Maths activities for the natural learner…

Most of the learning we do is in a really natural way. Through play, exploration, nature and every day life. I share a lot about this over on our Instagram page, but I thought I would compile a little list of a few ways we learn maths in a blog post!

MONEY

This is a really simple little set up for learning about money, as we try to involve the boys with money in age appropriate ways.
They get a little pocket money every week, which they save or spend and they are starting to understand the benefits of saving up for something. They also have real money in their play till and we try to use cash in shops to demonstrate change etc etc.
However, they both struggled with the idea that a single Β£1 coin was worth more than a handful of 1p coins. So, we had a quick trip to the bank to get one pound worth of each coin, to help them to understand the value of the coins.
We talked about the coins, played with them, made patterns with them, matched values (for example twenty 1p coins and one 20p coins) and their understanding grew.
It is the perfect little activity when you are stuck inside for the day!

TWO DIGIT NUMBERS

Rocco has a great understanding of numbers – what they look like and what they represet. He is now starting to learn some two digit numbers, so this little activity was perfect for a small world play loving boy! Cheeky old Jess the Cat muddled up all of Postman Pat’s letters and Rocco’s challenge was to read the house number on each letter to the corresponding house.
Rocco loved helping Pat to deliver all of the letters to the correct houses and did some great number recognition learning of numbers 11-20. You could change the numbers to 3 or 4 digit numbers, or even house names, depending on what you are focusing on with your child!

BINGO

This bingo game I picked up in a charity shop has been a complete hit with the boys! We have played it lots of times and it is another great game for number recognition right up to 100! Both of the boys have often read numbers backwards (so 85 would be 58 etc), so it’s a great way to get a bit of practice in whilst having fun!
I added these little blue cubes/sticks of 10 whilst we were playing and we represent the numbers with cubes each time to really consolidate what the number actually means. Archie has always had a real interest in number, so he was quite happy to include this into the game!

BAKING

Baking is a great activity for learning lots of mathematical concepts, so I will list a few here:
Weighing
Measuring
Estimating
Recognising and reading number
Time
Temperature
Money (buying ingredients with cash and looking at change)
Quantity
Size
Accuracy
Shape
This is not an exhaustive list and depending on what is being made, there is scope for even more maths learning.

SHUT THE BOX

Archie instantly fell in love with the game and it is perfect for solving addition and number bond problems! What a fun maths lesson hey! He screamed in delight when he rolled this double two to shut the box for the first time ever!
Initially I added the cubes to help him to work out some of the trickier number bonds or for when he needs to use 3 numbers, but he can play the game really independently now and never uses the cubes any more!
You can pick up a shut the box game relatively cheaply on the high street, so keep your eyes peeled for one!

CHILD LED

Children want to learn. They want to solve problems. They want to create. They want to discover. Our role is to provide the tools and facilitate. To support and to encourage.To have patience and be flexible.
I’ll be honest, after setting up such a lovely relaxing lavender play dough with lots of natural resources, I had to bite my tongue when Archie asked for the cutters we use when we just get the play dough box out. But he had a plan. He sat for a long time creating this pattern, working it out and checking for mistakes “small star, big star, circle, circle”. Not only was he consolidating his understanding of pattern, but he was learning patience, concentration, dedication, fine motor skills, completion of a task, properties of shape…all whilst discussing what he was doing, the play dough and the dry and fresh lavender. We talked about how lavender grows and about the scent.
If I hadn’t have given him the cutters, he probably would have sat there for another few minutes before going to do something else. This is what child led learning is all about.

There are so many opportunities to discuss and learn about maths in everyday life. In shops, in the home, in the car and even out and about in the natural world. It’s all about nurturing interests and natural curiosity and before you know it, your children will be understanding mathematical principles in a deeper way than if they were learning by rote.

How do you approach maths learning? I’d love to hear from you! Get in touch in the comments or over on Instagram @thelifeschoolers!

Lucy

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Mother’s Day

I have posted this on my personal Facebook page, but wanted to share the sentiment with my followers on here too:

Happy Mother’s Day to my lovely friends. I’m taking the opportunity to share this again …

To my friends who are Mothers, I hope you are treated today. I’m celebrating with you.

To my friends who have their Mothers, be thankful today. I am thankful like you.

To my friends who long to be Mothers, I hope you have hope today. I’m praying for you.

To my friends who are Mothers to babies and children whose lives were far too short, or who have lost their Mothers, have strength and courage. My heart breaks for you.

