Week of Home Ed – Secondary Two

So, continuing my tour of the boys’ home ed experiences (last week I wrote about Middly in Secondary One), this is what Eldest gets up to in a – relatively – typical week.

Last year Eldest was already Secondary age, and this is the sort of thing that he was doing in a typical week.

Eldest has always found it tricky to motivate himself. We’ve had a lot of up and downs with his school work over the last year. Sometimes I think that I’m not quite as encouraging as he needs me to be. Some days I panic that we’re running out of time to get the work done and he doesn’t seem to be taking it very seriously.

He is coping really well with groups these days, which is fantastic to see. I know that being around other children can be a bit stressful for Eldest, so I’m really proud of how well he copes with the many groups he attends.

Monday

An early start for Eldest. He got up at eight, made his own porridge, and got on with his work straight away. Aside from a few spelling mistakes, his Maths and English went very smoothly indeed, and I suggested he have a go at writing neatly while he did his Biology.

After finishing all his work, Eldest read a Terry Pratchett book for a while. When he lost interest in reading, Eldest got into a fight with Youngest, so I sent him out to check on his rabbit.

Eldest made chocolate milkshakes for himself and his brothers. Then we sat down to do History.

Eldest has been joining in with Youngest’s history lesson, it’s been really lovely doing this together. A part of me has regretted not trying the Charlotte Mason style of Home Ed earlier, but I think we needed time to get to a point where Eldest could cope with listening to me. I don’t think we would manage more than one lesson a week styled like this. Practising retelling stories in his own word is really good for Eldest.

I read a chapter of ‘Story of the World’, and all the boys had a go at retelling the story in four sentences. Then Eldest did a wordsearch puzzle. All the boys decorated an old shirt to make a technicolour coat. 

Eldest helped tidy away the art supplies and unstacked the dishwasher. He checked on his rabbit and played with him for  a few minutes. Thenplayed ‘Viva Pinata’ on the X-box until lunchtime.

After lunch, Eldest was at a bit of a loose end, so I suggested he thought of a project to occupy himself. He wasn’t keen, and started bickering with Youngest. I said that, if he couldn’t think of a project for himself, then I would choose one for him. He decided to build a rocket out of Lego.

Eldest played FIFA on the Xbox with Middly, for half an hour. Then I said there’d been enough computer games for one day. 

Eldest and Middly struggled to find anything to do. They wandered around the garden, clubhouse and living room without really settling on any activity. Eldest finds it very hard to occupy himself. I got fed up with them asking for more computer time and sent them to weed the vegetable bed at the end of the garden.

Tuesday

Eldest rolled downstairs at half nine this morning, had breakfast and made a start on his work. He finished his Chemistry before we left.

Our fortnightly home ed roller skating meet up was this morning. Eldest saw some friends immediately and went off to skate with them. He and a friend helped Youngest skate for a bit. He bought some sweets at the café and joined in with several skating games. After the session finished, we went on to a nearby park. Eldest ate his lunch and played with his friends. Back home, he got on with his school work.

He was a bit cross with his maths and became very angry when I tried to help. Middly managed to explain the exercise, though, and Eldest calmed down. I was pleased he got through it, but a bit sad that he’d rather have Middly’s help than mine.

We took a snack break. Then Eldest got his work finished. He read for a while in his room.

Eldest has a tennis coaching session on Tuesday evenings. It’s a bit too far to drop him off, so I sat in the car park and watched. He played well and made a lot of effort all the way through.

When we got home, Eldest helped Youngest to put away the Lego. Then he watched ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ until tea time.

Wednesday

Eldest came downstairs a little after nine and made himself breakfast. He needed a bit of help with Chemistry and Maths, but it went smoothly. English went well. He checked on his rabbit and moved the branches around the run to stop Blizzard getting bored. Then Eldest read in his room for a while.

He came downstairs when I made him a snack of peanut butter toast and chocolate milkshake.

After snack time, Eldest spent some time building with his K’NEX set.

We all play tennis with fellow home ed families on alternate Wednesdays. Eldest and Middly play with the other older children. We arrived a bit early, so Eldest organised a warm up game while they waited for the coach. I didn’t see much of him during the session, because I was distracted by helping Youngest. But, he seemed to enjoy himself. After the session, we all had cakes and sang happy birthday, because it was one of Eldest’s friends’ birthday today. Eldest chatted to his friends for a bit, then we all came home.

