Category Archives: June

Poorly… again.

Dearie me, D is poorly again.  Yesterday, she obviously knew something was up and decided she needed to lie down with a blanket over her (in this heat!).  She seemed to swing from being energetic and creative then back to poorly again.

First all I got her doing some roller painting, which I found here.  It didn’t work quite so well as we had hoped but she had fun doing it anyway.  She loves that roller!

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And she also made some gorgeous watercolour pictures after seeing M doing the same.  The second one is the sky – love the pink clouds!

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She has also been doing a bit of Teach Your Monster to Read and has been writing quite a few lists for various things.  She’s a very capable reader and writer, she just lacks confidence at the moment.

Then it was time for a lie down and a movie…


M was ‘just’ being creative all day after finding her watercolour pad whilst searching for something else in her drawers.  She really did sit and paint ALL day, interspersed with the occasional run-around in the garden.  It was too hot to do much else!  The last picture was inspired from watching the Lion King – there’s a scene right at the start that shows ants marching along a branch with zebra walking below.  I love it!

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Inspired by D (who made a Lego gun to shoot a baddy (J) trying to steal animals from her zoo), M made a working Lego gun that shoots out Lego ‘bullets’ – it’s a really extraordinary machine.


The sausages never cease to amaze me.

We had a dreadful night last night: M and I couldn’t sleep even though it was gone midnight and D was waking over and over again with nausea, all night long.  She’s still nauseous today but is again running around and then sitting back down again with the sick jug and a movie!

She has been mainly watching the Lion King on loop but did find time to do some tessellating..

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And a Rothko-esk watercolour…


Unfortunately, M missed her art class this morning due to D’s illness and my tiredness.

She has been too hot and tired to do much but did dig out her old puzzle cubes:


It’s day 3 of my push to ‘strew’ more food choices.  I’ve been preparing monkey platters every morning as if I’m packing to be out for the day!  Sandwiches, crisps, chocolate, fruit, veg and dips.  It’s working well for M because she struggles to think of what food she feels like – now she picks at what she can see.  I’m not sure if it’s going to work for D in terms of getting more variety into her diet but she certainly hasn’t eaten as many flakes over the last few days, though that could be down to her illness rather than anything else.


M finished the day off at Brownies, while D summoned up a burst of energy to go the park with her Aunt Sh and Uncle F!  She was out like a light this evening.  I hope she’s better tomorrow because I’ve booked something really good in London…

What We’ve Been Up To This Week

Now I’ve got the unschooling food thing off my chest, I can now brain-dump what we’ve been up to this week!

It really doesn’t feel like a whole lot has been going on this last week – we had a couple of cancellations (which always throws me).  There was quite a bit of art going on as usual.

Firstly, M finished her mermaid pencil drawing (I’ve noticed she is starting to get better and better at finishing things!):


Tuesday was spent at art class in the morning, where M finished her copy of Van Gogh’s Irises!!!  It’s taken her two terms to finish it and I’m so pleased she has!  I’m also really really glad that she’s with a teacher who will let her take her time (always an issue with her school work).  I think I might actually prefer M’s painting to the original!  It’s been oohed and ahhed over by many people and I can’t wait to get it up on the wall.


Here is the original, in case you’re not familiar with it:


Later that day we went to Brownies.  M wasn’t really in the mood to go but went along so that she could prepare for sports day later that week.  It seemed like she enjoyed herself but unfortunately sports day was later cancelled because of a lack of participants – such a shame!

On Wednesday we had planned to go to Garson’s Farm to pick some strawberries but when the day arrived, neither sausage wanted to go out.  D wanted to do some ‘action painting’, having been inspired by Creative Galaxy and Jackson Pollock.  So I taped some long sheets of paper to the shed and she swiped and splatted it and thoroughly enjoyed herself.


While D was outside painting in the sunshine, M was busy playing on a game I’ve just downloaded called SimCity BuildIt.  She’s really into it and was calling out to me ‘I love this game!!!’

D is very quick at getting her ideas out of her system and she then wanted to move on to painting our old cardboard fort.  She galvanised M into helping her paint the inside red and the outside yellow using a large paintbrush and a little paint roller.


We’ve been walking quite a bit this week.  Well, M races ahead on her bike while D and I walk along chatting.  She is intriguing to talk to – I can have long and deep conversations with M but talking to D is completely different: her mind flits from one thought to the next.  She tells me about things she’s learnt, things she’s imagined, how she’s feeling, memories etc etc.  On one of these walks she came out with something that made me chuckle.  She said, “Mum? Homeschool saved me.”  “From what?”  “From school”.

