Some time during last summer, we booked a home ed visit for one of the Pizza Express School Visit sessions, and though we had to wait several months for our session, we arrived on the agreed date and had a fantastic and informative visit.
Pizza Express School Visits offer groups the opportunity to not only see how pizza is made but also to get hands on and involved. For some children this is a brand new experience, of course, and for our group there was a mix of abilities too, considering our participants ranged from about 3 – 14 years.
Obviously the details may differ from visit to visit, but for ours on the Isle of Wight, the children were decked out in chefs hats and aprons, and given loads of flour to flour their work surface – a set of tables in the restaurant. Each child was given a ball of dough. The chef – whose name I sadly can’t remember – was amazing. He had such great rapport with the children, and was engaging and informative and did a fantastic job of managing such a range of ages.
They spoke about the different steps they went through, the chef demonstrated, and the children were able to take their own dough ball, and knead it, twist it and shape it into circles – they even got to toss it up into the air. Read more: Pizza Express School Visits & Home Educators
Last year my children had watched most of the Roald Dahl movies available on the market, but we hadn’t read any of the books, so our Roald Dahl inspired arts and crafts were varied and mixed. Over the last few weeks we’ve been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, however, so all our activities the last few weeks have been around that.
Next week we’ll be working on Matilda, so check back in if you love that book too!
PIN THIS: There are two versions of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie:
And there is the book, famously illustrated by Quentin Blake
While we like having fun with our ‘themes’ as we call them, I do try to bring elements of learning into them too. Remembering that my children are 5 & 3, I do keep things pretty simple, but I’m quite excited about the possibilities of redoing all these themes in years to come, and seeing how much they have grown in their understanding, and how much ‘deeper’ we can go on each topic.
Having watched the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie and read the book, I decided to do a reading comprehension ‘test’. I designed a comparison chart, so Ameli could compare what happens in the book with what happens in the movie, and also make a note of major things that happen in a similar fashion. For example, in the book, Mr Bucket tells them about the golden ticket competition, in the movie, Charlie sees the posters going up.
Sticking with the loose ‘English’ or ‘Language Learning topic, we decided to make up words, something Roald Dahl is incredibly good at! This little making up words activity went down a charm, and made an amazing platform for telling our own stories.
I use the word math very lightly here, but since we’re starting out, we used measuring a bag of candiesas an introduction to units of measurement.
It’s Charlie and the CHOCOLATE factory, so we had to get some inventing with chocolate going – I went for the easy option and made Jazzies, with DIY decorations for my little inventors. Not all the creative activities this weeks should include tons of sugar, so we decided to make our own party decor. We made giant lollipops, giant boiled sweets, and giant lollipop swirls. This was a great afternoon’spaper sweet crafting.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a great theme for introducing some science too – see what happens with popping candy when you pour water, coke and then vinegar into three different bowls and top them with popping candy. Measure jelly babies and put them in a bowl over night – how much did they grow? Put boiled sweets (the kind with stripes on them) into a bowl with a few drops of water. What happens to the sweets? How do the colours disperse? Could you do it on paper and see what happens with the colours? Does the paper remain in tact? Put boiled sweets in mould and put them into the oven. When they melt, do the colours mix? Do they retain their shape? Do they re-set into their new shapes? There are loads of candy experiments you can try!
At the end of a long and exciting week of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, everyone needs a good, long, relaxing bath, so this Chocolate Bath Salt recipesmells delicious, and helps induce a deep sleep too.
Printable Unit Plan
Click on this image for a downloadable, printable study unit plan.
For some reason, kids seem to LOVE learning about Ancient Egypt.
At the moment you can download a FREE lesson about Ancient Egypt and jump into King Tut’s history at Educents. The freebie has several activities included in this pack, including reading comprehension, math review, map skills, and timeline practice, so there are a multiple ways to use them.
Use these fun pages to practice place value and/or addition and subtraction skills! Page 12 of the King Tut Mini-Unit Freebie asks learners to use the symbols to determine the number. The following page goes a step further and asks students add or subtract numbers.
Fun facts about Ancient Egypt:
The Egyptian alphabet contained more than 700 hieroglyphs!
Egyptians believed cats were a sacred animal and having a pet cat would bring a household good luck.
Ancient Egyptians invented pens, toothpaste, and a game very similar to bowling.
More Ancient Egypt resources:
Mini Bio: King Tut – Here’s a mini bio about King Tut to go with your mini unit!
