Category Archives: May

Toys from Days of Yore

Or not quite.  On Wednesday we went to a family event at Wandsworth library (put on by Wandsworth Museum) about toys from the past.  It was great!  Thought isn’t it shocking when you see toys from your own childhood in a museum..?!

M was dreading it would be a ‘look at things in glass cases’ event but it was all very hands-on.  The girls started by making a kite out of one sheet of paper – I’ve never seen such a design and will be very interested to see if it works on the next windy day.

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They also made puppets.

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Then we had a play with lots of old fashioned toys (even some sheep knuckles that they would have used in Roman times).  D liked the acrobat and M loved playing Nine Men’s Morris which she has since made and played at home.

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We had a great time and I’m so glad we made the effort to come out of half-term hiding. 😉

 

Ready to Fly?

The last few days have not been great.  I have struggled and struggled (internally) with M’s attitude: she has been tearful, rude, listless, negative, snarky towards D and there have been constant moans of ‘I’m bored’.

I do wonder when I write these negative posts if it is helpful to write negative things about my own daughter, and what she would/will say if she ever reads it.  In my defence, I do prefer a “warts ‘n’ all” blog, rather than a rose-tinted one and I hope that in writing about the challenges we face as a home-educating family that it might help others in a similar situation.  Also, all the moaning I do about M’s challenging character is out of LOVE for her and wanting to find the best way for her to flourish, not out of any negative feelings.

Last week after a bout of negativity towards me and D I suggested to her that something needs to change if she doesn’t feel happy with the way things are.  She needs to do something, go somewhere, try something ANYTHING to get out of the rut she’s in.  I got a grumble in response.  Softly, softly, catchy monkey, I thought.

Yesterday I hit an all time low when we were back on the track of the “I’m not learning anything like I would be at school” comments which she says quite a lot.  It was on the tip of my tongue to retort “maybe you SHOULD go back to school!”  Knowing this would mortify her, instead I said “do you want to do school-type work then?” and she replied that she did!  So I got out all our old Galore Park text books and her MEP maths worksheets and asked her which one she would like to do.  She said she didn’t want to do any of them and only wanted to do some handwriting practise (while holding a handwriting sheet I made for her 2 years ago).  She only wanted to do something EASY.  I could have cried and I think the disappointment must have shown on my face because then she got tearful too.

I really do think she has a fear of learning: she gets so tearful when she makes mistakes or doesn’t understand something.

We had a chat and she said she wanted to make something (internal SCREAM as I pictured yet another UNFINISHED SOMETHING being shoved in a drawer again) but actually I think it was just a get-out as she couldn’t think of anything she actually wanted to make.  So we chatted some more and she said she wanted to do something new!!  See?  Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey!  I have been tasked with finding a dance class, riding lessons and a Brownies club.

Rant over.

Today, it struck me that we have had ONE WHOLE YEAR of living in each other’s pockets.  And perhaps, just perhaps, she is ready to start stretching her wings now?!  She has not been ready in the past: any activities would be viewed negatively as time away from me (and time D would be gaining as having quality one-on-one time with me, leading her to feel jealous).

NOW she is ready to FLY!

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Minecraft

M is hooked!  And unfortunately so am I…

I’ve been hearing the benefits of Minecraft for a while now but I wasn’t totally convinced until I overheard an HE boy chatting about how you make tools and bronze and lots of other things.  I assumed he’d been working on a pre-historic project at home his knowledge was so indepth.  I tried to get the girls interested in the stone age but to no avail so I was listening intently to this little boy.  Turns out, he had learnt it all from Minecraft :).

Since we’ve been unschooling I’ve learnt not to place some learning resources above others (learning from the telly is just as valid as learning from a book, for example) so I figured Minecraft might be an interesting way forward.

Since I don’t have a very powerful laptop, I installed the Minecraft Pocket Edition onto my tablet and let M loose on it – she loves it!  She isn’t confident enough with computers to click around and figure things out by herself so I’ve been trying to figure it out alongside her which has been alternately infuriating and engrossing!

We also did some baking yesterday and made a delicious Malteser Fridge Cake, which we ate for coffee time.  The girls haven’t eaten Nutella for 2 whole days now!!  They both got very excited about boiled eggs at lunch yesterday (?!) and were intrigued by the different colour shells and yokes.  I have even moved all the chocolates and sweets from their hidden, inaccessible places to a shelf they can reach and NOTHING has been touched!!  I think the chocolate spell may have been broken after 1 week of food ‘unschooling’?!  Could it really be true?!

