Learning about Tornadoes

We always seem to do our Weather learning in bits and pieces.  We find a good book or an interesting clip to watch and the kids learn something new but then we seem to quickly move on.  However recently the topic of weather, rather I should say Extreme weather has kept them interested and they are both starting to really get to grips with the different weather events.

One of the activities that really got them interested was our 4M “KidzLabs wrapper Tornado Maker Kit (Multi-Colour).  They both found it fascinating to see the tornado effect (and I must admit it was really easy to set up for them).

Watching the Tornado maker really helped my youngest.  Up until that point he kept getting Tornado, Hurricane, Typhon all mixed up and never knew which was which.  But once he saw the swirling tunnel in the Tornado maker it totally clicked what a Tornado looked like.  And now whenever you say the word Tornado he immediate starts talking about a funnel of spinning air.

I also found a few clips on YouTube for the kids to watch – their favourite one is this one – Tornado Facts for Kids and I really liked this clip – Hurricane vs. Tornado.  There are lots of other great clips on YouTube but my kids really seem to like the ones that Mr DeMaio does – I think they like the way he adds some humour into the clips.

I found a fact Sheet on Activity Village which was really useful (Extreme Weather is definitely one of those topics that I am learning about together with the kids).

Tornado Fact Sheet from Activity Village

Activity Village also have a bunch of Extreme Weather Clozes.  I have been itching to print some out so we tried the Tornado one and my daughter gave it 5 stars.

Tornado Cloze from Activity Village

And I always say you know the kids have understood something when they can explain it – does not matter if it is verbally, in written format or even a diagram.  If they can create something that explains the topic in their own words, that is when I know it has really been understood.

Drawing her own picture of a tornado

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Victorian Railways

My daughter recently borrowed a number of Victorian books from the library and she is loving them.  But as much as she is finding History interesting, her younger brother is just not that interested.  He is definitely more interested in how things are built than what happened a long time ago. So when we heard about a Channel 5 documentary series called – How the Victorians Built Britain I was immediately interested.  I think there are 4 episodes and so far we have watched the first two – The first one was about the Railways and the second about the Sewerage systems in Britain.  And both the kids are loving it.  My daughter is learning more about the Victorians which compliments the books she has been reading and my son has found an interesting History angle – from the view of what was created and built in that time period.  And I must admit it is really fascinating to see what was built in the Victorian area and is still being used today.

He has always been interested in trains and the railways so I already had a BIG CAT reader called the The Railway Revolution: Band 16/Sapphire (Collins Big Cat) at home and after watching the Victorian series on Railways and seeing how interested he was in it (and subsequently deciding to design his own version of the first ever Victorian Railway, complete with a special way of digging tunnels using a converted steam engine) I knew it would be a good time to read our Railway Revolution book together.

BIG CAT reader The Railway Revolution. How the Railway ane the Steam Engine developed in Britain

My son has found this book really fascinating.  It starts by talking about life before the trains and how the canals were used a lot (something which he especially loved as we spent a day on a barge in the Summer and he loved the entire experience).

It goes on to talk about how the stream engines were developed really from the “Miners’ Friend”.  There is a fair bit about George Stephenson (someone who my son is already familiar with but he still learnt some new and interesting facts in this book).  He loved the section about the Rainhill Trials and the difference engines that were entered especially the idea of Cycloped the horse powered locomotive.

BIG CAT reader The Railway Revolution includes section on the Stephenson Rocket

He was also very intrigued by some of the “strange” thoughts back then – like the fact that they were concerned that the trains would cause eyesight problems (The documentary also spoke about this and both kids found it very interesting that they were happy for stream engines to go underground but worried about eyesight). And oh just so much more about the different tickets, the navvies that worked on the lines, really lots of information.

The BIG CAT reader The Railway Revolution. Filled with lots of historical facts about the Railways in Britain

The book ends by briefly talking about what came after steam engines.

