What an amazing first week. Button really bought into this topic and found it all so fascinating that she worked hard on the work we planned and even came up with some ideas herself, like making Cleopatra on Sims and making a rap with Daddy. It was so exciting to see her driving her own ideas and to be passionate about what she was learning about. We even fitted in two documentaries and looked back at our honeymoon photos of Egypt. She loved it. I really hope the rest of the month is as exciting as this first week.
We started with colonisation of the ports and this will continue into the second week with colonisation of the whole Continent. We wanted her to understand colonisation from the start and why Europeans came to Africa. We even had a look at the caravel boat which was the ship that the Portuguese built to help them travel to Asia via Africa to trade.
So what did we learn? People trading with Asia could cross through Turkey on foot to trade but once the Ottoman Empire grew and closed their borders, Europeans needed a new way to get to Asia. Portugal were the first to build a ship big enough but light enough to travel the distance quickly. However, they still need stop off points and this is where the edges of Africa came in handy. So Portugal was the first to colonize a few of Africa's ports. Spain soon joined them and then England, Netherlands, France and Germany.
So to keep this activity simple we got Button to colour in the areas on a map of Africa that were colonised first. Using different colours for the different countries meant we could start talking about keys on maps too.
As we touched on trade we decided to talk about the slave trade and we did a few activities on this. The first was a brilliant printout from Twinkl. It explained the slave trade triangle and then gave her questions to answer. It really got her thinking about the poor people being sold as if toys on a shelf, as she put it. She was so shocked that other people just took people and sold them as if they weren't important.
We then looked at an advert of someone selling slaves and tried to see what sort of people had slaves and how they sold them on. She decided she would buy the slaves and then set them all free. This was so lovely to hear but I had to explain people and society's mindset at the time and how something so unforgiveable was unfortunately so prevalent and normal back then. So I got her to do an advert selling the Twins. This came quite easy to her and she even added a picture of the Twins!
I think for such a young age it was great to start touching on such a difficult time in history for Africa and Button actually said she was upset to be English. We did explain that it was a different time back then and that it unfortunately was not just England. That we have come so far but that there is always work to do and she can do her part by always making friends with everyone she meets from any background or culture.
The other history element we looked at this week was ancient Egypt. For Button we asked her what part she would like to focus on as we have touched on it quite a few times in the past. She wanted to look at Cleopatra and the pyramids. Which actually worked out really well because last week there was a documentary on Channel five about finding Cleopatra's tomb so we recorded it ready and then this week there was a documentary on the curse of king Tut's tomb. So it all fitted perfectly. For the pyramids, we read up on them and then decided to all try and build one from our Kapla blocks. The best was Daddy's as mine was more a tower, while Button's, even though it had the pyramid shape, was more a tent or camp than a pyramid. However, we were super impressed she got the shape right and how she had interpreted it and then creates it. She and Daddy then built a wall and talked about building skills.
For Cleopatra we read and watched the documentary and then Button wrote some facts down about her and then drew a great picture of her. What made us very proud of her was when she asked to make her on Sims and included the stuff she had learnt from the documentary. Like she had a long pointed nose and a round chin. She also gave her elaborate make up and big jewellery like she has seen in pictures and pet cats because she knew Egyptians loved cats. She named one after Cleopatras actual pet cat and one after the God who looked like a cat. It was brilliant to see her mind at work.
The Twins also looked at ancient Egypt. We bought a great book from the library called "Going down the Nile" which is about travelling down the Nile by boat to different places and seeing all the sights. Each page has a different God on it and at the back it tells you all of them and some facts on the landmarks. It's a great book and Button was rather excited to read it to the Twins herself. So while she read I got to play with the small world with them. They loved the crocodile and Buttercup used him to chase the people Bear had. Daddy then re-read the book before bed and I read it a few times throughout the week.