Back home, Eldest emptied the dishwasher and put away the dishes, then he and Middly played on their phones together for a little while.

Then Eldest took a book out to read in the clubhouse. 

He came back for another snack. Then took Middly out with him to play table tennis. 

After that, he watched the rest of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’.

Thursday

After breakfast, Eldest made a start on his school work. Then we had to get going for our Home Ed Gym, Soft play and Swimming meet up. This happens once a month. Eldest played badminton and football with Middly and some friends. Then they all swam, dived for seal toys, and jumped in the pool. 

My husband came to the meet up with us this week, which made it a special occasion. So we stopped off at Giraffe for a late lunch on the way home. We played eye-spy while we waited for our food. Eldest had a burger, chips and lemonade.

When we got home, he carried on with his book work. It went smoothly today.

When he was finished, he played on his phone for a little while. Then Eldest went out with my husband to pick up a new pane of glass to fix a window.

He played on his bike until tea time.

Eldest goes to Scouts on Thursday evenings. He’s switched very smoothly from one troop to another since the house move. I’m really pleased with how well he’s coped and how friendly and supportive both troops have been. They met up a little earlier than usual this week as they were going on a night hike. He went out straight after tea.

He fell asleep reading a book, which was rather sweet. I turned off his light when I came up to bed.

Friday

We use Fridays to catch up on any school work that didn’t get done during the rest of the week. This week, Eldest is on top of his school work.

He played on his bike this morning, then ate a banana before we went out.

We go to a weekly home ed sports club on Friday mornings. This week the boys played Pacman and Tag-Rugby. Eldest played with a lot of energy.  Afterwards, he played with friends at the park and ate crisps.

We got back home for a late lunch. Then Eldest cleaned the downstairs bathroom. Since the boys are at home all week, I think it’s really important that they join in with the regular cleaning jobs. Eldest is not at all keen, but he did it anyway.

He played on his phone for a while. Then had some biscuits. After that, I set up Continents Twister for all the boys. First they played with all the names visible, then I covered the names of the continents up for a few more rounds. Obviously, Eldest knows all the Continents, but it was good for him to play with his brothers.

The boys played in the garden for a bit, and I set up a physics experiment in the kitchen. We didn’t fit in a science practical yesterday, so we experimented with the extension of springs under different amounts of force today. My husband wandered in towards the end and helped the boys display their results on a graph.

Eldest harvested some spinach from his vegetable bed for tea.

Then he watched ‘Johnny English Reborn’ while it cooked.

Reflections

Eldest is not a keen scholar. I think he dislikes the vulnerability of being taught. I try to keep a hands-off approach as much as possible, but sometimes he needs help and we have to try to get through those moments together.

These are Eldest’s current text books:

He has moved on since last year in all his subjects, and has pretty much caught up with his school year. That’s pretty fantastic. I am worried about how he’ll cope with the greater concentration required for GCSE level work. I think we may prune his studies further, dropping History and Geography to give him more time for Maths, English and Science. At the moment, his plans are still to sit GCSEs and A-levels, so I will do what I can to equip him for that level of study.

This is what I have seen him reading this week:

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A Week of Home Ed – Secondary One

I have two children of Secondary School age now! I’ve decided to bog a week in the lives of each of my boys, last week I blogged about Youngest and this week it’s Middly’s turn.

This is what he was up to last year.

Since last year, Middly’s made steady progress. He’s a hard worker, though he does need to go over things a few times before they’re fixed in his mind. We’re all very proud of how well he’s doing with his school work. He’s become much better at occupying himself over the last year, and is starting to develop a few independant hobbies, which is fantastic to see!

Where we live now, a lot of our home ed groups are fortnightly. So we have a busy week followed by a quiet week. This week happens to be a quiet week. Quiet weeks aren’t always easy for Middly who loves to be around other children, but he has a couple of evening clubs a week, which helps to top up his social life!

Monday

Middly wakes early. This morning, he came to find us about six, we sent him back to bed, and he read for a while.

When I got up, he was already dressed, and came downstairs with me to have breakfast.

He made a start on his Chemistry, which was following on from some work on ionic compounds that he began last week. Unfortunately, Middly had completely forgotten everything he learnt last week. I offered to go over it with him, but he was really upset about struggling to understand his work, so in the end, I suggested he took a break instead. He went back upstairs and read for a while.

