Monday, September 29, 2014

The Lego Movie



For a while now I have been thinking that establishing a regular family movie night would be a great idea, so when I was offered the chance to get a free copy of The Lego Movie from suppose.com, in exchange for writing about it, I jumped at the chance to get this thing started.

The first thing I noticed is that it is HARD to watch a movie. Two reasons for that really. One is BB, and the other is me. BB interrupted a lot, wanting things to eat, drink, can you play this, do this, etc etc. And as for me, it seems I really don't have the attention span to watch a whole movie these days. There was even a time when BB was looking at the iPad and I was looking at something on my phone too. What are we like? Oh yes, we are supposed to be watching a movie!

It was a good exercise though, were were bad at it, we needed rules. Movie night needs to be planned. We need prepared TV snacks, iPads and phones must be banned, we have sit down and just watch. We needed to practice that. After several failed attempts we finally got it right tonight and sat down and watched the whole movie from start to finish. It was good. We must make a habit of this!

As for The Lego Movie, we LOVE it. It has now played all the way through about five times. I have watched bits here and there, and then finally managed the whole thing from start to finish tonight. BB has seen it more than me. He loves it too. He talks about the 'Lego Man' a lot and has told me he wishes I was a Wyldstyle Lady! Well I guess when you think about it, it combines all his favourite things  - there is lego, building sites, machines, and trains, so he is bound to be more than happy!

I was concerned at first that it was a bit violent for a U. BB is only 3 and he certainly hasn't seen this much fighting before. I have desensitised as it has gone on though - perhaps I was over sensitive to begin with - they are not real people - there is no blood. BB certainly wasn't bothered by it - he was a bit scared in the scenes where the 'Lego Man' is falling, but the fighting didn't bother him at all. It is a very funny movie too, entertaining on a number of levels, with some excellent social and human observations and some brilliant one liners  (one of my faves was "rest in pieces"). It's a perfect family movie, with something for everyone.

For those who haven't seen it, the central character who BB calls the Lego man is actually called Emmet Brickowowski. He is just an ordinary guy. He works on a construction site, and lives a lonely life, keeping him self going with a combinations of delusion and self help books. Many of us will find aspects of his character that we identify with in the opening scenes. Emmet sees Wylsdstyle (a woman he finds very attractive) on the building site after hours, and goes to investigate. He falls down a hole, and finds himself compelled to touch the 'Piece of Resistance'. He is then captured by the 'Bad Cop' and rescued by Wyldestyle, who believes him to be the prophesised 'Special'.

The story unfolds from here and I won't give away any more - watch the movie - you will like it.

To add another level, it turns out that the whole story is actually being played out by a real life small boy who is 'just playing' with his Dad's lego set in the basement. "You know the rules, this isn't a toy!"

In addition to all this, there is a definite feel good message that comes through - something along the lines of the only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be, only you can be you and do what you do, build what you build, make whatever weird thing comes into your head, contribute, and together we can... 

The theme song, Everything is Awesome is a great feel good song too. It does get stuck in your head, but there are worse things to be singing!

In summary, I loved this movie and so did BB. I am really happy that it is the first movie in our family DVD collection and look forward to adding more. I also hope we get better at putting life, iPads, phones and other stuff aside and sitting down and enjoying a good movie on a regular basis.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Last Day of Pre-School

Yes, you did read that correctly! 


I have been on quite a journey since I posted about the first day, just a week ago, suffering physically as well as mentally, as I tend to do when there's a lot going on in my head. The pre-school we were going to was really good. They have have an excellent reputation, OFSTED say they are great too. They have really accommodated us and answered all my questions in the right way. But we quit anyway.

Why?

Well, once it dawned on me that I could home ed, and then I thought about what I would do if I did home ed, and then I realised that was what I am already doing anyway, but now preschool is getting in the way. Plus pre school hours don't allow me to work, which isn't really an option. Plus if we do go back to Australia so as to delay his formal schooling until he's 6 1/2 there is no need for him to get school ready, and if I carry on with home ed there is no need for him to be school ready either. And he doesn't like it. 

