Saturday, 30 August 2014

As Promised

Back at the beginning of the month I shared an activity that we had done at our local Home Educators craft group - seaweed pressing.
These pictures are the results of our efforts :)

We're all very happy with how they have come out, although I would suggest that the finer samples work better than the more bulky types of seaweed. I will be buying three frames to put them in as soon as possible because some sections of seaweed are coming away from the paper. And I'm very glad that we put our names on the back as it takes a long time to dry and I couldn't remember who had done which arrangement (although my children tell me that this is due to my age as they can both remember perfectly well which ones they did).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


Do you love lapbooks? If you home educate chances are you know what I'm talking about. I first came across them a few years ago on one of the American homeschool blogs. I immediately loved the idea of them and my children were 2 and 6 when we made our very first ones. Over the years, we have made them to compliment our book studies, our projects and have even made some that have become precious records of our family.

What are lapbooks, I hear you ask? They are a delightfully simple, yet clever way to present and preserve your child's work. You take a cardboard folder, make lots of little booklets, put the two together and hey presto! You have a beautiful display of your child's work. Of course, there is a little more to it :) Each little booklet, or minibook,  has to be filled in by your child. This can be done in different ways, by drawing, writing or collage to name but a few. Each minibook breaks a topic down into neatly divided, manageable chunks. Reluctant writers can write a word or a sentence, while older children can write short paragraphs in their minibooks. Parents can act as scribes or pictures and diagrams can provide the answers. All in all, you get a beautiful keepsake of each stage of your child's development.

I don't know about your children, but my little boy has always loved books that have pockets in them, and flip-ups to lift and investigate. All those intricate '-ology' books have pride of place on his bookshelf. That's how I knew that lapbooks were the way to go with him. What better way for him to learn than for him to be able to make his own book of flips and flaps to hold his activities and provide him with his own hand-made reference books? We have a large selection of years of work which he still loves to get out and show anyone who will take the time to look. He is so very proud of his lapbooks and each time he does this, he is revisiting the projects and  that learning goes a little deeper into his brain :)

And so The Flip~Flap Files have been born from the my son's love of  his own learning journey.
All the printables you need to make the lapbook are in there. You buy the folders and glue, add an envelope or too, get out the stapler and away you go. Of course, paper-based activities are not enough to keep children enthralled and eager to learn, so you will also find instructions for your child to make his own Humpty Dumpty toy, a hands-on science experiment, cooking ideas, games suggestions and the sheet music for your own music and movement session.

 There will be more to come in this range of products. Nursery rhymes are so familiar to children and such an important part of any culture that they make fine building blocks for early learning adventures.

Monday, 18 August 2014

UK & Ireland Map Review

A customer  recently asked for advice on where to buy a good map of the British Isles to go with their Picture Book Explorers adventures. I realised that the one we use at home is VERY old and no longer available for sale.

I had a good look around and was actually pretty disappointed by what I could find. All the available maps of the British Isles showed Northern Ireland connected toa section of a faded, vague impression of the Republic of Ireland. The worst one I saw had Northern Ireland floating around disembodied from any other land mass. And then Schofield & Sims came to the rescue and sent me a poster sized map of the UK & Ireland to review.

As it is listed as a poster, I anticipated a paper version but was delighted to find that it is laminated, making it much more hardwearing and more likely to last all through our future years of Picture Book Exploring and beyond.

The map is slightly smaller than A1 and hangs on the back of our door perfectly. There are plenty of towns marked on it as well as the all important county boundaries. All important that is, for our PBE explorations :) In fact, Mousehole is the only town visited by Picture Book Explorers so far that isn't on the map.  

Schofield & Sims give free postage in the UK and Ireland, making it cheaper to buy directly from them than buying the same Map of UK and Ireland from Amazon. If you're looking for a wall map to enhance your Picture Book Explorers learning journey, you won't go far wrong with this one :)

Our new map with some of our Explorers flags. Spot the door handle :)
  What are your favourite map recommendations?

*Disclosure: All opinions are my own and are given as honestly as possible.  I received a free copy of the map to review, No money changed hands.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Meeting Kim Lewis

Last Saturday, we went to Tatton Park in Cheshire. The weather was very changeable and we did get a bit wet at one point, but overall, it stayed dry and was fairly warm.
We went to see the exhibition of Kim Lewis's artwork from her children's books and also, to meet her at her book signing event in the farm there.

The artwork is beautiful. You can see the love that goes into the work with every stroke of coloured pencil, so much detail in each picture. As well as the pictures, there are two display cabinets containing props that she used to create her illustrations. Kim very kindly explained to my children how she goes about the process of creating the books.

