Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Orange Rhinos Rule!

It's been "one-of-those-days" with Youngest today.  In fact, he's been a total handful all week so far.  Towards the end of craft club yesterday morning I could see he was starting to go into hyperdrive, I so told the boys it was time to go.  Youngest had a trainer missing for some reason - so we located it and tried to put it back on.  I tried everything: I asked him to put it on; I told him to put it on; I counted backwards from three (which almost always works); I cajoled, and I threatened.  I ended up wrestling with him on the floor, trying to stop him from kicking me while I attempted (and failed) to put it on for him.  At that point I realised how utterly ridiculous it was, trying to force a rebellious child into complying and said, "Fine. You can walk to the car as you are (with one foot bare as his sock had come off as well while we were wrestling).  So that's what he did, complaining all the way.  I knew he wouldn't get hurt, it wasn't far at all - the car was parked about ten metres away from the front door - but still, it was freezing out there.  Cold enough for him to learn a valuable lesson... funnily enough he didn't resist at all once we got in the car.

Although the floor-wrestling was embarrassing, I counted the over-all incident as a personal victory, as I succeeded in not shouting.  You see, the other day I was introduced to the "Orange Rhino Challenge": a blog by an amazing (and brutally honest) woman who took up the challenge to not yell at her children for 365 days.  This is something I have wanted to change about myself for a long time - and had made considerable improvement, especially since starting to Home Ed: when our stress levels dropped, I didn't feel the need to yell anywhere near so often.  This year has been really stressful so far though, and I have definitely slipped into bad habits, so I was really ready to discover the Orange Rhino and take up the challenge... all of which is why I was so pleased with myself that even though I found myself wrestling on the carpet with a four year old (who was winning, it has to be said), I didn't lose my temper!  To be honest though, I have to admit did yell at them later in the car when they were fighting and screaming while I was trying to drive - but today is a fresh start, and so far, so good!

Youngest has certainly done his utmost to provoke, too,  He slammed the freezer door into my leg after I asked him to come away; he ran in front of an oncoming car (thank God the woman driving saw him and stopped in time) - of course I did shout 'stop' but I didn't yell at him for it afterwards; I stayed calm (at least on the outside) while trying to stop him rampaging through the barber's shop, messing with spinning chairs, turning the light-switches on and off and generally being deliberately annoying; he tried climbing a shelf unit, resulting in a broken shelf spilling an unprecedented level of chaos into the study; he snapped his big brother's retractable tape measure... aaarrrggghhh!  what a day!  And no, he doesn't have ADHD or anything like that - he's just a bundle of life and energy!

Actually I was thinking about it today, and remembered that when I was pregnant with him I used to pray for him daily and speak life over him deliberately (I had miscarried two of my babies at twelve weeks, so all through his first trimester I prayed a LOT, until we had that first beautiful scan showing a very much live-and-kicking baby in my womb).  I wonder now if I maybe overdid it a little... I mean, he really is full-to-brimming with life!!!  He's not usually this naughty though - I suspect a growth spurt and the need for extra reassuring hugs with Mummy.

Anyway, many of you lovely lot out there won't really relate to this "trying not to yell" post: there are so many who already manage to parent peacefully. I am posting this for those of you who do relate - and maybe you'll be encouraged to take the Orange Rhino challenge too, but orange rhino or otherwise, I hope you all have a peaceful evening!

Monday, 25 March 2013


another week passed with no blogging... oops!

Last week was really busy - lots of lovely meets and other good stuff.  Then of course this weekend saw the return of some serious snow, so everyone in the HE community has temporarily resumed hibernation.  I do love that we can do that, by the way... so thankful for not having to get up even earlier to allow extra time on the school run for defrosting the car and getting everyone bundled up against the cold etc.  Anyway, the hedgehogs obviously have it sussed... no sign of them emerging from hibernation yet - I should have known spring was still a way away: wild animals always seem so much better tuned in to the seasons than us!

Anyway, we've had a lovely 'snowed-in' pyjama day today: Reading Eggs followed by lapbooks followed by "Absolute Genius" (CBBC Programme about Vincent Van Gogh) followed by an attempt at painting some Easter cards.  I won't post them here as we want them to be a surprise for the family members who receive them, but we had fun - and made a lot of mess!"