Ancient Egypt Lapbook ($5)* – Study interesting facts about the discovery of hieroglyphic writing, the Rosetta Stone, the great King Tutankhamun, the lovely Cleopatra and more. Recipes From Egypt ($2.99)* - Delight your little cooks with two authentic and easy-to-make recipes from Egypt: Tameya (the original veggie burger), and Basboosa (Semolina cake with honey and lemon). My Book About Egypt($1.99)* – My Book About Egypt takes elementary students to the cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta, and Giza.
I didn’t grow up in the UK, or in fact in any kind of regular family – sorry guys – and despite earning a BA in English Language and Literature at university, there are many authors that I never heard of till I became a parent myself, names like Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl and a few others, including Shirley Hughes. (Don’t feel too bad for me though. I had a love affair with The Famous Five, could tell you anything you wanted to know about Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys, and spent hours and days adventuring with Trompie en die Boksom Bende and Liewe Heksie.)
Recently I was sent a press release about Shirley Hughes new book Alfie Outdoors and it wasn’t the name that I recognised in it, but the illustration style, and I realised that it was the same author as a Lucy and Tom Christmas story that my children love.
This new Alfie story doesn’t disappoint. Filled with beautiful pencil sketch-style (I have no idea about actual names for art styles!) images, and children with chubby cheeks, it’s a delight to read. My three and five year old daughters are engrossed in it with every reading, and they love living through the sowing of seeds, the watering, the waiting, until carrots grow. Their eyes widen every time Gertrude the Goat disappears, and they sigh with relief every time she returns.
The fact that the main protagonist is a little boy makes no difference to them – they seem to share in the common experience of being children, impatience, fear, loss, joy, despite the difference in gender.
Alfie is an all-round wholesome book. From tilling the land for your food, to washing drying on a line, to dad holding hands with his son, this story is a throwback to what in retrospect seems like a simpler time – or in fact was for us as children! It is thoroughly beautiful.
It also ties in perfectly with loads of themes, like patience, caring for animals, growing your own food, summer and friendship. There are plenty themes to tie this story with whatever lesson you may be trying to teach your child. We even managed to use it as a catalyst for talking about all the bugs you find when you turn over stones in the garden – and it ties in really well in preparing for the autumn by creating a home for nature.
We were recently sent a ‘book’ or ‘fan’ from the Brain Factor range for review with my 3 year old, Aviya. Brain Factor Picture Quiz Cards are a pack of rectangular cards, fastened together on the bottom left so that the cards open up as a fan. Each page has 3 questions on it, with the answers on the next page – when you reach the end of the fan, flip it over and work your way through again, with new questions.
There are 4 different quiz book style ‘fan’ sets for children aged 3-4, 4-5, 5-6 and 6-7 years old with activities relevant to each age range. We went for the 3-4 age range for our just turned 3 year old, and it seems to be pretty well suited for her age. The ‘categories’ of the questions are either number and pattern games, shape and letter sound recognition, mixed up stories and rhyming words and basic general knowledge. The other ages have different targets.
I am sure that these are useful for learning something cognitive, and perhaps some analytical skills, but I wouldn’t use them specifically as a learning tool – though they claim that they help boost a child’s confidence by developing the key Early Years learning skills (for the 3 -4 year old ones, obviously) but really they’re a bit of fun, a good way to kill a about 15 minutes or so at a time (before she gets distracted) and they are great to have in your handbag for the wait at the dentist, or while you’re on the phone to Child Tax Credits – I have first hand experience here!
The BrainFactor fans have been adapted for the UK with guidance from a group of teachers, from the French originals which are available in over 25 countries and have sold over 50 million copies worldwide.
They are portable, convenient and educational, and they are different from most other things you’d carry with you to keep children entertained. The fans are designed to encourage children to explore the world around them and learn through play.
There are about 300 questions on these cards, which means it will take you a while to work your way through them, which probably means you can go through them more than once. Smalls will get to know the answers in time, but by then they’ll be able to move on to the next set, which means for the amount of time a Brain Factor Picture Quiz Fan should last makes it pretty good value for money.
Brain Factor Picture Quiz Fans are available from Amazon*, Waterstones and Blackwells with an RRP of £6.99
If you’d like to see them in action, here’s a little video for you:
I love the idea of helping out nature, though living on a lush green Island with rolling hills and meadows, it can be hard to imagine that we need to. But, because here and now we might not need to, doesn’t mean I don’t need to instil a wish to protect our wildlife in my children. At five and three they are perfectly capable of learning how, and now is the time that they are still so full of enthusiasm, so it’s the perfect time to do it.
