Learning Games: Using Go Fish For Anagram Words

We’ve been working on a bit of a loose ‘ocean’ theme the last few weeks, so I decided to let the literacy activity for this week be ‘go fish’.

For this game, we used a magnet to pick up our magnetised fish – say, 5 fish, or pick a number – then make up as many words as we can from those five letters. Pretty simple, really, and great for word exploration, spelling and a general word-building exercise, without looking or feeling like learning.Go Fish Game

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Jungle Art #BostikBloggers

This month’s Bostik Bloggers box arrived full to the brim with Jungle themed stickers, animal print tape, foam sheets, feathers, buttons, and a few other bits and pieces, including a small square canvas.

Matisse pictures

We immediately set to work using the canvas to create an animal themed picture for the girls’ room. While the theme is ‘jungle’, some of the stickers included pigs and a horse, but we left those out as they didn’t fit our theme. When we were in France recently we wanted to go to the Henri Matisse exhibition, but unfortunately we were too far away. We received a book with his paintings a while ago, so we’d been talking about him. Known as a sculpture and a painter, he was diagnosed with cancer and bedridden, so he began doing cut-outs. He called this ‘painting with scissors’ and we learned that he used to arrange his cut-outs on his canvas, sticking them down lightly till he was happy with their arrangement, before gluing them down permanently. Read more: Jungle Art #BostikBloggers

A Letter To My Children After The Orlando Shootings

Dear Girls,

Sometimes really bad things happen in the world. Things that can hardly be explained among grownups, never mind being explained to  young children.This weekend one of those bad things happened. A bunch of people were in a nightclub in Orlando, dancing and having fun, when a man walked in and started shooting. He killed 49 people that night, simply because he didn’t agree with some of their choices. It wasn’t any of his business, really, but he felt they deserved to die. And ended up dying himself, leaving behind his own wife and child.

The whole situation is terrible, but there’s one story I want to tell you about. One person who really touched me. It was a young man by the name of Eddie Justice. He was 30 years old, and while he was pinned down in a bathroom, held hostage by the gunman, he was sending texts to his mother. When I read that, I cried. Read more: A Letter To My Children After The Orlando Shootings

Mothers Need To Become Selfish

Mothers need to become selfish. No, I’m not talking about those people who are already selfish, and also happen to be mothers. The world has enough selfish people. But good mothers – mothers who prioritise their children always, mothers who put their families first, those mothers, they need to become more selfish.

This kind of selfish isn’t a bad thing. It’s the kind of selfish that they ask you to be on an airplane. You know? “In case of a loss of air pressure,  please put your own oxygen mask on before you help others with theirs”. It’s a life-preserving selfish and I know many, many women who could do with adapting that philosophy into their – our – own lives.

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10 Things Children Learn on Holiday

Just after the recent furore about school holidays, I actually took the children to France for a much anticipated holiday. We booked it back in December, in the doldrums of winter, about to move house, and in the midst of a lot of personal upheaval. I figured if we survived to May, that would be a great way to celebrate making it to this point.

We are home educators anyway, so it being term time made no major difference to our lives but given the whole ‘term time holiday’s debacle, what children learn on holiday was on my mind a lot. Here are some of the things that stood out to me most on our trip:

1) Exposure to new things

Things Children Learn On Holiday

Children see new things when they go to a new place. For example, they saw the impressive wind turbines that dot the countryside in the north of France. These gargantuan structures prompted a discussion about fossil fuels and renewable energies among other things. Not something we discus on a random Tuesday in May.

2) They learn non verbal communication

On our first day in France, it poured with rain, so we spent most of the day in the heated pool on site. Six year old Ameli picked up a little friend, an 8-year old French girl called Juliet, and for two days, these two were inseparable. They had so much fun together. They barely spoke a word of the same language. They very quickly learned that they could communicate by gesturing, by describing, by pointing. By the end of the second day, when Juliet was leaving, they had even picked up a few words from each other.

