Category Archives: July

Sports Day and a Trip to London

Squeezing in a last post before we leave for Nottingham tomorrow – we’ve had a packed few days so here’s a round-up of what we’ve been up to:

On Wednesday afternoon we went to an HE sports day event at Carshalton Park, organised by Jo from 3 Kids and a Gluestick.  It was BOILING hot but luckily we were shaded by trees for the most part.  The races were great fun although the little ones (D included) found it difficult to understand that there were no ‘winners’ and that everyone got a sweet for taking part.  D refused to join in any races (in-line with her current fear of failure) and I didn’t push it and hoped she would enjoy watching the fun anyway.  Turns out she also finds watching M losing quite upsetting too and she got quite distraught about it :(.  I’m hoping that it’s just a 5-year old phrase!  Jo created some amazing bubbles which the kids loved, and I think M might be inspired to make her own, I’ve seen instructions how to do it here.  D was desperate to go into the nearby playground at the end of the get together and the girls were in there for another 2 hours – they looked like a couple of tomatoes at the end of the day!

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She whizzed through her books for the summer reading challenge at the library so we went to borrow more books on Thursday morning.  Last year they had a rule where you could only read two books for the challenge per library visit but this year they now allow you to borrow as many at a time as you want so we took out the remaining 4 books to read while we’re away.  M was pleased as punch to be chatting to the librarian about the books she had read!

On Thursday afternoon we went to M’s best friend’s house (B) for a few hours. The adoration between those two is still evident, they’ve known each other for years now and they get so excited when they get to see each other.  They played in the paddling pool, talked about Minecraft and Lego and made loom bands.  D stayed and chatted to the grown-ups :).  They are both very taken with B’s rabbit, George.  He is so laid back, M was able to stroke him for half an hour.  The inevitable ‘when can we have a rabbit’ question arose and I reminded M that she was supposed to be doing the research into what kind of pet would suit our family best.  I’m thinking that the level of interest into doing the research equates to the level of interest in actually looking after the pet and so far it’s not very impressive…

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On Friday, J took the day off work and we went into London with the aim of seeing the beach at the South Bank and the street performers in Trafalgar Square.  As it happened, neither were interested in the beach but there were some fantastic fountains nearby and if we ever go again we will bring swimming costumes and towels – J and the girls got totally drenched!  There was a ‘love’ theme to the South Bank – I’m not sure I got the point entirely but there was a lovely atmosphere.

We treated ourselves to coffee and cake at Le Pain Quotidien before heading over the bridge to Trafalgar Square.  There were lots of screams of excitement as the girls saw landmarks they recognised: London Eye, The Shard, Big Ben and telephone boxes.  After wandering around Trafalgar Square, we spied Big Ben in the distance so we walked down to it, getting a quick look at the Queens Calvary on the way.  All in all, we had a really lovely day out and the girls coped admirably with the walking and intense heat.  And we just made it home before the storm broke!

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The weekend has been chilled out – we visited J’s parent’s; watched bit of Judo on the Commonwealth Games; watched films; made biscuits; played Minecraft; visited the park; the girls helped me do some cleaning and now I’m off to panic about how little packing I have done for tomorrow…

One last note, it’s becoming apparent that D is beginning to ‘unschool’ her own bedtimes – she is becoming increasingly aware of when she is tired and when she is ready for bed, adamantly telling me when she is definitely not ready!  I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this as it also seems that she is ready for a later bedtime.  The knock-on effect of this is that M will miss out on her special time with me once D has gone to bed.  This is something I will re-visit after our holiday as I’m sure that all the sea air and the excitement of being with her family 24/7 will knock her out earlier than usual anyway!  These later bedtimes has also led to very cute ‘naughtiness’ where the girls chatter together, sometimes until as late as 10.30pm, giving each other sums to do…

DT, Art, Reading and Botany!

I’ve slowed down on my blog posts, as you might have noticed.  Partly because I feel less ‘feverish’ about our HE life in general as we relax into it and partly because I’m trying to get a life!!  I actually bought a book this week.  A book!  I haven’t read a novel for well over a year and with our holiday in Northumberland coming up I thought now would be a good time to start.

