Thursday, 20 December 2012

Things I Learned Today

I learned a few things today, some of which have changed the way I see things.  As you will know if you read yesterday's post, I have been feeling bad about how stressed I've been, shouting at the children at times etc.  Last night I was asking myself why I was so stressed, and came to the conclusion that as I didn't stop to process the whole asthma thing with Youngest when it happened, I just went into 'coping mode', and since the nurse has now said it was probably just a viral wheeze, not full-on asthma, maybe I'm just dealing with delayed stress.  Anyway, I was telling that to a friend this morning and I learned again the value of friendship, epsecially with people who know a bit of your history.  She looked straight at me and said, "well it is that time of year" - and the penny dropped.  You see, I've had two miscarriages - the first one saw me in hospital on Christmas Eve, with the staff trying to stop the hemorrhaging while a band played 'Away in a Manger' to the ward outside my room.  The second one was my baby whose due date was Christmas Eve.  So - it's a difficult time of year for me, and although I made a conscious choice at the time that I refuse to let all my Christmases be ruined for the sake of my children and everyone around me, it is true to say that every year the grief sneaks up and bites me on the bum, so to speak.  Grief manifests in so many different ways for every person, but for me in this case, it usually appears as a build-up of stress that sneaks up on me subconsciously, until I register what's going on, acknowledge my babies who aren't with me (usually have a little weep), and then usually feel more peaceful again.  So I learned again that it's time to be kind to myself.

I've learned that those who truly love you are really accepting of you, just the way you are - and boy, do I appreciate that!

I learned that even when you go back to the dentist to have another mould made for your new crown, it still doesn't guarantee that it will fit well.

I also learned that I've been so busy and preoccupied that I've gone and missed the last posting date for Christmas cards!  I guess our friends and relatives are going to be getting late ones this year.  Kicking myself a bit, but there's nothing I can do about it now  - I'm going to be kind to myself!

I learned that cancer isn't that easy to get rid of (not me, but a family member)

I learned that when someone shouts at Eldest, he looks like he's not bothered, but his behaviour goes a bit loopy afterwards.  I learned that when someone shouts at Middle, he takes it on himself to try to make everyone happy again (such a middle child thing!).  While this understanding makes me sad (especially in the light of this week), all understanding of how your child works is a positive thing.  I'm not going to give myself a hard time about the past few days, I'm being kind to myself - and actually, that makes it so much easier to be extra kind to the boys too.

So I'm taking a break (I learned that lesson in the summer, and am revisiting now).  Our holidays don't look all that different from term-time - the boys will still be free to explore and create wherever inspiration takes them, but I will be relaxing the expectation on the boys to do Maths-Whizz/ Reading Eggs, and basically just not being so much 'on duty', feeling the need to be aware of their 'learning' all the time.  Also I'm going to have time off blogging - simply because we're going to be very busy for a week or so now...

So that's me, I'm off for a bit.  I know this post hasn't been all sunshine and laughter, but don't worry, I have three 'babies' here to cuddle, I have good friends and family around me - and as Christians, it is a blessing for us spiritually too... and I simply love it!  So I leave you with my Christmas gift to you: the easiest recipe in the world for making a last-minute tasty snack (we made them the other day & were very glad we did - yummy)!

Cheat's Cheese Straws

ready-made puff pastry
bowl of grated cheese

Heat the oven to 180C (ish)

1) roll the puff pastry into a rectangle shape
2) sprinkle grated cheese over half the pastry
3) fold it in half
4) repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 a few times
5) cut into straws or use pastry cutters to make shapes
6) bake for about 10 mins, or until they look cooked (golden-brown on top)

Try not to eat them all at once.

So wherever you are, and whatever you're dong, I hope you all have a happy Christmas, and a prosperous New Year!  See you in 2013...

PS This will make you laugh: I also learned that if you try to blog while making the tea, you could end up with soggy pasta and burnt pasta sauce!  Merry Christmas everyone :) xxx

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Rollercoaster Days

It's been a funny week so far.  Some of it really pants, and some of it heart-warmingly lovely.

