who showed it to my Mum, who then showed it to us – Michael Rosen on YouTube!  I love that man.  The second is Wonderopolis: if you read this blog regularly you’ll know I struggle with science.  This is probably the first website I’ve come across where science is worded in such a way that I can actually understand it!  The girls and I wanted to know where wind comes from and now we know. 🙂

Because We’re Happyyyyy…

Yesterday was one of the most joyous days we’ve had in a long time!  🙂 Maybe because it was a beautiful spring day?  Or maybe because I ditched all work (apart from an hour writing my blog in the morning and half an hour cooking dinner in the evening)?  Maybe it was because J played chase with them in the garden rather than taking them out (because they didn’t want to go out)?  Or maybe because I prioritised playing on the girls’ makeshift boat and actually got into it rather than thinking of a thousand other things I could be doing instead?  Or maybe it was because I played happy tunes on Spotify while the girls made art in the kitchen and we all sang and danced along?  Or maybe all of it 🙂

Whatever it was, M was practically bouncing off the walls, shouting ‘I’m so happy!’.  The energy of the day really reminded me of when we first began home educating: it was summer so the girls could run in and out of the house; I was fired up with excitement because of our recent decision to HE and I was strewing like mad, thinking about all things we could DO; both girls were filled with relief and happiness at not having to go to school anymore.  I still remember the day I turned around to look at M in the back of the car (grey faced, dead-eyed, utterly miserable, looking like she was about to be fed to the lions), D was crying and so I turned the car around and they never went back.

I wish all children had the right to be home educated.  Oh right, they do!  Ok, I wish more parents understood it and saw it as a valid alternative to school.  I wish everyone would take their school goggles off and realise that education doesn’t have to be so pressurised and robotic and that there is more to life than SATs and GCSEs.  Oh yes, and that there are other ways to socialise than with 29 other people your own age (because we all do that as adults, right?).

Anyway, back to our happy day yesterday: I always feel it’s a pity there aren’t two of me – one could do the energy filled play days, while the other lies down to recover.  They could take it in turns.  I’m highly introverted and I need a lot of time to be on my own!  Or at least just thinking my own thoughts rather than dealing with everyone else’s.  Hence, these magical energetic days don’t happen all the time as I would probably go insane, or more likely, depressed.

I’ve been making a concerted effort to just play the last week or so.  I find it so easy to do craft, or artwork, or taking them on a day trip, but I find simple imaginary play so hard, and a little boring if I’m honest.  So yesterday I pulled a long forgotten toy out of the basket and joined the girls in a game on the boat.  M isn’t big on imaginary play either but she joined in too and was soon in a heap of silent laughter as D entertained us with a hilarious role play with her toy rabbit, Cute Twitchy.  I actually found myself really enjoying it. 🙂

I’ve also been trying to say ‘yes’ more to D (I’m on a constant quest to say yes more, as a small voice inside me is saying ‘actually I would like to sit down and have a cup of tea’).  So when D asked me to make Cute Twitchy a toy carrot I inwardly groaned (imagining myself to be sewing on my own for hours after D gets bored and wanders off) but I said ‘yes’.  D actually did a fair amount of the work but got tired of sewing at the end so I finished it off for her.  M also got engrossed in making a top for her toy, Pink Teddy, but got stuck when deciding which buttons to use from her beautiful collection.  I’m sure she’ll get there eventually.

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We also did another D-inspired activity: she had asked for a pestle and mortar for Christmas, after seeing a scientist grind lapis lazuli on a science program.  It’s been sitting on the shelf for a long time so I suggested she might like to pick some grass to grind.  Luckily, I had accidentally bought two so M could join in as well.  They crushed grass, dandelions, daisies and few early forget-me-nots.  Then D moved onto spices and she tried poppy seeds, cloves, and fennel seeds.  We enjoyed the smells (they even ate a clove each!) and chatted about why lapis would have been so prized (M was disappointed she couldn’t make a blue sky).

