Category Archives: January

M’s 8th Birthday and a Trip to St. Paul’s

The big news of this week is that M turned 8!  She seems so different from when she was 7, and she looks much older too – the difference seems greater than from 5 to 6 to 7 somehow.  She was utterly indifferent about any birthday preparations so I decided to treat it as a Love Bombing day (Grandma’s idea!) and she chose to stay in all day, playing for hours on her new Nintendo DS2; she had a New York cheesecake for her cake and we played lots of party games in the afternoon: blind man’s bluff; twister; musical chairs, bumps & statues; and pass the parcel.  Considering how indifferent she was to begin with, she really enjoyed herself in the end.


M and I took the rabbits to the vets last week, which is always educational!  We went to a new vet this time since our old vet wouldn’t castrate Morris until he is 6 months old, by which time we would most certainly have rabbit babies!  This vet did a really thorough examination (much to the bunnies’ dislike) and found a suspected heart murmur in one rabbit and a rhythmic problem in another.  We’ve now been referred to an ‘exotic’ vet in West Sussex – they will have a team of FOUR vets on hand to help if needed during the operation – crikey.

All sorts of topics were covered during the vet visit – anaesthesia, hearts, teeth, diets and the vet even let her listen the Dusty’s tummy through his stethoscope!

This is one expensive rabbit.


M’s also moved onto learning about variables in coding on Khan Academy.  It took a bit of a push since she immediately stated she didn’t understand and it didn’t seem like she was going to budge.  I went on with the project anyway and once the task had actually been completed she seemed to have more of a grasp of what I was talking about.  I don’t know if this is perhaps the way forward with everything she doesn’t understand…?


D has been playing on Lego Creator Islands on the iPad, which is excellent for visual skills and working out how many blocks you need to make the requested building.  While playing this she started telling me which numbers were more or less than others.  She’s also reading numbers in their hundreds on games, buses, everywhere!

D is also nearing the end of Teach Your Monster to Read, which she really enjoys playing.  It is a little easy for her but it has cemented what she already knows and it gives her confidence that she can actually read – she’s always saying she can’t!

The other game we’ve all been playing is Inventioneers on the iPad.  This is excellent for physics and problem solving.  As we all like playing it together, it’s been really good for a bit of team work and learning to respect other people’s ideas.

This week we also finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and have immediately started on the Order of the Phoenix.   The content gets more and more adult as we go further along the series and I’m not sure how much of the vocabulary M understands but I like the fact that she’s letting the words wash over her, which is also a valid way of picking up new words: I know because this is the way I learnt. 🙂

D is reading all sorts – she particularly likes Ant and Bee books at the moment and we’ve been reading this one, which she got in her Christmas stocking.  She is now picking out words she recognises in both her books and the Harry Potter books, which is lovely to see.  One of her favourite books is from the Wonderwise series called What’s Up?  This is about two children who are exploring how high they can go: by going upstairs, up a tree, a sky scraper etc etc until they’re in space.  D recently asked to go to a cathedral because she saw one in this book!

So this week I booked tickets to go to St Paul’s Cathedral (I’m ashamed to say I never went inside in all the time I worked down the road from it!) and it was an out and out success with both sausages.  D’s latest ‘thing’ is that her life isn’t as good as Dora the Explorer’s so to add to the day, she became ‘Dora’:  I made her a map and she had a backpack with two toy rabbits who were Boots and Benny the Bull.


To start with, they had fun finding the things on a worksheet I had printed from the website earlier.  They learnt a little about Lord Admiral Nelson who features highly in this cathedral.  They also kept getting confused between him and Nelson Mandela.  Luckily I had thought to bring along our sketchbooks (I’m trying to get into sketching too) and the girls were so pleased to sit and sketch what they could see – M in particular.  D got a little bored and began drawing from her own imagination instead but M could have sat for hours.

There were no photographs allowed inside the cathedral so here’s an ‘artist’s’ impression of how cute they looked:


We then had a break from sketching to go down to the crypt and then up to the Whisperer’s Gallery.  It’s basically at the bottom of the dome and you can whisper into the wall and the sound is carried around the dome – it’s amazing!  The girls were very taken with it.  After a sneaky biscuit, we gathered up our strength to walk up to the Stone Gallery.  This is outside and gives you a good view of London.  However, we now all wanted to complete the journey to the top of the dome so we climbed the final steps up to the Golden Gallery – it was fantastic!  First of all we got to look through a tiny window right down to the centre of the nave below (D had a good stamp on the glass, which alarmed the staff, haha) and then we climbed up a spiral staircase to get out onto the roof – wowsers!  The girls were very pleased to spot a few landmarks they knew such as The Shard.  There were 527 steps to get to the top but it was well worth the effort.

