Category Archives: June

Unschooling Food – Our Progress

I recently got to a point where I felt utterly dejected by the sight of Nutella on toast.  D was eating it morning, noon and night.  My feelings towards it were made worse by the fact that D has had a cold and diarrhoea on and off for about 2 years now.  Of course, I don’t know that it’s diet related: it could be an allergy (though having looked into it, that’s doubtful) or, as my Dad suspects, a sinus infection.  But as D refuses to take any medicine a Doctor may prescribe then her diet seems a sensible place to start.  Another issue is that D doesn’t see her cold/diarrhoea as a problem – she’s so used to it now that she doesn’t really notice it.

A few months ago she asked me to help her make a weekly menu, which was a repeat of the 8 foods she was eating back then, but nevertheless it really worked as she didn’t get frustrated thinking about what to eat all the time (I have stopped using monkey platters as she was suspicious of most of the food on there).  Her diet then became even more limited and gradually she was left with 4 things on the menu she would eat: potato waffles, Nutella on toast and vegetarian schnitzel (interspersed with Hula Hoops, chocolate brioche and chocolate biscuits).

I started to feel even more desperate and began saying ‘no’ when she asked for her 4th bag of crisps or ‘not until you’ve eaten something filling’ when she asked for Nutella on a spoon.  Then I caught her trying to steal Hula Hoops from the cupboard and realised that restricting the food she loves is not going to work!

I asked for help in the Facebook Radical Unschooling group and was advised to give her the Nutella she wanted, but maybe look at dairy free chocolate spread alternatives, or to add in things like Flaxseed into her baking to give her some nutritional variation.  So I continued giving her the Nutella but never got around to the baking part – as is always the way – once you get to the point of thinking you can’t take it anymore, your child makes a shift and the phase is over!

D was in tears the other day, feeling poorly with a tummy bug and sick of blowing her nose.  So I took the opportunity to have another chat with her about how her body may be missing nutrients that could be useful in fighting cold germs.  She brightened up when she remembered how she used to love chicken and broccoli in gravy and so I made some and it was gobbled down!  I just hope this phase lasts at least long enough for me to see if it has any effect on her cold/diarrhoea.

As for M, I am utterly satisfied with her diet: she tries new food all the time; she likes interesting flavours; she doesn’t have any fear around food, or any shame;  she appreciates chocolate just as much as any other food she eats; and she loves cooking!  She has been quite tired recently, which could be due to the numerous bugs we seem to have caught, but it could also be due to her recent shift to foods that don’t contain much iron.  I had a chat with her about trying to introduce some iron-rich foods to see if it helps with her energy and she is fully on board – she’s had carrot and hoummous, more dark chocolate, and we’re going to try some roasted sunflower seeds shortly.

And that is what it’s all about: partnering the sausages.

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Shopping, Sickness…. and Minecraft

I should really have taken notes on what we’ve been up to this week but I forgot so this post is not going to be very detailed!  We have come into a nice bit of cash this week (thank you, parents!) and I have been having fun spending it, tee hee.  Our house has always been lacking in soft furnishings due to money being spent elsewhere so I’ve never really felt comfortable enough to spend money on nice things.  The saver in me immediately wanted to put this money away for a rainy day but J insisted we spend some of it so we’ve had a trip to an ironmonger’s in Clapham and John Lewis in Kingston.  The girls don’t get to go shopping much since I tend to buy most things online and shops tend to send them a bit loopy (think hide and seek, which is a bit heart stopping for me when they disappear, and chase, which is never going to end well).  However they seemed to enjoy the ironmongers, and had fun picking out the door knobs they liked.  Yesterday I took M to John Lewis (D hasn’t been well this week and chose to stay at home with J instead) and we had a really lovely time together: M picked out a new pillow to replace her lumpy one and we chose a new sofa throw and cushions.  Afterwards we had coffee and cake in their cafe and marvelled at the river view and the timeline on the wall.

We did have a bit of an upset in the car on the way though – I made an offhand comment about how J had told me a month’s rainfall had fallen in one night, M didn’t understand what I meant and it didn’t matter which way I approached it, she just couldn’t get it.  She really wanted to understand though, which led to a lot of tears.  We’ve had quite a few of these scenarios recently and it always brings to mind an analogy I read somewhere of the difference between an Asperger’s mind and a neuro-typical one: ‘It’s like a mac trying to talk to a PC’.  So I changed tack and tried to talk to her about how her brain is wired differently to mine to which she replied ‘I don’t get it’ with a little smirk.  Ha ha.  We did so much chatting though, it really reminded me of how much she absorbs just through conversation.

