Saturday, 21 February 2015

An update

Charlie's homemade cakes

As it's now the half-term holiday, I thought I'd better write a quick summary of what we've been learning over the past few weeks.

Maths resources from Twinkl


Charlie continues to use the online program ConquerMaths, but this has been supplemented by maths games, such as City of Zombies, and activities from Twinkl, such as the jigsaw multiplication game above. Charlie has just started working through a Schofield & Sim's textbook called 'Understanding Maths: Addition and Subtraction' and I have the one on multiplication and division to follow. Charlie's confidence in using 'the four operations' seems shaky, so it seems to me that this is something worth focusing on. We are also covering maths in our topic work.

Learning about Roman numerals in our history lesson

Solving Roman numeral puzzles with these Twinkl worksheets
Learning about capacities, weights, measures and time in cookery
Practising mental maths in lessons about healthy eating with these Twinkl challenge cards

Learning about co-ordinates and measuring perimeters in between reading 'Treasure Island'


Charlie continues to work on spellings, using Twinkl's worksheets on tricky spellings.

He has been practising his handwriting regularly, using the Schofield & Sims book, 'Handwriting Practice 2'. Handwriting is not Charlie's favourite activity and his daily practising is usually punctuated by grumbling. When I suggested he wrote about our trip to the Sealife Centre in Brighton, he produced very little, so I handed him the laptop and told him to type about it instead. He then produced a full page of work, describing what he saw and explaining more about the animals. We went through it together and I helped him proofread it, reminding him that he needed capitals at the start of sentences (can't believe I still have to remind him of this!) and pointing out where he might start a new paragraph. I think he was rightly proud of the finished result.

Charlie used this helpful checklist to edit his work:

Checklist from the TES educational resources website

One day, we read 'Aladdin' together and Charlie wrote a brief review of it.

Another resource from Twinkl

The latest copy of Aquila magazine arrived, this month focusing on horses. Charlie enjoyed reading this to himself.

We read a retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, 'Treasure Island', published in the 'Classic Starts' series, in preparation for the highlight of our last week before half term: a trip to the National Theatre in London to see the play. This was a Christmas present to us from Charlie's granny. Last year, we saw the National's children's show, 'Emil and the Detectives', and we enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it an annual event.



In addition to our visit to the local aquarium and learning about habitats and how animals adapt to their environments, we have been studying healthy eating.

We discussed the importance of eating plenty of carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables, as well as enough protein. Charlie compiled a food pyramid of his typical day's eating and compared it with a food pyramid he made of an ideal day's eating. We discussed why too much sugar was not good for us. Later, Charlie read Change4Life's pack on sugar swaps. Next term, we'll be learning about teeth and looking at the effects on them of too much sugar.

Charlie is not keen on fruit or vegetables: peas are an abomination, apparently, broccoli is not worthy of consideration and carrots are often hidden under his plate or discovered in his trouser pockets when they're emptied for washing. He enjoys pineapple in any form and will sometimes eat an orange or two, but is wary of any other fruit. However, he has recently discovered a liking for Jazz apples, especially when liberally squeezed with fresh lemon juice, and will eat four of those at one sitting. He also understands that a glass of juice with his breakfast provides one of his five a day and knows that I will pester him until he drinks it.

Charlie continues to show an interest in space. We have been reading about the MarsOne project and looking at YouTube videos about it. Most nights, Charlie looks out at the moon and checks his Twinkl spinner card to see which phase it's in. He was very excited to find a ring around the moon one night and took a photo of it, although it is difficult to make out the halo on the photo. The halo is caused by the refraction of moonlight from ice crystals in the upper atmosphere. The shape of the ice crystals focuses the light into a ring.


Charlie's Dad has been teaching him about the points of the compass and they've been learning about major towns in the UK. The latest package from Little Passports focuses on France, so we bought some croissants to enjoy whilst we learned.

After our lesson, Charlie was inspired to recreate the Eiffel Tower on the computer, complete with the French flag on the top.


Charlie continues to work his way through the recipes in the 'Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook'.


We continue to have weekly swimming sessions at the local pool, which Charlie really enjoys. It's been good to see him growing in confidence in the water. He had group swimming lessons last year, but really didn't learn anything and didn't enjoy it, so I've been looking for a teacher willing to do one to one. I haven't had any luck with this, so I've booked Charlie in for a trial lesson with some other non-swimmers at a private pool. We will continue our own regular swims as well.

