Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Not Back to School - Tips for Parents

It's the end of August so naturally my Facebook feed is full of back to school posts, tips, articles and checklists. Well, I didn't want us home educators getting left out, so here especially for you is my Not Back to School checklist.

This is an important one. I've read several times this morning that it's an absolute must for all children at this time of year, so in view of that I suggest you pick out something here. Aye. Pyjamas. The unofficial uniform of home educators. Practical and comfortable, they can be worn to do anything from playing Minecraft to cooking to chemistry experiments to trampolining to wiring circuits. Maaaybe swap them for actual clothes if you're off out for the day, but each to their own :)
NB There's no uniform monitor, and no penalties for flaunting the uniform rule I just introduced for thousands of people I don't know, so feel free to swap it for whatever awesomely picked out (or otherwise) outfit you choose, whether it's mismatch chic or a Stormtrooper outfit or underpants and a sombrero. We'll likely have done all of these options by the end of the first day Not Back.

Otherwise known as, erm, days out.
We all know what the start of September means. It means that all those fabulous places that belong exclusively to us home edders in term time (no butthurt please school-going people, they really do), are back to being ours. ALL OURS. Mwahaha.
While we most definitely still do lots of stuff over the summer, we really do try to avoid the sorts of parks, play areas and visitor attractions that just get so busy over the holidays that you can't see the trees/climbing frames/potters' wheels*.(*insert locally relevant item of interest here) So while we'll likely have a day at home to start off with (with just the people that live here, for the first time in six weeks!), it's good to remember that the start of September is a good time to rediscover those places that the kids love and find interesting that will be sooo much quieter, and might even have a home ed discount going on in term time :)

Everything mentioned in #2 usually also means at least one Not Back to School Picnic.
Now, I love Pinterest and all that it offers, and I even cut sandwiches into the shape of dinosaurs every so often and make watermelons into pirate ships. But today I saw someone's plan to make all their lunchboxes into a little geographical feature. There was even a Japanese flag made of nori and salami, I think. Extremely awesome, and I've no doubt pinned it, but by the time we've stuffed the boot full of parachutes and bubbles and pirate swords and we're on out way out to the park (always late these days, why???), and I've driven halfway there and remembered I've forgotten the picnic, and we've gone home again to grab something, what we actually take is a cucumber, a block of cheese, a multipack of value crisps and bags of whatever fruit and salad is in the fridge. And a knife. Luckily we have no school-imposed restrictions on potato products or the percentage on vitamins in our apples or whatever, so my lunch-related checklist point for you all for Not Back to School week is the rather all encompassing 'Attempt to have food in that you each like, try and remember to take some out with you when necessary, and remember a knife. If you like.' Very specific, I know. 

Woohoo! The best thing about September used to be a new pencil case and choosing which Smash Hits poster I'd Sellotape onto the inside of my ring binder. Exciting times!
With home ed, however, the possibilities are boundless, with the added kicker that IT'S NOT LIMITED TO SEPTEMBER!!! So whether their interests currently lie in Facerig or painting or loom bands or circuits or art or singing or guinea pigs or baking or decoupage or make up or tiedye, every day they're learning is a fab reason to source the things they need. If you have that itch especially in September, the whole world is your resource oyster, not just Rymans (or Partners as it was when I were a lass. Ah Partners, how I miss your whimsical pens and scented erasers.)

Just kidding ;)

So! I think that about covers it. To sum up, this Not Back to School time, wear what you love, go where you like, eat what you fancy, and learn from what interests you. Ooh, just like the rest of the year! Happy Not Back to School everyone :)

Laying Bricks and Webcam Tricks

We'd planned in advance for a whole week in this week so that Sprout could recoup his energy after last week's frequent outings.
This week has been punctuated more than usual by the boys playing together, cooperatively. For shortish periods, but nice :) They've collaborated on My Singing Monsters, Little Inferno, Dragon City, and CoD among other things. 

Moppet is enjoying the fact that we had a huge clear out and she can find, well, everything, and so has played with, well, everything. Even Gruff's headset.

Squidge chose an arts and crafts comic and made this little monster...

,..and a day and night owl.

Following on from his bricklaying exploits at Blists Hill, I found our Teifoc brick set for Sprout and he got to work.

Moppet and Squidge and his friend and I meanwhile set up a den. Sprout later made his own one too.

He's had the chalks out and has been designing...

...including this likeness of The Sandman :)

Squidge has been joining in some, and also doing lots of "Look no hands!" and "Look no feet!" and the like on his bike.

Sprout saved his money for two months so that he could go to Smyths and have more choice of Lego. He went last night with Gruff and chose a new Agents set and a couple of Mixels to complete a combo he's been aiming for. He saved one to build with me this morning :)

While we built Lego, Moppet did some painting...

...and Squidge played some CoD with his friend.

