Thursday, 28 November 2013

Plenty to be thankful for

Evening all.  It's been a bit very quiet on the blogging front lately, partly because we've not done anything particularly exciting other than home ed stuff, and partly because every time we have gone out, I've forgotten to take the camera.

Over in the USA, today is Thanksgiving.  While it's not a holiday we celebrate here in the UK, perhaps it's one we could do with adopting.  We should always be thankful for what we have, particularly when there are so many people in the world who have so very little.  I'm very thankful today.  I have a beautiful son who I spent a lovely afternoon in the park with.  We have a roof over our heads, we are warm and we have a had a scrumptious turkey dinner.

As a lot of the 'school' work we've been doing has been by way of freebies from American teachers, and there's naturally been quite a heavy focus on the Thanksgiving theme, so we've joined in.  I got a frozen turkey crown from Aldi and it'll do us for several more meals.  Well worth the price!

Our trip to the park was quite educational.

We fed the ducks, swans and seagulls at the park

A coot who got in on the feeding frenzy

We discussed the story of the Ugly Duckling

A view of the lakeside at Pontefract Park

We discussed how ducks used their legs to swim

We looked at the difference between juvenile and adult black headed gulls

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

Until next time.

Monday, 11 November 2013

I like free

For the cost of an hour of my time, I managed to forage 5lb of free apples and 4lb of rosehips for my rosehip and apple jelly.  I don't want to make loads of it, so there was no point picking more.  There are plenty left for someone else and/or as winter food for the birds.  I did have a slight advantage for picking the apples - I borrowed housemate's "grabby stick" which helped me reach ones I couldn't otherwise have got to.

Foraged apples, variety unknown

The first batch has been cooked up pound for pound and is currently dripping through the jelly bag.  It's quite viscous so I'll probably leave it overnight and do the jelly tomorrow.  The remaining pound of apples can go with some more I have lying around to make some pectin for the freezer, ready for next year's jam/jelly making.

Until next time. x

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Steam dreams

Before even getting dressed this morning, Small wanted to do some more detective work.  This time he was finding words and writing them on his sheet.

Write the room - sight words
Then it was off to one of my favourite free venues, the National Railway Museum in York.  I was particularly looking forward to our visit today as I just caught a snippet on the local news last night which let me know I hadn't missed the six remaining A4 Pacifics all together.  In case I haven't mentioned it before I'm a big steam train fan, as is housemate, so he, Small and I all enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see them all.

The NRM is also very wheelchair friendly (well, when the lifts are working anyway!), so it's somewhere housemate can go without having to worry about access issues.

Sir Nigel Gresley
Housemate and Small
It was nice to see Bittern again.  The last time I saw her she was still in bits, down in Hampshire at the Watercress Line, awaiting restoration.

Dominion of Canada, once called Woodcock
The Dominion of Canada looked nice and spruce, and much better than when she arrived at Liverpool.

Dominion of Canada 60010 at Liverpool
Small and I went and had a look inside the cab of "Dwight D Eisenhower".

Inside the cab of Dwight D Eisenhower
The Union of South Africa
L-R  Bittern, Mallard, Dominion of Canada
Sir Nigel Gresley

Dwight D Eisenhower

Union of South Africa


Dominion of Canada

For some reason the photo I took of Mallard's board was blurred, but just so she's not left out, I've added a photo of her name plate.   A great educational day out.

Until next time. x

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Playing detectives

As a homeschooler, while I'm pretty clued up on the dry facts that National Curriculum* expects kids to know and the age at which they're expected to know them, I'm far from clear how teachers in the UK actually go about instilling these facts in the children.  If housemate's son is anything to go by, they seem to use a lot of dry, dusty, b o r i n g worksheets and "one size fits all" big publisher textbooks, so it's no wonder his eyes glaze over every time the "school" word is mentioned.

Contrast with the USA, where the teachers seem to be able to create whatever resources they like, so long as the end result is that the kiddos have met whatever Common Core standard the task sets out to achieve.  The range and diversity of the "work" created for the children to help them reach these targets is amazing.  One of the learning fun tasks they play is "Read the Room".  Do kids in the UK do this?  If so, I've never heard anyone mention it.  Anyway, it looks great fun so I decided to try it with Small.

The object of the exercise is to hide word cards, or math cards, around the room for the kids to find.  They then go around with a pencil, magnifying glass, clipboard, and in Small's case a flashlight, and "find" the hidden words, letters or sums, and write their answer on the recording sheet.  Obviously our house is rather smaller than a classroom so I had to double up in places, but he had an absolute ball playing detective, finding all the letters of the alphabet, and writing them on his sheet.

