Monday, 23 July 2012

July update on reading and writing

Well, it's been a long time since I posted on here, but education has been continuing, mainly with our customised letter of the week and lately about the Olympics. Iona's reading is coming on, if not in leaps and bounds at least a little: she likes watching Alphablocks and has been enjoying reading Letterland books that we've been borrowing from our home education group. She is now able to read CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words with a little reminder of how to do it, although she currently enjoys messing around and being silly so much that she will often deliberately read it wrongly just for fun. The other day Daddy was so concerned that she wasn't reading as he thought she should (he was initially unsure about home education) that he bribed her with the promise of sweets if she read some words out to him, and surprise surprise she did fine!

It's been hard to think of activities to do with Iona to encourage her reading and writing, apart from reading to her, given her current awkwardness and attitude of "I do what I want to do!!". Today she was enjoying watching Abadas, when I had a brainwave: I wrote "fox", "bat" and "hippo" down one side of a piece of A4 paper and "Harry", "Ella" and "Seren", with hand-drawn cartoons, down the other. I then made sure that Iona knew what the different characters were and asked her to join them to the types of animals they were. She managed this with no help at all, showing that she was at least able to read "fox" and "bat" ("hippo" could have been guessed by being the last one done).

Iona has been slower to try writing, but lately has been writing some letters quite deliberately (as opposed to a few weeks ago noticing that shapes she had drawn looked like letters!). (Interestingly, considering how many children have trouble with p, b, d and q, one of the letters she has been writing correctly is "P".) At the end of last week she decided to make an Asda sign:

The 2 middle lines say "Asda" (AC) "is Open" (OP) and "Asda" (AC) "is" (I) "Closed" (C). I must say I was really impressed, as it was the first time she's actually attempted to write anything.

Iona's drawing is also coming on well, with her drawing a very realistic snail this morning.

Apparently the picture on the right is the snail coming out of its shell, while that on the left is where it's gone back into its shell. Unfortunately when I gave her my very impressed honest opinion she got quite cross with me for liking it!!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Iona the Explorer

  As we are now up to the letter E in our Letter of the Week (more like Letter of the Fortnight, due to other activities taking up time!) I suggested yesterday to Iona that we pretend to be explorers today. She liked the idea, so when we got up I reminded her of different places people had explored (desert, jungle, arctic/antarctic, ocean, space) and asked where she wanted to pretend to go. She chose the jungle, then said she wanted to go to the real woods with me. As we were due to go to craft group at church in the morning, which is on the way to the woods, I agreed we could, then asked how we would go on our adventure. Iona was feeling a bit literal and insisted we would walk. I tried to stay in character and tell her that the jungle was a bit far to walk to, and eventually she joined in and agreed to go by plane. I told her about her uncles' jungle adventure in Malaysia for a couple of weeks in the 1970's, but I don't think she really took me seriously about that (I don't blame her - even I find it hard now to believe they actually did it!). I also looked through World History and Explorers with her over breakfast and later in the day and we learned a little about Columbus, Magellan, Drake, Da Gama and others. We had borrowed the colouring book Women Explorers from Fun Club on Tuesday, so I copied some pages from that, although she didn't colour any in. She also never got around to colouring this Columbus printable from The Holiday Zone, although I am keeping all the printables in her Letter of the Week folder, so if she changes her mind at some point she will still be able to do them.

When it was time for Iona to get dressed she herself chose to wear her khaki and olive pinafore dress, as she said that "Andy in Andy's Wild Adventures wears green". We discussed other clothes to wear, and agreed that she needed thick trousers to protect her legs, a hat to protect her head from the sun, a waterproof coat, strong boots, and thick gloves "to protect my hands from snakes"! We also packed her explorer's rucksack with a telescope and binoculars, although we couldn't find her camera, so we agreed that Mummy's would have to do.

At craft group Iona has begun to work on her own scrapbook while I do my own crafts, so for today's activity I decided to follow an activity which I found on The Holiday Zone's Columbus Day activities. We talked about the furthest she'd ever been, which was our holiday last year. With a bit of prompting she remembered this was Dorset, and I found our holiday photos and invited her to choose some to print out for her scrapbook. She enjoyed doing this, and at craft I cut them out for her and she stuck several into her book, decorating the pages with stickers. This provided a good way to reinforce the idea of herself as explorer.

After 45 minutes at craft we left (Iona was in a bit of a "silly" mood today and as most of the attendees are older ladies I didn't want us to outstay our welcome!). Iona heard some other children going to the park and said she wanted to go there, so we made that our jungle:
The intrepid explorer spies out the land

Now for a spot of mountain climbing
 When we had been there for about 45 minutes I said it was time to go, but Iona was still keen to go into the wood. She said she was not too tired, so I agreed to go home the very long way (about another 45 minutes), through part of the wood. Again, she tended to be very literal about what we were seeing (e.g. a dog), but began to get more into it, so that when a van came past just after we crossed a small road she told me that there was a crocodile in the river!