Recently we’ve been talking about birds and how birds fly, and the different types of birds and all that, so it seemed fitting to make gelatin bird feeders for the garden, though this is something we’d normally do in Autumn. We don’t actually have a garden either, so we’ve just hung them in trees around us.
These bird feeders are made with gelatin, as they last a little longer than for example peanut butter, and gelatin isn’t harmful to the birds – and probably helps their beaks grow stronger too!
We’ve made them in cookie cutters so that we can play with the shapes, and have fun with them. Since we live by the sea, we’ve even had a few ships to hang in the trees.
Tip: Don’t hang them in direct sunlight. If it gets too hot the gelatin begins to melt. Also, press as much together as you can in one shape to hold them tightly together.
How to make gelatin bird feeders:
To make the birdfeeders, plan on a packet of gelatin (powder) to a cup of bird seed. So if you’re making two cups (500ml) bird seed, add two packets of gelatin and so on.
Prepare the gelatin to the manufacturers directions, but only add 1 cup of water to one packet of gelatin (250ml water). (Or double if you’re making double) It needs to be thicker than jelly to hold it all together. Once the gelatin has melted, leave it to cool for a couple of minutes, then add in the bird seed. It mustn’t be runny and since your seed may differ to mine, just add more if it’s too wet and liquid.
Stir in well till all the seed is coated, then scoop in to your waiting shapes.
We scoop half the amount needed to fill the shape, then add a length of string, before adding in the rest of the seed, so that the string is in the centre when you pull the shape out of the cutter. Press down firmly to compact everything as much as possible, before setting aside overnight to dry.
Don’t leave in the sun or it may melt again.
Carefully remove from the cutter, and hang somewhere to enjoy.
Google ‘garden birds’ in your local area and see if you can find a checklist of what you should be able to find in your country. Keep an eye on your bird feeder and see how many local birds you can spot in your garden.
We love the RSPB’s ‘First’ Series of books. They are perfect for small people. And why not turn it into a full experience by using a bird watching kit to really feel like a nature explorer.
Earth day happens every year in April, and it’s an opportunity for us to talk to our children about their world, to give them reasons to love it and understand how it works, and most importantly to protect it.
One of the simplest ways to teach without it being hard work, while also spending time together, is through books. There are loads of books with the theme of recycling and reusing. Pick up a couple that you can re-read year after year.
Some good examples areFancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day* where Nancy helps her family be Earth-friendly every day, not just on Earth Day. In Little Critter: It’s Earth Day*, Little Critter learns about climate changes, and decides to do his part to slow down global warming. In this story children will learn about the importance of not wasting water or energy. Join Little Critter as he plants a tree, makes a climate control machine, and helps the polar bears.
And if stories are good, activity books are even better. Earth Day Is Every Day!* is a fun activity book where four kids and a dog guide young readers through word searches, mazes, cryptograms, and other puzzles that provide fun facts about Earth Day and offer ideas for recycling, conserving energy, and making “green” practices part of everyday life.
I also love the idea of using Earth Day as an opportunity to connect with our friends and family, or our neighbours, or someone we haven’t caught up with in ages, and this Secret Garden* postcard set is beautifully thematic.
If that’s a little ‘old’ for your small people, why not have a go at this Earth Day Colouring Book*. With 32-pages of colouring fun, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to talk about the Earth and our role in protecting it.
Sometimes it hard to know if the Smalls will be interested in something before you spend money on it, so why not print this Free Earth Day Activity Bookand give them that for a start. If you’re not in the US you can just remove the page about your State. If you are – it’s perfect for you!
For when the kids want to watch something, Wild Kratts and Tumble Leaf are both great nature shows available for download on Amazon Instant Prime Video* (and you can enjoy a free 30-day trial, often even if you’ve had a trial before).
When book work and brain work gets a little too much, try out Earth Day Kids Yoga – yes, that’s really a thing! This book will walk you through a story of movement and exercise with the children. It’s a great way to get the active, introduce yoga and breathing and talk about Earth Day at the same time.
Earthgames: 50 Nature Games For Ages 3+is another great avenue for rainy day or any day entertainment. The book is full of chanting, play-it-again action games that are easy to learn quickly, yet substantial enough to last through repeat performances. The book is broken into three nature-themed sections–Wildlife World, Playful Planet, Cosmos–each containing its own Warm Up & Cool Down exercises. Designed for indoor or outdoor group play, EarthGames are a perfect fit for Earth Day or any day.
