Mamma's School

Home Education Adventure

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Grow Your Own Stalactite – A Step By Step Guide.

Our little lady has a fascination with all things sparkly, crystal like, and remotely scientific.  So, one day she came to me with a picture and asked if we could grow our own stalactite.  Here is our step by step guide of how to do it.

First of all you will need:  2 jam jars/glasses about the same size, baking soda, string, warm tap water, ruler, 2 weighted objects (we used random screws we had), and a small dish.  You can also use some food colouring, but this is optional.  We used red.

1.  Measure and write down the height of one of the jars in cm.

2.  Fill both jars 75% full of very warm water.

3.  Add one teaspoon of baking soda to a jar and stir until it is dissolved.  Add again and keep repeating until the stirring does not dissolve the soda anymore.  Make sure you count how many teaspoons you used, and add the same to the other jar.  Stir until dissolved.

4. At this point we added food colouring into the mixture.

5.  Multiply the height of the jar by 2, and add 20cm onto that.  Then measure a piece of string to this length and cut.  Tie the screws onto each end.

6.  Wet the string with clean very warm water and place into the water, one end in each jar.

7.  Place a small dish between the jars and place somewhere where they won’t be disturbed.  It is important not to touch the stalactite crystals while they are growing or you might disturb their growth and break them.

Stalactites are found in caves.  Ground water carrying dissolved calcium carbonate and other minerals seeps through rock cracks and into the underground caves.  As the water travels over the ceiling to the cave, it reaches a low point where it drips.  As it drips the minerals and calcium carbonate are deposited onto the ceiling.  These build up and harden over time, creating the spike like structure hanging down called the stalactite.

As with any true science experiment, it doesn’t always go to plan!!  Our crystals grew along our string but didn’t do any significant growing downwards.  However, when we pulled the string out of the jars, we had beautiful crystals that had developed around the ends!!  This little experiment is very simple to do, so perfect for little people wanting to make and watch the formation of their own stalactites, or in our case just some sort of crystals!!!

Grow your own stalactite - a step by step guide, stalactite, crystals, science www.mammasschool.co.uk

Flower Pounding – Nature’s Art

flower pounding, nature's art, art with nature, outdoor art, flower art, www.mammasschool.co.ukFlower pounding is a very effective way of doing art with nature.  My trio love doing this because it so easy and very effective.  We also love seeing how our results change over the course of the four seasons.

 

 

 

 

So what supplies are required for flower pounding?

Very few?!  Any shape or size of cotton based material…plain is better as your results will be more visible.  You need to bear in mind that whatever you choose, the material needs to be large enough to place the flowers on one side and then fold in half.  You then need to pick a good selection of flowers and leaves.  When we pick our leaves for flower pounding we look for ones that would make good patterns.  For example, bracken with their fronds are good, or something similar.  With the flowers anything with a good solid colour will work well.  Then you just need a hammer.

Now you are all set to go….

Place your material flat, and start laying your leaves and flowers onto one half of the material.  You can either do this randomly, or think about the end result you would like and put more thought it into it.  My trio are all about the colours and patterns at the moment, so lay them out randomly.  You then need to fold the other half of the material over the top so the foliage is covered by the material.

 

Now you tap, tap, tap very gently with your hammer.  Too hard or fast and the hammer will shred the material.  Make sure you are firm enough though to see the colour coming through the material.  Go over all the edges of the leaves and flowers to get the best definition results.  You also need to do this on a firm surface.  As you can see we have chosen our garage floor, rather than the lawn (too squishy with all the moss!), or the decking (didn’t want hammer shaped dents all over it!!).  Once you think you have finished, open the material up and brush off the “crumbs” of the foliage, and you will be left with a lovely colourful pattern.  One of ours turned out very much like a butterfly but this was completely accidental!!  Nevertheless the children were very happy it did 🙂

 

 

 

Stenshuvuds National Park – A Biodiversity Gem

Stenshuvuds National Park, Sweden National Parks, Sweden www.mammasschool.co.ukStenshuvuds National Park is an area in southern Sweden that brings together many different natural environments within quite a small area.  Stenshuvud is actually a hill located in a relatively flat area of Sweden, so the views from the top are magnificent. It faces the Baltic Sea.  The Stenshuvuds National Park contains forest, meadows, open heath land, swamps, and beaches…you can’t get many more forms of environment in one area!!  With the rich diverse environments, also comes a rich and diverse array of animal and plant life.  Close to the top are the remains of a 5th or 6th century fortress (which we didn’t visit this time round).

