School at home ideas

With all schools closing in the UK from next Monday, I have been thinking  about how best to cope with kids at home, for what could be months.

I am going to try to be organised, and do a mix of activities each day. We’ll see how that goes. By week three, it’ll probably be pjs and popcorn in front of the TV most days. 😐

So, here are some suggestions for myself, and anyone else who may be interested.

Talk

Talk to your children about the coronavirus, they will be worried too. It’s better to chat about what is happening (age appropriate) rather than pretend that everything is ok. They will already know that something is wrong if they go to school and/or you watch the news.

Be honest that sometimes people will get on each other’s nerves. But agree we will all try to be kind and work on our patience too.

 

Structure

Most kids and adults will benefit from some structure in their day. I plan to make sure that we are all out of bed and dressed by a sensible time. Doing a mix of different learning, creativity and getting outside, as well as meals and chilling time of course, will probably work well. A few pj and movie days will be ok though, too.

 

Use school’s resources

Most schools will be sending paper and online resources home with students. Make sure that you make as much use of them as you can. Teachers have worked hard to put them together. If there is an online forum where kids can communicate with their teacher and school friends, even better.

 

Get outside

Until we are banned from stepping outside the door, or public parks close (let’s hope that it doesn’t get to that, but it might), make time to go for a walk, scoot or cycle, every day with your kids. Without exercise and fresh air, most people are going to struggle with their physical and mental health, grown-ups included.

There are also exercises that you can do inside, such as pilates, yoga and stretching. There will be loads of ideas online. I found this one  which looks good, from the NHS:

NHS exercises

Kick the kids out into the garden. If they are old enough, there are many free or cheap tasks that they could get on with unsupervised, if you need to work from home, like:

Weeding.

Make a bug hotel.

Simple Bug Hotel for Kids

Dig a patch of soil and count the number of mini beasts.

List all of the plants, and research their names if you don’t know.

Chalk drawing on paving stones.

Piles of pebbles, Makka Pakka style.

Feed the birds and see who visits.

Draw a plant or item in the garden.

Write a poem about what you can see, hear and smell while sitting outside.

Have a picnic.

Get small pots or a section of the garden for the kids, and plant flowers, fruit and vegetables, and record what does or doesn’t grow.

On rainy days, do puddle jumping, and older children can measure the circumference and diameter of puddles and pebbles.

Measure and record the temperature and rainfall every day.

The RHS website has some great ideas.

 

Write

Short stories; comics; letters to grandparents and friends; a diary (this is a pretty odd time: it will be fascinating to read back on it years later); facts about their favourite animal. All writing is good.

You don’t need to be too worried about grammar and neat handwriting, unless that’s your thing. More important is encouraging children to write and have fun with it. They could tell you about their favourite book, amd them write their own short version, with their friends’ and family’s names and a major change in it. Such as write Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf’s point of view, or where Cinderella accidently gets lost in the forest and meets the wolf too.

Or they could write a mystery story, where their most precious toy gets stolen, and they are the detective.

They could write their favourite jokes, or make up a recipe for the best dessert ever.

If you have two or more kids, they could write and act out a short play. Base it on well loved film or book, if they can’t think of any ideas.

Ask your kids what they would like to learn more about, get them to do some research and write an essay, story or newspaper article about it. Ideas include frogs, the Amazon rainforest, Disney films, castles, anything that your child finds interesting.

British Library has some good writing ideas, such as writing an animal story or making a miniature book.

 

Read

Read with children and encourage them to read every day. It doesn’t have to be fine literature: comic books; books that you think are ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ for them; newspapers and magazines all count. If you can’t do anything else, you can read with your kids before bed every night at the very least.

Have a look at #freebookresources on Twitter.

 

Be creative

You might not  consider yourself to be an artist, but most kids will happily draw, paint or do craft if encouraged to. It doesn’t have to be with expensive supplies either. Use what you have in the house.

– Make a tall tower with only loo roll tubes and sellotape.

– Draw a bunch of fruit, portrait of your brother or your pet.

– Make a comic strip about your friends and family.

