Category Archives: February

A Good Day

Today has been a good day.  Phew.  Totally sausage-led but the learning was so OBVIOUS I would have been a fool to force either of them to do what I wanted instead.

The day’s learning started at 8am with D wanting to work on her space lapbook.  We started this yesterday and D was literally jumping up and down on the spot with excitement when I told her about it.  So far, she has illustrated the phases of the moon, researched and written about the far side of the moon, drawn the planets in order from the Sun outwards, found out which planets are solid and which are gas and how many moons each planet has.  This lapbook is going to be huge!  This morning she started on a night sky observations mini book.  D drew and listed that she had seen Orion, Jupiter and Sirius last night.

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Meanwhile, M wanted to continue with her Spain lapbook so I got her finding out how to write and pronounce simple greetings in Spanish.  She was very sweetly speaking SLOWLY AND CLEARLY into my phone and getting spoken responses back from Google – amazing technology!

The girls had a bit of a play on the Lego app after breakfast and then we got dressed and they played with Baby Annabell together.  While this was going on I did some research on good android STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) apps.  I found some amazing ones – D was busy repairing cars in ‘My Little Work Garage’ while M was adding cogs, pumps, elastic bands, weights and all sorts to make new machines in ‘Pettson’s Inventions.

We also had some interesting chats and questions: we watched this YouTube clip and talked about how your hearing gets worse as you age; we discussed why birds can fly and humans can’t; and why people didn’t live as long in the old days.  All these discussions stemmed from the girls’ questions!  And they were PROPER discussions rather than me spouting my ‘wisdom’: they both had ideas of their own to contribute.

I did get them to (happily) complete a sheet in their workbooks at David Lloyd before we went for a swim.  M did some subtraction sums (without any angry tears, yay!) and D did some reading and writing.

D is now able to swim 1/4 of a length unaided so I feel it’s now safe enough for me to leave her alone while I have a proper swim.  I managed two lengths today before my muscles started to buzz and I thought I’d better get back to D – the lifeguard always looks half asleep, I wouldn’t trust him to notice D was in danger!

It feels like we’ve done a week’s work in a day today: M was almost incapable of doing anything once we were back from swimming because she was so tired.  My new book for D arrived today so we read that in the hour before bed.  It’s an ENORMOUS book called ‘Children’s Atlas of the Universe’ and was recommended to me by a friend.  D adores it and there is so much information in it I feel like I need to set aside a day to get to grips with it!

Lastly, here’s a picture of some tissue paper stars we made at our Stoneleigh meet up yesterday, aren’t they great?


Trying to Get to the Bottom of it

A few days ago I wrote about how angry and upset M gets when she doesn’t understand or can’t do something (see Anger Management).  We’ve had two more of these episodes this week.

Firstly, when I tried to show M some number sequences.  Now M has always adored maths: when we made a cake this week I asked her all sorts of mathematical questions surrounding cakes (if we split each quarter into 3 slices how many slices will we get out of the whole cake; if we eat 2 slices a day, how many days will we take to eat it, etc etc) and she was asking for more and more questions.  I know she loves number sequencing and I thought she’d be interested in the Fibonacci code but we never even got that far because she was reduced to angry tears after we’d gone through a few questions on a worksheet together.

The second upset was when we were having fun together just before bed and I was making her little teddy do exercises which was making her giggle.  She wanted to make her teddy do the same but couldn’t manage it because her hands aren’t big enough.  She dissolved into angry tears again and each time she calmed down she would start to well up when I tried to say goodnight.  It brought back memories of when she was upset about school and I ended up going to sleep with her as it was quite late by then anyway.

We held hands in bed together and I chatted to her about how I could help her when she’s feeling upset.  She did tell me that she isn’t angry with herself, or with me (although I must say that is what it feels like), but just with the thing she can’t do.  We established that when she feels like that she doesn’t want to be on her own (although she does often stomp out of the room) but she would like me to sit next to her and hold her hand.

So that is what we shall be trialling over the next few weeks.  Let’s hope it helps.  I do wonder if these outbursts are linked to residual feelings from school as I do not remember them happening prior to that.  I asked M if she remembered feeling angry when she got home from school and she had no recollection!  In fact she looked completely blank!  I felt a bit outraged about that to be honest.  Anyone who knew what I was going through last year would be amazed to hear that all the turmoil had been forgotten (it felt like “I” at the time because I was the dumping ground for all M’s angry feelings at the end of each day, but of course she was obviously going through hell too!).

I think M is like an onion (maybe not so much a sausage after all): there are lots of layers to peel back and discover;  and they sometimes make me a little weepy.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

I’ve been reading quite a bit about unschooling methods recently, courtesy of this website, and I’ve been mulling it over.  I have always been very child-led (co-sleeping, baby-led weaning and now home-ed, to name but a few parenting choices I’ve made along the way), so it would make sense to continue the theme into education.

