Archive for category Homeschool

Volcano!

On Friday we made a start on one of Huwyl’s christmas presents, a volcano making kit.  He mixed the plaster and poured it into the mould and then waited (sort of) patiently for it to set.  Next he painted it, graciously allowing his little brother some creative input, and allowed that to dry.  I think it was a longer process than he’d originally imagined.

volcano-7601 volcano-7606 volcano-7608 volcano-7609 volcano-7611 volcano-7616Neirin had his own little experiment tray to play with, water, baking soda and some drops of food colouring kept him entertained for quite a while!  When it came to the big explosion we exchanged the water for vinegar and fun was had by all.

volcano-7637 volcano-7643 volcano-7642 volcano-7641 volcano-7639I love how serious Neirin is when he works on things, his little frown and teeny pout are so cute.  The boys had a blast working on their ‘science’ this morning, wearing their Darth Vader costumes that Huwyl made for them yesterday.  He’s been working on a Star Wars project for a while now and that was the culminating task he’d set himself.  I thought the black made them look like little alchemists!

After several rounds of volcano eruptions we watched a couple of videos, made some drawings and then made an explosively themed snack for ourselves…popcorn!

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i-viking

The vikings, it seems, were not really called vikings.  The term i-viking, meant going off raiding and generally causing a bit of a fuss in boats and furry coats.  This is the kind of thing you get to learn when you study vikings for about a month!

I always knew that this would be one of my favourite bits of  Story Of The World 2 and we have really enjoyed exploring these naughty norse folk.  There are some links to activities and documentaries on my homeschool history pinterest board for anyone who is looking for inspiration.  We’ve also had fun using the book World Book Encyclopedia: Vikings  that I borrowed from the library.  It has lots of fun crafts that are just right for boys of 3 & 7 (and their Mummy) that can be executed with what we have already in a reasonable time frame.

vikings-7020vikings-7022vikings-7100As we’ve progressed through learning about different aspects of Viking life, from the battles to the wonderful myths and stories, I’ve been really inspired by how much the boys have enjoyed and embraced the topic.  Huwyl has been particularly motivated, bringing ideas to me from the craft book we are using and being much more proactive about the project than ever before.

Being a little perfectionist (don’t know where he got that from *cough*Stephen*cough*) he has needed my help getting some of the details just right but I’ve tried to inspire him to give it a go too.  He simply can’t bear a project going south because of a little mistake, so things like tricky cutting out or lacing have had Mummy help.  I’ve had to reign in my own perfectionist tendencies (not always successfully) and tried not to take over, I hope we’ve struck a balance.  Certainly the projects were child led/demanded!

vikings-7104vikings-7108vikings-7107vikings-7105I’ve loved the diversity of the crafts and activities and the fact that both of the boys seem really engaged and interested within their own capacities.  Neirin has dipped in and out while Huwyl has been much more focused.  True to form Neirin most enjoyed having his own axe and decorating the Viking warrior, he placed the clothes on just so, his dexterous little fingers working to position them perfectly.

Today he did a bit of painting and then created what appeared to be a mini art installation!  Really it doesn’t matter so much to me the specific outcome of each project, or even the focus, it is simply that each child is motivated and keen to learn and create.

vikings-7112I don’t know what it is, but he does.

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The homeschool breath out

This week I decided to call a bit of a halt to our more formal activities and ‘just’ live for a week.  Back in the UK we have a week’s holiday in the middle of each term, it always helped to stop everyone tipping too far into exhaustion, so I thought I’d implement it chez us.  Though we’ve not been ‘studying’ as such that doesn’t mean we haven’t soaked up some good old life skills.  It’s been cold but sunny here and the boys have been enjoying some outdoor romps, climbing on hay bales, chasing chickens and planning anarchistic revolts against a police state.  Seriously.

And of course there are the inevitable hours (and hours) in the kitchen.

I find it hard to get away from the idea that learning all has to take place at a table, that writing and reading are the only skills that matter.  But of course that isn’t why we homeschool.  I want my children to write creatively, to read with joy, not just because Mummy is telling them too.  We’ve worked hard on some core skills over the last weeks and we were ready for it all to sit, we were ready for a breath out.

So instead of writing and maths skills we’ve focused on chopping, running, climbing, measuring, making and being.  I’d hoped to achieve a ton without the extra work of school but really I’ve just been emerging from a cloud of tiredness that’s been bogging me down these last few weeks.  A cold that lingered, a little person making night times less (ahem) restful than we need.

I’m trying not to categorise everything we do in terms of how it matches up to a ‘curriculum’.  Chopping – fine motor skills, cooking – life skills, measuring- maths, ipad spelling app – phonics, IT, documentary on Meerkats – science and nature….it is tempting but it doesn’t feel quite right.

Instead I want to think that we spent the week nourishing our family, working out some kinks, finding our balance.  That the children playing is justification enough, that the cooking of soup is just soup.  That the bacon frying in the pan is our home raised, home cured bacon; a satisfaction that can’t be quantified.   That my boys belong to a family where the lines can blur between school and life, where learning is in everything.  This is something I forget, it is worth remembering.

