Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Today Iona and I travelled on a coach-like bus to a neighbouring city for a home ed event. Having settled into our seats Iona looked up at the units above and said "Why is that "stop"?". I looked where she was pointing and found she was showing me the "STOP" button above the seats. She had never sat in a similar bus, with similar buzzers, so she had not recognised it from context or (I think) font. I therefore think it's safe to say, that Iona read her first word independently today - WOOHOO!!!!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Autonomous education begins

We haven't really been doing any formal learning for a couple of weeks now, as Iona seemed to have tired of it and wasn't up for any of my suggestions. Every time I tried to read her a polar bear book from the library (as she had previously agreed to a unit study on them) she point blank refused to let me! However, her autonomous learning has been going quite well. She has very quickly picked up a lot of computer skills, especially after I downloaded a free children's browser for her called Zoodles. She is now quite competent with moving and left-clicking the mouse, and has some knowledge of where the "Return" key is on the keyboard. These are too of her most recent drawings with the simple art application within the browser:
Smiley face, I think

The games section links to various children's TV websites with games, which are mostly (but not entirely) American, and Iona was thrilled to discover Dora and Diego available on it. She also very much enjoys playing Counting with Elmo, on the Sesame Street site, which has reinforced her number knowledge, and has discovered a game on the Curious George site where she has to share out bones between 2, then 3, dogs. She still struggles with the idea of the latter, but can share fairly well 4 or even 6 bones between 2. At the moment I am unable to find CBeebies through Zoodles, so I have been allowing Iona to look at that using Internet Explorer. Yesterday she was playing on it, and I agreed to print her a colouring page, explaining as I did so what I was doing. No sooner had I returned to my place on the settee than I found she had managed to call up a different colouring page and was printing that out for herself! At this rate, I think I'll have to keep an eye on my eBay account!!

Unfortunately, a week ago our car failed its MOT quite spectacularly - it would have cost £1000 for the necessary repairs (and the car cost less than that 3 years ago)! Consequently, we are now a carless family, so are having to get used to walking everywhere. Iona is taking the opportunity to fit some more learning in. On Tuesday we had a half hour walk back from the library, and she spotted some moss growing on a wall as we walked. She was fascinated by the look and feel of it, so I explained a bit about it. On the walk there, as well, she asked me what the clouds up in the sky at the time were called (I think her Daddy calls them mackerel clouds), so we looked them up when we got there (altocumulus, as it turned out). Similarly, on today's dog walk in a very nearby park I was able to show her some huge brown toadstools I'd noticed. She asked me what the stripes were, which led to a discussion about their spores.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Evacuation and rationing continues

Yesterday I began by showing Iona a BBC video I had borrowed from our Christian home education group: Children in the Second World War. I found it quite a good introduction to World War 2, but Iona, as ever, wanted to watch her CBeebies programmes instead. However, she became more interested as it played. It explained evacuation, which concept Iona appeared to grasp without worrying that it was going to happen to her (I kept reminding her that this happened a long time ago). It also talked more about rationing, and about air raids and the Blitz. Although Iona seemed to understand that it was all in the past, she didn't like seeing the bombs and burning buildings, so I fast-forwarded through that. I then suggested that we could make a pretend gas mask, using instructions I'd found online (sorry, can't remember where). However, she remained quite adamant that she really didn't want to do it, and I backed off as she seemed to be a bit worried by the idea of bombs.

To complement the learning about rationing I had bought a tin of Spam last week, so I suggested we grill slices of that for our sandwiches, as well as showing her a picture of one in "Food and Rations". Despite saying that she wouldn't like it, Iona found she really did! For a teatime pudding I found a parsnip pudding recipe in "Wartime Cookbook" which, despite sounding a bit weird, was actually a rather nice, chocolately blancmange-type pudding, although it didn't set well until it was cold. I also made a "crumb fudge" from Mum's old wartime recipe cuttings. It's not really like fudge, more like a chocolate refrigerator cake made with breadcrumbs, but Iona and I like it, and it certainly satisfies a chocolate craving.

