Obviously, what you need for a primary education was a key question when we were putting the Frogotter Box together. I wanted to gather the absolute minimum required to provide a complete primary education.
Scales, Maps, Chronology Sheet
Some items, like the scales, and a big map, are so brilliant, that they made it into the box pretty much unchanged. These are key resources for maths, science, and geography. I can’t imagine trying to educate without them!
The Chronology Sheet, took a bit more thought. There are loads available, and I spent some time considering all their benefits (I spotted that Jarfullofmoonbeams uses one from What On Earth Wall Books). In the end, though, I designed my own: the Time Snail. It’s simple enough for children to learn, and I am very pleased with the spiral effect, which I think really helps with the way that we compress the most distant past.
Coins, and Consumable Resources
Coins aren’t included in the Frogotter Box – though I still think that they are an important resource. It’s a really good idea to practise maths with coins, because it helps children learn the denominations. But, the box does include counters, which can be used for lots of counting and sorting games. The big 100 numbergrid is a brilliant addition to coins and really helps with seeing the patterns of numbers. My children have actually found it easier to use than the two colour abacus, so that’s been pushed off my list.
Fabric pens, air-drying clay and balloons are all consumable resources. I always have plenty of them in my house! They are so helpful for making learning hands-on. You can buy them pretty much anywhere, and I don’t have a favourite type. I stand buy these as vital supplies for science, art, history, geography and just having fun!
Anatomy Model, Ray Box
I would have loved to include an anatomy model in the Frogotter Box; they really are a wonderful resource for primary education. But, they’re just too expensive, and I think they would have nearly doubled the cost of the box! We’ve tried some small ones with the children, but young children find them too fiddly, and older children don’t find them detailed enough. So, I comprimised and drew my own simple anatomy sheet. It covers the skeletal system, the digestive system and the respiratory system. It comes without labels so that it can be used to remember the names of the main organs. Also, parents can choose how much detail to use at different ages.
The only thing left on my original list is the ray box. We do still use that quite a bit, and I still think it’s an excellent resource. It didn’t make it into the Frogotter Box, because it isn’t required for the National Curriculum at Primary level. So the Frogotter Box includes a mini electronics set instead. I bought my ray box from Better Equipped, who are great value for science lab supplies. Though you do also need a 12v power supply to connect it to.
Some resources that I would add to my original list now would be a globe, and a set of geometric solids. Though maps are easier to examine, a globe is really important for helping children to picture a more realistic shape of the world. And geometric solids that can be picked up and moved around are vital for helping children with counting sides and corners!
My opinion of which resources are vital for primary education hasn’t changed much over the last few years. Which is a relief, as it means that my younger chlidren are getting a similar standard of education to my older ones!
I haven’t included any books, because there are too many, so I thought it deserved a seperate post. I’ll put that one up next week!
Since I shared our Half Term plan with you, I thought I would let you know how it went in practice.
We began the week with some housework and gardening. It was really important to me. There were jobs that needed doing, and getting the boys to help out really helped me relax and feel ready to create a lot of fun for them during the rest of the week!
We finished the day off with a virtual theatre trip. We watched four short puppet shows about Ancient Greek Myths.
The virtual zoo trip!
We began with a cuddly toy safari. Which ended with a huge surprise when Mr Frogotter leapt out from behind a bush, disguised as a crocodile!
We took turns being crocodiles and chasing crocodiles. Which was a lot of fun! Middly was tempted outside to join in.
Back inside, we did some face painting. And Middly made a panda head.
Then we put on the TV and watched a tour of Longleat. Eldest finally joined us, so the whole family watched together. It’s a brilliant tour, really interesting and with loads of baby animals!
Lunchtime! Eldest warmed up some pasties and made a side salad.
After lunch, we went back outside, with our masks, and used Google 3d animals to get some fun photos.
Finally, we went online and let the children each choose a ‘souvenir’ of our trip.
We had a Hat Day!
This is a simple idea, but it works really well. All the children think of two things they want to do, write them on bits of paper and put them in a hat. Then they take it turns to pull one out and we do it.
