The Sassafras Twins and

Our Grade 3 science curriculum this year has been based around the adventures of the Sassafras twins, a living book curriculum by Elemental Science.  The living book approach is based around the Charlotte Mason philosophy that you should use ‘real’ books to teach, instead of text books.  I’ve always felt very connected to the idea that books are teaching tools in and of themselves, no additional work needed, so this approach appealed to me a lot.  The curriculum revolves around a novel, starring the Sassafras twins Blaine and Tracey, as they adventure through the world of science.

Though you can just use the main story as a living text, there is also a curriculum that goes along side the novel, expanding on the scientific information embedded in the story.  We used this curriculum for the first book on Zoology quite happily, but I found that the same approach wasn’t working for us when we used it for the second book focusing on  Human Anatomy.  Backing up a little I will say the there is nothing wrong with the curriculum, it is detailed and allows for lots of learning to take place.  It includes copy work, experiments and projects as well as resources for further learning.  For the first module, I found the additional materials worked really well for us and we enjoyed all of the experiments and activities.


However, when it came to studying the Anatomy module, we suddenly found ourselves quite bogged down by the curriculum portion.  Perhaps it is the time of year, or perhaps the methodology just became a bit repetitive, but we went from enjoying our science to sort of dreading it.  I think a big part of the issue is the vocabulary involved in learning about Anatomy and the fact that Neirin is still a learning writer.  We are still working on cursive and handwriting in general, so to couple that process with handwriting complex vocabulary about the human body was a real struggle.  I had considered leaving it aside altogether when I was introduced to a technological solution for our issues.

Huwyl, is now attending public school and was introduced to a website called in his Language Arts class.  It’s a collaborative tool that allows various contributors to build boards and resources together, in Huwyl’s class it was used to record information and perceptions on the novel they were reading in class.  When he showed it to me I could immediately see it’s potential as a learning tool; it is really intuitive and allows users to add images, videos and even record their own voices.  Below is a mock up I made for comparing novels using themes and setting.

It is really easy to create a virtual pin board that is full of information and quick to create; as soon as I started playing around I knew I had the solution to our science slump.  Instead of laboriously going through the process of asking questions, writing up the answers on the white board and then waiting for Neirin to copy it down, we went hi-tech.


When I started to play around with the site, I could see immediately a variety of applications.  Above is the first board that Neirin created alone, in response to a chapter on the 5 senses.  It brings together information he remembered from the chapter, as well as videos and images he was able to directly source from Google still within Padlet. 

Like most kids, Neirin finds typing a lot less stressful than handwriting, so instead of a miserable kid whining ‘Do I have to?’ every few seconds, I have a perfectly happy one learning without really noticing.  This resource also allows him to be more creative in response to the material, not being limited by what he can comfortably hand write and draw.  My favourite bit on this particular board is the GIF of the two kitties fighting with the tagline “Taste my green Lightsaber” on the section devoted to taste.  A perfect marriage of science, science fiction and kittehs.

When I decided to make the switch over from hand written notes to Padlet, I spent some time converting Neirin’s existing notes into a virtual board.  This gave me the chance to try out the format and see what it can do, I was also able to present Neirin with something of a fait accompli.  As we went forward he just needed to add to the board with each chapter, rather than starting from scratch which, I felt, would have been rather self defeating.  As well as speeding up the process of note taking, we now have a fun resource that we can use for reference, or to share with friends, that can be easily understood.


While I’m happy to work on foundational skills as an important part of our homeschool, I also don’t want every day to feel like a torment.  I believe that skills like handwriting take time to evolve, but I don’t want to limit my kid’s conceptual understanding to what they are mechanically able to produce.  Since we first starting our schooling process, when Huwyl was only 5, we used narrations to reflect learning; this allowed us to explore interesting material without bogging us down with written work.  As time has moved on my philosophy remains the same, expose the kids to material that encourages them to think, question and evolve.