Today our wartime learning was confined to attending a memorial service at our local park and war memorial, which was held today due to the local British Legion having commitments elsewhere tomorrow. Iona was adamant that she didn't want to wear (or colour in earlier) a poppy, but was interested in the old soldiers and enjoyed hearing the Last Post - she referred to it several times later.

I think our World War 2 project is now nearing its close, as Iona seems to have had enough, but I will try to encourage her to colour one of the poppy colouring pages I have printed out for her first.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

India mini-book and rationing begins

Yesterday I went with Iona up to her bedroom to get her dressed, and while we were there she decided she wanted to look at her Disney's "Wonderful World of Knowledge" series that I keep out of her reach in her bedroom. She wanted to look at several of the books, but I tried to relate them all back to what we'd seen the day before about India. One of the volumes she looked at was about famous places, and I managed to find the Taj Mahal in it, so I told her about it and how it was made to show how much the Emperor Shah Jahan loved his wife. We then talked about how we show we love people.

To make a mini-book about India I drew an approximate diamond (about the shape of India) on a sheet of thin card folded into 4, and cut it out. On the cover I wrote India in dotted lines, which Iona was only too happy to write over. Inside I wrote pages about how Grandpa was in India during the 2nd World War, "It is hot", Indian food, saris, their flag and the Taj Mahal, with key words dotted for Iona to write over. She drew and coloured the sun, the Taj Mahal (with a bit of prompting to look at what there was, and not really recognisable), a sari-wearing lady, triangular (or not!) samosas and jalebi (with a suggestion of how to do it by scribbling). In addition, I suggested that she copy the Indian flag from "Celebrate! India". I asked her to draw a rectangle (which wasn't very rectangular!) then asked her to draw 2 lines across it. She started drawing it outside the rectangle, so I drew them. Then I asked her to draw a circle in the middle, which she did. After that I asked her to draw lots of little lines in the circle. I thought she would struggle with this, but she drew a tiny circle in the middle of the circle, and drew several spokes radiating from it, just like in the flag. I was so impressed!

Unfortunately I have had to give this complex, and probably not very good, description as I managed to drop our digital camera on Sunday night and it immediately stopped working, apparently for good. As I have mislaid my mobile phone, with built-in camera, my husband's won't download to a computer without the purchase of an expensive driver, and our scanner mysteriously stopped working a couple of years ago, it looks as if I'm going to have to do this blog photo-free for now!

Having completed our India mini-book yesterday, I moved on to the home front with Iona today, and explained about rationing. I began by pointing out that Britain is an island, surrounded by water. However, she wasn't very interested, preferring to use the blow-up globe for a game of catch! I decided to join in with that but gradually brought in what we previously read in "The World Came to My Place Today" about where our food comes from, and asked her to say where something came from each time she caught the ball. This worked to get her interest a bit, so I went on from that to say how the Germans stopped boats coming to Britain with foods like those we'd named. I looked with Iona through the book "Food and Rations", explaining some of the pictures as we came to them, particularly the posters of Potato Pete and Doctor Carrot, which she liked. I also showed her my Mum's old recipe book, featuring wartime recipes and several cuttings from newspapers of the Ministry of Food's wartime food tips. By now it was nearly lunch time, so I asked Iona to help me make a wartime recipe: cheese pudding (found in "Wartime Cookbook"), which she liked the sound of. She helped to break the eggs, grate the cheese and breadcrumbs, and mix it, and after cooking it we ate it with a small salad. All agreed that it was lovely and cheesy ('though it would have used the family's weekly cheese ration!).

While working and playing this morning, I played the CDs "Hits of the War Years" and "A V.E. Day Party", so that Iona got a feel for wartime music. She wasn't keen, but this was mainly because she wanted to put one of her children's DVDs on instead. I was able to get the CDs through our Central Library, who are selling off all their CDs, DVDs and videos cheap. This was very useful to me in the short-term, but I will be very sorry to see the service go, as it's so useful for projects like this, when I don't necessarily want to keep a particular album, but just want to expose Iona to different music.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A bit of a pyjama weekend

I'd planned to take Iona to our local museum on Friday for the under 5's event, where there were due to be real owls to meet. However, unfortunately she was a bit snuffly in the night and when she got up she ended up taking herself back to bed and sleep for nearly an hour. I therefore decided it would be better for her to have a pyjama day at home instead.

