Car gets sick and then M gets sick

We have had a very odd 10 days.  Last Monday, the car went into the garage for an MOT and didn’t come out again until Saturday morning, with a very hefty bill too.

We got to pottery ok in the afternoon, although we had quite a miserable wet walk from the tube station and back again, but we didn’t make it to ballet on Tuesday or swimming on Wednesday.  We’re really car-reliant and the thought of dragging the sausages along on long walks, do an hour of exercise and then a long walk home again was just a bit much for me to contemplate.

The main thing about last week was that each day the car was promised to us the following day, so I didn’t make alternative plans because I was thinking we’d have the car back - so we spent the entire week at home!  Actually, that turned out to be a good thing as by about Wednesday the girls started getting quite tired and their appetites dropped, and mine did too.  I did wonder if it was because we were all a bit mopey but it turned out we were all building up to a tummy bug.

THIS is when I am so happy that we HE because when the sausages have those in-between days where they’re not exactly ill but they’re not right either, you don’t feel you have to drag them into school.

By Friday we were all feeling a bit ropey.  We had already cancelled M’s archery class in Reading due to the lack of car but I had wondered about attending an HE sports day event in Crystal Palace.  However, because of our tummy bugs and the downpour outside we cancelled that too!. Then Saturday came and M had a full blown stomach upset but D and I recovered.  Poor M is only just managing to eat and stand up today (Tuesday).  And worst of all is that I booked a week-long course for her at All4Kids with her best friend and she’s missed half of it :(.  Poor M.

D has really missed her playmate and tonight sang a really heartfelt lullaby to M, which she had made up on the spot.  It was rather tear-inducing!

We have managed a few bits and bobs (though not very much, understandably) before the girls got too ill:

They had their last Judo class before summer and both girls have gone up a grade!

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M had another of her best friends (B) over for a little play after J spontaneously asked his Dad and him out for lunch.  M is showing B her Minecraft creations… speaking of which I need to do a separate post on what the girls have created in Minecraft as it really is incredible.

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They had a little DIY lesson from J:

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Recently I asked both girls if there is anything they miss about school or nursery and M said she missed DT, sports day and the Christmas fair.  D said she missed making pig masks and queuing up…

Luckily, all of these things are do-able in HE too.  We missed sports day but we can go to any school Christmas fair (I don’t think I can ever return to M’s old school, given how rude her head-teacher was to me, the same goes for D’s nursery, unfortunately).  I offered to help D make a pig mask but I think the moment had passed and she wasn’t interested anymore.  So the only thing left was DT.

I set M a challenge to wrap an egg in such a way that it wouldn’t crack when thrown out of an upstairs window.  She got really excited about it!  Goes to show how much she likes DT :).  The first attempt cracked but the second worked a treat.

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Then we made M’s ‘Cookie Cakes’ again.  She made the recipe up all by herself and they are really delicious!

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Then the girls did some cleaning.  They still argue over who gets to do the mopping, but it was M’s turn this time and D did the vacuuming.

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We’re off on a big family holiday to Northumberland in a couple of weeks and D has become fascinated by maps of the UK: spotting us in London, Grandma & Granddad in Nottingham and then trying to remember where Northumberland is.  I dug out an Usborne map of the UK sticker book which I bought ages ago and she has been happily doing that and asking questions about all the different landmarks.  She also adores this 150 piece jigsaw -

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Something else that has really sparked her interest is a sketch pad that I bought for them both a while ago with the intention of taking them with us when we go out to encourage them to draw more (I bought one for me too!).  We haven’t taken them out yet but D has been drawing and drawing and painting and painting since getting hers!  She absolutely loves it.

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One final word and then I’m gone.  Today D asked me to ask her some sums so I did and I discovered that she has worked out how to add tens by herself!  I was asking M a sum (who was weakly trying to join in) 20+30 and M answered 50.  Then D said “yes, that’s because 2 and 3 make 5 so 20 and 30 make 50″!!  I was astounded!  I thought I would test her theory out to check she really understood what she was saying and she really did – with very proud beams all over her face :).

Digital Fun at The Barbican

You know when you go to places and you just wish that everyone else would go too?  Digital Revolution at The Barbican is one of those places.  We don’t generally do museums unless they are hands on (M can’t bear ‘looking in glass cases’ types of places, and I’m not too keen either) and this exhibition is as hands on as it gets!

