Monday, 27 April 2015

Seeds, Curves and Obstacles

Nice easy day at home today - last week we had a day out in London on Friday with Daddy, visiting the Science Museum and National History Museum.  I am really not a city girl, and although we had fun, it took me the rest of the weekend to recover - and the weekend was busy too - so I was really ready for a more gentle day at home today.

I set up the invitations - nothing too involved.  There was seed sowing for the boys to see if they could grow plants out of pips/ stones that we had harvested ourselves (nb we've had success planting avocado stones direct into soil before, so no faffing around with cocktail sticks and glasses of water for us!)...

And for Eldest, a "Thread Art" kit that I had on standby.  Recently on Pinterest I found an activity based on parabolic curves that looked great.  The Thread Art was made using parabolic curves, so I got the kit contents out and left it for Eldest. Once he had finished MathsWhizz, it caught his interest quite quickly, although after a couple of false starts he needed encouragement to keep trying (reading the instructions might have helped to start with).  It was a bit fiddly, but he persisted and got there in the end, and it looks great!

Youngest and Middle enjoyed planting the seeds after they had finished MathsWhizz.  They only needed help with knowing the right way to plant the avodado stone (pointy end up) - the rest they were very happy to do without my input, so I just contented myself taking a few photos...

lots of soil...

...and water...

... and left outdoors to get some sunshine when the clouds go away...

Once Middle was done planting, he wanted to have a go at his own parabolic curve art, which didn't surprise me as he loves patterns and design.  He was really pleased with his "eye"...

We were all exicted today to receive a delivery in the post: this year's baby caterpillars...

teeny, aren't they?

Every year we watch caterpillars from Insect Lore grow and turn into butterflies to release in our garden, and it never gets old!  Also today we happily had some success with the book-strewing, as Eldest found and read half of the Puzzle Adventures Omnibus  He picked up Make a Medieval Castle first, but put it straight back as it looked too fiddly and was nearly lunchtime.  Oh, and Youngest found and read his "Wild Times" comic from the RSPB that had self-strewn - ie I hadn't deliberately left it out for him, it was just naturally left hanging about.  Come to think of it, there are an awful lot of self-strewn things in this house!

Finally, over lunch we watched an episode of Horrible Histories and Wild Things (a totally bonkers game series that has been running on Sky where competitors guide their partner (blind and dressed in animal suits) around various obstacle courses). Today's recorded episode was the last in the series, but it gave us the idea to do our own version, with the boys setting up an obstacle course in the garden to guide each other around (no animal outfits, but they took it in turns being blindfolded with winter hats pulled over their eyes)... LOTS of giggles ensued, particularly when lefts and rights got muddled up, and when instead of Eldest climbing onto the stool he ended up kicking it across the garden!

they started in front of the shed doors and had to proceed anti-clockwise: step over the bucket... onto the chair and jump down... over the wobbly plastic lid... up onto the stool and jump down... slalem through the hegehog igloos and climb over the broom handle at the end!

 I love the way inspiration can come from anywhere, even ridiculous TV programmes!  Happy Monday!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Out of the Way, Mum

Giving myself a mental slapping seems to be the order of the day so far...

I was pleased that I actually managed to set up the Provocation and strew some books before I went to bed last night, so the boys would see it all and hopefully be inspired as soon as they came down...

That's a large sheet of cardboard (from a big box) with a strip of cardboard stuck to it in the top right corner  forming an enclosure, base within painted green and an elephant in... alongside extra cordboard, paints, tape and large box of toy animals etc)

However I wasn't prepared for the fact that they wake up with their own ideas.  Middle came down before anyone else and set up his own little Invitation for the rest of us. I mean, we've only been running with this for two days, and already the children are taking over, and - as dreadful talent show judges might say - making it their own!

"Hello my name is Hodg but  i don't like that name i'd prefer to be called Pricles anyway I'm afriad of the dark so could you rite down awsom things About the dark so i can get uset to the dark and if i'm your faverut Animal rite down why below"

Heart-melt.  It was a beautiful moment, not least because I had only been sharing yesterday how he is a reluctant writer and I am not pushing it because I know he will get there when he's ready.  I guess this morning he was kind of ready!  It made for a heady cocktail of smug mummy-ness, pride in him progressing, and stunned surprise at how quickly they take inspiration and run with it in directions you never expected! Anyway, we dutifully contributed to his Invitation (how could we not?)...

Then the boys scattered to do their MathsWhizz exercises.  Middle and Youngest couldn't wait to "upgrade" (Middle's word) the zoo, so maths was quickly completed - hooray!  Eldest wasn't interested in the zoo - I had suspected as much as he is growing up (pause for Mummy to let go a bit more of the idea that he is my little boy, sigh) - so I had a challenge up my sleeve for him, and told him it was written on a piece of his favourite-coloured card which he had to find in the lounge.  He found it after a short while of looking, read it, and rolled his eyes cheekily at me...