Later on while Sprout played on his xbox with an old friend, Squidge and Moppet played outside for a while, Squidge on his bike with his friends and Moppet with her new friend in the street who also likes playing dolls and is much older than her but very sweet to her :)

After his bicycle-powered smoothie making at the weekend, Sprout asked me to get similar ingredients. We already had frozen raspberries from the garden, and some pineapple in the fridge, so I went and got some bananas and he whizzed them all up together. He made enough for everyone :)

After everyone else was in bed one night Sprout and I stayed up again and watched Rise of the Guardians. He was telling me about a game that also has the sandman in it and the sequel which is going to have the boogeyman in it. He also noticed that one of he characters has lost the same tooth he has :)
After the film we watched the next episode of Nature's Weirdest Events and he chatted to me about hailstones and natural disasters and fish and birds and mating urges and sadness and sardines. He declared a murmuration of starlings 'momentous'. He told me about Minecraft sunsets and their timings, and compared the colour to the light pollution he could see outside our house. He daydreamed out loud about scuba diving on a coral reef, and asked about when Ben and I had gone diving before he was born. He asked me if I'd ever experienced a natural disaster and I told him about a hurricane from when I was a kid, and that moved on to trees falling on cars which led to palm trees and coconuts which led to videogame mods. 

Sprout has done a lot of gaming, mostly zombies on CoD, Little Big Planet 2 community levels, and GTA V with as many cheats as we could find :)

Squidge and Moppet did some more hooping with their homemade hoops.

I surprised Sprout with Yoostar (a Kinect game where you can put yourself into film clips) that he'd watched Pewdiepie play, and he started by putting himself in the place of Spartacus...

...but with a bit of departure from the original script :)

Moppet tried after, and then Sprout did it again with The Mummy and then Terminator. Much laughter :)

Sprout and I found the Far Cry 3 level editor hidden away in a folder somewhere, so he's been designing his own levels and trying them out.

So basically, we haven't done much this week but chill out at home, play games, have *lots* of snuggly time and film nights, have friends round, and have *loads* of conversations about everything from whether there really are gun shops everywhere you look in the USA to what colour sand is and why. :)

After backing their Indiegogo campaign last year we received the MUCH awaited Facerig activation code, and Sprout spent the afternoon alternating between being a demon and a raccoon :)

Moppet and Mac had a sleep together...

...and the boys played some more LIttle Inferno, which led to the question of whether people eat locust eggs, which we couldn't find any record of but we did find these pictures of fried locusts, yum!

Somehow that moved onto Chinchillas (not eating them!), and what size they are compared to guinea pigs.

Squidge and his friends made some Nerf targets out of cardboard boxes and put up a shooting range.

Including Squidge as a moving target!

We tried the milk, food colouring and dish soap experiment, which wasn't quite as spectacular w#as we'd seen online...

Sprout did some drawing in his 'ancient' Minecraft book that we made last year.

He showed me this picture of how he'd envisaged the character's souls from the Ib game. 

And the different temperaments of the characters.

We downloaded Mine-imator for Sprout to play with and make some Minecraft animations.

Sprout made some patterns out of his Tetris Jenga blocks and commented that the pattern looked similar to Isaac from Venturian's logo.

He then noticed too that it reminded him of the Illuminati symbol, which he knows from one of his videogames. 

He and I played some Scribblenauts unlimited, with lots of things made from diamond, and lots of things using the adjectives 'giant' and 'flying' :) Then he decided to draw something to send to Pewdiepie.

Then we did some silly photos :)

And then he went down to the fields with his friends and brought this flower back for me <3 p="">

Moppet played with her new friend next door and kept bringing her toys to show me.

Squidge watched some Cirque de Soleil...

...played *lots* of Dragon City and Little Inferno, and a bit of CoD...

...and played a game where he passed me different Skylanders cards and I had to tell him what they said. 

They all made 'stained glass windows' with wax paper and Sharpies.

We all made some loom bands.

And Squidge painted his own face. Several times. :)

(Sorry about the layout being even more all over the place than usual today, the Blogger app has started refusing to upload any photos (which is primarily how I get everything on here!) so I've had to jump on the PC in fits and spurts to put things on.)

Monday, 11 August 2014

Florette tour, Hula Hoops and more...

An awesome start to the week when we heard that Churnet Valley Railway had Peppa and George visiting! Gruff stayed home with the boys and their friends and I took Moppet along to meet her very favourite character :) She was very VERY excited.

We got on the train at Froghall...

...she played cars with our tickets...

...coloured some Peppa pictures...

...played with a dinosaur finger puppet... very excited about going through the 'wowwist'...

...and rode her power ranger round on her car.

Consall station was waterlogged so all the activities had moved to Cheddleton. We watched a magic show...

...she turned into a very roary dinosaur...

...we watched a Punch and Judy show...

...then got the train back to Froghall with her new balloon :)

She met Peppa a second time...

...then went and ate a Peppa cake in the Peppa cafe :)

She got the little Thomas to run along the track...

...and then wanted to stick around to meet Peppa and George for a third time :)

She even gave Peppa a hug!

This was the engine that took us for a train ride.

