There is no such thing as bad weather…

… Just unsuitable clothing (Alfred Wainwright or an old German proverb, but either way it’s so true!)

As we head into autumn our home ed days have to alter slightly. That doesn’t mean we spend more time indoors, probably the opposite; I just have to ensure that I’m more organised and have all the appropriate wet and cold weather gear!

Last Thursday on our weekly visit to Westonbirt Aboretum I was not prepared. In the morning the weather was warm and sunny so we headed to Westonbirt in lightweight clothing with thin waterproofs just in case. Well,as quite often happens at this time of year, the weather changed and it not only began drizzling but it also got bitterly cold! I was freezing. Luckily the big Ps were so busy playing with their friends, whittling and using tools that they didn’t really notice. Piccalilli was warmed up with a big cuddle and we cut our visit short.

Having learnt that the weather is changeable (you’d think I’d know by my age really!) or finally accepted that we are in autumn, I was ultra organised when we visited the SS Great Britain this week 🙂

So off we went to Bristol for the second time in as many weeks (this time by car thankfully!). We had the most amazing glorious sunshine for the morning and thoroughly enjoyed pretending to be Victorian passengers on a huge ship.

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We definitely all enjoyed the First Class experience more than the Third Class Steerage accommodation (Pickle was especially freaked out by the sounds and smells being hyper sensitive to them!) The experience has definitely affected them and they wrote a wonderful diary this morning which I will post after this.

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After a few hours on the ship we were all hungry so ate our picnic in the sun – I started to wonder why I’d bothered carting a huge, heavy bag of warm tops and waterproof around with me!

After lunch we went under the ship and learnt a bit more about how a steam ship would work. The Ps kept imagining they were working on the ship and I was amazed by their increasing knowledge of technical facts.

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After a while my mum and me were craving a cuppa! So we headed up to the cafe for tea, Babychinos and cake. We decided it would be nice to get a bit of fresh air and walk along the waterfront. At which point my bag of preparedness finally came in handy as the rain started just as we left the cafe!

I’ve realised that the easiest thing is to have the bag packed and ready so I can just grab it every time we’re heading out the door. I know as the weather gets colder that the bag will probably get bigger!

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How did I get an eight year old?!

I have an eight year old! How did that happen? To think that eight years ago I had a (five weeks early) one day old child – I was in the first throes of becoming a new parent, learning things at a hundred miles an hour and feeling hugely overwhelmed by all of it.  Do I feel any less overwhelmed now? Not really!

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Poppet has not been a child to play with toys for a long time; in fact the last time I really remember her doing so was when she was about three and played with plastic dinosaurs. That’s not to say she doesn’t like role play (dragons, mums and dads, dogs, anything really!) or playing with construction toys such as lego, but she would never ask for a doll or small world toy. All she wanted for her birthday this year was a whittling knife and a chemistry set (a bit more than last year when she asked for some new books because “I really don’t need anything else do I?”) and a trip to @Bristol Science Museum.

Pickle decided to buy her a soft toy cat (which she actually hasn’t put down yet!!) and Piccalilli chose to buy her some sweets (ulterior motive there I think!).

Yesterday we went to Bristol on the train (Poppet really wanted to go on the train; I didn’t, but we had to due to a broken car!) The journey in was great, mainly due to bumping into a friend on the train who helped out with getting the Ps on and off and walked most of the way with us at the other end 🙂

@Bristol was fantastic (and such good value with home ed rates). We met some other home ed friends and they were all so happy and engaged for nearly four hours.

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When we’d had enough we went for a walk along the waterfront and enjoyed the sunshine.

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Then it was time to head back for the train. We made it with about five minutes to spare, got on the train, sat down and then I felt like something wasn’t right – the train didn’t feel like the right train! I asked someone and he confirmed my worries! So we ran (me carrying Piccalilli and the buggy) down the stairs, four platforms down, up the stairs and heard the whistle… luckily a kind man, who had been running just ahead of us, held the door so we all managed to jump on!

It was an amazing day out with only a minor error at the end!

Poppet’s only issue was that she couldn’t take her new whittling knife, but we’ll take that to Westonbirt tomorrow…

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11 surefire ways to show your children that you care…

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So I recently read a Psychology Today article claiming to tell me the 11 ways that my man should show me that he loves me. And it told me that I’m very lucky to have the Stinker as he does all of the things (and more, like bringing me wine and chocolate on a Wednesday evening when I’m feeling tired and rubbish!)