– Make cards for friends, to post.

– Scrapbook some photos.

– Let older children take photos on your or their phone or device, and look at them together, discussing which ones were best and why. Is it the subject, light, composition?

– Learn a new skill from Youtube videos.

– Follow artists and illustrators on Twitter, who have regular drawing challenges and art lessons.

Jabberworks

#DrawWithRob and #portraitchallenge on Twitter

are good.

There are some free paper craft ideas and downloads on this blog:

Joolswilson.com

 

Wider learning

Maths can be brought into activities such as baking- get your child to measure and weigh ingredients; set up a pretend shop where your child needs to count and give you the correct change; learn fractions with cakes or pizzas.

Let kids research a subject that interests them. They could do a project, with many activities based around a theme. For example, my daughter has been learning about Poland at school. She could draw maps; learn some of the language; make a traditional meal from the country; write a story set in Poland; look for non-fiction books in the library (while they are still open.)

 

I have found some sites that cover science, maths, quizzes, educational games etc. The BBC has many good resources on their website.

https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/for-home/kids-activities/fun-maths-games-and-activities/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/collections/primary-games/1

The Beano is always fun, and has some educational stuff.

https://www.beano.com/categories/geography-quizzes

 

Let’s be honest, we are all going to go a little mad over the next few months. Try to get everyone to have a little space most days, even if everyone is home. One could go into the garden, one to read in their room, someone else has a soak in the bath. Anything to reduce the stress levels.

Hope that this helps a little, and good luck! 🙂

Paddington Bear has an adventure in London.

Paddington Bear at Monument Tube 12042018
Hello, I am Paddington Bear. Today, some humans called Mike and Alex bought me from a shop in London, and took me on an adventure. I have always lived up on a shelf in the shop, so had never seen London properly before. Just a lot of tourists’ heads.
Mike and P Bear on tube 12042018
We went on the tube, which is an underground train network! Even though we were underground, I didn’t see any earthworms or mud. I sat on Mike’s shoulder for a good view.
London Eye 11042018
We went on a boat ride on the Thames. It was so cool: we saw lots of things, like this big wheel. I think that people who have been very naughty are made to go on it, as punishment.
20180412_113315_Richtone(HDR)
My owners took me up a ridiculously tall building, called the Shard. I was too scared to get out of Alex’s backpack. Bears are Not made to be this high up! Afterwards, I needed a cuddle and some marmalade sandwiches to recover.
Paddington Bear on bench 12042018
I got tired from all the adventuring and needed a sit-down, and look what we found! A bench with my name on it. What are the chances?
Paddington Bear at Paddington Underground station
There is a tube station named after me! How cool is that? 
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Then we went to a very noisy and busy train station. I like London, but there are just too many people. I found this extremely old bear, who told me all about Peru, which is where us Paddingtons all came from many years ago. He is very popular: I saw lots of people getting their photo with him.

 

Paddington Bear shop London 12042018
We found an awesome shop, full of bears just like me! I made lots of friends. They are all hoping for families to take them home. Living in a shop can be quite boring. Except for the parties after closing-time, of course.
Paddington Bear on train to Swindon 12042018
Mike, Alex and I got on a train, heading for Swindon, which is where cool people live, so I hear. I read a book.
Me and PBear on train from London to Swindon 1204
Alex let me sit on her shoulder for a while. Trains are interesting. There was a man on his phone though, talking about business for the whole journey. I felt very sleepy and had a quick nap. When I woke up, we were in Swindon.
B cuddling PBear from behind
Mike and Alex took me to their home. I have a new owner called Bethany, who loves me very much. She makes me marmalade sandwiches every day. ☺

The night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house

No laptop was whirring, nor a computer mouse.

The children were tucked up in their warm cosy beds

While dreams of tablets and scooters danced round their heads.

Mum and Dad watched a box set, on sofa sat

with hot chocolate, popcorn and Toby the cat.

 

A glass of milk and ginger biscuits on a plate

For a special guest on coffee table did wait.