The horrible bits have largely revolved around me: my stress; me losing my temper; my guilt at shouting at the boys... with other challenges thrown in such as one boy drawing on the beige stair carpet with lead pencil, another boy having a complete hissy fit over something apparently tiny, and general sibling squabbles and other petty problems as well. 

BUT, as another HE Mum whose blog I love posted earlier this week, in One Of Those Days, it's how you deal with horrible days/ weeks that makes the difference.  So if I focus on the positives and brag slightly on my boys, it's not because I want you to feel inadequate (I REALLY don't!): it's because to focus on the negatives would depress me and make things worse.  I don't want to live in denial, or try to maintain an illusion of perfection - I just want to acknowledge the rotten stuff, try to learn from it - and then focus on the good stuff and acknowledge that actually, despite the stuff that I get wrong, every day that we home educate is a good day.

By the way, a lovely quote for those of you who find HE blogs discouraging at times...
"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel" - Steve Furtick
So on our manic Monday, after I had a sudden and stressful need to clean the house top-to-bottom (obviously apart from the room that all the mess was shoved into!), and after the carpet graffiti 'artist' had had a long enough time-out for me to calm down, followed by him trying to clean the carpet himself (lesson in consequences of destructive behaviour - I did help him after he'd realised the seriousness of what he'd done), and after the mega tantrum had passed, and peace was restored... after all that stress, we had quite a nice afternoon: the house was now beautifully tidy, and I felt the need for a nice cosy time, for all of our sakes... so we snuggled up together on the sofa and watched a Christmas Movie with popcorn and no lights on except the twinkling tree.  Oh it was lovely: such a peace-restoring time... and actually, it was the first time this year that I have taken time to breathe deeply and enjoy the beginning of the festive season, gathering my precious ones around me and indulging in the warmth of our family closeness as we make plans and celebrate Christmas.

Tuesday started well: we were all up early, dressed and looking forward to the last Craft Club of the season - we even made some gingerbread cookies to share there.  Then we got in the car - and it wouldn't start.  Flat battery.  We were all really upset, but nothing could be done.  A taxi would have been too expensive; going by bus was too involved - by the time we got there it would have been time to come home.  So after dealing with tears and pouting, I decided we would go out for a walk to blow the cobwebs away (it was a lovely mild day) - so we walked through the local lanes to the smallholding where we buy our free-range eggs (proper free-range, not the sort that claim to be free-range in supermarkets but turn out to be a con).  Eggs purchased, we strolled home again, talked to the horses in the fields, planning Middle's birthday party next month, and I just enjoyed having Youngest's little hand in mine, while listening to Eldest and Middle have a really lovely brotherly conversation.  Peace was restored.

Home again, and having stressed myself (and the boys) silly the day before, trying to get the house immaculate, I did what any normally insane person would do: I got the glitter out (and some stencils, metallic markers etc).  Oh my goodness, we had a good time!  I deliberately made no plans, set no expectations - didn't even tell them not to waste the glitter (after all, I had bought two big tubs of it, and we're not likely to use it again this year)... we just got creative and had fun.  There was so much glitter over the bench that Youngest stood up in it and made like a camel doing a happy little sand dance.  It didn't even take that long to clean up again afterwards!  It was such a happy time, even finding the glitter today that has spread to every corner of the house makes me smile.

 Middle's "Christmas" and "Tree"

 Eldest's "Christmas Fish" and "Macaroni Penguins"

 Youngest's "Do Not Disturb" (apparently) and "Candle"

Today has happily been a bit less tempestuous.  There has been more time to notice the 'little' things from the week so far.  For example today's word play, first making a Christmas crossword on the fridge out of magnetic letters, and then a game that Eldest and Middle love, where every word has to start with the same letter (inlcuding names) - so if everything starts with P, they would call me Pummy, eating a Panana etc. Youngest (age 4) has always hated this game, especially if his brothers changed his name, but today when they played it he suddenly 'got it', and was delighted to change everyone's names, working them out for himself - he especially loved it when he got to call me 'Dummy', 'Bummy' 'Gummy' etc. He just suddenly clicked with letter sounds as components of whole words. That's proper literacy right there - but they were all just having fun playing a game (as it should be)! 