In fact he loved it so much, he made me promise I'd "hide" them all again tonight so he can "find" them again tomorrow morning.

This is also a great exercise for those kids who find it difficult to sit still - Small being one of them.  He much prefers to do his writing standing up, and this educational game was perfect for him.  He was playing, learning and moving around at the same time.  Winner!

*  I should make it perfectly clear that home educators in the UK are NOT required to follow the National Curriculum in any way, shape or form.  It is entirely up to the parents and the child what is learned, and you can choose to do all, some or none of the curriculum.   We do not really follow the curriculum per se, but I do keep an eye on the levels that children are supposed to reach just to make sure we're on target, especially in math, English and science.  We much prefer to use the many free (and usually great fun) resources downloaded from TeachersPayTeachers and elsewhere than dry, dusty textbooks.  We do buy the odd resource or two as well ;)

Until next time. x

Sightword Am Freebie

Another interactive cut-n-paste sightword freebie for you, this time the word is "am".

These don't take too long for littlies to do so they won't get bored!  They do reinforce fine motor skills (cutting and sticking) along with those all important spelling skills, and the kids are learning while they're having fun.

Here's the link to download it.


Until next time. x

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sightword Freebie All

A second sight word freebie for reading practice, this time focusing on the word "all".

You can download this here.  Have fun!

Until next time. x

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Sightword Freebies

Some of the words that young children can find most difficult are what are known as "sight words" - those which can't be broken down phonetically.  Reading, writing and practicing these words as often as possible is a great way to help kids learn the words, and excellent practice in learning how to spell them.  I'm putting together some practice booklets to help Small learn his sight words.

Starting right at the beginning, with kindergarten level words, we have "a".

You can download this booklet here.

Have fun!  Until next time. x

Monday, 4 November 2013

Chicken shed

The allotment now has its sign on the "new" fence,

and the slab of concrete has the "new" chicken shed in situ.  It's a bit tatty, but it looked a darned sight better once it had some new roof felt on it.

Before the new felt was put on
After the new felt went on
It now needs a good coat of paint or wood preservative to give it some protection from the elements.  I suppose I ought to take the number 3 off it too as I'm plot 57.  To give some indication of scale, this shed is about half way down the allotment, and you can see the gate and pallet fence in the background.

Until next time. x

Baby it's cold out there

Brrrrrr!  This is the first time I've seen this in a while ...

It's cold!
and no doubt it'll get a lot colder before we feel the warmth of the sun again.  Despite the drop in temperature I'm pleased to say that the central heating remains off.

Still, now the first frosts are in it means it's officially sprout season, and time to pick my supply of rosehips for the last jelly making session of the year.

Hope you're all keeping warm (or cool if you're in the southern hemisphere!).

Until next time. x

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Tasty winter warmer

When I put my oven on, I always try to make sure it's for more than one thing to maximise use of electricity.  I have a cook up, and today was no exception.  I was having sausage, bacon, chips and beans for supper, and while the oven was on to cook the sausage and bacon, I baked a loaf as well.  The dough was made in the bread machine which makes wonderful dough, but bakes terribly!

Freshly baked loaf
To make even better use of the oven, I prepared one of my favourite winter warmer dishes - beef casserole.   I made this using a pack of Aldi's diced beef, which I think was about £2.25, plus half a 69p pack of cup mushrooms.  The rest of the mushrooms have been sliced and put into the freezer.  To the mix I add two crumbled Oxo cubes, and around 3/4pt of gravy mix.

Beef and mushroom casserole

Now a word about the gravy.  I always use Bisto original powder, which is mixed with cold water, to make this (and any other gravy for that matter!).  I have tried using gravy granules - the ones you mix with boiling water - but the results just aren't the same somehow.  This is such a beautifully rich and delicious dish, it seems a shame not to do the gravy as much justice as possible!

My lovely old casserole dish is one which was handmade by a former neighbour, and it does have a nice heavy lid.  Once the oven was clear of the other stuff, I turned the heat down to 140 degrees Celcius and put this in.  I generally leave it for about an hour, then turn the heat off but leave the dish in the oven to continue cooking.  It's also an ideal dish to put in the slo-cooker so it's ready when you get home on an evening.

This generally makes four portions, so there's plenty to put in the freezer for other nights when I either can't be bothered to cook, or need something quick.  When I reheat it, I just plonk the portion into a saucepan and add a little water, bringing it to a near boil then simmering slowly until it's piping hot.  I serve it either with fresh crusty bread or with potatoes and veg.  It works out at less than £1 per portion and is very warming and filling - perfect for these colder nights.

Until next time. x