Tag Archives: English

Grandma and Grandad

My parents came to stay for 4 days and we’ve been doing all sorts with them:

On Friday I had booked in an event at The Bank of England Museum.  It was billed as being for 5-7 year olds which suits both my two (as regular readers of this blog will know, M finds it hard to follow lots of information being given to her in a long stream so shorter, more simplified workshops suit her well).  Unfortunately the lady running the workshop was seemingly blind to the sea of 5-7 year olds in front of her and proceeded to give a 45 minute presentation aimed at 9-12 year olds (I know this because it was on the title page of her PowerPoint presentation!).  As such, we left after 20 minutes feeling frustrated and disappointed.

The museum itself entertained M for a bit but the interactive exhibits seemed to be too old for her (and me!) to understand.  M gave it a score of 5/10.

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D would much rather have not gone at all but gave the museum 10/10 because she got to play on her iPad. 😀


The day felt a bit Mary Poppinsy so after the bank we walked up to St Paul’s Cathedral: Grandma and M sang Feed the Birds while D and I kept our distance.

On Saturday we had a trip to our local Costa’s, a trip into Wimbledon to pick up a clothes order for D (she looks so old/smart now!) and playing at home for the rest of the day.

Grandma showed M how to make drop scones; Grandad tried to encourage D to play her guitar (better luck next time, Grandad), we had funny face competitions, musical statues and card games.


D has asked me to make another soft toy – this time it’s a pink Minecraft chicken.  Yes.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time on it already: the pattern has been done, the pieces cut out and some of the bits sewn together.  I can feel old rusty cogs grinding into action as I re-learn my pattern cutting skills.  This is D stuffing the chicken feet:


M also worked hard with Grandma – pruning our ‘Sleeping Beauty’ hedge, much to our neighbour’s delight. 😀

I’ve recently taken up Face Yoga in an effort to release tension from my face (it’s working!). Both the girls have been having fun joining in, and it even led to M asking what a 45 degree angle is.

Grandma had recently learnt that Emily Davison stayed near us on the night before she died under the King’s horse at Epsom, so we had a chat about suffragettes with M (more links to Mary Poppins).  M has also recently asked about yellow box junctions, which led to a very long and detailed explanation and a diagram!


We had a listen to a Radio 4 programme that Grandma had recommended – Word of Mouth on Radio 4.  I found an episode on Roald Dahl that kept the girls’ interest for a few minutes, particularly the story of what Roald Dahl said to Michael Rosen’s son when they met.

And then it was time for the Grandparents to leave!  Wowsers we packed a lot in.  They will be very much missed. 🙂

Growing Up

M’s will to learn is going from strength to strength – she is actively, positively, wanting to learn new things and to get a grasp on things she doesn’t understand.  It is so refreshing!

This week I bought a new STEAM book – sometimes it’s lovely to go through a book for ideas – I tend to feel overwhelmed when I look on the internet.  M saw me with it so we read through it together and she picked out 6 or 7 projects she’d like to try.  We were looking at an electrical project and M started asking questions about how electricity works – I seemingly wasn’t grasping exactly what she was asking and she was getting frustrated but we got there in the end: she managed to find her words and ask

“Why do things behave the way they do?”

Wow.  What a question!  I obviously didn’t have an answer on hand for that but we had a chat about scientists questioning everything and some of them even turning to religion for an answer.

She does seem so much older now she’s nearing 10 – she makes her own breakfast now: she toasts a waffle and sorts out her own drink.  She’s even been sleeping for 11/12 hours a night this week so I’m sure she must doing a lot of growing.

I’ve also noticed recently how amazing the girls’ vocabulary has become: we were doing some research on Terraria and noticed pictures of bunnies wearing party hats – the explanation read that they only wear party hats when there is a party on.  M asked “what qualifies as a party?”.  What the hell?!  Where did that word come from?! Meanwhile, D is wandering around on Minecraft saying “I’m looking for some flat terrain“.  It is all hilarious and super-impressive at the same time. 😀

This week the girls have been playing Terraria and Minecraft, trampolining, playing chase with J and playing with their cousin M, who has come to stay for a few days.

And finally, here is a picture of M dressed up as a dragon – J got out the long-forgotten dressing up outfits when I was out last weekend, 🙂


Back From our Hols

We’re back in our house after 3 weeks away!  D is very pleased and her first comment on waking was “it’s good to be back in our own bed”.  M is less pleased and is missing her Nottingham family terribly.  We had 5 days in Nottingham with my Mum and Dad (and a sleep over at my sister’s house) and then a week in Seahouses, Northumberland, followed by another week in Nottingham.  We had a really wonderful relaxing time, surrounded by family.