Eldest was "bored" at one point, but instead of moaning at me to find entertainment for him (he seems to have learned that that usually results in him being asked to tidy his room - spot Mummy's cunning ploy), he disappeared off to his room and invented a game that is a kind of cross between chess and Gogos (cheap weird plastic collectible figures).  He calls it 'Gogo chess', and although the name may not be very inventive, the game certainly is.  It has clear rules and is kind of and is absorbing to play... clever chappie!

And Middle has totally grown in confidence with his drawing.  He rarely wants to colour his creations in - I'm not sure if that's our of preference or because he runs out of steam, but regardless, his pictures are increasingly noticeably in detail, and more importantly, he loves it - he's found his 'happy place' - ie sat at a table (or on the floor, or leaning on a book), with a pen/ pencil in hand, drawing a picture.


There's another blog that I follow, and the author posted this week about criticism that she had received making her re-evaluate her home education/ lifestyle, in Still Learning.  Readers here will know how little time I have for the 'shoulds', aka, other people's narrow-minded judgements (or our own subconscious ones) on our parenting/ education/ life choices - but this lovely blogger goes further and states the things that she does value about their life.  I encourage you to have a read, it's really uplifting.  Sometimes the things that people think are important, turn out to be the least important.  And I'm not just saying that because I'm a fan of hers who aspires to a similar lifestyle!

Over all then, it's been such an up-and-down few days - a proper rollercoaster (no, I am NOT the rollercoaster-enjoying type), and it got me thinking.  We can have days that I rate as rubbish because it's too easy to fall back into schoolteacher mode, and I wobble, and make the mistake of comparing the 'labours' (or lack of) of our HE day with the labours of a typical school day - but nowadays I am getting quicker at ignoring that out-dated 'teacher-voice' because when I think of the lesson plans that I have written in the past, all of them always focused around one main point that I wanted the children to remember or achieve, if nothing else.  And if they could get that one point in a few minutes, what was the point in the rest of the lesson? (was it to fill time while their class-mates also got it? was it to keep reiterating it in different ways to make sure it really goes in, in case they weren't paying full attention?)  I look back at my own time at school and think about what I actually learned.  I learned that I'm rubbish at History, Science, Geography, Art, average at Maths, and ok with English and languages  (notice it is all performance-based, nothing to do with what did I love or what inspired me and brought me to life).  The facts that I learned I have largely forgotten - and if you ask Joe Public what he was taught at school, chances are you'll get the same response: "nothing much".  We remember the teachers, and how they made us feel.  we remember the bad ones who made us feel lower than low, and we remember the good ones, who encouraged us to reach for the stars, to believe in ourselves.  But do we remember, do my students remember those 'key points' that were the focus of each lesson plan?  Not often (and I really tried to be an inspiring teacher).  All of which brings me full-circle to now, home educating my own children.  To be frank, their appetite for learning far exceeds my ability to "teach" - and that being the case, I just need to make sure they have the resources they need to go as far as they like, unhindered by the 'single-point' focus of a lesson-plan.  If my boys are inspired and take just a few minutes to learn one piece of information or grasp a new concept or get absorbed in a new experience, why should I expect them to then spend the rest of their day in a forced learning environment?  Quite simply, there is no need.  If they then want to go on learning as much as they can about one subject, why would I try to restrict them to my idea of what they ought to achieve in one session?  Again, there is no need.  The Home Ed lark really makes a lot of sense.

Wow, what was a lengthy post!  I'll stop now... thank you for sticking with me through my rambles! 

Friday, 14 December 2012

What Hibernating?

Well I wasn't expecting that!  What a day crammed with fun and learning we have had!  (warning, this kind of day happens less frequently than the proverbial blue moon - please don't read if you're feeling insecure!)  Unusually the house was in a fairly ordered state this morning, so I wasn't distracted by a load of jobs that needed doing - and I was up before the boys, and therefore able to usher them straight into the kitchen for breakfast, so they weren't distracted by the temptation of TV or computer (their default at the moment).  Well, we hadn't all finished breakfast before the table was being cleared ready for an experiment, prompted by the episode of Blast Lab that we watched the other day, on buoyancy.  We had a tub filled with water on the table, and the boys went hunting for various objects that they could test to see whether they thought they would float or sink.  Eldest and Middle were quite good at predicting the buoyancy of most of the items - Youngest was a bit more 'hit and miss', which wasn't surprising given his age, but I could see his mind trying to work it out, so that was still a valuable experience for him.  And there were a few surpirses for everyone, like the lemon that they all thought would sink, but actually floated low in the water, and the egg that they expected would float, but actually sank. (I'm glad the egg sank - as I told them later, if it had floated it would have been a bad 'un!)... 


