I can’t get over how much you can get done in such a short time at home. We usually go out in the mornings around 9am for some park time so Little20 months can expend some energy before her naps. As we leave I hear kids bustling into cars for school and I realise that the school day has not even begun and we have already done so much learning.
Yesterday I thought I would try strewing some books and see what interest I sparked. I had this great art sleuth book from the library which is basically Where’s Wally but with famous artworks, several things to find in the paintings, and some information about the works alongside. At first Little5 looked for one thing on page one and lost interest. I was a bit disappointed but I remembered the whole point was for them to “lead the way” with their learning so we would end up deeply involved in something that really interested her. To my surprise she went back to that book a little later and we did several paintings together until she stalled at a Bosch painting of monsters. She wanted to draw her own monster, then find more Bosche works on the computer. Next thing we are having a computer lesson, learning to use the mouse, scroll, select, locate images and save them.
Having read the curriculum now I can make the links between the curriculum goals and the things we are doing. I thought I would need to do it very explicitly but what I am finding is that it naturally occurs. As I am teaching her about the computer I remember it’s in the Grde 1 English curriculum, this very thing, that we have stumbled into. The Bosche interest leads to printing the monster paintings, naming them creatively, and making a monster book and Little5 is using the computer, cutting, pasting, creating, and doing writing copywork all at once.
Later we go out to the park and it happens again. Little5 is proficient at addition and can use money to make up particular amounts when it’s in her hands. However, whilst playing shops at the park I noticed she would say she had a $16 note. One of the curriculum goals is to correctly identify notes and coins and understand their value. We found ourselves doing exactly that when I would point out that she couldn’t have a $16 or a $3 note and she would figure out what she really needed to pay the prices I was creating. She had so much fun she would have played forever and next time we’ll play with actual money and consolidate her learning. We also did a treasure hunt at the park with Little5 reading all the clues.
In the afternoon she did a bit more of the monster book, did her reader, played with her sister and lay on the couch listening to audio stories until her grandparents came round.
We had a really fun day with plenty of learning and lots of what I have read and listened to is making so much sense now we are actually doing it for real.
I feel like this is the first day of homeschooling for real. It’s silly really because we are not doing anything different to what we have always done BUT Little5 is home 3 days plus weekends from this week and somehow having tipped the balance so she is at home for more of the school week than she is at school has made me feel like I am finally doing this thing for real…
I am putting no pressure on myself, well I’m trying… It’s 8:30am and our homeschool day has already been packed with learning. Not the kind of learning you see at a desk but this kind of learning.
We had pancakes and poetry for breakfast. We talked about what poetry is and what makes it different to pros, we talked about how poems can be culturally specific and I read some Australian poems featuring things Australians are familiar with like cicadas and red cows.
Then we played charades. Little5 read the cards (some in built reading practice without her knowledge). She went to great lengths to help me guess “pine cone” and we did some characters from books and tv. I was Pippi Longstocking, she was Catboy from PJ Masks, then the saucepan man from the Faraway Tree and Mary Poppins. In this way we explored what makes a ‘character’. Then the girls did leggo while I packed lunch boxes for the long drive to Kids Like Us. In the future we might use the drive for audio books but at the moment we use it for rest and music. We all love music and it’s good to have uninterrupted listening time. Even Little20months is quiet in the car, listening.
Little5 spends 1.5hrs learning with intellectual peers at the centre and has a 30 minute chess lesson after. Then we have another big rest driving home.
In the afternoon we read aloud while the little one slept. Pippi Longstocking was Little 5’s choice. When the little one woke up we got out our homeschool market project. We have about 6 weeks to make clay beads, paint them, and string some necklaces, ready to sell at the homeschool makers market. It’s great to have a long term project and Little5 is very keen on learning about money at the moment (and making it!) so it gives us a chance to experience the whole process. I plan to bring some maths in, getting her to calculate the costs of the materials and work out a selling price to make a profit. Then we can practice giving change on the day and count our profits at the end.
