Friday, 28 January 2011

Creative writing or an eye opener?

All along I have been convinced that DD8 is a visual learner as she best understands something once shes seen it.
I got a wake up call this week when she called creative writing 'boring' and wanted to go back to her 'old writing lessons' - this coming from a child who would rather write stories than play with toys  ?!
I asked her to explain what she meant and she said she preferred when she had a piece of blank writing paper in her drawer with an object to create a story around rather then the really colourful picture pages I had spent hours downloading, printing and categorising for her.
Go figure - turns out shes more kinesthetic than I thought ( which would also explain why it's soooooo hard for her to sit still )

So now we've stopped these (resources from teachers pet - If anyone wants a copy of these pages you can download them for free here.)

and we are back to this.
Blank story pages are available on my Download page.

Atomic structure

DD6 and DD8 were working on atoms and their structures last week.
(DD4 did join in as it involved play doh and glue)

First we discussed the parts of an atom - we used 3 part cards to learn about protons, neutrons, electrons and their charges. Then asked if they wanted to see how big atoms were.
 I took a 2cm lump of play doh and said it is made up of millions and millions of atoms then asked them to cut the play doh in half 13 times, when the spec was so small they couldn't cut any more (and barely see it) I explained that even this spec has millions of atoms in.

We followed by exploring the atomic structure of the first 10 elements on the periodic table (using the cloud/Bohr model - the center represents the nucleus where the protons and neutrons are and the outer circles represent where the electronic shells where the electrons live)

This worksheet is available on my Download page.  As you can see they got bored cutting out all the little circles so decided to draw them in instead.

Compound words

DD6 did some compound words last week - the presentation is really simple and great fun.

First put out a toy lady and ask for its name - write it on a strip of paper and place beneath the toy then show a toy bird and ask for its name - write it on a strip of paper and place beneath the toy

"watch this!" slide the two words together and ask what it says

"When I put lady and bird together I get a new word - Ladybird" (you can introduce a new toy here if you have one)

Repeat with foot and ball, cow and boy, lip and stick etc

Indicate the words lady and bird - "when these words are alone we call them root words - a root word is a word that has meaning. When you take two root words and combine them you create a new word, we call this new word a compound word"

The word 'compound' comes from the Latin word 'componere' which means to combine.

Once we had done the presentation I gave her a basket of root word toys and asked her to come up with some compound words of her own.

We followed up by playing a matching compound game from file folder fun
This game also had some blank snowmen to fill in - this is the game she made for her Dad.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Answers to questions

Forgive me  - I am still new to all this Blog stuff and I can't work out how to reply directly to each comment so I thought it was just safest to post replies to all your questions and learn how to do it properly later (didn't want you to think that I was ignoring you all)

1 - Rubber Mats - these are just the standard ones you pick up from DIY stores (usually in the flooring section) Mine were from B&Q and are black one side and coloured the other.
They are currently on the black side as I need to buy some white spirit to remove the dried on purple paint. :(

2 - Reading shelf.
I can't take any credit for making this as it is an old wire display rack for magazines - you can sometimes pick them up 2nd hand on ebay or Hope Education does sell something similar for about £20.

3 - Subscribe via email button as requested.

I just want to finish by saying a big THANK YOU for all your comments. They really made me smile when I read them last night (especially as it had been a really hard day with DD2 being ill and up all night)

What we did today.

DD4 has been working on the letter L - we used a selection of the worksheets from combined with the sand tray and alphabet box

We use our alphabet boxes in a slightly different way.
As you can see below - I have a wooden cutout of the letter attached to the top of the box with blue-tac so they can see and feel what letter they are doing, then there are four stickers where they place each item beginning with the right sound. (We had a slight problem today as she thought the lamb was a sheep) The incorrect items are placed off to the side.

 We are also working on number 5 - again we use the sand tray for this with some homemade sandpaper cards and we have a sticker activity book.
Next we played a game of hedgehog counting from ELC.

Her final area of work was History and she cut and pasted some pictures from the Evan Moor Roman History pockets we are using.

DD6 started with reading a chapter from her book followed by a time revision game, then creating a compound word game for Daddy to play tonight (She did compound words last week so this was abit of a test to see how much she remembered), Geometry was the small hexagonal box followed by revising Hundred,Tens and Units (available on my Download page). She again finished with her Roman project.

