Tag Archives: #THISislearning

What I learned from the Kids Strike

#THISislearning collage2So, May third has passed – the day of #THISislearning and the Kids Strike has been and gone. It was an epic day all about education and beliefs and passion and fun and learning. My boys learned masses. Here’s what the experience taught me:

Standing up for your beliefs feels fantastic.

I’ve always shied away from controversy – in life in general and especially on my blog. Except with close friends, I generally keep quiet about my beliefs (especially on ‘hot topics’ like politics and religion) so when I published a passionate post about education six weeks ago it was a huge leap into the unknown. The fantastic, supportive, heartfelt response I had was impossible to ignore though, and I had to follow-through, both with taking part in the Kids Strike and co-running my own parallel #THISislearning campaign. And it felt good – to draw that line in the sand and say ‘something needs to change and I’m going to try my best to make that happen.’ I rediscovered my inner activist, missing since my teenage years. Yes – standing up for your beliefs feels good.

…it also feels scary

Ok, the brave, bold types amongst you might think this is odd, but as an introvert I don’t like drawing attention to myself and as a big-time softy it makes me nervous to place myself in a position where I could get hurt. I’m also a natural law-abider – a bit of a goody two shoes to be honest. But standing up for my beliefs recently has involved deliberately trying to draw attention to myself (running a campaign requires you to say “Hey, look over here! Please join in with this!”), breaking the law (in order to join in the strike) and also putting myself in a position where I could get hurt. The trolls were out in force on the day of the strike. Luckily, I wasn’t targeted but knowing that some of my friends were, and that there were nasty comments being made, put me on high alert. Basically, on all counts I felt out of my comfort zone. It has not been a relaxing six weeks!

The mere act of the kids strike was a fantastic learning opportunity

Ok, with kids, everything is a useful learning opportunity but this point feels important to me because one of the criticisms levelled at strikers was a notion of it being wrong to include kids. I very much disagree – it was an awesome opportunity to teach them about politics, values, beliefs and the ways society works. On the morning of the strike, I took my boys to a nearby school where one of the parents had organised a friendly picket line. I say ‘friendly’ because the head teacher knew all about it and was fine about it, and the purpose was to ask parents for signatures to a letter that was being sent to our MP about the whole thing.

My eight-year-old in particular was so interested in the whole experience of being there and asked loads of questions about strikes and political action. We ended up taking about the junior doctor strikes too. I’ve never known him so interested in politics before. As a parent it felt so important to talk to him about what we value (as his parents) at a time when he was totally engaged.

Doing educational things with kids can be a huge source of joy and excitement.

I suppose this wasn’t really a surprise but the extent of the joy perhaps was. I got together with a friend and with our five kids (two eight-year-olds, two six-year-olds and a three-year-old) we did masses of activities. We looked at a real, disused mill, rambled through the forest following the pipeline to see where it had been dammed, researched hydroelectricity, designed and made our own water wheels (and tried them out in a river), made paper chromatography flowers, read the wonderful Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck books by Andrea Beaty and discussed them, wrote stories and did explosive science experiments. The older two kids took notes throughout. My eight-year-old was really enthused by everything and all the kids were so happy.

There was one point where they were all experimenting with oil, baking soda, vinegar and various other things and as I watched them work together, cooperating, trying out more and more ideas and squealing with joy and excitement, I felt so happy I thought my heart might burst. Ok, they did get a little out of control with food colouring, baking soda, leaves, ramps and bicycles (!?!) but we were outside and it was after 3’o clock so I figured, ‘whatever, let them get on with it’. At the end of the day my boys fell into bed with huge grins on their faces saying it was the best day ever. My six year old said “I give it 100%!”

I did, however, gain:

A whole new level of respect for teachers

We had five kids to keep engaged and focussed. How they cope with classes of thirty kids, impresses the socks off me. Hats off to them.

And a whole new level of respect for homeschoolers

You do this everyday?! I mean, it must be amazing in some ways but surely exhausting in others! Such a big responsibility to have to think up all the activities and keep the kids on point and also to get the balance between being totally child-led and making sure you get enough done… well done, seriously.

All sorts of random stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise have done

When you spend time with kids engaging in their learning, you learn so much too! They ask questions and together you find the answers, you create things you otherwise wouldn’t have created and think in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have thought. It’s really inspirational.

That my friends are awesome

Again, I knew this already but man… from my best mate who was a fab cheerleader the whole time, drew loads of #THISislearning pictures and provided lots of inspiration for a post about activities for kids, to the friend who I spent the day with (which made striking a million times easier as I would have been on my own otherwise), to the friend who read my No, Mr Cameron, No. post and told me how proud she was of me with such enthusiasm that my face ached from smiling by the end of her email, to the blogging friends who joined in on the day and sent amazing messages of support, and the friends who’ve chatted with me and put the world (and my head) to rights over the last couple of days. Not to forget Sophie who, despite juggling a million different things, was a fantastic, eloquent, supportive co-campaigner for #THISislearning. Oh, and my husband who always has my back (I’ll start coming to bed before midnight now, promise!) I felt surrounded by a huge raft of emotional support, I really did. You guys rock.