Luckily, the WW2 activity I'd planned for the day was looking at my old family photos from the '40's and '50's, particularly of Dad's service in India, so it wasn't too taxing for her. I showed Iona the scrapbook pages I'd made with several photos of Dad in 1942 and '43, and I also found plenty of photos of Mum from the same era, as well as their wedding and honeymoon photos from 1948. I was concerned that it might bore Iona, but, although she didn't seem too enthusiastic, she wanted to look at them again afterwards. I reminded her of what we had talked about the day before, and told her something about Dad's service in India.

By yesterday Iona seemed a bit more energetic, but my sore throat had got worse, so we still didn't do much. However, I again hadn't planned a lot - just watching the video I'd borrowed from our Christian home education group about India and relating it back to Dad's time in India. To begin with Iona was determined not to watch it, as she wanted to watch CBeebies, but after a while she got drawn in despite herself. I think a lot of the video went over her head, but I pointed out certain things of interest, and she was particularly interested in the pretty saris, so I showed her several more in the library books I'd borrowed: "Celebrate India" by Robyn Hardyman, and Dorling Kindersley's "India" by Manini Chatterjee and Anita Roy.

Today I had intended to create a mini-book with Iona about India, but having gone to the Salvation Army followed by Sunday School this morning, and still being somewhat ill, we were both quite tired, so I decided to leave it 'til tomorrow. One thing I have learned is that if I try to encourage Iona to do any "work" while she is tired it's a waste of time: she'll scream and refuse to go near it, possibly even screwing or tearing it up!!

Friday, 4 November 2011

War games

To follow up on Wednesday's activity, I printed out some line drawings of Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Mussolini, Hirohito, and Roosevelt, and maps of Europe and Asia. Yesterday I gave Iona the chance to colour them in, although she decided to rebel and scream that she didn't want to join in. However, I persisted with sticking the people onto card and giving them little card sticks for using them as stick puppets, and cutting out the main countries involved in World War 2. As I did so she became more interested, and started colouring over the Europe map that I'd left whole as a background. Once I'd finished preparing the pieces we started our "puppet show".

I began with "Once upon a time..." and introduced the 6 characters and the countries they led. I then said that Hitler was a very bad man who was nasty to lots of people in his country and wanted to own other countries (reminding her of what we'd played the day before about wanting things that weren't yours). I got the Hitler puppet to start taking the cut-out countries, then made the Churchill puppet tell him "No, you mustn't!". I then passed Churchill to Iona, who was getting very interested by now, and she enjoyed making him argue with Hitler. I said that Churchill couldn't fight with Hitler, because he had an army around him, so he sent his army to fight Hitler's army. I then got the other Axis puppets to start taking the relevant countries, too, and the other Allies to help Churchill. While doing it I made a point of talking about where Iona's Grandpa (my Dad) went (India) and that he was fighting the Japanese, although we're now friends and even have them in our family (my brother is married to a Japanese). I got the Allies to take back the countries from the Axis bit by bit, and mentioned carefully the ends of the Axis leaders (glossing over the details). I stressed that because of what Churchill and the armies did we're now free and able to live in peace. Iona so enjoyed the game that she made Churchill take all the countries away, although I pointed out that he didn't really do that but allowed the countries to be free again. She enjoyed it so much that she carried Churchill around the house for quite some time, talking to him and including him in her games!

