Chinese New Year sensory box

Last year we got seriously into Chinese New Year. With it rolling around again, I thought I’d share the sensory box I put together for Talitha to enjoy when she was three-and-a-half. At going on one, this really wasn’t suitable for Ophelia at the time so I put it up on the table whenever Talitha wanted to play with it.

I had some rice I’d bought cheaply from an Asian grocers, which I coloured with red and yellow ready mix paint by mixing the colours in separate bowls and laying it thinly in baking trays to dry.

Sensory play for Chinese New Year

Then I added yellow beads, lots of pom poms, chopsticks, some envelopes we’d made with Chinese symbols on them, bowls, a cup, a spoon and a ladle. Hours of fun, let me tell you!

She practised picking things up with the chopsticks, threading beads onto a chopstick, pretending she’s making pancakes with the rice and ladle, burying things, tucking things into the envelopes, pouring things – it was endless.

Sensory Box for Chinese New Year

When we moved on from Chinese New Year, I stored the rice and brought it out again for their Autumn sensory box. Ophelia as a toddler was then old enough to safely enjoy it so I put the box on the floor.


What I loved about our first “term” of home educating

As the second term of the school year starts, the fact that my four-and-a-half-year-old is not in Reception is still both fresh and something we’re already quite used to. Taking a quick look back as I think ahead to what this new term might hold, there are a few things I’m grateful for.

Siblings spending more time together
Talitha and Ophelia have really started playing together in earnest, complete with dressing up, pretending, challenging each other and lots of running around. I know this would have happened anyway, even if Talitha were away most days, but I am thankful for the extended time they have together right now. This new development has made home life much easier as their individual need for my input is far less intense, met instead in each other.

Not having to do a school run
I know this will seem silly to some but we really aren’t morning people. Apart from a few months as a baby, when Talitha deemed 5.30am morning, both girls have always been relatively late risers. Even when they wake up, we spend a bit of time lounging around, playing and chatting in bed, slowing easing into getting breakfast, let alone getting dressed.

I’ve especially appreciated this because I’m pregnant with a third child, something I’ve not mentioned here yet but will blog about soon. I’m twelve weeks pregnant, so we’re looking forward to welcoming our new baby in July. Occupying the girls here at home and getting out as much as usual has been a challenge when I’m feeling nauseous and tired. Yet, I honestly choose that over having to get out of bed early or go do pick up when anytime past 2pm has been exhaustion point for me. And I definitely have been grateful to have them both around to play with each other when I’ve needed to take a moment. See point above.

Seeing her unlock new ideas
Talitha has sped along in her reading this past term, mostly on her own. In fact, she’s surprised us both when we’ve borrowed early readers from the library and found she’s able to read at least most of them. It’s been interesting too seeing how well she follows chapter books now, hungry for the next chapter, the next book. I really cherish the hours spent reading to her.

I’ve been fascinated too by how she’s begun to understand numbers and mathematical concepts mostly by just playing with an abacus and everyday objects. I want to support her more in this and have bought a Spielgaben set from someone on eBay which is now with friends over in Brighton. I’ll let you know what it’s like when we get our hands on it later this month.

With open access to craft supplies (sometimes to the detriment of the house thanks to our toddler), she’s often creating her own models, drawing things I couldn’t and generally coming up with ideas that surprise me. I know this would happen whether or not she were in school but I really treasure the time we have to explore new things, to go at her pace and follow her interests.

Getting an education myself
With all this exploration, the questions she asks often throw me. I try to write them down, talk through them and help her find answers. Everything from substance to animals to God to human bodies to space gets a look in. I learn so much with our conversations as a starting point. Often, I have to slow down and question things I thought I knew too.

I’ve also been learning about balance. The balance between offering her my plans and being led by her spontaneity, going out and staying in, how much time outdoors, how many classes we sign up to, how to meet everyone’s needs, when to accept that’s not always going to be possible and so on.

