Category Archives: June

Our First Monkey Platter

OK, so if you don’t know what a monkey platter is, imagine a buffet of various foods, all on one plate – that’s what it is.  It was named and devised by Sandra Dodd after she saw monkeys being fed in a similar way while she was at the zoo with her family.

I hadn’t really paid much attention to monkey platters until someone mentioned it on Facebook the other day and it got me thinking of how it might encourage the sausages to eat/try a wider variety of foods.  Since beginning our unschooling of food 6 weeks ago, their appetite for Nutella has most definitely waned and they now seem at ease with the chocolate supplies (they can eat it whenever they want, and however much they want) so there is less gorging.  Now we’re at a strange phase where they might be hungry but quite often they haven’t got a clue what they want to eat!

I was mulling over how if I combined the sausages into one, they would have the most perfect, balanced diet you could wish for – D eats a whole range of dishes but is very suspicious of new things, whereas M is very limited in what she eats but will try anything new put in front of her!  As always… chalk and cheese :).  So I thought a shared monkey platter might encourage them to look each other’s food choices and perhaps eat something different.

So when we got back from pottery class today, I didn’t even ask them if they were hungry, or what they wanted to eat, I just rustled up a few things with each girl in mind, put it all onto one plate and announced it with a ‘ooh, who wants to come and see what I’ve made?’.  That was it.  Gobbling for the next 10 minutes.  The first thing D did was put a vegetarian frankfurter into her mouth and say ‘actually they’re quite nice’ (she’s been refusing to eat them forever) and M ate most of the chicken which I’d actually put out with D in mind and ate all of the peanut butter on toast!  Wowsers.  Next time I do one I will double the quantities I think.

Before… (corn on the cob, vegetarian frankfurters, breaded chicken, tuna mayonnaise and peanut butter on toast)




A great success, non?!

In other news… the sausages took great pleasure in beating me at Ludo this evening…


And apart from going to pottery today which they still LOVE, they were busy making birthday cards for their favourite Aunty S!  M did an absolutely stunning collage with some fabric scraps that I bought her from Ebay but unfortunately I forgot to take a picture before sending it off.  Ahh well, enjoy it Aunty S!

20140630_074122 20140630_104715

Life Got In The Way

Sorry for the lack of posts recently but life got in the way!  We’ve only been doing the usual activities but my evenings have been spent doing other activities (reading Kids, Carrots and Candy, for one) and I have been decorating our hallway and landing every weekend for the past six or so weeks (nearly finished, but starting on kitchen next).

Our days have been spent in our usual routines.  I do wonder how I ever did semi-structured home-ed as again, life seems to get in the way!

Lots of cards to various friends and family members are frequently being written and drawn (as I write they are both beavering away preparing cards for our builder who is here today).


The girls continue to enjoy their weekly pottery class in Clapham.  D brought home her first creations last week and here’s a photo of them.  The bottom piece is a comet!  The teacher was praising them both last week, particularly commenting that D is wonderful at story telling as she works.  I have a feeling that for D it is all about the process whereas for M it is all about the end result (chalk and cheese as usual :)).


With our unschooling approach to the girls’ education, they are given a free reign to play as long as they like on computers and watch as much telly as they like too.  M’s particular favourite game at the moment is Minecraft which she is probably spending 1-2 hours a day on.  D is also quite interested in it and M is very generous with her time: advising her sister how best to build things and ideas on what to do next.  They both prefer the ‘creative’ rather than ‘survival’ game as it’s a bit less stressful!


Our unschooling approach has already spilled over into food, which is why I’m reading ‘Kids, Carrots and Candy’.  I’m learning to ask if they are ‘hungry’ rather than ‘what would you like for dinner?’;  We don’t have meal times anymore – they eat only when they are hungry; and they can eat ANYTHING (within reason, I’m not going to start making Bolognese at 6am) at ANY time of day.  They are learning to recognise when they are hungry and what their body is asking for.  I am also learning to listen to my body too!  For the past two days my body has asked for a fresh fruit smoothie rather than dinner and it has been extremely satisfying to give it what it’s asking for!

So far I have resisted letting the unschooling approach spill over into bedtimes (i.e., letting them decide when to go to bed) because I value my alone time in the evening so much.  I only get half an hour to an hour in the evening anyway but it is very precious to me!  However, you’ll see in the previous picture that it is rather dark and the two sausages are refusing to go to bed because they are doing something ‘extremely important’.  When they are playing so nicely together it seems a shame to spoil their fun!

We went to Garson’s Farm a few days ago and met our friends there from  3 Kids and a Gluestick.  The girls especially loved picking raspberries and strawberries but the heat got too much for them eventually and we had to leave earlier than planned.


