Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter!
I hope you are all well. November has seen us enter our second lockdown here in England, albeit a slightly more relaxed one. This time around, schools and childcare settings have remained open, which has meant less disruption for us as Bean can still attend her weekly session at Farm School. She's missing her gymnastics class, but otherwise the rhythm of our days and weeks has remained much the same.
At the beginning of lockdown Bean and I brainstormed some ideas for things to do that would cheer us up if we were feeling sad or lonely, or in need of inspiration. I thought our list was quite ambitious, but now, with just one more week of lockdown to go, I realise that we've ticked almost all of them off, so it's been a busy and productive month.
North America Project: African American History and the 50 States
We are nearing the end of our North America project, and this last few weeks has seen us read some of the most wonderful books about African American history, almost all of which have brought me to tears. Reading these powerful 'stories' during the US election was almost too much to bear, but it could not have been more serendipitous timing reading the story of Ruby Bridges on the day that Biden won the election and announced that Kamala Harris would be his vice president! What a day for the world!
I've listed below ALL of the books that we have read for this part of our project as they were all so, so wonderful. The affiliate links are for Amazon, as I really wanted to be able to share them all with you. If you would like to buy these from an independent bookshop, you will find two of them listed in my North America book list at Bookshop.org
We've spent the last ten days or so learning about the 50 States of The United States of America. We've been learning the names of the states and their geographical relation to one another using this jigsaw puzzle and this game. Bean has also been drawing out the map of the United States following the tutorial in this book.
We've been reading the book Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas to learn about the key landmarks and sights to see in each state. It's the type of book that REALLY makes me want to do a US road trip! We also had a New York themed day, where we read about the city from this book and this book, and built a cardboard model of the Statue of Liberty (bought in a charity shop) while tasting American foods. It's been such a fun project, and we have both learned so much, but we're feeling really ready to shelve it now and embrace the festivities that we have planned for December
For the past few years we've been living with damp damage in our kitchen (it's funny what you learn to live with, isn't it?!) We had the chimney repaired, but had accepted the crumbling plaster and strange unsightly patches as a kitchen 'feature'. Anyway, just before we went into lockdown (literally the day before) I had our handy man come and repair it, so lockdown presented the perfect opportunity to redecorate this little corner of our home.
These jobs always take longer than you expect them to, especially for a perfectionist like me. After a whole day of slaving away, Bean returned home from her Daddy's and said that it didn't look any different!!! The change is subtle, but it feels so fresh in there that I'm determined to find new homes for all the things that I had stored on our counter tops. The next job on the list is to repair the water damage to the worktop around the kitchen sink.
Despite the lockdown, we've managed a few trips this month. We are allowed to meet other home educators during the school day, for educational purposes, but are choosing to minimise the risk by meeting outdoors, which can be somewhat challenging at this time of year.
We spent two cold and wet afternoons with friends at Alice Park in Bath. The children spent the first afternoon sheltering from the rain under a tree, taking turns to throw a ball for a very friendly Collie. We also met the most amazingly groomed Labradoodle, and treated ourselves to hot chocolates with all the trimmings from the sweet little outdoor café. The next time we met, we took our scooters, as the park has a satisfying path running around the perimeter. The children enjoyed watching a team of men with leaf blowers, attempting to clean up the lawns (not that effectively!)
We had a glorious, 2 mile walk around Litton Lakes. This is another of the walks from the Kiddiwalks book which we were working our way through during the first lockdown. It was very muddy in places, so we were glad to be in our wellies, and the children couldn't resist getting in the stream at various opportunities. We took a hot picnic lunch, which we ate beside the water, watching the swans glide by and the ducks fly overhead.
We also had a lovely couple of hours tearing around Hengrove Playground and the nearby airfield in the light drizzle. This area of Bristol has one of the highest Covid rates (unbeknown to us at the time) so we shan't be visiting again for a while. Ah...
24 Days of Advent Magic
I realise that I don't think I've shared this on my own social media platforms yet (must do that tomorrow), but it's not too late to sign up to my 24 Days of Advent Magic daily emails. 24 PDF guides with Advent inspiration landing in your inbox every day in the lead up to Christmas. For newsletter readers, you can type in the coupon code NEWSLETTER20 for a 20% discount.
Christmas Play Dough Collections
My Christmas play dough collections are also now available for pre-order. These will be dispatched in batches from this coming weekend. Stock is quite low now, and the post also seems to be somewhat unreliable, so order soon to avoid disappointment.
