Monday, 25 February 2013

"A bad day home educating...

... is still better than a bad day at school!"  That's how the saying goes - and I'm so grateful that it's true!  To be fair, today wasn't really that bad - it was mostly down to my mood (isn't it always?)

You see, last week we had a good week.  I kept meaning to update the blog, but we were too busy or I was too tired.  Middle and Youngest started the week fighting off some kind of lurgy, but it wasn't too serious.  We had to cancel one playdate for Monday because Youngest was really miserable that day, but for the rest of the week they were OK and our time was chock-a-block full of socialising.  It was half-term for schools in Herts - and while I don't particularly feel the need to take breaks at the same time as the school holidays, it is a great opportunity for the boys to catch up with their friends who are still in school.  So we dropped all parent-led activities, and they had a lovely week full of playing with friends, playing computer games, watching TV, and just playing - while Mummy got to grips with some serious sorting out that was badly overdue!

It has been almost eleven years since I was able to just get on with tidying up etc, as ever since Eldest was born, I have had babies/ toddlers to keep an eye on.  To this day I maintain that if you have a child (or more) aged 3 or under, there is no point trying to keep a tidy house as they create chaos faster than you can sort it out!  Some children are reportedly good at entertaining themselves safely without requiring much supervision (apparently my brother-in-law as a baby could be left in a room playing with toys and when his Mum came back into the room he would be exactly where she left him... I cannot even begin to imagine it!)  None of mine were like that - and especially not Youngest!  However, now he has reached the grand old age of four, he is calming down slightly.  He even voluntarily took my hand and walked with me instead of running off the other day while we were out shopping (I was simultaneously shocked and thrilled).  So anyway, now he is slowing down a little I have found myself better able to get on with jobs around the house while he is happily occupied elsewhere.  Of course, my ears are on high-alert like ultra sensitive satellite dishes so that if it goes ominously quiet I can leap into search-and-retrieve mode immediately - but the fact is, last week I not only maintained the necessary level of housework but also got some boxes of stuff sorted (y'know - the "stuff" that gets shoved in a box/ cupboard/ shelf/ room somewhere in a hurry when people drop by, and then stays in said box for weeks... months... (years?) on end).  I was greatly pleased with myself!

By the weekend though, I confess I was really tired from all the hosting playdates, tidying/ sorting  and being solely responsible for the boys all week as Hubby had had a really busy week of very long days at work.  So by Saturday we were both fairly wiped out, and somehow managed to not only do hardly any tidying up all weekend, but also not have any family time together in the great outdoors.  Big mistake.  Today I woke up to a kitchen full of mess, an erupting laundry bin and a house-full of inhabitants who are going more than a bit stir-crazy.  Enter the "bad day home educating": I just want to be outside, walking through my beloved woods, not stuck indoors moving from dishwasher to washing machine and back again (although I am really grateful for said machines of course).  However, the boys are adamant that it is Monday and therefore pyjama day - grrrrrr, for once I am not having such a lovely Monday!  I'm trying not to be grumpy Mummy, but I do feel really cooped up.  Unfortunately it's a vicious cycle as to persuade the boys to get dressed and go outdoors would take a lot of 'jollying along' - and jolly seems to have disappeared from my repertoire today. I have suggested going to the park a couple of times but they're not keen (except Youngest, bless him) - and I know if I tried to force it, it would turn into a major battle.  Hey ho - at least we can go out tomorrow!

