Thursday, 31 January 2013

More Tangrams and An Elizabeth's Eye View

Goodness only knows what we did today.

The morning felt quite productive, in an "I'm not really here but you get on with it" kind of way. Sebastian was whingy and clingy all morning. I know he needed to sleep but he protested loudly whenever I went near the cot. Which wasn't very often, in between requests for this, that and the other from all sides.

We had friends round, which was great, and kind of took the pressure off, a bit.

My kind friend (the one who usually takes Elizabeth to playgroup) spent a good deal of time playing the violin with Francesca, which was excellent. Francesca had been really looking forward to my friend bringing her violin and I hope it's inspired Francesca and spurred her on.

Meanwhile, my kind friend's children played downstairs with my other two. More Gears! more marble run, some Shut The Box, and more tangrams, among other things.

Later, school-type activities included Francesca doing some times-tables practise on the Mental Maths app. Then we played Frustration, with the added rule that you had to roll the die twice and add the scores together. Spencer Bear had to play as well. I'm not entirely sure why the game is called Frustration. Possibly because you have to roll the exact number to get your pieces home. Or possibly because the design team tried it out with two under-6s and a stuffed bear. Anyway, it was pretty Frustrating. At least Sebastian was asleep at that point.

We made some flapjacks and some granola.

After that, we did some colouring in and stickers together. And between times, Francesca kept sloping off to listen to story tapes.

I'll leave you with a gallery of photos that Elizabeth took. An Elizabeth's eye view of our day:

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Tangrams, A Story and The Best Marble Run Ever

Sebastian was feeling better today. He ate breakfast and he left my side. I'd go so far as to say he went off and played by himself. I do believe we even heard some singing. But then again, I heard him singing when I was on the phone to NHS Direct in the middle of the night when he had a temperature of 39.9oC, so all we can probably conclude from the singing is that he has musical tendencies.

Elizabeth went out all day. Thank you, Thank You kind, lovely friend.

And Francesca...

Speaking of musical tendencies, it was time to do some violin practice. She started her morning promptly... by building a fantastic Duplo house. Yes, quite.

I was distracted, of course, by Sebastian, teeth washing, putting away the breakfast things and, heaven forbid, my own cup of tea.

Francesca said she simply couldn't start violin without me. A likely story(!) And then she was so engrossed in her house-build, I let her finish it. But that was a mistake.

After that, she grudgingly got out the violin and said it would be better if I just left her to it. Which I didn't, of course. There followed an ugly half an hour complete with fully dramatised eye-rolling, sighing and the customary foot stomping, during which she played two scales and about 16 bars of music, pretty well, actually. Eventually.

She IS improving. All this effort is paying off.

Even so, it was a relief to be able to move on to English.

Francesca continued her story. She has set herself the task of writing a story based on "You Are Special" by Max Lucardo.
She is at pains to point out that she is not copying. She has, indeed, changed some of the names and she is writing from a different perspective. Anyway, I'm delighted that she has decided to do some writing and today she has added two more sentences. "I was going to do three but this one's a really long one."

Not sure if you can read this but look how much she's done! I'm really impressed with her effort on this task. It's lovely to see her motivated.

We could really do with a margin down that page, couldn't we?!

After that, it was Maths. First, Francesca used the Mental Maths app on my phone to practise her 2x and 5x tables. I really think she's getting the hang of it! Then I gave her some tangrams to try.

She really took to it. I thought she would be defeated when she found it challenging but she kept on trying and she did succeed.

After lunch it was art with Abuelita, in which more amazing masterpieces were produced. Sorry, no pics yet.

When Elizabeth came home, we built the Tallest Marble Run Ever - it was so tall, some of us had to stand on furniture to reach the top.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


These "Gears!" are great. We had two friends round, briefly, this morning, keen to make fantastic Gears! creations. Later, my girls set to work 'improving' the designs and linking them together. Great fun.

