Thursday, December 18, 2014

What should a 4 year old know?

A brief note further to my post about what Miles is learning compared to what Caden knew at his age. Where I said I knew that he was learning at his own pace and I know that logically but sometimes I am worried I am not doing enough for him or that I am failing him because he hasn't reached the same level academically. Well, I know it is a silly worry and I said as much in my post. It was more of a voicing the way it feels to be confronted with two normal children with different abilities and wanting to make sure I am the best parent I can be for them.

A friend of mine posted this link for me...

Which I am very grateful for, thank you Jo! Now I have read this I feel even easier. Miles is really, really happy in his life, he is a joy to be around and he is such a cool dude! He is so friendly and warm. The other day he went up to a random stranger, an older Italian lady in a shop and grabbed her hand and kissed it. She was delighted and so touched. She kissed his hand back and told me that his little act of warmth had made her day. He is such a lovely little peach, I am very proud of him.

He is enthusiastic about helping around the house, he is kind to people and will share his toys with people to his own detriment I have noticed, sometimes. He doesn't mind. He is funny and loves to be the joker in the room, making people laugh. He always gets stuck into games and has no problem going into groups where he doesn't know people, as long as it is interesting to him. Often Caden rides the crest of Miles' confidence, when he doesn't feel confident himself.

So there we are, he is a normal, happy and confident boy, developing as he should and lucky to have the space to do the things he loves with the people he loves every day.

Drama workshop flop and we discover Khan Academy.

Caden's enthusiasm for practising his writing and drawing (mostly dragons) remains high. Here is a Fire Dragon he drew and labelled. 

We went to visit their friends for a weekly play date, the boys are all here under the table in their 'den'. 

Miles loves wearing his new personalised birthday T shirt. The boys are here doing a giant drawing on the floor. 

Some of Caden's writing and some more dragons. Miles covered his end with scribbles. I am glad he is showing an interest in drawing and enjoys it. 

I took the boys to a drama workshop. It was meant to be entitled 'Rudolph the blue nosed reindeer' but when we got there it was about a girl who saves some fairies. Even I groaned inwardly at the storyline. It was a poor choice of story for my two boys, though the girls in the group loved it. I almost certainly wouldn't have taken them if I had known. I know from experience in the past that despite wanting to avoid over exposing them to typically only boy things, they just aren't interested in girly stuff that much. Boys and girls are different generally in their interests. Caden showed some interest in the physical games, there was a good game where the fairies sat in the middle of a parachute and everyone would wrap them up in the canvas and then pull it outwards which spun the fairies round. There were a couple of other running about games that Caden liked. Miles was having none of it. He really didn't like it at all. Now I know... I won't be darkening the door of another drama group, I am very happy to say. It is just horribly hard work when they don't want to be there and are completely not interested.

We went to the playground afterwards. Caden has learned to swing himself, Yay!! He did really well. I anticipate a Summer ahead where I will only be needing to push one little boy and not too. He loved it, as you can see. 

Then we came home and made festive stocking biscuits and gingerbread men. Miles wanted to do the mixing and cutting and the hands on stuff. Caden only wanted to read. He learned a few new words like sachet and decorate and we went over the different units of temperature measurement, Farenheit and Celsius. His reading ability continues to astound me (umm, excuse the mess, there isn't much space for home baking in a tiny kitchen like this). 

Miles cuts the festive stocking biscuits, with a little help. 

There have been a few excellent questions this week that I wanted to chase up. One was 'What happens if you go faster than the speed of light?' and the other was 'What is the cutest baby animal?'. Of course, each is equally important haha. We took on the speed of light question through Google and after showing Caden the electromagnetic spectrum so that he could understand waves first, I thought it would be better to go way back and start with basic physics. I have heard of the Khan Academy before but not really ever used them. So I signed us up and I am blown away by the extent of this highly acclaimed resource. It is AMAZING! Here is a link for anyone who doesn't know about it. 

It is a free site with a progress tracker (when you sign up) and information on all aspects of science, with tutorial videos; Art; Maths and IT. I noticed there was a basic programming course for anyone who wants to do it. Caden will be learning some basic coding in the next few months. It is really encouraging to find this at a stage where Caden and Miles are just starting to be interested enough and developed enough to grasp some of the concepts. We will be visiting this site regularly now as part of our weekly routine. 