I haven’t blogged at all while away so here’s a few snapshots of what we’ve been up to:

Back to life in London this morning!  Both girls opted for a day indoors – I was quite up for a ramble on Wimbledon Common but as I’m fasting today I’m pleased to have a quite day indoors instead.

While we were in Nottingham I bought a new laptop and iPad.  My Samsung laptop and tablet are both dying a slow death and the girls are very pleased to have a new laptop that they can play the full version of Minecraft on and an iPad that has better games than the old tablet!  A lot of time has been spent on both machines for the last week.

Big themes have also been: D zooming ahead in mental maths – the game is this, you ask her bunny an addition or subtraction question and the bunny answers!  This clever bunny has now made the link between the number bonds to 10 and the number bonds (in 100s) to 1000!!; D learning how to win at noughts and crosses (with a lot of cheating along the way); M learning french knitting; M still enjoying collecting ‘specimens’ to put into labelled vials and was over the moon to find a live mussel and crab shell at the beach (though thankfully these weren’t put into labelled vials); M is also zooming ahead in independence, I swear she would now go on a sleep over every night of the week if she could!

This morning has been a healthy mixture of playing games on the iPad, watching Powerpuff girls on our new Netflix account and a couple of requested activities: this morning D decided she wanted to finish Reading Eggs (this always pleases me as I bought a whole year’s subscription and she then told me she’d ‘gone off it’. Grr).  She deflated a bit when I told her she’d have to go back a few levels and keep doing it a few times a week so she doesn’t forget it all over again.  She was still insisting she could do the test on level 9 and suggested I read it all for her!  Nothing like a bit of delegation to get you on in life…  In the end I persuaded her to try level 6 and she did really well working independently and also with a little help from me.

Afterwards she played Minecraft for a while and then announced she wanted to draw our car!  So I set her up on a little chair outside our house and she got sketching.  She then decided to draw our house too and it wasn’t long before M appeared and wanted to join in.  I bought myself a sketchbook a while ago so that I could join in too and even I was moved to attempt to draw our Flanders poppies which have flowered while we were away…

This week we’ll just be slowly cranking up the gears again as we settle back into our routines.  We have a long awaited play date planned with a little girl from D’s old nursery and I’m hoping to get M sorted out with a few play dates too!



Connections and Positiveness

I (or, we) have had a very positive couple of days.  Not a lot happened.  Just a few nudges here and there as M made a few signs to show she was open to more learning.

As you might expect, my heart leaps (though I retain my nonchalant composure) whenever M takes an interest in anything.  ANYTHING.  Anything at all will do.  This time the spark of interest was due to our weekly email of The Kid Should See This.  I cannot rate their email subscription highly enough – the variety of interesting videos is brilliant.  In last week’s email they had a clip of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.  The bit where he gets trapped in a lion’s cage.  I have to admit to never seeing a Chaplin film before and we both really enjoyed it.  M is still giggling about it now!  D loved looking at the air traffic visualisations and watched them over and over again – they’re stunning to look at.  We also watched a gorgeous film about polar bears on a quest for sea ice.

What else was positive?  Well, Lego was linked into a couple of games today.  First of all, M was playing on her Lego City app and she got quite excited when she realised that she had the same Lego as in the game she was playing.  She then got out her Lego City collection and began building it.  She generously shared some of it with D who loved playing with the bank robbers.

Also making a connection with Lego was D, who has recently changed from making her Lego tree-house over and over again to constructing a tree-house in Minecraft!  It’s getting very detailed and interesting.  Leading on from this, M began making a tree house out of junk modelling just before bed this evening!  I like the connections that are being made between the games and it goes to show that playing a game on a computer can be just as valid as playing with Lego!

I am also very pleased that I read Lori Pickert’s Mentoring Self Directed Learners as this was at the forefront of my mind when I sat down with M this evening while she made her tree house: I observed, helped her when she needed it, I didn’t jump in with solutions and I offered to make a note of a few things which she didn’t have time to do, which really eased her transition into bed!


Other connections: At the weekend J took the girls to a local fair where they bought a number of books.  M has particularly enjoyed doing an Usborne Sticker Dressing Long Ago book.  Today she brought it with us to do in the David Lloyd café before swimming and she was completing a page on the Palace of Versailles.  We looked at the richness of their clothes, how the King was dressed compared to the other nobles and how they all had clothes similar to Captain Hook in Peter Pan (who had modelled himself on King James II).  Another example of how telly watching can also be a valid use of time :).

