Firstly, the tin can cable car. Here is a quick demo…
This is easy to set up and is fun to play with. Admittedly it is abit of a novelty item that probably won’t have much longevity in terms of holding interest, but that said, we have had it out a few times and she has played with it for several hours. It is pretty durable too; Squiggle had alot of fun attaching her toys to it so they could use it and it held quite an impressive weight! (Note: it is not intended to be used this way!)
Overall, it makes quite a cool gift as long as expectations on amount of use aren’t too high.
Salt Water Engine Car Review
The salt water engine car is great for sparking discussion on natural energy sources. It is also educational in terms of simple mechanics and engineering too.
We discovered this kit had far more parts than we might have imagined it and Squiggle personally found it too fiddly to do independently but children with better motor skills and more patience might be able to do so. She enjoyed doing it alongside an adult instead.
It didn’t move as fast, or as smoothly, as we hoped but it was on carpet and I suspect we just needed to check connections! However, it was pretty exciting that it went along at all just using salt water! Great learning tool.
I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Smartick prior to doing this review, but I am glad they got in touch as it is well worth knowing about! In brief summary, Smartick is an online maths program for children ages 4 to 14 years old. It is rather cleverly designed to be based on ability and progress with the child at their own pace, using latest Artificial Intelligence technology. This means it is not restrictive and challenges the individual child to go as far as they are capable.
As an ex- teacher and home educator, I really like this program. I feel it teaches methods and skills clearly in a simple but effective way. It is quite focused and maximises learning, but it does have visual aids and some basic gaming elements that aim to help keep children engaged and improve concentration levels. I think the way it adapts itself to the individual to personalise their learning is really impressive!
Each session lasts 15 minutes per day, set for maximum concentration and motivation. This is great as it is just a short, manageable burst of learning and isn’t ‘too much’. Smartick recommends that children do a session at least 5 days a week to truly experience the benefits of the program. This is fine for most children, but I knew we might find that challenging personally because if Squiggle perceives it as a demand, her anxiety goes up and she avoids it. As predicted, this happened very quickly!
We also weren’t able to make best use of the program because it is intended for the child to work on independently. Squiggle was not able to do this though because she felt that she needed me to explain it to her, which then added more time, so her speed and other data were inaccurate. Obviously this affects the function of the AI. I should point out though that this was not a reflection on Smartick; it is very clear and I think the majority of children would have no problem using it independently whatsoever. It was simply down to her anxiety and the high level of support she needs.
However, I totally admit that I knew from the outset that the structured approach might not really suit the nature of Squiggle’s particularly complex SEND needs, but I decided to trial it anyway because I was curious if we could make it work for her, and I was also interested in reviewing it generally for others too. So regarding the above comments, we are a very tough crowd to be fair! And we did find it very beneficial in our own way. Whilst we weren’t able to take full advantage of some of the best features of Smartick, it still motivated and inspired her, and provided an excellent springboard for maths practice off- screen. This is really valuable, and was totally worth it just for that!
Anyway, I feel that I am digressing a little now as this is probably not relevant to most families! Back to the review…
Parents receive an email as soon as their child completes the daily lesson with a summary of performance. This is really useful! Plus there is a parent dashboard, so you can log in and see study plans, questions and units that the child has answered, data about performance and other things. Also, there is a team of educators behind the scenes to answer any questions that parents or children have, via phone or email. I found the lady I emailed with was absolutely lovely and very helpful.
Overall, I do recommend Smartick – it is a great tool for learning maths. If you would like further information, or to subscribe, see their website: www.smartick.com
To be in with a chance to win a 3 month subscription to Smartick, enter my rafflecopter giveaway below!
Last but not least, there is also a referral program whereby parents can benefit from a £20 discount if they recommend a friend, and the new friend that subscribes will receive 25% off the first subscription they buy. So do feel free to mention me for a discount!
*Disclosure: I was given a free subscription to Smartick for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Little House of Science provides fun and educational STEM classes for kids. Little House Of Science have a wide range of STEM classes suitable for ages from 6 months – 11 years in London and across the UK. Little House of Science also offers STEM parties, workshops and tutoring too. Lots of educational fun!
Little House of Science provides fun and educational STEM classes for kids. The company was founded in 2014 by a trio of entrepreneurial and enthusiastic parents, with a keen interest in the science community, who wanted to inspire their own children to explore and seek answers about the world.
“We at Little House of Science foster this natural curiosity in boys and girls and re-enforce STEM subjects in a fun, project-based way so that children can connect with science from an early age.”
There are many classes and workshops held across London, and has also extended to other parts of the UK due to its popularity; including Hampshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. There are a range of classes suitable from 6 months right up to 11 years old.