However, I just can’t get over the feeling that (a) I need to be able to show PROOF of their learning (to husband, family, LEA etc.) and (b) that they should be keeping up with their schooled peers.  Until I get over the fear that they will come out of HE quite thick and nothing to show for it, then I will never be an unschooler.  Not that unschooled children are thick (the ones I’ve met seem very intelligent): It is a fear based on nothing but the ridiculous idea that if I’m not leading their education then they won’t move forward.  I know it is nonsense but the fear is still there.

Maybe unschooling is something I can aim for over time as there is no doubt that both sausages would respond well to it (what child wouldn’t?).

M has not been responding well to parental-led education lately so with unschooling in mind, this week I have only pushed once for some written work from M (D has done reams of the stuff off her own back) and it started well but ended in tears (more of that another time); I have put the telly on whenever it has been requested (D is obsessed with Jake and the Neverland Pirates at the moment); let M play on her new Lego app as long as she wants; let D use her new-found Lego building skills and let them both watch films whenever they want.

The sausages couldn’t be happier, they even seem to be able to self-regulate a bit (D switched the telly off and said she wanted to do something “not on a laptop” and M had a break from playing her Lego app to play an imaginative game with D and is currently working on a puppet show).

But the exercise books are still there, I can seem them out of the corner of my eye as I type, and they are screaming to be used.

I am definitely not ready to be an unschooler… yet.

Best Friends

We were having a funny argument in the car last Thursday: the sausages were convinced they were ALWAYS best friends and NEVER argued.  Ha!  I tried to convince them otherwise but they ganged up on me and swore I was wrong.  Since then, every time I’ve heard cross voices I’ve called over “you wouldn’t be arguing, would you?”.  Any bickering has stopped immediately and they’d call back “No, we were just pretending!  We’re really best friends!”.  Tee hee.  They kept it up for FOUR DAYS.  Pretty impressive!  But yesterday they caved in and admitted that yes, alright, they do argue.  Well, it was nice while it lasted.

We’ve had a nicely paced few days: the girls have started on a Matisse sticker book (we’ll be going to the Matisse exhibition at the Tate Modern in a few weeks so I thought we’d start some preparation).  Matisse cut-outs are my absolute favourite works of art so this will be an easy project for me to get across to them.  These sticker books are wonderful – you can either create your own masterpiece using Matisse’s shapes, or replicate his artwork.  M chose to replicate and D chose to make her own:

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D has spent quite a bit of time doing worksheets for her folder.  She’s been concentrating on learning her 2 times table and has been doing lots of colouring in sheets I found on The Lesson Library.  She is pleased as punch to have her folder filling up, however I think she reached burn out yesterday because as much as she wanted to continue she just didn’t have the energy to do it.

I have been meaning to get the girls writing out thank you notes for Christmas and birthday presents for AGES – it’s absolutely shocking that it’s nearly March and we still haven’t done it.  However, since they have become interested in typing, J set them both up with an email account and they eagerly sat down to type out messages to family and friends, hoorah job done!

M has now gone one step further and wants to be able to type as fast as me so I asked on one of the many Facebook groups I’m a member of if anyone knew of a good touch typing programme and someone replied with a link to this.  M spent 2 hours on it yesterday and has mastered the middle row of keys.

Yesterday we made a delicious chocolate cake, with M being the chef (Yes Chef!) as the recipe was from her library book.


We’ve done loads of activity books and magazines…


We’ve watched films, CBeebies, played Where’s My Water and lots and lots of Lego and imagination too…

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Led by Sausages

We’ve been busy over the last few days but it has been utterly sausage-led activities (apart from a necessary trip to the post office – cue a little conversation about doing things because you HAVE to, so that you can do things you WANT to, i.e. if we don’t post these passport applications off then you won’t be going to Spain in 6 weeks!).

Oh, and also I tried to wedge a little chat about Darwin into Wednesday’s excitement about M’s Darwin family story.  I opened up Galore Park’s history book and started to read the page about creationism.  I asked the girls what they thought of it:  M asked “why did God rest on the 7th day?”  So I replied, “probably because he was knackered”.  M went into peals of laughter and decided she didn’t believe in God anymore.  D said she was going to believe on alternate days.

I was pleased I’d squeezed that little snippet of creationism in because later that day we got onto a conversation about evolution.  M asked some really intelligent questions about cells and I think I think it pleased her that I didn’t really know the answers, ha!

