Category Archives: Home Education

Another visit to the Ecology Centre

Yesterday afternoon we went back to Sutton Ecology Centre for a wander around while it was a little quieter. We had such a lovely time on Saturday at the BioBlitz event that the kids were keen to go again and knew just where they wanted to look and what they wanted to find.

When we arrived they spent a bit of time playing in the teepee frame and jumping from log to log before we walked towards the meadow, stopping at the log circle to hunt for toads and newts.Ecology Centre 1We found lots of toads, both small and large but only one small newt. Thomas looked under one of the carpet tiles and found a rather large slow worm, which we were all pleased with as we didn’t see any the day before.

We walked through the meadow and saw lots of butterflies, did some minibeast hunting in the woodland, and then walked over to the pond and the kids enjoyed peering in and trying to catch things with their hands!ecology centre 2Jasmine wanted to find more grasshoppers – her latest favourite animal! – so she went off to the long grass and the boys enjoyed a run around the gardens. While the kids were occupying themselves I managed to get a couple of nice photos of a Gatekeeper butterfly.ecology centre 3As we were getting ready to leave, our friends from Caterpillar Tales arrived! They had brought nets with them so the kids enjoyed a bit of pond dipping before it was time for us to walk home. I say walk, but Thomas and Jasmine somehow managed to run almost all the way home with me struggling to keep up with them! (I had taken a buggy for Ben, knowing he wouldn’t manage the walk there and back.) I don’t know where they get their energy from, but sometimes I wish they could pass some over to me!

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Sutton Bioblitz

Today we took part in the Sutton Bioblitz at the local ecology centre.

We arrived around 11.30am and collected our recording sheets and activity booklets for the kids. The area had been split into three zones, aqua, amber and jade. As you recorded in each zone the kids got a stamp in their booklet and once you’d been to all three zones you got a free garden wildlife calender.

We started off in the aqua zone, where they were pond dipping.

As I was on my own with the kids today I decided against looking in the main pond – see here for what happened last time – so we got our nets and looked in the smaller raised ponds.

We spent quite a long time pond dipping and found lots of different animals including damselfly larvae, lesser water boatman, a whirligig beetle, a ramshorn snail, a pond snail and mosquito larvae. We were so engrossed in finding and identifying that I completely forgot to take any photographs! But I did get this one after we had put the nets away and I was trying to convince Jasmine to move on to something else.

Bioblitz 1Once I had convinced all the children we should stop looking in the pond and do the next activity we moved into the amber zone to look for bugs. We didn’t really find many today, just the odd woodlouse and snail; I imagine because all the logs had been turned over several times previously!

On the volunteers table however, we did see thisBioblitz 2Eurycantha, or New Guinea Spiny Stick Insect.

Pretty scary looking if you ask me, but both Thomas and Jasmine were very keen to hold it.

So, after holding the giant stick insect and finding no minibeasts, we headed over to the meadow to complete the final activity and collect our last stamp.

In the meadow we did some butterfly catching with nets and discovered how hard it is to catch, and then keep the butterfly in the net! I did most of the catching and got a few butterflies in the net but took a long time to work out how to keep them there! The only one I managed was a ringlet butterfly. While we were there though someone caught a small blue butterfly, the first one of the day.

As i was trying to catch butterflies, Jasmine and Thomas had found a volunteer turning over logs looking for toads. He found a couple and then as I was chatting to him all 3 kids began their own toad hunt. They did well and Jasmine brought over a small toad and Thomas found a newt.bioblitz 3It was now almost 2pm and we still hadn’t had any lunch. We went to get our calenders and wrote comments on the event tree. Thomas wrote “I found a newt” and Jasmine wrote “I found a toad”! While Thomas was writing Jasmine did a spot more bug catching and managed to catch a couple of grasshoppers by herself! Her eye for spotting and her ability to catch almost any small bug astounds everyone and the volunteers nearby were very impressed with her patience!

But then it was time to leave. I don’t think any of the kids had thought about how hungry they were while we were there because they were having so much fun. But I bought them all a cake on the way out and suggested we go to Macdonalds for some chips, and I didn’t have too many problems getting them back to the car!

