Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Little Bookworm

The latest pile of books by Charlie's bedside

I was reading the Wikipedia entry about Eleanor Farjeon yesterday and noted that she was educated at home, 'spending much of her time in the attic, surrounded by books'. Her introduction to her collection of short stories, 'The Little Bookroom', explains that this was the name of one room in her childhood home, which was filled to the ceiling with books: "Seven maids with seven brooms, sweeping for half-a-hundred years, have never managed to clear my mind of its dust of vanished temples and flowers and kings, the curls of ladies, the sighing of poets, the laughter of lads and girls", she says in her author's note.

We don't have a specific book room, but we do have books in every room, and one of the good things about home education is that it gives Charlie more time to read. At the moment, he is re-reading 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and one of his favourite 'Harry Potter' books, as well as reading his way through a series of old 'Doctor Who' novelisations. His Dad bought him the latter, remembering how much he loved them at the same age. When I picked one up and started reading it, I found myself plunged into an exciting and well-written story. The books are written by BBC script writers and established children's writers, such as Terrance Dicks, who started out studying English at Cambridge before his career as a copywriter, script editor and children's author. As we are working on story writing at the moment, these provide excellent examples of plot-building and characterisation.

Charlie remains reluctant to write his own stories, which is odd given how much he loves reading. I encouraged him to write a story based on Minecraft, but he wasn't enthused.

Discouraged, I decided to concentrate on other topics and come back to this another time. A few days later, I overheard him telling a long story to the cats. They provided a rapt and non-judgemental audience, perfect for him to hone his story-telling skills.

In our lessons on grammar, we have been revising imperative verbs, which we had covered earlier in the year. As Charlie reads a lot of cookery recipes, he soon got the hang of this and was happy to write out one of his favourite recipes, using lots of imperatives.

Frustratingly, he still regularly forgets to use finger spaces between words, unless I remind him. I found this reminder on Twinkl and am hoping it will jog his memory so I don't need to keep nagging.

Charlie continues to practise his handwriting daily - and to complain about it. The struggle is worth it, however, because I can already see an improvement in some of his letter formations and connections.

In Maths we have been focusing on multiplication, practising the techniques his tutor taught him last week, as well as working through our textbook.

Charlie's new school has given us their password for MyMaths, which means Charlie has been able to practise his maths online and reward himself by playing the games.

Midway through last week, the latest package from Little Passports arrived. I had held the last one back a bit, so Charlie has had the benefit of two in quick succession. This month's package focused on India, a country which we had looked at earlier in the year.

We have also been playing BrainBox's quiz / memory game, 'The World', which is a fun introduction to learning about different countries.

At the weekend, Charlie was invited to a football party in the local park with a bunch of his old school friends. Charlie isn't keen on football, but he enjoyed meeting up with old friends and formed a breakaway gang who played 'war games' in the woods before joining up with the footballers for pizza and cake. Not content with three hours playing outdoors with friends, he then invited one of his best friends home for tea afterwards.

The week ended with a delivery of yet another baking book ('Life is Sweet') for Charlie to add to his growing collection. Charlie is now planning to bake us a 7-Up cake.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Flowers and chocolates

A few weeks ago, we received a box from Grow Wild, a charity which promotes the growing of wild flowers. Our pack contained 15 packs of wild flower seeds, seed markers, a DIY bee house and an instruction booklet. I have kept one pack and a bee house for us, but sent the rest of the packs on to the woman who runs the local home-ed group, so that they can be distributed amongst the community.We are looking forward to planting the seeds in pots or any containers we can find and to making the little bee house.

Maths has been a struggle recently, with Charlie groaning his way through lessons and flopping dramatically onto the table when asked to do any calculations. He claimed to have forgotten all about division until I brought out some pasta and showed him how to divide them up into equal portions. That was one of our more successful lessons.

Luckily, a friend recommended a maths student who is offering cheap lessons and he started here last week. He was an instant hit with Charlie, who came away from his first lesson with a new method for adding, of which he was very proud. The new tutor will be coming every week from now on.

