Friday, 30 March 2012

World War Two - Gas Masks and Rationing!

Eve and I started reading 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' about ten days ago and on the first page it talks about children being evacuees. Eve asked what an evacuee was and I gave a brief explanation. Brief wasn't suitable however and we have delved into World War Two with enthusiasm! I spent an evening researching and picking the brains of other home educating parents on the on-line forum that I belong to. I decided to focus on the experiences of children and families during the war instead of the political and holocaust side of things. I think they are important to know about, just not at her age. I am sure that we will return to the topic when she is older and more able to process such horrific things. I will try to post the links where I found things but I may have to come back at a later date and add them in as my laptop was attacked by a virus and I lost all my bookmarks and links!

I saw the idea for the gas masks here, although I didn't follow the instructions, I just made up my own version - it was quite easy to do with the card, elastic around the back, coloured cellophane and some crisp tubes with bubble wrap over - oh and plenty of good old sticky tape! I think they turned out pretty well!! We made them first then I played clips of an air raid siren followed by bombs dropping and the all-clear. As the air raid siren sounded (such a spooky sound!) we dived under the dining table which was designated as our Morrison Shelter and stayed there until the all clear sounded! Naturally as we make things and read about things, some of the more horrific aspects come in - like deadly gases and bombing raids - we talked about the blitz and blackouts and Bombers as well.
 I found some great books for us to use - both fiction and non-fiction. I chose them carefully to suit my children and the aims of our project:

  • The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo - this is written from the perspective of a 12 year old girl writing in her diary - it is written in a really lively, chatty way and is very funny for adults as well as children. Lily is moved out of her seaside home as allied forces use the area for training but her beloved cat runs away and she tried to find the cat by entering the danger zone. There is a lot of topical information and we are really enjoying it!
  • When The Siren Wailed by Noel Streatfield - This is the story of children evacuated under Operation Pied Piper - we are yet to read this but it sounds good!
  • A Wartime Childhood - Factual book with letters, photos and recollections from people who were children during the War.
  • War Boy by Michael Foreman - this is the book you can see Faith looking through in the picture - it contains lots of information but written in a fictional style even though it is fact - there are really nice illustrations and sketches all the way through.

 We had fun doing rationing as well - I had a list of the weekly rations allowed and we measured them out - here you can see the sugar, jam, tea and butter and fresh egg that was allowed, as well as a copy of a ration book. I printed out ration books for each of the children and they stamped off the rations they had received!
 We then made carrot cookies from a ration book recipe released at the time - the girls were astonished by how small the biscuits were when cooked - although delicious they seemed very doubtful about having to eat smaller quantities when living on rationing! And we don't go overboard at mealtimes anyway and have a  frugal attitude to food but nothing like the attitude you had to have when on rationing!!
Some of the resources I accessed and printed out were:
  • This pack has ration book and identity card printables.
  • Some rationing information here.
  • Information on Evacuees plus ID card and ration book printables.
I can't find the rest of the links but we have more activities to do and an educational visit to RAF Cosford booked for May so I will be posting again and will add the other links if I remember them!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

An Easter Tree

This has been on my Spring activities list for years but somehow it just never happened! I begged hard for some twisty hazel twigs but my dear husband stood firm and I had to be satisfied with apple twigs! I have a package of tiny wooden Easter decorations to hang on them nearer Easter (also had for years and not used!!).

To adorn our tree we made teeny acorn nests with coloured eggs made from oven-bake clay. I had to glue them into the 'nests' when ready and then glued the nests onto a piece of pipe cleaner to twist around the tree. The Girls made birds to sit atop their nests of eggs and didn't want theirs glued in as if you lift the birds out you can see their eggs stuck underneath!!!!

Monday, 19 March 2012

A Saint Patrick's Day Muffin Tin Dinner!

I have seen MTD's or 'Muffin Tin Dinners' around for a while on other blogs but have only recently organised myself to do some!! They are better done in a silicone bake tray with six muffin compartments but I don't have those! I looked for them but you know it is when you actually want something - you never see it and when you don't want it you see loads!!!! Anyhow I used silicone muffin cases in a pie dish instead and it worked just fine!!

So from the left we have broad beans, cucumber and celery, then kiwi and grapes, the tricolour pasta (Irish flag pasta for the purposes of St. Patrick's Day!!), guacamole with a pepper rainbow and cheese cubes as the gold at the end of the rainbow, green jelly and in the centre there are apple and courgette muffins decorated with a skittles rainbow and gold balls! I had a blast doing this - it's such fun and adds a lovely element of anticipation to lunch time! The little girl I child mind ate it all and she's not very keen on new foods! Result!

