Tag Archives: Shenanigans

A Week in the Life of a Home Educating Family: Thursday

Most of my readers know that we’re going down the unschooling road with regards to the sausages’ education and that this is beginning to spill over into other aspects of our lives.  I find that I am approaching them differently (less as little children, more as little people) and recently gave them control over their food and bedtimes.  Sometimes these decisions come back to bite you in the bum… 🙂


I wake up with D.  Sweet whisperings in bed of ‘put your hand up if you love Mum!’ [little arm is raised].  We go downstairs and I post yesterdays blog while D watches Q Pootle 5.  J is already up and working on his laptop in the lounge.


M comes down.  I fear we are in for a tired day after such a late night and early morning. We all have a bite to eat and get the bunnies out for a run around.  I am now beginning to grasp how much work these bunnies are: I have to clean out their cage once a day to avoid having a smelly kitchen and I also have to clean the floor after their run around.  Ah well, the cuteness makes it all worthwhile.


The morning is slipping away: girls are playing a game together, then they go upstairs to carry on with their sequin baubles (pushing sequins on a pin into a polystyrene ball), then they’re back down again to work on their puppets.  They also have a dance around the living room to some music and D does a lovely rendition of ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ I have a shower and leave the the bunnies unattended on their run around the kitchen (very trusting of me!).



While I’m dressing I manage to tip the entire tray of sequins, seed beads and pins onto the bedroom floor!  The girls rush to help me pick them up and while we’re doing this we talk about whether there is a difference between ‘loads’ and ‘lots’ (of flippin’ sequins on the floor) and D notices some sequins are not disappearing down the crack between the floor boards but are resting on something, so I explain about joists.  There’s a learning opportunity everywhere…


After doing a bit of cleaning upstairs, I come down to find a massive den has been made (with J’s help) in the middle of the lounge.  I put the bunnies away and M helps me to mop the floor afterwards.  I love that they help me around the house without me having to nag them to do it.  I sit with M in the lounge and she carries on with her sequin tree centrepiece while I sort the mess out on the tray.



Today is swimming class day and although it isn’t until early evening, I don’t usually try to get the girls out twice in one day as they get quite grumpy about it.  But today I’ve had enough of being indoors and they both seem much better so I suggest going out for a bike ride.  Amazingly, both of them want to do it (it’s unusual for them both to want to do the same thing, at the same time!) so we go out: M on her bike, D on her scooter.  We’re out for sometime but eventually D has had enough and wants to play with a drain instead.

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When we get indoors the girls begin a game of ‘spying’ on J with their binoculars (he is trying to do some work in the front room but joins in anyway).  J and I manage a brief chat in the kitchen while the girls are off scheming somewhere. He then goes off to work.


Each year before Christmas I make a concerted effort to bin/recycle/charity toys that are no longer played with.  I decided to have a crack at it today and managed to fill one bag for the bin and another for charity.  Meanwhile, M is still persevering with her centrepiece and D has begun a make-believe game with her toy bunnies.


D has a big bowlful of bolognese but when it’s time for us to leave for swimming (which she did love, but now hates) she point blank refuses to go! I try discussing it with her: explaining I would like her to be a strong swimmer and she can’t yet swim a full length front crawl, but she insists that she already can and that she doesn’t need to go anymore. Grr.  I am feeling absolutely stuck as have never been in this situation before: usually the sausages can be cajoled into doing anything, but not this time.  This sausage is not for turning.  M is in a quandary as she hates going to D’s lesson too but she’s uneasy about D’s rebellion.  I’m feeling very cross and powerless so I leave them to watch telly while I make my dinner.


The swimming lesson would now be almost underway but D wants reassurance from me that she doesn’t have to go.  I won’t say it as it feels like I’m then giving her permission to not go.  Instead I say that since she refuses to go then there isn’t a lot I can do.  I’m feeling childish, sulky and angry.


I’m still sulking in the kitchen, feeling cross with myself now more than anything.  D comes into the kitchen with a picture for me ‘so that I won’t be angry anymore’, and that makes me want to cry.  We have a hug.  I think we’ll discuss this another time when I’ve gained a bit of perspective.  I let the bunnies out and M has moderate success getting little strokes, particularly with Morris.



