Adios Diego

Well, she’s finally left the sofa: D’s love affair with Go Diego Go has waned.  We knew it would happen one day but it seemed to happen so suddenly!  It started yesterday when a little voice said ‘Mum, what should I do?’ – and there was D, NOT in front of the telly!!  I haven’t heard those words from D in a long long time.

Not that I am complaining about how much telly she’s been watching: the knowledge she has of countries and the various animals in them are phenomenal for a 5 year old, plus there’s the Spanish she’s learnt too.  This morning she asked me to play a game where I have to ask her questions using our globe: she must know 30+ countries, a few ocean names, all the continents and a few animals that I’d never heard of before (a sea crate, anyone?).

She also put on a puppet show using some shadow puppets that I made last year – I’ve found a lot of the old favourites are making a re-appearance at the moment.


She got out her art book and began to draw a Halloween-inspired spider web, which encouraged M to do the same.

20141021_160001 20141021_162103

And then she got out her Great Britain and Northern Ireland sticker atlas and got very involved looking at the various land marks.  We had an interesting diversion when I noticed that one of the stickers referred to treasure lost by King John in The Wash.  The sausages are fascinated by him due to Disney’s Robin Hood.  They were really keen to learn more about it so I got out a couple of books and read the relevant chapters to them.


It’s been a while since we sat around the table doing activities together, it felt like old times!  Being back in our front room also means they’re looking at it afresh and they both asked me questions about various pictures on the wall books, which led to conversations on evolution, extinction, why humans kill animals, what killed dinosaurs and quite a few more.

We had a visitor this week (Aunty S) that the girls were super excited about, and M made her a lemon cake, a card, and then a treasure map.  M helped me loads in checking the bedrooms were up to scratch (the bunk beds haven’t been used since Easter) and tidying up.  At one point I could hear a lot of whispering and sneaking about – the girls had done a massive tidy up job – and not just shoving things out of sight either, a PROPER tidy up – I was absolutely flabbergasted!!  Aunty S only stayed 24 hours but the girls got in a lot of quality time with her :)

We’ve also got my cousin Z and her son MD arriving tomorrow and staying for a few days – and the girls can’t wait to see MD!  He loves all things Minecraft so M came up with the idea of making him a Minecraft grass block, isn’t it great?!


It was not without it’s tears and frustrations but she was determined to do it and along the way she learnt about cube nets, measuring and is becoming more used to using a set square.

The activities continued up to bedtime with further old-favourites being pulled off the shelves and requests for me to read a few long-forgotten books too!

20141021_192726 20141021_193633 20141021_193639 20141021_200553

D has already requested I do the World map jigsaw with her tomorrow morning and told me she didn’t want to watch Go Diego Go anymore as she’d seen it too many times….  Amen to that.

A Fort, Tropical Chocolate and a Rabbit Cage

We’ve had an activity filled week or so, well at least M has – D has mostly been on the sofa watching Go Diego Go and suffering from a horrendous cold!


M has been very busy with various activities: last week, we spent quite a bit of time building an enormous fort in the lounge (I found a large kitchen unit box on a neighbour’s skip!).  First of all, I cut a door in one side and the girls played ‘queens and guards’ for hours – M made D a paper crown, paper slippers, a scroll and then gave her an orb and sceptre.  D was very at home, sitting in her castle and ordering her ‘guard’ around.  They were having such a lovely game, I let them stay up late to continue it!  We also cut holes in the side to slot in Pringle tube cannons, so the girls can fire at anyone who dares to sit on the sofa.


The next day M and I decided to fully cut the door out and turn it into a working drawbridge.  Luckily, M had kept old school DT project which had a little drawbridge which we could look at for construction ideas.  M was in full engineering mode and was quick to correct my mistakes and come up with design ideas – she has a fascinating brain and is able to come at things from angles I hadn’t thought of.

20141008_134030 20141008_165438

M has also been busy working on the next stage of her Sylvanian Families craft.  She’s completed the 27 food cans and now she’s making food packets. This involves drawing and cutting out many rectangles in card which then have to be piled up and glued together before wrapping in paper, painting and finally adding the label.  There are about 30 to make so I’m pitching in too.  M is becoming very adept at using a set square and measuring in millimetres!


