There are more signs too... in our garden have appeared not so much a crowd as a little group of golden daffodils (and the beginnings of some tulip shoots) - planted by Middle and myself back in September when the bare soil was already making us feel forlorn (see 'All Learning Together').
And two runs have appeared on the patio and decking, complete with snug little houses and bowl of food as Midge and Squidge, our rescued hedgehogs (see 'Feeling Prickly'), have at last woken up from their hibernation and have begun the 'soft release process' to acclimatise them to the outdoor sounds and smells again, before we set them completely free (probably feeling more than slightly proud that we have saved two little hedgehog lives that certainly would not have survived this long harsh winter at the weight they were when we found them).
Midge's den (run very kindly donated by a lovely friend) - he's been transferred outdoors from the shed today
Midge curled up inside his house (you can just see his spikes through the hay... I'll try to get a decent photo before I release them)
Squidge's run, put together today - it's a lot cheaper and flimsier than the donated run, so I'm just hoping she won't find a way to escape. She was in the other run for almost a week already though, so if she does escape at least she's started getting used to being outdoors)
Oh, and there are signs that the nest box may - I repeat may - be being considered as a potential place to raise a little avian family. Admittedly, I was hoping for the sight of something a bit more attractive by now than a few straggly feathers and lots of bird-poop, but friends of mine in the know insist that this is a good sign, so here's hoping... It seems that everything is late this year because winter dragged on for so long!
Lovely friends of ours with a pond have said we can have some of their frogspawn that has appeared this week to study (we have a tank of rainwater in the garden to put them in... if I can just keep Middle and Youngest from emptying it to use in their waterfights). Even the frogs are late this year - last year the local ponds were bubbling with spawn at the very beginning of March!
getting the tank ready for the frogspawn
As most of the boys' friends have gone back to school (the availability of friends to play with being a major contributory factor in our decision to ease off the structured part of our learning over the school holidays), I was thinking of gearing back up to some online curricula etc again... and we will, I'm sure (especially now we can actually get into the study again). But I have to say - it's just so lovely being able to go outdoors, that I can tell there will be quite a lot of that going on for a good while.
One thing I have really learned over our first year of HE is that it really does flow with the seasons. We didn't spot it so much in our first term as we were settling in and establishing the very real value of deschooling. Then in the Autumn we definitely noticed that gradually our HE friends seemed to be settling down and spending more time at home, ourselves included - the outdoor trips were fewer and further between; there was much more of a feel of snuggling down, staying indoors and having cosy family times... accompanied by lots of home-baking and wintry glittery crafts! It was lovely, snuggly and special.
Then at the beginning of this year there was a noticeable restlessness, as though we were ready to tackle something new - a feeling that being indoors had got a bit stale. Of course, much as we in our centrally-heated house wanted to be up and about, starting new adventures, the hedgehogs in the shed (and the snow on the ground) showed clearly that actually the hibernation season was far from over - so reluctantly we stayed at home for longer than I think we would have done otherwise. Yes, there were plenty of snowball fights and sledging trips, but still... that was a LONG cold season. Happily for us, our need for something new was fulfilled largely by our discovery of lapbooks - lovely new projects to get our teeth into and make ourselves feel productive.
Which brings us to Easter - and now... a very late-starting spring, and boy, are we ready for it! So I am really happy at the thought of plenty of time outdoors, just experiencing nature and playing in parks. We will keep up the online curricula; we do have a project or two that we fancy exploring - but we are going to make the most of this season and enjoy it as much as we can!