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March Newsletter: The One With Our Summer Term Plans

Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter!

Gosh, what a difference a month makes! I'm sure that I speak for you all when I say that the arrival of spring has been very welcome here. It has shifted the energy in our home from one of endurance to one of unadulterated joy! It has also made me think about planning a trip to the Southern Hemisphere for next February, Covid dependent of course.

All of the bulbs that we planted last autumn are flowering. The magnolia trees on our street are at their absolute best. We have our windows and doors flung open, letting in the fresh air and light. I've washed and packed away the thermals and snow gear, hopefully not prematurely. I'm weaning us off the soup and onto fresh smoothies and salads. I'm feeling happy, happy, happy!

Science Project Highlights

Our science project has now drawn to a natural close. We finished reading our 100 Things to Know About the Human Body book, which, like the others in this series, was excellent. We also finished working our way through the Body Lab biology kit Bean received as a gift at Christmas. Bean enjoyed the activities included, but wasn't keen to further explore the topic with the experiments on offer in some of our other books.

We spent our last session checking on our petri dishes, comparing swabs taken from a clean and a dirty hand. Both had mould forming, but the dirty dish had significantly more. We tested the strength of a strand of Bean's hair, by suspending a little cardboard box from it and filling it with pennies. Once the hair snapped, we weighed the pennies and discovered that her hair had supported 68 grams of weight! We also spent some time looking at some prepared microscope slides with samples of flowers, plants and insects, which were quite fascinating, but made me realise that our microscope is woefully inadequate. If you have a microscope that you would recommend, please let me know.

Shortly after finishing our Biology focus, we made a tentative start on a Physics focus. We cracked open Bean's Robotics kit, which was also a Christmas gift, and had a go at making a cardboard pantograph with the materials included. The build itself was straight forward enough, and Bean enjoyed it, but the finished product didn't have the functionality that Bean was hoping for, so she was left feeling a bit disappointed. It definitely didn't compare to the beautiful wooden version used by Thomas Jefferson.

We also made a start on reading My First Book of Quantum Physics, which we both found a bit heavy going. I find that there are some topics that I simply cannot get my head around, however simply they are explained to me! When I set up our materials for our second session, and third, Bean could not be persuaded to join me, so we had a chat about whether she wanted to continue and decided that, for now, we would stop and move on to something else.

You can read my blog post 20 Science Books to Inspire and Educate, where I share many of the books and learning materials we have used for our science project. You'll also find some of them linked in the Science section of my Bookshop here.

Courage Project

We're still very much enjoying our Courage Project. I feel that this project has the potential to last forever, if I'm able to continue to source books that inspire and interest us. We're still reading and enjoying Break the Mould. The last chapter we read was about inclusivity, with particular reference to the fashion industry. The author, Sinead Burke, is a little person, and in this chapter she shares her experiences of finding it difficult to find clothes that fit her and that reflect her personality, highlighting how important it is to consider how to help all people feel represented in the world.

We're also making great progress with both of our new books, Politics for Beginners and This Book is Anti-Racist, which are both excellent. Why these subjects aren't taught in schools is beyond me?!

We're halfway through the politics book now, and so far we have covered 'all kinds of government', from ancient democracy to representative democracy, including sections on dictatorship, feudalism and the monarchy. Chapter 2 covers 'political systems', at home, at school, democracy and the alternatives. There's an excellent graphic to explain proportional representation in this section. We're now working our way through the third chapter on 'elections and voting'. I'm most certainly learning alongside Bean here.

This Book is Anti-Racist has been especially useful for opening up conversations and for helping Bean to understand how much privilege she has simply because she is white. Each chapter forms a short lesson, with the author sharing her experiences alongside relevant examples, and with an exercise to work on at the end of each lesson. The first five lessons centre around 'Waking Up: Understanding and Growing into my Identities'. With support, Bean has learned about the dominant culture and about which factors in her life may invite discrimination (female, single parent family, home educated). We're now moving onto the next section which is about prejudice, our personal and collective history and how we get to change our own history. I believe this is really, really important work. This book is an absolute gem.

Here's a little peek inside each, so you can get a sense of the style and the content. You'll find more in the Courage Project story highlight on my Instagram grid.

Creative Writing Project

This month we have made a start on one of our new projects... Creative Writing. You can read about how and why this project came about in this blog post. We launched the project by working our way through the 7 Day Writing Blitz from Brave Writer which has been a lot of fun. We didn't manage to cram it in to 7 days, partly because we don't have 7 days in a row together, but also because we've been working on all sorts of other things too. It's a free resource, with fun projects to 'jumpstart' your child's 'dead writing battery'. We've finished this part of our project now, with just the celebration to take place, this coming Friday hopefully.

We've also been busy making some storytelling resources of our own, following the instructions in Show Me a Story. We made Story Discs, and are in the process of making some Beginning, Middle and Ending cards. I intend to write a full blog post review of this book in the coming weeks, as it is packed with fun projects, many of which we hope to try.

I've also invested in a Language Arts curriculum (with a Courage theme!) to tide us over the coming months. I've gone for the Third Grade Language Arts only curriculum from Blossom and Root. You can read more about that in my Creative Writing blog post here.

Our Summer Term Plans

Our summer term plans are minimal. Now that the weather is warming up, the days are lighter and lockdown restrictions are easing, our priority is to spend time outdoors, catching up with family and friends. We want to take day trips. We want to visit our city farms and museums. We want to go for country walks. We want to have long, lazy afternoons playing and chatting with our friends in our gardens. We want to fill our cups after a long winter of social isolation.

We'll be working on our Courage and our Creative Writing projects, when we have the time at home, as well as spending lots and lots of time working on our garden.

Gardening Project

We're also planning to spend much of the coming weeks and months working on developing our garden. We had a huge area of overgrown ivy removed last summer, replacing the fence panels while we were at it, and this has liberated one whole side of our garden for planting. We've already put in an espalier cherry tree, and have relocated one of our compost bins, but there is still lots to be done.

Here's a before and after shot of our new planter. It's now full, and we've transplanted some of our strawberry plants into it, along with a spring flowering clematis to climb up the trellis at the back. We discovered yesterday that we have frogspawn in our pond this year which we are very excited about.