Thursday, 10 May 2012

Education Inspector's Visit

Yeah, our visit is over!  I can't explain how stressful I found it getting ready for this visit.  I had sleepless nights and worrisome days; my friends [and my poor husband] couldn't believe I was so stressed over this visit and no matter how many wise words and wonderfully kind things they said I couldn't seem to calm down.  I had spent years and years dreading this day and it was showing. Needless to say my fears were completely unfounded and a waste of energy but we won't mention this any more OK.

Our inspector was lovely; she put me at ease straight away and was almost apologetic about all the paperwork she needed to complete.  Sprite had made her some cup cakes which put us in her good books straight away LOL. Our hour long meeting stretched to over 2 hours as she took time chat to all the children and look at their lapbooks and project work.  She has a love for art and loved their mixed media art journals and their sketch books. She was very pleased with all their progress especially Lego's and gave us some alternatives to his IGCSE plans - which we won't be taking on this occassion but it's great that she had so much information available for us.

She was great with Sprite as she had experience of teaching dyslexic children and was able to give me lots of advice and put him at ease too; it was good for him to hear from someone else that dyslexia didn't mean that he couldn't follow his career dreams.  After she left he said 'I am so happy, I didn't think that I could be an architect or an engineer' [two jobs that she thought he would be great at]!  She is going to push for him to get a formal assessment with the LEA; she said that even if I had a private diagnosis it wouldn't be accepted by the examination bodies for him to get a scribe or additional time for his exams...he would need an assessment by the LEA!  However, dyslexia isn't considered as a 'special education need' [not sure if that's a national opinion or a local one] so there may not be much help available for him via the LEA, especially as he is home educated but it's good to have her on his side.  She seems quite determined to get him some help!

All in all she seemed impressed with the children, our plans and what we have done so far; I thought she was really supportive of my method of teaching and she loves the whole lapbook thing.  So that's it for another 12 months! PHEW!  Just the report to wait for now.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing and had a special lunch to celebrate.

We're all off for an early night to catch up on my sleep as I have my course to go to tomorrow inshaAllah.

Sweet dreams!

Asthetics are important!

At least to Daisy anyway! Trying to get Daisy to 'remember' numbers, letters etc has been a real battle...I know she can do it, I just don't think she 'wants' to do it.  So, in an attempt to encourage her to 'remember' more, I made her this maths book; and it has worked!  She loves her 'pretty book' and has been doing regular maths with no problems ever since LOL. 

We have membership to as part of a group and have access to their downloadable workbooks; it is one of these that forms the basis of this book.  They are great little workbooks that include lots of  'hands on' activities that the child can do in addition to the main lesson.  I separated each topic with card & tabs and put a pocket at the beginning of each topic to store any manipulatives that she/we could make to give a hands on aspect to the topic.  I also included extra plain/squared paper after lessons that I thought could be expanded and worksheets from other sources that I thought were interesting.  She's loving all the hands on stuff and is 'remembering' everything that we are doing...the others are also showing an interest and are complaining that I haven't made them one!

Front cover.  I added her name, title and decorated the binding ring with ribbons and charms.
I added tabs on a sheet of card to separate each topic.
And lastly I added all the worksheets and bound it all together.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Owls this for progress?

Ooo that was bad wasn't it?

This terrible pun was inspired by Sprite and his owl project which is almost finished.  Yeah!  His enthusiasm was sparked by the opportunity to dissect owl pellets.  I have been putting this activity off for some time but Sprite was beside himself with excitement at the mere thought of doing it and just in case it inspires you too here are just a few of the pictures we took of the whole process. Please note however, that because of the gross factor I had to take off part way through and Crush abandoned his dissection completely so you may want to skip the photos!

We had to soak the owl pellets [which are basically a ball of  bones, fur, feathers etc that the owl is unable to digest of it's prey which he then regurgitates] in a non-cloudy disinfectant for 30 minutes; I just found out you can keep them in the freezer for 48 hours too which does the same job.  Sprite found it difficult to get all the wet fur out from the inside of skulls etc. however, Crush did his dry and thought the pellet was easier to dissect.

They used tweezers and tooth picks to separate the bones from the fur.
Here you can see some bones making an appearance.
These are some of  Sprites skulls -he had quite a collection by the time he had finished.

...lower jaws

he was able to use a flow chart to identify the prey that the owl had eaten
...finally he used this chart that we got form the internet to place all the bones and he stuck it all onto a mini blackboard so we can hang it on the wall in our classroom cum dining room. Great!

Sprite then used this information sheet to identify the owls prey.
I gave all the children the opportunity to dissect a pellet but two refused and Crush couldn't see his through to the end; it was making him feel queesey. Sprite was the only one to see it through to the end and ended up with all the bones which he went on to soak in bleach to whiten.  He is currently contemplating how to store them.  He only needs to complete the booklet of his dissection and then he can finish his lapbook.  This project, although it took an immense amount of time, involved a lot of research on his part and although there wasn't any tangible evidence of his learning he was continually learning about the topic; we have watched what must amount to 100's of videos, read copious amounts of info in web sites and books and he has done some fab art work related to this project - the most amazing of which was an A1 size owl decorated in real feathers resting on a branch; sadly I can't find the photographs of it and it has since been binned; it seems that small children couldn't help but pull off the feathers lol.

