Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Project Trays

Bird project tray

We are just starting our home education journey and I have been reading a lot around Steiner and Montessori methods, both of their methods advocate project based learning and it's something we have been trying out. I decided on a bird project as it's something Seth has a lot of interest in at the moment and with spring approaching it seemed appropriate. As we began we quickly gathered a small collection of crafts, treasures and books that we needed to find somewhere to keep and that's how I thought of setting up a project tray, it's portable, it's inviting and it promotes conversation and learning.

My project tray ideas -

  • It should provide a sensory experience, whether that is see, smell, touch, taste or hear, in this basket we have picture books to see, feathers and seeds to touch and a bird whistle to hear.
  • It could hold crafts that have been made as part of the project, here Seth has made a nest out of string and glue filled with a mix of plain and red cabbage dyed eggs.
  • It could contain some books on the topic, fact and fiction.
  • It provides a place to display treasures that have been collected during the project, so far we have some feathers and a bird whistle.
  • It should have a notebook or scrapbook in as a place to write and record the project.

Some more ideas for things to keep in the tray, depending on age and project, are a camera, magnifying glass, bits of nature, souvenirs, photos and artwork.

What things would you put in a basket? Or do you already do something like this and do you find it useful?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

This week we've mostly been...


This week we've mostly been...
  • Appreciative of a little sign of spring, even if it's only on the windowsill.
  • Playing in the snow with food colouring in an activity adapted from a smile a day.
  • Taking part in the RSPB's big garden bird watch.
  • Making nests out of string and glue.
  • Dyeing eggs with red cabbage.
  • Eating soup, lots and lots of soup.
  • Knitting, slowly and wonky, but knitting.
  • Waking each morning to a different scene, snow, no snow, more snow and now just wet.
  • Smiling at my son who's level of excitement for the snow runs almost parallel to his level of concern over the "trumpy carrots" (Jerusalem artichokes) frozen in the ground. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Homemade winter feed for wild birds

Wild birds bring so much joy to our lives. In spring we watch them hurriedly build nests and hear them welcome the new season with beautiful song, in summer we are gently woken by their dozy morning calls, in the autumn they keep us company while we dig the garden and in the winter they brighten bare landscape as they try and make it through the cold months ahead.

The cold weather and covered ground of late have been hard on the birds, so in an effort to help wildlife and save money, last week I decided to have a go at making some fat cakes for the birds.

To make fat cakes mix any hard fat (we use lard) with any mixture of bird seeds, peanuts, dried fruit, cheese and oatmeal. A ratio of 1:4 fat to feed mix by weight works well.

 Put in a large bowl and squish with your hands (a willing volunteer/child labour is useful for this).

 Then roll into balls or put into containers and turn them out when ready to use, we store ours in the freezer to keep them fresh for longer.

We have been putting our fat cakes on bird tables and the ground for ground feeding birds and they really can't get enough of them. Bon appetit little birds!

Monday, 21 January 2013

First sewing.

Seth and Julie sewing
Leading up to Christmas Julie and I were doing lots of sewing projects with Seth eagerly watching on, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so. He often asked if he could try, which on my electric machine probably wouldn't have been a good idea for a three year old, though luckily Julie has an old hand powered Singer which last week he was finally able to have a go on. He enjoyed it in a way that wasn't loud and exuberant but in a way that was calm and focused, he concentrated hard with respect for the sharp needle in front of him and was very proud of the sewn lines that he produced. 
In the days since I have been inspired by his enthusiasm and am hatching plans for a textile based project to follow on from his current bird themed project, hmm where to start!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

This week we've mostly been...

This week we've mostly been... 
  • Playing in the snow.
  • Sowing the first of the years seeds.
  • Making fat balls for the birds as the start of our bird themed project.
  • Playing in the snow.
  • Getting grumpy at the car that froze solid and now needs repairs because of said snow.
  • Eating "chicken noodle soup to heal all ills" from Wholefoods for children by Jude Blereau so often that nobody in a ten mile radius is going to get ill.
  • Playing in the snow.
  • Helping Seth with his first sewing on Julies old Singer sewing machine.
  • Thanking my mum for giving me some of her knitting needle stash, now I've no excuse not to get knitting.


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Getting rid of the TV - update

Over a month ago now we decided to get rid of our televisions (I wrote about it here), it wasn't a case of "oh well we don't really watch it much anyway" it was more like "argh we watch too much TV, what are we going to do?", so of course being the way we are we took drastic action and decided to cut it out all together.

We had worried how Seth would react when he woke up to find the TVs had disappeared so we devised a fun game to play when he woke up, I made a treasure map that led to clues around the house that eventually led to a new Horrible Histories dvd and I explained that although we didn't have the TVs anymore we could still watch the very occasional thing on the laptop, which seemed to soften the blow. From a boy who used to ask for cartoons all day, he has been fine I was honestly expecting screaming, crying and tantrums but he has reacted fantastically, when he asked why they had gone I explained it was so that we had more time to play and do art activities and now he doesn't mention it at all.

We have seen massive benefits in just over a month, Seths got a longer attention span and spends more time playing and being engaged with each toy and the rest of us have got stuff done that we didn't think we had time for before and spend more time talking as a family.

The only thing I would say is I wish we had done it sooner, we all found it so much easier than expected and love our newly calm, quiet TV free home. If you are thinking about doing it go for it, you will not regret it and if you already have done it what differences did you notice? And if you have children how did you handle it?

Friday, 18 January 2013

Stewed Cranberries and Pears

The cold has set in here now. Snow covers everything and absorbs every sound, the light bounces around making it brighter than a midsummers day. This time is fleeting and we know to make the most of it, before long it will be grey and damp, so we go out for as long as we can bear the cold and explore the dramatically different landscape, throw snow and make mischief. Before long the warmth of the house and the fire draw us in, where I will prepare something warming to eat whilst we rest and recharge ready to head out once again.

Stewed cranberries and pears sweetened with honey 

4-5 ripe pears
250g cranberries (or 100g unsweetened dried cranberries, soaked)
Flaked almonds (optional)

Peel and slice your pears (compost the stalks and core) and heat on a medium heat in a pan with a dash of water until almost soft.
Add the cranberries to the pears and continue to cook until about half have burst leaving some intact.
Taste for sweetness then add honey to taste.
Top with flaked almonds or nuts (or lots and lots of ice cream)