Category: Education

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark – Unicorn Theatre Production

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark – Unicorn Theatre Production

When it comes to theatres The Unicorn Theatre is fast becoming my favourite. There’s not a single detail that hasn’t been thought through. From the graduating basins in the bathrooms, the fabulous illustrations on the walls, the craft table in the lobby, and the actions inscribed on the floors. You know that this is a place where you are going to have fun.

Last Saturday we were lucky enough to get to see a production of The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark. This was one of those stories that I couldn’t wait to share with B. I had simply adored it when I was a child and we had read the book together a while back. I have to admit I was slightly nervous about seeing a production of a book that held such dear childhood memories to me, but the production is absolutely perfect. With the story taking place centre stage whilst we sat around the edges of the theatre, it was totally immersive theatre. Plop the owl was played to perfection and the mother and other characters portrayed so fluidly I’d say I enjoyed it as much, if not more than the children in the audience! There are some fabulous moments, which we won’t tell you all about as they make such fun surprises.

Here is B’s review of the production (and journey)

Chapter 1 – Transport

We drove to Canary Wharf then got on the tube. We took the tube to London Bridge.

Chapter 2 – The Start

Plop was afraid of the dark. Plop’s mum said “What do you know about the dark Plop?”

“It is black.”

“No, its blue, silver and grey.”

On the wall there were fireworks.

Chapter 3 – The End

At the end Plop went star gazing and looked for Orion. Then he met a cat called Orion. At the end he liked the dark.

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark is on until 21st November. Its such a magical performance, we highly recommend you go and see it. Tickets are available now

Book here

Disclaimer – we received complimentary tickets but all opinions and comments are our own.

The Bank of England Museum

The Bank of England Museum

As part of our adventures this term we are on the lookout for museums and places of interest that are a little more off the beaten track. Not that we don’t love the huge museums that spring to mind when you think of London, it’s just this term we are celebrating the niche and unusual!

Making the most of the last of the warm days we had planned to have a look around Bank and St Pauls before B’s drama classes which he does each Thursday in London. That morning on the wonder that is the Internet we discovered that the Bank of England has a museum, so we decided to pay them a visit.

We decided to walk from Liverpool Street station so we could look at the buildings along the way. Its a bit of a trip down memory lane for me after years of working in London, and I was regaling B with tales from my youth.

You need to keep your eyes peeled as the entrance to the museum is quite discreet! Once inside and through the security area (it’s a bit like airport security) you can collect an activity worksheet for your child from the reception. With a selection for children of all different ages, there’s one for everyone. With our visit being unplanned, the worksheet was useful for us to give us some ideas on what to look out for. I wasn’t sure whether a museum like this would appeal to B but there is so much for the children to do. From money jigsaws to assemble through to interactive inflation tools it’s aimed at the whole family.

Personally my favourite part was getting to hold a real solid gold bar. With a value of over £400,000 we began to wonder what we would buy if we had one. B particularly enjoyed checking out whether our money was counterfeit or the real deal.

With so much going on its a really interactive fun place. We spent around an hour and a half here and enjoyed every minute. 

Handwriting Breakthrough – Helping Your Child with their Handwriting

Handwriting Breakthrough – Helping Your Child with their Handwriting

Woo hoo! It’s finally happened, we have had a breakthrough! I have to admit, I’ve beginning to stress quite a bit about B’s handwriting skills, but today we’ve had a major improvement, so I probably shouldn’t have worried quite so much.

Handwriting has always been a tricky issue in this house. B could write sentences with magnets from 2 years old, and I assumed that he would make the transition to writing with ease, but it never happened. He would construct the simplest sentences when under pressure to do so, and after consulting with paediatricians we discovered the combination of hyper mobility in his fingers and a major crash of confidence was really affecting his ability to write.

Over the past year or so we have tried various different pencils, with varying degrees of success, using pencil grips and a leaning board to help with writing, and using an assortment of fun activities to strengthen hand grip. We’ve bought many new toys and activities from The Happy Puzzle Company which have been invaluable in building B’s confidence and hand grip strength. A great piece of advice that I received from a friend was to work with games and ideas that didn’t have a specific goal or exact and correct method behind them. Children can really lose their confidence when they can’t do something, so let them just derive pleasure from the activity without a specific end goal.

We’ve used a huge range of construction toys from the traditional Lego and Knex to the slightly more unusual teifoc bricks which I’d highly recommend. Using clay, play dough and plasticine is back on the agenda. We’ve made a big effort to get outside more, building a mud kitchen, water ways, an around the world gardening project, and  turning  the tuff tray into a desert garage type play area.