And of course, the best way to get the children to love the Earth is to make them part of it. Organisations like the Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust, National Trust and The RSPBall have membership schemes where your money goes to helping protect your environment. The Wildlife Trust and the RSPB both do a lot of work with children, including magazines that are pitched at their ages – and provide a gift that tops up their interest throughout the year. The National Trust operates in a number of different countries around the world and membership to one gives you access to all (they also have a fab home ed discount of £41 for the family for the year.) Most of these organisations also offer activities for the children throughout the summer. Have a look at our 50Things posts for an example of what you can do as part of that project.
* Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on them and then buy, I’ll receive a percentage from the merchant. You don’t pay more or less whether you use this link or go direct.
Last year the girls and I ‘grew’ our own butterflies. It was an amazing experience for us all – I mean, them, mostly, of course, but I loved every minute of it.
The butterflies arrive in the post in a small tub with self contained ‘food’. Over a period of about 2 – 4 weeks, you watch the butterflies go from tiny caterpillars to huge ones, to chrysalis, and eventually, to butterfly. Feed them for a few days, look after them while their wings strengthen, and before you know it, you have five fully-fledged butterflies ready to send out into the world to help cross pollinate the plants in your area, bringing new life into your environment. I find it quite an emotional thing, letting those butterflies go!
You can buy the butterfly kit at any time, but the company will only send the butterflies out from March onwards, to make sure that they’re looked after, and do as much as they can to make sure the little insects have a good start to life.
If you’re worried that you wouldn’t know how to raise a butterfly, it’s honestly easier than fish! You largely just sit and watch them for four weeks, but it is an incredible learning journey for children too.
I am so excited to hear that we’re expecting a solar eclipse in the UK. We’ve missed things like meteor showers and lunar eclipses over the years usually due to cloud cover, but with the sun – well, dark is dark, so we’ll experience something no matter the weather. In my corner of the world we’re only expecting a 40% darkness, but as you head further up into the UK, there’ll be more to about 94% darkness in Scotland. The last time the UK saw an eclipse like this was in 1999, so this is pretty epic.
You can learn more about what to expect in your zone here:
I intend to take full advantage of this eclipse and make it as engaging a learning experience as possible. I remember seeing a full solar eclipse with my mother as a child, and I intend to make the same memory for my girls.
Here are a few of the Solar Eclipse resources I’ve pulled together so far:
If you want to buy solar eclipse glasses so that you can look at the eclipse directly you can buy decent solar eclipse glasses here. DO NOT use regular sunglasses to look at a solar eclipse.
My family and I moved into a new house recently – I say house, it’s a flat so tiny, I’m still not sure where we’re going to pack everything, and we’re playing pass the parcel moving things from one room to the next most days! It’s only a six month let, so we’ll get there in the end, but it’s all come down to cost cutting measures until my husband finds work again.
One new aspect to our new spot, that we’ve never had to deal with before, has been a gas and water meter, meaning that we have to pre-pay for our utilities. I’ve been amazed at how actually being aware of your utility spend has impacted on my usage. Now that I can actually see the numbers ticking down on the meter every day, I’m so much more conscious of switching off plugs that aren’t in use, of unplugging chargers and turning off drips. It all adds up and makes a huge difference to how many times a month I have to run to the corner shop to top up.
One of the things I’ve found really helpful over the last few weeks has been this water saving calculator – for example, I had no idea that using the dishwasher once a day uses less water than the sink does! That’s great motivation for me to buy a dishwasher (like I needed an excuse!)
While having four people – including two children – in a house makes for a lot of laundry, especially in the winter, I also found the section on how to save water quite useful. Not rocket science, to be fair, but a good reminder which is sometimes all you need.
Of course you don’t have to be a home-schooler to be able to teach your children about the benefits of being mindful in your use of gas, electricity and water. It’s something every parent should be teaching their child, so this week the girls and I’ve been spending time talking about ways in which we could save especially water in our house. Here are their ideas (they are 5 and 2):
We could catch rain water to bath in (I didn’t want to dull their enthusiasm with the freezing realities here.)
We can plant a garden to water with caught rain water. (I’m sure the neighbours won’t mind if we turn the parking spaces into a food producing garden, right?)
We can all bath together (Ah, to be so small as to all fit in one bath! We compromised with them continuing to bath together.)
We can only brush our teeth once a day (erm, no. But we can turn the tap off while we’re brushing.)
We can wear the same pyjamas two nights in a row. (Sounds like a plan to me!)
And on my list: buy a dishwasher!
How do you save water, electricity and gas in your home? Do you have a meter, and does it make you more conscious of your spending?