Tag Archives: ecology centre

Pond dipping and playing with trains

We are lucky to have some brilliant places to visit within walking distance from our house.  Two weeks ago, when daddy’s cousin and her son were staying with us for a few days, we had a lovely afternoon out in our local area.  We walked to the Ecology Centre first, where the children did some pond dipping.

Pond dipping 1

They really enjoyed spending time with their big cousin, and also with our friends from Three Kids and a Gluestick who were there too.

Pond dipping 2

There was a lot of leaning over into the water, but this time Tiddler managed not to fall in!

Pond dipping 3

When we had finished pond dipping we explored the grounds some more and found some big stepping stones and a den.

Ecology Centre

We then moved on to the small museum next door, where all the children started by playing with the trains.  Some of them explored the museum further, but Owl and Tiddler were having such a good time at the train table that they didn’t move until it was time to go.

Museum 1

The museum looks out over the ponds and it is very peaceful and relaxing.

Museum 2

At the end of the afternoon we went to the park.  The children had fun testing out the outdoor gym equipment, before finishing with a quick play in the playground.

Pond and playground

It was a lovely afternoon and looking back on it now makes me realise how lucky we are with our friends, our family and the area where we live.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Superheroes and Eco Warriors

This morning started off early as usual with Rabbit and Tiddler waking shortly after six o’clock.  However, after a while they went downstairs to play and then Monkey came in to our bed.  We often get up before him so it was nice to have his company first thing for a change.  He and Suburban dad started playing I-spy, which some how led to “I spy batman in bed.”  This developed into an interesting game, and we came up with “spiderman eating spinach”, “superman slurping soup” and a few others.  Monkey would like to make an alphabetical list of superheroes and their alliterative activities, but more research is needed as our knowledge of superheroes is limited.  We did find an alphabetical list online, of many I’d never heard of, so we may continue the game later.  It was a fun way to start the day anyway.

After breakfast, Rabbit and Tiddler went to Dramabuds which was also on a superheroes theme.  They had lots of fun practising their superhero skills, and both joined in really well.  It has been really good to spend time with just the two little ones and I have found that I listen to them more when the big ones are not around.  No wonder they are both so loud most of the time – they have to be!  Tabitha is one of the oldest in the class, and I think she is aware of it, so next term she is going to move up to the class for older children.  There is a class available on Tuesdays, so she will be able to go back to football on Saturdays which she has missed.  So Tiddler will get all my attention at Dramabuds on Saturday mornings next term, and Rabbit will be dropped off at the “big girls’ class” on Tuesdays which will work well as I’ll have all the boys with me.  I’ll miss doing it with both of them though.

The boys chose not to go to football this morning, as it looked like it was going to rain, so the rest of the morning was spent peacefully at home.  Suburban dad and I both had work and online stuff to do, so we sat at the dining room table with some or all of the children working alongside us most of the time.  The big three did their sticker Maths books, Rabbit did her summer sticker book and a new dot-to-dot farm book, and they all did some drawing.  Owl also spent a lot of time upstairs doing Lego.

After lunch, Monkey and Rabbit went to their last Ballet lesson of the term.  I think they have enjoyed it, but Monkey is back on saying that he doesn’t like it.  He is quite a bit older than the others as well as being the only boy, and I think that is just too much being different even for a confident easy-going child.  I am looking into classes that are more suitable for his age, and also for Owl who really wants to try it, but it just depends on whether there are any classes available at the right times.

After ballet, we went to the Ecology Centre garden party which was just lovely.  We were only able to get there a little less than an hour before the end, and we could have spent much longer there, but it was great fun.  Rabbit and Tiddler enjoyed a simple craft activity, making flowers out of paper plates with tissue paper petals and real seeds, and Owl enjoyed finishing Tiddler’s when he wandered off.  They spent some time talking about endangered species and looking at a live stag beetle (and two dead ones) and told the stallholder about the (bigger) stag beetle we had found at Rabbit’s Pre-school.

Then we went to the local honey stall, where we felt and smelt some beeswax, touched some pieces of dry crumbly honeycomb and admired the beeswax models and candles.  We also bought some honey in its honeycomb and some rock cakes, and spent a while chatting to the very nice lady who was running the stall.  When I mentioned that I was home educating the children, her response was refreshingly positive.  She told me about someone she knew who was home educating, and what nice children they had, and said that she thought it was much better for children to learn by being out and about in the community talking to people and doing real life practical tasks like meal-planning, budgeting, shopping and cooking.  She continued on this theme for a while, and it made rather a nice change instead of answering the same old questions about home ed that we are usually asked.  Not that I mind people asking, as I am happy to talk about home ed all day!

