Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mini-Skool ~ Part II

As promised ~ I thought I'd fill you all in on how our mini-skool is working, now that we have doing it for half a term already! The verdict from the kids is that it is brilliant (except that of course it is still school)! And the verdict from me is that it is BRILLIANT!!

The children get up and ready for school and can start whenever they are ready. For the girls this often means they are begun first as they are currently my early risers. Taz usually starts on the dot of 9 as he is my routine-fixed child. Bugs, well he gets up whenever the fancy takes him, but knows that the work must get done regardless and actually has been great at it (better than I expected). He sometimes tarries things over to Friday, but he still does them, so that's fine :D

I really can't believe how well this is working actually! 

Lilo is even good at coming and getting me to do her two-a-day with Mummy and then doing her other few things before she sidles off to play for the rest of the day (mostly).

DD comes and gets me when the mood takes him and I down-tools to work with him when he does. I'm fine with it like this at the minute for him, as he is really only ready for school on his terms. He is, despite that, learning really well :D. I could still use a workbox for him, but all too often he would say he didn't want to do whatever I put in it and disappear to avoid doing it! We actually seem to be achieving more with him deciding what and when to do things. These days I'm very much of the idea that 6-7 is a better age to start any (semi)structured learning ~ and he is not yet 5!

Stitch spends too much time of square screens, but I'm trying out the idea that maybe he will saturate himself and become bored enough to come looking for other things to do! I'm not convinced he will mind ~ it doesn't seem to happen in this house, especially with the boys! Meanwhile he is learning tonnes from the things he plays on, so it can't all be bad :D. Occasionally he will choose a tot-shelf activity and then either myself (if I am not working with anyone else) or one of the big-kids will down tools to play with him. These are nice times usually, but somehow I just think being a toddler is not a challenge to him! Everything I create he seems to do with ease and much as he enjoys the activity he doesn't often choose to repeat it. I'm struggling to think of things to stretch him whilst still keeping the activities appropriate to his age (iyswim). He doesn't much like pencil work so colouring is not an option. He isn't much into sticking either, though he will occasionally if he's in the mood. He likes painting sometimes and enjoys cutting, but these are not everyday activities here (neither would I want them to be!). All that said, he is happy and learning well enough, but I do often wish we lived near enough to a playgroup for him to be able to benefit from some time there ~ not so much for the social aspect (although I think he would enjoy that), but for the variety of resources he would be exposed to which I simply do not have the funds to buy (oh, I wish I did, but then I wouldn't have the space!).

Anyway ~ back to Mini-Skool. It basically is a glorified tick-box system that some of my friends are working with, but more visual (for my very visual kids). I like that it is adaptable for 6 to any age and much as I might need to make new tickets every now and then as subjects change, there really is very little work involved in maintaining the system.  Every now and then I throw out a worksheet or two (if I've noticed something needs more work doing on) and that is considered to be the ticket for whatever subject it fits with.  It is flexible, so on an 'off' day the kids can choose to do lots of crafts and reading and then just catch up on the academics on a day when their brain is working better! There is no 'dreading' of particular days because each day is the shape they choose it to be. The may still prefer not to do certain bits of work at all, but at least they can set to those when they are in the right frame of mind instead of just because it is next on their list/thing in the box. There seems to be plenty of fun and more craft happening and generally my 'school-room' (there's no getting away from it, that's what I have) is a happy place of positive learning, as opposed to the grumpy place of drudgery that it has been at times. There are still grumpy times, but they are much much fewer and further between than they were in the past :D

At LAST I think I have found something that works for us :D I have found a method of semi-structured-autonomy ~ if there is such a thing!! :D Admittedly the younger ones get most of the 'autonomy' side of things, but even the older ones have a good deal more say in their learning than ever they did before. Taz, for instance, HATES art with a passion. SO, I allow him to sit in only on the 'theory' part of the lesson and then he goes off to watch the Yesterday channel and chalks that up as History (partly because I've not really done any History with them this half term and he is more interested than the others in it ~ he likes a programme called 'World War 2's Greatest Battles' and I'm sure it is educational so I see no reason to not allow him ~ besides no-one else wants to learn about that!), or does his drum practice, or something else that only he does :D Bugs has his photography and Flickr account that are exclusive to his learning. Minnie does some sewing. TP hasn't found her 'thing' yet, neither has Lilo, but I'm sure they will soon enough and with this system there is room to accommodate individuality. Another great thing about this, is that it has made room in our lives for music :D!! I am now teaching guitar to Bugs and Minnie, and TP, Lilo and Taz are starting up piano. I don't play piano, but I do know 'how' it plays, so I can instruct them and Paul can polish them up :D Taz did start once before and his fingers seem to have remembered a fair bit, so I'm hoping he will get back to where he was pretty quick and move on. Lilo and TP are starting from scratch, but that's great :D It's so good to hear music (albeit hesitant, scratchy music) in my home everyday!