Christmas 2020 Play Dough Collection - there were just 6 of these left when I last checked.
Christmas 2019 Play Dough Collection - there were just 5 of these left when I last checked.
Winter Themed Play Dough Collection - there are plenty of these left in stock.
We haven't had any new additions to our morning basket this month. We've been busy reading the books for our North America project during the day, and at bedtime we've been reading those that we have on loan from our library.
We absolutely loved, Wave Me Goodbye, a story following 10-year old Shirley as she is evacuated to the country during the Second World War. We will now be looking out for Jacqueline Wilson's 'Hetty Feather' series, novels based on historical periods. We read The Monster Story Teller, which we both thought was probably aimed at a slightly younger audience, and Cat Tales: Ice Tales which was quite sweet, and is one of a series so we'll be looking out for the others.
Our Christmas Book Choices
Here are the books that I have gathered for Bean for advent and Christmas this year.
How to Draw a Reindeer and Other Christmas Creatures - this was a TKMaxx find, and is going to be one of the gifts that Bean's Kindness Elves bring for her during Advent. I'm hoping that the simple tutorials may inspire some homemade Christmas card making.
Christmas Paper Play - this book was left over from last year's Christmas shopping, as I decided that Bean was probably a bit young to get the most out of it. This year I think she's ready for the paper based crafts and activities included.
A Boy Called Christmas - this will be our December chapter book. I wasn't planning to buy this, as I have it on hold at our local library, but caved when I realised that we may not be able to collect it this side of Christmas. The reviews are excellent.
The Snow Dragon - A lovely, winter story for my dragon obsessed girl.
The Princess and the Christmas Rescue - this was another TKMaxx find and is not one that I'd ordinarily buy, but Bean loves the others in this series. They're rhyming stories, not that dissimilar to Julia Donaldson (but not as clever) with feisty female leads.
Walking in a Winter Wonderland - this book was recommended to me on Instagram when I asked for picture books of Christmas songs and carols. We have an illustrated version of The Twelve Days of Christmas which Bean loves singing along to. I hope she'll love this too.
Magical Creatures and Mythical Beasts - this book will be Bean's Christmas Eve present, along with this game and some new pyjamas. It has a little torch that you shine inside to reveal hidden pictures. I'm imagining a magical evening in front of the fire, playing games and reading by candlelight.
100 Things to Know About Science - we have a few others from this series and have really, really enjoyed them. They're packed full of interesting facts, but presented in an accessible and readable way. One of our projects for the spring term is a Science project, so this will be perfect for our morning basket.
Drawing and Painting Beautiful Faces: A Mixed-Media Portrait Workshop - this book was recommended by Sara @sara_happiness.is.here and I know that my Bean will simply love it. She's really into drawing faces at the moment.
Epic Tales of Triumph and Adventure - well, I thought we had exhausted the world library of true story treasuries, but then I stumbled upon this book in TKMaxx and just had to get it. We've read three entire books of true cat tales, dog tales and general animal tales, so now we will be moving on to human tales.
The Power Book: What is it, Who Has it and Why? - this is another one recommended by Sara @sara_happiness.is.here and will fit in beautifully with another of our projects for the spring term, on Courage.
Audio Books This month Bean has listened to the second in the Wizards of Once series, Twice Magic, which she really enjoyed. We haven't had much luck finding anything else available on Borrowbox that she would like to listen to, so are waiting for the third in the series to arrive on Christmas Eve.
I've managed three audio books this month, as have been making play dough and packing parcels at every available opportunity. The first, My Name is Why, is the memoir of British poet Lemn Sissay, recounting his experience of growing up in the care system. It's a difficult story to hear, but beautifully written, and has felt timely as we explore race in our North America project.
The second, The Handmaid's Tale, was pretty chilling, yet gripping. With everything going on in our world, it was a bit too easy to imagine this fictional story being reality. I'm going to need to listen to the sequel now, The Testaments, which will be arriving in my Borrowbox any day now.
And the last, Small Great Things, has been a bit of light relief, but still with a race storyline threading through it. Trigger warning: This story features the loss of a newborn baby and extreme, violent acts of white supremacy.
Here are the blog posts I published this month, just in case you may have missed them.
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Next month, I'll be sharing a round up of our Advent and Christmas celebrations, as well as our plans for the Spring term.
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.