BIG CAT reader The Railway Revolution.  How some of the Railway Engineering ideas came from canals

Really an interesting read for kids who find the development of the stream train and the railways interesting.  The book is in total 55 pages long.  And although the documentary focused on the underground trains and this was more about how the steam engine and how the overground rail network was developed they both really did go well together.

reading the Railway Revolution BIG CAT reader

(And Yes he is reading his Railway book to his toy snake)

You might find this interesting – BBC History Victorian Technology

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Lines of Symmetry

The kids and I have been talking a lot about lines of symmetry while we  have been looking at our Geometry and as part of that I have tried to include the idea of symmetry into some of the “arty activities” that we like to do. (Very simple explanation – A line of symmetry is a line on which you can fold your piece of paper / shape and both sides will be identical).

I spotted these Rangoli Pattern colouring pages on the Twinkl website (part of their paid for subscription) and I immediately noticed how symmetrical they were.  So we printed out 2 copies and the kids had a go.

Using the Rangoli Pattern colouring pages from Twinkl to work on lines of symmetry

They started by deciding where their line of symmetry was – this was the main reason that I liked these colouring pictures so much – in each picture there are multiple lines of symmetry – so both kids could end up colouring in the same picture but they could select a totally different line of symmetry.

Using the Rangoli Pattern colouring page to explain lines of symmetry

Rangoli Patterns line of symmetry picture

I also happened to order these mosaic foam coaster kits from Baker Ross (when I ordered them I was not thinking of Maths I actually thought it was something that I could take in my bag for my youngest to do while we wait for his sister to finish her dance class).  But as often happens one of the kids spotted them and actually commented how the patterns that they had included in the pack where symmetrical. So naturally we unpacked them and they had a go.

Baker Ross Mosaic Foam Craft kit

Now you can copy the patterns that they include – there is nothing wrong with the patterns they are nice but after just copying 1 pattern mine wanted the challenge of creating their own.  Each little set comes with a different combination of coloured mosaic foam squares and you could open them all up and mix  all the coloured squares together if you wanted.  However I gave mine the challenge of trying to create their own patterns with the coloured squares provided in each set (of course if they ended up 1 or 2 squares short we did borrow from one of the other sets).

Creating his own designs with the foam craft kits from Baker Ross

But the challenge was really good because not only did they end up thinking about making the pattern symmetrical they also had to do some quick maths to make sure they would have enough of each colour.  Straight forwarded addition practice but also some multiplication.  My youngest quickly spotted that the mosaic foam stickers were cut into blocks of 3’s so a quick way of working out if he had enough squares was by using his 3 times table (Yiphee – practicing times table without me quizzing him and more importantly seeing how useful knowing his times tables can really be).

If you are wanting to know more about Lines of Symmetry have a look at the Khan Academy website here – Lines of symmetry

This is not a sponsored post in any shape of form.  These are just two activities that we did and which the kids enjoyed doing.

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New Resources

I get ridiculously giddy with excitement when we get some new resources (yes I am not joking – lets just call it a side-effect of being a home-educating mom).  I don’t buy all of our resources upfront I tend to rather buy items as we need them, which helps to spread the cost out a bit and also gives me flexibility to change items that may not be working as hoped.  But in the past week I ordered some new items and they have arrived and I am just brimming with excitement so I wanted to share some of my new picks.

My First Book about the Brain by Dover coloring

First up the My First Book About the Brain (Dover Children’s Science Books) – now totally going to admit that we have never tried anything like this before.  Ever.   But my daughter wants to learn more human biology and I had the idea of looking for something that combined some “art” and I came across this book.  It looked interesting and it only cost my around £3 on Amazon so I thought it would be worth having a go.  I am thinking it might either be a huge hit or a total fail, really not sure.

Dover Colouring Book. My First Book about the Brain

My daughter is very much into History at the moment but her younger brother is not so keen and that can prove a bit problematic as all the outings we do are the 3 of us.  So I have been searching for fun books that would appeal to him to make History more interesting for him.  I found a fictional series called Time Hunters and read some great reviews so I bought the set for my youngest (fingers and toes all crossed).

Harper Collins Time Hunter Series. Fun reading with historical references

And even though the set was meant for my youngest as soon as the books arrived my oldest started reading the first one Gladiator Clash (Time Hunters, Book 1)– which was great because she then got my youngest interested.  First day but so far it looks like a fun fictional history series for the kids.