Art this week was great fun. We painted and decorated paper plates and toilet tubes cut to look like necklaces and bracelets. All three enjoyed this activity. We painted them all yellow to look like gold and once dry I cut out lots of squares from glitter paper I had and they glued them on to make it look like diamonds and gems. They couldn't wait to show Daddy how smart they looked, when he got in from work.
Baking this week was an Egyptian cookie called "Kahk" which we made while listening to some Egyptian music on Youtube. The website we found it on called it shortbread but after making them we found them similar to a scone and Button enjoyed hers with Jam. The joy of trying recipes from around the world is seeing the difference in cooking styles. This cookie needed yeast and not much sugar at all, we explained to Button that some food items were hard to get hundreds of years ago and so food evolved with what they could get. The Twins loved seeing how much the dough had risen in the hour we left it. And it was such an easy way to mould and shape them so the children did it with no help. I divided the dough up and they all rolled them into balls, flattened them and then pressed a fork into the top to create ridges to catch the icing sugar that we sprinkled on them once cooked. Other recipes had these Kahks flavoured or stuffed so it probably wasn't that surprising that these plain ones were quite dry. Hence the jam for Button but Daddy loved them and I'm sure will demolish them.
For English this week, Daddy and Button started looking at the amazing book we bought, 'Letters to Africa'. This features letters from English schoolchildren to schoolchildren in Kenya and the Gambia. It also features photos and short stories and although we had to cover quite a lot to get the book finished in four weeks, Button seemed to take a lot from it. She was stunned to learn that some of the children live in houses made from dung and that families of seven can be living in houses that consist of one bedroom, a kitchen and a sitting room. There was a lot of words, history and phrases that Daddy had to explain to Button but she took it all in and did excellent journalling and narration. For her word game, Daddy asked her to write a poem about Ancient Egypt but she decided that she wanted to do a rap instead. The result was brilliant, funny and factual. If you haven't heard it, then I suggest you go to Daddy's instagram grid (@teaching_mum_and_dad) and look for his post on Saturday 25th July!
Week 2 - south
What another fab week. We touched on some heavy stuff for Button like the diamond mines and apartheid but she took it all in her stride and learnt so much about African history. The Twins loved counting in Swahili and kept coming back to it. So this is what we got up to.....
We carried on from what we had learnt last week about how other countries like Portugal and England took over the ports and those areas of Africa but went further inland this time. We explained that the other countries wanted to look for farming land to grow crops for back home, but what they found was so much more. They found natural resources like coal, gold and diamonds. Button coloured in the rest of her map and after seeing how much land we had taken as a country she wrote "I'm sorry" at the bottom of her sheet. This caught me in the throat, that at 7 things are that simple: Other countries shouldnt6 take what isn't theirs- land or resources.
After this we spoke about mining and how dangerous it can be and how people lost limbs and lives digging and mining with explosives for gems. To bring lightness to this hard topic the amazing @scarlett_senses put together a custom kit for me, all around the mining in Africa. Yet again she out did herself and the kids had so much fun hiding gold nuggets and diamonds and then mining them out. Button pretended to blow it up with some canons we found and then chipped away at around the diamonds with the little knife that they received too. It kept them quiet for over an hour, especially Bear who loved finding them all and then counting them in Swahili lol. I loved watching them play this week.
This weeks Art was inspired by Esther Mahlangu. I found a great Pinterest on it, a lesson giving us information on this wonderful artist, some of her work and where she got her inspiration from as well as a great activity to do. All three children loved looking at the pictures of the houses and then at Esther's work. I set out a picture each for the Twins to colour but I left Button to create her own art work inspired by Esther. She found this very hard as she likes the freedom to draw whatever she likes and struggles a little with geometric shapes. However, I was super impressed with her final design. She tried so hard and in the end had a wonderful piece of art work to show for it. The Twins love colouring in but I was still so impressed with them trying to colour each shape seperately. Bear wanted to do his own outlines so did end up covered in black lines but I love that he wanted to see it through to the end.