The youngest classes, Little Discovery, are from 6-12 months and 12-24 months, Little Maths covers ages 2-3 years and 3-4 years old, Little Science has classes suitable for 3-4 years, 4-7 years and 5-8 years old, then Big Science Academy is aimed at older children aged 8-11 years old. Each class covers a diverse syllabus with age-appropriate topics delivered in a fun yet educational way using a hands-on practical approach to learning.
As well as these classes, they also offer project- based creative science workshops, which include take-home items and parents notes, and tutoring too. They even offer educational fun-filled entertainment for kids parties!
Their aim is to ensure the kids leave feeling inspired and enthusiastic about learning, with a desire to know more about the world.
“We would like to think of ourselves as creating or fostering the spark for the next generation of scientists, but the main aim is to provide a foundation for youngsters where after each session, they will have gone home knowing a little bit more about our wonderful world and how things work.”
As an ex primary teacher, and now home educator, I think these classes and workshops sound fantastic! Several years ago, when Squiggle was much younger, I genuinely seriously considered setting up an early years STEM discovery type session myself, but it never happened sadly. However, I think it is great idea and so valuable! If I had found something like this, I would have been very keen to attend and I would definitely consider the older age classes now if we were able to, or a home ed workshop would be fab. Hands-on, practical fun is definitely the way to approach STEM activities!
We love Sylvanian Families; we think they are so cute and collectable (and also have educational value too!) Squiggle has a huge ever- increasing collection and loves looking at the website or browsing the catalogue to see what she can add to her wishlist next! So I think I might have been nearly as excited as she was when we received the fab Sylvanian Families Village Cake Shop to review…
The cake shop comes with the mum of the Toy Poodle family, who is the shopkeeper, and alot of lovely little accessories to stock up the shop with. There are 90 bits in total, including the figure, shop, till, cake stands, counters, various cakes, boxes, piping, tongs and other cool stuff. Not everything included is pictured in my photos because Squiggle inevitably spreads half of it across the floor within 10 seconds of opening it… but that just makes it all the more realistic – after all, you wouldn’t expect such a delicious cake shop to be fully stocked at all times, would you?!
Anyway, back to the review….
What I really love about this set – and other Sylvanian Families sets too – is the quality and attention to detail. Squiggle said “I think it’s very cool the way the cake stacks up to make a big cake.” When asked what her favourite part of the set is, she said “Those strawberry filling cakes looked very yummy!” It is also great for fine motor skills, as you will see when you watch the video…
This post discusses how you can save money on home educating and still provide plenty of home ed opportunities. It is a common misconception that home educating is expensive and unaffordable to most. However, many home educators successfully home educate on a tight budget and there are lots of ways to make home educating affordable. The truth is, home education can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. Plus with the money you would spend on uniform, trips and lunch money, school is not necessarily a cheaper option either!
It is a common misconception that home educating is expensive and unaffordable to many. However, there are actually various ways to cut the costs, and many home educators successfully home educate on a tight budget. Here are my top tips…
Trips and Activities
Join your local home ed facebook group
In many areas, home educators organise trips and activities together as a community, in order to access cheaper group entry charges or school rates. This often also includes educational workshops that wouldn’t otherwise be available to individuals.
Look out for discounts/ offers to local attractions
Find your local community magazine, join an online group that shares local information or sign up to attraction newsletters direct; whichever way suits you personally to stay up-to-date with the latest offers and discounts for local attractions. Some places also do free open days etc… that it is worth taking advantage of too. If you make a point of seeking them out, you’ll be amazed at how much you can actually save!
Research free places to visit
Following on from the previous point, there are lots of free places to visit, and events throughout the year, that offer great educational opportunities. From museums to sporting events, there is plenty to choose from without getting your wallet out.
Form a co-op, or arrange your own groups/ activities
If you can find a free (or cheap) venue, many home educators lead groups and activities themselves, or with other members of the local community. You can play on each others’ strengths and expertise, plus pool together resources, which can be far more cost effective than paying for classes etc…
Resources at Home
There are lots of free good quality resources on the internet. Also check out freecycle for useful items that someone else no longer needs. Occasionally there is even old equipment from local schools up for grabs, if you know the right people!
You can also borrow and swap with other home educators, which makes far more sense than investing in something that is only needed for a short term topic or limited age- range for example. And of course, there are libraries too!
There are dedicated home ed selling groups on facebook to find cheap secondhand resources. Charity shops are another place to hunt for bargains; there are some great finds to be had.
Sell the resources you no longer use
Obviously, as well as buying secondhand, it is also useful to sell your resources on if you no longer use them! Or hand them down to someone else who needs them, in a pay it forward type philosophy.
