Thursday, 2 August 2018

Summer Learning

We've really been enjoying the long, unusually hot summer days around here, but I can't say we were sorry to see the weather break and the rain come pouring down. Our grass was turning brown and our plants were looking slightly wilted. The rain was so welcome. It cooled the air, greened the garden and refreshed our energy levels. It brings the familiarity of the usual summers we get in our hilly part of northern England :)

We are a year round home educating family, so the summer holidays usually have a minimal impact on us. This year is a little different because The Girl started college last September and this is her first official six week holiday. We always lighten the regular load a little at this time of year and spend much more time on free-flow learning paths that arise from opportunities that aren't always available in term times.

One opportunity we've always enjoyed is the Summer Reading Challenge. It's a great way to encourage kids to read, not that mine needed it really. The scheme is aimed at 4 to 11 year olds, although some libraries will let them take part even if they're a bit older. The challenge is to read six library books over the school holidays, recording them and collecting rewards along the way. Libraries often have other related activities on over the summer too.

We've always enjoyed the Summer Reading Challenge, but this year Boykin decided that he is too old for it. I remember how proud he was to be able to take part for the first time when he was 4 and a half. It has been such an important part of our summer season for many years. They were very keen to read their six books, collect their stickers, move along the challenge board and receive their medal at the end. They would take part in the competitions and loved going to the weekly craft sessions. We have been so blessed to live so close to an active little library. Happy memories :)

Libraries are great places for all sorts of free summer activities - craft days, STEM sessions, story times, author visits and more. It's well worth checking what's on at your local library over the next month :)

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Thursday, 5 July 2018

Summer Learning Loss

Summer learning loss isn't something that poses much of a problem for most home educators. Many families are fully child-led and don't follow specific curricular or have specific times of day for learning. And even if they do, lots of these families are year-rounders, taking breaks as and when it suits them rather than sticking to school holidays. But for some families, especially those who have some children in school and others out, school holidays still play a part in their lives and summer learning loss can happen. I found out the hard way when my home educated kids once asked to do the summer holidays. It took them two whole weeks to be able to settle back into their routine and be able to move forward with their studies. They found it so difficult that they asked never to do it again!
Exploring The North Wind & The Sun
Summer learning loss happens because children have six weeks away from their regular routines over the six week holidays as they spend time with their families or in holiday clubs. They forget  a lot of what they have been learning in school and often complain of boredom as they are struggle with the lack of regularity. It can set them at a real disadvantage when they go back to school in September. You'll be glad to hear that you can help them keep learning by having some light routine to your days during the holidays and by engaging in educational activities with your children. 
Understandably, they want a break from anything that looks like school text books and exercise books, and you want to provide them with activities that they will enjoy. This is where Picture Book Explorers come to the rescue. Each pack is filled with suggestions for hands-on activities and discussions that can be used in daily focussed family time. Even by simply reading the book and doing just one activity every day you will be helping your child to keep learning through the summer holidays, tackling boredom at the same time. By engaging with your child in these activities you will be stoking their love of learning because they will be having fun with their family and creating special memories to treasure.

Exploring Oscar Cat-about-town
Extend the education by visiting places of interest that tie in with the PBE theme. You'll find some suggestions in the packs, or you may have your own ideas of what's available locally. (I'd love to know about them, if you do.) Expect to go off-piste as your child becomes interested in new ideas and topics and realises that they can learn more about them. Visit the local library together to pick up books on the subjects covered in the packs, and to select more books written by the same author as the picture book you are exploring.

Why not create a souvenir scrapbook of your summer learning? You can add their artwork, any photographs you take, postcards of places you visit,  entry tickets, cuttings from leaflets, newspapers and magazines, and, if they have completed any, the notebooking pages or minibooks that come with the pack. Remember, the aim is to have fun as a family whilst learning, so read the pack before you start and select the activities carefully, choosing the ones that you know your child will love :) Keep it playful and light-hearted and be prepared to follow your child's lead as they take you on a journey of learning and love.


Exploring I Took The Moon For a Walk

Happy Exploring!




Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Keeping a record

In the introduction of all Picture Book Explorers guides, you will find advice on how to keep a record of your child's learning. This is mostly achieved through the suggested activities done by the child themselves. But what if your child doesn't like writing or isn't ready to write sentences or stories yet?

Photograph by Les Anderson on unsplash.com
You have to decide what is important to you and your child. Are you wanting to keep a record of your child's knowledge and understanding? Or are you wanting them to produce some actual writing?

Lots of the activities in Picture Book Explorers literature based unit studies can be completed as conversations with no need of written records at all. You can, of course, keep your  own notes of areas that you or your child would like to follow-up in future. But if recording your child's knowledge and understanding is your goal, there is room for plenty of creativity without pressurising emergent writers into producing reams of work unwillingly. Conflict isn't particularly conducive to creating a happy learning environment. (Believe me, I know 😢)

In Day 2 of each Picture Book Explorers topic pack, you will find a narration activity. Based on Charlotte Mason principles, narration will help you to discover just how much of the story your child has remembered, how much they have understood and which parts of the story jumped out at them. It helps to build the skills needed for future written work.

