This badge was made to recognise the steps Cai is taking in pretend play, imagining and acting in roles and situations, engaging other children in pretend play and performing for an audience.

Tools that have been really useful in engaging Cai in pretend play and acting are the board game Whatever Next?, which encourages him to take on roles, play "shops" at playgrounds, board games set around pretend situations such as Bus Stop and Pop to the Shops, and a roleplay restaurant set. However, Cai often initiates pretend play in a range of situations, which helps him explore his learning and understanding in other areas--for example, pretending to be fish searching for rubbish in the ocean and bringing it to be disposed of before it can cause too much pollution and harm other sea life.

He also enjoys acting out narratives with toys, either unprompted or with tools such as Tell a Tale story dice and puppets.

He has engaged in group pretend play as well, including teaching a younger boy and a toddler the scenarios and collaborating with those children and a female friend in complex pretend scenarios.

Finally, he has learned, performed and improvised songs, replacing words and concepts and showing an understanding of rhyme and rhythm patterns.

At this age, I'm more interested in promoting improvisation and exploring different points of view than any attempt at learning set scripts.

Learning Goals

  • Increasing empathy
  • Promoting creative and imaginative skills
  • Improving communication skills and presenting to audiences
  • Creating logical narrative
  • Social skills: collaboration with other children

Australian Curriculum Links

Arts (Drama)

Explore role and dramatic action in dramatic play, improvisation and process drama:
  • taking part in purposeful dramatic play focusing on experiencing the roles and situations they create
  • taking turns in offering and accepting ideas, and staying in role in short improvisations
  • exploring possibilities for role and situation when participating in  teacher-led process drama and roleplay
  • Use voice, facial expression, movement and space to imagine and establish role and situation
  • Present drama that communicates ideas to an audience 


  • Innovate on familiar texts through play
  • Listen to, recite and perform poems, chants, rhymes and songs, imitating and inventing sound patterns including alliteration and rhyme
  • Recreate texts imaginatively using performance

Personal and Social Capability: Social Management

  • communicate effectively
  • work collaboratively
  • make decisions
  • negotiate and resolve conflict

I have not been keeping my recording resolutions, either here or on my private journalling. Must Do Better. After all, this is it, the year when the other kids are at school.

Here is an attempt to touch some highlights, anyway... Lots and lots of boardgaming, all of value. The gameschooling thing is serving us well as a method of learning that never, ever needs coaxing. Covering maths, observation, deductive play, reading, and lots and lots of pretend play.

The pretend play is particularly prompted by a board game I picked up for $3 at an op shop, Whatever Next? Cai is fairly obsessed with it. There are lots of prompts for pretending on the cards you draw, and Cai gets so into his narratives and acting out that a single turn can take what seems like hours and hours... :) He gets incredibly much out of it, and also sneak learning happens, such as explaining why sheep need to be shorn, and what the qualities of wool are...

 Cai asked to learn about the solar system, and as my own knowledge is pretty sketchy, we've been learning together. We've been using child friendly videos mostly, but also books and games. He soaks it all in avidly and asks bright questions. As for me, I feel like I'm learning all kinds of cool stuff along with him. :)

Another interest we've been reading about together a lot about the human body, and how it works. I'm fascinated by what grabs his little mind.

Playing with his friends has been very much of value. As an only child, he doesn't get much chance to act out disputes with other kids, and I've been really pleased to see that he can clash wills with them but still love them hard.

Still working on fine motor skills a lot--tracing lines, threading beads, absolutely anything I can think of that he will enjoy doing. I really want to get his muscular and motor control down. The weather has been hot, but he's got in a lot of climbing and swinging and things regardless, especially with friends to prompt him. And he is always in motion.

Cai's let his Youtube channel slip a bit, but I don't want to force it, despite the time I put in. He'll come back to it, or not.  I have to remember not to impose my own hopes on him.

 His maths aptitude always astound me a bit. He will make mathematical conclusions spontaneously--"Six? That's easy. Three and three!" he says, as he picks up three toys in each hand. We also accidentally ran into long subtraction through playing Prodigy Maths, and he really seemed to grasp and enjoy doing it in concrete ways with his Penguins on Blocks, taking away groups of penguins and rearranging them to make blocks of tens and "extras". I love teaching through manipulables and games

And speaking of manipulables, his fifth birthday meant I pulled up his Balance Beans, designed to teach algebra. So far, he likes just free play with them, which I think is of lots of value itself at this stage. But his other mummy enjoyed the "very hard" challenges...