To my friends who are Mothers but are struggling to ‘enjoy every moment’, I see you. I hope today your spirits are lifted and you can find joy in the small things.

To my friends who are doing this journey of Motherhood alone, you are real life superheroes. My hope is that today you will know that and will be showered in love by your little people.

I am so aware now more than ever that today is lovely for some and so hard for others (sometimes even a mix of the two). My biggest hope is that all of my friends know and are shown love today (and every other day!)

Love

Lucy
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To my village…

It’s been a week since we made our move to our new home and I have been sitting on this blog post for a while. I thought now would be a good time to share it before it is too late.

This one is for my village. You know who you are.

It has been said many times that it takes a village to raise a child. But the problem I have found since having my children is that community is so broken down these days. The ‘village’ just isn’t there in the way it used to be. The early days of parenthood, once the visits have fizzled out and the husbands or partners go back to work can feel like more of a wilderness. A lonely time of sleep deprivation, pans piled high by the sink, trying to work out what’s best when it comes to your babies feeding, sleeping, crying and even trumping.

For me, this just wasn’t going to work. We were first time parents, away from my family and if I hadn’t dragged myself, eyebags and all, out to meet people, I could easily have slipped into a very dark place.

So off I trundled to our very first Music Bugs class with my 4 month old (the waiting list was long because it was so popular) and found myself singing to my sleeping baby, trying to build up some courage to talk to someone and instead rambling on to Archie about where we would go next.

Fortunately for me, I had sat next to Amy, who turned to me and invited me out for coffee with her and a couple of others and I am so glad I plucked up the courage to go. These people and gradually more lovely Mummies became my village…

The ones who look out for each other.

The ones who accept each other in whatever state they rock up in every Tuesday.

The ones who rearranged their working patterns at the end of maternity leave to protect spending Tuesdays together.

The ones who scoop your baby up when you end up crying alongside your over emotional toddler in the middle of a soft play centre.

The ones who change their plans to help you out when you or your baby are sick.

The ones who are there for each other through everything that life throws at them. Even the really messy stuff.

The ones who genuinely care for your children and you for their’s, as if they were family.

The ones who can stay up until midnight on Whats App, discussing towel washing or musicals or babies’ poo habits or more important stuff than that.

The ones who you would drop everything for if they or their children needed you.

The ones who you can sit on every farm park tractor ride with multiple times and still have fun.

The ones who you can totally be yourself around and not feel judged.

I feel incredibly honoured to have made such brilliant friends over the past 5 years and have made it my mission to be a ‘bit more Amy’ when I see someone who may need a friend. Someone who looks lonely, or overwhelmed, or new.

So…my village…I love you all, I miss you and I am so grateful for the friendship we share. You and your children have shaped the past 5 years for the better and I look forward to adventures of a different kind in the future.

And anyone else reading, don’t let yourself get swallowed up by the potential loneliness of early motherhood. Be brave and step outside your comfort zone. Get out to meet new people and if you see someone looking a bit lost, remember – be a bit more Amy.

Lucy x

Instagram – @thelifeschoolers

thelifeschoolers@gmail.com

Are we making fair comparisons between our schools?

I’ve recently seen a local news website publish a list of the top 10 performing schools in Lincolnshire and the worst 10. While I am in absolutely no doubt that the staff at the schools in the top ten are working so hard to the point of exhaustion (it kinda comes with the job,right?!) I have a few things I feel I need to get off my chest in support of those who didn’t quite make the grade (or level?) this time.

Firstly, these lists are produced based on the percentage of children in this year’s cohort getting a certain level in their year 6 SATS, including a teacher assessment in reading, writing, maths and science.

Whilst I totally disagree with the SATS for various reasons, I also feel it is totally unfair to label certain schools as the ‘worst’ in the county for many, many reasons.

Having previously worked in the school that has achieved second place in the top schools list (well done everyone!), I have also worked in a wonderful school in an area of the city with a much higher percentage of families living in deprivation. In this second school some children couldn’t talk before starting school. Some couldn’t independently use a toilet. Others were rarely fed breakfast or got to school on time. Some children had to sleep in their beds that they had had an accident in for the rest of the night. One girl had to escape her house through a window with her mother, whilst another had to be gifted with her own towel, soap and toothpaste so that she could maintain a level of hygiene at school. Add to that the amount of children speaking English as a second or sometimes third language in some areas, this quickly becomes a far more complex issue.

