Category Archives: August

Diyas and Rangoli Patterns

This morning I woke up feeling grotty, I think two broken nights in a row have done it.  I didn’t start feeling back to my pleasant self until after lunch.  However, we did get some things done in the morning: a bit of reading, a bit of Reading Eggs, and lots of playing and putting make-up on.

Before lunch I read the girls our new book on Diwali that had arrived.  We’re planning on visiting Leicester during the Diwali celebrations so I thought they might be interested – they were!  The colours and the lights look so exciting!  I had an idea to make some ‘diyas’ (pronounced ‘dee-yaz’ I think?!) out of some air-drying clay I’ve had in the art box for years…

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We also had a go at making some rangoli patterns.  Again, both girls really loved doing this – they’re both so into their art!  I’m thinking that if I can tie any subject matter to art then I will have no problem teaching them anything!  After lunch we hopped on the bus into Wimbledon to buy acrylic paint for our diyas.  The girls chose the colours – aren’t they beautiful?

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We went to the library after that as I decided that the Dr Seuss book that M wanted to read for her Summer Reading Challenge was too hard.  So I chose a slightly easier read for her and sat in the library and read it.  Then we chose our next books in the challenge.  It remains to be seen whether D will complete the challenge as she has zero interest at the moment and no amount of certificates and medals will sway her!

J came back from work not long after we came home.  The girls were delighted to see him and he set them up in the paddling pool again.  However it seems to have run it’s course already as they were out of it after 15 minutes.  Then the girls watched telly while we treated ourselves to a Lebanese take-away: yum.

All of a sudden both girls decided they wanted to write a letter.  So I got them some paper and pencils and helped D to spell hers out.  It was her bedtime but I didn’t want to discourage her as she was so keen!  It’s really well written but I don’t have a picture of it yet.  M also did a wonderful tessellating pattern of hexagons while I was putting D to bed: I’ll upload that tomorrow too.

I am shattered!  Night x

Chess and Tea Cups

Had a lovely day today.  I had chats with M in the car on the way to chess: today she had a question about street lamps and how they switch on and off, another one for me to research!  I’ve noticed the number of questions she asks is increasing: hopefully it’s a sign that post-school tiredness is wearing off.  She’s decided she’d like to make a traffic light, as well as a motorised ladybird!  I’m wondering if I can squeeze in some electronics into this project as per this lady’s idea.

M did really well in chess: she came joint 5th with 2 others in a little competition they had at the end of the day.  Considering she only started learning chess a month ago I think this is pretty impressive!  She would have loved to have won a medal or trophy so this may spur her on to do more practice.  She’s already decided she’d like to enter the 1st West Surrey Chess Championships in 6 weeks time!

When we got back, J borrowed our neighbours paddling pool and the girls played in it together for about 2 hours while J did some work and I did a bit of admin.  After dinner I tried M on a chess app for kids (ChessKids) but it was too advanced for her unfortunately.  They both watched Tinkerbell again tonight and afterwards decided they both wanted to do some cutting.  M made an amazing cup out of paper and D wanted to make shapes and colour them in.  She did some very good shapes on her own using a ruler, I was impressed by their neatness!

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We’re off to the library tomorrow to get our next 2 books for the summer reading challenge.  This week has whizzed by and we just haven’t got around to reading the first two yet so that’s what we’ll be doing tomorrow morning…

Just a thought…

I’ve been sitting around while M’s at her chess course and I’ve been doing lots of reading.  I’m in the middle of Ross Mountney’s Learning Without School and came across a paragraph that struck a chord with what I’ve been mulling over recently:

“Some parents believe that it is not valuable, or acceptable, to coerce children into activities that they have no interest in and consider that is more likely to damage their desire to learn, than it is to develop their education.”

In the case of our two girls, if you asked M to do something she wasn’t interested in, she would certainly do it diligently and well but there would be no love or enjoyment in it.  If you asked the same of D you would just get an outright ‘No’.  And bribery doesn’t work with D.

I realised that school wasn’t working for M when she said she didn’t enjoy learning anything.  And we were paying for her to go to a top-notch school!  Up until then I was prepared to stick it out with the tears in the evening.  Looking back on this now I don’t know what I was thinking.  I guess I just assumed her time at school would be pretty rubbish, like mine was.