We also had a great time at our social group this week.  M is feeling really comfortable there now, and really looks forward to going!


Thanks to our Spotify account, we’ve been doing tons of listening and dancing to music – I’m going to really miss it when our free trial is up!  M’s singing voice has vastly improved and she has a really good memory for lyrics.  We’ve had lots of kitchen discos this week. 🙂

I’ve also been reading to D much more than usual – she has been quite tired this week (too many late nights and early mornings!) and she’s found a few old favourites that she enjoyed when she was 4, like Toffee Takes a Nap (the drawings are so cute) but I love the fact that she has now dared to read Not Now Bernard, which has to be my all time favourite children’s book EVER!!  But a new book arrived today – huzzah!!  Lately I have banned myself from buying anything new due to our restricted finances but I could not resist this one.  I first heard about it on Adventures in Homeschool and knew that D would love it!


I read it to both sausages when they got back from Judo today.  Although it’s not a particularly funny book, we all ended up laughing over it – the mistakes the explorers made seem insane knowing what we know now (Columbus thinking he could sail from Europe to China and accidentally finding America instead), and imagining what we would say to those horrible greedy men who enslaved the Native Americans.  D stood up and announced she would “swim all the way across the ocean and tell them to stop it”.  All in all it was a great success – it really captured their imaginations!

And finally, if you head on over to my new Facebook page, D wanted to make a video of her story about “a little constellation bull called Taurus”…

Unschooling Food – Our Progress

I’ve been struggling with food lately, having a bit of a wobble about it in fact.  I find it very hard to juggle all this strewing I need to do in order to be an effective unschooler.

It’s easier (apart from the dinner battles) to dictate meals and restrict sugar intake but it didn’t really work for us: M has always had just a few meals that she appreciated but they seemed so limited (think pasta and pesto and fish fingers 5x a week!); and D was similar with her limitations – she would eat lovely balanced meals but very few of them.  But my biggest issue was how much they both revered chocolate and would place that above all other food!

So my plan is/was to place chocolate on the same plateau (pardon the pun) as other foods.  It’s been about 6 months or so since we began unschooling food and so far it’s been partially successful.  M’s diet is slowly expanding to include different kinds of meat, a couple of fruits, almond milk and other wonders.  D is the reason for the wobble: she must have eaten chocolate wafers for 90% of our recent French holiday (the other 10% was olives, phew).  When we got back from France her diet has been 90% Cadbury’s Flake and 10% Nutella on toast.  I had hoped we’d be out of the chocolate bingeing phase by now but it seems not.

I want the sausages to be totally in touch with their bodies’ needs.  I can teach them all there is to know about nutrition but if they want chocolate, they want chocolate.  I am not going to tell D not to eat so much chocolate as I think she’d probably want it even more.  I don’t want her to feel guilty about eating it either.  I’m trying to remove all emotion associated with food (except joy!) so that the sausages grow up without any dietary issues that so many people have.

As is the way with unschooling, you have to unpick a lot of your own issues for it to be really effective.  I’ve found it really helpful to mentally remove all guilt from my chocolate eating habits.  Strangely, I found it very easy!  I can now eat chocolate in front of the sausages at any time of day, rather than sneakily stuffing it in my gob after they’d gone to bed. 🙂  And now I feel less guilty about it, I actually eat less of it!  Recently, I went on a ‘cream binge’ and I must have got through 3 or 4 pots of it (poured over strawberries) in a fortnight until my appetite was satiated.  I like to think that my body was telling me this is what I needed so I went with it… and it felt good!

So I’ve been working on making other food more attractive: I’ve bought some brightly coloured party platters which I plan to leave out in the lounge for the girls to graze on; and I’ve been putting platters out near where they’re playing.   Over the past few months I’ve become quite lax about monkey platters, partly because I ran out of ideas and partly because I don’t seem to find the time to organise them.  So I’m trying to get myself and the girls enthused about their food again by providing them with a range of easily accessible food, that looks tempting to eat.

One of D’s major food issues is that she won’t readily try new foods.  I’ve been baking various goodies to tempt her into a bit of home made food (even chocolate based food!) but although she’s happy to help me bake, she won’t eat the finished result.  I hope that by putting various foods out that she might not necessarily ask for, she’ll get used to the sight and smell of them without any pressure to try.

I am confident that we’re on the right path, but when you wander down a road that not many travel on, I guess it’s only natural to have a wobble now and then.