But it got me to thinking about how we can show our children how much we love them, and care about them as individual human beings, in the same 11 ways:

1. Want to spend time with them. Ok so we all have to spend time with our children (especially when we’re home educating them!) but it’s about finding time and truly enjoying doing an activity with them. For example at our home ed group today one of the very musical mothers (who already runs band, recorders and drama!) decided to start a choir, which Poppet was keen (but nervous) to join. I was happy to go along with her and we really enjoyed singing a Let it Go/Happy mash up together 🙂 (Well I think I might have enjoyed it slightly more!)

2. Ask about the time you spend apart. Well at the moment that’s rare for us, but the big Ps do a few sport activities without us there and I always make a point of asking how it has gone. Whether or not I receive a coherent response is another matter because it seems as if nearly 8 is the new teenager! (Another blog to follow about that soon.)

3. Trust them. Obviously my children are not quite at the stage of hiding things from me yet but I guess when they reach their teens (or 8 – see above!) they might. I really hope that we are building the kind of relationship where they will trust me enough to share things with me and I’ll be able to trust that they will lead a, mostly, safe life.

4. Help when they need it. As parents this is a given really, but sometimes I think it is important to give the help without making a big deal out of it, without expecting any thanks, just because we want to. We are often caught up in ensuring our children grow up to be respectful with pleases and thank yous but sometimes a little bit of help, just because we want to, doesn’t need a big song and a dance to be made. I watched a lovely home ed dad helping Poppet learn to finger knit yesterday; when it clicked she was so focused on her knitting that I don’t think a thanks passed her lips, but the dad of her friend looked so pleased that she was obviously chuffed with herself, I think that was all the thanks he needed. If I had got involved and told her to say thank you I think the magic of the moment would have disappeared. (Another post on saying thank you, or not, to come soon.)

5. Show respect for their views. As the Ps get older they are starting to have more of an opinion about things. It can be all too easy to dismiss children’s views as immature or pointless, but we are really trying to bring our children up to know that they are valued and also have interesting points to share in a family discussion, and that even grown ups sometimes have a view that seems silly!

6. Include them in decisions. This follows on well from point 5. If we respect their views then we care about what they think of our choices. Sometimes as parents we just need to be able to say what we are doing or where we are going, but to allow our children to help make decisions we really show them that we care what they think. As home educators trying to be as child led and unschooling as possible, we often ask the Ps to help make decisions, the simple fact that they don’t attend school being the main one. But be warned, the results aren’t always what you hoped for (a rainy day in the garden making mud pies appeal to anyone?!)

7. Show affection. Loving physical contact is so important, in fact it is crucial for a child’s well being. As children get older the chances to show affection in this way diminish, but it is so important to continue to give them. Cuddles can also help with behaviour as author of the Positive Discipline series, Dr. Jane Nelsen explains, “Children do better when they feel better.” The Ps all love a cuddle, to the point where I often wish I had more arms, but I hope they continue to as they get older.

8. Look at them. I think all parents are guilty of not doing this one at times. We can be busy making dinner, washing up or taking time out on Facebook when a little face pops up with something really interesting (to them!) to share with us. “Oh lovely” or something similar comes out of our mouth but we don’t take the time to focus on them. I also find that if I don’t actually stop and listen properly I don’t really take in what they are saying; I’ve been known to agree to things without ever really hearing what I’ve agreed to! All jokes aside though, how does it feel when you are talking to someone who doesn’t actually engage with you? Horrible isn’t it, so if we love and respect our little people we should show them this common courtesy.

9. Talk about the past. We often share old photos and talk about what life was like when the Ps were littler. They love hearing funny stories about themselves and we enjoy sharing them. “Remember the time when…” is a common sentence starter in this house 🙂

10. Defend them. I guess this is usually a given with parenting but it’s important to let our children know that we’re in their corner. Ok we’re not always going to agree with them and the things they do but we should always have their back.

11. Make them feel good about themselves. I’d assume that by doing all of the above we will be going the right way to boosting our children’s self esteem, making them feel like worthwhile, valued human beings.