When we finally reached home Iona seemed quite tired, but managed to eat a little lunch. Afterwards she curled up on the settee next to me watching TV (2 programmes I found on Madagascar and the jungle) while I showed her how to magnetise a needle and make it into a compass, as in The Science Activity Book. It wasn't easy to magnetise it, and took a lot more strokes with the magnet than the 50 recommended in the book, but it worked slightly in the end, pointing vaguely north when floated in water, and was a good way to introduce the idea of compasses. Iona, however, was more interested in a spot of water play, and proceeded to fill the bowl with as many of her craft supplies as she could!
Back at home she makes a compass

Close-up of the home-made compass

 To close the Explorers' Day we looked at Iona's children's atlas and I showed and told her all the places her Dragon ancestors had explored: from France to Reunion Isle to Southampton to London to Swanage to Bristol then Woking and finally to where we live today, each generation since 1818 being born in a different place.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Exercising Iona

At the beginning of this year I determined to try to take Iona out for at least a little every day, if only for 15 minutes' play in the garden. I haven't done all that well with it, especially recently when I've had a couple of my 6-day migraines either side of a nasty cold (which still hasn't completely gone). However, last Friday I decided to bite the bullet and take her on my long dog walk, which lasts about 40 minutes when I do it on my own with the dog and includes some hills. Previously I've only taken her on the "round the block" and tiny park dog walk, which I can do in 15 minutes, so it's quite a step up as she's not yet 4. Surprisingly, she did very well, and didn't complain of being tired on the way home, although she did sleep for a couple of hours late that afternoon! The next day my husband took the dog out, so I asked if he'd take her as well, and she did quite well then, too, although he wasn't amused that she had to splash in every puddle while out (as it was pouring with rain, so there were quite a few!).

On Sunday we had to walk to church and back, so I didn't take Iona with the dog then, although she said she wanted to come - we're too used to her wanting carrying on the way back from church, even 'though it's only a 15-minute walk, due to too much playing chase with her friends there. Today, however, I figured I'd take her in the morning, so that if she got really tired she wouldn't fall asleep too close to dinner-time. We set off for the 40-minute walk, but as it was only mid-morning and she hadn't done anything much to get tired yet, I asked her if she was up for walking a bit further into the woods that she used to like going to when we still had a car. She was keen, even 'though it was quite cold and she had no scarf. As we got further across the park I had a change of heart, and suggested we build up to it next week, but she was so disappointed that I relented and we crossed the main road and walked up an alleyway towards the woods.

Iona was so happy to be back in the woods. It was only the second time that I've walked the dog that far, and I always find the peace there so rewarding, although it can be hard going with a German Shepherd who's nervous of other dogs. We met a nice couple with a rescue Doberman who's also nervous and barky, and spent a long while chatting, and Iona built up her "stick collection", which yours truly ended up having to carry back in her pocket! I also showed her an uprooted tree which had fallen down across the path at the end of September (I'd meant to drive her to the woods and show her but hadn't ever got around to it before we lost the car), lichen, which she'd asked about, and tree buds, one of which we took home to examine in more detail (I emphasized that we should leave most of the buds on the trees for them to make new leaves).

Iona examining the lichen on a previous visit

By this time it was well after the time that I'd planned to get home, so I suggested we turn around and go home, even 'though she wanted to go and see some others of her favourite landmarks. On the way we had a few grumps that she was tired and cold, but I sympathised with her and told her how well she'd done, and the end of the walk was actually quite cheerful. We ended up with a walk lasting one and three quarter hours, rather than just three quarters, and she didn't even sleep in the afternoon. I promised her, though, that next time we go that far I'll make sure that it's not quite so cold!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Metaphysical discussion of the week

This afternoon we were watching "Happy Feet" on the TV when Iona started asking "Who made the adverts?". I replied "The people whose products are being advertised". This seemed to satisfy her, but shortly after she continued:
"Who made the TV?"
"People in factories"
"Who made people?"
"Who made penguins?"
"Who made God?"
... Gulp!!!
"Um ... nobody did. He's always been there."
"No - God made God!".