It has to be said - in "educational terms" the boys have done just fine: they've all had some time on Reading Eggs(press); Eldest and Middle have spent some time on their lapbooks; Youngest did a jigsaw puzzle and made a marble run; we all experimented with separating colours using felt pens and filter paper - a good day really.  However, the Reading Eggspress was more taxing than I expected as they all hit issues and needed my input (Eldest needed me to find the right books; Middle got too many answers wrong on his comprehension bit so had to redo it (which is never encouraging) - he did fine the second time though as doing it with me makes him slow down and read the questions properly; Youngest managed to accidentally switch off our ancient home computer three times!  Given that it takes 20-30 minutes to get from 'start' to having loaded an online programe, that was enormously frustrating)  Eldest is starting a new lapbook and even though he already knew what subject he wanted to do (Life in the Rainforest) it took him ages to get started as he kept hitting problems with loading Youtube clips of his chosen creatures or finding a good photo for the cover etc.  Middle is just finishing his 'My Body' lapbook - having had a week off he had run out of momentum on it, but we think it's important that they learn to see jobs through to completion, so I shamelessly bribed him with a glowstick from their treasure box of goodies-they-receive-for-doing-good-work (their idea, not mine), and eventually he did a bit more - hooray!  Hopefully it will be finished soon!  Oh, and the lovely ink/water experiment didn't work as well as the examples show in the book, although the boys thought it was cool - and it didn't go down well when somebody knocked over the glass of inky water all over Mummy's lap just when I was trying to tidy up!

Big sigh.  Never mind!  I hope I haven't depressed you... I wanted to be honest and faithfully record the ups and downs of home educating - but at the end of the day, that saying is true: a bad day home educating really is still better than a bad day at school.  Bad days at school never left space for precious cuddles with loving little boys; at school we couldn't make allowances for feeling tired/ fed up, and adjust our workload accordingly; if we'd been at school that mountain of washing-up & laundry would still have been waiting for me when I got back, even more exhausted than I started the day.  If Middle had had to redo a lesson in school he would have ground to a halt, he was so low in confidence.  At least today he was happy to try again with me next to him - that's real progress!  They are not being asked to do mindless exercises; they are not having their behaviour scrutinised; they are not subject to the anti-social pressures of hostile peers; they are not being tested on things that will be forgotten after the tests are completed.  They are free to learn through play and exploration; they have space to move about and stretch; if they want to spend hours on end just experimenting with their camera (Middle this afternoon) they can.  Even though Mummy has had her grumpy moments today, they are still in an environment where their worth as individuals is unquestioned and they are loved for being who they are.  It's got to be said - for all my petty complaints, that's still a pretty good day!

Friday, 15 February 2013

It's all Encouraging (well, mostly!)

Eldest has gone off MathsWhizz at the moment, so he asked if he could do a workbook today instead.  No problem there - the boys have a drawer each with workbooks in (that I was beginning to think would never be used), so he found the Maths one from this set, and got to work.  It was really interesting to me how exercises that I know he has done on the computer with little problem became harder when presented in a different medium, in this case on paper.  I suppose this is why it's important that they have a variety of resources available to them, to help them to consolidate what they have learned - and I'm encouraged to note that left to themselves they naturally choose to use different methods of learning after an amount of time on another...  Of couse, there's also an element of referring back to his old school workbooks that he hated - maybe the association is still too strong!  Nonetheless he said even though the workbook this morning took him longer than MathsWhizz would have done, he still preferred it today, so that's good.

Also today Eldest completed his lapbook, hooray!  He really wanted to finish it by the end of this week so we can show it to relatives at the weekend.  I was definitely more involved this time.  Every chapter was chosen by Eldest and he chose what to write, what photos and mini flapbooks to use etc;  I just encouraged him to find extra interesting facts when he came to a page and lost inspiraton - and I helped him with the layout, such as showing him how to make all the chapter titles the same size & font etc... I think it does look more 'grown-up' than his previous, first ever lap-book, which is nice, but a bit sad for me personally too, as I loved the chaotic creativity of his first one... but he's really proud of this one, and quite rightly as he put a lot of effort into it!  Both styles are effective, so it's good that he can choose which he prefers, next time.

This is the front page...  all other pages included at the end of the post, for those of you who'd like to all... (Grandma and Grampie, either don't look, or when we see you tomorrow you'll have to pretend you haven't seen it yet!)

