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Winter wonderful at home school.

IMG_20141129_015241Here are some ideas to brighten up those November days and lead into a very merry Christmas!

If like me, you are flagging a little and feeling a bit cooped up indoors here are a few ideas for cosy sessions indoors, and ones worth wrapping up for outdoors!

LITTLE ONES AND KEYSTAGE 1

  • choose some simple Christmas gifts to start working on. Lavender or mixed spice bags. Old jars and bottles filled with oil and flavoured with herbs for cooking, pipe cleaner snowflakes, I like the ones on  marthastewart.com
  • write your Xmas list for Santa. This could be handwritten or typed and you can encourage the use of lots of media and obviously glitter! At home school you have time to practise spelling, writing a letter in the right format, addressing the envelope etc. My son hates writing but zipped through this task in no time, writing it all himself because it was to Santa!!
  • create your own advent calendar. There are some really alternative versions to make out there, for example string a line across your kitchen and hang old but colourful socks up for each day, making the numbers to go on them, or buy cute baby socks and do likewise. Fill with a sweet for each day or make or find some very small gifts like a beautiful pebble from the seaside or a handrawn picture or bookmark, or a satsuma! I find that some form of visual countdown is a must to avoid the “how long is it until …” questions that will otherwise constantly interrupt your teaching time.
  • thread popcorn or cranberries to make chain decorations for the tree when it goes up or to hang around the fireplace
  • look at animals who hibernate and make 3D pictures of them, or complete a visual science or art project
  • have a winter treasure hunt in a local park or even the back garden, see my next post, or depending on where you live a wood or forest can be extra magical

KEYSTAGE 2 AND OLDER.

  • plant your own small xmas tree and make tiny decorations to go on it. These might be handdrawn and laminated the first year, as it is hard to find really tiny decorations! My son’s teacher gave one to every pupil in Year 3 and we still have it, re -potted several times, now. Every year we find bigger decorations and it is a good craft and social ed project. It reminds us of times and people past, changes and transitions.
  • make some winter crafts or early gifts for xmas which you can complete over several sessions whilst enjoying a cup of hot chocolate! I got lots of lovely ideas from hobbycraft.co.uk, christmaswow.com – great food, netmums.com and marthastewart.com. Make a driftwood Christmas Tree, pompom animals, snow globes etc
  • learn to knit or crochet
  • make hot chocolate like the Aztecs, (history) a hearty winter soup or a healthy smoothy (science and creative arts)
  • make bird feeders and look after the winter animals in the garden or nearby. Love the various homemade feeders on pinterest.com, and one for small spaces on inhabitat.com

Bluebird shot

  • as the nights are drawing in, find a friend with a good telescope and wrap up to go star gazing
  • take a trip to somewhere new by train or bus. Your child must check out timetables, fares, and ensure that you can get back at the right time. Then they should pack a backpack with everything that you will need and negotiate finding and paying for the transportation. This is great for our kids who need to build confidence going out and social skills, as well as doing some maths and geography. Choose somewhere with an interesting setting or history to study when you get there or good museum. Better still you can see some different Christmas lights and  enjoy  a mince pie while you are there!

Have a wonderful winter warm up!

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Holidays in school time!

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Wishing you were lying on a sandy beach right now?! We were doing just that at the end of October, and no we didn’t go at Half Term!  Even before we homeschooled our son we took him out of school in term time. Oh yes, we are demon parents who selfishly prioritise our belief in the benefit of a good holiday, when we can fit in leave, and how it will work given our special needs, ahead of the diktats of government!

What a relief then to be able to travel to Crete out of the school hols without criticism, having to write grovelling letters to the Headteacher, and run the gauntlet in the playground. Not to mention worrying about being fined when we got back.

How has this week worked out for us? Fantastically. We were able to choose flight times that would work well for us, when the airport would be quieter and travel to a resort out of high season, when it would not be too hot or too busy. On the flight there were no other children! just two very quiet babies. There were actually a lot of children at the hotel, but they were mostly German or Danish, which was a good experience for our son, and gave him the opportunity to socialise and play games if he wanted to.