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We then watched a couple of films before returning to the kitchen to do more grinding and painting.  We had a quick read of this article, before having a go at using white vinegar instead of water to make the paint – it really lightens the colour.  M noticed I had chopped a red onion and asked if she could make paint from the skin.  D used uncooked skin, and then I boiled the rest and M crushed that.  It turns out that boiling it first makes a much deeper, pink paint!  We’re really looking forward to getting some berries to have a go at crushing next. 🙂

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The day finished with another game on the boat, and then D decided she’d like to teach me and M about numbers instead of having a bedtime story.  I could hardly stand it, she was so unbearably cute while she patiently explained to me all about the patterns she can see in numbers and what the bigger numbers look like.

Just to finish, J took the girls to Battersea Park over Easter weekend and they had a go at water-zorbing… I want a go!

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The Big Bang Fair

We’ve been up in Nottingham the past few days so that we could attend the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham yesterday.  There are Big Bang Fairs all over the country but I wanted to try this one with it being the biggest!  I was told by a member of staff that 4000 children come each day, and boy could you tell…  The noise level was insane and you couldn’t get to a lot of the stands because of overcrowding.  We did miss out on a lot of stuff because of crowds unfortunately – there was a massive technology/robotic section that was very popular and I decided not to even try for one of the shows because the noise level made them unintelligible, so we stuck to the interactive stands.

All that being said, we had a good time and I think the sausages will be willing to go to another fair next year, albeit a smaller one.  We played with geometry puzzles, made tall towers out of newspaper rolls, played with molecular models and tons of other stuff.  The girls loved the puzzles more than anything and I got some great ideas for toys to buy them in the future.  The staff were lovely and very keen to talk to the girls about scientific and mathematical principles.  The ones we talked to were very pro home ed too, which was great. 🙂

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Screens, Screens and More Screens

Yes, I love screens.  Especially when D is too down to do much else.  That flippin’ tooth still isn’t out and although D’s now doing hilarious Nanny McPhee impressions with her snaggle tooth she’s still struggling mood-wise.  It doesn’t take much for her to descend into tears and she painted this very sad picture with our homemade watercolours:

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Poor D.  The best place for her at the moment is chilling out in front of Dora The Explorer, which she’s been watching lots of.  However, she’s still found time for sums in the boat:

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And they’ve both been painting and clay modelling:

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And and and, I almost forgot a big spark that started this evening: I was making pancakes in the kitchen for me and M, and D was mucking about – pretending she couldn’t get past an invisible glass pane.  So I showed the girls some mime videos on YouTube and they were seriously impressed (we tried Marcel Marceau but he was way too slow and old fashioned unfortunately).  D tried out some miming acts afterwards – she’s pretty good!

So back to the screens.  We’ve had a fair amount of screen time going on due to D being on edge.  We’ve got tons out of it though, it’s never wasted time in my opinion.  Even I’ve managed a fair amount of telly watching, thanks to J keeping the girls occupied on Sunday!

We watched Mr Peabody and Sherman, which we all love: there were lots more in-depth questions about Marie Antoinette, Robespierre and the revolution this time around.  They both made accurate judgments on Mr Peabody’s character too (M: “Peabody can’t be that clever or he wouldn’t have said Sherman can’t fly” (if you haven’t seen it, this comment causes Sherman to lose confidence and crash the plane) and D: “Why would Sherman trust Mr Peabody if Mr Peabody doesn’t trust Sherman?” (Mr Peabody has trust issues!)).

I tried watching a programme on Russia’s Lost Princesses today but ten minutes in I realised I’d already seen it.  M was semi-interested but it was a bit too complicated for her to follow so she asked to watch Anastasia instead.  We seem to keep coming back to revolutions!

And this morning we watched quite a few videos on The Kid Should See This.  Really fascinating ones that led onto so many questions: one about Mary Leakey discovering footprints of human ancestors; Alfred Wegener proposing contintental drift; a 14 year old rock climber; surfing the world’s heaviest waves; a world record sky dive; and London’s history in paper craft.  This site works really well for my two: the videos are short enough to keep their attention, the animation/filming is interesting enough to make them want to watch, and the subject matter isn’t too complex.

We had our usual day of art class and Brownies yesterday – the art teacher was full of praise for the way M works – choosing her colours so carefully and meticulously drawing detailed patterns – I was so pleased as M hates how slow she works compared to everyone else so hopefully this will help her to see that speed isn’t everything.