“Let’s go to bed,” Mum said yawning, “it’s getting late.”

“Soon a visitor will be opening the gate.”

“Yes,” agreed Dad, “I have wrapped all of our gifts,

I’m glad my boss hasn’t got me working night shift.”

 

When the family were finally fast asleep,

In the garden landed reindeer without a peep.

And out from the sleigh that they magically lead,

stepped Father Christmas, dressed in white and red.

“Reindeer, wait here. I have some gifts to deliver.”

“I’ll be back soon. I see the snow makes you shiver.”

Then the jolly old man took out his magic key

and unlocked the front door slowly and quietly.

 

He was just putting our presents under the tree

When he looked up with a smile and spotted me!

I had heard a noise and crept slowly down the stair

And could hardly believe who I saw standing there.

 

“Sorry!” I gasped. “I didn’t know you were real.”

“I am!” He chuckled. “Will you join me in my meal?”

So we sat on the sofa and enjoyed our snack

While Toby purred happily on Santa’s lap.

“What’s it like, travelling round the world,” I asked

“each Christmas eve, it must be a difficult task?”

“I love seeing all of the countries,” he replied,

like Poland, Botswana, Japan and Paraguay.

People live in interesting homes, that’s for sure,

In tents, wooden huts, caves and on the sea shore.

All children are unique in such different ways

But with a love of toys and play, they’re all the same.”

 

I ate my crunchy biscuit and answered “Say,

I’ve never thought of it before in that way.

The other children might not look or talk like me,

But we all need fun, and the love of our family.”

 

 

“I must be going,” he said, “I have elf-made toys

To deliver to many little girls and boys.”

 

I looked out of the window to see the sleigh

With reindeers and Father Christmas, flying away.

I heard his happy call as he flew out of sight,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

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Jake’s diary

I recently wrote this story for Brighter Futures,  the Great Western Hospital charity that is raising funds for a new radiotherapy centre in Swindon. For more details,  see Brighter Futures Web site.

By Alex Dixon

Illustrations by Connor (age 10)

.

15 April

My name is Jake and I am 12. I live in Swindon with my mum and annoying little sister Rosie. I love football, X-Box and sketching. Mum works in a bank or something, and Rosie’s favourite hobby is winding me up. She also loves going to school, which is proof that she’s crazy.

Yesterday Mum sat Rosie and me down. She looked serious. Mum told us that she is poorly.

“I have cancer.” She whispered.

I burst into tears. Cancer? Cancer! I can’t believe it.

Rosie went quiet for a minute and then asked

“Are you going to go bald, Mummy?”

“Yes I am going to lose my hair, darling, but it will grow back again one day. When I’m better.”

“Maybe your hair will grow back blonde, like mine.” Rosie smiled.

“That would be cool.” Replied Mum.

I didn’t say much. After a while, I went to my room. I texted Sam to ask if he wanted to meet at the park, but he was out with his parents. I climbed into my bed and tried not to think. I fell asleep and woke up feeling angry.

Why did my Mum have to get cancer? She doesn’t deserve it. Why didn’t some nasty old person who kicks puppies get it instead of her? It isn’t fair.

I need to ask Mum something, but I’m too scared.

I went downstairs and pretended that everything was ok. I needed to be strong for Mum and Rosie. I need make sure they were ok.

16 April

It was a rubbish day today. The teachers kept telling me off for staring out of the window. I made a jokey reply to Miss Simmons, my English teacher, and she gave me detention. Just what I need!

When I got home, Gran and Grandad were there with Mum. I could tell that they had all been crying, even though they put on fake smiles when they saw me.

Rosie was playing in her room.

“Why aren’t you at work, Mum?” I asked.

“I’ve been signed off work for my treatment. I’m going to start chemo soon.” She replied.

“Oh.”

I sat down heavily on the sofa. Gran went to the kitchen to get me a drink. Grandad went to play Hungry Hippos with Rosie.

I looked at Mum. She seemed so well, so normal!

“I am going to be ill for a while, Jake. I might be sick a lot. I will be tired and might not be able to make dinner or do as much. But we’ll get through it, won’t we? And Gran and Grandad will help a lot too.”