The cookies were tasty so we scoffed a couple while Miles went off to play and Caden and I watched a tutorial entitled 'An introduction to light'. It talked about the basics of waves, photons, the electromagnetic spectrum and refraction, which he knows about from chats about the rainbow and sunlight. Caden really loved hearing that the light from the sun takes over 7 minutes to reach us and that the light from the stars in the sky takes much longer to reach us than that. He said he thought it was really weird. Also weird that some insects can see UV and IR wavelengths and dogs only see in shades of grey.  We also tried to get an understanding of how fast the speed of light it, it is pretty inconceivable. The narrator on Khan academy said 3 x 10 (to the power of 8)m per second, 300 million metres per second. Caden was really blown away by this. I love seeing him find science ideas fascinating. We also did a bit of basic maths, to assess his level for the maths program they provide. We plan to be back on the Conquer Maths programme from January so this is a great infill for now. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Handwriting - brought to you by autonomous education.

All of a sudden, to coincide with us not rushing around sorting out floods, houses or getting ready for a big holiday, we have been able to focus on our day to day routine and lives and the home education is back with a vengeance. 

Me and the boys have been doing all sorts together. 

I made a green juice with my new manual juicer, the boys will be learning how to put this together and make juices soon. It is quite labour intensive. 

We took a walk into Fenny and had a look at the vacuum robot. 

We also saw this sign and had a chat about how big companies monopolise markets and what this means for small businesses like this one. 

When we walked into a car park, a car came past. Caden remembered the Ted Hughes poem from the other day and said he was scaling the wall. Miles copied too. 

The boys' Dad and I seem to be getting on well again and we have had a chat about the boy's education. We are both happy with the direction it is going in though I said I wanted to work on Caden's handwriting and Miles' reading as a priority which he agrees with. 

Maybe Caden heard me but we decided to do our Christmas wrapping and cards (I don't send Christmas cards but it's a good opportunity for writing for the boys).  Caden decided to write a Christmas card to Dan TDM from Diamond Minecart, who is a you tube minecraft video superstar at the moment. If you have boys into minecraft, they will know who he is. Once there was a good reason for Caden to do the writing, it was incredible to see, he wrote away and he writing is really GOOD. We have done handwriting practise in the past but he hated it, it was repetitive and meaningless. I thought I would come back to it when he turned seven having read research that shows boy's coordination is not as advanced as girl's pre age seven. I wanted to make life easier for Caden and me. I will hold to this with writing for Miles too, unless he shows such an interest as this. 

This really brings home to me how the principles of autonomous education work. It is working for us right now at home. I am providing him with the tools to facilitate his interests and the academic stuff is happening in a meaningful way for him. I have loved watching it happen. 

First Caden finished off the Christmas list for me of people we needed to get presents for, here is Daddy, Caden, Miles, Granny Jo, Gramps, Zack and Ashley. 

This is his card to Dan TDM (while Miles snarfs a bowl of blueberries).

Miles gets his axe and spends 15 minutes chopping wood for me. 

Miles also did some great work. He has moved on naturally from large squiggles to quite precise curly patterns which look a lot like writing. I remember Caden doing this and once Miles recognises letters and can read well, writing won't be so difficult for him. I think the trick is to allow them access to drawing, colouring and painting. Anything that get their fine motor coordination going will contribute to writing. 

This morning Caden and Miles worked on a project based around a favourite DVD they have been watching. How to train your dragon. They have been watching the making of the cartoon documentary which has shown some of the cartoonists artwork and sketches. They then wanted to sketch the dragons themselves from a still frame they paused on the DVD. 

You can see that Caden chose to label the dragons he created himself and has written their names. One you can read is the 'Whispering death'. He asked for help with the spelling. 

In other news, we are getting into watching documentaries while the weather is cold outside. We are watching the Human Planet series together and talking about all the different things the program presents. The first one was Oceans. Caden and I held our breath when the man dived to see how long he could hold his breath for compared to us. The answer... a lot longer. 