My approach to education has always revolved around two interwoven strands, skills based learning that creates a transferrable base and subject specific learning that encourages broader thinking.  Something that I feel mainstream education gets very wrong is the direct connection between what a student is given conceptually vs what they can record.  A student can be a slow or even dysfunctional writer, but can still  grasp complex ideas well beyond the scope of their written work.  When we limit students to only what they can mechanically produce, we are missing out on the opportunity to expand and grow their understanding across all subjects and disciplines.

So as we continue to work on fluid handwriting, I am happy to use the wonders of technology to quickly and efficiently record the materials we are using.  I’m not sure what Ms Mason would make of all this flashy nonsense, but I really fail to see how anyone can object to light saber wielding kittehs.  All in the name of science, of course.


Turn your face to the sun

Today I felt the warmth of the sun seep into me. My skin, my muscles, my bones. It has felt like the longest of long winters, endless and unforgiving, but then the sun came out.

Winter still had a hold  but spring is waking too. Seeds are sprouting,  brains are being dusted off and we are opening the doors to the outside. 

I know winter isn’t done with us yet, but I’ll take everything I can get. 

Bringing In The Morning Basket

Over the course of our homeschool (this is our 7th year, yikes!) I’ve employed Morning Time at different points.  When the boys were younger would begin our day with a circle, we’d sing little songs and do some yoga and then move on to reading together.  Fast forward to life with a 2nd and 6th grader and this special morning gathering had slipped away.

As my boys have grown older I’ve definitely felt the pressure to make sure they are hitting their academic targets.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a good pressure and it’s a pressure I place on myself.  Making sure my kids have a robust and meaningful education is a big part of why we homeschool.  But there are other reasons too and those are the reasons that I felt were getting pushed to one side.

When it came to making sure my kids had access to great educational resources I could give myself a big tick; but what about the more esoteric reasons I began this homeschooling journey?  Charlotte Mason talked about education as an ‘atmosphere’, surrounding and steeping your family in the very best the world has to offer.  Music, art and literature are all things I’m passionate about, but I was finding hard to slot them into our busy homeschool days.




Recently my interest was piqued when I began reading about Morning Baskets.  These homeschoolers are using the same simple concept of Morning Time and elevating it to meet the needs of older students.  It is a really great way to bring to the table (or in our case the sofa) all the little bits of learning or materials that don’t fit into traditional subjects, yet have real benefits for our children.

So instead of launching our day by moving straight into our academic subjects, such as maths or a writing project, we begin with our morning basket.  Right now this includes a bit of an eclectic mix of things ranging from meditation audios to learning about Art History.  I am still playing around with the format and it’s a bit free flowing right now, but I’m feeling happy that we are exploring the subjects that add a little richness to my kid’s education.

For ease of use I’ve developed a Morning Basket ‘spine’, a selection of books to reach for each day, without having to be too creative!  I’ve been really inspired by blog posts I’ve been reading at Edsnapshots and have used lots of her practical ideas and resource suggestions.   Over the last couple of weeks I’ve included:

Skylark – the sequel to Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan

Viking Tales – Jennie Hall  We’ve been learning about the Vikings in our history and this has been a lovely way to expand on that.

13 Paintings Children Should Know – Angela Wenzel

13 Art Mysteries Children Should Know – Angela Wenzel

Winter Bees by Joyce Sidman – we’ve really enjoyed this book and I have a few more of hers lined up for when we finish this one.  The poems are accompanied by information about the animals, so it is a lovely mix of art, poetry and science.



When I am using our ‘standard’ basket we will typically read a chapter each of the novels, 2-3 poems and  a picture from each of the books.  This usually takes 30 minutes to an hour, which is really great value considering we have touched on literature, language arts, science (zoology), art history and history.  While we haven’t delved too deeply into any of the subjects, by touching on them regularly we gain a deeper understanding over time.  As each book is finished I have something else on standby that rotates in to that slot.  A novel, poetry, art appreciation etc.  Simples.