We then went to another stall where there was a competition about matching seeds to vegetables, and Rabbit gave me some parenting brownie points by answering lots of questions and correctly identifying pea and pumpkin seeds.   The big three also made cress heads, while sheltering from the rain.   The children had a lovely time, and in addition to all the free educational stuff and friendly people to chat to they also enjoyed winning bubble mixture, eating lollies and cake and having their faces painted (Rabbit with the England flag, Owl with the Union Jack and Monkey as Spiderman!)

I enjoyed chatting to a student who was doing a PhD on sustainable food, and as she asked me her survey questions she rather charmingly commented on how much I knew about the subject.  Along with Rabbit’s superior knowledge of seeds (she was the only one in a group of older children who knew any of them) I was beginning to feel that we were quite the eco warriors.  However, we are very inconsistent as we drive a big car, use a tumble dryer rather too much and resort to disposable nappies and convenience foods when we are busy and stressed.  I think we are getting some things right though, and having the veg box has certainly helped our children to be knowledgeable about vegetables – and not too fussy!

Back at home, we did a science experiment about genetic differences in our taste buds.  We all (except Tiddler) tasted a piece of ordinary paper as a control, and then a strip of paper with a substance called PTC on it.  To some people it tastes very bitter and to others it tastes of nothing, and it may be an explanation for why some people dislike the taste of certain green vegetables more than others.  We found that Suburban dad, Owl and Monkey tasted the bitterness quite strongly while Rabbit and I could only just notice it.  This was interesting as we all eat green vegetables, but Monkey in particular loves them (he’s the boy who has been known to say “Oh yummy, hot vegetables”, when they are brought to the table!)  So we discussed other factors that might affect our tastes, such as how often we are exposed to particular foods.  I think that’s another vote for the vegbox!

At the end of the day Rabbit and Owl both asked for some time on the computer and we just managed to fit it in.  I renewed the boys’ Mathletics subscriptions today and for the first time I added Rabbit as well.  She was very excited to try it and she really liked it.  Owl finally managed to finished his long overdue blog post about the National Gallery, and he wanted to try Conquer Maths (finally took the plunge on that today too) but we really had run out of time.  They are all looking forward to doing it, and I’m all for anything which gets them excited about Maths!  It’s been a fun day and it’s nice to look back and see how much “education” has happened without me planning any of it.  If this is what we can do on a busy Saturday, while ordering electrical appliances online, emptying kitchen cupboards, buying other last minute things for our kitchen project, planning and organising the next two weeks’ worth of activities, doing washing up, laundry and cleaning (and many other tasks) then maybe I need to relax a bit in the week and not plan so many things. I need to keep telling myself this – there is no stopping children learning and complicated plans are really not necessary.

Ecology Centre visit

On Wednesday afternoon we went to the local Ecology Centre with our Home Ed group.  Owl was in London with Granny and Grandpa, so I only had the younger three children with me.  However many children you have, it always feels a little easier with one less person to organise to get out of the house, although there were moments when I could have done with my biggest helper.  Anyway, we gathered an assortment of fishing nets, buckets, pond life and butterfly identification books, raincoats… and suncream as an afterthought.  We also took our butterflies as we had decided to show them to the group before releasing them in the grounds of the Ecology Centre, which is a perfect butterfly habitat.

We took about 25 minutes to walk there and we met up with the others at the pond.  All the children were very keen to start fishing, and were generally good about sharing nets and were being quite sensible.  To begin with Tiddler was in his buggy, but of course that didn’t last as he was determined to get out and join in.  So I let him, and the consequence was that within 5 minutes, he had fallen in the pond!  Luckily I was holding on to the handle on the back of his Little Life backpack (highly recommended) so I was able to haul him out straight away.  No harm done, but even though he had been in the water for barely a second he was of course thoroughly soaked from head to toe (vest, nappy, trousers, socks and boots completely unusable for the rest of the afternoon) and covered in pond weed.  He was a little bewildered but not too upset.  Now, if this had happened to my first baby, I would of course have had an enormous change bag full of alternative outfits, but he is my fourth.  So he was carrying his own spare nappies in the aforementioned backpack, and that was it.  Luckily the nappies hadn’t got wet, and the sun came out so we made do with a quick clean up, an application of suncream which I hadn’t expected to need and a clean dry nappy.  He ran around very happily in the sunshine for the rest of the afternoon, although his feet did get a bit scratched.

