Tuesday, 2 September 2014

THAT MAD YEAR. A long break from blogging and here we are again.

I notice that my last post was sometime in June and related to World Cup activities. The World Cup? Oh how long ago that seems! There we were at the start of Summer trying to fire ourselves up for some hands-on learning and hours of fun in the sunshine.

Well. Good intentions and all that....

Summer has been and gone and we don't seem to have made the most of it, but that's ok. No, really, it's ok. I'll keep telling myself that.  Truth is, by June we were totally. burned. out. Despite a faint glimmer of strained enthusiasm not a lot of anything happened after that. We ate from the corner shop. I put diesel in the car. I stressed over my credit card bill.  I put more diesel in the car. I apologised a lot for forgetting things and being late and for missing stuff that I was sure I'd made a note of, but that somehow in the chaos had got lost. I put more diesel in the car. I fell over the piles of stuff in the dining room. Piles of stuff fell over me in the lounge. I climbed over the piles of stuff in the bedroom. I thought about writing hate mail to The Fly Lady and telling her to stop sending me stupid adverts for her feather dusters and come and spend her time more usefully cleaning at my house instead. I drank the homemade wine I'd intended saving for Christmas.

Actually, thinking about it, quite a lot happened.

So...needless to say we didn't get far with those World Cup activities. Was I really that optimistic? We did manage to get the world map up on the wall and find some of the participating countries before they got knocked out, so I guess that's geography ticked for 2014.

September 2013 to June 2014 I think should be known as That Mad Year by our family. A combination of having a child studying for IGCSEs (the international equivalent of GCSEs), alongside all three children doing competitive sport and two doing competitive robotics was the sort of 24/7 crazy life that you really shouldn't sign up for. Add in working part-time, running home ed workshops and trying to keep some sort of home and family life and it's not surprising we were all a bit loopy by the end of it. I now understand the term "work/life balance" more than I want to.

But...some good things have happened. Just in case I don't get to post about them in more detail, here's a summary of achievements. Please excuse me just a little bit of smugness.


  • After a humungous amount of work, Ds1 achieved two more IGCSEs with good (one was ridiculously good) grades. He now has 4. This is the boy who two years ago couldn't write a sentence and had to seriously concentrate to even sign his own name. He can now spell photosynthesis, though I'm not sure how useful that's going to be.

  • Earlier in the year Dd won the girls under-11 England Youth Championships, an amazing feat, particularly as she hadn't fenced for 3 weeks prior to the competition due to an injury. She's holding the coach to his previous year's promise of a year's worth of Haribo if the unlikely event of her winning.
  • Ds1 and ds2 with their LEGO robotic team won the regional LEGO League competition, came in the top 8 of the Nationals (winning an award for innovation) and were one of only 4 UK teams invited to the European Championships in Spain. It was their first year doing LEGO robotics, their first year giving presentations in front of large groups of people, the first year ds2 typed, not just one, but three (three!) whole sides of A4 (for the research project) and the first time my boys had been on a plane or abroad :) Lots of achievements there!

  • And as for my achievements...I spent the year running regular workshops at several home ed groups, got some lovely feedback, made new friends and learned a lot from all the children I've come in contact with. That's pretty good, I think :)




Saturday, 7 June 2014

The World Cup as a geography project: Part 1 Resources and Links

Not being a fan of football, I've resigned myself to the fact that for the next few weeks I will be bombarded by football-themed *everything*.

But...a nifty home educator would never let an educational opportunity slip past them.

Here are some educational links which we are planning to use to turn the World Cup into an educational geography project. (Thanks to Sarah from alittlebitofstructure for some of the links)

World Cup chart (free download) 
(There are lots of these on the internet to pick and choose from, but this one seemed fine.)

If you want the poster larger than A4, save the PDF file from the link (click on the little floppy disc icon in the bottom right hand corner). Reopen the file in Adobe from wherever you have saved it. Click on print and under the heading page sizing and handling you should have the option to print it as a poster. Click on the 'poster' option. You can fiddle with the settings, but basically you'll end up with four sheets, each with a part of the poster on that can then be stuck together.