With D being so poorly, it has meant I’ve had a lot of time to concentrate on M, which she has loved.  I can’t remember why we started this, but one evening I was showing M how to safely light a match and she became fascinated with the burnt remains of the match (which I thought was charcoal but it turns out the wood has to be burnt in the absence of air to make this).  There followed hours of mixing the ash with various substances from our science box!

She has also been loving her ballet class, and now has the ‘uniform’, which she adores.


This week, we got the opportunity to visit the WWF HQ in Woking to do a tropical chocolate workshop!  The children learnt about how chocolate grows in the rainforest, Fairtrade, recycled packaging and even got to make their own chocolate and box to take it home in.  The girls loved it, although D struggled to concentrate for the length of the session (if she were at school she’d be in Year 1 – I don’t know how any 5 year old concentrates for a full day at school – perhaps they don’t!).  Thank you very much to our friend for organising it!

20141014_105522 20141014_110655 20141014_110721

When we got home there was ENORMOUS box in front of the door – our rabbit cage had arrived! I had hoped on having a sit down with a cuppa but M was so excited about building the cage we got to work straight away.  It was very difficult and the instructions were appalling but we got there in the end – 2.5 hours later!  Again, M’s engineering brain kicked into gear – I really couldn’t have built it without her.  We were so involved in it, I completely forgot about ballet so we missed M’s class – whoops!


We’ve also squeezed in climbing, judo and

Isaac Newton and other Activities in Nottingham

Yet again I’ve left it too long between blog posts!  I will split the last couple of weeks into two posts so as not to make them too long.

We’ve been to Nottingham and back since I last wrote but just before Nottingham, we had a day of reading and climbing: I bought a set of books that were on offer from The Book People a while ago (I have since stopped looking at this site as it is far too good and I was spending far too much money there) and I decided to strew one of the books on slaves – ‘You Wouldn’t Want to be a Slave in Ancient Greece‘.  Anyway, no-one noticed it had been strewed so during our morning cuddle I just picked it up and started to read and the girls sat and listened with interest.  It is meant to be a light-hearted look at interesting aspects of history, but D and I found it very hard to read and we were both in tears by the end.  M however, who loves the macabre, was fascinated!  So I will be strewing more of these books in future…

In the afternoon we packed the car for Nottingham and went first to climbing, before driving up the M1 straight afterwards.


While in Nottingham we had visits from and to cousins, my nephew’s bowling party and my niece’s horse riding party, and two sleep-overs.

20141004_101034 20140928_141818

M played quite a bit of chess with Granddad, working out moves from her ‘Find a Mate’ book that we bought on a chess course last year.


D played quite a lot of imaginary games with bunnies and dolls (in between watching Go Diego Go) and also put together this World Map with Grandma, which provided a base for her toys to travel the world.


The girls put on a couple of shows for us (D’s dance show was quite amazingly like break dancing!) and they both did a judo demonstration for Grandma and Granddad.


M also spent hours making a birthday card for her cousin with collage paper I had bought at Tate Modern a while ago.


We also made a trip out to Woolsthorpe Manor, which was Isaac Newton’s birthplace and his home for a few years in adulthood.  It was utterly fascinating: there was a converted barn where you could experiment with Newton’s discoveries and you could also look around his house.  Because we were visiting mid-week we could experiment with the activities as much as we wanted and had one-to-one attention from a very eager retired physicist who works there.

20141001_115708 20141001_120636 20141001_120714 20141001_120954 20141001_122529

We came back home with all of us feeling a renewed vigour for ‘doing stuff’ – well, M and I were anyway – poor old D has been too full of cold to do anything!  It is wonderful to have the support of my parents – I know I’m extremely lucky to have parents who can see the good in HE, can give me the break I need and are very much adored – thank you Grandma and Granddad!

Firefighters, Colourscape, Go Diego Go and Alchemy!

I’m confused, we’ve had Go Diego Go on so often this past week I feel like I could be a South American living in the rainforest too… D now knows ‘si, por favor’ and ‘ayuadame’ (help me) – small beginnings!