An additional - and unexpected - teacher appeared in the form of Charlie's brother, Tom, who decided that he would take his younger brother in hand. It was amazing to see them working together and, I must say, Charlie was a lot better behaved for Tom than for me.

We have been covering a 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' theme in our English studies, using the relevant chapter in the Galore Park English textbook and some Twinkl printouts. Charlie and I agreed that we needed chocolate to get us into the mood.

There has been plenty of time for Charlie to pursue other interests. He would happily spend all day playing Minecraft, if he could, but when the internet was down the other day he branched out into playing an offline game of chess instead.

Having not played chess for a while, he was very frustrated when the computer kept beating him. However, a friend of ours gave him some tips and he's improving now. 

Baking has been a popular pastime again: this week, Charlie made banana and cinammon muffins. There was a lot of measuring involved and Charlie also worked out how many muffins there would be left if we shared some with our next-door neighbours. I don't think he thinks of any of this as maths, but it's all good practice.

Charlie and Tom continue to enjoy each other's company on our daily walks to the local nature reserve.  We are very lucky to have such a beautiful space available so near to our home.

Both boys seem very happy at the moment, with Tom settling in well at his new school and Charlie enjoying his last few months of home ed, but looking forward to his new school in September. This week, he will be spending a morning at the school to meet his new teacher and get to know his classmates a bit better.

The last word goes to Tom, who left this affectionate note on my laptop for me to find the other day: 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Jaunts and jackdaws

The other weekend we visited Monk's House, once the home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. We ambled slowly through the rooms, enjoying the works of art and Charleston-style furnishings.

Sitting room

Virginia Woolf's bedroom

Virginia Woolf's handbound copies of the works of William Shakespeare, featuring her handwriting on the spines

As we have had some sunny weather over the past few weeks, we have been getting out most days. We are lucky to have a large nature reserve nearby, which is free to visit. The best news is that Tom now joins us on our trips. It has been a slow and painstaking process to get him out of the house, as his high levels of anxiety had been mostly keeping him indoors until recently, but he is now able to go out regularly and to attend his new school (mornings only, so far). I love watching him and Charlie playing together. For so long, Charlie was a bit like an only child; he is clearly very happy that he now has his big brother to play with again.

Charlie showing unwavering trust in his big brother here

At home, Charlie has renewed his interest in making Lego films with his Hue animation package. 

Showing his big brother how he makes the films
Wanting a better background for the films, he used some of his Christmas money to buy the Lego bike shop and cafe set, which was heavily discounted on Amazon.

He constructed the buildings over two days, showing great patience and determination, and was delighted with the result.

In our English lessons, we have been concentrating on conjunctions (or connectives). Charlie watched this BBC video, then completed practice exercises from his Galore Park English textbook and from relevant Twinkl printouts.

In Maths, we revised the addition methods we've covered so far, then Charlie completed the first progress test in his Schofield & Sims Addition book.

Charlie's latest Little Passport's delivery focused on South Africa. Each package includes a gift which represents something about the country; this month, Charlie received a bird whistle, which tied in neatly with the information about going on safari in South Africa and all the animals, including birds, that you can spot.

Charlie easily found South Africa on the world map. He seems to know where most of the world's countries are already and Little Passports reinforces his knowledge and fills in any gaps.

In addition to a sticky passport stamp, a boarding pass, a postcard and a sheet of information about the country, each Little Passport package contains a code which you can type into the website to unlock three online activities. I think Charlie enjoys this - and the surprise gift - more than anything else in the delivery. 

Learning about Lesotho

One day, we had a suprise lesson in ornithology, when a dishevelled baby jackdaw, with pale blue eyes and a somewhat punky hairstyle, appeared in our back garden. At first we thought it was injured, but after watching it for a while, we realised that it just hadn't learned to fly yet. Charlie googled 'baby bird' and discovered - greatly to his disappointment - that the advice was to leave well alone if the bird was obviously uninjured and fully feathered. Which ours was. We spent the rest of the day dashing to the window to check on it.  After a while, the mother bird appeared and lingered nearby, whilst the baby jackdaw hopped around the garden, ineffectually flapping its wings. We all cheered when it eventually managed to lift off and flew up into the trees.

You've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?