(this last photo was the experiment to see how many minifigures we could get onto Eldest's lego raft before it started sinking.  Actually, although it was letting on water & became partially submerged, it continued to float regardless of number of passengers)

That same egg then led us on to our next activity.  While it was "carefully" being put way, it got damaged, so we then had to have a bit of impromptu baking, to use it up.  I remembered a recipe for Christmas buns in our Yummy Little Cookbook.  I should have listened to instinct though, as I thought twenty minutes was a bit long to bake them for.  The boys were already moving on to the next activity though, so I didn't really think about it, just put them in the oven for the prescribed amount of time - and yes, they came out very well done!  Not burnt, mind - but pretty dry.  Still, they looked lovely after the boys had had fun decorating them...

The next activity was found in our Big Book of Christmas Things to Make and Do - a hand-printed angel that Youngest and Middle wanted to do.  Eldest wasn't keen, but he really wanted to paint a sheep - then Middle decided we needed a painting of the baby Jesus to go with the other Nativity characters.

 Middle's 'Angel'
 Youngest's 'Angel' (Mummy helped with the face after Youngest got distracted)
Eldest's 'Sheep' 

Middle's 'Baby Jesus'

By this point the boys were getting really carried away with what they could do next.  Eldest wanted to do an experiment with baby oil that he'd seen somewhere.  I had no idea what he was talking about, but was happy for him to educate me.  It was a really cool experiment - we put a small glass tumbler inside a glass jug, and filled the space between them with baby oil.  When it was half-full we looked through the side of jug, and were excited to see that the tumbler was disappearing!  We had to fill the tumbler with water as it was more buoyant than expected, and then finished filling the gap with baby oil until it completely disappeared!  very cool - and a proud Mummy when Eldest explained to us that it was all an "optical illusion" made by the oil bending the light.  If you fancy having a go and want a more 'in-depth' explanation, follow this link.

Now you see it... 

... now you don't.

Middle then wanted to try an experment that he had seen - he coloured a black fel-tip shape onto a paper coffee filter, and put the end of the paper in water.  As trhe water was absorbed up the filter paper, the ink bled and showed that as Middle said, the colour black is actually made up of different colurs (in this case, blue and green)...

By this point Youngest had gone off by himself, and I found him flooding the downstairs wc, playing with the water - so Mummy called time-out on the experimenting while we mopped up - and then put the TV on for a bit of non-messy learning (disapprove if you will, but I know my limits: there's only so much my sanity can take - and a mad Mummy is not something that is conducive to a positive leanring experience!)

So the learning carried on courtesy of the recorded programmes on our sky box.  We had lessons on the natural world, thanks to 'Naomi's Nightmares of Nature' (CBBC) and 'Frozen Planet' (Eden); we learned more about art, via 'Your Paintings' (BBC2 learning zone); we learned about the Human Body, courtesy of 'Operation Ouch' (CBBC) - and all this by lunchtime!  This afternoon the learning has been continuing on a history theme, with 'History Hunt' (BBC2 learning zone again) and 'Horrible Histories' (CBBC) - and then we're going to do some gift-wrapping & finish decorating the house - getting a bit more hands-on again. 

