Forest School Friday…

When Pickle started in Year 1 at school in September, I was most concerned to be told that they would no longer be doing Forest school sessions due to lack of time! (see Where the Wild Things Are…) Being stuck indoors all day was one of the big contributory factors to her dislike of school and our decision to home ed her along with Poppet.

Since that time we’ve been hunting for a good Forest school session to attend. Although we can, and do, do lots of the activities ourselves at home, there’s nothing like having someone else to do the hard-work and clearing up afterwards and a group of friends to share the fun with.

We’ve been very lucky to find a great group, not too far from home, organised by a friend we’ve made through another home ed group and a trained forest school leader.

So, despite the weather finally starting to feel more like winter than spring, the Ps were mega excited this morning about Forest School Friday. We wrapped up extra warm, packed the waterproofs and headed to the forest, via the shop to buy sausages to cook on the fire for lunch!

IMG_6858

The girls had an amazing 3 hours: Pickle particularly loves the mud kitchen and water (hence the need for warm waterproofs!); Poppet had a great time whittling and making a toadstool to put next to the fairy door in our garden; Piccalilli enjoys spending her time putting little sticks into the log with holes in it! I just love seeing them outdoors, being free-range, enjoying nature and rewilding; I also enjoy sitting around the campfire, cooking, chatting and singing songs I remember from my childhood (“Do your ears hang low?” – anyone else love that one?!)

Forest School Friday – one of the best ways to spend a day, as long as you’re prepared to wrap up warm and come home to hot chocolate in front of the log burner to warm up those toes 🙂

Feeling the love again…

It’s over a year since I left my permanent, part-time teaching job (after teaching for 16 years). I’m sure lots of people thought I was mad, as these sorts of positions are hard to come by, but I knew I’d be happier out of the profession…

Initially the plan was for me to do supply teaching for a day or two a week, but then Poppet’s experience of the education system started to go horribly wrong. I felt hypocritical about continuing to put her through something that I, as both her mum and an educational professional, did not agree with and had to leave myself due to stress and exhaustion ~ so to home ed.

Now the idea of spending my days cooped up in a sweaty classroom (I taught hormonal 11 year olds!) fills me with dread and, despite the fact that nanny is on-hand to help out with childcare (see Mum’s the Word), I can’t face the thought of supply teaching! Of course we could do with the money, but we can also live without it.

I am feeling the love with teaching again though and particularly enjoy researching and planning topics for the Ps (see Seven tips for ‘planning’ a topic), so much so that I’d even consider doing it for other people!

I am finally starting to feel again like that enthusiastic, 20-something teacher starting out ~ what I do is worthwhile; I am making a positive difference for the children I teach (mine in this case!); I have something to give. It feels good, but does it make me want to return to the classroom? No way!

Mum’s the Word…

For me, family has always been the most important thing. I don’t come from a large family and I often think this makes it easier to be close, as there are less people to share yourself between!

When we were kids, although we lived nearly two hours from grandparents and cousins, we saw them every holiday for extended periods of time. I always hoped that things would be the same for my girls and, despite having no cousins of the same age to play with, in some ways things are better. We only live an hour from family so the Ps get to see them regularly, particularly their nanny (my mum): she has visited us weekly since Poppet was born, helping out with childcare when I had to return to work after maternity leave with all three girls. Many of my friends comment on how lucky I am to have such a superstar for a mum, and I realise this is the case.

Since we began home edding, my mum’s visits are often my saving grace! If we’ve been having a busy week and I’m tired (That’ll be most weeks then!), I know I can have a bit of a break when nanny’s here – I’ve even managed to fit in child-free cafe visits with friends and long hairdresser appointments! Or I get to spend one-on-one time with one of the Ps, often Piccalilli, while nanny does baking  or sewing with the big Ps.

I also get to revert back to the rare position of being looked after by someone else, which can be a lovely feeling, especially when she likes to shop, cook and clean for me (or that’s what she tells me anyway!)

For me, the best thing about my mum’s visits are the chats – we’ve always got on well (even when I was a slightly rebellious teenager, I still enjoyed spending time with my mum) and I trust and respect her knowledge and opinion.