Thursday we had our regular HE meet up.  The children had set up stalls to sell whatever they fancied.  We had made about 20 fairy cakes for the sausages’ stall.  The girls manned it and dealt with the customers really well – I was impressed.  We sold the cakes for 10p each but somehow managed to make £2.60?!  Somebody was fleeced.  I managed to convince the girls that we should give the money to charity and we had a conversation about who needs the money more than we do.  We’ll probably save it up to do something charitable with when we have a bit more!

Today we made a necessary trip to Wimbledon to post our passport applications off.  Both girls wanted to go to the library afterwards and honestly, I have never known such feverish excitement about the library before: “Mum! Mum! Look at this picture of a FULL MOON!! Mum!! It’s a SOLAR ECLIPSE!!”.  D’s obsession with space is still going strong, as you can see by her book choices:


Meanwhile, M scoured the bookshelves looking for more fairy books…


The rest of the day was spent doing table activities and was again led totally by the sausages.  D really wanted to do some worksheets to put into her folder (she loves her folder) so she did some handwriting practice and some new sums: adding tens.  She really impressed me by how quickly she grasped it.  M spent her time doing some absolutely IMMACULATE colouring in.  Usually I do think colouring in is a bit of a waste of time as there is no creativity involved but occasionally it’s nice to relax into it for a while.

As I said before, we’re off to Spain in a few weeks and D has been begging me to do a lapbook on Spain so I printed one off the other day and the girls got started on it.  As you might imagine, they were pretty zonked by this time though so then I put Jake and the Neverland Pirates DVD on for them while I got on with dinner.  There has been a lot of interest in making paper pirate hats and treasure maps lately – it seems everything is educational!


Little things: I bought a load of BBC Natural History sets from Google Play for an incredible price the other week.  I was watching “Wonders of the Solar System” with D the other morning and Brian Cox said something about the “raw power of the naked sun”.  D thought it was odd to say the sun was naked.  Later I heard her saying to a visitor: “Did you know the sun is NAKED?!”

Story Time!

The girls finished their stories today.  It has amazed me how popular this unplanned project has been.  I have tried many times before to get M to write stories or books but never with much success.  It seems that getting them to play out the story themselves with me taking the photos really fired their imaginations – I guess it’s a no-brainer compared to sitting and looking at a blank sheet of paper while trying to come up with an imaginative story!

The other aspect that made a difference was that they got to type rather than write the words.  It seemed to make it more exciting somehow!

So here are the two stories.  D’s is gorgeously simple.  M’s is very intricate and if you look closely at the pictures, you’ll see there is more happening in the pictures than the narrator is letting on… very clever story writing!

Tinker Bell and Louis

Katie’s Surprise

Story Books and Ice Cream

Today we got cracking with a couple of recipes from M’s cookery book she borrowed from the library last week.  She chose to make caramel ice cream and I made a toffee sauce to go with it.  Om nom nom.

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M is always convinced she hasn’t learnt anything so I tested her over lunch (much to her pleasure, she loves tests): she knows the difference between caster and granulated sugar and why we use caster in cooking; she knows the three components which went into making our ice-cream (custard, caramel and cream); how caramel is made and what ‘dissolve’ means!

After lunch, both the sausages wanted to make a story with photos.  M thought out each scene very thoroughly, while D’s was a bit more haphazard, as you might expect.  These are a couple of the photos from their stories.  Next, they’re going to write or type the narration to go with the photos.

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This activity really fired their imaginations and their stories went on and on.  I ended up taking control of the camera as there was so much going on.

Then, while I cooked dinner, M sat in the kitchen and typed the beginning of her story.  D spent ages playing with Lego: she can build whole sets and follow the instructions all by herself now.  She’s very proud of herself!

After dinner the girls played Disney’s ‘Where’s My Water’ app which I think is brilliant for logic, strategy and a bit of physics thrown in.  J has yet to be convinced.

The day ended with both girls doing a bit of cross stitch, followed by a disco on the bed.  A great day, just the right pace and everyone happy!


‘Yeeesss!’ Moments

I don’t usually write posts on Sundays but I thought I would get these thoughts down before I forgot.  I hope it will also help to counteract the negativity in my previous post!

I was beginning to despair on Thursday as we had another ‘slow’ day.  D was slightly under the weather, I wasn’t feeling too hot either and M was pleading for a pyjama day.  So we cancelled our HE meet up and didn’t do a lot.

During the day I began to despair of M’s ‘meh’ attitude and worried that she would never find a love of learning.  THEN, at about 6pm, she sat down and made the loveliest picture I’ve seen her draw for a long time.  Yeeesss!


While she was busy I was printing out a poster on several sheets of paper which had lots of stone age information on it.  When I showed it to her she resumed her ‘meh’ attitude until I suggested she could help me put it together.  She even got enthusiastic about the possibility of making a Stonehenge model out of clay.

