Thursday, 28 February 2013

Sunshine, Shopping and Sebastian

We had an errand in town today, and what a lovely day it was! Sunshine - at last :o) We wished we hadn't taken our coats because we were all too hot. The best thing about the trip was not taking the pram. Oh yey! The first time Sebastian has been into town without his pushchair. He stood on the Metro and held the bar. We all went up and down escalators and didn't have to wait for pesky lifts. The girls got really good at escalators and every time we went on one, Sebastian said, "Fun."

Our errand was to get Francesca's Grade One violin music. We came home and practised some of the sight reading straight away. We also got through scales, arpeggios and the three peices that we are supposed to be doing this week. It's sounding quite good! The biggest breakthrough, really, is Francesca's willingness to play through three entire peices with very little* fuss.
*Of course there's some drama. This is Francesca we're talking about.

Maths consisted of some fish-feeding on the Hungry Fish app. English didn't really happen, although story tapes were listened to in abundance.

What I liked most was that the girls organised themselves a lot - deciding on useful things to be getting on with, including some collaborative play. I decided it was nice to let them play, since they were so happily engrossed.

At one point, Elizabeth wanted to practise writing some capital letters, so she got our her lined whiteboard (mum!) and I helped her to form the letters. Then I gave her her handwriting practise book and she earned some stickers for writing some rows of letters, which she seemed quite chuffed with.

Sebastian showed me how to put his little bird into its box: (the bird is on a string and can be made to 'fly' into the box - or you can do it the easier way, from the edge of a chair)

Here's Elizabeth working towards another certificate on her Maths app.

Francesca decided to get out her scrapbook and do cutting and sticking.

Then she wrote out the alphabet, lower and upper case, with a picture for each letter, on the whiteboard.

Sebastian didn't want to join in with whatever the girls were playing in their room, so I gave him the playdough again. I'll leave you with that happy occupation.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


We've had a fun day today. Learning through play, hopefully.

Elizabeth was out for most of the day - thanks to playgroup and a very kind friend.

Francesca and I did the usual violin practise with fairly minimal hassle.

After that, Francesca listened a lot to her story tapes.

She and Sebastian played with the rice for over an hour, really nicely together, which gave me chance to tidy my entire room, and vacuum. I wish I'd taken pictures, or even a video, because there was such a commentary going on, it was lovely to hear. Francesca had Sebastian really organised and he was joining in enthusiastically, baking pancakes, so I'm told.

Later, we had a friend round to play, and Francesca disappeared off to listen to more stories. Sebastian played with said friend and they seemed to have a lovely time together. It's so nice to see him collaborating.

After that, I made a huge batch of playdough in seven different colours, ready for when Francesca's friend came to play after school. I really enjoyed having them all busy at the table whilst I cooked dinner. They were all very industrious and getting along nicely together.

Of course, the most difficult thing about making playdough is... letting go of it. Sebastian wasn't particularly keen on having seven separate colours. He did lots of precision cutting and rolling, though, and asked to be passed various tools. I'm surprised that he lasted the full hour (plus!) with the girls. Good concentration!

Elizabeth spent ages using the circle cutter to make these neat blueberry, erm, cakes, I think they were.

Francesca made good use of the different colours, to make 'realistic' animals in the shaped cutters.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

More Little Seeds, Ruled Lines and A Story (Among other things)

I'm not feeling particularly inclined to blog about today. It's been a good one, actually, just full of the same things I always seem to write about. So, a brief list of 'work' done:

Violin - a good practice!!
Some Maths on the app.
English - Francesca wrote more of her story, based on "You Are Special" - although it's deviated off on a seemingly Cinderella-related tangent, which is fine. Elizabeth did her word wall and read some of her reading books.
We played dominoes together, including Sebastian, who was very good at it.
Francesca made a front cover for her Electricity project.
We checked our little seeds and filled in the seed diary, then we found out about stomata and photosynthesis. The girls enjoyed the photosynthesis song.

I wanted to show you the work that Elizabeth was so pleased with yesterday, giving her seedling picture some water, sunlight and soil:

Today, I was amazed to see Sebastian get himself a pencil and ruler and start ruling lines. Because, clearly, that's what you do! He's seen Francesca use her ruler a lot - so that must be what this work lark is all about...

Ah yes, he has bust his lip too - fell flat on his face in the slippery wet muddy leaves yesterday. So much blood! But no teeth lost. Poor thing. Seems to be ok today though.

