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!!

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!

IMG_6772

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 🙂

Wet and Windy Woodland Walks.

We are really lucky to live in a beautiful area of England (Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds) and try to take advantage of this – whatever the weather.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather at the moment, it has been quite wet and windy. In my opinion one of the best places to be in this sort of weather is the woods, sheltered by the trees. So today we wrapped up in warm, wet weather gear and headed to meet my best friend from uni days and her family (who have sadly moved a few hours away but were in the area visiting family).

Our three girls get on so well with their two (aged 1 and 3 years old) and it always amazes me how they just slot together and play so well despite seeing each other infrequently.

Today’s walk included a lot of playing ‘home’ (I’m sure it would have taken  at least half the time without the playing!). I loved the way they used the roots of a huge tree as their kitchen, huge leaves (really big – bigger than our heads!) as plates, sticks as spoons. At one point they disappeared off under a large cluster of evergreen trees which became their house of course!

They collected leaves and twigs and collaborated to make a Stickman picture (inspired by the Gruffalo’s child sculpture in the wood). They staged their own photo shoots, organising themselves into positions and demanding all the adults took a photo while they chanted “Stinky smelly socks!” They played together in the playground, helping everyone to join in at their own level.

DSC_0264 (2)

There was no arguing and everyone joined in in their own way with no expectations. I’m aware this is often the case with mixed age groups – they seem to get on better as there’s less competition.

Days like today really make me appreciate how kind, caring and supportive my girls can be. It also made me miss my friend even more 😦

Time apart, time together


Today has been mostly about chilling with Piccalilli while the Stinker entertained Poppet and Pickle.

This morning I took Piccalilli swimming, something she loves doing but doesn’t get to do very often. Bless her, she has to go to the swimming pool twice a week to watch her sisters’ lessons and always asks if she can get in but the answer always has to be no!

So this morning when I asked her if she’d like to go swimming her little face lit up. “With my minion ring?” she asked!

We had a lovely time dancing, splashing and jumping in; it was great to spend time with just her, something I rarely get to do since we started home educating.

The big Ps had a great time with the Stinker – cinema followed by watching his football team (as he’s currently injured he has a supporting role).

We all got back together late afternoon feeling refreshed – we enjoyed using clay to make diya lamps for Diwali and poppies for Remembrance Day; we watched a puppet show in the big Ps bedroom (with tickets and interval but sadly no ice creams!); basically we enjoyed each others company, which after One of those days cheered me up no end!

Sometimes it’s good to have time apart – it makes the time together better ♥

One of those days…

It really has been one of those days… You know the ones where everyone is at each other and nothing goes right?

It started with me waking up exhausted… how does THAT happen? The two big Ps woke up getting at each other and the little P woke up whinging. The Stinker left for work as usual but,  following a request from Pickle, had left the Lego box out on the dining room table… Most days this wouldn’t be a problem but today it riled me! It scuppered my plans to get loads of learning activities done in the morning while it rained and I ended up looking like the evil parent (as usual!) when I asked if we could hold off Lego until we’d finished something we’d started yesterday.

The day didn’t improve. That’s not to say it was all bad – we spent a lovely hour in the garden raking leaves and playing with water (it is unseasonably warm right now!) – but on the whole we all wound each other up!

As soon as the Stinker got home I requested a pass to get out for a few hours. Of course he didn’t mind, but the problem with living in the back of beyond is that there is nowhere open (apart from pubs and as I’m off booze and feeling in need of a gin and tonic it didn’t seem like a good place to go! 30 Day Challenges)

So I got in the car and I’m currently sitting in the coolest motorway services ever! You think I’m joking but no, these services are relatively new and only sell local produce and just have a really cool Artisan feel to them… I plan on coming back often!! (Check it out!)

I’ve been drinking tea, eating chocolate brownie and reading a crappy magazine. But mostly I’ve been reflecting…

I realise that the reason today went wrong was completely down to my inflexibility, which is quite ironic considering I wrote yesterday how the best thing about home ed is the flexibility (A ‘Typical’ Day…).

So I’m feeling ready to return home and give everyone big kisses and cuddles and apologise for being a grump!

A ‘Typical’ Day…

Since we started home educating Poppet just over 6 months ago a lot of people have asked how we structure our time, so I thought I’d give an insight into how our days and weeks usually/often/occasionally go!

There are different ideas about home education ranging from full-on structured days (very similar to being at school) to complete unschooling, where essentially the learner makes the choice as to what they want to learn, how and when.

“What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child” George Bernard Shaw.

