Mask Craft

We are definitely taking our time getting back into our normal rhythm after our Christmas break, so when my youngest asked if we could make some masks I got very excited and we quickly selected a few animal masks from the Activity Village website (they have a huge range of printable masks – Activity Village Masks).  For our crafting session we mostly used the black and white zodiac animal masks.  Tip – it is better to make the holes in the side of the masks before the kids start crafting.

Crafting with kids. Use the printable masks from Activity Village and let the kids create

My daughter started off by using some blow pens that we have on a standard mask template but it looks like the ink in our blow pens is drying up so we did not get the expected result.

Using some blow pens on a standard mask template from Activity Village

Then the kids tried some ” squeeze” paints (Mala paints in a tube) that we got from IKEA and I must admit the colours in these paints were really nice and bright.

Black and white tiger mask from Activity Village decorated with dimensional paint

And having to squeeze the paints out is brilliant for strengthening those hands (after two masks my youngest told me his right hand has aching from all the squeezing).

We also added a few crafty bits to the painted masks – I love the look of the feathers added onto the dragon mask. (Just make sure the kids use lots of glue if they are adding feathers, my son made one and was a bit light on the glue and we had to re-attach a few feathers when he tried to wear the mask).

Dragon mask from Activity Village decorated with paints and feathers

And of course we can not have a crafting session without using some tissue paper, so we made a tissue paper fox.  

Tissue paper fox mask

I really like this fox template as it is a very basic shape and I think the kids could use it create some more abstract masks as well.

And to end with my daughter just coloured in a bright dragon mask.

Colourful dragon mask. Black and white template downloaded from Activity Village and decorated by the kids

I LOVE crafting sessions like this, when the kids have a base to start with (the mask) and then they can create as they want, realistic or unrealistic, with lots of extra crafting items or with no crafting bits and pieces, painting, colouring, whatever they want.

Easy craft to do with kids. Mask templates from Activity Village

Extra note – the IKEA paints that we used are these one IKEA MALA – Fluorescent/glitter paint, assorted colours / 8 pack / 8 pack (they cost £8 if you buy them in IKEA).  The blow pens are from Tiger in the UK and the tissue paper and crafting feathers are just part of my stock (could have been bought in a number of different places).

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One of the most important lessons I have learnt in the five and a half years we have been home-educating is that it is a lifestyle.  You learn to stop and answer questions, when you don’t know the answers you find out together, when the kids start showing an interest you try to encourage that interest even if it is in an area that you yourself have no interest or knowledge, you find ways to ask them questions so that they start thinking about something new, you bring topics into conversations  – it just becomes part of your family way of doing things.

But the more it becomes a lifestyle the more you also need to find ways to recharge.  And for everyone that is different.  I have found that by the end of the day I need some time to myself and luckily it just so happens that my husband loves spending that time with the kids.  It developed naturally over the years but it has become a tradition in our house, as soon as he gets home from work the kids have about 45 minutes of dad only time.  Everyone LOVES it and I get to totally veg out while the three of them read / discuss Science or Engineering topics (the latest one being designs of aircraft which has now developed into our youngest wanting to have his own plane design company).  It is something that works well for our little family, my hubbie gets some time with the kids, the kids get dad time and I get some time to veg out or do some planning.

But as much as I value my evening break the kids and I need time to recharge together.  You can not just sit indoors and work away, or go from one activity to another.  I have in the past made the mistake of over-scheduling our week and no-one was happy.  We have learnt that we need time to unwind together.  And for us a big way of doing that is getting out and going for walks, exploring in the woods or visiting one of the National Trust Sites, just somewhere open and quiet where we can hear nature.

Recharging at one of the local National Trust Sites

Everyone relaxes, breathes a bit better, even when it is freezing cold we still wrap up and get out.

For us even being out on a quiet nature walk in the middle of the week is a learning experience, but it is a relaxed, unwinding type of learning experience, where everyone gets to recharge a bit and often I get some new ideas for possible projects / activities

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Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

We have had our Frog and Toad Are Friends book for ages.  I first bought it for my oldest when she was a preschooler as a story book.  I choose the book initially because of the sweet, gentle stories about the lovely friendship between Frog and Toad and she LOVED it.  As a story book for younger children it was worth the five pounds I paid for it.

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel. A sweet story book which also is a great reader

But over the years it has developed from a story book to a point out words and sounds book to a reader.  I think I have mentioned a few times how I love finding story books that double as good readers for the kids and this is one of those gems.

Reading Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel to himself. A story book which becomes a good reader

Both my kids have used Frog and Toad as readers as they loved it.  It is a book they will happily take off the bookshelf by themselves and read over and over again (and for me this is key with young readers, finding books that they enjoy reading so that they develope a LOVE for reading and don’t think of it is a chore they need to do).