So here’s a round up of what we’ve been up to recently:

With M’s request to do more DT, I did a bit of research on the kind of things she might like to make.  I’m finding at the moment that the sausages spend hours on Minecraft and then emerge at 6pm demanding something to do, which always takes me by surprise!  I figured I needed to be a bit more prepared so I put a list of DT ideas on the wall for M, which she has been referring to quite a bit!


We had Aunty S here for a day last weekend and M decided she wanted to make a moving picture, and she came up with this idea all by herself!


D liked it so much she made one too…


We also made a rubber band cannon using instructions I found here


And a dog made out of marshmallows and spaghetti (picture taken by M!)


And the girls have gone crazy for pop-up cards since I found some templates here


We’ve done quite a lot of art recently – We heated up large pebbles and melted crayons against them as per instructions I found here.


We’ve borrowed some K’Nex from Aunty Sh who has some from when her boys were young.  The girls adore it and have made all sorts of fabulous constructions from it.


D has gone art mad lately.  Recently she said she missed queuing up for the art room like she did at nursery so I have been setting up an art project in the kitchen and then leading her in when it’s all set up and ready – she’s pleased as punch with this idea.  Yesterday we watched a terrible school programme (terrible because I find the teacher so irritating) on CBeebies which showed the children drawing self portraits.  So afterwards I set up an art project with paints, a mirror and D’s art book so that she could do her own self portrait.  She loved this idea and it added a new dimension to her drawings: she tends to draw objects rather than people.


She has also drawn a great ‘trilogy’ of the trampoline…

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And a gorgeous robin (that looks rather like a surprised duck)


We’ve also been out on the bikes – M hasn’t ridden hers for months and she now looks far too big for hers.


And D (inspired by J) has been creating her own obstacle courses in the garden…

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Knowing that we’re going away next week, I’ve been trying really hard to clear the piles of clutter that are taking over each room in the house.  I hate coming back to mess and clutter.  I’ve so far managed to do the kitchen and lounge but have yet to tackle the worst room in the house – the home ed/dining room!  Luckily, the girls love vacuuming and mopping so I’ve been getting quite a bit of help.  This is D doing our ‘once in a decade’ vacuum under the bed!


M has also started the library’s summer reading challenge.  D decided she didn’t want to do it (I’m beginning to realise she has quite a fear of failure).  I could have offered to read the books to her but I felt that would then put M off reading hers so we will wait and see if she is ready to try next year.  M whizzed through her two books with a minimum of effort and it was lovely to se her reading in bed at night and I was able to join her to read on the sofa in the day.  I love this new reading phase as it’s also encouraging me to read too!


I am beginning to realise I really need to write posts more frequently to avoid them reading like a list!  So my last and final news is that I finally got out my Ebay bargain microscope (£3!) last night and the girls were super excited.  Unfortunately the microscope itself is a pile of crap and is only fit for the bin but it came with lots of specimen pots, labels, a magnifying glass and a child-safe guillotine.  The girls (M in particular) had great fun searching the garden for ‘specimens’ to put in the pots, researching the name of the plant and writing a label on the pot.  M had the fantastic idea of writing the label so small you had to use the magnifying glass to read it 🙂


I overheard M chatting to our neighbour over the fence and she offered M a dead viola flower with seeds for one of her pots – M was thrilled to bits!  She’s also very excited to plant the seeds.  She’s very proud that the only thing we’ve managed to grow from seed this year are her three sunflowers.  And here she is, tying the shoots to canes.


And I thought we hadn’t been doing a lot lately…  It is lovely to see M enthused about quite a few things now – she’s even made herself a timetable of the different things she wants to do each day.  This morning she came downstairs with a big beam on her face 🙂

Car gets sick and then M gets sick

We have had a very odd 10 days.  Last Monday, the car went into the garage for an MOT and didn’t come out again until Saturday morning, with a very hefty bill too.