I must start blogging more often so I don’t end up writing these huge posts, so apologies for the huge post but here goes…

We finished the Pompeii plaques:

20140918_140521 20140918_140546

We had a busy day last Friday – first to Epsom fire station for a tour with our local HE group.  The girls were reluctant to go but soon changed their minds.  The firefighters were really friendly and showed us their uniforms, the kit they use and the truck.  All the kids got a go with the hose too!

20140919_110435 20140919_113205 20140919_113238

From there it was a quick bite to eat in the car and straight onto Clapham Common where we met with another HE group to go to Colourscape.  It was an incredible experience, and quite indescribable!  We learnt lots about light, colour, heat and sound.  Unfortunately it’s finished now, but I would love to go back and cement what I’ve learnt.  I’m not sure how much the girls picked up but they certainly enjoyed it.

20140919_140028 20140919_141551 20140919_142320

On Saturday morning, J managed to convince the girls to go to their Judo class.  They weren’t too keen on going but came back full of excitement as the teacher seems to appreciate them being there and their obvious skills.  J told me the teacher frequently used M to demonstrate the moves to the rest of the class!

After Judo, M had her first rehearsal for the ballet production she’s taking part in.  She had rehearsals all day Sunday too and then afterwards her friend T came to play for a few hours.  Meanwhile, D was having fun at the South Bank with her cousin.

20140921_133330 20140921_142053

We had a chilled morning on Monday and we spent it reading, watching Go Diego Go, The Powerpuff Girls and playing on the iPad.  In the afternoon it was back to Clapham again for the girls’ favourite class of all: pottery!  They were thrilled to be back and ran in happily, leaving me free to read in the church yard, which I love.  The girls also had a good run around in there churchyard beforehand too.

20140922_141801 20140922_142509

Tuesday was spent playing M’s current favourite game on our tablet – Alchemy, while D continued to watch Go Diego Go.  The premise is that you begin with the four basic elements: earth, water, fire and air, which you then have to combine to make new elements.  There are 390 to make in total!  We quickly became unstuck and lost track of how we had made elements, which ones we had combined already and which ones we hadn’t.  So I decided to start writing what we’d done in a grid, which M adored!  I then realised there would be too much data to put on paper so I created a spreadsheet.  M has quickly grasped how it works and can be seen merrily beavering away at it from time to time.  I’m not sure which she likes more – the excitement of finding a new element or the data collection… she is so like me :).

20140922_182539 20140923_095454

Finally, someone took notice of the British Legion WWI poster I stuck up in the kitchen a few months ago!  D asked very sweetly if I could tell her what it was about so I got out my Usborne book of The First World War that I bought for myself a few months ago.  I still need to read it through as my understanding of that war is so pitiful!  We began talking about Archduke Franz Ferdinand and who shot him which led onto questions of ‘why?’, whether the killer was a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddy’, and D poured over the pre-war maps of Europe and the British Empire.  It felt like a very successful and thoughtful bit of learning, and even M picked up a bit as we were still chatting about it in the car later on in the day.

The girls then watched The Chronicles of Narnia and before we knew it, it was time to go to M’s ballet class.  We raced out the door and didn’t have time to put on her leotard or tie her hair up, but the teacher didn’t seem to mind too much thankfully.  M’s friend wasn’t at the class that day but M still enjoyed it and came back home longing to practice in the lounge.

Wednesday morning was more of the same – Go Diego Go (what a surprise!) and Alchemy.  We had quite a few tears from M as she is struggling with her moods again: she gets into a huge black cloud if anything goes ‘wrong’ which then taints the rest of the day.  Rather than seeing it as a moment which didn’t go well, she seems to think that if ANYTHING goes wrong then the whole day is ruined.  I’ve tried so many approaches to try and help her but I’m fast running out of ideas and patience, argh!  Still, she is getting better and better at trying things again once the mood has passed.  One thing that helped today was doing a bit of baking: she cheered up enormously and I’m beginning to wonder if doing something sensory with her hands like gloop or baking helps her in some way?

