Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Christmas puddini bonbons

I have finished my first batch of Christmas baking! I really wanted to make Nigella's Christmas puddini bonbons as they look so festive and are scrummy, but I made them last time the week before Christmas as gifts and really resented the stress it caused as they are pretty time consuming. So, meeting up with friends tonight was the perfect excuse!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Where are we - 3 months in?

I have been thinking about this update for a couple of weeks as I wanted to write it before the festive December overload starts. We have been officially home educating for around 3 months now (Harry would have started school in September, although he is not legally school age until Easter 2013), although most of our activities and work started earlier in the year. I didn't want to make huge changes to our routine at home in September as Harry was starting new classes anyway and some of his friends were starting school. I did set myself some goals for the first 3 months and will continue to do so at 3 month intervals. I have found that this period is long enough to allow me to not get too stressed about the day-to-day if we want/need to have a day off work but short enough to keep the goals in focus so we can get back on track. This also allows me to think in advance about themes and get relevant supplies in, which this time have been Autumn, Halloween and Bonfire night. 

I have been writing on this blog about specific activities we have been doing - crafts, cooking, culture swap, Five in a Row weeks etc but I haven't been including much of the literacy and numeracy activities we work on most days. So.... where are we now?


We have tried a few different beginner reading books and Harry has not been keen. He has recently, however, taken a liking to the Oxford Reading Tree ones featuring Biff, Chip and Kipper and is voluntarily reading extra this week so I think that is a bit of a breakthrough. I started him with level 1 and 2 to build his confidence, as that seemed to be lacking but he is reading them easily so I will start level 3 soon. This is a real focus for me, especially while Harry is enjoying it. 

We are still working through Reading Eggs online too, which now includes reading sentences. He has completed 5 of 12 levels and seems to still enjoy it so we will carry on with that too. I have downloaded the sight words app onto my phone too and Harry loves it at the moment.

Harry has completed his first workbook - this one - and likes the characters so we have just started Enchanted English for age 5-6.

He still loves being read to and listening to audio books. We have listened to 10 audio books borrowed from the library recently, all of which were chapter books up to 7 hours long.

He is also narrating his own stories for me to write regularly (featuring the adventures of his dolly!) and we have been writing some themed poems. Reading Eggs has a 'story factory' where the children write a themed story and read other people's submissions and we often do that. 

In terms of writing, we worked quite hard to get him to the stage of forming all the letters correctly and he is now doing that mostly without reminding. He is also mostly holding pens and pencils correctly when drawing/colouring etc. I am not pushing writing for now as we are focussed on reading and will return to more writing practice later.


We have worked through this workbook without too much difficulty and the next level has just arrived. 

We have been playing Orchard games a lot recently which are great for counting practice and number recognition. Harry can count to 100 and recognise when numbers are larger/smaller.

I was inspired by a friend's blog post to try some minute maths, where Harry does as many sums as possible in one minute. He likes the challenge of this and has improved each time. He is currently on 11 and we are doing sums adding 1 and 2 and subtracting 1. We are doing this verbally as he finds writing quite hard at the moment and I wanted to challenge his numeracy rather than his writing skill.

We have been using building blocks and reinforcing the names of 3D shapes - cylinder, cube, sphere and cuboid. We have also been looking at pyramids and he has drawn triangles as part of some Egyptian work. He could reliably draw squares, rectangles and circles already.

Home education?

These first few months of really getting into home education have absolutely reinforced my view that this is the right thing for us! Harry is learning all the time and yes, sometimes Peter makes it difficult to do what I want to do, but all three of us are spending quality time together and it won't be long before Peter will be joining in at the kitchen table with everything. There have been days when Harry is under the weather and the rain and wind have been stormy and I have been so pleased we can stay indoors, get the baking equipment out and work through our book baskets. Harry is really enjoying his structured classes and I have been able to make sure he is  not too tired to get the most out of them. Feeling very lucky to be living this life at the moment!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Cakes - mine this time!

I have had a lovely evening out with friends tonight at a cake decorating class. I have made some sugar paste flowers for the first time and will be trying out some of the techniques at home! These definitely look better than my previous cupcake efforts.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Lentil's harmonica playing saves the day when calamity threatens the homecoming celebration for the leading citizen of Alto, Ohio.

I like the story of Lentil but I do find it one of the more difficult Five in a Row books to arrange activities for. Harry seemed to really enjoy what we did though.

We made fresh lemonade, which was actually delicious, despite my misgivings about the recipe (this one) which required not just the juice but the entire lemon to go into the blender! The resulting pulp was sieved to leave liquid. We had some nice glass bottles which I had been saving to re-use so they made the lemonade drinking quite exciting and we all enjoyed it.

We had a good session thinking about sound. We talked about sound being created by vibrations and worked out that hard surfaces bounce the sound vibrations around and soft surfaces absorb them. We tested this by bouncing hard and soft objects onto hard and soft surfaces and listening to the difference in the resulting sound. Harry also took his harmonica up to the bathroom to prove that it sounded good in the bathtub due to all the hard surfaces. Harry seemed to really take all this in and told Stuart about it that evening.

After one of our readings, I asked Harry to narrate the story back to me. We haven't done this before and Harry found it really difficult, which surprised me as he can usually remember a story word for word after a few readings. We will continue to do this activity with books coming up so he can practice. This was his eventual narration, which is good, it just took a long time and came with quite a lot of complaining!