So whether we are heading out to the library, meeting friends, working on math skills or trying (desperately) to catch up on the laundry, we are together.  We may not always get along, it may not always be easy, but we’re in it together, a family, a team.  If we can all keep that lesson in our hearts, I think we’ll be ok.

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Preschool Preparedness

A certain 3 1/2 year old person has decided that school is for him too and is now arriving at the school table full of expectation and ready to work.  O…kay.  So I’m ramping up on the preschool action and we’re all loving it.  Whenever Neirin does anything he does it full throttle so he’s suddenly recognising letters, numbers, patterns and generally being a clever little bean all over the place.

I already have the preschool curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler (it’s ridiculously good value) but I want to make sure that we’re not all paper based.  So I’ve started researching different approaches and have pinned about 4 million activities on Pinterest.  I’m really drawn to the montessori style activities for Neirin, they are complete, simple and allow him to develop skills in a natural way.  I also like the minimal likelihood of finding the tray stapled to the cat and painted red.  This is the sort of thing I have to worry about.

For this tray I mixed coloured and white beans in a container, then put a couple of each type in the other bowls.  Without being asked Neirin sorted the beans by colour using first the strawberry huller (encouraging the pincer grip) and then a large spoon.  Eventually he found neither suited him and so finished sorting them ‘with my fingers‘, he happily sorted all of the beans into the two bowls and not a single one ended up attached to the cat.  Perfection.

I’m hoping to do a different tray or sensory activity for him each day as well as using both paper based and ipad activities.  I’ve found some lovely letter tracing and word building apps that really compliment all of the other work we are doing and use similar montessori methodologies.   I think the key to keeping Neirin interested is variety and using simple things we already have around the house will keep me from becoming overwhelmed.  It’s going to be busy at the school table from now on; just the way I like it.

 

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Walking Circle

Tuesday dawned bright and crisp, inviting us out to play in the way only an Autumn day can.  Usually we begin our homeschool with a circle, song and a bit of yoga movement.  Instead I decided that we would take our circle outside and make the most of the cold, refreshing air.

 

 

We held hands in the sunshine and sang our morning song, then we took some deep Prana breaths and swung our arms and legs around, our feet becoming soaked with the dew clinging to the grass in shining droplets.  We warmed ourselves with our movements and energized our lungs with the frosty air.  Any pretence at structure was quickly abandoned as we made off into the morning, investigating the changes that Autumn have brought with her.

 

 

 

 

We chatted with our neighbour cows and their guard donkey investigated us, making sure that we were friendly.  Those curious creatures, so much larger than us, with grass hanging from their steadily chewing mouths, held our attention for quite some time.  Then we headed back to the house, our heads clear, our bodies refreshed.

Every day does not start as well as this, with so much to do and errands to run around town these moments of quite wandering feel like a real luxury.  But on those mornings when the stars align and we make it outside, all cosy and ready for the freshness of the day, we all return renewed and happier.  This season really is a blessing.

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Autumn Days

I know I’m not alone when I say that Autumn is my favourite season, it’s that way for many of us, but I think it might be my children’s favourite too.  The scorching heat of summer has passed and they are outside much more, enjoying the fresher breezes and blue skies.  The house is flooded with light as the sun drops lower on the horizon, making me feel more energised and alive; the tumbling winds have blown away some of the cobwebs that the last stagnancy of summer seemed to leave with all of us.

 

As well as our regular lessons we’ve  been exploring Autumn in our homeschool too.  For our circle and preschool type activities I have the Seasons of Joy Autumn curriculum, packed with rhymes, songs and crafts to keep us going until the snows come.   We’ve also been reading the stories about Mabon (the Autumnal Equinox) in Circle Round this week, and it’s all tied in nicely to our art and music lessons using our Harmony Arts curriculum.  This morning we listened to Vivaldi’s Autumn on the ipad and Huwyl drew a picture based on how the music made him feel.  We talked about the different moods and he described what it conjured up for him.  We also chose the colours we thought he’d need for an Autumn picture which he drew as he listened.

 

While Huwyl was drawing, Neirin worked on his own art, chalk and water painting on the blackboard; I was amazed how long this kept him happy.  Huwyl  included all sorts of details in his picture, the tumbling leaves, rain and snow coming in, as well as groundhogs hibernating underground; I love seeing how his imagination is really coming to life in his drawings.

 

 

Of course Huwyl really likes to insert realism into his art (and stop Mummy from getting far too giddy)  so he made sure that the horse (who is out hunting in the forest) leaves a big poo on the forest floor.  There are extra lines in case you aren’t sure where it came from as well as the rising steam to show it’s a cold day.  That’s my boy.  