Our big news: the end of this week will mark our first anniversary since we left school and started our home ed journey. So much has changed in that year - mostly in my head as I have re-educated myself, but also in the boys' behaviour.  Eldest has calmed down considerably, and my relationship is better with him, because I am less busy and have spent more time with him, and I feel I've got to know him again - we're able to focus on shared passions (eg wildlife) rather than stressing over his incomplete homework, and as we are together more I am much better able to spot when he is losing the ability to cope - so I can help him to apply 'calming-down' techniques more quickly.  Middle has beome again the happy, affectionate, funny little boy that he was.  His confidence has returned, and just recently I have been marvelling once more at how very bright he is - how quickly he grasps concepts etc.  He had lost so much confidence that he totally believed he couldn't do anything.  It's just such a blessing to see him restored to the little person he was created to be!  Youngest has probably changed the least - but then he had only had two terms in preschool, where he quite enjoyed bossing the other children about (that's just how he is).  I am glad we took him out as well though - we did wonder about letting him stay, but he is such a boisterous person, I'm sure there would have been conflict down the line if he had stayed... plus we felt that it was important for us as a whole family to be sharing the journey.  It's a matter of pedagogy now: I totally believe the best way for my children to learn is at home (and out and about), following their own interests and passions, not in a 'one-education-fits-all' establishment.  And Youngest is making good progress with his reading and motor skills - and is such a bundle of energy to have around, we really have no regrets.  Nope, none at all.

I'm hoping to write a porper "First Ediversary" post soon, but we've got a lot on for the next couple of weeks, so we'll see.  Either way, I'm really looking forward to the next year of Home Ed - I'm just so excited to see what it will bring us... and a year of experience under our belts means I have less trepidation entering the second year: I know it works, I know how fab it is, I wouldn't miss it for the world. 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Messes and Motivation

We have a set of mini-drawers in our study - drawers full of paper clips, drawing pins, elastic bands, split pins, blutack and foldback clips.  It is a sad confession, but I love these little drawers of bitty bits of stationery: they make me feel organised, and appeal to the little girl in me who always loved things in miniature.  Apparently I'm not the only one fascinated by them either, as on Friday evening I walked into the study to discover that "someone" had tipped out every single drawer (except the blutack one for some reason) onto the floor and into a huge cardboard box!  I wasn't surprised to discover later it was a certain four year old assisted and doubtless encouraged by his seven year old brother.  It's one of those sights that you walk in on and just want to turn around and walk out again.  In fact I'm pretty sure I did just that initially. A bit later I did start trying to pick it all up, then I realised that was entirely the wrong thing to do.  So when the boys woke up the next day we had a "little chat" and I explained that as they had made the mess deliberately, they would sort it all out & put everything back into the little drawers (I swept it all into a big box so they didn't tread on anything by accident).  Initially Youngest was very reluctant (I'm not surprised: it was a total mess), so they've been doing a bit every now and then, and today I sat down with them while they finished it off - miniature order restored!  It actually turned out to be fun, and a great opportunity for them to do some maths (counting into groups of ten, as that was how I motivated them to do a bit at a time) and some sorting into appropriate drawers etc... as well as the very important lesson that if you make a mess, you take responsibility for clearing it up, rather than assuming that "someone else" (Mummy) will!

As a 'thank you' for doing such a good job tidying their mess, we then made some chocolate orange & pecan cookies together.  Pecans are amongst the few nuts that the boys will eat - I think it's because they're not as hard as most other nuts.  Anyway, the cookies were totally scrumptious!

Once that was finished this morning, Youngest got onto Reading Eggs and stayed on for ages... Middle had to wait until the afternoon to have his turn, so he took some time to do some more work on his lapbook (as did Eldest).  He has been getting less and less inclined to do it lately, even though he chose it himself - and I realised it was because he was finding all the writing too arduous.  I do want him to enjoy writing, and enjoy lapbooking - so  I made a suggestion that he liked: he dictated to me what to write, and I typed it up (his typing is currently even slower than his writing), then we printed it and he cut and pasted the printed text onto the mini flapbooks etc.  That definitely put the smile back on his face, so we were all pleased.  Even so, once this lapbook is finished I think I'll hold back on letting him start another one - I want to be sure he's really interested rather than having a 'good idea for a subject' and then rapidly losing motivation.