So ~ there you have it my self-review of my very own system. If you fancy giving it a try, just email me and I'll give you pointers, but at the end of the day I think we each have to find what works for us, our families and our kids. Trying out other people's methods is a great way to find our own! If I had never heard of, or tried Sue's Workbox System, I would never have come up with this and for that I am VERY grateful.

I haven't yet got around to re-utilising the workboxes, but I will. I have a plan...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bullet Points

Going to just post a bullet point blog to remind me where we are at so far since my last blog and what I need to expand on!
  • weeding and gardening at the weekend with girls ~ planting heather and bedding plants ~ discovering bugs and making ant farm with Taz (note to self remind Taz to feed ants)
  • group exercise/quiz in statements of 'fact and opinion' with interesting outcomes!
  • Stinky Face to DD ~ good vocabulary extension ~ repeat over this week and chat about words
  • I SPY with Stitch ~ lots of good labels to learn in this one and 'stories' to tell ~ want to get more of these :D
  • colour sorting sticker activity
  • DD learning "try to find a tri-angle" and going on a shape hunt.
  • DD spontaneously beginning to identify numbers (yippee!) ~ number hunt on the cards!
  • DD & Stitch on mini-shopping trip with Paul with an 'assignment' to find shapes and numbers! ~ came back with Milky Bars - well they are rectangular!! ;D
  • Lilo spontaneously attempting to 'spell' words out loud at the lunch table ~ discussed letters to form 'sh' and 'th' ~ difficulty still hearing 'th' as opposed to 'f'
  • Lilo doing really well with Ed-city :D and apparently finding it relatively easy, which is good as she is only working in reception level (she is technically Yr1).
  • DD doing well working with beginning sounds of words
  • wanting to order 'all about spelling' but postage expensive. If I can can bulk order for about 5 people they will reduce postage and send by ups ~ anyone else want in?!!
  • looking at FIAR again ~ seriously considering getting a package of this for the younger three. I think we would enjoy it :D

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tot-School & HE in general.

I thought it might be time for a HE catch-up. I never get round to this on a Sunday, but I'll link this in to the Tot-school Mr Linky when it is available :D

For my tot-school readers, this is not just a tot-school post, as that would be a little bit time consuming to do separately, so forgive my mention of my other children here too!

It's been busy around here these last two weeks or so, and I have actually convinced Stitch to come off the computer/wii every now and then too! With 7 children I unfortunately don't get chance to shoot every activity, but here is a flavour of life round here :D

There’s been quite a bit of playing outside thanks to the weather improving :D Stitch does get dressed sometimes, but other days he refuses ~ it’s a phase and I don’t have time to have a war over it! Here are the small boys learning to ‘share’ ~ they argue constantly over this car, despite both having Diddy cars!

DD still has stabilisers but he’s nearly ready to lose them :D

We spent some time outside potting out seeds one morning. DD is keen to see them grow :D He has been asking lots of questions about how things grow lately so I figured the best way was to actually do it. It’s been a really long time since we last did any ‘growing things’ but last time nothing lasted :( This time we have a real garden and permission to use it as we please, so I am hopeful ! :D

DD enjoyed this puzzle (60 pieces) ~ he’s pretty good at them and only needed minimal help from me. It was good to talk about times of day after we completed this.

Minnie working on some Comprehension work ~ she likes this book. I picked it up cheap in one of the local bargain shops ages ago, but no-one else liked it. The good thing about the children choosing which resources to use is that things like this are seeing the light of day :D

TP worked on Jump Ahead Yr3 for ages ~ completing the entomology section on bugs in one sitting :D She says she is going to go back to do all the reading about the different creatures.

Lilo was given this for Christmas so we made it together and she painted it. Sadly the second packet of Plaster of Paris went off too fast (I don’t think L mixed it fast enough) so I’m not sure if the other two little frames are going to ever set or not, as I had to add an excessive amount of water to pour it into the moulds.