We had a walk by the river, played hide and seek, cut paper (Baby Girl’s idea!), made Skylanders, baked hot cross buns, played charades, and had a mini Jurassic Park.
The ‘souvenirs’ that we bought yesterday arrived. So all the children enjoyed playing with them.
The teens were tiring of family time, so ducked out of the morning. Baby Girl and Youngling enjoyed Wednesday’s walk, so we went for another one together.
Then Youngling got a new book in the post, so disappeared to read it! Baby Girl and I popped into town to post some parcels.
We painted together. I had a set of canvases for the children to use.
Baby Girl painted some dinosaurs.
We finished our creations for Art Day with decorating T shirts together, to make a family set.
Finally, we watched a tour of the Louvre on YouTube. It wasn’t actually very good, but we had snacks, so nobody minded.
A relaxed day today. I set it aside to be a Games Day. Another slow start for the teens. Youngling, Baby Girl, and I read some books together, and played Labyrinth.
When the older boys joined us, we played Giant Dobble – which was a lot of fun. Baby Girl worked out how to play, which delighted her brothers.
After lunch, we played Brainbox French and normal-sized Dobble, then charades.
Then the boys got the Wii set up and played a sports game together.
We have a regular Skype call with family on Saturday mornings, it’s kept us all in touch during lockdown.
After that, Mr Frogotter took Eldest out to run some errands and the rest of us did a bit of weeding in the garden.
Mr Frogotter brought home belgian buns, which was a nice treat after our hard work.
Online church. Then a family walk by the river. Our usual Sunday during Lockdown. This time, we took a box of chocolate eggs with us and had an Easter egg hunt as we walked.
Half Term went really well. I think that starting with jobs really helped my mood! Putting the big fun day near the beginning worked well, too. By the end of the week, the children were more tired and wanted quieter days. I’m very glad that the weather is starting to warm up. It’s felt like a long, cold winter. It’s very nice to see Spring on the way, at last!
I hope you’re all managing to have fun during lockdown too!
I read a blog recently that suggested our creativity declines as we age. And that the big, dramatic drop comes, not with old age, or even with the maturing adult brain, but with beginning school! This isn’t, however, true for everyone. How can we keep our children’s creativity alive?
A picture Youngling made with the counters from our Frogotter Box.
Creativity Can Be Taught
It may sound perverse, but it’s perfectly possible to teach people to be more creative.
Edward de Bono wrote books about teaching creativity. One of my favourites was ‘Teach Your Child to Think’. You can use some of his techniques to enhance your own and your child’s creativity.
One of the techniques that I really liked for solving problems was to use a random word generator. Then use that random word to spark ideas to solve your problem. We often believe that we will be most creative without any constraints, but actually, having a jumping-off point can help us to avoid simply travelling down well-worn tracks in our brain.
If you challenge yourself to think of lots of possible ways to travel to work, you might think of bike, bus, car, taxi etc.
But, if you challenge yourself to think of ways to travel to work inspired by the random word ‘spaghetti’. You might think about connecting strings of spaghetti to bring work and home together, or taking your work to an italian restaurant, or asking a food delivery service to take you to work.
Of course, most of these ideas are crazy. But, they might have the kernel of a good idea inside them. We can’t connect homes and offices by spaghetti, but we can connect them via the internet and work from home. Working from an Italian restaurant might be absurd, but renting a spot in a shared office could be a possibility. Food delivery services probably don’t want to take you, but you might be able to arrange lift shares.
When I read the idea in De Bono’s book, he included a word list that could be used to generate random words. But, there are tools online for that now!
Find Inspiration at the Crossroads of Limits and Space
One thing that I took from De Bono’s work was the idea that inspiration strikes when people have a combination of limits and space. A blank page can be intimidating and hard to fill.
If we tell our children – or ourselves for that matter – that they can write a poem about anything they like, they may find that their minds are suddenly blank. With a bit of structure, however, the ideas start to flow.
