Home Time

We do seem to be spending a lot of time at home at the moment, but in fact all we’re missing from our usual routine is our Tuesday mornings out at M’s art class.

On the way to Brownies I probed the girls as to how they were finding home ed at the moment: is there anything they would like to change, are they happy, would they like to go out more/stay in more etc…?  M decided she would like to try the pottery class again – we finished it a year or two ago, mainly because D had had enough and M didn’t want to go without her.  I think she’s so used to doing activities without D that this is no longer an issue though.  She also commented that she doesn’t have a best friend but when I asked her if she’d like to meet more people she said she was happy with the friends she has.:)

D on the other hand has a best friend (also D) and they are like peas in a pod.  She also told me she is happy with the friends she has and added that she would rather never go out again.  Hmm.  That one isn’t really possible since M now loves new experiences and going out.  The difficulties of balancing two differing needs.

Currently, D is totally absorbed in all manner of Stampy YouTube videos.  Thanks to a lovely commenter on my Facebook page, we have discovered Stampy’s Quest to Kill the Ender Dragon – D has now watched all 24 videos and has continued with the other following quests.  She has also watched Stampy’s Wonder Quest channel which we found out about from a commenter on my previous post (thank you!).

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Today D has not moved from the position above and she is in seventh heaven.  J was flummoxed as to why she wouldn’t play with him in the garden (the weather was gorgeous today) but she was adamant that she wanted to continue soaking up Stampy videos.  She was utterly miserable yesterday after being dragged out to Woodcraft Folk so it was nice to see her feeling happy and comfortable in herself.

It was tough for her yesterday – she had to come with us to the class but she was pretty much upset the whole time until the class finished and she could play with her friends without being ‘bossed about’.  I brought her books to read and her iPad to play on but nothing really soothed her.

Meanwhile, M is LOVING her two classes (Brownies and Woodcraft Folk) – she really gets a lot out of them.  We’re still playing a lot of Minecraft on our iPads together and she’s also been creating a few things with some Washi Tape she bought this week, including this teeny tiny chair!

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Preparations are under way for family visitors in a few days, we’re very excited!

Stampy Love

Well, Minecrafting has continued apace since my last post.  It shows no sign of abating just yet either!

D continues with her love of Stampy, to the point where no other films or programmes are being watched.  She is currently on video number 117 and I think there are 270-odd so she’s got a way to go.  The other day I was thinking about how much she fully immerses herself in interests for a long time, to the point of obsession and almost to the exclusion of all else, and then gradually resurfaces to move onto the next interest.  In the past it’s been Go Diego Go, Dora, My Little Pony, Kung Fu Panda and countless other films that have been on loop in this house, not to mention the books she has read over and over again.  M, on the other hand, tends to have many things on the go at once and she dips in and out of each of them – she’s always engaged in what she’s doing but needs variety.  Always chalk and cheese those two!

D has also (unfortunately and hopefully not permanently) gone off our Woodcraft Folk class.  The past two weeks she has only joined in a couple of games and spent the rest of the time on my lap, moaning about how bored she is.  When questioned by the ever-lovely and patient leaders she explains that she doesn’t like being bossed about (!). Fair enough.  She doesn’t understand why everyone can’t just turn up and do whatever they like so I explained that a lot of these children like the games and if they just wanted to play with friends then they can do that on a play date – I’m still not sure she understood why anyone would want to be ‘bossed about’.  M adores going but isn’t ready for me to leave her there so D has to tag along.  Next week I plan on taking D’s iPad with us and I’m a little nervous about whether there will be any respectful understanding of a child who would prefer to sit and listen to Stampy rather than join in…

This is M and D playing with friends on the way home.  :)

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The girls had a loooong swimming session with J at Guildford Spectrum on Thursday, which gave me time to do some cleaning and play on Minecraft.  Yes, I did.  I’ve really got into it recently!  M and I play quite a lot together – we are of similar organisational minds so one of us will be farming, the other cooking, or we might build something together.  D joins us occasionally and runs around making us laugh and eating all the food.😀

We’ve been turning up the difficulty a notch in the past week, which means we have to fight mobs.  Initially D found this too frightening but we swore to protect her so she tried it out and declared it to be not so bad after all.  M built a wonderful world with all sorts going on in it, even a trading post!  But unfortunately she deleted it by accident.😦  She was totally gutted but recovered a day later and is now happily recreating it all in a new world.

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M is also taking a great interest in doing meal preparations with me (chopping, peeling etc).  She doesn’t tend to like the finished product but she loves the smells of the herbs and veg as we go along.  She’s also really interested in tidying and cleaning.  She really likes a tidy room which puts a bit of pressure on me to put Minecraft away and do some work.😀

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The love of Minecraft continues… It’s been reignited by our being able to play multiplayer across our iPads which has made such a difference in how the girls (and me) play.

