Tag Archives: Chess

Papier Mache, Rubik’s Cube and Google

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time making papier-mache goody bags (inspired by an episode of Creative Galaxy).  D is beginning to realise that these TV programmes aren’t very realistic in showing you how much time these art projects take to complete.  So instead of taking 1 minute it took us 3 days to make our goody bags!  And even then, D’s collapsed because we hadn’t put enough newspapers layers on.  However, she wasn’t to be defeated and was keen to start all over again.  This time we made it with 4 layers of newspaper, just to be sure.  After it had been painted and a ribbon handle was stapled on, she immediately filled it with goodies and gave it to M!  Aah.


The girls are really getting into films now.  They probably watch at least one film a day and their current favourites are Cat in the Hat and Paddington.  They’re both brilliant films, even for adults, and I’m usually asked a few questions during the film, which goes to show they’re not just flopped zombie like in from of the telly: instead they’re engaged and learning.  I’m quite thankful for the break it gives me too: they’re both really busy with different activities at the moment but they still require a lot of hand-holding and help through things – not complaining, just sayin. 🙂


In keeping with my promise to get outdoors more, the girls have been out on their bikes, scooters or roller skates every day lately, a great achievement for me!  M adores her bike so will willing go anywhere on it, and D is getting more and more confident on hers thanks to J’s persistence that she practices.

D has been keen to play long-ignored board games (Tell the Time, Junior Scrabble and Pop to the Shops) and also completing her favourite map jigsaws which she’s getting faster and faster at.  J has also begun teaching her how to play chess.


D even made up her own game by drawing the Sun and each planet in the solar system (Pluto is always included because she feels sorry for it).  We then had to choose a planet and orbit the sun like the planet would.  There was a discussion with M about whether the planets traveled at differing speeds or whether some planets take longer to complete an orbit because of their distance from the Sun!


M is becoming more and more engaged in learning as time passes by: she now asks me some incredible questions and I can tell by the surprise and pleasure I feel when she does it that I had become accustomed to her never asking me anything (or asking and then feigning disinterest when I begin to Google it).  On a visit to the Museum of London last week, she was full of questions about the Roman invasion (including some rather interesting ones like ‘weren’t the English angry?’).  This week she has also asked me ‘what’s the point of ants?’ and ‘why do people in different countries speak different languages?’.


Last week, M decided she wanted to make the bunnies a toy out of loo rolls.  She had the idea of making them a castle but she had an added challenge that she couldn’t use any glue or tape to fix it together in case the bunnies ingested it.  She came up with an ingenious way of connecting the rolls using a slot on one and a flap on the other.  Her brain never ceases to amaze me!


M has also dug out a long-forgotten Rubik’s Cube and has been spending hours and hours working through the instructions.  She’s now got to the point (after working on it solidly for a day) where she’s gaining an understanding of its movements and can figure out problems more easily.  She’s set herself the challenge of being able to complete it without any instructions at all!


And here she is in her new Brownie uniform!  She is thoroughly enjoying it, though small problems are arising to do with her being unable to take in long streams of information from her leader.  I was unsure whether to make the Brown Owl aware that we’re seeking an Aspergers diagnosis but in the end I decided I would so that she might understand M’s behaviour more.  She seems like a very understanding woman and had already noticed a few of M’s difficulties.  After each session I can sense a faint shadow of M’s old school self – the anger at me, the needing to wind down, and the faintly glassy-eyed look which tells me she’s over-stimulated.  But on the whole, it is a positive experience for M and she really looks forward to it every week.


And finally, a picture of a sausage sandwich for you to enjoy.


Isaac Newton and other Activities in Nottingham

Yet again I’ve left it too long between blog posts!  I will split the last couple of weeks into two posts so as not to make them too long.

