Baking and Icing

I love my home-ed mom chats, they often spur me on to do something that I may have been neglecting.  On Friday I was chatting to a home-ed mom friend and we were talking about the importance of having our own hobbies.  It is important for us to do activities that we enjoy and the kids often get inspired to try activities when they see us (their parents) doing something that we enjoy.  It really does ring true for us.  My daughter loves gardening with her dad and both kids tend to do arts and crafts that I do but there are a few “hobbies” that I have been negligently lately, one of which is baking – it has just been way TOOOOO hot to bake.  And the natural result is my daughter has not been helping out in the kitchen as much as she usually does. So with the slight dip in temperature this weekend I decided it was time to bake some biscuits and test out some icing piping tips that I recently bought for myself.

I stuck with a basic biscuit recipe, and no big surprise both kids heard me pottering around in the kitchen and could not resist joining in.

baking biscuits together

Then we made our own piping bags and icing and my daughter took charge of testing out the new icing tips.

Experimenting with using an icing bag and some icing tips for the first time

It was the first time that she has used a piping bag but she really enjoyed it.  She was focused on making sure she had the pressure correct (part of her sensory make-up is she struggles to know if she is applying enough pressure when she does an activity) so she kept her first session simple and she practiced writing letters and some patterns.

Icing biscuits

She is now feeling more confident about how much pressure she needs to apply and is keen to try again and create some flowers (guess who is going to be looking for YouTube clips this week).

I am so glad my friend reminded me about taking some time to do my hobbies and I am also really glad the weather co-operated and cooled down enough to make my kitchen a bit more baking-friendly.

Now I need to spend some time researching another idea my friend and I were discussing – I need to find a local shop where I can buy some basic woodwork tools for the kids and us (I am including their dad in this project) to use.

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Vikings in Britain

I have mentioned a couple of time over the past few months that both my kids are loving Viking fiction stories and although the authors do manage to intertwine lots of Viking elements into the stories there is obviously still a large fiction element.  I have been wanting to cement their actual knowledge of Vikings but the couple of Viking books that we borrowed from the library just did not capture my son’s interest and he totally switched off.  We have had a lot of success with the BIG CAT readers so I thought it might be worth trying their Vikings in Britain reader.  This time he stayed interested and we read the whole book together.

Collins BIG CAT Inform reader Vikings in Britain. Prefect Viking facts for primary aged children

The book is aimed at primary aged children (specifically Years 3 – 4).  It covers Britain from around the Year 793 until the Year 1263 and covers topics from  – what Britain looked like before the invasions began, who the Viking were, a bit about their lifestyle (their boats, homes, trading, burial) and of course the different major battles that were fought and who the most important key figures were.

Collins BIG Cat inform reader. Vikings in Britain. Who were the Vikings. Viking non-fiction for primary aged children

In total the book is 47 pages long.

The writing style was perfect for my son – yes there are some new, unusual words but they are all written in bold with an explanation in the glossary at the back – I actually think this is the first time that my son was actively using the glossary because he was interested and wanted to know what the words meant.

reading his BIG CAT reader Vikings in Britain

They also include some useful maps – my son especially liked the maps showing the kingdoms of Britain before the Vikings came (he kept referring back to this map) and the Invasion map.

Collins BIG CAT inform reader. Vikings in Britain. Primary aged children

My daughter also enjoyed the book, she really liked finding which facts in the Vikings in Britain book were also included in her fictional stories – one of her stories is always mentioning Lindisfarne so she was thrilled to know it was real and that the invasion mentioned in her story actually occurred.  She also liked finding out which of the Viking lifestyle items mentioned in her stories were factual – like the longhouse – the description in the Vikings in Britain book pretty much matched the Viking Homes described in her latest story. And finally she loved the Viking Legacy page where it gave her examples of how places with certain endings would be based on the Viking settlements (needless to say she started searching our map of Britain to try to identify the names).

I also managed to find these two printouts from Teachit Primary website tied nicely into the book (It is free to download the PDF files from the Teachit Primary website).

The Features of a Viking Longship activity – here the kids cut out the information boxes, stick them in the correct place and then create a heading for each box.

Teachit primary website. Free to download Features of a Viking Longboat activity

Free to download the Features of a Viking Longship from the Teachit primary website

And the Free to download Viking Timeline  – it includes a number of events mentioned in a the book and a few new ones.