We’ve been working on projects together in each other’s worlds: the girls particularly love the wooden house in their Minecraft Construction book – I must have helped them to make it at least 10 times over the past couple of years but this is the first time we’ve been able to actually build it together.  D asked me to help her make it in creative mode, which meant I could lay the foundations and start building upwards, and she could then continue once she understood the pattern.  We finished it in under an hour – it would have taken at least 3 hours previously.  M then wanted me to help her make it in her world in survival mode – this was obviously much harder because it involved a lot of tree chopping but it was great to be able to do it together.

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Typically, our bedtimes are spent playing Minecraft or Terraria together too.  Last night M and I dared to increase the difficulty rating slightly to fight some mobs (and get bones so we could then tame a wolf and get a pet dog) – D found it too frightening and left the room.😦  She was placated with watching Stampy while M and me continued playing.

D has gone nuts for Stampy, we all have to some extent but D has watched him for hours and hours whereas M and I have our limits!  His early videos contained a bit of swearing which the girls were intrigued about so we chatted about the words he was using, what they meant and why he was using them.  They took it in their stride.:)

Stampy has even inspired D to make her own gaming videos.  We don’t have whatever software you need for this so she asked me to film her playing a few of her games.

Coming off the back of Minecraft there has been lots of ‘how do you spell this?’ and ‘what does this say?’.  For D in particular I can see that she could begin picking up words from it – more so than if I was sitting and reading to her actually.  She has quite a strong fear of failure so it would be nice if it just ‘happened’ like that, rather than her sitting down and trying to learn to read.  To be honest, I think she knows more words than she lets on – she was reading whole sentences 2 years ago but now says she can’t read… hmm.

We’ve stopped going to the library at the moment – D doesn’t like going any more because ‘they’re too quiet’.  Even to the point where she stands outside the door while M and I are taking books back, ha ha!  Ah well, our library has a really good selection of books online (much better than in the actual library) so we don’t have a need to go there at the moment.  You can also download read-alongs so I got a couple of D’s favourites for her to look at on her iPad.

We’ve all been quite poorly with heavy colds since getting back from Spain so there’s been a lot of sitting around and tiredness.  Yesterday however, we made it out to Wimbledon Common.  It was glorious as usual and we had a good hour’s walk before the girls’ legs got tired.

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We would usually have attending M’s art class on Tuesday morning, but she appears to have gone off it?!  It once was her favourite class of all but it seems nothing is wrong with the class per se, just that she’s ready for something different.

We tried a ‘schooly’ type class in Kingston recently.  M responds well to a structured environment (whereas D definitely does not!) so I thought it would be a good thing for her to try.  Unfortunately it really didn’t go down well at all with M – with her information processing issues she really needed more attention and instruction than the teacher (an HE mum) could have given her.  Plus, she was learning about something totally new which meant she was struggling to understand a lot.  I’m so glad D and I stayed in the room because M got very tearful at one point and although she stuck it out to the end, she gave it a 4/10 so we decided not to go back!

It gave me renewed respect and gratitude for her art class and brownie leaders who do so well in making sure she understands and is happy.

April/May Catch Up

And I’m back in the room.

Can’t believe I left 6 weeks between posts!  I just haven’t been in the mood and lost my blogging mojo for a while so this post will be a quick update on all the things we’ve been up to and then hopefully I’ll be in the mood to blog more frequently again.

We’ve had 3 lots of visitors – cousins & grandparents.

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D had a birthday party – she’s 7!

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The following week my parents took us to Spain and we happened to be flying on D’s birthday – she got a special mention from the pilot over the tannoy and he then invited M & D into the cockpit where he spent a long time explaining how he flies the plane.:)

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We had a fabulous week in Spain – the girls swam everyday; there was a gorgeous park next door to our complex with free range bunnies, peacocks, turtles, ducks and chickens.  M took the time to write more entries in her home-made Spanish dictionary, and she did a bit of artwork, creating this 3D hand we found here.

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On our return, we’ve had quite a few table activities going on – M has nearly finished her Sylvanian Family food and D has been creating (or directing me and Grandma) to make clothes for her toys using new fabrics and a sewing kit she was given for her birthday.

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D has created quite a few things recently – a Lego instruction book on how to make her ‘Moon on a Stick’

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She made a book about Cute Twitchy (her toy rabbit):

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And she has just started a new book which details her happy memories and dreams:)

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M has been gardening quite a bit – she loves helping me to prune our hedge at the front and we weeded her patch of garden together.  She really wanted to get a Brownie gardening badge so we planted lots of flowers and herbs to meet the criteria.  While we were preparing for the badge, I realised she had enough craft to get her craft badge too, so she showed all her achievements to the group this week and got the two badges she wanted.:)

There has been a lot of Minecraft and Terraria – we got the girls an iPad each which has enabled us to play multiplayer, which the girls are LOVING.  They frequently ask me to join them in their worlds – we’ve been adventuring, mining, killing mobs, making obstacle courses, playing hide and seek, building houses, structures and getting lost.