M has decided to continue doing ballet classes with her school friend, T, and they’re currently rehearsing for a show in October of Alice in Wonderland. D decided she didn’t want to do ballet after all so she sits with me and does an activity book while the class is on.

We’ve been to D’s swimming class (M didn’t even want to get in the water this week so it was a short visit) and D swam her first length unaided!!  M and I were whooping and punching the air on the side :).

One of the many perks of HE is that you can get discounted entry rates to most attractions.  So yesterday, J took the day off work and we all went to Legoland!  We had such a lovely day and the weather was perfect.


There have been lots going on inbetween all this of course, including chess; draughts; making a clock; drawing; learning about the world; learning about mucus in ‘The Sound of Mucus’; reading book 2 of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’; listening to The Enormous Crocodile and Matilda audio books in the car; watching various films including The Artist, Tinkerbell & The Pirate Fairy, Peter Pan and Coraline; and playing outside in the garden!

20140625_065656 20140627_122806

Pottery, Leeds Castle and a Pyjama Day

Grandma is here again!  I had two very excited sausages awaiting her arrival at St Pancras station on Monday.


Then we headed off to pottery in Clapham and M got to take home her first pinch pot.


On Tuesday I had organised a day out for us at Leeds Castle. The four of us got in for £12!  £12!!  Ahh, the wonders of home ed never cease!  It was a wonderful day out: we had a long (for us) walk through the grounds; a walk inside the castle; a play in the playground; we watched a falconry display; got lost in a maze; had a ride on a boat across the lake and finished off with a ride on the castle train.

M was given responsibility of taking the photos: ‘looking at things’ is one of her worst activities on days out so taking photos kept her engaged for the day :).  She took over 100.. here are just a few…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And a few of mine..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All in all, we had a great day out and I can highly recommend it if you can get there.

Today the girls were tired and tetchy so it was a good job we had no plans and settled for a much-needed pyjama day.  It was still rather busy though.  The sausages began by showing Grandma how to make a loom bracelet, and then D finished off her space lapbook!  It was a culmination of hours and hours of work, but I’m not sure ‘work’ is the right word for it as she enjoyed it so much.


I wanted to get on with a bit of DIY while I had the chance today and M soon wanted to get involved so I let her finish off filling the holes on the stairs with wood filler – she absolutely loved it and I wish I’d given her the whole job to do as she really was good at it!


Then Grandma played ‘teacher’ and helped them with their Africa lapbooks (M doesn’t want to do it with me anymore so I think this is going to be an on-going project with Grandma).  While this was going on I was painting the floor of our landing and stairs – a seemingly endless job as I can only do one coat a day!

The rest of the day was spent with M playing Lego Harry Potter on Grandma’s iPad and D playing a very imaginative game of Cinderella with Grandma.

Grandma is going home tomorrow (much to Granddad’s relief, I’m sure) so I will have to figure out what to do to keep the sausages occupied to take their minds of their misery…

Archery at Camp Mohawk

We were lucky enough to get a last-minute place at an archery session at Camp Mohawk today!  It was quite a journey but absolutely worth it.  The place itself has been set up for children with special needs but a local HE group gets to use it once a week during term time.  It is absolutely idyllic there and the archery trainers had a lovely attitude towards the kids.  M really enjoyed it and I’ve since found out that we’ve been lucky enough to get a space in next month’s archery session too, which M is very pleased about.  It’s the only place I’ve found so far that will teach children younger than 8 so she’s very lucky to have the opportunity.


After the archery session we ate our sandwiches and then the girls had a play in the playground and in the sensory play area.  M wanted to explore the woods but D was tired and I decided that we’d better try and beat the Friday traffic.

20140613_125314 20140613_125322 20140613_130654

We were all exhausted by the time we got back!  There was a fair amount of bickering going on and M was particularly testy towards me but she cheered up after a bit of down-time in front of CBeebies.

For the last two nights, D has point-blank refused to go to bed at her bedtime, which has been interesting!  I can’t quite keep a straight face for long enough to get stern with her.  M has rather sweetly offered to take her to bed and read her a story which initially I was reluctant to take her up on as I wondered if she was doing it purely to act as peacemaker but she seems to genuinely want to do it and D is over the moon that she gets to go to bed with her big sister!  M sits and plays Minecraft while she waits for D to go to sleep, although D is so excited that there isn’t a lot of sleeping going on…

My Attitude

I’m attempting to adjust my attitude towards M’s attitude (if that makes sense) by reading a book called Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self Directed Learners by Lori Pickert.  In a nutshell, this book is about giving your child an environment which encourages them to follow their interests and learn ‘deeply’ and independently.  By the ‘environment’ I mean both the physical space and the attitude towards learning in our home.  Perhaps that wasn’t explained brilliantly, but follow the link to Amazon if you’re at all interested in finding out more!