However, I went back to university in my twenties and really really enjoyed learning for the first time in my life.  I realised I wanted my daughters to feel this way about their education too.  Which was why we chose a top school: to give our daughters the best education possible.  However it just didn’t seem to suit M, like putting a square peg in a round hole.  It was a light-bulb moment when I realised that perhaps I could inject a bit of enjoyment into M’s learning.

Now, to follow this thought through, do I get M and D to follow a curriculum (as was my original plan – to keep in line with their peers and eventual readiness for the 11+) even if they show no interest or enjoyment in the subject?  Or should I stick to doing what they enjoy as I certainly don’t want to kill off their desire to learn?!  Answers on a postcard, please…

Little Tinker

Back to chess again today.  It’s a half hour drive from Wimbledon and we’re having nice chats in the car together, me and M.  Today we got to talking about junk modelling, which has always been a favourite of M’s.  I said if she could think of a junk modelling project she’d like to start, she could spend as much time as she wanted on it without me pressuring her to finish it.  She said she wanted to make a ladybird that actually moves!  She was full of ideas of how she would go about it.  I think I might have hit on something she’s passionate about.  It’s funny, I never really took junk modelling seriously but I recently read about James Dyson bemoaning the fact that D&T was being ‘dumbed down’ in the new national curriculum.  So I guess junk modelling is quite important as a pre-cursor to engineering…

When we got back home M immediately said she wanted to play chess with Daddy so we brought a table outside for them to play together.

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Meanwhile, I chased D around the trampoline and read a book to her that had just arrived through the post: ‘Ant and Bee’.  I was so pleased with this as I remember reading Ant and Bee books when I was little.  D liked it though it was quite a long story and she got tired of reading half way through.

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After that we had dinner and M & D played together in the trampoline.  There seemed to be a lot of chanting going on but I couldn’t tell what the game was.  They were quite difficult to get in the bath but got in when I promised them they could make a ‘potion’.

At bedtime we read Peter Pan (a Ladybird young readers edition) which they both adore.  I really want to take them to Kensington Gardens after schools have started – we’ll have the place to ourselves!

Now I’m off to research motorised ladybirds.

Aren’t They Lucky?

I was chatting to a grandmother at M’s summer chess club this morning (more on that later) and we discovered we’d both come from Wimbledon.  She asked me which school M goes to and I replied that she’s home schooled now.  She was amazed, shocked and fascinated.  She asked a few odd questions like ‘won’t they [the girls] be lonely?’ And ‘isn’t the school environment something they will have to learn to cope with in life?’.  The answers are ‘no’ and ‘no’.  But generally she was just curious and friendly rather than rude and judgemental as some can be.  She was also amazed that my girls would be open to learning from me and I said that they are good at listening and are generally very well behaved.  She didn’t seem to understand that we hadn’t used some form of ‘discipline’ to make them like this and looked quite thoughtful when I said that I only speak to them as I would want to be spoken to.  Before we parted she said ‘aren’t they lucky?’  Which I thought was a lovely thing to say!  I always feel nervous telling strangers about home educating and find myself sounding almost apologetic but hopefully confidence will come in time.

So we started a 3 day course of chess today.  Initially, M was reluctant to go but when I collected her after class she was bouncing around with happiness!  She still isn’t sure if she wants to go back because she feels like she has too much to do here so I tried to explain to her that she’s got months and years to play at home now!

I had to wait around for 3 hours while the chess course was going on.  I’ve been trying to find home education groups to join and as I had so much time on my hands I called a lady who runs the South West London and Surrey Borders Home Ed Group.  She advised me not to start on a formal education for M just yet as she will still need time to recover from school.  She said to just read to her lots, take her out to places and leave things lying around for her to pick up if she’s interested.  This makes sense to me as M is LOVING just pottering around with her toys upstairs and playing in the garden with D and gets quite annoyed if she gets interrupted.  She couldn’t do all this when she was at school because there wasn’t enough time and she was too tired.

