Thomas the Tank Engine Phonics

My youngest son is 4, and has recently shown an interest in letter and number formation. He has been obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine since he was about 18 months old, and likes to draw the engines. In recent months, his pictures have progressed from simple round faces with stick funnels to more complex drawings with more detail and dimension to them. He tries to copy the numbers on to the engines' sides and knows what number each engine is. Since this is his interest, I decided to make an alphabet book with him today. I did this with the other boys in Turkey when they were younger: They wrote the upper and lower case letter onto each page - a page for each letter - and then cut out and stuck in pictures of people and things beginning with each letter from magazines and photographs. So for this little boy, I decided to adapt the idea and make a Thomas Alphabet book. He was so interested and enjoyed copying and forming each letter and then drawing an appropriate character. Today we did Annie, Bulstrode the Barge, Cranky the Crane, Diesel 10, Edward, Gordon and Henry. Just need to slot in the Fat Controller! This is just an example of how learning can be personalised in the informal setting of home, where you as facilitator know the child's individual interests. I am sure my son will learn the letters more quickly this way. He and his brothers have also shown interest in the Alphablocks on the CBeebies website which bring phonics to life.

My elder two boys have been watching David Dimbleby's "The 7 Ages of Britain" with considerable interest. Today they watched the episode on 'The Tudors - The Age of Power', and we are making the most of the BBC iPlayer to access informative documentaries. They enjoy this and seem to remember a lot of what they see. I think their interest in history has come alive. Today they were making super but simple card helmets (using a template we came across) and marching round the house as soldiers.

Yesterday, Table Top Time was given over to science experiments which the boys found in a book. So we investigated liquids and density. Today, sweet pizza was the order of the day, and the boys made large biscuits which they later topped with melted chocolate and decorated with sweets. No two days are the same, and it is difficult to know exactly in which direction the day will go. Today the Gas Board were digging up our street and needed to come in and remove our meter to renew our gas pipe. At the same time, a handyman was drilling a large hole with a super size drill through our wall to vent our tumble dryer .... and then the Tesco shopping arrived. It was a bit chaotic. But I am also glad that the boys get to see different people doing different jobs and to get a wider view of the world of work. We also have times when they have to help me get through the housework that needs to be done. Yesterday, one of the boys actually offered to clean the toilets! Not sure how long that novelty will last, but he was thrilled that he was able to do this!

I have introduced a new 'time' into our daily plan which is Personalised Learning. This is a chance for the boys to do their own work with the objective of giving us all a bit of space. I have been investigating useful websites which they could access independently and at the appropriate level, for example, Mathletics. Some of the sites which require a subscription fee offer discounts to members of Education Otherwise.

I have made contact with our local Home Educator's Group and was sent a programme for the coming months which looks great, so I am really hoping to tap into that. It will be good for us to meet some other families who are on this journey. It seems there are a few in our locality. A second car has risen up our priority list, though as the weather warms up I am sure we will be more tempted out of doors - at least as far as the garden! I read somewhere that whatever they are learning, boys learn it better out of doors. Whether or not that is true, the sky certainly seems to absorb their noise and energy. In my experience, small boys (like dogs) should be exercised outdoors daily!!