We arrived at Stenshuvuds National Park with the aim of taking a nice afternoon hike in a loop, taking in as many of the different environments as possible.  We started out in the forest, with a boardwalk over the more swampy areas.  The children loved trying to balance along the edges, and being the first real warmish day of spring, we were able to ditch the hats and over trousers, and enjoy the freedom of just being in thick jumpers and coats!

Once we had emerged from the wooded area, there was an open slope down to the wide and open stretch of beautiful white sandy beach.  This area of Sweden is known for amber washing up ashore, so we were on a treasure hunt immediately!  The rocks and stones were so beautiful.  Many different colours and patterns, and soon the children were collecting them and stowing half of Sweden away in their pockets.  They had a lot of favourite ones, and there were some tough decisions to be made about which few could come home with us, after they had lugged them a good way along the beach!  Unfortunately we didn’t manage to locate any amber, but we did enjoy the stunning beach, its views, and the windiest part of the walk.  The boys loved racing the waves in and out, standing on the verge of the water and then running backwards before the next wave could soak their feet:-)

After the beach it was up through the heath land and admiring the views on the way up, as well as the few hardy flowers that had been brave and already opened.  Then it was back into the forest again to head towards the car.  It was so nice to finally feel we were out in spring sunshine and the walk had amazing views.  A truly beautiful place, and as the park describes themselves “a biodiversity gem”.

 

Kiviksgraven – A Bronze Age Monument

Kiviksgraven, kungagraven, bronze age grave, Skane bronze age www.mammasschool.co.ukOn our recent trip to Kivik, we decided to visit Kiviksgraven.  This is a large Bronze Age grave monument, and one of the most remarkable bronze age monuments in Sweden.  There is a very large cairn on the top of the ground, marking the grave’s location, that is 75m across.  Underneath there is a burial chamber, with a passage leading into it.  In the centre of this burial chamber are 8 slabs.  It had always been thought that an important person or king was buried in there.  In the early 1930’s there was archaeological work done inside the grave, and although they thought they had found the king’s remains, it turned out they were probably several teenagers buried in there throughout a period of 600 years.

The Kiviksgraven is situated where people had lived 6,000 years ago, living off what the forest and sea gave them.  Then 3,500 years ago, the place took on some sort of spiritual significance and the Kiviksgraven was built.  The stone slabs inside the grave are adorned with bronze age drawings of ships, horses, and people.  There are now a lot of other burial mounds and standing stones too in the area.  The Kiviksgraven was discovered when back in the 18th century workers started using the stones for construction purposes.  Whilst doing this 2 men fell down into the chamber and the grave was discovered.

We paid our 25 sek (£2.50) for each adult to enter (children were free) and headed on in.  We thought this was a bargain considering the expense going anywhere with all 5 of us usually entails.  Plus you could get right up to the stones, and look at them properly.  This is a lot nicer for children who are not much good at looking at stones from a distance!  The drawings were in really good condition and the whole tomb was a little surreal to be inside.  After visiting inside the tomb, we walked round the whole of the outside. We had some difficulty trying to keep the trio off the cairn as it resembled one giant fun play area in their eyes, but eventually they understood.

These monuments don’t take that long to visit, and after a 2 hour drive to get to it, we needed a little refreshment before we continued on our tour, so we headed inside to the very Swedish and very lovely wooden hut cafe.  The children also had a little play in the garden area.

This was such an amazing piece of history to see, and really well preserved.  It was lovely to be able to get so close to it as well 🙂

Chokladbollens dag – Chocolate Ball Day

Thursday 11th May (torsdag elfte maj) was chokladbollens dag….yes, that’s right, they have a whole day dedicated to eating chocolate balls!  The longer I live here, the more I feel this country is the perfect place for my sweet tooth to have taken residence.  It seems there is always a yummy treat to spend a day officially celebrating!  So, in order to show we were integrating well into Swedish culture and life, we whizzed up a batch of these no-bake treats (like we really needed a reason!!).

So what do you need to make this gooey treat for chokladbollens dag?

250g soft butter

400g rolled oats

175g caster sugar

4 tbs cocoa powder

4 tbs strong cooled coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

desiccated coconut.

This made around 30 balls, but I think it should easily reach 40-50 if you don’t have a 9 year old chocoholic deciding the size of them 🙂

Whizz all the ingredients together, apart from the coconut, and then pop into the fridge to allow it to go a little firmer.  Once firm, roll into small balls, and then roll each ball into the desiccated coconut to cover it.  They should keep in the fridge for around a week….ahem….if you haven’t got me living with you!!