Chris Blakes Time Hunter Gladiator Clash book

The one set of non-fiction History books that my son has actually enjoys are the Big CAT readers  (he loved the Vikings in Britain book), so I did some searching and found 4 other historical BIG CAT readers that we are going to try.  Early Kings of England: Band 14/Ruby (Collins Big Cat), Sister Queens: The Lives and Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth: Band 15/Emerald (Collins Big Cat), How To Be A Knight: Band 09/Gold (Collins Big Cat), How to be a Tudor: Band 14/Ruby (Collins Big Cat): Band 14 Phase 5, Bk. 16.  He finds the history books that he older sister reads too overwhelming but these readers contain just the right amount of information for him.  We have not read these yet but after a quick look all four appear to be the same good quality that I have come to expect from the BIG CAT readers.

BIG CAT Historical readers. Includes lots of history of Britain books

Something else which we have not yet formally done any work on is map work.  And both my kids are interested in creating their own maps.  So I bought both Collins Mapstart 1 (Collins Primary Atlases) and Collins Mapstart 2 (Collins Primary Atlases) by Catling, Simon (2010) Paperback.  Map work is not something that I would naturally gravitate towards but after looking at these 2 books I am actually looking forward to working through them with the kids. (And my youngest has paged through the first one and already said it looks interesting)

Collins Mapstart Primary books. Mapwork for primary aged children

And finally some new audiobooks.  The kids love listening to stories in the car and since we have 3 weekly activities that involve 20 minute drives I thought a new set of audiobooks would be really good (and if I am totally honest I am a bit sick of their old audio stories that we have).  This time I went for the Roald Dahl Audiobooks 2016 (10 Phizz-Whizzing Audiobooks), I choose these because we have just been reading 2 Roald Dahl books and everyone (including me) loved them.

Roald Dahl Audiobooks perfect for car trips

I am so excited to try our new resources.  I will write detailed reviews of all items once we have used them properly

I bought the Dover Colouring Book, The Time Hunter Series, The Mapstart books and the audiobooks.  Harper Collins kindly offered to send us some BIG CAT readers and I choose the individual titles to suit the kids interests.

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Our hidden cost of Home Education

People often ask  – what does it cost to home educate ? And they normally get the frustrating answer that it can cost as little as you want or as much as you want.  It all depends on what resources you use (which is true). But what is often not discussed is the hidden cost, in our case it is the fact that I am not working and that home education has almost halved our family income.

I totally understand how for some families this would be the reason why they try so hard not to home educate, every family unit is different and the bottom line is someone needs to be able to bring the money in to pay for the bills.  For us it was not a point we ever dwelt on.  My hubbies income covers our living costs and we felt very strongly that school and my daughter’s sensory issues would just not be the right fit.  So we agreed without much thought that giving up my income and rather having me spending my time helping her was what we would do.  Possessions and nice holidays just did not matter when it came to what we thought was best for our girl. (I will totally admit that if my husbands income did not cover our basic living costs our decision would not have been so easy).

As the kids have gotten older we have never hidden this fact from them.  They know mum stays home and that I used to have a career as an Accountant.  They know that the result of me staying home and educating them is there is less money, less spending money.  It is something we are open about and we have chatted about it on numerous occasions.  They know school is always an option and that if they wanted to try we would not stop them but they also have lots of friends in school and they have a fairly good understanding of what school entails.  They realize being home means they get to spend a lot of time following their own interests.  They know I am always here, if it is a hug, a question or just someone to read with.  But they also know that means holiday time is mostly us having dad at home doing day trips or having family come and visit us.  And they know we will provide what they need but there is not going to be a surplus for excess items.

Last Year we had a chat – Would they rather have the extra money but be in school or do they want to continue at home with me ?  And without any prompting they both declared home.  Both kids have already realized that possessions do not match the experience they are having, the childhood they are getting to live outweighs all those new toys, and cool holidays.  The days they get to spend exploring somewhere new, losing themselves in their latest interest or just spending the day hunting insects or reading book after book.

Yes I would love to give them everything.  I would love to be able to home educate and not have to count the pennies or schedule our trips but it is something that we as a family are more than happy to do.

