Friday, 28 September 2012

Brilliant Beans

Francesca spent all morning procrastinating about doing her violin practice. It's all to do with confidence, I think, and her perception that the task is going to be difficult. My job, somehow, is to convince her she CAN do it, but that is proving challenging at the moment.

Anyway, Sebastian had to be occupied at that time so, having found pasta to be so popular, I gave him some dried beans to play with. He didn't even attempt to eat any of them, although I was offered a few with pretendy "yum yum" sound-effects. He busied himself for ages with the beans.

Francesca's actual violin lesson went well - her teacher was delighted and feels we've 'cracked it'. Hmm, she wasn't there this morning...

Anyway, the morning school work had not been done, due to the violin debacle, so Francesca was tasked with completing her maths and English before she would be allowed to watch TV or play with her friend.

She worked swiftly to do another 2 pages of money maths, in the Heinemann book. Then she wrote a letter about her 'best bit' from our trip to Edinburgh yesterday.

Then, as luck would have it, the membership packs from Tumbletots arrived, so we unpacked new t-shirts and dvds, which the children wanted to put on at once. Instant PE! They all had a great time dancing to the dvd, then the cd, with even Sebastian joining in nicely.

Hardly any CBeebies was watched at all, even though it was Friday, TV day.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pasta Maths For Preschoolers

Maths for a three year old must, necessarily, be practical, fun and 'concrete'.  Elizabeth can recognise the names of numbers, she can count competently up to about 15, and nearly to 20. She understands that one number goes with one object when counting, so she can reliably say how many objects there are.

To move her on, I decided to introduce the concept of addition. I didn't really mention adding, and I certainly didn't write down any sums, but I gave her an activity that went beyond mere counting and labelling 'how many'.

We used a big bowl of dried pasta shapes, some plastic cups and a die, with spots for 1 to 6.

The Rules:

1. Take it in turns to throw the die.
2. Pick out the number of pasta pieces that corresponds to the number on the die.
3. Throw the die again, collecting a second portion of pasta shapes.
4. Count up how many pasta shapes you have altogether.

In other words,
"Ooh, you had 4 bits, then you got 3 more. Now you've got...?" and Elizabeth would obediently count them up and find out that she had 7. Simple! and surprisingly engaging.

You can also throw in questions like;
"Which pile of pasta is the biggest?"
"Which is the biggest amount?"
"Which is the highest number?"
and (my favourite)
"Do you think you'll get a higher or lower number this time?"

If we do it again, I might stretch to the concept of counting on: hold the highest number in your head and count on from there...

It's a way of working with numbers that allows the preschooler to experience addition at a basic, concrete level. Reception-level Heinemann Maths doesn't go much beyond this, in the "Addition" work book that encourages the child to use piles of cubes to find out the answers to sums, given as pictures.

While Elizabeth was doing this, Francesca was working very hard on her English. She was writing lists about our holiday in York, using colons and commas.

Yesterday, Francesca had chosen a nice pink notebook to be her special English writing book, so she was fairly keen to use it today (although she procrastinates a lot about writing).

She got the hang of the punctuation very quickly and her sentences were lovely.

I particularly like the idea that she saw York minser and also a big terdy ber (teddy bear). I think her phonetic spelling is great and I love the fact that she had a go and did all that independently.

Sebastian had his own pasta and cups and was very busy pouring, shaking, transferring, emptying and filling for about 40 minutes. Who'd have thought pasta would be so interesting?!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Early Finish Friday

I love Fridays. I love the plan that we finish 'school' at lunchtime and let the girls have a tv afternoon. Sebastian, hopefully, naps and I clean the house. May not sound fun to you but I aspire to being tidy and organised. The chance to actually tick some housework items off the list, unhindered, is something to look forward to.

We got off to a shaky start. I had a list, that I populated with Francesca. It was the things she had to finish before tv time. I wanted to make some progress with the money maths (so much for being ready to count the contents of her money box by Friday!), finish her English book (with only 2 pages to go that she's been procrastinating about), look at the couple of videos of white blood cells in action (that she asked for and I took the trouble to find), eat lunch and put away the toys. Not too onerous a schedule, I would have thought, but after breakfast, when I asked the girls to go and clean their teeth, they disappeared off to have a play in the lounge.

I practised letting go.

I had plenty of things to be getting on with myself. They knew the deal: no tv until all the other tasks were complete. I don't find it fun to rule by shouting and battles. I can only lead by example.