We had a really great time today and each time we do something like this I see the kids enthusiasm grow and grow. We’re so lucky to have such a wonderful place nearby!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Making Soup

For several days now Jasmine has been asking me if she can have soup for lunch, soup with vegetables in. I know she actually meant Heinz Vegetable Soup but as we had rather a lot of peas and some carrots left over from our PYO trip to Garsons Farm I decided it would be much nicer to make our own.

Yesterday morning we spent a long time shelling all the peas and I made Pea Soup with half of them. In the afternoon we went shopping and bought some green beans and broccoli and then this morning, with Gordon around to play with Ben, Jasmine and I (with a little help from Thomas) made our own vegetable soup.

I got all the ingredients together and put everything on the table with a chopping board, a knife, a vegetable peeler and several bowls. Jasmine started by chopping the green beans into small pieces and placed them in a bowl. She pulled some “small trees” off the broccoli and these went in another bowl. I peeled a couple of potatoes (I wasn’t brave enough to let her do this!) and she chopped them into cubes. Lastly, she got to use the peeler and she peeled and chopped the carrots. Thomas appeared while we were doing the carrots so he had a turn peeling and chopping as well.Soup 1They both really enjoyed preparing the vegetables and were really sensible with both the knife and peeler. This is what has always worried me about letting them prep veg because they do have a tendency to become a little silly as kids do! When I am on my own with all 3 kids I know I would find an activity like this very stressful, but today with Ben distracted and both Jasmine and Thomas really keen I was so impressed with them. Jasmine told me that chopping the veg with a knife was just like using the saw at Forest School! She also said a couple of times how much she enjoyed “learning how to chop things because when I have my own house when I am bigger I need to know”!!!

Once everything was prepared I put it all in a pan with about half of the remaining peas from yesterday, a couple of handfuls of small pasta bows and a jug of vegetable stock. I simmered this over a low heat for around 40 minutes.

I then ladled out about half of the soup into a bowl and blended this until it was smooth. I added the blended soup back into the pan and mixed it well, to give a lovely final  soup with vegetables in, just as requested.

I knew the biggest test would be when it came to eating it for lunch. Jasmine usually doesn’t like mixing her foods and everything on her plate has to be separate, so I was a little concerned that even though she had helped plan and prepare the soup, she wouldn’t actually eat it! She well and truly proved me wrong though and she loved it! Ben took a while to start, but eventually he ate his. Thomas had pea soup and he enjoyed this as well!

And my opinion.. it is delicious and I think we did a good job!

soup 2

 

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A picnic and fruit picking

Yesterday we spent a lovely day at Claremont Landscape Gardens and Garsons PYO Farm.

We started off at Claremont, arriving at lunch time and enjoying a delicious picnic in the shade by the lake.

Once everyone had eaten we set off round the lake to discover and explore. The kids and Gordon walked up the hill, all the way to the top, and ran back down again! Then we headed over to the woodland, explored a ditch, hunted for grasshoppers and found a cherry tree with some delicious cherries growing on it that Gordon and Ben enjoying tasting!Claremont 1As were walked round the grassy area and woodland we counted butterflies and recorded our results with the Big Butterfly Count. We saw lots of Ringlets and Small Whites and a Gatekeeper.

We continued round the lake, watching the fish jump out of the water to catch flies and the dragonflies zipping around. At one point we stopped to watch a dragonfly flying around the edge of the water and Jasmine noticed a Southern Hawker Dragonfly laying eggs in the bank right below where we were standing! We watched  it for quite a long time, having never been that close to a dragonfly before we were all amazed by how big it was!Southern Hawker DragonflyWe walked round the lake and back to the car park, and then drove the 5 minutes to Garsons Farm.

We have only been to Garsons once so far this year, for the asparagus picking, so there was lots we wanted to get today! We started with gooseberries and raspberries then went to the redcurrant field. Next was carrots, peas, mange tout and finally cucumber.Garsons PYOWhile the kids do enjoy picking the fruit and vegetables, they also enjoy taste testing what they can! I don’t mind them eating a few, however I try and make sure most of what they pick goes into the punnets!

It was so late by the time we’d finished at the farm that we decided to eat out at Pizza Hut, the kids favourite! After dinner of pizza and ice cream we went home, well past the kids normal bedtime but well worth the late night as we’d had such a lovely day.