I’m feeling really tired and don’t have the energy to entertain the girls so they set themselves up on the lounge floor with the pens and draw pictures.  I’m feeling a bit flat to be honest – I think it’s partly to do with not being out as much this week: I am determined to leave the house tomorrow!



We go upstairs and I read to them.  I make a quick exit tonight, knowing that I need to write my blog post and I need an early night too.  I leave them playing Farmville on the the iPad together.


M is downstairs again, wondering if she can do her Christmas cards upstairs. As D is already asleep, I suggest she can do them in the lounge if she’s quiet – she’s so pleased! 🙂

My Attitude

I’m attempting to adjust my attitude towards M’s attitude (if that makes sense) by reading a book called Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self Directed Learners by Lori Pickert.  In a nutshell, this book is about giving your child an environment which encourages them to follow their interests and learn ‘deeply’ and independently.  By the ‘environment’ I mean both the physical space and the attitude towards learning in our home.  Perhaps that wasn’t explained brilliantly, but follow the link to Amazon if you’re at all interested in finding out more!

On Monday, as my fellow Facebookers will know, I had a bit of a wobble, having had yet another ‘run in’ with M the night before.  Knowing how anti-workbook she is at present (she is now refusing to do MEP too) I began to fear that she would have no Maths knowledge at all so I had a look online to see if I could find some way of getting Maths into creative projects.  I found a few, including an AMAZING free booklet written by the Turner Contemporary called Maths Through Pattern.  When I approached her with some ideas the look on her face suggested I had asked her to eat cat sick – she was horrified! Ho hum.

So when the girls were in pottery on Monday afternoon, I sat under a tree in a beautiful sunny church yard next door, took a deep breath and read Lori Pickert’s book.

I realised that I need to meet M where she is, instead of trying to tempt her to where I want her to go.  I need to spend some REAL time with her, rather than assuming she is busy so I can get on with emptying the dishwasher or whatever.  I need to show that I VALUE how SHE chooses to spend her time.

The book does stress that you’re not going to make a self-directed learner overnight but I thought I would sit down with her while she was making her Father’s Day card to see what happened.  I have to say, I found it VERY difficult to be as hands off as the books suggests, but M did seem to appreciate my input anyway.  I backed off from all non-specific praise and remembered to ask her what she thought she should do next; how it could be put together; was there anything else she wanted to add; what would work better etc etc.

She finished the card this afternoon, and the joy on her face as it neared completion was a sight to see.  She was sooo proud of herself!  As soon as it was finished she asked if I would read to her (D was busy watching Disney’s Robin Hood at this point) and I was so pleased that she still wanted to spend time with me, and doing something that I loved doing too.  So we sat on our bed together and read two chapters of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  It was lovely.

I will be interested to see if my new attitude makes any difference to M’s attitude… watch this space…

In other news, today we had a trip to Wimbledon and D got to ride her scooter for the first time – I was awed by how well she handled it.  This scooter is a two wheeler and her old one had three.  She had a few set-backs and had to go much slower than usual while she learnt to balance but she handled it with grace and maturity.


We also made England flags (painted fabric attached to an old bamboo cane with masking tape!) in readiness for the England v Italy match on Saturday. The girls are very excited as J said they can watch it even though it starts at 11pm!!!



Edit: I have reflected on my attitude 10 months on here.

Our Bank Holiday

I would have posted yesterday but I fell asleep while putting D to bed!  Not sure what happened there and poor old M missed out on her quality time as I only just woke up in time to put her to bed.  She took it well and forgave me.

We had a nice quiet bank holiday weekend, with Jeff and I taking it in turns to decorate while playing with the girls.  I am more of a lets find an activity/craft to do, whereas J is a ‘run around in the garden/fight on the bed and make a den’ sort of parent.  Needless to say he was exhausted by Monday evening, tee hee.  Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of J’s antics as I was too busy decorating to take any so here’s a few of my activities with the girls:


Bunny shows


Paper plate weaving
Story writing

Needless to say, bank holidays don’t make a lot of difference to us these days!  The only bonus is that Jeff is around more.  In the past, a May bank holiday would have meant a trip to the seaside but as we’re now able to go when everyone else is in school/work it makes sense to avoid the crowds and stay at home!