She also cheered up at the thought of going to Morden Park again this afternoon.  We met up with our local HE group there and the girls ran around playing with the other kids and M got to do a bit of her favourite foraging!

20140924_144452 20140924_152945

We’re off to visit my parents in Nottingham after our climbing class on Friday so the next post will be written from there!

Cans, Climbing and Codes

Well what a week it’s been…  Thank goodness for this blog – it helps me to have perspective and see the week as a whole rather than just good days and bad days…

There have most certainly been a few lows this week, M has been SO grumpy!  Lots of rudeness to me and D, lots of ‘I’m bored’ comments, followed by huffing and shoulder shrugging at all suggested activities.  Humph.  J and I are sure she needs more structure but she is unwilling to try.

Anyway, as I said before, it hasn’t been all bad, and here is a round up of all the activities we’ve been up to over the last week:

All 27 Sylvanian Family tin cans have been finished!  Wowsers that was a long job.  They look brilliant too.  M made a start on the cereal boxes which involves making a net using a set square.  She got very angry about it and gave up but I live in hope that she’ll want to try again as she seems more willing to have another go these days.


The girls have really got into writing coded messages to each other, and to me.  M made one that had tiny symbols and pictures for each letter of the alphabet, which D loved decoding, but mainly we’ve been using a simple number/letter code.  It’s great for spelling practice and D wrote out all the letters of the alphabet in order, in capitals, which I’m not sure she’s ever done before.


Games have continued on the iPad.  This week’s favourites have been Farmville (for M) and Slice Fractions (for both girls).


M started a new climbing course at White Spider in Tolworth.  It’s fortnightly and she gets to experience climbing and bouldering and also has the chance of working towards climbing certifications if she wants to.  She managed to climb to the top twice!

140912a 140912b 140912c

D was of course thoroughly bored while all this was going on, although there is a lovely climbing/play castle there too.  She made a comment along the lines of “why is it all about M?”.  So after I explained that she needs to tell me if she wants to do something particular inside or outside the house, we decided to write a list of all the activities she would like to do.  Telly was at no.1 so the next morning she merrily sat down to watch TV… ok…

On Saturday, J got the chance to see Arsenal play Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium and he took M along with him for her first football match!  She really enjoyed it and was in awe at the size of the stadium.


Recently, D decided that she would like to learn a language as she was worried she wouldn’t be able to speak to people when she goes to another country – ahhh.  I asked if she would like to learn French (as we’re going to France next year) or Spanish like Go Diego Go and she immediately chose Spanish.  Phew, I have to admit I’m not a fan of learning French as nobody speaks it except the French – Spanish would at least be a bit more useful!  We tried a Duolingo app which had been recommended to me but it didn’t really suit D.  She decided to continue learning from Go Diego Go :).  She has learnt an awful lot of Spanish from watching it – she knows ‘amigo’ is ‘friend’ and today we had a little Spanish conversation!  I was trying to get her upstairs to ‘de-nit’ her hair so I said “vamos” and she said “por favor, no”.  Ha!

M made gloop, one of her favourite activities.  I suggested it, thinking it was soothe her during one of her angrier moments and I was right!  I also slipped in the fact that it is a non-newtonian fluid while she was happily playing…


M is also very interested in Vi Hart on YouTube – if you’ve never heard of her then have a watch, they’re fascinating videos!  Whether or not M takes in the maths involved, she loves Vi’s doodles and it inspired her to start doodling her own, humming like Vi Hart while she draws…


M has also started to like classical music – I’m still sticking it on in the background while they play and it seems to be sinking in.  The other day I put Peter and the Wolf on and M was talking about the different instruments being played and describing the characters.  I couldn’t believe it!  When I first started HE I wondered how on earth children would learn this stuff without it being taught to them, but it seems they just do, you just have to provide them with the opportunity to experience it.

The girls decided today that they were going to make cards for their cousin, M.  While they were working I decided to read the latest Aquila magazine to them, fully expecting to be booed off at any moment.  But they actually listened to me talking about Pompeii, volcanoes, tectonic plates and the Ring of Fire!  So after they had finished I got them going on making a Pompeii inspired name plaque which they really enjoyed…

20140917_171224 20140917_185457

And lastly, our enormous sunflower has flowered!