By beginning together, we are putting our energies into the same things but also easing into the day when brains (mine especially) are still getting into gear.  We are sharing thoughts and ideas that are simple but so enriching, but we otherwise wouldn’t make time for.  I’ve also noticed that by beginning the day with couch-snuggling-reading-together-time, I meet with a lot less foot dragging from the boys when it comes to starting school.  For some reason they find the prospect of poetry and cuddles more tempting than a maths lesson or some spelling review.  Who could possibly have guessed?  But really it’s the mental equivalent of veggies hidden in their snack.  They get to ‘relax’ with Mummy, while I get to fill their brains with poetry and art history.  Perfect.


Spring Doldrums – Homeschool Edition

I read this article this morning about the spring doldrums and, I have to admit, I was relieved to know it isn’t just me that has a sense of things flagging at this time of year.  After checking in with my lovely Mum pals I discovered that, indeed, I am not the only one with diminished sense of purpose and enthusiasm.  As the weather is shifting I’m feeling a restlessness and desire for change.

When we began homeschooling I set out a few priorities in my own mind as to what I really cared about.  Some of those things have shifted but actually a good amount has remained the same.  I want our lives to coordinate with seasonal changes, to recognise their influence on our states of mind and wellbeing.  I want the boys to spend as much time outside as they can, to feel comfortable in nature.  But I also want them to have a broad education that provides them with transferable skills throughout their lives.  Sometimes it feels like these priorities are working against each other.

During the winter months I find it relatively easy to stick to a nice rhythm that allows us to get plenty of work under our belts.  I’d say that over the course of the year we get the bulk of our table work done between November and April.  In the early fall the farm still demands a lot of our time and the same in the spring and early summer; juggling the priorities of the homestead, the farm business and our homeschool schedule takes up a lot of my mental bandwidth.  I also really care about doing these things, growing a good amount of our food and teaching the boys these skills; so I’m not willing to step away from them entirely in favour of book work.

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When we moved to the farm it was to surround the boys with a certain kind of environment, we wanted to put them in the way of experiences that they could carry forward into their adult lives. Stephen and I both value academics but with practical skills to run alongside them.  As I write Huwyl is out feeding the calf her lunch time bottle, while Neirin collects the eggs from the chicken coop.  This work has a value not just in terms of the produce but in teaching them the importance of work and effort in making a life.  The farm doesn’t simply spring out of nowhere, it takes considerable effort and continuous work, that’s something the boys are a part of and the work they do contributes significantly.

But I also want them to be well read, to understand scientific concepts, to broaden their horizons with a solid understanding of art and history as well as strengthening their bodies with good physical exercise and sport.  I want them to experience all of the good bits of school, the bits I really valued and enjoyed, but without all the trouble of having to go to school.  Basically I want it all.

Each year I have to sit down and reassess what that means to me, how are we going to strike that balance this year?  As the boys evolve and develop, their needs and requirements change, so I have to change my strategies and approaches too.  It can be a bit wearing to constantly reevaluate, but it’s also what makes this work interesting to me.  I enjoy the challenge of researching, planning and strategising, there are always new possibilities to discover and new options to explore.  As the boys are getting older I’m also casting my mind ahead to the next teaching year and thinking about how the work we are doing now can flow into that as naturally as possible.

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So, for my own enlightenment as much as anything, I’m going to outline how I mentally breakdown our year, while hoping to avoid actual mental breakdown if at all possible.

