DK’s Children Encyclopedia – A Review

As a home educator finding great resources is invaluable, so when we were offered the chance to review DK’s new Children’s Encyclopedia it sounded perfect. 240  topics and over 1500 facts, spread over 304 pages. Great for my children’s curious little minds. The book itself is beautiful. Bright, colourful and wonderfully presented. With everything in alphabetical order it makes it easy to find your subject. In an age when we all too often just say “let’s ask Google”, it’s easy to forget that books can be such a wonderful way of expanding our children’s knowledge.

I asked the children what they’d like to learn about. S thought that as we have an Elephant Hawk Moth cocoon in our kitchen, we should look at how a caterpillar becomes a moth. We found everything we needed to know under Metamorphosis, from the life cycle, to the meaning of the word. The “see also” box at the top of the page also refers you to other pages that may be of use, much like a link on a website but with the added fun of flicking through real pages.

We got out our moth cocoon and compared it to the chrysalis on the page. We used the information from the encyclopedia and combined it with internet research to find out more. Using the two together gave us a rounded view of our topic and enhanced our learning experience. The encyclopedia and the internet are the perfect combination for learning and complement each other well.

Flicking through the pages of the book we found lots of interesting ideas of what else we would like to learn more about. From the story of clothing, to the food chain, to how light works.  The DK Children’s Encyclopedia has it all. We love the double page ‘story’ spreads, investigating the subject from many different angles.

We love this book and it is a very welcome addition to our bookshelves. At £25 RRP, for a hardback book packed full of highly illustrated pages and 120’000 words, it really is “The book that explains everything”.

 

 

**We were given this book free of charge for the purpose of reviewing, all thoughts and opinions are our own.**

 

A day in our life, Autism and Home Education

I’ve not done a “day in our life” post for quite some time. I thought some of you might enjoy reading about our day today, autism and all! I was awoken at 6:20am by Little S, thankfully she’s happy to come into bed for a cuddle and a cup of milk. Daddy left for work at 7:45, the children and I slowly rose and started our day.

I gave the children breakfast and made myself a cup of tea and a teacake. I heard the distant sound of water running so I went upstairs to turn it off. In the bathroom I found Little S covered in purple face paint. I ran her a bath and in she hopped. 2 seconds later she was covered in bright pink lipstick! I have no idea where she found it.

During this time E repeatedly comes in asking if I can watch him play a game. Yes, not play with him, just watch (gotta love Autism). Once Little S is out of the bath and dressed I go to spend some time with E. He is playing a game called Doodle God, where he has to mix different elements and objects to create new ones. It’s quite good and gets his brain thinking.

Next I try to do a bit of washing up and put a load of washing on. I get interrupted because the children want to use a cardboard box to make a slide on the stairs. Once it’s done we have a go, zooming down the stairs onto a pile of cushions.

Yummy

R decides she wants to do some baking so she goes to the village shop to get some ingredients. Little S is playing small world with my little ponies upstairs and spills water everywhere. When R gets back she finds the recipe she wants to try and we bake some caramel slices together.

While the slices are cooling she sets upon a project she asked to do. She wants to learn how to prepare a whole fish and cook it for dinner. We had bought the fish yesterday after she chose the perfect one. First she learns to clean the fish, discovering that it’s a male fish. Next she beheads and bones the fish. She is very curious about the workings of the fish, taking time to examine the eyes and gills. Last she skins the fish, before poaching it and turning it into fish nuggets for dinner. S comes in to help make the fish nuggets too.

I prepare mine and daddy’s dinner and tidy the kitchen, then clean out the guinea pigs with help from S. The children eat their dinner, both E and R enjoy the fish nuggets but S isn’t so keen. Little is vegetarian so has Quorn nuggets instead. After dinner E gets upset and has a large meltdown. He turns his room upside-down, tossing the mattress off the bed. Neither he nor I seem to know what triggered it. Autism rarely makes sense.

Daddy gets home from work, but he doesn’t feel very well. Little S wets herself so needs cleaning up. All of a sudden the house plunges into darkness. We check the fuse boxes and see that they’ve tripped. Turning them on S exclaims that T.V. isn’t working. Little S pipes up “I put this (screwdriver) in back (of T.V.)!”

OH!

So now we have no T.V. as our 4 year old has blown it up.

I have my dinner then help E put his room back together. Poppy dog needs a walk, so torch in hand, we wander out into the darkness. When we get home it’s time to get everyone ready for bed. S complains of a tummy ache, then suddenly discovers why. Time for another clean up!

So now it’s 9pm and I’ve just sat down. I can’t remember the last time I had a cup of tea and I’m gasping. But no rest for me. E still needs settling which could take another 2 hours. I also need to tidy up before tomorrow, the children want to do some science experiements.

 

What is learning?

What is learning?

