Week 11: 11th & 12th December 2017


No maths this week due to the snow. Fiona's own children were off school as it was shut.


This was Jenson's final session with Fiona before the Christmas break and his last one before he starts school in January. We all felt very sad that it was coming to an end, especially given how much progress he was starting to make with his high frequency words and with his reading.  

Week 10: 4th & 5th December 2017


This week we have been working on Jenson's number writing after Fiona told me that work was needed! We filled two pages of his learning journal with columns of numbers up to 10 and he has done really well both with his concentration levels and his technical ability. I can see improvement. 


We also did some work in a number book I recently bought for him from the brilliant shop that is Tiger. It's full of lots of fun activities that are beautifully illustrated.



This week we have worked on story maps. One morning, at about 7.50am, the children became engrossed in an activity that involved the story: The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Both were able to retell it wonderfully using the pictures I had printed out. 


Wren's interpretation was particularly delightful. She introduced a dog and, with the very hungry caterpillar, they would share all the food together! They eventually turned into a very fat caterpillar and a very fat dog!

Week 9: 27th & 28th November 2017


This week we have returned to measuring objects and the concept of cm's. We continue to help Jenson to use a ruler.  



For the last few weeks Jenson has been writing his own book. It is inspired by the story - Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? Instead of using the animals in the book, Jenson is thinking up his own colourful creatures. He then writes down the story and draws a picture to illustrate it.

We have also continued to work on forming letters and identifying words that begin with the letters i and j.


Week 8: 20th & 21st November 2017


This week we have been focusing on hundreds, tens and units again but have introduced a new column - thousands!

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We have continued to work on forming letters and identifying words that begin with the letters g and h.


Week 7: 13th & 14th November 2017


This week we've been working on our 2D shapes and have introduced two new ones - pentagon and hexagon. Jenson has been able to identify how many sides and corners they all have and has been able to correctly match the number of corners to the correct shape. 


We have continued to work on forming letters and identifying words that begin with the letters e and f.


Week 6: 6th & 7th November 2017


This week we've been working on measuring with a ruler and just getting Jenson used to what one is and the whole concept of cm's. We've been measuring different objects, which tied in really well with our citizen scientist project we did this week.


We've also been playing snakes and ladders with two die, the idea being that Jenson can add both numbers up. He can do this well with smaller numbers up to 10 but needs to use the abacus for larger numbers.


What's lovely to see is that he is starting to count in his head, something Fiona, his tutor, was keen to see develop. He demonstrated this when he moved 5 beads across in one go followed by another 2 without having to count aloud or move them one by one.



The progress Jenson is making in his reading is just amazing. Ever since we introduced the concept of high frequency words his ability to read has accelerated. What is blindingly obvious is that he is much better at recognising words by remembering them than he is at blending and constructing them from sounds. He's clearly a very visual person which is possibly to do with the fact he is so creative. I catch him sometimes pretending to take a picture of something by holding his hands up to his eye in a lens type shape. He makes a click sound to indicate that he has taken the picture before recording it in his brain. The phrase photographic memory could not be more apt. 

When I picked him up from Fiona's on Tuesday, he opened the door bursting with excitement about how he had read a whole book, (Brown Bear)!! His enthusiasm for reading is wonderful to hear. What was really interesting to hear him say this week is that he likes home schooling reading because school doesn't have books he likes. He told me that he found the school books really boring, "not my favourite book, (blue pony what do you see)." When I asked him how he is able to recognise words - by remembering or by sounds - he told me he recognises words by remembering. That just says so much about the limitations of the current National Curriculum, where there is this incessant phonics drive. Circumstances are such that it looks like the children will have to go back into school sooner rather than later and, whilst I'm sure it will all work out fine, I worry it will undo all the good work Fiona and I have done over these past six weeks. My hope is that he can continue with Fiona on a Monday and Tuesday. 

I just love listening to him read. One night this week I left him in bed reading Brown Bear because he wanted to practice. Hearing him say something like that felt much like hearing humans talk for the very first time! I was genuinely bowled over. It just goes to show what happens when you give a child interesting material to read. The government has a lot to answer for. Not every child finds phonics a particularly helpful way to understand words. Jenson for example is very visual and will use pictures rather than sounds to help recognise and break tricky words down. 

Even Wren is enjoying learning to read.

Jenson has picked up the concept of high frequency words very quickly. I'd say his natural ability to read has overtaken his natural ability to write. Physically forming letters and words is something he struggles with a lot. He does try though.


We have our high frequency word cards and I can see progress. A week or two ago Jenson was only able to identify the words below when I asked him to find the word, i.e. Jenson, where is the word 'and'. That was good but he was unable to tell me the word when prompted, i.e. Jenson, what is that word? There's a subtle difference. This week however has seen a vast improvement. In the picture below all the words on the right are ones he is now able to recall from memory without being asked and the ones on the left are those he is not able to remember. I still have to revert to the question, "Jenson, where is the word 'the' or where is the word 'in'?"


We have been continuing our work on colours this week because of the use of the words in his book he is reading at the moment - Brown Bear. The book talks a lot about different colours so this was a good exercise for Jenson to do. 