Next positive happening: M announced that she would like to write a story so I suggested she get out her little book and she could start writing.  She got as far as the title before stomping out of the room because she didn’t know how to start the story.  I left it for a bit, we did other things, and then a few hours later I asked her if she’d like me to do it with her.  And I got a ‘Yes!’.  So she dictated the story to me and I scribbled like mad for 10 minutes.  We haven’t finished yet but I’m so pleased that she wanted to continue.

One last connection that I just remembered: D was doing ‘spin art’ on our Snap Circuits and then decided she wanted to draw a colour wheel so we had a think about what the primary and tertiary colours are and she coloured in the various segments, put it back on the circuit and watched the colours merge into brown!  A great example of connecting art and science!

While we’re on the subject of connections, thanks to a tweet from Katie Pybus at The Gallivanters, I read this post by Sandra Dodd on connections and how learning works, it makes for a very interesting read if you have a spare 10 minutes.

Immersed in Stories

We’ve been absorbing A LOT of stories lately: Roald Dahl audio books in the car for starters – so far we’ve enjoyed The BFG, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and now Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

I love that D is enjoying them too as they aren’t the sort of books that she would choose to read at bedtime, but somehow she finds it easier to absorb while sitting in the car.  We’re also reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and have watched the Johnny Depp film version several times!

Since deschooling I’ve come to value all methods of story telling.  Until recently I had an arbitrary rule that the girls couldn’t watch a film version of a book until they had read the book itself.  I valued books above films.  I still do in a way, as they give your head more room to imagine characters and the scenery, and you get so much more detail.  BUT, I can now see that films have an important place in story telling too.

For months, M has been desperate to watch the last five Harry Potter films, but we were stuck because the vocabulary in The Goblet of Fire was too difficult for her to understand and so due to my ruling, she couldn’t watch the film either.  I recently realised this rule was a bit pointless and we watched ALL the films!  She has been able to take in, understand and retain all the characters and twists in the plot, and remembers better than I do which order the films come in and what happens in each one.

Through the films, M is learning about human behaviour, emotions, reactions and language that are way beyond her years, but this is fine by me – she is learning in a safe setting where she is free to ask questions and we can take the time to discuss small details that she doesn’t understand.  Amazingly, she doesn’t find the films too frightening either!  She has watched them all by my side and is now re-watching them on her own and is seemingly trying to memorise each one. 🙂

The other important point about films is that they can lead you to books you wouldn’t otherwise have read.  M enjoyed watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on film and I found all 13 books for a steal on Ebay.  I can’t wait to get stuck into them with her.


All these stories have led to both girls being eager to create their own: M has been writing a script for a play with help from J; and D has started a novel about her two toys!!  M now says she wants to be a writer AND a librarian! 🙂

Pottery and Japan

Yesterday Grandma and Granddad took the sausages to their pottery class, leaving me to get on with decorating.  However, I couldn’t face any more painting after doing it for 3 days straight so I got to work on my to-do list instead.

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This morning however, it was time for them to go.  Luckily we were able to keep ourselves busy to stop us moping about the house.  D got down to making up a new story with her two princess dolls.  We did this before (here) and it worked very well for getting their imaginations going – much more so than staring at a blank piece of paper!  So I spent a while with D, helping her to take lots of photos of her dolls in various positions.  Meanwhile, M was happily cuddling her Baby Annabell on the sofa.

It wasn’t long before we had to go to a workshop on Japan which was being given by the Japanese Society.  The class was quite gentle which suited M really well.  I began to re-explain what the ladies were saying to M (like I usually do) but M assured me that she understood already.  The pace didn’t really suit D though…


We were read a little Japanese story, then the children made origami samurai hats and had their names written on the front in Japanese.  Then the ladies demonstrated how to put a Kimono on.  M was brave enough to ask if she could wear one too!

Trust Sausages…?

If you have been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that over the past few months we’ve changed our educational style from semi-structured (with me teaching) to autonomous (with me facilitating).  It’s working rather well I think, the sausages are engaged, the desperation for things which may have been restricted a little before (telly/tablet) is starting to wane and I’ve subsequently found myself becoming more intrigued by unschooling methods and wondering whether they could be applied in other aspects of our lives, namely FOOD.