J has been off work for the long weekend and has taken more days off to look after D while I take M to chess.  On our return home I was seriously expecting J to be asleep while D watched Tinkerbell but I was very surprised to see them both in the garden!  Wonders never cease.

Viruses and Stepping Stones

We had another lazy day today!  I don’t know what is wrong with us but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s viral.  Cue another question from M about viruses…  I’m beginning to see how people do autonomous home schooling now, I could just sit at the laptop doing research on questions I don’t know the answer to for half the day.

Further to this, my tentative attempts to get M to do some formal work are not working!  Yesterday she was doing 5 times table questions on Mathletics.  She was stubbornly refusing to say the times tables and insisting on counting in 5s instead, even though it was taking her longer to figure out the answer!  So today I made a 5 times table stepping stones game in the hope that it might engage her a little…

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It didn’t.

She still insisted on counting in 5s rather than saying the times table itself.  Grr.  Ah well, I think I will drop it for a while as she’s been a bit tearful today so obviously not in the right frame of mind anyway.

I also did some number stepping stones for D which went down quite well.  I got her to jump to 20 in 2s and count backwards from 20 to 1 which she enjoyed but it only lasted about 2 minutes before she wanted to do something else!  I really need to have a few more tricks up my sleeve.

Neither of them are showing an interest in the germs on hands experiment.  M recorded her results yesterday but wasn’t interested in doing it today.  I feel like I need to be sensitive to M’s ‘freedom to quit‘ at the moment.  Having sent her to school for 2 years against her will I think I have some reparations to make before I feel I can start gently pushing her again.  We didn’t go to gymnastics today because both girls got quite tearful at the prospect so I said we wouldn’t go.  Two pairs of big brown eyes were swimming with tears, looking at me a bit disbelievingly that they’d been allowed to stay at home.

So today was a bit of a non-starter.  We had fun picking apples though and M made a nice sign for the box of apples we left outside for passers-by.  And the girls played upstairs with their toys for ages.  I kind of love days like these because they were so rare when M was at school: there was never time for her to look through her toys at her own pace.

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This evening I made an ‘I’m bored’ envelope.  It has lots of slips of paper inside that the girls can fish out for ideas of what to do when they’re bored.  M helped me cut up the paper this evening and seemed really pleased with the idea.

I’ve got lots more to say about how weird it is not to have time pressures; how negative reactions towards home-schooling really rile me and how the ONLY negative reactions I’ve had so far have all been from teachers… but that’s a whole other post and I’m off to bed.

Brain-dead Day

I’ve been fasting today and I have felt well and truly brain-dead.  I struggled to explain a Mathletics question to M: in the end I told her she’d have to figure it out herself or do something else.  Oh dear.  I almost fell asleep while doing Reading Eggs with D too.  I think I need to up my calories a bit so that I can survive HEing on fast days!

Gymnastics again today.  Girls seemed very tired before we even set off.  I was half wondering if we should go at all but I thought it would be a shame to miss it.  So the day was generally a quiet one (even J was quiet?!).  After gymnastics, the girls had a quick play on their ‘boat’ (I haven’t been able to sit in the lounge for 2 days now) and then asked to watch Tinkerbell.  It was pouring down with rain until about 4pm today so we did activities inside for the rest of the day.  These included Mathletics, Reading Eggs, LeapFrog computer and lots and lots of painting.  They have both painted a picture for ‘Fun Bum’ which is D’s new name for J.

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After that we had a game of catch and piggy in the middle in the hallway and then I went upstairs to sort out piles of clothes that are going to various places/people.  M fished around for long-forgotten toys in the toy cupboard while D very sweetly ‘read’ some old board-books to her toy.  And then it was D’s bedtime!  Where did the day go?

I played Jenga with M once D was asleep and then she read to me (at her insistence?!) for 10 minutes.  Tonight is the first night that she hasn’t cried or tried emotional blackmail on me to get me to stay up there with her.  Hoorah, we’re finally seeing progress.

