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.
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 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.
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.
With children returning to school in the second week of March we have finally been free to meet friends for 'educational purposes'. I can't begin to express how wonderful that has been! We are still choosing to meet with friends outdoors only, and our educational purposes are primarily social.
We had a lovely long walk with our support bubble from Wotton-Under-Edge to Tyndale Monument, near North Nibley. We've met with some other friends for a lovely long play in the park, and we also had an idyllic afternoon with friends on Ladye Bay, where we stayed playing and chatting until the sun set.
This month we celebrated my sweet baby nephew's 1st birthday. He's just the most beautiful little soul, so happy to be here in the world with us. He loves being around people, which he's been so sorely deprived of this past year. The pandemic has been disproportionally tough on our children. I'm really hoping that it won't be long now before our babies can play safely together again.
We had another lovely 'keeping in touch' day with my mindee, who will be rejoining us more regularly after Easter. She's so physically confident, spending her other four days a week attending her Mama's beautiful forest school kindergarten. She's also had a birthday, so our time together will be short as she will be starting school this autumn. I'm really excited to test out all my 31 Days of Outdoor Play activities with her, which I hope to launch this coming August.
There's been lots and lots of uninterrupted, child initiated and child led play going on here. I'm forever grateful that my daughter still has the time and space to play (her most important work), in an environment that has been carefully designed to support her. I hope to launch my new online course for parents and childcare professionals, Fundamentals of Play, this coming autumn. In this brand new course I'll be sharing my experience of creating a prepared environment, to promote independent play.
The Simple Art of Toy Rotation online course is back!
The Simple Art of Toy Rotation is my signature online course for parents and childcare professionals. Come and join me and my growing cohort of participants to learn how to reduce, refine, organise and present toys to promote creative and independent play. You can read the full course description here.
I'll be running a giveaway to win a place on the course on my social media platforms tomorrow, so stay tuned for that. Also, I'll be emailing blog subscribers an early bird discount code, so make sure you're on my list. Booking opens on the 11th April.
Did you know that I have a play and learning guide especially for Spring?! It's been designed with the 3-7 age bracket in mind, but may be adapted to suit younger and older siblings. My Spring Play and Learning Guide is just £10 and includes a recommended reading list and more than 20 Spring themed activity suggestions. You can use the code welcomespring for 25% off at checkout, valid until 30/4/21.
I also have a BRAND NEW section in my online shop for FREE digital materials. There are only a couple of things in there at the moment, but they include a few pages from the Spring Play and Learning Guide mentioned above, so you can try before you buy. Do check back regularly, as I'll be adding sample pages from all my digital guides, online courses and random extras, over the coming months. You find the relevant page here.
Last, but not least, I have a handful of Spring Play Dough Collections ready to ship. I'm beginning to gradually move away from offering physical products in my shop, so will not be restocking once they have sold out. Grab them while you can!
I've bought a BIG stack of books this month for our upcoming Language Arts curriculum (almost all sourced preloved) so I don't have any others to share with you this month. This month I've been reorganising and decluttering our home library, so once I've hosted a preloved book sale on my IG stories, I'll be ordering the next books on our wish list. Bean turns 10 in June, so I need to make a start on birthday shopping too. These are the books we'll be reading for our new Language Arts curriculum...
I've been reading masses of online articles for the update of my toy rotation course this month, which hasn't left much time for reading for pleasure (although I do find my work extremely enjoyable). I've made a start on reading Lunar Living, which I hope will help me understand my natural cycles better. I'm massively influenced by the moon each month, and would love to learn how to harness her energy, instead of feeling constantly like I'm working against it. I'll keep you posted.
Audio Books This month we listened to the sequel to Hetty Feather, Sapphire Battersea, which was wonderful but heart breaking. Young Sapphire starts her working life as a maid, and is eventually reunited with her mother, but loses her shortly after to consumption. We've also been really enjoying listening to Grandmother's Stories on our long journey to and from Farm School. This is another collection of stories from Barefoot Books, who are renowned for excellent quality and diversity. I could listen to Olympia Dukakis' voice all day. Highly recommended.
Here are the blog posts I've shared this month, just in case you might 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. Also, if you have a specific request for the blog, please drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next month, I'll be sharing an update on our current projects, as well as our initial thoughts on our new Language Arts curriculum. I'll have lots of childminding highlights to share with you, as I'm working over the school Easter holidays as well as having my sweet little mindee return. Let's hope that I have plenty to show you in our garden too!
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.