In other news, Sebastian is still poorly though improving - but very clingy. Francesca did do violin. In fact she worked very hard, independently, so that's an improvement. We made reading Secret Seven be English but it wasn't what you'd call a quality session. Don't think we did anything particularly maths. I did play board games with the girls at one point.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Five-Times Tables and A Sicky Boy

One picture. That's all I've got for you today. It's been That Sort of day. The sort of day that started at 11 o'clock the night before with a boy waking up to be copiously sick.

Yeah. I think he's picked up a bug somewhere. Could be literally anything: he's a toddler with new teeth coming and fingers permanently in his mouth. He wouldn't hesitate to eat food off the floor, any floor, and he wouldn't think twice about sinking his teeth into furniture, clothing, toys - you get the picture.

So I've had an exhausted, pale little boy, miserably wanting his mummy all day, today. A lot of tv has been watched.

Somehow, in the midst of all this, Francesca did a pretty decent violin practice.

Then she did maths - which was cutting out hand-shapes (see pic!) to make the five-times table more visual. I do wonder, though, if it's a bit soon to be doing tables. She's quite keen - she's heard about tables in "Matilda" - and she seems to get the concept but then again, she sometimes misses some quite basic concepts so perhaps I'm moving too fast.

She even settled to some writing, today, despite the fact that her siblings were watching tv. She chose a book that she likes and starting writing a story, based on it, using the book to help her with spellings ("I'm not copying the story, it's just helping me!") and she's done a pretty decent few sentences, with ambitions to carry on the project tomorrow. Great!

In between times, the girls made a snuggly place in my room, with the tape recorder, and listened to story tapes.

We all ended up in front of the tv at the end of the afternoon. My lack of sleep was catching up with me and... on that note, I'm on my way to bed.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Big Thaw?

They've gone sledging, to catch what might be the last of the snow, for now. And we're doing this.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Out In It

Never mind experimenting with ice, today we donned our new hiking boots and went out in it. No mean feat with a pushchair and a very rattly ride for Sebastian.

Anyway, if that wasn't enough to count as PE, we went to the local soft play place and capered about for an hour. I say 'we': we all went but I did not caper about for an hour. Not even for a minute, actually. As I watched Sebastian launch himself joyfully down the big slide, I realised that my days of crawling round soft play frames are probably over at last. I enjoyed a good chat with the other mums, for once.

Then we went to the supermarket for a few supplies, since we'd gone that far. The girls had a pull-along basket each, which we duly filled. At the self-service checkout, I wrestled Sebastian back into his hat, scarf and mittens while the girls checked out all the shopping. All I had to do was wield the credit card.

This afternoon a friend came to play, then it was time for the violin lesson.

Another battle with the pram on ice, this time with added hail.

Honestly, I was wondering if it was all worth it. I've had such a struggle to get Francesca to practise this week. I fight with her every day over getting the thing out, then I fight with the weather to get them all along to the lesson, then I fight with the postage-stamp sized front porch at the teacher's house, to get three children, a violin, music and a pram in through the front door and up the stairs... then I pay for the privilege. Why? There might be a bright pink violin on eBay soon.

So, no photos as such but I did promise (a few days ago) to photograph Francesca's finished mosaic mirror. And I've taken a picture of my beautiful birthday present that the girls have been making when they were round next door. I think it was Francesca really, but Elizabeth's creation is still in the making, so when it came to my birthday, they gave this cup and saucer from both of them.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Salt on Ice Demonstration

We started the day with violin practice. Long overdue. She hasn't done any all week. I dropped some heavy hints this morning, as she declared that she was going to practise straight after breakfast. Given that I have been requested to help, I parked the little ones in front of CBeebies and... it all changed.

"I've changed my mind! I want to watch TV!" etc.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, she did do her violin practice (I have my ways...) and she worked very hard, as it happens. I'm trying to get her to see that practice means repeating repeating repeating, getting it wrong and trying again. And again. My little perfectionist is having a hard time understanding that it's ok to make mistakes - unavoidable, in fact. She gets so frustrated when it goes wrong. None the less, she has done almost a week's worth of practice on one tune. Just the other one to cram in before the lesson tomorrow.