Going on holiday in term time

We had the pleasure of going to Madeira with Laurence’s parents in November and the freedom of that was thrilling. I imagine it might still be possible to do that if she were in Reception as she’s only four and not legally required to be attend until the term after she’s five but it’s nice knowing that even next year, we’ll be able to do the same thing. We’re taking our decision to home educate a year at a time but with the application process beginning again this month, we already know we won’t need any forms.

Delving deeper into friendships
We made some wonderful new friends in the home ed community and had the chance to go deeper with friends we already knew who are also taking this route. That’s been so valuable for both Talitha and me. I’m looking forward to much more of that in the coming year.

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Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. I’m sure I’ll have lots more to share next time around. Do read more about it below and if you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Circus Queen
Laura who blogs at Side Street Style
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up



10 ideas for celebrating Epiphany with children

I’ve been trying to observe the Christian calendar with my children a bit more this year. I didn’t grow up with it so it’s interesting delving into it myself and making discoveries alongside them. On January 6th, we celebrated Epiphany, the day the wise men found the child Jesus, having followed the star God put in the sky.

We’d been talking about it beforehand and I gathered a few fun ideas for simple ways to celebrate Epiphany with our family. As it turned out, between our home education co-op meet and Talitha’s ballet class, we didn’t have much time but I’m sure this list will be useful again for this coming Epiphany and I may add to it too.

1. Take down the Christmas decorations. We listened to lots of versions of the Twelve Days of Christmas on Spotify while packing the ornaments away and taking the tree outside.

2. Read the story in Matthew. We followed this up with the children’s version in The Beginner’s Bible. This year we’ll look at it in The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Negative-Space-Star-Celebrating-Epiphany-with-Children

3. Negative space star painting – I stumbled across this idea on Explore and Express. I love her explanation: “the star as a symbol of God’s revelation that often comes after a long spiritual journey. I left it white as a metaphor for revelation being an empty or blank place in us that God fills.” However, when I tried to explain that God fills the empty space inside of us, Talitha told me that she was full of yoghurt. So I may not have done the idea full justice – ha!

4. Take the wise men to see Jesus. Our Nativity scene doesn’t have three kings or any kings so I suggested we look for a few amongst her toys. They were almost dinosaurs but in the end two Little Misses and one Mr Man stood in for the wise men. We lit a candle and talked about the story some more.

5. Talk about the three gifts and what they mean. Objects would work well here, perhaps little boxes wrapped up for the children to open, one with gold jewellery, one with frankincense essential oil and the other with myrrh crystals. You could even burn some frankincense. I was going to but in the end, I just explained that gold is what my wedding ring was made of and that they gave it to Jesus because He is a king, frankincense is a perfume that’s used in worship and that they gave it to Jesus because He talks to God for us and myrrh is something that they used to put on people’s bodies when they die and that they gave it to him because He would one day die on the cross.

Three-Kings-Crown

6. Make a crown. She made this one at the church in her grandparents’ village a couple of days ago.

7. Cook and eat Three Kings Pie. This is gorgeous. The recipe comes from a vegetarian cookbook called Gaia’s Feasts. It’s like a cottage pie but replaces meat with mushrooms and all sorts of wonderful spices. I confess, I made it and Talitha helped a little bit but time ran on and it was ready after they’d already had their supper. Next time.

Three-Kings-Pie

8. Exchange gifts. Some parents follow up the story of the wise men giving their gifts with a small gift for their children. I know someone who staggers all of the Christmas gift giving. Her children have stockings from Santa on St Nicholas’ Day, gifts from family on Christmas Day and gifts from their parents on Epiphany. This sounds like a great way to avoid the gift overwhelm.

9. Give to charity. This year, we did a clear out of toys, books and clothes and dropped them off to a charity shop.

10. Make star biscuits. I really wanted to kick start the year’s baking with some savoury stars, especially as Talitha loves any excuse to get the cookie cutters out, but there just wasn’t enough time.