There is a good combination of easy words and slightly longer, challenging words that make it a good book for beginning readers.

Frog and Toad are Friends, some text from the story Spring

In fact I discovered a few years ago that the Core Knowledge books that I like – What Your Year 2 Child Needs to Know actually includes the Frog and Toad series in its recommended list of Books for Beginning Readers. (Just to be clear I did not choose the Frog and Toad book because it was one their list, we liked the stories, but it just made me feel good that a book we naturally love so much was included on a recommended reading list).

The kids and I LOVE the gentle, sweet stories of Frog and Toad and we recommend this book both as a story book and a reader.

Frog and Toad Are Friends. An extract from the story The Letter

When I looked again on Amazon I see they now have reader versions of this book.  I bought the standard  picture book  – Frog and Toad are Friends (Essential Picture Book Classics) (Paperback) – Common.  


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Number Practice Books by Schofield & Sims

My daughter has been using the Schofield & Sims Written Calculation workbooks for a year now and we have both noticed how her Maths confidence has improved.  The format really suits her and each book in the series contains lots of practice so when I was looking for Maths practice books for my son I immediately searched for some Schofield & Sims ones.  I found the Number Book series and we bought a workbook for him.  I have already shared a few photos of the number books on facebook but I thought now that we have used them for a little while it was time that I write a proper review. (Schofield & Sims kindly sent me the rest of the set of workbooks so I will include summaries of each of the 5 workbooks).

Schofield & Sims Number Books. Maths Practice workbook for keys stage 1 (UK year 1 and 2)

They are what I would term – practice books.  So lots of examples to practice basic Maths. The examples start off easier and work up.

Number Book 1 (of 5): Early Years/Key Stage 1

This starts with some basic counting pages and then it goes onto adding 1, adding 2 (up till adding 5).  The first set of adding pages has pictures and the kids add the number in the picture so 1 turtle plus 1 turtle = 2 turtles and then it goes onto just adding sums without any pictures.  And finally some subtracting.  Taking away 1, and then 2 all the way up till taking away 5 and some basic money pages.

Schofield & Sims Number 1 Book. addition and subtraction practice for year 1.

Number Book 2 (of 5): Early Years/Key Stage 1

More practice of adding 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.  It also shows pages which are the Story of a number.  Eg Story of 8 would include all the addition sums for 8 and then the inverse subtraction sums for 8. (There are story of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 pages).

Schofield & Sims Number 2 Maths workbook. The story of 8. Maths practice for key stage 1

More money example pages and some basic sums where three numbers are added together or 2 numbers are added and one it taken away eg  5+5-6=

Schofield & Sims Number 2 Maths workbook. Adding then subtracting. Maths practice for key stage 1

Number Book 3 (of 5): Key Stage 1, Years 1 & 2

Book 3 is all about numbers between 10 and 20 (the first 2 books only went up to 10).  It continues with the Story of numbers pages but this time it is for numbers from 11 to 20.

Schofield & Sims Number 3 book. Numbers from 11 to 20. The Story fo 15 page. addition and subtraction sums that make up 15

Also some more money examples but again the sums are for larger amounts.

Schofield & Sims Number 3 maths book. Sums for amounts between 11 and 20 including some money sums

And the 2 times table.

Schofield & Sims Number 3 book. Includes some 2 times table practice. Key stage 1 maths practice

Number Book 4 (of 5): Key Stage 1, Years 1 & 2

More adding and subtracting practice and 2 times table practice.  Book 4 also introduces the idea of  sharing between 2 (dividing by 2).

Schofield & Sims Number 4 book. Lots more addition and subtraction practice. Key stage 1 maths practice

Lots of breaking numbers down to 10’s and 1’s, adding 10’s and subtracting 10’s.  Also adding and subtracting in columns.  And the 3 times table and diving by 3.

Number Book 5 (of 5): Key Stage 1, Years 1 & 2

Lots more adding and subtracting in columns (including examples where you need to carry).  The 4 times table is introduced and practiced as well as dividing by 4.

Schofield & Sims Number 5 maths workbook. Maths practice including 4 times table and diving by 4

The 5 times table and the 10 times table (including division practice for each).  More money sums and more addition and subtraction practice.

Schofield & Sims Number 5 maths workbook. Includes practice for time table and division

If you are looking for some Maths practice workbooks – practicing addition, subtraction and basic time table these books are great.  They are NOT flashy, multi-coloured with stickers and bright pictures, they are for kids you need to practice their sums and get some maths confidence.  I am planning on using the rest of the set with my son this year.