Make the most of subscription discounts
Some educational apps and websites charge an annual subscription fee. However, many offer a discount for home educators so be sure to find out before you sign up.
What About Income Though?
It is true that the loss of earnings can be a challenge. It is all very well finding ways to save money on the cost of home educating, but it doesn’t help if you don’t have any money coming in to begin with! (Note: Home educators are not entitled to any additional extra benefits simply because they home educate, and there is no funding specifically for home educators).
However, many home educators do also work. Firstly, it is important to remember that home education does not need to observe school hours and term times so there is flexibility as to how and when a full time education is provided. Secondly, there are various jobs that you can do flexibly working from home, or ways you can juggle home educating with working outside of the home. Here are some ideas…
Just a few examples of jobs people do at home while home educating are; tutoring, childminding, workshops/ classes, blogging, making and selling crafts (e.g. etsy store) or other small businesses.
Working While Home Educating
Parents often share responsibility for home educating with each other, other family members or friends. Some use a childminder for part of the week, then focus on home education outside of those hours. Others take advantage of educational groups or childcare schemes that they can send their child to whilst they work. It is also possible to find evening or weekend work too. Bottom line is, there are various options available, much like you would choose at pre-school age.
Do you have any tips on how to finance home education? Or how to home educate on a budget? I would love to hear them!
One of the free places we have visited a couple of times recently over summer is Aylett Nurseries in St Albans, Hertfordshire. It is good for kids; sometimes they have activities and events specifically for children, and generally is family friendly.
At the moment, they currently have a butterfly corner but you will have to hurry – it closes on 17th September! It is very small but is still a lovely little experience that adds to the visit. It is interesting to watch the butterflies feeding on the fruit and having them fluttering around you. Here are some of my favourite photos taken in their butterfly corner last week…
According to the website, the Celebration Gardens are open all year round but the best time to visit is when the flowers are in bloom of course. We have only just discovered the Celebrations Gardens over the last month, which was perfect timing! Their multi award winning Dahlias are particularly beautiful, and we also love the wild flower section too. Here are a selection of photos from the Celebration Garden in August…
We have recently been discussing pocket money and debating whether it should be earned or given? If it is to be earned, what should it be for? And how much is reasonable?
Personally, I feel that the concept of earning money is important. It helps to promote independence and a good work ethic. But I struggle on what it should be given for because I feel it has the potential to also encourage an expectation to be paid for things that I feel should be done for other reasons.
After all, we should all help to keep our home clean and tidy because it is a shared space; we all live here, so we each have a responsibility toward it. And we should behave with kindness, respect and consideration toward others simply because it’s the right thing to do. It is intrinsic – at least I certainly feel it should be – is it not? What about for educational activities then? But does that then make them a chore, rather than doing it out of interest and curiosity and for the simple love of learning? I feel this way about sticker charts and the like, so surely money is no different.
But, at the same time, I do also firmly believe that our main goal in life should be to find our passion. In an ideal world, people can do what they truly love and make money from it, but it doesn’t really feel like work or a ‘job’ because they would choose to do it anyway. In my eyes, that is the dream to aim for! So does paying pocket money for things the child would do anyway actually reinforce this mindset and therefore is a good thing?
The fact is, I don’t actually have any answers! I think the best approach is probably different for each child, and family, depending on their priorities and personal set of values. And I also suspect the answer chances at different points throughout childhood too.
We have played around with a few different ideas over time, with varying levels of success, and certain pitfalls after a while too! One choice we are happy about though is setting up a goHenry account so she could have her own card and also be able to shop online with her own money. I think this is really good for independence and teaching essential life skills. You can set up a goHenry account online quickly and easily, and it gives options to write tasks and/ or transfer a set weekly amount so is quite versatile. We have found this works well for us! If you sign up through the referral links in this post, you get free custom goHenry card worth £4.99 plus 1-month free
I also asked some fellow bloggers on their opinions of pocket money and here are some of the responses I received:
Two Hearts One Roof ~ OK my little one is too young for pocket money, but I will be doing the same as my parents did for me. I had £5 a week in my money box and £5 in my savings towards holiday spending money, or if I really wanted to save for something big. Then I could earn extra doing chores or helping out my parents, neighbours or grandparents. I spent a lot of sunday mornings ironing as I could do that in front of the TV and I didn’t mind. Mum would price a whole basket depending on how difficult it would be and how many items. Our dude will have the same system when he is old enough. Plus any money from grandparents or for birthdays/ xmas – half goes in savings and half to keep on hand. We already do that and he is 1; half is in savings and half for something now.
Whimsical Mumblings ~ My little ones (2&3) have a ‘kindness’ reward chart and get a star everytime they do something kind. When the chart fills up I give them a pound or two to put in their piggy banks.