There were a couple of friends heading to a park meet today, & having had a fairly quiet weekend I was in two minds about whether or not to join them; I thought we all might need a spot of fresh air... but the boys seemed velcroed into their pjyamas, and mindful of Friday's decision to reclaim our time at home, I just let it slide. Instead we had a picnic in front of the TV, letting the boys watch the recorded 'Got to Dance' final... lovely stuff!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Reclaiming our Time

I think this week we've made up for our recent lack of art... today Eldest wanted to have a go at doing wax resist pictures.  First he tried drawing a picture in white wax crayon onto wax paper, and then gently going over it with a soft pencil - unfortunately this didn't work for him, so I suggested trying it again but with watercolour paint.  This worked much better, so Middle had a go too.  Youngest wasn't interested in the wax crayon, so he did a different sort of  'reverse art': he cut out some shapes to lay on paper then I showed him how to use a toothbrush to spray paint onto the picture.  We removed the shapes and added detail with a felt pen... et voila!  He also did a "toothbrush dabbing pattern" and then an 'abstract' (aka 4yo) painting of the night.  Meanwhile I did my own 'night-time' project using the masking fluid that I'd been waiting to try out for a while (none of the boys wanted to try it today)... Anyway, artistic urges satisfied for now!

 Eldest's 'Snake'

 Middle's Alphabet

Youngest's 'Happy Zombie'

 also by Youngest, above and below....

 Mummy's 'Moon-owl'
Otherwise this week has been a very busy one.  You can tell spring is coming... even if the weather is still feeling wintry, the local home Ed'ors all seem to be coming out of hibernation and organising events.  This week we've had social play dates, craft club, sports club and soft play... but I feel like we've lost a bit of direction again.  I was chatting to a friend about it this morning, and I'm thinking I need to just try to reclaim the week's routine a bit.  Nothing too heavily structured... it's just that usually the majority of the boys' more obvious learning seems to take place in the mornings - and it's the mornings that have mostly been occupied this week, which has thrown us a bit.  I've started reading a book today called Project Based Learning by Lori Pickert (thank you Sam for recommending it) - and as with any pedagogical book, it's a matter of sifting through the theory to find the gems that will be really helpful.  So far the introduction & first chapter were really inspiring and spot-on, and then there was a chapter that I'm trying to work out how - or if - I could apply the theory (that the author recommends you start at age 2-4) with my older boys... but the bit that I have been poked by today is the need to let children have enough space to pursue their own interests.  This seemed to confirm my unease about our week: it's not that I think they should be "knuckling down" to work - just that I feel I'm doing them a disservice if I drag them off daily to attend social groups when they actually would benefit from time at home to discover and explore whatever it is they really want to spend their time on.
So anyway, my conclusion as I said is that I think I need to reclaim the week's routine.  Mondays as Pyjama Days work really well.  I'm not going to make it a rule that we can't go out on Mondays, but I am not going to give up those days lightly, as they've proved to be some of our favourite days so far!  It really helps me to have at least one day when I know we won't be going anywhere - it makes for an easier, gentler pace - and having days like that as the first day of the week is a great way to refocus after the "Daddy's home" fun and chaos of the weekends.  Tuesdays is craft club in the mornings - and that's great.  The boys love it, and are ready for it after a day at home - it's just a lovely group, I'm confident we'll stick with that.  Wednesdays are usually the days when one-off opportunities happen - I'll just try to keep any arrangements to the afternoons.  There is a local library group on Wednesday mornings that I've been wanting to go to,  but I think another morning group would be a mistake for us.  On Thursdays we have a sports group at lunchtime that is quite new.  It's a bit early (11.30am) if I want to protect our mornings, but the people are all totally lovely, and the boys love running around and burning off energy... we'll see.  And on Fridays we've been meeting every other week in the local soft play centre.  I reckon we'll probably knock that one on the head - maybe move to the local parks in the afternoons once the weather improves (what are you laughing at?)... or maybe go in the afternoons instead!
It's such a balancing act, trying to make sure the boys (and I) get enough time to socialise as well as time to pursue what they want to do... As with everything though, we'll just assess where we're at, adjust what needs adjusting, and keep on enjoying ourselves; that sounds like the best recipe for successful HE to me!  As Lori Pickert says (see book link above),
"If your child deserves to learn at his own pace and have his own ideas, so do you.  Whatever you champion for your child, make sure you also give to yourself: the right to follow your own path, work at your own pace, follow your own interests, make mistakes, and try again.  Whatever you want for your children, you are far more likely to help them achieve it if you live it yourself."
Great advice!  Have a lovely weekend everyone xx

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The art of 'Leaving Them To It'

