Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hampton Saturday morning!

How many kids can you count..?!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Me maybe?

This is pretty good, except my glasses aren't green and my hair is almost always tied back. otherwise not bad...

Might need to work on the kids another night - but I've been wanting one of these for ages, only without the usual £2 charge (or more!)

I thought I'd copy Jan and do a little Caleb update too, as he hits 1 year old in the next couple of weeks!

So...He is already taking a few steps on his own and loves nothing better than to 'run' between two people. He crawls at rapid speed and is up the stairs in flash if he can get the chance! He says 'Eddy' - the name of a little shaky head man he plays with at nappy-change time and it's really the only consistent word he has. He understands masses I know - "no" and "splash" being very obvious examples :) He also loves to join in with any shouting that is happening in the house (in fun or otherwise) and I can see a very bossy streak creaping out as his personality develops. He is strong and fearless and pain is not an issue to him ( he gets so many little knocks from the others that it's just part of life). He didn't even murmur when he had his last DPT jab at 10 months, just looked a little affronted and then you could see him thinking "OK -so that's another thing that hurts - fair enough!" I think he will be difficult to stop once he's set about doing something. He plays beautifully with Ellie and there is a very strong and obvious bond between them. He is adored by all the others too, despite his loud crying at times! He now sleeps from 8 - 7 most nights and only occsionally wakes for a few sips of juice in the night. He eats pretty well - loves finger veges and with my new healthy diet gets a much more varied selection than any of the others did at his age. He is very funny at times and I think he will have a wicked sense of humour - if he copies Ellie he certainly will have - she is so witty! He is really cuddly and affectionate too. I guess I see him as a sort of Jacob type kid, but with a lot more cuddles, affection and need for approval built into him (Jacob never really wanted cuddles that much and still doesn't, only rarely - he'd rather go to bed on a high five!!), but hey - who can really tell just know.

I love watching my little ones develop into people, but they do it so fast! I really can't believe I am the mother of a 9 yr old techno-wise boy already, with only two more primary school years ahead of him and that my baby boy (Joel has always been my baby) is heading towards Junior years all too rapidly. He went to football with his mates tonight and scored a goal on his first time there! No need to say he wants to go again!! Another date for the weekly diary - it's getting hectic - we NEED to drive like NOW!

Abbie has her pre-primary ballet exam at the beginning of next month too - like I say - growing up too fast! She is doing really well in her swimming too - best in her class from her mother's perspective ;)

WOW - how's that two posts in one day and a bit of blog hopping - I think it's called avoiding what really needed to get done today, but then... there's always tomorrow! :)

What is it about Thursdays..?

Today is Friday and I feel OK, but yesterday was another feeling **** day , so what is it about Thursdays? Is it because I sych' myself for a four day week that half way through that day I shut down. I dunno, but I definately have done exactly that the last two weeks. Come lunch time I've had enough and the afternoon has been either stressful for no reason (last week), or nothing worthwhile (this week) - in fact this week I hit the sack for most of the afternoon! The babies went to bed, Phoebe crashed on the sofa and the two older ones played happily in the garden (within ear-shot) until P. got home. I told them to spend some time on Zoombinis, or such like , which I think they did, but I was all washed out and knew I would end up screaming at them unfairly should I try to attempt more schooling. Not that they complained of course! Last week I did try to do more school and we actually had quite a nice time looking at flowers and talking about what they are for (still doing that plant project you know - that's over a year it's spanned now, but each time we visit it we recall what we've already learned and the kids seem not to mind that it's so on-going - afterall plants ARE ongoing and now we have a gorgeous garden to observe so easily from our school room it's making it all the more enjoyable :) We were even able to watch the bees pollinating the irises the other day - climbing inside them and coming out with pollen on their hind legs and backs - fab!)

Other than naff Thurdays, school is going really well atm. Boo is coming on nicely with her reading now, although she still doesn't seem to realise just how much she can read and generally still asks the "what does that say?" question even when she could figure it for herself. With a little encouragement she will usually read something if you tell her that she can. Her maths is making good progress too. Miquon seems to be working well for us, but we are blending it with Singapore and that seems to work well. We used Miquon first to introduce the numbers 11-20, then switched into Singapore to learn how to write them. She still gets a bit stuck on 11,12 & 13, but the others she has sorted. I'm not sure how well she undrstands the concepts of tens and ones, but I do know that is re-covered later on in Singapore maths, and presumably in miquon too. We started on some basic addition with number lines (in Singapore) this week and she seemed to grasp that easily, so back to miquon after half term to reinforce that. I think the two are working well hand in hand for her and she seems to like both atm.