3) They learn new language skills

Which leads me here. They also learn new language skills on holiday. Whether that’s a different dialect in a different part of the country, or a new language, Ameli’s French improved significantly over the course of 7 days. (Considering she could say Bon’jour and Merci on arrival in France.) Ameli found the inability to understand and communicate frustrating, so what did she do? Downloaded an app that translated for her. That came in really handy at times, when we had to ask full sentences to people who didn’t understand any English (there was a fuel shortage while we were there.)

4) They learn about budgeting

We had been in two minds about actually going on this holiday, even though it was fully paid up front, because there are always expenses on holiday and having just moved house, we have very little spare money floating about. As a result we went in with a very tight budget of €30 a day for food and entertainment – and between 3 people, that’s not a whole lot of money, really. So we had to budget and the children had to make decisions and prioritise. After I’d bought our meals every day, we would look at how much was left. Having spent the first two days in the pools and taken some food from home we had a little ‘extra’ money, so our budget went up to just under €40 a day, which suddenly seemed so much more. On the day we went tenpin bowling we had a little less, so didn’t buy ice creams. On the day we went on the canoe and on the motorised race track we had a meat free (but local tomatoes, local mozzarella and fresh baguettes!) dinner, on the day we went to Parc Asterix we were stung a little by tolls we hadn’t realised we were going to have to pay, so only had one ice cream and a tiny souvenir each. But we still got to do all those things, and we enjoyed them all – we just had to work together and decide together what to spend each day’s money on.

5) They learn about planning & cartography

If you want a six year old to learn to read a map, draw an X over the ice cream shop and let her lead the way.

Or sit down together with a big map and find out what’s in the area. We stayed in a really lovely resort. Many people were there and didn’t leave for their entire stay. Others hopped on the day trip bus to Disneyland or to Paris. Those weren’t in our plan for the week – or our budget – so we arrived in Berny-Rivière and unlike me, we had no plan. I had no idea what was around us. So we picked up a map of the commune (county) and poured over it together, making note of big towns, landmarks and tourist highlights. We chose the closest three and decided to visit them. We chose two in the same direction for one day, then another in the opposite direction for a day where we also wanted to attend an event on site. Planning. Together. That’s a valuable life skill.

6) They learn about different fauna and flora

Things Children Learn on Holiday
A few days before leaving home we picked up a book about popular British trees in the Poundshop (like a Dollarstore or the Reject Shop). Ameli decided to take it with and see if we could find any of the French trees in our book (we did). But we also discovered trees that aren’t found in the UK. (Or at least not in our book.)

7) They learn their limitationsThings Children Learn On Holiday

Aside from the fact that (at least this part of) France is much more relaxed about Health and Safety, and Aviya was allowed to go down a water slide she has never been allowed on in the UK holiday parks, she discovered very quickly which ones she liked and which ones she wasn’t ready for. We’ve been in a park in the UK where they didn’t allow her to go down the water slide and she spent the entire week sulking about it.  On the contrary, in this park she was allowed to go down the slide with parental supervision, and she only did it one time, deciding it was too fast for her and she didn’t like it. That was the end of that conversation and it was her choice.

8) They experience a bit of history

Things Children Learn On Holiday

Remember the three towns we decided to go to? One was called Soissons – I’ve never heard of it, but what we did learn was that it was actually the capital before Paris was! The girls learnt all about Clovis and his wife Clotilda and the Vase of Soissons and it’s legend. At ages 6 and 4 they know more about French history than I did before this trip (although if you’ve been watching Vikings on Amazon Prime it’s a great place to visit as it must hail from roughly the same period!) We climbed up a castle turret called Septmont. We discovered a magical chateau in Pierrefonds. History, all around us, alive and basked in Spring sunshine. In the future we will return again, because there is so much World War 1 history in that part of the world too.

9) They unplug

Having no wifi for a week meant no TV for a week either (since we only watch Netflix or Amazon). It also meant no computer games, no phone games, no ‘white noise’ from having the radio on. It meant reconnecting with nature, with each other.  It even meant reading to themselves when they wanted some down time.