... and it really is an art form!  At least, it is for someone like me who swings from hyper-vigilant tendencies, wanting to check on every little thing that goes on, to feeling as if someone has velcroed me into the armchair & I couldn't move if I wanted to (until I hear suspicious 'noises off', that is, when I hoist myself into action).  Happily, almost a year of home educating has taught me many things, one of them being the ability to just step back and let the boys get on with the business of learning.  They're not entirely left to their own devices, as you know - but when it comes to the pressures that seem to accompany "normal parenting" (like all those developmental and academic targets that most children attain significantly earlier or later that the norm, causing stress for their parents who feel the sting if the targets aren't reached 'in time'), I feel like we've really escaped the rat race.  We have no age-specific targets.  In fact you could say our only real target is that of confidence - at any age...

Anyway, today we had a lovely little illustration: Youngest (our little independent one) has long since wanted to do things "all by myself" - that may even have been one of his first sentences!  However some things are just too tricky even for his determined little personage... such as doing up buttons.  Now, as their dress code since leaving school seems to consist of joggers, T-shirts and jumpers, this hasn't presented too many issues.  But today he and Middle decided they wanted to wear their "fancy" clothes (ie shirts with buttons), even though today had become designated a pyjama day after our socialising plans fell through.  Well I managed to stall them for a while (shirts = ironing), but determination usually wins, and after lunch they disappeared upstairs where I heard them chattering beautfully so I left them to it.  I admit, I do still have to tell myself to do this, especially during school hours: my default position is still set to thinking "they should be working", but I know this is a fallacy, not least because the word 'should' generally means I need to ignore whatever follows (see Attack of the Killer Shoulds) - and also, working does not equal learning.  In fact I would go so far as to say if they are having to work at it, they're not learning - because learning comes much faster when they're so interested that it doesn't feel like work, even if  they are having to really apply themselves to grasp something new (and that's another thing I've learned more clearly after a year of Home Ed).

Well, having left them to it upstairs, Middle came down asking me to go and do Youngest's buttons up.  I'd like to say I deliberately left it a while, knowing that Youngest's determination would win out, but the truth is, I was having an armchair-velcro moment (and chatting to Eldest about his lapbook, so I couldn't just go, now could I?)  Ten minutes later, and down came Middle beaming in a proud big-brotherly way and ushering in Youngest who was declaring " Mummy, I worked out how to do the buttons on my fancy 'suit', all by myself!!!"

So there we go: if I had followed my old school-minded autopilot I could have "made" (or tried to make) Youngest do some "work" - and we would have missed the absolute joy of him learning to do something "all by himself"- something that he has been trying on and off to do for at least a couple of years, and that he mastered in a few minutes - just because we're not tied anxiously to commonly-held developmental timetables: he was left to it.  Just think if we could all have that confidence in our children when it comes to reading and writing!

See, one of my pet hates is the insistence in state school to get children reading by the age of five (or sooner - new government guidelines want to set even earlier deadlines for nurseries to get children learning to read at age three)! Actually it is perfectly within normal developmental limits for a child to not get the hang of reading until they are seven - and yet in most schools now they would be having "remedial" help (and feeling like failures) by that age.  All because we can't just leave them to it.  Well OK, so teachers are paid to teach - it wouldn't really work if they just left all their class to their own devices all the time... but you get my point.  And the joy is that as home educators we are free from those constraints.  We have the luxury of being able to trust our children's natural curiosity and determination to learn what they want to learn.

I do know that not every child is as determined or self-motivated as Youngest... indeed Middle appears so laid-back there have been times when I wondered if I would still be dressing him as an adult.  And yet I have been able to learn to "leave him to it" too.  That doesn't mean neglecting him or not caring about what he's learning - I am still very attentive to his needs - but I can verify that although it took him about ten months to regain his confidence as a learner after leaving school, he is now absolutely flying!  It's just flying in a more under-stated way that Eldest or Youngest who like everyone to notice what they are doing: Middle likes to be left to it to conquer things quietly on his own so he can build his confidence without anyone noticing - and then do a grand reveal with a modest, "it was nothing" feeling of accomplishment. 