I feel like I'm not reporting much despite getting a lot done, and I have to change that, because it slips my mind so fast. I need to get in the habit of recording everything he does, for the purposes of later reporting.

Tomorrow--the museum! The trip and meetup were planned last week, but hideous weather intervened.

The Pirate Who Had To PeeThe Pirate Who Had To Pee by Tim Miller

A dramatic tale. I am unable to relate whether it ends in tragedy or joy, as my son was too overwhelmed by distress when he realized the toilet on the ship was out of order and the pirate needed to go to the loo, and almost tearfully begged me to stop reading.

Not a book for sensitive readers.

View all my reviews

Review: The pirate who had to pee

Posted on

Friday, 26 January 2018


<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1087047.Pattern_Bugs" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img border="0" alt="Pattern Bugs" src="https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1347470418m/1087047.jpg" /></a><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1087047.Pattern_Bugs">Pattern Bugs</a> by <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/62767.Trudy_Harris">Trudy Harris</a><br/>
My rating: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2271391329">5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
Simple and pleasing to read aloud, with bright pictures, but full of verbal and visual patterns--AB, ABC, AAB, ABB... Patterns are expressed with words, movement, size, position and cover.<br /><br />A really lovely maths concept book for little kids.
<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/7441725-lindley-walter-smith">View all my reviews</a>

Review: Pattern Bugs

Posted on

Wednesday, 24 January 2018




To celebrate all the brilliant work Cai has been doing with reading.

This has been two pronged: phonics and real reading.

Skoolbo and teach Your Monster to Read have been a fun way to teach him phonics as a tool to decode words. While he is often lacking in confidence over diagraph games and asks for help, once one or two is done  he quickly takes over and does them all himself. He just needs support over his initial panic.

He has shown he really understands these tools by decoding made-up words, like the names of unfamiliar Pokemon.

Overall, though, most of his reading seems to be sight words from repeated exposure to text in his everyday life, and through recognizing the shape of words. When he confuses words, it is usually because they have a similar shape--'pizza' and 'plaza', for instance, or 'expedition' for '--and he rarely confuses them again once it's pointed out for the first time.

It's noticeable that he reads sentences, even quite complex ones, with more confidence and ease than individual words. The questions he answers fastest in Teach Your Monster to Read are the ones that are sentences, not words--for example, "Give the red cat to her" is instantly followed. I think he instinctively uses context to figure out words.

He gets real pleasure in reading signs and words in everyday life. He practices reading in games, and lately he has independently read kids' books to me, without ever having had them read to him. We use library books, not readers.

He also has a big preference for ebooks that read aloud while highlighting the words, and I notice his eyes following the text carefully. I think his fondness for them has really contributed to his reading skills.

We discuss his thoughts and feelings about what he reads, his favourites and his responses to stories and nonfiction texts. He enjoys retelling favourite books and games and talking about the characters. He also creates new stories around favourite texts (especially games) in his imaginative play, creating complex narratives (using toys and speech) around the basis of the text.

He understands the difference between imaginative and informative texts. While he is comfortable with imaginative texts in games, he has a strong preference for informative books and videos.

He also demonstrates knowledge of the authorship of texts, especially as I am a writer, as is the father of one of his friends, and he's seen and handled our books (and read the dedication to him in mine!)

Learning Goals

  • To learn the common letter sounds and diagraphs
  • To learn about pronouncing new words with segmentation, blending and letter families
  • To develop skills and practice with guessing new words based on known words
  • To learn to sight read common "tricky" words
  • To enjoy reading as an everyday activity: books, games and other text examples.