She also did this puzzle ~ it was a bit hard for her as it contains a lot of blue and odd shaped pieces but once done it provided much conversation on and off through the rest of the day.

Another thing Lilo did this week was work on this ~ matching Upper and lower case letters. I was pleasantly surprised how many she knew :D I made a concertina folder game so she could play this over and over. I know DD will be keen to do this too, as he is working on 'what-goes-with-what' on the computer keyboard just now (all of his own idea).

Not posted in pictures, but Lilo also started Miquon Orange today. She seemed to enjoy it and I’m going to try and work it alongside MPH 1A as the beginning of that is well within her abilities at least. I don’t have the practice book, but I do have topic sheets so I’ll just use those for now or otherwise there will be too much paper work for her to enjoy it. She really seems to understand numbers. They don’t confuse her like letters do!

DD enjoyed cutting out a KITE ACTIVITY that I downloaded for a mini Spring project with the younger boys.

Stitch also joined in with the cutting and once I had helped him put his fingers in the scissors correctly he was away. Without any practice in between it is amazing how much improvement he has made with this skill compared to last time he tried it. When he put the scissors down he actually picked them up correctly on his own but put three fingers through the bigger hole (with his index finger on top) which, interestingly, seemed much easier for him and his cut was stronger for it. Great to let him find his own way with this. He was SO happy each time he cut a little bit off!

Stitch loved this
SPRING ACTIVITY ~ he loves matching things and is really good at it :D

I printed out extra sets of it so we could play matching pairs with it too. I think this was the first time Stitch had played pairs ~ he did really well and coped well with not winning too :D

Of course, you didn’t expect him to stay off the computer for long did you!

There have been quite a few other activities going on too. Today, for intance, I worked in a sticker book with DD, looking at letter sounds and getting him to think about beginning sounds. He is starting to be able to separate out the sounds a little and seems to actually have more of an affinity with letters than numbers (how different can children be!!). That said, I do think he is beginning to be able to label the numbers now ~ he’s better the less hard he thinks in fact!

I’m loving my new mini-skool system and I think the kids are too ~ there definitely seems to be a lot less nagging going on in my department and there seems to generally be a better feel to our days'; more relaxed and yet equally, if not more productive :D Some weeks the children have chosen to spill things over into Friday and I’m fine with that, it’s their choice, but they have to be clear that my working with them week ends of Thursday so that I have time to mark work and plan stuff for the littler ones on Friday and Saturday (as well as have some ME time and catch up on laundry and cleaning etc…) I’ll blog more about mini-skool another night in a separate post.

I think that’s enough for tonight :D

Monday, March 08, 2010

Just had to post today...

Today has been one of those days when I get to see my 'hands off' approach with my youngest three beginning to bear fruit. Admittedly I feel they all spend too much time on the computer, but I am the world's worst example in regards to thats, so..! But today I did manage to prize Stitch off Poissonrouge and he has a much more 'productive' day :D But it wasn't just him...
Here's a glimpse of today (warning ~ photo overload upcoming!);

I bought a new game in ToyRUs on Saturday that I'd had my eye on for a while. DD and Stitch both found it easy to play, but they also both enjoyed it VERY much ~ here's hoping it comes out lots :D It was good for DD to work on his shape names (he almost remembers them all) and for Stitch to work on both colours - although he pretty much gets them correct now - and shape names which are newish to him. He can match them up though :D The big girls were wanting to play along too ~ so that was fine by me! They really enjoy playing with the little ones at times.

Lilo is rapidly falling in love with rods and she worked well on this today :D

Then I introduced her to another new game I found on the net last night ~ she enjoyed it (despite her face in the next picture, which I included just because it's funny!) and it was an easy way to point out some sequence patterns to her. She continued with ease until she'd used up all the dominos :D