We’ve been to Nottingham and back since I last wrote but just before Nottingham, we had a day of reading and climbing: I bought a set of books that were on offer from The Book People a while ago (I have since stopped looking at this site as it is far too good and I was spending far too much money there) and I decided to strew one of the books on slaves – ‘You Wouldn’t Want to be a Slave in Ancient Greece‘.  Anyway, no-one noticed it had been strewed so during our morning cuddle I just picked it up and started to read and the girls sat and listened with interest.  It is meant to be a light-hearted look at interesting aspects of history, but D and I found it very hard to read and we were both in tears by the end.  M however, who loves the macabre, was fascinated!  So I will be strewing more of these books in future…

In the afternoon we packed the car for Nottingham and went first to climbing, before driving up the M1 straight afterwards.


While in Nottingham we had visits from and to cousins, my nephew’s bowling party and my niece’s horse riding party, and two sleep-overs.

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M played quite a bit of chess with Granddad, working out moves from her ‘Find a Mate’ book that we bought on a chess course last year.


D played quite a lot of imaginary games with bunnies and dolls (in between watching Go Diego Go) and also put together this World Map with Grandma, which provided a base for her toys to travel the world.


The girls put on a couple of shows for us (D’s dance show was quite amazingly like break dancing!) and they both did a judo demonstration for Grandma and Granddad.


M also spent hours making a birthday card for her cousin with collage paper I had bought at Tate Modern a while ago.


We also made a trip out to Woolsthorpe Manor, which was Isaac Newton’s birthplace and his home for a few years in adulthood.  It was utterly fascinating: there was a converted barn where you could experiment with Newton’s discoveries and you could also look around his house.  Because we were visiting mid-week we could experiment with the activities as much as we wanted and had one-to-one attention from a very eager retired physicist who works there.

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We came back home with all of us feeling a renewed vigour for ‘doing stuff’ – well, M and I were anyway – poor old D has been too full of cold to do anything!  It is wonderful to have the support of my parents – I know I’m extremely lucky to have parents who can see the good in HE, can give me the break I need and are very much adored – thank you Grandma and Granddad!

Maths Craft and Electrical Bugs

Sometimes when I have a great idea it is quite hard to make the sausages understand that it IS a great idea.  Like yesterday, I was full of renewed enthusiasm and was determined to start February off with a bang.  I really wanted to get our new poetry book out and had visions of the girls listening to me reciting a few verses with their faces full of rapt attention.  Nope.  The sausages wanted to have a sword fight instead.

So then I suggested they could make a start on Mathletics or Reading Eggs.  Nope.  They wanted to send each other secret messages using invisible ink (not bad I thought, at least they’re spelling and writing).  But that soon petered out and I could tell the petty squabbles were about to begin so I had a quick burst of inspiration and got them doing a craft that involved a bit of maths too.  Piñata times tables – genius!

I’ve been scratching my head for weeks trying to come up with a way of reinforcing the times-tables that M has learnt and starting D on them.  The easiest way to get the sausages to do learn anything is by doing it through craft.  On Sunday, M had a few friends round to celebrate her birthday and the piñata was VERY popular: I think quite a bit of anger was unleashed on the poor donkey.  The bright colours reminded me of some tissue paper we’ve had in our craft box for years so I quickly drew out the 2 and 3 times tables on a cereal box and let them loose on it, with great results.


After that, D got on with watching a new episode of Numtums on CBeebies while M had a game of chess.


I’ve been getting quite a lot of ‘I’m bored’ complaints from M so after her chess game I quickly cut out about 40 or so words to use to give her ideas for a poem.  Considering she is not one for creative writing she really seemed to get on well with this exercise – I think having ready made words to choose from helped, and the fact that she didn’t have to write anything.  The poem turned into a little story about a boy and a girl but it didn’t matter, she was being creative and that’s what counts.


Today started off in a similar fashion, trying to get the girls engaged in an activity was quite difficult – M was saying she was bored but then huffed every time I suggested something.  In the end I used a bit of ‘forceful encouragement’ to get her going.  We made electrical bugs!  We spent over an hour putting them together and both girls faces lit up when they realised they looked like Blaze from Tinkerbell.  M was soo excited when her bulb lit when she connected the antennae to some metal scissors.  Unfortunately D’s bug didn’t work and we couldn’t figure out why.