Middle is full of cold today, bless him, though we've had no colds or illnesses in the house all winter, so I can't complain!  He was still keen to learn and do stuff though - and inspired by his big brother he also rejected the online MathsWhizz, had a look in his workbook drawer instead and found his wipe-clean workbook on Telling the Time.  Thanks to the learners clock we have on the wall next to the kitchen table, he is completely used to me casually asking "what's the time today?" and being able to work it out... so his workbook was no problem at all.

I absolutely LOVE the fact that just by giving him space to gain his own confidence, he is really starting to want to try things for himself.  When he left school he was really discouraged and refused to try anything as he had so little belief in himself... it's totally lovely (not to mention a relief) to see the change in him *Happy HE Mummy dance*
He did a little more on his lapbook today as well, but ran out of steam quite quickly, so I just encouraged him to finish the flaps he was working on so we could stick them in and not lose them - it took us about two hours of distraction and re-focus (writing one word at a time before he wandered off, or so it seemed!) and then it was definitely time to just rest!

Youngest was in a funny one today - he loved watching Middle do his Telling-the-Time workbook, and was able to join in with some of it - but then he just wanted to build things with lego (which is fine) and then generally interfere with everything his brothers were doing (not so fine), which was tricky as they both seemed to need a lot of my involvement today so I wasn't able to distract Youngest from harrassing whichever brother I wasn't helping at that point.  Happily, he eventually found the wooden train track set, so that occupied him in the end.

Oh, and also encouraging to us - simply because we are really hoping that our nestbox with camera will be used this spring - was this footage caught this morning (please excuse the sound track - I haven't worked out how to turn off the built-in mic on my laptop when recording the nestbox images)...

... it's lovely to see that having found the next box and given it the 'once-over' last month, the blue tits are still popping back as if to check it's still there and still vacant... oh we do hope they will nest in it in due time - what a lovely spring project that would be!

It's been such a positive and encouraging week - and I think in part this is because after the most recent wobble & self-examination earlier this year, I have become much more confident in our approach.  Having now given myself permission to adopt a partly adult-led approach, things are flowing so much more easily.  I had become so caught up in the 'autonomous v structure' debate, when it turned out that really wasn't our issue at all!  I'm so grateful to be part of a community that can help bounce ideas around and share helpful books & blog-posts.  Anyway, we're still very child-led too: yes, I do ask the boys to do a bit of English or Maths every day, four days out of five (whether online, in workbooks or otherwise), and I usually have a game, some baking or an art project up my sleeve in case the boys seem uninspired - but they have the power of veto in all of that if they can't face it - and the rest of the time is theirs: they lead the way when it comes to choosing projects that they want to do, or the subjects that they would like to do lapbooks on etc - and I make sure they have lots of time available for free-play, imaginative games, educational TV etc.  It just feels like the perfect balance for us for now - and when it stops being so we will tweak as necessary!

Anyway, now for the weekend, and time with Daddy after a very busy week, hooray!  So I'll leave you with the rest of Eldest's most fantabulous 'Desert Animals' lapbook...

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Proud Mummy Day

We had a very successful Reading Eggs(press) morning today. Eldest just storms through his allocated time - he tends to go through a couple of books at a time, plus further games/ exercises; Middle had no problems today - yesterday I printed out a little chart with the definitions and examples of the parts of speech that he seemed most likely to come up against to start with (noun, verb, adjective, pronoun).  Given that he has never learned about the parts of speech, he seemed to grasp the concept really quickly - very proud Mummy moment.  Once he'd worked his way through his online book, he couldn't wait to get onto the Quote Quest and other games.  And Youngest - well, he finished another world today!  He is now on world five, and doing brilliantly.  I've already mentioned how much he benefitted from a few months off to assimilate everything he had learned before he got stuck... and today he experienced that again in a smaller way.  He had done a few exercises and reached the test at the end of the 'world' or level.  I was in another room with one of his brothers, and he had a go by himself but gave up, saying it was too hard.  Once I was available about an hour later, I asked him if he would show me the tricky test.  We sat down together and again - having just had an hour away from the computer he was able to focus, and just whizzed through it, getting them all right with ease.  Definite Reading Eggs(press) fans here!