Mum smiled but her eyes were sad.

“I can help with cooking and cleaning and stuff. I can learn how to do the washing. I’ll look after you and Rosie.” I said.

Mum started crying.

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We went to a pizza place for dinner with Gran and Grandad. Mum said that she wouldn’t be able to go out so much when she was having chemo, because of the germs. When people have chemo they can pick up a bug or infection really easily, and can get sick. Sicker. We’ll have to start washing our hands all the time: as soon as we get home; before any cooking; after we sneeze or cough. It’s going to be hard.

I was knackered by the time we got home so I didn’t get to speak properly to Mum last night. I still didn’t get a chance to ask her the question that I need to ask but don’t want to.

I woke up from a nightmare and couldn’t get back to sleep for hours. I’m worried how we will cope. I’m worried that Mum is sicker than she’s telling us. I’m worried about a lot of things.

17 April

I told Sam about Mum today. He noticed that I’ve been weird. I find it hard to concentrate at school. I don’t really enjoy football anymore. He looked really sad when I told him. He didn’t know what to say. I told him that he doesn’t need to say anything, just be my mate.

My teachers all know about the cancer now. I can tell straight away which ones have been told, because they look sad and ask me how I am. Even Miss Simmons was nice to me!

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29 April

Mum had her first chemo today. Grandad took her and Gran stayed at ours to cook dinner. When I got home, Mum was having a nap. I asked Grandad how it went and he said

“As well as could be expected.”

Mum woke up just in time to have dinner. She didn’t eat much and went back to bed soon after. Rosie was upset so I read her bedtime story and put her to bed. Gran and Grandad said that they were tired and went home, so I stayed up by myself for a while watching You Tube videos. The house was too quiet. I checked in on Mum before going to bed, in case she needed anything.

“Mum, are you ok?” I whispered.

“Yes, just tired darling.” She replied.

“Have you been sick?” I asked.

“No, not yet. I’m ok. Will you be ok getting Rosie to school tomorrow?” She asked.

“No problem. Night Mum.”

“Goodnight Jake.”

23 May

Mum has had her second chemo. She had to go into hospital yesterday because she has an infection. I’m really worried.

Rosie and I were allowed to visit her for a few minutes last night. She was hooked up to machines and looked rough. Rosie cried when she saw her and was a nightmare for the rest of the day.

I asked Mum when she was coming home and she said,

“As soon as I can. Although it is nice being served hand and foot by the nurses in here.”

20161128_212916

I hope that she comes home soon. Gran and Grandad are nice but they are so old! I’m not even allowed to have my mobile at the dining room table, and they treat me like I’m five. Rosie loves it though. They let her eat as much ice cream and crisps as she likes.

27 May

Mum is out of hospital now. Rosie is being clingy with her and winding me up. She’s acting like a baby, and I have to get her breakfast and walk her to school every day.

I’m knackered. I keep having nightmares. In them, I wake up and realise that I am in a strange room, all alone. I try to find a door but there aren’t any. There are no windows either. I start to panic and then actually wake up.

People are being really nice to me at school, especially the girls, so it’s not all bad.

Some people don’t talk to me anymore though. Harry used to always invite himself to mine to play X-box but he hasn’t spoken to me in weeks. I’m not bothered because I have enough friends but still.

The school counsellor, Mrs Brown, caught up with me the other day and asked if I wanted to talk. I said no thanks. I don’t know why people want me to talk all the time now! Before they always used to tell me to shut up.

30 June

I am done with cancer now. It can just get lost! Argh.

Why did this have to happen to Mum? Why did it have to happen to me and Rosie? Mum’s never hurt anyone in her life. And now look at her! All her hair has fallen out and she looks so tired and sad. I feel about 50.

Sam keeps talking about his summer holiday this year. He’s going to Florida with his parents and brother. I can’t even think as far as next week, and we’re definitely not planning a holiday.

How can we, when Mum might not even be alive by summer? She might die. She hasn’t told me that but I know it might happen.