This weekend I decided (after discussing with J)  to do a MAJOR overhaul of the sausages’ diets.  Their diets aren’t the worst in the world: D has quite a nice range of food throughout the day although she eats Linda McCartney sausages and potato waffles 5 nights a week; M has a VERY limited diet and eats the same 5 foods for weeks on end (currently peanut butter on toast, cornflakes, salami and breadsticks) until she gets sick of something and starts eating something new for the next few months.  M’s saving grace is that she will taste almost anything new, most of the time it is rejected as disgusting but she is brave to try anyway.

I (almost) never ask them to eat something they don’t want to eat (I slip up when feeling desperate that no veg has been eaten in a while); I never say ‘eat this and I’ll reward you with this’; and I don’t use food to comfort them.  All pretty healthy ways to view food?  But still, I get groans if I restrict chocolate/biscuits/crisps and groans if they get a vegetable on their dinner plate.  That is not what I want for them: I want them to be so in touch with their bodies that they can think “what do I feel like eating today” and know that they’re eating what their body needs.  I want them to view eating chocolate in the same way as they might view eating an apple, for example.  I can’t help feeling that if chocolate/biscuits/crisps aren’t restricted then they will lose some of their appeal, in the same way that the telly and my tablet has.

I’ve been reading John Holt’s How Children Learn recently and something he said really struck a chord with me:

“Trust Children”

I do trust the sausages to a certain extent, I now trust them to know what they need in terms of their education.  So how about trusting them to know what their bodies need?  Over the next few months J and I will be giving the girls the freedom to choose what they want to eat.  And by that, I mean total freedom.  I have been given a few ideas after posting a question about food and unschooling on Facebook.  The ones that I think will work for us are:

  • Take the girls food shopping and let them choose a few items for themselves
  • Have a range of food out ready for them to choose and graze from
  • Let them forage for food (a bit far fetched for me but I think they’d love a ‘pick your own’ farm
  • Cook and bake more
  • Give them a ‘stash’ of their own food, perhaps a space on a shelf, with a range of food to choose from including some junk food (eek!)
  • Offer food I would normally restrict, as well as what I would normally offer

I have also been recommended to read a couple of books:

I have to say, I am more than a little scared by this new strategy and I feel it’s an enormous leap of faith, much like deciding to home educate.  I will be posting regularly on our progress so if you wish to see how we’re doing please follow me or link up on Facebook!

On another note, but linked to trusting them more – I let them both help with the decorating today – they did really well for their first attempt!



Story Time!

The girls finished their stories today.  It has amazed me how popular this unplanned project has been.  I have tried many times before to get M to write stories or books but never with much success.  It seems that getting them to play out the story themselves with me taking the photos really fired their imaginations – I guess it’s a no-brainer compared to sitting and looking at a blank sheet of paper while trying to come up with an imaginative story!

The other aspect that made a difference was that they got to type rather than write the words.  It seemed to make it more exciting somehow!

So here are the two stories.  D’s is gorgeously simple.  M’s is very intricate and if you look closely at the pictures, you’ll see there is more happening in the pictures than the narrator is letting on… very clever story writing!

Tinker Bell and Louis

Katie’s Surprise

Role Reversal

This morning things were a bit weird… M refused to get dressed when she discovered that she had her swimming lesson today.  She was so adamant and it was so out of character that I wasn’t sure how to handle it!  In the end I feigned indifference and she decided she wanted to put on a party outfit.  D on the other hand was very eager to get dressed because she wanted to paint her paper mache cave.  After I had done my jobs she sat down and got on with painting while M swanned around looking sparkly and glamorous.  This is a complete role reversal: usually it’s D who does the dressing up and M who does the work!  It really threw me as D then spent ages mixing her colours to get just the right shade for her cave, which is what M would usually do.

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M soon realised that being dressed up is actually quite boring!  We had a chat about Darwin after M said she was interested in how horses and humans evolved while looking at our wallbook.  She was intrigued because she’s just bought a monkey Sylvanian Family called the Darwins.  She was then persuaded to get changed and paint her stone age cave too.  Phew.

I didn’t write a post yesterday because half the day was spent in Kingston looking at kettles and DVD players.  I knew there would be a few appliance breakages this year but we’re now onto our 4th! Although I was to blame for one of them.

In the afternoon, D completed a level of Reading Eggs while M did a page from Galore Park maths.  Then we watched figure skating at the Winter Olympics, which M loved.  We’ve done more English and Maths in the David Lloyd café this afternoon and then we went for our swim.  I am pooped!