I have included Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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Monthly calendar

We have had a lovely Christmas with lots of family over but the lack of routine and uncertainty of what comes next is starting to take its toll on my two.  So I decided it was time to get myself sorted and get a Monthly schedule for January events up.  I have done something like this before and it is NOT a timetable (we don’t follow a rigid timetable with our days but rather we have a rhythm of how our days go).  This is for all those weekly or unusual activities that happen outside of the home or with other people.

January 2018 monthly calendar pages from Activity Village

I used the 2018 Calender from Activity Village (they have pages for both hemispheres so there is a winter themed January aswell as a summer themed January).

And I stuck to using pens for set events and pencil for uncertain ones.

January 2018 monthly calendar page with events written on it

Nothing fancy but I like the fact that the kids have something to refer back to which shows what is going to happen for the upcoming month.

And I really like getting all out onto one page.  I actually think I might print a second copy of the calendar page for my own mini planning (or I should say more like an idea page of what I am thinking of covering in the upcoming month).

2018 Monthly Calendar pages downloaded from Activity Village

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Our choices may be different but I would not change them

I am totally aware that a lot of the choices that my hubbie and I have made are not what most people would make.  And I am totally happy with that.  We choose to have kids, our kids are amazing, I honestly would not change them and I don’t want to “Fix them” Please don’t get me started on the backward thinking the kids on the spectrum need to be fixed somehow because that makes me crazy mad.  Kids on the spectrum may not view the world as most kids do but that does not mean we need to force them into some predetermine mold that society has deemed correct.  My kids do have additional challenges and that is why we choose to home-educate them so I could offer them as much support as possible and so that they could grow up knowing they are fine, just the way they are, that they don’t need to be fixed.

Our decision to home-educate means I gave up a career and we halved out income, it means we don’t do fancy,  but then fancy was not ever really that important to me.  Giving up my career may mean we do not have new cars or nice furniture but it means I get to be a full-time mom, I get to be there when the kids are facing challenges and I get to watch them learn and grow.  We get to spend ages on topics that the kids find interesting, we get to spend as long as we need on topics that they may struggle with and we get to explore their strengths and hopefully build their confidence.

Don’t get me wrong being a home-educating mom is not all roses, I do not always respond the way I should when we are dealing with sensory-tough situations, I loose my cool way too often, I don’t always know the answers but I never stop trying.  My kids are no stranger to hearing me say I’m sorry and they know they can tell me if I have been a “grumpy mom ” and I will not be offended.  I don’t have much of a social life (I do have some amazing mom’s in my life who I really appreciate), but I have no need for going-out-clothes (wellies are much more important these days) and the knowledge of which are the best restaurants in town is totally wasted on me.  But then I don’t feel like I am missing out.

Home-educating is not for everyone and those families that do choose to educate at home do it differently to us, they make different choices, choices that suit their families.

So my choices may be different to yours but I am OKAY with that because I would not change one thing about my kids and I feel so lucky that I get to spend my days with them.

Playing Magic Maths by Orchard Toys. The player who fills their board with the ingredients is the winner

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Christmas Alphabet Challenge

Both kids are very excited about Christmas, we have family out from South Africa and they are loving having everyone around.  But even though they have family around and even though it is Christmas their thirst for learning is still all around.  My oldest is reading a lot and my youngest still has his never-ending questions about almost anything.  He also keeps trying to spell out words for me and I have been really impressed with some of the harder words that he has been trying so as a way of encouraging his interest in figuring out words I thought we could try an Alphabet Challenge but since Christmas is just around the corner instead of trying one of the birds or animal challenges we went with this Christmas Alphabet Challenge from Activity Village

Christmas Alphabet Challenge page from Activity Village

I love these pages.  And yes the kids do make mistakes but that is how they learn.  To beginning with one of them wrote wreath without the w (which is why it is on the r line) but then we chatted about silent w and even had a go at trying to figure out other words with a starting wr.

I love practicing spelling like this.  I always hated spelling, I could never spell and trying to spell words always filled me with fear so keeping spelling fun and interesting is just as important for me as making maths hands-on.  And when the kids associate spelling a word with an activity they remember it.

Trying the Christmas Alphabet Challange page from Activity Village. Fun way to practice spelling during Christmas

We have found with our youngest that doing a word search on the same topic before we try an alphabet challenge does help.  He seems to be more confident and that extra confidence means he tries other harder words.  Earlier this week we did some Christmas themed word searches and crosswords like the one below – Christmas Word Search  and I noticed he included most of the words from his word search and the ones that he included were all spelt correctly.

Christmas Word Search from Activity Village

(We do a lot of word activities and have found we tend to do them in a pattern – word searches, followed by crosswords, then word scrambles and then alphabet challenge type pages – it is just the order which seems to work with us).

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