We had to leave quite early because we were meeting a group of other home educators at Dinosaur Adventure. Middly sat in the front and operated the CD player on the way there.

What Middly did at the dinosaur park:

  • Lots of climbing on the adventure playground. Middly climbed to the top of everything and waved down.

  • Dinosaur trail. Middly was pleased to find a set of bongos to play on.

  • ‘Fossil digging’ in a big sand tray. Middly spent ages carefully uncovering a model pterosaur skeleton and talking to some younger children about it.

  • Soft play. He was thrilled with the fast drop slide.

  • Another Dino trail.

  • Enjoyed looking around the farm park, especially the rats.

  • Held a hissing cockroach and a millipede. Chatted to the animal handler.

  • Showed Youngest how to use a digger toy.

  • Played tag in soft play with Eldest.

  • Showed Youngest and other little ones how to balance on the rotating beam in soft play.
  • Bought a cuddly dinosaur using his pocket money.

After all that running and climbing, Middly slept on the journey home.

When we got back, Middly ate a big bowl of popcorn and asked me to help him with his Chemistry. We read through the work together and did one of the questions together. Then he was able to complete the rest of his work.

He had no trouble with his grammar exercise, but needed a few pointers on his maths.

When he’d finished his book work, Middly went outside to play on his bike.

After a while, he came back inside and read some of his library books. He played a bit on his phone before tea.

Tuesday

Another early start for Middly! He got his English done without trouble, planning a piece of writing, which he’ll finish next week.

He found his Biology a bit tricky, though. He took a break, had breakfast in his room and read for a bit to calm down.

Middly has been joining in with Youngest’s history lesson which I wrote a bit about last week. Usually, we do History on Mondays, but we had our big trip this Monday, so we did History on Tuesday instead. I thought this might be a good way to get him back downstairs.

So we read a chapter from the Story of the World together, looked at some maps, then Middly did a wordsearch and had a go at making a seal out of clay.

Middly was feeling much better after History. He finished his maths, and was able to let me help him get his Biology done.

Then he tried to join Youngest’s game with toy dinosaurs. He was a bit over excited, and the game went wrong. So, I suggested he went outside to jump on the trampoline.

After a while, he came back, calmer, and helped me make toast and vegetable sticks for lunch.

After lunch, Middly played with his rats. He’d made them a ball of ice, by freezing water in a balloon. The rats showed very little interest, so we added a pile of paper for them to explore as well.

After we put the rats away, Middly used salt and food colouring to make ice globes, like Youngest did last week.

We met some family for a walk and play. Middly had ice cream, played Pokemon Go, did a lot of climbing, and showed off his photos of his rats.

Middly has started attending a local youth group on Tuesday evenings. I was so proud of him on the first week, when he strode in confidently, even though he didn’t know a single child there. Middly is incredibly good at making friends. I really admire that about him. This is his fourth week and he has made a few friends now. We were a bit late this week, because of the family trip, but he was eager to go anyway. He had a good time, apparently they had milkshakes and pizza this week.

Wednesday

Middly played with toy cars in his room until the rest of us were ready to get up. Then he read a library book for a while, until I suggested he made a start on his school work.

It went well this morning. He asked me a few questions, but coped well with needing help and finished it all by half ten. I don’t know why this morning went so smoothly, while other days this week have been trickier. If I knew why Middly sometimes finds asking for help hard, I’d be able to do something about it.

After he’d finished, Middly played on his phone for a bit. He had a snack and began to fight with Youngest, so I sent him out to play in the garden.

After a while, he fell off his bike and grazed his knee. Then he read library books for a while.

When Eldest finished his work, he and Middly ran down to their clubhouse at the end of the garden to play table tennis until lunchtime.

After lunch, Middly read library books for a bit. I played ‘Da Vinci Code, The Game‘ with him (which a logic game about working out numbered tiles, nothing to do with the Dan Brown books). Then we went to the library to choose new books. I recommended that he try ‘The Queen and I’ by Sue Townsend, hopefully he’ll find it funny!

When we got back, Middly made Horlicks for himself and his brothers. After snack time, he emptied the dishwasher and put everything away.

Then Middly and Eldest played with the rats and fed them grapes.

After we put the rats away, Middly went back into the garden to play on the trampoline.

I wasn’t feeling very well, so Middly tucked me up on the sofa with a blanket and helped my husband to make Red Dragon Pie (it’s a family recipe: bean chili with mashed potato on top) for tea.