So I was going to tell you about the funny/strange conversations I had with M yesterday before bed…  When we were in the coffee shop yesterday I was looking wistfully at the stationery downstairs in Tesco’s and remembered how a horrible witchy old lady made me empty out my pockets in her shop: I’d been staring at the stationery for so long she thought I had been stealing.  I recounted this story to the girls and M was fascinated by it.  She brought it up again once I had put D to bed last night and said if I had stolen things from the shop, would I have gone to jail?  Do police put things back that have been stolen?  And lots of other questions.  I even found myself explaining what a fence was.  M has always had an interest in the criminal underworld.

The other M story almost made me cry…  We’ve been reading Usborne’s Young Readers Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I adored this book as a child and I’m so pleased that M loves it too.  There is a bit in the story where the Sara’s father dies thinking he is penniless and his friend has to find her to let her know it was all a big mistake and she isn’t poor at all.  M didn’t understand why the man had to find Sara and I explained that when parents die they usually leave all their money to their children.  M very seriously asked “What would I do?  Would I leave D at home and go out with some money and ask someone else to look after us?”  I could have wept with the sweetness of it.  Not only because she immediately assumed responsibility for looking after D but because she actually thought that would be something she might have to do at some point and she was really preparing herself for it.  She then asked “So how do they [solicitors] know if you’re dead, do they keep checking every hour?”.  Lord love a duck.

Another question I don’t know the answer to…

This is to remind me to do a bit of research: M asked me on the bus the other day – ‘why do the doors make that psshhh’ noise?’.  Erm, dunno.  I haven’t ever even questioned it, they just do!

One for the questions page, I think.

‘This is my Mum, she’s the most boring Mum in the world’

This is what D was cheerfully telling the man at Timpsons today.  She also told him that J is the smelliest Dad in the world, so phew, I’m not a total loser then.

So after Timpsons, The World’s Most Boring Mum took the girls to Costa’s.  They were exhausted after an hour and a half of gymnastics.  M was a bit upset because today she wasn’t put in the same group as D during the activities.  I thought this was a good thing because she was doing stuff appropriate for her age but she disagreed.  However, she had cheered up after giggling at D’s antics in Timpsons so we had a peaceful coffee time.

While M was finishing her triple-choc muffin, I got D reading her Biff Chip and Kipper book we borrowed from the library as part of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge.  She was soooo proud of herself for reading her first book, and made it all the way through to the last page before having a flop.  Well done D!  M is also super-motivated to read for the challenge and chose Dr Seuss’ ‘Daisy Head Mayzie’ as her book.  It’s just a tad too difficult for her (mainly because there’s a lot of Americanisms in it) but she’s storming ahead with hardly any flops at all!

When we got back home, the girls played outside for a bit but they both got too hot so they decided to come in and continue playing on the ‘boat’ J had set up for them using the sofa this morning.  It’s not great when I want a comfy sit down with a cuppa and I walk into a room strewn with cushions, blankets and sofas turned back against the walls but oh well.  There’s a lot of talk of shipwrecks and pirates in their games recently, I think since watching Swiss Family Robinson in Nottingham.

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After this, we did a science experiment!  Not our first, but this one I intend to do properly and get M to record the results in a science journal.  SO this is what led me to my idea: before bed last night, M and I were practising grown-up air kissing.  When she asked me why we do it I said I didn’t know so she guessed that it might be so that we don’t pass germs on!  It sounded like a very good guess to me so then I suggested that the British handshake was probably a terrible way of greeting people as you’re passing germs on that way too. This got me thinking of how I could show the girls all the germs that are on their hands and I remembered this.  So I gave the girls 2 slices of bread each and got them to rub their hands on the first slice before washing their hands and rubbing them again on the second slice.  Then we put the slices into separate labelled bags and M sprinkled a little water into each one.  Then M carefully got another slice of bread and put it straight into a bag without hardly touching it.  Then I put all the bags in a dark cupboard. I didn’t really discuss the rhyme or reason for what we were doing other than a basic ‘to see how much bacteria is on your hands’.  The girls were too knackered so I’ll go into it in more detail when we can see some results.

It’s incredible what an effect gymnastics has had on their energy levels, D in particular.  Though today she managed to do the full 1.5 hours without sitting some of it out.  This afternoon she was good for nothing so I got them both in a very early bath.  M got out first and had a play on Numberjacks Mission to Learn.  Then I coaxed D out with a promise of making mine and J’s pizza… the girls loved doing this.  M tried an artichoke and was keen to try an anchovy but in the end neither wanted to eat the pizza as they are totally put off by tomatoes… sigh.