For Joel going back to basics has been a little boring at times, but in actual fact has made me see some very fundamental gaps in his knowledge - like the meaning of '=' ! Miquon has helped him see that you can write 7=7 and that makes sense, or 8 - 3 = 3 + 2 and that makes sense too! For him '=' was seen as the solution to the question, when in realitly that's not what it means and he could have come seriously unstuck later on with that thinking (like when he needs to understand algebra). When miquon presented him with 3 = 2+1 (instead of 2+1=3) he was a bit taken aback, but when it required him to fill in the blank (? = 8 + 4, or 12 = ? + 5) he was thrown! And so was I to see that he basically had missed the meaning of equals somewhere along the line! Anyway he seems to have it sussed now and had fun on Wednesday making up balancing sums of his own :) I'm hoping that understanding this BASIC concept will help some of the other stuff fall into place more easily now. Then we went onto fractions - Miquon first and the Singapore (which jumping forward a few chapters). I remembered tackling fractions with Jacob and it being a total nightmare - he simply didn't get it. I was approaching it with dread! But with the help of Miquon Joel has sailed through the whole concept with little difficulty at all in either Miquon or Singapore - he just got it immediatly :). He spent most of the time complaining it was "too easy!!" - great - get it done and we'll move on :)

After half term (Jake has two weeks so looks like we will have too) we're moving on to measuring - which should be more review and then area and time to the quarter hour -both of which are new ideas and we'll cover in both M and SIng'. When we've completed those we'll be finished Miquon Orange, so then I think we'll go back to Sing' for a bit and fill in the bits we've skipped past , but if it's too tough still we'll lay it aside and carry on with M. Yellow

At this point two years ago I was doing mock SATS with Jake, but Joel, although more ready in some ways, is simply NOT ready in others and has too many 'gaps' to take them yet. I might do them with him right at the end of the year, by which time I hope more of the gaps might be filled. I'm not sure why there seem to be so many gaps with Joel. Either heretains less information than Jacob did, or I haven't taught him the same stuff in the first place - I dunno. But maybe his learning is broader and simply a representation of our evolving style. We've gone from 100% textbooks a couple of years back to maybe 60% books and 40% project work this year. I think actually the project work is an entirely different way of learning that is actually more demanding on us all, but gives a greater sense of acheivement at the end of it and of course leaves a lasting resource to refer back to. I think we are likely to remain a fairly 60/40 family now - it seems to work this way and is mostly more enjoyable, even if it does make it harder to measure in real terms what has been learnt and is harder to keep a track of.

Only half a term left of this year now - this our fourth year of home-edding and we are so widly different from where we begun in some ways, and yet in others ways the path is not so unchanged. I am gradually finding some resources that work time and time again - Singapore maths & grammar and Jolly Phonics being my faithful three. Others we are still trialing with some degree of success, others I do not really want to revisit that much and need to replace with alternatives for Boo next year. I am pretty much sold on anything Singapore and they are relatively inexpensive too. I struggle more with American resources I have bought in the past - they seem simply too repeititive and 'dumbed down' too much of the time. The pace is too slow and therefore becomes 'boring' for my fast-paced kids. I want to find a way of teaching English that 'fires' their imaginations and is not too heavily dependent on an ability to draw well! Everything I find seems to be based around 'draw a nice picture of... and label it well, then write about what you have drawn and remember to describe things well..." (that kind of idea). I do understand the thinking behind that, but not everyone can draw what they picture in their minds (much less enjoy the drawing) and the drawing can simply cause the double the stress. For Jacob and for Joel the idea of writing was bad enough, but adding in a drawing challenge just doubled the trauma! I need something that pulls away from the draw-then-write idea - it doesn't work here! My children enjoy drawing under the guise of 'art' when they are recieving guidance from me and a book about 'how' to actually produce something to be proud of, but off the top of their heads it does not come easily and is not really something they will choose to do for fun, even in their own time. So next year Art is Art and English is English. I actually don't like segregating things so much, but my kids seems to cope better with it that way. Maybe we are just more of an 'in the box' family than I would ideally like us to be! I guess at the end of the day it is less stressful to accept who we are in reality, than to try and make us into something we simply are not! I shall be all too happy if one of my children decides to jump out though - I like a challenge and to try new things. I keep trying to get them to be more adventurous with their learning, but they keep pulling me back to the less creative ways of doing things :( Creativity in our house sadly seems to be reserved for playtime - why is that? And then it seldom involves pen and paper of any description. They most often play 'let's pretend' games, which are lovely and educational too in their own way I know, but can't really be part of our formal schooling. If I ask them to be creative in school time, for some reason they "can't' think of anything!" I guess, quite natuarally, it's hard to be creative 'on demand'!

I want to focus more on Science next year - that seems to be all too lacking and I think they would all (because Phoebe joins us next year too of course!!) like the hands-on aspect of that. And Music - I've bought "Tune In" from SGBox (more singapore supplies) and did an initial lesson the other day. We had great fun using our bodies and in-house instruments to re-create our own version of "Peter and the Wolf " :)

Enough school talk - if you're even still reading!

This week coming the boys are away on 'Energi camp' & Boo and Beef are going to their cousins for three nights. My Mum is keeping the wee ones and Paul and I have our first two night away KID FREE for 8 yrs!! We are staying in a hotel in Shrewsbury (first time ever in a nice hotel too!) and are SOOOO looking forward to it :)

Going now - I've talked too much and you must all be too bored. But at least you can't say I didn't blog!!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Feeling Pants!