Finally, I was hoping to get out for a frosty walk today, but the weather has turned & it's been raining all day.  Sad though I am not to get out, I've obviously enjoyed our busy morning in - and there's another benefit too: Midge and Squidge (our rescued hedgehogs) have been in the garage for a week, acclimatising to lower temperatures, waiting for a mild spell so I can put them into the garden shed, hopefully to hibernate.  It looks like tonight's the night, as we have at least a few nights of mild temperatures forecast.  So I thought I'd post some photos of them here for those of you who have been interested in our hedgehog adventures - if all goes to plan, there will be nothing to report on the prickly front for a good few months now.
Midge when he arrived, weighing 430g     Midge as he is now, weighing 882g

 Squidge when she arrived, at 432g      Squidge as she is now, at 807g

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Day of Gentle Hibernation

Hubby came home in time to put Middle and Youngest to bed last night, so I had a nice snuggly time with Eldest, watching an episode of Lego Star Wars (Padawan Menace) together.  He'd been asking to watch it together for a while, but I wanted to vet it before I let the younger two watch, so it had to wait until they were in bed.  Anyway, last night was the night - and to Eldest's delight it was deemed appropriate for his brothers' viewing.  So this morning Eldest and Middle spent a surprisingly long time on Reading Eggspress, and then asked if they could watch the approved Lego Star Wars episode.  I reminded Eldest that I had said he would be able to watch it after he tidied his room (he has supposedly been tidying this room every day this week, but not actually making any real progress).  Anyway, Middle grabbed him enthusiastically and said, "come on [Eldest], I'll help you!"  (It took me a while to register what he had said, I was so shocked!)  So off they went, while Youngest made the most of the opportunity to get on the computer & his beloved CBeebies website, where he learned about bowheaded whales amongst other things.  Much raucous laughter was heard coming from Eldest's bedroom, and I did wonder how much tidying up was actually being achieved - but it was so nice hearing them having fun together that I didn't disturb them.  Well, it wasn't a lot later when Eldest and Middle appeared downstairs, obviously plotting something as Eldest counted in a whisper "1...2...3...", and they both chorused loudly "Tidy, Eldest's room is!"  It was so sweet, just one of those moments that I wish I could replay on video.  That's why I've written it down here really - not much to do with HE, but I just wanted to record the memory.

This afternoon we watched some Blast Lab and Horrible Histories.  TV may seem like a lesser method of learning, but the facts that the boys come out with after watching are really encouraging, such as the boys' reasoning on which objects would float or sink, and remembering details about the Suffragettes.  Eldest also experienced the realisation for himself that some theories which are absolutely held to be true today will be looked back on as stupid by people in the future, which led to a really interesting discussion on generally-accepted scientific "fact".  If it's encouraging to have the boys remembering things they learned off their own backs, seeing them starting to think critically for themselves is really exciting to me.

Later there were some nativity re-enactments with the playmobil, Christmas sticker-book stickering - oh, and the neighbours locked themselves out, so they came round to borrow a boy or two to help break in to their house.  The breaking-in lesson was sadly unsuccessful, but we did then get to have our neighbours round for a cup of tea while they waited for the locksmith to arrive, so that was a nice spontaneous bit of socialising.  Middle was particularly excited to show his photo book off, Eldest was thrilled to have someone new to discuss 'Lego Star Wars' with and Youngest just kept talking at anyone who would listen.

Finally at tea-time we continued the "food we eat" learning with a discussion concerning meat and beans: which was the best for protein and muscle-building, which made the most 'bottom-burps', and which made the worst smelling farts.  This was not an exhaustive study, but I'm happy to take the boys' word for it!

All in all, considering we're kind of gently hibernating now, & it still really doesn't feel like we "did much", that was a pretty successful day!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Doing Nothing in a Festive Way

I've discovered a few set-backs to Home Education that I hadn't anticipated.  This time last year we were all at school, but Youngest and I were mornings-only, so I would bring him home at lunchtime, put him to bed for a nap, and then get the lights up ready to surprise the older boys when they came home from school later.  This year I don't get that lovely sense of looking forward to their delighted response.  However, we do have a lot more time together to just enjoy all the loveliness of the season, so I figure I can't complain really!  Also, as they are at home all the time they have persuaded me to put the tree up sooner that I usually would.  That's not such a bad thing either - I just know from experience that I usually get fed up of the decorations cluttering up the house within a couple of weeks, so it does mean I'll need to be patient, waiting for my 'undecorating' day.