I said he could use my ipad, and he quickly found the appropriate apps on it.  I left him to experiment and went to see how his brothers were getting on with their zoo.  it was fab!  They had really got stuck in (literally in Youngest's case as he wrestled with the parcel tape).  I "helped" them by cutting some strips of card to the proper size, choosing the right animals out of the box who would be in a zoo, and advising them on the best places to put things - and then I woke up out of my zombie-like stupor of petty control, slapped myself mentally, and  took myself quickly out of their way to let them create freely without further interference.  Meanwhile Eldest was becoming frustrated that none of the ten (!) music apps I had put on my ipad were any good for what he wanted to do.  After encouraging him to persist for a while to explore what each app could do, he finally said "Why can't I just go on GridClub?  I know how to do what I want there!". Another mental slap - it hadn't occurred to me that he might have an idea how to do it already, just assumed that he would need a specific app (if I'd known, I would have left the app bit out of the challenge).  I don't think he remembered either to begin with though, and I was just glad that he did - eventually - remember Spin and Groove, as he made a nice little piece of music on it.  It's a pity that I have no idea how to link to it here, but never mind, he did really well!

It wasn't long before Middle and Youngest were ready to show me their zoo - they had found some Playmobil people to use as zoo-visitors, and I laughed, asking where the zombies had come from (because they were missing the tops of their heads and were brainless).  The boys thought that was hilarious, so it has been named "Zombie Zoo".  And I don't care that the frogs have an exhibit larger than that of the killer whales, or that the penguins are the same height as the giraffe, or even that there are supposedly extinct dinosaurs in the zoo... it is glorious, because it is theirs, and I just love it!

"Zombie Zoo"

So the strewn books have yet again been ignored due to having too much fun elsewhere, although Middle and Youngest almost played Dobble before deciding the zoo was more appealing.  I don't mind one bit - maybe I'll try a day with less invitations and more strewing to see if that is any more effective.  Right now I'm just glad that my Provocations are being so well received.  And as long as I stay out of the way, hopefully that will continue for many, many days.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Egg-citing Times

I really need to get into the swing of setting up invitations etc before I go to bed as once all the boys are up (usually before me), either I am too busy playing catch-up, or they just go off and find their own entertainment before I can get set up.  Happily this morning Hubby was home, so he took the boys out to breakfast which gave me time to strew some books, set up a provocation in the lounge, and a challenge in the kitchen.  When they got back, Eldest found the challenge first...

Eldest was at first intrigued, then you could see his brain start whirring... but then he said that the faces put him off as he didn't want to kill Boris and Billy!!!  I just left it, hoping that he might come back to it after his session on Literacy Planet.  Meanwhile Middle found the provocation...

He called out "what are the magnets in the front room for?"  I said I thought he or his brothers might like to play with them, and he yelled "thanks!" and got stuck straight in.  It's funny, if Youngest had found them first he'd have just started playing without a second thought, but I suppose Middle is more cautious by nature. He enjoyed playing while Youngest  got started on Literacy Planet, and then they swapped (I wanted them to use Literacy Planet one at a time with me, while we work our way around the site).  By this time their friends had arrived, so Eldest disappeared to his room with his friend to listen to music and generally be teenagers.  However Youngest and Middle were inspired by the thrill-seeking eggs in the kitchen, and invited their friend, eight year old 'Sweet Pea' to join them. Middle and Sweet Pea formed a team to help Billy achieve his dream, and Youngest decided to help Boris.  Both parties wanted to use the cardboard tube and bubble wrap, so said items were divided in half and shared.  Middle and Sweet Pea used their entire half of the sheet of bubble wrap, wrapping it around the outside of a parcel tube, before helping Billy to climb aboard.

(Not quite a bungee, given the lack of elastic cord!)

interesting place to put the bubble-wrap...

Billy bravely climbing aboard

All sealed and ready to launch
Youngest mainly stuffed bubble wrap inside his tube, helped Boris aboard and then used copious amounts of parcel tape to seal it.  There was a bit of a hairy moment when a slip left Boris with a hairline crack down his middle, but he bravely pressed on with the mission...

The rather pessimistically-named "Boris's rocket crash"

bubble-wrap inside and out

Boris proceeding despite injury

Sealed in, with handy loop at end to enable Youngest to lower him at the very start

Both teams went upstairs to Eldest's bedroom, which overlooks the garden, and then launched Boris and Billy down to the patio below.  Their capsules survived intact, so we went to get scissors to reopen and see how the brave eggs had fared...

Billy landed at the edge of the patio...

Boris managed to land in a bucket

First we opened Middle and Sweet Pea's capsule for Billy, to be met by a grisly sight (apologies to the squeamish)...

Poor Billy.  We consoled ourselves that at least he perished fulfilling his ambition - but we were concerned for Boris who was already injured before the launch.  Coud he possible have made it without further damage?  In a word, no.  However his damage was initially limited to a cranial fracture (with 'brains' escaping), and Youngest clearly felt that he had no future, so quickly finished him off (in other words, smashed the egg to pieces).