Not blogged for a few days - been feeling pants! Bit down, dunno why. P’s came yesterday, so probably that. Grumpy at everyone today = shouty, screamy for no real reason - shut myself away for a bit in attempt to get some peace - no such luck in my house (even from my hubby!). Leaving it like that tonight - I’ll blog when I’m more chirpy!!

Here's a great pciture of Boo taken the other day thou - she just felt like playing i the rain - taking time out her way I guess!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Calling Katy and Merry...

I need both your email addresses - I lost them when my hubby converted to Outlook from OE (along with a few others!!) Katy - I'd like to know the password for your blog.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Moving on...

After a glorious weekend spent mainly in the garden - even catching the sun a little - mowing, pruning and trimming, today is thoroughly wet and dreary! Even so, I think my garden is beautiful and am so looking forward to tending it this summer. It is like a breath of fresh air - literally - after the grey concrete of our old 'school yard'. The rain has been good for Joel's rain gauge too - 30mls in the last 24 hours!

Joel started Singapore Maths 2B today and what I thought were basic fundamentals he seemed to struggle with - like two parts make a whole, therefore to find one part you have to subtract the other from the whole and to find the whole you have to add the two parts! Not quite sure what we've missed or where that basic stuff just didn't go in. He can often find the right answers, but I'm wondering how much is more by memorisation and luck than by actual calculation. Either that or he had a very off day,which might be the case as his weather project was a bit of a slog today too and that is supposed to be fun! It seems he really struggles to retain instructions from one session to the next, so often we have to revisit what to do each time.

His work on hurricanes today was a nightmare. I lost track of how many times he read the information and how many times I explained the concept to him, he simply could NOT tell me in his own words what a hurricane was or how it happened. He just couldn't remember anything. I'm hoping he was just having a tired, off-day and tomorrow will be better...

Abbie was ill last night. She is very susceptible to upset tummies and I'm not sure where this one has come from, but she has been asleep most of the day. Although I feel sorry for her it has given me chance to download and print off the miquon books ready for later in the week(thanks Katy for that website - fab - they even take PayPal!). It's a bit heavy on the old ink & paper printing off so many pages, but probably still cheaper than paying the postage from the US (especially as I refill my ink and buy my paper cheap in the works). The only pain is when the printer messes up the page numbers by pushing through two sheets at a time, so they are all out of order.

I'm really excited about doing Miquon. I think it's really going to 'freshen/lighten up' maths in our home. Maths has always seemed to be the 'heavy going' subject that causes the most battles (seconded only by any kind of writing!). I'm hoping that the explorative approach of Miquon might help a change in attitude towards maths and also cement the understanding of operations and formulas more fully. I'm not too bothered about rote learning (although I do see it has it's place for speed and ease), but to me the understanding of the 'how and why' is more important and the speed can come later as a product of the understanding. Singapore almost achieves that (it fully achieved it for Jacob), but somehow for Joel it hasn't quite hit the mark and I suspect Boo will be much the same. I think adding in Miquon will make the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place and the overall picture become much clearer (if you get my analogy). Who of you out there use Miquon (I know you do Jan) - how do you find it? Do you think it's going to do the trick for me and mine? Take a vote in my 'current poll' !

Do me a favour...

Katy put me onto this great site and if you all click THIS LINK I get credits to spend - so please click it lots and lots!!
Thanks :)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Meterioligist in the Making...

Joel is loving his weather project so far. He's looking at wind direction & speed and clouds on a daily basis. He's done a few experiments - making clouds (didn't work though :( ), making rain - see piccie, made a weather vain, assembled a anemometer (measures wind speed) and a rain gauge and is keeping a record of the weather for a week - or maybe more as this week has been pretty uneventful on the wind front!

He's basically doing it for an hour or so each day and supposedly unaided, but in reality...Well, he is only seven! But to make it even more brill we managed to get a fab science kit from 'The Works' this week - all about weather! £10 and it's got over 30 different activities included in it - including the anemometer :) (Apparently they have others too - electricity is one I know of, but others too. My friend picked mine up for me, but it's definatly worth a look at.) So with that to complement our WHSmiths weather projects leaflet we are very happy!

Joel also did very well in his end of book maths review - overall mark of 93%, so I was very pleased with him - looks like he is ready to move on afterall!

I got hold of a Miquon lab annotations book this week and thought I'd give that a go with Abbie, just to supplement her a bit, as I suspect she is not going to be a numbers whizz and it's been quite a struggle with Joel as points. I thought I could use miquon to help them both along actually. I need to get the workbooks now though, because I cheated this week and just enlarged the little ones in the teachers book to full size, just so we could trial it. It was a hit! Both Abbie and Phoebe loved it and really enjoyed playing with the rods. It was great the Phoebe could 'get it' too and she was persistent - didn't stop untill she had finished two sheets like her sister! I like the idea of 'playing' maths!