Loving the Loo Rolls

If anybody asks me what is an absolute essential to home educate, I always answer: loo rolls.  We seem to use up tons of them as the girls are regularly pulling out the junk modelling box to make something they can see in their mind’s eye.  They’re so popular there was even a fight over who had the most loo rolls today.

We’re using them even more now because recently we’ve been going back to basics with our HE resources.  By this I mean that I’ve stopped buying any more!

A few months ago, J decided to quit his job and go self-employed (with my support).  Up until that time we were lucky enough to let the girls attend any classes they desired, and I could supply them with any number of books and supplies I thought would interest them.

With a much reduced income, I have put a total halt on purchases I might have made from Amazon (my wishlist is getting longer and longer) and drastically cut their classes (which was fine as it turned out they were a bit ‘meh’ about them anyway).

It’s interesting that these sorts of changes are never as bad as you think they’re going to be, and can even change your life for the better.

For instance, I’ve cut back on tons of house-keeping stuff: I had a cleaner who has since been ditched and I’ve kind of embraced the cleaning some-what.  I’m not saying I’m up for appearing on ‘How Clean is Your House’ but I’m a lot more into it than I used to be;  I’ve ditched loads of cleaning products in favour of micro-fibre cloths – who knew that water could do as well as polish/bathroom cleaner/floor cleaner/window cleaner?; I’ve even ditched shampoo.  Yes, I really have.  Admittedly, that was more because I seem to be intolerant to most of them, but it’s a great saving nonetheless.  I’ve made a load of other ‘Martin Lewis’ style changes but I won’t bore you with them all.

As for HE – there are so many groups and outings to go to, I now seriously consider each one as to whether I think the girls would actually love to go or whether it’s actually me who would love it more.  At home, I have been pulling out long-forgotten resources that I bought long ago and haven’t been looked at much.  I found stuff I’d forgotten I had, and probably would have re-bought if I hadn’t found them.  The sausages are quite accepting of the fact that we don’t have a lot of money to spend and they already have more toys than they have time to play with.   They’re really good at making games with very little (for instance, we have recently done a Frozen inspired coronation with a home-made orb and sceptre and today they were both raiding the junk modelling box again: D to make a car, M to continue making a tree house for a doll).

I keep thinking thank goodness the girls aren’t not in school: we can whittle down our outgoings to very little without worrying about school uniforms, shoes (the sausages live in wellies),petrol, school trips and all the other things you’re expected to donate towards.

I have to say that were we to become better-off again, I would probably stick with most of the changes we’ve made, although I may buy a bit more from Amazon.  I kind of like living a simplified life and am now wondering how stupid I was to waste so much money on stuff we didn’t need!

Amazing Artistry

I feel like my head is so full and busy lately.  Usually I use this blog to clear my mind but I haven’t been able to untangle all the thoughts going through my head to do so.

The majority of my thoughts are regarding M’s suspected ASD.  We were rejected from the multi-disciplinary team because they don’t deal with ASD anymore.  Our GP then referred us to CAMHS instead who rejected us for the most LUDICROUS reasons:

  1. They don’t do assessments just because a parent asks for them (wtf? Why shouldn’t a parent have the authority to request an assessment?!)
  2. The list of symptoms I had provided weren’t enough proof of ASD (duh – I had seen all the symptoms in Tony Attwood’s book!)
  3. They needed further evidence from school (Again, duh.  Firstly, if they had actually read my evidence then they would have known that we home educate.  Secondly, M hid all her ASD symptoms from school so further evidence would have been impossible to obtain!)

Can you tell I’m slightly narked by this?  I am still wondering about sending a scathing letter in reply but I haven’t got the mental energy right now.  Besides, if CAMHS are this stupid and ignorant, what’s the likelihood of being taken seriously at an assessment?

So the upshot of all this is that we’ve decided to approach an NHS Consultant Paediatrician who also does private work.  She comes with lots of good recommendations so I’m full of hope.