Our Christmas stop motion- Learning at home with Sprout by HP

Having had a lot of fun trying out Sprout by HP, a new creative desktop that offers so many possibilities with it’s touch screen mat and 3D scanner, we worked on a little stop motion as a festive family activity one Sunday afternoon. So, here’s the big reveal. Hopefully it makes you smile and puts you in the mood for the season. Merry Christmas!

For more about Sprout by HP, take a look here.

PS: Let me know what you think of it!

Post in association with Hewlett Packard


Argos Christmas Toys – Chad Valley 3 Storey Summer Winter Dolls House

Argos has revealed their top toys for Christmas 2015 and we were one of their toy testing families. We chose to try out the Chad Valley 3 Storey Summer Winter Dolls House.

Talitha immediately made the connection with Frozen and said it reminded her of Queen Elsa’s ice castle. In fact, her Elsa plush doll and Sylvanian family rabbits moved right in. This house is actually sized for Barbie-sized dolls, though, I’d say. We were toying with the idea of giving her a Lottie doll, which would work well in this house.

Argos Christmas Toys-5

I think we were all a bit blown away by the size of this house. It’s taller than both of the kids and is two houses in one, a summer house and a winter house. I had my misgivings about how big it was but the girls loved that they could play their own games alongside each other, without getting in each other’s way. OK, my four-year-old may have been the one particularly appreciative of this.

Argos Christmas Toys-2

It was pretty straightforward to assemble, though be aware that it may not be an item you’re going to want to have to take apart once it’s up. Quite a decent bit of furniture comes with it, which requires no assembly. I like that it’s wooden. I’d really rather not have too much plastic fantastic in the house. The colours are pleasing, too, where many kids toys can be quite garish.

The house arrived at the beginning of a week stuck indoors with chicken pox and it couldn’t have been better timed. The girls have had so much fun with it, coming up with new games each time. Talitha has even made some more furniture for it, including a bath.

Argos Christmas Toys-3

When choosing toys, we try to find that happy medium between what the kids will go ga-ga for and what we’d be pleased to walk past each day. Toys need to have a longevity, rather than being a thrill-of-the-moment item which will be forgotten in a week’s time. Sometimes the “educational” factors in but all child’s play involves learning so it’s not something that worries me too much. A toy that works for both kids definitely gets extra points, especially if it’s a big item like this one.

Check out Argos’ top toys for Christmas 2015 here.

This post was in association with Argos


This Homeschooling Life – November

That time’s rolled around again to look back at what we’ve been up to as a home educating family.

This has been a month of contrasts. At the start of the month, we got up to quite a lot of in terms of organised activities but things got looser as the days passed as I’ve not been feeling well and Ophelia’s going through a rough patch sleepwise. Actually, that mix suited us just fine. That’s one of the brilliant things about home educating, slowing down is not a problem when life calls for it.

Time for the highlights:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Activities for kids
Falling in love with chapter books
We’ve dipped in and out of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the past but my four-year-old enjoyed it but didn’t seem to quite follow it so having read quite a lot of the book, we shelved it. Then a friend suggested My Father’s Dragon and that was a blast.

On the hunt for the next winner, I picked up a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was clear from the start that it would be a hit so I themed some activities for us to do alongside it. Check out my list of Ten Charlie and the Chocolate Factory activities for young children.

We’re fully into The Magic Faraway Tree now – such a trippy book and already well-loved.

The tricky thing about reading longer books is finding ways to engage Ophelia while we’re reading so I often wait until she’s having a nap but she doesn’t nap that reliably at the moment (could be linked to the crazy nights above). So I’m often pulling out something for her to do or requesting cups of tea from the toy kitchen while we read.

Diwali in our home-8
Diwali
I totally forgot when I first published this post that we did loads around Diwali this month! And Bonfire Night of course! We made our own diyas and read and looked at lots about India and the Hindu festival of light. Diwali is a big deal in Trinidad and Tobago, where I’m from, so it was a chance to connect my kids with their heritage too. Here’s what we got up to on the day itself in my post, Diwali with my kids.

this homeschooling life november-3
Christmas decorations and other crafts
We made so many Christmas decorations this month. Personal favourites are these pipe cleaner beauties as both girls were able to do them.

