Our Secret Grove

Just a short walk from our house, perhaps only five minutes, over the road, snuck down an overgrown bank, we found an overgrown path, which led to a secret grove….

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A secret grove that had previously been visited by other children…

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…surrounded by green ‘juicy’ vegetation…

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A circle of pine trees with a floor covered by pinecones and pine needles, untouched by growing plants, yet surrounded by green vegetation such as above. A magical circle almost. If there are fairies, they certainly live here. 😏
And around the secret grove there was plenty of scope for adventure. Following a down trodden ‘path’ of overgrowth, led us towards a tiny stream. Maya and Alfie jumped over, but the gap was too wide for Ted. What to do? Problem solving. Let’s build a bridge…..

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The bridge held our weight and we came across, to discover a wonderful hidden trail, that led us to the swamps surrounding the lake.
I have a feeling there are going to be a few mini wildlife trips here! πŸ˜‰
Okay – so it’s not completely secret – people have been here before us…

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….but it’s not completely public either – and after seven years of living here, we’re pretty excited to find this magical spot so close by! πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘πŸ’«

Learning Life Skills

A couple of posts back I wrote about ‘making time to teach’, in a country where home education is banned.
Despite having to send my kids to school, I am thankful that, in Sweden, so far, certain curriculum areas have not been cut. Physical education takes place at least once a week, if not twice, and outdoor playtime (recess) takes up a big chunk of the school day. Creative activities, such as art and sewing, knitting and woodwork, music and cooking are also taught.

I’m thankful that my children have been able to let off steam in a forest environment ; have outdoor woodwork lessons ; that my oldest son has made a shelf, and my daughter is busy knitting a hat (having just completed sewing a felt egg warmer), that my son has been on several ski-ing trips, and that my daughter has had the chance to sing solo in a musical about ‘children’s rights’.

However, no-one can pretend that this time in school doing these subjects is an adequate time to learn them – or to reach the potential that that child may have. My daughter panics if she is unwell on a friday because that means she’ll get behind on her hat she is knitting ; my son has been marked down in subjects such as sport because “he doesn’t take enough part in discussions” (!), and at the same time has been made to feel he is a (in his words) “bad” pianist because he didn’t want to play a complicated piece in front of the class despite having played piano for four years (he simply doesn’t enjoy performing in front of his peers) ; my youngest son finds his physical education lesson stressful because they have to rush down the road to get the bus on time with the whole class ; all three of my children have not reached the true potential for their english writing due to it being a second language in Sweden – and therefore they all need to ‘sit patiently and twiddle their thumbs’ (so to speak) ; all three of my children felt they knew the basics already for the first few years having learnt them at home, but still had to do them again in school (what else could they have learnt in these first three years had they been home educated?!!), etc, etc. The list goes on.

The teachers have (mostly) all been wonderful, and some schools are better than others in some subjects, and helping children to reach their potential – but in my view, school often, without of course meaning to, ‘holds them back’. 😐

Which brings me to teaching at home again. It’s not only the academics that need boosting at times, but without doubt, the ‘life skills’ too.

My daughter Maya (11) can whip up a cake, a batch of biscuits, pancakes or some fried eggy bread easily. No doubt she could make you a main course too! πŸ‘πŸ˜‰ The boys have been less interested, but even Alfie could make a batch of biscuits from scratch if you asked him, and put the temperature on the oven for him.

From an early age we try to cook with our kids – pancakes, scrambled egg, bread, pasta salads, biscuits and cakes, to name a few. And every week I try to make sure that each child cooks something, or takes part in helping to prepare dinner.

We have a selection of good children’s cookery books, and I usually suggest they choose something to make from them. Recently Leon chose to make chocolate & cream cheese brownies…

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Alfie and I made chocolate chunk cookies together….

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…and Ted helped me to make beltane oatcakes….

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But it’s not just life skills such as cooking that we try to teach the children, but also life skills such as gardening.

Every child of ours, from a very young age, has had the opportunity to plant seeds and watch them grow – sunflowers, cress, tomatoes, etc. They have all experimented, failed and succeeded, in growing various vegetables and fruits. We have encouraged them to have their own vegetable patches, to weed and to rake leaves when needed, and have even taught our oldest to mow the lawn.