I do need him to go somewhere for a few hours though, so that I can do the things I need to do. Ideally it would be for a long enough period for me to run classes again one morning. I talked with him over and over to see if he would rather stay at nursery of  pre-school. Mostly his answer was that he didn't like any, but several times he said nursery. When I asked about pre-school the answer was "no mummy, that was the last day". Nursery hours are more flexible, they suit me better, he is used to it, he has a great friend there, he is attached to his key worker, it is more play based and less structured in the 'prep for formal learning' kind of way. So nursery won. Unfortunately they had already given away the session we really wanted, but they can do some other hours that work for us, and he still gets to see his best friend.

As for what I am doing instead, we are going to carry on as we are. BB is very inquisitive, he asks questions and then we investigate. This week we have been down to a nature reserve that he likes twice already, he calls it the water place. Someone has made a film of it on YouTube, BB said "we should do that too Mum", so I think we will. We took the camera yesterday when we went to pick blackberries. We might try and take photos every month so we can compare what happens over the seasons. Other questions he has been asking are things like "what does it look like inside your body?" We have now watched several documentaries via YouTube that show you that. He is really interested that your eyes see things upside down, and how babies grow in tummies. 

When I first made the list of what I thought should be included each week I noticed that we pretty much do everything already. At first I thought that music was missing, but I have since observed that he makes his own music all the time, by singing and with exploratory activities such as banging sticks on fences and tins and that sort of thing - experimenting with sound - that's the early stages of music development surely.

I am excited too as I feel that I can really pursue my passion now, which is education.  I am loving reading books about how children learn once again. When I first moved back to the UK, I registered a company called Learning Now (representing that we can learn from our environment that we are in, that modern life has changed but our education system is still designed for the industrial revolution, now we have technology which is a hugely powerful tool that is transforming learning (but schools and many parents are a bit scared of it), and there's also a little Buddhist influence of being in the here and now - I thought it was dead clever name!). The plan was to develop place based, rich, purposeful and contextualised learning opportunities but it never really took off - my only contracts ended up being for Australian companies that I had worked with before. Now I feel that I can develop that idea, even though it's in a different way - it's a more meaningful way really. I really don't know why I never thought  about doing it before! This is another thing that makes me feel like we are on the right track. It's a way for us both to do what we love.

I have mentioned my plans to home school to several other people. Interestingly people are only concerned about social interaction, no one is in the slightest bit concerned that he will miss out on some valuable educational experiences (says it all really). I too want BB to socialise, but he will still have a minimum of 8 hours at nursery each week, and group swimming lessons, and gym classes, and Home Ed meet ups, and play dates, and numerous family events, and visits overseas - so I think that's more than covered all manner of social interaction. 

I am slightly nervous, but not too much. The main thing that worries me is the fact that if he doesn't start school now but decides that he wants to go later, will he be able to deal with it? And then I remind myself that the countries with the best educational outcomes, children don't start formal learning until they are 7, so I figure that means we have two to four years to experiment and try things out before we really have to make a choice.

I think I am going to document what we do on a separate blog... partly because I want to have a record of it for the powers that be that might come asking, and partly because it will help me to see what BB knows and where his interests lie, partly for me out of interest as an educator and educational researcher, and also for BB as a record of some of the things we have done - if we continue maybe he will take over writing some of it as he gets older. It might be of interest to others once we get going too.

So there we have it. Undoubtedly one of the shortest pre school careers in history. 

FX no regrets!



Below are some photos from the "water place"











Monday, September 15, 2014

Paris je t'aime - Stationery review


Cover of Paris je t'aime journal from Life Canvas

We returned from our holiday in Paris to find a parcel waiting for us. Inside, two items from the Paris je t'aime stationery range for us to review.

I love this. The journal has a hard cover and each of its 160 pages inside has a design on - there are 10 different page designs in total, and they repeat throughout the book.