Photos of the completed project will ensue, God willing!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Catch up!

Well we have been up to so much these last few weeks but now it comes to it it seems that I have little to relay but I'll continue anyway!  Well, due to a prompt from Beavers Daisy and I did a little study on good and bad foods and made this traffic light poster thing [I think I may have mentioned this before].  We discussed the types of food that could be included under each colour and why they were good/bad for you and then she cut out pictures from magazines etc and stuck them under each coloured flap of the traffic lights.  

She did get some wrong so I asked her why she had included them in that category. We then discussed her answers and I asked her to tell me where she thought they were still in the right place.  The 'lights' read: red = Stop! These things we shouldn't eat very often (cakes, biscuits, red meat etc); yellow = Wait! Don't eat too much although they are OK choices (potatoes, pasta, bread, chicken, fish etc) and green = Go! The more you eat the better (fruits & veg).

We have been to the park several times these past couple of weeks and had lots of fun looking for local wildlife; Daisy's keen eyes spotted this toad hiding in the brook!  

We also spent some time admiring the gardens...

Not sure what these plants are but we all liked them!

and spent an hour or so using the outside gym...boy did I ache the next day - the kids want to [and I need to]  go every other day to use the gym but we'll see if the rain holds off first.

Lego also started at the canoeing club and will start working towards his staged awards inshaAllah [God willing].  He is also going back to boxing next week now that his hand has healed...he's really looking forward to it.

We have also been to see the dyslexia consultant and she did some amazing work with Sprite and taught him to spell a couple of words in just a few minutes using some visualisation techniques. He was so happy to be able to spell these 'difficult' words and is still able to spell them so the techniques seem to be very effective; it's all about finding ways that make it easy for him to commit the info to his long term memory apparently. She also suggested he worked on his cursive handwriting as it makes it easier for his hand to relax and his memory take over when writing and spelling. He needs to be formally assessed which I couldn't afford to do with them so I decided to contact the LEA to see if they could offer some help.

So we are now 'known' to the Education Inspector who will be visiting us next Thursday.  She seemed very supportive and said that just the month before the Educational Psychologist had agreed to assess another home educated child.  So with a precedent set it seems hopeful that we could get Sprite assessed via the Local Authority, this is important as he will need some additional support in the next few years, especially if he wants to take exams [I am hoping to get some ongoing sessions to teach him strategies to help him with his learning too God willing].  I am also enrolled on a 2 day course, run by the local Dyslexia Action group, which aims to teach us how we, as parents, can help our dyslexic children in literacy and numeracy.  I think these types of strategies could benefit any child to retain information so will pass on any nuggets that I pick up God willing.  Have a strange feeling of deja vu about this post!

We also had the annual Scout Parade [when I say we I, of course, mean the kids; us damp mums went for a cappuccino as soon as we could escape unnoticed] and seem to be setting a tradition of having a post parade pizza meal with our favorite homeschooling family.

This is just one of the Scout bands that were playing during the day...I have no pics of my scouts as my phone decided to throw a tantrum! Lego has also been caving again and has started attending the Explorers group; he is currently trying to decide what he wants to do for his Duke of Edinburgh Award.  Also on the Scout front camping season has officially started and as I type this he is on a Muslim Scout Fellowship camp.  He also has a skills camp coming up with the explorers in June.  Sprite has decided to rejoin the Scouts and is looking forward to being invested in the next couple of weeks.

Both Daisy and Crush are working their way through the 'Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons'; they are really, really enjoying it and we often do several lesson in one day!  Other than that they seem to be working their way through worksheets from the tutor which I try to build on during the week.  Having said that, it needs to be said that Daisy, although improved, is still having difficulty in retaining the information but I get the feeling that it's because she doesn't want to rather than can't!

Great progress has been made on the infamous Owl Project...more of that in another post!  The kids have been plodding along at their various tutors but they all seem to have lost their spark; their enthusiasm for learning.  I thought it was me, the rut, lack of direction or whatever so placed them with the tutors but I have come to realise that they did better when they were unschooled.  Maybe the problems we were having was because I had lost my way and was allowing others to have too much influence in the way my children should learn and what their goals in life should be; you know GCSE's at 16, university and a good job to support their family and, last but not least, return to their Lord!  Wanting all these things is OK but it should be their decision, when they are ready for it.  After all, if they really want to become a doctor they would put in the effort to make it happen wouldn't they?  I mean that's the way it works with me and it definitely worked that way with others that I know.  More consideration is needed on this front! I think the first thing I need to do is to have a chat with Lego about his feelings towards his GCSE's...I need to make sure that he doesn't feel 'railroaded' into taking them just to please me/the LEA/family/tutors etc.  I need to make sure that he wants to do them; for  himself!