In fact, we had a family poety writing competition the other week, and I foudn exactly this. When faced with a completely free offer of any form and any subject, we struggled. When I challenged us to attempt limericks – a highly structured form – everything flowed much more easily!
Though Youngling reads late every night,
In the morning he’s cheery and bright,
His creations impress,
But what does he like best:
To build them, to draw, or to write?
Eldest and Middly are brothers,
And, deep down, they’re fond of each other,
Though they bicker and fight,
They make up each night,
To play X box with one another.
Structure doesn’t reduce creativity. The right kind of structure frees us to explore ideas and sounds. Johnny Walker has written a lovely post about the joy of teaching a class of primary children to write sonnets, called ‘Freedom Through Constraint’.
Creative Outlets Aren’t Enemies
There are lots of different ways to be creative, e.g. art, music, writing, building, inventing.
But, you don’t have to stick to just one! It’s very limiting to consider yourself an artist who’s no good with words, or an inventor with no sense of rhythm.
Some of the greatest creations cross over several disciplines. So encourage your child to explore them all! And, when they find one they love, keep encouraging them to include others from time to time.
When I read Youngling a story about the ‘Lion Man’ figure (from ‘Vincent’s Starry Night’), he responded by making his own version of the sculpture on Minecraft. Combining subjects is an easy way to encourage creative thinking.
How Creative Are You?
It takes some creativity to think of a way to test creativity! But, there are some popular tests used by psychologists studying creativity, such as the ‘Alternative Uses Task‘. Participants are shown, or just told about, an object, and asked to think of any many possible uses for it as they can. We play a similar game with shapes in the Frogotter Activity Box.
Obviously, one of my main points is going to be that the Frogotter Box allows you to home educate and spend zero time on prep 😉 It really does, and I think that’s a great thing!
But, full disclosure, there are other ways to achieve this! I ran a poll on my twitter account to guage how much time people were spending on preparing for home educating or remote schooling their children. Here are the results:
It was more evenly spread than I expected. An impressive 36% of parents were doing less than 15 mins. Most people, however, are putting some time into prep work.
What’s the Problem with Prep?
We’re all busy. Educating the children has to be fitted in along with work, running the house, cooking, keeping fit, playing with the children, and spending time on ourselves.
So, when we spend time on educating our children, we want it to be quality time. That means time devoted to education, should be spent with the children, not on admin.
You can home educate you can spend zero time on prep. If you’re one of the 25% of people who are spending more than an hour a week just preparing education for your children, then switching to a zero prep plan is going to make a big difference!
How Can You Cut Prep? Get Someone Else To Do It!
Respondents to my poll who had achieved Zero Prep, all had one thing in common: they used pre-prepped work.
Some people are using online resources like Reading Eggs or BBC Bitesize. Some are using resources prepared by school. There are also various letterbox plans, like Kiwi Co, who will post you activities. All of these are ready to use and require no prep from you.
You can also use workbooks. My family have used CGP, Schofield and Simms and Colins workbooks at various times. Both CGP and Schofield and Simms have extensive ‘see inside’ pages on their websites, so you can have a look – even encourage your child to look with you – and choose the ones that will suit your family best.
Finally, if you’re looking for something hands-on, that’s what the Frogotter Box is designed for.
Can Prep Be Good?
One of the discussions that came out of my poll was about different kinds of prep.
In some families, children help prepare topics and schedule activities. This can be a fantastic learning opportunity in itself. Get your child involved in planning how to spend their time and they’ll be more invested in the time table. They will learn how to plan, and planning time will be together time. It’s a win win win!
Another parent shared that part of her prep is reading the same books as her daughter, ready to discuss them. Any prep that involves learning for us as parents serves dual purposes. It’s great for us to model learning, and who doesn’t like an excuse to read a good book? That kind of prep can’t be bad.
Get The Kids To Spend Time On Prep
Could you involve your child more in preparing their education as well as enjoying it?
Children can get involved in project-based learning by: choosing a topic, suggesting activities, searching for activities online or in relevant books, ordering the activities.
They can get involved in online or text-based learning by: trialing various sites or browsing books and recording their preferences, setting a timetable for the week.