10) Family TimeThings Children Learn On Holiday

Of course it’s entirely possible to have a holiday with not a single one of these things happening. You could spend all holiday on the park by the pool if that’s your thing. There were families that did just that. They had board games, books, picnics. They swam together, ate leisurely meals, played games. They had good, quality, family bonding time. And that is valuable for a happy life.

Bonus: And as an added bonus, for me, my step counter counted almost double the amount of steps I do at home every day of the week we were away! So there’s a health benefit to throw in there too!

Are holidays of any value to children? Shouldn’t they be in school instead? Or learning at least? I don’t know – I think there are many things children learn on holiday.

Alice Through The Looking Glass Movie Review

I took the children (6 + 4) to see Alice Through The Looking Glass over the weekend, because, well, Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite childhood stories. We loved this movie, despite it having been heavily slated by ‘the critics’.

The story is the follow on to Alice’s first trip to Wonderland, and I must admit, I don’t remember the book at all! It must be two decades since I last read it, so I can’t comment at all on how close it is to the original, or whether it’s a completely ‘new’ story.

Without spoilers – this is a story of Alice returning to Wonderland to find the Mad Hatter has lost his happy, and is in fact very sad – so sad that he comes close to death, due to being reminded of an event that occurred many years ago. Alice sets out to find Time personified, to convince him to allow her to use his Chronosphere to head back in time to set things straight for her friend the Hatter. During her travels in time, Alice discovers other things about Wonderland – like why the Red Queen and her sister fell out, how the Red Queen came to be how she is, and why the Mad Hatter is always a minute from tea time and so on. Alce Through the Looking Glass

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Little Passports Early Explorers – Famous Landmarks

Our second Little Passports Early Explorers box arrived, and it was just a wonderful box. We loved it so much. Little Passports Early Explorers

This one was themed “famous landmarks” and came with five ‘mini figures’ – little figurines of five well known landmarks: The Great Wall of China, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Taj Mahal, The Great Spynx, and The Eiffel Tower.

Along with them comes collectors cards with information on each landmark, ,and a printout with more information on each one. There are also stickers that can be stuck on the continents map, on Asia, Europe and Africa.
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Little Passports Early Explorers {Review}

I wrote a post recently about Little Passports – the World Explorer subscription – and how much we loved it. We have also been receiving the subscription for Early Explorers and if it’s possible, I love it even more.

The Early Explorer Little Passports set is aimed at pre-schoolers, roughly aged 3 – 5, but I would say that activity books aside, it’s also perfect for anyone with little or no previous knowledge of geography. little passports early explorersRead more: Little Passports Early Explorers {Review}

A Mother’s Pain Over A Lost Toy

An anxiety I never anticipated before children, never understood, really, was that of THE LOST TOY.

Of course for the child, it’s the stuff of nightmares, and having lost things I care about, I totally get that. But what has caught me unawares was the anxiety, the pain, that I as mother would feel over a toy that I have no personal attachment to.

Ameli never had a security blanket or a dummy or even a toy that she favoured above others, until last August, when my sister bought her a stuffed elephant at The Rain Forest Cafe in Disneyland Paris. “Rainy”, as he was dubbed, quickly became a new member of our family, and while he might end up in the toy box from time to time, he is still the preferred bed time buddy.

Yesterday we had to take our car in for a service, and despite my protestations, Rainy came in with us. Come bed time, of course, we realised that Rainy hadn’t come home, so we assumed that he had stayed in the car – there were many tears, but after assuring her that Rainy was probably loving his sleepover in what must feel like a campervan to him, all snuggled up comfortably in the car seat, Ameli finally succumbed to sleep.

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Shopping With Trolley Bags {Review}

I love little things that make life easier. In the years before paid – for shopping bags, we’d always have a bag of bags in the kitchen, to be used for clearing out the car, taking out small bits of rubbish, or for general carrying purposes. Of course now, whenever I take a bag out of the bag of bags, I think “eek! that’s a 5p bag / 10p bag! should I really be using it for this!

I’ve tried various reusable shopping bags, but the Trolley Bags we’ve been trying recently are really fab, and they tick all the boxes, especially for larger families who do bigger shopping trips.

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