DD8 started with conversion from Digital to Analogue time (will post the worksheet later in the week), measurements (both Inches and cm), Geography was additional Landforms (used 3 part cards from Montessori Printshop and created her own information book), Roman project and creative writing (I think that will be a whole other post all on its own)

DD2 is unwell - she has a bad cold - so Grandma kindly came over to play with her.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Practical life pays off

Finally I've had true success with the practical life. 

Without any prompting DD4 went to collect the dustpan and brush to clean up the mess she  just made.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Magical illusion

We had an impromptu lesson this morning.
DD8 was asking yesterday about magic and why people thought magic was real, we discussed how advanced technology often looks magical - like if she took her music or TV back to the Stone age or Elizabethan times they would think it was magical because they hadn't seen anything like it -  and how illusion looks like magic, here we discussed how illusion is when your eye and brain are tricked into thinking something is real or that they have seen something that they haven't. DD8 said she understood but she still looked confused.

Well this morning was the perfect opportunity to let her see it for herself (she's a real visual learner)
To set the background we were at a party last night and they came home with glowsticks, this morning they were still glowing and it was dark at 6:30am so they looked really good.
I asked her if she wanted to create a magical illusion (what child would so no??) and she quickly agreed.
First they held the glowstick still so they could see it was just a glowing line.


Next we span one really fast (like a helicopter blade) and they saw a glowing circle - they loved it!
(it was much brighter in real life)

we discussed why we thought we saw a circle as opposed to a straight line moving fast. Then they decided to see what other tricks they could make the glowsticks do.

As you can imagine the next 40 mins was spend playing glowstick in the dark and pretending to be magicians.

There is a really good Horizion programme I recorded last year called 'Is seeing believeing' from the BBC , it discussed why the brain can be fooled by illusion -  we watched it in the afternoon to cement the concept further and there were a couple of experiments on there that they want to try tomorrow:
The first was tasting coloured water - red water flavoured with mint, yellow water flavoured with raspberry and green water flavoured with orange - and how your taste buds are deceived by your sight.
Second was a sound illusion - the sound 'Ba' pronounced with a mouth shaped for a 'Fa' sound will convince the listener they are hearing the sound 'Fa' not 'Ba' - sight overcoming hearing.

I'll let you know how they go.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Someone just sent me a great link for freebies

The 'All about Reading' and 'All about Spelling' links are great and I can't wait to try out the 'Math Mammoth' and 'Greek n Stuff'.

The easy life - yeah right !

Life is far from perfect - there are days when DD8 just won't get out of bed even when we all jump on her!
or 7:30 comes and Mummy is too tired to do anything but go to bed or someone had decorated the bathroom floor with toothpaste or we forget to put the craft box away and DD4 kindly paints the schoolroom carpet purple because she likes the colour.
There is a big BUT here - BUT the good days far outweigh the bad, like when DD6 creates a present for me

(small vase filled with pink flowers and covered in a leaf - I didn't have the heart to tell her they were weeds)

or DD8 posts me a sweet note or says how Mummy's lessons are best or DD4 asks for school (a four year old ?!?) or DD2 sits at the table with her big sister whilst they teach her to colour, the day they all decided to do my chores for me and I woke up to a laid table and freshly squeezed orange juice and the time DD4 promised me she would invent a robot to do all the work for me.
These are the best reasons for Homeschooling - treasured time spent with your little ones.

How our day and school both work.

Our day starts with breakfast at 8am - they may get up at whatever time they choose, however DD4 never sleeps beyond 6am :(
Chores are after breakfast, they have a chore chart with 3 jobs each day - if the chores aren't finished then they don't get any TV time or Screen time. Chores include sweeping, empty dishwasher, fold laundry, feed chickens, hoover bedroom, tidy toys away etc.

We 'school' between 9am and 12pm. Our school day starts with a prayer followed by our scripture or AoF memorisation, next is circle time - this includes our calendar, game and songs (I'm really lucky with the songs as my Mum is very creative and can put together a song or verse related to a subject we are learning) followed by a group lesson (History, Science/Experiment, Art or Music) and drawer time.

The group lessons work well because DD4 & DD2 are desperate to be like their big sisters - they will happily sit through the discussion and join in the experiment or activity, then at the end rather than writing up the discussion they both have a relevant picture to colour/cut/paste.