Learning Unknowingly

We’ve had an interesting few days of some ‘learning without realising’ going on…

Firstly, M has learnt about more than and less than ( <, >) (actually covered a while ago in Mathletics but since forgotten): last week I posted a question on a Facebook group for help with subtractions where part of the sum is missing and I was pointed in the direction of MEP maths and I’m so glad!  I could have sat and done it myself it looked so enjoyable.  An intriguing mix of pictograms, intertwined with some serious maths, roman numerals and what appears to be handwriting practise.  I couldn’t quite figure out the philosophy behind it but I thought M would love it and I was right!  To get her in more of a maths mood I’ve started her on the Y1 worksheets so hopefully she won’t be put off by anything too challenging.  She’s already completed 7 pages in 4 days.  Today she was doing more than/less than with various quantities of dots and spending ages making the dots into faces and patterns.  I was very tempted to tell her to hurry up and get on with it but she was so obviously having fun with maths for the first time in ages that I left her to it.

Secondly, species classification and animal families in her ‘Get Out‘ nature activity book sent from Grandma a while ago: we’ve been Googling the various animals so we can learn more about them in order classify them and so that M can colour them in accurately.  As you can see she’s doing a spectacular job.

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Thirdly, wheat and the process it undergoes to produce flour: I strewed a free booklet with grain samples I got from Grain Chain recently.  M noticed a few days ago and asked what it was.  Her response was basically ‘meh’.  So I tidied it away yesterday thinking I’d save it for a future date.  Then today at lunch D asked if bread sticks were good for you which led onto a conversation about white and wholewheat flour.  So I got my booklet out to show them what I meant: M wanted to feel each sample from the grain cycle and was asking lots of questions (without getting angry!) until it was clear and understood.

This afternoon we went to David Lloyd and the girls did a bit of work in their workbooks though M chose to do her MEP maths instead – yippee!  Then M made a very weird comment – that home school was funny because you didn’t actually learn anything?!  So I challenged her on it (this isn’t the first time she has said something like this) but this time she got quite worked up about it and insisted she hadn’t learnt anything and couldn’t remember it even if she had.  It was so strange, like she didn’t want to accept that home school might be successful?!  Very odd indeed.

It might seem as if this blog is the ‘M-show’ since she gets many more mentions than D: this is not to do with any kind of favouritism but more because M has so many issues from being in school too long and I think it has affected her deeply (not that I am blaming school, but M was in no way suited to their learning style.  She doesn’t really have her joy of learning back yet, although I’ve seen a couple of small sparks.  I find writing about these issues here quite therapeutic and hopefully it might be helpful to others in a similar situation.

On the other hand, D only attended pre-school during the morning and was largely unaffected by it (apart from being furious at being ‘bossed about’).  D has obvious learning passions which have never been stymied, namely science at the moment, and can fully immerse herself in whatever she wants to learn.  She is pretty much teaching herself to read and write now (absolute refusal to use Reading Eggs) and learns through typing emails to family members, writing and reading about space and trying to read anything and everything around her.  She is telling ME parts of the 10 times table just from thinking about it to herself and will happily play with her Arithmasticks to work through number ideas in her head.  She doesn’t differentiate between what we might think of as ‘work’ and ‘play’.  She is well and truly an unschooler.  M has all this potential but I think we are only half way through deschooling her.

Blummin’ school.  My biggest regret is that M ever went.

HE in the Spring

How different HE seems when the sun comes out!

We have barely used our official HE room in the last few days (except for M who is still sneaking about making my Mothers’ Day card).  Instead we’ve been in the garden: playing, building, chasing, weeding and potion making.

Our builder friend, P was back again on Thursday and M helped him to rearrange the climbing frame to her design.  We’ve now got a much roomier frame and a steeper slide!


