A Week of Our Home Education: Bear and Ted

This week our guest post comes from autonomously home educating mama of two young boys, Little Bear and Teddy Bear, who blogs over at https://bearandted.wordpress.com

I have always loved the ‘teaching’ part of parenting; spending time supporting my first baby as he developed, providing him with opportunities to take his very early discoveries further. So it was with enthusiasm that I picked up the idea of Home Educating, especially since my son seemed very strongly opposed to going to playgroup a couple of times a week, let alone school. I envisaged an idyllic life of lessons in the mornings and outings in the afternoons, being able to keep track of where my children were educationally without having to rely upon a teacher to tell me they were doing okay. I researched Early Years curriculums, bought first stage readers, began spending far too much money on resources that seemed ‘vital’ to learning.

However, as it turned out, my son was strongly opposed to all those things as well. His first year of official Home Education crashed and burned within the first month. I spent the next couple of weeks working through my ‘failure’, wondering whether I should be looking for a school right now, and finally coming up with Plan B: just let it go. Home Educators often mention ‘de-schooling’, which means spending some time letting a child relax and get their school experiences out of their system. I had not realised that this would be relevant to us, as my son had never attended school. But I had.
The original Plan B was to de-school until January, then try again. But when it came to it my husband and I realised our son was thriving and learning with this more relaxed lifestyle, and so we continued.

Our days and weeks can be so different, depending on time of year, weather, what we did yesterday, what we are planning tomorrow… And so I cannot describe the following as ‘an average’ week in our home educating household, it is just how last week looked. So here goes…

Monday morning was a trip to the dentist, and a treat at a coffee shop afterwards. One of the bonuses of not being school is that we don’t have to jostle for the 4 o’clock appointments or arrange to miss some class time for check-ups, nor is there any rush to get back to school afterwards. We can take our time, and take the opportunity to visit the ducks on the way home.

The rest of the week has been relatively free. We have walked up to the park on a couple of mornings, had friends over to play one afternoon and spent the rest of the time chilling at home. 

My older son is currently very interested in sharks and sea monsters, so there has been a lot of reading and film-watching on those subjects. He has drawn many different sharks into his project book, researched migration routes, found out which sharks lay eggs and which have live young. He is also painting a huge picture of under the sea, with layers to show the sunlight zone, twilight zone, and midnight zone, and he plans to draw and paint relevant creatures to stick in each zone. I think this is a pretty impressive undertaking for a five year old.

My two year old also loves to paint, and has been experimenting with colour mixing. He creates detailed scribble pictures on big pieces of paper on the easel. They look chaotic, but when I watch him work I can see the care he puts into each line. He is also very interested in coconuts, and spends a bit of time each day exploring two halves of a coconut shell saved from when we found out about them last week.

There has also been a lot of sensory play (play dough, rice, sand, water), a lot of Minecraft and TV, walks to the local shop, playing in the garden, building train tracks and Duplo farms, Lego, knights and dragons, a lot of listening to books, a lot of chat about everything.

Saturdays I work, so the boys spend a day with Daddy. I suspect most of this is spent with iPads, but that’s okay. Our older boy is just discovering how Minecraft works with a second player (Daddy!), and our younger one likes to join in with support. Sundays we usually spend as a family at home, having a meal together and then going out somewhere interesting in the afternoon.

I have learned it is not necessary to teach any Maths, letters, science, or any other subject specifically or directly. We play board games, take on projects and just encourage the boys’ natural interest in life, and so far that is proving very successful. My older son may not be able to read yet, but he is interested in everything and is not resisting the idea of learning. Our ethos is that his enthusiasm for learning is more important than what he actually knows, and we are confident that he will learn what he needs as and when he needs it.

