Thursday 23 October 2014

Making Early Literacy Fun

Goblin is 5 years old
Before Goblin started school in September he couldn't read. In fact he didn't know that many letters either. I try to follow his lead, and as he never showed much interest in letters and reading so I didn't push it. Occasionally I had a little wobble and worried that I was disadvantaging him by not getting him started early. But Hublet came to the rescue pointing out various pieces of research that show that early reading doesn't reflect on later attainment. What is important is a love of reading - and that only comes when a child doesn't lose interest. So now that he is being introduced to reading through school I am balancing a tightrope, trying to support his school based learning, but not wanting to force things or make it boring. So we've been playing games. Goblin really enjoyed sight word hide and seek.
I wrote a little bingo grid of simple sight words that have been showing up in his reading books frequently. Then I made another set which I chopped up and stuck (with blue tac) around the house - mostly at his eye level.
I sent Goblin off to find them, bring them back, attempt to read them, and match them to the bingo card. Even when he wasn't able to read the word, the letter recognition and matching are still important steps to literacy. Matching them to the bingo card is also self correcting as he can see if he's got all the words I hid.

Some other games we've been playing include sliding words, haunted house word matching, fishing for letters and making our own simple reading books.

Thursday 25 September 2014

After school archeology

Goblin has discovered the TV series Time Team. Its all about archeology and it appears to fascinate our little guy. So I thought I'd leave him a little excavation of his own to try after school.

I got a big plastic container and filled it with playdough (this is hand made using Nurturestore's fail safe method which takes about 2 minutes - mine is made with wholemeal flour to add texture and black food colouring to make it look like clay/mud). I buried some dinosaurs in it - but you could use any toy that won't get damaged by playdough.
I covered the dinosaurs with playdough and added a layer of stone - I intended to use sand but we've run out and our sand pit is currently full of old aquarium gravel so thats what I used.
I tied some string over the container to provide a grid and marked it out on paper - this will provide a simple maths element to the game if Goblin feels inclined - although I suspect it will be more a frantic digging session.

Thursday 7 August 2014

A New Member of the Family

(Goblin is 4 years old)
At the weekend we did something exciting. We bought a puppy. 

The cat we've had for many years sadly died recently. I've always had cats but since I was a child I've always wanted a dog. Hublet and I had talked about it but its always seemed like quite a big  commitment and we've always concluded we shouldn't ..... until now. 

Despite being uber excited about her cuteness, having a puppy is quite scary and we have done a ton of reading to make sure we don't screw this up. We researched the breeds for ages before deciding on a Newfoundland. This is a giant dog breed (as you can probably tell by how large she is at just 8 weeks old) but they are supposed to be excellent around children.
Having a puppy feels a bit like having a second child. We are having to get up about three times a night to take her to the toilet. And its not just a quick trip to the garden, there is the whole settling her down afterwards - it reminds me of night feeds. 
On top of this sleep deprivation Goblin is being rather Jekyll and Hyde about the new addition to our family. He is not amused about all these 'stupid rules' like leave the puppy alone when she is sleeping, leave the puppy alone when she is eating, don't strangle the puppy, don't hit the puppy, be gentle with the puppy - and the list goes on. He also feels we are giving her too much attention.
Puppies need to be vaccinated twice before they can go out for walks in public areas. So Goblin is stuck in the house (and garden). This is not making life easy. Goblin's excitement about having a new friend to play with, is wearing off when his friends come to call and he isn't allowed out to play because we can't leave the puppy. Once puppy is a bit more acclimatised we will be able to leave her for short periods so this should ease off (I hope).
In the mean time I decided we needed to get out and about so I have broken out our old bike trailer buggy. As long as Puppy isn't on the floor or meeting other dogs, she is OK to be outside. And Goblin loves being able to show kids in the park his puppy.
 Puppy does also sleep a lot - about 90% of the time. Which gives Goblin and us a lot of quality time.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The International Language of Play

(Goblin is 4 years old)

