Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Colourscape - Clapham Common

A couple of new things have been going on lately. One is that Caden started Beaver Scouts. He seems to like it. I got in a flap about it all and was late, went to the wrong place and didn't bring what I should have, and so on! Luckily the people running it are really nice so it didn't affect Caden's enjoyment or ability to join in. Here they all are playing team games. 

Miles and I had an hour together and he spent most of it rolling down the hill. 

Another big event we went to was Colourscape at Clapham Common, London. Lots of Caden and Miles' friends were going so that was a real bonus. We walked there, about 45 minutes through the common and the kids had a great time with sticks and playing around. 

The boys are very close to their friends, they think a lot about them. 

This was the colourscape information. 

We had to wear coloured aprons before we went in. It was a series of connected inflated dome type structures. 

A group of us was led around the installation with an artist who helped to create it. She explained that its purpose was to see what feelings the colours invoked in people who went into the structure. Also what happened to our coloured aprons when we went into different colours. That was interesting to see. It was unbearably hot inside though and the boys got uncomfortable. The woman running it also seemed to insist on the kids not laying against the sides and not going off to explore. It was a bit like saying to a hungry child, here is a biscuit to hold but you are not allowed to eat it. I don't think I coped very well with the stress of the day, it had been quite a tough week with the decorating going on at home and a house move imminent. In the end, after trying to stop Caden and Miles from bouncing on the walls and running off, I chose to take them out and we sat by the lake and they ran about. They were happier outside. 

The photos we got from the day were beautiful though. 

My gorgeous little three year old Milesy! Enjoying the light and the bounce of the sides. 

It was pretty hard work for all the parents that day, the heat, the traffic and lots of other things going on but we got through it and it was all a learning experience. The boys really loved playing with their friends at the park. They have made some new friends recently who have moved to MK. They have been seeing them quite a bit. 

Caden also runs a minecraft afternoon for his mates once a fortnight at our home. He had the first this week. He said it was the best thing he had ever done. The boys fell out and one of them blew up Caden's world, then Caden flooded a boy's roller coaster in retaliation. Myself and the mother of the other boy worked with the two boys to try resolve it and in the end Caden repaired the damage he had caused when he saw how sad he had made his friend. It was an excellent learning experience in making up after a fall out. Ever since then Caden has talked about the new skills he learned from the boys and says he can't wait for the next one. 

Windsor Castle - Mummy and Caden's day out together.

Part of my plan with Caden this year is to continue experiencing as much British History as we can to tie all the pieces together. We did the Tudors and Victorians last year. This trip to Windsor Castle gave us an opportunity to learn about the Royal Family and see what life was like at the castle in the 1850s. 

We arrived just in time!

This was the Queen's actual chair. :) 

There were photos of the Royal Family and various world leaders and politicians all over the walls. Caden is familiarising himself with who famous and influential people are. All good for his general knowledge.
The workshop was about life in the castle in the Victorian times. The children dressed as servants (hence Caden's brown apron) and some were given rather laborious jobs to do. The woman running the session was lively and funny and the kids all paid attention and seemed to enjoy it. 

They were told about procedures like when the Queen stays at the castle and how you can tell by which flag is flying at the castle. 

The children are using traditional tools to wash sheets and do the ironing. 

They were all given their own place settings and had to lay the table for the Queen to come and eat. Caden was very careful to make sure his cutlery was exactly lined up and the crest was facing upward. He asked whether the Queen was actually coming to the castle afterwards. I said, you never know! ;) He thought it was pretty cool!

We both thought this was a very nice part of the castle. 

Caden liked the cannons and the soldiers. He also really liked the view again, he really enjoys a good view! Me too! 

Inside the castle we went to look at the staterooms. I did take some photos, not realising it was not allowed. I was asked not to later on but a couple I got were of Caden looking at the various things on display. The King's bedroom!

Some very lavish chandeliers....

The grand dining hall where the Queen entertained 160 (I think) people in the last few years, Tony Blair was there I think. It was about that time. We watched all the dignitaries coming to their places. The table takes three days to set apparently! The ceiling is adorned with hundreds of coats of arms. It is incredibly grand!

This was a coin with the order of the garter written on it. The language, we learned, is French, not Latin as we first thought. 

We had a nice few hours on our own together. It was good to be able to talk with Caden on his own, I hope we can do it more regularly in time. It would be good to spend time alone with Miles too. It changes the dynamic. 

September stuff

It feels like 2014 is drawing to a close already. It is only September but we have a house move on the horizon now and I have a three week trip to the Far East in the middle of October where the boys have their annual holiday with their Dad and a week with Grandma. The boys and I only have five weeks now together before I go, I already miss them and I am trying to make the most of the time I have with them even though it feels like there are a billion things that all need doing at once. 

We have been getting out to local playgrounds in the increasingly chilly Autumn air. 

They had a birthday party at one of their best friend's houses. I had to take a photo. Look at that party display. Leticia spent weeks on this! 

Hanging out at the party with their party bags! 

With it being September, lots of regular home ed. groups have started up again. Our monthly IKEA meet up has restarted which we are all very happy about. They are playing with their friends at the playground here. They are growing so quickly now!

We have been to the woods with friends. Here they are playing on the wooden sculptures at Stockgrove Country Park. 

We never stopped with 'school' work so we are continuing with Maths, reading and we have been looking at chemical reactions on science websites. Caden loves looking at the weird reactions that happen. 