Whatever style of learning you’re using, it’s great to plan the days and weeks together. It’s really valuable for your child to discover what time of day they focus best, and whether they do better with long or short bursts. Those moments I spend with my children, relaxed, chatting and planning together, are some of the best moments of my week.
Do you set age limits on reading books for your children?
I set lower age limits only. I believe that there are some books which shouldn’t be read by children. There are books that are too mature for children. I don’t believe that there are any books that are too young, however.
Books Need Lower Limits
I think most of us have had that experience of lying in bed, trying to sleep, when an old mistake starts running through our head and won’t leave.
Books can put new images there. I read Sarah Kane at university and some of the images from her play Blasted still haunt me.
I want to protect my children, as long as I can, from the most disturbing images in literature. There are things that I don’t want them reading, yet. I think that it’s most important to protect growing minds from these images, because they have fewer other images to dilute the ditressing ones.
That’s why, though I think he is a talented writer, I won’t let my children read Stephen King – yet. And, though we are all big fans of fantasy fiction in my house, I am cautious about which authors I allow my children to read. Frequently, I read books myself to decide if I think that they will be too much for my children. Guarding their growing minds from more disturbing images is part of my role, as a parent. So, I put age limits on reading books.
Real Adult Life is Boring to Kids
Honestly, it’s sometimes pretty boring for adults too. But, for kids it can just be incredibly dull. They’re not interested in dynasty novels. Up until a certain age (/level of development?), children are not remotely interested in romantic partnerships – a huge theme of many works aimed at adults.
When I was about ten, my parents got me a subscription to ‘Classic Adventures’. A teacher noticed me reading ‘Silas Marner’ (I was an advanced ten year old, at some point my age caught up with me – it’s not so impressive being a middle-aged woman with the reading age of an eighteen year old 😉 ) and suggested that I read ‘Middlemarch’. I found it interminably dull.
It’s not just learning to read that prepares you for reading mature books. You have to be ready for the subject matter too.
I didn’t return to George Eliot for years, I was convinced that I disliked her. But, I loved Thomas Hardy, and I loved Anthony Trollope, so I gave George Eliot another go in my late twenties, and discovered how brilliant it is! My problem – of course – had never been that the book was dull, it was that Middlemarch is a book about adult concerns, and I wasn’t ready to be interested in them.
Childhood is for childish things. I prefer to give my children books that capture their current interests. They’ll have their whole adult life to enjoy mature themes and ideas. There’s no sense in rushing them now! Which is why I have age limits on reading books.
No Upper Limits on Reading Books
No book is ‘too young’ for anyone.
There are so many picture books that I love to read. I love ‘A House is a House for Me’ – I have loved it ever since I was a child, and I still love reading it now. It wasn’t until I read it to my middle son, that I discovered the joy and poignancy of ‘Oh the Place’s You’ll Go’. I wasn’t too old to fall in love with it. My toddler daughter adores ‘Elephant Cat‘, and I think she’s right – it’s a fabulous story with stunning illustrations. Picture books – when they’re to my taste – are as joyful for me as they are for my children.
Nor is it only picture books that can be enjoyed by any age. I recently read ‘The Strangeworlds Travel Agency‘ and found it enormous fun. It’s a short book, with simple language, certainly possible for a young reader to enjoy. But, I enjoyed it too.
Of course, not all books are to everyone’s taste. I think that ‘No-Bot‘ is hilarious, and lovely to read aloud. Not every parent will feel the same. I really love the Rabbit and Bear series, but they’re not going to delight every reader. I don’t think that’s a matter of age, however.
There is no sense in cutting ourselves off from a source of delight. And there’s no fairness in cutting our children off from a source of delight. I think we should resist upper age limits for books, and encourage our children to explore picture books, early chapter books, and everything else, for their entire reading lives. The Frogotter Activity Book contains extracts from different writing to help children practise their reading and comprehension skills.
Reading can fill our minds with ideas and images and help us to grow. I’m pleased that all my children love to read. We have to choose the direction in which we wish to grow, and read accordingly. I don’t think that it stunts a child’s growth to be selective in their reading material. It guides their growth.