It sucks. 😔😢😠

5 July

I finally asked her last night, when Rosie had gone to bed and we were watching Bear Grylls on telly.

“Mum?” I asked.

“Yes Jake?”

“Please tell me the truth…”

“About what darling?”

She put down her coffee, paused the show and looked at me.

“About, well, I mean, are you going to… are you going to die?” I whispered.

Mum stood up, walked over to me and gave me a massive hug.

“I am not planning on going anywhere.” She said.

“No, but what if you get another infection? What if you die during your operation? What will happen to me and Rosie?” I started to cry.

“Oh sweetheart. How long have you been worrying about this? Listen, my oncologist says that I am responding very well to the chemo. As long as I am careful, I hopefully won’t get another infection. And my surgeon and the other doctors know exactly what they are doing with the operation. They’ve done it hundreds of times. I am young and should make a quick recovery.”

She sat down on the sofa next to me.

“But, what if you die anyway?”

“If I die, which I’m sure won’t happen for a very long time, then you and Rosie will be ok. Gran and Grandad can look after you. I’m so proud of you! I know that you will grow up into an amazing, kind man. I will be ok though, I can feel it.” She smiled.

“You don’t know that mum.” I replied.

“No, but I have faith. I’m going to be ok. We’re all going to be ok.”

My mum is so cool sometimes.

25 July

It’s the school holidays! Yay.

Sam is going to Florida next week, but I don’t mind so much anymore.  Mum found us a last-minute holiday deal online. We are going to Cornwall with Gran and Gramps for a week. I’m going to do some surfing lessons and Mum is going to chill. She’s even going to go to the beach with us. But I told her to be really careful, and she must have a nap when she gets tired.

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I’m so excited! I can’t wait. 😀 🐚 🍦🕶

20 December

Man, it’s been a tough year. Mum finished her chemo in summer and had an operation in October. Her hair is growing back now and she’s doing well.

Now she gets to have a break from cancer stuff until New Year, when she starts radiotherapy in Oxford. She’s going to have to go travel 70 miles every week day for five weeks. She’ll be really tired. One day Swindon hospital will have their own radiotherapy machines, which will make it much easier for people with cancer.

I did a 5k run the other day for the Brighter Futures charity, who are raising money to get our town some radiotherapy machines. I raised £160! Mum said that she’s really proud of me.

It’s nearly Christmas! I can’t wait. I wonder what Mum got me? I bought Rosie a My Little Pony, I hope she likes it! I drew Mum a picture of us three, Mum, Rosie and me, lying on the beach in Cornwall. I also got her a woolly hat because she still gets a cold head sometimes. 🎅👼👪

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The end

Bethany and the dragon

There was a fairy princess called Bethany and a knight called Connor. They lived in the old castle. One day a dragon visited.

“Rarrrw.” He roared.

“Go away dragon, go away dragon, go away dragon!” Shouted Bethany.

The dragon was scared, and flew away.

Bethany and Connor had a party and then everyone went to sleep.

The end.

 

By Connor, age 10.

 

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Felicity Fox gets a bus to the library.

 

If there was one thing in this world that Felicity Fox loved, it was carrots. Roasted, mashed, or raw in a salad. Delicious. And another thing was books. Felicity made her Daddy read her at least three every day. Books about the moon; books about dragons; books about carrots. If there was a story, Felicity wanted to hear it.

It was Daddy’s day off, and he and Felicity had the whole day together before her big brother got home from school.

“Where are we going today, Daddy?”

Felicity asked her dad as they waved Fred off to school. He was so big that he walked to school with his friends.

“I think we’ll go to the library today. What do you think?” Asked her Daddy.

“Yippee! I love the library!” Shouted Felicity with glee.

She jumped on the spot four times: one, two, three, four. That’s how excited she was.

“Ok,” smiled Daddy, “let’s get the bus there.”

“Hooray!” Yelled Felicity with joy.

She clapped her paws four times: one, two, three, four. That’s how happy she was.

She loved buses. Especially red ones with an upstairs.

