Back From our Hols

Well we’ve been back home for a week but haven’t had a chance to blog much yet – we’ve got an influx of guests to prepare for next week!

Whitby was gorgeous, though cold.  D fell in love with the abbey high on the cliff top… she said she would like to live there. :)


And M was adored by all her cousins but a certain little one wanted exclusive rights…


Back in Nottingham at my parents’ house, we seemed to be on an endless playdate/sleepover which was wonderful for the girls.  The craft box was requested quite a few times and the bubbles were particularly popular…


Back in London again and I’ve been on a crazy cleaning drive as J seems to have reverted back to his bachelor ways in the month we were away.  I’ve also been planning further craft/science boxes for my niece and nephew’s birthdays which has taken a fair bit of time to plan.  I’ve been using M as a guinea pig because a few of the activities I’ve found are new to us.  Her particular favourite so far has been Flextangles.  This is her first one, and she is now working on another with a much more elaborate design.


We’ve also been back to our social group and it was lovely to see our usual crowd there, and to meet some new friends that I had previously only chatted to on Facebook!


Just a short post today, I’ll do a more detailed post on the girls’ activities soon.

Craft, Science and Games Box

As regular readers might know, barely a day passes without the sausages doing some sort of craft, and I’m always on the look-out for new ideas.  As we’re away from home for a month, I thought I would put together a box that contains all sorts of science and art type-things.

I’ve included free-play craft items for process art (as I believe it is now called: i.e. art with no particular outcome); craft items that can be used with specific instructions; items that can be put together for an experiment; and home-made toys.

Anyhoo, I thought others might be interested in putting together something similar – it’s great for holiday rainy-days, and could even be given as a gift!

So here’s what the box includes:

Empty sports bottles – I had fizzy bottle rockets in mind when I included them, but D has since used them in a home-made skittles game.  I also included packets of Alka-Seltzer for the experiment but you might want to store these separately!

Self-adhesive jewels – Great for any kind of art, mine used them to decorate some crowns they had made.  I got my jewels here.

A large roll of aluminium foil – I included this to make some foil structures and shapes: M has been making a rather complex set of swings out of foil lately but D kept it simple by screwing it up into a ball and knocking over foil-covered empty bottles with it!  Also, I prefer to buy the really thick good quality stuff for better results (and fewer tears).  If it’s really thick you could try foil embossing too.

Lentils, balloons & funnels – you can make great soft balls with these.  Instructions can be found here.  My 2 year old nephew also had fun (for all of 2 minutes) just pouring the lentils through the funnel over and over again.  And then there is always the simple fun of just bopping a balloon around the room… or just blowing one up and giggling at the noise it makes when you let it go…

Self-adhesive googly eyes – brilliant for adding to artwork but the best bit about googly eyes has to be eyebombing!

Mentos – unfortunately I didn’t have room for a large bottle of Diet Coke to complement this but it’s easy enough to find in the shops.  For anyone who hasn’t done this explosive experiment yet, you haven’t lived. ;)

Pipettes – what child doesn’t like using pipettes?  I bought something similar to this and as we only use them for craft, I just wash them out and re-use.  Mine adore anything pipette-based, but I had this particular penny experiment in mind when I added them.

Cornflour – if your child likes getting messy and enjoys a hands-on sensory experience then you can’t go wrong with gloop!  If you really want to, you can talk about non-Newtonian fluids and turn it into a science lesson. :)  The cornflour can also be used to make giant bubbles (see below).

Fairy liquid & glycerin – Thanks to our social group and Facebook, we’ve recently rediscovered the magic of bubbles.  M played with these table-top bubbles for hours and we had a go at giant bubbles using this recipe at our Curious Minds group recently.  The Fairy liquid can also be used for this racing experiment.

Straws & pipe cleaners – leading on from the bubbles, I’ve wanted to make these 3D bubble wands for ages and haven’t yet got round to it!  You could also use the straws to play blow football (you could make another ball out of foil if you don’t have another ball to hand) or show the kids how to create a mini-vacuum (suck some drink up into the straw, quickly put your finger over the top and voila, the drink stays in the straw like magic!).  And the pipe cleaners can be used to make all manner of structures.