My Boys Club ~ We started our boys off in 50p for washing the car or making their beds each week etc. We pay for all their activities, clothes etc but trying to teach them the value of money from a young age.
Dark Tea ~ We started giving our daughter pocket money when she was 7 (she’s almost 9). She gets £2 and has to save half of it. She occasionally earns more by doing chores above the normal such as mopping floors and helping in the garden.
Champagne and Petals ~ We don’t really do a weekly pocket money. My 8 year old gets money for doing little jobs around the house. Feeding the cat, making his bed, opening his curtains. Or helping in the garden and washing the cars. No more than £5 a week. However as he gets older and is wanting to spend money on things then I’m sure it will increase, as will the jobs he has to do to earn the money.
Pack The PJs ~ My two get £5 each, weekly, paid direct to their GoHenry cards. All we ask in return is for them to take some responsibility of their stuff and their rooms. We have stopped it in the past when they’ve been a bit disrespectful of their belongings (or each other). It works well – it also means they have on average £50 to spend if we go out. When they spend their own money you notice that they stop and ask themselves if they really need it before committing!
Family Travel With Ellie ~ I have recently started a Go Henry account for my 10 year old son. He gets £2.50 per week and the gets an extra £2 if he cleans out the rabbits and and extra £2 if he mows the lawn/ cleans the car or similar. It’s a great adaptable account , he gets a debit card with it which gives him a sense of responsibility and independence.
Neon Rainbow Blog ~ We also use Go Henry for our 11 year old, he gets a card which is contactless and an app to track his chores. I get an app too which I can load ‘tasks’ onto so each time he ticks off a task, the money goes from my parent account to his Go Henry account. He does things like tidying his bedroom, hoovering, dishwasher, plus we give him perks for things like homework, SATs results, good manners, selfless deeds.
Hello Cuppies ~ My son is 12 and he gets £35 a month and it transfers straight to his bank account which he then has to manage himself. It does come with conditions though; no discredits from school, no missed homework and all chores done. I think we’re quite generous but this does have to pay for quite a lot of little luxuries which do add up.
Frugal Family ~ My teenager gets £50 a month which she uses to buy anything that I consider non-essential. My son gets £5 a week as he’s younger and doesn’t go out as much with his friends yet. I don’t pay them for doing jobs around the house as I think that should be an automatic thing, seeing as they make more than their fair share of mess. But I do link pocket money to behaviour, so if they suddenly refused to do their jobs or had a bad attitude then they wouldn’t be paid.
* goHenry is an affilliate link which means I generate a small revenue from referrals. All thoughts and opinions about goHenry are my own. Thank you for the support.
Victoria decided to write the book because when she was first considering home education she didn’t really know anyone who was doing it and was surrounded by people telling her how mainstream school was the best and only way. This caused her to doubt herself and led to indecision and heart ache. She looked online at books on the subject but she felt that they were all written by ‘experts’ which she found both intimidating and unhelpful. What she really wanted was the advice and experiences of a real life home educating parent. So she turned to reading blogs and found the real life reasoning she was after; in fact she found them so useful that it inspired her to start her own blog. When she begun receiving messages from other parents saying her page had helped them decide to home educate she thought a book might be helpful too. Plus she generally enjoys writing and blogging too!
Home Educating The Mad Lads is a down to earth, honest and raw story of this home educating family. Victoria writes from the heart and shares her personal story of her own school life, recounts her eldest’s preschool and nursery experiences and the many reasons that led them to decide on home education.
The book is a quick, easy read that features snippets from her blog, useful information about home ed and glimpses into their lives. It is very relatable, and I think is especially handy for people who would rather read print than screen; I know there are certain members of my family who I struggle to persuade to even read my own blog simply because they have such a strong preference for the printed word, so I think a blog style book is a great idea!
Home Educating The Mad Lads book can be purchased through Amazon (RRP £5.79). You can also find their blog over on facebook.
Victoria has kindly also offered the chance for one lucky reader to win a copy of the book. Enter via rafflecopter below. Competition closes 2nd August 2017. UK only. Other T&Cs apply.
*Disclosure: This book was sent to me for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. This post also contains Amazon affiliate links. This does not cost anything extra to anyone purchasing through these links.
I received an email from Grow Wild (Kew Gardens) recently all about fungi. There are free downloads on their website with lots of interesting information and even a fun(gi) quiz to do too! So I decided my challenge for today would be to do a mini project on fungi, then share with you some of the fascinating facts I learned!
So here are 5 cool things you might not have known about fungi…
Fungi is closer to a creature than a plant.
Fungi can be found in space!
We depend on fungi to survive.
Fungi has been around for millions of years; it preceeds dinosaurs.
Chocolate, amongst other food and drink, contains fungus!