And now Maya and Leon have gone one step further. Maya has designed her own wildlife pond and garden area (it’s in the beginning stages..)…

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(Yes, the water looks a little ‘dirty’ – there was a suggestion to lay a little sand in the bottom – I guess it’s still settling?) πŸ˜‰
Leon has also made his little garden area – what I term a ‘mathematical garden’…

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Also at the beginning stages – he wants to let the grass “grow wild” in the growing box, and is intending to grow plants next to them.

It will be interesting to see how these gardens progress…

So. Life skills. I just must try to encourage more chores around the house….😜😝😳

Making Time To Teach

Our seven year old is way ahead in school, but the current law in Sweden forbids homeschooling, and as he is December born, being the youngest child in the year group, I’m not intending to ask for him to be moved up a grade (which would make him two years younger than some of his peers).

The school day starts at 8.15, and finishes at 2pm, after which there is after school club, ‘fritids’, which pretty much every child goes to.
Alfie is an extremely social person – being with friends is one of the best things he knows – and although he likes school a lot, he LOVES ‘fritids’. He loves the teachers, he loves playing with his friends, and most of all, he loves being outside in the forest school ‘yard’ searching for bugs, climbing the rocks, building dens, role playing, and swinging on the swing. And of course, like any mother, I love the fact that my child is outside in the fresh air using up (at least some) of his energy! 😊

So I pick him at 3pm, and by the time I’ve found him (he’s often found up the hill at the back of the forest area busy with friends building something), collected his things, marked him off with a teacher, and walked home, it’s around 3.30pm.

Being such a social child, Alfie will often love to have a friend home to play, and if he doesn’t have a friend, there’s a great likelihood that Leon or Maya will (Ted hasn’t got to that stage yet). So with four kids of my own (including our very ‘busy’ and ‘curious’ four year old), often at least one or two extra kids, dinner to make, and usually the preparation of some evening activity, such as scouts, or english club, riding or theatre group, it’s a very very busy time, and next to impossible to have any one-to-one quiet time with any child. 😜

So that’s brings up to around 6pm, when we’re winding down, cleaning up the dishes, doing homework, driving/fetching to and from activities, having baths, and generally getting ready for the small people’s bedtimes….

So when do I give Alfie time for one-to-one quiet time? Time for a little ‘extra’? For someone whose brain craves so much! πŸ˜†

At around 6.45pm, when he’s in his pyjamas (and either one of us doesn’t have a ‘previous engagement’) we sneak in to my bedroom, with a small bowl of fruit, a glass of milk, a toothbrush, a book or two, and all the things we might need for a short but sweet ‘lesson’. This always includes a chapter book we are reading, but it might also include a factual book about a present topic, a fictional book he is reading to me in english, or a sticker book or puzzle book about an educational topic. And then, for a good hour, we get on with it! And he just loves it – both the learning, and the time with me.. πŸ˜„

During the week, at some point, I will squeeze in a ‘back up’ to these ‘lessons’ – an outing, a puzzle or a craft, a nature activity, experiment or film. But the basis of this learning takes place in the evening – a time enjoyed by us both.

Recently we’ve been learning about telling the time through a sticker/puzzle book…

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…which he thought was great fun!
We backed this up with a game of ‘telling the time lotto’, and of course, me asking him what time it was on the kitchen clock a few times a day.

So now he can tell the time by every hour, every half hour, quarter past and quarter to – and understands that every number accounts for five minutes, and every little line accounts for one minute. πŸ‘πŸ˜Š

Interesting though, that when we had our school ‘report evening’ with the teacher last week, the children had been asked to fill in a number of pieces of knowledge according to how well they understood them – red for not at all, yellow for quite well, and blue for really well. There were about twenty of these to fill in, all written in ‘teachers vocabulary’ – and the seven/eight year olds had been asked to do this by themselves. Alfie had filled ‘telling the time’ in yellow ‘quite well’ – and the teacher proceeded to tell me that it didn’t matter if he could “only understand time quite well” because “they didn’t need to know this until grade 3” (he is now in grade 1). When I pointed out that he actually knew this very well, it was ‘swept under the carpet’ and again pointed out that he didn’t need to know this. It made me realise that ; a) the teacher wasn’t really that aware of what he did/didn’t know ; b) that seven year olds were expected to, on grownup terms, decide how well they could understand a subject, and ; c) that the children were not encouraged to extend their own learning.