There were old fashioned games to play (Donkey Kong!  Pong!  Speak & Spell! Pacman!), lots of coding info, and then lots of sound/motion/visual tech integrations that were really and truly fabulous…

An old fashioned telephone that you could dial and listen to various robot birds in the tree above…

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Music videos…

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Minecraft…

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This incredible camera which transformed everything it could see into a sort of moving painting… (there were a lot of adults dancing about in front of this one)

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A very odd piece about death which caused anyone standing in front of the camera to have smoke curling out of their eyes…

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An amazing piece with various screens about birds – this is the final screen which M did – the wings appeared whenever M raised her arms.

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This was the girls’ favourite – you could speak a wish into a microphone and the wish would be written out in front of you, a chrysalis would then appear and then a butterfly, which would land briefly in your hand before flying up to join the rest…

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There was so much more and it would be lovely to go back again to soak up more of it.

We had a lovely lunch outside on the terrace…

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And I pointed out the large, ugly, black building in the background, which is where I used to work long ago. The girls were duly impressed.

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Connections and Positiveness

I (or, we) have had a very positive couple of days.  Not a lot happened.  Just a few nudges here and there as M made a few signs to show she was open to more learning.

As you might expect, my heart leaps (though I retain my nonchalant composure) whenever M takes an interest in anything.  ANYTHING.  Anything at all will do.  This time the spark of interest was due to our weekly email of The Kid Should See This.  I cannot rate their email subscription highly enough – the variety of interesting videos is brilliant.  In last week’s email they had a clip of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.  The bit where he gets trapped in a lion’s cage.  I have to admit to never seeing a Chaplin film before and we both really enjoyed it.  M is still giggling about it now!  D loved looking at the air traffic visualisations and watched them over and over again – they’re stunning to look at.  We also watched a gorgeous film about polar bears on a quest for sea ice.

What else was positive?  Well, Lego was linked into a couple of games today.  First of all, M was playing on her Lego City app and she got quite excited when she realised that she had the same Lego as in the game she was playing.  She then got out her Lego City collection and began building it.  She generously shared some of it with D who loved playing with the bank robbers.

Also making a connection with Lego was D, who has recently changed from making her Lego tree-house over and over again to constructing a tree-house in Minecraft!  It’s getting very detailed and interesting.  Leading on from this, M began making a tree house out of junk modelling just before bed this evening!  I like the connections that are being made between the games and it goes to show that playing a game on a computer can be just as valid as playing with Lego!

I am also very pleased that I read Lori Pickert’s Mentoring Self Directed Learners as this was at the forefront of my mind when I sat down with M this evening while she made her tree house: I observed, helped her when she needed it, I didn’t jump in with solutions and I offered to make a note of a few things which she didn’t have time to do, which really eased her transition into bed!

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Other connections: At the weekend J took the girls to a local fair where they bought a number of books.  M has particularly enjoyed doing an Usborne Sticker Dressing Long Ago book.  Today she brought it with us to do in the David Lloyd café before swimming and she was completing a page on the Palace of Versailles.  We looked at the richness of their clothes, how the King was dressed compared to the other nobles and how they all had clothes similar to Captain Hook in Peter Pan (who had modelled himself on King James II).  Another example of how telly watching can also be a valid use of time :).

Next positive happening: M announced that she would like to write a story so I suggested she get out her little book and she could start writing.  She got as far as the title before stomping out of the room because she didn’t know how to start the story.  I left it for a bit, we did other things, and then a few hours later I asked her if she’d like me to do it with her.  And I got a ‘Yes!’.  So she dictated the story to me and I scribbled like mad for 10 minutes.  We haven’t finished yet but I’m so pleased that she wanted to continue.

One last connection that I just remembered: D was doing ‘spin art’ on our Snap Circuits and then decided she wanted to draw a colour wheel so we had a think about what the primary and tertiary colours are and she coloured in the various segments, put it back on the circuit and watched the colours merge into brown!  A great example of connecting art and science!

While we’re on the subject of connections, thanks to a tweet from Katie Pybus at The Gallivanters, I read this post by Sandra Dodd on connections and how learning works, it makes for a very interesting read if you have a spare 10 minutes.

Our First Monkey Platter

OK, so if you don’t know what a monkey platter is, imagine a buffet of various foods, all on one plate - that’s what it is.  It was named and devised by Sandra Dodd after she saw monkeys being fed in a similar way while she was at the zoo with her family.