Saturday, 14 January 2012

A is for ... part 2

As I said earlier, on Thursday we had an Astronaut Day, inspired by the fact that lately Iona has been very keen to go in a rocket. I told her she had to be fit to do that, so at least once a day now she runs around or does other "exercises" and says she's getting fit "so they let me in the rocket!". I didn't do as much preparation as I might have, but she seemed to enjoy the day. I encouraged her to dress in a pair of grey jogging trousers and a blue fleece, to look a little like an astronaut's casual wear. She had a croissant for breakfast, and I reminded her that she wouldn't be able to have that in a rocket, as the crumbs would float around due to the lack of gravity, and might break the rocket. After breakfast I went on the computer and found some NASA and European Space Agency logos, then made Iona some badges (using our printer, a laminator and some safety pins) and an ID badge:

While on the ESA site I let Iona have a look around, and there was a fun animation about a day in the life of an astronaut. We strapped ourselves into our imaginary rocket, ran through the safety checks, then counted down. I asked Iona where she'd like to go, and she chose Mars. When we "landed" I described how it was cold, and that the ground was red, then asked her what she could see. We practised a floaty, low gravity way of walking, and talked a bit more about space. She then said she wanted to go to the planet Crayon, which was what she had called the planet she'd decorated in her Charlie and Lola magazine earlier in the week, so we got back in our "rocket" and took off once more, to go there. Once there, she wanted me to be an alien, so I decided to talk only in alien bleeps and bloops and see if she was able to communicate with me. Surprisingly, with only a bit of sign language, she worked out that I was telling her to eat the imaginary biscuit she had asked me for, and was making significant attempts to understand my alien language. This was such a popular activity that several times yesterday and today I was also asked to be an alien, but I found it surprisingly hard work to keep up the bleeping!

In addition to our play-acting, Iona drew a picture of an astronaut, or "space lady", complete with helmet (and big hair!):

I also found a colouring picture of a female astronaut which I printed out for Iona, but she didn't show any inclination to colour it. I found some information about Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova (the first woman in space), Christa McAuliffe (the first teacher in space, well nearly), and Helen Sharman (the first Briton in space) told Iona about them, printed out their photos and added them to her timeline. We read through "I'm Going to Be the Best Astronaut Ever", "Extreme Jobs: Astronauts" (well, selected highlights of it, as it's far too old for her), and Letterland's "Annie Apple's Adventure", which coincidentally includes an astronaut and a trip into space. The latter book was very popular, and she has asked for it to be read a couple of times since. It features lots of "a" words and has a good story line, rather than being driven solely by phonics.

By the end of the day we were both glad to come back down to Earth, although Iona still shows no sign of diminished enthusiasm for being an astronaut!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

A is for ...

Well, we've begun our first week proper of the Letter of the Week curriculum. I began by reminding Iona of some words that begin with A, e.g. apple, alligator, astronaut, animal, ambulance and alphabet. For our first Bible reading this week we finished the story of Adam and Eve, and asked her what Adam began with. She immediately replied "a". I then presented her with a worksheet from Christian Preschool Printables which combined a colouring picture of them with writing practice of "Aa" and their names. However, for now it still remains untouched, as she currently seems very keen not to do anything suggested by Mummy!

On Tuesday we attended our local Christian home educators' group, Fun Club. This month we were doing about powered flight, and there were lots of related things to make. However, Iona decided to spend the morning playing with the toy kitchen and food, and later the Lego - once again, perish the thought of doing what Mummy suggested!! In the afternoon she had a really good time playing with the other children, of a variety of ages. The Lego provided me with a good opportunity to reinforce the concepts of sharing and negotiation, as both Iona and some of the boys wanted to play with the same parts. Happily, everyone seemed fairly satisfied, and hopefully Iona has learned valuable lessons about how to play together. We were virtually the last to leave the hall, as Iona was having so much fun running around with a slightly older girl, and having her first game of "Tag". From the Fun Club library I was able to borrow some very useful resources for this week and the rest of the month.

The first resource I used was from the Letterland series: An Alphabet of Rhymes. I read Iona about half the poems from it, and she really enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to reading her the main Letterland books, 3 of which I got from the resource library. I also read her the A poem from Nonsense ABC Rhymes, which was quite funny. As Iona enjoys poetry and rhymes (she keeps saying she's making one up), this seems quite a good activity for her.

Yesterday I took Iona to the supermarket, so I deemed it "Asda Day". This is a word that Iona has known for a couple of years now, I think, so it was a nice way of reinforcing her knowledge. We found a couple of foods that began with a, although as I was on a tight schedule to catch the only free bus home again we didn't have much time for education while there. When we got home I drew the Asda logo on a cardboard shelf unit that I'd built for her a few days ago, and encouraged her to colour it in, which she mostly did. In the afternoon I had intended to play shopping with Iona, using the till set that she bought last week with her Christmas money, but once again she didn't want to do what Mummy suggested!!!