We watched Lego Masters together. I try to keep TV watching to a couple of evenings a week, but it’s a very easy way to spend some fun time together as a family.

Thursday

Middly got up, ate breakfast and began his school work bright and early. He got rather frustrated when my husband tried to help with his Geography, and went upstairs to cool off.

He read in his room for a few minutes, then came back to have another go.

We had a bit of a chat about his History. He was looking at ‘Summer is a cummin in’, so I played him some Medieval style musicians singing the song. Then he finished his work.

Last night I found The Mighty Skink for Middly. He was looking at the opening passages of it in his English work yesterday, so he enjoyed reading it today. 

When I bought the Aiming for Progress in Reading set of text books, I went through them and got copies of the books that they use so that the boys could read them alongside their work. It’s been a fun addition to their English and introduced us to books that we wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

To help with his science studies, I am trying to do a practical experiment with Middly once a week. Some of the experiments require specialist equipment or chemicals. So I’m doing the practicals when I get what we need, which means that the practicals are out of step with the book work. This week’s Chemistry practical is actually from a lesson Middly did a couple of weeks ago. It’s a bit of a recap for him.

We did an experiment to test how well washing-up liquid and egg yolk fair as emulsifiers for oil and vinegar.

Then Middly made guacamole to go with our salad for lunch.

After lunch, Middly played on his bike for a while. When he came back into the house, I set up the table to try out using the seals that the boys made earlier in the week. We attempted to stamp them in paint, clay and wax. None of the impressions were as clear as we’d hoped, but Middly enjoyed using the wax anyway.

Middly helped clear up our project. Then he and Eldest went outside to play on the trampoline. When they got hungry, they came back inside for a snack. Middly played with his rats.

After putting the rats away, Middly played with Lego alongside both of his brothers.

He helped me to make sausage and mash for tea, and played on his phone while it cooked. After tea, he went out to his church youth group. Middly goes to this club every Thursday. There’s a short time of worship, a craft, and a bit of general hanging out time. Middly made friends there the first week and has been enjoying it.

Friday

Usually, Middly doesn’t have any book work to do, since we use this day for catching up unfinished work, and he is normally on top of all his work. So this morning he read library books for a while, then went outside to play on the trampoline.

We have a weekly home ed sports group. Middly loves it. There are quite a few children his age, and they get on really well. The teacher strikes a nice balance between trying hard and giving everyone a touch of the ball, and the group has a lovely atmosphere. This week Middly played Pacman, then Diamond cricket. Afterwards we went to the park and Middly had a snack and helped organise a game of Capture the Flag.
We came home for a late lunch, then Middly unstacked the dishwasher and put the dishes away. Then he read this week’s First News.

We try to get a bit of housework done on Fridays. This week we worked on the living room, Middly helped put away all the stuff that got under the sofas and ran the hoover around.

Middly joined in with Youngest’s Geography lesson. I read Clothes around the World and the boys put together a simple puzzle and added velcro pictures of children. 

Then Middly tried his hand at designing a hat for people living in Canada.

Middly played on his phone for a while. Then he helped prepare vegetables for tea.

Reflections

We don’t expect a vast amount of book work from the boys, about three pages a day. I am very aware that Middly would be doing a lot more written work if he were at school. He is on track with his learning, however, so I am not worried about the amount of work he produces. We spread the work over a lot more days, since we take shorter holidays than schools do.

These are the books that Middly is currently using. His Science and Maths are slightly ahead of his English skills at the moment.

I am a bit more concerned about Middly’s handwriting. He can write neatly if he really focuses on it, but he doesn’t usually bother. I think that the more he writes messily, the more fixed the habit will become. We’re trying to encourage him to practice his handwriting at the moment, but, if it doesn’t start to improve, I’m thinking of trying Speed Up.

A lot of the text books are the same as they were last year. These longer text books can take a while to finish.

Middly is usually very willing to help out around the house, and does a couple of chores most days. 

All the boys read a lot. These are the books that I’ve seen Middly reading this week:

Library books:

I allow a relatively free choice of library books, only stopping the boys from reading adult novels with a lot of violence or sex. Middly’s pretty happy to take my word for it that some books are too unpleasant for him. He seems to think that I reject books because of lots of fighting. The fact that he can’t imagine the graphic scenes I might want to protect him from, assures me that he still benefits from that protection.