After that, Eldest and Middle both did some more work on their lapbooks.  Again Middle ended up doing some really quite advanced work, writing about and illustrating the different types of muscles.  Bless him, I hadn't realised that some of the downloaded flap templates were harder than others until we started on this one, but as he had started it I just waited to see if he would give up - and he didn't.  The little star!  Eldest has almost finished his too - he had a couple of days off when he ran out of steam, but is almost finished now - he wants it finished by the weekend, so hopefuly we'll have photos to share on Friday.

All of this while Youngest and I baked some Smartie cookies for lunch...

This afternoon  was very lazy.  Hubby has started a new job this week which is further away than the previous one, so he needs to get up earlier in the morning, and so far the boys have been waking up with him, and consequently getting tired earlier.  So this afternoon after all their hard work they just wanted to flop on the sofa, watching TV for a while before disappearing upstairs to build battlefields out of lego and recreate the island of Madagascar in duplo.  It was a bit odd watching about the hottest place on earth (Death Valley) with snow still on the ground outside our window, courtesy of CBBC's Fierce Planet. We had a lovely moment when Eldest and I were excited to spot a songthrush that briefly visited our garden... I love that we're so often at home during the day and can call each other if we see something out of the ordinary, to have a little shared moment together.

Finally it was time for tea: lentil bolognese, cooked almost entirely by Eldest...

Happy sigh - this really has been a proud Mummy Day.  I don't like giving the impression that all of our days are glowing and perfect (they really aren't), but a little bragging comes with the maternal territory, doesn't it?  And hopefully my boys' progress as recorded today might be encouraging to those needing reassurance that HE really can and does work!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Mellow Monday

We had a busy weekend away this weekend, visiting family, meeting up with old friends from the church we were part of when we got married a LONG time ago, and then celebrating my brilliant nephew's 18th birthday with more family.  It was a lovely weekend, although I was glad to get home having had to drive through heavy snow in the dark on the way back.  I'm always so happy every time I stop and register that weekends away are no problem, because tired boys (and Mummy) can have a lay-in and lazy day the next day if necessary.

So this morning we got up very slowly and gently.  The boys drifted downstairs and were allowed one programme before breakfast (they chose a programme they had recorded called Splatalot), then breakfast, then Reading Eggspress.  I don't want them to feel crowded or harrassed, so more often than not I tend to leave the boys to it and let them know they can call me if they need help - but today I stayed with Middle to have a look at it together, and I'm glad I did - he had got stuck and was playing the games rather than ask for help.  He had still been learning while playing, so it wasn't a disaster, but I was glad for the opportunity to go through it together.  He obviously still has a problem with feeling bad if he can't do something first time (even something he has never learned, bless him).  Anyway, we went through it togethe and chatted about the bits he was getting stuck on, then he whizzed through the other bits, happy to be progressing.  He had got stuck on not knowing the definitions of nouns, pronouns, verbs etc, so I'm going to print off a sheet for him with the definitions so he can stick it to the desk and have it to refer to all the time.  So that was lovely, seeing his confidence grow - and making a mental note for Mummy to keep a closer eye on him to check that he isn't struggling but not asking for help (it's hereditary it seems: I never asked for help at school/ college either).  Well after that he carried on with some of the Reading Eggspress games while Youngest and I went on Reading Eggs on my laptop.  Youngest totally whizzed through it again - he picked it back up again last week after a good few months off - and I'm still astounded at how, during his time off, he has mastered the thing that he was stuck on!  I know it's true that we all need time off to process things and that children given that space really do progress naturally without needing to be drilled - but it's still amazing to see it happen before your eyes!