Life is good on the boat, we are getting used to the space we have. The boys are learning to be respectful of grown up's space too, they can't just dive around (hot stove nearby) and jump on the couch or throw things at each other like they might in a house. I think it is great that they are adapting to a different environment and I hope that they learn more consideration from this. 

We also have been having lots of fun, singing loudly to songs from the radio and watching the ducks and seagulls from the windows. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Milesy is 4!

I read somewhere once that 4 is the age where toddlerhood ends and childhood begins. I am finding it hard to accept that my little baby Miles is already at his boyhood but it seems he is. He is noticeably taller, more articulate and more 'boy-like' than 'baby-like'. He was my fat, squidgy little Milesy, who lived on my back and at my breast and now he is a strong, slim and handsome little man. 

He had a very good fourth birthday. We went to the home educator's Christmas party in the morning after he had opened a couple of presents.  Here the boys are, helping me to carry the sandwiches I made to contribute. 

At the Christmas party the boys made sheep masks which they used with a sheepskin each on their backs to be sheep in the nativity. We had a chat about what Christmas means to some people and about Christianity. Miles wanted to be the baby Jesus so he lay down on his sheepskin rug in the manger area for a lot of the time. 

Here they are decorating biscuits with icing sugar (snow) and edible pine trees and silver balls. 


Miles being the baby Jesus and Caden being a sheep. 

We went to pick up a gift for Miles from Ian at lunch time.  Miles chose a remote controlled tarantula. He was absolutely determined to have it. 

Then we met some friends at Splash Zone at Gulliver's Land in MK. Miles really loves it there and the water was really warm, they played for about two hours and had a brilliant time together. Then we did the cake. Caden was very gracious to Miles this year, he was understanding about the presents being Miles' and not his and he did his best to make Miles feel special on his birthday. It's lovely to see him being considerate to Miles. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Academic update and Frosty Mornings

Here is Caden helping me (under forced labour conditions) to sweep the boat, while I did some cleaning. 

One morning we woke up and everything was frosty, the boys wanted to know when it would snow. We have the sledge ready for the first snow after last year's dissappointingly snow-free, Winter. 

I am waiting for a new password for Caden's maths program but his reading continues to come along in leaps and bounds. His spelling is continuing to happen naturally, he writes words daily on his computer games and shows them to me, often with the odd misspelling, which I correct and he retypes. He recites spellings to me in the car, the latest is Fire which gives rise to us talking about how the e after a vowel changes the sound in the word. We have gone over metaphors and similes and assonance/alliteration many times, he is getting the hang of it. He is learning grammar too, he asks lots of questions all the time, what is an exclamation mark and so on. The learning happens naturally in a way that makes sense to him in the context of his life. I can see lots of progress every day, I feel relaxed that he is learning enough and it gives me confidence. 

I have worried that Miles isn't interested in learning to read much, I have to keep reminding myself to give him a break, he is only three. Caden was reading almost fluently at four but Miles can't even read his name, he can do lots of other things that Caden couldn't, of course they are different children. I have to remind myself often that he is developing as he should. He is so good in other areas. We went back to his reading eggs programme again today to start from the very beginning again, he is showing a little progress today. He did seem to get it, with the letters M and S. I am telling myself today that he will take it slowly, at his own pace and that I need to consistently present the information to him and not rush him when he seems like he has had enough. I have had him in front of the 'your baby can read' DVD series and while he has shown slightly more interest, it is a while coming. This is not a complaint, just a record of the way things are, progress-wise. I have complete trust that there are plenty of other things going on that I cannot see, which will come out in the future. He is doing just fine and I know I am doing enough. I will feel easier when he can read too. He does seem to really be doing well with his numbers and maths though, maybe he has a head for that instead. As ever he is practical and sociable and loves to help. 

I am hoping to take us all to France for them to live with some French children for a few weeks, they can practise their French, which seems to be coming along really well for both of them.

Finally, I have been introducing the boys to poetry. Firstly funny stuff which is in the link as follows:

Then I sang them a little song, they loved this because they see the ducks wiggle their bottoms (tails up) every day now on the canal, when I sang 'up tails all' they turned around and waved their bottoms about, laughing.

