Saturday, 12 December 2015

RHS Winter Workshop

On Tuesday we went to RHS Harlow Carr for a Naturally Festive workshop. I still have no phone camera and , due to setting off at the last minute, I forgot to take my proper camera, so again no photos. It's a real shame too because the weather was lovely, we met up with old friends and they all had a great time. There time to play in the tree house before lunch and time for a bit more exploring after the workshop. There are some beautiful sculptures and some gorgeous Christmas decorations that were all worth a picture or two.

The workshop itself was well-delivered and interesting. The lady leading it talked about plants that are traditionally associated with Christmas and how they were used. Did you know that holly was planted near houses as a protection against lightning? We then went around the gardens to look at real life examples and learn some more about each plant whilst collecting samples for the craft activity. They made glittery clay tree decorations with leaf imprints and clay reindeer using twigs and berries. Ho! Ho! Ho!

The workshops run by RHS are free for educational groups and free entry into the garden is included. If you live near enough to an RHS garden, it's well worth the hassle of organising a group to go to one. They have a selection to choose from and didn't seem too phased by the wide age range of our group (6-15 year olds).

Friday, 4 December 2015

Christmas Camp

My phone is broken and I forgot to take my camera so I have no photos to share :(

We've just spent a lovely five days with 9 other families in Sheringham Youth Hostel in Norfolk . This is our fifth year at Christmas camp which we have previously spent at Okehampton YH, Castleton YH and Coalbrookedale YH.

Every year we enjoy big communal meals and a pretend Christmas Day, complete with Christmas dinner, carol singing and Secret Santa :)

This year the weather was very mild (12C) and mostly dry so we got to go to the beach in December!! Children went paddling and pebbles were collected :)
We visited Cromer; had fish and chips; walked on the pier and voted in the local best dressed Christmas Tree/Nativity Scene/Shop window competition.

We played games and crafted. There was a Nerf battle and lots of hide-and-seek. Much tea was drunk and lots of cake was eaten.
It's been a lovely week spent with lovely people who we hope to see again before next Christmas :)

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

And the winner is.....

...Natalie Parker

Please check your emails Natalie :)

Thank you to everyone who entered. It was interesting to read what your favourite Morpurgo books are :)

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Review & Competition - An Eagle in the Snow

We love Michael Murpurgo books here and I was delighted to be asked to review his new book and run a competition for you, my lovely blog readers :)

As you all know, I'm a great believer in reading aloud to children, no matter what their age, so it was a pleasure to read  An Eagle in the Snow to both Boykin (10) and The Girl (14). It's fab to have a book that spans the age gap and engages them both equally. Much crafting and building took place over the two afternoons it took to read the book; creative activities always seems to help them focus better on a story :)

Morpurgo makes this an easy book to read aloud, being written mainly as a conversation between three of the characters. For once, I managed to consistently remember the voices I gave to each of them, although my German accent definitely needs some work :/

The layout of the book made it a much quicker read than I thought it was going to be when I first saw it. There are wide spaces between the lines of text, and it is beautifully illustrated by the poignant artwork of Michael Foreman.  Even though they're black and white, the illustrations reminded us of a another Morpurgo/Foreman collaboration that we explored last year, The Best Christmas Present in the World . That book is also about World War I and the similarity of some of the pictures helped  Boykin make connections and remember that we were reading about the same war, even though An Eagle in the Snow takes place in World War II.

As always with Michael Morpurgo, there are points in the story where I have to catch my breath and shed a few tears. Being written in the first person, a stronger connection is created between the reader and the characters leading to deeper empathy. As I read, I realised that some of the subject matter of this book is just as relevant today as it has always been, what with the ongoing wars in the Middle East and the current refugee crisis.

Both my children (and I) very much enjoyed the book. They liked the characters and particularly enjoyed the twist at the end. They thought it was a sad story and wouldn't recommend it for young children. Boykin was excited that the protagonist is 10 just like himself and that we have also been to Bridlington. They both thought Billy Byron had been a brave man, despite the character's own opinions on the matter. The tension of the story is balanced by touches of humour that make the characters believable and very human. I like how Michael Morpurgo has the knack of creating heroic military characters without ever glorifying war.