For each book, Kim makes a little black and white mock-up, some as small as A6 size. She explained that the look of the book as a whole is very important - how the pictures and text fit together; whether the picture is in a frame or not; where the gutters are; and how the page turns fit into the story. All of these things affect the feel of the story and that is why a mock-up is needed so that she can test each story in its book form. The original artwork for the cover of The Shepherd Boy is on exhibition and Kim also explained what she had to take into consideration when she drew it. There had to be space for the barcode, the title and the publisher's bumf on the back. All in all, my children received a very good, impromptu lesson on book production. Thank you, Kim :)

I loved to see the props she used for her artwork as it is a great encouragement for children to realise that many artists draw from observation. My favourite prop was the hand-sewn quilt that Kim Lewis had made to draw the illustrations for her book A Quilt for Baby . She told us that this had lead her into quilting as a hobby. It's not a book I've read, but having seen the quilt, I really want to read it :)

I've previously sent Kim a copy of Picture Book Explorers ~ Floss and her response was "I am completely amazed by the amount of detail in your Picture Book Explorer about Floss!". She told me that she is planning on using it with her grandson when he is a little older, so all you Explorers out there should know you will be in good company :)

It was lovely to meet Kim Lewis, such a friendly, informative lady who took the time to talk to my children all about her work and books. What a great way to top up our explorations of Floss :)

The Kim Lewis exhibition is on at the Farm at Tatton Park until Friday, 22nd August 2014. It's well worth a visit. There's also a Little Baa trail to follow, caps and crooks for dressing up and a maize maze where you can find four of Floss's lost puppies. We really enjoyed the sheep racing and had our money on Little Baa to win ;)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Upcoming Price Changes

Due to increased costs, Branch Out World will shortly be reviewing the pricing system of Picture Book Explorers packs.
At the end of August there will be some price changes. Some units will remain the same price, but some of the larger ones will be increased in price to either £2.50 or £3. The new PBE will be published at £2 but will go up in price at the end of August too.
Branch Out World will continue to provide high quality, low cost resources for educators everywhere.
I just wanted to let all you lovely blog readers know about the upcoming changes in plenty of time for you to be able to purchase  any units you particularly want before the prices change :)
Happy Exploring!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Summer Seaweed Craft

Seaweed pressing is a very effective craft to do with your children after a trip to the seaside. Not only will they be making beautiful artwork, they will also be learning how to preserve seaweed samples just as scientists do.

It is a craft that would be a welcome extra to any of the Picture Book Explorers packs that accompany books with a seaside connection. Add it to your explorations of Picture Book Explorers~The Lighthouse Keepers Rescue or  Picture Book Explorers ~ The Mousehole Cat or Picture Book Explorers ~ Stone Girl, Bone Girl or Picture Book Explorers ~ Cedric's day at the Castle or Picture Book Explorers ~ Katie Morag and the New Pier

First of all, you need to go to the seaside :)
Whilst you are there, collect as many different types of seaweed as you can find and put them in a bucket of seawater. It helps if your bucket has a lid as you will need to transport bucket, seaweed and water back home. Keep the seaweed in the seawater until you come to press it. You will also need to collect a couple of large bottles of seawater too.

When you get home, you will need:
two A4 size pieces of wood (chopping boards work well)
some A4 size pieces of strong cardboard,
some greaseproof paper cut larger than A4,
two larger than A4 size trays,
some A4 watercolour paper,
a paintbrush,
a couple of canvas belts or some rope.

First prepare your press.
Lay the belts or rope under the one of the wooden boards and add the first layer of strong cardboard.

Pour some seawater in the bottom of one tray to a depth of 5cm/2".
Select your seaweed samples from the bucket and rinse them in the seawater in this tray. If your samples are large, you may want to cut small sections using the scissors.

Place your watercolour paper in the second tray and pour a small amount of seawater onto it, so that it is just covered.

Arrange your seaweed on your paper.

Get someone to help you lift the paper out of the tray and onto a sheet of strong cardboard.
You may need to use a paintbrush to tease some of the fronds apart.

Cover the whole picture in greaseproof paper, taking care not to disturb your arrangement.

Put your picture on its cardboard into the press and cover with another piece of cardboard.

Repeat the process until you have made as many pictures as you want.
Place the second wooden board on top of the pile of cardboard and fasten the whole thing together.
Tighten the belts/rope so that the cardboard is compressed and will not slip.
Leave for about a month.

As we did this activity less than a month ago, here is a picture of pressed seaweed that was made at an earlier workshop by one of the children in our local home educators group. We did this craft at our local home educators craft session. The organisers gave me their kind permission to write this post and share this activity :)

I'll show you the results of my children's projects when we get them back :) 

In the meantime, I would love to hear about your favourite seaside related craft :)