One of the page designs inside the book

Another page design

This is the kind of book that I want to keep for a special occasion. I want to use it for something that we will keep, not just a notebook. The beauty of it makes me want to do my best handwriting inside it too. I think I am going to use to document our trips to Paris, we go there quite frequently as PP is French. BB is learning French too, informally of course. I imaging we will go many more times, and at some pint BB is likely to go with his Daddy and PP and not me (I am so not ready for that yet!). Anyway - I am thinking that I can put some notes and photos from the trips that we have done so far, and then add to it as we do more. This will hopefully be a lovely memory book for BB to keep long into the future.

I also received a little booklet of post it notes. These are also divine, there are 11 designs in two different sizes, each with a little image of its own. I have hidden these from BB - he loves to take my little post it tabs from my desk.

Sticky notes

Presented in a beautiful little fold out book

2 sizes - 11 designs - 275 sticky notes
You can see more (and enjoy a little Parisienne music) in the video below




As you can probably tell - I would definitely recommend these products. They make a lovely gift, or a little bit of stationery self indulgence for yourself.

Disclaimer: These products were received free of charge for the purpose of this review as part of the Parragon Book Buddies Program. All opinions are our own.


Gold Stars Work Books - Review

The Alphabet Wall Chart that comes with the book

At Britmums Live, back in June, I was approached to review one of the Gold Stars books. These have especially designed to deal with the "summer learning loss", or in other words, the fact that children forget some of the stuff they learnt at school during the summer holidays, which concerns some teachers. It doesn't really concern me, and my son hadn't started school yet, and the title "Gold Stars" put me off considerably as it makes me think of a system of rewards and punishments, which regular readers will know I am quite opposed to (see Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn if you want to know why).

Having worked with Parragon for a while now, I know that they appreciate honesty when it comes to reviews. Just to be sure though, I spoke with the person giving them out, letting her know that this might not be the right sort of product for us. Still, I was assured that real, honest reviews by a range of people with differing views and backgrounds was what they were looking for. At first we were given a book entitled "Starting to Add", but as BB was not even three yet and was only just starting to recognise numbers in their written form, I felt that was a bit ambitious, so we swapped it for Starting to Write



When I got home I looked at the book. I decided I needed to ignore the Gold Star Reward for finishing a page (we could use the stars for something creative instead) and look at what the book did have to offer us. Many parents like to give their kids a gold star too, and if you are one of those, you can of course use them as they were intended.

Firstly there is a lovely wall chart in the front. I really like this. It has both upper case and lower case letters on which is a great addition to our resources. We have a Tidy Books book shelf which has all the lower case letters, and a full set of capital letters that go in the bath, but this is our first item that presents both the upper and lower case together. It also has some excellent images for each letter - by that I mean they are things that make sense to BB, that he knows. This is now on the side of a kitchen cupboard, at BB height.

The challenge we were set was to do one page of this 30 page book for each day of the school holidays. I guess that could be a nice idea for some learners - for others it will be the last thing they want to do in their holidays. Our book however is still untouched, not because I was rebelling against school, but because its actually beyond what BB is capable of right now. It states that it is designed for pre-schoolers, and I guess towards the end of preschool it would probably be fine.  BB doesn't yet have the pen control to perform the tasks or copy the words that are in the book - or any reason to see why you would want to do this. If I tried to work on the book with him, which I did consider, solely for the purpose of this review, I think he would just draw freely on it. I really don't think he would get the idea that he is supposed to be copying words and patterns. Maybe later though - I'll keep it on the shelf for when he does fancy something like this.

Just to give you a bit more idea of what you might find inside, here are a few images.

The First Page - drawing on the dotted lines and then copying it below. 

Instructions and notes for parents are included at the bottom of the page

A page toward the back - Tracing and then copying a small word and knowing that names start with capital letters

Without a doubt there are lots of tasks in these books which resemble tasks commonly performed in early years classrooms.  They could be a great way for parents to work with their children at any time of the year, and may help children to remember some of the stuff they learned in school. They are reasonably priced, and can be purchased from Amazon, and in Sainsbury's, WH Smith, Morrison's and more places nationwide.

Disclaimer: This book was received free of charge for the purpose of this review as part of the Parragon Book Buddies Program. All opinions are our own.
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