Our biggest cost of home educating is my lost income and the impact that has on our finances but in the grand scheme sacrificing my income to allow the kids the freedom to explore and learn the way they do, for me to be here to help them daily on their sensory journey, for us it is totally worth it.

Out exploring at a National TRust Site


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Birthday Colouring Cards

It is that time of the year again where a number of our family members have birthdays coming up which means cards.  My son recently decided that he likes drawing so he has been creating some rather interesting cards himself (the bottom one is a jungle)

Drawing Cards

but his big sister wanted to try out her new fine-tipped sharpies so she opted for a colouring card – she chose a stunning one from Activity Village – This is your Year to Sparkle

Colouring Card - This is Your Year to Sparkle from Activity Village

And I must admit I think it makes a gorgeous card, I am sure her cousin is going to love it.

This is Your Year to Sparkle Colouring Card from Activity Village. Perfect for Birthdays

While we were looking for colouring card options we spotted the Illuminated Letter cards and both my daughter and I thought they would make stunning Birthday cards (we went with the idea of selecting the starting letter for the Birthday person).  We started off with printing them on coloured card and using our new sharpies to colour them in.  Which worked really well.

Colouring Card from Activity Village. Illuminated Letters. All the letters of the alphabet are included in the pack of colouring cards

But then we also thought it might be fun to add some of our dimensional paint (yes we do love our dimensional paint here).  This time we selected the simple version of the letters and we only outlined the letter with the dimensional paint – we thought it would make the letter stand out more.

Outlinning the illuminated letters on the cards with dimensional paint

We left our dimensional paint to dry overnight (it does smudge if you do not let it dry properly) and then we completed the card with our watercolours.

The Simple Illuminated letter Card from Activity Village with the letter outlined in dimensional paint

And once we saw the outcome the kids decided to try the dimensional paint on a few more cards – we stuck with just outlining the focus point, leaving it to dry and the using our watercolour paints.  The one below is the elephant scene card.

Elephant Scene colouring card from Activity Village. Elephants outlined with dimensional paint

I must admit I think we have a new favourite way to make cards (I have a strong suspicion that a number of our Christmas cards are going to be made this way this year).

The dimensional paint that we use is this one – I Love To Create Tulip 3D Fabric Paint 4oz Slick (Black).

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Colouring Cards from Activity Village. Wide range. great way for the kids to get involved in making their own cards

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Knock Knock Joke Book for the family

My daughter has always struggled with humour, she does not always understand it and as a result can get very frustrated.  So we wanted to try to help her a bit by introducing her to some jokes at home, explaining them to her and even possibly teaching her a few so that when she is in a social situation it is not as intimidating when everyone starts sharing jokes.

I spotted that Highlights had a Knock Knock Children’s joke book so I thought it might be a good starting point.  Knock Knock jokes are standard and well-known so I thought they would be a good introduction.

Knock Knock! The Biggest Best Joke Book Ever

The book is filled with lots of different themed Knock Knock jokes (I belive there are over 1000 different jokes in this book).  They have split the jokes up into different sections like – Animal antics, household humour, laugh around the world etc.  I liked this is as we could jump to a section and read out a bunch of similar themed jokes.

Now as I mentioned there are over a thousand jokes in this book, so we have not read every single one but so far none have been unsuitable.  And yes some are funnier than others, but we liked this because we used it to discuss why some jokes seemed to work better than others.

Both my kids have enjoyed reading this book together and with their dad (he really loved the idea of reading joke books with the kids).

reading the Knock Knock! Joke book together

And we have also used it in car trips – it was really a great way of keeping two kids busy while we were going on a longish drive to the beach. (And I promise I was not the driving and taking photos at the same time)

Using the Knock Knock! Joke book in a car trip to keep the kids entertained

We have really enjoyed this book and I think it has been a great way of helping my daughter better understand some basic jokes and word play.  We are hoping to build on this and try some other joke books with her in the future.

I received this joke book together with a few others for review purposes.  I honestly think it is a fun joke book worth the £8.99 that it is retailing for Knock Knock!: The BIGGEST, Best Joke Book EVER (Highlights Laugh Attack! Joke Books)

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