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I tried to continue the flow and we went on to BBC Bitesize to play a quick game on circuits and conductors.  It went quite well in that both girls seemed to get it but they had had enough after a few minutes.  I set up another experiment to show static electricity using M’s party balloons but the momentum had gone and they both wanted to bat the balloons instead.  Never mind, I felt like I had succeeded in getting February started just as I had planned.  And the day has continued well in terms of keeping the girls engaged and motivated.  And the house is a mess, which is always a good sign.  Let’s hope we can keep it up for the rest of the year.  The motivation that is, not the mess. 🙂

Do we have an official Christmas holiday?

For the last few days I’ve been ruminating on what to do over the Christmas holidays.  Do we stop all structure in imitation of a school term?  Or do we carry on as we are, with some semblance of structure?

Our natural rhythms appear to have answered this for me, because even though we live life at what I consider to be a gentle pace, it seems that actually it may not be so gentle after all: M is so tired she can barely manage simple addition in Mathletics; and I for one don’t have any mental space beyond making dinner and hanging the washing up.

Out of all of us, D leads the most simple life and probably spends 90% of her day playing.  Not that she isn’t learning anything, but she certainly doesn’t do as much formal learning as M (which is how it should be considering her age!).

Consequently, M and I are very ready for a holiday, while D has bags of energy.  She is desperate to do Reading Eggs and has to be coaxed off in order to give her brain a rest.  With this in mind I’ve resolved to take the holidays as they come.  If they want to do formal work, they can, if they want to watch Tinkerbell all day, they can.

I’m sure some of you are thinking that you don’t really ‘holiday’ from home education because learning is everywhere, but this Christmas we will be at my parents’ in Nottingham for 2 weeks and so for us it will be a break from the norm.  Knowing the sausages, they will be learning in every which way: they are unstoppable.

Here are a few snapshots of what we’ve been up to today in Nottingham:

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There’s been a long game of chess this afternoon which, according to Granddad, is “very tense”. M didn’t seem in the least bit perturbed though.  Granddad has asked to continue the game in the morning, ha ha.  Watch this space to see if he will be beaten by a 6 year old…

Halloween Sleepover

Today was a bit of a lazy one but it was great!  It was dismal outside so we stayed in and played.  M challenged Grandma to a game of chess and won by doing a killer move that we were all very impressed by.  And then she challenged Aunty S to a game of Connect 4 and managed to beat her quite a few times too.

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Meanwhile, D watched a TInkerbell movie and afterwards played lots of games throughout the day using lots of different dolls and lots of imagination.

After lunch, us grown-ups got out a game called Flags of the World.  As our knowledge was so pathetic we set about trying to learn a few flags, starting with Europe.  M quickly joined in and we’d memorised about 15 countries before it was time to set off to Aunty B’s Halloween party!


We got M changed into her witches outfit and I painted her face green with sparkles.  She loved it and couldn’t stop staring at herself in the mirror!  We drove over to Aunty B’s house and M got straight into playing with two of her cousins.  She’ll be staying there overnight tonight – her first sleep-over!  It’s a measure of how far she’s come in confidence that she is happy to sleep in another house without me.  And a measure of how much she loves her Aunty and cousins!

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D was a little disoriented without M at first but after a while she seemed to enjoy having the full attention of all the grown-ups.  We made Double Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Cookies, then she went to bed and Grandma read her a bedtime story.

Little things:

D broke M’s stickle-brick creation while she was tidying up.  She tried to put it back together again but got upset because she couldn’t get it right.  She said tearfully: ‘I just want M to be proud of me’.

While we were eating dinner, D sang us a song about feeling lonely and finding a friend which had us all in tears it was so sweet and heartfelt!