Here is the Valentines MTD I made in February too!
These had , from the bottom left and going clockwise, heart shaped cheese scones (thanks Mum!), tomatoes, red jelly with berries, smoked cheese hearts with bacon bits, pretzels and pepper sticks.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Making Sock Rabbits!

We made these really sweet sock bunnies last week. I made them at a 'Messy Church' update evening that I went to with our Vicar and Youth Worker a few weeks back. I knew the girls would love them even though the practise run I made on the evening looked a tad scary! They are really simple:
Flatten out a sock and cut from the toe to the heel up the centre. Make sure you choose a sock that has an equal amount of 'foot' to 'heel' as ankle socks won't work (as I found out the hard way!)
Turn the sock inside out and tie a tight knot in the top of the sock then turn it back the right way around (this is the rabbit's bottom!). Fill the sock with rice or beans up to the base of the cut - not too tight full as you need to be able to mould it.
Tie a double knot in the cut toe parts - and arrange the ears as desired! use a ribbon/cord or pipe cleaner to tie around the middle of the rabbit's body to differentiate between the head and the body.
Add some eyes and a nose - we used gems and beads but you could use googly eyes or fabric or buttons. once dry - play away but beware, you will be picking up bits of rice from random corners around your house for weeks!!!!

Friday, 16 March 2012

An Ed Phil for the LEA

I finally sat down a week or so ago to write the long put off document for the Local Education Authority. They first contacted us last September - two days after term began an Education Welfare Officer knocked on the door asking where Eve was, followed two weeks later by a different one asking about Faith. The first one was treated politely, the second one less so I'm afraid! After a few postal exchanges and some time-wasting on my part, it was agreed that I could submit an Educational Philosophy in lieu of a visit or other documentation. They had initially asked for written plans and timetables and evidence of the girl's work. They accepted an offer of Ed Phil after I politely but firmly pointed out the difference between what was written in law and what they were expecting. I had some very welcome help from more experienced Home Edders to write that letter (thank you!).

It left me with an Ed Phil to write and send in by the end of January. So then the procrastination began! It sat at the top of my to-do list for four months until I actually wrote it. Underneath the words Ed Phil grew a HUGE list of other to-do's. For some reason not doing the Ed Phil blocked all of the other items from getting done! Since I wrote the flippin' thing, my to-do list has miraculously emptied with little stress and very much productivity!

I have mixed feelings about submitting anything and I will try to explain my position in as clear a way as I can. Firstly I was annoyed at having been reported to the LEA after having been peacefully 'under the radar' for two years! Secondly let me say that I understand that the LEA have a job to do. But our taxes are paying them to bother me into spending hours writing a report for them - how does that work out?! I am saving the LEA thousands theoretically by not sending my children to school so they should be giving us a rebate shouldn't they?! Thirdly, I am not convinced that the 'officers' employed to 'monitor' us know as much as they could/should do about home education. 

I wonder if I would be less bothered about submitting information if we received an amount of money every year to be spent on books, resources, educational trips etc. There isn't any provision for that in the UK, but on the other hand if there were then it would open the door for the LEA to ask for more and more from us. In Law the LEA can't actually ask for any documentation but we were advised that it was sensible to maintain some contact or we could find ourselves in all sorts of hot water and spending a disproportionate amount of time and money defending ourselves!

I initially felt that the time I spent writing the report was wasted time but by the end I saw the benefit. This was because it helped me clarify the benefits to us of home educating and just how solid are reasons are. It also made an amazing list of activities and experiences when I jotted them all down and saw how many linked to each other to provide a wonderful, well-rounded education for the girls. I felt really proud of what we do and it cemented my convictions (which do waver from time to time as is only natural!).

All in all a worthwhile experience but I am in no hurry to do it again!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Idris at 7 months

I am sitting here late at night writing this - I put the pictures on days ago ready to write this post but never got time. My house is so busy, the girls seem to need or want things often, they whirl in and out of the house, ever busy, ever noisy, ever wonderfully 'themselves'. And when we try and concentrate on something and Idris is testing out his mighty lungs at full volume and cackling at the dog, I sigh at how the girls struggle to concentrate because of the noise he makes. But I never once, til now, wondered about how he might struggle to concentrate because of the noise THEY always make!

It is nearly eleven pm and Idris missed his afternoon nap because there was just too much going on so he went to bed early and now he is up and playing. And guess what? Yes..... it is PEACEFUL - and he is sooooo focused, sitting on the floor and intently exploring a set of eggs and spoons that Faith was playing with today, after half an hour of eggs and spoons he turns his attention to his treasure basket - he can hear the sounds the items make, a soft rustle of kite fabric, the ting of a metal bowl touching wood, he coos softly at the harsh sound of the bear bell, then passes an egg cup from hand to hand.