Meanwhile, I am trying to marry up ASD strategies with our unschooling perspective.  Thanks to some wonderfully supportive and informative people on an unschooling Facebook group, I’ve found Son-Light.  It’s a totally unique approach to Autism which, although it’s been around for a few decades, is still pretty radical.  I like radical.  I’m halfway through the book and so far nearly all of it is sitting very well with me.

I’m on a very steep learning curve and I’m trying not to feel overwhelmed by it all!

In other news…

We’ve been enjoying the spring weather…

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M is still very into Animal Crossing: yesterday she was petitioning residents!  D hasn’t been on the computer very much, but she’s done a little Minecraft, Numberjacks Mission to Learn and Teach Your Monster to Read.

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D is still very much enjoying dressing up as a princess.  She made herself an orb like Elsa’s from Frozen the other day!

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D has really impressed me with how much she has concentrated on tasks lately: she copied some complicated Hama bead designs; designed some clothes for her paper doll; played for well over an hour with Anna from Frozen’s ice hand; and made lots and lots of ‘sewn’ constellation cards.

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However, she did struggle at our latest outing: we were lucky enough to get last minute tickets to go to the Royal Albert Hall with a group of other HEers to see Classical Spectacular.  It really was spectacular!  M adored it – she loved the music, the lights, the fireworks and the loud cannons that boomed at the end.  This photo doesn’t really do it justice.

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M has been spending a lot of time perfecting some Frozen figures that she wants to make into puppets.  I am quite in awe of her drawing of Elsa.  She’s 8!  8!

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We have continued to enjoy our new local HE group:

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And finally, I’ll end with D’s Van Gogh masterpiece!  Isn’t it incredible?!  She’s 5!  5!

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Pirates, Science and Maths

There’s been an ongoing pirate theme this week (which ties in with us continuing to read Peter and Wendy) as D has begun an imaginary game that she plays daily, which is about being a pirate in Neverland, finding treasure and firing at other pirate ships.  I’m not one for imaginary games but this one is quite easy for me as I am basically the ship that D sails on.

To give her an idea of what an actual pirate ship looks like, we went to visit the Golden Hinde today (Sir Francis Drake was just a fancy pirate, after all).  It was so tiny!  J and I were amazed that he managed to sail around the world and plunder Spanish gold in a boat half the size of our house!

It was a fleeting visit as we had to leave the ship before the school parties arrived but it was fun while it lasted.

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After that, we walked over London Bridge (admiring the sights as we went) to see the monument that was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London.  J declined to go up as he suffers with vertigo but we three climbed the 311 steps to get to the top.  Hmm.  Altogether it was decidedly creepy: the viewing platform was covered with a wire mesh rather than a proper balustrade like at St Paul’s and, although we couldn’t have fallen through it, it made us feel decidedly wobbly about being up there.  Also, the spiral staircase was quite narrow and dark, which added to the creepiness!

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We got back home early afternoon and now I’m pooped but the girls are very lively – M is upstairs making a den for all her toys while D plays on Monument Valley on the iPad and chatters away.

The rest of the week has been spent:

At our HE group, Curious Minds: the girls decorated and made paper aeroplanes and played with shapes on an overhead projector.

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Lots of reading with D: We’re into another sleeping phase now where D gets up early and M falls asleep late, meaning that I can get some quality time with both but I don’t get a lot of quality time to myself!  However, it is probably a phase that won’t last and once the nights get lighter I think they’ll both be staying up later again.

So in the mornings, I’ve been doing lots of reading with D, before M gets up.  She loves pouring over the Maps book, looking at the different continents, the varying popular childrens’ names, mountains and volcanoes.  It’s tying in nicely with what we’ve learnt about Earth’s tectonic plates in How the World Works.  We’ve also spent some time figuring out how the earth turns on it’s axis and how that affects the seasons.

We also looked up Germany in our Maps book after the girls had watched all three Chronicles of Narnia films.  They had a few questions on WW2 (including whether I was alive then!) and I was very tempted to take them to the Imperial War Museum this week but I just wondered if D might find it a little upsetting (recently we visited Postman’s Park in the City of London, which has little tiles in it that commemorates those in history who died saving others: I got tearful reading the tiles out to the girls and D found it difficult to cope with the sadness of it all).