I must admit that I've been wondering why I'm doing this subject with Iona at such a young age, apart from trying to cover history backwards. I realise that 3 is very young to be talking about Hitler and such subjects. However, I came to the conclusion while walking the dog yesterday that it's because, unlike most children of her age, her Grandad was actually in the War, because my parents were so old when they had me and I was equally old when I had Iona. Now my Dad is dead, and Iona will never know him, I want to be sure that she's always aware of what he went through while he was still a teenager, and why. Although I'm a pacifist, I've always been proud of Dad's service in the Burma campaign, and I want Iona to be too, and remember it this and every Remembrance Day.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The beginning of World War 2

As Remembrance Day is coming soon I decided to do a unit on World War 2 with Iona over this fortnight. It fits in well, too, with how I am covering history, by working backwards from the present: we have talked about Iona's history, then when Mummy and Daddy were little (the '70's), and most recently the first moon landing in the '60's. Now it's time to do about when Grandma and Grandad were little and the war that Grandpa fought in (while Nanny was a teenager at home).

I struggled a little with how to introduce this subject to a 3 1/2-year-old, although at our home ed group's bring and buy sale yesterday I was able to buy a book called "Having Fun in Grandma's Day". We looked at it first thing this morning, and Iona enjoyed trying to play the game of Jacks, as described in the book. I then decided to introduce the idea of war by looking at what happens when someone wants something we've got. I acted it out with 2 of her Zingzilla toys, getting them to argue and get into a physical fight. We talked about how that wasn't good - the toy food they wanted might have got trampled so nobody got any, and they probably got hurt too. I then asked her to try and do it better, but she enjoyed getting them to fight again, so I demonstrated sharing rather than fighting. She enjoyed that, too, and acted that out herself with them some more. I then explained that the Second World War happened because some nasty leaders wanted to take some other countries and be the boss of them, too. After that, I printed out some pictures of people being friends and sharing, and Iona coloured them in.

While we were on the subject of people taking things and hurting other people I asked Iona who she could tell if someone did that to her. She didn't know, so I told her to tell Mummy or Daddy, and that police could also help in that situation. We went on to act out Policeman Pudsey Bear telling a fighting pair of Zingzillas to stop fighting and share, which Iona again enjoyed, making the Zingzillas apologise.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Zoo Quest at Fun Club

Today our monthly Christian home educators' group had a special visit from a group called Zoo Quest (unfortunately I can't find their web page). We split into under 8's and over 8's for a chance to meet some rainforest animals. I hadn't prepared Iona too much for it, partly as I wasn't sure what animals would be there, and partly because I didn't want her saying she didn't want to see the "creepier" ones. Sure enough, when it came down to it she didn't want to hold, or even stroke them, but I think she enjoyed seeing them on Mummy's hand (with the exception of the snake, which she was definitely nervous of)

Chile the tarantula - still too young to be handled.

Bob the corn snake

At least Mummy loved handling them, even the millipede, which has always grossed me out a bit when I've seen them on TV!

Afterwards, Iona got to meet a pair of guinea pigs, which she'd been hoping the woman would bring (I thought it unlikely, though). They weren't a part of the show, but the woman kindly got them out for Iona anyway, which thrilled her:

Before the Zoo Quest show we had our yearly bring and buy sale. I'd persuaded Iona to help me make some krispie cakes (some chocolate, some marshmallow) yesterday, and she had her first taste of capitalism by using the takings from selling them to buy 2 biscuits, 6 books, and a toy Shrek. Overall, a great success!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Dinosaur hunting

Late last month we had our first family holiday since Iona was born. We packed up our tent, bags and dog and headed off to the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, where my Dad came from. It was lovely for his remaining family to finally meet Iona, and I took the opportunity to do a study with her on dinosaurs.

We started out by talking about fossils and how they were made. Homeschool Share suggested making your own fossils using small objects and modelling clay, then following up with plaster of Paris to demonstrate the relief fossils. This was our first activity, therefore, using some airdrying clay we had been given from the leftovers when we attended a council-run education day. Iona really got the hang of making impressions in the clay from her little people, and we left them to dry while we were on holiday. When we got home, after a couple of days to recover, I made up some plaster of Paris and poured it over the impressions. It dried really quickly, and Iona was very impressed!
As we were particularly going to an area where ammonites could be found I made sure to teach her a bit about those fossils. Daddy drew one, which Iona traced over really well and then attempted to copy. I used the opportunity to introduce the word spiral (I think I've used it with her before, but this was her formal introduction).
 When we got to Dorset we spent an hour or so on Kimmeridge beach checking for fossils
and found several partial ammonites. Iona was thrilled to have this one of her own, with 2 partial impressions (1 too tiny to see on camera):

Moving on to dinosaurs, we talked about different types of dinosaurs: those who ate meat and those who didn't. Iona's main criterion seemed to be "Would it eat me?", so we used that as our title for a mini book, and I got her to help me sort some small pictures (printed from Enchanted Learning)
From Enchanted Learning I got a sheet showing dinosaur defences, which I cut up and put into a zig-zag mini-book for Iona.