Here’s me enjoying Minecraft:)

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Because We’re Happyyyyy…

Yesterday was one of the most joyous days we’ve had in a long time!  :) Maybe because it was a beautiful spring day?  Or maybe because I ditched all work (apart from an hour writing my blog in the morning and half an hour cooking dinner in the evening)?  Maybe it was because J played chase with them in the garden rather than taking them out (because they didn’t want to go out)?  Or maybe because I prioritised playing on the girls’ makeshift boat and actually got into it rather than thinking of a thousand other things I could be doing instead?  Or maybe it was because I played happy tunes on Spotify while the girls made art in the kitchen and we all sang and danced along?  Or maybe all of it:)

Whatever it was, M was practically bouncing off the walls, shouting ‘I’m so happy!’.  The energy of the day really reminded me of when we first began home educating: it was summer so the girls could run in and out of the house; I was fired up with excitement because of our recent decision to HE and I was strewing like mad, thinking about all things we could DO; both girls were filled with relief and happiness at not having to go to school anymore.  I still remember the day I turned around to look at M in the back of the car (grey faced, dead-eyed, utterly miserable, looking like she was about to be fed to the lions), D was crying and so I turned the car around and they never went back.

I wish all children had the right to be home educated.  Oh right, they do!  Ok, I wish more parents understood it and saw it as a valid alternative to school.  I wish everyone would take their school goggles off and realise that education doesn’t have to be so pressurised and robotic and that there is more to life than SATs and GCSEs.  Oh yes, and that there are other ways to socialise than with 29 other people your own age (because we all do that as adults, right?).

Anyway, back to our happy day yesterday: I always feel it’s a pity there aren’t two of me – one could do the energy filled play days, while the other lies down to recover.  They could take it in turns.  I’m highly introverted and I need a lot of time to be on my own!  Or at least just thinking my own thoughts rather than dealing with everyone else’s.  Hence, these magical energetic days don’t happen all the time as I would probably go insane, or more likely, depressed.

I’ve been making a concerted effort to just play the last week or so.  I find it so easy to do craft, or artwork, or taking them on a day trip, but I find simple imaginary play so hard, and a little boring if I’m honest.  So yesterday I pulled a long forgotten toy out of the basket and joined the girls in a game on the boat.  M isn’t big on imaginary play either but she joined in too and was soon in a heap of silent laughter as D entertained us with a hilarious role play with her toy rabbit, Cute Twitchy.  I actually found myself really enjoying it.:)

I’ve also been trying to say ‘yes’ more to D (I’m on a constant quest to say yes more, as a small voice inside me is saying ‘actually I would like to sit down and have a cup of tea’).  So when D asked me to make Cute Twitchy a toy carrot I inwardly groaned (imagining myself to be sewing on my own for hours after D gets bored and wanders off) but I said ‘yes’.  D actually did a fair amount of the work but got tired of sewing at the end so I finished it off for her.  M also got engrossed in making a top for her toy, Pink Teddy, but got stuck when deciding which buttons to use from her beautiful collection.  I’m sure she’ll get there eventually.

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We also did another D-inspired activity: she had asked for a pestle and mortar for Christmas, after seeing a scientist grind lapis lazuli on a science program.  It’s been sitting on the shelf for a long time so I suggested she might like to pick some grass to grind.  Luckily, I had accidentally bought two so M could join in as well.  They crushed grass, dandelions, daisies and few early forget-me-nots.  Then D moved onto spices and she tried poppy seeds, cloves, and fennel seeds.  We enjoyed the smells (they even ate a clove each!) and chatted about why lapis would have been so prized (M was disappointed she couldn’t make a blue sky).

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We then watched a couple of films before returning to the kitchen to do more grinding and painting.  We had a quick read of this article, before having a go at using white vinegar instead of water to make the paint – it really lightens the colour.  M noticed I had chopped a red onion and asked if she could make paint from the skin.  D used uncooked skin, and then I boiled the rest and M crushed that.  It turns out that boiling it first makes a much deeper, pink paint!  We’re really looking forward to getting some berries to have a go at crushing next.:)

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The day finished with another game on the boat, and then D decided she’d like to teach me and M about numbers instead of having a bedtime story.  I could hardly stand it, she was so unbearably cute while she patiently explained to me all about the patterns she can see in numbers and what the bigger numbers look like.

Just to finish, J took the girls to Battersea Park over Easter weekend and they had a go at water-zorbing… I want a go!

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Maths and English in our House

I stopped waving workbooks under the sausages noses about two years ago.  For me, the whole point of home education was to reinstate a love of learning (I say reinstate because M’s was wiped out by 2 years of school) and workbooks just weren’t cutting it.

