I can’t say ‘doing’ a topic seems to work like I imagined. Mostly I don’t know what sort of topicish stuff Helena thinks about, I suspect that she sort of thinks about lots of things in the back of her mind while doing something else. We occasionally talk about stuff (as in not what her characters are doing or to negotiate when I’ll read to her) but it is never a long conversation, nothing like a lecture… sometimes questions. Helena is rather pleased with the idea that now she can read she can go and read about a topic and know more about some things than me or her Granddad. At the moment on the toilet walls we have two posters, one is of our solar system and one is a recent find of volcanoes, admittedly that was because I wanted to make paper machie volcanoes, and it happened to be in a book on volcanoes. The posters are mainly there because I didn’t know where else to file them.

In the last week or so all this has come out, all in little bits..

Physics and chemistry

Stuff about changes in state, movement of sound and water…

Ice that was prepared the night before under her instructions.insructions....
Ice that was prepared the night before under Helena’s instructions, salted, sugared and plain
Sound travelling down a pipe
Siphoning water


Insect study: catching mosquito larvae to feed the fish, some got put aside to watch develop, and a fly catcher was made to catch flies for the praying mantis while we watched it eat them….

Physical world

Erupting volcanoes


Helena’s explanation of the equinox and the solstice (that the earth goes clockwise or anti clockwise depending on which way you look got solved beautifully)

And then last night for over an hour… Space

How topics can work at school is one afternoon a week you learn about a particular topic, books are read, films, activities, word finds, maybe some art. How I thought it would work at home was more like how schools do inquiry learning with all that scaffolding of asking questions, refining what you want to know, how/where to find out and then how to display what you know… What Helena does seems to me to be grazing, a little here, a little there… and other than her character play and making stuff none of this is obsessive. She only does anything when she is interested. But then that’s what I do. I’m making an orrery and mostly that looks like me sitting around thinking, I just recovered a chair many many months after I’d sanded the wooden part. I don’t stop doing things I just pause because something else has taken my fancy.

Nature or nuture?

Today in the last hour with her 4 year old neighbor she has taken animals to the vet, restraining them when they have their jabs followed by them being consoled, then a conversation about the rain in the gutters which meant floating boats, I suggested a lego boat and now she’s building some hut out of lego using the book. It’s like a river flowing, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slow, it’ll end up in the sea but on the way it’ll make the odd pond.




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