On Friday morning we went into Wimbledon to buy clay, visit the library and see the new Tinker Bell film.  Unfortunately (or not…) we arrived at the library just as a babies and toddlers sing-a-long was starting in the fiction section so we were FORCED to spend some time amongst the information books.  Horror of horrors.  D was very disappointed and lay down under a chair for the remainder of our stay.  M, on the other hand, kept pulling books off the shelf and looking through them with interest.  She found one on art and pointed out a Klee and a Mondrian painting she recognised.  Yeeesss!

Then she pulled a cookery book out and avidly looked through it.  The sing-a-long eventually stopped and M went off to look for fairy books.  She found one and sat down to read to herself (yeeesss!) while I continued looking.  When I announced it was time to leave she walked and read at the same time because she didn’t want to put the book down.  Yeeesss!  (She developed a hatred for reading stories after having to read boring phonics every day after school, fingers crossed that her love for reading is back…).

On Friday evening, M had a production line of models lined up made with our new clay.  Including an amazing model of Skull Rock (complete with waves lashing up the side) from Peter Pan.  Yeeesss!  I will post a picture when she has painted it.

Her love of learning is in there, I’m sure of it… hidden under a deep layer of ‘meh’…

Anger Management

I was remembering how angry M used to be after school and I made a discovery recently which I think could have been a contributing factor…

We were at an HE group and all the children were gathered around to listen to one of the mums talk about an activity they were about to do.  I thought it was explained very simply and clearly but after she had finished talking, M came up to me and I could hear the rising panic in her voice as she told me she didn’t understand a word of what the lady said.  So I explained each point to her again until she was happy and understood what she was being asked to do.

M not understanding what’s going on is quite a common occurrence.  Not that she is dim-witted, far from it, but it’s like her brain has to process one thought at a time before it can take in the next one.  The other part that is difficult for M to handle is the ‘not-knowing’ which can drive her crackers. Recently I realised that this is probably a trait that I have handed down to her, for example: I can’t answer any of the questions on University Challenge and I can’t watch it because my ignorance (and to be fair, the contestants’ smugness) makes me so angry!

If I try to explain something new to M, more often than not it will end in M having a strop because she doesn’t understand what I’m saying.  A few days after the HE group I asked her what she did at school if she didn’t understand what her teacher was saying and she replied that she would just copy what everyone else was doing.

If she panicked while trying to listen to a mum gently explaining something, imagine how stressed she must have been doing new activities day after day at school, where she obviously didn’t feel comfortable enough to admit she didn’t understand.  Poor girl.

So all this came to mind today because M picked a wonderful cookery book for children from the library. We were having a look at the list of ingredients for caramel icecream (!) and she asked me to explain ‘ml’ to her.  No sooner had I begun when she shouted ‘I DON’T UNDERSTAND A WORD OF WHAT YOU JUST SAID TO ME!’.  I got angry and told her not to be so rude, after all she had just asked me to explain it!  I had to try hard not to start slamming crockery as I dried the dishes and tried to maintain a dignified silence.  M was silent too so after a while I took a deep breath and suggested she think of a more polite way of telling me she doesn’t understand and I will try to explain it a different way.

I got a thunderous look in response.

It obviously goes deep as she sat in silence for the next half an hour: no crying, no huffing, just silence.  Maybe I will broach the subject again in a few days…


Role Reversal

This morning things were a bit weird… M refused to get dressed when she discovered that she had her swimming lesson today.  She was so adamant and it was so out of character that I wasn’t sure how to handle it!  In the end I feigned indifference and she decided she wanted to put on a party outfit.  D on the other hand was very eager to get dressed because she wanted to paint her paper mache cave.  After I had done my jobs she sat down and got on with painting while M swanned around looking sparkly and glamorous.  This is a complete role reversal: usually it’s D who does the dressing up and M who does the work!  It really threw me as D then spent ages mixing her colours to get just the right shade for her cave, which is what M would usually do.

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M soon realised that being dressed up is actually quite boring!  We had a chat about Darwin after M said she was interested in how horses and humans evolved while looking at our wallbook.  She was intrigued because she’s just bought a monkey Sylvanian Family called the Darwins.  She was then persuaded to get changed and paint her stone age cave too.  Phew.

I didn’t write a post yesterday because half the day was spent in Kingston looking at kettles and DVD players.  I knew there would be a few appliance breakages this year but we’re now onto our 4th! Although I was to blame for one of them.

In the afternoon, D completed a level of Reading Eggs while M did a page from Galore Park maths.  Then we watched figure skating at the Winter Olympics, which M loved.  We’ve done more English and Maths in the David Lloyd café this afternoon and then we went for our swim.  I am pooped!