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.

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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.

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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


This Homeschooling Life #3 – There’s life in lots of things

Life outdoors
We’ve chosen to home educate partly because we want our kids to spend their short childhoods outdoors. I have to say, though, that it’s easy to feel convinced about this in the middle of summer and quite another when the world starts getting colder, darker and wetter.

Yet, the children are usually happy to be outside, regardless of the weather, especially Ophelia who hasn’t yet picked up on my aversion to the colder months.

Mostly, I’ve been happy to stick them in their rain suits and chuck them out into the garden while I keep an eye from the kitchen. We found a slide by the side of the road the other day and it’s been a brilliant addition. So they’re often out there sliding, mixing up horrors in their mud kitchen, blowing bubbles and drawing on the patio with chalks.

I’m aware that I need to get out there too, for their sake as well as mine. I’ve lapsed in gardening and shied away from initiating woodland walks. It’s just so easy to become sedentary, holed up indoors at this time of year.

This homeschooling life - life in many things-5 Talitha at her monthly horseriding lesson

I’ve been reading a bit around Charlotte Mason recently (she was a respected thinker on education, in case you’ve not come across her) and the reminder that children should be spending many hours a day outdoors really challenged me. My kids would happily do that.

Would I? I’d probably find it difficult to be fully present, to slow down and really absorb the experience. In short, I think I’d get bored, which makes me think that I should commit to doing this more. I’d also be focused on feeling cold. So, two things need to happen. I need to kit myself out at the charity shop and I need to actually dedicate the time.

Hopefully by the time I write our next home education update, I’ll have more to tell about our outdoor adventures.

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I’ve been enjoying reading Learning Outdoors with the Meek Family. It brings together ideas for “Ed-ventures”, getting out of the house (and the classroom) and learning in the real world, whether that be a lake, a castle or an airport.

Some of the ideas work for Talitha’s age, like painting rocks for the garden or drawing minibeasts you find but many of them are geared toward older children, so I think we’ll get lots out of this in years to come.

Life in stories

Talitha has always gravitated towards books in any room. At times, I’ve felt frustrated that she’d choose to sit with books when we’d made the effort to go out to a group so she could play with other children. I’ve since realised that she does both, that it’s about her pace not what I think she should be doing and that I was the same as a child.

We’ve been borrowing Usborne first readers from the library and she’s been delighted that she can read them. Often she reads a line then looks for what she’s read about in the picture or she’ll ask me questions about what she’s read. It’s a real delight to both of us that she’s understanding what she’s reading.

Even better, we’re just enjoying a life in stories, with me reading more chapter books and short stories and listening to audiobooks while playing. She’s been particularly loving listening to a CD of The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr Seuss Stories. The girls have their own CD player and both of them have learned how to operate it, though Ophelia needs a hand and she’s not quite co-ordinated enough to get the CD in.

We’re also taking the stories further by drawing pictures of something in a book, crafts and foods inspired by a story or acting it out with the Sylvanian family or puppets.

This homeschooling life - life in many things-2

Following life’s questions
Questions that naturally come up in our day to day have lead us down interesting paths. We’ve been learning lots (reading and playing) around animal categorisation, starting with the question: “Is a whale a fish?”

Questions around numbers lead us into playing simple maths games. We play lots of board games anyway but I recently printed off some monsters from The Measured Mom and we’ve been finding different things to do with them, identifying, ordering, matching to words and connecting them with real life. Here we made play dough monsters and added eyes to work out some simple sums.

Halloween in our home-2

Life’s rhythms

Looking to the season and calendar has inspired a lot of what we’ve done this month, collecting leaves and other objects, cooking and baking Autumn favourites, and drilling pumpkins for Halloween.

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For me, it’s helped to plug in to my four-year-old’s natural excitement over all of life’s little celebrations. I don’t have to make her childhood magical. It already is.

This homeschooling life - life in many things-7

Life through creating

A highlight of this month was a paper clothes making workshop we attended at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol run by the team at Let’s Make Art. I didn’t know quite what to expect but we walked away with so many ideas! I was surprised by how into it Talitha got. She wouldn’t let me help with most of it and attended it with such focus.

