Sunday, 30 September 2012

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Shocked by a Tidy(ish) House

After Rachel's kind & encouraging comment on my blog post the other day, it got me thinking about our routine - because some people are really helped by routine, and I am definitely one of them!  Call me a control-freak, but I don't like the feeling of chaos that comes from not having any sense of order.  I'm not obsessive about it - I just like to have a loose structure to our days/ weeks, that is loose enough to be flexible (eg we don't do everything the same every day) but structured enough for us to have an idea of where each day is going.  The boys appear to like it too, but whether that is because Mummy is more chilled within a structure or because they actually prefer it themselves, I'm not sure... probably a bit of both.

We have put two main things in place since the summer break...
The first one was to do with my feeling like the housework (or lack of getting it done) was out of control: a really messy house makes me feel more stressed, not least because it adds to my unwritten list of 'things to do' that I carry around subconsciously in my head.  Once I've written it all down it usually helps me to see what I need to do, but at times I have procrastinated on writing the list down because of the irrational fear that it could turn out to be worse on paper than in my head!  Anyway, one purchase of a Fly Lady book later (actually I still haven't read it, as it took a couple of days to arrive, by which time I was already in the zone for a good sort-out & getting to grips with a routine, and had made a start! *raises eyes at self*), and two car boot sales later, the house is looking less cluttered, although we still have more boxes of "junk-that-needs-sorting" than I would like.  It is generally maintainable though, as long as we keep on top of it - and that is the first change we put in place.  Every morning (though we can be flexible if we need to get up & go out quickly) we make sure any left over laundry from the day before is put away, and we make beds & quickly tidy bedrooms of any toys played with first thing.  Once downstairs Eldest empties the dishwasher while Middle and Youngest help me with the next load of laundry (and there is always a load of laundry) that needs doing, before we all have breakfast.  After breakfast we clear the kichen, and then we are free to have fun.  At the end of the day we clear the kitchen again after tea and make sure the lounge is tidy before we go upstairs.  The boys also tidy their rooms again if necessary before bed (Middle and Youngest can only do this with me present, coaching them).  I know it all sounds oh-so-obvious written down, but this has really changed things for me!  It's the keeping on top of it that stops it building into unbearable pressure.  And if it sounds too uptight to the laid-back ones among you, maybe it is, although I have to say I don't feel anywhere near as uptight as I did when the house was a tip!  And don't get me wrong, we don't live in perfect neatness: I do have children - three boys in fact - so neatness doesn't get a look in!  But it is liveable-in mess; I no longer feel like an e-coli outbreak is imminent!

The second thing that we put in place was a rule.  I try to avoid too many rules (although some are necessary - eg 'no hitting your brother with a weapon') - but this was one that we trialed and turned out to make such a huge difference that we're sticking with it.  It's the "No TV or computers before lunch" rule - for me as well as them, when it comes to my laptop.  It really has been hugely helpful.  The boys know that in the mornings they have my full presence, and they can focus on the more productive stuff that they want to explore/ learn about (eg creating, making, painting, baking, experimenting, reading, playing etc)... and the afternoon is free for more passive stuff such as screen time, if they want it (they don't always), such as watching TV programmes they have recorded (usually science quizzes or wildlife documentaries), and even playing on Wii games (with a time limit).  The only exception is that they are allowed to switch on the family computer for MathsWhizz/ Reading Eggs - one hour max. each during the mornings.  And it has really helped me to know that my morning is my time to indulge in focusing on the boys and having fun learning with them - and the afternoon is generally freer to blog/ do some online planning or research/ do the odd housework job etc while being aware of what the boys are up to but not so 'involved'. 

Not only have these two changes helped me to be calmer, an unexpected result (obvious if you think about it) was that we've been able to achieve more.  That wasn't the goal: I was just trying to get to grips with everything that needed doing, but I'm so happy about the result that I thought I would share it here.  I'm sure even a couple of 'small' changes like these really aren't for everyone - but the subject of messy houses comes up so often on HE forums, I though it was worth sharing, and asking the question, is there a small change would make our lives more manageable?  For people who do need a little routine, it doesn't have to take a massive shift in the way we 'do' HE, just one or two changes.
PS Disclaimer: I have not arrived, my house is not immaculate, I do not have the answers or a program that everyone should follow.  It just doesn't feel at the moment like we're about to drown in chaos, and if I can encourage even one person in that, I'l be happy :)

PPS As I commented to someone the other day, if your youngest child is less than three, it is my personal opinion that you may as well give up on trying to stay on top of the tidying - they are just miniature whirlwinds who generate mess effortlessly but need full-on attention every minute they're awake.  If you have an energetic toddler, it may be as well to give yourself permission to completely ignore the mess for another couple of years.  Clean the nasty germ-zones once they're in bed, but stuff the rest!  At least, that's the advice I wish someone had given to me!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

All Learning Together

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about how we both learned to bake when we were children, and how that love of baking progressed naturally into cooking.  So I was really pleased when my boys decided that they wanted to make their own pizza for tea!  In fact we made it for lunch today because I thought if I'd left it until 4 o'clock to start cooking, they'd be tired & a bit less happy to share, take turns etc.  The recipe - from the Usborne Cookbook for Boys  was for one large pizza, but it was much easier for the boys to make their own smaller individual ones and each add their own topping.  I doubled the amount of dough, as it looked like they were going to be too small, but then happily, each pizza turned out so big that there was enough left over for teatime later - yum :)

two of our pizzas...

In fact, most of the day's learning was done together today, not just the baking...  Most days I'm a bit like a pinball, bouncing happily from one child to another, one activity to another, with the odd activity done together, but I really enjoyed all the playing & learning together today!  This morning we made a game of Body Bingo, downloaded from one of my favourite websites for HE resources, Ellen McHenry's Basement Workshop.  First we coloured in the pictures of the various body parts - helping Youngest where needed - then we cut them up and stuck them onto our individual bingo-boards, which we also coloured in so that they were all different.  (one of those sentences you never think you will hear yourself say: "have you all thrown away the body parts that you don't need any more?").  Then the sheets were laminated - having put all that effort into making them, we really didn't want them to get ruined straight away!  We didn't have enough counters to play there and then, but as the boys were really keen I decided that we could play with chocolate buttons instead (the boys were very happy with that plan!).  The clue questions provided came in three levels, level one being easier and level three being harder, but we stuck mostly to level one as that was a good balance between Eldest and Middle's ability.  We let Youngest guess first (gave him clues), then Middle, then Eldest - but regardless of who got the right answer, everyone got a chocolate button if they had the appropriate body part on their card.  It was just a lovely activity, and we all learned plenty while playing it.  Our favourite bit was when I asked them the name of the tube that goes from our mouth to our stomach, and an over-excited Eldest shouted out "ooh, ooh, I know... asparagus! (instead of oesophagus)", and I totally had a fit of the giggles.  The boys were delighted to see Mummy so tickled, and we all ended up laughing for ages - happy times :)