This is question that I have been thinking about a bit recently. R said to me, “I dont think I do any learning, should I go to school?”  E said that “learning is boring, it’s just sitting and writing.” So why do we have this view of learning. Are we only capable of learning whilst sat at a desk? Is school the only place that children can learn? I was recently approached by someone I know only in passing and was told that my children couldn’t read because they don’t go to school! (They can read. R actually taught herself once she came out of school,)

I am often asked by new home educators or people who do not home educate, “how do you get them to learn?” I find this rather odd. Learning is an in built need from the moment we are born. The need to learn to communicate, to walk, to feed ourselves. We don’t, at the age of 5, stop learning because we are not in a classroom. Learning happens all the time, and continues right through adulthood. Ever heard the phrase “you learn something new every day” ?

So how do my children learn?

We explore, constantly. We explore nature, playing outside, rummaging through woodlands, growing our own plants and food. We play with friends. Learning social skills is such an important part of growing up, especially for those on the Autistic spectrum like E. We read together, both fiction and non-fiction books are great learning tools.

Trips to museums are great fun and provide lots of hands on and on the go learning. Going swimming or to football lessons, climbing trees, playing at the park are all great for gross motor skills and fitness.

Learning about World War 2

We learn by going to the shops, learning about pricing, offers and money. Practicing all our maths skills. There is something to learn where ever we are.  R was recently admitted to hospital following a bad spell with her asthma. She found out lots about how our lungs work, and how asthmatics lungs are different. What medicines are used for asthma and why, as well as how a hospital runs, what nurses and doctors do and much, much more.

There are lots of opportunities to do “sit down” learning too if we wish. S recently renewed her subscription to Reading Eggs, adding Maths Seeds on too. She loves to practice, do the little tests and print off her certificates. Her reading age is where it “should” be and she went straight in at level 61 with her maths. This is despite never having been to school.

So how do your children learn? Do you take a more traditional route, are your children learning autonomously, or somewhere in between?

Following our interests, A visit to Sealife Weymouth

The way we home educate mostly involves us following the children’s interests. For E most of those interests revolve around fierce animals. Dinosaurs, Sharks, Monsters etc. We were given the opportunity to visit the Sealife Centre in Weymouth on Sunday. Sunday happened to coincide with the Ironman  competition, which did mean that Weymouth was very busy and the car park at the Sealife centre was closed. We were quite worried about how this would affect E, but he coped fantastically.

 

Hands on learning

On arrival we decided to have our picnic, E however, was so excited he didn’t want to eat. He rushed off to visit the seahorses, then the rock pool, then the seahorses, then the turtles! Are you beginning to see how our day went?! He must have visited every exhibit at least twice. Flitting between them, taking in all the sights, seeing all the different varieties of sea creature.

The girls enjoyed exploring and seeing everything, the also loved the play park with all it’s many twisty slides, and the splash area. Daddy and I had to take it in turns to follow E to his next target area. Occasionally we managed to visit an exhibit as a family, though we were rarely in one place for more than a couple of minutes. I liked that E had the space to roam and explore.

When we arrived at the ocean tunnel, E’s face was a picture. He soon spotted the sharks, his eyes lit up and he gasped with excitement. SHARKS! We spent a while there, watching them swim around. We even went back a bit later for another look.

 

At the end of the day we stopped off at The Royal Oak pub outside Blandford for dinner. The children were all in a great mood after a fun day although a bit tired. We enjoyed a really tasty meal and the pub was so child friendly with board games to keep the children entertained and a play area outside. It’s a day we shall look back with great memories.

Snazaroo Weekend Box – A Review

One things my kids have always loved is a good face painting session, whether at home or at fetes and parties. So when we were offered the chance to review a Snazaroo Weekend Box we were really excited.

The box arrived in the post addressed directly to the children, which is a lovely feature. I mean, what child doesn’t like receiving post? The box is fun, colourful and easy to open, great for little hands.

Inside the box were two little face painting kits. The first came with a little brush, sponge and 3 coloured face paints. There were also 3 very easy to follow instructions on how to paint your face.

The second little kit contained 3 stampers and 3 more coloured face paints. The stampers worked so much better than I anticipated. The girls loved playing with the stampers and printing on each others faces. The cupcake was a particular favourite.

The Snazaroo Weekend Box also has a certificate printed on the inside that the children can colour, complete and cut out. The little kits are the perfect size to take out and about, and share with friends too. My only qualm was that coverage on a full face was a little patchy. That may have been down to technique rather than the Snazaroo paints themselves though.

All in all the children gave the Snazaroo Weekend Box a massive two thumbs up.