I spent a large chunk of my afternoon making THESE & THESE (if you click the links you can download them). They are based on a Melissa and Doug toy that I have also had my eye on for a while, but can't justify the expense of for only eight words and some wooden letters (that I already have), so I decided I could make them ~ and did. I'm really pleased with them, but more to the point DD is rapt! He even wanted to help me choose which words to make (he chose panda, and bear). I've made them double sided. The colour side co-ordinates with the wooden letters I have and will make it easier for Stitch to play with too, but DD can manage the B&W side with relative ease. It was good to see that he is beginning to be able to recognise some of the letter (thanks to Ed City and Starfall !) :D

but DD also had his own idea about how he wanted to use these! Autonomy at it's best :D He wouldn't go to bed until he'd had a go at this and it was a REALLY good idea ~ better than he knew in fact. He wanted to open up Tuxpaint and use the 'writing' tool to write the words. This of course meant he had to look carefully at each letter and then try to find it's matching capital on the keyboard. Some he could do, others he needed me to tell him, but I can see that within a quite short time he could make the links this way and have the added benefit of then knowing where the letters are on the keyboard. The reward of course was that when he hit the correct key he got to see the lowercase letter on screen - further reinforcing the links :D BUT there was more to this too - it was really helping him take his time to hear the letter sounds and hear how they work to make words. He can identify beginning sounds and has been able to for a while, but tonight he was getting to grips with middle and end sounds too, which are always much harder :D
School at bedtime is not the ideal I know, but I decided to play it his way and I was so glad I did :D

Friday, March 05, 2010

Snapshot of the Week

It's not been a particularly unusual week . Stitch continues his obsession with Wii Mario Cart and Poisson Rouge (PC) and at the moment pretty much refuses to take part in any activities that don't involve a screen, a mouse or a controller! I'm not sure how much of a problem it really is, but I'm hoping it will ride itself out and he will get bored soon enough ~ only he's a boy, so I'm not sure if it will... At not yet 3 I'm not sure I want to get into all out fights with him over it though, when there is so much else that matters more at the end of the day.
DD and Lilo have done very well at avoiding doing too much work this week, but I quite like when they disappear off and play together. I don't want to be stretching them too hard anyway atm. I've had Lilo do some very low-key reading work, just so she doesn't forget what she has already learnt while she is 'not' learning to read! Actually, I think when she decides it's time it really won't take her long, so I'm letting her take the lead on that one. She can read basic CVC words, she can find rhymes & she can find missing beginning, middle and end sounds of words. She is slowly cementing the remaining letter sounds that she is less sure of in her mind. The basic building blocks are all in place. I'm waiting for her to decide it's time to start building :D
This last couple of weeks Lilo has also decided that she loves cuisenaire rods and so we've been working with those a bit. I have some basic 'fun' cards that are really 'getting to know your rods' cards. We are working through those and she is enjoying them. 12/16 complete. I think when we are done I will print out Miquon Red and start on that ~ I can see Miquon being just her kind of thing. If I could afford Maths-U-See I would invest, but I already have nearly the whole Singapore scheme on my shelf and I don't want to start again with the cost buying new resources. Miquon is pretty cheap to do, and we have that too, so I will start there and when I think she is ready we will merge into Singapore slowly. That's worked for my other children and, although Lilo is quite different, I think as long as we keep it nice and hands-on she will be fine too. She definitely seems to 'get' numbers better than letters at the minute :D

The other highlight this week has been that the SUN has come out. This has meant the children rediscovering the trampoline (yeah), but spending excessive amounts of time outside on it, instead of doing any real work. Not that I really mind ~ they have had a whole winter of hard graft, it's time for some fresh air. One afternoon the girls did take the rug out and do their English on the front lawn - I like living here! I too was itching to spend some time outdoors, so Thursday late-morning I decided we would take an hour out to do a nature walk and draw what we could spot of the emerging signs of spring. Taz decided not to join us (he really does NOT enjoy art or drawing AT all) so I let him stay home. The others all came and we had fun, and stroked horses and enjoyed the sunshine :D I was particularly impressed with DD as he really tried hard to draw what he could find. This is a picture of him drawing the leaf he is pointing to :D

Lilo on the other hand was a lot more random and rushed, drawing pictures of piles of sand! She drew some blades of grass that were pretty standard kid-grass, so I encouraged her to look more closely as this particular grass had run to seed and was quite interesting up close. She did look and then improved her drawing quite significantly, but only one or two blades! She was much more interested in running around, but that's OK too ~ she had fun!

Taz has continued his little fixation with Airfix models this week and finished off am Army truck and built the body of a jet plane. He loves them and is all absorbed in them ~ squeezing as much modelling time as he can into his school week!