Free to download Viking Timeline from Teachit primary website

You can get the Vikings in Britain: Band 14/Ruby (Collins Big Cat)

For more information about the BIG CAT readers have a look on he Collins website here – BIG CAT readers

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Night Zookeeper. The Lioness of Fire Desert

Earlier this year (May) my two kids were introduced to the world of the Night Zookeeper.  They both read the first book Night Zookeeper: The Giraffes of Whispering Wood, loved it and immediately started working on the website.  They loved the whole idea of a Night Zoo – a place where animals roam free with no cages and where two children help them fight against the voids.  Absolute hit with both my kids (I wrote a review of the first book and the website here – Night Zookeeper).  My son enjoyed it so much that he asked me to contact the publisher and ask if they would send us the second book for a review as soon it was ready.  They kindly agreed and we received Night Zookeeper: The Lioness of Fire Desert.

As soon as the book arrived my son read to cover to cover.  I have honestly never seen him spend the whole day reading – he only took a break from reading to go swimming and then as soon as we were back from the pool he picked up the book and continued reading it again.

Reading the 2nd Night Zookeeper. The lioness of Fire Desert. Another brilliant night zookeeper adventure

And guess what – he is already asking me when he can read the third book in the series Night Zookeeper: The Penguins of Igloo City(I think it is only going to be published in Jan 2019).

So why is this book such a hit with my son ?  It is an adventure story but it is not scary.  The story includes talking animals – they are real little characters – he really adores Sam the spying giraffe.  And the second book includes a seaplane – which is a big hit with my son.

My son is seven years old and the story is interesting but a manageable read for him. He could get lost reading the story to himself without needing my assistance – which is important for him as he likes the independence.

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What did I like about this book ?  Well for starters my son sat and read it cover to cover.  Win Win right there !!!

But there is more to it.  The book is written in the same style as the first one.  Will, Riya and Sam need to go and help some other animals in trouble (this time there is a Lion Pilot and a Flamingo Doctor).  The whole idea of the Night Zookeeper stories lends itself to one where the kids can get involved, the kids can create their own stories for Will and his friends, they can come up with new adventures and new interesting animals for them to meet.  I LOVE THIS about the story.  I LOVE that the kids can use the two existing stories as springboards for their own stories.  They can take the exisiting stories, adapt them, borrow ideas and build on those ideas to create their own masterpieces.

For us both books have been fun stories to read but they have also sparked the kids imagination and spurred some creative story telling.

Oxford University Press kindly sent us a copy of the Lioness of Fire Desert after my son requested a copy in exchange for me writing a review.

I do include 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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Planetarium Fun

We went to the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium for the first time and loved it.  They have some really great hands on science activities for the kids to do but as great as the Science side was (and I do mean great as we are definitely coming back again SOON) the 2 shows that we watched in the Planetarium were the highlights for us.

Winchester Science Centre trying out the pulley activity

Possibly because the kids have been reading a few Solar System books with their dad lately but more likely just because they were really well done.

The first show we went to was The Planet Show (I believe it is daily).  Brilliant.  The hubbie and I were really impressed.  You get taken on this amazing trip through space – the visuals are mind-blowing – the way they zoom in and out – just incredible. I loved seeing all the planets orbits and the close-ups, like the rings of Saturn – I have honestly never seen that before.

My daughter was so impressed with the show that she asked if there was another one we could watch.  So we also went to the Secret of the Cardboard Rocket.  Now this show is designed for the kids. It is a story about two children who build a cardboard rocket and then with some imagination, a good book and little of magic they travel through space in their cardboard rocket.  My seven-year old LOVED it – really really LOVED this.  The story is sweetly woven to include many incredible facts and yes because we watched both shows there was some duplication but there was still a lot of new facts that we learnt from the Cardboard Rocket show.  The kids loved the classification of the Rocky Midgets verses the Gas Giants (that is something that is going to stick forever).

And the bonus about watching both shows is what they learnt has really been embedded – Mercury being half boiling half freeing, even though Mercury is the closest to the sun it is Venus that is the hottest, Saturn’s rings being made from ice rocks oh I could go on and on.

The only two parts that were a bit confusing were – they pronounce Uranus differently in the two shows (something the kids pointed out immediately) and in the Cardboard Rocket when they get to Pluto they don’t make it clear it is a dwarf planet (something which was very nicely explained in the Planet Show).