We have modified Sue's workbox system to suit us - we use 6 drawers per child without the tags on the front. Each drawer contains a lesson or activity suitable to their age/ability, I tend to use the last drawer as the only 'fun drawer'. I use the 'Work with Mum' drawers to present new Montessori equipment or do a 3 part lesson (I'll blog more about those later).

Snacks are out on the table all morning (usually dried fruit, jug of water and crackers) they can help themselves at anytime they wish during the morning. They all pour their own drinks (I use a small glass jug) although DD2 tends to make a mess :)

We break at 12pm for lunch and from 1pm-3pm is 'explore time' - we can go on a garden adventure to explore nature, do some exciting chores (they love dusting & mopping?!), interact freely with the Montessori shelves, play Lego or bricks, knit, read, sew, paint/craft, create a game to play together, finish their unit studies, bake, yoga, trampoline etc anything that loosely comes under an educational or life skills heading.

Dinner is at 4pm and after they have tided it away there is the option of TV time (usually a pre-recorded programme) or free time. I limit TV to 30 mins a day unless we are all having a popcorn and snuggle DVD.

The bedtime routine starts at 6:15 - pj's teeth etc followed by family scriptures, prayers and then while DD6 & DD8 write their day records DD2 & DD4 get Mummy time, personal scripture stories, prayers and tucked in. Next is DD6's turn and lastly DD8. By 7:30 all is peaceful and Mummy relaxes and spends some quality time with Daddy - or we both get stuck doing the housework :(

We are not a true Montessori, Mason or Workbox family - what we have done is taken ideas from each to suit our needs. We don't have the space for all the Montessori shelves so we rotate equipment using the space we have. We have everything set up at child friendly height - the crockery is in the lower cupboards in the kitchen so they can access it to lay the table etc, small brooms and dustpan and brush are on low hooks in the utility space, fruit bowl is on the table, all artwork/posters/displays are at a suitable height for them, easy access to all books (again rotate these due to space restrictions), all equipment is child sized for ease of use and all responsibility is given to them.
We school most of the year - we do take a week off over Easter and Christmas  although DD4 complained over Christmas because there was no school - she insisted I put all the craft activities I had planned into her drawers so it could be 'real school' :)
We do lighten the load over the summer and half term breaks and tend to focus more on unit studies.
Family holidays also have a lighter load - a study on the animals of a country we are visiting or language lessons etc. Books are always with us as we all love to read.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Our school set up

We decided early on to dedicate a room to school - a place that was always there with anything they desired to learn from.

So here is a quick tour of our space.
We have a dedicated reading corner (which you can see gets alot of use)
To the side of this space, just under the window ledge, is our 'Artist of the month' display area. We usually have about four pictures displayed at eye level from whichever artists we are learning about.

Our Montessori shelves (we change the equipment on these every couple of weeks but add any extras if I feel they need more exposure to) The big boxes at the bottom contain their learning toys - lego, bricks, puzzles etc

Our work space - we did originally use individual desks but they preferred sitting next to each other so got a great table from IKEA and chopped the legs down to a level that suited.
We also have a blackboard ,and display board in the corner above the desk with a calender and Periodic table to each side. The rubber mats under the desk are one of my essentials - they have saved me from hours of scrubbing paint etc out of the carpet.

Our last area is our computer table - this was a bit controversial at first but we decided to only let them have free access to Brainpop - its additionally used as part of certain lessons.

As you can see the computer desk sits on two of the workboxes (loosely based on Sue Patrick's workbox system- for more info visit These ones are for the DD4 and DD2 - DD4's contain a mix of Letter of the Week curriculum from Erica at and Montessori materials (if the item is too big for her drawer she is given a card to go to the shelves to collect it) and DD2's are just Montessori materials, tot games and puzzles.

Workbox drawers for DD6 are next to a second bookshelf just inside the entrance and DD8's are to the side of the computer desk. Their drawers contain the basics I need them to do each day, research assignments and the Montessori materials they need to work on for that day.

We have posters on the door (again at their eye level) that change often to match whatever we are working on.

I will post later about how our day is structured and give examples of what we have in our drawers.

Why Blog?

Well I've finally done it - after admiring all your Blogs I took the plunge and decided to create my own.
My goal is (I hope) to inspire those starting the journey or those who are having a less than perfect day by sharing what I've learnt over the last 5 years. I also want to convince all the people who look askance at my homeschooling that it's no bad thing and that my children have a fun and profitable learning experience.
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