I can only hope that one day my girls will have their own children and will want me in their lives too.

Thanks Mum, love you xxx

IMG_4229.JPG

Adventures in the City Take 2!

After our previous visit to the City Museum going horribly wrong (see Good days, Bad days), we thought it was time to give it another go!

So today we headed into the city (in the car this time, just in case!) to visit the Folk Museum with our home ed friends. We arrived with no dramas and had the whole museum to ourselves – despite it officially being closed they still take educational visits, which officially we are!

20151117_113303 (2)As soon as we entered the door, the big Ps were whisked off by their friends to the very top of the beautiful Tudor building. After following them up slightly more slowly, to marvel at the amazing wooden structure, my friend and I sat (on a flight of stairs), observed and chatted. Initially the big girls wanted our attention – something they are all used to having fully in both our home ed households – but they soon organised themselves into a fantastic game of dressing up and playing home in the Tudor times! Piccalilli played around us with toy animals and food, occasionally requesting our input, mainly to retrieve an animal that had been borrowed by a bigger girl!

We laughed lots about the teaching and learning that was happening on our educational visit! Seriously though, I do think the girls all got a sense of what clothes and beds were like in the Tudor times 🙂

20151117_104828 (2)

We headed downstairs for some lunch, followed by some chocolate biscuit treats, followed almost immediately by five hyperactive girls… The rain had stopped so it was definitely time for a play and run around in the garden. More learning took place – playing with Victorian style toys, hiding in the Anderson shelter and discussing why the word ‘shop’ was spelled ‘shoppe’. We’ve covered so many eras today and we didn’t even make it into the retro rooms at the museum (so we’ll be heading back in a few weeks for a further educational visit!)

20151117_121819 (2).jpg

Everything was going so well until tidy-up time, when Poppet decided that, as the oldest child, she should be in charge (as the photo above captures so well!) and so didn’t like it when Pickle started to put things in the wrong place in the shed! We heard a lot of screaming and their friends exited the shed very promptly with worried looks on their faces and it turned out that Poppet had punched Pickle (a regular occurrence at the moment sadly). Time to go home…

… But thankfully a less stressful experience than our previous visit and we’ll definitely be going again soon 🙂

 

Language of love or hate?!

Recently we received a checklist from the health visitors for Piccalilli’s 2 year check. I personally do not feel that it is necessary to start assessing children so young, but I do understand the reasons for trying to identify issues early.

For us, with Piccalilli being our third child, we feel quite confident that she is developing well and have no worries, but it was interesting to read the skills that children of her age are expected to have and more interesting to see the things that don’t make the list… it also made me think about the level of concern these sorts of lists might evoke in some parents.

For example, it is apparently important to be able to stack seven blocks on top of each other and to be able to tidy up after yourself 🙂 (a very important skill!) Whereas brushing your teeth or using the toilet don’t make the list…

Of course, I am fully aware of the necessity to gain a full range of skills in the overall development of a child (I studied child development and Psychology) and I was most interested in the Communication and Language section. We have felt for some time that Piccalilli’s language is well-developed (which is probably due to having two chatterboxes for older sisters!)

Piccalilli was able to exceed  all of the activities in this section, e.g. follow simple instructions, point to seven (what is it about seven?!) body parts and make simple sentences – these are meant to be 3 or 4 words long but Piccalilli’s are longer as she has followed in her big sisters’ footsteps and doesn’t often stop talking!

IMG_5965

But I found it interesting that the type of language used was not mentioned. I know this comes from the influences you have around you but I find it fascinating to hear the words and sentences that Piccalilli is choosing to use already. Her sentences can seem very mature at times – “When it is dark we go to Mummy and Daddys’ window to watch fireworks” – and she is already beginning to find toilet humour hilarious, just like Pickle! It amazes me the things she picks up (mainly from Pickle): Poopy pants, big bum, stinky pops! It also interested me that humour was not mentioned once in the Social/Emotional behaviours on the checklist.