So D has been unwell this week, it was building up on Tuesday and I had a very thoughtful and sorrowful D on the way home from dropping M off at Brownies.

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It resulted in her being sick in the night and missing a play date with her friend on Wednesday, poor D.  However, what with illness and the ridiculous amount of rain we’ve had this week there has been a lot of Minecraft play, along with Stampy and Squid videos.

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I’m feeling a bit heart-sore this morning as the news that we’re leaving the EU has been announced.  I dread to think what this means for the future of our girls in this country, but bringing it back to home education I feel reassured that we’re doing the right thing by them in providing them with a fun, loving, unique and rich learning environment that will enable them to thrive anywhere.

Yes, Minecraft

For those of you who are not particularly interested in Minecraft, these last few posts must seem really quite boring!  If you’re not into computers or gaming then I can certainly see that you wouldn’t get how incredibly amazing Minecraft really is.  Yes, it’s still featuring heavily in our lives right now.  The passion was just beginning to ease a little and then the latest Minecraft PE update came out and the level of excitement was through the roof! 😀

M has since been playing about with pistons (I have yet to learn how to work the engineering and redstone side of Minecraft so I watched on with awe) and we’ve all been taming horses using saddles that M had fished previously.

We did have a bit of a disaster in Babbaville though.  Since the update, a few of our worlds were causing the app to crash and Babbaville was one of them.  I looked into ways of backing the world up but it seems this isn’t possible without hacking the iPad which I’m not prepared to do.  M was absolutely gutted but cheered up a little when I remembered that we could use Babbaville’s seed to recreate the same world again.  We’ve since had loads more fun recreating Babbaville from memory onto a new world.  Phew.

We’ve all had a change of skin using our Skinseed app: D turned herself into iBallistic Squid, I am now Stampy and M is a blue bunny.  We figured out the patterns from looking at images online – we could have just bought the skins but that wouldn’t have been as much fun.  Here is D as Squid – she figured out the teeth and colours herself 🙂

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The measure of how much we’ve been playing Minecraft is when we have to question which world we’re talking about: i.e. are you hungry in the Minecraft world or the real one?

So onto real-world news, last weekend J and I went to our nephew’s wedding.  This was cause for much anxiety for D, and it’s been building up and up over the last few months.  We had planned to spend the night away at a hotel but I decided D’s anxiety was getting too high so we just went for the day.  Here is a rare photo of J and I together, taken by my Dad.  What a treat for your eyes. 😉

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My Mum and Dad came down to look after the girls while we were gone so they had a lovely day of play with my Mum and games of chess with my Dad.  D coped very well considering how worried she’d been.

The general mood here is one of cocooning: M has decided she’s not interested in going to Woodcraft Folk anymore and even Brownies fell by the wayside this week.  Next week, Brownies finishes for the summer so we have got a few months a head of us with no classes at all!  We’ve had a couple of play dates this week though – we grabbed a rare few hours of sunshine in Bushy Park with D’s best friend.  This girl has so much energy, the girls were utterly exhausted afterwards (in the best way)!  Bushy Park is stunning and we plan on exploring more of it.

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And here are the girls on another play date and having a last-minute bounce on our friends’ fantastic trampoline before returning to our pitiful one at home. 😉

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I made a couple of new discoveries in terms of resources: the first is thanks to my nephew who showed it to my Mum, who then showed it to us – Michael Rosen on YouTube!  I love that man.  The second is Wonderopolis: if you read this blog regularly you’ll know I struggle with science.  This is probably the first website I’ve come across where science is worded in such a way that I can actually understand it!  The girls and I wanted to know where wind comes from and now we know. 🙂

Cousins, Modroc and Minecraft

Yes, full on Minecraft absorption continues: D is still watching Stampy videos, in particular she loves the Quest ones with his friend Squid.  In fact, we ALL love those ones and can frequently be found giggling together over their silly antics.  M loves to watch Stampy too but mostly she loves to play in my Minecraft world called Babbaville (Babba was a nickname given to me by M before she could talk properly and it stuck: she only started calling me Mum a year or so ago and my niece and nephews still use that name!).