Our other main activities for the day were building funny people out of a new playdough set that Youngest was given for his birthday (see below) - practicing their sharing and negotiation skills.  And later we planted some spring bulbs in the garden - there was a bare bit of border next to a fence that always looks a bit miserable, and I fancied seeing some colour there in the spring, so we planted a mixture of snowdrops, tulips and narcissi.  Eldest was mildly interested, but preferred to play on Reading Eggspress, where he's found a quest game that he really likes (the only part of the day where the boys ended up doing different things).  Youngest started digging very enthusiastically, but did get tired, then he found the watering can and spent the remaining time hopping about exictedly waiting for me to say he could water the planted bulbs.  Middle turned out to be very keen, and enjoyed talking to me about the bulbs, which ones would grow first, how deep to plant them etc - he may well have inherited the green-fingered gene from my side of the family (which seems to have skipped a generation when it came to myself).  Anyway, just knowing that the bulbs are under the ground there has made that bare stip of soil already seem brighter and more cheerful to Middle and me - we're looking forward to seeing the first shoots emerge next year!  Oh, and the bulbs were most thoroughly watered by Youngest when I finally gave him the go-ahead :)

Finally we had a spot of collaborative story-telling - the boys usually love taking it in turns to make up stories anyway, and they were keen to use our tape recorder to record themselves telling it, particularly enjoying hearing their voices replayed afterwards and laughing hard at their own contributions.  Story transcribed below, but beware, it is very clearly a boyish story ;)

Once upon a time there was a sheep called Mary who lived in a sheep-house.  It ran into a giant bullfrog, and the giant bullfrog ate him and got covered in mucus, and started to feel rather sick, so he went home to tell his Mummy that he had tummy-ache, and his Mummy said "what have you been eating?", and the giant bullfrog said "I ate a sheep".  Mummy said "you will have to go to hospital and eat some cookies to make you better.  Then the bullfrog ate one thousand, eight hundred and ninety-nine sheep.  Because he forgot to eat the cookies he puked all the sheep back up again and then the sheep died.  Then the bullfrog ate the Eiffel tower, and because the Eiffel tower was so big, the bullfrog changed shape and got shaped into the Eiffel tower, so he had a very pointy head and four legs that stuck out at the bottom.  Then he just died, but then he came back alive again and found one thousand eight hundred and ninety-nine humongous bullfrogs, and one of them ate him, then another then another then another - and so on.  Then the biggest one exploded from eating too many frogs and the world was covered in frog guts.  The End.

I love the way the story ends up being about something completely different to the opening sentence - and I wonder if they ate too much pizza at lunchtime?  Hmmmm...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Growth Spurts

Phew, am I grateful for a calm day at home :)

Yesterday was a really lovely day (Youngest's 4th birthday, for those of you who don't know) - nothing too mad was planned, but that didn't stop all three boys being in a permanent state of hyper-excitedness :)  We had a lovely time at craft club, sharing out the coconut mice we made on Monday, plus making blackboards, playing with friends, designing and constructing castles (as well as random flying things - I love how just letting them loose with card, scissors & tape never fails to inspires their imagination to create things beyond the given task!).  Youngest did the blackboard but wasn't interested in the castle - was a bit too hyped up to concentrate on anything for that long... he did paint a couple of pictures and made some cars out of lego though (we usually take a big box of lego along to share with anyone who's finished early or is waiting for paint to dry etc).  Middle thoroughly enjoyed the construction process as usual, and just kept cutting, sticking & creating until he realised what he was making... it turned out to be a "dust-catcher" for Youngest's birthday (!), ie a frame of card with stickytape stretched across the square opening - they had lots of fun seeing what would stick to it.  Eldest made a great fort to use with his little army toy set, and a "flying stick", and then came in to the other room where he ended up reading a book to a friend's little girl - it was a very sweet moment.  After that we came home for lunch then went to see family for more presents.  What an excited little boy!  Much playing with presents after that, and then (evenutally) bedtime.  Youngest actually slept through until the early hours of the morning, he was so tired (he usually wakes at around 10pm). 

All the boys were up early again this morning though - so not tired enough for a lay-in!  Fortunately as I have said, we had nothing much planned (we rarely do).  Eldest and Middle spent some time on MathsWhizz, but Youngest is still avoiding Reading Eggs - he has hit a 'game' that is quite a stretch for him (he can do it but really has to concentrate) - his learning is just moving up to the next level of understanding, that's all, and if we were in school I would feel obliged to coach him through this stage, but as we're at home, I'm not bothering - I figure I'll let him have his break and come back to it when he feels ready to tackle it, by which point the learning should hopefully have consolidated in his subconscience.  For me, it's the same as when children have phyical growth spurts: they don't grow at one consistent rate; they plateau for a while and then suddenly gain an increased appetite and seem to grow several inches over a week).  So is it with their learning: they can plateau and appear to be not learning very much or growing in ability, and then seemingly out of nowhere their interest/ desire to learn greatly increases and they 'suddenly' grasp what they've struggled with before.  It's all down to natural readiness.  It's a theory I'm confident in and have seen played out enough times before, so I'm enjoying having the freedom at home to let him back off and not worry.

Also today Eldest spent a long time designing and creating a set of about twenty 'Top Trumps' cards of weird creatures of his own invention.  To some it looks like 'just playing' until you stop and realise how much went into it - D&T (making a game), drawing (the illustrations), ordering facts, Maths (working out different quantities to give for each factor) etc.

Eldest's "Imaginary Creatures" Top Trumps

Not bad, for a couple of hours' playing (and to think I used to have concerns about his ability to concentrate...!)  Meanwhile, Middle and Youngest had a lovely long time also playing with one of Youngest's new birthday toys - a Playmobil set.  Role play is just great for expanding vocabulary, stimulating the imagination, working out the world around them and how we fit into it etc.  In fact it involves multiple skills: physical, cognitive, imaginative, creative, emotional and social.   I know I'm at risk of sounding like I'm trying to justify their playing - but it doesn't really need justifying (or shouldn't).  I was just thinking again about the value of play - it's something I try to focus on every now and then as I think it's vital to give children the space to learn through play, but the structure-loving part of me (my teacher-head) sometimes needs reminding!