Once all 3 kids were tucked up and asleep, Gordon and I started the long process of removing the redcurrants from the stems, ready for me to make jam today.

And that is where I must go now, The fruit was stewed and the juice strained over night. Now to begin my first jam of the year.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Sports Day in the Park

This time of year is the traditional time for kids to take part in Sports Day. This afternoon we went to the park with our home education group and had our own races, including Egg & Spoon, running and an obstacle race involving water pistols!

We met later than normal to try and take advantage of the cooler weather so we all took a picnic and enjoyed the whole late afternoon/early evening at the park.Sports Day 1After some races we sat down and enjoyed our picnic tea, before a couple more races and a game of Rounders.sports day 2The kids all did really well today and joined in with all the races, and even had a go at Rounders. It was really nice to see them joining in, listening, taking turns and enjoying the organised activities. It makes me realise how much they have changed in this last year and how their confidence is building every day. They had their moments of course – Thomas ran off with the hula-hoop batting circle during rounders and Jasmine didn’t join in with the first running race as she hadn’t listened properly to how it was being done (we did it in ages) – but generally they were really good and we didn’t even have any tantrums about not winning (although I think the “taking part sweets” may have had a role to play in that!)

All in all it was a very sucessful Sports Day and a really lovely afternoon spent with friends.

We ended the day with some giant bubbles!sports day 3We were having such a good time we didn’t leave the park until 7.30pm – the time my kids are normally heading off to bed! Sadly the combination of heat, excitement and tiredness meant that Ben was sick in the car on the way home. My poor little one was very good though and didn’t complain once bless him. By the time I had cleaned the car and car seat and showered Ben, it was so late Jasmine actually asked to go to bed! 

We are trialling a new Dance class tomorrow morning so I really hope that, after the success of today, Thomas and Jasmine aren’t too tired to join in..

watch this space!

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Hottest day of the year

So today has been the hottest day of the year so far.

And it really has been hot. Too hot if I am honest.

This morning the kids wanted to do some sticker books and drawing so we all sat at the table and did some mazes, doodling and stickers.hot day 1This afternoon we went in the garden and used water to cool us down again!

We got the water slide out for the first time. The kids quite liked it but weren’t keen on using it as a slide, preferring to just run and splash around. It kept everyone cool though, so achieved the aim!hot day 2We also finally got ice today. I have completely failed to make any ice cubes yet but we really needed some today so I did the very lazy thing and bought some! Bought ice cubes.. frozen water. Can you believe it! I paid money for something I can do at home in seconds! But it was so hot we really needed some. This was proved by Ben, who enjoyed eating them!hot day 3And now it is raining. It is still boiling hot, but raining. I might go and stand in the garden for a while!

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Painting in the garden

Following on from Thursday when we painted handprint caterpillars at Twins Club, today we got the paints out at home to create some more animals, flowers and general art work.

I wanted each of the kids to have their own art space so I got the easel out for Thomas and Jasmine, and used the tuff spot for Ben. This was important because I wanted to see what the big two would do and they were keen to actually paint something, whereas Ben is still in the “paint everything one colour then smear round with hands” stage, and he usually does this all over their work.

I set out the paints and a selection of brushes, sponges and old toothbrushes to paint with. The kids loved the idea of painting with toothbrushes and a lot of the first paintings were done using these. Ben had a wonderful time with the orange and black paint and some toothbrushes! Thomas painted a sunflower growing in a garden and Jasmine painted some flowers and a person.Painting 1aOnce they had all filled one piece of paper I mentioned painting with their hands. Ben got stuck right in and was soon covered in black paint! He did lots of handprints in different colours. Thomas added a handprint spider to his sunflower painting and then painted more bugs on a new sheet. I showed him how to paint a handprint butterfly and he also did some worms and another spider. Jasmine created lots of multicoloured hand-angels and she did her own butterfly, which I was very impressed with as she did it with no help from me.Painting 2When they started painting with their hands I had filled the sandpit lid with water so the could rinse the paint off when they wanted to use different colours. Both boys, but especially Ben, had just as much fun washing their hands as they did painting!