Babbaville has a remarkable effect on M: it really soothes her.  We’ve set the world up so well now that life is pretty peaceful in Babbaville – M loves to spend her time harvesting crops for her shop (she now has a 3 storey department store), fishing (I can well imagine she would love fishing in real life given the comments she makes about it in Minecraft), sorting out and tidying, and killing the odd mob now and then.  Because it’s my world I have to be playing too or M wouldn’t be able to access it so it means we are spending a lot of time playing together!  It’s really lovely as M has never been all that playful like D – from an early age M’s games would be so heavily controlled and scripted that they were not very pleasant for anybody else to play.  I have seen how playing on Minecraft works as a decompresser for children after school but I never really saw it as therapeutic – now I can see that it really is!

D’s angle on Minecraft is the creativity – she spent hours working on a world with her cousin J (7) and they built some incredible structures together.  Plus she has learnt sooooo much from watching Stampy – most of the time I’m listening too but she still manages to come out with some titbit of information I didn’t know so I can’t be listening as hard as her. 😀

At the moment, I’d say about 80% of our time is taken up with Minecraft in some way or other.  I can imagine non-unschoolers reeling in horror at this (“but imagine what they could be doing instead” or “children should be playing outside”).  Well, sometimes I get a small voice in my head saying these things too but I squash them with:

  • Replace Minecraft with any other activity – books, for example – parents boast that their child will ‘have their head in a book all day’, but there seems to be a lot of shame in saying ‘my child will play on screens all day’.  I LOVE books, but they’re limited – imagine how much of a broader spectrum of knowledge and skills a child is getting from an iPad.  Society and it’s shaming ways have to catch up in my opinion.
  • Saying what children ‘should’ be doing isn’t helpful.  When I was a child I ‘should’ have practised the violin more but I didn’t because I didn’t enjoy it enough.  I ‘should’ have had more friends to play but I didn’t because I enjoyed my own company and had 5 other sisters and cousins to play with.  I also ‘should’ have been outside more but I wasn’t because I genuinely don’t enjoy being outdoors – I’m a homebody.  We didn’t even have computers or a lot of kids’ TV in my childhood and I still didn’t do the things society said I ‘should’ be doing, so setting computers and TV up as the reason kids are not doing what they ‘should’ be doing doesn’t even make sense.
  • Adults expect too much of children – those ones who are full of ideas about how children should be behaving rarely examine their own behaviour (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard a parent say ‘don’t f*****g swear’), or those ones who come onto Facebook to say their child would spend all day on screens if they were allowed to (yet it’s ok for that same adult to spend hours on social media and spend their evenings watching TV).  I’m actually great (if I do say so myself) at seeing how much D in particular needs screentime to recover, decompress, whatever, from life and I’m just coming to terms with my love of games and how I need them too.

Ooh I seem to have gone off on a tangent there, so back to our week. 🙂

The other 20% of sausage time is taken up with playing in the garden – the girls have made up lots of crazy games together and also with J.  I can’t remember why M has only one pyjama leg down in this pic but this is them making up a little dance routine in the garden one evening.  Also note the collapsing trampoline behind them!  Oh dear, it really is time for a replacement…

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I have recently had a food overhaul while I try to figure out what I’m intolerant to.  Which means I’m spending a lot more time in the kitchen while I try out new recipes.  M has been helping me loads – she loves chopping & peeling and collecting herbs from the garden, she loves all the smells and textures on her hands and a couple of times has even joined me for dinner afterwards.

We have also (finally) finished her Perseus sculpture in wire and mod roc after I finally got around to buying wire thick enough to make a stand and some more mod roc to finish what she couldn’t do at the National Gallery a few months ago.  And here it is!

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She has also covered her button jar with tiny pieces of washi tape and Mod Podge:

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They’ve been to the park lots (J loves taking them), looking after our bunnies, getting their eye’s tested (they love the optician’s!) and they had lots and lots of fun with cousins who came to stay for nearly 4 days (their longest visit so far!)

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Next up, my parents are coming to visit so they can look after the sausages while J and I go to a wedding.  Only our second night away away from the sausages – eek!