Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Terrific Tigers

A few weeks ago I posted about a giveaway for the Download 'n' Go Terrific Tigers Unit. Well. I won it :) Thankyou Melissa X

It's the first time I've used one of these units and was keen to get going with it because I've heard good things about these packs and mainly because I won it :D

There's a lot of pages in this unit and lots to print out. There are links not only to information pages, stories, poems, recipes and crafts but also links to videos and audio files. The videos were particularly popular with my two who ooh-ed and aah-ed over all the cub ones. Bless!
The unit covers Geography, Maths, Art, English and of course Science (Tigers=Biology doesn't it?) There are some lapbooking pieces and some notebooking-type pages. There is even a certificate to give to your child when they have completed the unit.

The unit is divided into 5 sections as the idea is to do it over 5 days. Each section focuses on a specific Tiger subspecies and, at the end, has extra links to colouring pages, crafts and ideas for fun stuff. I have to admit it took us a bit longer than 5 days, mainly due to chicken pox, Youth hostel camps and other HE groups :) The first 3 days went brilliantly and both kids were engaged and interested. However, by day 4 they were losing motivation so it took over 2 weeks to finish the last two days worth :/

I think if I were to do one of these units again, I'd do a lot more of it orally and just concentrate on the lapbook pieces for written work. A pdf that you could type directly into would be useful but, saying that, they did get a lot of writing practice. Because we wanted to stick the work into a notebook, I found I had to cut up the sheets I'd printed out to take out the bits that gave the links to various sites or came between the questions and the answer spaces. I'm sure there are other ways to do this and I'm just being a bit dim. Any suggestions would be most welcome :)

One of the things I liked most about this was that I could divide the activities between both children as the material required different levels of ability. I had to adapt the booklist because it's an American product but tiger books are easily available in libraries and charity shops so it wasn't too much of a problem. Would I use more of these products? Yes, I suppose I would but I might try doing them one day a week over five weeks rather than doing them so intensively over five days. I also have to get over my habit of wanting to do every single last activity just cos it's there :)

I made a slideshow of our photos because there are a few :) The tiger buns didn't quite work (note to self- mixing food colouring is not quite like mixing paint. use a pipette and 1 drop of red so that you don't need to use a WHOLE bottle of yellow to try and get orange!). The plasticene tigers were interesting, unfortunately the Girl wouldn't let me take a photo ofhers and kept giggling every time I looked at it and commented on how well she's done. She eventually revealed that she'd 'cheated' and covered one of her toy tigers in plasticene. Little monkey :D

Useful Links:
finger puppets

- be warned - our buns look nowhere near as good
as this :)
of crafts

Books we used:

Fact & Fiction (Faction?)


And a really nice book called Tigers by Meredith Hooper which I think
came originally in a pack of four books published as Oxford Literacy Web: Animals

Films we watched:

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

No pressure

At this stage in our home ed journey, I need this reminder. I have occasionally struggled with comparing my HE kids to school-going kids, but for the most part, have found it easy to see the value in what we were doing albeit looking nothing like school for their age group. 

Home Ed, for me, has always been about tailoring their learning to their interests, natural aptitudes and abilities. 

Now we are in exam season...again. Now I feel a sense of impending judgement. It's litmus test time. Will he pass or won't he? 

In reality, I know that his education has been so much more than the ability to pass exams. He has had opportunities to follow his own interests, spend time on the things he loves and he has had plenty of time to play and just be a child. 

I know that whatever results Boykin gets that it will be fine. He will do his best and that is what matters most. I will be  proud of him no matter what. 

In the meantime, I must not let fear of judgement of me as a HEor and parent filter down to my son. After all, I chose to HE partly to avoid all the pressure put on kids for SATs, league tables, Ofsted etc. so there's no point doing it myself now, is there? 

Monday, 6 January 2020

Back to the Grindstone

Well, we are back to it today.

Boykin's boxes are all set up. We sat down together yesterday and devised a study timetable for the week. His first exams are getting closer and without a structure in place, he has a tendency to procrastinate.  

I feel like we're both finding our feet with this new, highly structured approach but hopefully it will bear fruit. I'm hoping he will feel prepared and confident when he sits the exam without feeling too pressured or worried leading up to it. 

The box on the right is full of books needed for today. The box on the left is full of puzzles and activities for in between each subject for his breaks. They are totally optional and he may choose to go outside or read or just do nothing. 

 We'll see how it goes and tweak as necessary :) 

Friday, 4 January 2019

Easing into the New Year

We've all really enjoyed the Christmas break. Personally, I'm happy to be getting back into our normal routine now and have made a start in regards to my work, but haven't made much headway into our home ed routine.

Boykin doesn't want to start back fully until Monday when The Girl goes back to college. We have started easing in gently with read alouds over breakfast and elevenses. We're currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird. It's an IGCSE English Lit text and we're going to read them all before deciding which to study properly for the exams. I'd forgotten how good this book is and I'm looking forward to watching the film when we've finished it.

Other than that, I've managed to plan some of the books we'll read between now and Easter, and I've made some rough notes on ideas from Exploring Nature with Children. If you're in the UK, don't be put off by the price being in US dollars. The curriculum is written by a UK home educating mum so is perfect for our climate and wildlife.  I've also ordered another Kiwi crate because he loved the one he got for Christmas. I'd like to incorporate more engineer-y tech-y stuff to our week. I'm aware that he's growing up fast and soon he'll only have time for exam slog.

Boykin's discovered that he enjoys painting miniatures, so I'm looking forward to reading to him while he does that. So far he has painted a small collection of stormtroopers from his new game. Painting miniatures was something my eldest son enjoyed as a teenager and I was so pleased when he visited at Christmas and started to pass his knowledge and enthusiasm on to his younger brother :)

We'll start on Monday with lots of reading aloud, a little maths and  maybe a science experiment. I always think baking is a good way to ease in, but I think we're all so sugared out after Christmas, we might give it a miss this time.