So although I haven't done much of a diary entry: I haven't mentioned our lovely morning yesterday at craft club, or marvelled with you at our successful shopping trip (shoe shop plus queue-laden post office and prescription chemist - plus newsagent to buy comics to thank boys for behaving so well in aforementioned shops); I haven't told you about making a wordsearch with fridge magnets, or how I keep wandering into rooms to find Eldest or Middle with their noses in books; I haven't boasted about Youngest being able to recognise not only all the letter sounds but also most of the letter names in the alphabet - upper and lower case (thank you, Reading Eggs)... I may not have filled you in on the whole day (although the above sentences may have helped you catch up quickly), but sometimes it's nice to just stop and celebrate the little things - because sometimes they turn out to be about the really big things!

And just in case you miss something pretty to look at, I'll leave you with the boys' creations from craft club yesterday - Youngest and Middle made some lovely collages, and Eldest wanted to make a board game (because he was sad to miss the group making them last week).  Happy Wednesday!

Youngest's "Owl"

 Middle's "Hedgehog"

Eldest's board game

Monday, 11 March 2013

OK Days are Good

We had a real job to get going this morning.  We had arranged to go and visit friends, so no chance of a pyjama day today - not that the boys minded in the slightest, for once.  However, our usual routine seemed a bit stale today, so rather than nag them to do their 'work', when they finished their Reading Eggs(press) we had a day off lapbooking, and did some creating instead.  I asked Youngest if there was an art project on my Pinterest board that he would like to try, and he chose a lion painting, originally posted by John Post - so we all happily sat down and mixed paints, chose brushes (it's SUCH a big deal to get the right brush!?) and got started.  Youngest hadn't gone very far at all when he decided he'd rather do his own thing.  "Are you experimenting?" I asked.  His eyes lit up: "YES!", and he promptly splashed paint about, squished it between pages of paper etc, all the time checking that I could see how well his "experiment" was going... very cute.  Eldest, Middle and I dutifully finished the project originally chosen by Youngest!

 Eldest's Lion

  Middle's 'Vampire Lion' (hence the red teeth)

 Mummy's Lion

 Youngest's 'Experiments' (above and below)

Middle decided that part of belonging to his club (based in the fort, now happily situated in their bedroom) was to involve a "taste test", where everyone tries four different items of food and rates them 1-5. He wanted to make all four items at once, but as they were all dessert items (that's my boy!), I persuaded him to spread it over four days.  Today the boys wanted to make lemon and lime cheesecake from CBeebies 'I can cook', but as we had no limes, we did lemon and orange cheesecake instead.  Unsurprisingly enough, I was the only one who really liked it (it was very citrus-y), but at least they tried it!

Over lunch we watched a DVD on explorers from our Now You Know-About DVD set.  They were engrossed in the tales of Captain Cook (though Youngest wasn't impressed at his being killed by the natives) and Columbus.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: we find TV can be sooo helpful when it comes to sparking new interests.  Obviously we love books and I do strew them often - but I also love having the odd DVD up my sleeve for times when the boys feel the need to just veg out.

So today was OK!  Of course, if you just go on what I've written above (the "edited higlights" so common to blogs), you could think "wow, they do so much, I wish we could do that well" - and I'm tempted to think that myself when re-reading.  However, things have been a bit stressy here with various issues going on, and my patience level has definitely dropped.  Today hasn't been all bluebirds tweeting and harmonious laughter... there was also a fair amount of runny noses, arguing in the car, freezing temperatures and loads of mess to clear up after the 'creating'!  Anyway, just sayin': Our 'higlights' can look pretty impressive (and they do encourage me: after all, that's mainly why I blog, because it helps me to see written down what we're getting up to), but on balance, yes, today was OK.. and that's a good thing.

PS If you visit John Post's blog (follow link above), check out his "teaching philosophy" pdf - I found it quite inspiring.

Friday, 8 March 2013

"My First Lapbook"

Just a quick post today, but I had to share...

Super proud Mummy here: Youngest has completed his first ever lapbook, as started in Wednesday's post, Farty Arty.  He only took two days to do it, which was a deliberate ploy on my part as he can be impatient (he has only two settings: super-fast and focused, or asleep!) so I felt it was important for his first experience of lapbooking to not take him too long.  I was especially proud as he's not really done any "proper" writing before (I tried him on a 'learning to write' workbook a while ago, but he wasn't interested)  I'm not interested in pressuring him to write asap, but thought I'd see if he was up for it for the sake of having a lap-book that he had done most of for himself... so I did dotted lines for him to 'write' over to form his letters.  His lines are wobbly, as is to be expected really, but he sat there, little tongue stuck out in concentration, and did the whole jolly lot!  Did he form all the letters correctly?  Nope - but again, I felt it was more important that his first experience of writing was an encouraging one, rather than me insiting that he do it all "properly".  He was so chuffed with himself - he can't wait to show Daddy and the rest of the family... and for Mummy to put it in her blog to show everyone else (Daddy, don't look at the photos!)