Miles' language skills have taken a huge leap lately, he is conversing well now and it feels like my almost four year old has turned into a little boy from the toddler he was. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kew Gardens - Rainforest workshop

I have been looking forward to taking them out on the day trip to Kew Gardens myself for some time so I was promptly out of the door this morning. It was a two hour drive through some pretty abysmal traffic to get there but we arrived in good spirits with 20 minutes to spare, which was good, because we had gone to the wrong entrance. We bumped into a friend and her children and the staff at Elizabeth gate were very helpful indeed, they checked us out and once verified, allowed us to walk to the other gate to save us time. Once again, it was the beginning of a new day and all the children were really excited to see each other. They were running around, chasing each other with sticks and burning up their pent up energy from the long car drive and the early (for us - 7.30am) start.

The trees at Kew are incredible and worth remarking on. There were so many varieties of Oak, still recognisable as Oak from the acorns but not (to me) the leaves. This was an Indian Bean tree, very beautiful and unusual.

As a group, once we were organised, we made our way to the treetop walk. On approach, the children could see the walkway up high and excitedly ran towards it. Here is Caden walking down it. You could see through the metal sheeting at your feet to the ground, not for sufferers of vertigo.
Complete with stick... all the kids had their own sticks.

Doing the circular walk and reading the cast metal plaques that were placed around it. There were biological facts on each one.

After we completed the walk, we found a tunnel with unusual shapes in, so we went to check it out. Caden found a piece of wood. He felt it on his cheek with that expression. I love this boy!!!!

We found a wonderful sculpture/display which represented the symbiotic relationship between fungi and plants. Plants give the fungi sugar for food and fungi synthesise nutrients for the plants.

This was a glass mosaic intended to show the mutually beneficial relationships between fungi and plants called Micorizza.

We found a rather far out looking wasp catcher (we presume) in the woods.
Climbing trees (we did ask them to get down).

Then it was the rainforest workshop. You can see there is a large, inflatable globe in the middle of the photo. The kids located rainforests and discussed in large groups the things they knew. The things we discussed included what we get from the rainforest and a brief description of respiration was talked about. The children were using the words Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide as part of the discussion. There was also a discussion about the energy production within a plant though the word photosynthesis didn't come up, the fact that it is the leaf and that the sun is involved was discussed. It surprises me how little is talked about in these processes as part of the curriculum at KS2 (which Caden isn't quite a part of yet, he would have been just starting as a young one in Year 2 this year). I often think that the national curriculum just covers the real basics of subjects and doesn't give enthusiastic children the chance to learn much more. Caden and I have been talking about photosynthesis for some time, though he doesn't understand it yet, when he is ready to, he will see the language we use to describe the process as normal and hopefully understanding the process will be more accessible to him.
I would like to say that I thought the leader/teacher was very talented at classroom management. There was a large range of ages, from about 5 to 10 and there were intelligent and forceful characters in the room who demanded a lot of her time. I thought that she dealt with it kindly and in a way that all the children still felt that they had really been personally engaged with. I was very impressed with her and with her knowledge.

We were shown tables with activities on and got to it. We had to match the items in the shopping basket with raw ingredients that came from the rainforest. A very every-day, life-relevant task I thought. 

Here the children are learning about Annatto, Caden saw that his hands had gone orange and learned that this is a colouring agent that the food industry uses to colour some of its products.

They learned about tamarind, cacao (though we use raw chocolate at home so Caden knows a bit about this one), plantain and coffee beans. It was great that the children got to hold the raw foods, smell them and take part in the activities in an unstructured way. This worked with the smaller group and I thought the leader made a good call. The kids did benefit from following things at their pace, some flitted about taking it all in and others (like Caden) stayed on one or two activities and got really engaged with it.

Here is Caden feeling the 'bum seed', yes really!! He was lucky to get a chance to hold it. It is called the Coco de Mer or Sea coconut. Trust Caden to go for that one though!
Then we made our way as a group to the temperate rainforest in the glass house. We learned that there are 16,000 panes of glass in the structure. The gardens outside were spectacular.

 We learned that this was an edible banana flower. It was like nothing we had seen before.
The leader demonstrated how leaves are waterproof and pointed out the drip tip.

Here Caden is reading about the rubber plant, this was an example of something that the rainforest gave us.
We were shown baby pineapples growing and we talked about the habitats of poison dart frogs.

Then we looked at the Cacao plant and it's pods. (Chocolate)

The children were given raw (unprocessed) cacao seeds from a plant, not like the raw, slightly cleaned up ones you buy from a raw food shop. They weren't too keen on the smell.

Caden was asked to hold a picture of papayas for the group to see. He read the word on the card before anyone else could say what the fruit was.

Caden and his friend outside. They had a great time together today!

After the workshop we went to the marine aquarium to look at fish and sea creatures. Miles had been looked after by a friend and his daughter while I looked after their son, so we met them there.
Looking at jellyfish.

Miles looking at jellies.... upside down ones.

They loved the razor fish. They are funny little things that swim vertically, like they are hopping. Fascinating to watch.

The pufferfish which Caden said was smiling.
Beautiful water lily garden.

and the day was completed with an hour at the indoor play area, all biology themed!
We had a truly excellent day today. The kids were shattered but asked if we could stay and then if we could go back soon when they realised we couldn't stay. We would love to return again soon for another workshop if there are any more in the future.

Reichstag Bundestag

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