Here's Francesca's front cover. It's so neat! I'm surprised, frankly, with her self-directed neatness. I think she's made an excellent job of it and it was nothing to do with me, except that I did help with the spelling of 'electricity'.

Elizabeth is so keen to do the same worksheets as Francesca only her letter formation isn't up to much yet, so she has me 'do the dots' which she then traces over. She's done some neat writing today, even though the letters have to be very small in those spaces.

Monday, 25 February 2013

In Which Things Take Far Too Long

Is it only Monday? Not that I've had a bad day, just that the weekend is almost entirely erased by the hecticness of all we have done.

Violin took ages but Francesca was pleased - eventually - to have got through all the things her teacher wants her to study. Normally, in a typical week, we take far too long perfecting the first tune and never quite make it onto the other two tunes (their are usually three to practise).  Francesca, being such a perfectionist, won't play through a wrong note but always wants to start right from the beginning of the piece every time she makes a mistake. Hence the 'far too long' comment. I am encouraging her to hash right through a peice and Get To The End, for once. Her teacher wants her to progress through the book much faster so, by today, we have already covered the three pieces that are required for this week. Now, we have the rest of the week to 'polish' them up a bit.

Elizabeth was interested in her Maths app for most of the violin practice. Then, when Francesca took over the phone to do her Maths app (the same as Elizabeth's but designed for older children) Elizabeth wanted to work with her phoneme cards to do some reading practise, which was good.

After that, we took a look at our little seeds - beans and peas - that are growing in our tiny pepper-jar greenhouse. The girls updated their seed diaries and did a worksheeet about germination and another about what the little seedling needs to grow. They also made a front cover for their project and we put the pages together into their new folders that I had bought over the weekend. I must say, I like having all the sheets of paper tidied together in a smart way, as one whole project, rather than all separate and forgotten. The girls were pleased with the professional-looking 'books' they had made :)

Sebastian did some colouring in while the girls tackled their work. He likes to have his own work to do.

Francesca was super-slow doing hers - gazing into space, interfering in what Sebastian was doing - until Elizabeth finished (well, I wrote her words in for her but she did a great picture on her front cover "It's a big flower pot") and was allowed to go and watch tv. That speeded Francesca up, but, credit to her, she didn't spoil her work by rushing and she worked more efficiently to get it finished.

Mum, Elizabeth loved your sheet where she had to give the pictured pea-plant some soil ("That's all black, isn't it?", water ("I'm giving it lots and lots of water to drink,") and sunshine ("There are the lines down. And the smiley face...")

Here they all are, working away.

And here's the jar of seedlings - I know you can't see the detail but at least you can see the size of the jar. It used to contain black peppercorns, from a supermarket.

Plenty of maths was done today - not only the apps (which are, really, quite simple and not too challenging) but we also emptied their money boxes and counted the cash, ready to take to the bank. We took the money and opened their bank accounts this afternoon which took Far Too Long but I'm glad we've done it.

So, it felt quite productive, which is always a nice feeling, even if I'm tired out by the end of the day.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Academics In Hard Hats

Well, one, at least. Hard hat, that is. And many of the pictures of the egg and spoon race are unpublishable due to the fact that Elizabeth was only wearing a top and knickers. Still, each to their own and all that.

This post is about today and yesterday, since yesterday was date night and I had Important Business to take care of with my husband. No, nothing like you're thinking. A financial meeting, if you must know. Does that even count as a date?! Had to be done, anyway.

Home school has been good! It's getting better, folks. We're finding our way.

I think the main improvement is due to violin being better. This one, simple thing means that we do not start the day with a fight, there's no ill-feeling, there are fewer strops and we all feel good about the music. Apart, perhaps, from Elizabeth, who isn't cute enough to get away with playing base notes beside me on the piano and singing along. She can't even be baby-minded by the telly, since the piano has become involved in violin practise. She has a new diversion, as of today though, so things are looking up even for her. More on that in a moment.

Since I can't remember exactly how we filled all of yesterday and today, let's just look at the pictures and I'll tell you what's going on in each case.

Here's Elizabeth doing some dangerous phonics, by the looks of things. I mean, is a hard hat really necessary for working in our dining room?! Apparently so. Anyway, we've done all the Jolly Phonics from the big books, with the songs (available on You Tube) and Elizabeth has made herself some cards with the phonemes on.* In this picture, she's spelling out words with her phoneme collection (this one is 'playing') and writing them on a piece of paper. Her writing is coming on nicely though she still likes me to draw the dots for some of the letters.
*In some areas of the internet, the merits (or otherwise) of teaching reading using synthetic phonics are hotly debated. Francesca learnt to read at school, with Jolly Phonics and she a) enjoyed it and b) learnt to read really quickly and very effectively, hence we're using the same method with Elizabeth.