Little5 is always collecting rocks and making up elaborate stories about fossils and gems and diamonds. I can’t remember what sparked the questions but she asked to learm about rocks so I scrambled together a unit study.
First we walked around the river, cliffs, parks in our area and developed a rock collection. I picked up a few books from the library to get us started.
After reading descriptions of metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous rocks we sorted the rocks into categories based on how they appeared. I was surprised we had plenty for each group. I also discovered that the Merri Creek which we have spend hours exploring is surrounded by some of the best examples of volcanic rock in the state because the region was historically covered with volcanos. We visited a few spots where we could see the streaks of lava turned to cliff face.
We talked about the different things we use rocks for in society and did a cut and paste sheet with some examples.
After that we moved onto gems and crystals, by far the favourite part of the unit. We did a Eggshell Geodes to show how crystals are formed by minerals dripping into crevices. This was very easy to do with minimal ingredients most people have in the cupboard and turned out like this..
If you have a place nearby where you think you could unearth some special looking rocks you could stage a dig outside but I bought this kit so we could explore some different types of gems.
I highly recommend this brand as it was just the right level of difficulty to locate and dig out the gems, it kept Little5 very busy and the finds inside were worth the effort. It also comes with a poster explaining how to identify different rocks. We didn’t go into this in great detail but there is room here for an in-depth study of ifentification if you have a child that is super interested in this area.
Finally we made the earth with playdough layers and discussed the different kinds of rock that form the earth.
Little5 had great fun with all these activities and then said she was done with rocks so we moved on.
Next up Energy!
On her blog My Little Poppies Cait writes about Rabbit Holes and her post resonated with me because I feel like for the past few years we have been going down rabbit holes with little consideration for what is being covered or whether it pertains to any curriculum or long-term educational significance. This is easy with 2,3,4 year olds and gets harder when kids hit the magical number at which society mandates formal schooling is necessary for every single child regardless of the unique development of individuals. I am lucky that Little5 is at school part-time and is several years ahead anyway because it takes the pressure off and enables me to avoid a little voice in my head asking if we are ticking the boxes the education system requires.
This morning we woke to the sound of hot air gushing into several hot air balloons floating past our second story windows. The balloons pass over our place frequently but today they were very, very low. This led to excited screams, waving to those in the low baskets, and watching one balloon get lower as it past the tops of the trees lining our street only to land on the oval at the end of our street. Little5 was so excited to get down there we rushed out of the house in pyjamas bare foot and got right up close as the balloon gradually came down to the ground, the passengers clapping and celebrating there somewhat unexpected but safe landing.
This experience led Little5 to show me an experiment she had seen sometime ago involving putting a flame to a balloon filled with air and then one filled with water. She cheered excitedly when I discovered that the balloon filled with water would not pop like the other, and that the rubber would not melt.
Tomorrow she plans to build a mini hot air balloon that will somehow float. She also wants to design a pattern for a hot air balloon, and do some heating and cooling experiments. This is the best kind of rabbit hole, where she leads, and all I have to do is follow.
I was going to make the nursery an outing for us but had visions of Little5 collecting every plant in site for the trolley while the little one uprooted a plant and pulled a terracotta pot on to the floor. These are the kind of things I could easily have done with one child but with two a casual trip to the nursery could actually be quite stressful. With this in mind I went while Little5 was in a class and had all the supplies ready to go the next morning. We planted some pansies, moved our indoor tree into a larger pot, and set up a fairy garden pot Little5 was given last Christmas. We talked about drainage, soil type, and fertiliser and I relayed the care instructions given to me at the nursery. Little5 loves growing something we can eat and watched her strawberry plant every day. The strawberries were being eaten by something and it was very disappointing so I thought we would try a blueberry instead.
After doing the planting we set up a plant needs experiment. Since Little5 knows the basics and could guess the outcome of not watering or providing light to a plant we made it a little more nuanced. We have one seedling with all a plant needs, and then one with a little light through a hole, one with no light, one with fertiliser and one without, one watered with milk and one with orange juice (Little5’s ideas!)