The children had a lovely time fishing, exploring and bug hunting.  We had some amazing close encounters with pond skaters, sticklebacks, pond snails, a leech, newts, frogs, toads, a slow worm, a moorhen and chick, dragonflies and damselflies… and we released our butterflies, who were not at all in a hurry to leave us, so we got a really close look at them. My highlight of the afternoon was watching one of the butterflies sipping nectar from clover, seeing the proboscis uncurled so close up was amazing. I have to admit that the sight of Tiddler covered in pond weed came a close second (bad mummy!)

Where to start?

The last couple of weeks have been so busy that I have been struggling to process any of it enough to write about it here.  I am now sitting on the sofa watching the football, and almost falling asleep, but I really want to write something.  I have no idea where to start, but I thought I would just jump right in and see how it goes.  It may not be the most coherent post ever…

Half term went very fast, with the long weekend at Granny and Grandpa’s house, extended because daddy was working nearby on the Wednesday, a spy-themed afternoon at a local home-ed group on the Thursday and a couple of reasonably quiet days at home catching up on the washing – we must have done other things as well, but I can’t remember much.  We didn’t make it to Dramabuds or football on Saturday, but Owl went to choir and Monkey and Rabbit went to ballet, where there was a guest appearance by Angelina Ballerina herself (which was a little bewildering to say the least).

After some frantic unpacking and repacking we went back to Granny’s house again, visiting RHS Wisley on the way.  We spent three days at Granny’s while Suburban Dad was away at a conference.  We got quite a lot of work done, had our new friend over to play again, played stuck-in-the-mud, grandmother’s footsteps and Lego, Lego, Lego…  We arrived home late on Wednesday night, and I spent Thursday at home with my four and an extra two-year old while my friend had a hospital appointment.  The boys got some work done, the children all played nicely and the small visitor built a very tall Duplo tower and was extremely proud of himself.

This weekend we have had a wonderful time at a family wedding, and we were extremely lucky to be able to stay with friends of the bride and groom for two nights – accommodation for the 6 of us is very hard to come by.  The wedding was lovely, the bride was beautiful; Rabbit was a flower girl and she was beautiful too, and very good.  We went to the reception and had a very enjoyable evening catching up with all the family, and I remember saying many times, we will stay as long as the children are good.  At about half past ten, we thought it was probably time to go back as our hosts had already left!  The following day we returned to the reception venue which was at a farm and they were having an open day.  We spent some more time with the family, and had a lovely and unexpected afternoon of learning and fun.

Highlights of the farm day:

  • watching the sheep shearing
  • looking at the puppies, ferrets and chickens
  • seeing live bees and buying honey (Monkey was very interested in this)
  • making bread and eating it (Rabbit particularly enjoyed this)
  • watching a working blacksmith (who allowed Owl to have a go)
  • chatting to a man making a fence
  • seeing some people making baskets
  • playing with farm toys
  • colouring lots of pictures (Tiddler)
  • collecting wool, feathers, straw, flowers and grasses and using them to decorate sticks

Finally we left the farm rather late in the day, and we had to stop at a service station for supper.  As we set off for home at 7pm, the car broke down, so we ended up making use of the facilities for a further two hours while waiting for the AA.  It could have been worse, I suppose.  If you have to break down, a safe place with toilets, coffee and a play area is ideal!  In the end we were towed home which rounded off the children’s weekend perfectly.

Another thing I have forgotten to blog about is our painted lady caterpillars which arrived about ten days ago.  It has been fascinating to see how quickly they grow, and the children are loving it.  I’m wishing I’d been organised enough to take photos of them at different stages because they have changed a lot already.  Well, it is such a popular activity that I expect we’ll be doing it again next year, so perhaps we’ll do some better recording then.  For now, we are just enjoying observing them.

In the last couple of days, we have done a fair bit of Maths, a little Geography and History and some drawing and writing about our weekend, and this afternoon we went to the local Ecology Centre with another home educating family.  We did pond dipping and bug hunting, and explored the sensory garden (we may have eaten rather a lot of the mint and chives), before an urgent need for the toilet forced us to repair to the pub across the road.  I am sorry for the disturbance we caused with our seven children aged 2 to 8, and I’m not sure the six pounds we spent on a pot of tea and two packets of crisps was quite enough to compensate but that was more or less all the money we had with us!  We then walked home to meet Granny who was taking Monkey on the train to London.   They are spending the night at the flat with Grandpa and going to the National Gallery tomorrow.  (Note to self: get Monkey to blog his Gallery visit when he comes home!)