I used to make banana bread a lot when Button was small and lately she's been going on at me to make it with her. I didn't realise where the recipe came from so when it popped up while looking for South African recipes I couldn't say no. It's such an easy recipe and the children loved making it. I got Bear to do the mashing and then they all took turns adding ingredients and mixing. It turned out so yummy that it didn't last long and they all want to make it again. The good thing about this recipe is it can be healthier by adding whole-wheat flour and maybe some nuts. Great for quick breakfasts or afternoon snacks. I definitely need to let them make this more, but first they need to stop eating all my bananas lol.
The Twin's book - We all went on safari
This is a brilliant book I would highly recommend. A beautiful picture book of a counting journey through Tanzania. Each page has a different animal to count and the number in Swahili. Each animal is then counted by a different Maasai child with their Swahili name included. There is lots of extra information at the back of the book: facts on the animals found in Tanzania and in the book and their Swahili names; facts about the Maasai people and the meanings of the names of the children in the book; a map of Tanzania and facts on the country; and then the numbers in Swahili written out again. For such a simple story and idea it gives so much. The Twins loved it, especially Bear. We read it a lot over the week and I'm rather proud it's part of our collection now.
We are planning on cooking an African meal at the end of our topic, but thought it would be cool immersive learning and more authentic if we tried an African takeaway. We had various issues with the order itself (first restaurant wasn't delivering but it didn't say on the site, then choosing what we wanted and how much we would need and then how long the second restaurant was going to take). However, despite Daddy being stressed, it being a late meal and an unusual meal, the kids all did really well.
We ordered these dishes:
Efo Riro (fish),
All three kids at least tried everything I think, even Buttercup who can be really fussy. She did refuse the drink and actually Bear and Button didn't like it either. To be fair it is probably the first fizzy drink any of them have tried and so throw in the unusual flavour, I'm not surprised they weren't keen. In fact only Daddy liked it and even then, only while it was cold.
Daddy liked it all while it was hot but found it tougher going once it started to go cold. Button loved the oxtail and some of the meat pie and Mummy enjoyed these and the flavour of the fish dishes, though they were too spicy for her. Bear tried everything, liking the plantain the most, but probably didn't eat as much as he normally would. Buttercup, to our surprise and pleasure, tried most things but did not enjoy it enough to eat enough as her dinner and had to have some cheese and crackers.
Famous person-- Lucas Radebe
What a legend. The Chief. A man who has a special place in the hearts and minds of all Leeds United fans who were privileged enough to see him play. Daddy was so happy to take this opportunity to
teach Button about one of his favourite players. Not just any player though, one who has come through adversity and become a man who Nelson Mandela described as his hero.
Daddy had used mainly the Lucas Radebe.com bio but combined with a few other websites, to put together a ten page dossier on The Chief. He then made a worksheet with the following questions:
1. Why was Lucas sent away to school at Bophuthatswana to the North of Johannesburg?
2. What career did Lucas and his parents plan?
3. What event put Lucas’ career on hold and cost him a move to Besiktas?
4. What did Lucas dislike about England?
5. Was Lucas a big success at Leeds at first?
6. What naughty thing did Lucas do so he could celebrate winning the African Cup of Nations with Nelson Mandela?
7. What made Leeds fans take Lucas to their hearts?
8. What award did Lucas win in December 2000?
9. What was Lucas’ Leeds nickname?
10. Who described Lucas as their hero?
11. What terrible event happened in 2008?
12. How has Lucas used his time since retiring from football?
13. How do Leeds fans continue to honour Lucas?
Button then had to answer these questions as Daddy read to her about Lucas. Button enjoyed it so much, she even named a character on her Sims game, Lucas.
Week 3 - East Africa.
What a great week. Having family out in Kenya really grabbed Button's interest. She couldn't wait to learn about the area of the World they are living in.
We started by learning about Kenya itself. She did a fact sheet on what she had learnt and also studied the differences between her day and the day of a child from Kenya. She was so suprised to find out that they feed the animals on the farm before heading to school and when they get home they help up on the farm. She loved the videos that twinkle had linked, it helped her picture the child's life more clearly.