Home books:

What does a home educator do all day?

I’ve recently shared what my children’s days look like. So, I thought it would be interesting to follow up with a post on what it is that I do all day.

Monday

I got up to find my husband was already up with the kids (hooray). I looked in on Middly, who was hard at work and Eldest, who was reading in bed. Then I went downstairs. I admired Youngest’s duplo themepark, then made myself a cup of tea.
I took Youngest upstairs to get dressed. When I came back, my husband had made me toast. I ate that whilst reading my book.

Middly showed me his Minecraft house and I made vaguely approving noises. I dropped in on Eldest and encouraged him to consider getting up. 

I did some laundry. Youngest read his reading book to me. I helped Middly make his breakfast. I gathered some books that explained how batteries worked. I gave the books to Middly to help him write this week’s Science Club newsletter.

Youngest found his Songbirds workbook and I helped him do a few pages in that, occasionally spelling words for Middly.

I went upstairs to check on Eldest, then ran back down to break up a fight between Middly and Youngest.

I had a quick chat with my husband about work stuff (interrupted a couple of times to help Middly with the computer and Youngest with his drawing). Then I made salad for lunch.

We ate lunch together. Then my husband helped me get shoes and sweaters on all the children. I drove to the library.

I returned last week’s library books. I read your books to Youngest and discussed which books the older two were taking out. I helped Youngest take out his library books.

We had a walk in the park, then I drove back home and made the children a snack, and drank a cup of tea. I helped Eldest with his crystal growing project.

While all the boys were occupied with library books, I snuck in ten minutes quiet time. I used to have a regular routine, but these days it feels more like snatching tiny bits of unoccupied time.

I drove Eldest and Middly to my brother’s house and left them there to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Back home, I made brownies with Youngest. Then I read to him.

Then my husband and I took Youngest to the park for a play before we picked up the older boys.

Back home, I made nut roast for tea. I watched Harry Hill’s Tea Time with the boys. Then we all ate tea together. Eldest finished a workbook book today, so we made a fuss, and celebrated with brownies for pudding.

I sorted out the boys’ work for tomorrow and made sure that they have everything they’ll need. Then I watched TV and sorted laundry.

Tuesday

My husband brought me a cup of tea in bed this morning. 😊

I played a game with Youngest, which mainly involved pretending to sleep, so that was easy.

I helped Middly with his Punctuation work. Then I managed to read a bit of my book while I ate breakfast. I got Youngest dressed, then I helped Middly with some Biology that he was finding tricky.

Stopped in to discuss work  my husband.

Youngest turned on the PC and announced that he was going to type this own newsletter. So, I opened a new document and showed him how the return key and space-bar work.

I put on a pot of coffee. Then Middly asked for help with a maths puzzle. I gave him a clue to help him figure it out.

Youngest wanted to print his newsletter, so I showed him how to do that (I’m hoping that I don’t live to regret teaching him how to print, he goes through quite a lot of paper already). Middly showed me that he’s solved the maths puzzle, and I was suitably impressed.

I put on laundry and made pasta for lunch, then listened to Youngest read while lunch cooked.

After lunch, Middly and I messed around with multimeters, nails and LEDs, trying to finalise plans for tomorrow’s Science Club.

Middly got bored, but my husband came down and had a look with me. 

Then I drove Middly to his swimming lesson. While he swam, I read books to Youngest. Then I pretended to understand the swimming teacher’s tips about Middly’s technique (I can swim, but I am not at all polished, so Middly is already far better than me). As we drove home, I handed out snacks and told Middly all that his teacher had said and it made sense to Middly, so that was good.

Back home, I put on the TV then finished Science Club prep on my laptop. Finally, I sorted out the boys’ work for tomorrow.

Wednesday

Read to Youngest, watched Middly do a ‘play’ with Lego. Helped Eldest make a crossword using a website. 

My husband took the boys to McDonald’s for lunch, and I met them at Science Club. I talked a bit about atoms, electricity and acids. Then I handed out experiment sheets and the children made simple batteries out of water and cola. I walked around troubleshooting experiments and occasionally dragging Youngest out from under the tables. I talked more about how the cells worked, and challenged the older children to connect their cells up to make batteries that could power an LED. I sorted out a few troublesome experiments and stopped Middly drinking all the cola. I talked about static electricity and did a demo with a balloon and tissue paper. Then I admired the children’s static electricity works of art. Then I tidied the room, put all my equipment in the car and went to the park.