In Nottingham!

I was half tempted not to write a post today as we’re kind of on a holiday at my parents house but here’s a few snippets of what we’ve been up to…

The most amazing news is M’s achievement on her chess course!  Before she went into class yesterday she was beaming and saying how much she hoped she’d win a trophy.  I so badly wanted her to win as she really isn’t the sort of child who asks for much, so when she does it is even more heartfelt.  After D and I had sat in the car (in the rain) for 3 hours we went in to join M for the roll-call of prize winners… 5th place was announced… then 4th… (my heart was in my stomach by this point)… then 3rd… and M was announced as joint 2nd winner with another boy!!!  She won a silver medal and I was soooo happy and excited for her!  And proud!  She was over the moon and beaming from ear to ear.

After chess we headed straight up the M1 to Nottingham to visit my parents and we’ll be here for the next 10 days or so.  M was bouncing around in her seat with the excitement and D fell asleep she was so exhausted from a bad night’s sleep and a v boring day in the car.  We arrived in Nottingham just after 5pm and the girls raced around the lounge until bed time.  Their Aunty S is also staying here for a few days so the girls were ready to explode with excitement.

Today we had a leisurely start and then set off to town in our endless quest for some blinking bleeping shoes for M.  Still no success, grr.  One more shop to try but I am anticipating she will be in wellies all winter.  We had a lovely trip to the coffee shop though and the girls were very excited to choose new hats, scarfs and gloves in John Lewis.

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This afternoon we did a bit of sewing, M played chess, D played with Grandma’s fairy dolls and I got a big bag of felt out and they did a bit of sewing.  Then my cousin Z and her son M came over and there was high jinks and shenanigans for a good few hours and they all played wonderfully together.

Frenzied Sausages

Back to chess again today.  D came with us this time as J had too much work to do.  I packed a huge amount of food (we were going to be out for 3 hours after all) and a big bag of activities to keep us occupied.

After dropping a delighted M off at chess, D and me headed back to the car to start her Biff, Chip and Kipper activity book.  She’s finished the first set and now she’s onto level 2-3 of the phonics book.  Once she’d finished that she had a drink and a snack while she listened to a Charlie & Lola audio story.


Then we headed out to the park in the glorious sunshine!

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I don’t know if I’m unusual in this but I absolutely hate parks.  There’s something about the mind-numbingness added with the physical exertion that I can’t stand!  I’d much rather be on a walk or something.


Anyway, after D had been on everything a few times we headed back to the car and D listened to a Billy Goats Gruff audio story and then played Numberjacks on my tablet.  Before we knew it, the 3 hours was up and we went to collect M again.  M was over the moon as she had just beaten a boy who claimed it was the first time he’d lost to anyone!

This afternoon was spent packing for our trip to my parents’ house in Nottingham.  The girls did a bit of Trunki packing, but not a lot.  They quickly built up into a frenzy of excitement about tomorrow’s trip and ran around the house chasing each other, screaming, laughing, and pinching my bottom.

I’ve given them a bath tonight.  The first one in ages because they’ve been showering at David Lloyd of late.  They’re both beautifully calm now, combing their mermaid dolls’ hair and quietly chatting to each other.  Peace!

Little things:

M created a wonderful treasure map which J & I had to follow to get to the treasure (which was D), it was really properly done with the furniture drawn from a bird’s eye view.

D talking about going to Nottingham: ‘Mum! Louis [toy bunny] is looking forward!’

D talking to me in manner of a 40 year old: ‘So.  How was M’s chess today?’

Chess and The Canterville Ghost

M’s half-term chess course started again today.  J took the day off work to look after D while I took M to Hersham for her course.  She wasn’t too keen on going at first but just as happened the last time, she absolutely loved it and was disappointed she didn’t get to finish the game she was in the middle of when I came to collect her.

D had a quiet time at home with J and drew him a picture of a hot air balloon, which looks more like a Rothko painting to me.