Positive and negative language also strikes me as an important development. Again learnt from her big sisters, Piccalilli often tells us she loves us or hates us, depending on the situation, therefore seeming to understand her use of these words. She also likes to call her sisters ‘stupid idiots’ (which I guess they are for teaching her the words!) but it upsets me hugely – although I have to avoid showing her my upset as it just prompts her to do it more! I am aware that she is just trying out words that she has heard, but I know that neither of her big sisters were using this type of language, in context, at her age… but I guess that neither of them had a much bigger sister around to learn from and copy!

It will be interesting to see how much she shows her true ability/self when we meet with the health visitor – will she clam up or will she call her ‘poopy pants’?! Wish me luck 😉

Different Directions…

This weekend we’ve all been going in different directions, literally!

20151114_090347 (2)

Yesterday morning I dropped Poppet at her first Beavers’ camp and first night away without family. She was very excited but understandably apprehensive…

Since the Stinker picked her up this afternoon she hasn’t stopped talking about all the different activities she had a go at, including archery and climbing. Her leaders mentioned to the Stinker how great she’d been getting stuck into everything – brilliant!

After dropping Poppet off I met my good friend and Piccalilli’s best buddy. We spent a much needed, relaxing morning in a lovely, local town eating brunch and wandering around the shops getting inspiration for (dare I say it?!) Christmas. Piccalilli and my friend’s little Pudding are so cute together, pretending to be dogs – they could almost be twins!

12256620_1733176866902162_697612836_n

(Photo by @sadieem_mummy_to_3)

While we were out, the Stinker and Pickle were buying materials and building a new roof for our chickens’ run to keep them warm through winter! Pickle was in her element getting one-on-one time with her Daddy.

When I got home the Stinker headed into the big city to have a night out with old friends – a very rare occurrence.

I was very excited to all get back together this afternoon but, of course, it wasn’t all lovely and rosy… The Stinker was feeling slightly jaded! Poppet and Pickle wanted to play board games but then couldn’t agree on anything. They are typical siblings – when they get on they are best mates; when they don’t they are worst enemies, and very loud ones!

I realise that time apart is good (as I wrote about in Time apart, time together) and I also realise that it will happen more and more the older the 3 Ps get and the more different directions their lives take them in…

No words…

Eiffel-Tower-390271

Following the atrocities yesterday in Paris, I feel that any ramblings from me are completely irrelevant.

Therefore I leave you with this simple thought:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wish you all a peaceful life wherever you are and whatever your beliefs…

Peaceful times…

Today has been a hectic, tiring day of Paleontology and the two big Ps bickering and being mean to each other, leaving me wishing I hadn’t signed up for either of my 30 day challenges!

20151113_105258 20151113_115815 20151113_105325

As today is actually World Kindness Day (I tried telling the Ps this but it didn’t help!) I thought I’d leave you with this simple quote:

“When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace”  The Dalai Lama.

Tomorrow Poppet goes away for her first Beaver’s camp so I’m hoping for more peaceful times…

Different views…

The other day my dad and I were discussing someone I know who is very opinionated and dad mentioned that I used to be the same way. I have to agree that I have strong opinions about certain aspects of life (thanks for the upbringing dad!), but I am also (increasingly, as I get older) very open to the fact that others have different views and (usually!) respect these alternative viewpoints.

To me, being opinionated means that you are unwilling to even consider others’ views or simply accept that sometimes it’s okay to ‘agree to disagree’.

Since I’ve been a part of the home ed world I’ve come across more opinionated people than ever before. And, interestingly, the majority of these people have actually been encountered in the online home ed world of support groups on social media! Many of these people claim to be this way because of the hand they have been dealt, but to me, no matter what you’ve been through in life, there is no need to be negative with everyone around you…

This morning I was part of an online discussion regarding one aspect of home ed (I won’t go into detail as it’s really not that interesting!). I made a simple comment to support the lady asking the initial question; I knew not everyone would agree but really I wanted the lady who was worrying to feel some support as this is what I’ve always thought these groups were for! The negative (and downright rude in some cases) responses to my and other comments shocked me and left me feeling disappointed that I am linked to some of these people by the association of home ed. It made me seriously question my place within that particular online group and I have since left it.