It went against every fibre of my being to improve a skill, by doing anything but the skill itself, but it actually worked! The reverse “s” is now almost entirely the right way around, the back to front “f” is now right half of the time, and letters are going on lines with ascenders and descenders in the right place. B is so much happier that he doesn’t have to decipher every sentence for his audience, and I am mightily relieved that it worked.

If your child needs a little help with fine motor skill development to assist their hand writing, these are our top tips:

  • Painting with cars – take a couple of old toy cars, dip the wheels in paint, and drive over the paper.
  • Get digging – in sand or earth, with fingers or with tools. It’s a world away from writing, but good for exercising little hands.
  • Playdough, plasticine and clay – plasticine and clay can be a little tougher than Playdough, but using tools can help. It’s also quite good for getting frustrations out on, if your child is feeling fed up.
  • Using tweezers. Games like Operation are good for this, we also found a great game called Fruitfall, which is better if your child is wary of noisy games.
  • Play games! Games like Kerplunk are good for concentration on fine motor skills and good fun too.
  • Get building – Lego and Knex are the obvious choices, but it’s also worth looking at Joinks and some of the lesser known brands if your child isn’t necessarily drawn to the more popular ones.

If you’ve tips that worked for you and your children do let us know we’d love to hear!

Test Tube Rainbows – Splitting Colour Experiment

Test Tube Rainbows – Splitting Colour Experiment

We’ve had great fun with this experiment today, and it’s super simple to do. If you have any test tubes to use they are ideal, but you could use any glass container that you have to hand. Appealing to children of all ages, the great thing with this experiment is they can all get involved and take from it what is relevant to them.

Equipment

  • 7 test tubes (or glass receptacle)
  • Red, yellow and blue colours (we used cosmetic colourant, but food colour would work just as well)
  • Pipettes

Method

  1. Fill all of the test tubes around half full with water.
  2. Add the blue, red and yellow colour to three of the test tubes.
  3. Line the test tubes up with the three colours going into their correct places in the rainbow colour sequence.
  4. Using the pipettes, take colours from the primary colour tubes and make up the missing colours.

Conclusion

We managed to make the rainbow from our 3 primary colours! The experiment is good fun in itself, but it’s also good as a place to start further investigation. We’ve been trying to make rainbows with a prism and seeing how close our colours match. If you’ve any further rainbow ideas to add, be sure to share them with us!

Creating a Clutter Free Life

Creating a Clutter Free Life

I have to confess we are a bit messy in this house. Well not even a bit. Really messy. We seem to have taken mess to a new extreme and its beginning to drive me a bit crazy. I’m fairly certain that the problem stems from us all being rather untidy. Having lived with clean freaks in the past, I think not only do I make more effort to tidy up, they probably clean up around me. But having three of you in a house, who not only make the place look like a tip, but also have no problem with everyone else’s mess, it was only a matter of time before we tipped over the edge.

So its out there. We are a messy family. I’m wondering if admitting it is part of the solution, and slowly I can retrain my brain to become a nurturer of neat?

I wonder if there is a messy gene? Is it a nature versus nurture debate? Could it be true what Einstein said?

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

  • Albert Einstein

I’ve been telling myself that we are messy because of our busy brains for years, but all of a sudden its not cutting it anymore. In fact I have a whole list of reasons that I tell myself and others:

  • We’re eclectic and creative. Tidying up would stifle this.
  • Our brains are too full of ideas to worry about tidying up.
  • All the great thinkers throughout history were probably messy.
  • Untidyness is a sign of intelligence.
  • Tidying up is for grown ups.
  • How will I ever find anything if I tidy it all away?

I have even thought about pretending that I am embracing “strewing” as part of our home education philosophy, but that’s just a bit of a lie. So where does all this mess come from? We just seem to have too much stuff. All of us. And we are all absolutely hopeless at parting with any of it. Yesterday we were discussing how we might redo our kitchen in the near future, and it left B in tears. He finds change a challenge, but even highlighting to him that a new oven would bring the return of his favourite dinner wasn’t swinging it. He is adamant things should stay as they are. In fact I’m certain we all think that we are not quite as untidy as each other. So how are we ever going to get anyway? The man and I have duplicates of DVDs, of films we will probably never watch again, but who’s copy do we give away/sell/pop on eBay? It’s a never ending cycle of toot.