The idea for the art activity came ultimately from Meet the Dubiens, although I discovered it at 2 Teaching Mommies. We cannibalized some previous paintings, for me to cut into the shapes, then Iona stuck them on using my directions and also the guide picture on the computer. It was a good way of reinforcing the letter D as the initial letter of dinosaur, and Iona really enjoyed some fairly independent craft (as well as a spot of drawing on the dino's face after!):

It was also good practice at naming different shapes.

From Homeschool Share I printed out a graph for Iona to compare the sizes of different dinosaurs. I adapted it slightly, as we hadn't looked at Utahraptor at all, but had done quite a bit about Apatosaurus, and I also added a column for Iona's own height. Unfortunately, when I came to try to find out dinosaur sizes I realized I needed to decide whether to look at their heights or their lengths. I decided on heights, but that ended up not really demonstrating how huge some of the long dinosaurs really were. Anyway, it was a good way of demonstrating the use of charts to compare measurements, although Iona just wanted to colour in all the squares!

I printed out a lot of dinosaur colouring and writing pages (possibly from First-School.ws, although the pages I've now found don't include the writing) to take on holiday. Iona enjoyed using them as a base for further drawing, but wasn't so keen to colour them. However, I was very impressed with the last page she did, of the oviraptor, at how well she is now able to "write" over the top of letters, so we are now doing more of that activity when possible.

From Homeschool Share we also printed out a set of dinosaur shapes, on which I wrote down the words Iona told me to describe dinosaurs. It's really our first look at descriptive writing, and a bit beyond her yet, but I felt it was a good start.

I can't find now where I printed the dinosaur snap cards from, but I laminated them and took them on holiday to try to have a game to play in the tent. We turned out not to have much time for it, and Iona still finds it hard to concentrate on a whole game, but she has some idea of how to play it.

The counting and addition worksheets came from the same, now unknown, source. Iona is now able to count up to 10 objects with only a small amount of help (depending on her mood), but the addition was harder - I found I had to draw the required number of additional objects to enable her to count them. Subtraction was a bit easier, as I only had to cross the objects out.

The final component of our lapbook was a suggestion in "Infant Projects: Dinosaurs", which I borrowed from our local Christian Home Educators' group resource library. This was the "Dinosaur Tooth Trail" Game, which I copied from the magazine by hand.
Iona and I discussed the shape of carnivore teeth compared to those of herbivores, then talked about how you could know what a dinosaur ate by the shape of its teeth. We then chose a dinosaur each (left over from the dinosaur size chart), rolled a die, and if we landed on the right sort of tooth for our dinosaur got to throw again. This game, besides reinforcing an educational point, was just the right length for Iona, who wanted to play again but then began to get bored during the second game.

To tie in with the theme of prehistory, Iona's Bible studies during this unit dealt with Creation (although that only took a couple of days, so we then moved on to other subjects).

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Boats lapbook

Having seen Preschool Post's boats lesson plan I decided that it would make a good next unit for Iona over the summer, so we began our next lapbook on 15th August. 

The theme of boats fitted well with lots of Bible stories, so over the fortnight we covered Noah, Jonah, Jesus calls the fishermen, the big catch, the storm on the lake, Jesus walks on the water, the parable of the dragnet, and Paul's travels.

The lapbook itself began with a dot-to-dot picture of a yacht . Iona still needs hand-over-hand help with dot-to-dots, but enjoyed both doing it and colouring the result.

