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 email@example.com
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 keen to give them a go. I'll feedback.
We also have a couple of great Usborne maths books which I'm including in our maths basket for reference. See Inside Maths is the type of book that Bean is happy for me to read to her, cover to cover. The other, First Illustrated Maths Dictionary, is more for my benefit, for when she inevitably asks me to explain something that I can't remember from my own journey through mainstream schooling!
North America Project
Our main big project for the Autumn term will be learning about North America, mainly through reading the stories recommended in Give Your Child the World. You can read a full review of this excellent World Geography resource here. I'll be planning some activities to run alongside the stories, such as cooking native dishes, learning about the animals that live in each area etc. We'll be starting with Canada, then moving on to the United States of America. I want to take this opportunity to begin to talk to Bean about anti-racism. I'll share more details about this in another blog post, as there's way too much to list here.
We've got a couple of side projects planned for the Autumn term too. Bean wants to learn more about animals, so we'll be linking some of that in with our North America project, as well as reading books and visiting our local animal parks. She's also expressed an interest in learning about earthquakes and tornadoes. I've sourced a couple of books, which we've read already, but we'll probably revisit them when we learn more about some of the individual states of the United States of America. I've found some fun science experiments to try out too.
At her request, I've also gathered a few resources for learning about detectives and spies, which I've popped in our morning basket. Learning doesn't always fit into neat little curriculum area boxes, but home educating means that we don't have to worry about any of that. We can just go with her interests.
If you would like to read more about home education planning and potentially find more interesting books and resources, I wrote a series of blog posts this time last year, detailing our plans for the last academic year. I planned way too much, and we definitely didn't get to it all, but we learned so much together.
The Simple Art of Toy Rotation
Next month I will be running my online course The Simple Art of Toy Rotation. This will be the fourth time I have run it and I can't wait to have you join me on an inspiring journey to learn how to reduce, refine, organise and present your child's toys to facilitate creative, independent play. It's a really fun, practical course, with lots of support with decluttering and organising, and choosing toys that meet your child's interests and developmental needs, wherever you may be on that journey. You can read a full course description here. If you would like to be added to my waiting list for an early bird discount code, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Booking opens on September 10th.
If a supported course is not really your thing, and you prefer to work alone, I now offer a self-directed version of the course at a reduced price. You can read more about that and sign up here.
Here are the blog posts I published this month, just in case you may have missed them.
If you have enjoyed reading this monthly newsletter, and don't want to miss another one, perhaps you might like to subscribe? I can promise not to flood your inbox with spam (but I can't promise that I'll remember to send newsletter reminders either!) Scroll down to the bottom to subscribe.
Next month, I'll be sharing an update on our North America project (learning about Canada specifically), as well as a brief tour of how we store our art and craft supplies (once I've decluttered the area alongside the participants of my online course).
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.