I want my children to read widely, but I also want them to read well.
In schools, this is generally a pretty easy question to answer. Lessons are as long as the time slot provided for them. The UK’s experiment with Literacy Hour and Numeracy Hour weren’t overly successful. Schools prefer to set their own lesson times, and these range from 30 minutes to two hours. However, schools are doing something very different to what you will be doing at home!
Save Time on Admin
School lessons include a lot of administration. It takes a great deal longer for thirty children to get out a book and a pencil, than it does for one child to open up their Learning Box. If you keep all your supplies to hand, getting started shouldn’t take very long. In our house we keep workbooks in a filing cabinet and all stationary in a big box (if you use the Frogotter Box, of course, everything is right there inside the box ready to go).
One to One Learning is Intense
Two hours might be fine for a lesson at school, especially if that lesson is comprised of a variety of activities. It will probably be too long for a one to one lesson. Learning one to one is intense. Your child can’t let their mind wander while worksheets are being handed out, or relax while the teacher explains to children who need extra support. When they’re learning one to one, your child has your full attention all the time.
However, most people believe that adults can only focus for about twenty minutes at a time before they need a break. It seems unlikely that there are many eleven year olds capable of focussing on one task for the best part of an hour.
Twenty Minutes is Enough
A lot depends on what the task is, how interested your child is, and how challenging they find the task. I can read a novel for several hours without needing a break. But if I’m trying to learn a new programming language then my mind will start to wander and I’ll need to shift from reading about it to trying it out, and back again. To keep the love of learning alive, we should aim to stop before the child is bored or fed up. I wouldn’t reccomend trying to study for more than twenty minutes without some kind of shift.
Breaks v. Shifts
A break is when you stop learning altogether. A shift is when you switch to a different activity. Both can help to lengthen the time for which you are able to focus.
Most of the activities in the Frogotter Activity Book include space for exploring the idea and playing with the materials. Playing in this way is a shift of attention, and can enable you to keep a lesson going for longer than twenty minutes. Playing doesn’t tire us in the same way as focussing does. Your child may well be happy to play with one of the activities for longer than twenty minutes. When you’re learning through play, there is plenty of space to relax, and many children are happy to play the same game for a prolonged time.
Shifting mental focus can reset our attention span. Sometimes, a child may be able to do a Literacy activity for twenty minutes followed by a Numeracy activity for another twenty minutes. As the saying goes: a change is as good as a rest. If you need to fit learning into a small part of the day, swapping from one subject to another, or even from one activity to another, can be a good way of preventing exhaustion.
Taking a break to get outside and play, or to have a drink and a snack, can replenish our stock of attention too. This is a particularly good idea after an activity that your child finds difficult.
Move at Your Child’s Pace
If you were teaching a whole class then you might need to stop to settle a child who was disrupting the others, you might have to stop to look after a child who was unwell, you might have to repeat instructions for one child, explain in a different way for another child, and sharpen another child’s pencil. At home, you will only have to do this for one child. Of course, there may be days that your child needs all of this support, and those will probably be the days when your lesson takes a bit longer than usual! But, you won’t be waiting for any other children. So, in general, you can expect your lessons to be a lot shorter than they would be at school.
If your child is quick to grasp a new concept, then you may find a lesson is very short indeed. Conversely, if your child is struggling, you might decide to cut the lesson short to avoid overwhelming them.
However, if your child is enjoying the new material, engaged and interested, then you might decide to take a bit longer, and really explore the activity. It is wonderful to have the freedom to devote time to something that you and your child are really enjoying, and it’s a fantastic way to nuture a love of learning. Many activities will interest your child for longer than twenty minutes. You may even have educational board games that take longer than twenty minutes to play!
Stop if you need to
A school lesson would stop for a fire drill, or lunchtime. So, you can stop if it’s time to go out or make a meal. Home Education is an important part of family life, but it isn’t the only part. Yes, it’s great to give your child the time they need, but, it’s absolutely fine to put the maths game to one side, if you need to attend to another child, or get to work!