We got to pottery ok in the afternoon, although we had quite a miserable wet walk from the tube station and back again, but we didn’t make it to ballet on Tuesday or swimming on Wednesday.  We’re really car-reliant and the thought of dragging the sausages along on long walks, do an hour of exercise and then a long walk home again was just a bit much for me to contemplate.

The main thing about last week was that each day the car was promised to us the following day, so I didn’t make alternative plans because I was thinking we’d have the car back – so we spent the entire week at home!  Actually, that turned out to be a good thing as by about Wednesday the girls started getting quite tired and their appetites dropped, and mine did too.  I did wonder if it was because we were all a bit mopey but it turned out we were all building up to a tummy bug.

THIS is when I am so happy that we HE because when the sausages have those in-between days where they’re not exactly ill but they’re not right either, you don’t feel you have to drag them into school.

By Friday we were all feeling a bit ropey.  We had already cancelled M’s archery class in Reading due to the lack of car but I had wondered about attending an HE sports day event in Crystal Palace.  However, because of our tummy bugs and the downpour outside we cancelled that too!. Then Saturday came and M had a full blown stomach upset but D and I recovered.  Poor M is only just managing to eat and stand up today (Tuesday).  And worst of all is that I booked a week-long course for her at All4Kids with her best friend and she’s missed half of it :(.  Poor M.

D has really missed her playmate and tonight sang a really heartfelt lullaby to M, which she had made up on the spot.  It was rather tear-inducing!

We have managed a few bits and bobs (though not very much, understandably) before the girls got too ill:

They had their last Judo class before summer and both girls have gone up a grade!


M had another of her best friends (B) over for a little play after J spontaneously asked his Dad and him out for lunch.  M is showing B her Minecraft creations… speaking of which I need to do a separate post on what the girls have created in Minecraft as it really is incredible.


They had a little DIY lesson from J:


Recently I asked both girls if there is anything they miss about school or nursery and M said she missed DT, sports day and the Christmas fair.  D said she missed making pig masks and queuing up…

Luckily, all of these things are do-able in HE too.  We missed sports day but we can go to any school Christmas fair (I don’t think I can ever return to M’s old school, given how rude her head-teacher was to me, the same goes for D’s nursery, unfortunately).  I offered to help D make a pig mask but I think the moment had passed and she wasn’t interested anymore.  So the only thing left was DT.

I set M a challenge to wrap an egg in such a way that it wouldn’t crack when thrown out of an upstairs window.  She got really excited about it!  Goes to show how much she likes DT :).  The first attempt cracked but the second worked a treat.


Then we made M’s ‘Cookie Cakes’ again.  She made the recipe up all by herself and they are really delicious!


Then the girls did some cleaning.  They still argue over who gets to do the mopping, but it was M’s turn this time and D did the vacuuming.


We’re off on a big family holiday to Northumberland in a couple of weeks and D has become fascinated by maps of the UK: spotting us in London, Grandma & Granddad in Nottingham and then trying to remember where Northumberland is.  I dug out an Usborne map of the UK sticker book which I bought ages ago and she has been happily doing that and asking questions about all the different landmarks.  She also adores this 150 piece jigsaw –


Something else that has really sparked her interest is a sketch pad that I bought for them both a while ago with the intention of taking them with us when we go out to encourage them to draw more (I bought one for me too!).  We haven’t taken them out yet but D has been drawing and drawing and painting and painting since getting hers!  She absolutely loves it.

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One final word and then I’m gone.  Today D asked me to ask her some sums so I did and I discovered that she has worked out how to add tens by herself!  I was asking M a sum (who was weakly trying to join in) 20+30 and M answered 50.  Then D said “yes, that’s because 2 and 3 make 5 so 20 and 30 make 50”!!  I was astounded!  I thought I would test her theory out to check she really understood what she was saying and she really did – with very proud beams all over her face :).

Digital Fun at The Barbican

You know when you go to places and you just wish that everyone else would go too?  Digital Revolution at The Barbican is one of those places.  We don’t generally do museums unless they are hands on (M can’t bear ‘looking in glass cases’ types of places, and I’m not too keen either) and this exhibition is as hands on as it gets!