Fruit, Drawing and Mermaids

We’ve been doing all sorts over the past few days.  On Thursday I got the girls making rainbow fruit kebabs – partly because it tied in with a story I made up and told to D one night, and partly because they have very little knowledge of fruit with our family not being big fruit eaters.  It probably kept them occupied for all of 2 minutes but I think they enjoyed it anyway.


I also got them outside, decorating our awful soon-to-be-knocked-down shed.  They flicked, sprayed and painted it!  And then they moved onto the paving slabs.  The good thing about having a trampy garden is that they can totally mess it up and it generally looks even better 🙂

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On Friday we went to our local HE meet up where they got to make giant bubbles, make chalk drawings and play with the other kids.  They didn’t want to leave!

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That evening, my sister S came to stay for a few nights.  The sausages were sooo excited! They spent a few hours before bed showing S all that they had made and telling her all that they had learnt.  On Saturday morning they went off to Judo (with Aunty S) and then she took them to the park in the afternoon (they were still going crazy with excitement!).  M also performed a play with some puppets she’s been making this week:


On Sunday, J hosted a barbecue for some ex-work colleagues and their partners.  We were lucky with the weather and J had made some great curry too.  I only had to endure one ‘socialisation’ query but mostly the guests found the sausages very entertaining (and who wouldn’t?) as they performed ‘Let It Go’ and took the guests’ drinks orders!

Of course, Sunday was also Father’s Day and the girls had spent many hours preparing their cards:

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And they had also prepared some birthday cards in advance of Aunty S’s birthday:

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Aunty S left this morning so today has been quite downbeat and as it’s been raining for most of the day we spent it indoors.  We watched Annie and then I decided to tackle clearing out the girls’ drawers.  The girls were reminded of all the lovely forgotten things in there so D got sewing/sticking/drawing and M rediscovered her Fimo.

D has also made up a game using maths on our hopscotch tiles: I have to give her a number and she has to put her feet on the numbers that can be added, subtracted or multiplied to get to that number.  It’s really good!


The sausages grabbed 5 minutes in the garden between showers but they both ran in again to tell me they’d been inspired to draw mermaids after seeing D’s hair dangling while upside down on the climbing frame!  They sat and drew pictures for an hour and have now sat down to watch The Little Mermaid. 🙂


Playing, Music and Films

The past few days have been very slow paced, mainly because our car has been in the garage.  It was supposed to be back with us on Monday evening but the garage let us down so we had to miss M’s art class on Tuesday morning.  Whenever my plans for the day go awry I can never seem to settle to anything else so we sort of pootled about all day.   Well, I did. However, the girls were very busy playing a game of pirates on the climbing frame:


It went on for quite some time and at the end they turned it into a show which I was invited to watch – I love to see M acting as it isn’t something that comes naturally to her.  D on the other hand is a born actress. 🙂

They also had a long game with their long-forgotten Disney Fairy dolls.  It’s rare for the sausages to get on well these days so Tuesday was wonderful.  The other remarkable thing about Tuesday was that ‘I’m bored’ was not uttered once!  Amazing.


Jeff is planning to have a party for a few work colleagues on Sunday so we set up a Spotify account to get some new party music – I’ve been playing music non-stop since!  I was getting quite bored of my collection so it was lovely to have new stuff to play.  It’s led us down all sorts of avenues too – M wanted to listen to music she loved from the films she watched, like this one from Regina Specktor, which is played at the end of Prince Caspian.  We also listened to the new Annie film’s soundtrack which led to us watching the movie, which led to me giving M a long explanation of how Twitter works (it’s is used to rescue Annie from her kidnappers) and what a foster child is.

Aunty Sh took the girls to the park and then we had Brownies that evening and M had to prepare for her Promise.  She had to have done a good deed that day so she helped me hang up the washing and make pancakes.  She does good deeds daily (she’s a born Brownie!) but we wanted to mark something in particular to tell the Brown Owl.  Naturally, she was feeling nervous about it as she wasn’t sure what to expect but she learnt the Promise by heart and got through it.  Sorry for the blurred photo.


She also received her first badge – the cook badge – which she’s very proud of!

Wednesday was more of the same, I had planned to take the girls out on their bikes to the local park but D was having none of it.  She said that her life wasn’t fair because M always got to decide whether we go out or not (this is true – M gets the final say because if it was up to D we’d never go out).  I tried to find a compromise but I guess in that situation someone is always going to be disappointed.  This time it was M as D was in such a bad mood there was no persuading her.