I’m looking forward to getting some scrap out (we keep a massive chest full of scrap) and playing a bit more with making clothes and costumes at home. It would be good to get her some beautiful materials too, though, so we’ll need a trip to the Children’s Scrapstore soon, I think.

I also want to do more yarn crafts together because Talitha is so intrigued by anyone doing needlework. When a friend brought her knitting to our house yesterday, Talitha ran for her own needlework. She dips in and out of working on her simple frame but it’s surprising how absorbed she is when she’s working on it.

This homeschooling life - life in many things

She’s always making, though, whether it’s drawing (our art supplies are out at child height – for better or worse when Ophelia gets at them!) or Lego, facepainting or Hama beads. It makes me wonder why I’ve only recently rediscovered my own crafting impulse when it seems to be something children naturally want to do.

This homeschooling life - life in many things-3

We’ve been making our way through this Chihuly Art Kit Activity Book my brother-in-law gave me. It’s full of opportunities to look at the work of artist David Chihuly then attempt activities around his ideas.

So, that’s a bit of what we’ve been up to recently. What about you?

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 either a week, a day or 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




PS: We were sent Learning Outdoors with the Meek Family and given a free place in the Let’s Make Art workshop to review. This post also contains affiliate links which just means I get a few pence if you buy any of the books I’ve linked to, at no added cost to you.


Pumpkin drilling and more pumpkin fun

Pumpkin day activities

Talitha is recovering from a pretty nasty cold (that’s not her ill face above; she just likes pulling faces!) so although she was in good spirits today, we opted for a quiet one at home. The fact that she neither protested nor even asked about going out tells me she really needed it.

We started off with a to-do list of things we needed to get done. She loves ticking things off a list. Just like her mama. “Bake bread, stew apples, carve pumpkin…” I realised this was starting to look like the most autumnal day ever. So, we fully embraced it.

Pumpkin day activities-3

By the time the girls helped with the bread and the apples (I peeled, they cut – Ophelia uses a Pampered Chef safety knife while Talitha insists on using a properly sharp knife), I cleaned out the pumpkin and we all had lunch, it was time for Ophelia to have a nap. Where does the time go with children? I always overestimate how much we’re going to get done.

Pumpkin day activities-4

As soon as she went down, I got the drill out and Talitha decided what her design was going to look like. I was surprised at how well the manual drill worked for her. I helped her to steady the pumpkin but I reckon if she were to do this again, she wouldn’t even need me to do that for her. This is definitely the way forward for little hands – much easier than wielding a knife. I only did a couple of holes. She did the rest. Then she cleared them out with a chopstick.

Pumpkin day activities-5

We’d looked online for inspiration and she wanted to paint the pumpkin and add glitter. I think she would have been better off using acrylic paint as the tempera paint is already starting to flake off but we may just put some varnish over it tomorrow.

Pumpkin day activities-6

No sooner had we finished than Ophelia had woken up and come down to admire the pumpkin. It was perfectly timed for the three of us to make pumpkin muffins. We used this recipe but swapped the flours for maize flour (Laurence is wheat intolerant) and used our stewed apple instead of honey. A little dry, I’d say, but everyone else seems to enjoy them.

Pumpkin day activities-10

Some more of the pumpkin flesh went into our vegetable and bean curry for supper. I can’t believe how much pumpkin we still have left. I can’t even remember what we did with the insides last year. I may well have just thrown them away.

While waiting for supper time, we read “a story about a pumpkin” as I’d promised. I reached for the fairytale collection and Talitha put two and two together and guessed that I meant Cinderella. I don’t know if it’s my hormones or Usborne’s version but I actually started welling up while reading it!

Pumpkin day activities-7

We also made a paper pumpkin while waiting for supper. I gave them both the same materials and it was quite funny seeing Ophelia so diligently crafting next to her big sister.

Pumpkin day activities-8

I love that she insisted on also showing hers to the camera!

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We decided that a candlelit supper was in order so of course the pumpkins joined us at the table for supper.

Pumpkin day activities-12

It’s not been great being ill – all of us have been to some degree – but this one has slowed us down just enough to make a day at home actually a pretty sweet one.


Fun early night ideas for families

The clocks go back tomorrow (I actually had to look that up because I keep getting confused which way it is) so, we’re headed back into the darker portion of the year. I used to really struggle with this.