This is what D requested for her dinner last night :).  M had custard for dinner but she had chopped hazelnuts with it so really not too bad at all.

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A few other things before I go, I gave the girls a little game to play while I ate my breakfast yesterday – how many drops of water can you get onto a penny:

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D also had her swimming class and we all went for a swim together too – I didn’t last as long as the girls though and had to get out after half an hour because I was so cold.  Luckily I can sit on the side in a towel and get on with some work – the girls would stay there all day if they could! We also did our workbooks beforehand.  M is still happily enjoying MEP and D is working her way through some Biff Chip and Kipper activity books.  She’s also asking to do Reading Eggs again – hurrah!

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Flowers and Exploring

Last week I wrote about how I burst a tyre on the way to our pottery class (here) and that M and D had played lovely games on the street while we waited for the AA man to replace the tyre.  M enjoyed it so much she said she wanted to explore somewhere new and random again to – she even gave this idea a name: “Going to The World”.

Yesterday we had a free day so M put a pin in a map (not literally, she actually used Google Earth as she’s a modern sausage) and chose to go to… Croydon..?  Jeez.  Of all the places.  Anyway, we all trotted off to the tram stop and the girls had a happy journey looking out the window and enjoying the ride.

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Croydon was pretty much as I expected, very grey, dull and run down.  The girls were happy scootering around but they were a bit limited by the crowds and busy roads.

M then said she wanted to go to a park so we hopped on a tram again and got off at Wandle Park.  This is a lovely little place that I’ve never been to before.  But it all started to go a bit wrong at this point: D grazed her chin while bunny-hopping over some logs and they both scraped their backs flying off the end of the slidey-est slide I’ve ever seen.  It all ended in tears so we decided to go home.

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Back at base we had a very quiet afternoon – D was so tired she kept trying to go to bed but kept getting distracted by books and telly, and I installed Pocket Minecraft on my tablet for M (I overheard a boy at pottery talking about all these stone age things he’d learnt on there so I thought we could give it a go).

Just a note about what we got up to before pottery on Monday – it was so ridiculously hot by 10am that I encouraged the girls to come inside.  I remembered that we have a flower press full of flowers from last summer so M and I opened it up – it was like a treasure trove!

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M made a lovely picture with her flowers and then picked some gorgeous peony petals to press,

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M is also trying to make friends with every ant she meets!

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Sausage Potters

Recently it feels like we’ve made a leap from just muddling along through to embracing this home educating lifestyle.  I finally feel like we’re getting somewhere now, and it’s taken a year!

In a few weeks we’ll have hit the one year anniversary of our school run which I remember so well – D was crying because she didn’t want to go to nursery and M didn’t want to go to school either.  I took one look at M’s drawn ashen face and turned the car around and went back home.

After a year of home educating, M has blossomed – her confidence astounds me!  The other day she walked up to a man in shop to ask about what he was selling and where she could find it on the shelves.  This would never have happened a year ago!  D has always been confident talking to anyone but in the last year she just has not wanted to leave the house… until now…

…J and I had a chat recently about unschooling.  In the last year I’ve done a lot of research on home education and more recently on unschooling; I’ve met home educators; and I’ve seen day to day what an effect school had on our daughters.

Now I see daily, in microscopic steps, how much the sausages learn and develop through being unschooled.  And as I see this, my mind begins to de-school and I begin to question our habits in education, eating and general family life.  So my mind has been racing ahead and J, with being at work a lot, has missed out on these tiny shifts until all of a sudden we’re at a different place to where he is.

I think it’s fair to say – and I don’t think he’d mind me saying – that J is old-school.  From the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ school.  What has astounded me about J though – and what sets him apart from your bog-standard old-school man – is how readily he accepts change.  He was reluctant to start home education but was willing to give it a try, and now he embraces it.

So we sat down and had a chat about unschooling, in particular how we need to treat the sausages like little people rather than just children who should do as we say because we are grown-ups!  And all of a sudden, this ‘do as I say’ man has changed into a ‘what would you like to do’ man!!

And it’s amazing also, that if you give the sausages options they will likely do what you want to do anyway, because they’re doing it of their own volition, rather than being forced to.  Such is the mind of a sausage.  So now, J is ASKING them if they would like to go to Judo/the park etc., and D – rather than automatically wanting to stay at home in her pyjamas – wants to go!  It may be a coincidence but I don’t think so.