The thing that riled me most was people being so narrow minded and making assumptions about me and other people who were supporting the lady who had asked the question… One response made the assumption that, because I’m an ex-teacher, my children must spend their days stuck at desks doing formal learning. She couldn’t be further from the truth, but I stayed calm (the Stinker will be proud!), removed myself from the discussion and took the 3 Ps for a walk around the old, local quarry site with a friend. They climbed, swung, fossil-hunted, drank hot chocolate, pretended to be dinosaurs (oh, and Piccalilli had a little strop!) and didn’t once sit down at a desk to do any writing!

IMG_6831 IMG_6830 IMG_6842 IMG_6840

When we returned home we spent hours doing formal sit-down maths… only joking! We designed mehndi patterns and had a go at decorating our hands for Diwali – Poppet commented how it was much more fun than anything she’d ever done in school!

IMG_6843 IMG_6846IMG_6848

Teaching my children about different views is important to me… sitting at desks to do so is not!

Seven tips for ‘planning’ a topic.

Aside from the basics of reading, writing and maths (see A ‘Typical’ Day…), essentially we learn anything! Whatever Poppet and Pickle ask about, we learn. Topics we have covered so far since our home learning journey began six months ago include dinosaurs, the great outdoors, space and currently celebrations around the world. These are all topics chosen by the big Ps and the planning (said loosely) for what to include is mainly decided together.

So, my 7 tips for planning a home learning topic are:

1. Find out what your children are interested in. When we first started home ed we came up with a list of things that Poppet wanted to learn about (which included dinosaurs, space, ballet, gardening and sewing). Of course, some of these things alter or are ongoing or seasonal, but it’s a good starting point.

2. Choose one topic to focus on for a period of time. We do termly topics, as the Stinker is a teacher so we have a defined break, but a week/fortnight/month can work just as well. Like I said above, some topics are seasonal; it’s best not to focus on gardening in November or winter celebrations in June, unless you live in the Southern hemisphere of course! But above all, it’s best to try to go with your kids’ current interests.

3. Talk about the topic with your children. Get them to ask questions to focus the topic. Or you might even find that they have some great ideas for activities you could do – Poppet remembered that her grandparents had visited the poppies at the Tower of London last year and thought it would be a great idea to try to create our own clay poppies.

IMG_6790  IMG_6794

4. Spend some time, without your kids present, scouring the internet. It’s a great tool to enhance their learning experience, but there’s so much out there that it’s best to have an idea before you jump in with the kids. Searching for things while the Ps are waiting often results in arguments or a loss of interest! I guess that being an ex-primary teacher gives me a slight advantage in knowing where to look for age-appropriate resources, but to be honest, if you type ‘Space for kids’ into your search engine pretty much everything you need for that topic comes up! And saying that, some of the programmes that Poppet most enjoyed about space were aimed at adults. When I pointed out a shooting star and she explained to me that I shouldn’t call it a shooting ‘star’ because it’s actually a meteor, and then went on to explain nebula and supernova to me, I was astounded by her level of knowledge – kids really are sponges!!

5. Be prepared. Have a variety of links, games, visits and activities under your belt. Something that looks amazing to you might only engage your kids for five minutes, while something else could have them hooked for days! I also like to mind-map our ideas just so I can refer to it on those days when we need a bit of inspiration. (Poppet also enjoys ticking things off!)

IMG_6823

6. Be flexible. I always come back to this with home education! I know some people follow a very structured timetable, but in our experience there is no point in being too planned – kids’ focus shifts, they ask questions and your learning can go off on a complete tangent! While making diya lamps this week, Pickle started asking about light and shadows, so we ended up at the library looking at science books; it now looks like we might end up doing a mini-topic on electricity!

IMG_6791 IMG_6792 IMG_6785

7. Have fun! One of the main reasons we decided to home ed is to get away from the rigidity of formal education. Therefore our main focus for any topic is that the learning is FUN!!