World Cup Group bookmarks from Activity Village
We wont be using them as bookmarks, but they make great headings for displays. We'll most likely use them alongside a world map (see below)

Megamaps - world maps to print out - poster size if you want
If you don't have a world map, this is a great place to print out outline maps. There are lots of options for different sized maps - from a single A4 sheet to maps spread over 64 x A4 pages!

World Cup for Kids (Activity Village)
Lots of football and country-themed activities and printables. We wont be using the football ones, but there are plenty of different things to choose from.

Country Passport (Activity Village) and My country passport study printables
For writing basic info about the countries studied

Alternatively, to save time, you can download Activity Village's World Cup flags bundle for the small price of £3.95 here which has all the 390+ free PDF files in one zipped file.

Brazil-themed activities for World Cup
Click on the link on the page above and it will download a PDF with lesson plans. Links within the lesson plan take you to various resources, including a powerpoint presentation about Brazil.

Brazil- issues about homelessness
More geared towards classroom activities, but might have a few useful ideas for discussion.

Brazil in the school
Brazil resources, PDFs and photos.

World Cup Project book (choose World Cup Project Book from the page of downloads)
Word document to fill in for each country.

A big year for Brazil
Not listing this particularly for the memorisation of maps, but rather for the mini videos that are here and because (if you scroll down) there are some good starting points for discussion about advertising, moral issues around the World Cup etc.

I'll be adding to these if I find any more geography-related links that will be useful. If you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Kids discover - Free 'infographics' educational posters


Have found some lovely mini-posters to download and print on kidsdiscover here

Topics include the water cycle, cells, the rock cycle, the heart etc.

Well worth a look.

(You might have to register/sign up to download the posters, but it's free)

Friday, 30 May 2014

The Rainforest, with links

A while back I was trying to tie in dd's desire to do more science, with ds2's ongoing geography learning. I came up with rainforest (and soils - see previous post) as suitable topics that I could engage them both in. Dd has more of an interest in animals than anything else. Below is her rainforest layers poster: 



The rainforest layers printable (top left of the top picture) was the nicest and simplest one I could find. It can be seen here.

I printed out Rainforest food chain items which we laminated and velcro'd onto our felt board. I think I got more satisfaction from laminating than the kids did from the 5 minutes they spent arranging the food web, but that's kinda how it goes sometimes :)


[For info: This is the link to the food chain printable, which I found via this resource here. The latter has other Rainforest printables, worksheets etc. that might be of use if you happen to be doing Rainforesty things.]



In addition to all the rainforest stuff, ds2 did a mini-poster on The Nile and the Aswaan Dam, which was a spin off from the geography book he is using. He will be starting IGCSE geography in September, so I'm trying desperately to do the more projecty stuff now before we get to the hoop jumping.


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Bees n beans project and soil experiments

Back in April we sent off for the Bees n Beans free kit as part of a research project by Sussex University. 
The kids dutifully planted their beans. 




It was a slow start, but the broad bean plants grew a little like children do some slow and squat, and some skinny and tall. Finally, after a few days of hot weather last week, the plants have suddenly burst into flower. Not all are fully blooming yet, so we wont be able to do the hand pollination bit until later in the week. Bad timing considering half of us will be in Spain, so poor dh will be left with 'pollination' instructions along with a long list of dd's busy social schedule :)

A while back, when I had a chance to think of things other than IGCSE exams and robotics championships, we did some hands-on things.

One of them was to do with soil samples. It was inspired by an experiment from this old book that we picked up from the swap shop, along with other old textbooks.







The kids collected soil samples from different areas of a local nature reserve/woodland and followed the above instructions




Watching soil settle is a bit like...er...watching soil settle.




Three days later...


 and we compared our bottles of the different soils





This is what they should have looked like:




Our results were, um, not quite so well defined...




We planned to do pH testing of the same samples, but the pH paper is still in its packet on the windowsill and the soil samples are bagged up and going slimy in the greenhouse. Perhaps that will be next month's project?

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Packing: Three days until C14 Robotics Team go to FLL European Championships!


You can build anything out of LEGO, right? (Toothbrush...passport...)



And they have the hats to go in style



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