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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The Big Bang Fair

We’ve been up in Nottingham the past few days so that we could attend the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham yesterday.  There are Big Bang Fairs all over the country but I wanted to try this one with it being the biggest!  I was told by a member of staff that 4000 children come each day, and boy could you tell…  The noise level was insane and you couldn’t get to a lot of the stands because of overcrowding.  We did miss out on a lot of stuff because of crowds unfortunately – there was a massive technology/robotic section that was very popular and I decided not to even try for one of the shows because the noise level made them unintelligible, so we stuck to the interactive stands.

All that being said, we had a good time and I think the sausages will be willing to go to another fair next year, albeit a smaller one.  We played with geometry puzzles, made tall towers out of newspaper rolls, played with molecular models and tons of other stuff.  The girls loved the puzzles more than anything and I got some great ideas for toys to buy them in the future.  The staff were lovely and very keen to talk to the girls about scientific and mathematical principles.  The ones we talked to were very pro home ed too, which was great.:)

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Bugs and Barbies

This week has been necessarily slow because I’ve had a revolting lurgy that’s been doing the rounds.  Last Wednesday I spent the day in bed – luckily J happened to be working from home so he was able to look after them for the day.  The girls were unnerved by the change in routine but thankfully I was able to get out of bed the following day so normality was resumed.  However, it’s taken me until today to feel normal again!

D has managed to watch 3 series of ‘Kung Fu Panda – Legends of Awesomeness’ but this phase has been quickly dropped after watching a new Barbie animation – Rock ‘n’ Royals.  She bought herself a Barbie recently and loved discovering her ‘story’.  She loved it so much in fact that she wanted to buy the other Barbie in the film.  There hasn’t been a lot of interest in Barbies up until now so it’s all quite new to me – the film lacks the emotional depth of My Little Pony (can’t believe I just wrote that) but both girls love it and have already learnt most of the songs by heart.

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I booked tickets to the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham on Thursday so we built in a visit to my parents’ in Nottingham this week.  For the last few days, the girls have been playing Minecraft with their cousin M; we went to the shops so D could buy her new Barbie; M and I visited my Grandma; and today we’ve got more fun with cousins.

In between all that, M has been working on her Sylvanian food craft, and playing a Daisy Cafe Racer app (from Clark’s shoes) – she’s managed to make it to the top of the leaderboard, which she’s very proud of.😀  However, she’s been more tearful than usual recently and I’m not sure if it’s because of some underlying bug or it’s a new developmental phase?!  Only time will tell I guess.

Books, Art, Maths and Awesomeness

I feel like I’ve had a very ‘lazy’ weekend, what with it being Mother’s Day, and I really couldn’t be bothered to do a lot.  Thus, the house is a shambles.  So last night I announced to M that today would be ‘Get Off Your Butt Day’, which made her giggle.  Every night she asks ‘what day is it tomorrow?’, or ‘what are we doing tomorrow?’ and last night she commented that she would really like a calendar in her bedroom because the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up is what she’s going to do that day.  So we discussed whether we should go out and buy one or make one like the one I do for our lounge.  But, VERY spookily, a large envelope was delivered today… addressed to M… with a Sylvanian Family calendar inside??!!!  There wasn’t any name so we don’t know who it was from but whoever it was obviously has some sort of telepathic sense!!  Thank you, whoever you are!

So today the girls have been playing all over the house – they helped me with some cleaning and tidying, then they got to work on turning M’s lower bunk bed into a den; then they have spent some time spying on me through their binoculars while I pretended not to notice…

We all went out as a family on Saturday morning for an English Breakfast in Wimbledon – it was delicious!  Then I had some shopping to do and M wanted to join me so we stayed in town and J took D to his Mum’s.  We went to the library and M chose a new book called Emily Feather and the Enchanted Door – it’s just right for her: a slightly complex storyline (anything simple gets critiqued and picked apart) and a mystery to unravel with a nice girl as the central character.  D is very into our book of Edward Lear’s Owl and the Pussycat and asks for it most nights – both girls can sing/recite it from heart, and it’s very cute to listen to them.:)