One of my favourite things about Science Club is getting a chance to chat to other home educators. It’s immensely reassuring and a lot of fun. I really love the group of people I see at Science Club.

My husband met up with us again and we went to visit my family. I drank tea, ate cake and talked nonsense.

Then we came home. My husband and I made a curry together. After tea, Eldest went out, and I baked a cake with Middly. 

Before bed, I found Youngest’s missing Ninja Turtles. 

Thursday

Got up early today, admired Middly’s magic tricks and made breakfast.

Then we went to Chessington Amusement Park for the day. I went on rides, took photos, and generally had a fantastic time. When we arrive at big places like this, I insist that everyone picks one ‘must do’ activity. Then I can be sure that we do at least one thing to please each of us. In the event, the queues were very short and it was easy to fit everything in. I chose a zoo ride that we could all go on together.

Eldest and Middly loved the big rides. Youngest was particularly excited by the baby monkey.

We came home very late and I carried a sleeping Youngest to bed.

Friday

Unsurprisingly, we got up late today.

Played Lego with a droopy Youngest. He had a bit of a temperature. I gave him some medicine and asked my husband to look after him when I took the older two out. I don’t often get the option of leaving a slightly unwell child at home, I was very glad of it today.

Helped Middly make a model train. Made a picnic for those of us going out and sorted out lunch for those staying home.

Took the big boys to a park. We met up with a group of friends. I am blessed to have a wonderful group of home ed friends, and one of them organised an archery lesson for the children today. I watched the archery, and even had a bit of a go, myself. 

We are our picnic together and went for a walk in the woods. 

Some of our friends came back to our house. I made coffee for the grownups and snacks for everyone. I supervised Middly and his friend, playing with the rats. 

I reminded Eldest about his tennis lesson and found his racket for him.

Middly, his friend expressed an interest starting a drama group. My friend and I talked about how we could get this sorted out for them. While I chatted, Youngest snuggled up on my lap and went to sleep.

My husband and I made tea together again. Over tea, Eldest said that he would like to start a family book club. We discussed that. He’s already selected a book, Cogheart, so we agreed to read that as a bedtime story, so that everyone will know it.

Saturday

My husband took the boys out for a treasure hunt. We’ve used Treasure Trails several times now. They’re a fun addition to a long walk and can liven up an area we already know.

I did the ironing, treated myself to a ready meal for lunch and finally got a few hours of writing done.

I feel like I ought to praise my husband for taking the boys out. He does this roughly every other weekend, and I do appreciate it. But, honestly, I don’t think that I could cope without these breaks. Having a day to work on my own projects is vital to me.

Sunday

This is our family day. Church in the morning, an easy lunch, then board games. We played Q-bitz and Brain Box games this week.

Our board game sessions are rarely entirely peaceful, but I think that they’re worthwhile.


Thoughts

This week, my husband was around a lot. He didn’t visit clients’ sites, so we saw a lot of him, which made this a very good week!

Looking back over what I do all day, I’m still not sure! I seem to spend a lot of time providing an audience for the boys. Youngest still does reading and writing next to me, but the older two are more independent. My main role in their learning seems to be planning and providing activities, then celebrating when they’re done. I find the emotional and behavioural stuff the most draining. Breaking up squabbles, soothing tantrums and trying to encourage politeness is an endless loop. I don’t think that’s exclusive to home educators, though!

Books

Like my boys, I usually have a few books on the go. At the moment, I’m reading Robin Hobb novels for escapist fiction, Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History for non-fiction and  An Introduction to Elementary Logic to challenge myself.

Science Club: Smoothies and Healthy Eating

Our second science club was all about healthy eating and the children made smoothies.
image

Smoothie Week

Arrival Craft:

Balanced diet mobiles. 

I drew pictures of dairy foods, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, and cereals and potatoes. I gave the children some pictures to colour and plates to make simple mobiles.

I gave the younger children one picture from each food group. I gave the older chlidren three pictures from each food group and asked them to sort the pictures into food groups.