Today I'd suggested to Iona that we have an "Astronaut Day", especially as lately she's been very keen on the idea of going in a rocket, and that idea appealed to her. I've run out of time now to feed back from that, but hopefully I'll manage a full report, plus photos, tomorrow.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Letter of the Week: Alphabet Intro Week

One of my plans for this year is to help Iona develop her reading, using look-say (which is how I was taught when I was a year older than she is). As "Teach Your Baby to Read" (how I learned) seems a bit too structured for her I thought I might try Brightly Beaming Resources' Letter of the Week Preschool Curriculum. I liked the way this reinforces the letter being learned by introducing lots of different subjects beginning with that letter (e.g. apple, ambulance and Africa for "a"). Hopefully this will give enough variety over each week that she won't rebel and refuse to do anything I ask, like she did with lapbooking by the end of last year! The other thing that I particularly like about it is that it's free!!

In preparation, therefore, this week I decided to work through the Alphabet Intro Week. However, I've found that (possibly owing to my aversion to phonics!) we don't have many A,B,C books (I've just remembered a Dora one in her bedroom, so maybe we'll look at that tomorrow), and owing to the holidays I've not managed to get to the library this week. Consequently, I didn't really manage to start on the curriculum with Iona 'til today, when I decided we would try the activity Fishing for Letters. While Iona played with My First Starting to Read (that Father Christmas had found for her at a fayre last autumn) I cut 26 small fish shapes out of card, stuck a split pin in each (as we had no paperclips, but actually the pin makes a good eye) and wrote a letter on each in small case. I also tied a horseshoe magnet that Iona likes to play with onto a piece of string, and tied the other end onto a large bubble-blowing wand that we've had sitting around for a while. Voila - one magnetic letter fishing set.

Iona was quite interested, and happily came over to play. I fished a couple of letters off the floor and asked Iona what they were; she was easily able to say. She then had a go, although used her left hand to guide the magnet onto the letters. Once she started, she wanted to take all the turns herself, which was fine by me, so all I had to do then was listen to her read the letter. She confuses "p", "b", "d", and "q", and read "z" on its side as "N", but overall she did very well, both with letter names and sounds, and has some idea of what words might start with some letters, e.g. "snake" for "s". As time went on she changed the game to one where she picked up a fish with her hands, brought it to me upside down, and I had to guess what the letter might be. As she was still being exposed to letter names and sounds I went with the changes, and we carried on for maybe 10 minutes.

Tomorrow, if we get time around going to the Salvation Army and eating, I will hopefully read an alphabet book with Iona and play her on You Tube the Alphabet Song, which she loves. She also loves E Eats Everything, by They Might Be Giants, so I might show her that again, as well as trying out Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, of which I've heard great things.

Next week we move on to the curriculum proper, beginning with short "a". The Bible stories are supposed to be Adam and Eve, but I ended up doing them this week, so I might have to think of something else to do if she complains. Other subjects I'll hopefully do something about with her are apples, alligators, astronauts, animals, alphabet, ambulances, acrobats, Africa, addition, amphibians, America, and the Atlantic (I may also remind her about the Arctic, that we talked about when we looked at polar bears in November). I don't plan to be as structured as the curriculum is, with different subjects on different days, but rather try to nudge her to read some interesting books with me and maybe do a bit of colouring or craft (which she's really into). Wish me luck!!!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Seeking Baby Jesus: a Lesson Learned

Over Christmas I've discussed the Christmas story a lot with Iona. She played an angel (or, as she was determined to view it, a fairy!) in our church Nativity, and we also used Truth in the Tinsel as our advent Bible study. It certainly seems to have sunk in: this morning we were both upstairs when she came rushing in to my bedroom saying "Come quickly to Bethlehem. There's a baby there!". She was holding a small, round, glittery scrunchie above her head, and told me "This is a halo". When I said "Are you an angel, then?" she replied "Yes", and led me in to "Bethlehem"!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Versatile Blogger award

Firstly, a big thank you to Sarah, over at Pyjama School, who sent me this award. I love to read her posts about home educating her little boy, who's a similar age to Iona, and her younger daughter - it's fascinating to compare notes on their development, as well as get ideas from her.

The rules of this award are:

  • Thank the person that nominated you with a link back to them.
  • Tell everyone seven things about yourself.
  • Pass this award on to 15 newly discovered blogs and let them know that they’ve received an award!
7 things about me:
  • I studied biochemistry at Oxford University.
  • My Mum was 40 when she had me (so I just beat her, as I was 41 when I had Iona).
  • I worked with adults with learning disabilities for 17 years before I had my daughter.
  • I have played guitar in several church and Salvation Army worship bands, 'though I'm not very good.
  • I adore Christmas in all its aspects, so haven't really had time to write this blog over December.
  • I'm somewhat manic depressive, although life is massively better since I went onto anti-depressants, and I really recommend them for people who think there might be a genetic component to their problems.
  • I met my husband through a Christian dating website!
My 15 award-winners (though they may not be newly-discovered):