Then Milesy went off to play and I went through a basic analysis of Ted Hughes', Wind, with Caden. A superb piece of poetry. Once I had explained what it meant, it was wonderful to read it back and watch his comprehension of the poem. He made his eyes flash when I read 'flexing like the lens of a mad eye' and pushed his eyes in when I read about the wind denting the balls of his eyes. It was a really good mothering moment, I am going to read more with him now I can see how he enjoyed it. Here is the poem


This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet
Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.
At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up -
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,
The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house
Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,
Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.
(C) Ted Hughes

November 2014 we settle into our new life

It was weird getting back from travelling in the Far East. I had spoken with the kids nearly every day, I knew they were happy but I had underestimated how much having so much time off had distanced me from mothering actually. It was quite a shock to go back to looking after their needs all the time. We settled into it after a few days. They were delighted with their gifts. Caden had asked for a shark's tooth necklace, he wears it constantly, only taking it off for the swimming baths. Miles is pictured here with his real iron, mini axe. Caden said, "I think it's made of stone", I suggested he test it for magnetism. The magnet stuck to it so we knew it was a magnetic metal, probably iron. 

We were moored in the marina for a week following a few hiccoughs with the boat when I arrived back. I felt safer there. We watched a fisherman pull in an enormous fish, he identified it as a pike, we could tell by its long nose. 

One day we went mushroom picking in the woods, we took photos of all the different ones we saw, there were loads and loads. The boys loved being explorers, hunting through the dead bracken for the next fungus discovery.  Miles took it upon himself to use his new axe on as many trees as possible. 

And chopped some rotten wood off a log, he rather enjoyed this!

They climbed about on a logpile house, we were reminded of the Gruffalo story where 'the snake came out of its woodpile house, could this be the home of the big, bad mouse?' 

Caden pulls apart the dead wood, looking for any grubs or bugs. We didn't find anything except a few spiders. 

We found the fire hydrant and just talked briefly about how that marks the spot where water can be accessed. Here is a link to more information about them. 

Another day the sun shone into the boat, I made the boys vegetable soup which they named 'chompy soup!' and some crusty rolls which they loved. I felt very productive on that day.

We moved the boat a few times, the boys are starting to help me with the mooring. Caden has watched me tie a few knots (I am learning all the time too) and we are really appreciating this beautiful canal and the opportunities for happiness and nature that it provides us with. The boys ran off to feed the ducks here and then were treated to about four eager seagulls attacking the ducks for the bread. They boys found this so exciting. They are paying attention to stay away from the edge of the canal all the time. 

I have taken the boys swimming a number of times and am teaching them to swim now. They already made some progress but we need to go 3-4 times a week to keep it up. It might be tricky with Christmas nearly here but as many opportunities as we can get, we will go. 

We went to the early years group, Miles is play doughing here with his friends. 

Caden and some friends made a ship here I think, they were cooperating and inventing together anyway. 

Caden, crafting with his friend. 

We put up our Christmas lights. They are battery operated ones from IKEA so we won't drain our battery on the boat at all with them. They are very pretty. Ian found a way to tie them to the handles in the boat with cable ties and now we have lovely little lights all down the galley of the boat. The boys have a lot in their bottom cabin bed which keeps the lights dim when they are reading before bed. 

The boys made snowflakes out of folding paper and cutting shapes, then unfolding the paper to reveal the pattern.  Caden and Miles both used scissors by themselves and  Caden proudly decorated his. Miles did glueing and glittering on a Christmas tree picture for me. So sweet!

We started up a minecraft gaming afternoon, the boys got very excited between them to go onto each other's games. Caden really likes a couple of the boys who go and this could be a new thing for them. Miles was the popular one here when he finally was able to get onto the world. He is really getting very good at minecraft too, he is only three, it is really amazing how quickly they pick it up. 

Us chilling out at home with a nice fire and watching a film. 

Reichstag Bundestag

When we visited Berlin in 2016 on our first interrailing trip, I had learned that visits to the Reischtag dome were possible and had planne...