Here's Francesca doing some far-too-easy English from a book she found she hadn't finished last year. And Sebastian who couldn't wait for lunch.

Here's Francesca writing a letter to one of her myriad of best friends.

Elizabeth had a go of her counting ladybirds game. She's getting better at handling the mouse pad. The hard hat is still near by, just in case.

Today we had an egg and spoon race. It was Francesca's idea. We used Sebastian's toy wooden eggs and real spoons. We made a route through the lounge, from the arm chair, over the red rocking chair on its side, round the piano chair and back to the arm chair.

The children went one at a time and I timed them on my phone. "Oh!" said Francesca, "Then the person with the shortest time wins!" Bingo. You got it.

Elizabeth's turn:

Francesca starts the race:

It takes a lot of concentration:

And round the piano chair:

Sebastian's turn, making the rooky mistake of holding the egg on. Oh, that old chestnut, Becca ;o) Luckily the girls didn't know the word 'disqualified'.

"Badin's turn again!"

Elizabeth found Ben le Chien and asked if we could do another French treasure hunt like we did once or twice before. I think she was remembering the chocolate prizes. So, Ben le Chien helped to revise some French songs, basic conversation and the vocabulary we had been learning about rooms of the house. I made a new chasse au tresor and hid les indices really well. The prize was sticky taped up inside the fusee. Smarties. Worth the hunt.

The girls both wrote to their auntie. Elizabeth drew a picture of a dolphin:

And I helped her to write:

We've spent more time studying electronics - circuit diagrams, components, series and parallel circuits.

Also, we've checked our seeds a few times and kept the 'wake up little seeds' logs up to date.

Ah, and Elizabeth's new diversion. While I do violin with Francesca, Elizabeth does her new Maths App.

It's called Math age 3-5 and it's too easy for her, really, but she feels a huge sense of achievement because she gets lots of stars and even, today, two certificates. I don't mind that it's easy because it's in levels and I know it's going to get more difficult as she goes through it. I like that the process is guided by a teacher-figure who, despite the name of the app, has an English accent, which is a nice change. It's very self-contained: the teacher lady explains it all to Elizabeth without my having to be there.

The other maths app we're loving today is Hungry Fish which is more for Francesca but even Sebastian has enjoyed number matching on level 1. Basically, you have to feed your fish numbers. The fish only eats one particular number so, at level 1, you just have to spot the correct number and offer it to the fish. At higher levels, you have to combine numbers to make the correct number to feed the fish. The sums get more difficult and the game moves faster in the higher levels. It's great!

And the day ended with Gymbobs! What more could you want?!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Germination - Wake Up Seeds

Ok firstly, violin. I know, I vowed, through gritted teeth, never to mention it again, but it's got better. Much much better.

I found the accompanying book for Francesca's Eta Cohen violin method and it has piano accompaniments for everything, even the scales and even those boring bits when she's just twanging away on one string.

The piano accompaniment suddenly makes Francesca's little wavering line of music sound like really something. She feels as though she is in a concert, rather than just slogging away at home.

It also has the added bonuses of requiring Francesca to keep in time, whilst starkly accentuating any wrong notes by their discordance with the piano.

The best thing is, it sounds great! We're both really enjoying playing together. I think Francesca loves bossing me around too: "Now we'll play just this line 5 times..." etc. I am delighted to be bossed around in this way, of course, because it means she is actually working. There's hardly any procrastination at all and we could practice longer if it wasn't for the growing frustration of the waiting siblings (who cannot even be pacified with TV any longer, since the lounge contains both TV and piano).

So after violin I did phonics with Elizabeth. We've covered all the Jolly Phonics now and are following up with reinforcement work and more practice. She loves it.

More story tapes were listened to. I'm pleased to say we've now got some new ones from the library. I was starting to know some of the other ones off by heart.

And we did some work on germination.

Mum had made us a little greenhouse out of a pepper-corn jar. It contains some beans and peas which are germinating. She has also made us some recording sheets and information sheets, so we know what  to look out for as germination occurs. The girls loved filling in their sheets today, showing that the radicles have grown on the peas but, on the beans, "Nothing has hapend."

Sebastian asked where his sheet was! I gave him some plain paper and he did some 'work' then got out his jigsaws.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Violin breakthrough. I hope.