We are somewhere in between the two and this shifts for us depending on how we’re all feeling and what else is going on around us.

As I talked about in Black holes… I don’t like to completely prescribe what the girls learn and so they are involved from the outset in deciding what our topic should be and anything they’d like to know about relating to that.

I do however feel that the basics (of reading, writing and maths) are extremely important so do aim to do these regularly. I’m lucky that Poppet and Pickle are both fluent readers so that bit is easy (Right now they are snuggled on the sofa reading together while Piccalilli naps and I write).

IMG_6755

In terms of writing I like it to be meaningful so we’ve written postcards, letters, diaries, short-stories, shopping lists and more. We don’t sit down and write every day but at least twice a week they are writing something with purpose.

With maths things are a bit more structured and we do sit-down maths most days. I have a plan that we follow unless other things come up – for example last month Poppet wanted to learn more about telling the time than just o’clock and half past, so we did loads of time games and activities.

As I come from a teaching background, I know too well how often we try to teach children mathematical concepts that they are not ready for or hold them back just because it’s not part of our plan…

As for the other stuff (the other main question I think home educators get asked is “What about socialisation?”) we attend lots of groups and have made many friends.  Currently we attend three different social groups, where the kids play and do art and craft activities mainly; occasionally they put on shows as a whole group (around 30 kids ranging from 2 to 14). We also meet up with other home ed families at museums or the park or other days out (You’d be amazed how quiet places are during term time!!) Poppet is also learning the cornet and recorder as part of a band and there are all sorts of opportunities to join other groups all the time.

I have to say, if anything, our life is sometimes too hectic!

But the best thing about home ed is how flexible it is – if you fancy a duvet day you can, if you want a trip to the beach you can. Anyone up for the beach today? No!

Poppet, Pickle and Piccalilli

Following on from Who Am I? I’ve been reflecting a lot today about how the three P’s came into my life… I guess I do this more when it’s one of their birthdays, so I thought I’d share it (but no gory details, don’t worry!).

Poppet

IMG_6003

The Poppet entered our lives just over seven years ago, 5 weeks early (the day after I finished work for Maternity Leave!) and weighing 5lb15oz (I’m afraid that I don’t know the metric conversion and being British that doesn’t bother me!).

Of course our lives changed instantly but she was mostly a relaxed baby so the decision to have another baby soon after was easy to make…

Pickle

IMG_6751 (2)

When Poppet was 1 year and 3 weeks old Pickle arrived – 6 years ago today, 2 weeks early, very quickly (30 minute labour) and weighing 7lb6oz.

She was a very chilled out baby – friends used to joke that it had been a fake pregnancy as she slept for most of the first four months of her life! However, as soon as she hit 18 months she really began to live up to her nickname… let’s say it wasn’t so much the terrible twos but more the awful 18 months (and onwards)!

Piccalilli

IMG_5965

We’d (I’d) always wanted number 3 but we needed a bit of a break when the combination of Poppet and Pickle really hit us! So when Poppet was nearly five and about to start school our little Piccalilli arrived (only a few days early this time, weighing 7lb13oz).

She was the most chilled of all three P’s and, despite now being two, has continued to be a very calm, content little person. I realise I probably write less about her, but I think that’s because (at the moment) she causes us so little concern!  Does that mean she’ll be the nightmare teenager? I hope not!

Who Am I?

This is a question I’ve asked myself many times!

So, it’s Day 3 of my 30 day challenges and I thought that some of my readers might like to know a bit more about me…

Tonight I’m a frazzled Mummy! Tomorrow is Pickle’s 6th birthday so, as all good parents do, we’ve left the organising to as late as possible (the night before!). I’ve been cake making, gift wrapping, balloon blowing, banner hanging and card writing (luckily the Stinker does the fantastic card making!).

I wish I could claim to be an earth mama, but as much as I love nature and wished I lived in a yurt eating organic food and using only natural products, our life is pretty mainstream (in a regular house, eating some organic food and trying to cut chemicals out of our lives). Does this bother me? Yes!

I’m a dreamer but also a realist. As much as I wish some of the above could be true, I also know that the reality of it is not easy in this time, in this place. I do often think I was born into the wrong era; the make do and mend sentiment of the WWII period would suit me better (although losing my loved ones to war would not).

I’m sentimental and emotional. These two traits have caused me problems in the past, meaning I often try to suppress them these days and really worry when I see them so strongly in Poppet’s personality.

I’m very strong-willed so despite the fact that I’m feeling exhausted this evening I will still write this blog; I will not fail my challenge!

Maybe some of you could tell me who you are? I’d love to know who’s reading my ramblings…