This weekend we met up with my University friends. They are a collection of Eurochums from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Belgium. We have tried to meet up on an annual basis but with babies, bad weather, financial crisis and the rest we haven't actually all managed to be together for some time. So I was terribly excited that we finally got the gang together in Yorkshire. 
Over the years our breeders have produced two German children, two French, two Belgians and one British kiddo.  This was the first time since Goblin could talk that he had met any of them, and I wasn't sure how it would pan out what with him not speaking their languages and them not speaking his.
But I needn't have worried. The children played as if they all spoke the same language. Goblin just chatted to his new friends in English and they jabbered back in their respective language.
When that didn't work they smiled or pointed or gave each other one of their toys to play with so they could join a game.
My friend who was hosting us all remarked to her five year old neighbour
"Isn't it amazing that they play together when they don't speak the same language"
"Not really" said the five year old "Jumping means Hello"
Out of the mouths of babes comes the truth 
Play is an international language 

Sunday 6 July 2014

Taking it out of the classroom

(Goblin is 4 years old)
Kentwell hall holds a recreation of Tudor life for two weeks each year, and we take part and play at being Tudors while schools and the public visit. You can read more about it on this blog here, here, and here and on the official Kentwell Hall website here

Life 'in the 16th Century' offers a lot of freedom for Goblin to develop his own friendships, and make his own choices about how he spends his time.
We were sottling on the barn sward (cooking on an open fire for a group of about 100 people) so we needed to work. But we had many eyes watching our son including our extended family (my sister and her husband, and my mother in law) and many friends on the manor who know Goblin and would happily redirect him if he looked like he needed it. We checked on him from time to time if we couldn't hear him playing, but only once did he actually disappeared - untraceable for half an hour because he decided to go into the coppice wood for an adventure but forget to tell us first - anywhere else I would have been beside myself with worry, but on the manor after checking all the standing water, I was only mildly concerned.
One day Goblin found a polystyrene spitfire plane and played with it in the morning before the manor opened to visitors. He was so obsessed with the plane that he kept trying to talk about it during the day - a strict 'no no' as we mustn't break our 16th century character. So I suggested instead of a plane he referred to it as an eagle. I picked up a pinecone and a bean pod and lashed them together with twine.
"Look Goblin an eagle".
The next thing I knew he had commandeered a group of school children and had them making eagles for him. Some might think that this group of children were there to learn about 16th century living, not make eagles for Goblin. But what they learnt was how resourceful children would have been in the 16th century. They couldn't pop to the shop to buy a toy, they had to make their own entertainment, and that is something Goblin excelled at.
He did take advantage of the opportunity to learn to shoot a bow, practice swordsmanship with the soldiers and play skittles with the children of the barn school. But for the best part of the week he made his own entertainment, whether it was rummaging in the midden, fighting with sticks, building eagle nests with yew tree branches, or herding the sheep.
Interestingly Goblin didn't just play all day. He wanted to help us work. He spent a good portion of each morning helping us shell beans, make crumb from yesterday's bread or chop vegetables - he focused on apricots and mushrooms (the softer things he could cut without too much help). Then he'd disappear again when his work was done.
Sometime he'd return when he heard the school parties arriving. As the large school parties of eleven year olds rounded the corner, he would halt them and addressing their teachers ask them to spilt into two groups. His confidence and clarity surprised the teachers who did as this little four year old instructed. He would them take one group and show them how to shell broadbeans, handing out the pods and explaining how to snap off the top and find the thread that runs down the back of the bean. 
He worked hard and played hard. A week of living and playing outdoors coupled with late nights on the campsite made for a weary little fellow by the end of the week. But his experiences will stay with him long after the smell of woodsmoke has cleared from his hair and a weeks-worth of grime has been scrubbed from his fingernails. I hope we will be able to repeat this adventure next year when we will have to justify to the state why he should be doing this rather than sitting in a classroom.

Interesting 16th Century Fact: Goblin's Kentwell name is Creature. Creature of Christ was a common name given to children who were not expected to survive childbirth. A midwife would take hold of any part of the baby from inside the labouring mother and christen them. It was the only time when a child could be christened by someone who was not a priest. This practice was to ensure that babies who died in childbirth were able to go to heaven (and be buried in the church yard cemetery) but many actually survived and kept their name into late childhood.

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