The rest of the day was spent largely on practising sorting skills and learning about hygiene - ie tidying up!  They all helped with the housework - dishwasher, laundry etc, and then they got to work on their bedrooms.  Middle and Youngest still need help focusing on what they are doing, so I tend to stay with them and ask them which set of toys the are going to put away next.  They did quite well today - they're definitely learning!  Eldest is fine on his own anyway - he doesn't usually need my help, although I thought it was very sweet that Middle went to help him so they could both play on the Wii together afterwards (Bribery/ motivation, who cares?  It worked!)  I even got to do a much-needed major laundry sort!  All of the boys seem to have had a physical growth-spurt over the summer (they often do), so I've been going through all the clothes they have grown out of & sorting them into three piles: a charity rag-bin pile; a pile of Youngest's too-small clothes to give to a friend with a son younger than my lot, and a pile of Eldest's & Middle's too-small clothes to put by for my younger two to grow into.  That third pile was then sorted by size into boxes & put in the garage for next year.  Phew - not my favourite job, but very satisfying to have done :)

All of that has just made me think (thinking is good!).  The evidence of physical growth-spurts was easy for me to see: it was a mountain of out-grown clothes dumped in my bedroom (now nicely sorted - yay!).  The evidence of growth-spurts in a child's learning is maybe not so evident to a Home Ed rookie like me, but I am fully confident that I will see it.  I think this blog will help - already as I look back over old posts I can see how one or more of us have grown and moved on.  Also I am keeping loose records of the boys' "work" (for want of a much better term), so I can now see for example that Youngest has started to properly read, in the sense of seeing a word and sounding out the letter-sounds until he recognises what the word says.  Middle can now tell the time, among other things, and Eldest's ability to concentrate has greatly expanded, since he's been given the space to follow his own interests and choose what he wants to concentrate on.

So it's been a good day again.  Very different from last week where we had lots of activities going on al the time - but still positive, still growing, still happy... just as we like it!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Mildly Manic Monday

Hooray for Pyjama Days - especially on days like today... there's nothing better than being snuggled up all cosy indoors while the trees outside are blowing in the wind and the rain is beating against the windows :)

Mondays are usually our lazy days, although today was a bit more manic than normal for a pyjama day - excitement levels are rapidly rising in anticipation of Youngest's birthday tomorrow!  Fortunately he was happy to sit and play on the CBeebies website - he's having a break from Reading Eggs (I know; I was stunned!).  Anyway, he sat and played, oblivious to the card-making and gift-wrapping going on in the next room.  However, I'm going to have to bake the cake on my own for once after he's in bed, as I think it's a bit much to try to do that without him noticing!

So other than the birthday preparations, we had a nice arty day today.  Pyjama Days seem to lend themselves to arty projects: the slow pace of the day working well with needing to leave paint/ glue to dry, cleaning up etc.  Today we used paint & oil pastels, inspired by Klimt's "Tree of Life" thanks to a lesson plan from the gorgeous Deep Space Sparkle website.  I do find the website owner, Patty's lesson plans inspiring, but we don't worry too much about replicating them - I am NOT an art teacher, so I'm not au fait with advanced techniques etc - we just use her lesson plans as springboards to give us ideas to start from.  For example, today my own piece of "art" was a pretty boring copy of what Patty had asked her class to do.  The boys however started off with the gold tree and black outline - and then decided to adapt as per their own ideas - and again were really pleased with the finished results...

"Tree of Life" by Eldest            "Tree of Life" by Middle
(he added lots of colourful birds)  (he added Christmas lights,
                                                   birds and cocoons)
"Tree of Life" by Youngest           "Tree of Life" by Mummy
(he just had fun with gold paint                                                     
 and swirly pastel patterns)                                                    
We also made some coconut mice from the Yummy Little Cookbook for Youngest's birthday celebrations - often the boys take it in turn to bake cakes as it doesn't always work for us all to do it together, but everyone joined in with the mice today, which was fun :)

Then there was plenty of train-track building, Reading Eggs (for Middle and Eggspress for Eldest), Youngest played with his wooden Alphabet Puzzle, Eldest read a Horrible Histories book - The Woeful Second World War, Middle and Youngest played "the buttocks game", aka Body snap with me, and of course, Eldest continued writing his diary, today adding a full-size picture of colourful slugs...

Sept 23 2012
Thinking about the slugs that already have colours, now let's see there's the
Banana slug
Sea slugs
The rest you find out later...
There now, mission one: find more slugs

Middle and Youngest invaded my room.  I got them to play in their room.  Middle doesn't know any new coloured slugs.

Finished playing explosive attack with Middle.  He kept on getting shot in the face and exploding himself and other stuff.

Sept 24 2012
Just woke up...
woke up at 6:03 and couldnt go back to sleep.  Still no slugs.
Just been on Reading Eggspress.  Almost lunchtime cause I'm HUNGRY, very hungry
looking up colourful slugs I found the
leopard slug
yellow slug
garden slug (has orange on the bottom)
field slug (sometimes pink)

And banana slug and sea slugs
Cool 6 slugs "WOW"

Eldest's Multi-Coloured Slugs

So today wasn't that manic at all really, just nicely busy with a hint of hyper owing to the very important day only one sleep away! (I may not have time to blog tomorrow - if not, see you Wednesday!)

PS Today I read another encouraging blog post from one of my favourite HE authors, with great advice for those taking first steps into Home Education, so I'm including the link here - enjoy!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Fresh Air and Friendship

Lovely day today - it was really nice to get out of the house - we went on a group trip to the RSPB Rye Meads reserve.  I was a bit concerned about the boys, whether they'd be able to 'behave' within the group.  It's not that they're naughty, but they're not the quietest of boys.  I love that they are full of life and enthusiasm, but it does bother me slightly in scenarios where their behaviour may be judged as out of control.  Anyway, they were fine (it helped that our fabulous lodger came with us & provided a welcome second pair of eyes/ hands etc)... and we did have a really lovely time, identifying lots of birds, bugs and other things, stretching our legs and generally enjoying the fresh air.  Youngest and Eldest were very keen to talk to the helpful man who showed us around - no shyness there!

heron enjoying the view at Rye Meads

We had a picnic while we were there, including some yummy flapjacks (see below) made first thing this morning by Youngest with help from Mummy...