The other drawback I discovered after writing my previous post: apparently the seasonal slow-down is not only common, but it seems that rather than Home Edders being all jolly at this time of year, 'tis the season to be "wobbly".  Of course, we are a pretty jolly lot - why wouldn't we be?  We get to immerse ourselves in the season as much as we like, without having to run around sorting out last-minute nativity costumes, gifts for the school staff, and enough Christmas cards for every child in the class/ school, as well as trying to persuade tired grumpy children that they do want to get up when it's dark, go to school in the cold and not come home until it's dark again.  But - the wobbles, so I am told, are really common at this time of year.  I wonder if that's a result of the slow-down.  Certainly in this house our HE experience includes a lot of getting out and about, experiencing nature etc - and I think that inevitably brings a greater sense of being in tune with the seasons.  So as I wrote previously, we have slowed down, are doing less trips out and group activities, cosying down more at home, doing more passive learning such as on the TV or computer - all of which makes it feel like we're not doing much of value - and there's no quicker way to bring on the wobbles, or make you question your ability as a home educator, than to assess your progress in terms of "haven't done much lately"  Well, the upside to that is that thanks to the lovely online communities, I am now aware that it's a common HE phenomenon - so it makes it much easier to roll with it, and give in to the desire to just hibernate.  It's just a season - and seasonal living is the most natural way to live.

So this week we're indulging ourselves in Christmas preparations.  So far we've been making LOTS of cards (it's really lovely to have the time to make them ourselves)...

my favourites are the ones at the front, made using the paper we marbled ourselves

We've been looking again at the First Christmas (using DVDs, our Playmobil nativity set etc - we liked this Beatbox version on Youtube); we've decorated the tree...

We've made Christmas biscuits from this book...

We've learned about some Christmas traditions (my current favourite one being that naughty Dutch children don't get coal in their stocking, they get taken off to Spain!); we've drawn Christmas pictures (like this one of "Fat Santa" by Middle)...

We've read christmas stories; we've listened to Christmas music and learned some Christmas songs (especially Eldest, who loves singing along to the radio)... we've even lit Christmas candles to complete the full five-senses experience! 

And if you're having a "done nothing" kind of day & are feeling inadequate in comparison to that impressive list, let me reassure you that I didn't think we'd done anything either until I wrote it down, so maybe you've done more than you think too - but even if you haven't, don't worry: it's just a seasonal thing.  Pour yourself a glass of mulled wine or raid the selection box and just enjoy your hibernation... see you in the Spring!

PS Just after I'd posted this blog entry the boys found the tinsel that we haven't used anywhere yet this year, and they started playing with it. Middle and Youngest are making letters, numbers, words etc out of it on the floor.  So of course I had to post some photos... how very HE!


Friday, 7 December 2012

Seasonal slow-down

Lately I've been trying to put my finger on the slightly unsettled feeling I've been having - and I've come to the conclusion that partly I think it's because somewhere in the muddle of this term, I lost hold of the lovely routine we had been developing in September.  In between asthma attacks, baby hedgehogs and dying laptops, we got distracted, and it's taken me this long to be able to refocus.  Also I think it's largely something to do with the season: the cold weather has definitely kept us indoors more than in the summer (especially as Youngest hasn't been fully well) - and I always feel a bit stifled if I don't get my frequent walks in the woods.  And I think we're just feeling a bit lethargic - we all seem to have lost energy a bit. 

Knowing that it's a seasonal thing definitely helps in dealing with it though.  Just as in nature, during winter the trees are bare and the ground is hard, so with us: we have slowed down and aren't seeing many obvious signs of growth - and just as I know the spring will bring new growth and freshness, I am confident that just around the corner are seasons for us of fresh enthusiasm and rapid growth.  Actually, I think it's a positive thing: all land needs time to lie fallow, in order to replenish strength and gather new reserves - and that's what we're doing.  With that in mind, I'm not so bothered by the different pace of this term - really we're ticking along nicely, mooching along between online curricula & TV learning programmes, interspersed with books to read and pictures to draw, walks (albeit shorter ones) outside and meeting with friends.  And even the socialising seems to have a different feel: whereas in the summer there were lots of outdoor meet-ups and field-trips (sometimes literally: trips to fields where they could run about, have fun and experience nature in all its rich glory), in winter we seem to be more home-based, less likely to go out in big groups and more likely to have friends round in smaller cosier groups of one or two families.