Other than their online curricula we watched "321 Go" (a Maths programme recorded from BBC's Learning Zone) on fractals and symmetry, which was lovely, because it tied in really well with the art I had planned for today.  Following on from our 'painting with scissors' art on Friday in Moodswings, Muffins and Matisse, we did some more cutting out, but this time using lines of symmetry to create 'positive' and 'negative' images:  We used an A4 piece of paper as a background sheet with a line down the middle (the line of symmetry), and then an A5 piece of paper to draw one half of a symmetrical shape/ image, and then cut it out and flipped it over the line of symmetry - and then glued the pieces down.  I think the pictures show more clearly what I mean...

 Mummy's 'Face' - the example I made to show the boys what I meant

Middle's 'Ball'

Eldest's 'Lightsaber Duel'

Youngest's 'Shapes'

Middle's 'Octopus'

Eldest's 'Squid'

 Mummy's 'Snowflake' (that took AGES!)

Following that, the boys wanted to watch "Fierce Earth:Tsunami", recorded from CBBC.  I wasn't at all sure because for some weird reason tsunamis - more than any other natural disaster - give me nightmares, & I was concerned for the boys.  They were all sure they wanted to see it though, and it was a children's programme after all so on it went.  Actually it turned out to be quite positive for me too as it focused on survivor stories... so next time I dream about a tsunami I can just climb a palm tree in my dream & all will be well! (I know, there aren't many palm trees in Hertfordshire - but then we're not exactly on the coast either... nobody said fears had to be rational!)

And that was it!  The rest of the day mostly involved pottering, relaxing and playing, cosying up inside and looking at the snow outsaide (we weren't even tempted to go outside in it, we were that tired!) - basically, the perfect Monday after a busy weekend away!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Mood Swings, Muffins and Matisse

Eldest is having a growth spurt.  I had noticed some hefty mood swings recently, and his appetite (which is usually tiny) has increased several times over... he eats more than me at the moment!  As with all times when my children exhibit unusual behaviour, I take it as a sign that I need to draw closer to them - and this week I have really enjoyed the chance to spend time together working on his lapbook.  He had quite a few really lovely comments made about his first lapbook (as shared in "We Love Mondays"), and that spurred him on to do an even better book next time, for his "fans"!  Perfect opportunity for Mummy to sit down with him and spend time working on it together.  He still did all the work, but I gave him a few tips, like for every animal pictured, include their name, where they're from and an interesting fact about them.  I don't want to load work onto him so it becomes a chore, but I do feel that he is ready to be stretched a bit, and left to himself he has great ideas, but tends to rush them through a bit - so I've sat with him this week and helped him to focus on getting each page exactly as he wants, not rushing over mistakes.  We've had so much fun going through it together, giggling over mispronounced words and funny facts found while researching, it's been lovely!  I'm so grateful for Home Ed once again - the chance to spend quality time with my boy when he most needs to be reminded that he's loved.

And today it wasn't just Eldest, either - I had some precious one-on-one time with each of my boys, while their siblings were occupied elsewhere (it would be lovely if it were like that every day, but usually we just muddle along, bouncing between rooms, children and activities).  Eldest and I worked on his lapbook as mentioned above, and later I also "helped" Middle with his lapbook.  Whereas Eldest's lapbook is almost entirely done on the computer (with a bit of cutting and sticking) and our working together involves researching, some dictation etc (him to me), Middle's is a lot more practical and hands-on: I've printed off lots of little folded-books, flap-books etc for him from the Homeschool Share templates, some of which already had the information written inside, and we had lovely some snuggles this morning with Middle reading the amazing body facts out to me (he particularly enjoyed boasting that he had more bones and better hearing than me because he's younger).  Then once Youngest had finished his puzzles and time on Reading Eggs (in the same room as Eldest and me, so I could marvel at how much he has progressed while having time off), he and I went to bake some muffins - "just you and me".  He particularly wanted to make some that our lactose-intolerant lodger could share, so we made some carrot muffins.  I thought they were lovely, but Youngest couldn't get past the thought of vegetables inside a cake, and has decided that he doesn't like them.  He loved grating the carrots though - we used the grating attachment on the foodmixer, and he relished pushing the carrots down with the plunger while watching the sharp grater holes do their thing.  He loves gadgets generally, so it was a real winner (apart from not liking the taste of the end result!)