Narration can take different forms. A story can be retold with pictures or as a comic strip. It can be re-enacted as a short play or even as a short animation if your children feel so inspired. I have wonderful memories of my own children acting out some of their favourite stories in the garden, much to the bemusement of passers-by 😀

Let your children get creative when they are filling in the minibooks in lapbooks and Logbooks. Not everything has to be answered in writing. When learning about Marco Polo, we glued ground cinnamon, tea leaves, gold foil, pieces of wool and silk into our minibook as examples of the goods that travelled along the Silk Road. In one of our older projects, my son made a fantastic collage of a  boat to show how the Anglo-Saxons travelled to England.


Let your kids get creative with how they want to show their knowledge and understanding. Encourage them to make their lapbooks and Logbooks into unique souvenirs of their own personal learning journeys 🚀

If your goal is to practise the physical act of writing, it is worth breaking it down into small chunks, especially with younger children and/or reluctant writers. It can be overwhelming to have to think about content and the actual mechanics of writing every...single...time. When focussing on content, some children will find it much easier to type their answers. They can print out their work and stick it into the Logbook or lapbook, maybe with the addition of an extra flap or pocket.

For beginner writers, or the most reluctant, it can be enough to encourage them to write the title for themselves, and then act as scribe for them if they want to give longer answers in their Logbooks. They may enjoy labelling and naming their artwork at this stage too.

As they progress, more skills can be developed. I have found that it helps to focus on one area at a time with each written answer. For instance, the focus may be making sure all the letters are the correct heights. Or today you may be focussing on capital letters and full stops. Another day you may focus on spelling, or punctuation, legibility, sentence structure or content. Obviously, these requirements will change according to age and ability, but for me, one of the beauties of minibooks  is that often, they require short written answers that never seem too onerous, even for the most reluctant or inexperienced writer ✒

Download this free Handy Writing Helper guide. Print it out, cut out the hand, fold the fingers in and fold out the digit that  your child wants to focus on for each handwriting session. Eventually, all the fingers can be left open so that they cover all areas at once and be reminded of their own achievements 😊




Happy Exploring! 






Saturday, 10 March 2018

Happy Mother's Day

Nowadays, Mother's Day is associated with cards, flowers, chocolates and, if you're as lucky as me, breakfast in bed :) The day is a celebration of mothers and an opportunity to show our thanks for all they do for us.

How did it all begin?
Nobody is really sure when the celebration of Mother's Day began but in the British Isles, Mothering Sunday has taken place on the fourth Sunday in Lent for centuries. Lent is a time observed by many Christians as a preparation for the mysteries of Easter. It lasts from Ash Wednesday (the day after Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday) to Easter Sunday. Many Christians observe Lent by fasting and/or taking part in special study groups.

Originally, Mothering Sunday was a time when Christians returned to their mother church where they had been baptised. Most people would attend their local parish church for weekly Sunday services, but on Mothering Sunday it was traditional to make a pilgrimage to the mother church, which might be the cathedral or the main church in the area.
Bradford Cathedral
It was often an occasion for family reunions. Children as young as ten often left home to go into service or become apprentices. They weren't often given holidays and so rarely saw their families. However, servants and apprentices were given the day off work to travel to their mother church and as they walked along the lanes, they picked wild flowers to give to their own mothers. And so, it is thought, the tradition of giving flowers on Mothering Sunday began.
Daffodils by Annie Spratt
The Anglican church has set readings for the different Sundays of the year and the Epistle for the fourth Sunday in Lent speaks of Jerusalem as the Mother of us all, whilst the Gospel reading for the day is the feeding of the 5,000. Hence the name Refreshment Sunday, a day on which the fasting rules of Lent are relaxed and Simnel Cake is sometimes served. Although, the cake has a much closer association with Easter  these days. Other names for the day are Laetares (rejoice) Sunday and Rose Sunday.

How did it become the celebration we know today?Well, by the early 20th century, Mothering Sunday traditions were becoming less and less important in England, much to the dismay of Constance Penwick-Smith, a vicar's daughter from Nottinghamshire. She was inspired by the establishment of the officially recognised American Mother's Day celebrated in May, which had been brought about by the campaigning of Anna Jarvis after the death of her own mother in 1905. 

Constance wrote a book called The Revival of Mothering Sunday in 1920. Along with her friend Ellen Porter, she established a Mothering Sunday movement and revived the special traditions of the day in the UK and across the British Empire. The revived Mothering Sunday celebrations focussed more on motherhood than the mother church and was encouraged by the Girl Guide and Boy Scout movements. Constance aimed to take the observance of Mothering Sunday beyond the confines of the Anglican church and she obviously succeeded as the day is now celebrated widely, within both the religious community and secular society alike.




