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Advent activities – Week One

Advent calendar finished and hung up…
Tree decorated with unbreakable baubles, to the great delight of one small girl…

Some Christmas cards made…

New Jesse tree acquired (last year’s died) and Holy Family settled beneath it…

Great concentration is required for making jingle bell necklaces…

Pipe-cleaner, beads and bells for a lovely jingle bell bracelet/tree ornament!

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Wild flowers


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Today we learned a bit about wild flowers. Nutmeg wasn’t very interested of course, but she enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air. Froglet is more into trucks but he likes walking and talking and using our old camera – it’s his now, as we were only going to throw it out. It takes fine pictures outside, but only in ideal lighting conditions. Still, it’s good practice for him to be careful with cameras and other fragile equipment.

Our learning objective was basically for him to recognise some flowers, but I figure doing this will help him be more observant (he’s the sort of boy who will stand in front of his shoes calling “I can’t find my shoes!”) and establish a love of nature. I grew up on Cicely M Barkers Flower Fairy books, with the beautiful illustrations, and love being able to recognise flowers and know something about them.

The materials we are using: The fields outside, which are full of wild flowers and weeds; a digital camera and a flower press. You could also use a magnifying glass, but we don’t have one – yet.

My lesson plan, loosely based on what we did today:

1. Announce a nature walk. I told Froglet we were going on a nature walk, and explained what that meant, as it’s a new concept. He was more excited about the camera coming with us, but that’s fine.
2. Let your child take photos and talk about what you see. Froglet took photos of all the wild flowers he saw, and also some tulips, forsythia and a motorbike, and Nutmeg. Some of the issues that we talked about were: why are the insects there? Is it useful for the flowers too? Why are some of the flower heads losing petals/closed/all facing the same way? What happens after a flower dies?
3. Encourage them to pick some of the flowers and leaves too, to take home. We didn’t do this, as we were too busy with the camera, but we will go out and pick them tomorrow, which gives us a chance to see how much we remember from today!
4. At home, put the flowers in water and examine them carefully, looking for differences and similarities. Using a magnifying glass is fun but not necessary. Talk about the names – if you don’t know, look them up. (http://www.cvni.org/wildflowernursery/wildflowers has a list of some common ones.) Many flowers have names that reflect what can be done with them – self-heal is a healing plant; dandelion is also known as piss-in-bed (a fact likely to amuse older children) because of its diuretic action. Are any of them poisonous? Which bits can be eaten? Do they need cooking? We talked about the plants a bit while looking at Froglet’s photos instead, and we can talk about them some more tomorrow.
5. If you used a digital camera, have a look at the photos taken – this may also be an opportunity to explain that blurry pictures occur when the camera is moved while taking the photo. We selected a particularly nice photo of a Lesser Celandine to use as my desktop background picture. Froglet was very proud of his pictures, and helped me decide whether to delete the blurry ones – some were quite artistic! He was excited to show Daddy when he got home too.
6. Choose a couple of photos to print out and stick in a lapbook along with information about those flowers, or press some flowers and leaves for the same purpose. We haven’t done this step yet, we’ll do that tomorrow. This will be our first proper lapbook, although we did have one in an exercise book when he was first learning numbers, before I even knew the word for lapbook!
7. Go back out to harvest some of the edible leaves or flowers. You could do this same day or later in the week – we ate dandelion leaves in salad for dinner, and found they were quite bitter. (Froglet said they pricked his mouth). I think it’s a bit late in the year for eating them raw – if you do it, pick young ones from plants that aren’t yet flowering. We had fun looking for plants that weren’t flowering though. We may harvest dandelion flowers to make wine later in the week too; you can fry them in batter but I don’t fancy it.

The wild flowers we found were speedwell, self-heal, dandelion, daisy, lesser celandine, dog violet and cuckooflower (see picture at top – blurry but pretty!) I know there is plantain around here later in the year too, and shepherds purse and bugle are out already but we didn’t come across any today.

Side notes:
If you don’t have a garden, the BBC suggests planting your own “pet” dandelion in a pot, so your small child can watch it progress through flower bud to seed clock.
If you have access to a library, Cicely M Barkers book Flower Fairies of the Wayside might be worth getting out (or one of the collections of all her works). apart from the pictures and illustrations, her books also have information about the plants’ other names and uses. For older children, this could lead into a discussion about poetry/rhyming verses, write your own poem about the flowers you found, look how she has reproduced the flowers and leaves so carefully in her illustrations, do your own drawing of the plants… Froglet is too young for all that, although I would read the poems with him if I had the book here. It’s still at my parents’ house of course. A search on amazon.com (not .co.uk) will let you search inside the book, if you’re interested.

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For all the HP fans!

… And Transylvania have the Quaffle…
It’s Dominte – Cheia – Dominte again – passes back to Gherasim and oh! a good bludger from Stibbons – the Quaffle now with Weasley – Prichard – up the pitch towards Jackson – sorry I should say Sainsbury and – ooh that was a daring save by Jitareanu and it’s back to Cheia – Gherasim – Dominte – Gherasim…
He shoots! He scores!

And Transylvania are now in the lead with 490 points to England’s 350. The game has been going for nearly 8 hours now – will the team captains agree an end soon? Transylania certainly seem to feel it’s in the bag for them, looking relaxed as the game restarts, but the Quaffle goes straight to Ja- I mean Sainsbury and she streams up the pitch with it…

Look at the England seeker! He’s seen something! Hot on his tail comes Dondas – is it a Feint?
No – oh, maybe – ooh that must have hurt, he’s fallen off his broom! Looking a bit shocked on his back there… but YES he HAS the Snitch!

ENGLAND WINS thanks to the youngest Seeker ever! Who would have thought it? 500 to 490!

And this makes up for the defeat of 1994… the Transylvanian team aren’t looking too happy there – but England are through to the World Cup semis this time which means they’ll be facing France next month!

Now the photographers are crowding onto the pitch to get a shot of the youngest Seeker ever to play in a World Cup, standing in for an injured Harry Potter at the last moment – what a wonderful performance.
And he’s being carried off on a blanket, still clutching the Snitch and looking rather bemused I must say…
150 points

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