M also made a ‘potion’ using sand and various herbs around the garden.  She adores strong smells and spicy tastes and spent a long time feeling and smelling the plants.  In fact, at dinner yesterday she actually ate a whole black peppercorn to found out what it tasted like!

M continued to de-stone our garden to prepare it for planting in a few weeks.  We also have some lovely large decorative pebbles which she washed clean too.

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Meanwhile, D asked me to build her a den which she sat inside and did some painting on our water mat and chalking on a little chalk board I found at the back of the toy cupboard.  She drew a lovely picture of Oberon and Titania – Uranus’ moons!  Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of it.  D continues to spend hours of her day deep in her imagination.  At the moment, the slide is upturned and has become her pirate ship: she can variously be found in the crow’s nest or swabbing the decks…


J also took the day off on Thursday and he took them to the park, out to Wimbledon and chased them endlessly around the garden!

I decided on the spur of the moment to have one of our apple trees felled: we’ll be putting a garage up in the coming months and it would have been a bit too close to it.  Sounds a bit callous but the tree had seen better days.  So within an hour some tree surgeons had sawn it down.  We all had a little cry for our tree, particularly M who took it very hard.  However, it will mean that our other little apple tree will now have more chance to flourish.

I asked the tree surgeons to leave us some logs behind so that we can make a log pile house for bugs, bees and butterflies, and perhaps some space at the bottom for a hedgehog.

On Friday, M got started on making newspaper ‘poles’ for her geodesic dome.  I offered to do them but she insisted she wants to make it all herself (and then double checked with me that SHE would be the boss of the finished den, not D).  We came a bit unstuck with the design of it so we asked our friend Lisa over at An Ordinary Life for some help, and she kindly posted her instructions online yesterday!


So that’s what M will be doing over the next few days.  She really loves construction, tinkering, fixing and building: she told me she wants to make a ferris wheel out of cocktail sticks and marshmallows next…

M has wanted to go ice skating for a long time now so we went back to Guildford Spectrum on Friday afternoon.  It is an utterly miserable time for poor D and I have to say it seemed a real shame to be going somewhere cold and dark on such a lovely day but M really loves it so I don’t mind going now and then.  I read Wonderwise books to keep D happy while M went round the rink – she skated for an hour before getting too tired to carry on!  Just to see the look on M’s face made it all worthwhile – she was beaming so widely it brought a tear to my eye!

We’ve only had one minor anger incident over the last 2 days and it didn’t last too long: I set the girls ‘life skills’ to accomplish, which are skills which they choose or skills that I feel they really NEED to learn.  D is making progress with hers, which is learning how to fasten her own seatbelt.  I haven’t set a task for M for a while so she asked if she could learn about the months of the year.  It was going well until there was a bit of melt-down.  I think it was a case of trying to take in too much at once.  So I just stopped immediately and packed her off for a bath – seemed to do the trick as she was chirpily chatting to D a few minutes later!  Phew!

I got an unschooling confidence boost yesterday as it seems D is teaching herself maths.  She voluntarily got her Arithmasticks out and wrote out some addition sums for herself to work out!  She was also beaming with pride when I wrote some subtractions out for her which she then got right.


After the girls had got out of the bath I strangely started to get a stomach ache which became so bad I had to go to bed!  Very odd.  Anyway, the girls were gorgeous and were really excited at the prospect of doing all my jobs for me.  Adorable.

Builders and Grumpy Bums

We’ve had an interesting and varied couple of days – both in mood and activities!

Yesterday we did a bit of baking…


And building!


The sausages are now a dab hand at Ikea shelving now.  We’ve put 3 bookcases together now and we could still do with more.  D was even tempted away from Jake and the Neverland Pirates to have a go with a screwdriver.  I’ve noticed how skilled they both are at matching up parts to their diagrams and figuring out what the instructions mean.  All they need is bigger and stronger hands so they can handle a screwdriver more easily and I could probably leave them to it!

Yesterday we had our builder friend, P, doing a few jobs around the house.  One of the tasks we need him to do is to rearrange our climbing frame so that M can get maximum use out of it again.  She stood on it for the first time in months last week and looked ridiculously oversized on it.  So I asked M to draw a picture of how exactly she wanted the climbing frame to look and P patiently examined and asked her respectful questions about it.