If you have a lot of time commitments, you might need to schedule your learning time to fit in with other things. In that case, your lesson length will be dicatated by the other things you have to do.
In the UK, there is currently only a very broad definition of what parents are required to do to home educate their children. Home educators are not required to teach to a set timetable, or to provide a set number of hours. However, in the guidance for parents, it states that education should occupy “a significant proportion of a child’s life”. This does suggest that home educated students are expected to devote a reasonable quantity of time to learning. Though, that learning will include reading, music, cooking, playing sports, art, craft, field trips, and engaging in educational projects – it doesn’t mean that most of the day must be devoted to studying from a text book. It does suggest, however, that a good working relationship with your Local Authority would be supported by keeping a rough tally of how your child is spending their time. (If you are using the Frogotter Box, you can download extra record sheets here, to easily keep track.)
In the same guidance, the writers estimate that school attending children receive 5 hours a day of educational input, for 190 days a year; which comes to 950 hours a year, though they clearly state that Home Educators are not expected to meet these figures. In the guidance for Local Authorities, however, the writers mention that independant schools are required to operate for 18 hours a week. This fact doesn’t seem relavent to home educators (who are not trying to register as independant schools) unless it is intended to imply that 18 hours a week (which equates to 684 hours a year) might be considered a reasonable amount of time for education.
How Much Time does Home Education Take?
I did an experiment with my own home educated children, recording to the nearest twenty minutes how they spent their time for two weeks. The teenagers spent more time on book work, the primary aged child more time building his own creations from lego and junk modeling; all spent a few hours a week at sports clubs and we had one big field trip day to a museum. In total, we did reach about 18 hours a week, so I think it’s an achievable level.
Another blogger, Monkey Mum, has done her own estimate of how much focused learning time is actually available for primary school teachers, here. She estimates that time to be about 100 minutes per school day, equating to only 316 hours and 40 minutes a year.
A lot depends on how you count education. I don’t think that young children should have focussed lessons that exceed twenty minutes. But, I do think that children can engage in educational play for far longer. I also think that extended play – especially creative play – can count towards your weekly total of educational time.
As the UK returns to Lockdown, I know many parents are frustrated and concerned about returning to Lockdown Schooling. And, many teachers and schools are frustrated and concerned at having to provide distance learning with no time to prepare.
Online learning had its place, but I think we all agree that it’s not a good idea to sit children in front of a computer all day long!
Hands on learning allows children to explore ideas and to learn through play. Gameschooling makes learning fun and reduces the stress caused in many households when parents are forced to adopt the role of Teacher.
The Frogotter Box is an all inclusive curriculum linked set of resources, ready to use with no preparation at all.
No Preparation Required
Because it requires no preparation, parents and carers don’t need to spend any time searching the internet for ideas, gathering materials, or printing worksheets. You can just open the box and begin. It’s the most efficient use of what little time you can make available to teach – especially handy if you’re combining Home Schooling with Working From Home!
National Curriculum Linked
Because it’s curriculum linked, you can rest assured that it will build on what your children have learnt at school – increasing their confidence. And it will prepare them for returning to school when all this is over. This may be particularly helpful for parents of Year Six children who are concerned about their children being ready to start Secondary School in September.
Because it’s hands-on and game-based, it will follow naturally from your usual relationship of chatting and playing together. You don’t need to be a teacher to play educational games together. There is a lot of turn taking and collaboration in the Frogotter Activities. This will reduce conflict and pressure and help to make this time positive.
All the equipment has been chosen to maximize fun and engagement. The wooden animals, magnetic letters and counters are all extremely appealing to children, encouraging them to join in and enjoy learning.
None of the individual activities take very long to complete. Obviously, if children are enjoying themselves they may play for an extended period. But, the activities are designed to allow you to use any ten minutes to make progress. This is really ideal for busy families and for children with short attention spans. You can get a preview of the activities by visiting our Youtube Channel.