As a project, it was pretty much a failure (RIP, Boris and Billy) - but as a challenge, it certainly succeeded in engaging the boys, even if it was the younger two who fully joined in, rather than Eldest who I had thought would like it but was in fact being a teenager playing music in his room with a friend.  And actually I am a big believer in "failing forward": failure is not the end, it is a step in the process to success.  So I was really pleased with the result.  We won't leave it there - we will revisit the experiment soon to see what we have learned and see if we can "fail forward".

Regardless of success or failure though, Middle and Youngest were so enthused by the eggs that they went on to draw egg-people, one for everyone present.  However nobody (that I am aware of) even looked at the strewn books.  Ah well, I guess they were having too much fun being provoked and challenged.  Such is the joy of interest-led learning.  And after all I can just strew the same books on other days - there's every chance they may appeal when there aren't such egg-citing alternatives to join in with (sorry, couldn't resist).

 Middle's Egg-people (Youngest's have disappeared already!)

Unsuccessfully strewn - this time, at least

Monday, 20 April 2015

Losing Control

This unstructured strewing lark is hilarious (as long as I keep my sense of humour about it, that is!)
I got my "books to strew"out the other day so I could reference them and put the details on the blog, and while they were piled up next to me, the boys kept coming and pulling books out of my pile so they could look at them too!  Youngest pulled out "How Things Work" and went all the way through it in order, lifting one flap at a time, totally absorbed in it.  I managed to not be frustrated and just made a mental note that it looked like being a successful one to strew.

Middle went and hunted out our seashells (that I had earmarked for a Provocation) and started making pictures out of them, like the "Spiky Hedgehog" below.  Again, I chose to relinquish control, drop any irritation that he was playing with them at "the wrong time" (yes I have control issues), and be glad that he was freely playing and exploring.  I chose to see it as proof that I had read the season correctly and they were ready for a season of Provocations, strewing, and investigative play.

 Then I ordered a book recommended on Facebook that I thought Middle would enjoy, and was really pleased when it turned up on Saturday while we were on our way out.  Having opened it, I propped it on the side ready for me to strew later this week.  No chance!  It disappeared almost immediately, and I later found it in Eldest's room where he had obviously taken it to read.  At least he then recommended it for reading to his brothers!

The most difficult one to manage was when they found our "Window Art" kit and immediately asked to do it. My first thought: "Oh, I was going to use that kit with its limited resources during the month of strewing which doesn't start until Monday".  Second thought: "Get over yourself, woman, and let them play with it when they are inspired to".  Third thought: "Actually they will need a degree of supervision, not to mention a clear space in which to work, and time to complete each piece - none of which are feasible right now"  Decision communicated to the boys: "Let's do it another day when the table is clear and I can sit down with you and all have fun together".  It actually worked - after a busy few days, today we had a clear table and time to give it our full attention, and we had a really lovely time.  Youngest tackled a quite complicated picture but was able to focus well and made a beautiful dragon.  Middle chose to do a funny frog and a space rocket. Youngest would have liked to do more, but I asked him to wait until Eldest had decided what he wanted to do as we didn't want to run out of the gel paints before he had had a chance to make something.  Eldest did a great space shuttle, and by then his younger brothers had moved on other things...

The "mini-invitation" - simply the box opened and contents laid out, ready to go...

Middle's rocket-ship

Middle's "King Frog"

Youngest's dragon

Eldest's Space Shuttle

So this morning we have had lots of pretty chaotic fun, my only input being to help when they got stuck on their respective MathsWhizz exercises, sitting with them and helping with a bit of craft, and leaving a selection of books out to see where inspiration is sparked.  Eldest spent over an hour reading his new Pokedex reference book, while Youngest completely ignored the strewn "How Things Work" (well, he had already read it last week), and pulled our "Paper Flying Dragons" off the shelf, joyfully oblivious to my plans to strew that one later in the week!  I helped him to make his Battle Dragon, and then helped Middle to make an Ice Dragon and Water Dragon.  They all fly really well, which was a relief as they were a bit fiddly.  Middle then found the "How Things Work" book now shunned by Youngest and spent a good while poring over it (hooray) while Youngest found the (deliberately strewn) "Learn to Draw Sea Creatures" book and proceeded to draw a picture of a pufferfish for Eldest.  Just as I was rejoicing at how well my strewing was working, Youngest also found a Horrible Histories book on the "Stormin Normans" (unstrewn - just pulled off the normal bookshelf) and read it for a while, proving the value of educating siblings of different ages - I never would have thought to leave a book like that out for Youngest (as it's a paperback using mostly text with only a few illustrations), but because his brothers have it, he has access to it too, and obviously was ready for it today!

 this kept Eldest occupied for ages!

Middle's Ice Dragon

Youngest's Battle Dragon

Middle's Sea Dragon

Youngest's Puffer fish, drawn for his biggest brother

surprise read

Once the boys had all completed their choice of activities for this morning, we reverted to one part of last term's plan in as much as Mummy chose the first TV programme to watch over an indoor picnic lunch. Today was an episode of Deadly Pole to Pole, about wolves.  Wildlife documentaries always go down well in this house, so there were no complaints.  It was a nice peaceful end to a slightly manic morning.  Manic in a good way though - creativity firing off everywhere, and me surprising myself by enjoying the lack of structure... long may it continue!