That said, today was our big group trip to the local soft play area, and quite a few families turned up today - it was a really lovely time.  We all had a good natter (mums) and play (children) - in fact Eldest was ready to come home before I was! (I think that had something to do with wanting to see what happened in Wild Tales).  That was pretty much the whole day covered, and I felt it made up a bit for having been at home for most of the week!

Yesterday was a bit more typical: the morning saw Eldest and Middle on MathsWhizz.  I need to try to persuade them to do their curriculum work at separate times, otherwise they seem to get distracted very easily with each other's work.  Afterwards Eldest got fully absorbed into the "What If" section of GridClub, which was on "what if you did Maths all day?" (he loved it!).  Middle and Youngest enjoyed playing with Playdoh, and they all had fun playing on the Wii.  I've steered them away from the Lego Star Wars game for now as they got too wound up by it; Wiiparty and the Christmas Wii game we have are much more about teamwork and generally less intense play. We also found the boys' 'Wild Times' comics that they get from the RSPB, so they enjoyed looking through those - Youngest in particular.  And of course, there was lots of TV learning, snuggled up on the sofa, learning about biology (Wild Tales - of course), geography (William Whiskerson), history (Horrible Histories) etc.  Speaking of TV, it's not all couch-based learning: Today after we came home and watched the unmissable Wild Tales, we then watched a programme called Croc Man that Eldest had found in the 'recommended section of our planner.  They loved it.  As part of the programme the 'croc man' was given planning permission for a specialist crocodile zoo in Witney where he lives - so we're all going to have to visit now!  Hooray for inspiration to get out and have a new experience :)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Snow Day!

Just a quick one as we've been too busy having fun today (and creating mess - which I now need to clean up)...

Hooray for snow days!  And hooray for Home Ed, which means we get to enjoy snow days instead of being stuck inside cold classrooms, trying to get our frozen hands and brains to work, but not able to just go outside and play in the pretty white stuff...

One benefit of snow is the speed at which the boys got dressed this morning!  They were up, breakfasted and outside playing before 9am - building snowmen, snowforts & snowballs, and sledging.  You could say it's a multi-curricular activity: Art (3D sculpture); PE (throwing, running and racing); Maths (shape, size, trajectories, speed); D&T (designing and working with transient materials); Science (freezing/ melting, and the human body in extreme temperatures - oh, and weather, obviously!) etc etc... or you could say we played in the snow, and not feel the need to justify it academically!  Learning is everywhere: living is learning, and the more experiences we are exposed to, the more we just learn.  Simple as that.

Eventually, after all the snow play (& learning), we all came indoors for an obligatory hot chocolate, and watched "The Snowman" and "Father Christmas" on DVD, before heading out to an HE playdate with friends, taking some Christmas 'stained glass window biscuits' that we had made for the occasion, from this book.

After lunch at home we watched today's episode of "Wild Tales", which contained a very sad scene - exposing the boys to the less pretty side of wildlife, as well as giving us the chance to chat about how programmers use music to make you feel more sad/ happy etc (all through the rest of the programme the boys were all more alert to the background music that was being played, and how it made them feel, as well as giving them clues to what was coming next).  One of this week's stars is a polar bear cub, and after the programme ended we had a go at making our own polar bear pictures on glitter paper (though the glitter is very subtle & doesn't show up well in the photos).  Eldest chose to do a variation on the North Pole theme - and then couldn't resist doing an underwater Arctic scene too...

Mummy's Polar Bears

Middle's Polar Bears

Youngest's Polar Bear and Walrus

Eldest's "Seal Hill"
(he couldn't have seals and polar bears in the same scene because the bears would eat the seals!)

Eldest's "Arctic Ocean"

Oh, and in other news, the hedgehogs Midge and Squidge, are both now over 700g each (Midge is almost 800g, the porker!), and will soon be moving to the garage to acclimatise to cooler temperatures before being moved to the shed, hopefully to hibernate for the winter, so I have educated myself on further essential things I need to know about hibernating (such as how to tell the difference between a sleeping hedgehog, a hibernating hedgehog, and a dead one!)