Growing up in the tropics, I mentally prepared myself for cold seasons when I moved here but nothing could have prepared me for the dark.

After ten years of living here, though, I’ve realised that even the early nights have their own charm, especially when living with a four-year-old who’s intrigued by the changing seasons.

Here are a few really simple ideas for making the most of the early nights.

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Candle time
This time of year is all about the candles. The candle holder makes it’s way back on the table and the lantern is re-filled. Storytimes and supper time become candlelit.

And of course, there are pumpkins and Advent candles to look forward to. Halloween isn’t really a thing here so we keep our pumpkin lanterns going for quite some time. These stars were last years creation. Can’t wait to get this year’s pumpkins this week. I’m toying with the idea of drilling holes in them.

Another great way to have fun with candles is to make tea light holders out of jars. Kids can paint them, decorate them with paper, leaves or cloth or melt crayon wax on them. This year we’ll also be making our own Advent calendar candle.

Early night ideas for families-2

Backyard Bonfire
Build a bonfire in your backyard. You could wrap cheese sandwiches in foil and toast them, stick some sausages on there or, if you’re looking to do something a little bit different, make some s’mores.

Certainly Wood sent us a gourmet s’more making kit as part of their Get Outdoors with Smores Campaign. The kit included artisan handmade chocolate and marshmallows and a British equivalent of the Graham Cracker by chef Felice Tocchina, along with a campfire kit.

A little disclosure, I never got to taste the chocolate because one of my kids (identity semi-hidden to protect the not-so-guilty) ate it all before I got to it. I gather it was yummy!

Early night ideas for families-3

And another bit of honesty, we actually had to search the Internet for instructions on how to make s’mores! Any American readers are welcome to laugh at our expense at this point.

Friends were coming over so we had an Autumn barbecue followed by getting the fire going and toasting marshmallows for our “biscuit sandwiches” (that’s how we explained it to the kids).

Early night ideas for families

CWsmores1(1)

It was good fun as an activity and getting all the bits together in a kit would be a great gift idea if you were looking for something different, I reckon. Laurence mentioned that flamers were the best he’s used and that, in his limited experience, they’re far better than the horrible ones you get from the supermarket.

Early night ideas for families in the darker months

Shadow puppets
I loved playing with shadow puppets as a child. I have fond memories of making them with my brother and I’m guessing he must remember because when Talitha went to stay there a couple of weekends ago, he made some with her. In fact, he and my sister-in-law did so many things with Talitha in the short time she was with them, she probably wonders why all weekends aren’t like that.

Anyway, she brought these home and was sort of merrily shining a torch at them and having fun enough but when I showed her how to actually project them onto the wall, it was a total lightbulb moment. She and Ophelia have been playing with them ever since, roaring at each other.

My mum gave them these cool little torches which don’t use batteries. You recharge them by squeezing them lots. Ophelia’s is a pig and Talitha’s is a cow.

Early night ideas for families-5

Glow-in-the-dark
If you have kids who go to bed early, now is the perfect time of year to get the glow-in-the-dark stuff out. You never really get the full effect of these things if it’s even a little bit light so now that it’s getting properly dark early, the fun begins.

I’m waiting for some glow-in-the-dark googly eyes to arrive for some crafting fun but in the mean time we’ve been testing these glow-in-the-dark wall stickers we were sent by JR Decal Wall Stickers. It’s a 45-piece set with stars and a moon. They’re really good quality and surprisingly bright. Apparently you could put them outside.

I put them on the cupboard for this photograph as I didn’t want to risk waking the girls by taking pictures while they’re sleeping but they’re about to make their way to their bedroom for even more glow-in-the-dark fun. The great thing is, you can’t really see them at all if there’s any light so when it goes dark, it’s a real surprise!

Fun ideas for early nights

Nocturnal animals and star gazing
A huge advantage of the nights drawing in is that little ones with early bedtimes can get out at tea time to look for nocturnal animals or at least signs of them. This is something we wanted to do last year but never got around to it. I really hope we do this year.

I’ve even saved the print out The Woodland Trust sent Talitha last Autumn so we can go listen and maybe look with our red torches and have an idea of what we’re trying to spot.

Even if we don’t spot a thing, getting out properly looking at the stars is always a good idea.