I also showed her Usborne’s See Inside Science, which is a lovely step up from her current science/space books.  It includes a basic introduction to space, life, DNA, periodic table, atoms, molecules and cells.  She seemed to enjoy it and I learnt a lot too!

Over the weekend, J did a mammoth amount of play with the girls – there was Judo and a trip to Battersea Park on Saturday (they were out of the house for 5 hours!) and then swimming with 2 of their friends and their Dads at Guildford Spectrum.  During which time I caught up with a lot of housework and did a bit of reading on Aspergers.

M has spent a lot of time on Animal Crossing this week (although she did have two days break while we waited for a new charger because Morris had eaten the old one!).  I’ve been noting down a few of the things she has been learning while playing: reading new words and 4-digit numbers; percentages; colloquialisms; telling the time; learning types of fish, insects and dinosaurs; saving up and patience (it’s a slow game).

There isn’t any artwork to show this week: both girls are still working on their Van Gogh masterpieces in their art class – I can’t wait to post them up, they’re INCREDIBLE!  Instead, I’ll end with a bar chart that I helped D to make: J got all her soft toys out and got her to count them all and we then made a bar chart with the results.  Natural maths at it’s best!

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Scattered Learning

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted – we’ve been to stay at my parents’ in Nottingham for a week and pootled about doing all sorts since then.  We don’t seem to have anything ‘long-term’ on the go at the moment, which I kind of miss.  But the girls seem happy to be dipping their toes in and out of all sorts…

D has been doing lots of dot to dots in an ancient Usborne book of ours.  She’s really getting to grips with reading larger numbers and she looks for them everywhere – on buses, computer games… everywhere!  The other week in the car she asked what a googol looked like so as we had a spare minute before art class I looked it up and we all learnt that it has 100 zeros!  Who knew?!

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She’s also been busy on Teach Your Monster to Read and is now confidently reading sentences out with a look of pride on her face. :)

We’ve been doing a bit of science too!  The girls loved doing this density tower, and were running around trying to find different objects to throw in and guess how far down they would sink!  It looks a bit of a murky mess, but it still worked. :)

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We read How the World Works and the girls showed an interest in the little book inside that shows the continental drift.  As luck would have it, The Kid Should See This had a video on the man who discovered and named the pangea: Alfred Wegener, and we watched it together.  This led to watching a video on snow circles, an acorn and the far side of the moon!  I LOVE that website.

We were all excited to see THREE planets in the sky at once the other night: we saw Jupiter, Uranus and Mars.  We couldn’t quite make out Venus as it was overlapping Mars and we then forgot to go out again later after they had moved apart but it was great all the same.

The girls’ love of Peter Pan has resurfaced!  I downloaded a free Kindle copy of Peter and Wendy which I’ve been reading to the girls while they busy themselves with colouring or Minecraft. I’ve never read the original before and it’s actually quite an easy read and as the girls know the story inside out they are keeping up very well, with just the odd question about a big word or an old-fashioned phrase here and there.

This had led to watching the films (I think we have all of the Peter Pan related ones) and various Tinker Bell films too.  There may be a project on the horizon as both girls have expressed an interest in making a fairy house like Lizzie’s in The Great Fairy Rescue.

M has continued to do her coding on the wonderful Khan Academy.  She is still playing around with shapes: it’s SO mathematical and she’s managing and learning really well.  In a few weeks I may gently nudge her forwards a bit but first I need to learn it myself!

This week, M and D have spent a lot of time in their Rapunzel princess dresses, which led to them both wanting to make crowns, a sceptre and an orb.  We’ve done the sceptres (painted wrapping paper tubes) but haven’t got around to making orbs yet – hence the balloons in the picture!  This led to us watching Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation which was pronounced ‘too slow’ by M.  We then did our own coronation, and M was in fits of giggles as I pretended to be an old codger shuffling forwards with the crowns…

D was telling J about it all the next morning and reassured him that it was ok as her coronation was just pretend and the Queen is still alive.