Our conversations during and after reading covered World War I, World War II and the similarities with the modern day refugee crisis. We also discussed courage and  doing what's right, as well as exploring a whole host of "what ifs".
To follow up, we found Coventry on the map, looked at photographs of the Cathedral, read about the Blitz and learnt about Dig for Victory. Personally, I really appreciate the Afterword where Morpurgo gives the true account of the most decorated Private of World War I. I like to know which parts of the story are pure fiction and which parts are based on truth. This book would be good as part of a larger project on both World Wars, or could even be used as the basis for a literature-based unit study of its own.

This was the perfect book to read over the weekend of Remembrance Day, looking at both the World Wars as it does and making connections between the two. In our research, we discovered that Coventry had been bombed on 14th  November 1940. The upcoming 75th anniversary of this event makes it another timely read.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book to review. No money has changed hands. The opinions expressed are my own and my children's.

To win a copy of this book straight from the publisher, please enter the competition via the rafflecopter widget. Make sure you leave a comment below this post to validate your entry. Competition open to UK residents only. Book is aimed at ages 9+.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Tech Troubles

Technology can be great, but our household is currently plagued by troubles :(
The kids laptop won't access any sites and my PC was refusing to go online for most of the day. But worst of all, my phone seems to be dying :(
It's running very slow and the camera won't work at all. I have so many photos on there, far too many really, and I'm not sure how to retrieve them.

But I have no fear :) I'll call on my eldest son and he will help me. I'm sure of it. He's very good with technology like most people of the generation after mine. Yes, I know, there are many people of my generation who are equally as tech savvy, but for me, it's something I have to work at whereas it seems to come so much more naturally for my children. I still struggle with the remote, for goodness sake :/

Anyway, I have no photos to show (because I can't take any or see any) to show our lovely day out at Harewood House last week. Nor can I show you the comic book writing workshop we went to at the weekend led by Al Ewing. Or their joyful faces after their first lessons at Rock School. Or the birthday party they went to today.

Instead, I'll share this picture that I saw on Facebook today, as a reminder to all my children. I may not be very tech savvy, but I'm a dab-hand with a spoon ;)

Thursday, 8 October 2015

October Photo Challenge

I'm not really a big Instagram user. the last time I used it was for the #100homeeddays challenge. Anyhow, in my Facebook newsfeed I saw the #hsdailyphoto challenge for October hosted by A Sip of Southern Sunshine. Find her on Instagram and see other people's posts too.

OK, s Blogger is being weird and not letting me post photos :(

You can see the challenge criteria here and you can see my #hsdailyphoto challenge pictures on my Facebook page and on Instagram.

In other news, today we went to see Ten Pieces which we all thoroughly enjoyed. Between us, our favourites were A Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams, Mambo from West Side Story by Bernstein and Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra by Gabriel Prokofiev.

Next free cinema trips that we're looking forward to will be with the Into Film Festival in November. There's still time t book your films, if you haven't already done so :)

Thursday, 27 August 2015

USA Homeschooling Infograph

This is an interesting infograph that I have been asked to share. It looks at the history of American homeschoolers from 1977 and shows how the number of homeschooled children in America has doubled since 1999.

Home Schooling

I'd love to see something similar for UK home educators, statistics and history-wise. I wonder what reasons UK parents would give for their choice to home educate?

I'm not so sure about the last three tips for homeschooling though.

Establish Expectations? Maybe that's got something to do with American home education laws. I don't really go in for evaluation by subject. I take a much more holistic approach to learning within our routines and loose structure. I know that learning happens all the time and often the outcome can not be foreseen at the outset. We often digress and what they actually learn can look very different from what I thought they would learn. The important thing is that they DO learn and that they ENJOY the process :)

Set a Space? Again, I view learning as part of life. I WANT the task of learning to be perfectly intermingled and integrated into the household.

Don't Forget Friends? Goes without saying, doesn't it? And as for children being at home with parents all day every day, that's very far from the truth in this family and other home educating families I know.

And just to add, if you do want to know the law in regard home educating in the UK, useful websites include:
Education Otherwise
Home Education UK
Home Education Advisory Service
Ed Yourself
Educational Freedom
Elective Home Education Wales