Life skills

When I was home educating my older son, we watched the Disney film, 'Freaky Friday', together and it inspired us to have our own 'Freaky Friday'. For one day we swapped roles, with Tom getting his little brother up for school, giving him his breakfast and doing the school run (with me), then working through a list of chores at home. He then had the pleasure of teaching me. He lasted till midday, then begged to stop the experiment.

Charlie was very interested in trying this life swap out for himself and was determined to last longer than his brother.

Cleaning the bathroom sink
Mopping our hall floor

Safety conscious!
Slicing bread to make sandwiches for our lunch

Charlie relished all the chores as they were mostly novel experiences to him and he thought they were great fun. I pointed out that they became less fun when you did them over and over again! He also enjoyed teaching me and made sure he gave me lots of sums to practise.


Charlie continues to meet up with his old school friends, as well as enjoying visits to family members. He also enjoys meeting our own friends when they visit. We continue to visit the fortnightly home-ed group, which gives him a chance to meet other home-educated children.


National Holocaust Day was marked on 27 January. I felt it was important that Charlie began to learn about this, but only wanted to give him information appropriate for his age. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has some excellent resources for young children, so I used their assembly for primary-school children, combined with their Powerpoint presentation, to introduce Charlie to the story of the Nazi's persecution of the Jews. The assembly focuses on the story of two Jewish children forced to flee Germany and start a new life in England. Charlie and I discussed how important it was to remember what had happened to those persecuted by the Nazis, both to commemorate those who had suffered, and to ensure it never happened again. At the end of our lesson, Charlie lit a candle and we held a minute's silence.

Whilst Charlie learns with me, his older brother is pursuing his own interests. He continues to have regular online lessons in Maths and also has a weekly lesson with a teacher from the LEA. At the moment, they are studying evolution. In the evenings, we have started watching a DVD of an old TV series, 'The Voyage of Charles Darwin', which provides an excellent dramatisation of Darwin's story.

Tom's passion in life is computing and his knowledge far outstrips that of either me or his father. Recently, he downloaded the Linux operating system on his computer and is now learning more about it. He is also taking an online course in computer security. Hopefully, he will soon be able to start at a local independent school, funded by the local authority, where he will be able to build on his interests and obtain qualifications. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Trip to Sea Life Brighton

We learnt about living things and their habitats in preparation for this trip, focusing in particular on rainforests (the Sea Life centre features a 'Rainforest Adventure'). We looked at a PowerPoint presentation on Twinkl ('Rainforests as Habitats'), then googled some different rainforest animals on YouTube.

We studied the layers of the rainforest using this printout from Twinkl

The Sea Life centre in Brighton is the world's oldest operating aquarium. It was the idea of Eugenius Birch, the pier engineer and designer of Brighton's West Pier, and was first opened to the public in 1872. The main aquarium hall, with its vaulted ceilings, is listed as being of special architectural and historic interest. Nowadays, the ceilings are lit by a rainbow of multi-coloured lights.

There were so many tanks to see, all filled with a multitude of different fish and other sea creatures, that at first we just wandered round, enjoying the spectacle. 

 The bit Charlie was most looking forward to, though, was the Rainforest Adventure. 

The first animal we met there was the Green Anaconda: the largest species of snake in the world. One of the staff members told us that it was nine feet long and had to be fed rats and mice. It lay perfectly still in the tank, only the tip of its snout protruding above the water. It was amazing to see how well camouflaged it was.

The anaconda lying in wait for its next meal

Whilst in the simulated rainforest, we also met Water Dragons, Poison Dart Frogs, Piranhas and a selection of rescued terrapins.

Leaving the rainforest behind, we entered a room containing an ocean tank, which featured huge turtles, sharks and rays.

We then walked through a glass tunnel that led us underneath the ocean tank. We lingered here for some time, enjoying the sight of sea creatures swimming over and around us.

Before we left, we paid a visit to Charlie's favourite animal in the whole aquarium: an octopus. Charlie had read about the octopus on the aquarium website and been intrigued to discover that the octopus is said to be 'as smart as a dog' and that, because it has no skeleton, it can fit through a hole no bigger than a ten pence piece.

On our way home, we stopped off to get a takeaway. We all had the same idea: it had to be fish and chips.