Fairy Books, Swimming, Painting and Algebra

We’ve had a lovely few days of HE – it’s been busy, but in a relaxed sort of way.  However, I’ve been too tired to write it all up in the evenings so here’s what we’ve been up to in the last 3 days…

On Wednesday we went into Wimbledon to get passport photos of the sausages.  We bought paint and plaster of paris from the art shop (I love that place) and we had an obligatory stop at the coffee shop before heading for the library.  I think we were in there for about 2 hours in total!  I was very pleased to have made it as I would love to make regular visits there but we never seem to find the time.  I read lots to the girls, but most amazingly M read for about half an hour to D!!  She never usually wants to read by choice (school has killed her love of reading stone dead) so I was really proud of her.  She chose a Rainbow Magic Early Reader book and read it with ease.  She decided she only wanted to read fairy books so I helped her scour the shelves for them – in the end she had 25 (!!!) books.  While they were reading I got a chance to go through the library’s information section which I’ve never looked through before.  I managed to find a book on Russia and one on fossils.  Laden with books, we went back home on the bus.

We had about 1 hour to get lunch before heading out again to David Lloyd to spend a bit of time doing our workbooks and then it was off for a swim.  I got into the pool with the girls – I feel I’m doing a pretty good job of overcoming my hatred of swimming pools!

On Thursday we spent the morning making cakes in readiness for M’s birthday celebration at our Stoneleigh group.


D spent a bit of time on Reading Eggs (she’s now on level 9!).  I’ve just bought another 6 months’ subscription to take her through the last 3 levels and wouldn’t you just know it, she’s now decided she doesn’t like it anymore and it isn’t fun.  So I politely told her she will be finishing it as I’ve paid for it!  I think she’ll be ok though if I sit down properly with her while she does it – she might see it as special time then.

After some lunch we headed off to Stoneleigh for our HE meet up.  D actually occupied herself for almost the entire time which was great.  One of the Mums made Jamaican dumplings with hot chocolate which was greatly appreciated by everyone, and we sang Happy Birthday to M. The cakes disappeared in a flash.

Today we began by attempting another colour wheel – M wanted to see if she could merge the colours together completely so we had a go.  She spent a long time mixing the colours and is now fully versed in primary colours and how to mix them!  D decided she wanted to paint a rainbow instead and did a lovely job of washing her brush between colours.  This is a good example of how different ages can get something out of the same activity.  They were both learning about colour but at different levels.

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After D had finished her rainbow she remembered how we used to see a rainbow on our kitchen floor when the sun shone through the water filter.  She asked to see it again so I explained how the sun isn’t strong enough in the winter.  We had a look at our wallbook and I read to her how Newton discovered gravity and how light contains all the colours of a rainbow: D wished that she had discovered something like that.  Then she pointed to a picture of a skull and I read to her about how Gray wrote a book on anatomy that’s still being used by medical students today.  D thought it was very kind of him to write it :).  Having absorbed all that she ran off to play with the balloons.

After lunch I took the girls swimming again.  We did workbooks in the café beforehand: M covered compound words, adjectives, plural endings and dictionary practise; while D did some adding and subtracting using a number line.

We got back from swimming and I made the girls dinner and then we watched the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.  M was very huffy about it to begin with (I’m calling this phase the sarcastic sevens as she is definitely starting to get an attitude she didn’t have before!) but then became very absorbed in it.  I’m glad as I’m hoping to start a lapbook on it next week.

The girls did the sweetest trick at bedtime: they ran upstairs and said I wasn’t to come up.  There was a lot of whispering and giggling and when I was eventually called up I found them in bed together with their eyes squeezed shut, trying not to laugh.  They’d brushed their teeth and put their pyjamas on without any cajoling from me – now that’s the kind of trick I like!

Little things:

I was recommended an app by someone on Facebook which teaches algebra in a very fun and easy to understand way.  It’s so good they don’t even realise it’s maths.  M has now completed all 100 games and finished the game this week!  I had to learn it alongside her as it is many, many years since I did algebra…  This was the final equation that she solved:


D has completed about 25 of these games and this is what her latest game looks like.  I love games like this and the sausages have no idea how clever they’re being by playing it.


I had an interesting chat with M at bedtime: we got to talking about why everyone doesn’t do HE and when I explained that some parents actually like going to work because they love their job she seemed quite puzzled!  So I said, wouldn’t you like to have a job where you got to tinker all day?  She said no, it would be too much hard work.  So I suggested she could work in the library and she squirmed with pleasure at this.  Then she asked how she would get a job there and I explained about CVs and she asked what she could put on her CV…