Iona is now starting to try to draw over lines a lot more, so I liked the "B" worksheet that I got from First-School:

She's getting a lot better at "writing" as opposed to just colouring over the lines, but there's still a lot of work to be done. However, she's at that stage where she doesn't want me to help her a lot of the time, especially with "writing", so she'll just have to get the hang of it herself. She's also getting better at recognising initial letter sounds, which this worksheet helped with.

Underneath the worksheet I put an accordion mini-book that I made containing photos of meals that I had made on the theme of boats:
Jacket potato boats
Courgette boats

"Jesus walking on the water jelly"
"Jesus walking on the water from boat" jelly
The jellies, in particular, were very popular. Unfortunately, I've lost the reference to where I found the idea, so apologies if the idea was yours (please send me a reference to add in here if so). The jelly should have been blue raspberry, but I couldn't find any anywhere, so I used lemon and lime with copious amounts of blue food colouring, which worked very well. The peach boat was my idea, as we had some sitting around.

Rather than concentrate on initial sounds with this lapbook I decided to work more with Iona on rimes (see Oxford Reading Tree "Rhyme and Analogy"). I therefore worked collaboratively with her to make up a poem using the "-oat" rime:

At this stage she can correctly identify rhymes about 50-70% of the time, maybe more, so I think she's getting the idea, but sometimes she gets a bit overenthusiastic and comes up with entirely wrong rhymes. I liked the way she was keen to illustrate the poem, with just a bit of prompting (and drawing of the moat) by me.

We talked a little about the history of boats, and I found some colouring pictures of boats from different eras (from DLTK). I cut them out and asked Iona to put them in order of age. However, she found this very difficult, and didn't seem to have much idea. She enjoyed adding a little colouring to them, though.

To begin to develop some awareness of geography we visited a local river that runs through our town and I have reinforced its name several times since. I drew a map of our county and put the river on it, then stuck it in a small book with a map of all of England's major rivers on the front.

A further aspect of history that we covered was the sinking of the Titanic. We found a little about it in one of the general boat books that we looked through, so I then got Survivors: The Night the Titanic Sank from the library. It was a good way of talking about the history through a fictionalised story (with a happy ending!). I found this colouring page on Free Kids Coloring, and just added a few facts to remind Iona of the story in the future. She took in the story quite well, and played shipwrecks with her toys for quite a few days afterwards. We also added the sinking of the Titanic to the time line that we have going up the stairs.

For the science component of the unit we used this file folder game from File Folder Fun. As it was sunny, warm weather we were able to turn it into a water play session outdoors, which Iona loved. To try to duplicate the scientific method I asked her to predict before we played which items would sink and which would float, then we compared her predictions with the actual results. As it turned out, she predicted most items correctly.

Iona's predictions
Actual results

Testing what floats
Water play after the hard work
We also read through Fourways Farm: Floating and Sinking, which reinforced the ideas in a light-hearted way.

Further science teaching was provided by this idea from Camo and Bows, showing how water runs downhill. It was good fun to try, using a long strip of foil to recreate a river, but without a hosepipe it was a bit of a damp squib. Daddy helped for a while, by tipping the watering can while I took photos, but it would definitely have been better with a continuous stream of water. Iona seemed to enjoy it, anyway.

We also read through the section of The Earth: The Geography of Our World relating to rivers; most of it probably went over Iona's head but it was a good introduction to the idea.

The idea below came from DLTK, where it was suggested as a way to introduce the concept of halves. Iona concentrated well on it, and it was a useful way to revise shapes, as we haven't done much on them lately and she seems to have forgotten them a bit.

While doing this unit we went to an unrelated event at our local museum, where we happened to see a Bronze Age boat, carved out of a tree.

They provided a colouring station, with an artist's impression of the boat in use, so that made a useful addition to the lapbook.

There were loads of suitable story books relevant to this unit. One thing I did was re-read Iona the tale of the Jumblies, which we have in an anthology, and she began to remember the chorus. We also read, for the first time, Where the Wild Things Are, which she really enjoyed. Other books we read were Mr. Gumpy's Outing, Captain Small Pig, and We're Sailing Down the Nile (good for a bit more world geography).