I pulled up a chair beside the kitchen counter, put an apron on Sebastian and let him help me make the bread. It was nice!

I don't think I've baked with Sebastian before. He wasn't keen on having doughy hands so he didn't do much more than play with the floury surface but even so, he was involved. And I got the bread done, which was great.

Then I casually said to the girls, "I'll be ready to do money maths in 5 minutes!" and they said, "OK" and went off and washed their teeth (at last) and appeared in the dining room.

I had prepared (this time!) paper ruled into boxes, in which they could neatly present their sums. I wanted to get across the idea that, when counting money, one counts the values rather than the number of coins.

I asked them to draw round coins and add them together, making sums and writing down their results.

I had to help Elizabeth, both with the drawing round and the concept of adding. The fact that she was doing the task with me meant that she felt grown-up/involved and was no trouble at all. I'm not pretending that she can add up anything, let alone money.

Francesca was quite capable. She had little trouble adding 2, 3 or 4 coins, if they were all pence or all pounds. Further down the page, she had to cope with a mixture and I had to help her a lot. I also noticed that she is still struggling with place value. She doesn't see how simple it is to add ten, although she can confidently count in tens. I need to do more work with her on place value (tens and units) and adding or subtracting 10. We did a bit of work on that, previously, but must spend longer.

She worked hard while the task was easy for her but lost interest quickly when it became harder. I gave her a lot of support and she got it finished.

She was able to do the last couple of pages in her English book, no bother, and enjoyed looking at the white blood cell videos.

They got their tv afternoon!!! And I tidied and vacuumed the house from top to bottom :)

In other news, our Home Education Officer phoned today to arrange a meeting with us, next week, so that'll be interesting.

I feel a bit of trepidation, not knowing what she's going to expect or want to see at this stage, but then again, I feel as though we've made a decent start and I have confidence in what we're doing.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Back to Tumbletots

I'm exhausted today. Mentally drained from seemingly constant crying and clinginess from one person or another.

So, I'll just quickly summarise what we did today, for the record.

It was playgroup, so we dropped Elizabeth off and sped onwards, to the library.

We tried to give back a book that didn't belong there (it's not ours. Whose is it?!) and we borrowed more books than is really necessary for a week's worth of reading. And we noticed that we have quite a few other books on loan whose whereabouts is questionable. I renewed those ones. How long can we get away with doing that for?!

Then we went to Nero for our elevenses and, supposedly, some 'work'.  Francesca got out her book bag and opened her English book but she declared that she didn't want to and had a nice time playing with Sebastian instead.

After collecting Elizabeth, we came home. The girls put on another story tape - "The Twits" and listened to it in its entirety, either side of lunch. Sebastian was asleep in his pushchair which was not desirable since I'd wanted him to sleep during Tumbletots later, but alas, I did not have the heart to wake him and he snored through the Twits like a good-un.

So then he woke up. And had lunch with us. And then I decided I'd like to cook quiche for later, knowing that we'd only get back from Tumbletots at teatime. So Sebastian attached himself to my ankle and howled for the whole time it took to get the quiche in the oven, after which I had promised to get the jelly worms out.

Urgh. It didn't really work and it definitely wasn't worth the effort. They barely looked like worms, more like mushed pink jelly, so I won't bother posting instructions (yet - we might try another way) but the girls enjoyed them, so here are the only pics of the day:

Finally, it was time for Tumbletots.

After the Enjoyaball crew said they'd rather the session was for children aged 5+, I lost enthusiasm for it. Elizabeth's face, as she joined in with the activities last week was a picture. She loved it! To take her along again and have to make her sit out was too disappointing. Plus, we'd be travelling to the venue for one person to participate and two to be occupied at the side. So, we decided to do Tumbletots again which Francesca used to love and Elizabeth used to aspire to. We only gave up because it was a lot of hassle to get there with a new baby and the timings were terrible for fitting round the school run. I think Francesca was too tired after school, as well, but all that has now changed...

Elizabeth totally loved her first session. To finally be allowed to climb on the equipment!! And to get her own sticker at the end!

Francesca, too, enjoyed being back and bounced out with a sort of renewed confidence.

Sebastian was quite patient about the whole thing (two sessions, back to back, meant nearly two hours of waiting for him, hence I'd wanted him to nap). He played with some of the balls and hoops, and a toy car. It was ok.

Elizabeth was difficult when she had to wait for Francesca - silly and boisterous and uncooperative. I had brought activities for her to do but it seems they were the wrong ones(!) Try harder next week.

