Monday, 28 May 2012


We are getting excited about a Jubilee party we are hosting at our house on Saturday for some of our home ed friends. We have sent the invitations and started gathering red, white and blue decorations. I am hoping, like most of the country I imagine, that the weather stays reasonable for the weekend so we can eat and play in the garden.

My mum used her sewing talents to make some capes for the boys to wear too. I hadn't expected them to be so fabulous!

Our potatoes

The potatoes have been very successful so far and the soil is now up to the brim of the containers after covering the shoots over several times. It will be great to see them finish growing and hopefully we will be able to feel some healthy tubers below shortly!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Theatre - White

Harry and I enjoyed White - a children's performance at Northern Stage today. Two men called Cotton and Wrinkle were dressed all in white and lived in a white tent surrounded by white birdhouses waiting for white eggs to fall from the sky, which they dressed with white knitted hats and put into the birdhouses. Slowly, colours started to appear and they realised that they both love the other colours too.

I love the events for children at Northern Stage - the children are almost in the midst of the performance as they sit very close on the floor and there are often interactive elements. Today, the bin shot out a burst of coloured paper at the end, which the children were encouraged to take home and spread around the house, as parents love colour too! The actors also talked to the children at the end.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Outdoor painting

I thought we would try something new out in the garden today - painting. I am pleased we did as it actually went better than I expected. Most of the paint stayed on the paper and the grass and the boys had fun for an hour with water getting clean. Harry decided to paint himself and make a print of his legs and he now looks like he has a bad case of sunburn from the paint stains!

Newcastle Exhibition Park

We have made two visits to the refurbished Exhibition Park in Newcastle recently and were very impressed! I think we will be spending a lot of time there. Yesterday we discovered the water play area which left Harry and Peter very happy and very wet - Harry had to scoot back to the car in his pants! There are also several different play areas, including lots of sand, a huge slide and challenging climbing frames. 

I am so pleased that we have found ourselves in Newcastle at this time in our lives - I think it is an amazing place for a young family and we now have some great friends for us and the children here too. Most people and places seem to be very child friendly and we are close to lovely coastline, have great, engaging museums, children's arts events and now even more brilliant parks within 15 minutes of home. When you consider the additional places we have paid to visit, such as Seven Stories, National Trust and the Centre for Life, I can't see us ever running out of things to do. Newcastle has definitely become our home over the last 8 years and we love it here! The only (big) downside is that we are not near family, but we will be able to travel more easily when Peter is even bigger.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Sun plus water

The sun finally shone today after a couple of very grey weeks so we headed out to Wallington, one of our favourite places for a day out. We ventured a bit further into the woods today and discovered a lovely stream and pond area. We spotted some wildlife and Harry played ogres around one of the bridges as we followed the stream for a while. Harry and I actually walked in the stream - it was just deep enough to cover our feet, with lots of rocks to grip. 

Several sticks were admired, collected and used as ploughs.

Ropes were scrambled

And it was still t-shirt and water weather when we arrived home, lovely! We certainly need to make the most of it at the moment as the warm days seem to be few and far between.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

If it's not raining, we will make our own puddle!

At last, the grass has been dry enough to cut today! Harry enjoyed filling up the lawnmower with motor oil and, in the absence of real rain, the boys jostled for the use of the hosepipe to create their own muddy puddle, which was obviously the only place to be seen standing in the garden!

Thursday, 17 May 2012


Little Peter is no longer so little and is really enjoying getting involved in everything now! 

He loves everything liquid, as Harry has always done and is allowed to help Harry in the bath. He is just about tall enough to reach the water area at The Discovery Museum now too.

 I was delighted this week that he joined in with some painting 

He spent half an hour on the floor transferring marbles between pots

 Finding lots of himself in mirrors

 And can still look ever so cute!

Roman craft and visit

There was a great event at Wallington recently involving a weekend of Roman displays by a group of authentically dressed 'Roman soldiers' and a lifelike Roman camp. We enjoyed the archery and cavalry.

We also had fun making a Roman writing tablet, which was one of Harry's favourite things in the Roman museum loan box we looked at. I prepared the cardboard frame in advance and Harry painted it. He said he was a rich Roman so he chose gold paint.

We then filled the shallow middle with plasticine to represent the wax inside the writing tablet. Harry used a spoon to smooth it out and a sharp pencil to make marks in it.

Dot-to-dots and numeracy

Harry got this book for his birthday which he has recently started

Some of the puzzles are quite complex and have numbers up to 50, so I think this will be great for his number recognition and sequencing skills, as well as pen control. I have not yet added any numeracy activities into our life as it seems to come quite naturally to him. He can count to 50 verbally and tell me how many extra we need to make a particular number (of lego bricks, biscuits etc!). He also has a good grasp of height, weight, length and shape and seems to enjoy play based on these areas, so I think his maths skills are developing really well without any intervention from me at the moment!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Where has the last month gone?