In the afternoon, we all watched quite a few videos on YouTube – Storybots, this heart transplant machine one and lots and lots of How to Cake It videos.  D finished her maths app with me and M cheering her on – as soon as she’d finished she wanted to start from the beginning again.😀

D is still very much into numbers, sums and playing on her calculator.  She can now read numbers in their tens of millions and frequently asks me to tell her a number that she can work out.  Her sense of numbers is improving too – she can re-jig sums around in her head to make them easier, figure out multiplications, and she’s getting her head around sums involving negative numbers too.  When she’s not working out numbers she’s doing make-believe games or watching ‘Kung Fu Panda – Legends of Awesomeness’ on Amazon.

On Sunday, M and I went to the National Gallery for their free Studio Sunday class.  It was as awesome as the Drawing Sunday class we went to a fortnight ago!  First of all we looked at Luca Giordiano’s ‘Perseus turning Phineas and his followers to stone‘; then the children all had a go at making Medusa’s head out of Plasticine before going back to the studio to make Perseus out of wire and modroc.  It was the first time M has sculpted like this and she really enjoyed it – unfortunately they ran out of modroc so we didn’t get to finish it but I plan to get some to use at home.

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I think I can honestly say though that by far the most inspiring part of our trip was the model of Trafalgar Square, which M was admiring for about half an hour before the class!  She said that she would love to make something like this and I can well imagine that one day she will.

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Indoor Fun

I don’t know if it’s because the wobbly teeth are finally out or because we finally struck gold with a class that D likes or what, but things are definitely on the up!

On Wednesday evening we went to a new (for us, apparently it’s 90-odd years old but I’ve never heard of it!) class called Woodcraft Folk.  The premise is letting children be children and being close to nature so they do a lot of camping and stuff but in the main they do a weekly class in a church hall near us where they play games, sing songs and generally run around having fun.

Initially D wanted to sit on my knee at the back of the room and just watch but after 10 minutes she actually asked to join in!!  D?  Joining in a competitive game with a load of strangers?!  Whaaat??  She had a minor upset midway through and we had a quiet few minutes in an adjacent room and then she felt ready to join the group again.  M really loved the class too.  We found it a little hard to understand all the new games (particularly as the noise level was so high) but she didn’t panic and gamely joined in too.

It was all good!

The sausages have been watching My Little Pony Season 5 for the first time over the last few days.  I have to say there is less passion about it than before but D did several spin-off activities: like arranging all her ponies on a shelf I cleared for her in the lounge; making each pony their own ‘element’ to wear; and getting me to make a big Tirek puppet so that she could put on a MLP ‘season 6’ show about the ponies beating him.😀

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M has been busy doing various crafts like decoupage and making Minions out of the Kinder Egg plastic containers.  Today they both spent hours remaking M’s Frozen Lego castle upstairs, meaning I could have a sit down and do some cross stitch and watch some telly!!  They have also both made bracelets using some old beads of theirs.  D did one with the name of her alter-ego, Dordy.  Dordy is hilarious but a bit naughty.

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D also spent a long time arranging her bunnies and making more Lego thrones today.  There is a whole line of royal rabbits living in D-Land now.

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M has spent a fair amount of time on Minecraft, finishing off her ‘cruck’ peasant house for her Castles and Cannons course.  Together we learnt how to make a fireplace (that didn’t set the whole house alight) and added other peasant ‘essentials’ like a table, herbs, straw bed and woolen blanket.

M has also done work with me towards her Interior Designer Brownie badge – she desperately needs shelving in her bedroom so we looked at what we could fit where and how big each shelf would need to be.  It involved quite a bit of measuring and quite a few tears on M’s part.  She still gets very tearful and angry if she doesn’t understand something immediately but luckily it doesn’t last too long and she can be pulled out of it with a bit of humour on my part.

Strangely, the sausages haven’t wanted to go out the last couple of days, even though the weather has been beautiful.  We’ve been so busy indoors though, which is obviously what they both needed.