Gah, we even had homemade biscuits! I thought I'd thought of everything.

So I came home feeling a bit frazzled and was glad when Seymour came home to do bathtime.

On the whole, I think the girls enjoyed the day but I didn't feel the same sense of satisfaction as yesterday, when we seemed to achieve so much in comparison.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Germs, jelly and Oscar Wilde

Had a really much better day today. I think it was because I had a more relaxed approach: no timetable, not too many preconceived ideas and I had some Francesca-directed activities at the ready.

First thing, we made up the rest of the jelly to add to the jelly worms creation (which I don't think is working very well but more on that issue another time)

The main thing is, the girls loved preparing the jelly and Francesca was very competent at measuring half a pint of water and popping it in the microwave for one minute (won't be long before she's making me a cup of coffee!)

The 'worms' are in the fridge, setting, so we'll review that tomorrow.

Earlier in the morning, Francesca surprised me by randomly and unbidden, producing this:

It's a drawing of her embroidery and the ruled lines and wording are all of her own design. I had nothing to do with it - not even asking her to do anything. I am, frankly, amazed by the quality of the work. It goes to show what part motivation plays in all this.

Anyway, I started to log onto the computer to get the work on germs, for Francesca.

Last night, she said she wanted to know what germs look like, so I prepared some resources about germs for her to read about bacteria, viruses and mould, with links to pictures and videos.

The web connection was slow and the computer was slow... so while we were waiting, Francesca did some of Elizabeth's sticker book (with permission).

Sebastian climbed up to the fruit bowl and asked for a "nana" but there wasn't one so he gobbled up a nectarine instead.

Elizabeth decided to do some of her wipe-downable alphabet book.

Here's Francesca engrossed in reading about microbes. She was sufficiently interested and able to read several pages of text (that I had written, so it was sparse and at a basic level, but even so!)

She loved seeing the pictures and watching the videos - which also drew an extra spectator.

With Elizabeth, I played her the next two "Jolly Phonics" songs and helped her to do the "p" and "i" worksheets. That meant she knew enough phonemes to do the first page of her phonics workbook, with help from me (I drew dots to help her form the letters but she knew what had to go where)

This is what she managed today:

After that, the girls went to listen to a story tape - Children's Stories by Oscar Wilde. "The Selfish Giant" and "The Happy Prince". Francesca said that both stories seemed sad at the end.

All that was before lunch! After which they did some colouring before we went to our friend's house for a play (and, it has to be said, some exceedingly nice biscuits). From thence home again, for a play with another friend (let it be said that my children do have a good social life!)

And I feel great! What an interesting, productive day, all round. More like this please.

Tonight's requests are these:

"I'd like to see a white blood cell eating a germ!"
"Why does water fill any shape?"

So I'm off to do some prep.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Better with less agenda

I'm trying not to mention the V word. Violin. I know it's horrible to be asked, reminded, nagged, pressured into doing things and I'm sure Francesca digs her heels in when she feels obligated to do something. So, I'm backing off a bit and she's only done the tiniest amount of practice this week. I'm torn between wanting to 'train' her into a daily habit and not wanting to put her off with too much pressure. Oh well, yet another learning curve for me.

Back to motivation, I decided that enjoyment of life and learning is far more important than meeting pesky curriculum objectives, especially in this very early stage of home-schooling. We did some 'proper' work in the holidays, after all, so we could legitimately take 3 weeks off, at this point. Never the less, I don't want to let time trickle by without achieving anything, so I have been wanting to do 'subjects' every day. After yesterday's "I hate writing" strop, I felt like taking a step back and reminding us all how much we can enjoy being together, learning through other activities.

When Elizabeth was at playgroup, I took Francesca to get the passport photos she needs for her dance/drama class, which pleased her greatly. Then we came home to do 'special time' even though Sebastian was around. We played Sylvanians (role-play? making up stories?) which was kind of like literacy. And, more importantly, was bonding time. Then we did jigsaws and listening to Matilda on tape, which Francesca has had read to her before but loved to hear dramatised.

After we collected Elizabeth and had lunch, we made jelly worms - or started to.

Here are the only photos from today. The girls enjoying cutting up the jelly with scissors:

They busily broke up the cubes, added the water, microwaved it for a minute (Francesca did that!), added more water, stirred... and then I insisted on doing the pouring into the straws (upended in a glass) in the sink.

We're going to have to top the straws up with more jelly tomorrow, after the first lot sets, then the worms will be ready to emerge. I'll post pics and instructions if it's a success.

