This weekend was mainly fantastic and mostly spent outside enjoying the garden and local park, but the sibling rivalry between Poppet and Pickle is definitely at boiling point at the moment.
When we decided to have our first two children close together we didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly, so the fact that they are 12 months and 3 weeks apart wasn’t planned! In the early months it was unbelievably hard work but has definitely got easier as they have got older.
When they are out they usually form a formidable little team (often with Piccalilli tagging along!) and people often comment how they appear more like best friends than sisters. At home they alternate between being thick as thieves (usually when no adult is around and they are plotting something) to fighting like cat and dog when we are around.
Pickle is still going through a period of deschooling (getting school out of her system) and craves our undivided attention. This means that weekends can be great in the sense that we can share her between us but difficult because she struggles when one of us wants to do something special with Poppet.
So when Poppet decided she wanted to collect some sticks to make her own Stickman, Pickle initially wanted to be involved. When she realised it meant going outside to find the sticks she decided against it and disappeared inside to practise handstands!
When Poppet returned with sticks and Pickle realised that the Stinker was going to help her to use the saw her heckles went up and she demanded attention. For a moment I thought the situation was going to escalate beyond the usual sibling rivalry and arguing when she started trying to grab the saw… Luckily I’m getting better at handling these situations so rather than screeching ‘Stop!’, I managed to distract her with the calm request of help to make the dinner (one of her favourite activities) – phew, that was nearly another trip to the local MIU!
Poppet and the Stinker made the most wonderful Stickman and all limbs remained intact. So this time round the result was peace and harmony 1 : sibling rivalry 0!
Today has been a mixed day for us; I didn’t sleep well last night due to a snuffly nose so I was entirely to blame for the negative parts to our day!
The Ps are getting very excited about the week to come as it consists of the Stinker being home, a couple of sleepovers and lots of fun day trips and get togethers (if everything goes to plan that is!). I love that they are so happy about seeing family and special friends but, when you’re feeling a bit under the weather, the excitement of three small (but oh so loud) people can be difficult to cope with! I have tried to remain calm and find some moments of sanctuary in the sun today (My attempt to complete a Headspace meditation was however completely unrealistic!) but I did lose my temper with the big Ps a few times about silly things 😦 Poppet actually went off quietly at one point and came back about 45 minutes later with a little owl she had hand sown and a card apologising for being rough with Piccalilli! I of course then apologised to her for overreacting and, after a big hug, we moved on.
I’ve been asked by a few people what a typical day looks like for us. I think it’s changed since I last wrote about A Typical Day and today was more like our current ‘usual days’, without any real ‘structure’ but with a lot of natural learning happening. I guess this is because the big Ps are now much further away from the school way of thinking and I’m also much more relaxed as I have been reassured, by spending time with fellow home edders, that they WILL learn without being forced to do so (also with the fantastic resource known as the internet, which we use daily to answer at least one question – today it was “How do magnetic drawing boards work?” following our discovery learning a few days ago.)
Although I was slightly irritable, the good parts of today were fantastic (as shown in the following photos):
Pickle and Piccalilli spent a lot of time in the garden finding ice and crushing it, looking through it, seeing if it floated in our stream, watching it melt ~ generally learning through discovery again.
They all enjoyed playing with the trundle wheel that the Stinker has borrowed from work! They competed with each other to see who could go the furthest distance and lots of maths talk came from this.
When we were all feeling in need of some quiet time this afternoon (Should that say I?!) they all got out the tablets and played various different ‘learning’ games.
Poppet also practised her recorder and did a little bit of music theory, while Pickle revisited magnets and used the magnetic drawing board some more.
Oh, and Piccalilli tried to squeeze a baby doll into a backpack! She learnt that it is possible if you persevere!
After a difficult day with Pickle yesterday (a common occurrence at the moment!) and a very reassuring and motivating chat with some fellow home edders (more experienced so full of wise words) I decided that we were all in need of a very different day today.
