Christmas Chaos!

I’d decided to have a few weeks off writing my blog over the Christmas period. I’m so glad I did as it has been manic as always, but I’ve also missed the escape I get from writing…

So we have one more busy day today (we’re off to watch Annie the musical -a great Christmas gift from the lovely auntie Krusty!) and then I plan on getting back to writing, so watch this space for tales of Christmas chaos!

Parks, Paddies and Promises!

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 🙂

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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.

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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?

 

 

Super plants really do help you sleep!

I’ve just got back from a rare evening out at the pub with some lovely friends who I wish I saw more often… We ended up sitting out in the garden area huddled under one of the tiny two-bar heaters, breathing in other people’s second-hand smoke (yuk!)

We are all into natural living and so had a few discussions about living chemical-free lives, something we are aiming to do as much as possible. We were talking about super plants and it made me think I should share the link for ’12 super plants to help you sleep’ that I read recently. So here it is…

Since reading this we moved our aloe plant into our bedroom and I really think it’s helping me. I also plan on going back to the 90s and getting lots of spider plants around the house! Let me know how you get on…

Christmas crafts: spiral Christmas trees

Sunday was all about making the house as Christmassy as possible with lights and decorations. It also involved Christmas crafts that all the Ps could do together while I cooked dinner and the Stinker felt sorry for himself (after a night out on the razzle dazzle!)

Spiral Christmas trees

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  1. Draw a spiral on your green paper or card
  2. Decorate with stickers or draw pictures, ensuring they stay between your lines (I was amazed by how well Piccalilli did hers!)
  3. Cut along the lines carefully
  4. Decorate the other side (we did this after we had cut out as otherwise wouldn’t have known where our lines were!)
  5. Hang up 🙂

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We all (yes all five of us!) enjoyed making these trees and they look very effective. We are planning on making lots more!

Oh, and if you like the look of the little Father Christmases hiding above, have a look at my post on Loo Roll Father Christmases!

Changing routines for the better.

‘For health and sanity, build good routines. But disrupt them now and then, too’ Psychology Today Sept 14 2010

We are naturally creatures of habit, meaning that routines usually make us feel safe and secure. There are many benefits of having routines in a family where the children outnumber the adults, but these routines can also cause problems of their own on occasion!

For us, bedtime exists. I know this might sound like a strange comment, but I’ve met many home ed families for whom this is not the case – I understand that this works well for some families, but I find that we all need some sort of bedtime routine and therefore time to ourselves in the evening.

However, since we started home edding, and so usually the Ps are less stressed and tired out, we have been finding bedtimes to be a particularly difficult part of the day. So we took the scary step last week and changed our bedtime routine. The Stinker commented after the first (and successful!) evening that it felt like such a big change because we’d essentially been doing the same thing for at least five years!

When I say routine, it certainly wasn’t a strict one and the Ps were fine with occasional change (if we had a night away, etc), but we used to go upstairs together and share the whole bedtime experience, which was becoming increasingly tense and noisy and therefore not the relaxing time it aimed to be!

Pickle put up the most resistance to the change, which was interesting considering she always used to be the one who ended up angry or crying! But I think she’s now realising that the new way is better for her because she gets more attention from the one-on-one bedtime!

Essentially we are now staggering bedtimes – not at a paticular time but whenever the Ps are tired and early enough to give the Stinker and me some time! It makes perfect sense and we have tried it before, but for some reason it’s working this time whereas it didn’t six months ago!

Our old routine had definitely gone down the route of having a negative effect on all of us. The new one is currently a much happier road to travel, but has also made us all aware that it can be good to try a different way when the old one gets too tough. Happy bedtime everyone 🙂

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Taken a few months ago when bedtimes were still light, but Piccalilli has the best place to spend the evenings!

Christmas Traditions part 2 aka Parenting without punishment!

‘However exasperating a child’s behaviour may be, it’s still – in most instances – age-appropriate.’ Psychology Today June 19 2015

I try to remember this when the girls are pushing boundaries and my buttons; I try to remember that they are only little; I try to remember that I don’t agree with reward and punishment, bribery and threat.

Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘convincing’ our children to do what we need (want) them to do – if we are in a rush to go out, bribery can be the best way to cajole them along. Then I feel guilty and wish I’d just started organising everyone ten minutes earlier!

My aim is to raise three strong girls who are confident in themselves and know their place in the world and the effect they can have on other people. I want them to be themselves and not be afraid to show their true feelings and opinions,  but with an understanding of how to do this respectfully.  Having three strong-willed young ladies can be very trying at times, but I try to remember that I don’t want to mould them into mini-mes (even though two of them are appearance wise!) and their personalities are actually developing positively – we often get lovely comments on how kind, caring and helpful they are from both strangers (at trips to the library or museums) and new home ed friends.  So on the days when they are pushing my buttons,  I try to remember these positives.

So, back to our Christmas tradition part 2 – Elvis the elf! I know that some people use an elf to warn their children that someone is sending messages back to Father Christmas about their behaviour,  whereas our elf is actually a kindness elf (inspired by The Imagination Tree) who gives the Ps ideas of different activities they could complete to be kind and helpful. Last year he suggested ideas like: taking some unwanted toys to the charity shop and buying some food for the Foodbank.