M adores P and she then followed him around, helping him with his jobs and he very patiently let her help.  P was telling me how much he loves his job and it certainly shows because he doesn’t stop until something is 100% accurate.  M was so intrigued by his perfectionism she was asking me why he likes things to be perfect so I reflected the question back to her, asking her why she likes things to be perfect.  I think she loved that she’d found another perfectionist other than me and her!

There was an interesting moment when P fitted our new dishwasher and put the door on, which turned out to be 10mm too high.  P had spent so long trying to get it right that he put his head in his hands and pretended to cry.  Then he had a chuckle and started all over again.  I could tell by the look on M’s face that she was amazed by his reaction – what a good role model :).

We also went out to Wimbledon to buy some sandals and I got the girls to walk all the way there with the promise of doing some ‘eyebombing’ on the way.  We only had a few eyes left over from some previous crafts so we could only do a few faces but it was great fun!

Today, M was quite down in the dumps: we went out into the garden to do some skating but the ground wasn’t right, so we tried in the road and apparently that wasn’t right either!


Then I chivvied her into a game of Downfall on a table in the garden: when I play games with M I don’t have to do the ‘lose on purpose to be kind’ thing because she genuinely beats me 95% of the time.  So it took me by surprise when I beat her, and then she sank back into gloom.  I had been busy playing a pirate game with D in the garden and I tried to get M to join in but she tried to take over which made D cry so M sank into gloom AGAIN!

I left her to cogitate in the lounge while I got on with some lunch.  In the meantime, D began weeding and after a cuddle, M wanted to join in.  We had a think about where she’d like her carrots and flowers to be and she set to work.  We spent hours in the garden today: I was thinking what a privilege it is to have the freedom to go out when we want and stay in when we want!

It seemed a shame to stop and go out for swimming lessons but knowing how much D loves them I insisted on going but was met with point blank refusal by M.  She considers her swimming lessons to be a complete waste of time and short of manhandling her out of the house and into the car I had to agree that she didn’t have to do them (also, I can see her point!).

So we got to David Lloyd and the girls did a page in their workbooks.  Both were doing subtractions.  M started off well and was beaming with delight because she had grasped a concept that had led to angry outbursts previously.  She was working out how to do a sum when part of it is missing.  She did the first few ok but then went back to angry tears when she stumbled over a sum.  Argh!  By this point I felt all my sympathy had run dry and after she had said that it was the worst day ever, I tartly put it to her that her moods were her responsibility and she didn’t have to feel that way.  No response.  I hate threatening ‘if you don’t do this then I’ll do this’ but there was no way I was swimming with a grumpy bum so I threatened and she cheered up after a few minutes.  Tsk.

I seem to be talking about M’s anger quite a lot in my posts but it does seem to cast a shadow over my day.  Particularly when I feel I am bending over backwards to please.  I can’t seem to get through to her when she’s in a mood, which leaves me feeling quite powerless to help.

To lighten these shadows, P mentioned to the girls that it was Mothers’ Day soon and they both ran off to ‘secretly’ draw a picture for me.  M in particular is being very sneaky about it indeed!  It makes me glow inside to think the first thing they think to give me is a piece of their artwork – I couldn’t ask for anything more!

Little things:

D was remembering in vivid detail the film ‘The Canterville Ghost’ and was sweetly explaining to me that the ghost had been alive so long that he just wanted to die so the girl helped him go into the welm [realm] of darkness, which was so windy her family could hardly pull her out again.  Firstly, her sweet little innocent voice talking about death and the ‘welm of darkness’ was almost too cute to bear; and secondly, she only watched it once 6 months ago so she has an impressive memory!

On the way to Wimbledon yesterday, we passed a tiny little girl in a school uniform with her mum.  The girl was literally growling she was so angry.  When we passed by, M said ‘she was aggressive!’.  Firstly, a hilariously big word for one so young; and secondly, it made me so GLAD we are not at that level of anger anymore!  Maybe M’s anger will continue to gradually decrease as time goes by.  I hope so!