Moving on Up

On Monday we enjoyed the last pyjama day we’ll be having for a long time – although ‘enjoyed’ would be an overstatement for M: she is very ready to return to her classes and get a bit more stimulation!

We spent the day writing letters to Grandma, watching the Wizard of Oz, Go Diego Go and the Powerpuff Girls.  M was also working hard on her Sylvanian Family food cans.



On Tuesday, D decided that it was her new bunnies’ birthday so they both sat to write cards for them.  M also made them a parachute and back pack (no pictures of those though, unfortunately).


I had a break through with M that day.  She was getting angry about not understanding something (as per usual) and I made a shot in the dark comment about how she asks very intelligent questions.  I could almost see the tension in the room visibly shift and she admitted she didn’t think she was very clever at all?!!  The poor girl, she is so intelligent but because she questions EVERYTHING, she doesn’t think that she is!  I told her that she should never accept what someone tells her (even me!) without researching it herself.  I don’t want her to blindly follow anyone!  She seemed quite pleased with this new slant on things.  I think it’s a very good trait to have although the in-depth questions do try my patience sometimes…

On Tuesday afternoon I gave M advance warning that she didn’t have long to read her final book for the summer reading challenge.  She sat down and read her book in one sitting!  I love that she has completed the challenge with total self-motivation.  No cajoling from me was necessary at all!


Later on it was the first ballet lesson of the term, which M was eager to return to.  The class is in full on rehearsals for the up and coming production of Alice in Wonderland.  I had a peek through the door and the choreography looks great.  M LOVES it!  Though she has said she’s scared that she won’t learn the dance moves in time for the performance, she still wants to go ahead and do it.  Feel the fear and do it anyway – she’s so brave!  The girl is really going from strength to strength.

As for D, she has been soaking up knowledge from Go Diego Go, The Magic School Bus and various iPad apps.  She has been getting M to show her how to do the Monument Valley puzzles and creating more buildings in Minecraft.  Mostly, she has been spending LOADS of time on Reading Eggs.  I downloaded the app onto our new iPad (it isn’t available on android unfortunately) and its much easier to use so she’s been on it non-stop.


Her reading skills are far beyond what I imagined them to be and I think even she is surprised by what she can read now.  Her handwriting is also getting smaller as her fine motor skills improve, as this gorgeous letter shows…


Our new bedtime routine is working very well.  We go up around 8pm, I read to them both until 9pm and then go downstairs, leaving them to do whatever they want to do and decide for themselves when they are ready for bed.  Sometimes they play on computers, sometimes they run around like a herd of elephants, and sometimes (like tonight) they lie on the bedroom floor and draw or write.  I’m surprised by how sensibly they take themselves off to bed and I’m also surprised by how easily D has settled into a later bedtime (10pm) with a later wake up time (7.30am) when she spent a year (A YEAR!!!) waking up at 4.30am…?!

Happy Sausages

We’ve had such a varied and happy week!  I feel so proud of their attitude to learning, to each other, and to our general family life.  Part of me wants to march back to their old schools and stick two fingers up to their old headmistresses, ha!

We’re still battling the nits unfortunately.  M managed to pass them on to me and I unwittingly passed them back to M again!  Who knew that nits don’t always make you itch?  I didn’t!  I’m all clear again but I’m still having to regularly comb through M’s hair.  It has meant that she missed out on a sleep over at a friend’s house (his Mum didn’t want to risk it just before school starts, fair enough) and an HE meet up.  So we’ve pretty much been in quarantine ALL week.  And it’s been lovely!  The girls have been engaged, occupied, laughing and learning.  I would have expected cabin fever to kick in by now but it hasn’t.

During one nit session, D was marching up and down chanting the 10 times table!  She’s really getting a grasp of numbers and how to manipulate them.  It’s amazing to see, especially as it’s mostly mental arithmetic at the moment.  She will just go quiet for a while and then say ‘Mum, did you know that 3 lots of 4 is 12 and 2 lots of 6 is 12 too?’  So this week she’s just starting to get a handle on multiplication.  I downloaded a Numberjacks Times Tables app which she loves.  Minecraft is really helping too – lots of blocks placed on blocks so she begins to see patterns: she said “so 3 lots of 3 are 9?” after a making a square window!