Morris was intrigued by the rustley dresses and kept photo-bombing the coronation pictures.

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And lastly, some paintings by M!

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Music, Cleaning and J

It’s been an odd week, due to Dusty dying, but one of the good things about having kids (or sometimes difficult, depending on which way you look at it) is that you are forced to carry on regardless of what mood you’re in.

So life has been continuing pretty much as normal with the odd bit of sadness surfacing here and there.  Last night, I was too sad to read D’s bedtime story so M kindly took over and read it to her instead, while holding my hand.  They have been very sweet towards me in the past few days.  M hasn’t expressed a lot of emotion over Dusty’s death but she did say last night that she is sadder about me being sad than Dusty dying!

So, in ‘normal’ life, here’s what we’ve been up to:

Their Aunt Sh has taken them to our local children’s theatre to see Peter Pan.

D has learnt how to draw 3D shapes, which she is delighted about!

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The music phase continues, with the girls getting into Beethoven’s 5th Symphony following our viewing of CBBC’s Ten Pieces DVD (they seemed pretty uninterested at the time but have remembered some aspects of it); D did another concert at the piano for us on Friday night; M has been learning the words to Frozen’s Let it Go and playing it over and over; we’ve had a few kitchen and bedroom discos; and the girls have rediscovered our bag of instruments in the toy cupboard.

They’ve both been more involved in the cleaning this week: previously I haven’t been too keen on them doing it because of the amount of chemicals involved, but recently I’ve gone all frugal/eco and use water and E-cloths to clean most of the house.  The girls love my homemade lavender/water spray which I use on the floors and could be heard having an argument over who would be spraying and who would be mopping!  Today I asked who would like to help me clean the car this week and they both shouted ‘ME!’.  What is that about.

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D still watches lots of Dora The Explorer and her love of Spanish continues.

M has been spending every spare moment playing Animal Crossing New Leaf on her new Nintendo DS2.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that we don’t limit screen time in this house: so D can spend as much time as she likes soaking up Spanish with Dora, and M can spend as much time as she wants on her new game.  J struggles with this a bit because he doesn’t like computers very much.  However, he does let her get on with it, while sometimes muttering about ‘bloody computers’ under his breath…

While I’m on the subject of J (who is largely forgotten about on this blog!), here’s a list of all the activities he’s done with the girls JUST THIS WEEK, just to big him up a bit: He’s made a few dens (which tends to involve turning all the lounge furniture upside down); he had a ‘sleep-over’ with the girls in the lounge on Saturday night; he took them to our local soft play for 3 hours; he taught D to ride her bike without stabilizers last week (sorry, I forgot to mention it!) and has been getting her to practice at it; he can’t enter a room without getting them to leap off the sofa and into his arms (where there is J there is shrieking); he has played countless games of hide and seek; taken them to the park; to their Judo class and had a film night.  Phew.

I was recently asked how I get ‘me’ time while home educating – if it wasn’t for J I would get very little!

Lastly, here are some pictures that the girls made with oil pastels to say ‘thank you’ to their Nanny and Granddad for their Christmas presents (better late than never!).

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Little Dusty Dies

We’ve done quite a bit this week but it’s all been overshadowed by the death of one of our rabbits, Dusty.

Both rabbits went to the vet to be neutered on Friday and while Morris made a quick recovery, Dusty wouldn’t eat and had to be force fed.  The vets didn’t want to release her until she began eating so both rabbits were kept in but then on Sunday morning the vet called to say that Dusty had died. :(

The poor little thing.  There is a very high chance that an un-spayed rabbit can develop some sort of uterus-cancer so it was important that she had the op, it was just a shame that she wasn’t strong enough to cope with it.

After breaking the news to the girls, I drove to the vets to bring them both home.  While I was gone, the girls drew pictures for Dusty.