After that, they did some colouring, mazes and sticker books, before we decided to bake cakes for their friend coming round. Then their friend came to play and that was that!

I certainly felt happier today and no one was under pressure. When people ask how it's going, I tend to say that we're having a lovely time but I'm not confident that it's academic enough. Some of the other mums have said how hard they are working in Year 1 (sitting at proper desks all day this year) and how exhausted their children are. I'm glad Francesca's not being drained in this way but what's she missing?! She's certainly not working at a desk all day - hardly ever, in fact.

So that's where we are today.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Early Phonics

Following on from Money Maths, first 'lesson', it was time to do English.

I had prepared the phonics worksheets for Elizabeth and we booted up the computer to show her the phonics songs from Jolly Phonics. We were concentrating on sounds: s, a and t today.

Elizabeth is quite familiar with those sounds and letters already, so we whizzed through the three sheets. I reckon she'd have been pretty much through the whole alphabet if I'd had her one-to-one. But as it was, we stuck with the three, as I needed to work with Francesca.

Elizabeth came up with her own words beginning with each sound. Snake, for s, which is part of the phonic song that she learnt. Arm, for a, which is also in the phonics song for that sound. And toenail, for t, which was entirely of her own choosing.

She'll be doing GCSEs soon.

She moved onto the 'Silly Stories' jigsaws and designed her own character, "Elizabeth the pirate"

I said it was a shame we'd have to rub him out, being in whiteboard pen on the jigsaw itself, so I drew her an outline figure on paper and she recreated the character:

Francesca was meant to be doing homophones, following our discussion on tide/tied yesterday.

"That's a homophone, Francesca. Words which sound the same but are spelt differently."
"I know." Pause. "Like sea and see."

Anyway, she became completely uncooperative after Maths, saying she did not want to do writing. She hates writing, apparently(!) and she was too tired and she wanted to go to bed.


I left her alone for a while, hoping she'd come back when she saw Elizabeth working. She did not.

Even when I sat her at the table and got her started, she spent ages writing nothing much very messily and rubbing it out in such a way as to crease the paper.

I suppose it was just a badly pitched task - I have much to learn. I'll be trying again with a new approach soon.

As it was, we gave up and (after a strop, a tantrum and a pretend sleep - all her, by the way) I asked her to read to me, which she did, very well, with great intonation and expression.

She loves reading. How can I encourage her to enjoy writing?

Then it was lunchtime, after which we headed to the park to meet some friends and have a play (PE?)

Now, I'm off to my spreadsheet. I'm noting all the activities we've done, with reference to the National Curriculum objectives, just to see how much we cover and which areas are lacking.

Money maths

Honestly, it's been a really tough day today.

I think it's only because I stayed up too late last night and I'm plain old tired.

When I'm tired, I don't have the patience to jolly everyone along and without a sense of humour, things get grumpy.

Sebastian was clingy and cross all morning. I kept trying to feed him snacks but when that didn't work, I put him into his cot. He cried for ages and then a visitor called in and I relented and got him up again.

Despite all this, we managed some sort of sketchy violin practice this morning (I keep reminding myself that the violin teacher is pleased if Francesca just practises holding the violin and bow - it was slightly better than that)

Elizabeth and Sebastian watched the Rhyme Rocket, which Francesca was meant to see as well but she was so slow to get going with her practice that she missed it. Sulking ensued.

Eventually... eventually, we got onto maths.

I gave the girls coins to look at and we discussed their relative values and put out caps (from Ella's Kitchen pouches) to represent how many pennies each coin was worth.

Then we did rubbings of the coins - both sides, and labelled them with 1p, 2p etc.

They had to practise writing £ on the whiteboards first, before they were confident to label their £1 and £2 coins.

Francesca was great at doing £ signs.

Sebastian's need a little more work(!)

Elizabeth had some dots to trace over and made a good job of it. (Yes, she has an injury under her nose. How does one manage to land on that part of the face?!)

Here are the caps, laid out to show the values of the coins:

And here's Francesca's page of coin rubbings. It's not as organised as I had demonstrated (see top corner!) so it wasn't clear which coin was which. I'd like to encourage her to organise her work better, but it'll come. At least she experienced the coins and learnt that they have different values.

Because Francesca's work was so disordered, I produced a set of rubbings for her to label, as an easier reference.