These are very easy and quick to make, and perfect for little people who enjoy “helping” in the kitchen.  Although to be fair my little lady is actually a help now rather than a hindrance.  As for the twins……….!!!!

 

chokladbollens dag, chocolate balls day, sweden www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Imaginative Play – Let Them Learn Their Way.

So, it is Wednesday morning in our home, our little lady has trotted up the road to school, and it’s me and the boys home alone.  Usually, after I have sorted the washing (I swear there are people living in secret with us, the amount of socks that come out!), and done some housework, it is time for a little more formal literacy and maths with the mini men.  However, by the time I got to them this morning, there was a mountain climbing, chicken healing, spider man requiring mission in full swing!  It took me all of 1 second to decide to ditch the workbooks in favour of this imaginative play game.  Why?  Am I being lazy?  Am I shirking my responsibilities to keep up their English language skills living in a foreign country?  No, I am letting them learn the best way possible, their own way. But as an added bonus, what mummy won’t take the opportunity of calm to get things done ;-).  One of the many reasons we uprooted the family to Sweden was to embrace and be part of their culture of letting children be children, and the importance they place on child’s play.

There was a great deal of planning involved in this game, which in itself is an important life skill to learn.  Outfits had to be chosen, and today it was necessary to be wearing football shin pads and ballet shoes.  Food and drink were required, so paper sausages and drinks bottles made from paper and old bottle tops.  Torches (push up ice cream bases), light sabres (toy screwdriver handles), rope (old string), and homemade telephones were all packed, and they headed off into the wilderness (our upstairs!).  The baddies were in our room, whilst the nursing and feeding of a poorly chicken took place in the spare room.  Extra superhero powers were required in the form of spider man.  For three hours this game was played, changed, and progressed, and the whole time they were busy learning some very important things.

So what has this session, like any other of imaginative play, been teaching them apart from planning?  It has taught them a variety of skills, the first one today being dressing themselves (not necessarily to my taste!!).  They have sorted their own outfits as were required, they have done their own undressing and dressing to accommodate the story line.  They have made hundreds of decisions throughout the morning, developing their decision making skills, but this has also had a big impact on increasing their social skills at the same time.  There has been A LOT of co-operation (trust me we are not the perfect family, they hit and kick each other out of frustration at times too and scream at each other, but today they learnt the benefit of staying calm and using words to communicate so the game was enjoyed…it was just a really good morning for them today).  There has also been sharing, negotiations that would be fit for running a country, taking turns, and a lot of self restraint from the pair of them.  Very often they can be quick to lose their self restraint, and it’s hard being a twin in each others pockets all the time, but when they can hold it, and see the benefits, it reinforces that it is a beneficial way to behave.  Imaginative play, by nature, is role play or acting out some sort of experience.  This is the way little people are able to make sense of the big bad world around them.

During imaginative play there is a lot of emotional development occurring, as it is a very safe place and time to express their feelings, and try and sort them out.  Their thoughts, feelings, wishes, and fears can all be processed through their play.  As was shown in today’s game, they can learn about empathy and caring too.  Their self esteem can increase because they can be ANYTHING they want to be, there is nothing holding them back, anything goes 🙂 I might have given the formal literacy a miss but they have been busy developing their communication skills, both verbally and non verbally.  During imaginative play they can experiment and mistakes don’t matter, but are there to still be learnt from.

So next time you feel guilty about leaving your little ones to play while you sneak a peaceful 5 minutes, or more realistically work through your “to do” list, DON’T!  They don’t need our grown up interaction all of the time.  Their own imaginative play without us is just as important to their development.  Sometimes, their games may require you as part of them, but be careful you leave all your grown up ideas at the door to the room…this is their game and it is played their way!

Imaginative play-Let them Play their way, play important, role play, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Dear Bear and Beany

Sandhammeren Beach – The Carribean in Sweden!

Sandhammeren beach lies down in southern Sweden in Skåne, and is one of Sweden’s finest beaches.  The long stretches of white sand there can rival any Caribbean beach.  On our recent adventure into this part of Sweden, Sandhammeren beach was on our “to do” list, and we were not disappointed.  The beach stretches for miles and miles and miles, the sand is white and soft, the sea is blue and clear (and cold in late April!), and there are the most amazing sand dunes as the back drop to this fantastic landscape.