November: Part One

These are some of the things we have been doing so far this month…

character drawings 01.11.14
Drawing various characters she has created in a variety of outfits 01.11.14
fishing 01-11-14
Fishing for coins in the bath- a game she designed herself 01.11.14
water scales 01-11-14
Squiggle started off using her balance scales to compare volumes of water. This then led to a discussion about measurements of solids and liquids, and the units they are measured in. She then decided to experiment with comparing the ducks and water combined. She observed that when the water was the same volume each side and therefore balanced, that the two ducks did not weigh the same. This was not what she predicted because they look the same and are the same size, but she the concluded one of them must have water inside adding to the weight. She then tried to push the duck down into the water and was amused that it popped back up again so we discussed why this happens. She also noticed the water level rises as she did so, which also led to a discussion on water displacement. 01.11.14
white water rafting 01.11.14
We went to watch white water rafting at Lee Valley. 01.11.14
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Caldecotte lake 02.11.14
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Watching watersports on the lake 02.11.14
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02.11.14
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Photos at the lake 02.11.14
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One of my favourite photographs of Caldecotte lake 02.11.14
cuddly toy cat game 3-11-14
Cuddly toy cat game 03.11.14
paradise park play area 4-11-14
Paradise park 04.11.14 physical exercise and a spot of map reading too
paradise park animals 4-11-14
A few of the animals at Paradise park 04.11.14
paradise park monkey 4-11-14
We were lucky enough to spot a two day old newborn baby gibbon clinging to mum 04.11.14
sylvanian school game 5-11-14
Squiggle used her Sylvanian families to act out a day at school. This led to some very interesting questions, such as why do the children need to wear a school uniform, who decides what it should be etc… We then had a very balanced discussion about the differences between school and home education. She was able to articulate very well why she personally feels home ed is much better suited to her needs. 05.11.14
southend 6-11-14
Southend beach 06.11.14
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We found this great resource at the beach playground, it is simple explanation of the weather cycle. Squiggle enjoyed learning how clouds form and how it rains. This led to further discussion about weather, the sun and also how stars form too 06.11.14
southend boats 6-11-14
Boats at Southend 06.11.14
southend more photography 6-11-14
Some of my favourite photos from our trip to Southend 06.11.14
southend photography 6-11-14
Scenic photos of Southend 06.11.14
fireworks fleetville 7.11.14
Local fireworks display 07.11.14
fireworks crabtree 8.11.14
Watching fireworks with a friend 08.11.14
fashion garden 9.11.14
Playing in the garden 09.11.14
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Picnic in the garden 09.11.14
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Fun at Bopping Babes disco 09.11.14
sylvanian imagination 10.11.14
Small world imaginary play 10.11.14
sylvanian ayletts christmas display 11.11.14
Acting out Ayletts Christmas display from last year 11.11.14
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We then visited Ayletts garden centre to see this year’s display 11.11.14
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Notcutts garden centre 11.11.14
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Squiggle made her own Christmas sticker book 12.11.14
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Sylvanian family decorating for Christmas (wearing clothes she made for them for winter) 12.11.14
duplo treehouse 13.11.14
Duplo construction (tree house playground) 13.11.14
clarence park 13.11.14
Clarence park 13.11.14
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Squiggle designed a multi pack of cat treats 14.11.14
cats 14.11.14
Squiggle then asked the next day to go to the pet shop to buy the cats a treat 15.11.14
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Chilling together
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Van Hage garden centre 16.11.14
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We popped to Stanborough lake briefly on the way home 16.11.14

 

In addition to these activities, we also practised estimating (time mainly) and discussed the difference between a guess and an estimate. We have also played a game several times that she invented whereby we try to recall what we were doing x number of days ago. This proved to be a fun memory game and we enjoyed talking about past events, as well as doing the maths to work out how many weeks, months and sometimes years ago the day was. I also discovered she didn’t know what a typewriter was when she found a miniature toy one (then again, why would she know!) So we discussed technology and how it has progressed, which she found very interesting.

 

Strawberry The Cat’s Halloween by Squiggle

This is Strawberry the Cat. She is going shopping.
This is Strawberry the Cat. She is going shopping.
Wait a minute! What is Strawberry looking at on the shelf?
Wait a minute! What is Strawberry looking at on the shelf?
Strawberry found a pumpkin!
Strawberry found a pumpkin!
Strawberry puts the pumpkin in the shopping trolley and carries on looking around the supermarket.
Strawberry puts the pumpkin in the shopping trolley and carries on looking around the supermarket.
Now Strawberry is stretching up high to reach something else. What has she got?
Now Strawberry is stretching up high to reach something else. What has she got?
Strawberry has found some pumpkin party blowers to put in the trolley.
Strawberry has found some pumpkin party blowers to put in the trolley.
Strawberry's daddy is picking her up, I wonder why?
Strawberry’s daddy is picking her up, I wonder why?
Ah, there are halloween costumes!
Ah, there are halloween costumes!
Look there is a big and small pumpkin costume!
Look there is a big and small pumpkin costume!
Strawberry chooses the pumpkin costume that is the right size for her.
Strawberry chooses the pumpkin costume that is the right size for her.
Strawberry then goes home and blows her pumpkin party blower...
Strawberry then goes home and blows her pumpkin party blower…
...and puts on her pumpkin costume for Halloween.
…and puts on her pumpkin costume for Halloween.

Autumn Trip to Butterfly World

As the opening season of Butterfly World (www.butterflyworldproject.com) comes to an end, we took the opportunity for a final visit on this sunny autumn afternoon…

 

Exploring the designer gardens.
Exploring the designer gardens.
Squiggle likes the feel of these leaves.
Squiggle likes the feel of these leaves.
Giant plant pot. Imagine being the size of an insect in the garden!
Giant plant pot. Imagine being the size of an insect in the garden!
Lovely walk in the gorgeous Autumn sunshine.
Lovely walk in the gorgeous Autumn sunshine.
PE in natural surroundings.
PE in natural surroundings.
The butterfly house.
The butterfly house.

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You can also find my previous post here.

Kensington Gardens

We love Kensington Gardens for a wander around the park and a play at Princess Diana Memorial Playground. This is a favourite of ours as it is a lovely natural playground with lots of sensory input opportunities.  And it has wooden boats to play on, as well as a huge pirate ship! Squiggle is very interested in boats at the moment so she was particularly excited on this visit…

 

Princess Diana Memorial Playground
Princess Diana Memorial Playground
Autumn leaves!
Fun with the autumn leaves!