Finally, for their last painting of the day I added shaving foam as an option. I gave them all a tupperware container with some in and showed them how to mix some paint into it. None of the kids have ever been keen on using shaving foam in their messy play so I was interested to see how they would work with it. Having already had paint on their hands I was hoping this would encourage them to get the foam on their hands as well.

They all started off using the brushes and sponges to paint it on to the paper but Ben soon got his hands involved and was happily hand printing with the foamy painty mixture. This encouraged Thomas and he joined in, creating some wonderful “fireworks” on his paper.Painting 3Then, just as I was getting the boys clean and starting to tidy bits away, I turned round and Jasmine had covered her hands in the shaving foamy paint as well! This is a big thing for Jasmine and she always takes a long time to come round to getting her hands really messy (which is strange because she is quite happy to play in mud all day!)Painting 4All in all, we had a very successful painting session today. Now, I just need to find somewhere to display all the pictures!
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Fun at Magna Science Adventure Centre

Today we went to Magna Science Adventure Centre. We went for the first time in January (you can read about it here) and the entry ticket is valid for a year, so being back in Sheffield again the kids were keen to go.

When we got there we were told about the new exhibition, all about sound. We went to look round this first and had fun making different sounds with different instruments.Magna 1After the sound exhibition we went into the main centre and went into the Earth Pavilion. The kids had been talking about this for days and were really looking forward to using the diggers and blasting the rocks again! We spent a good 45 minutes working in the quarry!Magna 2After a picnic lunch outside, we went back in and had a look round the Water pavilion. This had changed slightly since we were there in January and they now have a water cycle display, which I thought was really good but I don’t think the kids even looked at! The kids had a great time playing in the water.Magna 3After indoor water play we headed outside to Aqua-Tek and Sci-Tek. These outdoor areas were closed in January so we had left plenty of time for the kids to play today.

Thomas went straight into Aqua-Tek and had a wonderful time splashing, running and jumping through the water and spraying water cannons. Ben went in for a few minutes but he had spotted a sand pit in Sci-Tek, so this is where he wanted to be! Jasmine didn’t want to get wet today so she played in the sand as well. Ben also explored some of the climbing frames and slides.Magna 4When Thomas had finished in Aqua-Tek we all went further down the playground in Sci-Tek and found more to explore. Even Gordon had a go at some of the climbing!Magna 5We had a great day at Magna again today, and especially liked the outdoors areas. I can see it becoming a regular place to visit when we are in Sheffield!

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An afternoon in the river

This afternoon we met up with our local home education group and went to a local park. Beddington Park is only a five minute drive from our house and we drive past it often. We have talked about going there often too, but for some reason we never have. So when it was mentioned as somewhere to go today I was quite pleased!

I was told there was a place in the river where the kids can paddle and fish. What a perfect activity! So I loaded us up with spare clothes and beach shoes for paddling in, but I was determined to get there on time so I forgot the fishing nets! Luckily someone else had remembered theirs!

We had a brilliant time! Somehow all 6 families arrived at almost exactly the same time so we all walked through the park together. The kids played in the sprinklers for a while, and enjoyed exploring the park with their friends.Beddington ParkBut the best part of the afternoon was the paddling! All 3 kids had been looking forward to going in the river so at the first opportunity they took their trainers and socks off, put beach shoes on and were straight in! Beddington Park 2I didn’t go in myself but apparently the water was very cold! Ben’s paddling adventure didn’t last long and he decided it was better to stay on dry land. But Thomas and Jasmine were so busy playing and exploring they didn’t notice the temperature.

Jasmine spent the entire time we were there fishing. She caught water louse and shrimp, lots of shrimp! Thomas did some shrimp catching too but he also had great fun wading over to a small island, walking down the river to help build a bridge with some of the other kids, splashing around. He got soaked and he loved it!Beddington Park 3For a large part of the afternoon Jasmine stayed close to the side of the river but she kept running out of shrimp to catch! I explained that if she stayed in the same place all the shrimp would run and hide so she would need to move and eventually she did venture further out. She even went on to the island in the end.

They had such a fantastic time I’m sure they would have stayed all day if it was possible!