That people are awesome

At the end of the day on May 3rd and on the following morning I looked though my social media feeds at the #THISislearning hashtag. Wow. The different activities that people had been doing with their kids, the happy faces, the brilliant blog posts, the enthusiasm and dedication to showing Nicky Morgan what real learning looks like… well it was just amazing. Again, my heart kind of exploded (remember how I said I was a softy – I wasn’t lying!) It was just wonderful to see.

And I think I’m going to end this post on that note. An enormous thank you goes to you all.

xxx

mumturnedmom

Linking to The Prompt which, this week, is ‘choice’. This whole experience came from the choice to hit ‘publish on that blog post.

Post Comment Love

standing up for what you believe in

So, tomorrow’s the big day! #KidsStrike3rdMay, and mine and Sophie’s parallel campaign, #THISislearning (which you don’t have to be striking to join in with!).

How am I feeling? Excited, nervous and frazzled. I have all of the feels at the moment. Sometimes I think my heart might burst out of my chest. I’m like some hopeless romantic or desperate optimist or frightened radical or, I don’t know… it’s exhausting. clouds

The last few weeks have been manic. Actually, ever since I published my ‘No Mr Cameron, No.’ blog post back in March (which ten thousand people read in a week – a number so hugely vast, in terms of this blog, that I still haven’t got my head round it!) things have been feeling slightly out of control. There’s nothing quite like writing a passionate, heartfelt post and having people respond to it in an equally passionate, heartfelt way. To be a bit navel-gazy and pretentious for a moment, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a journey. I’ve been inspired and enthused, I’ve learned masses and I’ve ended up way out of my comfort zone launching a whole campaign of my own. When people responded the way they did, I couldn’t ignore it. I had to act.

So a month ago I decided to keep my boys off school for the Kids Strike. I wrote a personal letter to their school explaining how happy they have been at their school and that the action isn’t against the school or teachers (who are fab) but against educational policy which NEEDS to change for the sake of all our kids. Some headteachers across the country are marking absences for the strike as ‘educational’ in recognition of that – how wonderful, eh? Totally in the spirit of parents and teachers working together! Still, it’s officially against the law so little goody-two-shoes, rule-abiding me is having to take a deep breath over it all…

… A deep breath while also shouting “Upon St Cripsin’s day!” a la Kenneth Branagh in Henry V (quietly to myself, I’m not THAT weird) and marching onwards.#THISislearning badge final

As for #THISislearning – our parallel campaign to spread positive images, messages and stories about real learning across social media on May 3rd – well, there’s been so much good stuff come from that already. People sharing stories, doing fabulous drawings and really wanting to make it clear to our government that current educational policy is wrong, not just by striking (although hooray for that!) but also by sharing examples of what real learning looks like. That’s what tomorrow is all about for me –  real learning and positive action. Together, a friend and I have all sorts of activities planned, albeit with enough flexibility to follow our kids’ lead. We want the day to be fun, we want them to learn and we want them to see that when it’s important, you have to stand up for what you believe in.

I would love lots of people to join in with #THISislearning. I hope they do. It means so much to me.

Ooh and by the way, another reason April was full-on:

campnano 16 winner banner

Yep. I wrote enough words last month to win CampNanoWriMo.

Phew.

Today nerves, tomorrow the world, after that a nice long nap.

Writing Bubble
And then the fun began...
Writing Bubble

What to do on 3rd May Kids Strike – #THISislearning

I decided to join in with the 3rd May Kids Strike a month ago, set up our #THISislearning campaign two weeks ago and handed in the letter to school informing them of the above, last week. So we’re good to go, all set, know exactly what we’re doing on th… oh wait!

I still don’t know precisely what we’re doing on the day (tomorrow!!!). Not because I have no idea what to do, but because there are SO MANY possibilities and they’re all swimming frantically round my head not really able to find their way to the surface. So, in case any of you are similarly-minded, I thought I’d put together a post with some options. Hopefully by the time I’ve worked my way through it, I’ll have a clearer plan and it will help you too!

Learning ideas for #KidsStrike3rdMay

Arts and crafts:

paints and pencils

  • My boys and I all love creative activities and when I started an illustration course earlier this year I found inspiration on Twitter in the form of #ShapeChallenge. Author and Illustrator Sarah McIntyre posts a shape every day and you can interpret it in what ever way you want. People of all ages and abilities join in. It’s so much easier than staring at a blank sheet of paper and you can tweet the results to a lovely little community. You can read more about our experience of it in this post and also find out more on the Jabberworks Virtual Studio website.
  • We also like Kid Can Doodle who describe themselves as “a club that celebrates creativity through drawing. We believe everyone can draw, and we hope to inspire you to find your own voice.” What’s not to love? It has all sorts of ideas and challenges and masses of inspiration for young doodlers!
  • Red Ted Art is an awesome blog, packed full of creative ideas. Having been a fan of Andy Goldsworthy since seeing an exhibition of his as a child, I particularly love this post about using items from nature to create art.
  • This lovely activity from My Green and Rosie Life involves making rainbow pictures out of leaves, flowers and petals. It also has a story which you read to kids first which adds a little magic, I think!