After I’d had lunch and a cup of tea we all set off to walk into Wimbledon to get M some shoes (the never-ending quest, it seems).  The shoes we’d ordered in for her still weren’t right so the search continues!  The girls had a play on the rides with J while I got a couple of bits and bobs and then we set off home again.

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When we got back I started on dinner and J set off for work.  After dinner, D started reading a book so I volunteered to read to her so we all snuggled down under a blanket to read How the World Works.

It soon became apparent that the sausages weren’t really in the mood to sit and listen to me so I put a film on they hadn’t seen before – The Canterville Ghost.  M has read the story before and loved it but she was really taken with the film, particularly the cheesey romance they’d added in…  She says she’s ready to have a boyfriend now (!).  I did wonder if she might like a girlfriend instead but that idea was brushed aside.  D was fascinated by the ghost, Sir Simon, and how he became a ghost: not being a believer in ghosts myself I found this quite hard to explain!

Multiplication, Division AND Economics!

Following on from what I was saying about how important talking is in HE: out of the blue last night M said she wanted to go looking for gold when she was a grown-up.  Intrigued, I asked her what she would do when she had gold and she said she would sell it and be rich.  Then I asked her what she would do when she was rich (hoping for some charitable reply like ‘help the needy’) but no, she said she would ‘just be rich’.  Anyway, this led on to an indepth conversation about how much money she could get for her gold (you could almost hear the cash-register ker-ching! and see the dollar signs in her eyes); what ‘value’ means; what ‘rare’ means; and I slipped in a bit of supply and demand economics too, just for good measure.

On to today.  I wanted to take the girls swimming and get some jobs done in Wimbledon but we only managed Wimbledon.  It was a big shopping trip though and the girls did really well, there were no flops at all!  I had written out a shopping list which M enjoyed taking charge of and I also let her lead the way around the centre.  She has appalling bearings/direction like me and I want her to get a sense of her surroundings a bit more rather than being led around in a daze.  She did really well looking out for shop signs and seeking out the things we needed in the shops.  It also stopped her from slipping into the strange dreamy state she can get into at the shops.


After we’d done most of our jobs we popped into the coffee shop for a treat and to do a bit in the girls’ workbooks.  This was a special request from D – she really wanted to bring them along so I wasn’t going to argue!

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D did a bit more alphabetising of words and M worked on her times-tables sticker book.  She made a few mistakes on the sums where part of the question was missing so I decided to go through it in more depth when we got home.

Somehow, we ended up being out for hours so when we got back there wasn’t time to go swimming as I had to make dinner.  The girls had some lunch and rested in front of the telly while I cooked a curry.

Once that was done I sat D down with her Arithmasticks to do some multiplication.  She has been desperate to learn her times-tables and this morning was reading the times-tables poster on our bedroom wall and delightedly telling me she had learnt them.  I’m not sure if she has fully grasped the concept yet but we went through lots of different sums and I helped her to work them out on her Arithmasticks.  She was fully engaged and enjoying it which was a pleasure to see.

Then I spent 10 minutes with M going through division with her.  I am sure she did this at school but she claimed no knowledge!  I got some pretty beads out which immediately delighted her and we went through a few sums.  I showed her how division is the opposite of multiplication and how to switch the numbers around to work out an answer if the sum is missing part of the question.  She didn’t really enjoy it.  But at least she understood it.


J came home early but was very stressed from work.  He still managed to fit in a quick game of chess though… and was beaten by M!


Little things:

On the way downstairs this morning, M and D were saying they were going to be nice to each other all day.  I said, yeah right, how about just trying to be nice to each other until lunch time?  Or just for 1 hour?  But they were sure they could do it… and they did!  There was a slight blip around 2pm but it was over in seconds so I’m not counting it.

J & I forgot our anniversary!!  I only remembered at 2pm when I was writing the date down 😦  Any tips on home educating plus stressful job and maintaining a good relationship would be most welcome 🙂