As As soon as we released the trio from the car they ran straight for the dunes, and were racing up and down them for ages, giving Dadda and I ample time to take in the gorgeous view and use a leisurely pace to head towards the beach.  The children were just running and running.  The huge expanse of dunes, meant total freedom for further than they could have stamina for (a perfect win for parents!).  Once we caught up with them, we headed onto the beach.  Here the sand was so white, soft, and beautiful.  We were there on a windy late April day, but in the summer the sea will be a lot calmer and warmer for swimming in.  Today the children were happy just to chase the waves, and again run, run, run enjoying the freedom.  We didn’t meet another soul along Sandhammeren beach, and could see either way along the beach for miles.  Our little lady seemed to favour playing down on the shore line, enjoying splashing, running in and out of the waves, and writing her name in footprints on the sand.  It wasn’t long before the wellies were discarded in favour of bare feet as the waves had gone in over the top anyway.  Where we used to live in the UK we had a shingle beach, and whilst she was always to be found barefoot (the best way to be), it was always with an uncomfortable hobble.  So, to say she enjoyed sinking her feet into the soft sand is an understatement.  After a long winter of being all wrapped up in hats, coats, gloves, and second pairs of trousers, I think we all felt a sense of freedom with the shedding of the layers!

Meanwhile the mini men seemed to favour the dunes immediately behind us, running up and down them, before finally persuading Dadda to leap off them (he doesn’t need much persuading!!).  They had so much fun going up and down, and in an out of the grasses.

An action shot of Dadda and our little lady jumping off the dunes

We spent a good couple of hours just exploring this gorgeous beach, and shoes and pockets were filled with sand by the end of all the fun.  We headed back towards the car through the heath and scrub on the footpath, meandering our way a bit more chilled out by now.  Once we were back in the car park, the children had a quick obligatory tree climb and play on the rope swing, before climbing back into the car, with a little less energy than they got out of it with!!  We will definitely be returning to Sandhammeren beach during the summer to have some fun in the Swedish summer sun here, as we have totally fallen in love with the place!

Sandhammeren Beach, Skåne, Skane beach, Sweden beaches, white sand, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Two Tiny Hands

Dandelion Cookies – The Flowery Biscuit!

Our garden is a little bit of a dandelion farm, so it got me thinking, what could I make with these golden flowers, other than fairy potions and posies!!  So we tried to make biscuits with them, and it worked!  This recipe makes 12-15 dandelion cookies, and as usual I have had to make three batches (having three children), so have a plentiful supply!! If the thought of eating dandelions makes you feel a little eugh, you only need to consider their health benefits and you might be swayed.  Bear in mind these are the health benefits for only the flowers, the rest of the plant has even more health benefits to it!  They are a great source of antioxidants, they can help relieve aches and pains (more specifically from headaches, backaches, and menstruation), the can help tummy aches, they contain vitamin A and B12, and have antibacterial effects in the pollen 🙂

 

So what ingredients do you need for your dandelion biscuits?

Pick 15 dandelion flower heads.

100g butter

80g sugar

1 egg

1 lemon, zest and juice

150g plain flour

20g cornflour

and a pinch of baking powder.

Wash the dandelion heads, and then pluck off all the petals into a bowl

Cream the butter and sugar together

Add in the egg, stirring well

Add the plain flour, the cornflour, and the baking powder

Add the zest of the lemon, the juice of the lemon, and the dandelion petals and stir well

Place overloaded teaspoon sized dollops onto baking paper, and spread out well.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 12-15 mins

…..then tuck into your dandelion cookies!!!

Dandelion Cookies, foraged food, cooking with dandelions, dandelion food, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

3 Little Buttons
Two Tiny Hands

Kivik – The Apple Capital Of Sweden

Since moving to Sweden, I have started compiling lists of where to visit and what to see.  Somewhere not too far from us is the county of Skåne.  This county is known for its huge expanse of sandy beaches, its proliferation of apple blossom in the spring, and lovely old villages.  So, with far too much on my list to achieve in one day, we chose 5 things to do on a bright but chilly and windy spring day.  First up was the village of Kivik, but we will no doubt be returning many times to this lovely county to do more exploring!!

Kivik has an old part of the town near the harbour and seafront.  It has lovely old buildings and cobbled streets, and is very beautiful.  It has lots of unique little shops, restaurants, and cafes.  It is very early in the spring here, but we got a taste of how it would come alive in the summer months, and how people would be jostling for space at the fresh fish restaurants, and enjoying the sandy harbour area.  It also has one of Sweden’s oldest cinemas there, but we did not locate that.