So we stayed in and we watched Beetlejuice, after a recommendation from another blogger!  It turns out D might have been feeling a little unwell as she vomited halfway through the film and continued to be sick throughout the night.  She’s better again this morning though thank goodness.

We also had a look at the latest videos from The Kid Should See This: M loved this origami one and this time lapsed video of a New York skyline drawing led to us watching this music video by my very talented and lovely cousin, Zoe Johnston.

Times Tables, Little Women and Archaeology

This is the contrasting life of home education!

M has rekindled her desire to learn the times tables and keeps asking me to test her on her 3x and 4x.  This has led to some funny moments of us chanting and clapping, while M tries to hit the swing ball and answer at the same time, meanwhile D does a hilarious stomp around the lounge. 🙂

We’ve given up on trying to get through the Chronicles of Narnia.  We managed The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe but Prince Caspian didn’t have the edge of the first two books and we decided to give up on it 3/4 of the way through.  We were struggling to think of what to read next so I had a rifle through some long-forgotten books on the bedroom shelf and found one that we tried to read a year or so ago: Little Women from the Usborne Young Reading series.  What a winner!  Both sausages now adore this book and have asked for it to be read over and over and asking sooooo many questions about the girls and their lives.

I have also tried reading Our Island Story to D but there weren’t enough pictures to hold her interest.  I might carry on with it myself as it’s a great read.

We had a trip to our local HE group, where the girls had a play with a few other children but mostly got stuck into learning how to play Solitaire and making pictures with the counters:


The sausages had a busy day on Saturday – first of all they went off to Judo (where they’ve both been moved up into the older children’s class!) and then we went off to the World Archaeology Festival 2015 at the UCL.

First of all they made roman oil lamps with clay:


Then we watched a deer being skinned – I can’t believe we all managed to stomach it.  D was not in the least bit interested and M felt sorry for the deer (but I don’t think it will affect her meat eating habits!):


We tried making fire with flint and steel but the sausages found it too difficult so we went over to the sand pit and the girls dug for bones and pottery instead.  D loved this bit and the staff had lots of patience for explaining the origins of each piece they found.


The sausages also got their faces painted with handprints:

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And M had a go at dissecting (pretend) poo to identify whose poo it was:


D had a go at cave painting:


And they both tried to identify objects covered in clay using magnets, magnifying glasses and x-rays:


But probably their most favourite part was a man who turned copper coins into ‘gold’!

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We were there for 3 hours and only covered half of it but we were too tired to continue!

Today we’ve had a much needed quiet day – lots of films and computer games 🙂

Google Earth, Reading and Glasses

The tagline on one of D’s favourite map books is ‘travel the globe without leaving your living room’, and this is just what she loves to do.  We’ve been Google Earth-ing a lot this week.  We’ve used it in the past but that was more to marvel at our own house (!); ‘walk’ to nursery and ‘visit’ Grandma’s in Nottingham.  This week she has broadened her horizons!  She’s looked at Aunty S’s house in Leeds; the Statue of Liberty; Cannes beach (where she swam last week); the Pyramids; Chile; and she searched darkest Peru in the hope of spotting a bear (that ended in disappointment).

Meanwhile, M has been playing Farmville after a long break from it.  She is much more confident with it now and I think it’s really good for managing time, prioritising, working out costs, value and much more.  I’m hoping that between this game; Animal Crossing and day-to-day life, she’ll learn how to tell the time.  Sitting down and learning how to read clocks just doesn’t work for her.

They have both been playing on Minecraft PE.  D is creating a fantastical rainbow world, while M has begun copying a very complicated maze from her Minecraft Constuction Handbook.


D was a little sad that M had got a speed cube but she hadn’t been bought anything so I thought she might like this solar system kit.  I was right!  She spent a few hours on it yesterday and she is enormously proud of it.

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There were 2 kits in the pack and M would like to do one but not painted as planets.  I was wondering if she might be inspired by Eames’ Hang-It-All.  She hasn’t started yet so we’ll see!

I watched a first aid video with M yesterday  – the Big First Aid Lesson is on tomorrow and I was having a look into it and found you could watch last year’s lesson.  M was very quiet and asked lots of questions but she was strangely apathetic about it?  There were definitely cogs whirring and clicking though so it’s probably still being assimilated.

They’ve had a fair amount of exercise over the past couple of days: they’ve been playing lots of Swingball – we’ve got an indoor one which is great for burning off energy when the weather’s not great outside; Aunty Sh took them to the park for an hour yesterday; and today we walked to Wimbledon, shopped and walked part of the way home again.  Their legs are definitely getting stronger!