I hadn’t really paid much attention to monkey platters until someone mentioned it on Facebook the other day and it got me thinking of how it might encourage the sausages to eat/try a wider variety of foods.  Since beginning our unschooling of food 6 weeks ago, their appetite for Nutella has most definitely waned and they now seem at ease with the chocolate supplies (they can eat it whenever they want, and however much they want) so there is less gorging.  Now we’re at a strange phase where they might be hungry but quite often they haven’t got a clue what they want to eat!

I was mulling over how if I combined the sausages into one, they would have the most perfect, balanced diet you could wish for – D eats a whole range of dishes but is very suspicious of new things, whereas M is very limited in what she eats but will try anything new put in front of her!  As always… chalk and cheese :).  So I thought a shared monkey platter might encourage them to look each other’s food choices and perhaps eat something different.

So when we got back from pottery class today, I didn’t even ask them if they were hungry, or what they wanted to eat, I just rustled up a few things with each girl in mind, put it all onto one plate and announced it with a ‘ooh, who wants to come and see what I’ve made?’.  That was it.  Gobbling for the next 10 minutes.  The first thing D did was put a vegetarian frankfurter into her mouth and say ‘actually they’re quite nice’ (she’s been refusing to eat them forever) and M ate most of the chicken which I’d actually put out with D in mind and ate all of the peanut butter on toast!  Wowsers.  Next time I do one I will double the quantities I think.

Before… (corn on the cob, vegetarian frankfurters, breaded chicken, tuna mayonnaise and peanut butter on toast)

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After…

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A great success, non?!

In other news… the sausages took great pleasure in beating me at Ludo this evening…

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And apart from going to pottery today which they still LOVE, they were busy making birthday cards for their favourite Aunty S!  M did an absolutely stunning collage with some fabric scraps that I bought her from Ebay but unfortunately I forgot to take a picture before sending it off.  Ahh well, enjoy it Aunty S!

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Life Got In The Way

Sorry for the lack of posts recently but life got in the way!  We’ve only been doing the usual activities but my evenings have been spent doing other activities (reading Kids, Carrots and Candy, for one) and I have been decorating our hallway and landing every weekend for the past six or so weeks (nearly finished, but starting on kitchen next).

Our days have been spent in our usual routines.  I do wonder how I ever did semi-structured home-ed as again, life seems to get in the way!

Lots of cards to various friends and family members are frequently being written and drawn (as I write they are both beavering away preparing cards for our builder who is here today).

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The girls continue to enjoy their weekly pottery class in Clapham.  D brought home her first creations last week and here’s a photo of them.  The bottom piece is a comet!  The teacher was praising them both last week, particularly commenting that D is wonderful at story telling as she works.  I have a feeling that for D it is all about the process whereas for M it is all about the end result (chalk and cheese as usual :)).

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With our unschooling approach to the girls’ education, they are given a free reign to play as long as they like on computers and watch as much telly as they like too.  M’s particular favourite game at the moment is Minecraft which she is probably spending 1-2 hours a day on.  D is also quite interested in it and M is very generous with her time: advising her sister how best to build things and ideas on what to do next.  They both prefer the ‘creative’ rather than ‘survival’ game as it’s a bit less stressful!

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Our unschooling approach has already spilled over into food, which is why I’m reading ‘Kids, Carrots and Candy’.  I’m learning to ask if they are ‘hungry’ rather than ‘what would you like for dinner?’;  We don’t have meal times anymore – they eat only when they are hungry; and they can eat ANYTHING (within reason, I’m not going to start making Bolognese at 6am) at ANY time of day.  They are learning to recognise when they are hungry and what their body is asking for.  I am also learning to listen to my body too!  For the past two days my body has asked for a fresh fruit smoothie rather than dinner and it has been extremely satisfying to give it what it’s asking for!

So far I have resisted letting the unschooling approach spill over into bedtimes (i.e., letting them decide when to go to bed) because I value my alone time in the evening so much.  I only get half an hour to an hour in the evening anyway but it is very precious to me!  However, you’ll see in the previous picture that it is rather dark and the two sausages are refusing to go to bed because they are doing something ‘extremely important’.  When they are playing so nicely together it seems a shame to spoil their fun!

We went to Garson’s Farm a few days ago and met our friends there from  3 Kids and a Gluestick.  The girls especially loved picking raspberries and strawberries but the heat got too much for them eventually and we had to leave earlier than planned.