Week 5: 30th & 31st October 2017

No lessons this week because there is an Ofsted inspection but we have continued to work on topics.


More number sequencing and helping Jenson to understand what comes after 9, 19, 29 etc.



This week we have continued to focus on Jenson's reading. He can now read 8 pages of Sly Fox and Red Hen. He can recognise about 95% of the words. He struggled with 'up' and 'this'. We also carried on working with high frequency words. We're still using the same nine - of, and, I, a, to, in, he, the, said. When I ask him to find the word I read out, he's 100% correct. But when I ask him to tell me what the word on the card says he struggles. So he can recognise the words but finds it hard to remember the words. 

Week 4: 23rd & 24th October 2017

Half term so no lessons but we have continued to work on topics. 


This week we have continued counting in units of 10 and pairing up the dienes blocks with the written number. We've also been practicing our 3D shapes and remembering how many sides and corners they have.



Worked on recognising some colour words and spelled them out too. We also practiced reading. Jenson is able to read 5 pages from Sly Fox and Little Red Hen. 


Week 3: 16th & 17th October 2017


This week we've been working on 3D shapes. Jenson is able to tell me what a cube, cuboid, sphere, pyramid and cylinder look like, how many corners these shapes have and how many sides and what shapes make up those sides. We have continued working with hundreds, tens and units. We've been adding 1 on to the end of 19, 29, 39 etc to help Jenson understand number sequencing.  


Jenson also made up the number 148,000,000,000 using our new dienes blocks.


Also this week we have continued practicing counting in units of 10. We've also continued to try and match the number cards to the correct number of beads on the abacus and continued.



We've been working on nine high frequency words, all of which Jenson can recognise really well when prompted i.e. can you find 'and' or can you find 'the'. We've been writing sentences about his Halloween pictures he drew at Fiona's. Homework for the week is to carry on practising reading and writing high frequency words and forming letters correctly.


Week 2: 9th & 10th October 2017


This week we've focused on more number bonds work. Jenson has been matching up different units of 10 i.e. numbers, abacus beads and dienes blocks. He has done well recognising that the number 10 can also be created using 1 block of 10 and the number 20 can also be created using 2 blocks of 10 and so on up to 100. He can use the abacus to count in units of 10 rather than just units of 1. Jenson has also been practising forming and writing his numbers up to 10 and learning about hundreds, tens and units.



Jenson has been creating story maps and learning all about the letter A. His homework for this week has been to memorise words rather than learning them phonetically. We've been practicing this with colours and high frequency words. Jenson chose five colours he wanted to try and write and remember and five high frequency words. 


Week 1: 1st & 2nd October 2017

This week marks the start of Jenson's tutor sessions. He wasn't overly impressed about the idea at first, but when I told him it was either this or school he chose this! He does two 45 minute sessions on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, with one focusing on Maths and the other on English.

His tutor's name is Fiona and she is lovely. Bizarrely, I did a photo shoot for her and her family a year or so ago and bumped into her again at a Christmas party last year. We've always said hello to each other in passing since. Anyway, I bumped into her again recently and approached her about tutoring Jenson and she was dead keen to help. She only lives around the corner and is so warm and friendly. She's a teacher by profession and Jenson has taken to her really well. 


In maths he is following the Year 2 curriculum. Fiona started him on basic number bonds of 10 and will gradually work him up to 20. His sessions are fun and packed with lots of hands on activities. At the moment he is learning using number cards and the challenge is to see how quickly he can find the right pairs, (9 + what = 10 etc). They also explored number bonds by threading beads, great also for his dexterity.

We've been practicing all this week and he's gone from being able to pair up the numbers in over 2 minutes to under 20 seconds. He's also really good at counting in units of 10 right up to 100. I've had the abacus out with him every morning and he's really got the hang of it. He's already moved onto subtraction and answered correctly when I asked him what 10 - 1 equals, 10 - 2, 10 - 3 and so on.  

When Jenson was at school he used to get good comments about his number work. Fiona has also commented on how quickly he picks things up. Perhaps this is why he enjoys Lego so much - because it has such a strong use of applied math.


English is where things get a little sticky. We're starting right at the beginning and he will follow the Year 1 curriculum. Even when he was at school he was getting intervention in the form of a programme called Dancing Bears, which helps children with their phonics. Saying that, Fiona isn't going to teach him phonetically. There will be no Chip and Biff either. I explained to her that with his writing, our objective should be to just get him enjoying it. School really put him right off it and he would often refer to it as a 'boring job'. It would be fair to say I was extremely sceptical about how Fiona would turn this around. 

I take my hat off to her though. On Tuesday, after his English session, we cycled round to the park to help him cool off. Rocking himself back and forth on the swing he told me how much he liked his tutor sessions. I asked what he liked about them and he said writing!! I could not believe my ears. I asked what about writing in particular and he said so he could become a Lego engineer! I was truly bowled over by this revelation. They haven't been doing anything ground breaking either - just reading one of his Ladybird books and learning how to form letters correctly, something he will practice every week with her and followed up at home every day with me. 

Fiona commented that he is good at sounding letters phonetically but cannot recognise them by their name i.e. A, B, C.