National parks/game reserves and tribe
This was really interesting as thanks to twinkl we could clearly learn the differences between a national park and a game reserve. What each does and how the tribes live. So a national park is a Government owned and run area that allows tourists and research to take place. Whereas a game reserve is private owned, so less busy and still allows people and wild animals to live on them naturally. The Maasai tribe live on the Maasai mara national reserve, they live in mud huts and migrate around the reserve for their cattle. Button loved seeing how these people lived through short videos and fun facts. She loved that the men of the tribe do a jumping dance to impress the ladies and that their favourite colour is red. She did a few work sheets on this, one being a plan of her own national park. So she also learnt about keys on a map and how to draw and use a compass to direct you on the map. She also wrote a short story about going on a Safari and the Twins drew their favourite safari animal after watching another short video on the big 5.
Button also had work sheets on the big 5 to research and fill out herself which was a great confidence boost for her. After studying all this we then found out that her uncle proposed to his girlfriend at the Masai mara national reserve while we was studying it, which really excited Button.
Art this week was a lot of fun. Grandad and Grandma had bought us a mask and a little elephant to decoupage a few years ago for Christmas. This was perfect for this week's craft. We also had some plaster of Paris Safari animals for the Twins to paint. The Twins love painting so didn't mind that Button was doing something else, they got straight down to painting their little animals and then moving on to paper before finishing.
Button loved making her African mask, she used lots of bright tissue paper and some animal print ones we had in our tissue paper drawer. It was lovely to do something with her and I did the little elephant. We shared ideas and talked about masks in Africa. We enjoyed it so much we have spoke about getting other things to decoupage.
Baking - mandazi
These are a type of African donut. We found a recioe that didn't use yeast (as I had run out). It used coconut milk and spices. We used cinnamon. It looks pretty easy on the video we found but when making it, we found we needed a lot more flour and it just stuck to everything, this resulted in them not puffing up as much as they should have but the flavour was still there and we enjoyed them with fresh strawberries and honey.
We let Button fry them (with us very close to hand) and she loved doing this, I think she's at the age now where she wants to do more in the kitchen and we are all for that.
Famous person - Wangari Muta Maathai
What an interesting women. Such an inspiration for young children who want to help the planet. Known as the 'mother of trees' for planting 50 million trees and starting the green belt movement to help Kenya's environmental problems. She was awarded the Nobel peace prize for her efforts. Button loved her and designed a memorial garden in her honour, it was lovely to see Button taking on board what this lady had done and using it to inspire her garden, using lots of colour, trees and flowers.
Week 4- west Africa
This is our final week and we are all sad to say goodbye to Africa, but not before we explore the Western part of this fabulous continent.
Before leaving the East, we had one more thing to study. The earliest human skeleton, found in 1974. 'Lucy', named after the Beatles song "Lucy in the sky with diamonds", is a pre-homo sapien skeleton that helps prove Darwin's theory of evolution. Button loved finding out about her, she found it really interesting how humans evolved. I think some of it went over her head a little but for an introduction on evolution it was a success. I had pre read the article and then written out questions for her to answer, she got straight down to it and answered them as I read. She even asked to continue finding out more on her.
For our famous person we looked at Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The first female Libyan Prime minister who also jointly won a Nobel peace prize with Tawakkol Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work. Button found her really fascinating.
Baking - peanut cookies
What a easy recipe for children to make. I love it when it's all ingredients in one bowl and mix.
500g of finely chopped peanuts
200g of brown sugar
3 tbsp of flour
1/4 TSP of baking powder
Such simple ingredients made a really yummy soft cookie that the whole family enjoyed. Definitely going to make these again as they were so simple for small hands.
Art - Kente cloth
We found a wonderful book called "The spider weaver" an African folk tale about how Kente cloth was created. The children loved the bright colours and story line. We spent time looking at the patterns in the web and pointing out what shapes we saw and our favourite sections. I also bought some Kente cloth to study and have a chloser look at.