After lunch we came home to spend some time with a friend who is looking at Home Education for her children.  It was a lovely afternoon too - all of today's socialising kind of making up for the rest of the week's reclusiveness!  My boys played really nicely with her two young daughters (who are younger than any of mine) - the girls took a particular shine to Eldest and he was really good with them, letting them sit on him, hug him, climb on him etc.  My friend was pretty amazed that her two were so relaxed and not-clingy, especially as she'd been told that as they were too clingy she should send them to nursery! (weird logic or what: "if you have insecure children you should remove yourself from them so they can get over it"!  How do people buy into this kind of advice?).  It was also really encouraging to see Middle (who six months ago had become quite introvert and lacking in social confidence) just leaning up against my friend (who I don't think he'd ever properly met before) and showing her his game - utterly relaxed and confident that she would accept him... it really blessed this Mummy's heart.
That was pretty much it for today's activities, other than Youngest also having time on Reading Eggs, Middle spending some time drawing, and Eldest taking his diary everywhere with us to keep writing in it - you can tell he was snatching time to fill in brief updates, but there is still a little bit more included below for his growing fanbase! Busy weekend ahead, so I'll be back when I get the chance - meanwhile, I'll leave you with Eldest's version of today's highlights...
September 21st 2012
Thinking about the pos. and neg. things about the colourful slugs.
1. p. they'd look great
2. n. they would have no camouflage
3. n. Birds could see them easily
4. p. wait, then so can I
5. p. Everyone would like them more
6. n. they'd probably show off
Going to Rye Meads now
Finished at Rye Meads
I saw...
adult coot
adult moorhen
juvenile moorhen
juvenile shoveler
juvenile tufted duck
juvenile little grebe
adult heron
adult swan
adult gadwall
mystery duck
adult cormorant
juvenile cormorant
adult  greater spotted woodpecker
5 newts
10 different plants
16 different pond insects
Kestrel flew right next to my window
the girls came round at 1.58pm AND CLIMBED ON ME!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Problem with Blogging

Bolstered by some lovely comments on my blog lately, I thought I'd post a light-hearted little pseudo-rant... the other bloggers among you may relate ;)  You see, one of the problems with blogging (there are a few) is that people you don't know form a mental image of you.  I guess how good an image it is depends on how good a blogger you are.  It is so hard to get the balance... share your questions, and people could either value your honesty or think you are a clueless moron who needs lots of advice; share your weaknesses and failures, and people could either relate to you or think you're a basket-case; share your opinions and people could either find you inspiring or arrogant, or worse, think you have all the answers & feel a failure in comparison.  The truth is, we're all made up of all the above - so the risk is always there: in your mind I could be a clueless but arrogant basket-case or an honest relatable inspiration...?  I know which I'd like to be, and I also know which I have more of than I'd care to admit. 
Let's just say that some of my life (usually where my fabulous children are concerned) is inspiring; some of it is confusing (but that's OK; I'm enjoying the journey to finding out some answers), and some of it involves making and recovering from idiotic mistakes (not so happy about those, but hey - if it helps people not to feel stupid in comparison, at least it's not all bad).  If you can handle that, so can I ;)
Why did I write all of that?  I don't know really - perhaps it was something to do with a webpage I happened upon where a Blogger-with-a-capital-B was bemoaning the fact that there were people out there who have the audacity to blog without having any blogging qualifications (oh the horror) !!! Did you know there are courses on how to write a "proper" blog?  You can now take a degree in blogging!!!  Here was me thinking I'd just write a little self-indulgent journal of our journey into Home Education, and share it with people kind enough to be interested.  I don't have advertising on here - but that's not to say I won't one day if it my lil blog ever got big enough to generate proper revenue (after all, HE'ors aren't paid to educate our children - and money is kind of useful) - it's just not why I do it.  So this is my tiny little stand on behalf of all those who dare to write blogs without being "qualified", just for the fun of it - and on behalf of those oh-so-discerning and valued people who like reading what we write ;)

So anyway, on to today's little diary entry (it has to be a quick one)...
The boys spent AGES on Reading Eggs & MathsWhizz today.  I got to sit with them while they were doing their various curricula, which they love - I can't always be with them when they're doing their online learning, but they do like it when I can - plus I get to see how much progress they're making, so I try to do it as often as I can :)  While not on the computer, there was LOTS of trampolining and bicycle riding today - I'm grateful for the weather, which may have turned colder and distinctly autumnal, but is still dry enough for them to play outside :)  We also had some time with a craft activity: one of the things I was looking forward to about Autumn was all the lovely Christmas crafts we could make - and today was our first one, inspired by a lovely Home Edder I've met through a group on Facebook.  It couldn't be simpler really - put a layer of pony beads into metal cookie cutters (Christmas-shaped, of course!), and bake them in the oven for 10mins.  Result: lovely decorations to hang on the tree!  Caution though - there are two things to watch: firstly, keep the kitchen well ventilated - the baking plastic absolutely pongs!  Secondly, use a skewer or similar to make a decent hole (for hanging thread) soon after they come out of the oven - I did try to make a little hole but it was too tiny and closed up, then I left it too late to make it any bigger :(  Still - I'm sure we'll be making more, so lesson learned.  They still look fab :)

 Eldest's tree and Middle's angel used glow-in-the-dark pony beads; Youngest's candy cane and Mummy's star used glitter pony beads.

the finished result - pretty!

And to finish, Eldest has also been keeping up with his diary throughout the day, and since it was well received in yesterday's post, I'm including a bit more here... not the whole lot though - he wrote so much! Who knows, if he keeps it up it may turn into his own blog!

September 20, 2012
Yes it's 6:51am and I'm writing already, "amazing"!  Watching birds in my garden, they've got lots of colours.  Why couldn't God have given the colours to slugs instead?

I'm waiting for (Middle) and (Youngest) to wake up.  I'm going to NOT WRITE until they wake up!.....
OK will write something, "blah".  There, done. Now where was I?  Oh yeah.....
(Youngest) awake so I'll play with him now
Finished breakfast and dishwasher.  Mum asked me to take my Calvin and Hobbes books upstairs... I'll think about slugs while I do it...
Finished biking.  (Middle) on computer still.  Wondering what it would be like to be a slug.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Cakes and Cabbage Experiments