There are no adoring sisters to leap in front of him and pull faces to make him laugh or grab him up for a cuddle and he is relishing the freedom! I must make more room for him to have this kind of peace!

This little bottom wiggles a lot these days, and those little knees pull up and then the arms give way and another belly flop ensues and I hear that frustrated sound of a thwarted baby! In the meantime he has discovered that he can fidget his way around the room on his bottom - I'm not even sure how he travels in that way but then I hear the clang of the wood bucket from behind me and yes, he's managed to move five feet across the room again!

Idris loved exploring the music basket - I showed him what sounds the xylophone made when you hit it and he really worked hard at hitting it himself! This xylophone was bought from a second-hand sale and it is really daft as two of the notes make the same sound as each other! I love the cheerful colours though and can't bear to see it go!

Balloons? Now they're fun! I remember Eve playing with balloons at this age too - and just look at that dimple!!

Here he is raiding my laundry baskets - baskets that were previously full of pants and socks sorted into neat piles ready for drawers!! Sigh!

Tonight he noticed that Daddy was in the mirror as well as in bed when I went in to wake him for work. he looked in the mirror then turned back to the bed, then back to the mirror. we laughed and laughed as he whipped his head around ever faster to try and catch Daddy out, but there were still two of him! He was so puzzled!

Well it is 11.40pm and I'm off to bed as Idris has finished wrecking exploring the lounge and is ready for some 'Daddy's at work so Mummy and I get the whole bed to ourselves' snuggle. My sweet boy really does consider that sleep is for wimps - night time is a wasted opportunity in his eyes if he hasn't fed at least five times!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Home-made Bath Paints

We had some fun with these last week - it was an idea that I 'pinned' to my pinterest board (which was the only reason I joined facebook in the end, so that I could use pinterest! I can actually find links to things again instead of plodding through umpteen saved links!). The original idea comes from The Imagination Tree. They are very simply made by mixing a small amount of food colouring into shaving foam...

Then add paintbrushes and voila - bath time fun........ Eve is very taken with the idea of painting her nails at the minute, so she painted her nails with it!

Faith meanwhile painted as much of the bathroom wall as she possibly could - I can only show you a small part of it though as after the Winter in my little old and cold house, the grout needs scrubbing clean again!!!!!

We tried to make red, blue, purple and green too but they went amazingly wrong! When we added the red and blue to the shaving foam, it turned the foam a pale grey and formed capsules of red and blue colouring. We pulled the capsules out and they were powdery inside - a fascinating reaction with the foam and just as entertaining as the bath paints but left us with a sadly depleted colour palette!! The green simply went yellow!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Making Wildflower Seed Bombs!

Faith and I tried making a batch of these yesterday so that we were ready pre-pared for the Home Education group today where we are running this as an activity for others to try out! They don't look that attractive in the pictures but they are packed full of British Hedgerow Wildflower seeds, varieties that will grow in semi-shade, and so carry the potential to be really beautiful! I can't remember where I saw the idea but it comes from the 'guerilla gardening' movement where people go under cover of darkness usually to garden derelict areas and make them beautiful and more useful for wildlife. I believe the original bombs were much larger and made from clay and compost but our version is made from recycled paper pulp! Here's how we did them:
Sheets of newspaper torn into small pieces and soaked in water (we found that four sheets of a tabloid sized paper filled one of our ice-cube trays)......
We then blended a large spoonful at a time with about a half-pint more water so as to be kind to our blender!

This was the result - sloppy paper pulp that Faith had fun playing with!
We mixed a tablespoonful of the wildflower seed into the pulp and stirred it in well then tipped the mix into a muslin cloth tied over a large pan. We twisted the cloth up and hand-squeezed as much water as possible out of the mix.
We took small amounts of the pulp and pushied it into the ice-cube compartments, squeezing any more water out as we went. They were a little tricky to get out of this ice-cube tray - I think that a silicone one would be easier to use, and it would make some fun shapes as well! Once popped out we lined them up on the radiators to dry as they need to be completely dry for storage or the seeds will try to germinate prematurely!

I remembered too late for this batch that when we made paper we added coloured tissue paper and it turned the paper purple, so tomorrow I'm going to try adding yellow and orange tissue paper for a Spring-like look!

Once dried these can be put into a bag and carried with you on a walk or drive and chucked into the base of a hegerow where the seeds will hopefully germinate and the flowers will grow! This was why I chose the native wildflower seeds as so many hedgerows have been lost, reducing the number of habitats for insects, birds and animals and particularly affecting butterflies. This is a fun way to try and redress the balance - we are going to try and 'bomb' our local canal-side hedges with these!