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.

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}

Create Little Explorers With Little Passports Subscription Boxes

Ameli never stood a chance, really. She was born to a mother with itchy feet, and by her second birthday she had been to 20 countries. That’s more than many people see in a life time! Unfortunately our circumstances changed and our travelling slowed down somewhat, but I like to think the impact of all those travels have landed and she will always be a little world traveller.

When we were offered a 3-month subscription to Little Passports I was really excited, because I knew she’d love it.

Our first parcel arrived, and we set off on our Little Passports adventure. Little Passports Subscription Boxes

Being six, Ameli receives the World Edition for 6 – 10 year olds. The first parcel contains the blue and green cardboard suitcase, a ‘passport’ and a wall-sized world map. It also includes a welcome letter from Sam & Sofia (which I’ve managed to convince Ameli are real people!) and stickers to decorate the case, (later boxes include stickers for ‘passport stamps’ for the passport) a photo of the two friends and an activity sheet. There’s also a boarding pass with an access code for online games in the Boarding Zone.Read more: Create Little Explorers With Little Passports Subscription Boxes

5 Ways to Celebrate Science With Kids

I think when we look back on our lives, some day far off in the future, we’re going to realise that one of the biggest things that changed during this generation was the perception of girls/women in the workplace, and specifically, in careers like medicine, science, mathematics, engineering. While my personal interest in those subjects is … lacking… it’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for. I love knowing that if they choose it, it’s an option that’s even more available to my daughters than it was to me.

What? You’re not ancient! 

No, I’m not. But I struggled so much with math in the last two years of school and I know beyond a doubt that it wasn’t a problem with me, but with my teacher. I passed every mock test, knew all the answers at my private math tutor, but sat down in front of an exam, and I’d make myself sick. Honestly, I ground my teeth so badly, I developed abscesses and missed one of my final exams!

And the teacher in question? I remember distinctly a comment about how maths just wasn’t really for girls.

Was I going to be a chemical engineer, a doctor (my younger brother is both those things – proud big sister that I am!) before that comment? No, probably not. Actually, definitely not. But did failing miserably at math affect my chances of university entrance? Yes, it did. I passed entrance with age exemption, eventually. Did it affect my confidence? Certainly did. Do I think I can ‘do math’? No. Till I actually do it, then I’m not so bad.

So, I think that looking back on my life, I think the changed attitude to women in science will be one of the most wonderful changes of this generation.

And it’s with that in mind that I love things like British Science Week.Read more: 5 Ways to Celebrate Science With Kids

How Big Is The Earth?

My dad sent me these pictures in an email, and I have no idea where they originally hail from, since they seem to have various sources on the web – if you do, let me know and I’ll credit appropriately. I showed them to Ameli(6) however, and they sparked such interest, I thought I’d share them with you here too. It’s wonderful to put the size of the Earth into perspective. How Big Is the Earth

It’s sometimes hard to know what level to pitch topics at, and using pictures is great because it allows children to ask questions, setting the level themselves. I love how these pictures have been set up. The first set of planets are Earth, Venus, Mars, Mercury and Pluto. It makes Earth look big, important, powerful, and so different from it’s closest neighbours.Read more: How Big Is The Earth?

Pizza Express School Visits & Home Educators

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.Pizza Express Visit

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

Study Unit: Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

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: Roald Dahl WeekThere 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. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Reading Comprehension Worksheet

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. Make up words like Roald Dahl

I use the word math very lightly here, but since we’re starting out, we used measuring a bag of candies as an introduction to units of measurement.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 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. DIY Jazzies Charlie & The Chocolate FactoryNot 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’s paper sweet crafting.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Decor

 

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 recipe smells delicious, and helps induce a deep sleep too.

DIY Chocolate Bath Salt

Printable Unit Plan

Click on this image for a downloadable, printable study unit plan.

Capture

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

What have other Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fans been up to?

King Tut & Ancient Egypt Educents Freebie (Limited Time Offer)

King Tut Mini Unit - EducentsFor 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.

Hieroglyphics Math

King Tut Mini Unit - Educents 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.   King Tut Mini Unit - Educents

Want free lessons for kids about Ancient Egypt? Download the King Tut Mini-Unit Freebie on Educents*!

Alfie Outdoors By Shirley Hughes {Book Review}

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.

Alfie Outdoors

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 Outdoors

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 natureAlfie Outdoors bugs

Capitalise on the learning in this book with the bug hunt worksheet from Twinkl, or one of the ‘plant life cycle’ worksheets for sunflowers or beans.

Shirley Hughes’ Alfie Outdoors is a beautiful book, a lovely story, and well worth having on your shelves to return to often. It’s available from Amazon UK here with an International Edition available at Amazon US on 25 August 2015*.