On Monday, as my fellow Facebookers will know, I had a bit of a wobble, having had yet another ‘run in’ with M the night before.  Knowing how anti-workbook she is at present (she is now refusing to do MEP too) I began to fear that she would have no Maths knowledge at all so I had a look online to see if I could find some way of getting Maths into creative projects.  I found a few, including an AMAZING free booklet written by the Turner Contemporary called Maths Through Pattern.  When I approached her with some ideas the look on her face suggested I had asked her to eat cat sick – she was horrified! Ho hum.

So when the girls were in pottery on Monday afternoon, I sat under a tree in a beautiful sunny church yard next door, took a deep breath and read Lori Pickert’s book.

I realised that I need to meet M where she is, instead of trying to tempt her to where I want her to go.  I need to spend some REAL time with her, rather than assuming she is busy so I can get on with emptying the dishwasher or whatever.  I need to show that I VALUE how SHE chooses to spend her time.

The book does stress that you’re not going to make a self-directed learner overnight but I thought I would sit down with her while she was making her Father’s Day card to see what happened.  I have to say, I found it VERY difficult to be as hands off as the books suggests, but M did seem to appreciate my input anyway.  I backed off from all non-specific praise and remembered to ask her what she thought she should do next; how it could be put together; was there anything else she wanted to add; what would work better etc etc.

She finished the card this afternoon, and the joy on her face as it neared completion was a sight to see.  She was sooo proud of herself!  As soon as it was finished she asked if I would read to her (D was busy watching Disney’s Robin Hood at this point) and I was so pleased that she still wanted to spend time with me, and doing something that I loved doing too.  So we sat on our bed together and read two chapters of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  It was lovely.

I will be interested to see if my new attitude makes any difference to M’s attitude… watch this space…

In other news, today we had a trip to Wimbledon and D got to ride her scooter for the first time – I was awed by how well she handled it.  This scooter is a two wheeler and her old one had three.  She had a few set-backs and had to go much slower than usual while she learnt to balance but she handled it with grace and maturity.


We also made England flags (painted fabric attached to an old bamboo cane with masking tape!) in readiness for the England v Italy match on Saturday. The girls are very excited as J said they can watch it even though it starts at 11pm!!!



Edit: I have reflected on my attitude 10 months on here.

All Sorts

I’ve been struggling to write a post this week as we’ve been so busy I’ve been wondering what I can write about without it reading like a list.  So, apologies but here’s a list of what we’ve been up to!

There has been a lot of playing outside – the girls are getting so strong!  M even has callouses on her palms from the monkey bars.


They enjoyed another pottery class this week – their work is still in progress so no pictures yet!  After pottery they really wanted to explore the church yard and communal gardens next door and I had a hard time dragging them away!


D has been enjoying playing with Junior Scrabble…


And doing a bit more work on her space lapbook (nearly finished!)


And she wrote a great story which you can read here – Ariel and Snow White.

Yesterday, the sausages had a ballet taster session.  D has had nostalgic memories of the ballet class she went to when she was 3.  As might be expected, the reality of it wasn’t as good!  M loved it though – especially because it means she gets to spend time with her best friend who also goes.

The girls have been spending quite a bit of time on their Father’s day cards.  Well, D’s was finished in 2 minutes flat,whereas M has been working on hers for about 2 hours and is only half done.  It’s going very well and there have been NO flops which is utterly remarkable!


While M was busy with her card, I entertained D with a few explosive science experiments – she was squealing with delight!  Big thanks to Lisa over at An Ordinary Life for the inspiration!  We made a lava lamp, followed by a ‘volcano’ and finished off with the Diet Coke and Mentos favourite.  M was joining in by the end, and now I need to buy more vinegar!

20140610_111547 20140610_114212

Today we’ve been reading together, to ourselves and to each other; making bracelets with loom bands, gardening, card games, workbooks and a 2.5 hour swimming session!


Ah yes… and dressing up in togas…






A Day Out at Chessington World of Adventures!

Wow, what a day we had yesterday!  Due to J’s brother having a summer job at Chessington he had some free tickets, which he kindly gave to us.  We spent 6 hours there in total and managed to spend only £6 buying ice-creams at the end which was a bit of a result!

It was very satisfying not having to queue for rides – how wonderful that we can go when everyone else is in school!

I have to say I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck this morning and the girls are equally as tired so we’re having a well-earned pyjama day today.  Not that we’re resting exactly though: the girls are at my feet building Lego ‘structures’.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.