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)

      • We love science experiments in this house. I wrote a post the other day about some we’d done using water, oil, baking powder and Alkaseltzer to pretty (and pretty-dramatic) effect.volcano experiment
      • This Rosie Revere activity looks like a great little task where kids make their own very simple helicopter (only paper and paperclips necessary) and then experiment to see what changes they can make to the blades so that it flies more slowly. Simple and fun!
      • This one from Red Ted Art about making chromatography flowers looks so awesome I want to try it now (and the kids are in bed!). Where science meets art!
      • I love this post from Handimania about building a child-sized fort out of rolled up newspapers. All you do is roll the paper and tape it into large triangles and you can make lots of different structures depending on how you attach the triangles together. Fling a blanket over the top and it’s a fort (or you could also decorate pieces of paper and attach them instead of a blanket – more time-consuming but, for arty-types, even more fun!)
      • There are some great ideas for construction activities on My Nearest and Dearest. I particularly like the look of building with dyed ice and grapes with cocktail sticks, and the glow in the dark loo roll challenge looks awesome!

Outdoor activities:

      • This post by Sophie is… shows how much fun and learning can be had with mud – painting, landscaping, and creating in so many different ways. And little Arthur is clearly having such a whale of a time I want to join in myself!
      • Luisa at Teaching Tiny Minds is full of good ideas for fun learning activities. I loved this post about having fun with water and puddles – it never would have occurred to me to add washing up liquid or food colouring to them!

        puddle fun #THISislearning

        Luisa’s post inspired me to draw this cartoon.

      • Coombe Mill has loads of great ideas for activities for kids. I really like this idea for ‘fairy cakes and wizards potion‘ which involves making wands, fairy cakes and potions using all manner of natural items. The idea for making sailing boats out of milk bottles also looks fab! Fiona also runs a linky where you can find further inspiration.
      • I read this article (written by a teacher) in The Guardian about geocaching and it sounds great! It’s basically a treasure hunt in the countryside. You can go to various geocache websites and find coordinates for geocaches near you and then go off in search of them. I think my boys would love it!

History/literature:

      • There are wonderful museums and galleries all over the UK, many of which have free entry. Visit Britain details loads of them and Tyne and Wear Museums is great for those living in the North East. If you live anywhere Newcastle Upon Tyne I’d urge you to visit Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books. We went there a few weeks ago to see their Harry Potter Exhibit – it was fab!touching hedwig's wing
      • The National Trust and English Heritage have wonderful gardens and historic buildings across the country that are well worth visiting. I loved this post by Nikki from A Free-from Life about visiting a Nostell Priory – it really highlighted all the different types of learning that can take place on a day out.
      • A couple of months ago, a friend and I did a murder mystery treasure trail around our village. The trail and clues were all in a booklet on this website which has trails for towns and villages all over the country. Our treasure trail took us round the village we thought we knew well, spotting all sorts of old signs, decorations and carvings, none of which we would have normally noticed. We learned loads about where we lived and the kids all loved it!
      • Read to/with your kids. It’s always so lovely to share stories!

Games:

      • Playtivities has loads of great games which are good to do together as a family or in a group. things like threading dry spaghetti through penne without using your hands, balancing chocolate on your face (‘oh dear, mine seems to have slipped into my mouth!’) bouncing balloons and building towers with fruit. Simple but with lots of opportunities for learning.
      • There are 101 great ideas in this post by Paging Fun Mums. Whether it’s spotting shapes in clouds, blowing bubbles, decorating shells, baking or building a marble run, there’s bound to be something that inspires you!
      • Cricket, football, tennis, volleyball… whatever sport your kids are into, tomorrow is a chance to play it with them. We had great fun setting up our own crazy-golf course last year!

Social activities:

      • Check out the Let our Kids be Kids interactive map which shows you where there are meet-ups all over the country. If you want to share the day of the Kids Strike with others it’s a great place to start. The meet ups I looked at seemed to involve crafty and sporting activities amongst others.

There are also some wonderful activity ideas on our #THISislearning linky. Please feel free to add posts with activities you have there too!

Whatever you do on the day (whether you’re striking or not, and if you homeschool or have pre-schoolers too) I’d love you to share on social media using the #THISislearning hashtag. Together we can all show our government what real learning looks like!

I’m going to publish this post now although I may well add more ideas later on!

With thanks to my fabulous friend Sus for helping me compile this list.

Writing Bubble

don’t doubt, just draw.

I started an illustration course in January and, with a ‘New Year – Raaaah’ sort of energy, immediately threw myself in to a daily drawing practice. I joined in with #ShapeChallenge on Twitter, drew picture after picture and between January and March I noticed a definite improvement in my ability. I really can’t speak highly enough of doing something creative every day. No matter how limited your abilities at the beginning (or, more to the point, how limited you THINK they are because we all seem to doubt ourselves massively!), you WILL improve and seeing that improvement spurs you on to do more and get better!

