Thursday, 10 July 2014

Summer Activities

Click HERE for creative ideas. Which is your favourite?
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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

An Idyllic Home Ed Day

Yesterday we had one of those rare golden days. Our eldest son had heard about a "How to Train your Dragon" exhibition at a gallery in another city. Being a huge fan of the books by Cressida Cowell, the series which really got him reading, and eagerly anticipating the release of the second movie, he expressed an interest in going. As we had plans to visit friends on their farm over that way, we decided to make a day of it.

The Cressida Cowell exhibition was really enjoyable - especially as the older boys know the books so well. It was very interactive, and great fun even for our toddler, who enjoyed dressing up in Viking garb and sitting in the longboat listening to sea shanties. It was interesting to learn more about Cressida's early life, and the way in which her childhood shaped and inspired her Viking and dragon tales. It was also interesting to listen to her talk about her ideas book, which was on display, and the way in which she began with a map out of which the characters wandered and the stories began to unfold.

The boys enjoyed looking at original sketches from the stories and reading more - both about Cressida and her engaging characters, and about Viking culture and tradition. The exhibition combined of written and video presentation along with lots of pictures and interactive displays. A highlight was a video in which Cressida taught us some "Dragonese" - the language of the dragons.

I love the way so many great works of literature involve the creation of an imaginary world complete with geography, history, language and culture. It is such a creative process, and the hope is that the boys were suitably inspired.

My second son talks of wanting to be an illustrator, and recently told me he was going to write a book. He went on to describe his idea for a plot involving time travel and science fiction. It was creative and original - and it surprised me because it comes from a boy who shows no willingness or interest in the process of writing, not at the moment. It is so interesting what is going on, unseen, in the imagination.

After an hour or so at the gallery, we drove out of town and made our way to our friends' farm. What a beautiful location, tucked away in the middle of nowhere. We shared a picnic lunch in their walled garden, and the boys had fun playing with their young son on the climbing frame, trampoline and in the sandpit and BIG paddling pool, never mind the battery powered ride-on tractor - plenty to keep all ages entertained, whilst we chatted about autonomous learning! There is so much to learn day-by-day on the farm. They had a wonderful, well-established vegetable patch where we were able to pick a variety of berries which we have stewed today and enjoyed with our cereal and in a lovely crumble, prepared by son no 2! We walked down to the farmyard with their dogs, and were able to talk to the farmer about the farm machinery - and sit in a combine harvester and in a digger.

We drove home, tired but happy, all agreeing it had been a good day. It was the kind of day I imagined when we started out on our home educating adventure. Of course, not every day is like this ... but it can happen!

How would you like this for a school timetable?

Looking at it makes me think about what a culture values, and the way this is reflected in what is taught to the next generation. What do school timetables today convey about what we value as a culture? What does your home education say about what you value as a family? Food for thought!

How to stop fighting about screen time

Do you struggle with the feeling that your children are spending too much time in front of their screens? It is one of the real challenges for me personally of moving towards autonomous learning. Technology moves so fast and is such a big part of modern life and culture, and I recognize the huge contribution games, apps and programmes can make to all of our lifelong learning. (Just this week, my husband looked on youtube to find out how to fix our fridge, then ordered the part he needed from espares - and fixed it himself!) I do not want my children to be handicapped by restricting their access to technology, rather I want them to be fluent in their use of it. In spite of all this, I still find it difficult to watch them bent over their phones or tablets for considerable amounts of time. And I bite my tongue more often than I used to in order to keep myself from rushing them on to alternative activities quite so readily. If you struggle with this too, then you might find this article, "The Sliver, or How to stop fighting about screen time" by Lori Pickert at Project-Based Homeschooling, as useful as I did.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Hayfever Medication

My third son really suffers with hayfever during the summer months. When he was younger this manifested as croup. We would have to take him into a steam-filled bathroom, or out into the cool night-time air to help his breathing. We even had a Tefal humidifier (inspired by our years in the dry air of Ankara) which would produce steam by his bed at night. But his symptoms still prompted several night-time visits to hospital, where a steroid would be administered to ease his breathing. As he has grown older, we have managed his symptoms with a Ventolin inhaler as required, but also with regular hayfever medication. For some weeks, I have been dosing him with Cetirizine Hydrochloride twice a day. However, I have noticed that he seems more lethargic recently, drowsy at times and a bit disinterested. This comes and goes. My Dad even commented on this today - and it got me thinking. I have decided to cut the meds - and to introduce an earlier bedtime for him - and to see whether these symptoms improve.

Bedtimes are tricky in our house as our youngest (2) doesn't want to go to bed whilst the others are still up. Our third son (8) may need more sleep, but doesn't want to go to bed before his younger brother and feel he is missing out on anything. This dilemma, combined with the lighter summer evenings, has meant bedtime has slipped back, with the younger two going to sleep at around 9.00pm and the older two later. Our eldest son seems to be particularly alert and productive in the evening. Anyway, tonight I said our 8 year old needs to go to bed between 8 and 8.30, and we managed to find an alternative homeopathic hayfever remedy in Boots which I will be trialling for effectiveness from tomorrow.

Does anyone have any advice or experience on medicating hayfever in children? My eldest son also suffers - particularly with itchy eyes, and eye drops have really been helping him this week. When I asked the doctor, though, we were prescribed a steroid nasal spray which I am now reluctant to use.