I have a feeling its going to need some kind of multi step plan. We need to reduce our clutter, address the storage, and get out of some bad habits. Last night I had a count and we have 7 games of Monopoly. Yep, 7. Which would be fine if we played on a regular basis, but I couldn’t tell you the last time we played! From old X-Box and PS3 games which haven’t been played since around 2008, to wooden train track B had when he was 2 years old, our house is slowly becoming a museum.

I am going to try and lead by example and start by clearing out my own collections. From clothes that, in reality, I am never going to wear again, through to my beloved Jimmy Choo’s that live in a box under the bed, it’s time to get ruthless!

B has said that he can cope with finding 3 things a day to get rid of until we are tidier. What I didn’t realise is that he didn’t seem to mean 3 of his own things!

So at least for now we have an action plan, and we’ve made a start. We should be minimalist within a month at this rate!

Non School Uniform Shopping

Non School Uniform Shopping

It’s coming to the end of the school holidays (we are a home ed family that takes advantage of them), and although we don’t have a uniform per se, it’s got me thinking about clothing supplies that B needs. The one major thing I noticed when we first started home educating was that B didn’t actually have that many clothes any more. With the bulk of his time spent in uniform, he had comfy gear for after school, jeans for the weekend and one or two smart outfits for “best”. Within a couple of weeks his jeans had been destroyed! Back to spending hours on the floor building LegoKnex and Hex Bugs, the knees on the jeans were spent. So now I’m on a mission to find clothes that are a match for a home educated child! We are big fans of Boden in this house, for the both of us, so we shall be sourcing plenty from there. B likes to pore over the catalogue choosing himself many an outfit over breakfast so that will be our first port of call. I’ve also found that outdoor adventure type clothes work well when busy engineering in the front room, or climbing a mountain, so a trip to Mountain Warehouse is probably due.

As much as it can be tempting to stock up on cheap gear, it seems a false economy to me. We’ve been able to get a couple of years wear from some of B’s favourites, which pleases the both of us!

The other thing B goes through like there’s no tomorrow is socks! I swear he can wear a pair out in a day. I’ll be pairing them up and notice the heels are missing, it’s almost like we need some kind of reinforcement!

So we need something hard wearing, not made from animal products, child friendly and from an ethical company. Not too much to ask?

If anyone has any awesome clothing finds to share, we’d love to know!

The Big Plastic Project

The Big Plastic Project

This weekend we’ve been discussing just how much plastic we go through as a family. I can tell you now, it’s a lot, and I’m pretty dismayed about just how much we are using. Out of all the recycling that leaves our house, the plastic is the most plentiful. Although we’ve always recycled religiously, I’ve never been particularly hot on the “reduce” part of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Over the years I’ve tried to reduce our carbon footprint in other ways, we’ve looked at air miles and being vegan helps our impact somewhat. But there is always more that can be done.

We’ve been thinking of all the plastic things we can do without and we’re a bit stuck on these ones:

  1. Tetra Pak cartons – although these go in with our plastic recycling do they count as plastic? We drink soya, rice, almond milk etc and I’ve only ever found them in these type of container.
  2. Sandwich bags – I’m sure I’ve seen material type pouches for packed lunches. Any pointers would be appreciated.
  3. Pasta, rice, Cous cous, etc. All in plastic packaging. Any alternatives out there?
  4. Tofu – I’ve only ever found this in plastic. We tend to eat tofu once a week and I would miss it. It has a lot of calcium in which is vital for growing bones so I’m not sure how we’d replace that.
  5. Cleaning products. We’ve used soap nuts before so will be switching back to these. I think I could manage with baking soda and lemons to clean with, but what about washing up liquid?
  6. Take away boxes. Ok yes we could live without an occasional take away, but why does Chinese take away food come in plastic and curry come in foil? Is there a reason?
  7. Bread! Due to our problems with dairy intolerance, cross contamination with fresh bread often makes it a no go area for us. I usually bake a loaf at home at least once a week, but sometimes time gets the better of me.
  8. Fruit and vegetable packaging. Are cucumbers always shrink wrapped? Does spinach always come in a bag? Are lettuces always in a bag? A trip to the market will solve a fair amount of our packaging problems with more paper bags available for delicate goods but I’m stumped on the others.
  9. Tortillas – I’ll need a fail safe recipe for these as I’ll miss these!
  10. Bin bags and dog poo bags – ok this ones a bit grim, but I’ll need a solution none the less. We have a fair few pets that need regularly cleaning up after, and cage detritus always ends up in bin bags. Any environmentally friendly alternatives?

I think a tour of the local recycling plants is a must for us to fully appreciate how much waste we make. I’d like to discover just how much of a demon plastic is? Should we choose glass over plastic? What’s the consensus on what causes the least damage?