Craft sticks – we’ve had these a while and so far we’ve only used them to make shapes and this insanely difficult house.  You’d need a glue gun if you wanted to stick them together properly so what I had in mind for my niece was this craft stick chain reaction.  You can see them looking spectacular in this video.

Paper fasteners – or you might know them as split pins.  Great for making puppets and dolls.

Sticky-backed plastic – or you might know it as contact paper.  I love this stuff!  D loves it because it makes her artwork feel nice and shiny. :)  I’ve recently found this post about flower suncatchers which I had in mind when I included it in my box.

Ball of string – good for… well… anything!  I had cat’s cradle games in mind but you could also make a thaumatrope toy, or anything else – D has just used some for a necklace for her toy bunny. :)

So far, the box has been very popular, particularly with my 8 year old niece.  And we’ve been back from our holiday for a day and it’s been used three times already.  So all in all, I think I can say that the mother-of-all-craft-boxes is a success!


We’ve had a quiet few days: I’ve needed to keep things low-key so that I could mull over today’s appointment with our paediatrician.  I was getting quite worried about it to be honest – I felt like all the past frustrations and confusion were building up to a head; I was dreading having all those memories and feelings drenched up and raked over; dreading both a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer and worst of all dreading that I wasn’t going to be believed (again).

I spilt all this out onto an HE special-needs Facebook group and had a bit of a chat with another mum and generally began to feel calmer.  In fact, today I positively felt peaceful and totally ready for whatever came our way.

So today we had a 2 hour appointment with Dr Keen, who was really, really, great.  She asked lots of questions and I loved the way she didn’t talk about M as if she wasn’t there.  M appeared to not have a clue what was going on, what was being asked, what was being said.  She also didn’t appear to have any idea or memory of the difficulties she’s been through so she wasn’t entirely helpful but she was amazingly patient throughout the 2-hour appointment.  I think it was a case of information-overload to be honest, and I think I began to suffer from it towards the end as well.

After an hour and a half of questioning, Dr Keen summarised that yes, my suspicions were correct about Aspergers (but not ADD).  Interestingly, she said she found it very difficult to diagnose M because we have removed her from most of the situations that make her anxious (i.e. we home educate because school was a source of great anxiety, and we now learn autonomously because of problems I had with directing M’s learning) meaning that a lot of her traits appear to have lessened because of HE!  But she also had no doubt that should M return to school, those traits would reappear again.  It reminded me of a post I read recently called ‘My Son Isn’t Autistic on Weekends‘.

Dr Keen went into detail about the various points that she thought showed Asperger tendencies but said that if we were at a regular NHS assessment, M probably wouldn’t get an official diagnosis because she is only borderline at the moment.

Lots of things to think about and more mulling over to do!  Basically, I feel utterly satisfied with the outcome: I can now use this information to help M progress on through her education and life in general.

And as for M?  She is still a sausage, Aspergers or not.

Science, Maths and a bit of Privacy

Our summer holiday is upon us (although I have to say our lives are pretty much one long summer holiday :D) and we won’t have any classes or meet-ups to punctuate the week for the next month!  I can feel change is in the air and I wonder where we’ll be (in terms of head-space) by the end of summer.

M is almost 8.5 years old and she is beginning to show signs of growing up.  Although we are still co-sleeping, over the last few weeks she has been spending evenings in her own room.  All of a sudden I feel like I should knock before entering (I’m trying to remember) and when I do I find her at her little desk, reading a rabbit book or drawing a picture or organising her Sylvanian Families display.  She hasn’t needed privacy before and this development feels really new and strange to me!  It also means that our bedtime routine has changed slightly: instead of staying in our room to read to both girls, I now read to M in her own room and D is finding it difficult to occupy herself or settle down to sleep without us.  M clearly doesn’t want D in her room either which makes the whole situation quite difficult to manage!  As we’re leaving for Nottingham in a week I am going to delay dealing with it for now and see how things are on our return.

