100 Days of Lockdown Learning: Our Best Bits

Congratulations!

If you are reading this you’ve successfully survived 100 days of lockdown – whoop, I’m giving you all a virtual, socially distanced and gloved pat on the back!

Reaching the milestone this week gave me a nudge to look back on what we have (or haven’t) achieved so far. To be honest, I have had more than a few moments of mum guilt and feeling like I’m failing to juggle everything properly as, [I imagine] we all have at some point? I honestly don’t know how some working parents have managed to schedule in home learning too!

We’ve muddled through with some really good days and some god awful ones that we must never speak of again! On the whole though it’s been lovely to have this extra time together, and we have done some pretty cool things on our journey into home learning. I’m not going to use the term home schooling because really it’s been anything but, let’s just say I have a whole new level of respect for all the teachers out there!

We’ve been completely disorganised…no detailed schedules/planners here I’m afraid! Things have been inconsistent, surprisingly spontaneous and sometimes we’ve just been downright lazy. We’ve also never put any pressure on ourselves. Keeping safe and well has always been our priority and very much still is, so that in turn means that we’ve also had a lot of fun along the way. Read on to see a few of our more enjoyable home learning projects:

Egyptians

This was our first foray into a proper topic. It started with an innocent share of a virtual tour of Queen Meresankh’s Tomb to my Facebook group and quickly snowballed as our friends commented. It was decided our friend group would learn together about Egypt and then have a 3 way videocall at the end of the week for a ‘show and tell’.

At this point we were in full lockdown so everything we made was from repurposed household items and using what we found in the depths of the craft bag. We started by researching Egyptians online and I printed out the hieroglyphic alphabet. We decided to have a go at making our own ancient scroll. To age the paper I gave Stanley some cold black coffee and he painted the paper all over (while complaining about the smell, I might add). Once dry I used a lighter to carefully singe the edges and create blackened areas to give an appearance of age (I wouldn’t recommend letting any child under 10 years do this part as it was quite tricky). I then gave the paper back to Stanley and he used the printout to lookup the letters needed for his name then wrote ‘Stan’ in hieroglyphs.

Stanley’s ancient name scroll

The next stop was to go back to our original plan and explore Queen Meresankh’s Tomb online, this was really interesting and Stanley recognised some of the hieroglyphs, however I think James was just hoping to spot a mummy! This led nicely into looking up pictures of the Pharaohs and Queens and what they looked like.

We decided to make some Egyptian jewellery to jazz ourselves up a bit for our video call, as you do! Paper plates came to the rescue, we cut the centre out, leaving just the rim of the plate. We then painted them with silver paint (we didn’t have any gold, budget conscious Pharaoh’s here). We cut some jewels out of tissue paper using pinking shears and stuck them on. Stanley drew some scarab beetles working from an illustration we found online and coloured them in. We stuck these to our collar necklaces to make the centre pendant. Using a similar technique on a empty toilet roll Stanley made a wrist cuff, and my headband was made from thin card and tinfoil. I drew the serpant because by now I was fully invested!

For more Egyptian craft ideas see my Pinterest board.

Cleopatra coming atcha!

After a quick rummage in the shed I found some weed suppressant fabric and I became Cleopatra, the eyeliner came out and my eyebrows had a less than subtle makeover too. A couple of old sheets were artistically arranged, and we were ready for our videocall. Luckily we have friends who are just as crazy and wholeheartedly threw themselves into the theme too!

Talk like an Egyptian

Space

This was a week long project that coincided with National Space Day (May 1st), which just goes to prove I can actually plan things when I try!

Stanley has always been interested in space and rockets so he was more than happy with this subject. We started off by watching the moon landing on YouTube which he was absolutely glued to, and he told me all about the lack of gravity which I admit really impressed me. From there we watched a Facebook live from the National Space Centre explaining the phases of the moon, which was really informative in a child friendly way. Stanley drew all the phases of the moon and coloured them in. He then cut them out with a little help from me. I covered some thin card with black tissue paper and Stanley used white paint and a toothbrush to ‘stipple’ and splatter what looked like the night sky. Once dry we stuck on the moon phases in order and Stanley labelled them.