Today we were meant to be going to Morden Hall but there was no way D was going out and the weather looked a bit iffy so we had a day indoors instead.  I have just left the sausages upstairs, ‘playing’ Frere Jacque on pillows – they were working out which ‘notes’ they would need and then jumping on them in the right order. 😀

Crafts, Maths and Wobbles

So here’s the more detailed post that I promised.  Unfortunately I’ve been too busy to make daily notes so I’m probably forgetting quite a lot but here goes anyway…

We had a well needed pyjama day on Wednesday, partly because we were still recovering from a busy weekend (or at least I was!) but also because D and I had a mild tummy bug. I feel like I barely moved that day, I certainly didn’t do any of my usual jobs, but somehow I managed to keep the girls going with activities:  M has resurrected her old Sylvanian Families project (from 16 months ago!!): making tiny food packets.  It is noticeably less labour-intensive for me this time around as she is now able to do a lot of it herself (measuring/cutting/calculating etc).  You probably don’t get a sense of scale from the picture below but just to give you an idea – those larger food packets on the right are just over 2cm long.  The project idea and the food labels are from the Sylvanian Families Fan Club magazine.

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D has gone bonkers for an old calculator of J’s – in fact it’s so old it’s ready for the bin but it has nice big buttons and she loves it.  She has been writing reams of sums; or getting me to write the sums, which she then works out on the calculator; or just asking me for sums and not writing it down at all.  We also had a short spell of writing sums out ‘properly’ but really, she just loves pressing the calculator buttons!  And even though she’s not working out the sums in her head, connections are still being made – she can now read numbers into the tens of thousands and is beginning to get really good at multiplication.  Impressive for a 6 year old!

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D is longing to be 7, but at the same time is regressing emotionally.  It’s a normal part of being 6 and I remember M going through the same thing.  D’s way of expressing her wobbles and showing her need for love is by pretending she can’t do her seat belt/coat zip/bath time.  She has also asked me to stay with her until she goes to sleep each night, which I told her I’m happy to do until she doesn’t want me to anymore (to which she replied something along the lines of “that’s good, until I’m a teenager then” !!).

I’m happy to go along with all of these things but I’m ashamed to say I lost the plot a little when she asked me to help her on the toilet.  There are only a few childhood phases I was happy to leave behind and that is one of them.  We had a little chat afterwards and she burst into tears and told me how worried she was about her wobbly teeth.  I was astounded – first of all that she could identify what the problem really was (better than me) and that I hadn’t thought there was something behind the toilet issue (if I had stopped to think for a minute I would probably have dealt with it a lot better – lesson learnt).

I learnt recently that there is a German saying: “wobbly tooth, wobbly child”.  This so fits with both of my two!

On Thursday our play date was cancelled in case we spread our lurgy around so we decided to go to Wimbledon to buy some more clay from our beloved art shop.  I had to put imaginary blinkers on M as I could see her eyes lighting up at all the wonderful things in there which we really can’t afford right now!  We had a visit to the library which was quickly aborted due to building works going on in there and then home again for more craft and play.

D and M have been doing lots of imaginary play together recently – they are still working on a cardboard boat (it keeps collapsing), looking after D’s toy bunny, ‘Cute Twitchy’ and going to D land together.  I can hear their dialogue maturing and becoming much more respectful of each other.

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On Friday we went to see D’s best friend (D) and spent a happy couple of hours there.  D was really upset to have to leave and they were both trying to organise a sleep over to extend the playdate, but given that they’re both hardened co-sleepers I don’t think it’ll be happening anytime soon! 😀

On Friday afternoon M asked to make gloop and D tried touching it for the first time!  She managed a few minutes play before going to wash her hands.  We also had a go at making our own watercolour paints after seeing this video on Facebook.  They still haven’t dried but even if they don’t work, we had a lot of fun making them.

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Today we’ve had a busy day of play, house work, baking and M went to a special Brownies event at a local school where she made putty and earned a Science badge.  All good.

Documentaries

We’ve got documentaries coming out of our ears at the moment – the girls are actually asking for them to be put on!  This hasn’t happened before, ever.  As I’ve mentioned before, D loves the ‘Colour: The Spectrum of Science‘ programme and now M loves a new one I put on the other night on Netflix – ‘Secrets of Henry VIII’s Palace: Hampton Court’.  She seems fascinated by the goings on of Henry VIII.  We also watched ‘Secrets of the Tower of London‘ and two episodes of the ‘Britain’s Outlaws‘ series.  There have been so many questions, from M in particular, and no anger issues at all!  We tried ‘Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity‘ too but that was a no-go: it didn’t pull any of us in unfortunately.