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M wanted to sit and sketch at every level but I was envisioning pencils rolling over the edge so persuaded her to wait until we got to the bottom.

We got down to the nave and we all oohed and ahhed at the dome from inside.  M sat right in the middle of it and proceeded to draw each gallery from memory (see how she remembered the style of each railing, below!), and then tried to draw parts of the dome too.  By this time we’d been there for 4 hours and we were really hungry so I had to persuade her to leave, which she was quite sad about.  They both said they wanted to live there!

Here are a few of M’s unfinished sketches:

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And her sketches of the galleries:

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And I’ll finish by showing off a fabulous collage that D got to take home from art class this week:


Striking Gold

Huzzah!  Not real gold of course, or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this – I’d be on holiday in the Bahamas or something – no, I’ve struck gold of the home educating kind: this week I sat down with M and showed her the Hour of Code on Khan Academy and it was a hit!

Last night I told her it was time for bed and no, she couldn’t carry on coding: her eyes filled with tears!  Of course, I relented and let her carry on until I could hardly keep my eyes open and she was forced to turn the light off.  I had to practically wrench the laptop out of her hands to write this post.

She definitely has a knack for it and grasped the basics straight away: she’s learnt what pixels are, what the x and y parameters mean, how to draw a line, a rectangle, a circle, how to fill in a shape with colour, how to change the colour of a line and how to construct a function.  Pretty impressive for one day!

For her final project on the Hour of Code she had to make an animal out of all the shapes and functions she’d learnt.  She chose to copy her toy, Pink Teddy.  The picture’s a bit small but you can see how many functions she had to write (and figure out) to make a seemingly simple picture:

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M’s behaviour has really really improved over the last few weeks, so I’m thinking that she must have been under quite a lot of (self-imposed) stress in the run-up to Christmas.  Lately she’s been sunny, charming, helpful, kind, funny and calm – back to her old self!  Any rising difficulties have been nipped in the bud by me – I can now recognise when her blood sugar is running low and I’m trying to educate her to recognise it too so that she can stop herself spiraling into unnecessary doom and gloom.  It’s not easy to do when you’re unschooling food.  Neither sausage eats three meals a day  – they tend to graze throughout the day instead – and without those 3 meals to mark the day it’s very easy for me to lose track of when they last ate.  Their diets are very slooooowly becoming more balanced, which I’m pleased about.  In this picture they both decided (at 9.30pm) that they wanted chicken, yorkshire puddings and gravy… luckily I had some to hand 🙂


This week we had a busy weekend with a big family get-together to celebrate the Sausages’ Granddad’s 88th birthday, and we had friends over for lunch who brought their 3 little girls with them too.

We’ve been playing with K’nex… M constructed this ferris wheel from a picture I found on Pinterest:


I helped D to put together our clock.  I read the instructions while she put it together: I was really impressed by how well she followed the instructions and listened.


We’ve been to our art class where D worked on a canvas for the first time and M began a copy of Van Gogh’s ‘Irises’ (eek – I am beginning to feel a little inferior!).  M went to her usual ballet class, despite having an ENORMOUS (2cm) splinter in her foot.  I was hoping that it would slide out on it’s own (wishful thinking) but ended up taking her to A&E this morning to have it removed.

Meanwhile, D has become interested in puzzles which is great as M and me are big puzzlers too.  She now loves doing word searches and secret codes and both are excellent ways of learning new words.  Her spelling and reading are really improving!


We’re learning the times tables, as per M’s request.  It’s a bit of a bore and I’m not at all sure there’s a lot of point (I’ve managed very well without them and I’ve heard recently that some schools have stopped teaching them) but she wants to do it!  More importantly, she has shown that she now has an understanding of the numbers, which is much more important than learning by rote.  The other day she had worked out that she had 12 Mini Eggs left to eat because she knew there were 4 different colours of each egg and she had 3 in every colour!  D hasn’t grasped multiplication yet and was insisting on counting the eggs out one by one. 🙂  We’re listening to Times Tables Challenge whenever we’re in the car and M is also insisting on me testing her every now and again.

Our free DVD of the BBC’s Ten Pieces arrived this week.  I thought it was really well done and nice to watch and listen to.  The girls enjoyed it for a little while: there was a vague interest in the instruments and D recognised Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ from Johnny English (!) but I can’t say it ignited any sparks…

…Unlike the films we watched on The Kid Should See This!  First we looked at a film of this guy making British birds out of Lego (M was very inspired by this and has had several attempts at making a Robin but had to give up as we don’t have enough Lego pieces); then we watched one about what makes Blue Morpho butterflies blue, which then led onto watching a film of them hatching.  The girls were very interested in this as the Blue Morpho features in a Go Diego Go episode so they were able to fill me in on all sorts of facts that I didn’t know they knew. 🙂

Another packed week.  Just one more thing to show you, a picture of our gorgeous bunnies, Morris and Dusty.  In this pic they are being naughty and refusing to go back into their cage – they decided to settle down for a nap/read the paper in the hall instead…  too cute to be cross with though.