So there I was, feeling quite chuffed with myself (‘New Year Raaah’ with a tangible outcome has to be something to be proud of), when in Mid-March I was hit by a whole heap of stuff that totally derailed me from my drawing. I couldn’t find time and, because I was drawing so infrequently, everything I produced on the odd occasion I tried, was rubbish. Honestly, it made me cringe. I totally lost confidence and felt quite fed up about it all.

Then last week I gave myself a huge mental shove. I’d felt like I had no time for drawing because so much of my energy was going into blogging and running the #THISislearning campaign, so I decided to combine the two. I started doing tiny daily cartoons about the sort of activities kids love. The sort where they learn masses without even realising it. Where they experiment and persevere and imagine and create. I shared my first two in my last blog post. Here are my next three:

#THISislearning maths buns

I love maths with a positive outcome. Admittedly, “0+effort = lots” is maths only in a very general sense but still…

creative #THISislearning

I had no idea what this kid was making until I’d drawn it!

puddle fun #THISislearning

This was inspired by this post from Luisa at Teaching Tiny Minds: https://teachingtinyminds.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/making-a-river/

I did tiny pictures because somehow it helped my confidence. I’m not sure why… maybe because drawing big feels more risky (if it’s rubbish it’s a big pile of rubbish) and drawing small feels more safe (less of a potential mess)? Who knows, but I’ve enjoyed doing it.

And then a really fab thing happened – an awesome friend of mine –  Sus @MrsJTeaches – started drawing some #THISislearning pictures too. I LOVE them:

#THISislearning @MrsJTeaches
Since then, a couple of other people have expressed an interest in drawing something for the campaign too (thanks guys!) and it got me thinking that I’d love to put together a gallery of #THISislearning pictures on my blog (and share them on social media of course). And I would love you to join in!

It DEFINITELY isn’t a talent competition it’s really about having a go at something creative and having some fun. In fact, you don’t have to draw, you could paint or glue or photograph a tower of creatively poised bananas or something…

If you’d like to join in just tweet your image @writingbubble using the #THISislearning hashtag. Go on, don’t doubt yourself, create.

Writing Bubble
Post Comment Love

pressure

This time last week I wrote a post about my crazy-busy week going to London, launching a campaign, blogging, working, writing, solo-parenting and the rest. I was exhausted by Sunday night and hoped this week would be quieter.
busy blogging imageWell it was… and it wasn’t. There were no exciting London trips this time, but my head is, if anything, even more full-to-bursting than it was a week ago. There’s been a lot to consider in the different parts of my life and blogging, in particular, is kind of taking over at the moment. That’s mostly due to the #THISislearning campaign but I’ve also been aware that I REALLY need to get round to reading and reviewing some books I’ve been sent, so have been frantically trying to read for that in every available gap too.

Anyway, this weekend I finally managed to write a review of Runaway Girl by Emily Organ (recommended!) and have now started reading ‘The Pursuit of Happiness And Why It’s Making us Anxious’ by Ruth Whippman which is next on my list. So that’s progress! Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get on to ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2′ anthology from Mother’s Milk Books – I’ve read one story from it and loved it, but I’ve been sidetracked since then.

In other (semi) good news, I’ve reached (actually, exceeded) my Campnanowrimo target. However, I only set myself a 5000 word goal because I meant this to be made up of blog posts and picture books, the latter of which tend to be very low on word count. Guess how many words of blog posts I’ve written (not including this one)? 7118.

Aaaand guess how many words of picture books I’ve written? Not. One Single. One. Which is not ideal. In fact, it’s so far from ideal that I’ve decided not to ‘validate’ my word count (which means you get a prize and a winners badge to put on your blog!) unless I write at least SOME of a picture book by the end of this month.

I’ve also set myself a new drawing challenge (because I thrive on pressure, see. (I really don’t, actually)) because all this blogging (and other life stuff) had totally dragged my away from my daily drawing practice, resulting in a total loss of confidence. So I’m now attempting to draw a picture for #THISislearning every day. So far, I’ve done two teeny cartoons. Here they are. As I say, I’ve totally lost confidence so I’m posting them here as a middle finger up to the self doubt demon who is biting my ear lobe (and not in a good way) as I write.

gardening
headstand cartoon

 

Anyway, it’s now late Monday night and I have a heap of commenting to catch up on so I’d best finish this off.

What are the chances that this coming week will be quieter? Well, I’m gearing up for #THISislearning and the Kids Strike on Tuesday so I’d say, not much chance at all.

I tell you what though, after May 3rd I’m taking a blog (and social-media) break of at LEAST a monthfortnight, week, day.

We’ll see.

 

Writing Bubble
And then the fun began...