 

Here are our pictures from our visit last month too…

Princess Diana Memorial Playground (27 September 2014)
Princess Diana Memorial Playground (27 September 2014)
Exploring chestnuts
Exploring chestnuts

 

More photos, from both visits combined….

Some of the local wildlife
Some of the local wildlife
Under the willow tree
Under the willow tree
Scenic snaps
Scenic snaps

 

I also blogged about it previously here.

Waterside Walks

Squiggle is very interested in different types of boats at the moment so we have been enjoying waterside walks in various locations. Here are a couple of the latest visits…

lee valley river 25 oct 14
Lee Valley riverside walk

 

Apsley Marina (21st October 2014)
Apsley Marina (21st October 2014)

Stanborough Lakes, Hertfordshire

We had an interesting and peaceful walk around Stanborough lakes, inspired by Squiggle’s current boat interest…

Squiggle enjoyed seeing and discussing the different types of boats.
Squiggle enjoyed seeing and discussing the different types of boats.
Bridges and waterfalls.
Bridges and waterfalls.
We had a relaxing walk around the lake.
We had a relaxing walk around the lake.
The wildlife.
The wildlife.
The south lake. Various watersports are held here.
The south lake. Various watersports are held here.
The North lake. This is one of my favourite photographs from this visit. The way the water came out in the photo is so interesting, it reminds me of a painting.
The north lake. This is one of my favourite photographs from the visit. I love how the photo has captured the beauty of the water, it reminds me of a painting.
My other favourite photo of the day.
My other favourite photo of the day.

Cassiobury Park, Hertfordshire

River
River
Mini waterfall
Mini waterfall
Canal
Canal
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Autumn at Cassiobury park

The Importance of Playgrounds: Vestibular/ Proprioceptive Activities

Sometimes I think the importance of playgrounds are undervalued. I have often included in my posts photos and information about our trips to playgrounds and it strikes me that some parents may wonder why this is even noteworthy. Yet everything around us can be considered of educational value in some way. Other than the obvious health benefits of this physical exercise, a trip to a playground also has another clear purpose as well as ‘just’ being fun. Playgrounds are highly beneficial for a child with sensory processing disorder (or any child without!) because they provide plenty of opportunities to organise the nervous system, especially through vestibular and proprioceptive input, which helps to integrate and rebalance the senses. In short, it has a calming effect and helps the child to be more focused and ready to learn. A playground is almost like an informal sensory integration therapy session, with the added benefit of being readily available and often entirely free!

 

Personally we love going out alone to quiet playgrounds during school hours for some unrestricted and unhurried therapeutic play. When we meet up with friends at playgrounds it tends to be a very different experience compared to going alone, both beneficial for Squiggle but in different ways. Whilst one provides a lovely social opportunity, she gets less out of those trips in terms of sensory ‘therapy’ because she tends to play differently at playgrounds when with others, rather than spend as much time on the range of equipment. So she particularly enjoys the opportunity to focus on the environment itself sometimes too.

 

greenwood park zip wire 7 oct 14
Zip wire provides vestibular input.
greenwood park tyre swing 7 oct 14
The tyre swing provides a circular movement as well as backwards and forwards motion.
greenwood park swing 7 oct 14
Swinging can be very calming.
greenwood park seesaw 7 oct 14
Squiggle enjoyed walking along the see-saw so she could feel the movement through her whole body.
greenwood park roundabout 7 oct 14
More vestibular input on the roundabout.
greenwood park sensory mud 7 oct 14
Mud is also a fantastic sensory activity.
greenwood park running 7 oct 14
Space to run- up and down hills and over bridges as well as on flat land.
greenwood park climbing frame 7 oct 14
Climbing provides proprioceptive input.
greenwood park tactile maze 7 oct 14
These are lovely tactile activities. Squiggle had far more patience doing these mazes with her finger than she has for paper and pencil ones.
greenwood park different ways of using equipment 7 oct 14
Using the equipment in different ways (climbing over the tunnel and going down the steps like a crab).
greenwood park slide 7 oct 14
Slides are also great sensory input. She enjoyed using them in different ways too.
greenwood park chilling 7 oct 14
Of course taking time to relax is important too!

Our Week in Pictures

sylvanian skiing aug 14
Imaginative play- skiing
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Face painting Fluffy. She sounded out ‘flufe’
garden balancing aug 14
Balancing on the logs with Gingerbread, our cat.
pick your own in garden aug 14
Picking fruit from our garden, lots of blackberries and a few apples too.
person collage aug 14
Collage person.
art group aug 14
Art group, using different tools for painting.
connect four models aug 14
Using connect four counters to make models. She made a 2D dog and a plane, plus a well balanced 3D tower.
designing parachutes and exploring gravity aug 14
Learning about gravity and designing parachutes for her seals. She compared which fell fastest and we talked about why. She then modified her design several times to try to improve it’s effectiveness.
acting out park aug 14
Design and technology, plus imaginative play. She built a park out of duplo for some of her toys. She also designed and made paper clothes for them to wear.
paradise park aug 14
Paradise Wildlife Park
erinne party blog photos aug 14
A friend’s birthday party.