Of course, there are other ways to teach Maths and English: there are countless ‘FUN!’ ideas out there.  But for me, setting up a game with the purpose of learning a concept feels too contrived.  The sausages would also be suspicious about it – they have a sixth sense for things like that.

In this house, home education has become about learning for the real world.  I can see where certain maths concepts come in handy just in day to day life but English as a subject?  Nope.  The only reason I can see someone needing to study English for 12 years is to pass an exam at the end of it.  You can appreciate plays and books without having to learn all the gubbins the government would like you to know.

Here’s a few examples of how we do English: D puts on plays using her toys as the characters; M recites and re-enacts entire film scripts; they make up rhymes; we watch films; we read books; they constantly (and I mean, constantly) critique plots and look for the reasons behind a character’s behaviour; they learn new words; they have even started critiquing sentence structure (!); they write cards, messages and sometimes emails to each other and family members.  Even Shakespeare made an appearance the other day: M asked me if anyone has ever died on their birthday and I remembered Shakespeare (possibly a myth though), which led on to me telling them how he died 400 years ago on D’s birthday and that he was such a good writer that people still love his stories today.  Both sausages were agog.  This is the sort of lead in that usually happens in our house – there may now be a request to hear one of his stories soon.  These are all the examples I can think of from the top of my head but there are probably more.

As for maths, again it’s all through day to day living.  A few examples: D was doing a count down for a race through her imaginary D-Land – she got to one and realised we weren’t going to make it in time so started dividing the one into fractions; M was making chocolate cornflake cakes and needed 100g of chocolate – 1 square was 5g so she started to work out how many squares she’d need; M made up a car game a few years ago – if you pass a car on the motorway you get 1 point (or 2 if it’s a lorry), when you get overtaken you take a point away (she recently modified the game to go into minus figures for when I’m driving slowly), the aim is to get to 100;  working out how many  seconds/minutes/days/weeks they have to wait for something (at the moment we’re on a very long countdown to D’s birthday – she just told me it’s 576 hours away); both girls do a lot of mental maths for fun and D’s calculator is one of her favourite toys; not to mention all the maths that goes on when playing Minecraft, board games, measuring for craft etc etc.

Putting my school goggles on, it seems miraculous to me that everything the sausages need to learn, they can learn through play.  Taking my school goggles off, of course it isn’t miraculous – it’s totally natural.

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Long Sleeps and Gentle Days

We spent the weekend at my sister’s – M was on some crazy bent to make the most of her time with her cousins – even though she was ill with a heavy cold she still stayed up late and played endlessly with them all!  D doesn’t quite have the stamina yet and was pretty much wiped out physically and emotionally by all the excitement.  It’s a shame they don’t get to spend longer together, it would make for a calmer time, but school gets in the way of fun.😀

We got back home on Sunday where a very excited J whooshed them into the garden to play with him.  Since then the girls have been in slow recovery mode with long sleeps and gentle days.  Aren’t we lucky to have the time to spend doing things we love (visiting family) and then having the time to recover afterwards?

We spend a lot of time saying ‘aren’t we lucky?’ to ourselves with a bit of a chuckle – my 95 year old Grandma is renowned for saying it to everything.  She recently fell on a tram, hurting her knee badly in the process.  She told me that her first thought was ‘Aren’t I lucky I didn’t hit my head?’.  A reminder of M’s great-grandma’s favourite phrase really helps pull M out of the doldrums.

We went to M’s art class yesterday, our final one until after Easter.  Again, I wasn’t sure she’d have the energy, she looks so pale and full of cold, but she loves it so much she wanted to go anyway.  D and I still spend the time at the nearby Bocketts farm with other Mums from the class.  It was such a lovely sunny day we went outside to their little play area, where D always demands I play a troll trying to catch her on the playhouse bridge.  She also spent a fair amount of time with another little boy, examining the wood chips from the playground floor.  She found a large chunk and began trying to whittle it with a stone.  Since then she has expressed an interest in getting some proper tools to make things with – we watched this YouTube video of a man making a wooden spoon (connections to Kung Fu Panda in Legends of Awesomeness who makes his Dad a dreadful wooden spoon for his birthday).  It’s going to take a lot of bravery on my part to let her loose with carpentry tools.:/

D has also spent most of her time in her imagination over the past few days – with an edge of disappointment that no matter how hard she imagines being a pony, she’ll never be one.  She has mastered walking and sitting like a pony.  The other night she was fidgeting about in bed and when I asked her what was wrong she told me she was trying to sleep like a pony.  She’d like to be a pegasi and has made herself a ‘Cutie Mark’ (My Little Pony) of a person doing a yoga crab pose since this is her talent.  I also helped her make a cloud home for her pegasus, which has given her a lot of joy.:)

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