Sept- Nov – This season for us is very busy and active.  The weather is still nice so lots of outside time, activities with friends and farm work.  Our days can still be unpredictable with the demands of the harvest impinging on a regular schedule but we are beginning to get into our stride.  This season is an extension of the early summer season where school and homesteading/farming are very intermixed.  My goals for this season are:

  • Enjoy outside fun as much as possible, soon the weather will keep us in for most of the time.
  • Involve the boys in harvest chores, teaching as we work.
  • Revel in the freedom our homeschooling schedule provides, allowing us to indulge in time with family and friends.
  • Work on seasonal projects that involve outside work.
  • Introduce some of the key elements of our new academic year, begin working on our maths, spelling and history programmes.
  • Through September and early October we often only do a half day of academics that covers our core work.  If we don’t have farm work or an outside adventure we can spend the afternoon doing extra history projects of some science work.
  • As we begin to ‘close’ the farm and garden our days become more school focused, though we take advantage of every warm day that comes our way.

Nov – Christmas

  • School is now in full swing, we are doing full days (for Huwyl anyway, Neirin’s schedule still accommodates more free time) and touching on all of our subjects over the course of the week.
  • We take the odd day for Christmas celebrations with friends, but we are covering a good amount of work each week.
  • We still only work 4 days a week with Fridays as a catch-all in case something has dragged on.  Usually this is a day for free choice projects, chores around the house or seeing friends.

January – Mid April

  • This is where the bulk of our work is achieved.  We are doing full days and covering all our subjects.
  • Mornings are usually focused on core work (different for each child) covering spelling, history, french, literature, language arts and maths for Neirin.
  • Once a week we work on art history and some art projects as part of our history curriculum.
  • Maths for Huwyl and science projects are done in the afternoon.

Mid April – End of June (officially)

  • As the spring ramps up we are back into farm/homestead/homeschool juggling.  Life becomes a bit more fluid again.
  • Mornings for school with time for catching up or free choice projects in the afternoon.
  • As projects/books are finished they are not replaced.  This is the time where we get to leave things behind.
  • Opportunities with friends are taken up, fun is on the menu.
  • LOTS of outside time.
  • Nature rule is in effect (as it is all year really) if the boys are outside playing or active I don’t call them in.

End of June – End of Summer

  • A bit of review work each day, unless we are of having an adventure.
  • Begin nature journalling each day (when possible).
  • A list of projects for the boys to choose from each day, to avoid boredom and bickering.
  • Adventures with friends.
  • Farm work.
  • Regular chores.
  • Hopefully time for silent moments and drifting whenever needed.

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When I was teaching I remember fondly the projects that we used to do post exam season.  There was a feeling of space and the diminishment of stress that led to interesting chats and a slower pace.  I feel that this phase of the year embraces that philosophy too.  We are ticking boxes of work that has been steadily plugged away at over the course of the year and enjoying the sense of achievement that comes with completing things.  But we are also aware of being in a winding down phase that allows for other opportunities to be taken up.

This year, more than any other, we’ll be finishing the year with a strong sense of having reached our collective goals, both in school and personally.  I’m so proud of what the boys have done this year and I’m a bit proud of myself too.  Despite having homeschooled for 6 years now, each year presents new challenges and opportunities, this year was no exception.  As the farming season ramps up, demanding new things of us, and we look forward to the opportunities that summer brings, I’m happier than ever that we made this decision.  At least I’m happy most of the time.  Just like everything else, happiness requires effort and work.  But when the work is done, the payoff is always worth it.


Garden Schooling

It’s gardening season here on the farm, with tomato plants abounding and green things on our minds.  We are in the process of building a series of raised beds so that we can really get stuck into our veggie production and we’ve been planting fruit trees and bushes around our garden too; it’s gardenpalooza.

So it makes sense that it should also become part of our school work, after all the big advantage of homeschooling is that we can choose what to learn about and do it in an integrated way.  For our family, raising and growing our own food is a big part of our raison detre and we really want to include the boys in the work it involves.  We also want them to learn the skills they will need in their own lives, the skills needed to be less dependent on a food system that is, it seems to me, doomed to fail.