The main purpose of going to the shops today was to pick up their new glasses!  Turns out they’ve both got a slight astigmatism (kindly passed down from me) and the optician recommended they wear glasses for screens and reading.  They are SO PLEASED to be wearing glasses!!!  Such a change from my day when they were dreaded and mocked…


After picking up a bit of shopping we headed to the library, which I am beginning to love more and more since my embargo on purchasing books.  We stayed for almost 2 hours and I think if I’d have brought a packed lunch they would have been able to stay longer.  M picked up an armful of rabbit books (she is currently memorising every rabbit fact known to man) and D found an incredible book all about constellations and the story behind each one.  From across the library, I could hear her shrieking ‘LOOK M, LOOK!! IT’S CASSIOPEIA!! M! M! IT SAYS HERE THAT ANDROMEDA IS THE DAUGHTER OF CASSIOPEIA!!!!’  With that in mind, I tried my hardest to find a children’s Greek mythology book but I could only find one on Mythical Birds and Beasts, which will do for now.

When we got back to the library, D immediately got started on a project of her own idea to make a book of flowers from our garden!  It also includes a leaf she found on the street in Wimbledon.

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After this was done we read a book about Black Holes which was waaayyy above her comprehension level but she insisted on reading anyway.  Then I read two stories from the myths book – the first was about Pegasus and The Chimera and the second was about a Mermaid (don’t ever look at one!).  They were both really enraptured by the stories. 🙂

Then they both gobbled down a chicken roast dinner and ran outside to play on the climbing frame – saving people and animals from a burning Earth, apparently.

France, Speed Cubing and Maps

We’re back from a marvelous holiday in the South of France!  We had a lovely time – the girls swam in the Med, admired the sunsets, ate A LOT of biscuits and Nutella, co-slept with Grandma and spoke the odd French word. 🙂

Here’s a sketch of the view from our apartment, made by M – she’s hoping to paint it soon.


On Sunday we made a sad goodbye to Grandma and Granddad and then the girls played in the garden before going off to their Aunty Sh’s house for a barbecue.  I spent those precious hours madly planning meals, doing an online food shop and making an enormous ideas list for the week.  I love doing this now, it gives me a sense of control and allows me to strew and plan at the same time.  Plus, I am a list lover.

I also ordered M a speed cube – on holiday, she was getting us to time how long it took her to complete her Rubik’s cube and it was becoming obvious that it was getting too clunky and the stickers were starting to peel off.  I had to do quite a bit of research as to which one to get (who knew there was such a speed cubing industry out there?!) so I hope I’ve chosen the right one.

Back to Sunday, on my ideas list I’d written ‘stay up late and star gaze’ and the sausages chose to do that when they’d come back from the barbecue.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a starry night but we did spot Saturn, Jupiter and Venus.

Onto Monday, the sausages were already wanting an activity by 9am so we had a look at the list and decided to do this cloud activity.  I did manage a quick recap of how rainfall happens without getting booed off but they already knew most of it anyway. 😀


The rest of the day was spent with M speed cubing, Minecrafting and watching Matilda.  D decided she wanted to spend the day playing Rainbow Fairies.  We have to act out all 7 books, D is the fairy and I play one of the girls who finds her.  It went on for hours.  Jeez. I’m not a natural role-player but I do try really hard to find the joy as D takes so much pleasure from it.

Tuesday morning was spent with M at art class (she’s finished her Van Gogh, pictures next week!) while I tried to chat to other Mums and alternately chase D around the park.  The afternoon was quite low key, although we did manage more fun with shaving foam, pipettes and food colouring.  I don’t know if you can make them out but M’s (on the left) is a volcanic island with a beach at the bottom and D’s is a flower.

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The sausages love pipettes so then I cut them out some butterfly shapes to colour in.

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And lastly, we did a little map exploration before heading off to Brownies.  D was telling me with a sigh that she loved maps in a ‘I just can’t help myself’ kind of voice so I found this UK map with county lines and we looked at where our next holiday destination is (Whitby). After colouring in North Yorkshire, D went on to colour in Northumberland (last year’s holiday destination); West Yorkshire (where her Aunty S lives); Nottinghamshire (where her Grandparents live); Greater London (where we live); and also marked where the Giants Causeway and Loch Ness are!!  M was painstakingly labeling her counties in teeny tiny writing but D didn’t want to.  When I asked her how she was going to remember which county was which, she then rattled all their names off to prove she could.

So that told me. 🙂