Learning about phases of the moon

Have you ever made moon sand? If not, I really recommend it. I know that many people inwardly cringe at the idea of moldable sand, but I love it as a rainy day activity. It’s one of those things that can keep my boys entertained for hours, so a bit of mess is totally worth it for a quiet cuppa. It’s also really easy to make requiring only 2 ingredients that you’re likely to already have in. We used 8 parts flour (a mix in our case of bags that had been in the cupboard for quite a while) to 1 part oil. We used baby oil, cooking oil would work too but might not smell as nice. You can also add food colouring to make different colours but we stuck with natural colour sand to represent the moon’s surface.

Homemade moon sand

Next, was a space themed craft session that everybody enjoyed joining in with while Eli was down for a nap. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without the humble paper plate during lockdown, this time we saw them transformed into an alien spaceship via some tinfoil and an empty yogurt pot. They also became an alien mask, and impressive solar flare.

Tony Hart would have been proud!

Again, we did a show and tell with friends at the end of the week which started off well but descended into silliness and Messenger games. It was lovely to see the boys catching up and playing together though – if you can’t be silly when you’re 6, when can you?

UFO spotted in Leek, Staffordshire

For more Space based learning inspiration head over to my Pinterest board.

VE Day

I’m not going to lie, this was my absolute favourite topic. If you haven’t got a pen then grab one now, you are going to want to write this down….ready? I put my boys on RATIONS for a whole week leading up to VE Day! OMG it was amazing, we saved approximately eleventy million pounds in snacks alone! Joking aside, [it wasn’t a joke, it really WAS amazing!] it helped to bring home the hardship that people endured during and after the war years in a way the boys could easily understand.

James didn’t look this happy about it towards the end of the week!

I cut up an old colouring book and designed the front cover with some details from the original ration books. Inside I made a page for each day, listed snacks (of my choice) and then cut slips that could be torn off as ‘coupons’ and handed over in exchange for the desired food item.

Best mum hack EVER!

After introducing the ration books Stanley had lots of questions so we looked up what was available on ration during and after the war. We talked about how food was never wasted and had to last, Stanley was surprised to learn there had been a war before WW2 and that some poor people had lived through both.

We also learned about Dig for Victory and how people were encouraged to grow their own fruit and vegetables to help with food shortages. Stanley drew pictures of the veggies that we have planted then labelled them. We then found some examples of Dig for Victory propaganda posters online and had a go of recreating one in our backyard. I think it was a reasonable effort, what do you think?

Our recreated propaganda poster.

My boys have always been interested in anything with an engine so we looked up the Spitfire which of course was designed by Reginald Mitchell who was a Stoke-on-Trent man, so local to us. Stanley remembers going to see the Spitfire at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery with his Grandad. I ordered some cheap model airplanes online, see similar here and we had a flying competition and measured how far they flew.

Honing his flying skills

Anybody who knows me in real life will know that I like to celebrate, I’ll go all out to make something special and VE Day itself deserved some special recognition. So, I set to making some decorations out of crepe paper from our bottomless craft bag and cut up some old Aldi carrier bags. I know that I tread a fine line between being resourceful and just plain tight!

VE Day decorations in the making

We had already read about evacuees and how parents sent their children away to the countryside to keep them safe. So on the morning of VE Day I had outfits ready for my three little evacuees who I was keen to welcome home. School polo shirts and trousers provided the majority of the outfits and I added flat caps to finish them off. All evacuees were labelled so that they got home safely. The labels I made from a pack of luggage tags and Stanley being the eldest was in charge of carrying the gas masks (gas mask case made from an empty washing tablet box). They looked so cute!

My evacuees were home at last.

Meanwhile, I channelled my inner land girl in a khaki jumpsuit and red lippy. We listened to 1940’s music together and tuned in to hear Winston Churchill’s speech. We looked at photos of how people celebrated VE Day with huge street parties and Stanley commented that “we can’t do that today because of the virus germs” so I told him not to worry as I had our safe party planned.

This landgirl complete with her essential gruffalo gardening tools

To round off our week of interactive history lessons we celebrated Victory in Europe in style with a traditional afternoon tea party. The weather was lovely so we had it outside, I’d arranged for more afternoon teas to be delivered to my mum and sister too, and we scheduled a group videocall so that we could all enjoy the treats ‘together’. It was a fab day and a great end to that week’s project.

To plan next year’s VE Day celebration or to get inspiration for a WW2 project visit my Pinterest board here.

Science

Who doesn’t love a good science project? Well, after being fascinated by Professor Pumpernickel‘s show (he’s a mad scientist with blue hair) at Timber Festival my boys are pretty keen on anything that has the potential to explode, smoke or ooze.