DSC_0600 DSC_0601 DSC_0602Without wanting to be scary-post-apocalypse-gardening-lady (no one invites her to their party) I believe that the future will look very different from what we are used to.  Our food systems will be strong affected by the rapidly changing world we live in now and knowing how to grow food is going to be increasingly important.  I could wax lyrical for many hours with my thoughts on food security and it’s importance, but I shall refrain and instead talk about tomatoes.

Is it possible to have too many tomatoes?  I’m not sure it is and I tend to act accordingly.  This year we’ve got about 140 determinates (bush varieties) on the go and I’d like a few indeterminates for the polytunnel too, but we shall see if that works out.  We are bringing our tomatoes on in the tunnel and will be planting them out in June, weather depending.  My life goal is to produce enough tomatoes (and manage to preserve them in good time) to see us through a full year, it is a simple goal but one I haven’t quite managed to achieve.  This year we made it to about February on our own produce (we had tomatoes on the go from about July last year so that puts us at the 7/8 month mark) so we’ll see what we can manage this year.

DSC_0599DSC_0603 DSC_0604As part of our school last week I did some gardening work with the boys, teaching them how to transplant seedlings and talking about what seeds need to grow.  We set up a surprisingly efficient assembly line with Neirin filling the pots, Huwyl levelling and creating the holes and me transplanting the seedlings.  We got 40 or so done (so more to do) which I was really pleased with.  The boys were extremely enthusiastic about their involvement, organizing themselves to make the tasks easier and working very efficiently as part of a team.  I hope this bodes well for future gardening activities, there are going to be a lot of them.

DSC_0605 DSC_0606If I could hope to instil one trait in the boys through our homeschool (and family) journey, it would be confidence in their own abilities.  I want them to feel able, resourceful and capable of tackling whatever life throws at them.  And if my vision of the future is crazy nonsense, well being able to garden never hurt anyone.

On Christmas Eve

The storm that has been kicking North America’s botty for the last few days has finally abated, the snow and ice rain receding and leaving behind cobalt blue cold.  From Friday to Sunday we battled against snow and ice, trudging through calf deep drifts with buckets of feed and water, feeling the ice pellets slip down the back of our jackets or listening to the tiny hiss of snow landing on snow.

On Friday my friends forged through terrible driving conditions to come and share part of the solstice with us.  Cosily we spent time and watched as the snow fell and fell, coating everything; but we knew the ice rain was coming next, a much more dangerous cousin.  So after sharing our celebrations everyone headed off to hunker down for the weekend.

But this morning, ah this morning.  Bright and clear and (-28C) a tad brisk, but…

DSC_0588 DSC_0591 DSC_0592 DSC_0594 DSC_0595 DSC_0602As the new sun rose, tinting the world with hues of summer, I couldn’t help but stand in awe of this place I have the privilege of calling home.  A shining world made of diamonds and glass, the reward for days hiding and rushing, dodging ice and cold.

DSC_0616 DSC_0628 DSC_0624 DSC_0619 DSC_0617Even the most mundane things were covered in sparkles and light, reflecting the dawn in a way that seemed as if it was shining in each flake at once, transforming summer chicken coops and fences into Faberge creations.

DSC_0628 DSC_0634 DSC_0633 DSC_0632 DSC_0631Last night we finished the last of our Christmas shopping, a few books that still needed to be bought.  We were out after dark, later than we ever normally would be, dipping our toes into the world of commercial Christmas and then heading home again to our cocoon.  But this morning, this is what makes the heart soar and fly.  Crunching through a crystal crust while marvelling at the presents nature has wrought.  Noticing a head of Goldenrod encased in sparkling glass, a magical bouquet beyond our making.