My blogging activity has been somewhat curtailed of late due to various illnesses in our house - I feel like we have been trapped in a black hole for a month, but we are coming out of the other side now and it's about time as I was starting to lose my perspective and motivation and things have generally been a bit strained all round. I will be updating with a few posts this week on the things I haven't had chance to add. 

We had a lovely visit to the Washington Wetland Centre today, which we have really missed and Harry enjoyed the playground where he was playing a game of feeding a snake/worm/monster (really a rope) with the other children. He helped to make pizza for tea and both boys soaked the bathroom floor making splashes in the bath together, before falling straight asleep - life feels back on track! 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Dales Food Festival

We had a lovely day over the Bank Holiday weekend at the Dales Food Festival with my mum and partner, who were caravanning nearby. There were some traditional fairground attractions and Harry enjoyed the carousel (which was turned by hand) and taking part in a bread making workshop - he even joined in shouting out the answers to some of the questions. 

Harry and Peter both enjoyed watching the animals in the farming for food area and Harry was very interested to see some real milking equipment and kippers being smoked in a wooden rack.

We spotted these electric go-carts on the way out and they were a big hit - fairly slow and only two moving at a time around a circular track so easy and safe for Harry (although I think he kept looking for a lever or button to make it go faster!)

Hama beads

Harry chose a squirrel shaped Hama bead board last week when we went craft shopping and he spent 4 days completing it - I was really proud of him for sticking with it and finishing it over an extended period of time. The design is the first one he has asked me to iron to stick it together and here it is!

Saturday, 5 May 2012


Stuart brought back some interesting things from Paris for Harry to explore and we looked through them this morning while eating a French breakfast.

Harry is quite taken with the mini Eiffel Tower and has gone to bed with it on his bedpost! We know bonjour and au revoir well from Lingotot now, so we have also stuck the words on the wall on the French flag background for the weekend.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

How we use FIAR

Five in a Row (FIAR) is a US curriculum which, in the words of the FIAR websiteprovides students with a unit-study approach to early education based on outstanding children's literature. In practice this means that you read a book together every weekday (hence five times in a row) and follow up with various activities covering a range of areas. Lots of the activities are very practical and exciting for the children and Harry is usually really engaged.

I love this approach and it is how I first envisaged some part of our home education taking place before I had even heard of FIAR. The benefit of loosely following the curriculum is that lots of people have done it before, so ideas and resources can be readily accessed and it also introduces books that I would not have considered otherwise, as many are American, but there are some great titles included.

We do not strictly follow the FIAR method as my aim at the moment is to row one book every month, although this may become more often as Peter's participation grows. It is difficult to fit in more of this format while only doing the reading and activities with Harry. When we are rowing a book, we do read it every day as, even if we do not actually do many activities, this gives scope for discussion.

I see FIAR as an important and enjoyable part of our home education and I expect it to grow in importance over the years. 

Mirette on the High Wire
One day, a mysterious stranger arrives at a boardinghouse of the widow Gateau-a sad-faced stranger, who keeps to himself. When the widow's daughter, Mirette, discovers him crossing the courtyard on air, she begs him to teach her how he does it. But Mirette doesn't know that the stranger was once the Great Bellini-master wire- walker. Or that Bellini has been stopped by a terrible fear. And it is she who must teach him courage once again.
Emily Arnold McCully's sweeping watercolor paintings carry the reader over the rooftops of nineteenth-century Paris and into an elegant, beautiful world of acrobats, jugglers, mimes, actors, and one gallant, resourceful little girl.

This has been the perfect book to row this week as Stuart is away in Paris so we are tying it into some more general French themes.

We have used some parts of a Homeschool Creations - circus pack and a Homeschoolshare lapbook for our table work. Harry has been quite resistant this time so we have not done as much as I had planned.

We plotted the places Bellini had visited on the world map after listening out for them in the story and looking in our atlas. Harry remembered from discussion that Niagara Falls is in North America and Paris is in Europe.

We coloured French colour items. This was also good timing as we have just covered colours at our Lingotot class.

Spot the difference in the circus pictures. 

Following different shaped lines from the acrobats.

We also did some addition sums using pieces of popcorn. This worked well and I explained how we can use anything to help us visualise the numbers we are adding - we then practised some adding using our fingers. Although resistant to the sit-down work, Harry has loved the practical work relating to this book. After one reading I found him trying out some balancing of his own accord,

so we went on to talk about balance and the center of mass and tried out balancing an emery board in the centre on his finger and then adding weight to one side, which made it fall off.

We then tried to weight each side the same to see the difference (I love this photo of him too!).

Harry had a go himself and came up with something weighted all the way along.

He then tried out some balancing with his body, standing on one leg.

Following on from these balance exercises, we set up a low wooden beam in the garden for him to practice some 'wire walking'. This has been very popular and he keeps looking for new things to hold to see how they affect his balance. I think we will leave it up for a few weeks!