On a more positive note, the two times table is coming along nicely. Francesca labelled her little 'booklets' with the sums, today, for further reinforcement of the idea. I also made up a song about it. Just be glad I haven't got my recording gear out(!) If you know "Alice the Camel," you're on the right tracks.

"One little rabbit has two ears,
One little rabbit has two ears,
One little rabbit has two ears,
And another little rabbit is hiding over here.

Two little rabbits have four ears,

I'll spare you the other 11 verses but it does end with 12 little rabbits having 24 ears and some dubious rhyme about them all having to disappear. Um. Is this one of those things I really should keep quiet about?!

Moving swiftly on...

I had frozen some blocks of ice and today we tipped salt on them, then later, food colouring, to see how the salt melted the ice into ravines and crevices. I first saw the idea on Hayley's blog, and have been wanting to give it a try. I thought it was fascinating but the children lost interest when they'd tipped all the salt on. Interest rekindled when I brought the colouring but it was short lived. You know what? We've spent one too many days round this table. Thus, this afternoon, we went out. To Heighley Gate (it's a big garden centre).  We went to see the pet section and wish we could have a rabbit or a cute hamster. (Maybe when we're all potty trained, but generally NO.) Then we went to gymnastics.

I'll leave you with pictures of the salt on ice demo. It's nearly 9 o'clock. Not too early for bed, is it?!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Two-Times Table - Stealth Maths

We started the day, unbeknownst to Francesca, with Maths. At least, that's what I'd planned. It looks a lot like art, doesn't it?

Since we are focussing on the two-times table this week, and that, effectively, means doubling, we did some painty doubling. But wait! I'll get to the maths in a moment.

Francesca spent ages painstakingly copying half of one of our fridge-magnet butterflies, to eventually fold in half. I love the contrast in this picture, between the art of a 5 year old and that of a 2 year old: both equally absorbed in doing what they're doing.

Drum-roll while the two halves of the paper are pressed together...

And Ta Da!!

Then the maths.

I made Francesca 12 little folded 'books', each with a dotty pattern on one side for the numbers 1-12. These, when painted over and folded, butterfly style, made the answers to the two-times table.

She was surprisingly taken with the idea. "We could print lots of these and sell them for other children!" she said. I'm considering the idea.*
*Decided against it.

Sebastian was thrilled with the folding painting idea.

He was prolific.

Francesca's times-tables turned out well:


Later, when I was hair-drying her hair at bedtime, I let her 'play' on the Mental Maths App, setting it to basic level 2x tables and she was getting the hang of it.

Elizabeth did some nice folded-art too. Then she moved on to literacy. Here, she has found her long-lost 'first words' practice and is helping herself to a reward sticker for matching the words on the first sentence.

Then, in a painty mood, and, more importantly, still wearing aprons, I diluted some food colouring to finish off our salt snowflakes.

Dropping the food colouring onto the salt allowed us to see the colour wicking through the salt - a bit. It wasn't overly impressive and the girls were all arted-out, I think. They lost interest quite quickly, but I enjoyed myself.

Here's Elizabeth's initial burst of enthusiasm:

And the results:

Relating this to capillary action, I set up a wick made of kitchen roll to move this (supposedly) red water from one jar to another. It's taken nearly all day but as I type, the liquid really is in the other jar. I wonder if the children are impressed?

Francesca looked at some paper towel under the microscope and saw the fibres, with gaps in between.

Then, continuing to think about capillary action, we set up some chromatography (thanks for the filter paper Lindsey!) to separate out the inks from our new felt-tip pens. They've turned out well but we haven't looked at the results yet because I was waiting for the chromatograms to dry.

Francesca did the grouting on her mosaic mirror. It looks fabulous! I'll take a picture tomorrow when we've given it the final polish.

Then there was more art, with Abuelita this time. I distracted Elizabeth with a jigsaw game on the computer. She had no problem seeing where the pieces should go but her mouse control needs practice.

Abuelita helped Francesca to produce this, copied from a work of Charles Tunnicliffe:

Enough! Bedtime. Zzzzzz.