It feels like we're being a bit anti-social at the moment... we haven't seen anyone socially all week so far, and weirdly I'm actually enjoying it a bit.  Not because I don't want to see people - because actually we are missing our friends - but Eldest's virus keeping us home has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  After the worst bit at the weekend he's not been poorly enough for me to worry - in fact his appetite seems to be returning today, hooray - and staying home to help him recover has had the added bonus that we've been able to get settled into some kind of routine.  We've been able to tackle some of the learning goals that were out there (that either the boys or I had expressed a desire in), and I feel like we're finding our feet again.  Start of 'term' for us has been sort of 'bitty', because although we've been having good days and felt like we were getting back into the learning groove, we weren't experiencing much of a rhythm.  Every day was fun but different, and I'm realising that it really helps me to have some kind of gentle pattern - not that every day has to be the same, as that would be really tedious -  just that I feel more established after a week or so of rediscovering our feet.  So I have made a mental note for the beginning of next term (especially after all the Christmas partying) to aim at having a week to ourselves before we start doing all the fabulous social excursions etc!
Anyway, today's fun included quite a bit of time modelling with playdough; Middle making a sort of treasure hunt for Youngest, and Eldest spending a long time reading.  I then reminded Middle that he hadn't done any MathsWhizz this week - he wasn't impressed at all, but I was pretty sure that was because he'd got discouraged by the previous session, so I sat with him and we had a look at the new 'lesson', which he loved!  In fact he rattled through the next three lessons without hesitating, and I left him to it, as he and Youngest (who loves watching) were obviously enjoying it, shrieking with laughter at something on the program - hooray!  While it was Youngest's turn on Reading Eggs, Middle found our City Country World game and decide he wanted to play it with me - and Eldest joined in too.  We particularly enjoyed finding the countries where our friends live/ have lived (Netherlands, Jamaica, Israel, Russia etc).  It's basically a game of pairs where you have to match the country with the capital city by matching the national flag - a nice gentle introduction to geography! Eldest then wanted to do an experiment that he had seen on the TV which used red cabbage juice to test for pH levels - so I hunted online (HE is so easy when you have the internet!) and found this Red Cabbage Lab experiment.  That was today's fun with science!  The boys were really enthused, and came up with lots of substances that they wanted to test, regardless of whether they were on the print-out.  It was all a bit over Youngest's head, but one of the many things I love about HE is that no matter whose idea the activity is, or whose ability it would traditionally be geared towards, everyone gets the chance to join in as much as they are able/ want to... and Youngest may not have understood it all, but he loved joining in with the mixing and seeing the colours change, thus nuturing a love of science in him :)

liquids that the boys wanted to test, l to r: soap, apple juice, dettol, lemon juice, fairy liquid, salt solution, bicarb solution, vinegar, milk 

pretty colours after the cabbage water was added

arranged in order from most acidic to most alkaline (after some dispute)

order as recorded by Eldest (who then decided that 2 & 3 were the wrong way round)
Another highlight of the day was this morning when Middle made absolutely the most delicious traybake cakes I've ever tasted... they were supposed to be cut into 24 but I hadn't checked the recipe, and only managed to get 12 out of them - which were HUGE! (oops), but just as well as the only cutters I had for the decorative marzipan shapes were also pretty big.  Of course, the boys love it when Mummy appreciates their baking... it's never hard, but today was particularly easy :)  I may well end up the size of a house but it will be worth it!
Middle's Sticky Toffee Cakes
Oh and last of all (it was a full day today!) Eldest decided he wanted to write a diary (hooray for spontaneous writing) - inspired by the Topz Secret Diaries that he loves and has recently been re-reading - it's obviously not a secret diary in his case though as he came to read it to me and then gave me permission to share an excerpt here... n.b. the attitude is something he finds funny in the other books and so used it as a 'voice' to good effect in his own diary.  It wasn't genuine stroppiness, otherwise I don't think he'd have been so happy to read it out to me, giggling at his own jokes...

September 19
Just finished doing Red Cabbage Experiment about Acids and Alkalides.  Mum's on her laptop. I AM BORED.
Mum told me to "tidy my room".
I mean what is the point?  A tiny bit messy is good for your immune system.
I'm still tidying.  I've been tidying since 4:06pm. I'm going to carry on now.
Mum asked me to come down.  Hooray!  "Coming" I said...
Guess what, it was only to turn the oven on.  Woop-de-do.  Please cover up the 'hooray' above.  Now to go back to tidying up.
Forgot to feed my fish.  Feed them now.
Yes!  I'm done.  Now I can watch TV.
So that was another busy and enjoyable day (I'm still chuckling at Eldest's 'woop-de-do').  The learning still hasn't finished either as all three boys are currently engrossed in a Deadly 60 programme on TV, fascninated by the length of an anteater's tongue!  And on that attractive thought, I think I've leave it!  Til the next time... :)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A PS to Yesterday's Post - and some lovely Art

Well that was a great big long blog post yesterday - and it completely failed to make the point that I was supposed to be trying to get to (combination of running out of time and just getting distracted by my own waffle - oops!  Don't think I'll ever make a pro-blogger ;) )

Anyway, I was talking about why I see the need for us to use online curricula, even though we are stongly drawn to the 'unschooling' end of the HE spectrum.  We've been 'doing' Home Ed since Easter this year: more deschooling than anything else which has been incredibly helpful - I strongly recommend it to anyone just embarking on their HE adventure.  Now we're entering a new 'term', I've been taking stock of where we're all at...  Firstly, I cannot imagine ever sending my children back to school - socially and emotionally the boys are doing SO MUCH better than they were at school. Academically though... (let's say for the sake of argument that it can be sectioned off as a separate entity) - well... Youngest has made undoubted progress, largely thanks to his passionate love of Reading Eggs (an online curriculum).  Middle and Eldest?  I have to say, their "abilities" have gone backwards in some areas.  Their confidence and reasoning has made great leaps, so I think on balance it was easily worth it.  However, when Eldest had a go at the 'Reading Eggspress' programme that he's lately been pestering me to try, he was assessed at a lower age than he actually functions at in my opinion - because through lack of usage he had forgotten what verbs, nouns etc were.  Middle has also regressed a bit when it comes to Maths - forgetting how to perform certain tasks that are actually useful (that's the bit where I left off in the previous post I think).  Anyway, combined with yesterday's conclusion that standard maths skills (such as times tables, carrying/ regrouping, even long division) are really useful tools to have at one's disposal, my observation that the boys' learning in these two key areas (Maths & English) has gone back a little was the final factor that convinced me my instincts weren't all wrong... for now at least... until I change my mind again ;)

Anyway, so that's what I was trying to say yesterday!  On to today, and over all it's been lovely :)  Eldest had another temperature spike today & was feeling weedy, so we decided not to go to craft club.  That sad decision aside, the rest of the day was fun (in a gentle way).  Eldest was keen to get back onto his Reading Eggspress trial - he seems to be enjoying it still.  Youngest was also keen (as always) to get onto Reading Eggs, and spent some time happily engrossed on that.  Which left me some time with Middle, going over a Maths worksheet that I made for him, with lots of space on the paper to work out his 'regrouping' - and only eight sums on the whole page so it wasn't too intimidating.  We got the cuisenaire rods out and went through the whole process, showing him how regrouping works in a visual way - and he seemed to grasp it very quickly after that.  He still wasn't keen on doing the page of sums, but fortunately for me there is a fail-safe key to motivating him... reverse psychology works every time!  If you try to jolly him along gently saying "come on, this is easy, you can do it" he just stalls, whines, procrastinates - basically does anything except what you're looking at.  But if you say "uh-oh, I thik this one's too hard, surely you can't be clever enough to work that out", he loves it!  It baffles me, and doesn't come naturally as I like to speak positive words over my children  - but it absolutely works (for him - his brothers are a different matter), and as long as I say it in a jokey enough manner, he thinks it's the most fun we can have!  So anyway, one page of eight sums later, and he's really happy with addition using regrouping (we'll move on to subtraction next time).