The area around Kivik is also very renowned for its apple growing.  The climate seems to favour this fruit here, and Kivik is the centre of Swedish apple cultivation; the apple capital of Sweden.  In fact, there is so much going on, that the blossom season is a sight to see in its own right, and we had set out on our adventure aiming to see this.  A month ago when we visited the UK the blossom season was in full swing, and I thought we may have been OK visiting it here in Sweden now, but I think we were a little early, but only by a week or so.  Some of the trees had started and others were ready to burst open with blossom, and it hinted at the spectacle of what was to come.  It was still very pretty, but we were a little too early in May for our visit.

Kivik - The Apple Capital of Sweden, Visit Skane, Osterlen, apple blossom, sweden www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

3 Little Buttons

Learning to Use a Compass – Teaching the Basics.

Learning to Use a compass-teaching the basics, compass, navigation, orienteering, map reading www.mammasschool.co.ukToday’s hike had an ulterior motive behind it…to get the trio learning more about the basics of using their compasses.  We have had these out before for a little walk, and a brief lesson about finding north, but I felt it was now time to learn a little more about direction.  My trio definitely learn best in the great outdoors, and with a practical skill such as compass use, it suits us better to be doing it outside, rather than sat indoors.  I remember at school doing the theory indoors and then heading outdoors for the practical, but not really taking anything in until we were outdoors.  Therefore, I aim to teach as much as I can out on the ground, and less splitting it into definite theory and practical elements for them, as they find it much harder to relate the theory to anything!

We left the car in the car park, and had gone 20m when we came across a style, and our first stand off of the hike.  My double trouble are very into competing against each other.  It ranges from who is first everywhere, to who was last in through the door so has to shut the door (the back door is open flapping letting cold air in for ages while they argue who shuts it), and today it seemed no one wanted to be first down the steps the other side, although both had reached the top together in a race!!  My little lady and I were stuck behind them trying to get them to shift so we could get on with the yomp!  Oh the joys of hiking with little people.  The trio were quite grumpy on this particular afternoon, so I decided we’d hike to our designated fire pit for the afternoon, have our cooked treat and a play, and then hopefully they would be in better spirits for the return leg, and a bit of a compass lesson.  No point teaching them in this mood as nothing will go in and they will not be receptive.  Sometimes, I’ll carry on the plans with whoever is receptive, but with all three behaving like it was a bad day, there was little point!!  It was a lovely spring day so I was determined we would make the most of it.

We arrived at where the fire pit should have been, but there wasn’t one we could find…very unusual here in Sweden.  So we retraced our steps a bit to a large rock and gathered some stones into a circle and created our own fire pit.  It was good for the children to learn why I wasn’t just happy to place a fire any old place in the woods, and then how to build one, so all was not lost!  I had also bought a new piece of equipment, a raised grill shelf on legs, that I wanted to try out too.  The fire pits here are great, but it isn’t until you reach somewhere that you find out whether you have a grill over it or not.  Not everything we cook needs it, but there are some things I prefer not to place directly on the flames, and today I was using a saucepan so it was a perfect chance to try it out.  We lit our fire, we cooked our food (see outdoor cooking for the campfire posts, as recipe in another blog post), and the children played happily….well until there was screaming to be heard!  The trio had found a tree to climb that was infested with the hugest red ant colony.  Instead of then staying away from it, they felt it was a challenge of who could get up and down it without getting bitten, but also they were curious to watch them.  Very soon someone had been nipped (twin 1) and he was yelling at the top of his lungs (he has big strong lungs!!).  Luckily I carry Anthisan, so it was calmed down quite quickly and another lesson was learnt!

Apart from the ant nip, everyone was in much better spirits so we each got our compasses out.  We started by learning the main four directions of the compass…north, south, east, and west.  Looking at the letter with the little ones, and working out what that would then stand for.  We then lined north up, to work out which way we were walking.  Luckily this was quite simple at first as the path followed an east direction.  Very soon though my little lady announced that “Mamma it is in the middle of north and east now”.  At this point we then sat down and looked at the other letters on the compass (NE, SE, SW, and SE).  Once we had learnt to listen to the sound of those letters (for the twins) to then work out what they stood for (the little lady was a little bit easier to teach as she can work it out quicker), we then were able to stop at regular intervals and say in which direction we were walking.  That was more than enough for them to take on board today, and I think we will be just practising that skill for a little while yet before we introduce anything else new, but they enjoyed it, and the accomplishment of understanding what the compass was saying.

All three did eventually admit they had loved their little hike, despite the wobbly start.  Once I had got over twin 1’s insistence that he didn’t need to use the compass because he wasn’t lost, they also loved being able to use the compass and work out what it was saying!  It was a close shave at the start of the walk, but eventually it became a successful and sunny afternoon out!

 

 

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