So there you go. Observation of the day! πŸ˜›

A Wet Froggy Sunday!

Yesterday it POURED with rain all day!
So we had a wet froggy Sunday – with froggy (mostly) fingerprint pictures….

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…with the (non-competitive) lily-pad hopping game (hop from one to the other, and freeze when the music stops)….

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..a froggy sensory tray…

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…using black water beads to represent the tadpoles (or eggs)…

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…and of course, the number rhyme ‘5 little speckled frogs’…

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πŸ˜˜πŸΈπŸ‘

Tadpoles

Yesterday we took the kids to a local lake to look for tadpoles….

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…and we were lucky to find quite a few….!

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We took a few home (but just a few), and using directions from the library’s ‘Pettsson & Findus’ book…

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…set up our own tadpole habitat.

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Sand at the bottom, a few rocks for when they sprout legs, and a few leaves from the lake. Be sure to use water from the lake and keep it cool – and don’t put the habitat under direct sunlight. Food? Fish food works fine.
We took the time to then read and learn a little about frogs, from both a factual book…

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…with great pictures, and clear succinct explanations.
And a fictional book – a story about a girl who collected tadpoles, and what she did and how they grew…

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We also read a factual book about toads (with real photos, which Alfie preferred) from the library, to learn about the difference between frog and toad….

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πŸ˜ŠπŸΈπŸ‘

Light And Dark Colours

We got our supplies together…

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…put two lots of yellow, red and blue paint in a palette, then added one drop of black in each colour, and one drop of white in each colour….

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…then we mixed…

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…and with both black paper, and white, we started to paint…

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There was a lot of talk about dark colours, and light colours, night time pictures and day time pictures.
At first Ted simply wanted to use black paper, and paint the whole paper one colour…

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..so I sat down, and painted a picture using all the colours, which he was fascinated by…

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…and proceeded to paint his own, exceedingly beautiful picture, on white paper….

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…and many more besides!
Now I wonder why he didn’t think of using all the colours before, and chose to stick to just one colour? Interesting. πŸ˜‰πŸŽ¨

‘Fabulous Robots’ : English Club

‘Fabots’ is a word short for ‘fabulous robots’, made up by my oldest son and his friend. It was their wish, therefore, to be able to make ‘fabots’ in english club…
“What do we need?” I asked. Some cylindrical pieces of wood about 5cm in width, small nails, big nails and maybe some wood glue, came the reply – and then I got a little detailed plan…..

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…and so, last week, we started to make ‘fabots’. πŸ˜‰

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…with a fabulous outcome….

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The kids then told me, while I scribed, the characters of their ‘fabots’, and the jobs the ‘fabots’ were employed to do…

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The kids decided they wanted to make their own board games for these ‘fabots’, so this week we continued with that.
There was an incredible amount of discussion involved – entirely in english – pretty fantastic considering they barely spoke less than a year ago. And using words such as ‘strategies’ and ‘combat’ too!

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Eventually the boys started on their game board…

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…though the girls seem to be right on track with theirs….

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Oh! And my Leon added a few more ‘fabots’ to the equation….😊

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To be continued next week! Great stuff guys! πŸ˜†

Observing Flowers

Observing flowers is a must every year. 😊
We use this book…

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…which is simple but succinct…

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Primrose, Violet, Crocus and Dandelion have taken the place of Snowdrop on the nature shelf….

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….along with Ted’s ‘tussilago’ he made at the church playgroup.
Dandelions are always a favourite with us. Good for making crowns and necklaces….

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This one Ted decided he wanted to leave on a path for the bees to find….

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Though we took a bunch home and put them in a vase on the nature shelf…

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..and simply waited for them to seed. An amazing chance to learn about the ‘dandelion clock’…

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Some foam flowers we had from a craft kit have also found their way on the nature shelf. These were too tricky for Ted to do, but he loves beautiful things, and insisted I made them for the nature shelf….

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We have a large box of seeds which we have now taken out…

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…and have been looking closely at some of the different seeds…

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..while we wait for the seeds we have planted, to grow….

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