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M has decided to continue doing ballet classes with her school friend, T, and they’re currently rehearsing for a show in October of Alice in Wonderland. D decided she didn’t want to do ballet after all so she sits with me and does an activity book while the class is on.

We’ve been to D’s swimming class (M didn’t even want to get in the water this week so it was a short visit) and D swam her first length unaided!!  M and I were whooping and punching the air on the side :).

One of the many perks of HE is that you can get discounted entry rates to most attractions.  So yesterday, J took the day off work and we all went to Legoland!  We had such a lovely day and the weather was perfect.

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There have been lots going on inbetween all this of course, including chess; draughts; making a clock; drawing; learning about the world; learning about mucus in ‘The Sound of Mucus’; reading book 2 of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’; listening to The Enormous Crocodile and Matilda audio books in the car; watching various films including The Artist, Tinkerbell & The Pirate Fairy, Peter Pan and Coraline; and playing outside in the garden!

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Pottery, Leeds Castle and a Pyjama Day

Grandma is here again!  I had two very excited sausages awaiting her arrival at St Pancras station on Monday.

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Then we headed off to pottery in Clapham and M got to take home her first pinch pot.

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On Tuesday I had organised a day out for us at Leeds Castle. The four of us got in for £12!  £12!!  Ahh, the wonders of home ed never cease!  It was a wonderful day out: we had a long (for us) walk through the grounds; a walk inside the castle; a play in the playground; we watched a falconry display; got lost in a maze; had a ride on a boat across the lake and finished off with a ride on the castle train.

M was given responsibility of taking the photos: ‘looking at things’ is one of her worst activities on days out so taking photos kept her engaged for the day :).  She took over 100.. here are just a few…

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And a few of mine..

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All in all, we had a great day out and I can highly recommend it if you can get there.

Today the girls were tired and tetchy so it was a good job we had no plans and settled for a much-needed pyjama day.  It was still rather busy though.  The sausages began by showing Grandma how to make a loom bracelet, and then D finished off her space lapbook!  It was a culmination of hours and hours of work, but I’m not sure ‘work’ is the right word for it as she enjoyed it so much.

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I wanted to get on with a bit of DIY while I had the chance today and M soon wanted to get involved so I let her finish off filling the holes on the stairs with wood filler – she absolutely loved it and I wish I’d given her the whole job to do as she really was good at it!

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Then Grandma played ‘teacher’ and helped them with their Africa lapbooks (M doesn’t want to do it with me anymore so I think this is going to be an on-going project with Grandma).  While this was going on I was painting the floor of our landing and stairs – a seemingly endless job as I can only do one coat a day!

The rest of the day was spent with M playing Lego Harry Potter on Grandma’s iPad and D playing a very imaginative game of Cinderella with Grandma.

Grandma is going home tomorrow (much to Granddad’s relief, I’m sure) so I will have to figure out what to do to keep the sausages occupied to take their minds of their misery…

Archery at Camp Mohawk

We were lucky enough to get a last-minute place at an archery session at Camp Mohawk today!  It was quite a journey but absolutely worth it.  The place itself has been set up for children with special needs but a local HE group gets to use it once a week during term time.  It is absolutely idyllic there and the archery trainers had a lovely attitude towards the kids.  M really enjoyed it and I’ve since found out that we’ve been lucky enough to get a space in next month’s archery session too, which M is very pleased about.  It’s the only place I’ve found so far that will teach children younger than 8 so she’s very lucky to have the opportunity.

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After the archery session we ate our sandwiches and then the girls had a play in the playground and in the sensory play area.  M wanted to explore the woods but D was tired and I decided that we’d better try and beat the Friday traffic.

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We were all exhausted by the time we got back!  There was a fair amount of bickering going on and M was particularly testy towards me but she cheered up after a bit of down-time in front of CBeebies.

For the last two nights, D has point-blank refused to go to bed at her bedtime, which has been interesting!  I can’t quite keep a straight face for long enough to get stern with her.  M has rather sweetly offered to take her to bed and read her a story which initially I was reluctant to take her up on as I wondered if she was doing it purely to act as peacemaker but she seems to genuinely want to do it and D is over the moon that she gets to go to bed with her big sister!  M sits and plays Minecraft while she waits for D to go to sleep, although D is so excited that there isn’t a lot of sleeping going on…