 

 

**We were sent the Snazaroo Weekend Box Free for the purpose of review, all thoughts are our own.**

Medieval Jousting at Old Sarum

Yesterday we met up with some friends at Old Sarum in Salisbury for a medieval jousting event. Unlike most British bank holidays the weather was fantastic, gorgeous sunshine, warmth and blue skies. We arrived a little after midday and first visited the souvenir shop so the children could choose a weapon. E got a wooden sword, S chose a lance, the other 2 girls opted for squeezey balls instead of weapons.

We walked up to the castle remains for a play and explore. The children had battles, roamed about the castle and discussed history amongst themselves. Little S and R became knights, training with their noble steeds for a mighty jousting battle.

There was an “organised” war, the children were given foam swords, separated into teams and marched into battle. There were no winners, as at the end they were all instructed to do a big Shakespearean death!

There was a Jesters tent where the children could learn variuos circus skills such as juggling or walking on stilts. The stilts were much harder than they looked but great fun to try.

We loved looking around the castle and reading about the history of it, it’s a shame some of the plaques were quite old and difficult to read though. The views from the top were phenomenal. Over the course of the afternoon lots of small aircraft flew over with sky divers jumping out and floating over head.

After an ice cream to cool us down we wandered off to find the main attraction, the joust. Whilst we were waiting we somehow got enrolled into the fanfare for the joust. Little S, it seems, is very good at the trombone. Every time the knights and their horses entered the arena or scored a point in the joust we had to play our instruments.

We had a fantastic day and would definitely recommend it. I think Old Sarum is somewhere we shall visit again, maybe on a quieter day so we can explore all the bits we missed this time.

The best pet ever – a Zhu Zhu review

When my child is presented with a new battery operated toy, I tend to grumble inwardly. Eurgh, not more noisy, irritating toys that won’t turn off surely! So imagine my delight when not one but two cute, fluffy little Zhu Zhu’s arrived in the post for us to review.

To be honest receiving two was great as it meant less arguing about them, both of the little girls had one each. S chose Pipsqueek, a cute little yellow hamster, and the “unofficial leader of the Zhu Zhu’s”. Little S chose Chunk the blue Zhu Zhu, They were ecstatic, because as well as a new pet each they also got the Hamster Wheel and Tube rrp  £14.99 and the Adventure ball rrp £12.99 for their pets to play in. Both the ball and wheel were quite easy to put together and the girls could customise the wheel with the stickers that it came with. The ball does come apart quite easily though, so I have to pop it back together regularly.

These furry little toys have not left their sides since they got them. They’ve been to the park, Grandparents’ houses, and even to bed with them. The girls have loved making their Zhu Zhu’s dance, sing and run around. It’s been lovely hearing the girls squeal with laughter as they chase their little pets about.

They are without doubt the best pet, no mess to clear up, they don’t shed hair everywhere, and after 4 minutes of inactivity they turn themselves off! The only problem I have now is that they want to collect every pet and all the accessories too. I guess we’ll be off to Toy’R’Us soon, but at an rrp of £12.99 they’re quite reasonable.

 

 

**We received the Zhu Zhu’s and accessories free for the purpose of reviewing, all thoughts are our own. **

 

Camp Bestival and the good ol’ British summer!

This summer we were really fortunate to win tickets for the six of us to go to Camp Bestival for the whole weekend, thanks to New Young Mum blog. The children were all very excited, as was I. We spent ages preparing what to take with us, I’m sure the girls packed half their toy boxes!

As the weekend approached it was clear that the weather was not going to be on our side and we were likely to get very muddy. Throwing the wellies and waterproofs into the car, we set off hoping for the best. Daddy was working so would be joining us a little later, meaning that I had the job of setting up a 6 man tent on my own.

When we arrived the children were all very helpful, carrying their belongings to an empty space. I have never been more thankful for our wagon, it was a long walk. Unfortunately the heavens opened just as I was getting the tent out. Upon seeing me battle with wind, rain and canvas, a helpful passerby lent a hand putting up the tent. I never even got her name, but if you’re reading this, you saved me from an epic struggle and probably a few curse words!

Once the tent was up we made a final trip to the car for our remaining items, and set about making the tent cosy. After a cup of tea I felt ready to take the children exploring. We had a  good walk round the site, getting to know the layout and making a list of all we hoped to fit in. We had a go on the helter skelter, watched the insect circus perform  and took obligatory photos in front of the “I love Camp Bestival” sign.

After good look around our tummies were rumbling so we headed back to our tent for some food, and to wait for daddy to arrive. Once Daddy was there we were ready to party! We showed Daddy around and went to the main stage to see Mark Ronson. R absolutely loved it. He played all her favourite songs, she loved the atmosphere and dancing in the rain. It all proved a little much for E and Little S, so Daddy took them back to the tent to tuck them in for the night.

Gig Selfie!