So all in all, that was a lovely day.  Now though, I'm off to clear up puddles left by wellies, sledges etc.  If anyone has any genius ideas for non-messy fun, let me know!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Excitement in Pyjamas

Given that today was a low-key pyjama day as has become our habit, it was still a pretty exciting day, most especially for Middle.  Today he "graduated" from Reading Eggs (aimed at 3-7 year olds) to Reading Eggspress (aimed at 7-13 year olds).  He did several lessons in one hit on the last level today as he was so excited to see that he was nearly at the end, and he couldn't wait to be on the same programme as his big brother.  Great was the rejoicing in the house when the Reading Eggspress screen flashed up, and he got to choose his new avatar!  Definitely a proud Mummy moment.  See, Middle struggled academically at school.  He was easily bright enough to do the work, he just didn't fit in the system, and eventually became so depressed that he wouldn't even try.    In six months he has gone from being slightly behind according to Reading Eggs, to ahead for his age.  Now that doesn't actually mean a lot as far as I'm concerned - I always knew he was capable, and I really don't set much store on performance age etc - that's a trap perpetuated by the league tables etc found in the state school system  It's just nice to have a kind of measurable evidence of progress for those who aren't sure of HE, and of course for me if I'm having a wobble.  What means much more to me is that since starting our home education journey Middle has relaxed so fully, I feel like I have my gorgeous, happy, loving boy back.  And quite simply, he was really happy at starting Reading Eggspress - so I am happy for him!

All three boys are now total "Wild Tales" (CBBC) addicts, as evidenced by their excitement at the start of the week being equal to the start of another series - and this week's stars are families of caribou, African wild dogs and polar bears.  There was an entertaining (for me) moment when the caribou gave birth to the baby star of the show, and Eldest asked me what that big red thing was, still hanging from between the caribou's legs.  I explained about placentas etc, and confirmed when asked that yes, I had one for each of my babies - but when I offered to find a picture online to show him, I was answered with an unequivocal "Ewww NO THANKS!".  Apparently that's an education too far right now!  (boys are weird: I am expected to come running to admire the size of their latest toilet-blocking faecal product, but looking at a picture of a placenta online is gross?  Go figure...)
Anyway (moving right along), following Wild Tales we watched an episode of the fun and informative Richard Hammond's Blast Lab, and learned about the surface tension of water.  We did a quick impromptu demonstration of water filled to the brim of a glass, to see if the boys could see the slight dome shape made by the water surface as we added a little more water.  They could, and were dutifully impressed... but were more excited by the splashes made when Mummy accidentally dropped too much water in suddenly - who said education isn't allowed to be exciting?

A different kind of excitement was also provided today by our Christmas Decorations book.  Normally I would prefer something less prescriptive - something that we could design ourselves and be a bit more organic in our creating - but this weekend was pretty full of house-sorting (we culled the toys in Middle and Youngest's room ready for Christmas, and are trying to restore the study into a functional space, rather than the dumping ground it has become) - and I ran out of time to have a look for some more creative crafts or other activities, so we grabbed this book off the shelf, and got the scissors & sellotape out.  It may not have seemed that exciting to me, but anything that reminds the boys of the fast-approaching season is guaranteed to riase the levels of enthusiasm in the house!  And an hour or so later, we had quite a few pretty Christmas decorations ready to be hung/ stuck to windows...

The lovely thing was that even though I personally found the ready-to-cut patterns a bit uninspiring, the boys really got into it - and very quickly came up with further ideas of their own.  Eldest made a rather complicated 3D Christmas tree model that took him a while (cue much muttering), but he persevered with his design and the end product looked great.  Then he followed it with a stand-up santa hat, and a star decoration.  Middle made some decorations out of cellophane and card - and Youngest flitted between making decorations and drawing letters with a stencil he had found.  He was so excited by producing his own letters, bless him - I guess he's ready to learn to write then!  Sadly I can't post photos of the boys' original decorations as they seem to have been squirreled away, probably in the boys' bedrooms... well, I suppose I should be impressed that the bedroom-tidyness lasted a whole day!