Australian Curriculum Links


Text structure and organization

Understand that texts can take many forms, can be very short (for example an exit sign) or quite long (for example an information book or a film) and that stories and informative texts have different purposes 

Understand concepts about print and screen, including how books, film and simple digital texts work, and know some features of print, for example directionality 

Expressing and Developing Ideas

Recognise that sentences are key units for expressing ideas

Recognise that texts are made up of words and groups of words that make meaning 

Explore the different contribution of words and images to meaning in stories and informative texts

Phonics and word knowledge

Recognise and name all upper and lower case letters (graphemes) and know the most common sound that each letter represents

Understand how to use knowledge of letters and sounds including onset and rime to spell words

Know how to read some high-frequency words and other familiar words

Understand that words are units of meaning and can be made of more than one meaningful part

Segment sentences into individual words and orally blend and segment onset and rime in single syllable spoken words, and isolate, blend and manipulate phonemes in single syllable words

Literature and context

Recognise that texts are created by authors who tell stories and share experiences that may be similar or different to students’ own experiences 

Responding to literature

Respond to texts, identifying favourite stories, authors and illustrators 

Share feelings and thoughts about the events and characters in texts

Examining literature

Identify some features of texts including events and characters and retell events from a text

Creating literature

Innovate on familiar texts through play

Texts in context

Identify some familiar texts and the contexts in which they are used

Interpreting, analysing, evaluating

Identify some differences between imaginative and informative texts

Read decodable and predictable texts, practising phrasing and fluency, and monitor meaning using concepts about print and emerging contextual, semantic, grammatical and phonic knowledge

Use comprehension strategies to understand and discuss texts listened to, viewed or readindependently

Rainbow Fish. The horror.
This has been a heatwave week, so except for a trip to Nanna's for a swim, we've mostly been indoors. The soft play at the mall has been very handy in making sure Cai got physical activity and kid time.

He has a play date at the soft play tomorrow, while the weather is briefly better, too.

The week has been very focused on Youtube, board games--and through that, maths and motor /pre-writing skills.

Pokemon maths in action
To my delight, bringing out the Pokemon number bonds game the next day was a huge hit--in fact, Cai has brought it out every single day and asked to play "our Pokemon game". We focus on number bonds to make 10 with it, and also we do sorting and categorising exercises as part of "battling with the pokemon we caught". He loves it, almost too much. (It is less exciting for an adult!)

Today I think I'll add representing data on simple charts to the game, by adding his penguin maths manipulables and making charts of the pokemon of different types, colours--whatever he chooses to model.

The penguins are still a big success. We've made up several games with them, and Cai has been really eager to learn place value using them as a "trick" to count fast. I showed him once, and he demanded we do it together every turn after that. They've been a really good buy.

We've also been playing Pop to the Shops. It's great in terms of money maths, but what always impresses me when I play with Cai is the amount of imagination and roleplaying he brings to the game. The "shoppers" interact together, lend each other money, try out their goods, discuss with the shopkeepers the other things in the shop, and how much they have been saving... A game takes a good while, but it is kind of amazing just how much he puts into (and gets out of) it.

Pop to the Shops

Shopping List has come out of the games pile, too, and he spent his pocket money on an expansion to add more fruit and vegetables. Guess Who has been a huge hit lately, and he's been working hard on learning the right kind of questions to ask, logic and categorization.

New to our games rotation is Rainbow Fish. I'll admit it, despite the beautiful components, I loathe this boring pointless game. (I hated the book, too.) But Cai adores it so much he will tell me stories about it, imagining dice rolls and results. I comfort myself with the fact that it is good for learning decision making and subitizing--and, as always, creating narratives. Besides, no matter how boring the actual game, I have fun with him.

As to all these new games, I had a big haul of games and cards from Savers, and among them was Boggle Slam. Old, battered packet--sealed, unused cards inside. It's been another hit. We played it once properly, and then he made up his own rules based on the video game Letterquest, in which we make words to defeat monsters. I've been secretly using it to teach him about word families by swapping letters around.

Defeating bad guys with the power of words

My kid sits on the floor happily creating words from letters. How good is that?

I'm slowly bringing out games and cards from the haul, but I'm particularly pleased by a Cars set of maths cards, which will come in useful for some Maths games from junior primary maths books I borrowed from my mother, and Footprints, an amazing--and clearly unused--game made by the Science Teachers Association of Australia to teach about carbon footprints and the environment.