We’re very sympathetic to parents who need to get things sorted right now. The kit can be reused for siblings, which makes it fantastic value for money. All the equipment can be used time and again. Once your children do return to school, the kit will be brilliant to help with homework, and with reinforcing any concepts that your child needs a bit of extra practice with. We’re offering a special lockdown sale price of £99.60 including postage within the UK. We’ll keep this price until children can return to school.
We’re a home educating family, with four children of our own. We’ve been educating our children for years. We’re available on twitter, instagram and by email to help you with any queries, so you don’t need to feel like you’re on your own!
Sensory Play is popular in Early Years settings, and amongst parents of toddlers. But fewer teachers or parents think of using it with older children. I think that’s a shame.
Engaging the senses helps us to encode memories. So, the more senses we use in learning, the easier it is to recall material.
The Frogotter Box is designed to encourage you and your child to use your senses as you learn. The hands-on materials engage touch as well as sight. There are games to engage senses of proprioception and of sound. The Extension Activities even include recipes to engage the senses of smell and taste.
Sensory Play is appealing. Laying out a selection of resources invites children to explore and learn. Everything about the Frogotter Box – from the treasure chest style of the box itself to the lovely tactile wooden animals and the soft time snail sheet – is designed to invite children to investigate.
Sensory Play is open-ended. Repeat is s key element of the Frogotter method, not because it’s about drilling information into children, but because returning to toys and games gives time and space for children to develop their ideas. The first time you try an activity, you may just follow the steps and your child might have few ideas to contribute. The second time, however, they will be ready to go further. If you repeat an activity a few times, your child will begin to play with the ideas themselves, and in play they will take their learning in new directions and to greater depths.
There are lots of online resources, and they certainly have their place. But, I think that learning a new concept is far easier when you can get your hands on it and move it around.
We want everyone to be able to join in the fun, so the activities don’t require the Frogotter Kit (though, if they give you a taste for education the Frogotter Way, we have also got a fantastic Christmas Sale, with 40% off the big box).
As usual with Frogotter Activities, there’s no prep required. Just print off the book enjoy learning together. The activities are all ready to use, right away. You will need colouring pencils and a ruler (and a pair of scissors for the Otter Party at the end), but nothing else.
The most important resource is you – a trusted adult working with your child. We believe in conversation and play based learning. All learning starts with a relationship.
At Frogotter, our philosophy is that learning works best when we Relax, Relate and Repeat. The activities in the Christmas mini book are designed to be repeated again and again. Repetition helps consolidate learning. Repeating activities the children enjoy, helps them relax.
As always, we have kept in mind the huge range of ages and abilities covered by the Primary School Curriculum. Each activity is divided into several steps. Start at the beginning and go as far as your child is comfortable. Younger children may only manage one or two steps on their first attempt, older children may get all the way through. It’s all valuable learning.
Right now, we know that many families are trying out Home Education for the first time. We think that this mini book would be a fun way of getting started with Home Education. If it works well for your family, you could then consider investing in the Frogotter Box as a perfect Home Education Starter Kit.
Whether you’re using Home Education with your family or not, this is a fun way to support your child’s learning over the Christmas Break, it is fully linked with the National Curriculum too.
We’ve used some of our favourite activities, to give a taste of what the Frogotter Box is all about. The activities are organised into Literacy, Numeracy and Explore the World – just like in the main book. We’ve changed things around and added some new twists, to make this a fun, seasonal addition to the main box.
We hope that you’ll enjoy using this mini book as much as we enjoyed creating it and testing it. We’ll be putting up videos of ourselves using the mini book on our Youtube Channel from December 1st to count down the 24 days until Christmas!
If you want your child to read, they need to know what books are for. So, read to them. Read as many types of books as you can: stories, recipes, poems, guide books, encyclopedias, how-to books; all books are great for this step. As soon as possible, let your child choose books. We go to the library every week (except in Lockdown, of course) and let the children choose their own books. It’s one of their first tastes of independance. Even a baby can indicate which of two options they are more interested in. Encourage your children to choose.