#THISislearning FAQ

#THISislearning badge finalJust over a week ago, my fellow-blogger Sophie and I launched our #THISislearning campaign which aims to spread positive images, messages and stories about learning across social media on May 3rd – the day of the national Kids Strike. So far, we’ve loved the response we’ve had: the messages of support, the shared posts and stories, and the conversations in our Facebook group have all been inspirational and reaffirming. Sophie has written a great post summarising the progress so far, which really emphasised to me that together we can make a difference.

Along the way, we’ve noticed a few questions arising about the campaign from potential supporters and I thought I’d answer them here as it might make our aims a little clearer:

  • #THISislearning runs in parallel to the Kids Strike… but what is the Kids Strike about?

The kids Strike has been organised by Let Our Kids Be Kids, a group of concerned parents who feel our kids are “over tested, overworked and in a school system that places more importance on test results and league tables than it does on children’s happiness and joy of learning”. The National Union of teachers has already called for the SATs to be cancelled in 2016 and the plan is to show that parents are behind teachers in this, by keeping kids off school on May 3rd (before the SATs begin) for a day of educational fun learning instead. They also have a petition here which has already been signed by over 24,000 people.

  • Is it just about Year 2 SATs? I’m concerned about Year 6 SATs too!

The campaign started in opposition to year 2 SATs but many parents are also concerned about year 6 SATs and the pressures facing our kids in education in general. The response overall has been so great it has been widened to include all primary school-aged children.

  • I’m worried about taking my kids out of school on May 3rd – I don’t want them to miss SATs (and potentially have to re-sit them at another time).

It’s ok – 3RD MAY is NOT a test day! Your child will not miss any tests. It was chosen as a strike day because it is shortly before the SATs begin and has the aim of putting pressure on government to scrap the SATs this year. The NUT has already called for this and the hope was that by striking, parents can show teachers and schools that we are behind them should they choose to boycott SATs.

  • My child has such a lovely teacher – I don’t want them to think that this is against them.

There are many wonderful teachers in this country (hooray!). The strike is absolutely not against our teachers but rather against governmental policy. We want to support teachers who are trying to give the government the message that current educational policy is wrong. When I wrote this post in March, speculating about using our parent power to strike, many teachers commented to say thank you and yes, please take action! Many teachers have joined our Facebook group and many more have joined the Let Our Kids be Kids FB group and signed the petition. If you are concerned please speak to your teacher to reassure them, or if you prefer, there are letters on the Let our Kids be Kids website specifically for class teachers to explain the action we are all taking.

  • What If I don’t want to take my kids out of school on May 3rd – can I still join in with #THISislearning?

YES absolutely! We want to spend ALL DAY covering social media with positive messages not just during school hours – so feel free to join in after school. You are also welcome to use the #THISislearning hashtag in the run up to May 3rd.

If you’re at all on the fence about joining in the strike (or supporting it in any other way, for that matter) then I urge you to read this post by Sophie of Sophie is… which highlights some of the reasons why it’s important to take a stand regardless of the age of your children, whether they are doing SATs this year and however they feel about school.

  • I love the idea of spreading positive learning ideas, but my kids are not yet at school – can I still get involved?

YES, we’d love you to! This is very relevant to preschool kids because changes that are made to educational policy now will have a direct impact on toddlers and preschoolers in a few short years. Younger kids also love learning so please, have fun making mud pies together, or baking, making sock puppets, or building with LEGO… or whatever you wish! Kids learn so much doing these sorts of activities and we’d love you to share what you get up to!

  • My kids are homeschooled – can we get involved too?

Please do! As homeschoolers you may well have all sorts of ideas for fun educational activities people could do with kids on May 3rd. If you have blog posts about these we’d love you to link them up with our #THISislearning linky. And please join in the general sharing of positive learning messages on May 3rd!

  • What is your linky for? I have a post about what’s wrong with education – can I link it up? Can I link up a post about crafting with kids?

Our linky is for any post about education or fun learning activities. If you’ve written about what you would like to see change about the current education system, by all means link it up. similarly, if you’ve published a post on something creative or fun or inspiring that you think captures a fun way that kids can learn, then that is very welcome too! The linky already has both types of posts on it and we’d love more!

  • I’m not on Twitter – can I still take part?

YES! We’re also on Instagram and Facebook!

If you have any more questions please send them my way and in the meantime, thanks for all the support!

Writing Bubble

explosive experiments

My boys love experimenting with different liquids – making potions and lotions and explosions of all colours and kinds. This is no surprise to me as I loved doing it as a child too! I seem to recall my brothers and me making our mum some rank smelling perfume out of rose petals which we’d squelched underfoot and then squished into a bottle which we topped up with water and glitter. She must have been… thrilled?

Anyway, over the past few years, whenever a rainy weekend hits, the likelihood is, one of my boys will say “Let’s do an experiment!”. Once, they even decreed it “Harry Potter Day” and spent most of the afternoon making potions. When we first started experimenting, we tried a few we got out of a book but along the way we’ve often gone more free-style and have made all sorts of weird and wonderful concoctions, some of which I thought I’d share with you now. Make sure these are done under adult supervision!