That's it I think ~ all else was pretty mundane this week - Oh! except that Taz possibly dislocated his thumb at scouts last night. He 'forgot' he wasn't on the trampoline whilst playing dodge-ball and threw himself on the ground - on his thumb! There was still too much swelling this morning for the hospital to be able to tell if anything is broken yet, but the X-ray he had 'seemed' clear - check up early next week.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Happy Birthday Tweetie Pie

I'm a bit late posting this up as TP turned eight on Saturday, but I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to go back in time a little, so here goes! :D
Newborn (well quite)


1st Birthday


2nd Birthday


3rd Birthday


4th Birthday


5th Birthday


6th Birthday


7th Birthday


8th Birthday

So, who is Tweetie Pie?

TP was my all day & all night screamer, who was sad and sore from the day she was born. She never kept her food down for long either (though she fed well and gained weight somehow). Eventually the H.V. advised me to get infant Gaviscon for her and almost overnight she was a different child. She began to smile and be much more peaceful in herself :D . Sadly, the Gaviscon also marked the end of my feeding her. As I was unable to express enough to mix it with, I introduced a 1oz bottle of formula to give it to her in just before each feed and within weeks she was refusing the breast. I only fed her for 9 months and I was sad about that, but she was a happy, growing bunny by then, so I was OK with it :D .

TP was my super-dribbler (just look at those first four years of pictures) ~ she was always snotty and sopping, no matter how hard I tried to keep her otherwise. Today we laugh at her 'soggy' photos and she is a real prim little miss! :D .

TP was my rolly-polly baby (so much she got nicknamed Beefie by her Dad!) - maybe it was the formula milk that did that, but now she is the daintiest, dolliest of all the girls ~ funny how that is!

TP was very late to speak. I don't think she said anything much before 2 years old and then her diction and language was slow to pick up, but these days she is up to speed and never stops chatting away like any other 8 year old. Maybe coincidentally she has also been my slowest to gain fluency with reading and writing, but she's getting there :D .

TP is my lovely, giggly, smiley, emotionally sensitive, little princess. She has always loved to dress up girly and I don't think there is a boyish bone in her body. That said, her best friend is quite a tomboy, couple that with having big & little brothers, she can most definitely hold her own amongst the boys. She loves her big brothers immensely and when they are not here she sometimes seems a little lost without them. Her bond to her big sister is even stronger ~ they are best, best friends and almost inseparable - I love that they are so close :D .

TP is a very caring little girl ~ she adores animals and says she'd like to work with them one day. She's also my fearless one! I think she'd be fantastic with animals! She is good at caring for her younger siblings too. BUT she has a wild side and a mean streak that get her into trouble at times. Much as this might seem a negative thing, I see it as something in her that can be moulded for good purpose.

TP is probably my shyest child and one who can happily sit unnoticed in a crowd, quietly in a corner, watching life happen around her. I see her wild streak as a strength in her - it's her way of not getting forgotten! Her meanness is not deliberate, it is simply her inability at this age to work things around without being trampled on, so she is mean instead.

TP is fun-loving and funny and generally incredibly sweet.

If you read this sweetheart ~ I love you! I am glad that God gave Minnie a soul-mate in you ~ we all need one! I'm glad you are part of the mix that makes this family what it is. I'm glad to see your sunny, smiling face every morning. Your name means 'radiant grace' ~ it fits you SO well, for that is what you exude :D. I'm glad of who you are and I am glad of who you will be in the future. I am OH, so glad God blessed US with YOU ~ our Little Princess! :D

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Penguin Lapbook

we finished (well almost) our Penguin Lapbook today. TP just has a few worksheets and a story to finish off, but otherwise here it is :D

Here's the links to what we used:-

  • A lot of the lapbook came directly from HERE
  • This was a fantastic source of information ~ this has all the worksheets, the craft and some other great activities in too :D
  • Some great links can be found here (including the little drawing instructions)
  • There are a few nice bits on penguins HERE (although I didn't use them in the end)
  • There are some nice downloadables HERE ~ including the label diagram
  • How penguins grow
  • Waddle and Hop model
  • And a whole bunch of goodies HERE ! ~ requires sign in.
Of course, to go alongside this we also read 'Mr Poppers Penguins' ~ a REALLY old book of mine (older than my mum!), with brittle old pages that have to be handled with real care. It's been lovely to read it again, but strange how I read so much more critically as an adult ~ has anyone else noticed all the idiosyncrasies in the book, things that just don't quite 'fit' the storyline? All the same, the kids and I have really enjoyed it none-the-less :D

Have lot of fun if you decide to do this ~ we did!! :D