I have realised recently that I often try to do too much and please too many people. Yesterday we went to a home ed meet up and celebrated the Chinese New Year. While there, a warm-hearted tiger reminded this snake that I didn’t need to think so much about other people and unless I was happy then I had very little chance of making others happy. When we decided to home educate my aim was to be as autonomous* as possible (without losing our bedtime routine because I really need some time without my children around!) I know that I like to have some level of control in my life and have been guilty of trying to control the Ps (completely impossible with a stubborn rat, persistent ox and charming snake to contend with!) However I am also fully aware of our reasons for home educating (another post that I will write one day) and check myself regularly when I notice the ‘teacher’ in me coming out!
So today was all about me taking a complete step back and having NO expectations of myself or the Ps. I had to accept that I might not get all the laundry done and the Ps might not put their clothes away but I was adamant that we would have a different day…
And it really worked. When the big Ps awoke I calmly explained that we had visitors arriving in an hour and pony club this afternoon and I left it at that. Pickle didn’t want to get dressed before breakfast whereas Poppet got straight into her jodhpurs! Pickle disappeared downstairs while we were getting dressed and was very pleased when we arrived to announce that she had managed to spread butter and Nutella on a piece of bread for herself! While the rest of us ate breakfast Pickle got the drawing board and a magnet (they have been enjoying playing with magnets recently) and realised that she could use the magnet to draw with. They all proceeded to get very excited choosing different fridge magnets to see the different marks they made (“It must be filled with iron or steel filings” pronounced Poppet). I very quickly felt reassured that they are learning all the time and an autonomous approach is definitely the one for us.
Following breakfast and science (!) I told the Ps that we were going to be joined by a couple of friends and their 2 year olds shortly. Pickle decided it was time to get dressed (no prompting or fussing which is our usual routine), Poppet joined her upstairs to put their clothes away (again no prompting), our friends arrived and we had a lovely morning playing playdough and chatting.
After our friends left Pickle and Piccalilli decided they wanted to play in the garden while Poppet wanted to finish her playdough model of a chair and to help make some lunch. Everyone was happy, including me 🙂
After lunch we started to get ready to go to the city farm for pony club. I allowed 45 minutes preparation time (more than double what I would usually allow!) during which time Pickle happily got changed into her jodhpurs, all three Ps hid from me and I didn’t once get stressed or raise my voice because I knew we had plenty of time to spare. Our drive was fun with lots of singing (more Annie!) and even the loss of my car keys when we arrived didn’t upset me (it did worry me slightly but we found them eventually so all was ok).
The big Ps did fantastic riding and all was calm, so when they requested hot chocolate and a film upon returning home the answer was a resounding yes. It gave me an hour to reflect and sort our dinner…
The conclusion… As much as we possibly can I’d like to continue with the autonomous approach to home education. Our children are bright, naturally inquisitive creatures who will flourish I am sure of it 🙂
*Autonomous education – A process of learning which when employed by home educators goes much further than schools using the same term. In short by autonomous education home educators mean that the child leads the education and the parents become the child’s facilitator. The child chooses the subject, method and context of any learning that is undertaken. It is believed by those who espouse it that this is a far more efficient, child centred method of education than any that coerces the child to learn by imposition. (Home Education UK)
On Sunday Poppet, Piccalilli and I had a fun afternoon in the garden while Pickle had a quiet day helping the Stinker with cooking and chilling out in the house…
I’ve been gradually clearing the stream at the bottom of our garden over the past few weeks (a difficult task with all the rain but desperately needed doing to avoid flooding!) and the Ps have been showing increasing interest in it. While I excavated silt, mud and leaves Poppet decided to rescue the worms that were ‘drowning’… She said they would be happier in the wormery that we started a few weeks ago!
Piccalilli sat happily cleaning toys and shells in the stream, occasionally falling in! She also went off to find some sticks to play ‘stick poo’ with! (She’s loving the Stickman story at the moment.)
When we found a frog with a broken leg Poppet wondered what we could do to help. We decided that the only thing would be to put it somewhere sheltered in the hope that a predator wouldn’t find it.
