Friday, 27 March 2015


[I'm very behind with this blog, so this post refers to events from a few weeks ago. I will, hopefully, catch up soon.]

The Spring sunshine has given us ample opportunities to enjoy walking in the countryside. Charlie loves walking across the Downs, appreciating the unspoilt views and glimpses of wildlife. He was very sad when we discovered collections of empty bottles and beer cans left in a sheltered spot amongst the trees.

We have been continuing our study of the human body, focusing particularly on teeth and diet. Charlie learned the names of the different kinds of teeth and their functions, as well as learning how to identify what kind of diet an animal eats by looking at its teeth.

By feeding our cats Dreamies, we were able to get a good look at their teeth and spot their sharp canine teeth, which show that they are meat-eaters.

Charlie created a picture of teeth on Dust, a physics simulation game, spraying them with virtual acid to make cavities.

We have already discussed the effects of diet on our bodies, focusing in particular on the detrimental effect of sugar on our teeth. This week, we talked in more detail about how to look after our teeth. I showed Charlie the range of dental products that we can use to keep our teeth clean in addition to toothbrushes: dental floss, plaque disclosing tablets and interdental brushes. He was very keen to try them all.

I also reminded him about our two-minute timer, which Charlie uses every time he brushes his teeth.

The disclosing tablet was a big hit. Charlie loved seeing his mouth stained red, but he was also quite surprised at how much plaque it showed up on his teeth (the following photo was taken in the morning, after breakfast, but before teeth brushing). 

He brushed for the allotted two minutes...

... then admired his shiny white gnashers.

Later, we discussed the issue of sugar in our diet and looked at ways we could cut down. We had a look at the sugar swaps recommended by Change4Life.

I had prepared for this lesson by buying many of the recommended low-sugar alternatives so that Charlie and I could try them. I have spent years dutifully pushing water as Charlie's main drink, with juice allowed for breakfast only, but Charlie has seen his big brother having fizzy drinks (you try stopping a teenager from buying them) and wants to try them for himself. I decided it was better to offer low-sugar alternatives instead.

Lower-/no-sugar drinks and carbonated water to add fizz

Low-sugar breakfast cereals

There's a good video here showing a series of experiments looking at the effects of different drinks on teeth.

At the end of his studies, Charlie created a poster designed to show children how to look after their teeth:


Luckily for me, on Mother's Day Charlie put aside all we had learned about sugar and teeth and gave me two bars of my favourite chocolate.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Late February days

'Late February days; and now, at last,
Might you have thought that winter's woe was past;
So fair the sky was, and so soft the air.'
William Morris, "February: Bellerophon in Lycia," The Earthly Paradise: A Poem, 1870

We have been making the most of the change in the weather. Last weekend, Michael took Charlie on a five-mile walk across the South Downs, taking in the Long Man of Wilmington on the way.

Charlie enjoyed the country walk so much that he encouraged Michael to keep walking until they reached the picturesque village of Alfriston, where they had lunch before setting off on the return journey across the hills.

After seeing a huge heron circling overhead, Charlie remarked, solemnly, "This is an adventure".

On their return home, Michael showed Charlie the route they had taken on the map.

We were just as lucky with the weather the weekend before, when we went with friends to Bexhill to see the exhibition, 'Ladybird by Design', at the de la Warr Pavilion. Michael and I are of the generation that grew up on Ladybird books and we have a large collection of them at home, which we have shared with both our children. As a result, Charlie is just as familiar with the books as we are, although maybe less aware of the idealised life that they portray.

The attraction of looking at original Ladybird illustrations soon wore off for Charlie, so we took him down to the beach for fish and chips and a play on the sand.

Charlie had a go at fishing too, making a fishing line out of old straws and attaching a chip for bait. He swears he felt a fish tugging at it.

On Monday, we began our new term by curling up on the sofa together to read 'Pandora's Box'. Charlie has been re-reading an Usborne edition of 'Greek Myths' and had specifically asked that we read them together. After reading, he completed a comprehension exercise on the story. We then moved on to Maths and English, but getting Charlie to concentrate was a struggle. I was relieved when it was lunchtime. Soon it was time to take Charlie to his Grandma's for the afternoon whilst we took Tom for his weekly visit to his prospective new school. Charlie loves visiting his Grandma: she spoils him with biscuits and chocolates and new sets of Lego. Often she takes him downstairs to the communal sitting room in her sheltered housing accommodation so she can show him off to all her friends. Charlie is very good with all the old ladies and smiles obligingly as they fuss over him. Then he and his Grandma return upstairs to play Scrabble together until we arrive to collect him.

The following day, I told Charlie that we'd be studying the human body once he'd finished his handwriting practice and Maths. He perked up at this and finished his work in record time. He was able to work independently whilst I did some washing up. 

We read a chapter of Galore Park's 'Junior Science', Book 1, learning about the organs of our body and, especially, our heart, before having a go at taking our pulses. 

"This is so fun!" Charlie exclaimed. 

On the BBC Bitesize website, I found an online game about circulation that Charlie very much enjoyed playing, especially because it was based on the series, 'Deadly 60', starring Steve Backshall.

The following day, I brought out the model of the human body which I'd used when I was home educating Tom. It is really fiddly to construct - and it doesn't help that I've lost the instructions - but Charlie was determined to complete it and was very proud when he'd finished.

Afterwards, he was able to consolidate his practical learning by filling in a worksheet naming the organs.

 This week we have also been studying Geography, beginning with a quiz taken from 'What Your Child Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Year 4 Education'

Charlie achieved full marks in the quiz, which shows that he has a very good basic knowledge of world geography. He knows which continent we live on and can point to and name the world's seven continents and the world's four big oceans. He is also able to point to the compass rose and demonstrate to me which way is North, South, East and West.

This month's Little Passports delivery focused on Egypt. It included a pyramid excavation kit, which Charlie really enjoyed.

As always, the package contained links to online games about this month's country.

The weather changed for the worst early in the week, but we went for walks in our local park regardless. Charlie was keen to build a shelter for bugs to protect them from the rain.

He was careful to make it waterproof, with lots of twigs and leaves combined to form a roof. He even provided food in the form of lichen and daisies.

"It's a bug hotel," he explained to me.

We also started swimming again, which we had neglected over half term. I still haven't been able to find a teacher for Charlie, but am hoping that our playful times in the water will increase his confidence. Maybe he will even learn to swim with me. He is certainly keen to try and was working hard at kicking his legs and learning to stay afloat this week.

Charlie continues to read a lot independently. He usually has a pile of books on his bedside table. This week, he finished 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' and started reading 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire', having decided to re-read the entire series over half term. He also read the latest edition of Aquila magazine which this month focuses on the science of humour.

All in all, we had a good first week home educating again and managed to fit in plenty of exercise and trips out as well as indoor learning.