We also rearranged the diningroom furniture, making the scrap box (an enormous chest full of recycling) accessible to the girls so they’ve been busy pulling things out and involving the most random objects in their games. Talitha has also been getting the glue and scissors out and making all sorts of amazing things from robots to play food, totally on her own.

On one hand, leaving them access to junk and art supplies makes for a lot of mess (the toddler scribbles on our walls speak the truth of this – thanks, Ophelia). On the other, the creativity, confidence and independence that emerges from it is well worth it. Now that most things have a place, they find it easier to help tidy up too.

Holiday in Madeira this homeschooling life november-2
We spent the last week of November in Madeira with Laurence’s parents and what a brilliant holiday that was. It’s not something that would have been doable if Talitha were in school (certainly not once she’s five) since the term’s still going, so I’m counting it as a home ed highlight.

Of course, being in Madeira raised so many fascinating questions about airports, airplanes, maps, climate, countries – you name it! Kids’ curiosity is primed for learning.

I hope to blog about it later this week, which may interest any families considering Madeira as a holiday destination.

—————

Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. I’m sure I’ll have lots more to share next time around. Do read more about it below and if you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Circus Queen
Laura who blogs at Side Street Style
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up



Diwali with my kids

We’ve had a day at home (Ophelia has chicken pox, though I keep forgetting she does – it’s so mild) and so got up to all sorts but I wanted to focus a few of our activities around Divali, the Hindu festival of lights.

I grew up in Trinidad and Tobago where this is a national holiday and I cherish my own memories of it (going to friends and family for a curry feast, taking home bags of Indian sweets, driving around to look at the lamps set on shaped bamboo). I feel a little sad that they won’t grow up with those experiences. Perhaps we will spend a Divali in Trinidad some day.

Diwali in our home-7

We’d borrowed a couple of books from the library about Divali, so we read those again. We also looked at a couple of CBeebies videos: one about a family celebrating Divali in Britain and the other the story of Ram and Sita, told with Indonesian shadow puppets, especially thrilling to my four-year-old.

This led on to a couple of short videos of people making rangoli patterns on the floor with coloured rice powder, which both girls were completely taken with. Talitha loved predicting what she thought they were going to do next in the pattern and was thrilled in equal measure when proven right or surprised. We also looked at photographs of diya displays in Trinidad.

Diwali in our home

Diwali in our home-5

We made some pholourie for a savoury snack while listening to traditional Indian music. While cooking, we talked about Divali, India and Trinidad and Tobago, taking a moment to go look at the map and talk about the boat ride our ancestors took from India to Trinidad.

Diwali in our home-2

We made diya lamps from air drying clay and the girls picked flowers from the garden to decorate and order them on a tray. Ideally we would have done this beforehand as we’re probably going to end up painting them tomorrow but never mind.

We also planned to make coconut barfi but ran out of time so that’s gone into tomorrow’s plans too. In a way, it also fits with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – which we’re currently reading – as they’re sweets.

Diwali in our home-4

Diwali in our home-3

Ophelia needed a nap so I gave Talitha a bowl each of green and red lentils and millet flakes and she grabbed some chalk to make a rangoli pattern on the floor while I settled her sister upstairs.

The twenty-one-month-old is really fighting naps at the moment so it wasn’t long before she was downstairs again, supercharged from the shortest time asleep! Never mind, they both got stuck in with water colours on rangoli patterns I printed from Twinkl, which I’ve just renewed my subscription for.

Diwali in our home-6

Of course, we also had to have a curry dinner but we’re low on supplies so only had dhaal and rice, perfect for my kids as they love it but not that special as it’s my standard go-to last minute meal!

Follow Adele’s board Diwali for kids on Pinterest.

Despite having curated this Divali Pinterest board, I still ended up slightly pulling it all out of a hat. Maybe I’ll be more organised next year. I imagine that, at five-and-a-half, Talitha will have so many more questions about it all.

Shubh Divali!

Air drying clay diyas for Diwali