Not a bad day! Not bad at all. Hardly a fight among us. I don't think I even shouted (much) or sent anyone for time out. This is despite having just cooked dinner for 5 unexpected guests and single-handed bathing my three (well, I used both hands, obviously, but the back up team was at taikwondo). It wasn't just bathing. The result of having friends round this afternoon, followed by more friends round for (surprisingly!) tea, meant that I have just had to make the girls tidy what looked like a jumble-sale scrum from the floor of their room. No mean feat. But I hardly shouted.

Sebastian was up all last night with a temperature too. He wasn't particularly unhappy. Just awake and hot. At one point, he was sitting up in our bed and I said, "Go back to sleep, Sebastian." He replied, "Not leepy." So I said, "You could at least pretend to be asleep." So he lay down and closed his eyes and said, "Badin aleep. Very. Really." Then forgot to sit up again and was soon snoring.

Anyway, I hadn't had the best rest, and I wasn't on top form, today so I was glad and, frankly, amazed, when Francesca complied with my request to start violin practice.

I've found The Book. It's the accompaniment for her Eta Cohen violin method, meaning that I can provide jolly piano accompaniments for even the most boring of twanging exercises, even the ones which are entirely on the D string. I have been looking for it for a while and finally spotted it in our local music store at the weekend. Francesca was really enthusiastic. We played the pieces she is currently working on and then went back through the book and did her easier pieces, at her request. It was great. We played for ages! Elizabeth was at playgroup and Sebastian was pottering around beside us, occasionally helping with the piano part. It was lovely.

Later we did maths. I helped Francesca to colour lines of ten on squared paper so that she could work out the 10x table and see the pattern. She seemed to cotton on quickly but then forget, when it came to 'knowing' the answers. Early days...

We didn't get onto English, having done so much music and then having guests all afternoon.

Elizabeth did more of her phonics work though. She asked me to do the next big book with her (book 5) with 6 new phonemes. Today we did z, w, v and two sorts of oo. Then she made phonics cards for each sound, to add to her collection and then she did some cutting and sticking work to reinforce the point. She's so keen! She's getting to be quite a good reader :)

No photos today. Not one! Sorry. It's just been so hectic, somehow, but in a nice way.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Impromptu Day Out

Wallington Hall. I see the train now has its own station.

It was Really Cold. Snow still lay piled up in places. Two other families were braving the chill but I've never seen the place so empty.

We had our picnic in the first play area, then went to the play train. We played a bit of football, some hide and seek, then retreated to the cafe to defrost. Brrrr.

Glad we got out though.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Electric Circuits with Added Chaos

Violin. Can we agree not to mention that word again please? *sigh* She did do some practice but only after a fight. I went off to do more phonics with Elizabeth and Sebastian, which seemed like much better use of my time.

The phonics work is going really well. We're speeding through the big books, singing all the songs and learning the actions (this is Jolly Phonics, if you're lost) and already Elizabeth's reading is markedly improving. I'm very impressed.

Francesca's story is coming along nicely too, slowly, slowly... But when did anyone ever write a decent story in one day?!

For maths, I tested her on her number bonds to ten. She knew them all in under 30 seconds, which I think means she has finally Got It! She also did sudoku on an app on my phone, which was good for logic and reasoning.

Science - Elizabeth declined to join in with electronics work so it was just Francesca and I. She recorded what we had done previously, on a couple of sheets that my support team (thanks TES!) had made. Then we made the next circuit in the booklet.

The electronics set is marketed as having "72 Experiments" but, I must say, they're not at all experimental. There are 72 circuits to build but it seems to be "follow the circuit diagram and get the described result". Nothing experimental about that. I loved how we used the kit the other day, to see which materials conduct electricity but today's circuit wasn't very inspiring. We made a parallel circuit with an LED and the motor - fine, but what did that really teach us about electricity, I wonder? The complicated circuit diagram was lost on Francesca and the resulting network of wires was confusing, especially as the connections are hidden under the neat layout of the kit. I like the kit, don't get me wrong. It's going to be useful for all sorts of things but I need to adapt the tasks much more for this age group/level of understanding. Working through the circuits isn't very fulfilling - I want to do more investigations. Research is required.

Whilst Francesca and I were busy with electrical matters, Elizabeth and Sebastian were entertaining themselves. With ALL the toys from the cupboard. Jigsaws, dominoes, flounders, tools... Argh! Happy though.

There's nothing like an app to keep someone quiet in a corner...

And don't forget to photograph me too!