We had a go at creating our very own lava lamp, and again all the ingredients were already in our cupboards. From what I’ve seen there are a couple of ways to do this, but our method was fairly simple.

Starting off slowly

We added a generous layer of bicarbonate of soda to the bottom of our ‘lamp’, then carefully filled with cooking oil. In the paper cups we had food colouring (yellow and blue) mixed with vinegar. Slowly Stanley poured the food colouring mixture into the lamp, a few drops at a time.

Building up the colours

Here’s the science bit: the oil and vinegar do not have the same density. The vinegar is more dense and does not mix with the oil causing it to sink to the bottom. Once at the bottom the vinegar (acid) reacts with the (alkaline) bicarbonate of soda and releases (carbon dioxide) gas bubbles which then rise back up to the surface.

It worked surprisingly well and the boys were very impressed. You can read about our other bicarb science lesson where we made a volcano here.

Nature

Again, if you know us beyond your screen it will come as no surprise that we’ve been learning about nature more than anything else. We are (usually, pre covid-19) an outdoorsy bunch. We like being surrounded by nature in all its leafy, feathery, slimy, furry and muddy glory. So it was very easy for us to bring the natural world into our lessons.

World Bee Day is celebrated every year on 20th May so we took this as our starting point and focused on bees for that week. I printed off a bee spotter sheet and released the boys into the yarden to burn some energy off. Luckily the weather was perfect and the bees were a’buzzin.

Image Credit: Wild About Gardens

Next on the list was to learn about how bees construct their hive. We watched a live stream from a local apiary that explained the process. I then set Stanley the task of making a honeycomb from an empty toilet roll.

*at this point if it can’t be made from a paper plate, tinfoil, yogurt pots or empty toilet rolls then we’re not interested *

I cut the toilet roll into sections and armed Stanley with some sticky tape. He soon had a decent looking honeycomb although he was quick to point out that they weren’t the right shape. Summer nature craft activities are a great way to hone those motor skills while being creative.

Busy bee making his honeycomb

Once completed we looked at the life cycle of a honey bee using toy figures. The boys played bees for a little while together using the honeycomb we’d made.

Learning through play

Afterwards Stanley completed some worksheets I’d printed, he labelled the different phases of the bee life cycle and then completed a bee themed wordsearch.

Wordsearches are great for word recognition, sounding out and hand eye coordination too.

Staying with the bee theme we tried a little science experiment involving honey. Supposedly you can tell how pure your honey is by doing this.

First pour some runny honey into a bowl, add a small amount of hot water and move the bowl to swirl the water over the surface of the honey. If the honey is pure then the heat from the water makes the honey react causing the cells ‘remember’ their last state so they start to reform a honeycomb pattern.

As you can see we did get a pattern but I’m not convinced on the scientific merits of this experiment but it was fun and easy to do. Unfortunately we only had one type of honey in the house, but it would be a good experiment to do with different types of honey to see if they produced different results.

We also rescued a bumblebee that was a bit worse for wear in our backyard, Stanley made up a teaspoon of sugar solution and let the bee get its energy back. The boys kept going out and checking on it and finally got to see it fly off which was great.

Rescue mission

We did a similar study with the frog life cycle, I had every intention of finding some frogspawn and raising the tadpoles but as we’ve been shielding we didn’t get out far enough to find any. But, never the less we learned all about the stages of the life cycle and the boys made their own little froggy habitat using gravel and water. I made my own ‘frogspawn’ using cornflour and peppercorns for the boys to play with. It was good old messy fun, which was very much confined to being outside!

Making a frog habitat

For those wondering, I found the life cycle toys here. We have still got the mosquito, butterflies and ant lifecycles to explore so plenty to go at yet. More kids life cycle activity inspiration can be found on my Pinterest board.

So there you have it, 5 of our best bits – the projects that we’ve really enjoyed doing over the last 100 days. I’ve tried to combine fun with learning to keep my boys interested and entertained, hopefully one day they will look back on our time shielding in lockdown with a smile. I dread to think what my offstead rating would be though, coffee always seems to rank quite highly in my teaching priorities!

100 days and counting…

If you’ve enjoyed this post, or found it helpful then please come and over and join my Facebook group. I set the group up at the very beginning of lockdown as obviously my usual days out and activities were non existant, it’s called ‘Let’s Do This Instead’ and is packed full of ideas for home learning, entertaining the kids and having fun. We are now over 1.3k parents strong but the more the merrier!

All images are my own unless otherwise credited and must not be reproduced without permission.

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