After that we went to the bank to pay in the money we counted up yesterday, and had a lovely chat with a lady who was very interested and encouraging when she found out that we home educate.  Eldest then had a rest when we got back, and got engrossed in a cartoon book (I've recently introduced him to our Calvin & Hobbes books... he's hooked!)  Time for some "Deadly 60" and "Horrible Histories Gory Games" on TV, and then on to the highlight of our day...

Middle had been asking to do some art, and I found a really lovely project on one of my favourite art websites, Deep Space Sparkle... we painted some long thin 'birch trunks', left them to dry and painted the background on another page, using watered-down paint, and then sprinkling with salt for an attempt at a snowy effect (my paint was already too dry so it didn't work very well, but Middle's worked well)  Eldest's trees looked really effective I thought - and the beauty of this project was that even Youngest aged 3 (almost 4) was able to produce a lovely piece of art (although I did have to take the black paint away as he was getting carried away doing the tree trunks)...  The cutting out was straight-forward (I helped Youngest as there were a lot of splodges and he couldn't see where to cut!), and we glued the trunks on to the background using PVA (glue-sticks didn't work well with the salt), then putting heavy books on top while the glue dried - we all think they look great :)
Middle's "Birch Trees"                        Youngest's "Birch Trees"
Eldest's "Birch Trees"                         Mummy's "Birch Trees"

Lovely art project - lovely day :)

Monday, 17 September 2012

Maths Morning

It was a seemingly contradictory day today: we spent much of the morning doing practical Maths in various guises (but not Maths Whizz) - and I realised why I still feel the need to have the boys use an online Maths curriculum.  Friends who advocate 'unschooling' or child-led learning often say that Maths is everywhere, and there is no need for a curriculum.  They do have a really good point, but regular readers will know this is the area where I am least confident.  This morning's fun at least demonstrated what they are talking about...

First of all, prompted by Middle's struggles with MathsWhizz addition/ subtraction using carrying (or "regrouping" for the up-to-date among you), I had bought a set of Cuisenaire Rods (a friend was going to loan some to us but then I realised how stressed I would get desperately trying not to lose any small bits, so we found a cheapish set to buy for ourselves!).  He is such a visual learner, I think it will help him get to grips with the grouping/ carrying concept.  Anyway, he found the set of rods first thing this morning and immediately wanted a go - the bright colours appealing to his creative side and the stacking rods appealing to his love of order (this was before we even had a chance to have breakfast).  We went through the set finding out what colour all the different number-rods were, then we matched them up to see how many different ways we could make 'tens' - the teacher in my head was mentally ticking off 'number-bonds', while he was just playing and having fun!  He then progressed to using them to play a game that basically revolved around times tables - not that he knew that.  His enthusiastic squeals soon called his brothers, and next thing I knew they were all playing with "Mummy's New Maths Game" - amongst other things making one huge rod two-hundred-and-fourteen squares long (according to Eldest).

The rods had to go away for breakfast then, but were such a success, I'm confident Middle will be happy to play some more with them when we have another look at the Maths he got stuck on :)

Our next Maths encounter was a result of the car-boot sale I did at the weekend - I tipped out the coins onto the table, and the two older boys helped me sort them into piles, count the totals and bag them, ready to be banked :)

Following that, there were various maths-based games and puzzles, including Electronic Battleships (Eldest v the computer); a jigsaw puzzle aimed at 5-year-olds that Youngest did without batting an eyelid, and the Bus Stop game from Orchard Toys.   Today was also Eldest's turn to bake, and he made some scrummy Orangle Drizzle cakes (after an emergency dash to the smallholding up the road where we buy our eggs) - there's plenty of Maths to be found in measuring out ingredients, dividing cake mixture etc - and we got to eat them too... edible Maths is my favourite!

Of course, it wasn't all Maths today - Eldest (who is recovering from some nasty virus picked up this weekend) and I had some lovely snuggle time on the sofa, watching our garden wildlife - including a very shy mouse and some beautful long-tailed tits - and we all played a game or two of Animal Soundtracks (great for encouraging listening skills), and Middle and Youngest spent a fair time on Reading Eggs too!  It's just that it did help me to see how Maths really does fit naturally into our everyday lives, without them going near MathsWhizz.

So that said, why do I still feel the need for online (or even workbook-driven) curriculum, such as MathsWhizz?  Well, bearing in mind that this is still all fairly experimental (we're still in novice-territory, so may well change our mind next month/ week/ tomorrow), it was partly a conversation that I had with Hubby that crystalised my thoughts.  I can't remember how it came up, but he basically mentioned that he never learned his times tables at school (his family moved around quite a bit when he was young, so presumably it just fell by the way in one of the gaps between schools).  This was supposed to be a positive point, showing that even though he didn't complete all the basic requirements conventionally expected by a formal education, he still went on to do very well for himself (got Maths A-level, has good job etc).  On the other hand, I can vividly remember learning my times tables (mostly I remember a little green paperback book purchased for me by my Mum who wanted to help consolidate what I was presumably learning at school).  Hubby said that not having learned his times tables hadn't hindered him at all - he could still work out whatever mental maths he needed to do; it just takes him a little longer than those who had learned them (eg me).  So if I was in a situation where I needed to know - say - 6x7, I would instantly know the answer was 42.  Hubby would still get the same answer (he's a clever chap), but he would have to work it out.  Not much of a draw-back, really.  It just got me to thinking then about when I missed two weeks of secondary school due to illness, and consequently never learned how to do long division.  "No big deal" you might think, but you'd be surprised how many times it came up throughtout my adult life... not on a daily basis, but often enough to frustrate me that I couldn't do it.  It wasn't until I needed to teach my students how to do it that I finally got round to teaching myself how to do it - and now it's another skill under my belt :)  Of course, some may argue that my teaching myself is proof that my boys could teach themselves if they ever find themselves wanting to know how to do it - and they'd have a point - but all these little things come together to where I am at the moment, thinking that these maths skills traditionally learned at school actually do have value.  If we didn't have MathsWhizz, would Middle ever learn to do "regrouping/ carrying"?  Maybe, maybe not.  How about times tables or long division? If he didn't, it certainly wouldn't be the end of the world - neither Hubby nor I were held back by our learning gaps - but how many so-called 'learning gaps' am I comfortable to risk him having?  And basically, as we do have the opportunity at our fingertips for him (and his brothers) to learn those skills, as long as he is (they all are) enjoying it, we're going to make full use of the online curriculum available - and also carry on having fun seeing how Maths fits into our every day lives too... for now, anyway!  It's not a set philosophy - I certainly wouldn't try to tell anyone else they should or shouldn't do it this way... it's just a record in my diary of where we're at right now ;)