We then did some paper weaving to create our own Inspired Kente cloth. First off we got some black card and used string wrapped around a box to print white lines. While this was drying we got some red card which I cut into strips and drew patterns using crayons. Once the white was dry, I cut slits into the paper and we weaved the red card through the black. I loved the end result, I thought they all did amazing and the Twins did really well with the weaving. I thought that was going to be the hardest part but they hardy struggled.
We both thought it was really important, having looked at colonisation, that we cover Independence with Button. However, we were concerned it could end up quite dry and lack the all important emotion behind Independence. So we decided to make it relevant to her.
Button loves Sims and is very determined about what she wants to do when playing it, not letting Mummy have a look in. So we decided that Daddy would play a game of Sims with her, but with the condition that Button had to follow anything Daddy said. As Button played, Daddy gradually imposed restrictions such as: her clothes had to be a certain colour; she could only take certain jobs; her focus had to be on finding a husband; her money was restricted; she was only allowed to grow certain colour crops.
Some of these restrictions were permanent, while others changed, such as how she was allowed to have her hair. For example, Daddy kept changing his mind about what colour crops were allowed, causing mass wastage.
It did not take long for Button to grow frustrated, to protest and to try and give up on the rules--which I then had to reaffirm. We then explained to Button that we had been showing her how it is for a country that is ruled by another country. Especially one disinterested in the populace and only interested in the valuable resources of the country. We then spoke about why, how and when African nations achieved Independence.
Mummy was super excited to spend the last day of our African topic cooking dishes from around this amazing Continent. Daddy was a bit more concerned, as our African takeaway wasn't a complete success. Daddy needn't have worried though as it went really well. We wanted to capture elements from all over Africa and made:
Jollof rice (recipe courtesy of @cindersxxxx hubby) ;
Beef curry (recipe courtesy of @mcsue15 West African cook book);
Ugali na Maharage ya nazi and chapatis (Tanzanian dishes suggested by @roscreativewithin);
A delicious chicken peanut stew (West African);
A Moroccan harissa pork(we don't eat lamb) dish and
Egyptian Koshari both made by @victoria.fletcher.3766 who also made peanut vegetable and curried vegetable dishes.
For pudding we had a South African caramel pudding.
All three kids started by making menus for the meal. All three really worked hard. The Twins did great designs while Button wrote out the list of all the dishes we were cooking. Button helped with most of the cooking and the Twins helped with the chapatis and made the pudding. We basically started at lunchtime and cooked all afternoon. The cooking went fairly smoothly, though Mummy and Daddy struggled with the Ugali a bit. It was worth it though as everyone tried everything and enjoyed most of it. The amount we cooked I think we were expecting to feed a whole Maasai tribe and it certainly fed us for two days. Daddy and Mummy wore some Egyptian clothes we bought on our honeymoon 16 years ago, Bear wore his awesome top from @alines_handmade and the girls wore their Kenyan clothes bought for them by @ferntolman and Uncle Jamie. There was a nice atmosphere and we all left the table stuffed and tired!!!
Button then showed Nanny all the work she has done on this project, before they played African shops using their South African coins. A great finish to the project and its amazing to see them sad to stop studying something that they have been doing for over a month. Button in particular has taken a lot from the project. It is also interesting to see the change in the Twins in terms of who they pick for their family members in the book "You choose". Their choices are a lot more ethnically diverse compared to mainly white character or monsters at the start.
Three more relaxed topics coming up (textiles, maths and music) a week's holiday and then we start Asia. We can't wait!!
Letters to Africa
Daddy and Button studied this book for the duration of our African topic. I think Button found it really insightful to see the kind of questions and assumptions from the UK children and also to hear how different the lives of the African children are.
As part of this study, Button had a go at writing a rap, writing her own letter and learning how to play Mancala. Mancala is a great skilled and fun game and she enjoyed it so much she even taught her cousin, Cornelius.
This is a lovely book with great pictures, short stories and lots more besides the letters. We thoroughly recommend it.