half term? already?

The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur. Somehow  we have reached a point where Josh is choosing to spend money on books and he has bought himself two new books, he is still staying firmly in team non fiction but is at least reading for pleasure without me needing to prompt him at all.

We enjoyed a day out at Thorpe Park and followed this up with conversations around planning,  engineering, speed, acceleration and force. We designed our own theme parks and enjoyed drawing maps of our parks and designing our own rollercoasters and explaining how each one worked and then installed an app on our phones where we build our own parks. This involves keeping your customers happy, earning experience and coins to unlock and build more rides. The customers need toilets, food, drink and benches. A nice looking park keeps customers happier and allows you to earn more and there are times for how long rides take to build as well. This has been something fun that we have all been playing as a family.

In line with our talk of planning, design and engineering the children made a start on their STEM challenges, ( http://www.jamesdysonfoundation.co.uk/resources/challenge-cards-2/ )  they completed the spaghetti challenge to build a bridge which could hold the weight of a bag of sugar. This took them over an hour and several attempts but they were proud to achieve it in the end.

We had a look at a website ( http://www.literacyshed.com/ ) which was recommended by another home educating mum, this is brilliant! it is something that both the children can do together yet they can adjust it to their own interests and abilities. It inspires creative writing and analysing what is happening whilst watching short video clips and there is so many genres to choose from it keeps both the children interested, from video games, to ghost stories and from sport to music videos.

We have done more cooking, with the children cooking meals for the family they are able to do this both working together and individually, we are able to discuss nutrition and balanced meals whilst working to a budget.

The continue with their sports, both enjoy swimming and have lessons weekly, Josh has enjoyed tag rugby at a home ed sports session and both children have also tried their hand free running in a gym hall with all the equipment which we hope to make a regular event in our diaries

I took Josh on a trip to London to the natural history museum with a home ed group, though we arrived too late to meet up with everyone we still had a really good day, it was nice to see Josh choosing to read and being able to get to the exhibits when in past experience it has been busy and chaotic. We had never done this trip during school time before and the difference was huge!

Alana has been volunteering at a local baby and toddler group. She is enjoying this, she helps with the refreshments and engages in play with the little ones and conversation with the adults as well as assisting in the set up and tidy away of the play equipment. She is enjoying looking at a free child development online course as well as studying for her science double award igcse.

Joshs love of animals continues and his interest in David Attenborough and how he got to where he is has lead us onto discussing biographies and autobiographies, which in turn will lead to more reading and writing which can only be a good thing.

We went on our first family term time holiday, it was lovely to get the pool to ourselves. The children were able to explore sound travelling in the pool with Ryan, they used a marble and were able to swim above it with their eyes closed pin pointing from the sound where it went.

We visited the Eden Project looking at environments, habitats and what we use plants for ( answer : pretty much everything!!) and then paid a visit to the historical tunnel beaches at Ilfracombe where the children searching the rockpools, climbed across the rocks, watched the waves crashing on the rocks and discussed how different life would have been in Victorian times when men and women were segregated on to separate beaches.

We used the video cameras on our phones to film waves and the children running using slow motion and fast motion settings which they enjoyed looking at and were then able to identify the different effects on tv while watching movies…… all in good fun of course.

Its half term now, our regular clubs are not running and all the parks, woods and museums are set to be busy so we will mostly be hiding out apart from a few planned activities.

A week in the life….

This week saw Monday begin with Joshs trip to duxford. He went with Ryan and his nan and really enjoyed himself. He took part in a workshop looking at flight and lift, volunteering for the demonstrations and helping to build a scale replica of a plane. Alana went to her science group leaving me to have a morning with just little Nick.

Tuesday we had a couple of visits. The first was from a policeman to take a witness statement following an incident. I allowed the children to remain in the room with me to listen in and we had a brilliant discussion about why the policeman could not hear anything from them and how many different questions he asked, getting quite repetitive. We discussed why this may be the case. Our second visitor was the Attendance Improvement Officer from our local authority. I know that legally I am not obliged to meet with her, I could very easily have declined her visit and requested to be referred straight to the elective home education advisor. But I allowed this lady in. I trusted my instinct (and that of my dogs who didn’t bark at her) … It went really well. The children were eager to show her their project work that they had been doing by choice. I informed her that I was taking a hands off approach to their learning and that we were following their interests and that this seems to be working very well. Bottom line is that we got her paper work through the post today and it’s all extremely positive. I felt under no pressure to try to send either of them back to school and they were both able to be present during the visit.