Both girls were intrigued with the fire lighting process and Poppet was keen to toast marshmallows but unfortunately we didn’t have any. Instead I sent them up to the house to request hot chocolate from the Stinker. The message got slightly lost in translation and they stayed in the house meaning I never received my hot chocolate! At least I had the fire to warm me 🙂
The end of last week dealt us with the challenge of nursing a sick pet and finally having to say goodbye. Of course when you get pets you are aware that at some point they will die (unless they are a tortoise, like our other pet Tiggy, who will probably survive us all!). But, I was still not prepared for how to deal with it.
One morning last week I discovered one of our chickens (actually my favourite, Blueberry) collapsed. I showed her the water and food in an attempt to get her to drink and eat but she was extremely weak and not at all interested. I decided to bring her up to the house where we fed her water and yoghurt with a calpol syringe (not calpol though!) for a few days. At times she seemed to be pepping up but on the second morning she was even more lethargic and we decided to take her to the vet. At this point I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be coming home so I prepared the Ps for this outcome and we headed to the vet. Obviously when you home educate your children it’s impossible to do things like this without them, but it is also an important life lesson (and as Pickle is interested in working with animals when she grows up she was actually quite excited about her first visit to the vets!)
The inevitable happened and the vet and I concluded (with the 3 Ps listening on) that the fairest outcome would be to euthanize Blueberry and say goodbye 😦 The vet left us for a few minutes and we all had a cuddle; Poppet and I both had a little cry while Pickle held it together and Piccalilli just kept kissing Blueberry! Now I know some people will be reading this thinking “It’s just a chicken” and I even said to the vet that I didn’t know why I was getting upset over a chicken, but as she said: she’s a pet with her own personality who became a part of our family.
We returned home where Pickle disappeared off and I realised she’d gone off to have a cry – she is very private about her emotions and when I went to give her a cuddle she initially didn’t want me to see her crying but I explained that it’s ok to be sad because we all loved Blueberry. She then decided that Blueberry had gone to be with Great Gran Audrey because she had loved birds 🙂
I feel that learning to deal with death is an important life lesson and these are my top tips on how to cope with this tricky time:
Don’t hide your own feelings. If you feel sad don’t worry about showing your children. If you don’t feel sad, make sure you respect their grief and help them to express their feelings – they shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty and should feel proud of themselves for their level of care and compassion.
Involve them. Where possible let them be a part of the process and give them a chance to say goodbye if you decide to euthanize your pet. Obviously not everyone would want to take their children to the vet with them, but it definitely helped the Ps to see the vet trying her best to help Blueberry.
Reassure them that they weren’t responsible in any way. They also might need reassurance about significant others in their lives. The evening after we said goodbye to Blueberry, Pickle had a big wobble at bedtime so we had a long chat about her feelings and worries.
It can also help to think about the developmental stage of the child involved as their comprehension of death changes as they grow up:
Birth to two years
no real understanding of death
can sense emotions of those around them
may show some signs of irritability
need reassurance and usual routines
Two to five years
do not understand that death is irreversible and struggle with abstract concepts such as ‘heaven’
pick up on emotions of those around them
may show irritability or regression
will usually ask lots of questions but only capable of showing sadness for short periods of time
need reassurance, usual routines and concrete words (avoid “Blueberry has gone to sleep”)
Five to ten years
begin to understand the finality of death
might be very fearful or fascinated
could display aggression or somatic symptoms
will need to talk and be able to ask questions
stick to concrete words
more aware of the finality of death
often less willing to open up
Somatic symptoms and anger or guilt
will need to be given time to discuss their concerns
We are all missing Blueberry but I think the Ps have dealt very well with the experience.
I don’t often bother with resolutions as it feels like setting yourself up for a fall! I do like to set myself little challenges though so have given myself a few challenges for the next few months.
Mindfulness – The lovely Stinker gave me a beautiful colouring book for Christmas. I plan on using this regularly and doing lots of colouring and relaxation with the 3Ps
Meat-free – We have decided to avoid buying meat throughout January for a few reasons including the high cost of good quality meat. I’m not at all daunted by this as I’m not really bothered about meat, although I might miss bacon! I have a feeling this challenge will extend further than January…
Dry January and February – I read recently that unless you’re an alcoholic it’s pointless having dry months, but I think this is a silly statement to make. We are doing it for health reasons (to lose a few excess kilograms!) and to save money.