And finally: I've said this before, but was reminded again today of one of the benefits of HE.  Having had a nasty virus this weekend with accompanying alarmingly high temperature, Eldest seemed to be nicely on his way back to full health today.  Had we been in school, I might have been tempted to send him in so he didn't fall behind academically (and so I could fulfil my teaching responsibilities).  I'm so grateful we didn't even have to think about it.  Sadly we did have to cancel a visit to some lovely friends who we were looking forward to seeing - but we're hoping to reschedule soon, and I was just so grateful that Eldest was free to take the day at his own pace, learning naturally wherever he felt up to it, and resting when he needed... and of course, I was on hand to keep an eye on him, for my own peace of mind.  Thank God for Home Ed :)

PS For those who like to share such things, here are our favourite garden visitors from today...


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Busy busy...

We're definitely getting back into our stride now :)

Yesterday we had a lovely trip with a few other Home Ed families to one of our favourite woodland haunts.  It was a lovely ramble, and the boys had LOTS of fun playing with friends on a rope swing and in the root system of the coolest tree in the world (in our opinion - see photo below to decide for yourself), learning by experience all about how the root system of a tree works, without consciously thinking about it.  I wasn't so happy when we eventually got back to the car park only to discover that Youngest had left his back-pack at the cool tree - but I am blessed with a lovely friend who took all my boys to her home down the road so I could quickly get back to the tree on my own to retrieve it, rather than having to drag three tired boys with me!  When I picked the boys up after, they were having a great time - Youngest in particular didn't want to leave, and kept asking throughout the afternoon if we could go back, or if our friend could come to us.  It's the first time I've felt able to leave the three of them playing anywhere other than at home or at Grandma's - and I was really happy at how well they did :)

Coolest Tree in the World?

Other than that, we've been busy at home too - Youngest keeps revisiting Reading Eggs at every opportunity, as well as the CBeebies website, and also drawing, looking at books - and today it was his turn to bake, making an impressive "Dotty Cake" with Mummy's help...

Dotty Cake

Eldest has also had a couple of really good days - he's been doing well on MathsWhizz, reading like books are about to disappear, and practicing his sketching techniques, re-visiting the How to Draw Rainforest and Ocean Animals DVD kit that he used a few months ago.  Funnily enough I had only looked at it the other day and wondered if he was ever going to open it again, or if it was a 'single-use' product in Eldest's eyes.  I didn't even have to 'strew' though - he pulled it off the shelf himself that same day and asked to have a go.  This time not only did he draw the four animals as demonstrated on the DVD, he also had a go at a couple of extra animals from the accompanying booklet, and then he tried drawing one of his own toys - for someone with no confidence in his ability to draw, it was lovely to see him so 'hooked' :)

Top l to r: 'Gorilla', 'Shark', 'Macaw' and 'Elephant'
'Toucan' and 'Dolphin' - not attempted before
'Stingray' - portrait of a toy
Middle has also been having fun on Reading Eggs and drawing (see self-portrait below), playing with dice and experimenting with magnets (he really liked the extra-strong magnet that worked "through him" - ie he held the magnet on one side of his thumb and it held a washer in place on the other side of his thumb! We hit a hiccup with MathsWhizz today though - he was apparently being tested on subtraction and addition using carrying - well, he was just staring blankly at the questions, and when I tried to help jog his memory it was clear he had no recollection of ever learning how to do it.  I have emailed the helpdesk as I can't immediately find how to help him on their programme - but every other topic he finds really easy, so I think I'm just going to help him myself, until he's confident enough to rejoin the program.

Self-portrait by Middle

Today we also all sat down and painted our now dry clay creations (as made last week in "Art and Structured Autonomy".  Eldest wasn't interested in anything other than getting his gun finished - although he's happy with the end result, so that's fair enough. 

'"Pistol" by Eldest
Youngest had a whale of a time painting his snowman - at one point it looked like a gory horror film victim, with black and red everywhere - and then he enlisted Mummy's help to smother it with LOTS of white paint until it looked like a snowman again (I think he was disappointed that as the clay dried white, he didn't need to paint much, so he painted it multi-coloured before restoring it to snowy-white with more paint!

"Snowman" by Youngest

Middle (as always when doing arty things) took his time to get his works of art just the way he wanted them.  It's times like this when his absolute focus-on-only-one-thing-at-a-time comes in handy - he didn't care that everyone else had finished; he was happy just to keep painting until he felt he was done :)

"Bob", "Burger and Chips on plates" and "Loveheart", all by Middle

And I had fun too - painting is quite therapeutic, although it would probably be more so if I didn't have to keep getting up and down to change water, wash out pots, wipe up spills, check that boys who have wandered off are in fact paint-free... etc etc!

"Barn Owl" and "Hedgehog" by Mummy

Desite all the busy-ness though, I do still feel as if we're not quite settled though - I think it's mostly because I have no idea where the boys' learning is going - and while I keep reminding myself that that isn't really a bad thing (as we're not the fully-structured type), there is obviously something niggling at me that I haven't put my finger on yet - I'll let you know if I figure it out!  Meanwhile, for a family who don't seem to have a clear direction, we're having lots of fun learning - and that's my number one priority.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Versions of Creativity

Today's highlight was the return of Craft club - from the moment we got up, Youngest kept repeating every few minutes "Is it time for craft club yet?"  He even had his shoes on before he'd started breakfast, he was so keen!  It was lovely to see everyone again, and the boys had a great time creating models based on pinch pots, out of clay.  Well, Eldest and Middle made models -Youngest just had fun bashing, poking and squishing - and then ran about generally having fun wile the older ones modelled.  I don't have photos yet as we'll have to wait until they've been through the kiln, painted & so on - but while we wait we can always paint our models that we made last week (with air-drying clay) which have finally dried - so hopefully there will be photos of those coming soon!