 

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Early Days

September 4th saw children across the nation heading out of bed earlier than they had for months and boarding the school bus for the big first day.  Around here things were a little less formal.  I’m filtering our subjects in over the next two weeks, adding something extra each day and building up to what will be our regular schedule for the coming months.  There will be ‘days off’ for a myriad of reasons I’m sure, perhaps a trip out, a family day or sickness will throw us off track, but other than that we will be doing school each morning, four days a week.

This is the first time I’ve properly tried to integrate both boys into our learning.  Neirin isn’t going back to preschool this year so I’m balancing his needs with Huwyl’s 2nd grade curriculum.  They are both at really different points in their learning so I’m trying to take that into account as I plan activities and resources.

We began our first day in a bit of a muddle, the clean up from the honey was still evident, as were bowls of the amber liquid all over the kitchen counters.  The ‘school’ table was covered in art projects and I hadn’t uploaded some of our resources onto the i-pad as I’d planned.  But the joy of homeschooling is that you can simply say ‘ok this is going to take a bit longer, go play and I’ll call you when we’re ready’, I find the boys will usually comply with this instruction pretty happily.

It didn’t take too long to get it all sorted (with a bit of phone coaching from my much more tech savvy friend) and I was able to call us all to order.  We started, as I hope we will every day, with some movement.  Today it was yoga using our Yoga Pretzels cards; Huwyl chose two postures and we working on them for a little bit with Neirin joining in as and when he could.  Over time I know he’ll gain the patience to participate more fully, but for now I’m grateful that he shows any interest at all.  I’ll need to vary our activities over time, I’m intending to include Brain Gym movements too, supporting connections in the brain necessary for learning.  But for today we started small.

Then we moved to the table.  If I’m honest I’ve been dreading this part for a while.  The moment where we shift from our free floating summer to a ‘sit down and write’ activity that I really think we need right now.  But luckily I had a plan that I borrowed from a Ms Charlotte Mason and it worked very well.  Rather than focusing on the amount of work I just allotted 15 minutes for each activity before moving on to the next; short and sweet as they say.  This strategy works really well for Huwyl, it gives him a clear time frame that he knows is relatively short without having a ‘goal’ that creates anxiety and stress for him.  If I had said ‘do four pages’ I would have had push back and complaining, but instead the instruction is ‘do what you can’ in the time.  In fact he did about 5 pages!

Explode the Code 3 was our first table work of the day, I’m planning to work through this and the 4th book this year.  Huwyl honestly doesn’t really enjoy the work but it really has supported his reading and writing so I try and get it out of the way quickly.  Next we moved onto Writing With Ease which will be our writing programme for grade 2.  I really like the Peace Hill Press resources and the mix of copy work taken from literature and narration activities really mesh well with our Charlotte Mason influenced approach.  Huwyl raced through the lesson much more quickly than I thought but I resisted the temptation to push onto the next lesson and we stuck to our time limit.  I think you can see that the timer isn’t just for the student but the teacher too!

After that we went to Art History using the Harmony Arts Grade 2 programme.  I have it on the ipad so I am able to click directly on the links and go to the art works referred to in the plan.  Huwyl really enjoyed being able to zoom in on the pictures and look in a little more detail.  We talked about the pictures and what we noticed about them, he made some great observations and we looked at various pictures by Cimabue, a painter from the Byzantine era.  The paintings were religious in nature and Huwyl was really distressed to hear the sad story of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and the resulting crucifixion.  He’s not been desensitized to the crucifixion images so we spent a bit of time talking about that and getting over the shock of such a horrible punishment being inflicted on another person.

This gave me a bit of a jolt because we’ve been reading historical stories about battles for quite some time.  I think it was the personal nature of the art, a face to the name, that made the experience more immediate.  I discussed the Christian stories a bit and why Jesus is seen as important to so many people, hopefully I’ve given him a good overall impression.  Perhaps we need to do a little religious studies module in the near future!

In the meantime Neirin pretty happily played with his playdough, making long snakes and cakes to cook in his play oven.  I’m planning on creating a little Neirincentric table that he can work at more easily and where I can place appropriate activities.  I was really pleased with his ability to play contentedly while we worked.  I’m sure this won’t always be the case and I do have activities planned for Neirin as he develops a little more, but for now his work is his own play and imagination.

 

When we finished I threw the boys outside for an hour before lunch after which they happily settled down to their own projects.  Huwyl went off to collect eggs and then had some Brainpop time, feeding his ever growing appetite for scientific and historical facts.  Neirin played for the best part of an hour with his bricks, a full tummy allowing his mind to focus happily.  He joined me for a bit of outside time and then returned to his own games, chowing down on home made smoothie lollies the whole while.

In the background classical music was playing, right now a mixed selection, but over time it will reflect the composers we’ll be reading about in our Harmony Arts programme. For a moment I paused and looked upon the scene every home school mother dreams of, the children happily occupied in educational recreation, classical music playing, dogs asleep on the floor.  Sigh.  Not all days will be like this, not all will go relatively smoothly or happily, but when they do it makes me very grateful that our version of back to school means that we don’t have to go very far.

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