Grandma Inspires Sausages

Howdy all.  We’re slowly gathering pace though last week was a necessarily slow one as M had a high temperature.  As it happened, Grandma was visiting for 5 days so that she could look after the sausages while I painted the kitchen.  Even through illness, Grandma managed managed to inspire D to make up a song about the sunshine and she then helped M to write it out as music!

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She also inspired both girls to sketch and this has continued even after Grandma left.  M did an incredible picture of J and Granddad (who came down for the last 2 days).  She even picked up her art book at 7am one morning!

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However, M did do a fair bit of sleeping while she was battling her fever so D got lots of one to one time with Grandma.  They made this picture together after D made a rocket out of shapes which Grandma then helped to make into a picture.  Before Christmas I won a space book on D’s behalf and, if it’s possible, it has made D even more excited about space!


Unfortunately the Grandparents did have to leave eventually but the sadness was tempered somewhat by us having to leave the house shortly afterwards to go to D’s new art class, which she was really looking forward to.

I’ve often thought that I didn’t have need of an art class because it’s one of the few things I CAN do but it sounded like such a lovely group I couldn’t resist when D asked to go.  M & me sat in the art room busying ourselves with our cross-stitching while D got to grips with parallel drawing.  I knew D had talent but I was really impressed by how well she drew this dog: it’s a very good likeness of the original!  M was looking longingly at all the children enjoying themselves and the teacher has since said that they will squeeze her in for the rest of term (her space wasn’t to become available until Easter).


Later that day M returned to her ballet class, which she was very pleased about.

On Wednesday we met some friends at our nearby soft play centre.  We were there for over 3 hours, which is a new record for us: the girls had a lovely time playing with the kids and I had a lovely time with the mums!

Since then, there’s been lots of Minecraft playing (we’ve just learnt about biomes and various tree types); film watching (101 Dalmations is a current favourite); learning more constellations; junk modelling; FarmVille; drawing and reading.  Phew!

A Fresh Start

We’ve had a fabulous break over Christmas and New Year: we had my sister and her family here for a weekend, then my parents down over Christmas, various family get-togethers on J’s side, and then a week spent in Nottingham (with my parents again!), most of which seemed to have been spent with the sausages’ cousins.

We managed a trip to the Science Museum with my sister’s family which was enjoyed by all – it turns out that the Saturday before Christmas is an excellent time to visit as it was the quietest I’ve ever seen it!


M did some incredible home-made Christmas presents for many family members.  It did get stressful to say the least as she seemed to have so many amazing ideas but didn’t actually want to complete them!  However, this creation, which was made for Grandma, was the most incredible because of her creativity, the structural ideas and the paper engineering that came all out of her own head:


D has been entertaining the family with her little heart-felt songs, which are totally off-the-cuff and of-the-moment.  Sometimes they’re sweet little ditties that bring a tear to your eye; sometimes they’re pop-py and she gets her air-guitar out and sometimes you can hear her just belting out a tune from somewhere else in the house.  It is honestly like living with Annie – there is a tune for every moment. 🙂

We’ve been back in London for a few days now and although our classes haven’t started yet, I feel as if we’re starting anew; afresh.  The house is still feeling gloriously clean and tidy after my massive pre-Christmas cleaning regime.  The girls are rediscovering old toys and asking to repeat projects that were enjoyed last year: D is writing out numbers, playing with her Arithmasticks and asking for sums but this time she has added a new dimension of saying them in Spanish!  M is asking to learn her times-tables and telling the time again: we had a go at them last year and I’m looking forward to doing a bit of academic table-work again.

To start our New Year off with a bang, we had a day trip to Windsor Castle today, along with a pre-booked educational workshop which another HE-er had kindly organised.  The theme was ‘Learn How to be a Medieval Knight’.  M & me found it really interesting, D however did not!  Among other things, we learnt that Windsor Castle is the oldest working castle in the world (meaning it is still used and habitable); M got to try on a chain-mail head-piece; and joined in with the other children as they dressed up as Knights of the Garter and took part in a dubbing ceremony. 🙂


Although it was a workshop aimed at KS1 children, I did feel that D was too ‘young’ for it. But then again, she is quite single minded – I’m sure if the Knights of the Garter had taken a trip to the moon she would have perked up a bit. 😀