Rather brilliantly, one of the best predictors of children who love to read is having parents who love to read. So a great way of beginning to teach your child to read is to let them see you reading for pleasure. It is actually good for your kids if you pick up a book while they’re watching TV! Hurrah!
Step Two – Teach Your Child to Read Pictures
Before you start with words, look at pictures together. Talking about pictures, spotting details, working out what’s going on – what movement is being represented by a static image – are all great ways of building literacy skills. There’s lots of information about why looking at pictures helps children learn to read, but this is a quick guide. Playing ‘spot the picture’ games is part of teaching children to read. In the Frogotter Box, we use the Time Snail for this step.
Big Time Snail Sheet
Step Three – Identifying Letters
You don’t have to stop talking about pictures to start Step Two, ideally you will keep doing that as well; it will build comprehension skills. But, it’s really easy to add ‘spot the letter’ to your game. In the Frogotter Box, we use the Anatomy Sheet for this game.
Big Anatomy Sheet (with alphabet in lower and upper case)
Once your child has found all the boats on a page, point to a letter ‘b’ and ask if they can spot another ‘b’ just like that one. You can spot letters everywhere, on signs, on packets, on TV, and – of course – in books.
Step Four – Make the Sounds for the Letters
When introducing the letters to your child, say their sounds and not their names. So ‘a’ is pronounced ‘a’ as in the beginning of ‘apple’, not ‘ay’ as in the end of ‘say’. You can find plenty of guides online; here’s ours.
It can take a bit of practice to get the hang of this, but it’s really worth it, as it makes it much easier to get reading. If you put ‘see’ ‘ay’ ‘tea’ together, it sounds nothing like cat; but if you put ‘c’ ‘a’ ‘t’ together, it does!
Step Five – Put the Letters Together
I am a big fan of phonics. It does very well in studies, and really does seem to be a great way to teach your child to read. Plus, it’s not hard to do. Start with a few letters at a time (if you start with s, a, t, p, i; you can get a good handful of words that your child can read, very quickly).
Letters that you can pick up and move around are really handy for this stage. The Frogotter Box has a huge selection of 154 letters (plus three pieces of punctuation) – two capitals and five lowercase of each letter – which have magnetic backs so you can stick them to the whiteboard. We have a lot of fun making words with the letters in our box, you can watch us on youtube.
157 Foam Magnetic Letters
As soon as you can, it’s great to get your child reading books. There are lots of reading schemes out there, hopefully you can get hold of some from your local library. But, if you’re available and ready to read any words that they can’t manage, your child can practise their reading with absolutely any book. Don’t be afraid of letting them choose books that are ‘too hard’ for them; it’s far better to read a ‘too hard’ book that interests your child than a ‘just the right level’ book that doesn’t. Just be on side to help when they get stuck.
Step Six – Blending
Sometimes children struggle to get from sounding out single letters to reading whole words. If you want to teach your child to read whole words, and not just letters, you need to teach them blending. The best way I found is slightly counter-intuitive: start by teaching the child how to split words up into individual sounds. You can see us doing this in ‘Talk like a Tortoise’.
Step Seven – Repeat!
I am a big fan of returning to ideas and activities to help consolidate learning. ‘Repeat’, is one of the key themese of the Frogotter Approach. But, it’s even more important when you’re trying to teach your child to read.
There are loads of sounds in English, and it takes a long time to become familiar with all of them. Keep reading together – even if your children can read to themselves; there’s something very cosy about sharing stories. Keep looking at pictures together, and talk about them. Keep looking at letters and how they build words, once your child has met the first sounds, introduce more, and look at how the same letters can make different sounds – like ‘ow’ in ‘snow’ and ‘ow’ in ‘cow’ – and how different letters can make the same sounds – like ‘oo’ in ‘cool’ and ‘ue’ in ‘blue’. Keep taking those letters apart and putting them back together – it’ll help with spelling, just as much as reading.
I’ve taught three of my children to read so far. Baby Girl is still on step one, as I write. It has honestly been one of my favourite parts of parenting. Sharing something so brilliant with my children has been a huge pleasure. I hope that you will enjoy sharing reading with your child too.