Category Archives: home education

How do I keep my children off the “summer slide”?

With the Summer holiday break fast approaching, you may already have heard of the “Summer Slide”, a term that is used to describe the loss of learning over the six week school break.

Following the end of a demanding school year, children need a break and will probably resist any attempt to be engaged in traditional academic work. Fortunately, learning for academic success does not neccessarily require textbooks and vigorous study.

So what’s the alternative? How do we make sure that our children are provided with opportunities to boost their brain power, while at the same time take a hard-earned break from conventional academic work?

Here are my five simple but effective strategies published on The Talented Ladies Club website.

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Summer ideas for Maths activities

There is a common misconception that maths is just about numbers. Yet maths is so much more than this. Pattern recognition, problem solving, structured thinking, comprehension, interpretation of quantities and critical thinking are all skills required to investigate even the simplest of mathematical questions. But most of all, maths is about questioning, trying ideas and challenging ourselves.

All children are born with the “curiosity bug” and love a challenge. In fact, children are adept to mathematical problem solving from an early age. The summer holidays provide a fantastic opportunity for learning in different contexts and through more playful channels. So this summer why not nurture your child’s maths abilities?

I have written a few tips and ideas for the latest Families Warwickshire magazine. Visit the website to find out how to have fun with your children this summer, while at the same time helping them to sharpen their skills. All activities are designed to develop core skills that will help children gain a solid background in maths.

Families Warwickshire magazine

 

 

Fun experiment: What does gravity do to us?

It was one of these rainy days that we always get in the summer half-term. Our bike ride had just been cancelled due to the bad weather. Disappointed we started talking about alternative plans. Unsurprisingly, one thing led to another and we ended up talking about space travel. My daughter would not like to go to Jupiter because it is made of gas, and how could we live there? My son said that he would quite like to live on the Moon, because he “would be jumping all day long and that would be fun, wouldn’t it be mum?”

It was that comment that sparked a lively discussion about gravity and what it does to us.

Earth’s gravity is the force that holds us to the planet. Without it we would fly off. Gravity depends on the mass. Because the Earth is more massive than the Moon, Earth’s gravity is bigger than the Moon’s so the pull is stronger for any object on our planet than it would be on the Moon. For instance, if you can jump 20 cm on Earth, you could jump nearly 2 m on the Moon. Wouldn’t that be fun?

But how does gravity affect us?

Here is a nice little experiment to help us investigate.

Hypothesis

Gravity is pulling us down, as a result we are slightly shorter in the evening than in the morning when we have spent the whole night lying in the bed.

Method of exploring the question

Measure height just before we go to bed and just after we get up.

Subjects

Child 1 – 9 years old

Child 2 – 6 years old

Data recording

The children designed a table to record the measurements. They had to think about what the question is what the best way is to sort out the data.

Measurements

gravity experiment

Discussion

Hurray!!! We have shown that indeed gravity makes us shorter. We would be probably a little bit taller if we were living on the Moon. We used a simple measuring tape, hence the measurements are not accurate, but fluctuate a couple of centimetres. However there is a clear trend, which shows that the children are slightly taller by 2 – 3 cm in the morning.

A 9 year old’s view on Nigeria, education and everything else

We are in the car, the three of us. The children are quiet in the rear seat. It is 11am and the BBC radio 2 news is on. Michelle Obama has delivered a radio address to draw attention to the plight of the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. Naturally the event is on the news bulletin.

Mum is this true?” asks my daughter.

What?” I say absent-mindedly.

Some girls have been kidnapped. Is this true?

Once more she has caught me off guard. I know how this is going to unravel. She is going to bombard me with questions. In between her feelings are going to change from being worried, concerned and a little bit frightened to being upset and finally she will become determined and offer a solution or two.

Yes” I reply with hesitation. The truth is that she has not been aware of the situation that is being going on for three weeks now. Is this a good time  for us to talk about it. But we are in the car. I am driving and she is sitting in the back. This is not the ideal set up for introducing my daughter to a complex issue, which involves history, tradition, religion, poverty and inevitably lack of education.

Apparently the news has alerted her. “Are there kidnappers for real?

Yes” I attempt to reply, but before I actually mutter a word she moves on to the next question.

Has such an incident ever happened in England?

I can see now that she is nervous and uncomfortable. 200 school girls have been abducted on their way to school. She can relate to them. She probably thinks that this may as well happen to her.

I try to reassure her. No, this has never happened in this country. This event took place in Nigeria a country in Africa. A militant group, who believe that people and particularly girls should not attend school kidnapped the girls. They think that learning is a sin.

Mum, will my sister get kidnapped?” asks my son, his voice slightly trembled.

I reassured him that no such thing is going to happen to his sister. “In this country we value education,” I add.

My daughter is now really engaged. She has a strong learning ethos. It is simply inconceivable to her that girls will be abducted simply because they go to school.