So, what I was getting around to saying – sorry, waffling on quite a bit there – was that the girls started a pottery class yesterday.  This was a class of their choice, rather than one which we thought would ‘better’ them – and guess what?  They LOVED it!  They were so happy there that I was able to leave them for the last half an hour – it’s the first time they’ve been left since finishing school!

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Rather than wasting time on the school run, D is able to use that time to inform us that the Earth feels flat because it is so large, but it is in fact, round.

A Trip to Bocketts Farm

We had a strange day yesterday: we had intended to try out a ballet class but I hadn’t figured on how far away the class was and how long it would take to park the car!  So in the end we gave up as I couldn’t find a parking space and I figured I would be better off finding a ballet class nearer to home.

As we were out and about in the car and it was a beautiful day, rather than go back home I drove to the nearest place I could think of: Bocketts Farm.  It’s a lovely (albeit expensive) farm with animals, an indoor play area and a park.  The girls were initially resistant to anything to do with the animals and just wanted to play at first but after a little nudge from me we had a wander around the small animals room.  By chance, they happened to have a rabbit, guinea pig and hen out to stroke and then the girls were hooked!  We went back every hour for another chance to pet the animals after that.  By the end of the day they were both begging me for a pet rabbit!!  We’ll have to see about that…

Why is the Sky Blue?

This was the question D asked at 7am yesterday morning!  Luckily, we had our latest Aquila magazine on hand to answer the question.  This pointed us in the direction of this link here.  Where Brian Cox explains the answer in 6 minutes – wonderful!  Definitely worth a watch.

We tried to replicate the experiment and managed to make a lovely sunset but couldn’t get the blue sky working at all.  Ah well, D then wanted to play with the torch and we began making shadow shows from behind the closed curtains, inspired by this video here.

We were quite hungry by this point so we had some breakfast.  While eating porridge, D started saying the beginnings of the 3 times table!  She got a bit stuck at 4 x 3 so I got some chick peas to help her out.  Honestly, that girl is the most unschooled of the lot of us.  I love the way she sees no difference in playing with Lego to ‘playing’ with her times tables.

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Then she wanted to put the chick peas into odd-numbered groups.

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And this was all before 9am!  M appeared downstairs at that point so we decided to make our own chocolate mousse.  While we were waiting for it to set the sausages had a play in the sunshine.

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The chocolate mousse wasn’t much to write home about but I was impressed that it had one raw egg per serving so it was pretty good nutritionally!

The girls’ eating habits are really not too bad at all.  Nutella is still eaten a lot of the time but there are quite a few other bits and bobs being eaten too.  Yesterday I decided to do a chicken roast dinner but to serve it buffet-style rather than loading their plates up beforehand.  D ended up eating TONS of everything – broccoli, roast potatoes, chicken and yorkshire puddings whereas M ate two yorkshire puddings and said she was full.  I find it fascinating how erratic their appetites are throughout the day – so far I haven’t spotted any pattern to it.

As we were in Wimbledon this morning, we had a look around M&S to see if they fancied choosing anything for themselves – D was more interested in pretending to be a puppy but M chose a couple of veggies.

When we got home D asked for more of yesterday’s chicken while M had a sausage and tried a spring onion.  She ate most of it with some Pizza Express dressing and then said she didn’t like it!

A couple of interesting observations – I am eating more since starting the buffet-style dinners, and I’m eating more variety, and eating more puddings!; Also, I think I must have had quite tight control on the cupboards before as now the girls can see what food is available to eat, they’re definitely eating more and my cupboards are emptying faster! So, unschooling diet = bigger food bill = bigger waistline (mine) = happier children.  All good… 🙂

We’ve had a MASSIVE shift in deschooling this week for M!  She is now reading to herself for 1-2 hours every evening after I’ve said goodnight to her at 9pm!  I am SO pleased because it’s taken her a year to want to read (to herself – I read to her everyday) since leaving school!!!  If both the sausages become enthusiastic readers I will be one happy Mum.

Just a last note to say we had a great time at the Science Museum with friends on Tuesday.  We were there for quite a few hours and only managed to see a small amount – we all want to go back soon!

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Little things: I’ve been reading Where Did I Come From? to D recently and I forgot to add in my post about the LEA visit that D was loudly telling the man how she was born: “And I came out of my Mummy’s…” and there was a long pause while she thought and I was silently WILLING her NOT to say ‘vagina’ but thankfully she said “…tummy, head first!”.  PHEW.