After that, I started to talk about adding together different coins but we'd already spent 40 minutes on the task and their concentration was waning so I dropped that line of enquiry. We'll come back to it another day. I'm aiming for Francesca to be able to count how much money she has in her money box on Friday. (And be ready for the Year 2 New Heinemann Maths book on money by the time it arrives in the post).

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Rapunzel does school

It was playgroup again today so we all delivered Elizabeth and, this time, left straight away. Elizabeth was perfectly happy without us and had a great time by all accounts.

We headed to Caffe Nero (yes, spell-checker, it does have two fs) for PHSE. We continued to read the feelings book and did one of the tasks.

"Draw some of the things that make you cross."

That's me, at the top, refusing to give her an icecream. We've had a few tantrums about that over the last few days (and some icecreams, as it happens, but they don't count, apparently). I love the cross expression she's managed to give herself, with the folded arms as well.

The second picture is of Elizabeth punching her. Say no more.

Then the book said, "Are these things really worth getting cross about."

"Yes!" said Francesca, "Because I really love icecream."

Oh well.

Sebastian did his own series of pictures:

Now, who else gets to go to 'school' dressed as Rapunzel?!

Or scoot about in the sun between lessons?

This afternoon Rapunzel did violin practice, before we went to play at a friend's house for an hour or so.

And did I mention that Elizabeth did more of her sticker book?


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Adding 10 - Maths resources for Y1

Begin able to add or subtract 10 is a useful skill. Once a child has grasped the concept, it makes many other mathematical operations easier. You could say it's a basic component of being numerate.

Anyway, it's a trick that eluded my 5yo initially. She had a page in her workbook about adding 10 and I watched her using the number line to laboriously count forward, every time. She just didn't 'get it'.

This lesson is for children who need help in 'getting it' - understanding that they can just increase the 10s digit by one, without affecting the units.

It is useful to have a basic grasp of place value first. Luckily, Francesca had learnt all about tens and units in Reception class at school. Once you can talk in terms of tens and units, it becomes easier to develop the concept into addition and subtraction of 10.

It's also necessary for the child to be able to count in 10s - to know that 30 follows 20 or that the correct sequence is 70, 80, 90.

Once those principles are in place, you can move onto adding 10 to any number.

I told Francesca that soon she would know a trick to enable her to add 10 to any number at all, just in her head, in a second. Hopefully she was impressed.

So, we started with some random numbers between 0 and 89 on a sheet of paper. I asked Francesca to add 10 to each of them and write down the answer next to each number. I put 10 dots at the top of the page so that she could use them to help her with counting on. Which she did. All the answers were generated using the slow, inaccurate counting-on method.

Then we re-wrote the numbers in a list, showing that 42 became 52 and 15 became 25 etc.

Then we used a free online abacus resource:

It allowed us to represent the numbers as so many tens and units.

Then I asked Francesca to look at the result of adding 10, and got her to make the new number by physically (well, on screen!) adding a bead to the tens column. It was starting to really help, but she was losing concentration by this point (and was really much more keen on the idea of just adding lots of beads to see if she could fill up all the spikes) so we gave up for the time being and I let her have a play. I reckon if I come back to this concept another time, she'll totally 'get it' and we can move on to subtracting 10, or even working with numbers over 100.

Mostly Maths

Had a very prompt start this morning and a violin practice, followed by maths.

Francesca had struggled with a page in her maths workbook, adding and taking away 10. It should have been very easy but she just didn't 'get it' and was using her number line to count on. I had vowed to give her some extra training in this matter, which is what we did this morning. More on that in a separate post, I think.

Anyway, Francesca and I did the maths, followed by some English (a thank you card and some of her workbook).

Elizabeth did some maths on the computer with her counting ladybirds game.

Sebastian did some drawing.

It was all very studious.

Here's some of the maths we did together:

In the afternoon we went out to Enjoy-a-ball which was great. Not only was it a sociable mix of home-ed children, it was fun, exercise and skills.

Elizabeth especially enjoyed herself - even though the class was meant for over 5s, she joined in like a good-un and tried her absolute best,  concentrating and taking part even though she lacked the skills to be effective.

Francesca hooked up with another 5 yo girl who we will see again tomorrow. It'll be nice if she has some particular friends at these classes.

Later, at home, we baked chocolate cakes; "I LOVE sieving the cocoa!" (FP) and then played outside with the neighbours.

Let's go fly a kite...

I feel so happy! It's all relaxed and harmonious. No school run, no uniform, no rules, no homework, no tired fighting. I know it's only day 2 but it feels good :)