Wednesday was Alanas 13th birthday and also the launch of my group / session. I have arranged hire of a local adventure playground for a 4 hour period. On the first session I got a good number turn up and had some very constructive feedback. I was able to cover my costs from how many people came so that was great.
There was children of all ages, from nicks age up to 15 yrs and all of them were kept happy. I have now aquired some baby / toddler toys to use for the next session and I have people interested in hosting other activities there such as art, Zumba, bushcraft, natural skincare. I also plan to organise other events such as Christmas parties, emergency service visits and perhaps a mobile library. The possibilities are endless if it takes off. For now the children and parents all seemed to enjoy it, itbwas a good opportunity for all of us to socialise, to drink tea and coffee without the cost of sitting in a cafe and kept all the children of all ages happy, and we are booked again for November.

Thursday we attended a sports session that I had organised with a local coach. There wasn’t a great turn out but Josh enjoyed it and we are hopeful that it will take off with more people coming along. It’s a great chance for kids to take part in planned and structured physical activity and team games outside on astro turf.
Alana began her volunteering at a baby and toddler group. She helped with the refreshments, setting out toys and engaging with the toddlers during activities. She really enjoyed this and will be studying a free online child development course to go alongside this experience.

On Friday we played about together on a website called the literacy shed. This involved watching short animated clips, adverts or music videos (there is loads of choice) and then doing various written tasks. Josh doesn’t like writing very much, he was prone to refusing but this has inspired him which has been great to see. Alana has worked on different styles of writing, writing scripts, diaries, stories….. she is eager to begin her English igcse study and loves to read and write. Literacy shed is encouraging her to try different forms of writing as well as encouraging her to think about and discuss what goes on that you don’t see. What happened before, what happens next, what are the characters feeling etc….

So its been quite a busy week when j see it written down like this. It hadn’t felt so busy but so much has been achieved. Josh has continued his work on animals. He has completed watching all of “the life of mammals” and is now on to “planet earth” these documentaries are really great to watch alongside the research he has been doing on food chains. He has gained so much knowledge of habitats, climates etc..

Both children have visited the skate park with their scooters (they each got new 360 stunt scooters for birthdays) and have enjoyed practising new skills on these and on the skateboard.

We have a trip to Thorpe Park tomorrow and Alana is back to science on Monday while Josh and I will be going to get him some new clothes…. but the rest of the week is unplanned. I think perhaps some look at engineering / roller coasters may be in order, some more literacy shed…. who knows. Like I have said, I will follow their interests and learn with them.

The flow of interests

This week has shown up some mixed emotions in our house. As my big boy has turned 10 I think he has been painfully reminded of people who have been absent and he took the opportunity to explode at me and Ryan as we are the consistent present who ultimately he feels secure with. This should make his emotional outbursts easier to deal with. It doesn’t.
He became very angry unexpectedly over dinner this week. Complaining about how much time ryan spends at work and accused ryan of caring more about work than us. We discussed this with him to explain the cost of living, our reduction of income due to my maternity leave and that Ryan hasn’t been at work much more than usual. It became apparent that the issue is not that Ryan is spending more time at work but that Josh is aware of it more now. Previously Josh was at school until 3:30. He came home played got changed did homework etc and then ryan would he coming home. Our weekends were spent going out and doing things as a family unit and we had regular cinema trips. Now Josh is at home and we do lots of trips and activities while Ryan is at work. We still do things as a family at weekends but 3 weekends of overtime has resulted in Josh feeling lost and confused and missing this time. It’s normal I guess and just something else to be aware of. Another adjustment.
Ryan has taken Monday off work to accompany Josh to duxford imperial war museum where there is a workshop organised for home ed kids. It will be nice for Josh to have that 1 on 1 time.

We attended a session about educating 11+. This was very informative and was a great opportunity for ryan to meet some of the home ed community in our area, especially as he is often at work when events are going on. Alana is adamant that as well as studying for science she also wants to study for English and history. I love that she wants to learn and wants to study but I would hate to see her burn herself out. I am concerned that she will over do it and end up shutting off all together. As a compromise I will support her and get her the relevant material and will allow her to choose her own schedule for study.

Josh is continuing to place most of his focus on the animal Kingdom. He has been enjoying watching documentaries by David Attenborough such as life of mammals. Through this interest he is developing his reading, writing and research skills and increasing his knowledge of climate, habitats, geography and plant life. He will happily spend hours at a time looking up which animals live on a specific continent.

Though this week we did also look at energy as he built a solar powered robot. We were able to discuss solar energy and other natural sources of energy such as utilising wind and water. We talked about the wind turbines and then the power of water and steam which led us to talk about steam engines and trains…. The great thing about home ed is that we can follow interests where ever they take us.
Both Josh and Alana have expressed that when at school the teachers would decide “we are done with that subject now” or “let’s get back to the topic we were on”… There was no flow and no room for natural interest progression. They both enjoy being able to just talk about things, move around and see where we end up without the restrictions that school and curriculum place on them. After all, when having an adult conversation how often do our discussions progress, flow, change direction and even change complete subject? ….. and when was the last time any of us “adults” spent an hour talking, reading and listening to a subject that held no interest for us?