The children hung the foods that belonged to the same type together on wool from their paper plates to create a model of a balanced diet (tip: a metal skewer is a really quick and easy way to poke holes in paper plates).

foodpictures

Introduction:

What food groups do we need to eat in order to have a balanced diet? (fruit and veg., meat and fish, dairy, bread and cereals and potatoes, fatty and sugary)

How much fruit should we eat? (UK gov. recommend five portions of fruit and veg. a day, of which a maximum of 1 can be juice, and at least 3 should be veg.)

What is a portion? (for adults 80g fresh or 30g dried; for kids, suggested rule is one handful equals one portion)

Why is fruit good for you? (contains sugar, fibre, vitamins and minerals)

Guess which vitamins each of our fruits contains: stick the vitamins onto the right parts of the body. A (hair and teeth)- Carrot, B1 (heart) – Orange & Pineapple, B2 (growing) – Banana, B5 (digestive system) – Raspberries, B6 (immune system)- Banana & Pineapple, B9 (brain) – Orange, Pineapple & Raspberries, C (bones & teeth) – Orange & Pineapple, E (skin) – Raspberries, K (blood and bones) – Raspberries & Carrots.
Middly helped me draw a picture of a person for this. Then I drew pictures of raspberries, carrots, pineapple, orange and banana on post it notes. As I told the children different parts of the body that these fruits and vegetable were used in, they took it in turns to stick the post its onto the big picture.

Individual Task:

Plan and make your own smoothie.

Bigger children colour fruit pictures, or write words to make their recipe. Here are the recipe sheets for the children to fill in: YourSmoothieRecipe

Biggest children work out the percentages of each fruit in their smoothie to write an accurate recipe.

Gather Together for the Conclusion:

How does your smoothie taste?

Did you look at the fruits as you were mixing them up?

How are they different from each other? (colours, sizes, shapes)

What do all the fruits have in common? (all have seeds, many have skin or rind, all have a fleshy part that can be eaten)

Taste some unusual fruits (just see what we can get hold of); vote on favourites and make a bar chart on the whiteboard.

Break for drink and snack

Optional Extension:

Fruit and parts of fruit colouring sheets.

Cut and stick food pyramids.

Look at a selection of smoothie adverts (I collected catalogues and advertising leaflets to take along, and asked other parents to bring some too) and make an advert for your own smoothie. MakingaPersuasiveSmoothieAdvert

Science Club – Buoyancy

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With a couple of friends, I’ve started to run a weekly Science Club for home educated children. Our children range from one to eleven, so I try to put together activities that are interesting and challenging for all ages.

We’ve been running for ten weeks now, and I’ve finally got around to putting together a post about it. I thought it might be worth making available the plans that I’ve made and some of the visual aids I’ve been using, in case someone else could make some use of them.

I’m having a lot of fun running the group and preparing the sessions, and I think that I’m getting better at it!

Our first week was all about floating and sinking.

Here’s the plan I was working from:

Introduction:

Floatation Experiment: what will float?

First we make predictions: look at the sheet, tick the items that you think will float.

I made a sheet with drawings of the objects we were testing, so that pre-readers could also join in (you can see the sheets here: BuoyancySheets).

Then we test our predictions, and record our results: put each item in the water, see if they float, circle the items that float, on your sheet.

Finally we make our conclusion: did any items surprise us? What do all the floating items have in common?

Things float because they weigh less than the water that they displace. We can work out in advance whether or not something will float by calculating its density. A ball of plasticine will sink. But a plasticine boat will float.

Individual Task:

Each child can make their own boat out of plasticine.

Bigger children can draw their boat and predict how many pennies it will hold before it sinks.

Biggest children can calculate the density of their boat, then predict how many pennies it will hold before it sinks.

Gather Together for the Conclusion:

We can test all the boats and see how many pennies they hold before they sink.

We’ve looked at solid objects, so far, but what happens when you pour a liquid on top of water? Some liquids sink and some liquids float.

Density tower demonstration.

This was the most unsuccessful part of the session. The children got bored as I slowly added washing-up liquid to water and milk to that. They weren’t as impressed by the visual effect as I had hoped. In later weeks I’ve cut down on demonstrations!

Paper clips sink, but they can ‘sit’ on top of the water using surface tension. Some small animals can exploit surface tension to run across water, like pond skaters. If you like, you can try and make a pond skater after snack time.

Break for drink and snack

Optional Extensions:

  • Boats colouring sheets – no supervision required.
  • Making 3-d shapes from nets – smaller children will need help.
  • Sorting 3-d shapes – supervision needed to ensure nothing gets lost.
  • Make a captain’s hat – smaller children will need help.