D is still up for doing formal maths.  We have tried a few apps that have been recommended to us but none have compared to the onebillion app.  I was resisting purchasing any levels, partly because of the price and partly because I thought D might find it too easy and whiz through the questions in minutes.  However, I relented and it is absolutely PERFECT for her!  It is easy enough that she doesn’t get upset and it’s challenging enough to mean she has to listen to the questions carefully and has learnt a couple of new concepts (e.g. division and fractions) that she struggled with before.  Although we are rather strapped for cash at the moment, I believe this was absolutely money well spent!

We’ve been rather science-led over the last few days.  I was inspired by another HEer’s bubble experiment on Facebook and quickly showed M the video which explained how to do it.  It’s a great video and I can’t believe I haven’t known it was possible to do this with bubbles until now!  M persevered and persevered to get as many bubbles as possible, and this is how she did:

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She got as far as 3 bubbles!  And both sausages had a go at holding a bubble – just wet your hands (who knew?!).

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M has been thinking in quite a sciencey-way lately (although to her it isn’t categorised into an academic subject, it’s just life of course).  She’s never been much of an experimenter – she has never really done open-ended exploration – but lately she’s been doing little things that tell me she’s really thinking about seemingly simple things: “look Mum, when I put my hand into the water it rises” and “look Mum, when I put water on the table it disappears!” and “look, when I flap my hand the paper moves”.  If I question her about her discoveries she comes out with some amazingly detailed (and accurate) explanation of why it’s happening.  It’s such a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of her learning and to see her blossoming!

D has also been experimenting and wanted to make her favourite density tower again.  This time we did it really properly and carefully dropped the water and washing up liquid in with a pipette so we made an absolutely perfect tower.  She loves the bit at the end and runs around looking for little objects to throw in to see where they land.


M also rediscovered her Insta-Snow and had a play with it.  Funnily enough, that same day one of my favourite bloggers posted about fake snow so we had a go at freezing it overnight as her post suggested.  M was delighted to find that it crunched like real snow and got a little Lego figure to play in it.  Next we’re going to try rainbow snow!

M has bought herself a Harry Potter game to play on her Nintendo DS2, which she’s happily played with for hours today.  I’ve also been reading Tom’s Midnight Garden to the girls during the day, usually while they’re playing on the computers.  It’s a story I adored as a child, though I think I might have been slightly older than M when I read it.  M is really enjoying it, although I am having to describe some of the slightly old fashioned dialogue to her.

D is desperate to sew (I must get my old sewing machine out!) and helped me to make her My Little Pony some shoes…


Today has been spent at the park with J and their Nanny…


And no week would be complete without a visit to Curious Minds – we love our group!


Maths Apps and Grumps

So where was I… oh yes… rainbows and unicorns… well it’s been more like trolls and little devils this week.  I played the part of the troll.

I was suffering from PMS and with us all being together all the time it is so easy to see the effects of my bad mood on the sausages.  It was “lets get this competitive game out to see who loses” and “lets throw balls in the winner’s face” and “lets stomp off in a huff if I don’t get the colour I want”.  They didn’t actually say that but you get my point. :)  What I should have done is got us all outside for a walk or something but I was tired, cranky and in pain so I didn’t.

So Monday was not a good day.  In fact it was a right-off.  But I’ve been doing this long enough to understand that bad days are going to happen!

Tuesday started off much better, with us off to M’s art class first thing in the morning.  It was the last class of the term and M is really going to miss it.  Also, D has decided she would like to start art class again!  Hooray!

Lots of interesting conversations in the car – M wanted to know more about ‘e=mc2’ after seeing it mentioned on her SimCity app and this led on to questions about gravity, mass, Einstein and algebra.  I can’t say I knew the answers to all the questions but we talked about Googling it later and the whole discussion involved no anger at all from M which was lovely!

We spent the rest of the day sorting through crap toys that the girls no longer want as we seem to be running out of space again.  This resulted in joy at rediscovering long-lost toys like Fuzzy Felts and M’s magic tricks set.

D is set on learning maths on the computer again.  We tried going back to Khan Academy but it’s become too challenging and too dry to hold her interest.  I think she’s actually reached the point where she answered all the questions she knows already and now she’d have to sit down and slowly learn new concepts.  This is not the way D works and to be fair it isn’t very interesting either!  She prefers to use maths programs to cement ideas she already knows.

