Monday, 26 January 2015

Multiplication Explorers

I have just signed up for this online course @ Natural Maths: Multiplication Explorers. I am hoping it will provide opportunity for both my eager and reluctant mathematicians to enjoy learning more about multiplication together. It certainly sounds hands on and in tune with the way Maths ought to be explored. Best of all, it's a name-your-price initiative. Why not take a look ...

Pin It

Monday, 19 January 2015

"Anything school can do, you can do better"

"Anything school can do, you can do better," says 30 year-old Chupi - home educated in the 1990s and now running her own successful jewellery design business.
Pin It

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Great Artists Project

As part of his Arts Award, my 11 year old decided to study The Great Artists. We read a bit of biography, then look at and discuss some of their work. He chooses a picture to 'copycat' - naturally ending up with a piece all his own. Then, finally, he attempts an artwork 'in the style of' the artist in question. I am working alongside him, and sit and make my own attempt. This way, the parent alongside, we learn and try together - and it is a good opportunity for me to sit and relax and get creative too!
(I will add more pics to this post as our project progresses ....)



Pin It

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Curriculum and Capability

People often ask if we follow a curriculum, or assume we must follow The National Curriculum. We don't. There are many curricula available online now, and tempting as it sometimes is to have a set plan laid out to follow, curricula never really work for us. Sometimes we follow topics. A topic might spring from the boys' interests (a fascination with steam engines, for example) or from something we encounter in our life together such as discovering a swarm of bees in our garden. Sometimes I suggest a topic and pursue it with them for a while, for example, last term we learned about the abolition of the slave trade. Sometimes my suggestions develop well, and lead on to fruitful projects. Other times, I have to acknowledge that it is not worth pursuing because the boys just don't engage so we let it go. In any case, it gets me thinking ... Curricula are just programmes of study which someone has put together. Someone somewhere, be it a politician or an educational ideologist, has decided to include this and not that on their curriculum, that one thing is important and another thing isn't. But who is to say that they have chosen correctly, or that what is right for them will be right for us?

Our country puts great emphasis on numeracy and literacy. I once read an article about a family who had spent some time living in an African country where their daughter had attended school. Great emphasis in that system was placed upon balance and the ability to stand on one leg for prolonged periods was practised and tested. In Turkey, chess was a significant feature of our eldest son's nursery experience. Yes, chess ... in nursery! And this leads me to consider again our expectations of children at different ages and stages.

Over the last few weeks, my eldest son, who is now 13 and still loves chess, decided to introduce his youngest brother (not yet 3) to the game. What is interesting is the way in which our toddler has engaged with this, not always grasping the moves his brother is showing him, but listening attentively to the 'story' of kings and pawns and remaining focussed and attentive to the 'game' for sustained periods. I wonder if his big brother is remembering the way in which he was introduced to chess as a small child - in a foreign language. It is lovely to watch when the boys engage with one another like this, but it also makes me think about what we expect of young children.

Once when I accompanied our third son to nursery, because he was so upset I couldn't leave him, he was sat in a small group with 4 or 5 other children and a teaching assistant where they looked at shapes and named them. Now, I know that my child was able to name his shapes. I know from numerous conversations, games and picture book readings with him at home. However, will the child 'perform' what is asked of them at a particular time in the context of school or nursery? Maybe. Maybe not. My son didn't. He was silent. A very cheeky (clever) child, with a twinkle in his eye, misnamed them deliberately. What might be going through a child's mind in this situation? Bearing in mind, my current toddler could name his shapes at 2, by age 3 and a half, perhaps they are thinking this is pretty simple and boring. Perhaps they liven the activity up by making a game of it and calling a square a circle. Who knows? In any case, the nursery teacher will tick the box "Can identify shapes correctly" or not! Judgement is passed.

It is limited, though, isn't it? Our perception in that moment. The contrived situation really tells us nothing at all about what a child really knows or is capable of.

So I ask you, is it better to fit a child to a curriculum, or to try and tailor a curriculum to a child?

Pin It

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Dollshouse on a Budget

My husband says it was a present for me really, and perhaps he is right. When asked what he would like for Christmas, our youngest son (who will be 3 in March) said, "A little house for my little people". He loves role playing with little characters ... Lego minifigures, Duplo men, Playmobil people. So I started to look around for a little house for him. I looked at Playmobil, but he is still too little really for all the tiny pieces. I looked at wooden houses, some of which are incredibly expensive, and the cheaper ones seemed to be very basic. Then I came across this one which I mail ordered from Toys R Us. I thought the price tag (around £30) was pretty good considering it had a proper opening front and came with some furniture, and a family of little people.

But I was inspired by the reviews and comments people had left, some of which showed how they had painted the dollshouse prior to assembling it. This is something I have always wanted to do, so I decided to paint and wallpaper the house ready to present on Christmas morning. It took a bit of effort, but I was pleased with the finished result. To buy a little house fully painted and decorated would have had a much higher price tag.

The house arrived in pieces, so by studying the instructions, I could see which piece would go where. I lightly sanded the pieces of the house which I wanted to paint, gave them one coat of primer / undercoat and then two coats of either white gloss or blue duracoat. I was a little limited by our budget right before Christmas, so I restricted the colours. We already had white gloss in our shed, and I managed to do the blue with just one tester pot of paint which cost about £1.50.

The wallpapers were downloaded from Jennifer's Printables where there is an amazing selection of wallpapers as well as brick, wood and tile designs. These can be downloaded and colour printed. I then cut them to size for the appropriate rooms, glued them into place with PVA and covered them with PVA to provide a varnished finish. I covered the floors of each room with a wooden flooring design too. Having prepared all the separate pieces, I was so pleased with the result when I put the house together ....

.... And on Christmas morning, I think our little boy was pretty delighted too! (I tried not to be too precious about it when he decided to add his own pencil design to the roof!)

Pin It