Experiment one – the lava lamp

You will need: Vegetable oil, water, Alka-seltzer, food colouring, drinking glass, plate.

Experiment: Put the glass on a plate (you’ll see why later) pour vegetable oil into it until it is just under a half full. Add a similar amount of  vegetable oil. Wait for the oil and water to separate. Add some (maybe ten) drops of food colouring and wait for it to fall to the bottom. Then add an Alka-seltzer and watch the results! The coloured water rises up through the oil in bubbles and the colours swirl.

oil and water

Ok, so I couldn’t find a photo with food colouring in…not at this stage anyway…

The Science:

Stage 1 – Water is denser than oil so it sinks to the bottom and the oil sits on the top. Food colouring is also denser so it falls through the oil and into the water.

Stage 2 – when you add the Alka-seltzer it fizzes when it meet the water. This releases carbon dioxide which reduces the density of the water causing it to rise up and through the oil. When it reaches the top of the oil the carbon dioxide is released and the water sinks again.

Added bit of fun:

Remember the plate? you’ll need it if you follow the next bit which is my boys’ favourite bit of all – they add more and more Alka-seltzer and food colouring and the whole things bubbles up and runs down the side of the glass. It’s pretty impressive!

I don't normally show my boys faces on my blog but this is well over two years old so, meh.

“WE WANT IT TO EXPLODE!” (I don’t normally show my boys faces on my blog but this is well over two years old and they all look different now!) I love the expression on my youngest’s face!

Experiment two – the volcano

You will need: Plastic volcano (we got one with a kit) or a glass, bicarb of soda, vinegar, food colouring, that trusty plate again.

Experiment: Put the volcano or glass onto your trusty plate. Put the food colouring and bicarb of soda into the volcano (or glass). Are you ready? Pour on the vinegar! It froths and foams up and over and down the sides in a very impressive display!volcano experiment

The science:

Vinegar is a weak solution of acetic acid. Bicarb of soda is a base or alkali. When the two are mixed, a neutralisation reaction occurs which releases carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide takes up more space than the bicarb of soda and vinegar hence the bubbling, fizzing, expanding potion!

Experiment three – fireworks

You will need: a large clear plastic (or glass) bowl, beaker, water, tablespoon of vegetable oil, food colouring, water, white paper.

Experiment: Put the plastic bowl on a table with the white paper behind it (a white backdrop makes it easier to see the ‘fireworks’ when they happen). Fill the bowl with water. Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a beaker and mix in a few drops of food colouring. Pour the mixture from the beaker into the bowl of water and watch the effects! The droplets of oil and food colouring float to the surface of the water. Once they reach the surface they explode and sink down like a firework display.

fireworks in a bowl

View from above – personally I liked this view best!

fireworks in a bowl 2

View from the side

The science:

Water is more dense than oil, so the oil and water floats to the surface. When it reaches the surface it bursts and the colouring floats back down, dissolving in the water and causing the colour effects.

Experiment four – floating egg FREESTYLE!

As I wrote at the start, my boys love to experiment, so this was one my six-year-old made up as he went along!

You will need: a drinking glass, an egg, lots of salt, vegetable oil, water, Alka-seltzer, possibly a grape, perhaps a chunk of apple, imagination

Experiment: Pour water and oil into a glass add 2 alkaseltzer, a bite of apple, a grape, washing up liquid and an enormous quantity of salt. Finally gently drop in a whole, unbroken egg. The egg floats and everything looks quite pretty!random potion
The science:

Because this was free-style I’m not entirely sure how the effect was achieved but, having done some research with my son, we think the Alka-seltzer and washing up liquid caused the pretty oil effect at the top. Most interesting though, was the floating egg. It turns out that when salt dissolves in water, it makes it denser. In our experiment, my son added enough salt for the water to become denser than the egg which is why the egg floated! You could actually experiment with this by adding different amounts of salt to water and testing to see what objects could float in different solutions.

If you try any of these experiments, I hope you have fun! There are many more to try and I suspect we’ll be experimenting further on 3rd May so watch out for the results on the #THISislearning hashtag!

If you have any experiments or fun learning activities for kids then I’d love you to share them on our #THISislearning linky – more information here!

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Little Hearts, Big Love

what a week!

wave in the sunYou know when you’re paddling in the sea with your trousers rolled up to your knees and then you see a huge wave approaching so you turn and run the other way but it starts to catch you up and slaps your legs with a huge wet spray that’s kind of exhilarating except you don’t really want to get any wetter so you keep running and kind of jumping and laughing and probably going ”argh!” a bit and the wave keeps chasing you so you just keep going till it runs out of energy and you land on a heap in the sand?

Phew!

That was me last week. It was a really busy, exciting, exhausting week that I saw coming but still didn’t really prepare myself for – I just ran and jumped went with it. I landed on Sunday evening very soggy and with a definite sense of ‘phew’ mixed with ‘yay!’