We also had a couple of musical moments today - listening to Classic FM on the way to craft club, there was a piece playing by Brahms that had the boys puzzled - they spotted the instruments that were playing without problem, but when it came to how it felt, they weren't sure whether it was happy, sad or something else (it sounded a bit confused or 'all-over-the-place' to me too!) Then they decided the music was painting a picture of an undersea adventure: the happy bits were when the divers were looking at fish and dolphins, and the scary bits were when a shark popped out etc. They kept adding to their narrative as the music progressed - we all liked the piece better after their creative interpretation ;) The second musical moment was when I walked into the lounge to find Middle watching a programme with a live band playing, and I grabbed his hands & we had a little dance round the room, culminating in me teaching him how to twist - it only took five minutes, but it was a lovely moment :)

This afternoon Youngest passed another 'end of stage' test on Reading Eggs - but cheerfully announced to me that Middle had helped him "a little bit" - and when I asked Middle about it, he confessed that he had done the entire test for Youngest!  Talk about frustrating!  He was probably either too tired to be doing it or had been on it too long & got a bit bored.  I wish I'd known!  Anyway, Middle & I had a chat about how it hasn't actually helped Youngest in the long run - hopefully he won't do it again.  Frustrated?  Yes, but I can also choose to be proud of Youngest's "creative" problem-solving, and of Middle's confident willingness to help...

This is why I blog really, because I don't want to forget the beauty in the little things. I almost thought today's stuff was "too ordinary" to write about, but there can be joy in the mundane (especially when I look back after time has passed), and blogging about the 'every-day' highs and lows is my own 'creative' way of trying to make sure I don't miss things in all the busy-ness.  It all goes by so fast, I feel like I want to find a 'slow-motion' button.  Parents everywhere will tell you that children grow so much faster than you can keep up with, and blogging for me is like a textual version of all the photos I take (and I do take lots!): a way of celebrating the 'now'.  The blog and my photos are my 'slow-motion' buttons, allowing me to rejoice in both the fun and the harder bits, and storing up memories to treasure... and of course, if all of that entertains/ encourages others on a similar journey, well that would really be the icing on the cake! 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Day Without Focus

Today was a bit of a slow-starter, really.  We're managing to stick to the new sort-of routine of tidying bedrooms before we come downstairs, setting the laundry off & emptying the diswasher etc - & not putting the TV/ Wii on before lunch, so that's positive.  Hubby and I have got a real desire to have a good ole sort out at the moment, so I've been going for it while we are both in the mood for a cull - which meant that after breakfast today I got a bit distracted with clearing out some clutter-magnet areas, and while the boys were quite happy occupying themselves (largely on the trampoline - exercising in the fresh air, hooray!), I just got on with it.  I got lots done, and I am pleased about that, but I'm also feeling a bit dissatisfied that we didn't get our usual lovely relaxed Monday morning together.  Never mind - it'll be totally worth it once the house is emptier - mess is not conducive to a peaceful environment. 

We did still have some lovely moments though - all the boys wanted time on the computer, so Youngest went on Reading Eggs first, followed by Middle.  I popped in every now and then to see how they were doing (removing junk from the study with every trip!), and was really impressed with both of them: Despite the break over the holidays, Youngest doesn't seem to have forgotten anything he has learned so far.  He was a little unsure in places, but then confessed that his big brother had helped him the other day ('help' probably meaning he did it for him), so I walked him through the bits he was unsure about, and he picked it up really quickly again - it's such a great programme, his reading-skills are coming on really well!  Middle has moved up a level and is now doing stuff a bit more appropriate for his ability I think.  For a while he was doing exercises that I thought were far too easy for him, but as I hoped, it appears that it has built his confidence back up - and it looks like it won't be long before he's ready to move on to Reading Eggspress (the second part of the Reading Eggs programme, for 7-13 year olds).  He even used the programe to write a little story today - yay! :)  Eldest did some Maths whizz and then got lost in a book ('The Horse and His Boy'), which he read in under two hours (could have been much less - I wasn't timing him; I just noticed him starting it, and a bit later finishing it).  Little bookworm!  He really reminds me of myself at that age :)

We had a bit of practical maths this morning as well, helped by the fact that all of mine love playing with money (not to mention spending it when they get the chance!).  Having done a car boot sale at the weekend, I had lots of pound coins in my purse for once, so I set them all a challenge:  we got out the tin that we keep a few bits of loose change in, and I said if they could each make £1 out of the coins in the tin, I would swap those coins for a £1 coin that they could put in each of their wallets.  With Eldest I specified that he had to use at least one of each different coin there - which he did very quickly while I was helping Youngest, who really enjoyed finding the numbers written on each coin (frustratingly the newer coins don't have the numeral on them, only the number as a word - so "two" instead of "2").  Anyway, I helped Youngest to count his coins up to a hundred, and he gleefully ran off with his £1 coin.  Middle was next, and he had lots of fun playing with the coins, sorting them, working out how many he had of each type of coin - even doing some times-table work as well as addition and subtraction.  Lots of fun - and he didn't even realise he was doing Maths ;)

Middle had expressed a desire to do some baking today, so we had a lovely bit of one-on-one time in the kitchen baking banana muffins.  I usually let the boys choose what they want to make (as long as we have all the necessary ingredients), but we had some seriously overripe bananas that needed using up, so I made today's choice - and let's face it, muffins always go down well in this house ;) 

I also had some one-on-one time with Youngest a bit later, who just wanted to snuggle up together and watch a Dora and Diego DVD (learning a bit about wildlife and some Spanish while we were at it!).

Eldest then had a very exciting package delivered, so we ran out of time for me to have any one-on-one with him - but we had had a lovely snuggle last night watching "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" while Daddy put the younger two to bed, so I didn't mind too much.  The 'very exciting package' was a Clone Wars Wii game that he had been wanting for a long time.  He had been trying to sell a lego kit to raise funds, and I finally sold it at the car boot sale on Saturday for him.  Happily, although the lego didn't get as much as he was initially hoping for, in the time it had taken to sell it, the Wii game had come down in price, so he was delighted to find out he had enough money!  Cue a hasty purchase on Amazon - followed by a very excited boy when the postman delivered a package this afternoon that "sounded heavy!!!" when it hit the floor, and "looked the right size!!!!!" when a very excited Eldest ran to fetch it ;)

Hence my having enough time to sit down and blog - all three boys are now engrossed with doing goodness-knows-what to droids and other strange creatures, courtesy of the Wii.  I'm not looking forward to their response when I turn it off in a minute, but I have to admit, it was a really lovely lesson in patience, as well as depreciation in value of certain goods (both lego and Wii games) over time.

So I was just trying to think of a title for today's blog, but as it was a funny day with lots of bits and pieces going on, all I could think of was that it really was a day of no one focus today - it felt like we just got swept along with activities, rather than having any plan to the day - but actually that's not necessarily a bad thing.  We don't run to a timetable (another benefit of HE), so it doesn't matter.  Some days like today are heavy on computer-based learning, some days we don't go near the study; some days I get lots of time with the children, some days not so much; some days are more 'arty' or 'outdoors' or 'sociable'... the  variety is endless - and it always balances out in the long run.  Tomorrow will be another day and will doubtless look very different again - I like that :)