Penrose the Mathematical Cat

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When I started home educating the boys, I began with a traditional school-at-home approach. I knew that we all needed routine and structure to the day. I also value academic learning and wanted to be sure that the boys were making progress.
As the months have passed, however, I have begun to see how much the boys can learn from self-directed projects. We still have routine, but the lessons involve a lot more space for exploring and experimenting, and less of me talking!
With their research projects, the boys have been learning a lot about science without my doing any teaching at all. It’s very exciting! I wanted to try something similar for Maths.
Previously I have taught the boys Maths using National Curriculum linked workbooks, designing extra exercises when they were having trouble. I mixed in a few games – like Pontoon, shape bingo, and clapping games – but the style of me teaching and the boys (ideally) learning didn’t change.
Using The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat is a big change for us. I read the boys a story about a cat. Then we have a couple of puzzles to solve. We solve the puzzles together, which the boys enjoy. Then, if they want, the boys explore the topics a bit more.
My husband was a little unsure about this approach to maths. Both boys make mistakes in basic arithmetic, and husband thinks that we ought to stick to practising this. He worries that they both make random guesses when faced with any problem involving numbers (truthfully, this makes me a bit nervous too).
The Penrose book looks at more than just arithmetic. It covers the Fibonacci sequence, golden rectangles, magic squares and other things that delight people who love numbers. If the boys are ever going to catch the love of maths, this seems like the book to do it! My hope is that the boys will take an interest in numbers and begin to ‘get’ them. Then, they’ll be willing to do sums and see how random guesses don’t make sense. They can do the sums when they want to, I think what they need right now is to find the joy of numbers.
Besides, it will take a couple of months to work through the book, and we can get back to workbooks then if it looks like a better option.
So far, it’s going well! Eldest was fascinated with mathematical stars and fractals.
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Middly really enjoyed looking at binary and square numbers.
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One big plus has been that, because these are maths conversations rather than workbooks, the boys have been excited about telling their dad, their Nana, their grandad, their uncles (basically anyone who cares enough to provide an audience) about what they’re learning.
We’ve had chats over dinner and scribbled on pub napkins to demonstrate an idea. It’s early days, but, there is a slim chance that the boys are starting to see why numbers are so much fun!
Wish us luck!

What my children taught me about Jupiter and Rocks.

Middly and Eldest have done their second presentations. I was rather proud of how much better these were than the last ones. There were more facts (hooray!). And Eldest’s talk flowed rather well.
Eldest had chosen to research Jupiter. He made a model (he used marbling inks to make the pattern, then stuck on tissue paper for the rings).
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This is his script:
“Jupiter has a set of rings. All the Gas Giants have rings. Jupiter is a Gas Giant. Jupiter is 1,300 times the size of Earth. You can fit all the planets inside Jupiter.
“After Pioneer 11’s launch, Mission Control realised that they could use Jupiter’s gravity to alter Pioneer 11’s course to reach Saturn before Voyagers 1 and 2.
“Scientists think the very centre of Jupiter is 40,000°C and Jupiter’s cloud tops are about -150°C.
“The volcanoes spit special chemicals out to make Io yellow. Europa has a sea. Jupiter has 63 moons, 4 of which were found by Galileo. Ganymede is bigger than Mercury.
“Jupiter takes 10 hours to spin on its axis. Jupiter’s storms make it spin very fast. Jupiter spins at over 29,000 miles an hour. If Earth span at this speed our day would be less than an hour.”
He also drew (using a pair of compasses for the very first time) some of Jupiter’s moons.
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Middly researched rocks. This is his speech:
“Rocks contain fossils and plants. Meteorites can be bigger than 14 jumbo jets. Weathering means exposure to the effects of the weather. Wind blows sand grains that break rock. The reason Oceanic Crust floats lower, on Mantle, is that it is denser than Continental Crust. The Mantle is molten rock. The crust is up to 40km thick.”
He drew the Rock Cycle.
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I was particularly impressed when he paused to answer questions. It’s amazing, he really has learned something!
He also had a little demo. He made a Fold Mountain and a Rift Valley out of plasticine.

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At the end of the presentations we did something extra. Everyone said something they had enjoyed about each of the presentations. Then each boy thought of something they wanted to do better in their next presentation. I am looking forward to seeing if that makes any difference to the next ones!