She is also soaking up knowledge through Netflix – it is incredible what she has absorbed from watching Go Diego Go: she keeps spotting animals and saying “hey, that’s a red eyed tree frog!”.  The other day we were reading a book with a parrot in it and she said “that’s not a parrot it’s a scarlet macaw”.  I’m just waiting for her to start speaking Spanish now…  We started watching The Magic School Bus today, which is fantastic too and right up D’s street: the children in the story travel into space, into someone’s digestive system, under water etc etc.  Even M was pulled into watching it.

For D’s Love Bombing day she chose to do have a space themed day but today she decided she couldn’t wait for her special day and she wanted to do the activities now!  I had two prepared already.  The first is this book, Older Than the Stars – it is fabulous!  As you go through it, you learn how all the particles that were present at the big bang are part of us now.  M really enjoyed listening to it too.  We had a great conversation about death afterwards (no, really).

The other space activity I got out for D was this constellation geoboard.  I didn’t have time to print the constellation sheet off so we just started on our own.  She loved it!  Here you can see she’s made Taurus, The Big Dipper and Polaris, Orion and the Sun using pins and rubber bands!


After D had finished we went straight off to her new swimming lessons, which she was initially scared about but was ecstatic after the lesson because her teacher had chanted her name while she swam :).

Now for M, who has been going from strength to strength this week.  She’s had to battle with nits for starters – highly frustrating and boring but she’s managing really well and is beginning to understand the importance of regular combing (she doesn’t seem to mind the itching and didn’t really grasp why we had to get rid of them!).

The biggest thing in my mind this week is to do with a book about pet rabbits that she borrowed from the library.  She tried on two separate occasions to read it and each time struggled with the words and got too angry to continue.  I was amazed that she even tried twice.  I was astounded when she picked it up a third time!  This has NEVER happened before.  I sat and offered to help her read it and both girls were rapt the entire time.  You can see where this is leading… M has now made a lovely list of the type of rabbit she’d like and what we’d have to buy to keep one.  There is a strong possibility that we will be getting pet rabbits.  I made sure to praise M afterwards for overcoming her anger at the book and she beamed at me :).

The other rather large story for M this week is that she now knows the truth about Santa.  One morning she asked me “why are all the Christmas presents from everyone we know and not from Santa?”.  I told her it was a long answer and that I’d talk to her about it later.  Meanwhile, I rushed off to consult like-minded people on Facebook.  Little did I know it would spark a thread that went on and on and on… Anyway, I gleaned some good ideas from it and had a little chat with her about it.  To be honest, I’ve never wanted to do the Santa thing but when M was 2 or 3 she insisted that he was real even when I said I didn’t believe in him.  Tsk.  So I probed further with M about her thoughts on Santa and she guessed herself that he wasn’t real, she didn’t even seem too bothered.  A great big cheeky smile appeared on her face when I told her I bought the presents and hid them around the house… wonder what she is planning…

In other news, I have been spending a lot of time with M creating food cans for Sylvanian Families,  Good God it’s fiddly but we’re getting there…



M’s also been setting up obstacle races for D…



And playing dominoes…


Making a floating island in Minecraft and playing on an Escher inspired app called Monument Valley.  M has solved all the puzzles and finished the game in a day!


What, I think, has helped the most in our family life this week is that we’ve had a re-jig of our structure.  Not that we really had much structure, but I realised after 4 nights of D not being able to go to sleep that she really needed a later bedtime. However, this also meant that M would miss out on her special evening time with me because they’d be going up at the same time, and D would miss her morning special time because she’d be getting up later.  So we’ve now arranged it so that they both have an hour to spend just with me each day, doing whatever they want.  D doesn’t seem too fussed about special time, probably because she is more vocal when she needs attention than M, and also because she’s younger so is used to sharing me anyway.  However, M is really thriving on it.  She beams whenever I mention it and I think it’s also helping her anger.  So perhaps lack of attention was the problem all along…