The day outing was all in all brilliant and very much worth the cost of the tickets.  If you think the Cardboard Rocket show sounds interesting they have this clip up on YouTube – Secret of the Carboard Rocket

So naturally after a good educational day out, the home educator in me had a quick look for some activities and I found the Planet Scissor Activity Page (from Activity Village).  I initially thought we could use the images to make a poster showing the order of the planets.

Using the Planet cut-outs from Activity Village to create a Planet poster

But my son was not happy with the straight forward order, he quickly showed me a page (from his Planet Earth book), he wanted to show the planets orbiting around the sun.

Making a poster showing the planets orbiting around the Sun using images from Activity Village

Planets orbiting around the sun. Images from Activity Village

For those of you interested in trying to make the poster at home – we used 2 A3 size pieces of card for the background.

And we also printed out this cool Orbit Model from Activity Village.  I love this as it brilliantly demonstrates how the moon orbits the earth while the earth is orbiting around the sun.  Both my kids agreed that using the orbit model and actually moving the moon around the earth while the sun orbits the sun explained it better than reading it in a book.

Activity Village orbit model. Shows the moon orbiting the earth while the earth orbits the sun

This is NOT a sponsored post.  I am just writing about a fun day out and the activities that we did afterwards.

I do include 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.

Paper craft orbit model or the earth orbiting the sun and the moon orbiting the earth

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What type of Home educator are you ?

When people hear that we home educate they often ask me what type of educator am I ?  They want to put a label on it, on me.  A label makes everyone happy because they know what to expect.  Am I a conservative Christian or one of those hippie types? Do we unschool or do we follow a curriculum? Are we Waldorf inspired and if not why not? Are we vegetarian and follow a sugar-free diet? Do I really only have 2 kids, don’t all home educators have LOTS of children?  Do I only wear tie dyed, home-made clothing and Birkenstocks?

The truth is I battle to choose one word or phrase because we are a mixture and I know that a lot of home educators also fit somewhere in the middle.  We don’t unschool and we don’t follow a set curriculum.  Sorry, but those are not the only two options out there.  We have a semi-structured approach to Maths and English and then a very much child-lead, interest driven, topic based style of learning to a lot of our other subjects.  We use workbooks but we also watch documentaries and go on lots of outings.  The kids learn by a mixture of doing, experiencing, getting lost in books, using good websites and watching documentaries.

We don’t have a timetable but we do have a rhythm to our day / week.  Yet even with our rhythm every week ends up different. Some weeks are jammed packed to the brink of exploding and other weeks are quiet stay at home type weeks.  We do have some weekly activities and we do lots of one-off activities.  We have certain favourite places to visit and favourite Museums that the kids enjoy but we also like to try new ones.

And yes I only have 2 kids, honest there is no “number of child criteria” to home educate – I promise.  And food wise, really I try for healthy eating but some days I am just happy to get food in them.

I get that  it is difficult for people who are not involved in home educating to understand what we do and I get that having a label to use is comforting for them but like so much in life there is often a mix, a middle group.  Each family is unique so everyone is going to tackle something with their own individual interpretation and way of doing things that suits their family.

And no I don’t own 1 piece of tie dyed clothing or any dungarees but yes I do LOVE Birkenstocks.

Birkenstock type of home educator

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Lucky Gecko Summer Holiday Box Review

Last weekend we were given a Lucky Gecko Summer Box.  We have never done subscription type boxes before but I have heard some good feedback about the Lucky Gecko Boxes (I have hear great things about their Ornithology Box) so when they asked if we would like to do a review one of their Summer Boxes I said yes.

As soon as we unpacked the box I was impressed with the contents – the fact that it included an IQ Puzzler Pro game,  an interesting book, a Hexbug and all the other items that the kids would need to complete the challenges.  From the start this impressed me because even once the kids have finished the challenges included in the puzzle book they will still be able to use a number of the items again (I like it when kids can reuse items for other activities).

Lucky Gecko Summer Box 2018. Lots of puzzles and challenges to keep the kids thinking over the summer

Also Let me reassure all parents that they send you an answer booklet via email (Yes I know I should be able to answer all of the questions but when you are sitting with the kids and it is 31 degrees outside believe me an answer book is much-needed by this mum).  The Summer Puzzle box is aimed at kids entering year 5, 6 or 7 and I understand why they say this (my daughter would be starting Year 6 in September and my son Year 3 if they were in school).  The puzzles are a mixture of Maths, English, General knowledge and although my son could join in and he did do some of the General knowledge questions with ease the maths based ones were not things we have covered yet.