After all the individual work we had some Mummy-led together time where we looked at some art by Matisse, using one of the Smart about Art books that we have - we really like that series.  We talked about how Matisse used just scissors, paper and glue in his later pictures, and how he liked bright colours... and we grabbed our own scissors, glue and brightly coloured paper to have a go for ourselves.  It is harder than it looks, not to use pencils for details or to draw outlines to cut along, but again, we were all pleased with our finished art...
"Insect Hill", by Eldest

"Underwater Creatures" by Middle
he took extra care over his Sea Hare (top left corner), complete with anatomically correct 'poo-cannon'!

"Zoo" by Youngest

"Jungle Flower" by Mummy

Finally we had a game of Animal Families (like 'Happy Families', but based on animals grouped by classification).  Another lovely day - but for those of you who may be tempted to compare yourselves unfavourably, you'll be relieved to hear that yesterday was nowhere near like this.  Our HE group that we were looking forward to was cancelled at the last minute, and we all felt a bit "flobberly" (it's a family word!) without that focus to the day.  So we basically did very little, which somehow resulted in a lot of mess.  I can't actually remember any of what we did - it was that 'good'!  But I'm including it here for the sake of balance: a little inspiration (hopefully) for those who could use it, and commiserations with anyone else experiencing a non-productive 'flobberly day'.  Whichever applies to you, I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Hooray for the Trampoline!

The boys are definitely showing signs that they've been cooped up indoors for too long!  Because my back has been painful for a couple of weeks now, we have been significantly hindered from getting out and about as much as we would normally like - but yesterday it wasn't too bad, so we decided we would try again to get to craft club.  We had a lovely time, the boys all made some cute snakes (as  Chinese Year of the Snake begins in a few days), but you could tell they hadn't been out for a while: they went quite loopy, running about and yelling - generally being boys with excess energy.  Fortunately there is an enclosed garden outside, so they were able to let off steam with friends before we came home.  Unfortunately my back complained for the rest of the day so I was pretty much confined to my chair, printing off lapbook resources etc.  The boys had calmed down by then, so thy occupied themselves nicely (mostly with lapbook activities and general happy playtime.

Snakes, top to bottom: Eldest's; Youngest's; Middle's

This morning, having restocked on playdough yesterday, we were able to make lots of little 'people' (and the odd alien, baby and pancake-man) to complete our Gormley-inspired sculpting, prompted by this blog, and started the other day in We Love Mondays.  It was fascinating to note the care taken over each little 'blob', how each was invested with a personality, and how fond of each individual we became.  Considering it was such a simple activity, I would definitely do it again, and spend more time talking about individuals making up a whole etc.  As it was, the boys were keen to get on to their next activity today, so we didn't chat about it as much as I would have liked.  I do hope the boys are keen to do it again...

 our version of Gormley's "Field for the British Isles"

Reading Eggspress followed our "art lesson" - Eldest and Middle had both found an activity that they really enjoyed... they spent well over the required thirty minutes on there (more like ninety minutes each).  Youngest wasn't interested in Reading Eggs today though - he just wanted Reading Eggspess like his big brothers.  We spent time reading and playing jigsaws etc instead, but it's made me think - maybe I just need to let him have a go at Reading Eggspress so he can see for himself that he's not ready for it yet, rather than trying to reason with him.