The girls have been busy making a boat from a cardboard box – they’ve really worked hard together.  They made oars to go with it, made a shelf for a little treasure chest and designed a flower motif on the base of the boat.  They then drew the same flower design with Sharpies on some plain white t-shirts.  Altogether a gorgeous little team project!

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No Curious Minds today: D didn’t want to go.  It was quite hard for me to accept as I could see it was a beautiful wintry day out there; but we have an arrangement whereby we all get a turn to have ‘the final say’ as to whether we go out or not.  So we stayed in and M finished off her Sequin Art, we watched Disney’s Christmas Carol (which was surprisingly true to the book); D did a bit of maths with Numberjacks and also made a card for her friend and both girls played on their boat.

We’ve had a busy happy few days really.  D is much more relaxed now that I’m with her in the evenings; and J has promised her that she doesn’t have to join in at Judo, she can just watch M if she wants to.  Giving her more control and comfort may well have done the job – I hope…

A Lot of Science

Oh my word, such a sciencey few days: M has been asking lots of questions and I’ve been thinking about how much I need to up my game in the science department.  My knowledge of anything sciencey is appalling and it’s something I’d really like to rectify if I’m going to give the sausages a balanced education.  I don’t mean that in the teaching sense, but I feel that currently my strewing is heavily weighted on the arts side and there is very little on the science side.

Anyhoo, as usual, M is pushing me along, letting me know when she is ready to take a step forward.  Her questions this week (well, at least the ones that made me stop and think) were: “What makes some things heavier than others?; What’s an atom? What’s the point of genes?”  Jeez, where do I start?

Well, for starters I need to learn some of this stuff myself.  A great deal of M’s learning is filtered through me, this is mainly because she has issues with any form of information intake.  So if we’re watching a film, I have to pause it every so often to recap on what’s just happened; if we’re reading a book, again I have to recap after each paragraph so that the information is simplified and re-organised in a way that she understands.  Sounds like hard work but I’ve normalised it so much that I barely notice it anymore.

So I’ve been looking around for some sort of way that I can learn very basic science.  Most resources assume some sort of prior knowledge – I even tried our See Inside Science book but I found it baffling!  The other day I happened to be on Khan Academy and I noticed that there’s a science section on there – bingo!  I spent a couple of hours yesterday learning all about atoms, protons and atomic weight.  After that I went upstairs and succinctly described an atom to M and told her that you could string a million carbon atoms across the width of one strand of hair.  This pleased her muchly so my time was not wasted. 🙂

We’ve also been watching ‘Colour: The Spectrum of Science‘ together this week.  I can highly recommend it!  In the first episode, Lapis Lazuli made an appearance, which intrigued the girls as they have mined for it in Minecraft.  The presenter ground the rock down to make paint so D has now added a pestle and mortar to her Christmas list, which I think might be the best present request ever!

This evening we watched the second episode and M was grilling me as to why chlorophyll was green and not any other colour, and wanted to know the full details of photosynthesis – I struggled to answer some of her questions so I have a fair bit of research to do, starting with light waves which I’ve never really understood.

The way that M grills me for answers leaves me thinking she’d do very well on Prime Minister’s Question Time.  Her Nanny took her to see Annie at our local theatre this afternoon and when she got back I was reading through the programme, which had a little history on the 1930’s depression era.  She was really interested in the whole cycle of how and why it started so I got another grilling. 🙂

D has been SUPER excited this week because her friend came over to play on Wednesday.  It was honestly like Christmas: she couldn’t wait for bedtime to come and then she couldn’t sleep for excitement!  They had a really lovely time together and D has been counting the days until she can see her again.

We’ve had a very quiet day today, partly because M was out at the theatre all afternoon and partly because I’ve been feeling a little unwell.  D has spent most of the day cuddled up to me on the sofa, doing all sorts of ‘schooly’ type learning: she began with her Times Tables book, and then went onto her onebillion maths app which she played for hours before going onto some letter writing practise on her iTrace app.

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Phew.  It seems like there’s suddenly been a whoosh of learning over the past few days – no wonder I feel tired! 🙂