That's it for today - I hope all of you lovely Mummies out there get properly spoiled this Sunday (I personally am thinking a lie-in would be nice - but even more than that, to not do any cooking or cleaning all day, AND not have any mess to sort out on Monday.... you're still reading, right 'Daddy'? ;)  Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Farty Arty

We've all been missing doing some art, and today we seized the opportunity.  Middle and Youngest couldn't wait, so first of all they grabbed the glue & glitter and had fun making a huge sparkly mess!  This led to much fun later, as Middle has started a tradition (apologies for this, but he is a boy!)  One day he decided that as Mummy is so joyful I must fart glitter!  I was so happy to be seen as joyful that I passed over the less refined (and physically impossible) aspect of the statement.  Anyway, since then, whenever he (or his brothers) see a pile of glitter in our house... well, you can guess the inevitable conclusion that is drawn!  After today's arty activities the glitter was positively heaped up, all over the kitchen, and trailed through the house... cue ecstatic laughter!  sigh.

Our art continued with some oil pastels and watercolour paints.  Previously the boys had mostly just used poster paints, so it was nice to experiment with something a bit different.  Eldest as always had a very clear idea of what he wanted to do - and he made one of my favourite ever pieces of art by him...

 Middle experimented for a while and came up with a couple of signs for his "Best Club In The World"...

 Youngest just had fun experimenting with colours, and producing his version of "modern art"...

I had a go at something that I had seen something similar to while browsing on the web the other day. Unfortunately I can't remember where I saw it, so apologies for the lack of link.  It's not how I wanted it to look,  but I've learned what to do for next time...

The rest of today was spent largely on Reading Eggspress - and in helping Youngest who has decided that he wants to do an 'Ocean Creatures' lapbook like his brothers (inspired at least partly by the glowsticks that they chose to reward themselves with for completing their lapbooks).  He is not one to procrastinate, so I spent much of the morning trying to help him find a level of activity that wasn't beyond him - and something that he could complete in a couple of days, so that he doesn't get too discouraged.  In the end we went for a simple folder that we stuck 26 flaps into (one for each letter of the alphabet) - in each flap he chose an ocean creature that began with the corresponding letter sound (the older boys and I helped with the more obscure ones like 'I for Icefish'), then I found clipart of said creatures to print on to paper, and he cut them out and stuck them into each flap.  Tomorrow we are going to write each letter onto the fronts of the flaps - and then he'll be done!  It looks great already, and he's really chuffed to have made a lapbook like his brothers!

Yesterday was much the same too - Mathswhizz, lapbooking, watching Eldest's Horrible Histories DVD over lunch at Youngest's request (hmmm, not stomach-churning at all.....) The enormous cardboard fort that still resides in the front room (blocking the view of my lovely, new, & organised shelving unit, mumble mumble) didn't get much of a look in because the weather outside was so lovely!  We were so happy to see the sun out - it feels like spring has been a long time coming this year!  We all spent as long in the garden as we could.  We didn't get to craft club again as Youngest is fighting off yet another bug, bless him, but fortunately he was well enough to get out in the garden and bounce for ages on the trampoline with his brothers - so although he can't move too far away from a toilet, his energy levels don't seem badly affected. 

Today was sadly not so warm again, (not that that stopped Youngest stripping off and streaking around the garden briefly), and we have been stuck in the house a lot more than I like lately - but no matter: we had a lovely bit of creativity together, and spring is definitely on the way!  The evenings are getting lighter, the noticeboards on facebook are starting to fill up with park visits and woodland rambles... I feel like our season of hibernation is coming to an end - hooray!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Backlogged but Blossoming

I've got the most horredous blogging backlog!  Last week was so busy and I was so tired, I kept meaning to write in my blog, but then something would come up (usually my pillow calling my name!)... so apologies to my lovely faithful readers who I have neglected shamefully.  I hope you've all been having a good time!  Anyway,  for today I'm going to have to just give you the highlights of the past week, and then try harder to get back into a blogging rhythm

So we've still been carrying on in the same way: mostly child-led but with a few parent-led aspects.  Middle has spent a lot of time recording videos and playing with effects on his kidizoom camera.  He's also been just finding books and picking them up to read... more evidence of his increased confidence in his own ability  These aren't the picture-books that he previously beleved he was restricted to, but older books like The Story of the Olympics that is well within his grasp, and even Bulging Brains that he would have completely ignored up until a few weeks ago!  I still remember that in September he said he wanted to read "big books" like the ones Eldest and I read, and I was slightly baffled about the perceived block in his mind... I'm so happy for him that as per everything else in his life, it just took time with no pressure - and he has done it, by himself! He really is blossoming into the beautiful person he was created to be.  Happy boy, happy Mummy!