I really hope that the Ps get all of these 11 affirmations from myself and the Stinker regularly, even on a rubbish Wednesday when all I want is wine and chocolate! Thanks for loving me Stinker ❤

Let the countdown begin…

So last night I booked tickets for me and the Ps to go to Berlin to visit our lovely home ed friends who moved there this summer.

To say I’m excited would be a massive understatement! I’m also slightly apprehensive about taking the Ps on their first flight without the Stinker. But mostly I’m excited!

I was going to wait to tell the Ps until nearer the time but I just couldn’t hold the excitement in… so I told them this morning expecting shrieks and jumps, but they were so cool about it!

After I explained about the flights they started to get a bit more excited, then we looked at some pictures of the Christmas markets and the level of excitement definitely increased. When I told them we were staying with our friends the shrieking and jumping started! So we are all most excited about the same part of our trip 🙂

Let the countdown begin….

Autumn is back again…

It’s been nearly a year since I started writing my blog! Looking back I can see how much more relaxed we are at this stage in our journey. All three girls seem to be happy and the sunny days help my moods 🙂

We’ve had a great week getting properly back into our ‘routine’ and the reduced ‘timetable’ has been great, although we’ve still been hectic and the Ps are currently zoned out for Friday Film Night, giving me an hour to write this while dinner cooks itself!

Monday – Juno went to kindy again, although I’m still staying with her at the moment so didn’t get any time to focus on the big Ps but Nanny did some experiments with them so they were happy 🙂

Tuesday – We spent the morning making pizzas on a home ed trip to Pizza Express, which we then ate in the park in the sunshine. We then went to pony club for the first session back this term. It was very different without our friends there (who have moved to Germany 😦 ) but hopefully we’ll get to know the other people.

 

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Wednesday – Our usual social group had to be cancelled but a large group of us met up in the park, where Poppet still had her cornet lesson!

Thursday – We spent the day at Slimbridge, with Piccalilli’s little friend, looking for the lego creatures.

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Friday – The big Ps did tennis this morning and then we went to see friends this afternoon (with a friend each everyone played happily)

It sounds like we did no actual ‘learning’ but in amongst this we spent some time learning about fractions in creative ways and Poppet spent most mornings sewing (having decided to make Christmas presents for the whole family this year!)

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A week of days…

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right of course; every week has days – seven if we want to be precise about it. But sometimes I think it’s easy to forget that each new day can be a fresh start and we can do/be whatever we want each and every day.

I know that as adults it is harder to start afresh every day. There are things that need to happen. There are consequences of the previous day to deal with. There are plans to be made for the following day.

But children don’t see the world like us. They live for the moment. They forget about the argument you had yesterday, well yesterday! They don’t worry about what’s happening in the next hour  (as long as they’ve been fed recently!) let alone the next day.

What I’m trying to say is that for the past week I’ve been trying to get into a child’s mindset and just enjoy each day as it comes. And do you know what? I’ve enjoyed our days more for it.

I’m not worrying about trying to link all of our learning and going totally with the flow of what the Ps want to know – we’ve had an Isambard Kingdom Brunel day of designing and making bridges inspired by looking at local history films on YouTube (check out the Brunel one – it’s brilliant).

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Followed by a Roald Dahl day (#roalddahl100) designing chocolate bars (which the Ps are now keen to make!) and learning about fairtrade after Poppet asked what the symbol on the packet meant.

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We’ve managed to practise times tables in fun ways linked to the things we’ve been finding out about; bricks for bridges and sharing out chocolates – can you guess which one we enjoyed the most? !

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Pickle has been the most inspired to learn something than I’ve seen her in a long time. Poppet told me today that having special days at home was a lot more fun than going out to groups (I hope her enthusiasm continues!)

Living for each day is going well in our world 🙂

When ‘Me time’ results in punishment -7 tips to help prepare children when you go away.

I was lucky enough to have five days of ‘Me time’ in Malta a few weeks ago… Since returning I’ve been ill, hence the delay in writing. I’ve also been punished for going away!