DSC_0636DSC_0639 DSC_0643 DSC_0640Without meaning to sound trite (but of course sounding it anyway) I was reminded that the true meaning of Christmas is not in the gifts we buy, not matter how much we treasure them.  It’s outside, the world that we walk on every day and often forget to be grateful for it’s strange miracles.  It’s the way the sun catches the light on an ice encrusted branch, it’s friends taking time to be with us, it’s long distance Skype calls to those far away but always close in my heart, it’s crazy excited kids, it’s bumping into your beloved on the daily chore run and feeling as full of joy at that meeting as I did 19 years ago.  It’s laughing at the stunning beauty while our faces are pinched hard and our toes protest that it really is time to go inside.

DSC_0637DSC_0622DSC_0647It’s all that and more, lots more.  More than I have words for and quite possibly more than I deserve.  But, knowing that, knowing how chance and luck have worked along side determination and struggle, I grab it with both hands and hold on tight.  I grab it all with both arms and squeeze the joy right to me, right inside me.  I let it sit and fizz away as I watch my wonderful family enjoy this day, as I connect to those far away that I wish I could squeeze close but settle for seeing their lovely faces and hearing their laughing voices instead.

I am blessed and I hope so are you.  Sending everyone rapturous joy this yuletide; stay warm, stay safe and have a very, very Merry Christmas.

Playful Maths

I’ve recently spent a lot of time thinking about maths.  A lot.  Not so much the maths itself but about how I teach maths and how my children learn maths. I’m currently undertaking an e-course through Stamford University Online called How To Learn Math, which has opened my eyes to so many possibilities and helped me to address many of the poor lessons I absorbed as a maths learner myself.

I’ll try to come back to this topic a bit more when I’ve finished the course and I’ve developed some of these ideas but basically there are some fundamental principles that I’ve been getting wrong.  Messages that I received that I’ve been passing on to my children, with a negative impact on both them and me.

See I’ve always hated maths, I loathed it.  I felt stupid in maths class and even as an adult, taking courses as part of my post graduate when studying teaching, I was in tears in a room full of strangers.  It was crazy nonsense to me and I couldn’t make sense of any of it.  Now this may make me sound like the worst possible person to teach a child maths but here are my thoughts on that:

1) I am INCREDIBLY motivated to make sure my children don’t have the same experience I did;

2) I can respond to their specific needs and pace, I don’t need to be an expert to do that and;

3) Many actual maths teachers are terrible at teaching maths.

There, I said it.  The way maths is taught in schools is largely bad.  And do you know how I know that?  Because the nice lady on the Stamford e-course told me so.  There is a whole section at the beginning about how many of us are scarred by our experiences in the classroom and how things need to change in order to help everyone be as successful as they can be in maths.

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Number Pegs activity from Playful LearningThe fractions activity is from the post Playful Learning – Learning With Circles 

So here are some of the key things I’ve taken away from the course so far, they may seem small but to me they have been profound concepts that are already altering the way I teach.

1 – Maths is not about natural ability, most of us are capable of being good at maths.  I found this idea shocking as, like many people, I always saw maths as something of a gift.  You either have it or you don’t.  This is what is known as a fixed mindset and is the kind of mindset that prohibits learning.  If you believe you are rubbish at maths and can never improve you won’t.  In order to grow you require a growth mindset, allowing you to accept change and develop; but in order for that to happen you must…

2 – See mistakes as positive.  What?!  But mistakes are bad aren’t they?  That’s why we call them mistakes!  I mean we all say that ‘we learn from our mistakes’ but really we know that is tosh and that being good at stuff is what counts (and if you can be good with no effort so much the better).  But in fact our brains benefit from making mistakes, our synapses fire much more when we make and subsequently correct mistakes, more even than when we get it right.  That’s right, we learn more by getting it wrong.

And finally (for now)

3 – Speed does not equal success.  This may seem like a small detail but in fact is central to our perception of what makes us successful in maths.  Speed in class, speed in tests, getting the answer first.  I don’t think I’m the only person who associates being quick and being good at something.  But this is the enemy to understanding, the rushing through things without strong understanding.  I was rushed and I rush in turn, leaving behind the hope of really getting it for the short term satisfaction of the right answer.  This is a mindset I’m hoping to abandon in favour of allowing my boys to really understand in their own time. If that means sitting on the floor for 40 minutes working with manipulatives to do 5 subtraction questions (like we did yesterday) then that is what we do.  And we’ll do it everyday from now on.