Youngest has also been blossoming - he is starting to make more sense of the world around him, particularly regarding how the skills he has been learning (mostly on Reading Eggs) apply to everyday life.  He has started to blend the letter sounds on labels of things in the kitchen cupboard, and titles on books and boxes around the house.  In one sense, reading is such an abstract skill to learn, but it is one that it is very difficult to live without - and it's just lovely to see him applying that concept to life in general.  He's also been learning everyday life skills... there's been a lot of wrestling with scissors and sellotape, buttons, zips and other things that I would usually ask if he wanted help with.  To be fair, he usually says no anyway, he's such an independent little thing - but lately I have consciously held back from asking as I don't want him to get the message that I don't believe he can do it - and it does seem to have increased his confidence (if such a thing were possible)... or maybe it's just increased my awareness of what he can manage by himself!

Eldest has been enjoying a bit (OK a lot) of a nature documentary-fest on TV.  Every now and then I catch mysef thinking he's "not doing anything", but that's ridiculous.  It's well known within the family that if you want to know anything about undersea creatures (and an increasing number of other wildlife), we ask Eldest: he knows way more than any of the rest of us, and how does he know so much?  simply because it's his favourite subject, so he absorbs like a sponge the information presented in books and on his beloved documentaries.  It really is easy learning!  Fortunately as we've gone on in our HE journey I'm getting better at recognising my illogical twitches  (such as 'learning is supposed to involve hard study'), and am getting faster at silencing them before I try to make the boys conform to my old mental programming - yay!  Oh and Eldest also found an electric circuit-maker that produces animal sounds - it was given to him a while ago, and he just found it and decided he wanted to have a go.  I was glad he found it as it was amongst the things that were buried in piles in the study where we've been sorting out ready for our new shelf unit to arrive and be installed in the front room (much more accessible for spontaneous inspiration).

Of course, I was over-the-moon at a beautiful new storage unit (I feel like I've turned into Anne from Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five'), and the boys were even more happy when I told them they could have the four 6ft boxes that the unit was delivered in. First they got some paper and blue felt-pen to draw up some blue-prints (I didn't even know they knew what blue prints are.. gotta love HE) and then they commenced construction.  I even managed NOT to tell them "don't waste the parcel tape" - see, Mummy's learning too!  The only problem is, we now have a cardboard structure that almost entirely fills the front room, so I'm not going to get to enjoy the longed-for sense of order in my lounge for a while yet until the fort has been removed (I want to try and get it upstairs, but that's going to be a 2-person job at least!) 

Other than that, the boys have also been continuing with Reading Eggspress (which they all really enjoy and more often that not, spend more time on it than their required thirty minutes) - and MathsWhizz (not quite so loved, but they have still been known to be on it for hours)... and the lapbooks are a continuing succes story.  Middle is getting onto a roll, he's been thinking of loads of subjects that he wants to do, and seems to be really gathering momentum.  It's just so lovely to see, given what he was like (depressed, anxious and zero-confidence) this time last year when we were about to start home educating.  So today I'm going to leave you with Middle's completed "My Body" lapbook.  He calls it the "biggest, most flappiest lapbook ever".  Most of the flap templates inside came from Jodi Small's Human Body unit, on the HomeSchool Share website, and a few from the My Body unit by Friedrich, Franks and Sako.  I actually prefer the bits that Middle does entirely by himself, they're so cute - but the HSS templates are awesome for when he runs out of ideas!

Happy Monday everyone!  Have a lovely week - and I'll try to be back here sooner than I was last week!

front cover

inside front cover


inside right flap

 right flap

And some of the fold-outs/ flaps...

Middle's depiction of the body's various systems (top left to right: digestive, skeletal, nervous, muscular, circulatory, urinary, respiratory) - he did these entirely off his own back, after watching our Human Body DVD

 This was Middle's favourite bit: he loved having me measure him

 cue much sniggering...