Birthday Celebrations!

Hey all, we’ve been away for two weeks with my parents in Nottingham.  We seemed to be on a permanent playdate and the girls didn’t want to come home!  We visited cousins in Birmingham, had sleep-overs at my sister’s house in Nottingham, and had cousins over for sleep-overs at my parents’ house.  We also had an early 6th birthday party for D because she wanted all her cousins to be there but her birthday isn’t until next week.

The party was very basic with the standard party games, a treasure hunt and a game of Twister but D said it was fantastic!

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We can’t go for long without some form of art being done and luckily, Grandma had invested in a new set of watercolours which the girls loved.  D was inspired by Creative Galaxy to produce a pointillism rainbow and a Fauvism picture.  Seriously, why would anyone restrict screen-time when there’s this stuff being absorbed?!  Thanks to this programme, D is also keen to paint a mural on our lounge wall but I’m not so keen.  The girls have also been watching lots of Mr. Peabody and Sherman and thanks to that film have gained an awareness of Leonardo da Vinci, Agamemnon, the French Revolution, Tutankhamun and George Washington.  Their interest in the French Revolution has been backed up by Aquila this month, who did a feature on it in their magazine.

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The sausages love playing schools and Grandma was asked to set one up for all the toys, which she duly did.  The girls spent hours on sums, spellings, reading, P.E., history, Spanish, space and art. :)

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Grandma also bought them both a book for Easter and M wanted the Frozen paperback.  She proceeded to read almost all of it to herself every night in Nottingham!  I think it really helped that she knows the script by heart which helped her to understand what was happening in the story and not panic when she couldn’t read certain words.

My sister also taught the sausages something while there, she is an Environmental Health Officer and happened to have been showing a class at school how to wash their hands properly to stop germs spreading so she had her glo-light thingy with her.  The girls loved putting the special lotion on their hands and then testing to see how much was left after a hand-wash.

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M also produced this incredible pencil drawing of a rubber plant while on a visit to my cousin in Birmingham:

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Since we’ve been back, J has played with the sausages a lot, having missed them tremendously.  He took them swimming for 3 hours at the weekend!  He has also had them in the garden a great deal.  Me and the sausages need a bit of a shove sometimes to get in the outdoors, me in particular.  It’s something I’m determined to change, partly because my sedentary tendencies just aren’t healthy, and partly because I know how much the girls need me to do it.  So with that in mind, I chose to take the girls out to Morden Hall Park today, for my birthday!

It was really hot and as we haven’t really explored it properly it was quite exciting to be somewhere that felt new.  We played frisbee and fetch (the girls were pretending to be dogs) and explored the different fields, gardens, play areas and the River Wandle.  It’s really lovely and I can’t believe we haven’t used this great (and free!) resource properly before.

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More birthday celebrations tomorrow as J has the day off!

My Attitude #2

Recently I was interested to note that a post called ‘My Attitude‘ is one of the most popular on my blog.  I couldn’t quite remember what it was about so I’ve re-read it and thought I would reflect on where I am now.  So here goes.

  • I am  much more interest-led these days.  If the girls show an interest in anything, I have learnt to value it (even if it means watching Frozen three times a day or playing Animal Crosssing for hours on end).  I can see learning in everything, and I still tend to link (in my mind and on this blog, never to the girls) this learning back to school subjects, which I think will probably wear off as I deschool myself.
  • Rather than getting the girls to do what *I* think they should be doing, I am much more inclined to join them in their interests instead.  If there’s something I think they’ll be interested in then I try to strew it instead.  As for maths (which is something I was evidently concerned about in my post) we generally don’t study it as a subject but it crops up everywhere anyway.
  • I think we’re still a long way from M or D becoming self-directed learners *but* since last June M has lost a lot of anger towards learning and will now proudly talk about things she knows to family and friends… or anyone.
  • I spend a lot of time sitting with the girls, joining them in whatever they’re doing.  Probably too much time, judging by the housework.

So.  All this sounds like I’ve progressed well in my attitude.  But.  I still have a way to go.  I’m always trying to push myself as a parent (particularly as I seem to have landed myself with a pair of sausages that continually push me to question my beliefs and ideas) and I’ve read many books on parenting to help me along the way.  I’ve just finished a book called ‘Autism Breakthrough‘ which has added a new dimension to my attitude.  It’s actually about reaching out and helping your autistic child but I think the majority of it could be applied to a neuro-typical child too.

In a nutshell, the book is about ’embracing without judgement where your child is today, while believing that she can go anywhere tomorrow’.  In the final chapter, the book talks about how your attitude can effect your child developmentally and it asks you to work towards changing just one of your beliefs in order to have a lasting impact on her trajectory.  Perhaps I haven’t explained that in the best way possible but if you’re really interested then I highly recommend you get the book!

So, in regard to M (I was reading this book with M in mind) here is the first belief I have about her that I plan on changing.

  1. Event or circumstance: If I try to explain something to her, she is quick to say she doesn’t understand, when I’ve barely finished my sentence.  It is pointless me trying to explain it differently because she sticks with ‘I don’t understand’ even though I feel she isn’t even listening to me.  If I try and break it down/start again I get the same response.  Sometimes this dialogue ends in tears (hers) sometimes she says ‘it doesn’t matter’ in a huffy voice, sometimes I finish it by saying we’ll talk about it later (while trying to avoid a huffy voice).
  2. How you feel/felt: Angry and frustrated.  I KNOW she is highly intelligent.  I can tell by the sort of questions she asks.  But she seems blocked by something.  Fear?  Or is it her possible ASD?  I also feel sad for her because she’s told me in the past she doesn’t think she’s clever.
  3. Belief fueling this emotion: If she freed herself up a bit she could do/learn more and maybe then feel less ‘stupid’.
  4. Alternate belief to adopt: When she says she doesn’t understand, I could actually believe her!  So what if she doesn’t understand at this point in time?  One day she will, in her own time.

So I will check back in 10 months time and see how I get on!

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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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