In the morning we woke up stiff, cold and damp, clearly we were meant to be fair weather campers! Still, we tried to make the best of it and made straight for the worlds biggest bouncy castle. As E had an accessible camping pass we were able to join the short queue to go on first. Even then we queued for almost an hour waiting for the bouncy castle to be given the green light to open. Just as we about to go on, having paid our fares, the heavens opened again. The bouncy castle was deemed too slippery in the rain to be safe and we were all turned away. This lead to a major meltdown from E, who until then had been coping relatively well.  The simple change of plans, completely out of his control was too much for him. Eventually after about an hour (and an ice cream) there was a tentative peace.

Next up were Mr Maker and Mr Tumble on the Castle Stage. The little girls were really excited to see them. Daddy chose to stay with them, whilst I took the older two to the sports park. There E made friends with a boy playing boomerang skittles, and R decided to chill out on the hammocks. We played a game of bean bags toss and enjoyed some crazy golf. After Mr Tumble had finished the others came to meet us for a quick play before lunch.

We had burgers in rolls for lunch, which started off well. That is until the rain which had been gentle, became torrential. Soggy bread rolls are not fun! We were soaked, cold and getting grumpy. The tentative lull from meltdown was becoming more like a volcano waiting to erupt. We discussed holding out for the rest of the day to see Madness play, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. The good ol’ British summer had got the best of us. We packed up and said goodbye to our brief time at Camp Bestival. It was time to go home and have a good hot bath and put on our jammies.

We ended up having to be pushed out of the mud in the car park, but not before someone had a cheeky barefoot dance in the mud! We are grateful to have experienced Camp Bestival but even more thankful to be home and dry.

 

Been very busy

Apologies for being a little quiet on here, we’ve been quite busy. Throughout June we partook in the Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild. You may have been following us on instagram as we shared daily “wild” photos. We had great fun exploring the outdoors, catching moths and insects, foraging for elderflower to make cordial with friends and spending lots of time playing in the sunshine.

always climbing trees

R also had a great surprise in June. she was picked up from Granma and Granpa’s house and driven to the airport for a surprise visit to Spain. She spent a week with Great Granny, Granma and Granpa enjoying Spanish culture and weather. She spent a lot of her time there in the pool having a whale of a time! at the end of her week I went over to collect her and spend a couple of night there too.

looking very Spanish

We’ve been doing a fair bit of baking the past few days, with S and E both baking sponge cakes on their own. E also decided to make some lemonade one day which was very tasty.

E’s cake

We found a very cute toad in Nanny’s garden, everyone gave him a little cuddle.

Little S has been enjoying going to Forest School once a week. This week one of the leaders brought along some baby chicks.

Little S and Bob

We spent a day in Portsmouth catching up with some friends I’ve not seen in years. We had a pub lunch and got to see a tall ship too. 

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to be a bit more active on here again.

Do you imagine Autism?

My son is disabled. When you hear those words your mind automatically conjures up an image of what that disability might look like. You may imagine a child with cerebral palsy, or in a wheelchair or maybe with a severe mental disability. But do you ever imagine a child with Autism? A child that looks perfectly normal, one that can talk well?

My son was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder with significant Pathological Demand Avoidance in January this year. At one time it was known as Atypical Autism. He has many of the common Autistic traits but he also has other traits not seen in typical Autism. It also means that, for him, the strategies commonly used for helping a person with Autism cope in everyday life, do not work for him.

He doesn’t cope with a rigid timetable, he needs life to be more flexible and he needs to feel that he is in control of that flexibility too. He needs to be able to choose, but too many different choices will overwhelm him causing him distress. If he feels pressured, or that a demand is being made it causes him to have an anxiety attack or a meltdown. These are often violent, aggressive and out of his control. When he is calm he knows hitting is a bad thing, but in that moment of anxiety, fight or flight takes over. When it is over he often feels guilt but struggles to express that, he finds it very difficult to apologise.

As I’ve learnt more about his condition and him, I’ve begun to understand him much better. He can be quite cruel with his words, like many people with Autism he has no filter. He will say what is on his mind. He doesn’t understand that what he says may hurt someone. For him pain is solely physical. If words have hurt him it’s because they were loud and hurt his ears, causing physical pain.

I once came home from a dog walk in tears, I had had an altercation with another dog walker that had upset me. My son asked if I was crying because the man had hit me. I explained that he had shouted at me and that I was upset. My son then asked me if it had hurt my ears, when I replied no it hadn’t he asked me “well, why are you crying then?”. It became clear he didn’t understand why I should be upset as I wasn’t in physical pain.

I am learning what makes him tick, how he thinks and feels. Knowing this helps me teach him how others think and feel. At times when he is calm I can have wonderful conversations with him. He is a very bright boy, and I’m sure that in time he will begin to understand that others think and feel differently from him. That the ways in which he interacts with others can cause them to think or feel differently to him. He will get there, but for now he needs extra help in understanding his peers and society. Be patient with him.