Why? Well Monday was the first day after the Easter holidays so I was in full-on ‘catch up with everything I’ve let slip for the past two weeks!’ mode which included housework and blogging and trying to write something for CampNaNo. There were also emails flying back and forth between Sophie and me as we were planning our #THISislearning campaign. At one point I was drying my hair and designing a blog badge on my laptop while simultaneously pretending to be a ‘mummy lion’ to my three-year-old. It was that sort of day. I also had to pack for…

Tuesday when I set off to my parents’ house in Yorkshire with my three-year-old (leaving his big brothers at home with my husband). I visited my grandparents and did more campaign planning while also trying to organise everything for…

Wednesday when I set off for London leaving my three-year-old with my parents. Unfortunately, at the station (and with no time to turn round) I realised I’d left my phone at my parent’s house. TWO DAYS IN LONDON WITH NO PHONE! But it was ok because I’d brought my laptop… although OH NO – I’D FORGOTTEN THE CHARGER! An inauspicious start but it was ok, I got there (campaign planning all the way on the train) and found my way to the business conference I was going to. Thank goodness my mum had given me her London street map despite my saying ‘oh it’s fine, I can just use google maps’ … not without your smart phone you can’t you fool! It was a really good event and very networky which was great in many ways but networking completely exhausts me!

alice filling glassLuckily, a tonic was on the way in the form of the very lovely Alice from The Filling Glass who I went out for a meal with in the evening. Alice and I have never met before although we’ve been following each other’s blogs since last summer. I had a hunch we would get on well, and we really did. We had lots in common, even our matching blue ‘mummy coats’! I’m hoping we manage another meet up – maybe a whole #WhatImWriting meet up – later in the year.

Then Thursday was a big day – my first experience of the London Book Fair! This is an amazing event where loads of publishers, book sellers, authors, distributors, wholesalers, agents and, well, anyone who’s interested in books in any way, all gathers under one roof. There was so much to take in! You’ll have to forgive the poor quality of the photo below – remember how I said I’d forgotten my phone? I spent much of my London trip really missing the ability to take photos (Alice took the one above) then shortly before I left the Book Fair I thought, ‘ooh hang on, my laptop has a camera… I mean, it doesn’t have a viewing window or anything, but I could use ‘photo booth’ in selfie mode…’ so I stood on the balcony, placed my laptop on a rail, pointed it away from me (looked a like a weirdo) and TA DA!

london book fair photoProof I was there! I have to admit, after talking non-stop on Wednesday I spent Thursday just absorbing information and not networking at all. This was possibly a missed opportunity but there was only so much I could do. I went to lots of writing seminars and wandered round looking at lots of books and feeling a mixture of contentment and overwhelm. I’ll write more about what I learned in a separate post soon.

I also continued the campaign planning with Sophie in the gaps between seminars, although by this time my laptop battery was seriously depleted. I took the train back to my parents’ house on Thursday night and on the way, with 1% of battery remaining (and surrounded by business men, laptops and sandwiches on a hugely crowded train), I finally finished and hit ‘publish’ on my #THISislearning launch post. Another ‘phew’ moment.

On Friday morning I was happily reunited with my son (who’d had an awesome time with my parents) and we made our way back up north and home just in time to pick my older boys up from school. I then solo-parented my way through the weekend as my husband had gone away shortly before I got back! By yesterday night I was ready to collapse in a heap, so spent the evening with a glass of wine and my laptop catching up with blog commenting.

So that was my wave-dodging week – my feet are soggy and sandy but I’m drying them and dusting them off for the week ahead. I can see more waves coming my way!

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#THISislearning – join us!

On Tuesday 3rd May, thousands of parents are planning to take a stand against a school system which is more interested in testing our children than it is in nurturing in them a love of learning. They will be adding their voices to the growing unrest that already permeates the teaching profession, and joining the call from the National Union of Teachers to cancel the SATs for 2016. By keeping their children home from school on that day, they want to send a clear message to the government that enough is enough, and that their children – all children – deserve more.

We want to take things one step further.#THISislearning badge final

As well as fully supporting the kids’ strike on 3rd May, we want to use that day and the run up to it to flood the internet with inspirational learning moments: images, stories and activities that show just how much more there is to learning than the narrow focus of the SATs allows. Whatever the age of your child, whether they are at school or nursery or educated at home, we would like you to help us show the government what learning really looks like, using the hashtag #THISislearning.

If you’re a teacher, we would love to hear your thoughts too: this government has marginalised the expertise of education professionals for far too long.

If you have a blog, you can link up your posts below to create a hub of inspiration in the run up to 3rd May and share what you and your child(ren) get up to on the day itself. If you are not a blogger then don’t worry – you can share your ideas and activities on your social media accounts, using #THISislearning on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can find out more about why we’re taking this action by reading Maddy’s post No, Mr Cameron, No, which inspired us with the fantastic response it received from parents and teachers alike, and the follow up, This is learning, Mr Cameron, as well as Sophie’s post Why SATs are Bad for our Children, reflecting on the current situation from the perspective of ten years of teaching as well as life with a three year old.