Lucky Gecko Summer Box one of the Maths puzzles included

The puzzle book contains 31 pages of questions – so 1 page a day and each page has a puzzle and then a challenge on it – both my kids really enjoyed trying the challenges included (if you have younger siblings I would suggest seeing if they can join in with the challenges as my son found he could manage most of the challenges that we tried – he does love puzzles so he was very keen to join in).

Lucky Gecko Summer Box one of the matchbox challenges included

We received our box a week ago so the kids have not tried every puzzle and every challenge yet but I wanted to write about the box for readers who are looking for something to do over the summer.  So far everything we have needed was in the box. And so far puzzles and challenges have been interesting and nothing that my daughter could not manage.

Lucky Gecko Summer Box, a tangram challenge

We have not started reading the book included in the box – Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library, but I skimmed a few pages and it looks interesting.  I also really like the fact that at the end of the puzzle booklet they include 3 other book suggestions, I always like getting book recommendations.

Now I mentioned that the box includes a IQ Puzzler Pro.  We already have an IQ Fit game and I am a huge fan of this game – it is often stashed in my bag when we go out as it is the perfect activity to keep one of the kids busy when they are waiting for their sibling to finish an activity.

Lucky Gecko Summer Box includes an IQ Puzzler Pro game

And I must admit I have read up about the IQ Puzzler Pro and actually it is on my Amazon wish list as something to buy the kids even though we have the IQ Fit – for the simple reason that it has 3 dimensional challenges.  This game is brilliant.  The game starts on the same 2 D level as the IQ Fit about after a number of examples it goes onto 3D.

Lucky Gecko Summer Box has an IQ Puzzler Pro game included which has 3D challenges

Wow – the 3D is brilliant – we have only just started trying but boy does it get both the kids and me (totally admitting) thinking.  Really LOVE this.

We have never had subscription boxes before and we have only had this one for a week but I am truly impressed.  I am impressed with what they included and how they have thought out the questions and challenges.  I am positive we will finish all of the pages over the Summer and I am looking forward to seeing what my daughter thinks of the book included.

We were sent the box in exchange for a review.  I am under no obligation to write anything positive, the only obligation I have is to be honest and express our own personal thoughts

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Snake Paper Chain from Twinkl

I have am trying to make sure that our craft activities appeal to my little guy but with this heat we have been having my desire to get creative has vanished and I really needed something easy to set up but something that would still suit him.  He loves all animals but recently he has been more fascinated by reptiles and insects so I searched for an activity for one of those and found this snake paper chain activity (Twinkl Resources part of their Classic package).  We printed out a few copies of the black and white version.

My initial idea when I saw this was that it was a fun, easy paper craft activity and that we would just use our sharpies to colour it in and my son did initially make some just like that (scissors, glue and sharpies).

Snake paper chain craft activity colouring in with sharpies

Even sticking with just his sharpies the end snakes came out so bright and colourful.

Snake Paper Chain Craft activity from Twinkl Resources

But when his sister joined in we decided to try something a bit different and dug out our stash of decopatch paper (I have bought the paper from a number of different sources).

Snake Paper Chain template from Twinkl adding some colourful decopath paper.

We covered the links that make up the snake’s body in the colourful paper (glueing it onto both sides).

Snake Paper Chain craft activity from Twinkl Resources adding decopatch paper to the links

Snake paper Chain Craft activity using some decopath paper for the links

And I must admit using the decopatch paper is such an easy way to create some truly stunning snakes.

Snake Paper Chain craft activity made using a template from Twinkl and some colourful decopatch paper

It really was the perfect, hot weather, easy to set up craft activity that required very little thinking or prepping from me and I had two happy little crafters who liked their end results.

Snake paper Chain craft activity from Twinkl Resources

The snake paper chain template that we used is from the Twinkl Resources website and is part of a paid for subscription.  For more information about their subscriptions please contact Twinkl directly, I do not work for them, we just use some of their resources in our home education.  Also all links and mention of package structures are correct at time of publishing this post.

Snake Paper Chain Craft Activity.  Made using a template from Twinkl Resources

 

 

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