There were old fashioned games to play (Donkey Kong!  Pong!  Speak & Spell! Pacman!), lots of coding info, and then lots of sound/motion/visual tech integrations that were really and truly fabulous…

An old fashioned telephone that you could dial and listen to various robot birds in the tree above…

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Music videos…




This incredible camera which transformed everything it could see into a sort of moving painting… (there were a lot of adults dancing about in front of this one)

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A very odd piece about death which caused anyone standing in front of the camera to have smoke curling out of their eyes…


An amazing piece with various screens about birds – this is the final screen which M did – the wings appeared whenever M raised her arms.


This was the girls’ favourite – you could speak a wish into a microphone and the wish would be written out in front of you, a chrysalis would then appear and then a butterfly, which would land briefly in your hand before flying up to join the rest…


There was so much more and it would be lovely to go back again to soak up more of it.

We had a lovely lunch outside on the terrace…


And I pointed out the large, ugly, black building in the background, which is where I used to work long ago. The girls were duly impressed.


Connections and Positiveness

I (or, we) have had a very positive couple of days.  Not a lot happened.  Just a few nudges here and there as M made a few signs to show she was open to more learning.

As you might expect, my heart leaps (though I retain my nonchalant composure) whenever M takes an interest in anything.  ANYTHING.  Anything at all will do.  This time the spark of interest was due to our weekly email of The Kid Should See This.  I cannot rate their email subscription highly enough – the variety of interesting videos is brilliant.  In last week’s email they had a clip of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.  The bit where he gets trapped in a lion’s cage.  I have to admit to never seeing a Chaplin film before and we both really enjoyed it.  M is still giggling about it now!  D loved looking at the air traffic visualisations and watched them over and over again – they’re stunning to look at.  We also watched a gorgeous film about polar bears on a quest for sea ice.

What else was positive?  Well, Lego was linked into a couple of games today.  First of all, M was playing on her Lego City app and she got quite excited when she realised that she had the same Lego as in the game she was playing.  She then got out her Lego City collection and began building it.  She generously shared some of it with D who loved playing with the bank robbers.

Also making a connection with Lego was D, who has recently changed from making her Lego tree-house over and over again to constructing a tree-house in Minecraft!  It’s getting very detailed and interesting.  Leading on from this, M began making a tree house out of junk modelling just before bed this evening!  I like the connections that are being made between the games and it goes to show that playing a game on a computer can be just as valid as playing with Lego!

I am also very pleased that I read Lori Pickert’s Mentoring Self Directed Learners as this was at the forefront of my mind when I sat down with M this evening while she made her tree house: I observed, helped her when she needed it, I didn’t jump in with solutions and I offered to make a note of a few things which she didn’t have time to do, which really eased her transition into bed!


Other connections: At the weekend J took the girls to a local fair where they bought a number of books.  M has particularly enjoyed doing an Usborne Sticker Dressing Long Ago book.  Today she brought it with us to do in the David Lloyd café before swimming and she was completing a page on the Palace of Versailles.  We looked at the richness of their clothes, how the King was dressed compared to the other nobles and how they all had clothes similar to Captain Hook in Peter Pan (who had modelled himself on King James II).  Another example of how telly watching can also be a valid use of time :).

Next positive happening: M announced that she would like to write a story so I suggested she get out her little book and she could start writing.  She got as far as the title before stomping out of the room because she didn’t know how to start the story.  I left it for a bit, we did other things, and then a few hours later I asked her if she’d like me to do it with her.  And I got a ‘Yes!’.  So she dictated the story to me and I scribbled like mad for 10 minutes.  We haven’t finished yet but I’m so pleased that she wanted to continue.

One last connection that I just remembered: D was doing ‘spin art’ on our Snap Circuits and then decided she wanted to draw a colour wheel so we had a think about what the primary and tertiary colours are and she coloured in the various segments, put it back on the circuit and watched the colours merge into brown!  A great example of connecting art and science!

While we’re on the subject of connections, thanks to a tweet from Katie Pybus at The Gallivanters, I read this post by Sandra Dodd on connections and how learning works, it makes for a very interesting read if you have a spare 10 minutes.