I went to Malta with my sister, where we stayed with our Auntie and Uncle (who spend some of the year living over there – lucky them!) We had the most fantastic 5 days, mainly just chilling out and enjoying the sunshine, with a Music Festival and Spa Day thrown in 🙂

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Photos courtesy of my big sis – ta Krusty 🙂

Coming home was bittersweet – of course I’d missed everyone, but I could have happily stayed in the warm, slow-paced world for a bit longer. The Stinker surprised me by bringing the Ps to the airport to meet me. Seeing their little faces when I came through the Arrivals gate and I immediately burst into tears! (Cue lots of cooing from the onlookers) Hearing their voices again set me off again; Piccalilli sounded so grown up – how does that happen in such a short period of time?!

We sat and had a welcome home drink (tea of course!) before everyone needed the loo and I was back in Mummy-mode and ushering the Ps in the right direction. In her excitement (well, her usual state!) Pickle ran round the corner and cracked her head on the corner of the Coffee Shop counter (a sharp, marble corner at that). Mummy-mode went to the next level when I noticed the blood gushing out of her head. To cut a long story short, the First Aid and Health and Safety team at Bristol Airport were fantastic and we left about half an hour later thankfully without needing a hospital trip (it was just another knock to the head so it might sort Pickle out?!)

The journey home was lovely and everyone was telling me about the great things they’d been doing with Nanny and Daddy, and enjoyed listening to some of the things I’d seen and done in Malta.

Now, I’m sure most of the parents reading this will recognise this scenario…

The following day the punishment began! The Stinker was in work so we were back to a usual home ed day. Well, everytime I asked anyone to help out with anything you’d think I’d asked them to jump off the building! Everything I offered was not what they wanted. Whenever I tried to comfort them I was pushed away. I had known this could happen from previous trips away and the reading I had done, but I didn’t expect the resentment to be so bad!

When the Stinker came home from work you’d have thought he’d been the one who had been away for five days from the welcome he received! Luckily I was expecting this, but it was still a bit upsetting when Piccalilli wouldn’t let me near her 😦

I guess it took about five days (so the length of time I’d been away) for things to return to normal, but the main thing I had to do was not push them while letting them know I was there for them and not planning on going anywhere else.

I know that Piccalilli is still a little worried that I might go away again after an interesting conversation this week, when I was going to vote:

“Mummy, don’t go away”

“I’m not going anywhere”

“But you said you were going to a boat.”

Every family is different, but here are some ideas to make a trip away, without the little people, run smoothly:

  1. Prepare them for the fact that you will be away for a short time, but don’t tell them too far in advance of the trip. I told the Ps a couple of weeks before I was going, despite the fact that I’d known for months. “Warning children 3 years old and younger too far ahead of time does not help them, especially if the focus is on talking about the parent being gone and for how long,” says Julia Heberle, an associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, Pa., and a developmental psychologist. “Children this age have barely mastered time vocabulary, so ‘tomorrow’ can just mean ‘not now,’ or ‘forever away.’ ”
  2. Make home sound more exciting than your trip – I made sure I talked a lot about the fact that Nanny was coming for a sleepover and all of the exciting things they would be doing with her and Daddy while I was away missing out!
  3. Follow their lead and only talk about the trip if they raise the subject. Poppet wanted to know what I’d be doing while I was there, Pickle wanted to help me to pack my case, whereas with Piccalilli it seemed the best option to not discuss it too much!
  4. Keep Goodbyes short and sweet (but always say them and reassure that you are coming home). I was lucky in that I left home at 3am so my proper goodbyes were said at bedtime (although I did sneak kisses and cuddles before I left the house!)
  5. Leave or send little love reminders. Whether you leave notes, a special toy or secret messages on the bathroom mirror or send messages and photos, make sure your children know you will be thinking of them while you are away. I knew that my phoning would have upset the Ps but I still sent photo messages so that they knew what I was getting up to (and I also received photos of them!)
  6. Keep everything as normal as possible at home. This can be hard to do, but it minimises their stress levels. Even though my mom helps out weekly with the Ps, I still left her a run down of the days. I know that Pickle struggled while I was away, but think this would have been even worse if her routine had disappeared too.
  7. Be prepared to be punished when you return! It’s natural to be angry when you love being with someone and they have left. Sometimes children don’t understand how to verbalise their anger at your having gone. If your child ignores you when you come back, you could say something like, “It’s ok to be angry with me for going away. I will always love you.” ❤