Having a Mild Panic

Yes, today (or should I say ‘this morning’) I was mildly panicking about the lack of THINGS BEING DONE.  We’ve been on ‘go-slow’ over the last 5 days, partly because of illness (the girls were full of cold and D seems to have a weird spotty virus on her face) and partly because of days spent playing with family.  I know, I know, playing is great and all that but I can’t help hearing that nagging voice, saying they should be sitting and writing sums or something.

I can now confirm that neither sausage responds well to being told what to do.  Haven’t got a clue where they got that from.  If I ask M to sit and do sums she will do it but in an utterly ‘this-is-so-boring-I-can’t-wait-to-get-it-over-with’ way.  If I catch D in the right mood then she loves doing the odd sum but this is often not the case.  The whole point of HE for me is to re-ignite M’s love of learning and to keep D’s spark going.  So telling them what to do and ‘teaching’ them is no longer really an option for me.  My heart knows this but my head hasn’t caught up yet.

So this morning I calmed myself by asking the Facebook UK Unschooling Network group a question: I am fascinated by ‘strewing‘ as I can clearly see that showing the world to the sausages really sparks their interest, as opposed to trying to teach them about it.  So I asked the group how to strew and got some great responses, but more on that later.

This morning started off energetically: M started to make a mobile (the kind that hangs from the ceiling, not the phone type) from her magazine and D wanted to write out all the names of the planets in our Solar System…


But then it descended into murk.  M collapsed into tearful anger because something wasn’t quite right with the mobile.  I couldn’t get through to her so left her to her own devices while I played chase with D in the garden.  Then when M had recovered she wanted to put on Parent Trap so we all sat down to watch.

This was when my niggly feelings began; so I posted my question to FB and got some lovely responses back which sparked off lots of ideas of what I could do strew with the sausages.  Call it a ‘sausage strew’ if you will, ha ha.

The first thing I did was to set up Pinterest accounts for both of them so that I can send them things of interest, with a ‘I saw this and thought of you’ vibe.  I sent M some junk modelling, DT and fairy pins and D some space ones (naturally!).  After the film had finished, M in particular was intrigued by her pins and wants to make a geodesic dome out of newspapers next!

We had a quick game of Downfall (me against the sausages: guess who won?  I’ve seriously only won 1 game out of 6 now.  Tsk.)…


Next, D typed out a couple of emails to Granddad and Grandma and M had a 5 minute bounce on the trampoline in the garden.

And then M felt ready to tackle her mobile again – hurrah, back to business!  No photos of it yet as it’s still in progress but she must have spent 2 hours just cutting today.  D got busy with painting a rainbow in watercolour and then wanted to make another celebration elephant like the ones we made for Diwali last year.


I spent some time going through my emails while this was going on, and found a video from The Kid Should See This.  It was about ‘eyebombing in Madrid‘ and the girls watched it on loop for half an hour.  If you watch it, you’ll see why I immediately bought 200 googly eyes from Ebay afterwards!

I also got M to write a few things down on our easel that she’s interested in learning about and she wrote this!  The last one is ‘drawing spring flowers’ but she got tired of drawing the lettering 🙂


So the day wasn’t so bad after all: it seemed to gear up after 2pm so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a rhythm or is just an odd day.  I do feel a little less panicky now and a little more excited about a possible new path into unschooling – I’m taking tentative steps towards it.

Here’s a few pictures of what we got up to at the end of last week in Nottingham:

D's colour wheel
D’s colour wheel
Making a pom-pom
Making a pom-pom
D making her pom-pom
D making her pom-pom
The finished pom-poms!
The finished pom-poms!
Making our own butter - soooo much better than shop-bought!
Making our own butter – soooo much better than shop-bought!
Folding paper aeroplanes
Folding paper aeroplanes
Making potions
Making potions
Learning about circuits
Learning about circuits

Little things:

While in the bath, D asked M if she would like to watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates with her afterwards.  M replied ‘No, I’ve got too much work to do’.