To write another blog – Don’t worry I plan on continuing to write this one on a personal level but I am thinking of writing one giving advice about different aspects of home education and healthy living… I’ll keep you posted as to how I get on!
So, for us Christmas was over on Sunday – the big girls went to the Panto with their Nanny and Daioo (Granddad) and while little Piccalilli slept, the Stinker and I took down the decorations and tree (which was practically bare by the time we’d pulled everything off, so it’s a good job Christmas is done for another year!). Since, Piccalilli occasionally disappears off and returns to tell me that the Reindeer had gone – this has bothered her more than anything else as he was filled with chocolate coins most days by our Elf! I love the Christmas break, but I’m also happy when the house gets back to some level of normality… Saying that, I don’t enjoy the holiday coming to an end!
I love holidays mainly because we get to have the Stinker around more (the biggest bonus of him still working as a teacher!) and relax together. It’s definitely not all smiles and happiness though… So here is my roundup of the highs and lows of Christmas and New Year 2015-2016:
Piccalilli’s enjoyment of the whole Christmas period – she’s the perfect age for the magical moments and watching her little face light up every time she realised that more chocolate coins had been delivered really made my day many times!
Lazy mornings in bed – ok, so as we home ed we often have slow mornings but these are always missing the Stinker who leaves early for work. So lazy mornings with all of us present are lovely.
Quality time with extended family – we see some members of our family often but to spend quality time chatting, playing games, and just being together is great.
Three happy little girls – well, they weren’t happy all the time (see Lows below!!) but on the whole they enjoyed the excitement of Christmas and the lovely presents they received.
Feeling proud – Poppet made us very proud on a couple of occasions. Firstly she played her recorder and cornet (both of which she’s only been learning for a few months) in a concert with the home ed band she is a part of. Secondly she sewed us all Christmas presents – I became an emotional wreck and cried when I opened the pillow she’d made for me!! I’m expecting floods of tears next Christmas when she makes me something even more intricate with the sewing machine she got from Father Christmas 🙂
Laughing lots – Pickle is turning into a fantastic comedienne and often has us in stitches. Her little impromptu sketches can be hilarious and I particularly love watching Poppet and Piccalilli laughing uncontrollably at her!
Theatre trips – we were very lucky to be taken to see Annie (thank you Auntie Krusty and Uncle Big Dan!), which was amazing, although the constant singing of Annie songs since is starting to grate on me (and I can’t get them out of my head!). The big Ps also had their annual Panto trip with Nanny and Daioo which they always love 🙂
The weather! It would have been lovely if it had snowed, or even just stayed dry – the rain really does make things more difficult, although we did still get out as much as possible and the New Year’s Day walk was great fun, especially when the big Ps (who had not been getting on well for a few days!) decided to roll in the mud.
The bickering – I know it’s normal and I live with it daily but I do wish they’d stop during the holidays!
The trip to Hospital – luckily nothing major but of course I felt awful because it had been me who had opened the door and trapped Pickle’s finger in the hinge ripping her nail half off (but her fault really for standing behind the door to have a strop!)
The end – as I said earlier, I really don’t like it when holiday times come to an end 😦
This time of year can be pretty stressful for everybody, but when you’re trying to juggle getting organised for the big day (and beyond) with keeping three hyper girls from exploding… well, let’s just say I’m in need of a break!
The past week or so we’ve spent a lot of time either walking to (the long way!), at or walking home from our local park – it’s nothing to shout home about (and even less so since the council removed the house and slide to stop teenagers’ shenanigans!) but the fact that it’s a stone’s-throw from home makes it the perfect escape on damp days when we need to get out.