Then they had some time working on lapbooks while Youngest taught himself how to burp words (I know)... he didn't burp the alphabet, he burped "I ... love ... you ... Mummy" - I was simultaneously revolted and charmed!  It is his own accomplishment though - not what I had in mind when we started to Home Ed, and neither of his brothers can do it (thankfully), but he was inspired, went for it and taught himself - so, "well done son" (I think).  Anyway, back to the more refined subject of lapbooks, and I have to say, the Homeschool Share website is a totally awesome resource - we just keep going back to it to find inspiration and helpful tools, like the downloadable 'flap-book' templates, and free lapbooks.

We had friends coming round in the afternoon, and as I still wasn't able to whizz around and tidy for myself, I shamelessly resorted to bribery.  At 11.30 I told the boys if they could tidy the front room by 12noon they could play on the Wii for an hour (we've been having a Wii-free week).  Well I have to say, they've never worked as a team so well to tidy up so quickly!  What might normally take an hour (with fifty minutes of feet-dragging, distractions and complaining) took just under fifteen minutes - job done!  Happiness all round.

Our friends arrived, and we had a lovely time chatting and playing, particularly enjoying the fact that my big boys thought nothing of playing with two-year old twin girls.  The only problem was that when our guests left, the boys were still thoroughly into the toddler style of shrieking, running about and having fun, so they were sent out into the garden, rejoicing at being reunited with the trampoline (it's been either buried in snow or too muddy out there for them to play on it for quite a while).  They had such a lovely time leaping about together, they could have stayed out a lot longer (they were outside for an hour), but then it started hailing, so they came in to get cosy & warm, being grossed out by the hagfish on 'Naomi's Nightmares of Nature' (CBBC), with it now snowing outside.  All energy was burned off once again, and Mummy thanks God for the trampoline!

Monday, 4 February 2013

We love Mondays

I LOVE Mondays!  No more dreading the start of the week: nowadays we really look forward to our Pyjama Mondays (though I do get dressed, as you know).  Mondays are usually such lovely days, filled wth gentle, flexible activities... making sure the boys are keeping up with their jobs (Eldest unloads the dishwasher; Youngest and Middle take it in turns to empty the washing machine into the tumble dryer/ empty the dryer), doing a bit of online Maths/ English, creating art/ baking, playing - and this week Monday also marked the start of new lapbooks for Eldest and Middle - maybe that will continue for however long this lapbook season lasts.  Eldest, bless him, worked really hard and completed his lapbook on Friday evening, because he wanted to show it to family who we were visiting on Saturday - you can see the finished result at the end of this post.  He and I are really proud!

So this morning I asked if the boys would like to make some bread.  They were really enthusiastic (they love both being violent in their kneading (bashing) and being creative in the shapes of their rolls), so that was a lovely start to the day.

We had MathsWhizz while the dough was proving, then they made a start on their new lapbooks while it baked.  Eldest has chosen Desert Animals as his topic.  I had suggested the World Wars as it's one of his favourite subjects, but no - he wanted to do another "animal-y one", so that's what he's doing.  He wanted to repeat the format of his Ocean lapbook, so I've made another mini book out of a few square-cut folders.  Middle is happy with the smaller, more interactive version, which is good as I bought fifty envelope files for the purpose!  His chosen subject is the Human Body - a topic that he appears to find endlessly fascinating.  Today he asked me if he could watch the Rock n Learn DVD that we have on the subject, and I had to keep pausing every time we got to a different system (msucular, skeletal, nervous etc) so he could copy it down!  I wouldn't even have tackled something that involved myself, but he was full of vision, so away he went - it just goes to show, even the most reluctant worker will put effort into something they really enjoy!

 (he hasn't labelled it yet, but hopefully some of the systems are obvious!)

