Updated: Sep 20, 2020
Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter!
This is a place to document and share a few monthly highlights, along with book recommendations, recipes, interesting articles, links to other blog posts, free resources etc. If you have a specific request, please drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
August has been such a busy month for us, because at the end of July I reopened my childminding setting, offering holiday club sessions to a few of my existing families. It's been great fun, and a much needed boost to our morale after months of social isolation, but working such long days after a significant break has been a bit of a shock to my system! If you are interested in reading more about a day in the life of a childminder, you can read last week's blog post here.
We're going to be taking a short holiday now, and at the beginning of September my sweet little Goddaughter will be joining us for one day a week. It's been a while since I had an early years child attend, but I'm so excited and honoured to be having this special time with her before she starts school next year.
Planning and Organising for the Autumn Term
I feel like I've spent every waking minute over the last month thinking about the autumn term, and getting excited about everything we have planned. Our days at home are not going to feel too different to last year, but I still don't have a weekly rhythm in place, as some of our regular classes and meet ups pre-Covid are yet to resume. I'm confident that we'll be seeing a few special friends regularly, either in person or online, and it looks like our fortnightly cookery class will resume. Other than that, I am planning for the likelihood that we will still be mostly based at home, especially as the winter months draw in.
We tend to do most of our 'school' work at the dining table, slowly gravitating there after breakfast for morning time. You can see in the photograph above that I use little pegs for our visual timetable, so that Bean can move them around to suit her. We read our daily poem from I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree, and sometimes a short story from A Year Full of Stories, if relevant. At the beginning of each month we also read the poems from A Child's Calendar and Around the Year.
At the other end of our shelf you can see our brand new Bookshelf Journal Page from Fiddlesticks Education. We're planning to keep a record of our read aloud books this year, as reading together is such a big part of our day. We also display our daily affirmation card on this little washing line, our weather wheel, and anything else that might be relevant to our day, e.g. a recipe, map or painting.
Our morning basket contains all sorts of interesting books for dipping into, and we have found that this first half hour of the day has become such a joyful way of learning together. I won't list everything in our morning basket here, as that would almost warrant a blog post of it's own. The contents change very regularly too, as we finish reading books and our interests move on. I do share any new additions to our morning basket in my monthly newsletter, as well as in my Instagram stories, so that's the best place for you to look if that's something that interests you.
After morning time, we tend to need a short break. During this time I often unload the dishwasher or hang laundry, and Bean disappears to work on her own projects. I'm hoping that this year I can gently tweak our rhythm so that this becomes a time for us to work on chores together. This is partly because I am beginning to resent doing 'all the work' in running our home, but also because I want to continue to build her independence and skills. Watch this space!
This summer I have bought three new baskets, to conveniently store our reading, writing and spelling materials, as well as maths and project work. We do not do a lot of formal schooling, but these baskets contain a variety of books and learning materials that we dip in and out of when it takes our fancy. Bean leads her education, as I firmly believe that she is capable of doing that, so the contents of these baskets are what I like to consider her 'invitations to learn' as opposed to our curriculum choices.
Reading, Writing and Spelling
Our loose plans for the Autumn term are to continue working our way through the Reading Reflex phonographic program we started earlier this year, supplementing it with reading games from Games For Reading, as well as reading books together, recipes, text in the environment etc. You can read more about our journey to reading, from birth to 9, in this blog post.
Bean has been very interested in writing her own stories in recent months. She has lots of wonderfully imaginative ideas, but doesn't have the skills yet to get them on to paper in a coherent way. Bean was gifted this Write Your Own Story Book a few years ago, but until now hasn't shown any signs of being interested in or ready to write stories. I've popped it in her basket to see if she is inspired.
And lastly, even as committed unschoolers, I still feel the pressure of wider society, so panic bought a couple of spelling books. Both seem quite dry and dull, but could provide a bit of structure to practice spelling. Bean doesn't tend to enjoy learning through workbooks, but perhaps we might get a page or two done every so often? If not, we'll continue to happily learn to spell through reading, writing and play, using games such as Magic Spelling, which we both love! These are the spelling books, in case your child enjoys learning in this way... Spelling Book 1 and 10 Minutes a Day Spelling
In addition to the above, I will read, read, read to Bean, at every given opportunity, which, in my opinion, is the very best way to inspire an authentic love for reading, language and learning in general. I trust that she will learn to read, write and spell with confidence in her own sweet time.
Bean loves maths and is a capable mathematician. Our focus has always been on practical, meaningful maths, and so this year I would like to begin to gently introduce and support her with recording her findings. She's not yet able to form her numbers correctly (she writes a lot of them back-to-front, which is very common with left handed children) so we have quite a way to go in terms of learning how to present findings in an acceptable and readable way.
Our loose plan for the Autumn term is to continue to learn new concepts through meaningful and practical experiences, using manipulatives to consolidate her understanding, and supplementing with lots of games, such as those in Games for Math. In addition, I've gathered a lovely selection of creative and non-traditional workbooks, reading books with a math focus, a math magazine and math puzzle books (not all photographed here - I plan to rotate them) to pop in her maths basket.
This is NOT a Maths Book - We've already started this one, and Bean loves it. It's full of fun drawing challenges, with a maths focus, highlighting how maths can be artistic and art can be mathematical.
Maths Scribble Book - I impulsively picked this one up in Sainsburys, along with a science themed one. I think Bean will like the format which includes solving puzzles, cracking codes and more creative art challenges.
10 Minutes a Day Maths - Like the spelling book, this one seems a bit dry and dull, but might be useful for practicing concepts that she's already confident with, and for modelling the acceptable way to present findings.
Do Not Open This Math Book - We've already read this one, but Bean enjoyed it and I think will be keen to read it again. It explains lots of basic math concepts in a really fun and engaging way.
Maths Mazes - This was one of those random TKMaxx finds. Answer the questions correctly to find the way through the maze.
Aquila Magazine: Magic Maths - I recently bought a bundle of back issues of this magazine because they are half price, with free postage if you spend over £10. We haven't read them before, but they're aimed at children age 8-12, and I'm