Some of these children start school in a much more vulnerable state and are not at the same ‘level’ of children in other schools. They first and foremost need to be shown love, affection and protection. They need to learn that they are valued and worthy of time. They need to be fed and nurtured in a way that others take for granted. Some children need to learn a whole new language and culture.

These children may never achieve a level 6 in their year 6 SATS (although some might), but the PROGRESS that these children will make in a good school with hardworking, dedicated and brilliant teaching will be outstanding.

A child who can not speak at the start of primary school may not reach the highest level by year 6, but they might be able to express themselves well, communicate effectively with others, perform in the school play, show someone new around the school and sing in the choir. Things that noone would have expected of them when they first started.

A child who can’t dress themselves when they start school or whose uniform is always unclean, may be able to demonstrate personal hygiene through the nurture and care of the school. They may learn to pour themselves a bowl of cereal, wash up their pots and help younger children when they need to. The brilliant staff in the school will no doubt have worked alongside the family to help them in areas they are struggling in. Plans will have been put in place to make sure this child will thrive and grow.

It’s ALL about the progress.

Please, please don’t look at the bottom of this list and think these schools are failing. They aren’t necessarily and they may even be some of the most nurturing and creative schools in the county; I don’t know. The schools towards the bottom may not hit the same levels as the ones at the top, but who knows, the progress these children make may well be outstanding!

How about we stop measuring the success or failure of a school by the results of a stressful and pressurised testing system.

How about we stop thinking that these schools at the bottom of the list are failing their children and in turn creating more stressed and disheartened teachers.

How about we spend more time focusing on these beautiful children and helping them to be the best person they can be for the benefit of the future of our world. Nurturing them to be all they want to be. Planting the seeds of hopes and dreams for the future.

How about we start trusting out teachers more and show more support, encouragement and respect for an entirely demanding role with a huge amount of responsibility.

I am NOT trying to say the schools at the top of the list have the easy job. FAR from it. They are clearly very brilliant at what they do. I just want to encourage people to recognise that this is a far more complex issue than how many children get a certain level in their year 6 SATS.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please do get in touch through the comments on here, via @thelifeschoolers on Instagram or by emailing us at thelifeschoolers@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading.

Lucy x

This is Life Schooling…

A few weeks ago we went on a trip to CBeebies Land with some of our absolutely favourite people. Archie was sat in the back of the car with one of his besties who he has grown up with, who does go to school. P asked Archie if he could count in twos and his automatic response was “No”. P was a little surprised that he couldn’t, so she told us about it.

It wasn’t until I gave Archie an example of counting in twos, that he realised he could in fact do that and also he could count in tens, it’s just that he has learnt it so naturally, that he didn’t know that this skill had a particular name!

This happened a couple more times that day when they were having their little chats in the back of the car and their conversations were so sweet to hear!

Fast forward a couple of weeks to yesterday when we were sat at dinner and a conversation came up about numbers. I thought I would take the opportunity to ask Archie a couple of questions. I started with “Do you know what double 3 is Archie”, to which answered “yes, 6!” We went through many other doubles which he loved and answered all of them correctly, only having to use his fingers to work out one of them.

This may seem normal for a boy of 5, but the thing is, I have never…and I really mean NEVER sat him down and taught him how to double numbers, or what a double is. It has ALL come through play and natural learning opportunities that have arisen in our daily lives. I have a feeling that his recent love for the game Shut the Box has helped too!

Fast forward again to today and Rocco, our 2 year old turned to me and correctly told me “This is my right hand and this is my left hand!” He showed me his right and left hand as he said it. I thought it was a fluke, but every time I asked him which was his right or left hand throughout the day, he got it right. Now, I’m sure you will all know by now, that I have never sat him down to teach him about his left and right either, but again, he has learnt through practical application and every day experiences. This particular piece of knowledge, he picked up when he was feeling particularly grumpy in the woods and Rex was telling him which way we would need to go next. He told him ONCE which hand was which, to help him know which way to go and it stuck!

It amazes me daily how much knowledge and skill these boys soak up every day. They don’t even realise they are learning most of the time! One day, Archie may need to know that it is called ‘counting in twos’, or whatever else it is he needs to know, but at least then, he will already know what to do and it will just be a fancy name to give to all of his many different skills and pockets of knowledge!

This is life schooling. Learning through the every day. The mundane. The adventure. The daily problem solving. The play. And do you know what?…It’s working!

Thanks for reading, please do get in touch either in the comments on here, through our Instagram page (@thelifeschoolers) or drop us an email at thelifeschoolers@gmail.com!

Lucy

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