So, Felicity and her Daddy put on their shoes and sunglasses and ran for the bus. It wasn’t at the bus stop near their house yet: they just loved running.

Finally the bus arrived. Daddy and Felicity sat at the back, just in front of the rear window. They did not sit upstairs this time, because this bus did not have an upstairs.

They waved at the other drivers on the road as they passed. The bus driver was very fast.20160710_222502

“He missed out on a career in Formula one.” Said Daddy.

Felicity looked at the trees outside. One, two, three, four, five trees, all in a row.

“Whee!” Laughed Felicity as they zoomed around a roundabout.

There were lots of roundabouts in their town. Little ones, big ones, and even a magic one.

Soon they got to town and left the bus.

“I can see the library!” Squealed Felicity.

They went to the children’s section. There were lots of windows with comfy seats, so that you could sit and read. There were computers. There were thousands of books. Felicity could not count up to 1000 yet. But she knew that it was a huge number.

Felicity found a book about fairies.

“Daddy, can you read me this one please?” She asked.

“Of course.” Smiled Daddy.

So they sat on a comfy blue seat in a window and Daddy read the story about Fairies.

Felicity couldn’t read yet, but Daddy told her the title was ‘Fairies of the British Isles.’

It had lots of beautiful pictures. Felicity’s favourite was a green fairy who lives in Ireland.

After listening to that story, Felicity found three more books that she wanted to borrow from the library. One was about football; one was about frogs and the last one was called ‘Fantastic carrot recipies.’20160710_222424

They took the four books to the librarian to borrow them. You could use a computer to take out books, but Daddy preffered to speak to people instead of computers. He said that they were friendlier.

Behind the counter stood a lady librarian. She was also a panda. 

“Look Daddy, she is a panda.” Said Felicity quite loudly.

“I am not a panda,” Replied the librarian, “I am a librarian.”

“Sorry.” Said Daddy Fox.

“See, here is my badge.” The panda pointed to a badge on her top.

“Daddy, what does that badge say?” Asked Felicity.

“It says ‘librarian’.” Answered Daddy, starting to cough.

“Oh,” Replied Felicity. “But, she is a panda.”

“I am a librarian.” Announced the panda loudly. “My name is Ms Xiongmao.”

Daddy coughed some more.

“Yes. Well, we would like to borrow these books please.” Smiled Daddy.

Felicity put the four books on the counter. One, two, three, four.

Ms Xiongmao nodded and scanned the books with her computer.

“Beep  Beep Beep Beep.” Declared the computer.

“Daddy, what does that sign say?” Asked Felicity, pointing to a notice on the front of the counter.

“Library rules: 1) talk quietly, 2) no eating, 3) be polite.” Read Daddy Fox.

“Please.” Answered Felicity.

“Please what?” Asked Daddy.

“Be polite please.” Replied Felicity.

“Oh yes, I see what you mean.” Laughed Daddy.

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The librarian looked over her glasses at Felicity Fox. She did not look impressed.

“Here you go, they are due back in two weeks.” Sniffed the librarian who was not a panda (but who actually was).

“Perhaps we’ll use the computers next time.” Mumbled Daddy as they left the library.

Felicity loved the library.

“Should we go and get cake now?” Wondered Daddy as they walked through town.

“Yes please!” Felicity Fox hopped on to her right foot then her left, then her right and then her left again. She was excited.

The name of the cafe was ‘The cake brothers.’

The owner of the cafe was a giraffe.

“Hello, are you a giraffe please?” Asked Felicity politely.

“Hee hee, of course I am!” Chuckled the giraffe in the cafe.

“Pleased to meet you.” Smiled Felicity.

“What a darling child you have!” Grinned the giraffe.

Daddy ordered a pot of tea and a slice of Granny Smith’s apple pie. Felicity asked for carrot juice and a slice of carrot cake. Felicity loved carrots.

After their snack, Daddy and Felicity Fox caught a green bus with the number 14 in the window, to go back home. This time they did sit upstairs because the bus had an upstairs.

Felicity loved buses.