Our last visit resulted in a huge paddy by Poppet about the fact that Pickle wanted to swing higher than her! But at least we were out getting some fresh air – positive thinking and all that 🙂
Poppet’s paddies – it could be the name of a book, although I’m not sure who’d want to read it! Joking aside, her ‘moments’ are currently more regular with more gusto and I don’t know if it’s an age thing or something else…
Yesterday evening Poppet was due to be invested into Beavers. She’s been going since September and even went on camp last month (see Different Directions…); she was so excited about saying her promise and the Stinker and I were invited to watch. As soon as we arrived I saw her demeanour change – it’s hard to describe but it’s like she goes into herself, physically shrinking away from a situation. The next thing I knew she was over with us, crying and trying to clamber up on me. It’s difficult to know the best response in these situations so I often find myself trying to cajole her to do whatever it is she is shying away from: “You’ve been so looking forward to it”, etc. But Poppet is very stubborn so that was that – no promise.
However, five minutes later the tears started again (as I thought they would) when the realisation set in that she had lost the chance to do something she did really want to do! Luckily the leaders are fantastic and waited until the end, when nearly everyone had gone, to do Poppet’s promise with her.
The Stinker is understandably concerned that she needs to overcome this issue, but my thinking is that, no matter how stressful I find her paddies, we need to find another way of dealing with them. We’d both predicted that it would happen last night so maybe we could have altered the outcome by changing our behaviour (or just not turning up to watch!)
Does anyone else have any experience of these sorts of issues and any golden nuggets of advice you could share?
I love days like today when a theme emerges by itself and everyone goes with it and embraces it… That makes it sound like we had an idyllic day but from my title you can probably see it wasn’t all plain sailing!
We decided to head out to meet a good friend and her 2 year old daughter at our local WWT (nothing to do with Wrestling, a lot to do with Wildfowl!) After some membership issues, a spilled cup of tea and a tantrum from Pickle, we made it to see the birds! All four girls had a great time feeding them and Poppet was thrilled that there were so many of her favourite Nene (pronounced nay nay) Geese.
We got chatting to one of the volunteers about migration, which we’d started discussing on the journey there. It was good to hear confirmation that the things I’d been telling the Ps were correct! (Strangely, the theme continued on our weekly trip to the library this afternoon where the librarian read a story about birds migrating ~ great coincidence!)
We headed off on our usual route to the otters, via the smelly ‘mingoes and managed to avoid Wellyboot land, ’cause we didn’t want to get too wet and cold…
When we got to the far end we had the playground to ourselves and the girls had great fun climbing, swinging and digging (with a bit of whinging and wrestling thrown in for good measure!), while we drank extortionate hot chocolates (although they were good!) My friend enjoyed sliding down the wet slide – cue soggy jeans and much hilarity (and a lost phone, which she had to return to find hiding under the slide later!)
The girls had the most fun jumping in puddles and of course getting wet, making our earlier avoidance of water completely pointless!
Tiredness, and therefore stroppiness, was creeping in by this point and that was just the grown ups 😉 So we headed home for naps and a quiet couple of hours ~ all in separate rooms doing our own thing peacefully and calmly ~ before our library visit which Poppet particularly loves and always gets chatting to someone about the benefits of home ed!
Another great day spent outside with nature and a lot of impromptu learning ~ I also love home ed ❤
Today I was feeling a bit under the weather, so we gave Monday group a miss and had a productive day at home.
Dare I say it, but we seem to have inadvertently started Christmas in this home ed household! The first task was writing letters to the big man, as other family members have been asking for gift ideas. You wouldn’t think this would be such a tricky task but, due to recent birthdays and an abundance of toys in general, the big Ps struggled to come up with many ideas – sorry to disappoint family members but I think you’ll be buying some surprises! Piccalilli was adamant that she’d only like a Ponyo toy (phew!) and a lolly 🙂
At two of the groups we attend there are due to be some Christmas sales where the kids can sell items they have made. So this afternoon we started making our products – bubble bath and soaps. Poppet is also keen to sew some decorations, so we have a shopping trip for material planned for tomorrow. I love the idea of the Ps learning about enterprise (maybe they’ll make millions and look after me and the Stinker in our old age!) and they really enjoyed discovering how to make the different products – I just hope they sell some!
In the past I would have said it was too early to start Christmas (and would hold out until December) but I think it’s perfect timing this year, especially now the weather has changed to wintry. In fact I might turn our house into a grotto! Anyone for gluhwein? Oh not me, I have to wait another seven days! !