Games have been awesome for motor skills, too. Cai's aunty and uncle gave him Kerplunk, which he is mad on, and he spent pocket money from his UK grandparents on Operation, which is kind of amazing at working on pincer grip and fine motor skills while he has fun.

Australian grandparents gave him these awesome magnetic toys. He plays and plays with them--and I have so many plans for teaching geometry through them. ;)

I did a lot of reading on OT blogs about prewriting and children who suffer with sensory difficulties delaying writing, and learned that tweezers are perfect for pincer grip and hand strength. So... he made art from lentils, chickpeas and macaroni. He loved it, and I'm going to make it a regular activity.

I also read about using a sock with two holes to force proper pencil grip, something I have really struggled with teaching him. I came up with a writing "challenge" using a cute toy sock with two holes in it.

Wow. Magic. It forces correct grip, and Cai can do this for ages. To get his interest, the first time I put tiny money prizes at the end, but after that he picked out tiny toys he already earned to award himself as prizes each time. I'm going to keep this up daily for a few weeks, and then see how he improved from his first attempt. He was already showing improvement at the end of the first session!

He remains committed to his Youtube channel, and I think it's an awesome way for him to work on communication and presentation skills, especially as he is explaining how to play things. I'm also sneakily incorporating a teaching typing game into it. ;)

Otherwise, lots of reading, with us and with Skoolbo. He always chooses maths, science and geography. He also watches the Skoolbo money management lessons over and over, funny little thing. Playing with magnetic tiles to make shapes. Measuring while cooking. Lots of creating his own levels and games on video games. Just... life and learning.

On Sunday he turns five, and on Monday school goes back, so...

...I guess we are officially homeschooling as of next week!

I have no doubts. Cai is learning so much, making real friends, and as far as he's concerned, it's all play. He will say "I want to homeschool!" and mean board games, or baking, or Zombie Maths on my phone, or Skoolbo, and it's all sheer delight to him. But he's learning every minute.

I just wish it wasn't about to get really really hot again.


Cai is really interested in making his own games. For now, the Basic evolution of the card, we are looking at designing his own levels in kid-friendly games that encourage this.

I am already planning a first evolution in which he will start to make basic games in Scratch Jr and play "learn coding" video and board games, but that will come later.

As part of showing what he learned, and his new project of making his own Youtube channel, Cai made a Let's Play video demonstrating making levels in Putt-Putt and Pep's Balloon-a-rama,  incorporating literacy and communication goals as well. He also helped me design channel art. We discussed at length what he likes about Youtube Let's Plays and what makes an entertaining Let's Play.

I am already planning a first evolution in which he will start to make basic games in Scratch Jr and play "learn coding" video and board games, but that will come later.

As part of showing what he learned, and his new project of making his own Youtube channel, Cai made a Let's Play video demonstrating making levels in Putt-Putt and Pep's Balloon-a-rama,  incorporating literacy and communication goals as well. He also helped me design channel art. We discussed at length what he likes about Youtube Let's Plays and what makes an entertaining Let's Play.

He learned and practiced the skills of the game development cycle of prototyping, playtesting, iteration and further playtesting. He proved to be better at game design than me, and fixed my own attempts to get them to be challenging enough while not frustrating!

He was really engaged in making his levels fun and thinking about what would make someone (me) enjoy them, including building minigames in Disney Infinity. I was really pleased with the work he did on theory of mind and empathy.

Learning Goals

  • Creativity
  • Spacial skills (designing levels)
  • Probability and prediction
  • Design: planning, prototyping, testing, iteration
  • Communication and presentation
  • Persistence, practice and coping with mistakes
  • Considering the needs and point of view of others

Australian Curriculum Links

Literacy: composing texts

  • compose spoken, written, visual and multimodal learning area texts
  • use language to interact with others
  • deliver presentations

Arts: Media Technologies

  • Evaluating
  • Collaborating and managing
  • Use media technologies to capture and edit images, sounds and text for a purpose


  • Shape
  • Location and transformation
  • Data representation and interpretation
  • Answer yes/no questions to collect information and make simple inferences
  • Describe position and movement

Design and Technologies

  • Use personal preferences to evaluate the success of design ideas, processes and solutions
  • Sequence steps for making designed solutions and working collaboratively
  • Sort, describe and name familiar two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional objects in the environment