Monday, 30 January 2012

Happy new year trees!

In the Jewish calendar, there is a seven year rotation for where the tithes of ones fruits should be sent, ensuring that the poor, widows and orphans are all cared for. So it's very important to have a definitive date that signifies the start of a new year. For this reason, the Jews have a Rosh Hashanah (new year) for trees!

The new year for trees is always on the 15th of shevat, which means that this year it starts on the evening of tuesday the 7th and continues throughout Wednesday the 8th. By coincidence (or not?) pride in Bedford have just tweeted that they are going to be doing a lesson in pruning fruit trees on Wednesday afternoon.

I'm pretty excited about going, as we just bought some fruit trees and I figure the more help I can get the better!

We're also going to look at ecology and trees this week in our studies, because it seems as good a time as any. There's loads available, so if you're interested, try some of the following links:

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The enchanted sculpture trail

We love stanwick lakes, it's one of our favourite places to go, and I'm so glad we were introduced to it early on when we moved here.

As members, they send us emails when they are doing something fun, and this weekend they were making a new installation for the enchanted sculpture walk called 'mosaic trees'.

It involved cutting and gluing little tiles all over the thinner parts of the tree, which were going to be grouted later.
It also had some sections where you took a hammer and chisel
Cut out a small square
And pressed in a tile
To make a cute little window-type thing
Cosmo was nervous at first, and just watched for a long time, but then he was keen to get on and have a go whilst I finished off tiling a bit further up.
And we couldn't have a trip to stanwick lakes without a quick loop of the adventure trail
Will loves climbing to the top of this rock and then leaping off into his daddy's arms.
That's faith!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Confessions of a 20-something unschooler...

I went to school.

I didn't know there were other options.

As an adult, and a stay at home mum, I am finally in a place in my life where

a) I can choose what I want to read (no course texts or reading lists) and
b) I have time to read (when I was working I had freedom of choice, but no spare time)

I love it, and I'm learning new stuff all the time. I actually feel like I'm 'de-schooling' myself.

For example, I recently started reviewing books for, and the first book they sent me was 'The Promise of An Angel', from their 'Amish Romance' section. Now I'll admit Amish romance was a genre I'd never heard of before, but what a treat! I loved the book so much that my mother bought me an Amish romance 'Quintology' (I think I just made that word up. It's like a trilogy, but with five books) for Christmas.

As I read them it started me off on other journeys, looking up recipes that they talked about and discovering what mennonites and anabaptists were. Church history that I had never thought about now became a fascinating research point.

And suddenly I'm converted.

Unschooling really is the easiest and most fun way to learn!

So, although we have curriculum which we sometimes follow, I'm becoming more and more relaxed about letting my children (within reason) choose what they want to do. It's amazing how many questions and research points come up after watching an episode of Wonder pets...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Talking and double dice: general update

There have been leap and bounds in the Gracie household this last month, and with it being a new year, it seemed like a good time to do a general update.

Over Christmas Lychee learned to walk and has become more and more steady on her feet over the last few weeks, but more importantly her speech is massively improving.

Our silent little girl, who never uttered a sound unless she was crying, has been happily babbling away recently. Her new words include Cosmo's real name, 'Bubble', 'yummy', 'oh no', 'tiger', 'teddy', 'fish' and 'uh-oh'.

But most excitedly, yesterday she said her first complete sentence, in context, using all words that she has never said before!!

Whilst sitting with my sister she started stroking the velour appliqué on her top and saying 'look! It's so soft'. In fact, she said it a few times, and this morning she said 'look at that!' whilst pointing to a piece of kiwi she'd dropped on the floor.

I'm so excited. I can't wait until she is able to communicate with us more freely (as cute as her hand gestures are)!

Cosmo has been working hard too, and really enjoying a fact book we picked up for his bedtime reading. He's been telling me how earthquakes happen and rules of roman society.

As we're also loving board games, we've been playing loads and he's even come up with his own rules to give the game some more variety. He calls it 'Ludo double dice'.

The rules go like this:

* to leave home the numbers on both dice must add up to six (exactly) or one of the dice should have a six showing (increases the chances of being able to leave home)
* if you roll 'double dice' (two numbers that match) you get to have another turn.
* you must move if you can.
* if you land on someone they get sent back home. If they have two counters on one space it acts as a block and you can't send them home. If they have three counters on that space, you are sent home.
* if you are less than six spaces away from home, and you roll a double six, you can go straight home without needing an exact roll (necessary if you need a one)!

It so much fun, and I'm surprised at his creativity. Maybe I'm naive, but I think it's pretty good going for a four year old.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Board games

Since discovering snakes and ladders a while back, Cosmo has really got into board games, and as a preschooler these are massively challenging, but at the same time educational.

A game like Ludo is simple enough for a four year old to play, but gives him plenty of practise at counting and quick number recognition. In a few games he went from counting the dots on the dice to knowing what it said instantly. Within a few days he was able to very quickly work out things like 'I'm going to throw two sixes and a three so I can get you!' without any counting out, but just recognising how to make up numbers with divisions of 6 and remainders.

We also played upwords for the first time this morning. I was dubious, but he had seen it in the cupboard and really wanted to try. If you haven't played before, it's kind of like scrabble, but you can stack letters up on top of each other to change words.

We simplified it by allowing players to 'borrow' letters from each other and replace them with ones from the bag. This game is a great vocabulary builder, because every time you play a word we added a rule where you have to explain what it means. It meant we spent a lot of time looking things up in the dictionary, but Cosmo loved it.

So, board games for toddlers, do you have any other suggestions?