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Had some very interesting conversations with M tonight, but I’ll leave that until tomorrow as I need to go to bed. NOW.

Growing

Well we’re back in London after an entire month away… the moths have been having a lovely old time without us and judging by the cobwebs, so have the spiders.  J has been pretty much working solidly for the past 3 weeks so not a lot in the house or garden has been touched for a month.  But he was very pleased to see us all, as were we!

Last week M’s first tooth fell out and I wasn’t allowed to tell J so that she could surprise him on our return, so here’s a picture of the gap…

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Her new tooth is so much bigger and it’s hard to imagine how it will fit into her mouth but I guess she’s got a lot of growing to do.  She’s already grown 2cm in the last month?!

Talking of growing, while we were in Nottingham I devised a 2-week menu for the girls snacks and meals.  So far it’s working well, if only because it means I’m not racking my brains for what to feed them everyday – now I can glance at the menu on the wall.  M was tucking in to raw spinach and Pizza Express dressing for lunch today, we had both forgotten that she liked it!

On the subject of growing (again) while I was gardening I noticed that M’s courgette plant had taken on giant proportions while we were away – check out the scary courgette in the picture below, I’d guess it’s about 25cm long.  I cut off one of the smaller courgettes and asked M if she’d like to try it for dinner – she was really keen!  I sliced it and then M brushed it with oil and ground black pepper over it.  Being a courgette-hater, I tried really hard not to show my disgust but actually she put it in her mouth and said ‘yuk’ then described to me exactly why I don’t like it: ‘it’s all sloppy’. Yes. Yuk. Yuk. Yuk.

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This week I booked the girls in for a gymnastics course at Tolworth Gym Club.  They were very excited about it, D said ‘you’ll be so surprised when you see me on the telly’.  I do wonder how children’s minds work: she must have thought she would be doing gymnastics like we saw on telly last year in the Olympics… Ha ha.  It was more forward rolls and learning how to somersault properly.

I stayed to watch them from a viewing gallery above the gym.  It was hilarious to see D running through her ‘I’m too tired’, ‘I don’t want to’ routine with the gym teachers.  She really doesn’t like being told what to do by anyone, or she claims she is being ‘bossed about’ and won’t do it.  At one point they were supposed to be running up to a block and leaping on to it: D was doing a slow walk with her head hanging down and then a half-arsed step onto the block instead.  Tee hee.  The teacher (a lovely young boy) turned D to face him and they had a little chat then they shook hands and she improved after that! I would love to know what magic words he used…

As for actual ‘school’ work, we’re not starting for a couple of weeks because of various classes and play dates going on.  However, the girls did do a bit off their own back anyway – D has been going water colour crazy and did some lovely rainbow pictures.  She’s done tons of them so when I suggested she paint something different she painted an incredible picture of a conch shell (I think that’s what they’re called: the ones you put to your ear to hear the sea).  I haven’t taken a picture of it yet but here’s one she did in Nottingham – she’s drawn a heart, lungs, diaphragm and wind pipe…

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While the girls were getting ready for bed, D started looking at her counting poster: I showed her the tens column and then she read the whole poster from 1 to 100.  I made a big fuss because it’s the first time she’s counted to 100 and she looked so proud of herself!  Then M tried to teach her how to count in 5s and D immediately switched off.  It just goes to show that you can’t force anything on D but she will come to it eventually on her own.

While I was reading D a story this evening, M started on an activity book that a friend let me photocopy – it was given to her by her son’s school and it’s a good mix of fun drawing, reading and writing activities.  M set to on the writing and did some lovely neat lettering.  We looked at what she’d done and talked about which words would come 1st for neatness.

I know my two are quite academic but it still amazes me that they WANT to learn, especially when it’s quite ‘dry’ things like counting and handwriting… I breathe a sigh of relief when we have days like this because I can stop worrying that they’re going to come out of home-ed as a couple of thick-os 🙂