When I got back, I unwrapped Dusty from her towel and we had a little stroke and a goodbye.  Even Morris had a little look.

Then we dug a deep hole outside and had a little funeral.

It’s interesting to see how the girls cope with their first death: on being told Dusty had died, D’s first reaction was ‘We can get a new one!”.  She has since had a few tears and asked questions about death, God and also got upset about the possibility of J or me dying; M is evidently feeling sad about Dusty’s death but is having difficulty expressing and releasing her emotions.  As for me, I miss Dusty so much and keep crying so I’m getting lots of sympathy and cuddles from the J and the girls.

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Deschooling’s Over!

I’m pleased to report that 18 months after finishing school, M has deschooled!

Various things have happened this week that have made me realise that school could finally be out of her system: most importantly, her love of learning is most definitely back and it’s plentiful; also she has asked me several specific questions to learn about something without smacking into her ‘fear of learning’ wall; and she is soaking up knowledge everywhere and then joyfully telling me, D or J about it.  On the whole, life for M is much more positive.

The other night I got the highest praise a Mum could ever hear when M told me that she loved her life!  However, this was in response to D saying that her life was rubbish compared to Dora’s (she has also crooned out some tear-inducing songs on this subject).  Of course, all explanations from me about how Dora’s life is unrealistic; you only get to see one part of it; her best friend is a talking monkey; yadda yadda yadda… all fall on deaf ears.  So instead we’ve switched it around so that D gets to BE Dora the Explorer for the day. :)

Dora’s first trip was to see St Paul’s Cathedral last week.  This week, Dora visited The Museum of London!  It’s certainly an excellent way of getting D out, as otherwise she would live her life permanently in the lounge.

The museum was fantastic: the girls were fascinated by how London had changed and the terrible things it had been through.  There was almost too much information in there for one trip so we will definitely be going again.

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M is just starting to dip her toes into history.  I tried to set up a history time line a while ago and they did enjoy it but ultimately there was very little understanding as neither of them had a concept of time.  We have just started discussing the number of years this week and then there were lots of time periods to look at in the museum so she’s had a good start at it.

We’ve also been a bit ‘sciencey’ this week:

The other morning I could hear the sausages chatting in bed so I went up to say good morning.  When I walked in, M said ‘we have just been discussing why some planets take longer to go around the sun that others’!!!  What a way to start the day.

J and I watched a glass of water trick on QI the other night and J showed it to the girls on Sunday morning.  There was A LOT of water on the kitchen floor but it was funny. :)

I put up a new poster in the kitchen which was linked to the Wild Weather BBC series on telly recently.  It has sooo much information on it, it makes me realise how little I know about my own planet.  D asked me to read it to her, and we talked about storm couds, tornadoes, the temperature of the Earth and hailstones.  Funnily enough, we had a hailstorm later that day and J went out in it to entertain the girls: D was shouting at him to get back inside as she had read that people can be killed by them!

We also attempted to make periscopes but they didn’t work very well so we need to have another go at it.  While we were searching for the periscope mirrors through the science box, I came across some packs of PH strips that I bought a while back.  I showed the girls how they worked and they feverishly dipped them into anything they could get their hands on!

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Spanish continues as the sausages continue to teach themselves.  They have been counting Smarties in Spanish and then saying all their colours in Spanish too!  They can both roll their ‘r’s impressively too.  They learnt ‘Te Amo’ from Dora this week and D made a treasure hunt for M: the treasure was a piece of paper with ‘Te Amo’ written on it. :)

We also went to a home ed social group last Friday and the girls absolutely loved it.  We met some old friends and made new ones too and we will definitely be returning soon.

That night, D wanted to put on a concert and so sang 3 of her own compositions to me and M.  I was reminded a little of Victoria Wood. :)

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And lastly, D finished her painting at the girls’ art class today.  I am absolutely in awe of how good this is!  It was an exercise in parallel drawing so she was instructed how to copy the shapes in the picture bit by bit and then chose what colours to paint it herself.  If you want to see the original, click here.

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