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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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 ūüė¶ ) 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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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 РPoppet 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!!

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.

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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 ūüė¶

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!

Stop, I want to get off!

Having children was all I ever wanted. I always remember those conversations at school, then college, then university, where people asked about your future ambitions.  It always felt like they were expecting an academic or career based answer rather than my response Рto have a family.  I often felt that this was not a good enough answer, that I should have been striving for more, but I always stuck to my guns knowing that this was everything to me and no career could ever top it.

I was right and having my three girls in a loving partnership with the Stinker has been everything, and more than, I ever dreamt it would be. If course that does not mean it has all been easy or plain sailing (as I have written about in Feeling Fragile and Back to Basics).

I have to admit there are days when I feel like screaming “Stop, I want to get off!” and wonder what life would be like if we’d chosen less or no children… but I always come back to the simple fact that they complete me.

Since homeschooling I’ve obviously been spending even more time with all three girls. ¬†This was part of the pull of doing it but I’m sure you can imagine how full-on it can be at times! Some days the Stinker returns home from work and I just give him the¬†look and disappear upstairs for some time out! My Saturday morning ‘me time’ is always much needed, even if it is often spent holed-up in our bedroom, like a student, with¬†my¬†music playing and a book with more words than pictures on each page!

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Last weekend the Stinker and I went for a much needed break¬†together to Brighton. We dropped Poppet, Pickle and Piccalilli at nanny and daioo’s house and off we went. Getting stuck on the M25 didn’t even matter because, as I kept reminding the Stinker, of the lack of whinging coming from the back of the car. In fact it was quite a treat to be able to sit ‘shotgun’ for once!

The highlights of our weekend away included:

  • Staying up until 3am knowing no small people would crawl into our bed and punch/kick us in the head in three hours.
  • Eating out not just once but for every meal at the times¬†we were hungry.
  • Playing the 2p games at the amusements ourselves, not having to share the money out fairly.
  • Wandering around with nowhere to go and nobody asking where, when, why?
  • Actually being able to enjoy the extra hour in bed when the clocks went back.

All this said, I did miss my girls and was excited about seeing them when we returned to collect them.

I feel completely refreshed and reconnected with the Stinker, ready to get going again (but I am hoping for another break again soon and I’m sure I’ll need it!)

Where the Wild things are…

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Yesterday we had a wild day – thankfully not the kind of wild where the kids are bouncing off the walls and I’m tearing my hair out. No, we had a day where we reconnected with nature and ‘rewilded’.

Things have been quite ‘wild’ (in the other sense!) around here for a few weeks since we deregistered Pickle from school. The transition for her has been huge: from being in school, where she suppressed a lot of her true self, to being at home where she can totally be her. ¬†At school she was NEVER wild, to the point where it worried us how uncharacteristically well-behaved she was! Don’t get me wrong, she’s not awful but she is definitely our most spirited child. When I used to collect her from school I often used to see her most wild side…

I’d love to say that she now has the most impeccable behaviour and listens to every word I say – actually that’s not true, I’m glad that my girls have strong characters and are able to express themselves, I just wish they’d do it a bit more quietly sometimes!

Part of our concern with mainstream schooling here in the UK was the huge focus on academic outcome and the lack of focus on the ‘whole’ child. Too much time spent stuck indoors, in stuffy classrooms sitting quietly listening. I raised these concerns with the girls ex-school, asking when they were going to be starting ‘Forest school’ sessions again – only to be told there was no time now that Pickle was in year 1! (nb. I am aware that some schools manage these things better!)

We love being outdoors (well, I do and I’m sure that this love rubs off on your kids doesn’t it?!) Being ‘at one’ with nature is so important to me and I really hope to instill some of this in my girls.

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So yesterday we walked, explored, chased sheep (oops!), collected autumn treasures (seeds and nuts), foraged nettles, plantain and dandelion, harvested veg and made our own yummy soup… It felt great spending the whole day outdoors. And yes, we were learning!

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I highly recommend wild days – there is something very grounding about reconnecting with mother earth.