Looks like we have a lot to keep us busy for now. Keep us posted with your tips!

Making a Mud Kitchen

Making a Mud Kitchen

We’ve had a couple of old wooden crates knocking around the garden for ages, and I’ve finally found a purpose for them. We are making a mud kitchen. Now if you ask anyone who knows me, DIY and me are not the best combination. I’m not so bad on the ideas front, I’ve even been known to start many a project. But finish them? Not me. This is probably the first time I’ve managed to see something the whole way through, so I’m hoping its a whole new side to me emerging. Maybe I’ve turned into a grown up!

We made our mud kitchen with a minimum of materials. This is what we collected / bought:

  • 2 wooden pallets
  • A packet of wood screws (long ones)
  • 9 coloured tiles
  • A bird bath to use as our sink
  • Hooked plant pots for storage
  • Pots, pans and utensils for mud pie making

​B wanted to make as much of it as possible so I let him do the sawing (not for the faint hearted). Here’s how we made it:

  1. Take one of your pallets and cut roughly in half. I’d choose to do it where there is a minimum amount of sawing.
  2. Take your two pieces and screw together to make an “L” shape.
  3. Screw your “L” shaped pallet to your remaining pallet, to form your kitchen.


4. It’s time to paint your mud kitchen. We chose lots of bright colours for ours as we both love a rainbow. (We used a lot of left over paint up this way too!)


5. Once the painting part is done, add your tiles (we stuck ours down with adhesive suitable for showers to cope with the British weather)

6. Add your finishing touches and you’re done!


Ta-da!

Reluctant Reader – Help!

Reluctant Reader – Help!

B and I have loved reading together since he was a few weeks old. From the wonderful That’s Not My Baby/Monster/Dinosaur books, to all the traditional fairy tales, and then the delights of Julia Donaldson. We worked through them all. When B was only 7 months old he could pick out The Gruffalo or The Smartest Giant in Town. He just seemed to have an affinity with books. He taught himself to read with the retro Peter and Jane series. He couldn’t get enough of any kind of book.

And then he stopped. Just like that. This little boy who loved stories, non-fiction, magazines, any form of literature, just stopped. I’m trying to remain relaxed about the whole thing, but it really does concern me. At first I thought it could be a reaction to leaving school. He found working through the book levels at school very repressive. Constantly having to choose from a certain colour coded book, instead of having the freedom to choose a book that sparked his interest really riled him. He’d read the books in the car home almost to prove how quickly he could do it. It stopped becoming a joy, and more of a bind, which can’t be a good thing.

So to rekindle his interest we’ve been on a bit of a mission. From starting a reading diary (not very successful) to logging all the books we do read on Good Reads (slightly more successful). We’ve set up a reading nook in the playhouse in the garden to give us a cosy area to read together (we used it once).

So I stopped. I felt really uncomfortable just letting go, but I knew I had to take a complete step back and let him come back to it in his own way. B still loves a non-fiction book, so I had no qualms that he wouldn’t read at all, I just worried how much pleasure he used to get from books that had gone.

And then the master of story telling, the most amazing author, the one that brought so much delight to my own childhood, the splendid Roald Dahl began to get him back into books. One night the one and only BFG dropped by our house one night with a dream jar. It seemed the only way to rekindle the literary love affair was to bring the books to life. And so for the time being, bedtime is a time for story telling and adventure once more. B’s not reading himself again yet, but his love of stories is on the way back, which is a very good place to start.

We’ll be telling you all about our dream jars adventures soon. Don’t miss it!

History Lessons – The Romans

History Lessons – The Romans

We’ve been learning about the Romans recently as part of our home education. B requested that this was something that we looked at when we first started our home education journey back in February. One of my favourite things with home education, is the ability to choose a subject or topic, study it to the length that holds the child’s interest for their age, and then revisit as their desire to gather more detail increases.

We have found some great resources on Twinkl to help and B is currently enjoying reading this book Romans by Usborne books.

We have learnt about Roman numerals and had great fun code breaking with worksheets from Twinkl.

Starting with points that interested B we have looked at aqueducts, Roman cities, emporers, clothing, and food that Romans liked to eat. Who knew that Dormice and peacock brains were a delicacy…rather them than me, that’s for sure!

We’ve visited our local museum and found some great information here to aid our studies.

Its amazing how so many ideas can come from one starting point too. From Latin and looking at how many words stem from their Latin origins, one topic has included, language, history, literacy, maths and most importantly we’ve had lots of fun!

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