You can also join our Facebook group to keep up to date with latest developments, and please comment below or contact either of us directly if there is anything else you want to know.

Maddy: Writing Bubble
Sophie: Sophie is…

#THISislearning

We would love as many bloggers as possible to join in! Here are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) about inspiring children to learn, including fun activities people might like to try on May 3rd.
  • Please use the badge below on your post to spread awareness of the campaign (copy and paste the HTML code to add it to your site). We will share your posts on Twitter in return.
  • If you share your post on social media please use the hashtag #THISislearning. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble and @sophieblovett then we will RT.
  • Link up your post below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. We look forward to reading your posts. :)
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THIS is learning, Mr Cameron.

#THISislearning kidsA couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about education called ‘No, Mr Cameron, No‘. It was my reaction to the growing feeling amongst parents, teachers and education experts that governmental educational policy is WRONG. That our kids are put under too much pressure, expectations are too high and they are tested too young, in a way that is making it harder and harder for our teachers to teach the way they know is best. The fun and the joy is being stripped out of learning and the long-term negative consequences of this could be vast.

I wanted to support our schools and our fabulous teachers and suggested we use our power as parents and not send our kids into school on SATs day in favour of a ‘learning is fun’ day where we would collectively show the government what real learning looks like.

The response the post received was amazing. Support flooded in from teachers and parents alike. It was amazing and moving and just, WOW!

“Yes!” I thought “Let’s do this! Let’s start a revolution!”

A couple of days later a new campaign was launched by a group of concerned Year Two parents, called ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids‘. They are proposing a kids strike on May 3rd (which is not a test day) in favour of a day of fun learning to show the government that parents want an end to year 2 SATs and the current educational pressures.

“Yes!” I thought “the revolution has begun!”

So I got my thinking cap on and I had conversations with other online friends. We all felt there was more we could do as bloggers to help the ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ campaign and to really make a difference.

Now, I’ll admit, I had a wobble. As a naturally non-revolutionary, law-abiding type who doesn’t like to draw much attention to myself, I wondered if I could really do it. Could I break the rules, keep my kids off school and encourage others to do so? Could I really? Really?

One (self-inflicted) big kick in the rear later and the answer is YES, ARE YOU KIDDING?! OF COURSE I CAN!

More importantly of course WE can!

So, having chatted to Let Our Kids Be Kids, my friend and fellow blogger Sophie and I have decided to launch a parallel campaign to support theirs. It’s called #THISislearning and is focussed not just on keeping our kids off school on 3rd May but on doing something on that day to show the government what great learning looks like.

We also want to widen the focus beyond Year 2 SATs and make it about over-assessment in schools in general (we know plenty of people feel that Year 6 SATs too, are appalling!). We really want to send a powerful, positive message that we hope our government will listen to, and the more of you who join in (parents of school kids or pre-schoolers, homeschoolers, teachers, bloggers, non-bloggers, social media gurus or newbies, anyone who works with kids in fact, anyone at all who supports our aim!) the louder our voice will be!

Here, in brief, is the plan (more details to follow soon!):

On Tuesday 3rd May we will be keeping our kids off school. For me this means not only my six-year-old (whom the Year 2 SATs directly affect,) but also my eight-year-old. I’ll be downloading letters from the Let Our Kids Be Kids website which I will use to let my boys’ school know our plans and so they know this is action against governmental policy and not them or my sons’ great teachers!

We will be spending the day with our kids (and perhaps other friends with kids too), learning lots about the world in a fun way and sharing it on social media with the hashtag #THISislearning. I haven’t decided quite what I’m going to do yet but watch this space because:

Over the next (nearly) three weeks I will be sharing various ideas with you for fun learning activities. They might be anything – messing with mud, experimenting with liquids, creating, constructing, exploring… the options are endless.

Sophie and I will be setting up a linky (UPDATE: it’s now live!) across both our blogs for people to link up posts about their thoughts and feelings on education and/or about any plans they have for May 3rd – it would be great if it could become a resource for fun learning activities so that we’re all full of inspiration by the day!

Then, on May 3rd we want set social media feeds abuzz with photos, tweets, messages and stories (from as many of you as possible) about children learning in a way that is fun. No formality, no stuffiness, no tests or unreachable targets or overwhelming pressure. We want to shower the government – no, deluge them – with examples of learning that is creative and engaging, learning which sparks childrens’ imaginations and which sets them up for a lifetime of curiosity and passion. Because that’s what education should be about.

Because THIS is learning, Mr Cameron.

#THISislearning

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Come and join us!

We have set up a facebook group for people to share thoughts, plans and support. Anyone who wants to support #THISislearning in any way is welcome to come and join it!

We also have a badge which we’d love you to display on your blog (if you have one). Just copy and past the code below. Thank you!

Together, we CAN!

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I’m linking this post with The Prompt at Mum Turned Mom. This week the word is ‘jump’ which seems apt since this campaign feels like a leap both into the unknown and out of my comfort zone!

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Everything Mummy

And then the fun began...