As M wanted to use the laptop to do Minecraft I tried to find an iPad app that would hold her interest and I did: It was ‘Maths, age 4-6’ by onebillion.  She quickly worked her way through the first level, learning about lines of symmetry and fractions but then we discovered that we had to pay £30 to unlock the other levels.  Rather steep and given our financial situation right now I don’t really want to spend the money on something she may well go off.  So my quest for an interesting maths app continues…


M went to Brownies in the evening, again her last for the term.  They had an end of term ‘beach’ party and when I came to collect her all the other girls were coming out with handfuls of sweets but she didn’t have any – when I asked her where her sweets were she said she didn’t want any: proud unschooling moment!!

Water, Judo and Films

We had a fantastic water-splashy time at our weekly social group, Curious Minds.  The girls are beginning to feel more settled there and M looks forward to it all week!


We were back at the scout hut again today, but this time for the girls’ Judo class.  Today they were being graded and so I thought I would pop along too (I usually use the time to relax or do cleaning).  It was so full on!  I think M found her match in a boy who is equally as strong and skilled as she is; and D had a few bumps but bravely soldiered on.

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They both passed their grading test and D now has 3 stripes on her red belt while M moves up to an orange belt!

We’ve been dipping our toes into film making over the past few days, following on from a question from M in the car about how long it takes to make a film.  This led to looking at special effects on Harry Potter: including Mrs Weasley’s knitting needles (not CGI but an amazing little machine!), quidditch and Voldemort’s nose.  Which then led to looking at a real-life invisibility cloak.  We’re probably watching 2-3 films a day and there is soooo much learning arising from it.

In other news, the same day I published my ‘rainbows and unicorns‘ post, M had a tearful/angry meltdown.  The space between meltdowns have definitely lengthened, to the extent that I begin to wonder if she has Aspergers at all.  These meltdowns leave me feeling very helpless as she can’t be soothed with a hug and a chat as I could with D.  To me, the reasons for the meltdowns are ridiculous (hair getting on her nerves/unable to complete a puzzle/too hot) but to her the problems must feel enormous and insurmountable.  This meltdown was a timely reminder as she has her ASD assessment in two weeks time.  I’m feeling a little nervous about it but mostly looking forward to it: it will be a relief to be listened to, get some answers and move forward with it.  M seems nonchalant about the appointment but that may mean there is stuff simmering underneath that she isn’t showing me yet…



Ancient Mechanicals

So this is the ‘something really good in London’ we had tickets for today: Ancient Mechanicals at the Unicorn Theatre.  Bit weird that an exhibition is in a theatre, but never mind – it was brilliant!

I was full of doubt about going into London with D being ill yesterday and it being so hot today but I felt like I really needed to get out!  It’s so difficult to know what to do in this weather – it’s too hot to do anything really.

Anyway, so off we went into London and we spotted the Shard and Tower Bridge along our walk so that pleased the girls.  D recently told me that when we were in France she really missed all the London sights. :)

We had 1 3/4 hours in there and M spent the first hour making a mosaic with small tile pieces.  I did try to suggest we looked at other things too but she was determined so I persuaded her to make a smaller pattern instead.

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Then she whizzed around the rest of the exhibition and really loved it: she wrote all the family’s name hieroglyphics; tried out writing cuneiform in Plasticine; worked an Archimedes’ Screw; she made a roman arch; played with a catapult and tried to figure out some early locks.

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It wasn’t really D’s scene to be honest: she had a go with the mosaics at the beginning and then flopped on a bean bag for most of the time.  She livened up towards the end though and had a go with Archimedes’ Screw and drew patterns in the Plasticine.

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We left having done only 2/3rds of it but on our way back to the tube it was so lovely with the breeze coming off the Thames we decided to buy cakes and eat them outside.

I feel like I bang on a lot about how great the sausages are and how great our days are but in general they really are!  I particularly feel this way when I look back at the struggles M has been through.  Of course, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows every day but today had a particular glow about it.  The sausages made up a ‘link of love’ so we all linked arms and walked along like the Monkees. :)

M was in seventh heaven and told me how glad she is that she’s home-schooled. :D