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!

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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 😉

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Different Directions…

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

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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!

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(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…

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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!)

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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!

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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!!

Where do we learn?!

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately about having a dedicated ‘learning’ space in a home-schooling household. So I thought I’d write about the reasons why we do NOT have one!

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1. Learning can take place anywhere at anytime and I want the 3 Ps to realise this from a young age. Although we have a small desk set up in the corner of the dining room, it is mainly used to store books, pens, resources. If we are doing written learning we often sit around the dining room table, but spend just as much time sitting outside at the garden table or lying on cushions on the lounge floor leaning on big books or trays (which is the best place to be when it’s cold as we can cosy up by the fire!).

2. We do not do enough formal sit-down learning to justify it. As I wrote about in A ‘Typical Day… we generally just go with the flow, meaning a dedicated learning area would be a waste of the limited space we have!

IMG_68163. We do not have the space. Well, this is not entirely true as we do have a small conservatory but I love that area being the Ps playroom – not that their play remains in there! In fact they don’t know how lucky they are – no where is off limit; a friend visited with her 2 year old this morning and commented on how much she loves coming over because it’s like a playgroup! The only thing I ask is that everyone helps with the tidy-up at the end of the day, although there are days when this is a task for me in the evening!

4. Much of our learning takes place elsewhere. We spend a lot of our time in the garden or out on walks, but also at groups, museums, the library or other days out.

I’m sure that as the 3 Ps get older and their needs change the way we use our space will change, but for now it works for us 🙂

The biggest plus point…

Some people think that having your kids with you 24/7 must be horrendous (you know the ones who can’t wait for school to start again after the holidays – that was never me when Poppet and Pickle went to school!); others think it must be idyllic, never having to fit into anyone else’s agenda, having long lie-ins and generally being happy.

To be honest it is somewhere between the two and varies depending on how everyone is feeling (read One of those days… for an example of a negative day!)

Think about it, if you go to work you get to have that time as an ‘adult’, talking to other adults and (maybe) missing your kids. I’m not saying I want to go back to work –  I certainly don’t miss it – but occasionally I’d like to be an adult talking about something other than my girls!

We do NOT have lots of lie-ins (well, Pickle quite often does!). The Stinker is up early for work, Piccalilli wakes up when he’s getting ready ‘quietly’ and Poppet doesn’t ever seem to sleep! If I want a shower I have to get up just as early as if I was going to work. So really, no lie-ins!

It is true that we don’t have to fit into anyone else’s agenda to a point. But, we attend lots of different groups and clubs (see A ‘Typical’ Day…), so most days we have to be somewhere at some point…

Happiness – that’s the biggest plus point. Poppet and Pickle are both much happier than when they were at school. Of course they have down days, angry days, whiny days, but on the whole they are happier, resulting in a happier home 🙂