In my news, I got a haircut. I had about 10 inches cut off. My head feels so much lighter now. I love how New Years give me a renewed sense of optimism and drive. Let's hope it carries on through to February :)

Have you had a break for Christmas? How are you planning on easing back into the new year? Or do you just jump straight in with both feet?

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Autumn Planning

Well, we are getting nearer and nearer to the end of our home ed journey. With only 3 more academic years left, I feel like the pressure is on to get Boykin through exams and make sure he has everything he needs to move forward to the next stage of his life. I know that this is really the last year that we will have much time for fun projects and the odd lazy day when we need a break. I know that he is getting older and has hit that time of his life when practically everything is suddenly 'boring'. He is my youngest child and I have already missed so many windows of opportunity with all three of them but I would like to try to not miss any more.

To try to keep my self-inflicted pressure cooker under control, I bought a planner. Something of The Girl's natural inclination to organise has finally rubbed off on me :) I have seen how she has flourished and grown in independence. I was impressed by how well she managed her time during her exam years because she made such good use of her planner. And, of course, I was overjoyed to celebrate her successes with her. She wasted no time in worrying, procrastinating or forgetting what needed doing. After years of resisting timetables and the like, I began to think that she might have point - planners are the way forward. Home ed is a truly family experience and we can learn, not only alongside our kids, but also from our kids 😎😊

With planner in hand, I sat down with Boykin and together we discussed what he wanted to learn, and how he wanted to learn it. We are continuing to use some resources that we have been using for years now - MEP maths and Galore Park books in particular. He also insisted that his music practise was put on the plan, opportunities for exercise and space for personal projects. I also added in some of the reading material from Ambleside Online for Year 8. (American grade system is a number lower than British school years.) On The Girls' advice, we have colour coded it 😊

Now, just because we have a plan doesn't mean that we can't go off on our own little jaunts into learning off-piste, as it were. It doesn't mean that we have to follow The Plan to the letter EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. We have not failed if we choose not to follow The Plan that day. We are not ruled by The Plan. The Plan gives us an anchor, a framework to follow to keep us grounded and on course for Boykin's goals. It is a tool to help us both see what we have done and what we need to do.

How do I use my planner? Well, at the front I have constructed a master copy of The Plan - The Master Plan 😂 Every week, I fill in the respective page with a pencil, blocking out sections for home ed groups, family days out, necessary shopping trips, my work time and expected lazy days following a busy period. As we go through the week, I use the colour coding to mark off what we have completed and make any changes that come up due to unexpected events. At the end of the week, we sit down and admire our lovely colourful page and see how we have spent our time. We can also see what subjects have been neglected a little and tweak the following week accordingly. It helps Boykin to keep track of how much music practise he has done, and how much exercise he has had. It helps me to keep my working hours constrained rather than letting them spill out and interrupt everything else.

It's still early days yet. I wonder if we will still be using it at the end of the academic year? I wonder what we will learn from the experience? I am hoping that I will learn to compartmentalise my day properly so that work stays in its rightful place and that I learn to balance my time and energy better. Boykin is hoping that it will give him the skills needed to move into more formal study and prepare for college. To him, three years seems like a long time, but for me it will pass in the blink of an eye!

Do you use a planner to organise your home ed lives? Do you use it just for planning learning time, or does it include all aspects of your family life? Has it helped or hindered you over the years? I would really love to know other people's experiences and planner recommendations 😊

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Last Flat Traveller

Have you read the book Flat Stanley about the adventures of a boy who gets flattened by a notice board falling on him? Luckily, he's unharmed apart from being flattened like a pancake. This opens the way for new adventures, including being put in an envelope and posted to a friend's house for a holiday.
Well, flat travelling is inspired by this book. There's even an international Flat Stanley Project where children all over the world can exchange flat characters with each other. There are even groups specifically for home educators - Homeschool Flat Traveller Exchange and Herron's Nest Flat Traveller Exchange.
The idea is that you make a flat character to send as a guest to another family. They, in turn, send you their flat traveller for you to host. Flat travellers are pictures of people, animals, cartoon characters that are laminated with your name and address on the back in case you lose it. We've had a few flat travellers over the years, some hand-drawn (Lucy the robin), some were magazine cut-outs (Dr Who) and the last one was a printout of a photo found online, Mr Quack the Duck.
Mr Quack the Duck
Our flat travellers have been to various US states, Canada, Zimbabwe, Australia and England. We've received exciting packages containing small gifts, photo albums, books, sweets, receipts, travel tickets, photo CDs and the all-important journal. Sometimes this has been as short as a side of A4, sometimes as long as an exercise book. They have all been eagerly anticipated and gratefully received. We have learnt so much about different countries and have been privileged with small insights into other people's lives and home ed journeys.
Mementoes from our flat's travels
Much as we have loved receiving our parcels, we have equally loved sending them. We've loved taking photos with our visiting flat travellers and choosing small gifts and souvenirs to send home with them. It has been fun collecting postcards and putting together journals to try and give another family a small insight into where we live and what we do.
Boykin has good memories of our flat travelling adventures, it's been about 5 years since our last one and he decided he wanted to do one more. He write to his penfriend and asked him to swap. Luckily, his penfriend had also done flat travellers before too, so they both knew what was involved 😊
Making Pengy McPengface feel at home
I'm so glad that we had the opportunity to do a flat traveller just one more time.  We took Pengy McPengface to different places, took photos, bought souvenirs, wrote (briefly) in the journal and sent him home again. It was fun to flat travel again, and exchanging with his penfriend was a special visit for our last flat traveller 😊