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{Santa Geometry Activity from Ed Emberley’s website, December activities.                       The wonderfully inspirational Picture Pie book by Ed Emberley.}

The course is taught by Jo Boaler and she uses a great quote by Fields Medal winner Laurent Schwartz.  The Fields Medal is like the nobel prize except harder to win, so I’m going to assume he’s a pretty clever chap.  Yet he talks about how he was often the slowest in his class and how he always worked slowly throughout his career.

“What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other.  This is where intelligence lies.  The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant.  Naturally, it’s helpful to be quick, like it is to have a good memory.  But it’s neither necessary nor sufficient for intellectual success.” Laurent Schwartz

This idea that being quick wasn’t important was like a boulder being lifted off my spirit.  I had never realized what an ingrained idea this is until I challenged it.  Why is it good to be quick? Why can’t we explore things deeply and with real understanding?  Well we know why of course.  In a classroom understanding is not the main goal, it can’t be; proving that the ‘standards’ have been met and that the school is doing it’s job is always the first priority.  Not because teachers or parents or even politicians want it this way but because when we judge one another by a ‘norm’ instead of by looking at individuals in a way that respects them as distinct, we lose the opportunity to really connect.

So the idea of speed being king has also gone out of the window.  It’s a relief all round I can tell you.  I’m taking on board what Jo Boaler says about learning, that we should always be at the edge of our understanding and therefore making mistakes and growing from them.

Another idea that is being reinforced by this course is that maths is not arithmetic.  Arithmetic is a part of maths but maths is so much more and that we have to work at strengthening the whole maths brain not just the memorization part of it.  This is something Stephen and I have been talking about for a while and we’ve begin drawing in other elements.  We’ve incorporated games to introduce strategic thinking, apps that allow for more fun, stories to touch on maths concepts, songs and rhythmic movement to reinforce learning  and generally tried to approach things with a more varied perspective.

With that in mind I’m making sure that our maths hour includes not just our textbook work but work that works on skills and on building what I’m starting to call the ‘maths brain’.  The part of the brain that works on logic, spacial recognition, reasoning and strategic thinking.  This goes beyond simply working on arithmetic and begins to incorporate other elements, especially those of creativity and movement, in order to solidify learning.

One of my go-to resources when exploring any topic is Playful Learning.  I’ve been a fan of Mariah Bruel who runs and orchestrates that website for years, and my admiration has not diminished since I had the chance to make small contributions to her blog over the last year or so.  Her charm and warmth shine through all of her work and she has a wonderful knack from bringing together ideas in ways that creates clarity and inspires action.

I’ve owned her book (also called Playful Learning) since it came out and regularly use her resources page as well as the wonderful contributions on her blog to give me some ideas for inputting more creativity into my teaching.  Today’s maths lesson with the boys came almost exclusively from Playful Learning related sources so I thought I’d share them for anyone else seeking a bit of inspiration.  I’ve popped a link beneath each photo so that you can find these resources easily yourself.

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{Freeform geometry creativity from Neirin at the top followed by his pattern work based on the Learning With Circles post.  This was the making patterns activity. }

Today when I was talking to Huwyl about a correction he needed to make (in a different subject) we talked about how the word ‘mistake’ has such negative connotations, I said I wished I had another word I could use instead that expressed our new understanding of the value of mistakes.  He thought for a minute and then said “You could just point at the mistake and say ‘Your brain needs to grow here’, then I’ll know I need to look at it again. ” That moment alone, from a child who has been horrified by mistakes, smiling up at me over a spelling correction felt like a huge shift.  I feel like we are finally finding our way to where we want, and need, to be.