And she was zonked out on the way home.

Back at home there was the tail end of a hurricane that wasn't as bad as we'd been expecting, but it was definitely windy, although this didn't deter anyone from playing out!

Moppet collected rose hips in a hula hoop, as you do.

We tried a film canister rocket but this photo shows the total of everything it did. I think we need to work on the amounts of vinegar and bicarb! Or Gruff has said use water so we'll try that too.

The kids and their friends and I picked the apples and pears, the last couple of raspberries and the first couple of handfuls of blackberries :) It's the first year the pear tree has fruited so even just a couple of pears was exciting!

This is Moppet, doing circuits of the trampoline and shouting, "Hewwowwww!" every time she comes past :)

We've put a pineapple top in some water to see what happens.

Sprout and I had an evening of watching Nature's Weirdest Events. There were exploding toads...

...clever crows...

...and tongue-dwelling isopods. Sprout remarked how much they look like trilobites did, and wondered if they were related, so we looked it up. Turns out they're both arthropods, but no closer than that. 

There was a section on mouse plagues and where they occur and the comparison with the UK where numbers are much lower than in past times. Sprout wondered whether the mice in China and Australia were trying to increase numbers to stop them dying out because of low levels in the UK, which led to chatting about the urge to procreate and in evolutionary terms why species would have not survived without it.
Throughout the programme Sprout shared his thoughts with me on the various facts and happenings, from his amazement at the size of a red dust cloud over Sydney, to how he thought a town could have become covered in ten inch thick ice overnight, to how he felt really bad for whales that got stranded on beaches. 

He then asked me to find an app that could take a photo and 'make things that are nearly red all red, and the same with all the colours, and all dark bits black'. The closest I could find at the moment was this pop art app where you can choose the colours for each of the sets of dark colours, lights colours and highlights, so we've been playing with that.

Squidge and I played a few games of Moshi Monsters memory game and he completely wiped the floor with me.

Then he played with his puppet eyes for a bit :)

I got a notification that the International Space Station would be coming over (sign up here and they'll email you each time it's headed over your way) at a reasonable time on Monday night, so we all headed outside and, with the help of the Night Sky 2 app so we knew which way to look...

...and there it is! (Little star thing in the middle of the pic.) It was the first time I'd managed to see it because last time all the kids spotted it with Gruff I couldn't see it for some reason. Exciting! If you've never seen it before, you're looking for something bright and pretty fast :)

We had a look at the live stream here when we went in to see if we could see what the crew were up to as they orbited over our heads, but it was on external view. Still cool! 

The next day Squidge watched some Raa Raa with Moppet and they sang along to the songs :)

Later, while Sprout has an iPad gaming session at his grandparents' house, we headed to Fordhall Farm to help rebuild their cob pig. Moppet had fun squishing her feet in the mud to prepare it...

...then she squashed a few handfuls on to help rebuild him. 

Squidge wanted to sit on the tractor.

And they loved watching the real pigs too.

In the cafe afterwards Squidge was asking about and experimenting with the shapes he could make with various combinations of triangles and squares (napkins ;) ).

Back at their grandparents' house they played some games including this Angry Birds-esque Duplo contraption.

Part Moppet-part dinosaur caught up on sleep...

...while I read the Cars story to Squidge.

Moppet got the little anatomy dummy down off the shelf and wanted to keep taking the organs out and watch me put them back in again.

Sprout had a gaming session with a bit of CoD and a bit of Magic The Gathering.

Squidge and I played the board game our of his Moshi Monsters annual.

Sprout made a likeness of our cat on Toca Mini.

We played outside with Peppa and bikes and loom bands and impressions of frogs (the last one was mostly Moppet).

We did some plaster cast handprints and painted them.

Squidge did some balloon modelling.

Sprout spent some time setting up a Bakugan battle arena for him and Squidge and Gruff.

We had a trip to the Florette factory in Fradley courtesy of the Tesco schools healthy eating thingy (the official term for it) and it was FAB! They all designed their own salad and packaging...

Sprout won a prize for his (this is his crazy excited face).

This is Squidge's loom band salad where all the ingredients match his loom bands.

Sprout's meticulously designed bag.

Moppet's bits of green :)

And Squidge's, for which he was art director and I was head crayon-girl.

They all got a goodie bag (my fridge is now bulging with salad), and Moppet turned the headbands into a very fetching outfit :)

They had various friends round one day and did a lot of gaming, trampolining, water fights, skittles assault courses, and rocky road making.

On Saturday Green Door (you can find them here ) had a community event on at Central Forest Park. Squidge and Moppet started by making pebble monsters. 


Sprout whizzed up the climbing wall.

They all went on this ride, I was slightly dubious about Moppet going on even though she was keen, but she LOVED it, laughed her little socks off the whole time :D

Sprout made a smoothie with bike power :)

Squidge and Moppet made some musical shakers.

They all planted some herb seeds...

...and made their own hula hoops!

We ended the day with a Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 film night :)