We continued to read on holiday (under protest), but there was no formal learning. There was however, a heap of informal learning going on.Here is what I listed:

trying new foods

counting out in Euros

learning about more planes (got to visit the cockpit – thank you Ryan Air!)

being independent around the very safe and child centered resort

enjoying the sea and swimming every day

some history – WWII and the Venetian and Greek Empires

some geography – rocks, mountains, climate

some religion – Greek Orthodox and Christianity, visited a shrine to St George

even Greek dancing! (not his favourite thing!)

Actually for us this was the holiday we thought we might never have. Our last holiday, at the same time last year, turned into a disaster as our son was sick on day three and quite poorly. He is very anxious about being sick, and would not then leave the room again until we had to make him get on the airport transfer coach. It sent him into a spiral of depression and anxiety which has taken months to right. We feared he would never fly abroad again, as the journey back was so traumatic for him. However, as he began to get better, he began to ask about going away again and we began to make tentative, then firm plans. He began to be anxious as the day approached, but with the support that has now been built around him, he was able to get on the plane and then really enjoyed the flight – much more than I did as there was a lot of turbulence! But this did not bother him. He loved the hotel so much that he gave it 200/10 and wants to return next year.

After coming back we completed two related projects, one on Geography and another on Sense Of Place. We really valued the rest at a time when we benefitted from it the most, and came back with lots of energy.

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Fun with Fireworks!

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By the time our son was three it was very clear that he couldn’t do fireworks, as any loud or unexpected noises would send him into a panic, let alone the barrage that always seemed to go off just as we were trying to settle him at bedtime for what seemed like nights on end in November. However, we are really chuffed that aged 11 he can now attend fireworks displays (with headphones), and really gets excited and happy about choosing the ones we have at home. He is even planning on lighting some this year with his Dad. It has been a long road of gradually getting him used to the noise and big feelings he has, but very rewarding.

What seems to have worked is a combination of things. Gradually getting used to the sounds and smells, starting with sparkling candles, party poppers, balloons and  indoor fireworks. Then outside, actual sparklers and the quieter fireworks that you can buy from some supermarkets and retailers. Then starting to have a few louder fireworks.

As he is older he now understands that it is easy to confuse feelings of anger/fear/excitement and that sometimes we feel a mixture of these things. Sometimes when he was feeling excited, the big feeling overwhelmed him and he thought he should be afraid and felt unable to cope.

In the run up to Bonfire Night we also talk about fireworks and look at pictures on the computer, especially now You Tube. Our son is heavily into Minecraft and he will make his own displays on this. We also do some project work, and of course home schooling really supports this, so that this year we have already done some maths, written work and drawing on topic.

Here are some ideas which may be helpful for your guys.

At Key Stage 1, ages 4-8 approx

  • drawing fireworks pictures on black card with coloured chalks or pastels
  • making 3D pictures with pipecleaners, sweet wrappers, foil etc
  • writing in the air with sparklers
  • making a fireworks cake, like a marble cake with different colours in it, or using different colour icings and putting a cake sparkler on top. Popping candy is also excellent if you can find it.
  • finding out about festivals/special occasions where fireworks are used around the world

At Key Stage 2 plus, ages 9-11 approx.

  • find out how fireworks are made and the chemical reactions involved
  • sew a collage on felt with different colour and thickness of threads
  • how many nouns, verbs and adjectives can you use to describe a fantastic fireworks display?
  • calculate the best value box of fireworks from a selection
  • find out about the Gunpowder Plot. Write a story about this from the perspective of the King.

Finally, for those just not happy with fireworks, who shouldn’t have to miss out on a happy occasion how about celebrating your own festival of light,or Diwali? And there is nothing to stop you enjoying a bonfie and BBQ if the weather is kind, or enjoying hot chocolate with marshmallows inside if not.

Have a very Happy Bonfire Night.