Lentil tried to sing but he couldn't even whistle but he really wanted to make music so he bought a harmonica. He plays it in the bathtub. He plays it every day. He plays it on the way to school. Everyone likes his music except Old Sneep.

A train came into the town carrying Colonel Carter. The band are waiting to play but they can't because their lips are stuck together because they are watching Old Sneep suck a lemon. Lentil starts to play. Everyone is happy. They all go to the Colonel's house and he promises to build a new hospital for the town. 

We had a think about gifts and talents, as Lentil has an obvious talent for playing the harmonica. Harry thought about other people's talents - they were quite sweet!

And also about his own

I wrote some words from the book and Harry copied them. He also asked to write the word 'bathtub' as that was his favourite from the book and he thought of the spelling himself as he wrote it. We needed a bit of extra practice for writing 'b' and 'd' correctly but I am not surprised as we have been concentrating on reading over the last fortnight and haven't done any writing.

We also watched a couple of different YouTube videos featuring the song from the story - 'coming round the mountain when she comes'. We have enjoyed singing it with some instruments (including saucepan drums and wooden spoons today!).

Playdough fun

We have been a bit housebound this week as Peter has been unwell so we made a new batch of playdough and spent well over an hour playing with it. I still find it amazing how an unpromising pan of flour, salt and water turns into a ball of playdough in minutes! Harry made cakes with candles and sprinkles. Peter squashed balls and built stacks. Playdough is still a very popular activity with Harry (he loves making new colours and using new materials alongside it) and Peter is starting to really enjoy it too. I might even suggest making some green and red glitter playdough as one of our festive activities!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Unwrapping the mummies

We took part in a really good workshop at the Hancock museum today based on the mummies of ancient Egypt. The museum had a pretend 'mummy' which the children could take the organs out of (they enjoyed this, as you can imagine!). This included using a hook to remove the brain through the nose (I am trying not to think about that part too much). 

The children were then shown examples of a canopic jar (which was used to store the internal organs) and bandages used to wrap the mummy. 

We also went into the gallery to see the real mummy and a sarcophagus, together with a plaster cast which has been made from x-rays of the head inside. The children gave their observations and asked questions.

We haven't looked at ancient Egypt before so this has been a good introduction and we will follow up with some more reading and activities this week.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Gibside outing

We had a really great family visit to Gibside last weekend, which I haven't been able to blog before due to lack of internet at home, but here it is now. The light was stunning and the leaves were an amazing carpet - a perfect autumn day. There was frost on the bark in the playground, a sign of things to come!

The boys had a good climb and swing in the play area

We walked through the woods and built a den, then sat in it to eat!

Peter found lots of tree stumps to practice his new favourite skill - jumping - along with his own commentary of 'jump' (very cute!)

We found holly with berries and a beautiful log which had been burned on one side but was untouched bright white wood on the other side. We also collected a handful of tiny acorns.

Peter enjoyed dressing up at the stables and feeding the cow.

 It is getting colder, but I hope we can manage some more days out like this before winter really arrives, just wonderful!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Hatton art - pastels

French was cancelled last week due to children being ill so we went to the Hatton gallery instead for the home ed art session. The children were shown how to use pastels and how the colours can be blended together. Harry has recently been using some oil pastels at home too and he has enjoyed them.

He made leaf pictures by drawing round leaf shapes and using different shades.

Rocket booster packs

We usually have lots of small boxes saved for craft and, having been inspired by Mr Bloom's Nursery on cbeebies, we decided to make some booster packs for the boys to wear (not that they need them!).

We started by covering the boxes with tin foil.

Harry and Peter then decorated them with shiny shapes to represent buttons and, of course, glitter (it seems to be glitter season!) 

I made some holes to thread twine through and tied it to make shoulder straps. Cue lots of racing around wearing the booster packs. Amazingly, these are still going strong after a week.


Harry has been very keen on helping in the kitchen recently and we had a great time making some cakes this week. Harry was really competent - he broke and whisked his eggs, sieved his flour, spooned the mixture and helped to clean up afterwards. Peter had a great time with a bowl of flour and sugar and I was pleased we could all enjoy it.

We made some butter icing and decorated the cakes with a variety of toppings.

These were the finished creations - they were very tasty, we will be doing this again soon!

I am back!

I am so pleased to be reunited with my blog! We have had no phone line or broadband at home for over a week due to a BT problem, so I haven't been able to add lots of lovely things - prepare for a deluge of updates! 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Winter Harry

Today, following the 'Olympic Harry' craft we did during the Olympics (where we drew round a full-size Harry and decorated him as an Olympian), we created 'Winter Harry'. I think this may become an ongoing craft as the seasons change - Harry has really enjoyed doing them and has been asking for a week to make this one. I had planned to include Peter and we managed to keep him still to draw round him but he was too tired to decorate so we will have to help him decorate 'Winter Peter' another time.

Harry did most of this on his own. He used wool to make a hat and a jumper, which was covered by a gilet. He painted wellies and trousers and we used felt to make mittens which he painted. He said they were different because mummy couldn't find the matching one! I helped him to plait a scarf with the wool.

We added snowflakes and glitter and used wool to make snow on the ground. Harry used tissue paper to make snowballs.