But we couldn’t stay all day and so to coax them out of the water we got the bubble wands and bubble mixture out and blew some giant bubbles. Giant bubbles are great fun and I am sure all the adults enjoy them just as much as the kids. Well, I know I do!Beddington Park 4But then it was time for us to get dried off and walk back to the car because Jasmine goes to Rainbows on Wednesdays, meaning an early dinner is needed. We said goodbye to all our friends as they went to the cafe for ice cream and as I was packing all the wet clothes in a bag Thomas had a go on the rope swing. He hadn’t been on it all afternoon but as soon as everyone had left he was straight on! He did really well too. He is getting much more confident in his abilities and its really lovely to see.

The kids also found a great tree to explore on the way back to the car.Beddington Park 5Now I know how much fun there is to be had at Beddington Park we will definitely be going back. I still can’t believe I didn’t know what a wonderful place it is, and right on our doorstep!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Big Nature Weekend at Leith Hill

Today we drove to Leith Hill to take part in the Big Nature Weekend/BioBlitz event, run by the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Leith Hill is the highest point in Southeast England and is set within the Surrey Hills. It is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The event was held in the Rhododendron Woods, a beautiful landscape created by Caroline Wedgwood, the sister of Charles Darwin.

The bioblitz began yesterday evening, when they started with moth trapping and bat surveying. This morning, bright and early, they began trapping small mammals and investigating the moth traps. They also started bird ringing. Of course, we weren’t up late enough last night, or early enough this morning to join in with these activities but we arrived at lunch time today and filled the next four hours with bugs, moths, newts and much, much more!

Our first stop after arriving was the main tent, where they had all the moths and bugs in containers, nets or on egg boxes. We saw a huge selection of different moths, from small to really huge!MothsTop left: Poplar Hawkmoth. Top right: Lime Hawkmoth. Bottom left: Elephant Hawkmoth. Bottom right: Peppered Moth.

These moths pictured made the biggest impression! I was amazed at how beautiful I found the elephant hawkmoth, and Jasmine really liked the peppered moth. Both Thomas and Jasmine got to hold one – Jasmine held a peppered moth and Thomas held a lime hawkmoth.Holding mothsNext we went to the Amphibian and Reptile Group stand where they had newts, snakes, slow worms and tadpoles to see. For most of us this was the highlight of the day because we got to touch a grass snake and a slow worm, and they had a great crested newt in their newt tank! They also had an Adder, which Jasmine asked if she could touch. We quickly explained that it probably wasn’t a good idea because adders are poisonous!

The kids spent a long time looking at, and stroking, the snake and slow worm while I chatted about great crested newts. For anyone who doesn’t know, due to enormous declines in range and abundance in the last century, the great crested newt is strictly protected by British and European law. They had to have a license just to have them on display in a tank today! So it was a real privilege to see it.Newts and snakesAfter reptiles and amphibians we went to see the birds next. They were catching the birds in large nets and then measuring, sexing, ageing and ringing them before releasing them again. We were lucky enough to get there just as they were coming back from checking the nets.

One of the lovely volunteers brought each bird for us to look at once they had collected their data and talked to us a little about it before releasing it. We saw a greenfinch, a nuthatch, 3 siskins and a goldfinch.BirdsOnce all the birds had been released we decided to have a go at the trail around the woods, so we got our map and set off. The rhododendron woods are beautiful, full of life and so much to see. As we did the trail the kids loved looking out for all the markers and answering the questions. The trail was really well thought out and perfect for the kids. Ben was getting a bit tired so he spent some time in the buggy, but mostly they all explored and discovered and chatted and explored some more!Rhododendron woodsOur final activity of the day was pond dipping. We saved the best till last! The kids all got stuck right in, and this produced Jasmine’s highlight of the day because she saw the long-awaited dragonfly nymph. She has been waiting and waiting all year to see one so she was very happy!

Again we got chatting to the volunteers and they were all wonderful with the kids. They let both Thomas and Jasmine hold the newts and move them into the pond dipping trays. They talked to them about what they had found and were just generally lovely. Sadly, by this point of the day the camera was running our of battery so I only got a few photos.Pond dippingI think Thomas and Jasmine could have stayed by the pond, dipping and chatting all day! We had several last go’s before we finally managed to get them away and back to the car!

We all had a great time today and I am really pleased we went and joined in – we almost didn’t go at one point. We will definitely be going back to Leith Hill to see more.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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