Happy Exploring!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Friday, 23 February 2018

Logbook or Lapbook?

If you have already used Picture Book Explorers, you will know that the pack suggests that you keep a Logbook of your child's work. Sometimes, you may prefer to make a lapbook instead. What's the difference?

Well, a Logbook is a more compact means of storage, with a single A4 spiral bound notebook being perfect for the job of containing half a dozen or more units. All the minibooks, maps, flags, artwork, photographs can easily fit in. The timeline and any notebooking pages will need to be trimmed down. Work can be stored either in five different sections that correspond to the five daily sections suggested in the topic packs, or each book can have it's own section, rather like a diary of a continuous learning journey :)

Some of the Picture Book Explorers project packs lend themselves to creating a lapbook more easily than others. PBE ~ The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck was created with a lapbook in mind :)
 
But what about the topic packs that have more of a mix of notebooking pages and minibooks, like Dogger, for instance? Can you still make a lapbook? Yes, of course. You may have to be a little more creative, making simple fold minibooks from coloured paper, or folding the notebooking pages in half or into quarters to create a little folded booklet. Children can write or draw labels to stick on the uppermost section to add titles to their self-made booklets. You may want to add extension flaps for artwork so that it doesn't have to be folded. All this adds to the personalised, tailor-made education that your child is receiving from you :)
 

Younger children may find lapbooks a little less daunting to complete, whereas older children may enjoy the continuity of a Logbook. My daughter certainly enjoyed her first Logbook with its five tabbed sections. She labelled the tabs with the subjects covered over the five days of each lit-based unit study. She was a little older than the suggested age range and was preparing to move down the separate-subject road that leads to exams. My son, however, prefers the continuous learning-journey-diary approach for keeping a record of his Picture Book Explorers adventures. When he was younger, he loved his single book lapbooks and was so proud to show them to friends and family. 

So, lapbooks or Logbooks? Which do you prefer?     

Friday, 16 February 2018

Picture Book Explorers ~ Tabby McTat

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are a winning team, responsible for some of the most well-known and best-loved UK children's books. Tabby McTat is a lovely book about a busker's cat who loses his owner and finds him again. It's so easy to use the book as a springboard into learning with it's delightful story and colourful artwork.

The Picture Book Explorers ~ Tabby McTat is full of hands-on experiential educational activities for different learning styles that can be used to fit many different HE philosophies.
 Children can write songs, learn about rhyme, make an ink pen from a feather, create artwork in the style of Axel Scheffler, explore the science of sound, make a guitar, explore maths through music and money and make a regional dish. There are maps, worksheets, a timeline, flashcards, minibooks and fact sheets for families who enjoy paper-based learning  :)

As with all Picture Book Explorers unit studies, full instructions are given for all the activities and all necessary printables and information are included. The project pack leaves scope for discussion, expansion and individualisation. There are activities for all abilities and ages within the suggested range of 5 to 10, but you can easily adapt the activities for tag-along under 5s and over 10s. Under 5s may need more support and over 10s can set about the task of doing their own research and extending the information available in the pack :)




A selection of pages from Picture Book Explorers ~ Tabby McTat

Happy Exploring!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Black Dog

Have you checked out the new resources in my catalogue?
The suggested age range for Picture Book Explorers ~ Black Dog is 5 to 10 years old. It’s
one of the smaller PBEs and is part of a series with a focus on the science of weather.
The book, Black Dog by Levi Pinfold, is beautifully illustrated. The level of detail in the
pictures of the Hope family home kept my son engaged for ages.
We did all the activities in the pack for testing purposes, but you can pick and choose which
ones suit your family best. We had a great time learning about British folklore as one of the
activities and my son wrote his own Black Dog poem after reading the original folk song.
(Links to the original lyrics are in the pack.) Making paint out of egg yolk was definitely his
favourite activity

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Instructions for these activities and many more are included in the pack.

I have to say that we were very lucky because it snowed at the perfect time for this pack,
but please don’t let lack of snow put you off exploring this fabulous book. There are other,
year-round science activities and the snow related maths can be done at any time of year.
Currently, this pack is available for the bargain price of £2 on my website. Keep checking
back for the next four Picture Book Explorers in this new weather science series.
I'd love to hear about your child’s favourite activity in Picture Book Explorers packs 👩 

Monday, 1 January 2018

Happy New Year



Here's wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year.

Branch Out World has gone from strength to strength in 2017 with the resources now available on my lovely (nearly) new website, Educents, TeachersPayTeachers and Currclick.

I'm very happy to announce that there will be four brand new Picture Book Explorers packs and a brand new Let's Explore Topic Pack available in January. Watch this space!

Finally, I would just like to say thank you to all my lovely customers and supporters.
I couldn't do it without you 😊

Happy Exploring!