We love David Attenborough so I often supplement a unit study with his documentaries if there are suitable ones. For this unit Kingdom of Plants and Private life of plants are great. The latter has episodes broken up into movement, growth and survival so we watched ‘movement’ after looking at seeds and dispersal etc.
I like to incorporate some art into each unit so today we watched this madi and dada YouTube video on Arcimboldo. I picked out some other videos too as I find madi and dada can be a bit strong on entertainment and light on information. I chose him because he made art from plants, fruit and vegetables, so it tied in nicely. We did our own collection in the garden and made self portraits.
At the end of the study we played Think Big Science.
I separated all the plant related questions so we could play the board game with this theme only and it was perfect. There were enough questions to cover everything we can done in our study and more. It confirmed Little5 had a very good understanding of plants.
We started our day off with pancakes and some read alouds. I put some plant books on hold at the library but they haven’t come through yet so I pulled anything off the shelf that was a bit plant ish! We started with this Venus fly trap book because who doesn’t want to read about plants that eat animals! Little5 loved this book because in her words “it’s a story with science” and has asked me to find more books like this where you get some fiction with your non-fiction.
Next we played ‘fruit and veg guess which part’ for which I emptied out the vegetable draw in the fridge and some fruit from the bowl. We ended up with carrots for roots, broccoli for flowers, peas for seeds, celery for stems, and apples for fruit. Little5 thought it was hilarious that broccoli was a flower and that she had never noticed cauliflower contained that word. She had never thought about the food she eats everyday in this way and it reminded me of the disconnect most of us have between our food and where it actually comes from. We sketched some of the parts of the plant down in her science book.
Next we headed off for a nature walk with Little17months keenly taking part. On our walk we collected the different parts of the plant from all over the place – petals from various flowers, a stem from a small gum, pulled up roots from some daisies, seeds from the pods of the big trees that line our street, crab apples for fruit, and leaves from a cherry blossom. Then we returned home to reconstruct our own super plants (while the little one slept) while discussing the function of each part of the plant. We also did a seed lifecycle because we had lots of extra seeds.
Little5 watched a video playlist I make on YouTube covering the basics of plants, including their parts, their needs, photosynthesis, decomposers, and some science experiments about plants. Crash course kids on YouTube has some good short videos for this topic as well as homeschool pop. As part of this unit study we also did the classic experiment with flowers and food dye to view the white flowers change colour as the coloured water travelled up the stem of the plant to the petals.
This was another sweet read aloud that both kids could enjoy and gives an appreciation of how long it takes for plants to grow.
We will need this perspective for part 3 when we actually grow some plants and do some experiments with seedlings.
It’s been a tough few weeks in our house. Anxiety is running high and some mornings getting out the door is such hard work it barely seems worth the effort. But when things are all going wrong inside, getting the kids outside can turn it all around.
A couple of days ago Little 5s other mum took her to climb a tree, a walk down to the river, and the achievement that comes with doing something hard successfully put a huge smile on both their faces.
Lately Litte5 has been very tired and overwhelmed by everything. School is proving an incredibly difficult transition. The usual activities we do at home are often too taxing for her with too many possibilities for failure or frustration which is the last thing she needs. Taking her nature journal out and seeing what interesting things we can find and chat about is a gentle activity we can do together.
It is Autumn here and the trees are turning. Our street is filled with golden, orange, yellow, red leaves and almost every tree, bush and plant is seeding. This morning we collected seeds and talked about dispersion. Little5 already knew that seeds can be moved by wind and water in order to spread and grow more plants. We talked about how they can be spread by animals, especially seeds inside of fruit. We collected a wide range of seeds which covers all dispersion methods. Little5 pointed out that the seeds pods fall from the trees right where they are and noticed that lots of those trees grow close by one another so perhaps that is how forests grow.
When we got back we cut all the seeds and pods open and looked at them under the microscope. Then together we drew them whole and in half in her nature journal, discussing which dispersion method each probably uses. It took a couple of hours to do this activity. We saw three ducks making there way up the river and paused to watch them glide under the bridge.