“Mum I am really upset. No, I am frustrated. I so wish to have a meeting with them. Explain why we should learn and grow our brains. Explain that what they have done is unacceptable. And have they thought about the poor parents?”

We talk about how the parents may feel and the she asks the obvious question “Are the girls alive?”

“I do not know,” I say.

“How are they going to find the girls?”

I say that a lot of countries, the UK included, have offered their help. It is now a global team-work effort that takes place. Satellites are monitoring the vast Nigerian forests in the hope of pinpointing the location of the girls. Once the location has been identified, trained people will find the girls, free them and hopefully capture some of the criminals.

Apparently she is not satisfied with the plan. “Is that all?” she says and then adds “but this may take ages”

“I am sure that they try some other things as well. But I really do not know. When we get home we can read the news and find out more” I offer.

And then she simply asks, “What can we do to help the girls?”

To this question I have no convincing answer.

One thing is for sure, celebrity involvement and twitter hash tags may raise awareness, but can certainly no help these girls.

I asked my daughter if they had discussed this incident at school. It turns out that they hadn’t.

Our car conversation reminded me once more how children are wired to be socially sensitive about issues affecting the world. This particular incident offers so many opportunities for discussion and reflection. It was a disappointment that it had not been discussed at school.

But it also made me realise my responsibility as a parent to engage my children with social issues. At home, it is our priority to engage the children in discussions and listening to their views. But we do not tend to use current affairs as our starting point. Raising socially aware citizens is not rocket science, but requires providing opportunities for discussing current affairs and engaging with the children’s views and opinions. They need to be aware of the inequalities in the modern world, see cause and effect and be able to express their views, propose solutions and strategies.

So what should our next topic be? European Parliament Elections?

Magnetic money

I often overhear  the children talking about their day at school. So I know that the last few weeks both of them have been enjoying their science lessons. D in Y4 has been learning about forces, while P in Y1 has been investigating the properties of materials. The common theme between the two topics is magnetism, so a couple of days ago I grabbed the opportunity and asked the children to help me with a “Magnetic Money” investigation.

This is what it is all about: Children investigate the magnetic properties of 1p and 2p coins. It is not as straightforward as it may sound, because as they are going to find out soon some coins can be magnetic, while others are not. This does not depend on the value. So they need to solve the mystery. When is a 2p coin magnetic?

For this activity you are going to need:

1p, 2p coins (make sure that you have a mixture of old and new coins)

Fridge magnet

Sheet of paper to record your findings

Hint: In 1992 the composition of 1p and 2p coins was changed from bronze to copper-plated steel. As a result coins produced after 1992 are magnetic. Older coins are not.

Here is a “transcript” of the discussion I had with my daughter.

Me: Are these coins magnetic? Let’s find out.

D tried a 2p coin. The coin was attracted by the magnet.

D: Oh this is magnetic.

Me: Do you think that all coins are magnetic?

D: Yes. My hypothesis is that all coins are magnetic!

So she tried another 2p coin and to her surprise this time it was not attracted by the magnet.

D: Oh this is so strange. This coin is not magnetic…

Me: Why do you think that this coin is not magnetic?

D: Because it does not stick to the magnet

Me: Why is that? Does it mean that the two coins are different?

D: They look the same to me.

She put one on top of the other. She points that the two coins have the same diameter.

Me: What about their thickness?

D: Oh, one of them is slightly thicker. Is this the magnetic one?

Me: What about the weight?

She balanced the two coins on the tip of her two middle fingers

D: They feel the same.

All this time P is playing with his magnet and coins and is shorting out magnetic and non-magnetic coins in two piles. He does not look interested in our investigation but he is obviously intrigued by the way the investigation is going. So he decides to intervene. In fact, they just had talked about magnetism the previous day at school, so he had something really useful insight to add to the discussion.

P: I know why! They are made from different materials.

D: Well done P! That could explain everything.

Me: What do you think you could do next?

D. I will try all other coins and sort them out.

So she tries all 1p and 2p coins and end ups with four piles of coins.

Me: How can we predict if a coin is magnetic or not?

D:That’s tricky, because we can not tell what material is made from just by looking at it.

She was really puzzled and could not come up with any ideas

Me: Look at the dates on the coin. What do you notice?

She records the dates of the coins in a table.

D: All the magnetic coins have dates after 2000. There is only one made in 1999. The non magnetic coins are really old.

She looks at one coin dated 1971.

D: Cool! This is  older than you.

Next I gave her a new pile of 1p and 2p coins.

Me: I want you to sort this out for me please. But there is a catch, you are now allowed to use a magnet this time. I want you to predict which coins are magnetic.

D: That’s easy-peasy mum. I only have to look at the year they were made.

She checked the dates and then uses the magnet to confirm her findings.

This is such a simple activity but D really enjoyed it so much that she plans to demonstrate it in her next science class.

Throughout this investigation D recorded her finding in a table with three columns

Value – Year – Magnetic?

When trying this at home encourage your child to use appropriate vocabulary such as Hypothesis Prediction, Investigation