We had our yummy bread rolls for lunch, then decided to do a little art, based on Antony Gormley's "Field for the British Isles".  Eldest really liked it as it reminded him of Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes)'s army of mini snowmen.  Anyway, we got the playdough out and after making a few little people, soon realised that we didn't have enough.  I didn't have any cream of tartar in the house either, so couldn't make any more.  We took a photo of what we had made so far, then packed it away into tubs until we have replenished our playdough stocks!

More tidying up after that (Youngest was having a "pull everything off the shelves" kind of day) - and an improvised spot of circuit training (the only drawback to pyjama days being those days when they need to let off some steam... so I find ways for them to exercise indoors) and that was our Monday!  Loved it!   And finally, before I log off, here it is (pause for another proud Mummy drumroll): Eldest's first ever lapbook...

Friday, 1 February 2013

Arty Farty

Eldest learned a hard lesson today about the difference between saving and deleting a piece of work that you think you've finished with!  Hence no pictures here of a completed lapbook (which he was hoping to finish today) - because he has had to repeat some of his work and got a bit discouraged. He's doing well though: he hasn't given up; just slowed down a bit.

We were supposed to be at our local soft play meet-up today, but our car is at the garage having its brakes sorted (they locked up the other day), and I was put off the idea of going on the bus with a bad back and three excited boys by our not-great experiences yesterday.  So we've been at home again.  The boys are now playing happily on the Wii as a thank you from Mummy for not making a fuss about missing out on Soft Play.  Mainly today I've been trying to clear the mess in the study, with the boys helping where they can.  Eldest has also been doing his lapbook, of course - and we did a lovely art project too.  I even liked my finished result for once!  I had found and pinned this Northern Lights Project the other day - and thought this morning it would make a nice cheerful little project to do as we were home.  We had a look at some Aurora Borealis footage on YouTube, and learned a bit from Wikipedia., including the colour being affected by oxygen v nitrogen - and looking up the south pole equivalent (Aurora Australis).  Then we got out our playground chalks and had a go on some sugar paper sheets.  We didn't follow the exact instructions on the link because the boys were just too keen to get stuck in - but they still enjoyed it!



Youngest (it started as the Northern Lights, but ended up as a picture of the car getting stuck when Mummy tried to drive it - it must have made a big impact on him on Tuesday if he's still reliving it!)

I have noticed through blogging that we seem to do a lot of art - and I wondered why that is.  After all, I'm supposed to be rubbish at it - I certainly wasn't allowed to take it at O'level (showing my age there).  I decided it's down to at least two things: firstly, I like it.  In fact, I love it.  I am rarely pleased with what I produce, but then, I don't expect myself to make anything that would qualify as art ("art" in my mind being something that sells for lots of money to people who supposedly know what they're looking at).  However I do love looking at it, being inspired by it, and just the process of having a go - it's creative, fun and therapeutic (although admittedly the clearing up isn't always so soothing).  Secondly, I think part of me is rebelling against being told I wasn't allowed to do it - and that shows itself by my determination that my boys will never hear they are "not good enough".  Now they may never have careers as artists (although Middle is obviously passionate about it - I may need to consider proper lessons when he's older), but that's not the point: right now, I just want them to be free to do whatever they want to do.   As long as they enjoy it, we will carry on painting, chalking, sketching, modelling, pastelling, marbling, collage-ing etc to our hearts' content.  It kind of sums up for me one of the things I dislike about school (being labelled as 'good' or 'bad' at something) and what I love about HE (being free to do something just because you enjoy it).  And by doing as much arty stuff as we do, it's my way of blowing a raspberry at the system that by enforcing some kind of skill evaluation, suppresses all sense of enjoyment.

So on that arty-farty note, I will leave you with Eldest's painting. He was reading one of his Calvin & Hobbes book, and saw a rare cartoon that was drawn almost entirely in black and white.  This inspired him to come and get the paints out for himself and do his own monochromatic picture.  It's called "Birds Migrating in the Winter"  I love the little hedgehog and badger at the bottom - and even more, I love that he saw something he liked, got inspired, and just had a go.  That's my boy!