Despite the focus on kindness and lack of threats, the Ps have decided that Elvis reports back to Father Christmas about their behaviour as well as the kind things they do. I guess this is difficult to avoid in the threat-heavy society that we still appear to live in, but I’d really like the Ps not to feel this negativity. I think that no longer attending school, where the focus on reward and punishment (or at least lack of reward!) is understandably so high, means they will move away from this way of thinking.  I just need to remember to avoid the bribery and corruption! Wish me luck…

A review: The Juicer Comic

Poppet and I were asked to review The Juicer Comic, so this post is our thoughts on the comic and associated resources which are available on the Jack Cherry website at Jack Cherry, where anyone can get a free trial of the comic.

It is a comic aimed at 7-11 year olds to increase their resilience and confidence and deal with issues such as bullying. It comes with activity books and an online video or actual workshop for groups (such as schools, cubs, etc) or individuals – everyone can use it 🙂

Poppet enjoys comics in general (she is a retro Dandy and Beano fanatic!) so she liked the format. She read the story and first commented on how she was glad she no longer attended school (as it was based in a school) but then her focus went to the characters and the setting didn’t seem to matter at all. She was particularly outraged by one of the negative comments ‘such a girl’ as we often discuss feminist issues (at her level!) and how comments like this are unacceptable. So she instantly felt an affinity for the main ‘nice’ character.

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Poppet loved the follow up activity book and particularly enjoyed designing her own positive fruits (the theory is that if you put positive fruit/thoughts in, you get positive juice/feelings out).

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Her main thoughts about the comic were:

  • It was funny in some places – “I liked it when the juicer exploded”
  • It made her think about the difference between people who have good and bad thoughts – “It’s better to think good thoughts so you are happy”

We would both recommend this resource as an aid to help groups understand the importance of positivity with yourself and others 🙂

 

Our Christmas Traditions: part 1

For me Christmas is a chance to include a bit of magic in our lives and to spend lots of quality time with family. I am not religious, but I do feel that it is important that my children know the origins of the celebration and not just the current consumerism focus that seems to have taken over.  I find Black Friday intolerable and the Ps know that gifts do not always have to cost loads of money, if any at all.

All that said, of course making it magical does take time and money.  So today (the Sunday closest to 1st Dec) is traditionally our Christmas tree buying day; for the past few years we’ve visited a quaint little farm where we can buy the tree and get into the spirit of Christmas with their craft fair and Christmas activities.  This year they also had a Shetland pony dressed as Rudolph which the big Ps sat on – we’d assumed that the £2 per child would include a little walk around, but no! (Sometimes Christmas gimmicks really are a rip off!)

This afternoon was spent in the lounge with the fire blazing, decorating the tree with as many ‘balls’ as Piccalilli could possibly fit on (all quite low down!)

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I know some people don’t agree with starting Christmas until a few days before the actual day, but for us it’s all about having a magical build up to the big day and making the most of it while the Ps are young enough to really enjoy it.

Tomorrow our elf will arrive to begin our Christmas tradition part 2…

Christmas crafts: Loo roll Father Christmas!

The weather today is awful; I was meant to be taking the Ps to see Christmas lights being turned on but nobody would enjoy that in this torrential rain…

So, it’s an arts and crafts day…

This morning, I actually left the Stinker in charge (or should that read ‘Poppet’?!) while I went out to do a big food shop. While I was out they did the best thing possible with loo rolls at this time of year:

Loo Roll Father Christmas

You will need : loo rolls, red paint, red felt, cotton wool, black pen/paint

  1. Paint 2/3 of the loo roll red
  2. Draw/paint a face on
  3. Make hat with red felt and cotton wool
  4. Attach hat and cotton wool for beard

And here they are…

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Can you guess who made which one?!

The big Ps are currently making Christmas cards to send to the Japanese students who have stayed with us for the past two summers. I’m not sure of postal dates, but it’s keeping them busy so the Stinker and I can watch the tennis!

Money matters…

Since we started home ed the third most common question (after the one about socialisation and the one about my sanity!) is “how much does it cost?”

Well the answer is that annoying rhetorical “how long is a piece of string?” We don’t have a specific home ed budget but we do budget in general,  so our home ed funds have to come out of our weekly funds for food, fuel and all social/sporting activities.

Obviously it varies from week to week, and I think we’ve got costs down significantly since we started home ed due to the fact that in the beginning you want to attend everything, but our weeks can include:

Monday social group and hula hooping for the big Ps  £5

Tuesday alternate pony club for the big Ps £10 or trips to museums on the train £5

Wednesday social group £4 and alternate band or recorders for Poppet £20 per term

Friday Forest school monthly £10

Obviously on top of this we have the fuel to get to these places and the inevitable extra food costs of having everyone at home full time.  We also spend a small amount on extra resources like some felt for the sewing that we did today, but to be honest I bought these sorts of things even when the Ps were at school.

We luckily don’t have the costs of uniform, shoes, school trips, keeping up with other kids…

But I guess the biggest cost is the fact that I can’t really work and home educate, although we are trying to find ways to make this possible, so any bright ideas would be appreciated!